SEO report format for clients: What to include in your SEO reports?

SEO reporting is a must for any client. Even if you are an employee, you should be ready to show your results anytime. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. What should you cover? What SEO report format should you use? Here we address those questions.

Are you a business owner? Then this is a must read to understand what you should get from your SEOs.

Importance of SEO reports

Business owners want to know what they spend their money on. And Search engine optimization is no exception, whether it’s done internally or by an agency. But most of the time business owners or marketing heads are not familiar with in-depth SEO expressions. Without education, they do not know how it works. And that’s fine. They don’t need to.

Still, agency owners, freelance SEOs and internal experts struggle with creating consistent SEO reports that clients can understand. This means that many experts who do a great job are not appreciated enough, simply because they’re not understood.

And when clients don’t understand what has been done, they’re not happy with the results, even if it’s excellent. This can affect your clients. Or the dropout of your clients. And this is all because of reporting.

So what to include in your reports?

The short answer is: It depends on the client. Ha, helpful, right? But here’s the thing. We all have a wide variety of customers. Small firms that have no clue about the basics, they only know they NEED SEO. (And then ask for Adwords ads.) The other extreme is when they know what they are doing but have no resources. And those are two completely different projects.

Which means that different reports are needed.

It’s also important to evaluate your own progress. Developing your processes can be one of the most beneficial results of a report.

I always make sure I cover my own effectiveness in my reports:

  • What did I get in the end?
  • How much effort did it take? How much did the tools I used cost?
  • An evaluation of the process and how I did it.
  • Tips on how I could develop the given activity.
  • And General thoughts at the end. For example: should I change my pricing for a given activity?

Normally I don’t show this self-report to clients. But we talk about it with other professionals.

There is one other important point that still needs emphasis:

Vanity metrics vs actionable metrics

This is a huge pain point for me. I’m always trying to educate everybody who I mentor or even just talk to: Do not fall for them! I met way too many marketers who were led to bad decisions based upon these. The worst thing is: they had the actionable metrics they should have used right under their noses.

If you cannot decide if the given data is a vanity metric or not, here is Kissmetrics’ version:

It all comes down to one thing: does the metric help you make decisions? If you don’t, you’re probably looking at a vanity metric.

Vanity metrics make us feel better about our business. But we cannot make actions based upon them. And this is an issue. You always have to consider if a growth metric is a sign of traction or not. We are reporting the value that we create. So if you are the one who reads those reports, challenge it.

For example, look at link builders. In Hungary, I struggled to explain to companies that it’s not just about the number of backlinks. Your link builder got 15 links in a month? Awesome! But let’s dig a bit deeper. Where did they get those backlinks? Link farms? PBNs (private blog networks)? Does it look like natural progress for Google? Are they dofollow or nofollow links? Are your links in the content or in the footer? How did they got those links? Are they added to existing articles? Did they write new content for a site where your url was added? And so many questions can be asked.

Important note that for European clients you can ignore Bing, Yahoo!, DuckDuckGo and every other search engine, as Google has a 92% share in number of searches. Even though Yandex may be interesting for those who are working for Russian market.

What SEO report format do I use?

Usually I break my report into 3 main parts:

  • General overview (What did I achieve?),
  • Technical / Process part (How did I achieve it?)
  • What’s next? (Estimation for the next period.)

This SEO report format contains all the information each individual may be interested in. C-levels may read the general report and estimation. They will then know what they got for their money and what they can expect in the next period. The technical section is for those who understand the details and those we worked with during the given time period.

It’s important that they understand how much effort it took to get those results, as they are the ones who can evaluate the work.

The next part of this article series will be about experimenting with Google Data Studio to create a template for the general and technical part of the report. If you would like to hear about that article as soon as it’s published, subscribe to our newsletter.

General KPIs

This is the part of the report that has to be valuable for even the CMO who doesn’t know or understand all the details of the project. But (s)he may still be interested in the results.

We can split this category into two parts:

  • Traffic and user information, and
  • ROI figures.

