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What is the SISTRIX Visibility Index?

The SISTRIX Visibility Index is a search-performance indicator for digital market evaluations, comparisons, tracking and planning. It is updated daily for all ranking domains across many countries and is decoupled from seasonal and traffic trends to present the most transparent data possible. In this tutorial we'll explain what it is, and how you can benefit from it.

Why should I use the SISTRIX Visibility Index?

The Visibility Index is a transparent and stable measurement that leads to a quicker understanding of a domains search visibility, the results of SEO activities. 

Highly visible domains, directories, or even URLs can be used as best-practice examples. Changes can also help in analysing how Google’s algorithms are evolving. Graphical views can show patterns that are easy to analyse such as Core Algorithm Updates, competitor encroachment, content success and technical failures. 

The Visibility Index is the starting point for a deeper domain evaluation in the SISTRIX Toolbox.

The Visibility Index is not the only thing we calculate. The complete search results, for tens of millions of keywords are captured and evaluated into usable tables such as ranking hosts, directory structure, top URLs, intent analysis, Universal Search appearance, Ads, image, Top Stories and more. We gather more than just the ‘ten organic links’.

How do I use the Visibility Index?

The Visibility Index enables a quick and efficient analysis of domain visibility, or ‘market share’ movements over time. Here are some examples of how you can use it.

  • Daily monitoring (including competitor monitoring.) With daily updates, it’s possible to see the effects of changes, across many domains, very quickly.
  • Digital due-diligence (for link placement, domain transactions, new sites.)
  • Competitor analysis (growth, or loss. Best practice or opportunity?)
  • SEO agency lead generation (Monitoring domains that are losing visibility due to SEO issues.)
  • High ranking URLs and Domains as examples of best practice.
  • Compare any ranking directories, hosts or URLs, even cross-domain.

What is the SISTRIX Visibility Index?

The Visibility Index is a transparent and reliable daily index of organic search visibility that is well-suited to measuring and rating the success of SEO-actions, on any chosen domain.

Quickly and meaningfully analyse the consequences of changes, be it a Google search algorithm, competitor movements or changes based on your own domain activities. The Visibility Index recorded and shown as a graph for all ranking domains 1 with daily updates 2 and informational pins 3.

“By making sure search engines can find and automatically understand your content, you are improving the visibility of your site for relevant searches. This is called SEO.”

Google ¹

By using the Visibility Index you’re working directly towards Google’s definition of SEO, above, and not a red herring.

The Visibility Index is not a traffic index

The Visibility Index measures rankings, and is therefore not affected by seasonal cycles or external effects. For example, domains like summerhouse24.co.uk and christmastreeworld.co.uk could, in theory, have the same Visibility Index throughout the entire year. One of the domains will gain its search visitors in spring/summer, the other in winter.

Visibility leads traffic. If the domain summerhouse24.co.uk manages to improve rankings and, for example, double their Visibility Index value during the winter it will be immediately measurable. If the domain keeps this value, the increase in Google organic search traffic will only be measurable the following season.

In a similar manner, ranking losses, via Core Updates, domain content issues or competitor growth, can be measured before traffic fails to appear.

Short-term deviations between the Visibility Index values and the actual traffic can also occur due to events like weather, holidays and national events.

Taking into account these temporary influences, a high correlation between the Visibility index and the actual amount of visitors from Google organic search traffic can be assumed because we calculate the expected click rate for every ranking position. In some cases, where the expected click rate does not match the actual click rate, peaks in the Visibility Index can differ from the real traffic. Examples for this are rankings by third-party sites to brand-keywords, multiple rankings within the top 10 and losses of ranking with below-average click rates, as seen with Google’s Panda-Update

How is the Visibility Index calculated?

For the calculation of the Visibility Index, the top 100 search positions for 1.000.000 keywords, or keyword-combinations (search terms), are evaluated every day. 

These one million keywords were selected such that they are representative of the country-specific search behaviour. In many countries we collect both desktop and mobile results as separate Visibility Indexes. In others we are focusing on just mobile search results.

