Let me start by putting something out there.
SEO is hard.
Whether you’re just joining the rat race or are a seasoned veteran, it’s likely sunk in by now that seeing SEO success for your clients, employer, or your own venture will not happen through casual pursuit. This seems to become more true every year.
By extension, SEO reporting can be hard. But, it doesn’t have to be.
If you’re someone who’s reporting on SEO work, you’re well aware of the hundreds/thousands of possible inputs that can go into an organic search campaign. Since you’re dealing with dynamic search engines and competition, add a sea of variables on top of that.
So, where do you even start?
In my experience, most stakeholders do not care about the seemingly endless details of SEO work. What client-side errors you resolved, which old pages you redirected, what URL path was changed…these don’t really matter on their own.
It always comes down to why was this work done. How does this help move us closer to our goals? Where on the roadmap to success are we? What metrics could be impacted now and in the near future?
Whether you’re building your own SEO reporting template or piggybacking off an existing one, below are 5 essentials to consider.
In SEO, it’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole and lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve. Trust me, I’ve been there. While branding and offline purchases can be great side benefits of SEO, primarily we need to focus on what’s directly measurable. Once that’s locked in, you can make decisions about how to drive actual results.
Here’s where key performance indicators come in.
First, let’s review the path to organic search traffic for a website. Essentially, it boils down to…
Crawling > Indexation > Rankings > Impressions > Traffic
For SEOs, this is 101-level information and you’re likely shaking your head. For others, maybe this is shiny new territory. Despite where you’re at in your journey, it’s amazing how often these foundational metrics are overlooked. More importantly, how former steps in the path are neglected.
The classic example is rankings. Let’s say a super savvy online business owner declares he wants to rank on page one of Google’s organic results for “unique record players.” He leverages known best practices, creates tailored content, earns some relevant and authoritative links from outreach, all while anxiously waiting for his site to appear on the first page of Google.
Months and months go by with no luck. What could possibly have gone wrong? Plenty, but let’s pretend that the business owner’s content really did deserve to rank well for “unique record players.” So, why didn’t it? One explanation is indexation. By monitoring his site’s indexation, the business owner may have caught accessibility issues between his site and search engine crawlers. Thus, inhibiting rankings.
By monitoring KPIs at each stage in the process above, you can reasonably sniff out problems and better predict when/if future results will come.
2. Task to Goal Alignment
Over the years I’ve seen many examples of SEO reports. One thing that’s always bugged me is exhaustive lists of tasks completed without any context. A great example I see time and time again are lists of URLs categorized by error and resolution. E.g., “Here are 30 404 errors I fixed, boss!”
While this can be fine in an accompanying doc, by simply listing out URLs and their associated fixes you are providing no attributable value and ultimately no reason to continue working with you.
Plenty of SEO tools can pump out URL reports. It’s your job to communicate what they mean and why they’re important.
So, consider segmenting your reports by goal or impact.
“Tasks (A) and (B) will help us accomplish our goal, (C), through (D).”
How are the reported activities helping to make progress?
3. External Factors
For better or for worse, SEO is a volatile and constantly evolving field. While many search professionals gain a degree of control by using only white-hat best practices, it’s important to remember that Google and other search engines can pull the rug out from under your business at a moment’s notice.
Think of major algorithm updates of the past, the array of new SERP features, manual penalties, new competitor entrances…the list goes on and on.
Just like a money manager, in your SEO report you’ll need to guide your stakeholders/clients through changes in your operating environment.
Some questions to consider addressing proactively are…
- What external factors have affected SEO success positively or negatively thus far?
- What new external factors are in play today?
- What external changes do you anticipate in the near future?
- What is the strategic plan to deal with them?
If you do that, you’ll not only save a lot of headaches down the line, you’ll also gain the respect of everyone who consumes your work. There’s a bigger story to everything in SEO. Tell it.
While you can get away with copy and pasting into spreadsheets for a while, there will come a time when you just run out of hours in the day. Add a few more clients or an agency workload and forget about it. There’s a better way.
For a standard SEO reporting template, you’ll likely want to include some of the KPIs I mentioned earlier (traffic, impressions, rankings, etc.).
For most sites, this almost certainly includes data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics. For more sophisticated rank tracking, add software like Moz or SEMRush and you’re in business.
Now that you’ve determined your data sources, automating as much of the process as possible is key. This will save you valuable time week to week, month to month, or whatever your cycle. Then you can get back to doing impactful work.
So, how do you bring it all together?
While many data integration solutions exist, I’ve found Google Data Studio to be extremely useful and FREE.
The beauty of Google Data Studio is in its simplicity and integration capabilities.
Start by working from a provided sample template or from scratch.
Then, choose any data design formats you wish (charts, tables scorecard and more).
Next, plug in and configure your data sources like Search Console and Analytics.
Finally, customize and brand your report to your liking and you’re done.
5. Human Insights
Last but not least, don’t forget your audience.
Remember someone is on the receiving end of your SEO reports. What does your report say? Does this report support marketing and business goals as a whole? Are there any areas you can clarify with some simple language? Would an accompanying written summary add value or insights? How about a personal meeting to review the information?
If experience has taught me anything, it’s that people appreciate a human touch when it comes to reporting. Your experience and stories from the work matter, so use them. Regularly put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Why should they care?
Do that, and your reports will command attention and action like you won’t believe.
While SEO reporting can be difficult, I hope this post helped you realize it doesn’t have to be. For a dynamite SEO report, focus on what matters with these essentials:
- Task to Goal Alignment
- External Factors
- Human Insight
Have you had positive or negative experiences with SEO reporting?
What are the best SEO reports you’ve created or come across?