The challenges of SEO testing and coordinating the many pieces of a growth program

Alex Atkins

A Conversation with CXL’s Alex Atkins about Experimentation



I recently had a quick chat with Alex from CXL about the challenges of running Experiments on SEO, how he keeps his growth team aligned, and his thoughts of the one and only Peep Laja.


Rommil: Alex! How are you? I hope you’ve been well. So, as the head of growth over at CXL, can you tell us a bit about your day-to-day and your career journey thus far?

Alex: My day to day often depends on the day in the week. I typically like to meet with my team in 1:1s (as this is growing more important in the world of COVID to maintain communication) early in the week (Monday — Tuesday). I then spend the rest of the week building our growth machine, attempting to grow CXL’s awareness across the globe.

Can you share with us what role Experimentation plays in your world?

The team and I are constantly experimenting. Every week we run a new experiment, whether it’s with a testing tool or a change/tweak on the site. Experimentation lies at the core of each growth marketer.

Growth and Experimentation involve so many moving pieces and coordinating a lot of people and stakeholders — how do ensure that everyone is on the same page and not running into each other?

This is absolutely correct, there are tons of moving pieces within the multifunctional growth team. The key to ensuring everyone is on the same page (especially in COVID) is to over-communicate. Be transparent and take time to communicate with everyone on the team (both stakeholders and teammates).

The key to ensuring everyone is on the same page (especially in COVID) is to over-communicate.

In CRO, there’s a lot of talk about customer journeys, landing pages, and copy — but not a whole lot about SEO. Why is that and how can folks leverage the power of Experimentation in improving their SEO?

Interesting question, I like this one! In my experience it’s difficult to experiment content changes with SEO without the right tools. It’s certainly possible to A/B test on-page SEO elements such as meta titles and descriptions, headlines, CTAs, etc. In terms of testing large content changes though, it’s difficult to know whether or not results are accurate. Were my results impacted by content freshness algorithms? Is the turnaround time too long, creating sampling issues? I certainly agree that proactively testing SEO can lead to big wins, but it’s more difficult than testing other facets of digital marketing.


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How would you recommend folks Experiment for SEO?

I would conduct conversion research and review existing analytical data. I would then develop my first test hypothesis. In terms of what to test, again I’d recommend on-page SEO components. Elements such as title tags which are most prominent in SERPs. At CXL we rely on Google Optimize to execute on testing, but there are plenty of tools out there specifically designed for SEO experimentation.

Could you share with us one of your most favourite Experiments and why you like it?

While this might not be considered a traditional experiment, I’ve recently started testing out the efficacy of a new video tool. This tool allows me to send personalized videos to individuals that are using our platform. The hypothesis is that we can convert new trials more effectively, by sending a personalized video to them within 24 hours of starting a trial. I tested this hypothesis out by sending personalized welcome videos to 50% of an audience over the course of a couple of weeks. We concluded that the variant/test audience was 17% more likely to convert than our original/control audience.

What are some trends in Experimentation that excite you?

I’m excited by behavioural analytics tools. It’s interesting to see how they continue to grow and capture elements of an individual’s journey beyond traditional analytical tools.

Finally, it’s time for the Lightning round!

Bayesian or Frequentist?

Bayesian.

Other than CXL-related anything, where are some of your go-to resources for Experimentation?

There are several excellent resources available, but not a ton in comparison to disciplines like SEO, content marketing, product marketing, etc. I personally have read articles on Wordstream, Hotjar, VWO, and Hubspot.

If you couldn’t work in Experimentation, what would you do?

I would love to be a videographer. I’ve always loved making movies.

Tell us the truth, what is Peep Laja like in person?

Peep is hands down one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. He’s straightforward, direct and expects his team to be hungry for knowledge/learning.

Describe Alex in 5 words or less.

Enjoying life and always learning.


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