SISTRIX encompasses so many features that I could probably write about it from a range of different perspectives, but today I’ve looked at some of its key elements from an SEO standpoint. If you’re looking to compare your site’s visibility within the SERPs to that of your competitors’ sites while also monitoring keyword changes and finding potential backlinks, SISTRIX is definitely the tool for you.
After a pretty long play-around with SISTRIX, I’m happy to share with you the features that I found most useful from an SEO perspective.
This post is split up into six sections to navigate the way in which I’ve found the suite most useful:
What Is SISTRIX?
SISTRIX is an SEO suite created by a German company in 2008 and is becoming increasingly popular with SEOs as it spreads across Europe.
As a member of the Koozai SEO team, I was lucky enough to participate in some SISTRIX training from the SISTRIX team recently. I decided to write a blog post to help those who want to get more out of the tool. I’ve just picked out the elements that I found to be the most useful, but I could happily write about SISTRIX all day: there are some great features in every module!
The Visibility Index
SISTRIX provides a range of useful features, but the essence of the tool revolves around its Visibility Index. This feature gives each domain a score that illustrates how visible that domain is within the Google SERPs for the country being targeted. The Index is incredibly useful for evaluating the successes and pitfalls of SEO activities; it assists with comparing competitor domains and also allows us to analyse the effects of Google algorithm updates on a domain.
The Visibility Index is calculated twice a week, once for mobile and once for desktop search, using the top 100 positions for a million different keywords. SISTRIX crawl the keyword data throughout the week and then calculate the Visibility Index scores for desktop and mobile over the weekend. They then publish the new data for the next Monday. SISTRIX’s reasoning for the selection of these specific million keywords is as follows:
“They make up a good average for the country-specific search behaviour. Ten percent of the keywords are composed of current keywords (for example “EM 2016”), the rest remain the same. This way, 100 million data points (1m x 100) are measured once a week as a basis for the Visibility Index.” View SISTIRX’s site for more information on the Visibility Index.
For the time being, SISTRIX focuses exclusively on Google, but it has announced that other search engines will be added in the future. What are the main SISTRIX features?
These are the six primary modules that make up the SISTRIX Toolbox:
Rather than working through each module in turn, I’ll focus on those bits of the tool that I’ve found most useful for SEO.
One of the main reasons to use SISTRIX from an SEO point of view is that it offers data on SERP rankings and outlines link data both historically and in real time. One of the suite’s best features is that you can see when Google algorithm updates have taken place and visualise the impact this has had on rankings, similarly to the Panguin Tool. You’ll be able to see this within the first Visibility Index screenshot below. Markings on the Visibility Index are called Event Pins and users can also create their own to indicate when new content went live, site relaunches took place and any other events occurred.
Who’s This Tool Good For?
Many people within digital will benefit from SISTRIX. Some of these include:
- SEO Execs
- Content Execs
- Website Owners
- Brand Managers
- Web Devs
What’s The Cost?
SISTRIX is handy, as it allows its users to pay for just one module, all six modules or however many they wish to use.
A competitively priced tool, SISTRIX offers full information on its pricing structure at the bottom of the homepage, under ‘Six Modules’. A free trial of SISTRIX is available as well.
Each module has its own benefits:
- ‘SEO’ allows users to analyse and optimise organic search results, for example.
- ‘Universal’ allows us to evaluate Universal Search Integrations within a search query, such as news and photos.
- ‘Links’ exposes your domain’s backlink profile along with those of competitor sites.
- ‘Ads’ enables us to evaluate banner campaigns for any website.
- ‘Social’ lets us analyse social signals for the network giants Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+.
- ‘Optimizer’ is an on-page analysis module that lets us evaluate our keyword set.
It’s probably best to start with reporting, as this is an important part of the SISTRIX toolbox. SISTRIX allows its users to continuously monitor their domain from different perspectives and add in further parameters on a weekly basis.
This will make it possible to keep track of how the domain is developing. We can chuck a bunch of parameters into the domain overview at the same time and then put them into a PDF report that will be sent to us on a weekly basis.
