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  • SEO Reporting: What (Not) to Include in SEO Agency Client Reports

    SEO Reporting: What (Not) to Include in SEO Agency Client Reports

    A comprehensive, perfect SEO report summarizes important data, gives insights on the noticeable fluctuations, and provides valuable suggestions. Additionally, it educates a client on the work you have done as an SEO consultant and why you chose specific methods.

    On the other hand, a bad SEO report is laden with useless data, providing no insight to the client.

    While many SEO reports vary depending on your work and how you create it, you can read ahead to look at our take on what a good SEO report should entail.

    Client SEO Reports

    SEO Reports

    It is essential to gauge a website’s performance in search engines. SEO reports provide insights into performance in search engines, focusing on keyword rankings, organic traffic, and domain metrics. Additionally, they include the works of in-house, freelancer or SEO agencies.

    Planning and effectively carrying out the work are essential components of good SEO reports. These SEO reports analyze the combination of work and planning to gauge their effect because, without your SEO reporting analysis, you can’t figure out if it’s working or not.

    However, an SEO report is mainly for your client to understand what you are doing and to monitor the key performance indicators (KPI) to evaluate performance. The SEO report is the only source of information to see the effects of the work you do.

    An SEO report needs to be easily understandable for your clients to know they are not wasting their money on your work. There are three essential aspects that a good SEO report should show:

    SEO Insights

    Quality SEO reports highlight any knowledge you can provide regarding your client’s work, especially identifying issues and areas that need improvement in the coming months.

    SEO Campaign Progress Reports

    As important as it is to show your client why they hired you, it is equally necessary to show your progress. For instance, SEO reports should show the growth their site has undergone in a month with your SEO efforts and the improvements you have made since the last one.


    Proper SEO reporting includes any recommendations you can give to the client that can help them reach their goals. Your client pays you to see improvement on their site performance, so they need to understand the methods you employ for their site and track its progress.

    Every client needs evidence that your SEO techniques and efforts bring in a positive ROI for the company.

    An Ideal SEO Report For Clients

    An Ideal SEO Report For Clients

    While every client is different with varying preferences of what they want to see in an SEO report, there are some ideal things that every client is interested in and which should absolutely be included in their SEO report:

    Backlink Health: What types of backlinks point at the client’s site? Are there broken links that have surfaced that need to be fixed?

    SEO Health: A rundown of all the technical issues that can impact SEO visibility

    Sales: Show the clients how SEO techniques have helped gain tangible ROI, essential for their business

    Organic Traffic Progress: Show the effects of organic traffic on the site performance and the pages that drive the most traffic

    Ranking Progress: Indicate any changes in keyword rankings and track all potential drop-offs in search engine results pages

    An SEO report isn’t meant to display data that doesn’t provide value. Since this SEO report is for your clients to understand your SEO efforts through their site’s performance, it has to make sense to them.

    If you think you can outsmart your client with a SEO report filled with complex numbers and graphs that they can’t understand, they’ll probably cancel the service and fire your SEO agency.

    The clients pay you to drive their business by identifying trends and understanding the correlation between SEO reporting metrics. You need to provide an informative yet precise report for them to know they are not wasting their money, keeping them from leaving.

    Why Presentation Matters in SEO Reporting

    How You Present Matters

    You might think that you want all the information possible in the SEO report and that you can just explain it to the client when they ask, but consider the fact that clients are seeking the most value possible for their time. This means they don’t want to feel like they’re in SEO 101 at every update meeting.

    They want to feel immediately that the SEO agency they have hired is trustworthy and providing value. They will likely be looking at how you work, even if they don’t understand it. So if you want to appear as trustworthy as possible, you want to present the data and SEO metrics in the client SEO report that your client values and explain how you acquired them, without making the process more difficult than necessary.

    You can start by identifying what the most important metrics for SEO agencies to report are. This is not all you will need to include in your SEO report, nor will every client want to know all of these metrics, but this gives you a baseline of what’s really important and what’s more akin to filler.

    Before you start asking the tough questions and taking stock of what your client actually wants, you can simplify your work by cutting out what you know is unnecessary. Like we said at the beginning, the clients aren’t SEO experts, but more importantly, they are expected to communicate your SEO report to other people within their business. If they can’t easily identify the information they need, how are they going to disseminate it properly?

    Next we will discuss client success and what SEO metrics they may expect to see and how to include them in SEO reporting.

    An SEO Report the Client Wants to See

    SEO KPIs

    Rather than including every positive metric in your initial SEO report you can, or just assuming what the client will want to know about their performance values, it’s better to take the direct approach and find out directly from the client. As you’re bringing them into the company, find out what they expect to see in a report in terms of positive growth. Clients are likely to have similar questions about your SEO agency. It’s important to do your own legwork while you’re onboarding and find out what they want to know most about improvements and successes.

    Part of understanding success markers means knowing what type of business they are in. Sales-based businesses will have different goals than a business that is focused on brand recognition and providing information and other services.

