How to Measure Search Visibility if Rank Tracking Doesn’t Do the Job

How to Measure Search Visibility if Rank Tracking Doesn’t Do the Job

search visibility tracking

The search results data is ever-altering and ever-increasing. You can spot over 810 unique features on Google SERPs, which means you can find more than 810 reasons why ranking number one is no longer the goal. These reasons primarily come from the searchers’ behavior patterns driven by various SERP layouts.

cover-wp-rt-toolsThis article is a part of our new White Paper on the latest trends for Rank Tracking Tools. If you are keen to uncover the most powerful rank tracking features and hidden market opportunities, follow the link below.
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Contents

1The pinball pattern and where the clicks go

2CTR below the SERP fold and upcoming passage ranking

3The new approach and early implementations

4New possibilities with DataForSEO

The pinball pattern and where the clicks go

The diversity of information surfaced by SERP features makes searchers’ attention shift across the results page. A search behavior study by Nielsen Norman Group describes the nonlinear SERP processing as the pinball pattern, explaining that searchers’ gaze is bouncing between visual features and organic results. Moreover, the study findings show that the presence and placement of rich visual elements in SERP affects the visibility of organic listings.
searcher's attention shifts on SERP

Along with stealing a great deal of searchers’ attention, SERP features are stealing their clicks as well. Moz’s study confirms that bouncing attention leads to the nonlinear distribution of clicks across the results page.

SERP clicks heatmap

Researchers from Moz also noted that people’s engagement with different SERP layouts varies with search intent. For example, below you can see that the knowledge graph received more attention and clicks for purchase intent query as it surfaced prices.

knowledge graph CTR

In contrast, the featured snippet was the first viewed element and drew more clicks for an informational query because it efficiently highlighted a quick answer.

featured snippet CTR

Considering such a discrepancy in the distribution of clicks among highly volatile search results, will organic listings stand a chance in the battle for searchers’ attention? Or rather, what these chances are?

Aiming to bring some clarity into this, Sistrix analyzed how organic CTR on the first page changes depending on a specific SERP layout on mobile. They found that CTR for position one may vary from 13.7% to 46.9% with the presence of particular rich elements. For example, if a page has Google Shopping ads at the top, organic CTR goes way below average.

shopping ads and organic CTR

These stats make one thing clear: occupying the same position, a website can have a drastically different CTR due to the surrounding environment. Naturally, it makes SEOs wonder if tracking website positions still has value. Spoiler: it does, but the old measurement system is impaired.

CTR below the SERP fold and upcoming passage ranking

The more ads and SERP features a page displays, the lower down the page organic listing goes. Oftentimes, organic results sink below the fold, and searchers need to scroll down the page to see them. But they rarely do so.

A user behavior study by Backlinko found that only 9% of searchers make it to the end of the first results page, let alone click on those results. RankRanger’s study that focused on organic positions 3-5 found that, if shown above the fold, these results yield a 30% higher CTR than when placed below the fold.

We can see that searchers’ logic did not change much: the higher the result is placed, the more authoritative and relevant it is considered. Thus, it drives more attention and clicks.

The problem is that SERP features also drive lots of attention, obviously, away from the organic listing. Yet, another problem is that SERP features come in all shapes and sizes, which means some rich results push organic listing further down the first page while others allow several blue links to squeeze in above the fold.

To cap it all, organic results soon won’t be equal and some will take more space on SERPs. Google announced it will surface individual passages in search results. Upon indexing the full page, Googlebot will locate parts of the page content that are most relevant to the query, and display one highly relevant part on SERP. The change will impact 7% of global searches.

passage ranking update

In the end, what we have is this: CTR is highly dependent on specific SERP layout, rank in SERP does not reflect the actual placement of the result on the page, organic results will soon look different. Apparently, correlating CTR to ranking position won’t give many insights into the actual state of things. So, how to keep track of website performance in such a volatile environment, and what is the possible measurement unit?

The new approach and early implementations

Many SEO tools combine website rankings, indication of SERP features, and Google Analytics metrics in one dashboard, which allows understanding the impact of a particular SERP layout on the number of clicks a website gets in a certain position. Similarly, with estimated traffic, an indication of SERP features, and rank displayed, it’s possible to monitor competitor performance.

As you can see, the traditional approach to rank tracking can remain useful. Yet, its accuracy and efficiency are already shattered. Tracking website rank may be confusing for evaluating potential performance and may lead to missed opportunities.

