While conducting tests to improve the customer experience is a big tick from Google, there are a few technical considerations to take into account.
The main SEO issues that arise from carrying out tests are due to the following:
Cloaking is when you present one version of a web page to search engine bots while showing a different version to the users who visit it. Search engines can interpret this as foul play.
Fresh Relevance treats search engine bots the same as we treat real visitors interacting with your site, so your efforts will not be seen as a manipulation.
2) Page duplication
Duplicate content can negatively impact your search engine ranking and dilute the visibility of your content. This is because search engines rarely show multiple versions of the same content and are forced to choose which version to rank for query results.
If you’re using conducting tests on your website, you could unintentionally be creating duplicate content, since different visitors are served variations of content. If the original content is important for your web page’s search rankings, we recommend keeping this content onsite in the page’s static source code rather than completely replacing it with dynamic content.
Site speed is one of many key factors in Google’s search ranking algorithm. Here are some of the key ways Fresh Relevance works to minimize the effect that testing can have on your site speed:
- Our content and scripts load asynchronously and are appropriately cached, so as not to slow down the page load time.
- The script is hosted on a global CDN to reduce the time to serve and ensure the site won’t have an additional external dependency.
- We configure DNS prefetching for all clients, speeding up the time it takes your site to load.
Server-side vs client-side testing
There are two technical approaches to take into consideration when testing your website: server-side vs client-side.
The client-side approach is easy to use, making it suitable for all stakeholders to implement. There’s more flexibility, since you can make changes quickly and easily. Plus, it doesn’t require advanced technical or scripting skills and it’s quicker to implement.
But the downsides of this approach are that the personalized elements load after the main page has loaded, developers have less control and it doesn’t integrate with web deployment frameworks as changes can be deployed at any time.
Many businesses are now also making use of the server-side approach to implement tests and onsite personalization without any impact on performance. This approach allows businesses to call tests and personalized experiences on the back-end side before the page is rendered. It means that all changes are made on the server, before it reaches the browser, allowing businesses to reap the benefits of faster page speed.
This approach also integrates well with proprietary frameworks. There’s also increased data security, since sensitive data doesn’t need to be stored client-side, and your personalized content cannot be blocked by script blockers, cookie blockers or other privacy protection approaches.
On the downside, this approach requires much more involvement by technical teams and developers, there’s a longer implementation period and it can be hard or impossible for marketing and commerce teams to make rapid tests and changes.
It’s important to look for a testing and personalization platform that offers a hybrid approach, so you can get the best of both worlds.
For example, you could use a client-side approach for initial testing via front-end personalization, because it’s easy to change, quick to iterate and agile. Then once you know which personalized experience performs best, you could switch to a server-side approach for faster loading of personalized content and optimal SEO.