10 SISTRIX Features I Love
I have a confession to make – I love SISTRIX. SISTRIX, for the uninitiated, is an SEO tool which (amongst other things) plots website visibility based on ranking data, and gives a ton of useful and actionable insight into website performance.
SISTRIX’s Visibility Index uses millions of data points to inform users how a website is performing in search. They make pretty graphs like this:
The company are based in Bonn, Germany, have been around for over 10 years, and their tool is one of very few which I find myself using almost every day (the other is the Screaming Frog SEO Spider, if you’re interested :P).
I thought I knew the tool pretty well, but recently attended one of their seminars (highly recommended) to find that really wasn’t the case. So, I thought I’d share some of these new tips and tricks, as well as some of my favourite features from the tool.
Full disclosure – this post is not sponsored or incentivised in any way, I’m simply a big fan of this tool. In fact, the folks at SISTRIX have no idea I’m even writing this. I simply wanted to share what I think is a really useful tool!
1. Visibility comparison
Nice and simple to begin with, it’s dead easy to compare the visibility of several websites in the same niche, to get a quick overview of SEO performance:
This helps to visualise who of your competitor set has increased in visibility over time, and who has decreased. This can also be done at subdomain, subdirectory and URL level too.
2. Visibility pins
For additional context, SISTRIX usefully overlays ‘pins’ on the visibility graphs. These are automatically added when a website has seen a significant change in visibility, timed with a known Google update:
Pins are totally customisable and can be added or removed in seconds. They can be really useful in identifying website affected by algorithmic issues, and in telling the story of a website affected by Google updates.
3. Keyword filters
As you’d expect with a tool of this type, it’s very easy to see keyword data using SISTRIX. However, if the website you are analysing ranks for tens or hundreds of thousands of keywords, it can be hard to know where to start to draw any insights, or to understand where the biggest opportunities lie. Using the keyword filters can help no end:
In the above example I’ve applied a number of keyword filters to this domain – I’m filtering to show only keywords containing ‘dresses’, keywords where the current ranking position is between 11th and 20th position, where the estimated traffic is substantial, and also filtering out the most competitive keywords. This leaves me with a manageable 44 keywords which have decent search volume, are not super competitive and where the site currently ranks just off the first page of the SERPs. These are high priority opportunities which can be optimised for, to try and improve the ranking position up into the top 10 positions, where they will drive significantly more traffic.
You can see from the right sidebar filter options that there are a ton of other useful ones which can be applied.
4. Keyword cannibalisation
One of the nifty preset keyword filters is the ‘Show Keyword Cannibalisation’ filter:
Applying this filter shows instances where more than one URL from the same domain is ranking for a single keyword, causing cannibalisation. In some cases, cannibalisation may not be a problem (and can even be a positive, as it means your website is taking up more SERP real estate!), but often it highlights issues around duplicate or near duplicate content. Furthermore, if these instances are causing only average or poor ranking positions, they can be holding back a site’s overall ranking position opportunity. Using those handy keyword filters, I can identify such opportunities on the John Lewis website:
There are a number of cases where the site ranks on page 2 of the SERPs with a double (or multiple) listing, as Google isn’t sure which is the best page to rank for users. Clicking on the ‘Amount of URLs’ option shows us the offenders:
In this example are two very similarly themed and targeted product category pages, one targeting ‘mens knitwear’ and the other ‘mens jumpers and cardigans’, with both pages having the same offering to users by stocking the same products (cardigans, jumpers, knitwear, tank tops). Clearly there is no need for two separate pages here, so some simple consolidation or canonicalisation could help to clear things up for Google, and hopefully mean that the overall ranking position will improve to creep into the top 10 positions. This feature can highlight some really easy quick wins.
5. Keyword position history
It’s dead easy to see a website’s ranking position for any given keyword, using the Keyword Position History option in SISTRIX:
Not only is this a good visualising of ranking progress for individual keywords, you can also repeat the earlier competitor visibility comparison at keyword level:
SISTRIX also gives week by week ranking positions for each site included in the graphs:
One other great feature within this particular feature, is that you can see which URL has ranked for the specific keyword over time. This can again help with identifying cannibalisation issues, where Google is regularly changing the chosen URL to rank, if there are duplicate or near duplicate content issues. Some can be quite problematic!:
In the above example there are a number of pages being ranked by Google, with very regular changes (SISTRIX’s data currently updates weekly, so it’s likely there is even more flux in between each update). Furthermore, you can see from the significant changes in ranking position of these URLs that there is a lot of instability.
6. Indexed pages
This feature is a new one for me, allowing users to see historically how many pages have been found in Google’s index over time:
It’s easy to see how many pages are currently indexed on any given website, but I will find this historical view useful in technical audits. As in the above example, if a site typically has between 700k and 800k pages indexed, and suddenly has a spike to almost 3 million, that is likely to be an issue. The usual indexing caveats apply, but I find that the more historical context I have on a site I’m auditing, the better!