To solve this major issue, rank tracking tools will have to shift focus from ‘rank’ to visibility. The optimum way to track website visibility in search results is by measuring its real visibility in pixels. So far, we’ve seen only a few SEO tools adopting this outlook and trying to figure out possible new metrics.

myposeo
Pricing: €18 – €499/mo

Myposeo incorporated ‘Pixel Position’, which refers to the actual distance in pixels from the top of the page to the result for the tracked website.

However, it’s unclear how this metric can account for the features placed on the right.

For example, knowledge graph or Google shopping ads on the desktop considerably decrease the chances to get a searcher’s look or click. With merely pixel position tracking, it is impossible to give users an accurate understanding of their website’s visibility.

myposeo pixel rank

rank-ranger-logo
Pricing: from $79/mo

RankRanger came up with a different metric they called ‘Absolute Visibility’ score that may be in the range from 0 to 10, where 10 equals the perfect win.

The score is calculated by weighing website pixel rank, and the impact of different SERP features and SERP layout on the website visibility.

In essence, the score shows the probability of getting your results viewed in SERP. Alongside this metric, RankRanger also added the ‘ATF’ and ‘ATF Results’ columns which stand for ‘above the fold’ and the number of results placed above the scroll line.

absolute visibility rank ranger

The second view in the tool shows the visibility trend over time and allows evaluating how a tracked URL’s position (traditional rank and above or below the fold position) and SERP features influence the URL’s visibility score.

absolute visibility graph rank ranger

In RankRanger, users can get more context of their website performance. Yet, it’s unclear how accurately the Absolute Visibility takes in various SERP features to measure their impact on the value of ranking in a particular position. What’s also vague is how the score treats the horizontal rank. For example, consider a news website position inside the top stories feature which is placed above the fold on mobile, yet the website is ranking third within the feature and is not visible unless the searcher scrolls left.

Besides that, Absolute Visibility does not count in the website result’s pixel size, which may significantly reduce the accuracy of reality reflection. Especially, considering Google’s upcoming passage ranking update, which will make it crucial to differentiate passage-featuring results from the regular ones.

seoclarity
Pricing: from $750/mo

Another attempt to puzzle things out was made by an enterprise platform seoClarity.

They added the ‘Share of Visibility’ metric, which considers a number of factors that can impact website visibility, namely:

  • Pixel dimensions of each feature
  • Website’s pixel rank and height
  • Above or below the fold placement
  • Total number of organic results on page one
  • Opportunity for organic placement ATF
  • Keyword search volume

It is certainly a plus that seoClarity’s metric takes into account the pixel size of the result where the tracked website appears. However, it’s again obscure how the ‘Share of Visibility’ measures the value of horizontally placed results against those placed vertically.

share of visibility seoclarity

New possibilities with DataForSEO

Here at DataForSEO, we are carefully following the industry developments and having a keen eye for emerging trends.

That is why we have recently introduced a new measurement unit for our Google Organic SERP Advanced API. In addition to a wide spectrum of SERP features, it can now provide you with the most accurate reflection of visibility in pixels.

We measure the distance between the snippet of the result and the top of SERP. Setting the calculate_rectangles parameter to true in your POST requests to our API, you will get both the pixel rank and the snippet size in pixels for all results and SERP features found on the page.

Besides that, we provide two perspectives on a result’s rank:

  • Absolute rank indicates the result’s position among all SERP elements
  • Group rank shows the result’s rank considering only equivalent SERP elements

In this way, you can easily determine, e.g. the position of a particular ad both in relation to all SERP elements and in relation to all ads found on SERP.

It’s also easy to establish the ranking sequence of results placed inside SERP features with our API. We return all essential components within SERP features as structured items, e.g. each result inside the top stories feature is listed as “top_stories_element”. So if you need to, let’s say determine the rank of a news website position inside the top stories feature, you can do that by simply creating a filter condition.

