Learning from negative tests — Will Critchlow // SearchPilot

Will Critchlow, CEO of SearchPilot, discusses a full series on SEO testing. It’s easy for experienced SEOs to default to SEO best practices and recommend changes that may do more harm than good. However, we now have access to tools and the ability to run positive, negative, and neutral tests to determine whether a change will produce positive, negative, or no impact at all. Today, Will talks about negative tests.

Show Notes

  • 02:46
    How SEOs should be thinking about negative tests
    Relying on keyword research data alone can lead to underperforming ideas. However, negative tests enable SEOs to learn something and get ahead of competitors by never deploying negative changes.
  • 04:06
    Negative tests and SEO best practices
    There are SEO best practices that wont always hold true depending on the website, industry, and query intent. But, with negative tests, youre able to tell whether a change is going to be positive or negative beforehand.
  • 07:24
    Using negative tests to guide the improvement of content quality
    SearchPilot removed a block of terrible boilerplate from category pages on an eCommerce website and that had a negative impact. Best practice would have indicated the opposite but the seemingly terrible boiler play copy was adding value.
  • 08:53
    The importance of always running tests
    Without testing, small percentage drops after making best practice SEO changes may go unnoticed. With Google algorithm updates and competitor changes, if youre not testing consistently, you may not be able to undo the damage stemming from making changes.
  • 12:43
    Revisiting past tests to facilitate Google and industry changes
    As it stands, SEOs generally arent looking back at old tests and instead looking forward. However, if Google or an industry makes changes, it would be practical to check whether these changes invalidate past tests and potentially rerun them.


  • "If your competitors are not testing, never rolling out a negative change is a superpower that will enable you to consistently get ahead of them over time." -Will Critchlow, CEO, SearchPilot

  • "We've seen minus 27% organic traffic from a seemingly sensible title tag change driven off keyword research that people said more one way than another way." -Will Critchlow, CEO, SearchPilot

  • "As we increasingly have the ability to run tests, we've discovered that often professional SEOs are not much better than chance at being able to tell whether a change is going to be positive or negative." -Will Critchlow, CEO, SearchPilot

  • "A 3% drop could get caught up in seasonality, Google algorithm updates, competitor actions. So, if you're not doing controlled testing, you might not discover that and undo that damage." -Will Critchlow, CEO, SearchPilot

  • "If an industry change happens or Google announces a change, looking back at the database of past tests and saying, Does that invalidate any of them? Maybe we should rerun that, could be worthwhile." -Will Critchlow, CEO, SearchPilot

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