SEO

SEO Reporting

In 2009, fficient's Dan Dreifort and AkamaiSEO's Neal Kido discussed "What should appear on an SEO report?" Below you'll find a loose summary of their findings.

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What should appear on an SEO report?

1. Conversions (sales) from natural search terms

PROS
  • One of the best metrics. tied to sales AND search
CONS
  • Not all clients enable access to conversion data.
  • This metric also measures usability to a great extent, so it's not independent of other factors/efforts. (i.e. a site w/ poor usability + good ranking through SEO will not lead to increased sales, but does not reflect poor SEO results.)
  • Can be time-consuming to obtain and massage even when access is provided.
  • The most popular analytics solution (Google Analytics) only tracks the last touch, so you have no concept of conversion continuity/path.
Thoughts/Questions

In what scope and time frame do we want to display conversions? e.g.

  • Total conversions per month over last 6 months
  • finding a way to display at least the highlights
  • best natural search converting phrases for the month that are NOT in client's campaign key phrase list
  • search conversion rate avg. for all keywords month by month
  • etc.
VERDICT

Do it if you can.

2. SERP Listings/rank of campaign keyphrases

PROS
  • Cumbersome details can be uploaded and presented online in a secure environment.
  • Represents at least a modicum of SEO success relevancy.
CONS
  • When presented in a word processing document indiscriminately, this metric can encompass many graphs if there are many keyphrases. (see PROS)
  • Provides only a snapshot from a single Google data center and does not account for the daily "google dance".
Thoughts/Questions

How/What will we display?

  • monthly ranking trend for each term, uploaded
  • condensed graphs of whole-campaign ranking trends
  • Which search engines should we be querying? the big three (Google, Yahoo, MSN) and Ask (the biggest of the long tail). Consider skipping ASK

How many keywords should we track/display individually?

  • Some clients have small keyword lists others have really long lists.
  • Only occasionally calling out specific terms in the manual report while giving clients the option of looking at all details online
  • Only track keywords generating significant traffic, ignoring low-hanging fruit.

Though ranking depends on which data center you hit and other variables, one data center is usually as good as the next for obtaining a snapshot. I.e. there will always be a bias regardless of the variables.

VERDICT

Do it. Do condensed graphs and upload the details so client can examine them if they want to. Consider showing top ten or so terms in the deliverables.

3. Overall Search Traffic - quantity

PROS
  • Some clients like to see it
CONS
  • Does not directly correlate to SEO efforts nor SEO success
  • Almost all clients have access to this information at will, outside of SEO reporting, (AWStats, Webalizer, Analytics, custom solutions, etc. ) making its presence here redundant.
  • Heavily skewed by other marketing/advertising efforts.
  • SEO efforts on certain pages of a site often result in tangential growth elsewhere on a site, calling into question 'sectional' traffic reports.
Thoughts/Questions

We don't love this one but we both are known to use this metric on some reports; largely because of third-party wishes, but not because we deem it a good metric of SEO.

VERDICT

Only do it if absolutely necessary.

4. Google PageRank (PR)

PROS
  • Easy to obtain
  • Great snapshot of how relevant or weighty your page/site is, to Google
  • Easy enough to increase when it is low. (PR0, PR1, PR2)
CONS
  • Different for every page on the site (index is usually highest and most important)
  • Difficult to increase as PR gets higher. (when not budgeted for good link building, even going from PR3 to PR4 can be a real *$%@!)
  • If you believe them, Google says PR isn't that important.
Thoughts/Questions

Dan usually likes this one. Neal's on the fence, depending on client cooperation and budget. Perhaps only include when it's measuring something we're realistically empowered to do (build links) ?

VERDICT

Do it. But note that it'll stay the same if they've not budgeted for a good link building campaign.

5. Number of Links in from other sites

PROS
  • Easy to obtain metric
  • Easy to move incrementally, especially because we're not measuring quality
  • Metric is legitimately related to SEO, though the correlation is far from direct.
CONS
  • Different sources provide hugely different figures.
  • Can't easily determine the quality of links in (a few quality links trump oodles of garbage links)
  • Usually doesn't move much if we're not empowered to move it.
Thoughts/Questions

This is one of the components of #4 (PR) above. But while PR takes quality into account, this metric does not. E.g. Obtaining a great single one-way PR6 link is arguably better than getting hundreds of spammy links. This metric might incorrectly suggest higher value for the latter.

Perhaps only show this metric if we're displaying PR? 

Display as graph over time.

VERDICT

Do it. But again, with a note that if there's no budget for link building, this won't move much.

6. Competitors' rankings for campaign terms

PROS
  • Keep an eye on your perceived competitors.
  • Easy-ish to generate and upload data with software we both own.
CONS
  • Largely a vanity metric, unless campaign is budgeted and tailored to assess and respond to competitor data.
  • Differing (and changing) opinions as to which entities are worthy of tracking.
  • Adds substantial time to monthly querying.
Thoughts/Questions

We think we should skip this one unless a particular client absolutely wants it.

VERDICT

Use it internally but only if you're ok with the added time of querying for competitors. Consider doing it quarterly or annually only. Consider a periodic analysis of who competitors are and why they're doing well.