Once you’ve created a report, users can turn it into a template. If you’re working on a number of accounts and do not have time to set reports up individually, templates allow you to pull in all your preferable features, thus making your life a bit easier. There is a limit to the number of reports SISTRIX can offer for free, however. With your Toolbox account you get 10 reports and if you have the Optimizer module you will also get a number of reports equal to the maximum amount of projects you can have. If you still need more reports, SISTRIX said to just give their support a call or send them an email. As far as the size of the reports are concerned, SISTRIX have set the limit on the number of elements you can add to a report to 25. This being said, it’s worth being somewhat picky about the ones you choose as being able to monitor multiple domains can really save a lot of time and resources, especially as the reports can be sent straight to your inbox.
If you want to rename your report, delete it and add permissions and email addresses to view the report, or simply change the frequency of how often you’ll receive it, you can do all of this through the settings options at the bottom of the page.
Below is an example report that shows ranking changes over a one-month period:
Throughout the rest of this post, I’ll be discussing the most import aspects of SISTRIX for an SEO, what they’ll show you and how to interpret the data that they produce.
So, How Do I Actually Use SISTRIX?
As I hinted above, I’m mainly explaining this post from an SEO or a website owner’s perspective. Let’s start from the beginning. The best way of getting into SISTRIX is to dive straight into the overview upon opening the tool and type in the domain (without www.) you want to investigate, along with the flag for the country this refers to. You will be taken to the overview:
First, let’s look at the large graph, which shows the Visibility Index for asos.com (which will be our example of the domain you are choosing to track visibility for).
This Visibility Index is based on 1,000,000 keywords in the United Kingdom. These reflect the search behaviour of people within that country. To get the most out of SISTRIX, I would recommend analysing the 100 top-ranking positions of each of those 1,000,000 every week. This is based on whether the site in consideration has rankings among those 1,000,000 keywords in its top 100 positions; if that is the case, we try to understand how high or low those rankings are and how frequently the keywords are being searched for (approximate monthly search rate). We weigh these keywords differently within the keyword set based on the number of search requests.
If you assemble all of these factors into one formula, you’ll end up with the Visibility Index for that particular site. This Visibility Index can be understood as a unit and it serves many functions. As SISTRIX has been building the tool since 2010, users can now see how visibility has developed in the past, is developing now and will develop in the future throughout the United Kingdom.
From the Visibility Index, we can see that Asos’s visibility gradually increased from October 2010 to 2015, with a slight reduction in visibility in 2016. We can also see that November 2012 was when Asos updated its page layout, adding ads above the fold. This is shown by ‘A’.
Asos’s visibility has increased from 61.094 in October 2010 to a current visibility score of 120.47. This is a rather pleasing increase, and the gradual incline allows us to see an indicative visibility forecast for certain keywords within the SERPs for the coming months.
What Does 120.47 Really Mean As A Visibility Index Score?
The next step is to put the data into perspective by comparing competitors’ Visibility Index scores with Asos’s and judging how good Asos’s score is and whether its competitors influence its visibility. To do this, we would use the Visibility Index as a benchmark.
We need first to click on the small cog above the Visibility Index and click ‘add to report’. The SISTRIX team refers to this as a rough overview to see how much height we have within the SERPs, and for this reason we have called the Visibility Index report the ‘Cockpit Asos’. You can open the report once you’ve named it.
If you then go back to the overview, click on the cog above the Visibility Index and go into ‘compare data in chart’: you can add in up to three competitor domains, leaving out all www. and http – so just the domain.com, for example.
Once this has been inputted, you should see your competitors in comparison to your domain like this:
To understand a brand’s Visibility Index, it’s important to compare it to as many competitors as possible in order to contextualise the data. The Y-axis shows us that Asos is ranking between 0 and 146.07. This is an assumption based upon the comparison. If we add in other competitors, the data may vary, but it’s important to remember that the brand with the highest visibility has the highest level. The X-axis shows us where Asos currently stands in the market and what its market share is within the SERPs.
