Putting together reports on the SEO progress of websites can get very difficult and confusing. Chances are, you don’t know where to start or what to focus on first. And one of the main reasons behind this is that every business you deal with is chasing different goals.
As an SEO expert, you can interact with businesses in various capacities. For example, you could be in charge of SEO activities at a product company, working with clients at a digital agency, providing SEO consultation services, or you could even be doing SEO for your own pet project.
In any case, one thing is certain: your reports should be very detailed yet simple at the same time to provide sufficient data to anyone receiving them. SEO reports should be clear enough to let your colleagues, clients, senior management, and other parties involved get a good picture of the results your search engine optimization efforts are getting.
So, this brings us to our main question: how do you create the perfect SEO report? In this blog post, we will take a close look at every stage of report creation, from determining your client’s goals and establishing clear objectives to designing and stuffing your reports with all the necessary data.
Before we dive head-deep into the issue of making the perfect SEO report, let’s look at an example of an SEO report that we prepared to give you an idea of what we’re aiming at here.
Looks great and contains a lot of data, right? Now, let’s focus on the steps that will get you there.
Determining SEO business goals
Straight out of the gate, you should find out what the main objectives of your clients are in terms of SEO. Take the time to have a talk with your client’s business owner, SEO and/or digital marketing expert and ask them: what goals are they looking to achieve in their marketing and SEO campaigns?
Start by discussing the SEO goals they have right now. Then run a comprehensive technical SEO audit of their site to find out how their current SEO goals align with the bigger goals they have as a business.
Next, talk about the goals your clients can realistically achieve given the current technical state of the website. And remember that SEO isn’t an exact science: if one website can get good results in a month, there’s no guarantee that another website will get similar results even in half a year.
From an SEO perspective, your clients’ goals can include something like:
- Getting better rankings
- Improving user engagement
- Driving more website traffic
- Boosting sales results
Sure, your clients may want to cross all of these goals off of their to-do list, but you ought to make sure you focus on just a few big objectives at a time. Otherwise, you will bite off way more than you can chew and will not be able to deliver the results your clients want.
However, since everything in SEO is connected one way or another, if you manage to achieve one of the set goals, there’s a good chance you’ll improve another one as well. Creating better content will make people stay on your website longer, but an increased traffic flow doesn’t always mean more people will end up buying from you. So you have to be extra careful when making changes on the website because making the wrong alteration can lead to negative consequences.
The next step is deciding what specific SEO strategy goals need to be set so that your clients’ objectives are met. By setting clear objectives, it will be easier to track them and provide clients with relevant data in your SEO reports.
Establishing clear objectives through KPIs and OKRs
Depending on the type of business your client has, it can use different approaches to stay on track and know whether their efforts are paying off. Among other things, such approaches include Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs).
Let’s take a closer look at these two terms.
KPIs help businesses, projects, and individuals evaluate their performance over a period of time. Typically, key performance indicators:
- Have a direct link to strategic objectives
- Give an understanding where resources should be focused
- Are measured against specific targets
As a rule of thumb, KPIs should be measurable. After all, measuring quantitative values makes it simpler to give context and compare the performance of practically anything.
As for OKRs, it stands for objectives and key results where the objective is directly linked to key results. In the context of KPIs, OKR is a strategic framework, while KPIs are measurements that exist within it.
In layman’s terms, OKR is a straightforward approach that tracks specific metrics with regard to the achievement of a goal. On average, businesses have up to 5 top-level objectives with each one being supported by up to 5 key results.
To get a better understanding of how well an objective is being performed, key results are scored with a numerical value, and:
- Can be measured
- Can be scored on a scale
- Follow a timeline
- Aim for the stars (don’t set easily attainable goals)
OKRs are perfect for companies that are centered on growth, and KPIs can sometimes be the same as the key results used in the Objectives and Key Results framework.
I want to highlight that the OKR framework is tracking-data based, while a KPI is a single data point. For this reason, there could well be overlaps, and that’s okay. Just keep in mind that the OKR is an outcome and the KPI is a measurement. By the way, we have a dedicated article on SEO metrics and KPIs, how to track them and why up on our blog, so be sure to check it out.
Establishing clear objectives through the SEO metrics pyramid
Now, not every business will use KPIs, OKRs, or other progress metrics. As a matter of fact, only 54% of companies in the UK say that they evaluate progress on objectives through metrics and KPIs. But before you start getting all worried and call up a meeting with your team to set up KPIs and OKRs, let me say that not having them is perfectly fine too.
