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How to Win in Search Even if Your Website Isn’t

Episode Overview: Ranking higher in search is a great indicator of success, yet the success is moot when the traffic and visibility numbers don’t match the rise in ranking. Winning in search requires a multi-faceted approach in order to be truly successful in SEO. Join host Ben as he concludes his conversation with Visably Founder and CEO Chris Dickey discussing how to win in search even when your website isn’t through its ranking.


  • Clients often increase their ranking visibility from something like page four to page two of search results, but often find themselves at a plateau. Despite the increase in ranking they still receive the same amount of traffic as page four does.
  • Searchers are active information seekers looking for answers to their queries. PR specialists who engage searchers where they’re most active and productive can immediately start generating success in their PR endeavors.
  • In a study conducted by Visably, they found earned media performed the best across a sampling of 3,000 media, ecommerce and brand owned websites. Earned media displayed a domain authority of 60 out of 100.


Ben:                   Welcome to The Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro and today we’re going to talk about improving your search visibility. Joining us is Chris Dickey, who’s the founder and CEO at Visably, which uncovers impactful brand visibility strategies across all your target keywords. Chris is a veteran marketer whose career has spanned public relations agencies, large and small, in-house marketing direction and publishing. And Chris ended up pivoting his PR agency and founded Visably using PR to create powerful brand visibility where SEO and SEM tactics were falling short. For this week, Chris and I have talked about how PR and SEO overlapped and yesterday we talked about the truth behind search visibility and how it’s affected by PR. And today we’re going to talk about how to win search, even if your website isn’t. Here’s the last part of my conversation with Chris Dickey, founder and CEO of Visably.

Ben:                    Chris, welcome back to The Voices of Search podcast.

Chris:                 Thanks, Ben.

Ben:                    Excited to wrap up our conversation. We’ve covered a lot of ground talking about how the PR and SEO teams kind of play in the same sandbox. We should all buddy up and be nice to each other. And yesterday we talked about the idea of PR visibility. What coverage are you getting from other people’s properties and overlapping that with SEO visibility to understand what your true visibility is. And I asked the question, what do you do when you have a visibility score, I know Visably creates a visibility score, and how can you improve it? What do you do when your web properties aren’t necessarily crushing it as an SEO for a keyword that you want to rank? What are some of the other ways that you can really get that visibility up?

Chris:                 I’ll give you a little anecdote. As a PR agency owner, we have done a lot of consulting around ADF content and content generation on our clients’ websites. And also because we have this kind of fascination with keywords. And so we’ve done this and time and time again, I’m sure you’ve heard this too Ben. Our clients get so far in search, they see this like incredible rise from page four to page two and then they just plateau on page two. And it’s such a shame because page two essentially has as much impact on their traffic as page four does. We’ve seen this glass ceiling that our clients hit time and time again and perhaps it’s because we’re going after keywords that are just not assessable enough, they’re too competitive, but at the same time it’s just tough for like early life cycle or even midsize businesses to break onto page one for the keywords that they really want to be ranking for. That’s just years of backlinks and content work and doing the right stuff. There’s no quick way to do it.

Chris:                So again, I think it’s worth recognizing that search is multichannel and there’s more ways to create a touch point with the consumer than just through your own website. And in fact, as a PR professional, I can tell you that having somebody else sing your praises is a very, very powerful thing. And especially if that person comes from a trusted voice or a trusted media outlet or a trusted journalist, and they’re saying, this is really good stuff, I recommend you buy it and here’s where to buy it. Now that’s a completely relevant way of capturing a customer that’s really underfocused on in search.

Chris:               And that’s something that our agency has been doing successfully for many years and I can tell you it’s entirely achievable from that perspective. What I will tell you is that it’s not always intuitive which media outlets in which writers are winning top of page visibility, if you will in search. It’s sometimes these blogs that you knew that they existed, but you didn’t give them much attention because they’re just not Hearst, you know? It’s just not Men’s Journal, whatever it might be, but Google loves them for whatever reason. I’m sure there’s a reason behind it, but they’re just doing a much better job with their own SEO. And so understanding who’s winning already in search and building relationships with them. That’s what PR teams do all day long is they reach out to third parties and they get them to take a look at their stuff.

