SEO Report Best Practices
Few digital marketers relish the opportunity for reporting. SEO reports can be tedious and time-consuming to create, and it’s frustrating when we realize our clients (or bosses) are only skimming them for top-line insights. But showing the work and results pay off. Consistent reporting builds trust and creates the conditions for ongoing success. Marketers must know how to leverage data for maximum impact.
1. Choose Appropriate KPIs
There is no one-size-fits-all list of KPIs for SEO. To determine appropriate KPIs for your campaign, you must understand your client and their business or product to determine the KPIs that matter — try asking them this list of questions to kick things off.
Then identify the business goal. Does the client want to increase purchases of a product? Grow brand awareness? Whatever it is the business has set out to do, choose an SEO strategy that will move them closer to that goal. Then, choose KPIs that correspond to that strategy.
Example: A higher ed admissions office sets a goal to double their leads for prospective online students. To contribute to that goal, the SEO team decides to discover which search queries are performed when researching college e-learning programs. Appropriate KPIs for this strategy would include an increased rank position for targeted SAT keywords, increased organic traffic to SAT pages, and organic conversions on SAT goals.
2. Cut the Clutter
Does your report include peripheral metrics and pages that aren’t integral to your client’s success? Cut them out! When you try to squish too many charts and metrics into a single report, it can cause information overload. Instead of getting lots of information, as you intended, reviewers are so overwhelmed that the report isn’t useful.
Example: A software company has a goal of increasing demo requests. As the SEO, you’ve decided to help them reach that goal by improving the ranking and click-through rate of pages that are proven conversion drivers. Your reports should highlight KPIs related to ranking, traffic, and conversions, and omit non-critical metrics like average time on page.
3. Avoid Jargon and Simplify Language
As with any industry, SEO has its own practitioner language. Words and metrics that are common to you and your colleagues are often indecipherable to your clients. Take the time to define and clarify the data and their meanings in reports. When writing analysis, use analogies and examples to definitively declare what the data means and what to do next because of it.
Example: Inbound links are a perfect example. Not only do they have another name (“backlinks”), but they are also often a source of confusion for non-SEOs. You could explain that inbound links are links from other sites to you, acting like votes of popularity. The more you have from relevant, high-quality sites, the more Google will trust you!
4. Choose Helpful Data Visualizations
Even the best data can be spoiled by a bad visualization. Choose charts and graphs that communicate metrics clearly, accurately, and in a way that leaves an impression. Some of the most popular options to choose from are bar charts (good for comparing categories of data), pie charts (good for showing parts of a whole), and line charts (good for showing changes over time).
Example: Say you chose to use a pie chart to show the percentage of traffic from different referral sources, but you have 20 referral sources that are each sending a near equal amount of traffic. Not only would this pie chart be cluttered (20 is a lot of slices for a pie!), but it would also be difficult to pull out any meaningful takeaways.
5. Give Insights
Numbers are vanity metrics until they’re paired with insights. In other words, don’t stop at giving your clients the raw numbers. Glean insights from the data and communicate those in meaningful ways to your clients. Put yourself in the client’s shoes, and try to answer, “How should I act on this information?”
Example: Instead of dropping in a metric like bounce rate and letting your client draw their own conclusions, try saying something like, “Your home page’s bounce rate is higher than average for mobile visitors. This could be because your load time on mobile is slower than the industry standard. We recommend improving mobile page speed to help improve mobile bounce rate.”
6. Segment Meaningfully
Grouping your data gives your clients a clearer picture of what’s going on with their website. You can segment performance data by content type (ex: blog pages vs. landing pages), by audience (ex: U.S. vs. Canada), or by goal (ex: informational pages vs. sales pages). This prevents the comparison of apples to oranges.
Example: You have top-of-funnel goals for your blog posts and bottom-funnel goals for your landing pages. Don’t lump them all together. Report on metrics like rankings and traffic for your blog posts and conversion metrics for your landing pages.
7. Connect SEO Success to Business Success
SEO is a means to an end. Your clients need to see how your success is contributing to the things they care about (revenue) or you run the risk of a high churn rate. Before you send a report, ask yourself whether your client will be able to understand the connection between SEO metrics and their business’s success.
Example: Instead of saying “we got you ranking on page 1 for this keyword,” try “this new keyword ranking is bringing in 200 new visitors per month, which has led to a 25% increase in purchases.”
Now That’s An SEO Report Worth Reporting
When you follow these steps, time spent on analyzing data and creating reports is better spent. Focus on including useful metrics, articulating insights, and connecting the SEO campaigns to real outcomes to help your clients grow their business.