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  • Technology
  • Dec 17,2021
  • the-clickflow-team

How Testing.org Uses Title Testing to Boost Organic Search Click-Through Rates

Tweaking a title or updating a meta description can drastically improve your click-through rates from the organic search results. In turn, this can lead to more site visitors and more conversions for very little investment.

The difficult part is knowing what changes to make to your titles and meta tags. You can glean some insights from studies and trends, but, as Testing.org discovered, these are no substitute for trustworthy, statistically relevant data.

Testing.org is an online education company covering professional certifications and other resources for high-skill trades. They publish reviews, how-to blogs, and more.

Dan Carpenter, SEO Strategist at Testing.org, spoke to us about how the company identifies priority pages for optimization, tests meta tags using our SEO tool ClickFlow, and makes data-based decisions that lead to more organic hits.


Optimizing Site Content for Improved Page Hits & CTR

Carpenter focuses on identifying the best ways to optimize content, using ClickFlow to run tests and measure the results before implementing more widespread changes across Testing.org’s sites.

“We’ve had good wins with it,” he says. “We’ve had a few home runs. There have also been several doubles and triples if you want to use baseball technology. There have also been [experiments that weren’t successful], so it’s not all one-sided, but it’s been positive.”

screenshot of ClickFlow's experiments page with results of a meta description and title change

Even when an experiment doesn’t lead to an increase in clicks, Carpenter still sees the positive in the situation. “Maybe even more important than the [increased CTR] is that the results are definitive. It’s very easy to just glance through and come away with black-and-white information.”

Testing.org might not have found a way to boost engagement for every single article, but they have discovered what doesn’t work. This allows them to discard SEO trends and techniques that aren’t suited to their content or niches. The team can be confident that they’re using the best title and meta tags they can think of for each article.

And when experiments do prove successful, there’s an immediate positive difference in page hits and click-through rates. Says Carpenter:

“We’ve seen pages jump up from 1,000 clicks to 1,500 clicks over a thirty-day period, which is really cool.”

How Testing.org Identifies Areas for Optimization

With more than 20 websites under the Testing.org umbrella, there are lots of pages to work with and lots of experiments that the company could run. To get the most out of each test, Carpenter follows this process:

1) Identify the Most Important Pages

When selecting content to run experiments on, Carpenter gives priority to two types of pages:

  • those that bring in the most revenue
  • those that bring in the most data

“It’s the lower-funnel content that we’re most concerned with,” he explains, “like the ‘Best X for Y,’ individual product reviews, a round-up, or a versus article. [Optimizing those] is an opportunity to affect revenue.”

Even small improvements to the click-through rate on high-revenue pages can represent a worthwhile return on investment. “But above and beyond that,” says Carpenter, “we want to come away with information.”

Pages with higher traffic may not bring in as much revenue as the lower-funnel content, but because they have a lot of visibility and clicks, experiments run on them have greater statistical validity.

If a page increases from 10 to 15 hits per month, that could be a coincidence; it’s within a normal range of fluctuation. However, if a page jumps by several hundred hits a month, then the data from the test can be considered relevant enough that the company will use it to drive decisions. 

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2) Select a Single Variable to Test

The next step is selecting a variable to test:

  • If your main focus is on improving the click-through rate for articles that are already ranking well, then title tags and other meta tags are a good place to start.
  • If you want to rank higher, then tweaking the content can also be worthwhile.

For companies just starting to run experiments, Carpenter believes that there are several specific techniques that are likely to have positive results.

“Try adding the medal emoji, try brackets, try adding the year, try putting the keyword at the very beginning,” he recommends.

3) Pick the Sample Pages

The bigger the sample group, the better. Carpenter recommends, “Try to test the same format for multiple URLs. If you can, do it across 10 or even 20 pages.

screenshot of ClickFlow's experiments page showing how using an emoji, brackets or date can improve CTR

“In our case, we have a lot of similar pages so we’re able to do 15 or 20 different experiments at the same time on the same thing, like ‘best blank for blank,’ ‘2021,’ brackets, ‘reviews, pros, cons.’ We can do that across maybe 20 different pages because we have multiple pages out there that are set up the same way.”

screenshot of ClickFlow's experiments page showing how using an emoji or brackets can improve CTR

You might not get the same results for all those pages. However, the insights will give you an idea as to what generally works. Plus, because you have a larger sample size, there’s a reduced risk of making decisions based on an anomaly. 

“There’s really no one-size-fits-all for any page, if you’re doing it right, but I think it’s meaningful to look at an aggregate,” says Carpenter. “I would recommend that somebody who’s getting started with ClickFlow tries to come away with some sort of statistical read on a few general title performance notes.” 

4) Run the Experiment

The next part is simple: With the variables and pages selected, the only thing left to do is make the change and track the results.

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5) Review the Results and Make a Decision

With ClickFlow, it’s easy for Carpenter to see the results of his tests.

For example, his user dashboard reveals experiments that led to a 138% click-through rate improvement and that caused one page to jump from 363 clicks to 677 (an 87% increase):

screenshot showing results of experiments that led to one page to jump from 363 clicks to 677 (an 87% increase)

Making the decision about how to move forward from there is simple, because it’s all based on data. If an experiment shows positive results, Carpenter simply keeps the updated meta tags in place. If the test didn’t boost clicks, or if clicks actually fell, he can simply revert it.

🚀 Learn More: 🚀

Data-Based Decisions Made Easy 

Data-based decisions are the most objective way to improve a page’s performance, especially when that data is drawn from your own website and from large samples.

With Google Search Console and Google Analytics, every website owner has the data at hand to run A/B tests and identify ways to improve performance. The problem is that isolating and analyzing this data manually can be time consuming.

At previous companies and on his own, personal websites, Carpenter tried to do similar experiments using Google Search Console. “The method was very cumbersome,” he says. “I would have to download a bunch of spreadsheets and take a look at any patterns I could see.

“I would take a look at the top 10, 15, 20 most critical URLs that I thought could be improved. I would write out a bunch of new meta titles and descriptions and try to go live with all of those on the same day, manually update those, and then sit back and say, ‘Ok, Google probably needs 48 hours to index so I’ll start the clock after that.’ It was a lot of guesswork, and very manual and cumbersome.”

Not only did Carpenter struggle with the amount of work required to run a single experiment, but he didn’t have confidence in the results:

“Trying to do all this manually, there was just so much room for error and guesswork.”

In the end, he stopped trying to extract data manually. While the idea was sound, he found that testing this way required too much time and didn’t lead to conclusive results.

Testing.org began working with ClickFlow just under a year ago, and shortly afterwards, Carpenter purchased his own licence for his personal websites. Since then, he has run, on average, two new experiments through ClickFlow every week. 

The initial process was “pretty seamless,” and the automation makes it far easier for him to organize experiments, compare results, and make data-based decisions. “[ClickFlow] is what I would have built if I had the know-how,” he says.

The Right Tools in the Suite

For companies like Testing.org, which Carpenter describes as “content-heavy” and “SEO-heavy,” improving search visibility and click-through rates can reap serious rewards.

Carpenter believes that effectively optimizing content is about having the right tools in place. “There are about four or five tools I trust,” he says. “Ahrefs is awesome; I think everybody knows that. And I think that ClickFlow, once you’re making a certain amount of money and have a certain amount of traffic, it’s well worth the month spent. It’s one of the best tools in our suite.”

With these tools to help him, Carpenter is able to make informed decisions that lead to measurable improvements. Ultimately, that’s all because his optimizations are based on extensive, reliable data from Testing.org’s own portfolio — and not on guesswork.

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