If this is the case for you or your client, there’s something else you can focus on besides KPIs and OKRs to get data for SEO progress reports. I’m referring to the metrics that are used in SEO to measure the performance of websites, from the site’s technical parameters to monetary indicators such as cost per lead (CPL), return on marketing investment (ROMI), and so on. Let me explain what I mean.
Imagine that every website has an SEO metrics pyramid where everything at the bottom is related to the website’s technical setup, and as you get closer to the top, you edge closer to the website’s financial goals.
A distinct characteristic of this pyramid is that you cannot move up the pyramid without completing the previous step. When you think about it, you can’t really focus on getting more conversions if it’s taking ages for your web pages to load up. And you can’t start improving your click-through rate if your site doesn’t have the content to back it up.
What I want to emphasize here is that each step of the pyramid intersects with the previous one and all of them depend on each other on different levels.
So in terms of SEO reports, you need to establish clear objectives by gradually moving up the metrics pyramid—from tech components towards financial and marketing indicators.
When you have very specific goals to achieve, it will be much easier to understand if everything is going according to plan, fix issues in a timely manner, and provide clients with relevant, up-to-date SEO progress reports.
Having identified the importance of setting clear goals, there’s one last thing you need to do before starting to put your SEO report together: Collect all the necessary data via an all-in-one SEO platform like SE Ranking. You’re welcome to start your free 14-day trial today and test out all of its +35 tools!
Building your SEO report
SEO has thousands, if not millions, of moving parts. For this reason, there is no universal solution when it comes to reporting. The needs of one website will differ from the needs of another, even in the same niche. The same goes for setting Key Performance Indicators, Objectives and Key Results. And when it comes to optimizing a website for search engines, doing it for Bing will be very different than for Google.
This leads me to my point that in order to create the perfect SEO report, you need to create a custom one for each client with regard to the established objectives and KPIs.
With the help of SE Ranking, you can create any type of report you need and pack it with all the necessary data. Just handpick the metrics and data points you need and add them to your reports.
SE Ranking’s Report Builder is the ideal solution for freelance SEOs and agencies looking to create a report for themselves or clients. It allows you to customize your SEO reports from the ground up: create your own report design or use a template, include summary reports along with comprehensive reports on specific aspects of your client’s website, organize each section how you see fit, and send it out to clients automatically or on demand.
Design: Don’t underestimate the layout
As far as designing the layout of your SEO report goes, you need to aim to create one that is effective and readable at the same time. So, make your reports visually appealing with a clean and consistent design, yet packed with all the necessary data.
As a visual aid, try to incorporate a mix of tables and charts in the report to make it easier for clients to absorb data.
Remember that data on ranking positions, backlinks and other analytical aspects should be organized logically. Randomly adding data points to your reports won’t make it clear to the end reader what the overall strategy is, and ultimately won’t help your cause.
Aim to group KPIs that are connected to each other to help readers see the general direction of your SEO strategy. One way of doing this is putting the most important data first and then adding low-level details as you close out the report.
Headers and sections make it easier to grasp data, plus they look way more professional. On top of that, you need to make sure the report can easily be visually scanned, so that readers can quickly find the info they need.
Furthermore, you can create several templates in SE Ranking depending on the type of report you need to submit. That way, you’ll save hours of valuable time as you won’t have to create a new report every time you need to send out a general, traffic, rankings, conversion, or some other type of report.
Now that you know what the perfect SEO report should look like, what data do you stuff it with?
Progress: What’s been done
As a rule of thumb, start your SEO reports off with an executive summary of what’s been done. In other words, let your clients know in a concise form what the KPI/OKR progress is. That way, they can quickly see the big picture before moving on to the nitty-gritty details.
Another section you can also include right at the very top is a list of goals that you have completed. SE Ranking’s Marketing Plan comes in very handy here because not only does it provide a list of 49 steps that will help a website get optimized, including semantic core and keyword research, on- and off-page SEO, and mobile optimization, but it also gives you the opportunity to add your own tasks.
So if a client specifically asks you to do something, you can add it to your to-do list and report on the progress at the end of the month.
Now, if you’re working with a new client, it’s common practice to eliminate all critical technical issues first before starting any promotional activities. For example, you need to make sure that the site’s robots.txt file is set up properly, there aren’t any broken pages or links, all the metadata is configured, and that there aren’t any duplicate content issues. Of course, these are just several examples of the many issues that can be spotted by an audit.