    There are several Key Performance Indicators, (KPIs) that are critical to SEO marketing success. You don’t want to use all of them in your report though. The trick is to hone in on just the two or three that are most relevant to your client. How do you figure out which ones? You ask. There’s no room for arrogance when dealing with clients. Don’t assume you know what you don’t know.

    Furthermore, things change over time. So, as you’re building your SEO agency-client relationship in the initial months, it’s important to keep checking in, asking questions, making sure you’re on top of whatever may change. Much like keywords change based on the type of search input and the demographic, a business’s needs may change in a short time to where you may need to adjust your SEO strategy and, in turn, what is included in your SEO report.

    Any SEO agency worth their salt knows that SEO is a living breathing thing and so are your client relationships. Learning how to develop and maintain positive client relationships is key to the success of any business, whether they are an SEO agency, a digital marketing agency, or a hot dog vendor.

    While you’re communicating with your client about what they want to see in terms of success metrics in their SEO report, you should be apprising them of what you’re doing and what will come next. That way you avoid those embarrassing moments during the next update meeting when the client asks “when did we start doing that?” This also gives the client ample opportunity to communicate what changes they want to see, or things they like and don’t like about what you’re doing.

    Now we’ll talk about readability and how your SEO report should be written so that the client understands it.

    Making Your SEO Report Understandable

    Once you know what to present to your clients in your initial SEO report, you can start to work on the layout, the wording, and the presentation. Your goal is to make it easily understandable and accessible regardless of the client’s actual SEO knowledge.

    One of the ways to show information without burying the results in technical jargon is actually similar to one of the tactics used in SEO, the infographic. Giving clients scannable information that makes the point without overselling it is key to understanding and getting through the meeting without anyone scratching their head going “I don’t get it.”

    Like we talked about, don’t tell them what they don’t want to know. If they are more interested in traffic numbers, give them the numbers, show where gains have been made, and where they are still struggling. Answer questions as clearly and concisely as possible and if something still needs work, say so. You can’t be afraid to show slow or negative results as long as you’re making progress to fix it.

    Likewise, if they are looking at ad campaign success, then showing relevant numbers on things like conversion rate, landing page optimization, click-through-rate, and other metrics can be difficult to understand on their face, but if you break down the core information into a graphic or a short explanation, the client can see where things were, where they are, and where they are going.

    The next section will explain how to put together an executive summary that gives clients the information without a lot of superfluous detail.

    Summarizing Successful SEO Reporting Metrics

    Also called an executive summary, the goal is to lay everything important out in a manner that highlights the key points and skips the details so that a person unaffiliated with digital marketing can understand if goals are being met.

    Here’s what to include in a summary

    KPI Performance and Status

    Basically, you want to give them a rundown of their key performance indicators (KPIs) and what goals have been hit, and which ones are still in progress. It doesn’t have to be overly detailed, like we said, summarize. Also, don’t beat around the bush about those that are still in progress. Instead, explain the growth to both national and local SEO and why it may take a little longer to hit the mark, and what you’re doing differently as a result. Client’s prefer a proactive approach to achieving results.

    Indications of Patterns or Changes

    The next thing to cover while you’re preparing the summary is any patterns you notice and how they impact performance. Is traffic from a certain age range trending downward? This may indicate a demographic shift that can impact sales, page traffic, ad views, CTR, and other data. You have multiple variables to check and after just a little while, you can tell whether data is shifting in a certain direction. As a responsible agent of your client, you should inform them of these changes and what you suggest doing about them.

    While some clients may expect you to fix it, it’s better to be upfront about whether the change is good or bad. You can then move forward and either stay on course (if the change is good) or prepare a response.

    Target Analysis

    A summary should provide a breakdown of keyword or content performance in terms of traffic generation, site stay length, repeat visits, and any other relevant metrics that show what the content or keywords are doing. It should report data in terms of what is drawing users in, keeping them on the page, and getting them to return.

    This should only be detailed enough to give the information the client wants. You don’t have to break down every long-tail keyword and compare them to one another or explain how 2 AM tweets aren’t drawing in much traffic, just give them the synopsis.

    SEO Issues

    Most Common SEO Issues to Avoid in 2020

    This isn’t just problems you need to fix, this can be anything related to SEO that you think the client could find useful, such as missed opportunities, new trends, poor performing pages that weren’t a primary focus, or any other potential SEO targets.

    In cases where you uncover missed opportunities or poor performing areas, this may change the scope of your work, so it’s better to bring this up so that the client can decide how to handle it.

    If you’re dealing with a content marketing team, then they likely want the rundown so that they can make any tweaks necessary before showing it to higher-ups. As the SEO agency, you’re responsible for making sure everything is “good for search” but that doesn’t mean you should ignore potentially beneficial information or omit details just because performance isn’t up to par.

    Show Restraint With Design Choices

    It might seem like a good idea to include cutting-edge design choices and lots of graphics in your SEO reports, but this can be a bad idea if the SEO report takes away from the ability of the client to understand your SEO reporting. Choosing flashy color schemes and hard-to-read print only makes you look unprofessional and worst of all, it wastes all your hard work. Is it better to make the SEO report look pretty and the client not read it, or have it look plain and the client understand every word? We’ll give you a hint, it’s the second choice.

