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The Truth Behind Search Engine Visibility – Chris Dickey // Visably

Episode Overview: Visibility is an all-encompassing term in PR, yet it’s important to define and differentiate what SEO visibility specifically means within PR. Join host Ben as he speaks with Founder and CEO of Visably Chris Dickey to learn about SEO visibility and what it means in a PR mindset.

Summary

  • To Chris, visibility is something he calls “Share of voice,” and occurs in all places where conversations are happening. This is the percentage of share around your brand, the amount of advertising, what percentage of the conversation a brand owns, etc.
  • Vanity metrics, like a single mention on a New York Times page with 16 million impressions, doesn’t provide all the information SEO visibility metrics yield. SEO visibility metrics provide actual page and link performance data.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome 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. And yesterday, Chris and I talked about the overlap between PR and SEO. And today we’re going to talk about the truth behind search engine visibility. Okay. Here’s the second part of my conversation with Chris Dickey, the CEO and founder of Visably.

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

Chris:              Yeah, thanks for having me.

Ben:                 I’m excited to continue our conversation. Yesterday we talked about your background. You grew up in the PR agency ranks and you’ve moved on to start a tech company focused on link building and visibility. Let’s talk a little bit about what visibility is to you. Coming from the PR mindset, how do you think about visibility?

Chris:              Yeah. Visibility, so I consider it to be this thing called share of voice. And that is out of all the places where conversations are happening, what percentage of that share is around your brand. And so in the search landscape, you could say that conversation is the first page of search and all the links on that first page and search, including all the advertising, is potentially the entire conversation. So what percentage of that conversation do you guys have? And that’s why I look at it as share of voice.

Chris:              Or you can look at it from a different perspective, it’s like, how likely is it that somebody is going to trip across your stuff in search or really anywhere in that matter? So in the PR industry, we look at share of voice. We say, okay, well, out of all the conversations around X subject, how many included our brand? Say tennis rackets and we’ll look at the brand Wilson. How much share of voice does Wilson have in the tennis racket media landscape? And you can measure that. And I think you can also measure that exact same concept in search. And it’s not just measuring where your website exists, but what’s your share of voice on the page? I think of this as how do you increase the likelihood that someone is going to stumble across your brand or your product in any given keyword search?

Ben:                It’s interesting, share of voice is one of those metrics, speaking more as a digital marketer than I am as an SEO, that I have a hard time tying back into business performance. And a lot of the times I’ve seen brands get into trouble measuring share of voice, because they’re looking at social mentions. How many times did somebody @ our brand or mention our company or our products as opposed to other brands. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that people are using those mentions A, in a positive light or B, to drive business results. It’s more of a competition amongst the other players in your industry, as opposed to a measurement of how effective the channel is. When you think about share of voice from an SEO perspective and how you think of visibility with an SEO mindset, is it any different than how you think of it from a PR perspective?

Chris:             Slightly, perhaps. I think from a PR perspective, it’s just a much deeper pool, then it’s much more blurry because there’s so much static out there. From an SEO perspective, it’s really finite. You’re just looking at these 10 organic results with the kind of buttressed by ads and things, and then a few snippets here and there. So the landscape that you’re playing in is just way, way smaller in search. And of course, that’s amplified across any level of keywords, but it’s just easier to measure the amount of customers that are showing up within any keyword versus PR, because PR has always really suffered from these things that we call vanity metrics. The total readership in The New York Times of the course of a month is something like 16 million or something and a PR person will get a single mention on some page in The New York Times, likely not their front page, and they’ll put on their PR report, 16 million impressions. And of course that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have no idea how that actual page performed or even how that article performed. Within search, we have such a better idea of how that page is performing and depending on where your organic link is embedded within the page, how that link’s performing.

Ben:                So talk to me a little bit about why visibility matters. There is getting in front of your customers, having them read content, whether it’s on your properties or another brand’s properties. How do you figure out the impact of visibility as opposed to the actual click-through or conversion rate? Talk to me about the importance of visibility.

Chris:             I think that there’s so many mechanisms to bring a customer back or to rope them in, once they’re in the funnel, once you’ve captured their cookie, you’re tracking a pixel or whatever it might be, but to get them in the funnel can be a really, really challenging dilemma for a lot of marketers. How do you know that this is even an option? How do you know it exists? In search, in my mind, is the number one product discovery platform in the world. And markers are always thinking about how do we facilitate product discovery? Well, hey, search is the one place that these people who need this super unique widget are showing up and asking for the widget. So it’s a fantastic way to match the customer with a solution. And then once you figure out how to do that, it should be more than just one touch point.

Chris:            And I think marketers are really bought into that SEO is the primary vehicle for touchpoints and search. And of course there’s also ads. And I think these other touchpoints, whether it be someone’s clicking on an Amazon page and the Amazon landing page actually features a client’s product and they click on it and they buy. That’s a very legitimate, very common customer journey. Another one is you click on a review or a video or whatever it might be. There’s just such poor reporting mechanisms for how that works and there’s such little data around what those landscapes look like and how a brand exists in search. And so as a marketer and as an agency guy, what I was always really fascinated by was, and the question I kept asking myself over and over again, it’s the very simple question, where does my brand, or where’s my client’s brand exist in search?

