Marketing

11 Tips for Creating An Actionable SEO Marketing Dashboard

You’ve put a lot of effort into SEO and now it’s time to report on results. Which KPIs should be included in an SEO dashboard? Here, dozens of marketers share their thoughts.

Elise Dopson Elise Dopson on February 24, 2020 (last modified on February 21, 2020) • 15 minute read

You’re putting a lot of time and resources into SEO––optimizing website pages, investing in content marketing, maybe even hiring a consultant to help with the technical stuff.

So, how’s it all working?

:::Blank stares:::

Well, yeah. We should put together a report that communicates to all interested parties how our efforts are translating to actual results––organic sessions, signups, revenue.

So, how can you make sure your SEO marketing dashboard is telling the right story? Reporting on the right metrics? Proving that your current efforts/strategy is working?

We asked 34 SEO experts to share their answers, which include:

  1. Know who you’re sending the dashboard to
  2. Educate your client
  3. Provide context for each metric
  4. Include your most important KPIs
  5. Compare against competitors
  6. Use integrations to sync data
  7. Make it visual-heavy
  8. Update your SEO dashboard regularly
  9. Work from a premade template
  10. Look beyond Google results
  11. Consider breaking one dashboard into two

*Editor’s note: Looking for a simple way to create client-facing SEO dashboards that don’t take a ton of time to design? Add your own metrics to our SEO Campaign Performance dashboard and you’re almost there:

1. Know who you’re creating the dashboard for

“The first thing that you need to do for creating a good SEO dashboard is understanding who is your audience,” says InfoTracer‘s Ben Hartwig.

“For this purpose, I’m using public records as a great tool to find out information about living location, education, marital status and more. I’m analyzing every small detail such as payability, presence of children and so on.”

To do this, Markletic‘s Ricky Wolff recommends to “ask yourself: does this dashboard make sense for the people who are going to viewing it?”

“Put yourself in their shoes. Clearly indicated the current state vs the target. Always report in percentages and absolute numbers. A dashboard should give you a clear overview of the current state of business without spending too much time looking at the dashboard.”

For our experts, that’s usually an SEO manager or C-level executive:

In fact, understanding who you’re creating the SEO dashboard for has a knock-on effect on what your it includes, as Brian Swanson of FlashPoint Marketing explains: “For example, an SEO Manager would benefit from seeing more detailed metrics because they have a deeper understanding of how variables connect to influence SERP ranking.”

“Conversely, a C-level professional would likely be interested in very high-level metrics and likely don’t have foundational information to know how the variables all connect. It’s better to show high-level metrics on steps towards achieving high-level objectives.”

Elijah-Blue Vieau of The Influence Agency adds: “If SEO performance gets reviewed by other SEO experts or developers, then having detailed technical reports makes sense. On the other hand, if SEO performance is reviewed by upper management and VPs, focusing on the overall cost for organic acquisition would be better received.”

“One size doesn’t fit all in terms of SEO reporting. Being considerate of who will be on the receiving end of your reports will ensure you include appropriate insights, and highlight the issues which matter most,” Vieau summarizes.

2. Educate your client

According to Kimberly Scholten of Odd Dog Media, “a valuable, but often overlooked tip for creating an impactful SEO marketing dashboard is to educate your client.”

“You can develop a report with traffic metrics, ranking averages, domain authority tracking, and high-performing organic content, and the client may have no idea why that’s impressive or relevant. We know why certain metrics are important to SEO but does your client?”

“We work in a niche industry, which means the knowledge we deploy isn’t well known and can be confusing for the average business owner,” Scholten continues.

“Educated clients are better clients. Instructing them on each metric’s value and importance in relation to their business creates transparency and establishes trust in your relationship and in your work.”

3. Provide context for the KPI

Similarly, when creating an SEO dashboard, Jesse Teske says: “If you’re reporting on revenue, how is it performing WoW, YoY, and more importantly to plan?”

“Too often, KPIs are just regurgitated without the context of how it is performing to expectations. If revenue is up 10% YoY but growth goals called for 20% growth — the campaign is going to look like a failure.”

4. Show your most important SEO metrics

“One tip for creating an SEO marketing dashboard is to determine your marketing KPIs that you will be tracking,” says Andrew Ruditser of MaxBurst, Inc.