    We said earlier that graphics are a great way to explain key points and metrics in your SEO reporting, but only if they are clear, concise, and easy to understand. We all probably remember that problem in math class with the train moving at a certain speed and you have to do trigonometry to figure out where the train will stop for french fries on the way, no? Well then don’t make your graphics feel like that. Display your data in a simple easy to read chart, graph, or display and let the clients be able to quickly scan their SEO report to get the gist of what you mean.

    SEO Reporting Tools and Automation

    There are plenty of programs, analytics tools, and automated bots that can help you generate your SEO reports. Using these to compile loads of metric data and then skimming it for what you need to give your clients in a report is a great way to save yourself some time.

    Just like there are many digital marketing automation tools to make lists, graphics, and general support, there are plenty of tools like this to help an SEO agency speed up the process of putting together a client report. Here are a few we use:

    • Google Analytics. Google Analytics will help show traffic sources, locales and improvements in overall traffic, how it is sourced and the user flow.
    • Google Search Console. Google Search Console (GSC) provides the needed impression, click-through and overall exposure data and how it trends overtime. It also provides some SEO metrics on backlinks. The SEO strategy data from Google Search Console is table stakes for making a quality SEO report.
    • Ahrefs. Whatever link data you are unable to get from GSC is certainly available on Ahrefs. They also have a API tie directly into Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) which is great for SEO reports.

    Other honorable mentions for SEO reporting tools:

    • SurferSEO
    • Moz
    • Cora
    • Spyfu
    • SEOJet

    Even if you’re just using something like Workflow to manage your apps or Grammarly to make sure to catch those typos, these SEO reporting tools can simplify parts of the process and let you focus on crafting client SEO reports that have everything you want and need in them, and nothing you don’t, instead of spending days just trying to put something together that your clients will like.

    Building Your Agency-Client Relationship

    Beyond making sure you produce a good SEO report when the time comes, there’s a lot more to having a good relationship with your clients. A better relationship with your clients means that they will trust you more with the work that you do, they may order more services, and they are more likely to recommend your agency to other businesses.

    Fostering positive client relationships is a winning strategy all the way around. One of the first benefits you’ll see by improving your relationship with your clients is that they’ll begin to understand and appreciate what you do for them. Most businesses only have a base-level understanding of SEO and what should be included in their SEO report. By building a relationship with your clients, you slowly let them take a peek into your world and what you do. You also gain the chance to demonstrate what it is you’re doing for them besides showing them numbers and statistics on an SEO reporting page.

    You might normally only speak to clients at the end of the quarter for an update on the current SEO strategy and how it is performing. If you keep in closer contact though you can build a better relationship and you’ll likely see happier customers and better results. All it takes is a quick email or phone call once a week to update the client on news. In many cases SEO reporting doesn’t have to be anything major, it just shows you’re making an effort to keep in contact. This is also good when you’re dealing with a fast-paced client that changes things frequently, it shows you can keep up.

    Month-to-month evaluations and SEO reports help to keep things running smoothly in between regular quarterly review meetings. Planning a strategy session every other month or so is also a good way to keep things in line or make adjustments if necessary.

    These conversations and SEO reports are not casual chats mind you but focused on business. You don’t have to do a deep dive every week over the phone or reexamine strategy every month during the report. Keeping the client’s interest in mind and checking in and providing regular updates will help you keep them invested and keep you on track. It will also make it easier to make changes if you notice issues or trends that impact performance.

    SEO is also an evolving entity, so staying adaptable will help you better help your clients. This will be better for both your businesses. That’s one of the reasons we provide enhanced white-glove services through our white label SEO agency partner program as well as white label SEO reporting.

    Final Thoughts

    Well, that’s it, our guide on what not to include in SEO reports, as well as how to build them the right way. Click here you need a free SEO reporting template. An SEO report template or simply using a competitor’s former SEO reports as an outline will prove helpful in getting you the detailed information you need to share on an on-going basis with clients.

    The best advice we can give is to keep your points short and readable as well as your data and graphics. Include only what your client actually needs to see and nothing more.

    Lastly, when you create SEO reports, be sure to maintain contact. Don’t make them just another deadline on the calendar that you shove a presentation at once every 3 months. You’ll retain clients, get more business and it’ll make your job easier if you improve your client relationships.

    Just like SEO is always evolving, so are your clients. Your SEO reporting should be as adaptive.

    Chief Revenue Officer at SEO Company
    Industry veteran Timothy Carter is SEO.co’s Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams for SEO (search engine optimization) services - including sales, marketing & customer success. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & Digital Marketing, assisting in everything from SEO for lawyers to complex technical SEO for Fortune 500 clients like Wiley, Box.com, Qualtrics and HP.

    Tim holds expertise in building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams.

    When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach...preferably in Hawaii.

    Over the years he's written for publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, ReadWrite and other highly respected online publications. Connect with Tim on Linkedin & Twitter.
    Timothy Carter