1. What is SEO Visibility?
SEO Visibility is a metric compiled from several relevant search factors that is used to calculate how visible a website is in a search engine’s organic results. This metric has been developed by Searchmetrics to provide a single, universal index for measuring and comparing the online performance of different domains.
How is SEO Visibility calculated?
The calculation of this KPI, used to measure the visibility of a website, compiles several different data points, including information on the search volume of relevant keywords and the ranking positions and frequencies of a domain’s URLs. This means how often, and where the URLs rank for these keywords in the organic search results of Google, Bing, and other search engines. Each position is given an individual weighting in line with the methodology developed by Searchmetrics. Other data from dynamic models for calculating the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) also contributes to the calculation.
In this case, CTR means the following: For search results in general, the top rankings are clicked on more than the search results at the bottom of the first results page or on the next pages. At the same time, a search result that is displayed with a video snippet that ranks at, for example, position five, will probably get more clicks than a simple text link at the same position.
As a guide, the SEO Visibility of a domain will be higher if:
- The domain’s URLs rank higher up the search results list
- Many different URLs on the domain are included in Google’s index with good rankings
- The domain’s URLs rank well for keywords with a high search volume
What does the SEO Visibility tell us?
Generally speaking, the SEO Visibility is an indicator of how visible a website is in the organic search results when queries are entered into search engines on desktop computers. It is an index which also makes it possible to analyze problems and to identify potential for optimization.
Furthermore, it is possible to compare different domains in terms of their performance on search engines – e.g. thematically similar pages or competitors. It is also possible to make comparisons between winner and loser domains in order to draw conclusions regarding general trends or significant changes in search engine rankings. These often occur following algorithm updates.
2. Historic SEO Visibility
The SEO Visibility is constantly re-evaluated and recalculated, and is updated weekly for all domains in the Research Cloud of the Searchmetrics Suite. Of course, past data points can be used to analyze the trend of a domain’s search engine performance over time. The following screenshot shows, as an example, how the SEO Visibility of amazon.com developed from March 2012 to March 2017:
The use of historic SEO Visibility makes it possible to analyze a domain’s progression over several years, depending on how old the domain is. With this historic analysis, it is possible to recognize where the major changes in SEO Visibility have occurred. This can also be used to better understand technical changes (domain migrations, errors), penalties or the impact of Google updates like Panda or Penguin. And this does not just apply to your own domain, but all domains in the Searchmetrics database – in the US and internationally for specific country indexes.
Why doesn’t the SEO Visibility show real traffic numbers?
The SEO Visibility shows how visible a domain is based on the entire keyword set that rankings are analyzed for. The most common criticism received from webmasters when a domain’s SEO Visibility goes up or down is that traffic and/or conversions may have stayed the same. This criticism is based on a simple misunderstanding: The SEO Visibility is not a traffic index!
Searchmetrics’ visibility is calculated based on a specific keyword set and not based on real-life traffic data. We use a huge keyword set to create a common basis for comparison for all domains, nationally and internationally. Even though Searchmetrics uses the largest keyword set of all companies in the industry as the basis for its data calculation, it is, of course, impossible to include every single search query in the SEO Visibility calculation.
3. New search queries
One reason is that that around 15 percent of the daily queries entered into Google have never been searched before. And these can also create traffic for a domain, even though the relevant keywords have not yet been included in the data for calculating SEO Visibility.
Furthermore, other traffic can come from users who enter the URL by hand, traffic from links from other websites and – not to be forgotten – the paid traffic generated via advertisements like Google AdWords or Product Listing Ads (PLA). This all means that there are numerous factors that can influence a website’s traffic. Visits via the organic search results are highly significant, but still only one of several traffic sources. To be able to analyze the SEO Visibility not for the complete keyword set, but for individually-defined lists of keywords, Searchmetrics also offers the Project SEO Visibility.
4. Special website focus
Although the general keyword set is dynamic and constantly expanded, there are two further challenges:
- The more specialized a website is, the more likely it is that the SEO Visibility won’t take into account the entire performance of the page, because longtail keywords that help to generate relevant traffic are not included in the analyzed keyword set.
- Also, keyword rankings that may be irrelevant for the website’s actual traffic can have an impact on the SEO Visibility. If, for example, a domain ranks low down for keywords that are not particularly relevant for that domain, then the SEO Visibility may be lower than the actual levels of traffic would suggest.
