Any useful SEO report worth its salt should convey to you, the client, that your investment in an SEO service is positively impacting your business; nothing more, nothing less.
However, many SEO reports are littered with superfluous fluff or irrelevant information. You’ll know a bad SEO report when you see one because after you finish going through it, you won’t have a firm understanding of what the SEO service provider has done for you.
In my opinion, there are two scenarios in most cases
The client knows nothing and the SEO provider will have to talk in laymen’s terms to ensure that the client can see steady ongoing progress with their campaign so that they continue paying and the SEO provider has the required time to compose a decent SEO campaign.
Or you get some agency who will give a heap of technical jargon and make it sound like they are doing way more than they actually are, but the client has next to no idea what is going on, but they can’t see any improvements with sales, rankings or anything that’s important.
Client education is important if you want to build a long-term relationship with the client and keep them happy, give them enough knowledge to ensure they trust you to do the job, there is no need for the SEO provider to sell their soul to the client and document every move ( as you would do yourself out of a job ) but you need to demonstrate enough to ensure they keep paying you. But to any potential clients, SEO regardless of who says what really is a trust sale, SEO isn’t a tangible product and no one out there can change that. You can argue all day long about you want to know this that and the next thing, but no SEO worth their salt will tell you how they are ranking your site, they will give you basic info, but that’s as far as it goes and quite rightly so.
It should be noted, though, that bad SEO reports are often the result of unreasonable client expectations. For example, clients that expect weekly in-depth reports with high-level information on the ins and outs of SEO are practically begging to be fed a stream of bullshit. Depending on your specific business needs, monthly or quarterly intervals are reasonable timeframes in which to expect informative SEO reports that actually tell you something.
You should agree on the reporting frequency and what will be documented before starting a campaign, if it was me doing the SEO reporting and you wanted fed bullshit month on month to keep you happy, there is actually an additional fee for someone in the office to do this type of work this doesn’t come as standard, it does take time to make the stuff up that a client wants to hear. Remember at times it’s sometimes easier to say NO to certain types of clients who you simply cannot deal with due to unreasonable demands.
I’ll now go through what a good SEO report should entail so you will know what to watch out for.
Three Fundamental Elements
When I decide what to include in a report, I always refer to the three fundamental elements of SEO, namely:
Reporting on anything outside of these three is a waste of time as it will contain information that actually has no value, anyone can add pages of waffle if a client wants to have that level of waffle, but clients must know that these reports are full of jargon and waffle to make people seem more intelligent and a lot busier than they are.
SEO Metrics and Client Objectives
This is the meat of a good report. It is the responsibility of the SEO consultant or agency to present to you relevant SEO metrics and align them with your objectives. The way to do this is through a combination of presenting key SEO data and succinctly summarising the work done to influence this data.
If, for example, your aim is simply to increase organic traffic to your online store, the report should, of course, include summary traffic information for your store. Ideally, this should be broken down by channel so you see visually what the main traffic sources are. But you have Google analytics and you as the client should be able to see what channels work for you if you don’t then find a good Analytics tutorial so you do understand as its ideal for you to see what is working and what isn’t from your online efforts.
Examples of key data you can expect in an SEO report:
Page-level traffic: What pages do people visit most often to bring you traffic?
Conversion rates: What percentage of your traffic ends up taking the desired action, such as making a purchase?
Keyword visibility: What percentage of clicks go to your website for all your tracked keywords?
SEO Health: Overview of technical issues that are affecting SEO results, including slow page loading times, duplicate content, and missing alt tags for images and any other technical tweaks.
The Importance of Comments
An SEO report without comments is just a data dump. However, a report that almost rivals a Stephen King novel for length is another type of dump—it’s shitting out words for the sake of it.
Comments should always be concise and explanatory and provide transparent information on progress. As a paying client, what you really want to see is tangible evidence that this SEO stuff works.
Terms like keyword density, 301 redirects, alt text, HTML issues, and inbound links are SEO jargon. A good report outlines how focusing on these things affects the overall business objective, which could be to get more website traffic or improve sales. Clients in most cases have no idea what a redirect loop or chain might be.
A brief comment accompanying website traffic data could read:
“Post (meta) descriptions and titles have been updated on your website to make them more user-friendly and more SEO-friendly. This led to an improvement in website traffic because people found it easier to discern that your website provided what they were looking for in the search engines.”
Plan of Action
A few brief comments at the end of an SEO report can act as a primer for what you should expect to improve over the next period. For example, “We’ll start a link building campaign for your website next month by reaching out to authoritative blogs in your industry. High-quality links can help your website rank much better in search engines.” Or there may be a heap of technical issues that a site auditing tool flags up, and you may want to ensure that side of things is dealt with, so advise the client what you are doing, or even give them a before and after site audit to show them whats been done, that’s fairly easy to do. Rather than saying you were doing some back-end stuff that no-one can see as that can be off-putting for the client.
To sum up, you should expect any SEO report to meet two criteria:
1. The report should illustrate what your SEO agency or consultant is doing in terms of traffic, rankings, and conversions and how these actions are providing a return on investment by positively impacting business objectives.
2. The report should use transparent and informative language that you and any other relevant stakeholders can understand without requiring in-depth SEO knowledge.