It’s no secret that excellent SEO is a non-negotiable for any brand in this day and age.
It’s 2017, after-all: organic web traffic is everything. And trust me, 2018 will be no different.
So when you’re an agency working on behalf of a brand, you know that many of your priorities lie in effective content and impeccable SEO to ensure that your client gets found by the right audience.
And if you’ve been in the business for a while, you probably also know how important your report is to your overall client strategy: basically, it’s your way of showing why and how your work matters.
So with so much on the line with your client SEO reports, make sure not to blow it because of these 5 mistakes!
1. Forgetting that you need one
The biggest mistake when it comes to creating a SEO report is forgetting that you need one in the first place.
I really can’t stress this idea enough: how is your client going to know that what you’re doing is working if you have no means of showing your progress?
You know how you track your progress for anything, really? By writing it down. By seeing the cold, hard numbers right in front of you.
SEO is sometimes seen as a mere cost by those who don’t understand it’s long-term value. And that’s why SEO reporting is so important: because those cold, hard numbers are there to show the real investment that is SEO, in all its glory.
Without a report, you’re going to be stuck trying to explain why what you do is as worthy as direct sales in terms of ROI, to someone who has no idea how SEO works and what it does.
Good luck with that.
2. Using KPIs that don’t mean anything
Every brand is different. Which means that, every SEO strategy is going to be different too. So why should every SEO report be identical with all the same KPIs?
That’s right, they shouldn’t.
Although basic SEO techniques are similar across the board, the goals you’re trying to attain for one client are never going to be identical as for another client. That’s why a client’s SEO report should always reflect that client’s own specific goals, above all else.
Saying they want more traffic to their site is fine… but it’s neither particularly actionable, nor is it meaningful.
For example, if they get more traffic, but none of it converted, does it matter? On the flip-side, if they got less traffic, but better leads and a higher conversion rate, did your strategy succeed? Also, what kind of business are they in? E-commerce? SaaS? Retail?
Who is their target audience? What are their overall business objectives? What channels are available to reach their audience? Which keywords tend to bring the highest converting users?
What type of content drives user engagement, and what type drives audience conversion?
All of these are questions you need to answer in order to pinpoint the precise KPIs you want to include in your client’s report. Their brand isn’t a one-size fits all. Neither should their SEO report.
3. Making the same SEO report for everyone
Speaking of not being one-size fits all, not only should your client’s SEO report be oriented towards their goals, it should also be adapted to him or her as a person. And again, it’s all about asking yourself the right questions before you even start creating that report.
As we already mentioned, basic SEO techniques are pretty universal. Which is great, because you can usually start your client’s report with the same SEO report template that you’re already using.
However, the trick to making the report really effective is personalizing it according to your client.
First of all, remember that not everyone is going to want the same level of detail when looking at your data. If you’re creating a report for your client, who happens to be a marketer as well, you’ll probably want to include detailed KPIs, such as Traffic from Organic Sources, MozRank, and Conversion Rate from Organic Traffic.
These are things (s)he’ll understand, and is more likely to respond with action.
However, if your client is the brand’s executive, (s)he might be less interested in the details, and more in the big picture. In this case, you’ll want to cover things like ROI and Revenue from Organic Sources.
In both cases, the selected KPIs are directly related to both the interest, comprehension level, as well as decision-making power of the audience in question.
Second of all, you also want the package in which you’re delivering those KPIs to match your client. Maybe include their logo and their brand’s colours, if you want to be fancy and truly make them feel special.
These are those personal touches that might seem banal, but they make a world of difference in terms of client-agency relationships. After all, in this day and age when everything is automated, it’s oftentimes the subtle touches of personalization that make all the difference when choosing someone to work with.
4. Not having clear objectives
Now that you’ve pinpointed which KPIs you’re going to be tracking – according to both your client’s goals as well as who they are – what you need to do is give yourself clear objectives for those KPIs.
