It’s easy in a field like SEO to get wrapped up in all the reports, details, metrics, and other data that comes out of the work you do. Especially if this is your primary business, you want to show off all the hard work you and your agency have been doing on the client’s behalf.
So, you work and you work and shove everything into your agency-client reports that will fit. The report has everything but the kitchen sink listed in it, even your grandma’s cookie recipe. Except you forgot one important little thing.
Your clients aren’t SEO experts, that’s why they hired you!! So now you have all this information crammed into a report and clients not only remain unimpressed, they’re likely confused. Figuring out what to include in agency-client reports requires not only a different approach but a different type of understanding.
In this guide we’ll explain how to figure out what should go into a client report and what should be left out. We’ll go over how to put together a report and how to figure out what your client actually wants to know.
Even the most SEO-experienced and highly educated clients out there don’t need every piece of data that you have on their business. They likely have key goals, key success markers, key factors they want to monitor, and key results they expect to see. Before you start stuffing your client report like a pinata, it’s important to evaluate and identify each of these factors so that you can custom tailor your client reports to each individual client.
We’re not talking about out-of-the-box thinking or new forms of data, you have everything you need already at your fingertips. Now you’re just trying to put the puzzle together.
This upcoming section talks about how to get the appropriate information to put the report together so that you present well to the client.
You might think that you want all the information possible in the 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 metrics 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 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 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 metrics they may expect to see and how to report them.
Rather than including every positive metric 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 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 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 you report to your client.
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 marketing agency, or a hotdog vendor.
While you’re communicating with your client about what they want to see in terms of success metrics, 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 report should be written so that the client understands it.
Once you know what to present to your clients, 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.
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 marketing can understand if goals are being met.
Here’s what to include in a summary
Basically, you want to give them a rundown of their performance 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
It might seem like a good idea to include cutting-edge design choices and lots of graphics in your report, but this can be a bad idea if it takes away from the ability of the client to understand your report. 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 it 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, 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 it to get the gist of what you mean.
There are plenty of programs, analytics tools, and automated bots that can help you generate your 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 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.
Even if you’re just using something like Workflow to manage your apps or Grammarly to make sure to catch those typos, these tools can simplify parts of the process and let you focus on crafting client 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.
Beyond making sure you produce a good 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, if that. 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 a 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. It 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 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 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.
Well, that’s it, our guide on what not to include in client reports, as well as how to build them the right way. 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, while you’re building these agency client 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, you have to keep moving to stay alive.