How to interpret the Ranking Distribution

The SISTRIX toolbox offers useful functions that allow you to evaluate the ranking distribution of a domain or URL. Ranking distribution can be a useful indication of the effectiveness of your content in Google search results. What percentage of keyword rankings fall into the Top-10, the traffic-generating part of SERPs. In this tutorial we will show you how to lever the ranking distribution in your own analysis.

The ranking distribution feature is located in the SEO-module. As soon as a domain is typed in in the search bar, the different modules can be seen in the left hand navigation. Click on the area “Keywords > Ranking-Distribution” to access the feature. For the domain “theguardian.com” the result looks as follows.

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To get a complete overview of the feature let’s go through them step by step.

Ranking distribution in the Top 100

In the initial graph, all the search phrases from Google’s Top 100 search results are displayed as a bar chart. The chart is divided over ten search result pages. By default we show you the percentage distribution for the desktop data.

Explanation: How many rankings are located on page 1 and following depends on the total amount of rankings found for the domain found in the SISTRIX Toolbox. If a domain has 200 rankings in the Top 100 and 10 of them are on page 1, we will show 5% of rankings to be on page 1.

You should not make a quick decision on whether a domain is doing well just by looking at this distribution. After all, the bar for the first page, or any other page for that matter, can rise and fall arbitrarily when the total amount of rankings for the domain changes.

In keeping with the above thought, consider the following :

Example: The page keeps its 10 rankings on page 1, but loses 100 rankings in total on the Top 100 on Google. The previous 5% rankings on page one now turn into 10% and the diagram would look a lot better than before, even though the page had a significant loss in search phrases.

Percentage values are, of course, still very important in the analysis. Using the example of Wikipedia.org we can see how impressively strong the domain ranks in Google.

Ranking-Distribution Wikipedia

More than half the rankings are located on the first page of the search results. There are few other domains that show such a powerful distribution in the top 10 rankings but examples can be found in good reference sites. www.thompson-morgan.com/flowers-plants-shrubs/ is a directory containing gardening guides and this too has a Top-10 value of over 60%

Negative examples can also be impressive. On the following screenshot we have a website and its distribution of rankings, which clearly received a penalty from Google. There are absolutely no rankings on the first four pages of the search engine. And that with 300 keywords ranking in the Top 100.

Negative Ranking-Distribution

Below the diagrams the scroll bar can be used to look at the values for previous weeks which gives you a feel for positive or negative trends in distribution. The distribution history can also be seen in the graph below the chart.

Interpreting the distribution history

If we continue with the above example with 300 rankings in the Top 100 and look at the history in the chart (below) we see a steady distribution for a very long time on the search result pages. Then, in mid September, the situation changes. The lines for page 1 and 2 (red, blue) hit the floor and, in return, the pages 5 and 6 (brown, pink) show a large increase.

Pages 3 and 4 also decrease, but they are not shown in the screenshot. Below the chart, the user can select which pages should be shown in the graph, by selecting the corresponding boxes.

Ranking-Distribution history

Using absolute values for your evaluation

For this negative-example you should resist calling it a penalty. It is always a good idea to consider the absolute values as well and the percentages before taking action. You can switch to absolute values in the box above the bar-charts.

Use absolute values

The result

On pages 5 and 6 (the brown and pink lines), which showed a massive gain when looking at the percentages, the absolute values are nevertheless sinking. This makes the difference between the two values more distinct and shows the importance of looking at both percentages and absolute values.

Crash

Example 1 . Stable percentages but falling numbers.

The domain dailymail.co.uk, a popular newspaper, shows a steady distribution of around 10% of keyword rankings in the top 3 search result pages. There are many worse examples in the newspaper industry so the graph looks, initially, satisfactory.

If we now take a look at the absolute numbers the graph tells a very different story. The numbers of keyword ranks in the Top three search result pages reduced by a very significant number, indicating reducing ‘effectiveness’ of URLs and, of course, a loss in organic search traffic.

Example 2 . Falling percentages but rising numbers.

The domain metro.co.uk, a competing newspaper to our example above, looks like it has a problem on distribution in this graph from August 2018. Overall effectiveness of posts is relatively low and the percentage of Top-10 keywords is dropping. It looks like there’s some improvements that can be made. At first glance one might assume that organic search traffic from Google is dropping.

 

In August 2018, however, there was a core algorithm change from which metro.co.uk benefited. They gained a huge number of additional keyword rankings and absolute numbers in the week of the algorithm change rose significantly. SEOs monitoring traffic levels would have seen a rise in organic traffic.

Conversely, the SEO for metro.co.uk might just be focusing on the increasing traffic and might not have seen in the first graph that the overall effectiveness of posts could be improved. 93% of keyword rankings lie in the, effectively, zero-traffic space beyond the top 10 results.

Visualising the cause

It is always a good idea to keep an eye on how the number of search keyword and search term rankings are progressing. For this, switch to the “Keywords > Overview” in the left hand navigation. Here you will find the current amount of keywords for which the domain shows up in the top 100. On metro.co.uk this looks as follows. Pin A shows the date of a recent Google algorithm update.

This chart is set to the same time frame as the ones before. Here, we can see how the number in the top 100 and in the top 10 is currently increasing (although percentages were dropping.)

In this example we see the effectiveness of the domain increasing. Rankings in pages 1 are growing while the number of keyword rankings are staying level over the period.

The increasing percentage of top 10 rankings has resulted in an increase in visibility, despite ranking for the same number of keywords.

It must be noted, however, that for established domains we see very few examples of this behavior although the above example proves that it is possible.

Conclusion

If you are looking at how well the keyword rankings for a domain are doing in their entirety, you should check out the ranking distribution with both percentages and absolute values. Please do not jump to the conclusion that there is a problem by looking at just one chart and always keep an eye at the entire ranking development for the keywords.