Looking At Market Share
If the market share within the SERPs isn’t incredibly high in comparison to those of Asos’s competitors, such as topshop.com in this example, Asos will need to keep on top of competitor visibility with a view to investigating the actions of those sites that score better. We can clearly see that Asos is ahead of all three competitors here, but there have been fluctuations along the way, as we would expect. Although the green competitor appears to be well ahead of the other two, the numbers reveal that this isn’t actually the case: if we look at the numbers beneath the chart (shown below), we see that we are talking about numbers in the teens and early 30s, and the second bit of information we’ve been able to determine from this graph is that Asos’s competitors’ activities can affect Asos’s visibility and vice versa.
However, these four brands have one common denominator in that all keywords for which they rank and with which they are able to communicate about their product are keywords within those branches and the top 10 positions for those keywords are limited. This means that any of these competitors, or Asos, can be negatively affected just because someone else is doing a better job. Examples of this occurred in November 2012 and again in August 2015, when Asos decreased in visibility; this had a knock-on effect on the other three competitors shown here. I’ve found a competitor that has stronger visibility than Asos so that we can also see how Asos was negatively affected whilst its competitor benefited – see below.
We can see that this increase affected the visibility of all competitors with lower visibility (including Asos). This suggests that we need to look at the competitor that’s performing better than Asos and analyse its backlinks and content to see whether there are any opportunities that we can emulate to help us steal more of the market share.
What Else Can I Do after That?
We can’t just assume that this is all there is to it. Next, we must look to see if there was a larger competitor that has more control over the current leader.
Alternatively, if you felt that this way was too general, you could create your own keyword set and then calculate your own Visibility Index. The best way to discover your domain’s site visibility would probably be to complete both of these actions. This would be more objective, as it would be based on a huge representative keyword set.
As we move through the SISTRIX toolbox, it’s important to add these elements to your report.
What Does The Visibly Index Prompt Us To Ask?
- What is the market share between us and our competitors within the SERPs?
- How are we being affected by our competitors?
- How are we affecting our competitors?
As well as using a benchmark or a key performance index, it also makes sense to analyse the situation based on rankings. To do this, navigate over to ‘SEO’ and click on ‘Ranking Changes’. You will see something that looks like this:
First of all, those keywords are not all ones Asos is ranking for, but they are all ones that have contributed to ranking improvements.
The chart shows keyword ranking position improvements; the competition shows you how much that keyword is being fought for whilst the traffic shows you how much that keyword is searched for. In a sense, this is simply another indication: if our visibility has increased, it’s helpful to know where this happened exactly. This gives us a sort of weekly to-do list; if I have increased my rankings for a keyword, I will then aim to optimise that page even more based on that particular keyword so that I’m using the positive momentum to further improve site visibility. SISTRIX also allows us to see negative fluctuations in keywords so this shows us any areas for potential improvement.
This is really where SISTRIX comes into its own, as it allows us to see the SERP history of any particular keyword’s performance from 2010. This is completely invaluable and a cut above the rest of the tools I’ve used, especially as I’m managing a number of accounts simultaneously. Most importantly from an SEO standpoint, ‘Ranking Changes’ allow us to see which site pages previously ranked for strong terms, and if they don’t rank anymore we can begin to understand why this may be the case. I’ve added an example of this below:
We are also able to search for specific keywords on a particular site and see the ranking increases (as shown below), ranking decreases, new keywords, lost keywords, new top-10 keywords and a few more options in the drop-down highlighted below.
These can also be added into your weekly report for monitoring.
Whilst the above section would no doubt be included within the first step of keyword research with SISTRIX, the second step would be to research which keywords your customers might be using to search for each of your products and services. We can find this by including the most visible competitors of the website you are auditing. This is found in the Visibility Index graph that I discussed at the beginning of this post.
You should then type in your most visible competitor from your previous Visibility Index graph and put it into the domain search within the SISTRIX overview. In Asos’s case, the most visible competitor (as shown earlier) is John Lewis. Then click on ‘Keywords’ under SEO and sort the data based on traffic. This will show you the keywords for which your most visible competitor is currently ranking more visibly than your site within the UK SERPs. Couple this with the volume of searches for keywords and you can identify the selection of keywords you should be targeting to attract new customers. You can then optimise your subpages using these keyword findings. There are no limitations on the number of domains you can analyse at one time.