To get an idea of the size of this set of keywords, a comparison is advisable. The current edition of the Paperback Oxford Dictionary of English, for example, contains about one hundred and twenty thousand words and phrases which cover all the words you need for everyday use. A much larger measure of samples takes place for the Visibility Index which makes reliable and significant analysis possible.

Once the Keyword results are gathered, the results are weighted according to the position and search volume for the particular keyword. This means that position 10 for a very traffic-strong keyword like “apple” corresponds to a higher value than 1st place for a less-searched search term like “display problem iphone x”. When we evaluate the positions we also take the different click-through-rates of the ranking positions into account.

The Visibility Index aims to represent the actual click behaviour of the Google-user for each of the ranking positions, as best as possible.

In the final step, the weighted values are added up for every domain (or host, directory or URL) and this then produces the SISTRIX Visibility index.

More information on the calculation can be found in this article about traffic and visibility.

What is the difference between the Visibility Index and Search Console data?

The three crucial advantages of the visibility index for your SEO-work, compared to Web analysis tools like Google Analytics or the Google-Search-Console are:

  • The visibility data can not only be accessed for one’s own domain, but also for every domain, including competitors.
  • The data is free from seasonal dependencies or trends such as, for example, weather, holidays and school vacations. This way the effects caused by SEO-actions of the individual sites can be reliably measured and rated.
  • Historical data for all domains going back to the year we started to monitor the country can be accessed without having to manually add any data.

There are other issues to consider with Search Console data which we’ve highlighted in this article.

What is a good Visibility index value?

Your value in the Visibility index is good when it’s better than the values of the most direct competitors. This, of course, does not mean that it cannot be improved.

The limit of Visibility Index depends strongly on the breadth, depth and popularity of the content. It should be obvious that the website of a big newspaper with a huge variety of subjects can reach more keywords rankings, which are being searched for more often than an online-shop for socks.

How economically relevant the number of points reached in the Visibility index is for a domain also depends on the basic business model of the website. If one runs a website which sells container-ships, 100 visitors per month, of which one visitor buys a container-ship, can be very lucrative. But if the business plan is built on advertising revenue, it might be difficult to generate enough sales with 100 visitors to even cover the costs of the server.

The Visibility index should always be evaluated in comparison to the domain’s direct competitors. For a national yellow pages website a value of 30 points in the Visibility index can be considered fairly bad, when compared to the successful competitors who can reach values of around 100 points.

On the other hand, a value of 3 points in the Visibility index for an index of ornamental-fish, a segment with a considerably lower search volume, should be seen as good in comparison to its competitors.

Using the function “Competitors” in the SEO-Module of the SISTRIX-Toolbox, the direct keyword-competitors of a domain can be displayed and the Visibility index values compared with one click. This way, best-practice-examples can be identified rapidly. The way the results are structured makes it possible to grade the visibility of a domain in its competitive-environment and to identify the best-practice-examples, towards which one can target for an increase in organic search success.

In Oct 2019, all top 100 domains in the UK had a Visibility index of at least 62 points. Most domains, however, have a Visibility index of less than one point.

When a domain has a very low Visibility index value – less than 0.05 points for example – it is advisable to set up individual keyword monitoring within the Optimizer, to gain more ranking information on the domain.

Visibility Index for domains, hosts, directories and URLs

For websites that are built across different hosts and directories, it’s important to know what part of the domain is actually ranking. What URLs, in what directories, in what hosts is the content ranking?

The Visibility Index is calculated for ranking hosts, directories and URLs that appear in the search results which can enable like-for like comparisons.

For example, comparing the female section of a newspaper, which appears as a directory, with a women’s magazine.

visibility comparison graph

It is also possible to compare single URLs against websites.

two visibility graphs

Which countries are covered by the SISTRIX Visibility Index?

As the Toolbox has developed, so have the countries for which we continually track Visibility Index. A full list of countries and the dates at which they were introduced, can be found here.

Sources

1 https://web.dev/discoverable

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