Chris:               Then they facilitate a nice interaction and then the next thing you know, there’s a great review out there. The problem with PR is that I think the distribution of that content has become so challenging, right? They either have their own channels, which is what media has done historically, or search. Now you’re relying on Google to elevate your stuff.

Chris:                I personally think that their own channels are becoming less and less relevant. I think there’s also something to be said for the audiences of an owned channel versus a search channel. And what I mean by that is that when you’re reading Men’s Journal, it’s typically a leisure activity. You’re not there to do something specific. You’re flipping through the pages, just seeing what’s interesting. The difference between the reader that’s showing up in search is that they have a goal, they have a purpose. There’s a reason for them being there. They’re asking a question and they’re what I call active information seekers. Now, obviously this is all intuitive to SEOs, but for the PR professional, we’ve been relying on these audiences that aren’t that productive. And when we pivoted as an agency toward recognizing the search audience who is the most productive audience out there, it totally changed the game for us.

Ben:                  And the interesting thing to me is thinking about the audiences, not the keywords. And I think that that’s a departure from how most SEOs think. If you’re looking at a given keyword, you must be in my audience as opposed to the PR rep is probably looking at what’s the audience of this publication? Is it a fit for my brand or service?

Chris:              Yeah.

Ben:                 When you think about understanding who an audience is and whether there’s an overlap, how do you go through that process?

Chris:              Great question, Ben. Great question. PR professionals and I think marketers in general are trying to match up who they think an audience that would be a good fit for the products that they’re selling. And at the end of the day, they’re looking at maybe demographics and gender and household income and you can drill down way for that. You know, back in the day when I worked at a much larger advertising agency, we would basically know the kind of car you drove and the kind of jeans you bought, but more broadly speaking, when you look at these demographics between leaderships and DMAs and things like that. Search, once again, brings you this pinpointed customer. It’s like if you’re a farmer and you had this highly specialized tractor at a piece breaks and you need to fix it, you’re going to go to search and look to see if he can buy the specialized piece.

Chris:               And the person who’s creating a specialized piece is going to meet you there? It’s like, where else can you find that connection? I see search as just like this tremendous product discovery platform where people are asking questions all day long, they’re finding answers in these highly predictable places. They’re pretty much the above the fold in the first page of search. And it becomes the dilemma for any marketer to say, how do I create touchpoints or visibility in these first five or first seven organic positions in search. And I think when you frame it from that perspective to say, I have such limited real estate to make an impact here, paid advertising. A good ad for a non-branded keyword search does run two, two and a half percent of other clicks for a page, which means that 98-97 and a half percent of all the clicks are going elsewhere.

Chris:               And you know, you can certainly buy your way onto those pages, but it’s extremely expensive, especially the keywords that are really driving a lot of traffic and a lot of top of funnel visibility. And then at the end of the day, it’s like, well, “Hey, why don’t our PR teams do their job and focus on winning some search risks. You know, some like reviews here,” and then boom, we’re number one or number two, or maybe we have the answer box. Those things, I don’t think they need to be your own website. If they are, that’s fantastic. I mean, good for you. That means you have an incredible website, but for most brands they don’t have that luxury. They just don’t. They’re not going to get the answer box every single time they want it. It’s worth thinking about the web properties that are in a position to win those answer boxes. And how can you work with them to leverage your own brand.

Ben:                Talk to me about some of the data that you think about when you’re looking at figuring out if a keyword and audience and your coverage actually makes business sense?

