If you own an online business, or work in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), then you probably know by now that SEO is not an exact science. Unlike chemistry, there is no formula that guarantees success. It does not suffice to mix the right ingredients together in order to get a substance which will be the same every time. The web changes, it changes a lot, and you need to constantly adapt to what is happening out there. Very few people stick to a single system their whole life, and instead the successful marketers will constantly do experiments and tests in order to see what works, and what no longer does. Here is a list of 31 such experiments, things that were attempted, and whether they turned out to be successful or not.
1. Plain text URLs with no link
The experiment: In this experiment, a group of marketers from the academic sector noticed something fairly interesting in some of the web sites and pages in university and college domains. A lot of the times, when a scientific paper or other academic text would be produced, the convention said that links would be spelled out, written out on the page without having a link. For example, they would write http://example.com instead of having a keyword with a link. So they wanted to know what difference that made for search engines and for discovery.
The result: Unfortunately, the test yielded no positive result. It seems like people were not going to the new URL in any more number than if the plain text URL was not there. One thing they did note however is that Google does discover plain text URLs even if they have no link associated to the.
2. Google+ and Twitter influencing search results
The experiment: When Google introduced the real time search results, it meant that suddenly, tweets were part of the results. That meant anything someone would tweet out was now visible in search results. But shortly after, the company deprecated that result. So do tweets still influence search results? This experiment centered around a single tweet linking to an unindexed URL.
What quickly became clear is that while Google appears to no longer have access to the Twitter fire hose, there are enough scrappers and aggregator sites that the tweet still makes it to the search results, albeit a bit slower. But Google+ saw a much faster transition from social to search, with these results showing up in minutes.
The result: There was no question from this experiment that both a tweet and a Google+ post would influence search results, although Google+ seems to have a much more immediate effect.
3. PageRank variation based on number of links
The experiment: The question here was whether or not the number of outgoing links on an authoritative site affected how much gain one site could get from a backlink, in terms of PageRank changes. So in order to find out, the experiment used two brand new sites, and added a single backlink on two popular sites. The first one was a site that had a moderate number of links already, while the second site had thousands. The purpose here was to see whether Google penalized backlinks on sites that already had too many links.
The result: What this test showed is that there seemed to be no impact on the number of existing backlinks present. Both sites ranked up in a similar fashion, and remained that way for months.
4. High volume blogging experiment
The experiment: A small financial firm with an online site was watching its traffic numbers being completely flat for months. One day however, they received the necessary funds and goahead for an online marketing campaign. What they wanted to test was whether using regular posts, combined with social media, could increase their search traffic in the long term. They blogged for 100 days in a row, taking Twitter questions from their customers and making videos to drive traffic to their site.
The result: Because their traffic numbers had been flat for so long, they had a nice baseline to compare against. When they started blogging, they right away saw their traffic numbers come up. But more than that, they were able to track long tail keywords as well, showing that the traffic was going up. There was no doubt that in this experiment, an increase in content meant better SEO.
5. Content hijacking
The experiment: As part of its algorithm, Google has a rule that duplicate content will not be displayed in its results. This means that if a second site copies a page from a first site, and posts it, then that copy will not show up in Google. However, it is possible for the second site to hijack that content, appearing in search results, and making the legitimate site stop showing up. The way Google decides which site will show up is whichever has the highest PR. So all the copying site has to do is make sure they get more backlinks.
The result: The experiment showed that it is indeed possible for a brand new site to hijack content away from a legitimate site. However, there are some defenses that can help prevent this. One is by using the canonical tag, and the other is by having a Google+ profile with an authorship markup.
The source: http://dejanseo.com.au/hijacked/
6. How uppercase letters affect SEO
The experiment: If you do a keyword search for a specific phrase and try both lowercase and capital letters, you will quickly see that the number of hits are different. This would indicate that Google does make a distinction between lowercase and uppercase letters. So an experiment was conducted to see whether capital letters would help a post rank higher or not.
The result: The result showed that titles had no effect on the ranking. Whether a post title was all lowercase or using capital letters, the ranking speed was the same. So what accounts for the difference in the amount of hits? It turns out that the URL does. If a page name has capital letters, there will likely be more results than if it is all lowercase. If this holds true for all niches, then whether or not you use capital letters in your post’s URL would seem to matter.
7. Value of the Google +1 button
The experiment: Last year, Google introduced their Search Plus My World feature, which they said meant Google+ would be important for search results. But what is the worth of a single +1 hit on your page? If people click on that button, does it influence your ranking? The experiment used brand new pages and tested whether clicking on the +1 button changed anything for their Google rankings. The result: The result of a couple of +1 clicks was insignificant. There seemed to be no difference in ranking, at least from a typical, anonymous user. However, Google+ turned out to be important for other reasons. Whenever someone likes your page on Google+, all of their friends suddenly see that page come up on top. So the social part is very important to SEO.
8. Recovering from an update penalty
The experiment: If you have been working with SEO for a while, you probably know about Google’s infamous updates, how the company constantly revises its algorithm to try and remove spam sites. There was the Panda update in particular that made a lot of legitimate sites lose ranking. Sometimes, the reason behind this deranking can be hard to find, but if you do find it, how hard it is to recover? By analyzing data before and after such a change, a group of marketers watched their analytics software to find out just how long it took for them to rise back in PageRank.
The result: It turns out that recovering after such a penalty is hard and it takes a while. But if you do fix the problem, it is possible to recover your ranking completely. The experiment showed that you can come back to the previous ranking that you used to have over time.
9. Testing negative SEO techniques
The experiment: Online marketers are always quick to tell us how we should stick with white hat techniques, always use methods that are allowed by Google, and avoid using shortcuts which may seem appealing, but apparently can cause our site to lose ranking if found out. But are these warnings really true? Do negative SEO techniques lead to a loss of rank? To test this, a site which ranked in 3rd position for a specific keyword was taken and a lot of spam links were added. In total, 7,000 forum links, 45,000 blog comments and 4,000 sidebar links.
The result: While tracking the ranking, right away the experiment showed a loss of ranking. Within less than a month, the site had taken the 14th position for that same keyword.
10. Ranking a brand new site quickly
The experiment: With the Penguin update, Google has made it much harder for smaller sites to rank. Instead, the algorithm focuses on large authoritative sites with a lot of history and backlinks. So is it still possible for a new site to rank quickly for a keyword? The experiment followed a new site with a specific keyword, along with a series of backlinks being placed on authoritative sites. The linking strategy was to place not only the keyword itself but similar phrases as well, and to spread those links on multiple sites.
The result: Less than two months after the experiment started, the site managed to reach the 4th position for the keyword. This proves that even after these updates, it is still possible for a small, brand new site, to rank well when the proper SEO is used.
11. Finding links to pages you do not own