SEO is, in many ways, one of the most complex aspects of digital marketing. Given the fact that Google handles around 100 billion search queries a month and about 70% of purchases begin with a casual Google search, you could say that SEO is one of the most important (if not THE most important) components of your digital marketing strategy.
There are many different strategies regarding improving your search rankings. Most marketers will tell you that SEO is all about getting your website found by users, and they wouldn’t be wrong. But few of them will be able to decipher particular aspects of improving your rankings.
A great SEO strategy is a combination of a number of metrics put together and accordingly, there are different strategies on improving each metric—traffic, CTR, visibility, etc. It’s hard to find a strategy that would satisfy all the metrics at once, so it makes more sense to focus on a few at a time.
While most strategies involve using your company’s top ranking keywords, which means the key search words people would use to find services or products in your industry, there are also advantages to using the next tier of words, meaning the keywords you almost rank for.
What is Search Engine Visibility?
Search engine visibility is basically how good you are doing on search engines. To put it simply, your company’s visibility is determined by how often your website appears on the search engine results for a particular keyword phrase or search query.
Make sure not to confuse this with website traffic. Having higher or lower search visibility doesn’t directly translate into having more or less website traffic, just as having more traffic doesn’t always mean you get more sales.
Ranking first or second will have a very different impact on your online visibility than ranking tenth or higher. A visibility score of 1-10 means your site lands in the first ten spots in an online search. Ranking in the first spot will give you 100% visibility because every single person who searches for a particular keyword or phrase will see your website. Third rank would mean 70% visibility, and so on. Ranking 30th or below will have very limited ROI because results on the fourth page of a search have close to zero visibility.
This metric is monitored by search engines and is updated every week. Visibility is determined based on complex calculations, but the key measurements include:
- Search volumes: How often people search a particular keyword or phrase
- How often and which rank does your website appear for a specific keyword or phrase
- Navigational or informational keywords: Do those keywords or phrases that you rank for give information to readers or direct them somewhere else?
- Clicks of the particular search results: For example, the top results get more clicks than results eight or 10
For example, go to Google and search for “social media statistics” and look at the results, you will notice that two different posts by “pewinternet.org” are ranked second and third. This is how visibility works.
Why bother with visibility?
For many businesses, it’s nearly impossible to rank at the top result in Google for a particular keyword or phrase. For example, ranking for “women accessories” and trying to surpass Amazon.com—good luck with that. But companies that don’t rank in the top spot shouldn’t lose hope. After all, even though 50% of users will click on the first 3 results, there is still the other 50%.
To make things more visual, here is a graph showing the CTR for the top 15 search results and a table showing the average website traffic share of the top 10 results in percentages (source):
You will notice that everything below the top three, even the top first result really, has a much smaller share. But if you add up all the small numbers, these add up to the second 50% of users, and that’s still a significant share of the market.
Think of it this way. If there are 30 search engine results that are being considered by users , being on as many of those as possible (even though top three ranks provide the best CTR) is a great way of making yourself known to people. Even if it doesn’t help you on the spot, it will most certainly be handy in the future.
So how do keywords that you almost rank for help with your overall performance?
First of all, what does it mean to almost rank for a keyword? Knowing that anything beyond the 3rd page of search results will be seen by very few, if any, people, ranking part way through the second page and into the beginning of the third page would be a keyword for which you almost rank.
Now the good thing about those keywords is that they have a number of advantages compared to most common used ones in the same industry:
- Sometimes they aren’t the most commonly used keywords in the industry, which makes them easier to rank for since there isn’t much competition.
- Those keywords may have less searches compared to others, but they can also be long tail, which means that every person using that keyword is a lot closer to being a potential customer for you.
- Those keywords can give ideas about the type of content you should be creating in the future.
So considering all of this, you will have a much easier time ranking for such keywords in terms of competition and more importantly, increasing your search visibility on results pages, which can be a crucial metric when used correctly.
Also, this is an excellent tactic if you want to improve your local search results. Local SEO is different from SEO and people using local search often don’t get the answer to their search query with the top results. Appearing on results number 5, 6 and 7 is a silent message to those people that your website is probably worth checking out.
SEO might be complex, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Smart marketers can use different tricks and tactics to bypass the giants in their industry– increasing search visibility with keywords you almost rank for is one such tactic.
There is always a solution to a problem, it just might be hard to find. If an approach you tried doesn’t work, take the time to think about it and try something different.
In very competitive niches many SEOs seem not only to split kewords up on single pages, but to split the almost exact same keyword on multiple pages.