How does your website compare in search?

A client recently asked us for advice in creating a report on how its website compared to some of its competitors in terms of search engine performance. In reply, we suggested that the sort of generalised comparison they were envisaging wasn’t really very sensible, because no two sites cover the same spread of searches. Better would be to select a number of specific searches, and compare performance on those. But what searches should they use?

A tool which I use increasingly, for all sorts of things, is the performance report in Google Search Console. This tells us the searches for which our site appeared, and goes back for a decent length of time (12 or even 16 months). Ignore the ‘clicks’ data on this occasion; what we need to look at is the ‘impressions’: the number of times our website showed somewhere. It doesn’t matter where we appeared, because all we’re trying to establish is how many times each search was made, even if we only appeared at position 50.

This should give us a list of the most frequently-made searches for which our company should appear. Of course, it’s possible that there’s a popular, important search for which we’ve never appeared; if that was the case, it wouldn’t be on the list, no matter how many times it had been made. But we have to hope no such search exists.

Once ordered in terms of impressions, we can pick out the most important searches to investigate: the ones which are generally applicable to our site and our competitors, which have commercial intent, and which are made frequently. Then it’s a question of looking at the top 10 results for each search. We all know that not everybody sees the same set of results, but the result that you’re most likely to see differently from others is your own website’s; to check you’re seeing what others are, check the position you see against your average position report in Google Search Console for that search (set the period to the last month and the country to the UK only).

This is not the most in-depth comparative report you’ll ever create, but I suspect it’ll be just the job for whoever’s asking.