Request Sample

POST: https://api.dataforseo.com/v3/serp/google/organic/live/advanced

[
    {
        "language_code": "en",
        "location_name": "Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania,United States",
        "keyword": "us election",
        "calculate_rectangles": true,
        "device": "mobile",
        "os": "ios"
    }
]

Response Sample 
{
    "version": "0.1.20201117",
    "status_code": 20000,
    "status_message": "Ok.",
    "time": "18.2908 sec.",
    "cost": 0.006,
    "tasks_count": 1,
    "tasks_error": 0,
    "tasks": [
        {
            "id": "11261851-1535-0139-0000-18a7bab1f20f",
            "status_code": 20000,
            "status_message": "Ok.",
            "time": "18.0896 sec.",
            "cost": 0.006,
            "result_count": 1,
            "path": [
                "v3",
                "serp",
                "google",
                "organic",
                "live",
                "advanced"
            ],
            "data": {
                "api": "serp",
                "function": "live",
                "se": "google",
                "se_type": "organic",
                "language_code": "en",
                "location_name": "Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania,United States",
                "keyword": "us election",
                "calculate_rectangles": true,
                "device": "mobile",
                "os": "ios"
            },
            "result": [
                {
                    "keyword": "us election",
                    "type": "organic",
                    "se_domain": "google.com",
                    "location_code": 1025202,
                    "language_code": "en",
                    "check_url": "https://www.google.com/search?q=us%20election&num=100&hl=en&gl=US&gws_rd=cr&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&uule=w+CAIQIFISCQOFBkhv8TSIETQbolqhFfmN",
                    "datetime": "2020-11-26 16:51:26 +00:00",
                    "spell": null,
                    "item_types": [
                        "top_stories",
                        "organic",
                        "related_searches"
                    ],
                    "se_results_count": 0,
                    "items_count": 101,
                    "items": [
                        {
                            "type": "top_stories",
                            "rank_group": 1,
                            "rank_absolute": 1,
                            "position": "left",
                            "xpath": "/html[1]/body[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[4]/div[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[1]/div[1]/div[1]/g-scrolling-carousel[1]",
                            "items": [
                                {
                                    "type": "top_stories_element",
                                    "source": "The Guardian",
                                    "domain": "amp.theguardian.com",
                                    "title": "US election results 2020: Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump to win presidency",
                                    "date": "7 hours ago",
                                    "timestamp": "2020-11-26 09:51:25 +00:00",
                                    "url": "https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2020/nov/26/us-election-results-2020-joe-biden-defeats-donald-trump-to-win-presidency"
                                },
                                {
                                    "type": "top_stories_element",
                                    "source": "CNN.com",
                                    "domain": "amp.cnn.com",
                                    "title": "Latest news on the Trump-Biden transition: Live updates",
                                    "date": "15 hours ago",
                                    "timestamp": "2020-11-26 01:51:25 +00:00",
                                    "url": "https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/politics/live-news/biden-trump-us-election-news-11-25-20/index.html"
                                }
                            ],
                            "rectangle": {
                                "x": 0,
                                "y": 218,
                                "width": 375,
                                "height": 322
                            }
                        },
                        {
                            "type": "top_stories",
                            "rank_group": 2,
                            "rank_absolute": 2,
                            "position": "left",
                            "xpath": "/html[1]/body[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[4]/div[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[2]/div[1]/div[1]/g-scrolling-carousel[1]",
                            "items": [
                                {
                                    "type": "top_stories_element",
                                    "source": "Fox News",
                                    "domain": "www.foxnews.com",
                                    "title": "Pennsylvania judge halts election certification amid mail-in vote fight",
                                    "date": "22 hours ago",
                                    "timestamp": "2020-11-25 18:51:25 +00:00",
                                    "url": "https://www.foxnews.com/politics/pennsylvania-judge-halts-election-certification-mail-in-vote-lawsuit.amp"
                                },
                                {
                                    "type": "top_stories_element",
                                    "source": "CNBC",
                                    "domain": "www.cnbc.com",
                                    "title": "Trump lawyer details far-fetched strategy to reverse Pennsylvania win for \nBiden",
                                    "date": "23 hours ago",
                                    "timestamp": "2020-11-25 17:51:25 +00:00",
                                    "url": "https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2020/11/25/trump-lawyer-suggests-pennsylvania-win-for-biden-could-be-tossed.html"
                                }
                            ],
                            "rectangle": {
                                "x": 0,
                                "y": 588,
                                "width": 375,
                                "height": 322
                            }
                        },
                        {
                            "type": "organic",
                            "rank_group": 1,
                            "rank_absolute": 3,
                            "position": "left",
                            "xpath": "/html[1]/body[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[4]/div[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[4]",
                            "domain": "en.as.com",
                            "title": "US Presidential Election & covid-19 updates: Trump, Biden ...",
                            "url": "https://en.as.com/en/2020/11/26/latest_news/1606376647_410002.amp.html",
