We write a lot of reports here at Steam Driven Media. We have monthly client reports, site audits, executive summary reports, SEO reports, traffic reports, proposals and more go out every month. Over the years we have refined our reporting process to a point where our clients get the data they need for their business and we spend the absolute minimum amount of time writing them because every hour we spend writing reports is another hour we can’t be out there helping to improve someone’s business.
Reports should be opportunities to inspire confidence in your work at best, warn clients of potential issues at worst. They should not be a massive spreadsheet of seemingly random data that in the end means very little to the “business” you are trying to help.
For those of you that do link building for clients how often are you asked for a list of all the sites you got a link, tried to get a link, wished you had a link there? We still do a fair amount of foundational link building for clients. You know the ones, directory submissions, article distribution, easy to get links like those. Generally, when someone does a link building campaign like these they generate an excel spreadsheet with a list of several hundred URLs as proof that they did the work.
Unfortunately those spreadsheets aren’t really worth the bits used to create them. A link submitted to a directory may take days, weeks, even months before it is actually listed in the directory. Even worse, the page it is listed on may not even be in the search engine index! So what happens when a client picks a link at random to check up on only to hit one of the many that simply haven’t been updated yet? you guessed it, you get an email from the client wanting to know where their one directory link it.
Did you get a link on a truly newsworthy site? Tell the client about that one, but don’t bore them with all the others.
SERP (search engine results page) Ranking Reports are the report that simply won’t go away. It is our fault, as an industry, that we even created this monster to begin with. Clients are fascinated by them and SEOs live and die by them. But do they really mean anything?
There are hundreds of data centers, geolocation issues, even personalized search that enters in to every search these days making a true ranking report nearly impossible to generate. Then you have the less than ethical SEOs that have clients log in to Google before checking rankings just to get that personalized search bump. But in the end, does a ranking report really mean anything to the bottom line for a client?
The reports that we live and die by are analytics reports. What really matters to a client is whether the number of people that see their site is increasing and if they are making sales. Everything else is a distraction. You could track 50 keywords and phrases for a client, see half of them move up and half move down but still see an increase in overall traffic and sales. You could see all of them go down for that one hour you spent checking the SERP rankings and still see an improvement in traffic.
A ranking report won’t show you the hundreds of search terms that send traffic to a website that you know nothing about, but are affected in a positive way by the marketing that you are doing. An analytics report will. There is nothing better than showing a client that their natural search traffic is increasing 15% to 20% each month for months on end while the generic SERP rank report shows minimal movement for 2 or 3 top tier terms.
Combined with analytics reports, These are the true lifeblood of a website. All the traffic in the world isn’t worth a dime if no one actually “buys” anything. Unfortunately, this is the weakest area of almost every “SEO” out there, and even more so for those latching on to the new darling term “Inbound Marketing”. They tend to stop when the traffic hits your site. They feel that their job is done. From a marketer’s point of view we are only half way there.
We try to provide our clients with conversion rate data, what products are converting best, and how we can improve those conversion points. Conversion rate data tells us if the traffic we are getting worth continuing to chase or if it should be left alone. Take Pinterest for example. we love it for driving massive traffic. But that traffic doesn’t convert nearly as well as other types do. So we take that in to account when planning future growth.