5. Solution: Set up a specific project in the Searchmetrics Suite
For these reasons, Searchmetrics offers its customers the Project Management Area of the Searchmetrics Suite. Here, a customer can define their own keywords and keywords sets, which can be used to generate a customized Project SEO Visibility, specifically targeted to the precise needs of the website.
How relevant is a website’s SEO Visibility?
The relevance of SEO Visibility can be demonstrated using the example of ehow.com. The how-to portal’s concept is/was to show numerous short articles and videos that were prepared according to SEO practices. In the chart below, the top (light blue) line shows the SEO Visibility. The bottom (darker) line shows the share price of the company behind ehow, Demand Media. Both curves show the development in the period from 2011 and 2015, and they run in parallel. The drop in ehow’s SEO Visibility, which was primarily caused by Google’s Panda update and its numerous iterations, corresponds to the decline in the company’s share price.
What other visibility KPIs are there?
On top of the standard SEO Visibility, Searchmetrics has developed several more specific visibility KPIs, which are described in the following.
6. Project SEO Visibility
The Project SEO Visibility can be used in the Project Management Area of the Searchmetrics Suite to set up a customized analysis, based on a personal keyword set and any desired combination of various search engines and search parameters (mobile, local, etc.). This creates a more relevant gauge of visibility for your market, simply because it is a more specific analysis. The data defined as the basis for Project SEO Visibility should focus on the keywords that are considered most important for that specific web project, which the user can decide upon.
Reminder: As opposed to the Project SEO Visibility, the general SEO Visibility is based on a general, dynamic, growing keyword set. This can potentially include keyword rankings that are relatively unimportant for a particular domain and that can impact negatively on the calculation of its performance. Such terms should obviously be excluded from the keyword set defined for the Project SEO Visibility.
7. Mobile SEO Visibility
In line with the growing importance of search queries coming from mobile devices, Searchmetrics has developed a mobile-specific KPI, Mobile SEO Visibility. Looking at Desktop and Mobile SEO Visibility together makes it possible to compare the performance of a website for search queries coming from desktop computers with those from mobile devices.
A quick look at the SEO Visibility graph makes it easy to directly compare the differences in visibility between mobile and desktop. In order to maintain comparability, we use the same machine learning algorithms from Desktop SEO Visibility to apply our dynamic CTR calculation to mobile. The reason for this is we think it is invaluable to have a common calculation basis to be able to provide a useful comparison between these two KPIs.
To conduct a deep analysis and to get highly precise Mobile SEO Visibility data, crawls with user agents for different types of device, like smartphones or tablets, can be carried out in the Project Management Area of the Searchmetrics Suite. In some cases, there can be huge differences between the results for mobile devices and the desktop results for the same keywords.
8. Local Mobile Visibility
Searchmetrics also offers special mobile indexes for different cities. These provide the Local Mobile Visibility, and are also available in the Suite’s Project Management Area. These indicate how visible a domain is for mobile search queries in one particular city.
With Local Mobile Visibility, a domain’s visibility for mobile search queries in different cities can be analyzed. This is important for any companies with specific operations in a certain city or region.
9. Paid Visibility
Paid Visibility is measured for domains that use AdWords for Google search results. The visibility that a domain gains from paid ads in Google search is calculated using a number of different indicators – such as the search volume and the CPCs for the keywords that are promoted using ads, and the distribution of the domain’s visibility for ads in desktop and mobile search results.
- SEO Visibility is an index created by Searchmetrics for displaying the visibility of domains in search engine results.
- SEO Visibility is calculated using a range of different data sources that are based on a dynamic keyword set. Data considered includes the search volume of keywords, the domain’s rankings for these keywords, dynamic CTR models for traffic distribution, and keyword classification.
- SEO Visibility is not a traffic index. It is an indicator that expresses the historic and current visibility of a domain in Google’s search results.
- Searchmetrics also offers Mobile SEO Visibility, in response to the growing importance of search queries from mobile devices. This indicates the visibility of a domain in the mobile search results.
- In order to provide differentiation at local level, we have Local Mobile Visibility.
- Paid Visibility is another KPI that describes how visible a domain is based on paid advertisements in search engine results.
Several possibilities for analysis with the Searchmetrics Suite include:
- conclusions regarding a domain’s, a directory’s or a URL’s historic performance
- tracking improvements/declines in keyword ranking positions
- recognizing problems, e.g. following a Panda or Penguin update
- analyzing competitors and adapting your own campaigns accordingly
- comparing the performance of similar domains
- analyzing websites of potential clients