What Can I Do Next?
From here, if you try to optimise for any of the keywords for which you identified potential, you will be able to see whether you’ve had success within the keyword section with the ‘Ranking Changes’ feature. You can then use this information to improve that ranking even further; you may go on to see these keywords within the ranking increase and so forth.
The third step of keyword research is to work on your own keyword potential, which can be identified by typing in ‘asos.com’ or your domain next to the British flag and clicking on overview below ‘SEO’. Go to the second graph, which reads ‘Keywords History’:
The red graph shows us the top 100 keyword rankings, while the blue one shows us where Asos is being found within the SERPs as these hold top-10 positions. What we really want to see is a graph with a majority of keywords in blue and only a small selection of red keywords, but Asos is currently ranking for over 20,500 keywords and only about 10,000 of these are being seen on the first results page on Google. This indicates that some work needs to be done to reduce these red keywords and increase the proportion of blue keywords to the entire keyword set.
How Can We Achieve Higher Rankings?
Go into ‘Keywords’ under ‘SEO’ and click on ‘Traffic’, next to ‘Competition’. Now, if we look at the keywords on the left, we need to check that the keywords are ranking for the appropriate URLs, and this also highlights certain keywords we can work on. When we have optimised pages for certain keywords, we should see these improvements within the ‘Ranking changes’ option within the rankings increase. In summary, you do the following:
- Research keywords
- Review the new keywords
- Work on current keywords
- See whether the rankings increase for these keywords within the ranking changes
This highlights the missed opportunities in potential keywords, so the above should help you to establish a work flow that makes sense when working on multiple clients or websites simultaneously.
Finding New Backlinks
Type in the site you’re auditing next to the British flag at the top and then click on ‘overview’ below Links and click ’Activate LinkPlus’ to activate all of the data.
SISTRIX is able to visual the backlink structure quickly so this doesn’t take long to load.
Once this has loaded, we can see the following:
Above, we see the number of backlinks in the top left-hand corner (currently 1.42m). To view these backlinks in a different way, drop down to ‘Referring domains’ below ‘Links’ and then click twice on ‘Visibility Index’. This shows us Asos’s backlinks sorted by the referring domain’s Visibility Index:
We can ignore WordPress and Tumblr, but the other sites are of value. If you want to find out more information about each referring domain, you can hit the plus sign next to each of them and this will show you lots of information, including the following:
- The type of link it is: these are mostly text links from The Telegraph, for example
- Whether these are followed, nofollowed, etc
- Which page of the referring domain this is from
- Which page on Asos’s site this links to
- Host information
- IP information
Being able to dig deeper into the backlinks allows us to focus on the quality links rather than there being such a large quantity of them. This is more of a general concern, as we would complete a Backlink Analysis Audit on spammy or unnatural links anyway.
I think it makes perfect sense to sort these referring domains by the Visibility Index as this makes looking at backlinks a bit less work-intensive and makes it a bit easier to digest the information and identify good opportunities for link building, competitor research and many other activities.
Link Data Source
You should also evaluate whether your backlinks are reaching their destination on a regular basis. So if we click on ‘Linked Pages’ below ‘Links’ and then ‘Check availability’, we can perform a live check on the different status codes of the top linked pages.
The main reason I like this part of the module is that we can see the pages that are showing 404 status codes. For example, below we can see that www.asos.com/es/ASOS-Colecci%C3%B3n-de-moda-de-mujer-y-ropa-de-hombre-Entrega-gratuita-y-devoluciones/ is showing a 404 and it has been linked to 101 times. The issue shows up quickly, and we can see the level of urgency in the number of links that are linking to that particular page. Below shows these links in terms of 301 redirects (yellow), a 200 status code (this means that the page is live and okay – green) and a 404 (red):
This information comes from the SISTRIX backlink crawlers that are continuously in action and can thereby find and analyse 250 billion links per month. This doesn’t mean that this is the full size of their index though, but more the amount of links that SISTRIX can process in any given month. You can find additional information about the link indexes from SISTRIX.
