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Old 4th May 2006, 06:14 PM   #1
StupidScript
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Default AB Split-Testing and the SERPs

Has anyone here ever AB split-tested two domain names?

I ask before I do it because I'm concerned about duplicate content penalties imposed by the search engines.

I'd like to set up the sites' content and rig my server to point both domains to the same files, then use PHP trickery to include the proper domain name in the content. Nothing else would change.

My concern is that in order for a split-test to be successful I would need to get both domains into the search engines' "natural" results in order to see what impact the different domains might have on potential visitors, but that would probably trigger a ban on at least one, if not both domains due to the fact that they are virtually identical.

Thoughts? I really appreciate any input. TIA.

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Old 4th May 2006, 07:44 PM   #2
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I think that you are correct that dupe content is an issue with what you describe. What are you trying to prove with this test you propose? I'm not sure.

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Old 5th May 2006, 11:44 AM   #3
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Similar to a "traditional" AB split-test where a single page element is rotated in and out of the visitors' experience in order to determine whether that element has an impact on, say, conversions, I was thinking about attempting to determine the impact of different domain names on the visitor.

This project is in an industry where customer emotions and personal perceptions play a large role in the success or failure of any given product. This is distinct from other industries where things like price point and perceived value may be more dominant purchasing factors.

Okay ... it's a new type of dieting site. There, I said it. Now to generalize:

Which (fake) domain name would provide better conversion rates?
A) LoveYourDiet.com
B) DietOrDie.com

Given that the page content will be identical with the exception of the domain name, I'm attempting to determine how potential customers might respond to each of the branding approaches: You-can-do-it or Drop-and-give-me-twenty!

Do dieters prefer an approach where they feel like they are in charge, or do they prefer to feel like they are in a controlled and guided environment?

That's what I'm hoping the experiment would shed some light on.

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Old 5th May 2006, 08:26 PM   #4
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Okay, I follow what you are trying to test now.

I've never tried anything like you've described, but in the past I do have some experience with market research. I don't think your expirement is feasible with 'organic/natural' search engine rankings, but how about by using a paid per click campaign? That may work, here is how... I would setup as you understand things with ppc campaigns, and then 'exclude' both from inclusion within the search by using robots.txt. This would theoretically allow you to test your scenario, while also avoiding duplicate content issues that are inherent with what you are trying to accomplish and the way search engines work. The reason you need to exclude both, imo, is that if one is included and the other ends up being a better option, your content is already included on another domain and you've got potential issues.

I cant think of any other approach to tackle it ...

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Old 6th May 2006, 10:24 PM   #5
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Good ... good ... I like it.

It's limited when compared to a natural result, however I seem to remember reading about a way to let Google know what you are doing and to have them overlook the experiment in the paid advertising realm, where they might not have as much leeway in the robotic realm. I'll try it.

Y'know, Logan, I really appreciate your perspective ... in the literal sense. One of the things I find so valuable in these forums is that the forest is parted to reveal the trees so frequently. We get so wrapped up in the project that it's tough to look outside, and the thoughts and opinions of the fine folks like yourself and the other contributors is extremely helpful in breaking through and being able to appreciate (ibid.) both the big picture and alternative approaches.

Thank you very much.

I'll report on the experiment in some coherent way ...

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Old 7th May 2006, 12:12 PM   #6
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I'm with Logan on this in that I don't think it will make a huge difference in the organic results. I'm not even sure it will make a big difference in the paid listing. I think for the most part with search results (paid and organic) people aren't going to be looking at the domain when clicking, even if it's in the title. I see people clicking all the time on a link to my site in the results pages when it's very clear my site has nothing to do with their particular query.

I have the feeling that once they get to the site it will be the content that gets them to come back or buy and not so much the domain name, but I've been wrong before and certainly will again. I think the brand will have more of an effect over time though than in who initially comes to the site via a search engine.

I think the test would work better offline. There is certanly banding online, but I'm not sure one test will measure it. It's not my expertise though so I'm just speculating.

With the dieters themselves I would guess that there will be some people preferring one approach and some the other.

Please let us know how the results go. I'm curious to see how the experiment works. And if you find the info about getting in touch with Google please post that as well. I hadn't heard that before about being able to contact them.

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Old 8th May 2006, 03:53 PM   #7
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I look at the domain name quite a bit and that absolutely does play a role in what I click on. But that can go both ways. I may see one that looks so bad that I'm curious... like rubbernecking on the freeway.

Personally, I think LoveYourDiet.com is better. Nobody likes to diet, even if they feel like they have to and people need motivation. A chance to love your diet is motivation. A chance to kill yourself while dieting makes me want to say, "Forget it!".

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Old 9th May 2006, 12:20 PM   #8
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St0n3y I think you might be one of the rare ones that looks at the url. I know I do, but I'm given my business I just naturally pay more attention to things like that. I have no proof to offer, but I get the feeling that most people won't notice the url when looking at search results.

I think you're right about which domain will probably work better though. I spoke too soon in my last post. the 'die' associtation probably isn't going to be the one that people prefer. The positive message of 'LoveYourDiet' will most likely be the better option.

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Old 9th May 2006, 02:16 PM   #9
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Speculation ... perhaps good speculation, but still speculation. I'm not sure and can understand the arguements from both sides. I'm interested in seeing any testing and results though, as I know from my market research experience that often reality is tainted heavily by preconceived notions like both have suggested. I'm also interested in the experiment because I sure would like to see a lot more of people doing this sort of stuff. To me its strange that our industry circle doesn't do more research as suggested. When we go down to the neighborhood applebees they do this sort of testing with all sorts of variables. Yet, the vast majority within this business never even think about testing variables in a more 'scientific' manner. Look forward to any results shared, regardless of results or outcome. Even if it doesn't test things appropriately, based on my experiences that will still provide insight.

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Old 9th May 2006, 10:28 PM   #10
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I'm curious why the consensus is coming down in favor of paid results?

Do you think people respond that much differently to the links-in-the-middle?

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