Lessons Learned from SEO Tests that Didn’t “Win” – Whiteboard Friday

Sometimes, it’s the tests that don’t win that the greatest lessons come from! We love running experiments with SEO and seeing results, but even when a test “loses,” there are often bigger lessons we can take away and apply in our ongoing work. In this Whiteboard Friday, John Lincoln covers a series of experiments that didn’t show great results, but had learnable takeaways that can help inform your future testing.

Lesson 1: Always Include a Control

A key element of any A/B test is a control set. When testing, you want to make sure that the control remains the same, so you can accurately measure the success (or failure) of your experiment. If you don’t measure from a control, you won’t know exactly which change or combination of changes caused the effect (positive or negative).

Lesson 2: Do Your Homework on Your Target Audience

It’s crucial to know the needs of your target audience before you start making changes. If you don’t have a deep understanding of your audience’s preferences, you may create content or changes that aren’t effective. To test effectively, you must really understand their needs, intentions, and goals.

Lesson 3: Be Prepared for Unexpected Results

In performing experiments, you should always be prepared for unexpected results. You may think that a change you make to a website or a piece of content will affect a certain KPI, but you won’t know unless you test it. When you experiment, make sure to document every step of the process, so you have a detailed record of what worked and what didn’t.

Lesson 4: Install Tracking

In order to measure the success of your experiments, you must have the proper tracking in place. This means using tracking tools like Google Analytics, and setting up Goal tracking in web analytics so you can track conversions. Once you have tracking up and running, you can start to measure the success of your experiments and determine which ones should be implemented.

Lesson 5: Don’t Be Too Quick to Give Up

Experiments don’t always show results immediately, so don’t be too quick to give up. It’s important to experiment again and again until you find the best combination of changes. Even when a test “loses,” it can be informative and teach you something about how to make future tests even better.


When experimenting with SEO, it’s important to remember the lessons learned from tests that didn’t necessarily “win.” From making sure to include a control to being prepared for unexpected results, these lessons will help you get the most out of every experiment.