There are some core questions the report has to answer in each section:

Traffic and user information

  • How much traffic does the site gain?
  • What is the share of organic search?
  • This question may refer either to traffic from search engines or to all the traffic gained from SEO activities. Referral traffic from guest posting, and good anchor text and links are part of this. Even social traffic can be counted if you are collecting social signals.
  • Do these visitors match the targeted buyer personas based on demographics? If not, SEO strategy or the personas should be changed.
  • Why did readers come to the site? Did they get what they wanted?
  • The best performing keywords, impressions, url clicks and click through rate. Duration on site and clicks/session from search. It can even be broken down for customer sub segments if needed. And compared to other traffic sources.
  • Are they new or returning users?

ROI figures

  • How much income was generated by SEO activity so far?
  • How many micro conversions were generated by SEO activity?
  • How much did all SEO activity cost for the company?
  • What are the best performing landing pages?
Pro tip: ROI figures in a new project can be disappointing in the beginning as SEO has serious effects in the long run. It’s worth to consider excluding this part for the first 3 months or so.

Based on my past experience, it can take up to 6-9 months to see meaningful SEO effect for a given project.

And what questions are less important?

  • How many keywords rank in the 1st position in Google? (First page makes more sense.)
  • Do we rank better than competitor X?
  • I know backlinks are important for SEO. How many of them do we have?

Technical KPIs

The name technical can be tricky. By technical we mean professional details. Usually I split this topic into three, just as with SEO in general:

  • Technical SEO,
  • On-page (content) SEO,
  • Off-page SEO.
SEO report format: Elements of SEO

Picture source: The Pitch Education

Technical SEO KPIs
  • Does the site perform well from the point of view of a developer?
  • How many potential visitors do they lose because of the site’s loading time?
  • How was the abandonment rate over time? Which Pages performed the best and the worst?
  • What changes should they implement on the site?
  • How many submitted URLs are indexed by Google?
On-page (content) SEO KPIs
  • What are the search queries that bring the most traffic to the site?
  • Which keywords perform the best based upon CTR from Google? (Clicks/Impressions)
  • Which keywords should be focused on next time?
  • Which landing pages perform the best and the worst?
  • How do users behave on the site?
  • How was the bounce rate in time? Which Pages performed the best and the worst?
  • What was the level of on-page optimization of articles and connected focus (primary) keywords.
  • Does everything fit to on-page SEO rules? Does the title, URL, content, meta description, etc., contain the keyword?
  • Does your internal and external linking work well?
  • Do you have 404 pages because you moved a page and forgot to use 301 internally? Do your users actually find what you refer to?
Off-page SEO KPIs
  • How many backlinks does the site have?
  • Is the backlink profile healthy?
  • Do your site’s backlinks have high authority? Do they have a low spam score? Are they natural? Do you have good anchor texts? Do you have broken backlinks?
  • Does your backlink profile grow (seemingly) naturally?
  • How is your backlink profile when compared to your competitors?

One important question is how to communicate the time spent on planning and execution. This needs to be discussed with the customer. It is always interesting how much time was spent on a project, and how you communicate it can be key. You can do so in person or via bullet points in an email. Even in a presentation. Just be sure to explain all the activities that may not be clear to the customer in a simple, easy to understand manner. They’re not the experts, that’s why they hired you.

What’s next?

Next comes the plan for the next period. Not just for the client, but for you. Depending on your contract, you can do the planning alone or with the client.

When we make a report, we decide on the next steps together with the client. We come up with three scenarios that can be done in the next period.

  • Do we want to focus on new content creation?
  • Content audit or reoptimization?
  • Or do they need new backlinks?

Based on the focus point, we make a soft plan for what can be achieved and harmonize it with their needs.

Summary

To make SEO reporting as simple as possible, we need to focus on developing the process itself. Standardizing the report and automating the creation. Manual vs. automated reporting makes a huge difference.

If you have any thoughts on what questions an SEO report should answer, let us know in comment or even by email. Also, if you liked the article, don’t forget to subscribe. Stay tuned for the next part of the series: How to set up a dashboard based on this SEO report format in Google Data Studio.