Cut to scene:

Client calls demanding an answer: “Why am I not #1 in the Google for the most ambiguous term in the history of language?”

As practitioners, our natural instinct is to start explaining the technical aspects of what’s going on. Links this, competitive density that, crumb code and content the other… during this, to most clients, we quickly start sounding like the adult characters from Peanuts; “Wawa, wa wawawawa”. While these are valid responses to the client’s inquiry, they tend to leave clients miffed and doubtful. So how do we solve this problem?

SEV for all Mankind

One of the things we’ve learned at WordsGoHere over the years is how little actual value absolute rank brings to the table. Compounded by the ever increasing impact that results personalization and location-specification the search engines are employing (signed in or not), we’ve been forced to evolve our thinking. We’ve transitioned our view of SERP performance from a ranking report to a concept we refer to as a Search Engine Visibility Score, (SEV score). To introduce valuable depth to the KPI, we have added a secondary KPI, the percentage of visible queries that are producing visits to the site. It doesn’t have a fancy acronym yet.

Before we go any further, allow us to be painfully clear; this is a KPI that has been “fabricated” as required by our experiences. The SEV score is born out of a need to simplify the presentation and explanation of SERP data to clients that did not (nor should they really be required to) understand organic visibility past the concept of a Ricky Bobby-esque “If you’re not first, you’re last” perspective. We can tell you that since we first introduced it to our clients, the feedback has been genuinely appreciative. They declare that they get it, and appreciate the real transparency this approach provides. In fairness, since beginning our efforts to write this article, we found that the fine folks at SEO Gadget suggesting Search Engine Visibility as a Metric. Might be something to this?

SEV Details & Definition

SEV is a simple concept really. Its a percentage of the total number of target queries that are visible within an acceptable threshold of positions in the SERPs. If your SERP tracking tool is suggesting anywhere in say the range of the first page, or even top 20, odds are favorable that your site is being served in the SERPs and offered SEV opportunities. Take this a step further by looking at the number of those queries that are producing visitor – the real purpose of Search Engine Visibility after all – you suddenly have a contextually rich and meaningful KPI to discuss with your clients about your efforts. Visibility, while impressive in its own right, means little unless it’s driving opportunity (visits).

The conversation will quickly move away from being #1. You will have helped the client realize that it is actually about how many opportunities your efforts are providing their business. Nothing beats showing how you are paying for yourself!

By nature, we all like bigger numbers (especially clients), and we understand that anything shy of 100% could be better. We are also trained to appreciate a climbing trend line. We all understand that concept as “progress”. Using KPIs that will allow you to frame your efforts in a trend-able fashion, will resonate with any business stakeholder or client.

Lets take a gander at the technical how to.

How to Calculate SEV Scores

The scene :: you are targeting visibility and monitoring 100 queries across the major 3 engines.

  • If targeting and monitoring 100 queries, there are 300 total opportunities for Search Engine Visibility (100 queries * 3 search engines)
  • Assume a 1st page threshold (meaning, that in order to count something as successful, it must be inside the top 10 positions)
  • If 150 of those opportunities are within the declared threshold, the SEV percentage would be 50% (ex. ((300-150)/300)*100)
  • It’s literally that simple!

Now, lets look at the percentage producing visitors KPI

  • Of the 300 total opportunities for search engine visibility, 109 are actually producing visitors
  • The math: ((109/300)*100) = 36.33
  • This gives you a 36.33% of your target queries are producing visitors.

Since it is universal that visibility should drive opportunities (visits) to a client site, these SEV KPIs can do a lot to help you prove the value of your efforts.

To help illustrate this concept, please check out this Search Engine Visibility PDF example, in a format not unlike what the Words Go Here team uses with our clients.

In a follow up post, we’ll present a few examples of how to use keywords tags as attributes for segmenting SEV performance in business objective context.