Excerpt from report by Michael Martinez
The targeted keyword expression, “how long does it take”, was chosen from among existing articles on the SEO-Theory.com Website. The original article, written in 2012, once performed quite well on the SEO Theory site. Similar articles written earlier also performed well, attracting 130-250 organic search referrals per month after their initial productive periods (new blog articles tend to attract a lot of interest in the first few days after publication).
Eight titles (aka headlines) and meta descriptions were devised for the experiment. The blog name was incorporated into all titles, positioning the name at the beginning in four options and at the end in the other four options. Only a single URL was used for the survey.
162 respondents completed the survey. The system requires only 160 results. The results are ranked according to proprietary criteria. The final recommendation was presented as:
The best and worst results can be used to run a comparative analysis in a simulator tool. By setting either the best or worst result as a baseline the percentage of predicted change in performance can be displayed for each alternative headline or meta description.
In our experiment only one URL was tested. However the final page used a different URL. The most significant difference between the proposed and final URLs is the removal of year, month, and day from the proposed URL (based on the selected article).
Visual models of the tested elements can be rearranged by clicking on a SORT button beneath each model.
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE RESULTS
In order to determine the effectiveness of the survey-based recommendation, Reflective Dynamics decided to consolidate all previous articles into a single new article published as a page to avoid sending out a ping signal. The sitewide navigation was modified to include a link to the new page. The consolidated text was also updated with more current information. This approach was used to take advantage of three factors:
- Any potential boost for freshness based on publication of a new URL.
- Sitewide redistribution of internal PageRank to assist in crawling and indexing.
- Any potential boost from the increased length and depth of the article.
The new URL was /how-long-does-it-take-seo-to-work/
The All-in-One SEO plugin was added to the SEO Theory blog to provide for granular control over the page title and meta description. Prior to this experiment the blog has not used SEO plugins to modify natural search referral behavior. This practice is intentional because the blog serves as a working model of how to optimize for search without using SEO tools. Success is normally measured by the targeting of specific queries with post titles and content. Hence, historical data provides a baseline for comparison with targeted meta description versus organic search text snippet selection.
Search engines may alter the text snippet displayed in their results, so there is no guarantee that a designated meta description will appear as desired for all queries. However, though the meta description is indexed it does not affect rankings-per-query. In the course of monitoring organic referral traffic via Google Webmaster Tools we tracked 848 clicks for 185 queries with a combined total of 15,630 impressions (note: this data is incomplete due to sampling).
The data collected by Google Analytics was tracked from February 1, 2015 through February 28, 2015. Google organic referral traffic to the page was as follows:
|February 1 – 7||83|
|February 8 – 14||269|
|February 15 – 21||268|
|February 22 – 28||274|
Differences in reported click data between Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools is normal and the discrepancy of reported clicks here (50 more in Google Analytics than GWT) is not unusual.
Residual traffic for the other two articles that were used to create the new article was relatively insignificant due to overlap in keyword topic. Total visits to /2012/05/10/how-long-does-it-take-to-recover/ for the period from May 2013 through December 2014 (see table below) was about 200. The oldest article (/2011/12/07/how-long-does-it-take-seo-to-work/) received a total of 633 visits for the same period. The highest referring month was June 2013 with 85 referrals. Performance was inconsistent due to competition from the April 2012 article.
Historical data for the original publication months of the three previously used articles is no longer available from the year 2012 due to changes in the Google Analytics interface as well as changes to GA account management. It was for this reason that a non-pinging article was chosen for comparison. Data for the originally selected article is available for the months May 2013 through January 2014 and from May 2014 through December 2014. The gap of missing data is due to a change in analytics tracking. Monthly referrals to the original article were as follows:
The February 2015 traffic averaged about 31.92 referrals per day from Google organic search. The average daily referral traffic from May 2013 through December 2014 for the original article was 5.28.
ANALYSIS OF THE RESULTS
The new page URL, title, and meta description produced a 6-fold increase in organic search referral traffic from Google over the April 2012 article. Even when compared to the available data for all three source articles the new article performs well above and beyond the original set.
6 Fold Increase
The experiment would have been improved were the referral data for the original publication month (April 2012) available for comparison. But given the lack of original publication data, the use of a non-pinging page for the new article should provide sufficient data for comparison. Post referrals typically drop off within 3-5 days. The data for the months May 2013 through December 2014 suggest that the original April 2012 article possessed sufficient long-term value to be considered “evergreen”.
Still, the recommendation provided by the Predikkta tool can be credited with improving the choice of page title and meta description. The SEO Theory blog has published more than 1,000 articles since December 2006, some of them successfully targeting highly competitive keywords (such as “how the Google Panda algorithm works”) with both short and long, in-depth articles. The performance of a typical article in the dynamic and competitive environment of search marketing queries is well-documented. Increasing the length of content does not produce anything like an exponential increase in organic search referral traffic.
The key takeaway is that the new page URL, title, and meta description produced a 6-fold increase in organic search referral traffic from Google over the April 2012 article.