SEO Testing: Title Tags

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When you finally hit the first page of Google, you’ve made it right? A future of incoming traffic where all you have to do is update the page on occasion. Maybe this year, we’ll change the date on the post…

Not exactly.

You may have secured a strong position for your target keywords, but the work doesn’t stop there. Outside of strategic and deliberate movements to always improve the on-page content, testing updates will pay dividends.

A method of SEO testing that can improve your click-through rates (CTR) is through testing title tags. In this guide, we’ll cover different title tags to test and how to execute it properly.

Why Test Title Tags?

SEO testing title tags is a great way to take the pages that are ranking well on Google and be creative about attracting more clicks. When it comes to your organic listing on Google, the title tag is upfront and draws in users. Compare this to the meta description and any rich results, which aren’t guaranteed to be shown how you specify them.

Title Tag Test Ideas

A few ideas to potentially improve the interest of your organic search listings include numbers, dates, and content offerings. It’s important to look at title tags through the lens of them being your opportunity to capture the attention of a searcher.

If your title tag is the same as the rest of the competition, why would someone want to click into your site? Use your imagination and put yourself into the shoes of your audience to conjure ideas that may have an impact.

Numbers

Including numbers in your title tag can provide a competitive advantage. Numbers are great when you are ranking for a query that resembles volume. Examples of this may be:

  • X Things to Do in San Diego, CA
  • X Vegetarian Recipes for a Healthy Heart
  • The X Best Chrome Extensions for 2021

If your competitors have a larger volume lined out in their title tag, try matching or exceeding that.

Remember though, that it isn’t just about having a higher number in your title tag. There may be instances that a lower number could work in your favor. This is where understanding user intent and your key audience is important.

Dates

Dates in the title tag indicate a sense of freshness for keywords that users need the most up to date information. They will be more inclined to click on something that ensures that the info they will get is fresh. Examples of dates in a title tag include:

  • Best Headphones of 2021
  • The Best Places to Live in 2021
  • Filing Taxes in 2021: The Ultimate Guide

Content Offering

If you have a unique content offering that competitors don’t, showcase that! Maybe that content offering is a printable, infographic, or interactive experience. Make sure that is known by including it in your title tag. Examples of a content offering include:

  • Artificial Grass Cost Guide with Interactive Calculator
  • 25 Activities to Do With Your Kids [FREE Printables]
  • US Car Sales Statistics (+ Infographic)

If you don’t have a unique content offering, consider creating one for your top pages to help rankings. More importantly, include a unique content offering to set your business apart and exceed user expectations.

How to Test Title Tags

Once you have a list of ideas down to test on your title tags, conducting the test is next.

Designate Control and Variant Groups

When you go to test a new title tag, you could just change it on a page and see what kind of improvement there is. The issue with this though, is that there is so much noise and volatility in SEO. Changes in SERP features, rankings, and user interest are some of the things that could impact your test.

To help limit the noise, setting a control and variant group is a must. Find a set of pages that are similar to each other in ranking, traffic, and content.

The control group will be a set of pages that you don’t change anything on and monitor the performance as a baseline.

The variant group will be a set of pages that you will be testing your new title tags on.

Example

Here is an example set of pages that we could test a title tag variant on. We’ll use a set of product category pages for an imaginary brand.

Control group of pages and their title tags:

  • Men’s Shorts – ShirtBite
  • Women’s Shorts – ShirtBite
  • Men’s Shirts – ShirtBite
  • Women’s Shirts – ShirtBite

Variant group of pages and their title tags:

  • Men’s Pants (2 for $20) – ShirtBite
  • Women’s Pants (2 for $20) – ShirtBite
  • Men’s Underwear (2 for $10) – ShirtBite
  • Women’s Underwear (2 for $10) – ShirtBite

The example above lines out a set of pages that are relatively similar, in this case all being product category pages. The control group stays as is with the product category name. The variant group is changed for the test, which is the twofer deal advertised.

Monitor Changes Over Time

After you’ve made your title tag changes, monitoring the groups is the next step. You’ll want to focus on Google Search Console data, specifically the CTR data they provide.

Give your test some time before checking in to see if there was any impact. Usually we like to give these tests four to six weeks to allow Google to crawl the pages and present our new title tags. This will depend on your site since some are crawled more frequently than others.

Analyze the Data

As time has passed, take your data from Google Search Console and pop it into a spreadsheet. Analyze the change from before the test was made to after.

To keep things consistent, make sure your compared dates contain the same amount of days and include the same days of the week.

Additionally, give your test some buffer time from when the change was made to ensure you’re looking at the correct test metrics.

For our SEO tests, we like to compare four weeks of data as a larger sample size of SERP visibility.

When taking a look at the change from before and after you’ve made the change compared to the control, focus on the absolute and relative change. Did the variant outperform the control? How significant of a change was it? Was there volatility for the control group when there shouldn’t have been?

These are questions you should be asking when looking through your data. With this, you should be able to make a data-driven decision on if the rest of the title tags should be changed. On the other hand, the data can lead you to retract any changes if the results show a negative impact.

If you don’t have enough conclusive data, continue to run the SEO test for a few more weeks, matching the time frames/period that you are comparing.

Here is an example spreadsheet of data lined out for the analysis: Example Spreadsheet

Feel free to make a copy and use the example spreadsheet for your own analyses.

Key Takeaways

Testing for SEO isn’t the easiest thing to do at times. There are so many factors that go into ranking which contribute to the volatility and noise that make a testing vacuum difficult. It is possible, and you should be able to pull out key insights with some thoughtful changes. Always be testing and think creatively with your title tags.

  • Title tags are your best opportunity to capture the attention of searchers.
  • Try numbers, dates, and content offerings in your title tags to improve them.
  • Designate a control group and variant group for your SEO test.
  • Track changes for over a month before you start analyzing the data.
  • Use the SEO test results to inform strategic decisions.
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