‘Optimizer’ has two main functions. The first is to contain a crawler that analyses your entire page based on the Google Search Console guidelines. The crawler evaluates the website’s level of conformity with the guidelines, which also shows you where further optimisation is required, both structurally and technically. This doesn’t just show you the issues; it also highlights the location of each of them and explains the required actions. The ‘issues’ in the Optimizer are things that may confuse, hinder or exclude Google-Bot (like incorrect 404 pages) and the “Warnings” are SEO best-practices (like multiple uses of H1 on different pages) which help Google better understand the content and structure of the site. You are able to create five accounts within the Optimizer, so a Web Developer, for example, could log in with their own email addresses and work on the issues.
The Optimizer also allows us to create our own keyword set, where we can monitor up to 1,000 keywords on a weekly basis for up to 50 countries and these will be calculated into our own Visibility Index. These exact keywords can then be measured against up to six competitors to measure performance across those seven sites, allowing us to see where improvements can be made.
As an SEO, I really enjoyed getting to grips with SISTRIX as it allows for a full competitor analysis, ongoing keyword research and a considerable amount of monitoring. I do have to say, however, that I’m not sure that this tool is for beginners looking for a self-explanatory tool – at least until you’ve properly understood certain SEO elements. SISTRIX does need a bit of a deep dive if it’s to be fully understood.
Having said that, there are a large number of pros to the tool:
- SISTRIX allows you to simply subscribe to the modules you need and unsubscribe from those you don’t.
- The ‘Social’ module is currently offered for free when you subscribe to one module.
- The sections of the toolbox can be used individually or together, so with a site audit, you would more likely use all tools, but if your site has a problem area, you could also focus solely on that.
- The Visibility Index graph allows you to view your site’s visibility in comparison to that of your competitors. This is great for monitoring progress, and it adds an extra unique element to competitor analysis.
- With SISTRIX ‘pins’, you are able to see when Google algorithm updates have taken place, and as you can enter your domain, you can see the effects these have had on your website.
- SISTRIX users can add up to 1,000 keywords within the Optimizer module, which also allows you to label these for any specific projects or for different site areas.
- The tool is great for identifying areas of potential competitor success in visibility, which can be something for other sites to emulate.
There were also a few cons that I picked up:
- For a website owner who isn’t part of an agency or big company, the pricing for each module may be prohibitive.
- As I mentioned previously, it does take a while to get to grips with the tool, especially if you are new to SEO, so it may be better to have a site demo and then explore SISTRIX once you’ve got a bit more information.
- The ‘Social’ section doesn’t actually do what you’d assume: it doesn’t analyse social profiles, but instead looks at how your website’s pages are doing on social.
- The crawler is never going to offer the deep analysis of tools such as Screaming Frog, but it does allow you to search through the HTML coding of these pages.
As I continue to use SISTRIX, I’m sure I’ll find more features that work well for me and maybe some that don’t, but overall this tool gives me a great overview that enables me to monitor multiple websites, keywords and competitors, dive into backlinks profiles and carry out the necessary on-page analysis. Most importantly, it highlights areas that are working well in terms of my clients, and competitor sites as well, so continual improvement is inevitable.
Please feel free to get in touch with me here or via Twitter if you’ve got any questions about SISTRIX or if you’ve found that you like a different part of the toolbox then let me know and let’s chat about it!
Update 28/04/16: This week, SISTRIX announced that they now augment their link database with Majestic data, meaning that the data you see in SISTRIX includes both their own crawled data and the reputable data from Majestic. The best part of this news is that the new feature and data is available to all Link-module subscribers at no extra cost, making SISTRIX even more useful to SEOs and webmasters as an SEO toolbox.
Update 30/04/16: This week, SISTRIX have also announced that they have expanded their UK keywords database from 1 million which they monitored once a week, to an impressive 12 million keywords, of which they will now monitor about once a month. Whilst the new keyword set won’t allow us to view the history of those keywords within the new “Extended Data” section, this will allow us to have a more diligent overview on even the smaller domains, enabling us to find and monitor the current keyword rankings, further facilitating competitor analysis and keyword research.