Basically, imagine that you aren’t a runner, and you want to become one. If you just tell yourself, “okay, I’m going to start running from now on”, that’s all well and good, but it’s going to be hard to know if you’re making any type of progress.
If, on the other hand, you tell yourself that you want to run a 10k in under an hour by next summer, you’ve not only got a goal in mind, you also have a concrete benchmark with a date.
Your client’s SEO report is the same thing. You need to know where you want your numbers to go, in what direction, and how much time you’re giving yourself to get there.
Without objectives for each of your goals, you could theoretically give yourself an infinite amount of time to reach your goals… and it could, consequently, TAKE an infinite amount of time to reach them.
Trust me, no client is going to want to wait that long.
However, with your objectives, you can set yourself a rhythm that you have to follow, and adjust your strategy accordingly along the road if you find that you’re not advancing at the speed that you need to be.
And in terms of measuring progress, that makes all the difference in the world – both to you, and your client (who is paying you, after all, to prove that you’re making that progress).
5. Making it look boring, or worse, confusing
Let’s face it, we’re all visual creatures; it’s proven that we respond more positively to things that are pleasing to the eye – so why shouldn’t your client’s SEO report be too? Because honestly, a spreadsheet full of numbers may say what it needs to say, but nobody really wants to look it over every month – it just isn’t much fun that way.
SEO can already be a little confusing for most people; as an expert, it’s your job to make it interesting and show why it’s so important.
A clean and concise SEO report is a great way to do that. By simplifying the data, showcasing it visually, and expressing how your strategies cause positive results, you’re well on your way to ensuring that SEO is always at the forefront of marketing budget allocation.
So how do you do this?
Well, you start with a tool that’s a little bit sexier than Excel (unless you’ve got tons of time on your hands to customize Excel to no end… in which case, go nuts!).
SEO reporting tools have come a long way, and there are plenty to choose from; the most important thing is that it’s easy on the eyes, simple to use, and has the capacity to bring data from multiple platforms.
At that point, the best one for you will depend on your specific needs, so it’s best to try a few to get a feel for them and see what you like.
Once you’ve picked your tool, it’s important to remember a few layout guidelines in terms of creating a SEO report that people are actually going to want to look at:
• Don’t overcrowd it:
You know those KPIs you picked out earlier based on your goals and your audience? Stick to those, and to those only. Don’t try to put so many KPIs in there that people don’t know where to look anymore.
15 to 20 KPIs maximum is usually a good number to stick with. Fewer and you might not be giving enough information. More and you’re probably going to overwhelm your audience or provide overlapping information anyway.
• Organize it:
Speaking of streamlining your report, you also want your audience to understand what they’re looking at from the get-go. That’s why you probably want to group your KPIs according to what makes sense. Maybe you start with a section that shows overall traffic.
Then just the SEO/organic traffic. Then perhaps a section showing how the backlinks are performing. And you might finish off with a 4th section that includes comments and insights regarding what happened in the last month and why numbers went a certain way.
No matter how you categorize your KPIs, you want your audience to be able to just look at the section headers and already know what they’re going to be looking at.
• Format it:
The proper layout isn’t just about what your SEO report looks like on your screen while you’re making it, but also what it looks like to your audience. So what’s the best way to get it in front of them so that it becomes a useful business tool? Embedded in an email? As a PDF? A direct URL?
Either way, it’s not just about you, it’s about your audience and what visual format they’re most likely to respond to positively, so make sure that your report can easily be shared with them according to what they need and want.
Remember not to miss the point
All this being said, remember what your client’s report is in reality: it’s your way of communicating the worth of your hard work.
And since you wouldn’t mumble a half-sentence to your client when you’re trying to explain something to them, a botched attempt at a SEO report won’t do either.
You have to make it count, make it important, and make it so good that whenever your client receives theirs at the beginning of the month, they look forward to it, they understand it, and their enthusiasm is off the wall for everything you’ve been doing. Because or else, what’s really the point?
This article was contributed by DashThis, an automated client reporting solution developed by digital marketers, for digital marketers.