Chris:             Well, it’s interesting. When you look at the SERP, it’s pretty much broken down through three different channels, at least anything that’s commercially oriented. You either have your brand-owned websites, you have your ecommerce sites and you have your earned media or PR hits, your journalism. And the proof is in the pudding on why it makes sense for brand-owned sites to leverage other sites, to create visibility. As kind of a little exercise by Visably, we went and we took 3,000 earned media sites, 3,000 ecommerce sites and 3,000 brand-owned websites and we mapped their average median and mode, the main authority, across just a very large kind of sampling of these three different channels or an immediate ecommerce, brand owned. And what’s kind of not surprising is that earned media performed the best. Earned media, on average, had a domain authority around 60 out of 100, but the mode, which is the highest number frequency within the data set.

Chris:               The mode was in the nineties for earned media, which just means that like the majority of sites were up in the nineties yet, but there were some, they were very low. It’s like those sites are time and time again could outperform your own site every single time. The second most prevalent site that we saw was ecommerce and the average ecommerce site was doing somewhere between 40 to 60 in their domain authority. And then with brand owned, there’s some really powerful branded websites out there, but the average site was just between 30 and 40 and then the median, the mode was actually lower than that. Again, that’s that kind of big picture, 10,000 foot view, how brand-owned sites just don’t have the oomph, don’t have the publishing power, don’t have the site visitors, don’t have the backlinks that these ecommerce earned media sites have, which put them at an inherent disadvantage when you’re competing mano-a-mano within the top of the search results.

Ben:                  It’s interesting to hear your thoughts on data and evaluating the different parts of the SERP and how they are related to not only SEO, but PR, earned, owned and paid media. Chris, one last thing I want to ask you before we go, you mentioned that Visably as your products and your services, tell us a little bit more about the company who’s using it? What’s it for? Give us the details.

Chris:              Thanks. We’re super early. I would hesitate calling us an SEO platform or a search engine visibility platform or SUV. We’re looking at every single potential touchpoint where a customer might find your brand within the syrup. What Visably does fundamentally, is it footprints your brand against any keywords, phrases. We look at not just the metadata, the first page of search, and whether you have content masters within that, but we also look at all of the content on the other end of every single link. We’re looking at all the pages that are linked within the SERP.

Chris:              We’re looking for all the potential places where our customers can interact with your brand, whether it’s an earned media site or ecommerce or brand-owned or whatever it might be. And then we take the step further and we help segment the SERP as well. Visably also could be used as a list building platform. We’re able to cleanly identify all the ecommerce sites and brand-owned sites and earned media sites within any given keyword search and what that does is it provides really clear lists and sets of directives to your different teams. If your PR team is just interested in understanding how its work is interacting in search, then you can just extract all the PR results and say, “Oh, we missed these ones, we were in these ones.” Same thing with the ecommerce thing with brand owned.

Chris:              I think what’s really interesting with Visably at the end of the day, is that it shows you your blind spots. It doesn’t just show you where you are, but it shows you what you’re not. And it shows you what channel that is. And it gives you a lot of supporting data on how to improve it. So take a look, it’s free, we’re in beta right now. That’s V-I-S-A-B-L-Y .com and we’re super excited to have people try it out.

Ben:                 Well Chris, I appreciate you coming on the show, telling us a little bit about the overlap between PR, SEO, search visibility, how to make the most out of your earned, owned and paid and for anybody interested in visibility, check it out. It’s a great service.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Chris Dickey, founder and CEO of Visably. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. If you’re interested in contacting Chris, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, his handle is Chris underscore Dickey. That’s C-H-R-I-S underscore D-I-C-K-E-Y. Or you could visit his company’s website, which is Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about. If you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions.

Ben:                 You can even apply to be a guest speaker on The Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter, and my personal handle is Ben J Shap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P. And if you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. Hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. That’s it for today, but until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.

Tyson Stockton

Tyson Stockton

Tyson has over 10 years' experience in the digital marketing industry. As Vice President of Client and Account Management, Tyson manages the Enterprise Client Success team and SEO Consulting efforts at Searchmetrics. Tyson has worked with some of world’s largest enterprise websites including Fortune 500 and global eCommerce leaders. Prior to Searchmetrics, Tyson worked on the in-house side managing the SEO and SEM efforts of a collection of 14 sports specialty eCommerce companies in the US, Europe and Australia.

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