When it comes to SEO, visibility in search engine results is one of the most critical factors for meeting your goals. It doesn’t matter how great your offering is, how helpful your content might be, or how outstanding your customer service is — your business is at risk if prospective customers can’t find you on Google.
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In this post, I cover what SEO visibility means, how to tie visibility metrics back to your business goals, five things you can start doing today to improve your site’s visibility in search results, and five reasons your search visibility may have dropped.
What Is SEO Visibility?
Search visibility, also known as SEO visibility or keyword visibility, is the estimated percentage of clicks a website will receive from its organic search engine rankings for keywords. If one of the keywords you rank for gets searched 100 times and your site receives five clicks, your search visibility for that term would be 5%.
In this way, search visibility is the size and strength of your organic keyword footprint based on how high you rank for a bucket of relevant keywords (i.e., your target keywords). For each individual keyword, the higher you rank, the greater your visibility. Maximum visibility would mean you rank #1 for every target keyword in the bucket. Zero visibility would suggest you don’t rank for any of your target keywords.
What’s the Difference Between Organic Search Visibility and Traffic?
SEO visibility is a relative metric gathered from several search factors. It’s used to understand how visible a site will be across search engine results pages (SERPs) and estimates the likelihood that a site will receive traffic from a fixed set of keywords based on how high the site ranks for each keyword.
SEO traffic is an absolute value. It’s the estimated number of visitors (clicks) that you’ll receive from organic search results based on where you rank for each keyword, the estimated click-through rate (CTR) given that ranking, and its estimated number of monthly search queries. (You can learn more about how to measure site traffic in this article.)
Keep in mind that search intent accounts for a lot of variability in click-through rates, but we can apply some broad averages to draw some conclusions.
Understanding that SEO traffic measures click-throughs and visibility measures keyword positions helps provide some context for variations between those numbers and the conclusions you can draw from them.
For instance, organic traffic gains or losses aren’t always caused by changes in visibility, but a change in visibility will always impact organic traffic.
How Is Search Visibility Calculated?
Not every tool measures search visibility in the same way. However, search visibility is generally calculated using a list of desired keywords. After entering or importing your keyword list, the tool assesses how well your web pages rank for those keywords. Then, using their estimates for search impressions, they generate a percentage based on your rankings.
How Do You Track Search Visibility?
Several SEO tools have created proprietary SEO visibility metrics. Each tool calculates visibility in a unique way, so it’s not very helpful to track visibility for one site across several tools. Instead, deciding on one source of truth for your visibility numbers and tracking that metric across time makes more sense.
Here’s a rundown of some of the tools you could use to track your SEO visibility and how each tool calculates its version of a visibility metric.
Semrush’s Position Tracking Tool allows users to set up a dashboard that tracks target keyword rankings and calculates changes in visibility and estimated traffic based on daily shifts in SERP positions.
Moz Pro’s Search Visibility Score takes it a step further by applying an estimated CTR for each keyword based on where you rank, ensuring that high CTR keywords are given greater weight. Then, they average the different CTRs to arrive at a single metric for the aggregate visibility of the keywords you’re tracking.
SEOmonitor uses current rankings to estimate what percentage of the people searching for a particular keyword saw your page among the search results (impressions). Then they multiply that by the monthly search volume for that keyword to get an estimate of your share of impressions.
Ahrefs’ visibility metric is called “Share of Voice” and shows the percentage of all possible organic clicks from SERPs for the tracked keywords, similar to SEMrush.
At Victorious, we track campaign performance through combined keyword rankings. I see it as a holistic measure of our success in boosting rankings for our target keywords. Aggregate keyword position movement can be seen as a proxy for how much additional organic search visibility our customer’s target pages are receiving.
Why Does Organic Search Visibility Matter?
Monitoring your site’s visibility provides a high-level view of overall SEO performance. If the point of optimizing for search is to gain visibility in Google search results, visibility metrics can paint a picture of your site’s SEO health in broad strokes.
Since they’re a relative measurement, SEO visibility metrics are well-suited for comparisons.
1. To evaluate how pages on your site rank compared to each other. Understanding the visibility of a specific page compared to others on your site can help you prioritize which pages to update or flag for more aggressive optimization efforts.
2. To compare your site’s visibility against your competitors. Comparing search visibility metrics is an excellent way to understand how you rank relative to your competitors for your target keywords, identify threats and opportunities, and illustrate your progress toward closing visibility gaps during your SEO campaign.
3. To track the impact of your SEO campaign. Charts showing visibility improvements over time offer an excellent “before & after” snapshot that can demonstrate the value of your SEO efforts.
How Do SERP Rankings Relate to Search Visibility?
Positive rank changes aren’t the end goal of a good SEO campaign. Instead, they’re the inevitable result of targeted SEO activities that should map to your overall business goals.
Rather than tracking individual keyword rankings, I think tracking the visibility of a group of semantically related keywords (keyword themes) is far more helpful because it moves the conversation away from how one single keyword is performing and instead focuses on pushing the business forward with converting traffic.
What’s a “Good” Website Visibility Score?
For each of the proprietary metrics I outlined above, you can be sure of two things:
- A 0% score means you’re not ranking high enough for your target keywords to generate organic traffic.
- An SEO visibility score of 100% means you rank at the top of page 1 for all your target keywords.
Even with slightly different algorithms and normal SERP turbulence, it’s rare for a site to score above the mid-40s for non-branded keywords on any of these visibility scales.
