1. The report outlines what they are concerned about
I’ve seen a fair amount of reports which highlighted metrics that did not align with the main goals of the client. Your clients are busythe moment they see something unimportant and they’ll be bored So make sure your reports stand out!
My method of determining what I’m supposed to write about is pretty easy:
- Determine the main business goal
- Develop an SEO strategy that will assist you to reach that goal.
- Implement the plan
- The metrics I will use to best reflect the work I performed
So, pick the appropriate KPIs that align with their goals and strategies for your business and then stick to them to report on them.
2. Create specific objectives
Your: “Good news! We received more than 4,000 organic visits in the month of March.”
Customer: “Why wasn’t it 5,000?”
If this has been your experience then you’re not alone.
This easy step is easy to overlook however, make sure that your goals are precise and agreed upon by both parties prior to beginning! In the beginning of the month, inform your client the goal you have set (ex: “We hope to be able to get 4,000 organic visits”). This way when you go through your report you’ll be able assess whether you’ve met, missed or exceeded your goals.
3. Eliminate jargon
Your customers are professionals in their respective fields, not yours so be sure to quit the shop-talking to Twitter. Before you send out a report, consider the following questions:
- Do I have a clear definition of all unclear metrics? I’ve seen SEOs use a miniature glossary or analogues to explain their charts. find this very helpful! It helps clarify the metrics that can be confusing.
- Are I making use of words that aren’t being used in my own echo-chamber? Certain phrases are so common in our circles of influence that we believe that everyone is using these words. Many times we’re using jargons and not even being aware of that we’re doing it!
Simply put, you should use simple terminology and layman’s terminology in an SEO analysis for your customer. It isn’t a good idea to assist anyone in a way that confuses them.
4. Your data can be visualized in useful ways
I’ve had a person write about a study to be “pretty, but useless.”
They did have a but. Their report was stuffed with pie graphs and line graphs that were attractive but had little or no information to the reader.
A large part of the “meaning” comes down to providing information on the metrics your client is interested in (see #1) However, the other aspect is deciding how to present the data.
There are a lot of excellent resources on Moz regarding data visualization, including Understanding Data Visualization For Marketing Professionals, a video of Annie Cushing’s presentation at MozCon 2014 as well as The Visualization Plan to Improve Stories of Data, a Whiteboard Friday video created by Lea Pica.
These resources can assist you in transforming your information from numbers into a story that is meaningful to your customers Don’t be stingy with this aspect!
5. Give insights, not just the numbers.
I still remember the first time I heard someone explain to me the distinction between insights and metrics. I was stunned.
It’s so easy now however, in my early years in the field of digital marketing I thought of “reporting” as synonymous with “data.” Raw, numerical, mind-numbing information.
The trick to making your reports more valuable to your customers is to understand that the metrics that are pure don’t have an intrinsic value. It’s important to integrate the information in relevant ways and draw out the insights that will help your clients understand not only what the numbers mean, but also why they are important.
I find it useful for me to think “so what?” when looking through a report. The client is ranked on page 1 for the keywords listed? It’s great however, why should my customer pay attention to this? How does it contribute to their goals? Be sure to answer this question before you send your results.
6. Link SEO results to sales
Let me be honest I’m going to be honest, this isn’t easy.
In the beginning, SEO is a several layers removed from conversions. In terms of “the big three” (as I prefer to refer to rankings (traffic, conversions, and rankings) SEOs may:
- The most direct influence on rankings
- Influence organic traffic but a slightly less direct effect than rankings. For instance organic traffic could be affected by rankings, even if they are sustained due to seasonality.
- Influence organic conversions, however more intangibly than traffic. Everything from the layout of the website to the product or service itself could impact the conversion rate.
The second issue is that it’s difficult to link SEO to revenue , especially for websites where the primary conversion occurs off-line (ex: school gen). To tie organic traffic to sales you’ll need to create goal conversions and then add a worth to the results in your analytics. However, this is where it gets tricky:
- Clients are often unaware of their typical life-time value (lifetime cost of a customer)
- Many clients don’t even know their average closing rate (the approximate percent of leads they shut)
- Clients are aware of this, but do not want to share this information with you.
Everybody is using a different approach to reporting and I personally like to favor at the very least, trying to link SEO with revenue. In my experience, I’ve found myself in enough instances when our client walked away due to the perception that we were a cost-center, rather than a profit-center that I’ve realized that communicating your worth in financial terms could be the difference between maintaining clients or losing them.
Although you aren’t able to directly affect conversions, and even if your client is able to provide you with a rough estimate of LCV and close rate it’s still better than anything.
7. You are able in order to fill in the gaps
There’s no way to cover everything in a document. Even if you’re able include text commentary in order to provide more detail on your information, there’s the chance that a important point might be overlooked by the client completely. Don’t be surprised!
I’ve witnessed many reports from clients that last more than an hour. While no two cases are exactly the same, that starting by providing a report that provides precise information on the KPIs your client is most concerned about can go a long way in making the call shorter.
Your customers will be able comprehend the insights they gain by themselves and this allows you to provide context and respond to any questions you have without getting stuck in the shuffle of “red herring” metrics that are distracting from the real issue.
I want to hear from you!
How are you doing? Each SEO is unique and has its own unique reporting top practices, wins and horror stories. I’d love to hear about yours!
- What report-writing trick do you have on your sleeve to help fellow SEOs save time (and their mental health)?
- What’s your most difficult reporting issue and how are you attempting to resolve it?
- What’s a instance where reporting was able to play a function in the re-building of a client-client relationship?