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None of us have likely become an SEO for the love of reporting, in fact, it’s among the least favorite activities for many SEOs based on a poll I did a while ago.
However, decision-makers care a lot about reporting as it’s how we communicate and they assess the SEO process investment and overall success. In fact, the effectiveness of SEO reports can end up being the difference between getting fired rather than more SEO support or a raise by decision-makers.
Despite this, many SEO reports are broken as they’re just a compilation of dashboards automated via tools featuring SEO metrics. I asked over Twitter and 41% of SEOs who answered said to only use a dashboard with data for SEO reporting.
Data from our SEO dashboards can be included in reports but they can’t replace them as a whole: an SEO dashboard is a visualization resource that contains the most important, latest status of all metrics we want to follow up from our SEO process, to easily monitor its progress at any time.
On the other hand, an SEO report is a document featuring a collection of key performance indicators from a certain time period along with an analysis and conclusions, to be used for periodic analysis and assessment of the SEO process towards the achievement of its goals.
Using only automated SEO dashboards as reports can end up harming more than helping. They are filled with information that the audience – often non-technical stakeholders or decision-makers – won’t understand or care about, with no prioritization, insights, analysis, or outcome actions. This only generates more questions than providing answers.
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Even personalized SEO dashboards can’t achieve all SEO reporting goals – especially taking into consideration that a high share SEOs don’t always present their reports which are the following:
The biggest challenge to developing personalized SEO reports is caused by timing restrictions as we tend to feel the pressure to develop reports fast to get back to “SEO execution,” but SEO reporting is also in most cases only a monthly effort too.
Ready to help effectively tackle your SEO reporting goals while accelerating the process? Here are three principles to follow.
Cut the noise and minimize doubts with the data you include in SEO reports.
Avoid using confusing proprietary metrics, as they’re unreliable and difficult to connect with your actual SEO goals.
Don’t add everything you monitor to reports either, only Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that show the progress towards those SEO goals the audience is actually interested in.
This is why the KPIs to include in each case should be personalized based on the audience profile and interests: the SEO related goals the CEO and CMO care about will be different (eg. SEO activities ROI, revenue and organic search market share) than those the head of SEO is interested in following up with (eg. SEO activities ROI, revenue and organic search market share along with other more technical related ones like non-branded commercial search traffic growth, top-ranked targeted queries, key pages crawlability and indexability, etc.).
Because of this, the KPIs used in the reports targeted to the former will be different than the latter, as well as the metrics to calculate them.
Here are a few steps and criteria to help you select relevant KPIs to include in your SEO reports:
You now have the input needed to start collecting data and putting SEO reports together with only relevant KPIs for each audience and their understanding metrics. Here’s a Google sheet version of the SEO report Planner for using meaningful KPIs to facilitate this process further:
Your SEO reports KPI presentation efforts shouldn’t be about “creating a pretty document with beautiful charts” but about making the featured data easy to understand and achieving SEO reporting communication goals.
Sometimes a simpler scorecard will make it easier to understand goals achievement than a fancy time series.
This is why it’s fundamental to follow certain data presentation and visualization best practices when selecting how to feature your KPIs:
Here’s a Google Sheet checklist for KPIs clear data presentation that you can use to facilitate your decision-making process:
Data storytelling creates compelling narratives to help audiences understand and drive action from your data analysis.
As explained by PPCexpo, stories attract and maintain people’s attention for longer, numbers without stories can quickly become boring, and stories communicate insights with higher clarity. As a consequence, storytelling should help to communicate the value of the data you’re showing.
However, it’s fundamental to avoid misrepresenting the data and bringing it to the wrong conclusions when leveraging storytelling.
For this, it’s recommended to avoid cherry-picking data or manipulating scale. Always show the whole picture, giving full visual context and keeping visuals and language consistent across the report.
SEO reporting storytelling should explain and drive action from the data without misleading. Even if the results are not positive, otherwise, you will lose trust.
For this, craft a compelling narrative for each KPI using the three-act structure, asking the following questions:
Then to effectively structure your SEO report:
It’s also important to remember that there’s nothing like presenting the SEO report yourself to facilitate understanding and get feedback to improve.
SEO reporting is critical for SEO success, and you should prioritize it accordingly. I hope these principles, guidelines and templates can help you with it as they’ve helped me.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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