To help you relay this data to clients, you can add a technical website audit report to your SEO report. Website Audit developed by SE Ranking points out everything that is wrong with a website in terms of performance, pages, metadata, content, links, images, speed, usability, and more.
You can even compare crawl results for two periods to make it easier for end readers to see what’s been improved. However, this type of report can’t be added directly to the general SEO report, but can be downloaded and sent out to your clients, colleagues, or management.
Additionally, the client’s website can be doing very well in terms of health and optimization, and yet still fall way behind the competition in terms of search engine rankings. To get to the bottom of this matter, you can include a Competitors overview section in the SEO report.
This data will help you and your clients see how well the website is performing in terms of rankings and search visibility when compared to its top direct digital rivals. That way, if you notice that a competitor is speeding past your client or is getting way ahead of the pack in organic search, you will be able to see this and conduct a deeper analysis of that competitor’s website to figure out what they are doing differently.
Insights: Getting down to brass tacks
With the design aspect and main summary reports out of the way, let’s get down to the meat of the matter. What key data should be provided in your SEO reports for clients?
The answer greatly depends on the type of service you provide to a client. However, we can confidently say that most SEO reports will include information on keyword rankings, traffic, conversion, page performance, and backlinks. After all, they are usually important because SEO is tasked with driving more traffic to ultimately get more conversions.
Besides including a rankings project summary report to give your clients the big-picture view, you can use SE Ranking to add a section on how your client’s web pages are currently ranking for the target keywords across all tracked search engines. This gives them the opportunity to know exactly where they stand in the SERPs.
To give your clients the freedom to look back at where they started in terms of rankings, you can include data on the first and the last dates when the rankings were checked. That way, clients can see the overall progress as well as your hard work. By the way, all of this data can be found in Google Search Console and accessed via SE Ranking.
To provide a little more data in between the first and the last days that rankings were checked, you can throw in a brief rankings history table to show how your client’s rankings have changed over time, but without showing data for each day. This makes it easier to see when rankings fluctuate and whether it can be attributed to search engine updates or a seasonal trend.
Another useful rankings section to include in your SEO reports is ranking charts that provide an overview of the average ranking position, number of keywords ranking among the top 10 search results, the traffic forecast, and the search visibility of the target keywords.
Depending on the client, you may also want to include a report showing your client’s rankings versus the competition for the top keywords. After all, your SEO success often depends on the performance of your competitors.
With SE Ranking’s Report Builder, you can customize each section and only include the data you need, if a client explicitly asks you to.
One of the first questions your clients will have is where they’re getting their traffic from and what they can do to get more quality traffic. As a matter of fact, getting more organic traffic is one of the, if not the most, frequently set SEO objective.
If the same goes for your clients, then you just have to make sure your SEO report contains Google Analytics data on their traffic flow from both organic and paid sources.
With SE Ranking, you can connect Google Search Console and Google Analytics and include all their necessary data in your SEO reports, including that on organic and paid traffic.
Providing clients with traffic data will give them the freedom to analyze and compare the traffic they get from different sources. This gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how paid campaigns can impact organic search traffic. That way, if your clients don’t have a clue what value SEO brings, they’ll be able to get a better understanding.
It’s also a good idea to include information on direct and referral traffic in SEO reports to let your clients know what sources are good at driving traffic and which ones should be reconsidered.
Once you have data on where your client’s website visitors are coming from, it only makes sense to find out how they are interacting with the website.
An important Google Analytics metric that your clients will surely want to see in your SEO report is the website bounce rate. If it is pretty high, you should consider telling your clients that their websites or some of their web pages are not meeting user expectations. To fix this issue, they should review the user experience, content, website loading speed, as well as other factors that can be forcing people to leave your clients’ websites.
Moreover, you’ll want to let your clients know what pages they visit and for how long. Here, you should include such metrics as average session duration, pages per session, and time on site because they help understand if the website is being explored in depth, if the offered content is worth sticking around for, and if the product is worth purchasing.
All of these KPIs should be displayed for each page, so that conclusions can be made with regard to the top performing pages, blog articles, sales and landing pages. And since better engagement theoretically leads to a higher conversion rate, let’s focus on the conversion KPIs that you need to include in your SEO report.
What your clients are interested in the most is the money. Including conversion data from Google Analytics in your SEO reports shows all the hard work you’ve been doing as well as highlights the value your client’s business gets from working with you.
