Reporting on SEO performance to the business stakeholders is really important, but it can be difficult to find the right balance of what you should be reporting on vs throwing all of the data you have at them.
Keeping regular reports short is essential, as no stakeholder wants to read a 50+ page document but need to tell the reader more than simply traffic levels and conversions – there are much more effective ways to report on the value that SEO is adding to your business.
This blog takes a look at some of the fundamentals that you should report on and some useful SEO reporting tools to help you present the information in an effective way.
What should be in an SEO report?
The exact metrics and data that you should include in a website SEO report will depend somewhat on the specifics of your business, your objectives, and the kinds of SEO activity you’re carrying out, but essentially the major areas to cover in monthly or quarterly reports will include:
- Activity carried out in the past period
- Objectives for the above and how they relate to the wider business goals
- Progress in the past period in relation to the objectives
- Recommendations of what to do next to increase growth
Choosing the right SEO metrics to report on to stakeholders
The SEO metrics that best illustrate performance will vary from business to business. An online brand that focuses mainly in their local area is going to have different KPIs to a global business with various international audiences.
The key to choosing the right metrics is to tie everything back to the business’ objectives and the activity that you have included in your SEO strategy to move towards these goals. For most businesses, this will include measuring areas such as:
- Organic traffic levels
- Conversions from organic traffic
- Assisted conversions by the organic channel
- Ranking positions for target keywords (and their movement)
- Impressions in search engine results pages (SERPs)
- The number of clicks through from search engines
- The domain authority of your website
- New backlinks gained/referring domain count (and their authority)
- Learnings, next steps and areas for improvement i.e., Page speed
But there well may be other indicators of progress to include in your SEO improvement reports, depending on the specific areas of the site performance you’re focusing on with your SEO activity.
For example, if you’ve been working on providing more content for every stage of the buyer journey that will keep people on site longer and move them towards a purchase decision, then useful metrics could include:
- Bounce rate from organic traffic
- Average time on site
- Average pages per visit
- Conversion rate from organic traffic
- User path refinement
- Returning visitors
It’s important to separate vanity metrics from meaningful metrics. Keyword ranking improvements could be worth reporting on, but only if the results of those keyword ranking changes mean that your conversions have increased.
If you’ve been doing lots of technical SEO fixes, it probably won’t help anyone to start listing each thing you’ve done and why in a report to stakeholders, but a simple checklist of technical activities completed will give a good indication of the progress made in that area. Additional information can always be given if requested (sometimes, less is more!).
It’s also important to report on conversions effectively. If your site is ecommerce, then ensure you report on transactions and revenue separately to any other goals your site might have e.g. email sign-ups.
Setting up a SEO reporting dashboard
Depending on the metrics you’re tracking, you might find that simply taking data from Google Analytics is enough for your reporting needs. Many businesses may find that more is needed though, in order for them to get the full picture of performance.
While there are plenty of SEO reporting tools around that offer dashboard features, Google Data Studio enables you to draw in data from several different types of sources to this one place, which can be hugely beneficial in keeping reports concise and consistent over time, so the SEO progress made is clear. Two of the main sources for an SEO report are likely to be Google Search Console and Google Analytics, which can both easily feed into a single report using Data Studio. It can also update in real time, which means things can be checked at any time throughout the month.
Hubspot have a great guide to using Google Data Studio which can help you get started if you’re unfamiliar with this reporting platform.
As important as the data itself, and all of the pretty graphs and charts, is the commentary that explains what the information means for the business and how this specific SEO metric is helping to meet the objectives.
Keep explanations short and simple, and compare appropriately to put the report’s results into context e.g. reporting year-on-year (YoY) is best for most ecommerce brands that have seasonal fluctuations, rather than reporting month-on-month (MoM), which could make it look like things are going in the wrong direction when they are not.
Reporting on poor SEO results
Your SEO report needs to illustrate the value of SEO to the business in order to justify the channel and of course it can be tempting to only include metrics that make it look like things are improving every month. However, you probably already know that search engines are fickle beasts, and the reality is that the graph is unlikely to be constantly on an upwards trajectory to infinity and beyond.
Market forces, competitor activity and algorithm updates are just some of the things outside of your control that can have an impact on SEO performance, so it’s essential to acknowledge where performance isn’t as expected, investigate the issue and make recommendations to get things back on track. This should also be included in your SEO reporting updates.
SEO reporting shouldn’t take so long that it stops you actually doing SEO
Whilst monitoring your performance is something every SEO does each day, your SEO reports are simply a snapshot of performance at that given point in time and shouldn’t be taking a significant amount of time to pull together each month.
By using a dashboard that includes all of the pre-determined metrics which are simply updated each time the report is run, this means the only real time needed is to add commentary and insight for the stakeholders on what they are seeing.
By ensuring that your SEO reporting includes the key information and insight that stakeholders will actually find useful, but not bombarding them with irrelevant data, you’re providing the results and context that are needed to evaluate the return on investment that this channel is delivering for the business.
If you’d like to find out more about SEO strategy or how we can help improve your website’s organic performance and deliver effective SEO reports, get in touch with our specialist team.