“This is important because you need to know what metrics are beneficial to your company to understand the strategies you need to use. This includes many marketing performing metrics such as pay per clicks, click-through rates, website traffic, etc.”

Ruditser adds: “Keeping track of these will help you achieve your business goals which is why having an SEO marketing dashboard is important.”

Trenton Erker of Clarity Online SEO also recommends to “give the client what they want in their language. Focus on what they care about. If they want appointments, don’t say conversions, call them appointments.”

That’s likely why almost half of our experts only include 3, 4, or 5 metrics in their SEO dashboard:

Venngage‘s Aditya Sheth adds: “There’s way too many marketers out there tracking everything even when those metrics have nothing to do with your business goals. Also, tracking less leads to more focus and an improved ability to influence those metrics in the process.”

“One way to track fewer metrics is to track metrics that are influenced by other metrics. For eg: Do you really need to track Clicks & Impressions when all you really need to track is CTR? Because CTR is a metric directly influenced by both Clicks & Impressions.”

“This helps you track two fewer metrics and really spend more time moving the needle on the few chosen metrics instead,” Sheth continues. “Tracking by itself is useless if you don’t know which metrics are important to your business or if there are just too many metrics you’re tracking at a time.”

“I see far too many SEOs creating extensive dashboards with a ton of interesting (but unnecessary) data that takes focus away from the primary goals, William Hutchinson of Marketing Apocalypse adds.

“I understand that it can be nice to have an all-in-one overview of everything that happens on your website, but it just creates unnecessary confusion. Especially if you have to juggle multiple websites or clients.”

Melanie Musson of 360QuoteLLC summarizes: “Choose a couple of other goals to track but don’t let the dashboard get bogged down with too much information. The important goals will be lost if the dashboard is too cluttered.”

5. Compare your SEO strategy against a competitor’s

PharMed‘s Konstantinos Tsilkos thinks that “along with your clients, your SEO dashboard should also feature major competitors (and their metrics) in your client’s industry.”

“Our SEO managers check our dashboard daily, as the metrics given on the dashboard are essential to their duties.”

Rioks‘ Oleksiy Kuryliak agrees: “There are many important SEO metrics of your website, like live change in ranking for relevant keywords or the backlinks status, but to get a good insight into your standing, you need to keep an eye on competitors’ SEO changes too. Including competitor tracking into an SEO marketing dashboard is a great way to do this.”

6. Use integrations to sync data to your dashboard

Over a third of experts we polled said they review their SEO marketing dashboard weekly:

You might be wasting your time by manually pulling those metrics from individual platforms–which is why Amanda Fisher of Vineyard Henderson advises to “choose a platform/software that can be easily integrated with many different sources.”

“We use Google Data Studio and it has changed the way we view data on a weekly basis and keep track of historical data. It’s very user-friendly, integrates with all Google properties and it’s easy to modify, replicate, download or share with others – quickly!”

7. Make it visual-heavy

“If you’re working to create an SEO marketing dashboard, the most important thing is to create something that is simple, effective, and easily digestible for your audience,” Pelicoin‘s Sam Olmsted advises.

“Use charts, graphs, and, most especially, maps when showing how your SEO campaign is working. If you have a multi-location business like ours, maps help show your client or supervisor which locations need the most help so you can allocate your resources effectively.”

Joshua Waller of Ontario SEO agrees: “For an SEO marketing dashboard to be effective and useful, it needs to be easy to read and scan for any anomalies. Whether that be by using color coding, charts or graphs, it should only take you moments to recognize any wins or areas for improvement.’

“If an SEO dashboard isn’t easy to scan, it ends up just being a big time-waster,” Waller summarizes.

*Editor’s note: Don’t waste time formatting your Excel sheet and color-coding important metrics. We’ve got a bunch of SEO and SEM dashboard templates which automatically pull data from your SEO tools, and visualize them in a simply-designed dashboard:

8. Update your SEO dashboard regularly

According to Stan Tan of Selby’s, “the dashboard should update monthly or at a minimum quarterly. Daily and weekly will be too frequent for SEO as improvements in SEO occur from activities done a few months ago not yesterday.”