Our philosophy at Victorious is that generic industry benchmarks are too broad to create a strategic roadmap for a campaign. We prefer a direct comparison of your visibility against your competitors.
Why Measure SEO Visibility?
However you choose to measure your visibility, the bottom line is that being visible in search results impacts your ability to reach your SEO goals.
Whether you want to:
- increase traffic to your website,
- improve brand awareness,
- increase engagement,
- boost sales, or
- generate leads,
being found in search results is the foundation of your success.
5 Tips for Improving Search Visibility
Since showing up in SERPs is the key to achieving your SEO goals, you’ll want to do everything you can to improve the likelihood that your content ranks well.
Here are five things you can do to boost your search visibility.
1. Audit Your Site
An SEO site audit will reveal unseen obstacles that stand between you and the prospective customers looking for your offering. At our SEO agency, we uncover and explain what needs to be fixed and help prioritize which improvements to implement first — based on a ratio of effort vs. impact — to help you gain traction in search results.
2. Maintain a Sitemap
Generating an XML sitemap and submitting it through Google Search Console tells search engines which pages to crawl and is essential to helping them understand and index your website. A missing, out-of-date, or error-laden sitemap can render entire sections of your website invisible to search engines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run a site audit that reveals errors in a customer’s sitemap that undermine all their other SEO activities.
3. Be Mobile Friendly
Google’s indexing model uses the mobile version of site content for indexing and ranking. Previously, Google’s index used the desktop version of a page’s content when evaluating the relevance of a page to a user’s query. But, as most users have shifted to using mobile devices, Google has adapted to keep serving up the best possible user experience for people using its search engine. Content that isn’t mobile-friendly will have a harder time showing up in search results.
4. Use Long-Tail Keywords
Long-tail keywords are phrases that create more targeted (and generally less competitive) opportunities to be found in search. For example, while most online snowboard retailers might be trying to rank for “snowboards,” you can bet that fewer sites are duking it out to rank for “handmade snowboards shaped like surfboards.” (Yes, that’s a thing. Google it.) By niching down with long-tail keywords, you grab the less competitive spaces in search and increase the likelihood that searchers who need exactly what you have will find you.
5. Create Search Optimized Content
If the internet is a curiosity machine, the spoils go to businesses that provide reliable answers to the questions people ask. Helpful content goes a long way to winning you loyal customers, but search-optimized content goes even further by making sure that when prospects ask a question, your answer is the first one they find.
Dealing With a Search Visibility Drop
A loss of rankings can result in a search visibility drop. If you notice you’ve lost rankings for relevant keywords that align with your business goals, investigate the following.
Was There an Algorithm Update?
Investigate whether a recent algorithm update may have impacted your rankings. Some SEO tools will highlight algorithm updates in their rank trackers.
If your site was impacted because of an algorithm update, check which pages were affected and determine how they can be improved.
Has the Keyword’s Search Intent Shifted?
If a particular page is no longer ranking for your target keywords or its rankings have dropped, Google the keywords to see whether the content of your page aligns with the current search intent. You may need to do new keyword research or create new content if there’s a search intent misalignment.
Are Your Competitors Outranking You?
Your competitors want to improve their search visibility, and if they’re smart, they’re also working on their SEO. If their strategy is good, they may improve their rankings while simultaneously pushing your pages down the SERPs. When this happens, check the pages outranking yours to determine what may be missing from your content or strategy.
Is Your Content Helpful?
Google’s helpful content system can impact a single page, multiple pages, or even a whole site. If your site has thin content or pages unrelated to your industry or niche, you can see ranking losses for those pages. Here’s how the helpful content system can impact your rankings and how to write for it.
Do You Have a Manual Action Against Your Site?
Manual actions can have severe consequences for a site — including being removed completely from SERPs. Generally, Google will email the account associated with your Google Search Console if they place a manual action on your account. You can also verify whether there’s a manual action on your account in GSC. Learn more about manual actions and how to address them here.
Examples of How Organic Search Visibility Impacts Revenue
I witness the direct relationship between search visibility and business viability every single day. It’s one of the reasons I love what I do.
An online clothing retailer came to us looking for an SEO campaign that could expand awareness of their brand and help them gain recognition as a name in women’s streetwear. Our keyword research highlighted areas of opportunity, and we went to work to improve their search visibility.
We increased their ranking keywords by 6X and grew their item revenue by 1,129%. Yes. One thousand one hundred and twenty-nine percent.
In another case, an online jewelry retailer approached us, hoping to increase online sales. Our customized campaign boosted their visibility with keywords aligned with the search intent of their ideal buyer. As you can see from the graph below, the result (so far!) has been an 821.6% increase in revenue from organic traffic compared to the same month last year.
For more examples of how search visibility can directly impact revenue, visit our library of SEO case studies.
Ready To Increase Search Engine Visibility?
Whether you track visibility scores from some of the online SEO tools I mentioned above or track overall changes in Google search position, it’s important to be mindful of how many people are ≠d to your offering. Otherwise, you won’t be able to improve your SEO strategy.
Remember, although visibility doesn’t guarantee you’ll achieve your SEO goals, a lack of visibility virtually guarantees you won’t. That said, don’t track visibility for its own sake — track it as it directly relates to your business objectives.
If you’re ready to boost your SEO visibility in a way that maps to your business goals, the team at Victorious is ready to help. Reach out to realize your potential growth!