7. Natural/Organic Traffic

PROS
  • More meaningful than other traffic metrics.
CONS
  • Swayed by other marketing efforts (e.g. print, billboards, etc.)
Thoughts/Questions

(When we originally wrote this page Google Analytics didn't offer good data for organic search. This is a no-brainer now that the info is readily available at no cost.)

VERDICT

Do it.

8. List all key phrases

PROS
  • Serves as a reminder.
  • Easy to note changes in campaign terms.
  • Takes no time at all, really.
CONS
  • Often static for long periods, especially when the budget doesn't match client expectations.
  • Can take up a whole page of a report.
Thoughts/Questions

"Here are your keywords..." Nothing more. 

No super-strong feelings on this one.

VERDICT

Do it.

9. Baseline data

PROS
  • Obviously good for the pre-start of a campaign to show where we are prior to SEO.
CONS
  • Might be hard to continually display month to month?
Thoughts/Questions

Usually, the baseline figures scroll off the left of graphs over time. But it might be good to find a way to show baseline figures to display long-term progress - reminding them from whence they came. We might even be able to incorporate this static data into otherwise dynamic graphs.

Consider establishing all initial metrics, whether they're to be reported regularly or not: PR, traffic, search traffic, links in, rank of all chosen keywords, etc.

VERDICT

Needs more thought as to how it can be displayed, ongoing. I should do a mockup.

10. Summary of tasks performed / next steps

PROS
  • Lets client know what's been done, going to happen.
  • Can be easy to generate as it's often largely repetitive.
  • Could include a "recommended steps" section to push obvious effective tactics client has not yet approved.
CONS
  • Repetitive, especially as campaign ages
  • Don't want to confuse with too many details
  • Can be vague when avoiding (above)
  • Doesn't represent true progress or value
  • Requires a cohesive plan of action for the next month before sending out a report, potentially delaying an otherwise finished report.
Thoughts/Questions

Neal does this sometimes. Dan has in the past but found it to delay reporting and received no comment when it was there and no complaint when it was removed. Dan still does a version of this, but for internal use and project tracking only. Not displayed to clients.

Here's a short example from Neal:

- 301 redirected the following URLs:
- Meta changes on the following pages:
- Modified copy on the following pages:
- Link Analysis
- Competitor Link Analysis
- Implemented sitemaps file

Neal says: Obviously the list is more interesting in the beginning when you do a lot of house keeping and clean up but as you get rid of those problems it gets more boring as it turns into keyword research, meta optimization, content building, and link building.

Dan says: Giving the client the one-two combo of a great, static methodology (#13 below) and good explanations of graphs (#12 below) is more meaningful and saves time. My vote is to only include this if the client specifically requests the info. They're paying for results, not verbose reporting.

VERDICT

Skip it.

11. Listings movement differential

PROS
  • A simple bellwether of SEO campaign progress (positive#=progress, negative#=fail)
  • Easy to obtain
CONS
  • Hard to graph
  • Covers all search engines we're querying. Harder to obtain for individual SE.
Thoughts/Questions

The listings movement differential is obtained by subtracting the number of client listings (e.g. in top 30 of all major SE) which moved down from the number of listings which moved up. Unchanged listings are ignored.

Better as a figure on its own rather than a graph over time.

Could come up with a better name for this metric, likely.

Not 100% sure how/if new listings and dropped listings are considered in this formula, but could find out if necessary.

VERDICT

Do it. But also consider listing some other information about number of listings.

12. Short explanations of some/all graphs/metrics etc

PROS
  • Enables clients to better understand reports.
CONS
  • Doesn't change much if at all month to month.
Thoughts/Questions

This might seem like "duh, of course" but creating consistent copy is key here. A graph is a lot more meaningful with an ounce (paragraph) of explanation covering connected concerns. (I still like alliteration!)

E.g. all of the discussion (pro and con, etc.)  on this document is decent fodder for extendo-captions under reports' metrics visualizations.

VERDICT

Do it

13. Summary of methodology

PROS
  • If fairly comprehensive, is a better way (than #10) to convey to client what "doing SEO" actually means.
  • Could list all suggested SEO methodology (even if their campaign is more introductory than comprehensive) and knockout text of SEO tactics client hasn't budgeted for, essentially turning this into a subtle sales tool of sorts, beneficial to both client and consultant.
CONS
  • Static
  • Don't want to confuse with too many details
  • Can be vague when avoiding (above)
Thoughts/Questions

Dan likes the idea of using #12 and #13 together instead/in place of #10 but could live without methodology too.

VERDICT

Do it if you want to.

14. Ask clients how they feel about reports to find how we can improve

PROS
  • Determine what clients actually consider valuable, as all clients are different.
CONS
  • Could open a big can of worms, e.g. Client expectations could make reporting more time consuming and difficult than actually doing the SEO.
  • We're the SEO experts. Don't we know better what to show them?
Thoughts/Questions

Consider an open-ended, short survey for untainted feedback or conversely a very closed, controlled survey to avoid the can of worms.

VERDICT

Up to you.

15. Like what you see?

for a free initial consult.