What is a Visibility Score and why is it important?Shahraz Khan
To be competitive in today’s online world, it is key to know how visible your website is. If you are a digital marketing professional, you certainly know that a strong visibility on search engines is crucial for your online business performance. When the user makes a query, you want your domain to be positioned high up on the search engine results page (SERP) in order to be seen, generate traffic and potential revenue.
The value of each position obtained by your domain depends on a combination of many factors including the type of keywords, content, the anatomy of the SERP and the user profile. Well, let’s investigate the powerful concept of visibility.
What is a Visibility Score?
The visibility score of your website is determined by how it is positioned in the SERP when a user makes a query. The percentage score given to a website depends on its rank across a set of keywords in a search engine. The calculation takes multiple keywords into consideration and these keywords are queried in search engines to see where the website in question is visible.
The probability that a user will click on the website’s link is calculated (based on its rank in the results pages). The click probability for each keyword is then averaged to bring forth the final visibility score. For example, search results that present themselves lower on the results page (meaning that the user would need to scroll down to see them) would have a lower visibility score because the probability that a user would scroll down and click on a link is lower than that of the first few links.
Why is it important?
The visibility score is a crucial and valid metric that reveals the strength of visibility in the search engine of a domain within an industry. It is a metric that businesses could easily understand and use to compare year after year rankings and to report improvement or decline in online visibility.
A visibility score is standard for all websites and therefore it is ideal for measuring websites against each other in a given market. This is interesting for businesses to compare themselves to their competitors based of the same keywords in the same search engine.
Calculated visibility score – strengths
Albeit a rather simplistic calculation, there’s definitely a beauty in the visibility principle. Imagine you’ve collected daily rankings for the same keywords for a few years. With a visibility metric, you’re able to compare year on year rankings and, with a strong sense of certainty, report on an overall improvement in rankings. You could attribute incremental improvements to various SEO activity if you wish, and it wouldn’t be out of the question to demonstrate an increase in traffic for your monitored terms as visibility improves. From this perspective, a visibility score could be considered a proxy metric to traffic performance.
Even if your keyword list changed, provided you had a consistent keyword selection methodology (eg: “seasonal” terms in travel, top 200 according to Hitwise, etc) you’d still have a comparable set of figures from one year to the next.
Calculated visibility score – weaknesses
Visibility is an overly simplistic calculation. In my example above, there’s no weighting to favour higher positions (a position 1 ranking is “worth” more than a position 12 ranking). If you were measuring rankings in Bing and Google, how would you account for the likely difference in traffic and ranking value because of search engine market share? There are obvious problems with the approach, none of which I’ll deal with here, suffice it to say I am aware of them and I choose to accept them for now.
Visibility in competitive analysis
Very recently we carried out an investigative piece of research on a new market niche for a client. Part of the work was to identify the top traffic driving keywords in that sector, and identify who ranked best for those terms. In order to assess overall search engine visibility, we calculated visibility metrics for each domain. This gave us an extremely strong sense of who was leading the pack in the rankings, and who (potentially) we should consider investigating in more detail (anonymised data):
What is SEO visibility?
SEO Visibility is composed of search volume and the position of ranking keywords. Each position is individually measured by a calculated factor from Searchmetrics. Also, the SEO Visibility factors in whether the ranking keywords are navigational or informational.
What does SEO Visibility show us?
SEO Visibility presents the current trend and historical development of a domain’s visibility in search engines. The index reflects how often a website shows up in the search results. While SEO Visibility can relate to a website’s real traffic, it is important to remember that traffic can come from many different places online. Therefore SEO Visibility is only an indicator of visibility that comes from a website’s organic search channel. SEO Visibility makes it possible to compare the performance of different domains in search engines. Because of the historical data, problems as well as positive changes can be identified. Comparing the SEO Visibility of thematically similar websites or competitors will provide the most value as developments of the market environment will be factored in and market trends easily identified.
SEO Competitor visibility
I think competitive analysis is where visibility scores really add value – remember, this is a like for like comparison of the same keywords in the same search engine, all of which have been identified as traffic generating terms.
What is social visibility?
Social Visibility represents how visible a selected domain is on leading social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+1, Pinterest). Social Visibility looks at user actions, such as liking or sharing something on Facebook, (e.g. Facebook’s like button) as well as the URLs from the selected domain that are shared in the social media space. The different user actions are weighted differently depending on the influence of the network.
What does Social Visibility show us?
A higher Social Visibility score of a domain indicates more popularity and interactions in the social media space. Comparison to thematically similar websites or competitors helps users to assess the strength of the domain in the market as well as potential growth opportunities.
The perfect visibility score
My perfect visibility score might take the following factors into account:
- Type of search results included in the page (image, video, local) and prominence in each section.
- Weighting for positioning based on estimated CTR for that position.
- Weighting for search engine based on market share or traffic for multiple engine rankings.
I’ve been meaning to write about this subject for months – and I’d love to hear thoughts and opinion (for / against) for search engine visibility as a means to aggregate individual rankings data. Do you use this metric in your KPI’s or SEO health checks and if so, how would you like to see it improve?