The SEMrush Sensor tracks daily changes in Google rankings to detect SERP volatility. Because Google updates its ranking algorithm often, their results pages can change all the time. If you want to see trends among search results or simply investigate a new niche market, you’ll need a tool like the SEMrush Sensor.
Sensor offers a number of ways to dive deeper into more specific types of search results. Deeper insights include checking your “Personal Scores,” staying up to date with Google’s algorithm changes, following the presence of SERP Features and HTTPS usage in top 10 and top 20 results and comparing categories.
What can you do with Sensor?
- Explore how volatile the search results are in a particular niche and compare Sensor scores for different categories
- Measure the volatility of SERPs for your target keywords by connecting a Position Tracking campaign
- Analyze search volatility trends to help you plan out future search campaigns accordingly
- Analyze the popularity of SERP Features in the top search results of different industries (categories)
- Understand how important HTTPS is as a ranking factor in your niche
- Follow a log of Google’s algorithm updates to stay up to date on industry news
- Integrate with Google Analytics to get the most up to date information possible
How Does it Work?
Sensor measures SERP volatility on a scale of 0-10 to indicate how much overall change is happening day to day. If there’s a high score, it means that rankings are fluctuating and you could lose or gain positions. If there’s a low score, your rankings are more likely to remain stable. To calculate this score, SEMrush uses a proprietary formula that checks the changes in search results for a fixed set of keywords on a daily basis.
In terms of volatility, anything ranked between 0-2 is considered low, 2-5 is normal, 5-8 is high and 8-10 is very high. Naturally, the higher these numbers are on a given day, the more likely a change occurred within Google. A high or very high score indicates a high chance that your website’s rankings could significantly fluctuate.
Along with daily volatility, SEMrush Sensor keeps a log of Google updates so you can stay aware of any reasons why you could see changes in your website’s rankings. There are also widgets for measuring the presence of SERP Features and HTTPS-hosted websites in Google’s top results. At this time, users are able to use the Sensor in 7 databases - US, UK, Germany, Spain, France, Australia, and US-mobile.
Why should you use this?
By monitoring search engine volatility, you can judge if the industry you operate in is more or less susceptible to change compared to the rest of Google’s search results. Significant fluctuations, represented by a high score, may indicate that a Google algorithm update is occurring.
The Sensor Score tracks desktop SERPs (and mobile-US), but also has the ability to measure mobile or tablet results as a “Personal Score” if you set up mobile or tablet targeting with a Position Tracking campaign.
Position Tracking is a tool found in our Projects section that allows users to track the daily SERP positions of a custom set of keywords. Campaigns can be configured to track results in different locations (down to the city level) as well as different devices (mobile, tablet, or desktop).
With this information, you can be more aware of the reasoning behind changes in your search rankings across multiple devices - if big changes are a result of your marketing efforts or Google’s algorithm updates.
To set up your personal score you’ll need to navigate to that tab located directly to the right of the Overview section. Once you’re in the Personal Score tab, find your projects on the left-hand side and select “Get score” for your intended project. It will take a few moments but your personal scores will then be ready to review in this tab.
Stay up to date on any major Google changes
Google is constantly updating its ranking algorithm as Internet trends and search behavior evolves. While this is good for improving the quality of user experience on Google, it can lead to some problems for your SEO if you are not diligent in your site maintenance. This where Sensor can play a huge role in maintaining your site in order to reflect any potential updates that took place in Google.
SEMrush Sensor gives you a look at just how volatile the SERP was over the last 30 days. So why exactly is this important? Well, the answer is simple. If you see a very high volatility on a specific day and see that your search rankings suffered as well, it could be a sign that Google updated its algorithm. If this is the case, then it's imperative for you to make the appropriate changes on your site so that your rankings don’t continue to suffer.
If you want to receive a notification whenever Sensor notices significant fluctuations in rankings, you can sign up for email or browser push notifications with the blue “subscribe to notifications” button at the top right of the screen.
Sensor can also give you insight into the SERP Features presence on results pages. You can measure their occurrence in the top 20 and the difference from the previous day (indicated by red or green percentage). This tells you which specific SERP Features are getting the majority of visibility in Google’s top 20 results. Keep in mind that these percentages will change depending on what category you’re looking at. Certain markets and categories are naturally going to have higher percentages of certain SERP Features.
For example, Local Packs are important for categories like Travel, Real Estate, and Home & Garden, but not as important for something like Books & Literature.
If you want to see how popular HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure) is among top results, check the two circle charts on the Sensor page. Significant research in recent years has shown an increase in websites migrating to HTTPS, and Google has even declared that they will mark websites on HTTP as “non-secure” in an effort to promote internet security. For more on the benefits of HTTPS migration, read this blog post.
The keyword set that we use to calculate the Sensor Score consists of keywords in several different categories and markets. These categories show how different Google updates can impact certain industries more than others. This can be especially helpful if you have a business or website that has a service spanning over multiple categories and markets.
If you notice a spike in volatility due to a major update within Google that has to do with backlinks, you can use the Sensor tool to help advise your Backlink Audit efforts, to ensure you’re removing these backlinks that were affected and causing a drop in rankings.
Comparing Categories and More
To make visual comparisons, use the “Compare with…” drop-down at the top right of the 30 days graph. This feature will allow you to look at two countries at once, see desktop vs. mobile volatility, compare your project’s volatility to the rest of Google and more.
When you select a category, Sensor will plot out two color-coded lines - one for the selected category and another representing all categories. Take a screenshot and put it in PDF report to show off your industry knowledge to your clients.
If you select SERP Features in the comparison drop down, it will show you how the presence of a specific SERP Feature has grown or diminished alongside Google’s volatility over the past 30 days.
At this time, desktop and mobile can only be compared to the US database. Be sure to check the main database you’re analyzing at the top of the page.
Once you set the main database, you can choose the second database to compare to. For example, you can set the main database to Spain and compare it to Germany in the 30 days chart.
To compare your Project to a database, select your project and targeting from the drop-down. Make sure to select the main database and category that you want to compare your Project to. If you select a category, the dark blue line representing the main database will update to show that category’s volatility. This way, you can compare your project to the industry that it is most relevant to.
Advanced - Check for Deviations
In the “Advanced” tab, you can look for specific days where volatility was out of the ordinary. The graph measures each day’s deviation from the monthly average so you can tell which days in the past month saw the most or least amount of change. It can also help you understand which industries were most impacted by an update. To hone in on a specific industry, select the category from the left menu and the graph will show that category’s daily deviation from its average.
Once you understand when keywords were the most volatile, it could be a good idea to see if your competitor’s search rankings were also affected.
To stay on top of any major SERP changes:
- Use the Position Changes report to look at your top competitors and analyze if their rankings changes based on the SERP volatility showed by Sensor.
- Set up a Position Tracking campaign to follow your set of target keywords. As your campaign runs, you can monitor your personal volatility score.
- Open the SEMrush Sensor and sign up for notifications.