First, we asked our Twitter followers to vote:
Craig Lawson, President at ClickReady Marketing:
Removing the COVID Advisory should not have any affect in SERP results and or traffic. Unless the notice did include keywords or other text that helped Google understood the business better. But the country has moved on from COVID and I would recommend removing the notice no matter what.
Trevor Stolber, Digital Marketer at STOLBER.com:
Based on some recent language in Google’s documentation you would say yes. I think this will have minimal impact - possibly even showing no significant change.
This time the majority of our followers were wrong. Read further to find out why.
Covid-19 has been a part of our life for years. And, unfortunately, it has influenced our daily goings in every aspect of our lives.
One of those aspects is the fact that a lot of websites had to add a Covid-19 business statement to their websites. Some added it on their landing pages, some on their product pages, and some just had a dedicated page for their Covid advisory note.
This SplitSignal test is looking into whether or not removing those notes can help drive more traffic to your pages.
Is the need for Covid-19’s presence on our websites finally over?
The partner website we are using for this test belongs to one of the largest pet retailers in the world.
And that isn’t the only way this test is unique.
Usually, when we form a hypothesis for our test, we start by brainstorming what should be able to improve rankings. This time it was different; they decided that they would like to remove the Covid-19 advisory note. However, since they are a very successful, large business, they didn’t want to take unnecessary risks.
So, knowing what our tool SplitSignal does, they decided to run a test with us.
The point of the test is to see if removing these advisory notes can help a website, stall it, or if it just doesn’t matter.
For this test, we got to play with just under a thousand pages (957—to be exact). We had to exclude 8 pages, and the rest SplitSignal split into two groups (learn more about SEO Testing, the easy way): control 471 and variant 478.
The control group was untouched, but the variant group got a “haircut” of sorts, with all of those pages shedding the Covid-19 business statement entirely.
As you already know, SplitSignal’s functions allow us to make these hundreds of massive changes in just a few minutes.
We let the test run for full 21 days and tracked both groups.
The results were something that our expert followers and we fully expected.
It turns out that Google didn’t actually care about these pages, and they weren’t a ranking “burden” on their website. Overall, there was NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE.
The total shift we saw was only a slight dip of 0.9%, which falls under normal variance between the groups and shouldn’t be attributed to the change.
Most clients would be unhappy with this development. However, in this case, we are generally satisfied with neutral.
Explaining the Test Results
Explaining this one is a challenge in itself. Usually, we can expect some shift in results and clicks whenever we make large sitewide changes. We do see tests with no noticeable results. However, most of those case studies had much smaller changes implemented to their test pages.
However, this change does include the removal of something most of our visitors will consider inconsequential at best. And people don’t care about them, either.
And we are very happy to confirm that. After all, it doesn’t make all that much sense for Google to start ranking or hurting websites based on such a generalized piece of the puzzle.
On the other hand, we knew there was a risk of losing rankings due to these changes. Google did have a statement about MUM, an AI system that influences rankings for pages with Covid-19 information. SEO is a very sensitive field, and whenever you remove large amounts of text from hundreds of pages, there is some trepidation.
In hindsight, we fully understand why that fear was unnecessary. The repeated content across the website that is in no way related to your main pages can indeed sometimes hurt your page, but there is no reason to believe that those notes were what was holding your website up.
Many would argue that proper Covid-19 messaging was needed 2 years ago. Various studies have shown that young people wanted brands to step up and spread the message of responsibility.
However, there is a time and place for everything. Nowadays, Covid-19 finally feels like a bad memory, as opposed to a really tough reality to be in. And keeping the Covid-19 messaging on your website could negatively impact your customers.
We all know that, sooner or later, all those pages have got to go. The question is—when?
That is a question that each brand should make sure to answer on its own.
We don’t have all the answers, but, at least for this website, we have the answer that it is indeed safe to start removing your advisory notes.
It is possibly time to slowly start moving away from that page of our lives and refocus the customer's attention on what is important to your clients—adding more valuable content to your pages.