The peak of my fairly mediocre athletic career was being the captain of the varsity cross country team in high school.

Since 99.9% of those of us who participate in high school athletics don’t go on to play professional sports, in hindsight, I can say that the purpose of high school sports is really to teach you life lessons.  The best line that I ever got from Rick Beattie, my cross country coach, is “that the clock does not lie”. 

However long it took you to finish the race is how long it took you to finish the race. You can’t manipulate the finish time. The results are evident and apparent to everyone.

Along lines of that, recently released a report on the SEO Winners & Losers of 2019. How did their SEO visibility increase or decrease?  How much “time” did they gain or lose in the eyes of the clock of our time, Google, from their previous “race” in 2018?

Reading the report, one number jumped off the page to me: Zillow‘s SEO Visibility in Google went down 40% year-over-year. 

What is SEO Visibility you ask?

SEO Visibility is a metric compiled from several relevant search factors that are used to calculate how visible a website is in a search engine’s organic results. This metric has been developed by Searchmetrics to provide a single, universal index for measuring and comparing the online performance of different domains.

This matters significantly for Zillow because the vast majority of their rankings comes from their organic search.  You can see they rank for over 2.4M keywords and are only bidding on 32,827.

At one point, Zillow was the 94th highest ranked site in the US.  They’re now down to 207.

Why did this happen?

At the end of a race, I would always know why I performed better or worse than I had in the previous one. Deciphering why a teammate had a better or worse race was a lot harder to quantify.

One thing that I suspect is the BERT update from last year did not go Zillow’s way. One of the goals of the update was to stop multiple organic results from the same site appearing on one result page. Often times, in the past, when I searched for real estate phrases it was common to see two Zillow results on page 1. 

I am a big believer in the five why’s when trying to get to find the underlying problem. However, in the case of Zillow’s 2019 performance, as Coach Beattie would say, it doesn’t matter. The clock doesn’t lie. Zillow’s SEO Visibility went down 40% and that is the result that is evident and apparent to all of us.