Chris:            And I’ve used this example looking for the best fleece jacket. Well, when you look up best fleece jacket, you’re not going to find a single manufacturer’s website. You’ll find a ton of reviews. Does that mean that any given, a brand like Patagonia doesn’t exist on that page just because their website’s not there? Of course not. In fact, if you were to audit every single one of those reviews, you’ll find the Patagonias in the lion’s share of them, but there’s no way to measure that. There’s no way to measure how Patagonia is actually getting in front of those customers or even manage it. And so that’s what we were trying to solve.

Ben:               So talk to me about measuring true visibility. When you’re thinking about the combination of SEO visibility, in theory, we understand that. We can see our impression count from Google search console, but then there’s the less trackable visibility, the mentions in other people’s sites, social impact. There’s a bunch of other ways to think about visibility. When you think about overall digital visibility or overall search engine visibility, how do you measure the true visibility as opposed to just the SEO in your properties visibility?

Chris:             Visably, The site that I’m behind, we have a score that we call the Visably score. Sorry, for our lack of imagination. And anyways, Visably score looks at all those potential touchpoints on the first page of search. And then we do a couple of things. And so we look and say, oh, is this your website? Yes or no. If it is your website, then we believe that regardless of its rank on the page, we believe that there is an extra brand value to having your website showing up on the first page of search. Is there an image associated with the link or not? Even if you don’t click on the link, we believe that an image heightens the brand value on the page for your visibility for that matter. And then it’s the more empirical aspects, things like what’s the click through rate on any given feature on the page?

Chris:             And how does that click through rate change with the addition of special SERP features? So depending on how many ads are at the top versus the bottom of the page, whether those ads feature you or not, whether they have an image or not, are you the first organic position? Are you the third organic position? Is there a feature snippet on the page and answer box? The answer box is designed to be a no click search. Are we going to devalue the answer box because it has a lower click through rate? Well, no, we’re not. We’re actually going to create an arrangement for that so we can have that improved brand value score if you will, if you’re featured in the answer box. So, the Visably score looks at this really holistic set of variables from click through rate, to position on the page, to type of search feature, to image no image, to the presence of your own brand or website. And then it takes all that and identifies where you exist within that framework and applies a score that basically relates to the likelihood that someone’s going to discover your brand within the page.

Ben:               So when you have any sense of what your visibility score, let’s play out the Visably model where you’re looking at not only the search elements, your own properties, and hopefully some data from other properties as well, what can you do to influence that?

Chris:            Yeah, I mean so many things and it’s not simple. It’s not straightforward. I think at the end of the day, search should be managed as a multichannel platform. And it’s a place where you should get this deeper level of analytic data back from all these keywords that you’re interested in doing well in and decide which of these keywords is transactional and how are we performing those transactional keywords? And is this something that our ecommerce team can improve upon? And the answer is probably yes. There’s a merchandising conversation that most vendors are willing to have with their clients or with the brands that are selling. And then secondarily it’s like the PR team. As a PR agency owner, I can tell you that the first page of search and looking even through the second page, it’s a great place to build media lists.

Chris:             I mean, what are the hardest things in PR? Knowing who the heck do you talk to when you’re trying to tell a story. Who cares? And Google is elevating the most relevant content, the most relevant outlets and the most relevant writers for any particular subject that you could possibly want. So it’s a fantastic way to mine those contacts and mine those outlets, and put together a really, really targeted email or media outreach list. And then lastly, there’s a balance that I think most digital brand directors should be striking between how much money do we spend on bidding for a keyword versus optimizing organically for it. And if you’re doing really well organically, and you can empirically show that you’re winning the lion’s share of the clicks on the page organically through all these multichannel efforts, could you spend your SEM budget elsewhere to reach page results that you’re not doing as well in organically. And if there was a way to footprint yourself and really understand what your share of voice is on this page organically, perhaps there would be a better way for an advertising team and an SEO team to interact and say, okay, here is how we’re going to divide and conquer.

Ben:                Yeah, I agree with you. And we talk a lot about visibility on this podcast, and most of it relates to the Searchmetrics visibility score, which looks at how your web properties are showing up within Google Search. I do think that there’s something to be said for understanding not only how your web properties are showing up, but combining that data with how other brands are talking about you, so you understand what the true coverage of a given keyword is, whether it’s owned or earned content. So as you’re thinking about what your true visibility is, you need to have an understanding of what your SEO performance is. But also you might want to buddy up with your PR team to understand what coverage they’re getting and that’s really the true definition of visibility.

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. So 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_Dickey. That’s C-H-R-I-S _ D-I-C-K-E-Y. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is Visably.com, V-I-S-A-B-L-Y.com.

Ben:              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 voicesofsearch.com, 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. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you could always reach out on social media. Our handle is VoicesofSearch on Twitter. And my personal handle is BenJShap, 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, so hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.