At the simplest level, an SEO campaign is meant to get your website showing up for more terms. But terms alone won’t deliver results.
Success is measured by the share of quality traffic generated by your organic campaign, as seen by increased clicks and visits to your web pages. Ultimately, your efforts are measured by the amount of this traffic that converts.
So how ‘visible’ are you on a given SERP result page, and what influences this?
Let’s dive into the not-so-mythical concept of search engine visibility.
What is SEO Visibility?
Search engine visibility is an estimation of traffic received by your website based on your organic rankings positions. It’s essentially your share, or percentage of traffic from the search results.
The more terms you are indexed and ranking for, the greater your visibility.
How is Search Visibility Calculated?
SEO visibility utilizes an estimated click through rate, or CTR, based on each of your keyword rankings. It applies this to all of your rankings for all keywords.
All of your click through rates are added together and divided by the number of keywords you’re ranking for.
When it comes to SEO visibility within a rank tracking program like SEMrush or Moz, their percentage is created by the number of keywords you are actively tracking. For example if you’re tracking 20 keywords and ranking for 10 of them, your visibility would be 50%.
If you are unsure what keywords you are ranking for, check out Google Search Console. This is a good way to estimate your search visibility without doing a ton of math, since it explicitly shows you metrics like average position and CTR.
Visibility in Relation to Keyword Rankings
Visibility is intrinsically tied to keyword rankings. The more terms your website is indexed for, and the better those rankings are, the better your website’s search visibility.
A search engine visibility score of 0% means you have zero organic rankings within the top 50 spots. Conversely, a score of 100% means your site is completely flooding all ranking positions for keywords. Every new website starts out at 0% but it’s almost unheard of for a website to ever hit 100%.
Mobile search visibility is the percentage of exposure your keywords are receiving on mobile devices.
Because of mobile-first indexing, marketers are paying closer attention to search visibility on mobile phones and tablets than ever before.
Mobile visibility starts with mobile usability. Having a website that’s fast and responsive across platforms and devices will ensure better, more sustainable rankings across the board.
Local search visibility refers to your positioning in Google Maps based on your localized, target keywords.
A better visibility correlates to more placements in the map pack, aka the top 3 Google Maps results.
These types of keywords are usually service-based with some location modifiers. So in a program like SEMrush you would track terms like “SEO company in Columbus,” or “SEO services near me” (with Columbus, OH set as the location).
The share of search visibility you own on the local level becomes magnified. In national searches you may be up against hundreds of competitors, whereas a local market may only have 2 or 3 additional competitors.
Signs You’ve Lost SEO Visibility
SEO visibility normally increases over time when new pieces of content are published, but not necessarily.
It’s possible to lose search visibility despite your best publishing efforts, and there are a few areas to assess blame.
But first, what are the signs of a search visibility struggle?
Drop in Leads
One quick way to know you’re suffering a loss is by checking your goals and conversions data in Google Analytics. Are there fewer leads coming through overall?
Search Console will provide more context to this hunch by showing you impressions and clicks drops, coinciding with a lower CTR percentage.
Drop in Organic Traffic
If conversions have dropped, there’s a good chance organic traffic has gone the same direction. Google Analytics’ Acquisition feature will show you how many organic sessions have occurred in a specific date range.
Check your rank tracking software. If you’ve suffered a significant dip in your target keyword rankings, chances are you’ve experienced a loss of search visibility. When fewer terms are showing up, you’re getting in front of fewer eyeballs.
Reasons for Lost Search Visibility
Google’s periodic algorithm updates can be a likely culprit of visibility loss. Unfortunately, these losses can be abrupt and may demand an in-depth SEO audit to uncover the true problems.
Most updates aim to address low-quality content, content that provides little value to website visitors. Usually these pieces provide few actionable insights or tangible data, instead reading like robot jargon that’s used to game Google.
Technical issues can slow down your site, which will also affect your organic search rankings and visibility.
It’s crucial to hire a developer who can optimize your web pages by minifying code, compressing images and other large files, and ensuring that the mobile site is efficient.
Remember when we mentioned mobile-first indexing? It’s really important.
One of the simplest explanations for lost search visibility is that of more competition. Maybe a newcomer entered the market and is directly competing with you for several target keywords.
This may be tied to an algorithm change as well. For example, if you are a local plumber, the Google search results may nudge out your site and others in favor of directory sites like Yelp or Home Advisor. It’s all too common and it will result in a definitive drop in search visibility.
Google may start displaying a featured snippet on certain search result pages where they didn’t before. Featured snippets are small boxes with short blurbs of text meant to answer a specific query in exact fashion.
These snippets appear as the “0” result on a SERP, meaning that they will appear before all other organic results.
Backlinks help boost a website’s domain authority and improve organic rankings. When those backlinks are lost, a site may experience the inverse effect.
Lost backlinks can occur for a variety of reasons. The linking site may have experienced a penalty, or the link was removed from the page.
Regardless, it’s important to monitor lost backlinks and either a) contact the webmaster to request the link be reinstated, or b) pursue a similar or better link on a different website.
Ways to Improve SEO Visibility
Luckily, there are solutions. Recovering from a loss in search visibility is more straightforward than you think, but the best solution is to build your site with the best web design and SEO practices in mind.
Develop your website with mobile devices in mind. Google has made no bones about how they are prioritizing mobile speed and load times above all else. If your website fails in this regard, it will remain a crutch that can be hard to overcome.
The best on-page SEO efforts can be futile if the mobile page experience is poor.
Targeting Long-Tail Keywords
Why long-tail keywords? Well these are much easier to rank than short-tail terms, which helps improve visibility. Plus they help your website cast a wider net of topics and subtopics from which you can rank.
The best evidence for the effectiveness of long-tail keywords is found in Google Search Console. Simply go into your account and look under the Performance section. You’ll see all the keywords that you’re ranking for, between pages 1-10. Oftentimes you’ll gather tons of great ideas for page optimizations from this list.
Improve Page Titles and Descriptions
Better click through rates are achieved by implementing more enticing title tags and meta descriptions. Search Console is another great resource for this process, showing you which pages have lower CTRs and which additional keywords you should be incorporating into your metadata.
If you’ve experienced a drop in visibility, check the CTR section of Search Console for drops over the previous period.
Increase Dwell Time and Target Page 2 Results for Better Content
Dwell time is the amount of time a visitor spends on your page. Clearly, longer dwell times equate to better user experiences and higher rankings.
How do you improve your dwell time? The best way is to write long-form, engaging content.
Existing content is a good starting point though. Take a look at pieces that are right on the cusp of glory, like those on page 2 or 3 of the search results. Start adding additional content to these posts that covers a few extra long-tail keywords.
When readers are spending more time digesting your content, visibility will continue to rise.
Add Internal Links to Pages
Internal links tell Google how your pages are connected so that their Google bots can properly crawl your content.
When performing a content audit, check whether your pages have the right internal links grouped by topic. Connect similar pages together in a logistical fashion that helps users flow through the site.
Increase Domain Authority
The ultimate factor for improved search visibility is domain authority. This accumulates over time with high-quality content, powerful backlinks, and a great user experience.
Higher DA sites are synonymous with good search visibility. Places like Amazon and Facebook have extremely high domain authority and basically never have to worry about visibility.
Making Your Site Future-Proof
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the SEO world, but if you take proactive steps, you can help future-proof your website. Increase visibility, open up the door for new keyword rankings, and make your clients happy each step of the way.