How to SEO test url redirects

Written by Nick Swan. Published on 06, July 2021

There are occasions where you decide to rewrite articles to update, improve and expand them, and as part of that process you decide to change the url.

This could be to simplify and shorten a url slug or move the page to be contained within a different directory structure.

With SEOTesting.com you can now run Url Switch Tests, which are time based tests where the control period is the old url and the test period is the new url. It’s assumed that you will 301 redirect from the old url to the new url on the day that you start the test.

The goal of these tests is to see whether your new page/url is performing better from an organic search point of view - ie an increase in clicks over a period of time.

Before you setup a Url Switch Test you will generally want to make sure you have implemented the following:

1, The new page has been published at the new url 2, There is a 301 redirect in place from the old url to the new url 3, You have gone into Google Search Console and requested the new and old url, and requested that they are reindexed so Google will crawl and pick up on the redirection and new page.

Once you have published your new page, and done these steps in Google Search Console, you are ready to set up the Url Switch Test.

Setting up a Url Switch Test

1, Within SEOTesting.com select the site you wish to setup a test on, and click on SEO Tests on the left hand navigation

2, Click the button to ‘Create a new SEO Test’, and on the following screen click ‘Create Url Switch Test’

3, Give the test a meaningful name and description. The more information you put in here about the changes you are testing, the more useful the test and results will be in 6 months when you are looking over the results again.

4, In the ‘Old Urls’ textarea, add the initial url that you are wanting to replace, and redirecting from.

As you can see, you can add multiple urls in here, which is useful if you are merging a number of pages. If you are adding multiple urls, each url needs to go on a new line.

5, In the ‘New Urls’ textarea add the new url you are creating and redirecting to.

As you can again see, you can add multiple urls here, which is useful if you are taking a single large page and breaking it out into a separate url for each topic.

6, We have an optional country code to add, which will filter the data by a specific geographical country.

7, Assuming your new url has gone live today, you have set up the 301 redirect, and requested the indexing of the urls in GSC - you can leave ‘Changed Date’ as today.

8, You can select how long you want the control and test period to be. Ideally you want to collect as much data as possible so unless there’s a good reason (such as a seasonal event happening like Black Friday) set this to 6 weeks.

9, If you’d like to get an email alert when the test has finished processing the data that’s currently available (especially useful if you are back-testing a change).

On the next screen you’ll be asked to confirm the control and test dates. This configuration screen allows you to extend the control and test periods to be whatever you wish.

Interpreting the test results

The data available through the Google Search Console API is at least two days behind, so if you were to set the ‘Changed Date’ to today when setting up your test, it’ll take a few days before data starts to appear.

The key metric to focus on for most tests is clicks per day. If the test period is showing an increase in clicks per day you can consider the test results to be positive.

If your new page starts to rank for more queries it’s likely the impressions will increase disproportionately more than the clicks. This will affect the click through rate. Also as the page is ranking for more queries the average ranking of the page will probably drop. So don’t get despondent if your tests are showing an improvement in clicks per day and impressions, but the click through rate and average position has dropped. You should still consider this outcome a positive one.

If clicks per day, impressions per day, click through rate and average position are all displaying green indicators because there has been an improvement in the test period - start planning the celebration party! :)

Back-testing historical changes

If you are new to using SEOTesting.com and have previously created new pages and redirected an old url, as long as this happened within the last 16 months (this is as far back as the Google Search Console data goes) you can set the ‘Changed Date’ back to when the new page went live and the redirection was put in place.

SEOTesting.com can then go back and get the data for the control period, and the test period, and return the results to you as soon as this data has been collected.