The Google way to test your sites

Posted on August 18, 2012


Google has issued advice on how to protect your rankings when testing your site.

Increasing numbers of marketers and those with SEO jobs are gaining customer insight through A/B and multivariate testing. Done well, managed testing can really help understand how visitors use your site.

However, there have been occasions when sites have been penalised in the SERPs through test phases.

As a result, Google has chosen to publish a little advice on how to minimise testing streams having a negative impact on a site’s presence.

Ahead of anything else, is to ensure that there is no cloaking going on. It is imperative that everything a site shows to crawlers is also displayed to human eyes. In the post, the search engine said:

“Make sure that you’re not deciding whether to serve the test, or which content variant to serve, based on user-agent.

“An example of this would be always serving the original content when you see the user-agent “Googlebot.” Remember that infringing our Guidelines can get your site demoted or removed from Google search results—probably not the desired outcome of your test.”

The use of rel=“canonical” method should also be used. This will ensure that any alternative web pages put up will reference the main one. This allows the bots to see that variations are being tested and to continue indexing homepages.

Other advice Google proffers is to use 302 redirect over 301, and to not run a test for any longer than necessary.

Though the search engine cannot guarantee that a site’s ranking will not still be impacted when under test, it does say that any impact will be minimal.

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