Optimize and Google Search

People are often curious about how website testing with a tool like Optimize affects a site’s performance in search results. This article provides a few guidelines for running an effective experiment without adversely affecting your website’s search performance.

In this article:

Testing encouraged

While small changes – such as the size, color, or placement of a button or call to action – can have a large impact on user experience, these types of changes typically have a negligible impact on a web page’s search ranking.

Google encourages constructive testing and does not view the ethical use of testing tools such as Optimize to constitute cloaking. Optimizing your web pages benefits site owners as well as users by increasing conversions and by presenting the most desired information more efficiently.

Note

Cloaking is the practice of presenting a version of a web page to search engines that is different from the version presented to users, with the intention of deceiving the search engines and affecting the page's ranking in the search index.

Guidelines

The following guidelines help ensure that your experiments don’t impact your website’s search performance and that variants aren’t construed as cloaking.

Crawling is ok

It’s Ok if Googlebot crawls or indexes page variants that you’re testing. If you follow the guidelines presented here, there will be a negligible impact on your website's performance.

Maintain the same spirit

Your variant pages should maintain the spirit of the content on your original pages. The variants shouldn't change the meaning of, or users’ general perception of, the original content. For example, it is considered abusive if a page focused on higher education programs is modified to appear as a casino membership program sign-up page to some users.

End experiments on time

A leader is declared when Optimize has collected and analyzed sufficient data. Once Optimize has found a winning variant, end the experiment and deploy the leader through your existing web development process. The best practice is to hand the variant off to your web team to code and deploy to your production website. Since Optimize isn’t a CMS or hosting platform, it isn’t designed to serve variants indefinitely.

Define a canonical URL with redirect tests

Note

Canonical URLs are only relevant with redirect tests. If you only create A/B and/or multivariate tests, you can skip ahead to the next section.

If you create redirect tests to experiment with multiple versions of a given page, we recommend that you define a canonical URL for your variants. This ensures that your redirect page variants won’t have an impact on your original page’s SEO rankings.

Indicate your preferred URL by adding a <LINK> element with the attribute rel="canonical" to the <HEAD> section of your redirect pages. To learn more about canonical URLs, read Use canonical URLs in the Search Console help center.

Abuse policy

Attempting to use tools like Optimize to deceive users or search engines is considered abuse. Google reserves the right to take action on any site that violates Google's Webmaster Guidelines, or if we feel that users are being deceived or abused.

Was this helpful?
How can we improve it?