7. Link quality
There are number of popular SEO tools which have link ‘quality’ metrics (Domain Rating, Domain Authority, TrustFlow etc.), and while these can be a useful indicator of quality and relevancy, they all share the fact they are proprietary metrics created by the tool provider. I’ve not dabbled much in SISTRIX’s Link Module, but am impressed by their equivalent feature to such industry quality metrics:
The above shows referring domains by SISTRIX Visibility Index score. This is an interesting take on visualising link quality, as it shows how visible and how well ranked are the sites linking to the site you are analysing. In other words, it doesn’t speculate on ‘quality’ or ‘trust’ which are subjective metrics at best, and instead uses ranking data to power a different view of a website’s link profile. Of course, simply having a link from a site which ranks well and is very ‘visible’ isn’t necessarily an indicator of its quality either, but as an alternative to the traditional ‘quality’ metrics, I think it could be very useful.
8. Ranking changes
This is a feature I use more than most others – comparing ranking changes over time:
Here you can select any two dates over the last 7 or 8 years, and compare ranking changes over that period. The preset filters are especially useful, particularly the ‘Lost Keywords’ and ‘Lost Top 10 Keywords’:
These are great at helping to identify specific keyword drops, if a site has had a significant decrease in visibility.
9. Keyword SERP insight
As well as analysing a particular domain (or subdomain, subdirectory or URL), you can enter any keyword in the main search bar:
This gives instant insight into the SERP for the keyword, showing which URLs are ranking and their position change compared to the previous week:
One of my favourite aspects of this feature is that you can change the date to look at the same SERP up to 8 years ago. This is really useful when trying to illustrate the significant change in some SERPs, as Google has improved it’s understanding of user intent and relevancy. The above example shows entirely ecommerce results for the query ‘matressess’, whereas a few years ago the top 10 had a much more varied set of results, with product review sites, newspapers and the likes of Wikipedia ranking well.
10. URL performance insight
Most of this article has referenced analysing at domain level, so it should be mentioned that SISTRIX allows users to analyse at subdomain, subdirectory and URL level too. The URL overview provides good insight into how many top 100 and top 10 ranking keywords each URL ranks for:
As with the keyword feature, there are a number of filters which can be applied here, and one I really like is the ‘Few top rankings’ filter. Applying this shows URLs which rank for lots of keywords within the top 100 positions, but only a small percentage in the top 10 positions:
From here you can dig into exactly what keywords each URL ranks for, and find opportunities to improve positioning on relevant keywords. If, like the top URL in the above example, a URL is ranking for 1.5k keywords in the top 100 positions, that’s a pretty good indicator that Google thinks it’s at least somewhat relevant to a lot of queries. If you improve relevancy and targeting for some relevant keywords, and get even 10% of the 1.5k top 100 keywords up into the top 10 positions, this should have a big impact in terms of traffic. That’s why I find this filtered view so powerful!
Bonus round: Features i’d love to see
Like all SEO tools, SISTRIX isn’t without it’s quirks and limitations, so in an interest of balance I’d like to recommend a number of features and developments I would love to see in the future:
Development of the ‘Ranking changes’ feature
It would be great to have more flexibility and freedom to filter keywords here, in the same way that you have in other areas of the tool. The fact that you can filter the keywords so well in some parts of the tool, but not others, is frustrating!
More keyword history data
I’ve not really explored the differences between SISTRIX’s various keyword data sets (Common data, Extended data, Smartphone data etc.) in this article, but in short, only some of the features like keyword position history (5) are only available on high volume generic keywords, with much less on the long tail. While this makes sense, and SISTRIX can only realistically track rankings for a certain amount of keywords, it would be great to get more historical data as the index grows.
You can never have too many!
A feature I didn’t touch on, largely because I’ve not really found it very useful so far. I’ve found that the ideas generated are generally not particularly relevant and as there is no way to effectively filter them or ‘tell’ SISTRIX what sorts of topics or themes you’d like ideas on. In short, the tool doesn’t have a proper keyword research tool, which many other suites offer as standard.
Like I’m sure many other SEOs, I use tools like SISTRIX to navigate to what I need, and then export to do a lot of my working in Excel. As we covered in our content gap analysis post, with SISTRIX exports you need to do a fair amount of (seemingly needless!) sorting out using ‘text-to-columns’ etc, just to see the data you need. It’d be useful if the exports were easier to use right out of the box.
Related to the above point, I still like to use Google keyword volume data when I’m reviewing keywords. SISTRIX’s traffic metric is useful as an overview, but once exported I always pull in keyword volume from another source, which can be a time consuming and monotinous process! I’d love to simply have that data already available from the export.
That about wraps her up. I’d recommend giving SISTRIX a go for yourself, as it’s a really useful tool, and if you’re already using SISTRIX, I’d love to hear how you’re doing so and if you’re regularly using other features I’ve not mentioned here – comment down below! Thanks for reading.