                            "cache_url": null,
                            "breadcrumb": "Diario AS",
                            "is_image": false,
                            "is_video": false,
                            "is_featured_snippet": false,
                            "is_malicious": false,
                            "description": "7 minutes ago — US Presidential Election & covid-19 updates: Trump, Biden, transition, results, cases, latest news, ...",
                            "pre_snippet": "7 minutes ago",
                            "extended_snippet": null,
                            "amp_version": true,
                            "rating": null,
                            "highlighted": null,
                            "links": null,
                            "faq": null,
                            "timestamp": null,
                            "rectangle": {
                                "x": 8,
                                "y": 1544,
                                "width": 359,
                                "height": 439
                            }
                        },
                        {
                            "type": "organic",
                            "rank_group": 2,
                            "rank_absolute": 4,
                            "position": "left",
                            "xpath": "/html[1]/body[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[4]/div[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[5]",
                            "domain": "amp.theguardian.com",
                            "title": "US election results 2020: Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump to win ...",
                            "url": "https://amp.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2020/nov/25/us-election-results-2020-joe-biden-defeats-donald-trump-to-win-presidency",
                            "cache_url": null,
                            "breadcrumb": "The Guardian › us-news › nov",
                            "is_image": false,
                            "is_video": false,
                            "is_featured_snippet": false,
                            "is_malicious": false,
                            "description": "1 day ago — How does the election work? GSA recognises Biden's win, allowing presidential transition to go ahead, ...",
                            "pre_snippet": "1 day ago",
                            "extended_snippet": null,
                            "amp_version": true,
                            "rating": null,
                            "highlighted": null,
                            "links": null,
                            "faq": null,
                            "timestamp": "2020-11-25 16:51:25 +00:00",
                            "rectangle": {
                                "x": 8,
                                "y": 1993,
                                "width": 359,
                                "height": 439
                            }
                        },
                        {
                            "type": "organic",
                            "rank_group": 3,
                            "rank_absolute": 5,
                            "position": "left",
                            "xpath": "/html[1]/body[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[4]/div[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[6]",
                            "domain": "www.bbc.com",
                            "title": "US Election 2020 - BBC News - BBC.com",
                            "url": "https://www.bbc.com/news/election/us2020",
                            "cache_url": null,
                            "breadcrumb": "BBC.com › news › election",
                            "is_image": false,
                            "is_video": false,
                            "is_featured_snippet": false,
                            "is_malicious": false,
                            "description": "All the latest news and results for the US Election 2020 from the BBC.",
                            "pre_snippet": null,
                            "extended_snippet": null,
                            "amp_version": false,
                            "rating": null,
                            "highlighted": null,
                            "links": null,
                            "faq": null,
                            "timestamp": null,
                            "rectangle": {
                                "x": 8,
                                "y": 2442,
                                "width": 359,
                                "height": 419
                            }
                        },
...
                        {
                            "type": "related_searches",
                            "rank_group": 1,
                            "rank_absolute": 101,
                            "position": "left",
                            "xpath": "/html[1]/body[1]/div[3]/div[1]/div[4]/div[1]/div[4]/div[1]/div[1]/div[1]",
                            "items": [
                                "u.s. election 2020 polls",
                                "US election polls",
                                "Us election 2020 map",
                                "US election 2016",
                                "US election results",
                                "US election 2020 candidates",
                                "US election 2020 News",
                                "US election prediction"
                            ],
                            "rectangle": {
                                "x": 8,
                                "y": 21539,
                                "width": 359,
                                "height": 447
                            }
                        }
                    ]
                }
            ]
        }
    ]
}

Final thoughts

As things stand now, we can see that rank trackers are transforming into visibility trackers. Efficient visibility and revenue forecasts require a more accurate perception of search results based on their pixel rank and a deeper understanding of searchers’ behavior. At the same time, the increasing challenges associated with SERP visibility tracking are opening broad horizons for the development of new solutions. There are many gaps in the current market offering yet to be discovered and eventually filled.

To lend you a helping hand, we’ll name a few in our NEW White Paper about SEO software trends for rank tracking tools. The White Paper also contains valuable functionality insights from a selection of market players, both new and long-established, tailored to small-to-midsize and enterprise businesses. In addition to that, it will give you an overview of must-have features worth adding to your product.

DOWNLOAD NOW

Irene T.

The three passions of my life are writing, learning languages, and traveling. I followed the calling throughout the four years of BA in English and French, and carried my dreams in a backpack across 13 countries. Being a Content Writer at DataForSEO, I see every article as a journey to new destinations of the tech and SEO world. Embark on.

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