Discovering SEO’s Holy Grail: Organic Share of Voice

Ah, share of voice. Even if you only have a basic understanding of marketing, you’ve probably come across the term at least once. Everyone wants more of it. But they don’t seem 100 percent sure what “it” is.

So what is this “share of voice”? How do you track it? And, most importantly, why should you even care about it?

Let’s start with a little share of voice history. In traditional marketing terms, share of voice is a method of measuring the advertising presence for a specific brand or product. Or, put even more simply: how much are people talking about your brand or product compared to your competitors?

So, how does that translate to traffic from SEO (aka organic search)? Well, much like traditional share of voice, organic share of voice is a method of measuring the size of your search presence compared to the competition. Awesome! Sounds simple enough, right?

In theory, yes. However, one of the true gifts of the internet (besides reaction GIFs and adorable animal videos on-demand) is precious, precious data. Ultimately, this data is what sets organic share of voice apart from the traditional share of voice concept. Unfortunately, it’s also part of what makes the distinction so confusing.

So, once and for all, let’s clear up a few things about organic share of voice. Starting with:

What It Is Not

Organic share of voice is not a magical marketing measurement that tells you exactly how much more (or less) organic traffic your website is pulling vs. your competitors. While there are nuggets of truth in that perception, it ultimately fails because it’s both too specific and too general. What does that mean? Well…

What It Is (Mostly)

Organic share of voice can be pretty damn powerful — if you understand its limitations.

Organic share of voice represents a site's overall visibility in organic search results for a set of keywords, as compared to that site’s top competitors. But there’s more to it than that, which is where the limitations start to show themselves.

When calculating your share of voice, stick with non-branded keywords. Yes, this limits the range of keywords and “reduces” your perceived share of voice, but unless you’re utterly failing at SEO, you’re pretty likely to be ranking for your own branded keywords by merely being, well, you.

So organic share of voice is how much more (or less) visible your site is in searches for your targeted non-branded keywords vs. your competitors targeting the same keywords. Got it.

But wait!

How Do You Know That?

Here’s where the other primary limitation of share of voice comes in to play: how do we calculate it? And how accurate is that calculation?

Begin by assigning a clickthrough rate (CTR) to corresponding positions in search results. This study is a great place to start. This CTR is essentially the share of clicks a site would get when ranking in a specific position for a given keyword.

Next, take the average of all the CTRs for each keyword you’re tracking to find the share of voice for the chosen SERPs/Keywords.

Seems pretty simple, right? Well, yes, but there are a few additional things to keep in mind when considering where users are clicking:

  • Searchers might find the ads displayed above the organic results more relevant and click on those

  • Some people might not find what they are looking for in the first 10 results and move on to the second or third page of results instead

  • Some searchers might not find what they are looking for at all, leading them to refine their search by adding more words to the query to be more explicit

Another thing to consider when looking at overall share of voice: Google is constantly working on providing more and more instant answers to search queries. There’s a good chance the people searching your target keywords may find everything they need in the displayed search results, eliminating the need for them to click on any of the results.

What Does This Mean for Me?

Frankly, if you’re not going to track your share of voice long term, it doesn’t mean much. Knowing what your company’s organic share of voice was in Q4 of last year doesn’t tell you anything except what your company’s organic share of voice was in Q4 of last year.

To witness the true value of calculating your share of voice, you must follow up with ongoing monitoring and analysis. It’s a great competitor analysis metric to identify trends over time. We recommend monitoring share of voice every month. That way, if we see share of voice start to drop or a competitor start to pull ahead, we can make adjustments to our strategy and keep everything on track.

To get started tracking your share of voice, download our handy spreadsheet and make a copy. This template has the most up-to-date CTR rates and formulas in place, ready to populate a graph for easy viewing. Once the template is up, copy your keyword rankings data into each tab of your worksheet and you’re ready to rock.

So now you know what organic share of voice is, how you find it and why it matters. Now go, find your share of voice! Or take a break and watch GIFs of kittens startling giant dogs. You do you.

Written by Victoria Larson on November 7, 2018


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Written by
Victoria Larson
Senior SEO Specialist