Search marketers often take sets of keywords and analyse them in aggregate to view a websites ‘visibility’ against it’s competitors. But in the analysis of visibility, the essence of the word and why it matters to businesses is often overlooked. If we think about the meaning of visibility outside of search marketing, it helps us gain a stronger understanding of why the concept is so critical in search.

Shop Window:
Visibility is critical to the retail shop front. Firstly, can the people that pass a store each day see its products and if so are they making the right impression? In retail the balance between optimal foot traffic, product visibility and the impression that a store creates can be the difference between the success and failure of a physical store front.

Store Locations:
The natural visibility gained by strategically positioning stores where there is abundant foot traffic is the life blood of many of the world’s leading brands. The foot traffic that passes by KFC’s or McDonalds’ retail outlets each day brings sales, brand awareness and affinity from customers that make those brands the global landmarks that they are today.

Retail Isles
In the isles of every major department store, brands battle for visibility on the store’s shelves. The brands that win this visibility battle and have their products in the premium locations are rewarded with higher sales and greater brand exposure.

The importance of visibility to commercial success in the physical world is also true in the digital world. If brands are not seen where there is an abundance of natural consumer traffic, they become unseen, unknown, and are ultimately replaced by the brands seen in their place.

Search Visibility
In search analysing visibility gives many powerful insights. Where is your brand seen? Where isn’t it seen? Are the natural visitors that walk past your brand in the search results affluent? Are you striking the right balance between paid and natural visibility?

Starting analysis of your search performance with these kind of broad questions around visibility can give far greater insights than being buried in analysis of the traffic itself.

Conclusions:The world’s leading brands understand the importance of visibility to the success of their business in the physical world. But in digital, the very same brands are often not seen at all where there is natural search traffic. As the world moves into the digital realm and more consumers make their purchases online and base their purchase decisions on online research, brands that are not seen in the right places will simply not exist in the eyes of consumers.

When you begin to analyse the performance of your digital campaigns, don’t hesitate to start the analysis with questions as simple as:

Where are we seen? Where are we not seen? Where should we be seen?
And you will find that the insights that come from this kind of analysis will be just as powerful as focusing typical search performance metrics such as traffic and conversion.