SEO Reporting Using the Visibility Score

26 January 2016

SEO Visibility Score for Reporting

There have been many articles over the last few years about how it is no longer a good idea to report on keyword rankings, this Whiteboard Friday from February 2014 highlighted several far more important metrics to concentrate on when reporting on SEO progress. We have tried to create an SEO visibility score that is a far more valuable metric than just looking at keywords moving up and down in ranking.

What is a “ranking” these days?

The fact is that a “position” in the Google (or any search engine) results pages means very little any more, as the nature of search changes.

The mission of Google has always been the same: to present its users with results that are most relevant to what they are looking for. It can often be a tricky proposition to understand the intent of a user from the word they type in the search box. To help bridge the vast chasm, between what some users search for and what they are actually looking for, Google has been coming up with clever innovations for years. This will present users with a different set of search results depending on various factors such as their location, search history and social media activity:

LocalisationSearch results are shown relevant to location. If someone searches for “cars” they are likely to be served some result from local car dealerships, over general websites selling cars.

PersonalisationUsers who are logged in to a Google account will have their search history and behaviour taken into account when being served search results. This is an attempt to more accurately match search intention.

Social ConnectionsA person’s social connections can influence search results. If a friend on social media has reviewed a business, then it may be served in search results when normally it would not.

So rankings used to be cool, but not anymore?

Well, not really. Obviously you want keywords that are relevant to your website to have strong visibility in the search engines, but focussing on individual keywords does not tell a useful or particularly interesting story.

This is a favourite trick of low quality SEO agencies. They kindly offer to get you a number one ranking for individual keywords, only for you to find out later that the keyword is practically worthless to your business, or even worse completely worthless in general.

Of course in principal it is great to see that you have a strong ranking for a keyword, but the following factors must be taken into consideration:

  • Is it relevant to your business?
  • How often is that keyword searched for?
  • Does the keyword convert?

It is far more valuable to look at and report on groups of related keywords, which are relevant to the key pages on your website.

Reporting on Keyword Groups

Before Not provided came along and ruined the party reporting on keywords used to be the proverbial bread and butter of the SEO consultant. We could report on the traffic from each keyword, how well that keyword converted and where it ranked in the search results. Since Not provided however; we are left with just the ranking and as discussed this is often inaccurate.

For SEO professionals, clients still love to see those keyword rankings however and it is our job as SEOs to guide them towards more useful metrics. They also tend to fixate on individual keywords and if one of these drops then they may be unhappy even though the keyword group as a whole has actually increased in visibility or a another keyword which is far more valuable to them has increased in visibility.

For a while now at DBD we have been using a Visibility Score to represent the visibility of groups of keywords. This metric can then be used to judge the progress of these groups of keywords over time.

We use a simple formula. It takes into account the ranking and average monthly search volume for each keyword against the average click through rate in the organic search results, and then assigns an overall score for the group of keywords.

This method has the following advantages:

  • Visibility is based on groups of keywords rather than individually
  • More weight is given to terms with a higher search volume
  • Categories can be based around each clients pages and KPIs
  • Provides a clear and digestible view of progress in terms of visibility

This is the formula to calculate the Visibility Score:

∑ {iKWR x iKWSV x CTR} = Visibility Score for a keyword group

iKWR = Individual Keyword Ranking

iKWSV = Individual Keyword Search Volume

CTR = The Click Through Rate for that Ranking

Using the Visibility Score for SEO Reporting

Here is an example of how we calculate the visibility score for keyword groups and then present it to our clients in our monthly reports.

This example is for our client Keith Prowse, who sell corporate hospitality. It is a particularly good example as they have different pages which sell hospitality packages on behalf of their own clients, and they have to provide separate reports to each client on visibility. As we can break this down for them it means they can feed back to their clients the progress of the keyword set which is relevant to them.

How to Calculate the Visibility Score

Step 1: Create a table in Excel with the following headings:

Step 2: Next take all the keywords for all the pages you wish to report on (of for the whole site) and categorise related keywords into groups:

Step 3:

Go to the Keyword planner in Adwords and put all the keywords in to get the Avg. Monthly Search volume. Export the data and then add this to the table using a VLOOKUP:

Step 4: Now the interesting bit; we add in the click through rates for positions in Google. This is obviously not something that is ever released by Google but we can calculate a good estimate.

Calculating CTR

Of course there are a lot of possible variables when attempting to calculate CTR and all these things are taking up real estate and effecting CTR:

  • the local and personalisation factors
  • along quick answer boxes
  • the knowledge graph
  • shopping results
  • rich media
  • news results
  • shopping results
  • local results...

CTR will also differ considerably depending on industry, vertical and even for individual keywords.

What we need are roughly correct percentages for the different positions in Google that can give appropriately different weights to keywords for being higher in the results. The numbers are really just a constant to judge progress of the keywords over time so it is not vital that they are 100% accurate.

Here is a great method for calculating CTR using Webmaster Tools data.

Step 5: Get the current rankings and the rankings for the previous month (or previous year if you want to compare Year on Year) using whatever tool you use to track rankings and do a VLOOKUP to add the data in.

Step 6: Use a VLOOKUP to find the CTR each keyword has for this month and had last month based on what position it is in/was in.


Formulae for the highlighted cell:

=VLOOKUP(F4,L:M,2,0)

Step 7: Multiply this months CTR by the average monthly search volume


Formulae for the highlighted cell:

=G4*I4

Step 8: Create a Pivot table using the data

There is a great guide to creating pivot tables here.

Step 9: Create a chart from the pivot table

This can then be used in monthly reports and used to show clients, or your bosses, the progress of entire groups of keywords which are important to them.

If you have the rankings for past months these can also be included to give a clear picture of progress over time.

In summary

The SEO visibility score is a simple but powerful way for us to show meaningful data about the groups of keywords that matter most to a business.

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