Before you start: if you’re unfamiliar with the principles of statistical SEO split-testing and how SplitSignal works, we’re suggesting you start here or request a demo of SplitSignal.
This time the majority of our followers were right. Read further to find out why.
But first, let’s see what SEO professionals had to say about the result of this test:
I’d need to know which market this is for and then look at SERPs to try and understand the intent a little better. If the intent behind ‘Ferries from Athens to Santorini’ is actually to compare and find the best price rather than to just get on and book immediately then the first version could actually work better at minimising short clicks and keeping users on the page.
Do you agree with these statements? Follow us on LinkedIn to share your opinion on the next test.
In August 2021, Google announced an update on how they generate web page titles in the SERPs. While rewriting page titles is nothing new, it has become much more “aggressive” with this update. Before the update, the most common changes made by Google were minor, such as adding the brand name to the page title. Now Google uses different overrides, mostly they come from HTML text in the content of the page.
Google’s documentation states that they are making use of text that humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page. Google considers the main visual title or headline has shown on a page, content that site owners often place within tags or other heading tags, and content that’s large and prominent through the use of style treatments.
As an SEO, it is important to understand that one of the primary ways people determine which search results may be relevant to their search query is by looking at the titles of listed web pages. We believe that anything displayed in your SERP snippet can have an impact (positive or negative). In addition, previous case studies have shown that user behavior can have a significant impact on CTR and, thus, organic traffic to the website.
With all this in mind, it begs the question of whether we should take control of what appears in search results or let Google rewrite the page titles.
For a travel website, we noticed that Google was rewriting all the page titles of an important page template. This piqued our interest and inspired the following test.
For the client in question, we noticed that Google was using the
heading on the page to rewrite the page title shown in the SERPs. We knew from search behavior analysis that the primary keyword for this page template was “ferry from Athens to Santorini” or “ferries from Jersey to France”; people didn‘t use “compare” in searches. Additionally, SERP analysis showed that the highest-ranking results all front-loaded the primary keyword, meaning the page title started with the primary keyword. While including “compare” might make for a good CTA, we hypothesized that the page title our client wrote would better match the search intent. Moreover, when users scan the search results, it would be easier for them to see that the landing page matches their search query. As we know, Google used the
We used SplitSignal to make the
After 30 days of testing, we reviewed the results. We saw that the traffic to the tested pages performed better than the control group, which means the test is positive and statistically significant at the 95% level. Matching the
heading with the page title resulted in a 12% increase in organic clicks to the tested pages. Note that we are not comparing the actual control group pages to our tested pages. But rather a forecast based on historical data. The model predicts the counterfactual response that would have occurred had no intervention taken place. We compare this with the actual data. We use a set of control pages to give the model context for trends and external influences. If something else changes during our test (e.g., seasonality), the model will detect and take it into account. By filtering these external factors, we gain insight into the true impact of an SEO change.
This case study shows that it is important not only to be aware when Google rewrites your page titles but also to test whether Google is actually showing a better performing page title.