If your client aims to boost sales, form completions, downloads, or newsletter sign-ups on the website, you must add conversion-related KPIs.
Optimized websites tend to generate more leads. A high conversion rate and volume directly confirm the hard work you put in as an SEO expert.
With this data, you can clearly see which pages are not optimized well enough to bring in money. That way, you’ll have your work cut out for you for the next month. Plus, you can always see what’s working for other web pages and transfer their success onto other less successful pages.
It’s essential to include page-level data from Google Analytics because it lets your clients know what visitors are clicking on and how they engage with the website.
So, give your clients an idea of what strategies are working and which ones aren’t. Perhaps they need to spend more time on content and not on optimizing page design.
If you see that a page isn’t performing as you’d initially hoped, you can use SE Ranking’s On-Page SEO Checker to get a deep technical audit of a specific web page and find out how well it is optimized for the target search query.
Similar to the Website Audit tool, On-Page SEO Checker checks the page in terms of metadata, URL structure, content, images, keywords, links, speed—everything you need to make sure the page is performing as best as it can in search.
Building backlinks is at the heart of off-page SEO. For this reason, throw in as much data from Google Search Console and Google Analytics as you can on backlinks in your SEO reports, including domain and page authority, new and lost referring domains, and anchor texts.
Including this data in your SEO reports will help you make sure that the client’s website has relevant inbound links, that they link out to credible websites, and that they are a positive force in the SEO campaign. Otherwise, they can set back the rankings of your client’s website. The ultimate goal here is to have a healthy backlink profile with as few broken links as possible.
Moreover, adding a list of all new and lost referring domains to the SEO reports can help you spot problems and fix them quickly.
So, run an analysis of your client’s website in Backlink Checker, add all the links to the Backlink Monitor and then know whenever anything changes with the backlink profile. Since such reports take up a lot of space, it’s better to download them separately and present to your clients along with the full SEO report.
Although backlinks can cost a lot of money, they are still believed to have a huge effect on off-page SEO. Include all of the backlinks you’ve acquired for your clients because the way to build backlinks is to create content and publish it on various blogs. You wouldn’t want your client to know about a guest blog post you did but didn’t report on. Moreover, your clients will most likely want to have a say in the types of websites you partner up with to build backlinks.
Recommendations: What’s next
In SE Ranking’s Report Builder, you have the opportunity to leave a comment in each section to give more information to your clients if you aren’t there to explain it to them yourself in detail.
So, make use of these sections to add comments, recommendations, explanations, notes—anything you need to let your clients know exactly what the 411 is. It is advised to write out everything you need to say to support the data in the executive summary, and then, as you make your way down the report, make sure to point out all the necessary points using the text blocks.
Moreover, you can also let your clients know what you plan to do next month given the current SEO performance of their websites.
Sharing your SEO report: Manual vs. Scheduled
By now your report should be fully designed and fitted with all the necessary sections for your specific client. Now all that’s left is sending it out to your clients, colleagues and/or senior management. Most reporting platforms allow you to send out reports on demand as well as on a predefined schedule.
Let me show you how you can do this in SE Ranking’s Report Builder.
There are two ways you can go about creating your SEO reports. With SE Ranking, you can either set up Manual or Scheduled reports. The former are best for situations when you need to send an on-demand report to a client about a specific aspect of SEO, like traffic, or conversions.
But if you want to save a lot of time, you need to sit down and create a bunch of templates for different types of reports and clients. Then, they’ll be ready when you need them, and you can just send them to a client after updating the data. Alternatively, you can simply set up a schedule and automatically send out up-to-date reports to clients.
Here’s how you can set up reports in SE Ranking’s Report Builder:
Lastly, you can give your clients access to SE Ranking with the help of a guest link.
You can decide what data to show them and what sections of the platform they’ll have access to. With the guest link, your colleagues and/or clients can just check in whenever to see how the work is coming along. No login credentials required. And if you decide that you no longer want them to have access to the project data, you can just update the link. Easy as that!
You are welcome to try out SE Ranking’s Report Builder under the free 14-day trial.
I hope this blog post gave you a good understanding and starting point for creating the perfect SEO report for your clients. The only thing for you to do now is start completing the steps covered here for your own client reports. I’d love to hear how it’s working out for you.
And remember that you can always leave a suggestion on how you want the Report Builder to work and what features it should be equipped with. At SE Ranking, we greatly value user feedback.