Plus, Tiffanie Hartenstein of ORACLE Lighting adds: “When looking at the effects of your SEO campaign, you want to measure long-term growth in organic traffic.”

“While other aspects of your marketing strategy may make immediate changes, search engine optimization is focused on the long-term.”

“I recommend building a marketing dashboard or report that measures organic traffic year over year. With these metrics, you’ll be able to get a bigger picture of your results,” Hartenstein adds.

9. Work from a premade template

“It can be overwhelming to build your own SEO dashboard with so many metrics to include, says Rochelle Burnside of Best Company–which is why they recommend using “SEO dashboards that you can customize for your needs. I find I always work better with a template to start.”

10. Look beyond Google results

“Though undoubtedly, Google is still the king in the search arena. There are other engines such as Amazon, Apple,” says Digi Elephant‘s Tushar Agarwal.

“The idea is to optimize the content in a way that feeds into other search channels which increases its visibility and brings traffic to your website. The increase in internet penetration and a quantum jump in mobile users have changed the way consumers are searching.”

“It is estimated that smartphones generate over 50-60 percent of online traffic. More than 90 percent of the time is spent browsing through apps.”

Agarwal explains: “In simple words, the future is app-based search and thereby optimization for mobile search is needed. The increasing usage of the App store helps in understanding the unique search algorithms used for search on the App. It would be helpful in effective engagement and keywords search queries.”

11. Consider breaking your SEO dashboards into two

“SEO” is an all-encompassing industry term, which means that when creating an SEO dashboard it’s important to discern what your goal is,” says Dylan Zsigray. “At Kiwi Creative, we create two primary types of SEO boards: content-oriented and keyword-oriented.”

“Within our content-oriented dashboards, we display our highest-performing content (e.g. blogs) and the funnel users follow from first seeing the result on SERPs all the way to a conversion point.”

“With our keyword-oriented dashboards, we display our highest-ranking keywords on SERPs and the overall growth of impressions, clicks, CTR, and average page ranking.”

Zsigray explains: “Obviously, these two boards serve different purposes. When first creating your SEO dashboard, look ahead to what you plan on using it for (either for your or your client’s benefit) and then create your board to succinctly display data.”

Bruce Hogan of Software Pundit has a similar recommendation: “Within the dashboard, create one view that shows you the queries and pages with the best absolute performance, and another that shows the queries and pages with the biggest changes in growth rate.”

“This way, you’ll be able to keep an eye on your most important pages (those with the best absolute performance), and quickly spot the key trends (queries & pages with significant growth rate changes).”

Related: Content Strategy vs. SEO Strategy: How to Decide Which Comes First

Bonus: 6 unusual things to include in your SEO dashboard

Now you know how to create a professionally-designed SEO dashboard to show to your clients, you might be left with one question:

What should my SEO marketing dashboard actually include?

1. The commercial value of your SEO strategy

“It’s really important to tie SEO traffic to specific, well-defined goals,” Brendan Tully of The Search Engine Shop writes. “Marketers can sometimes confuse themselves and get lost in the “we want to rank number 1 for this term” but the reality is the traffic is useless without supporting a specific commercial goal or outcome.”

Tully continues: “If I could give one piece of advice for an SEO dashboard it would be to make sure you have clear and accurate goal or conversion tracking correctly tied to SEO traffic sources (and pages) so you can clearly see how specific pages are impacting conversions.”

Jarod Speiwak of Blue Dog Media adds: “Focus the report on how SEO is contributing to an increase in revenue, sales, leads, etc.”

“Is the content you’re creating getting users into the email marketing funnel? Did moving from position #5 to #3 for a head term generate an extra $40,000 in sales last month? That’s what actually matters.”

2. Top-performing keywords

“Since the removal of keyword data from Google Analytics, one of the trickiest metrics to track is which keywords perform the best,” Repod‘s Travis Osterhaus says.

“One great way to track this is to create a report that looks at the top landing pages filtered by organic traffic + combined with goal completions of those users. With this data, you will be able to tell which organic landing pages are performing the best, and better insight into the keywords assigned to those top-performing pages.”

Similarly, Andrew Becks of 301 Digital Media recommends to “focus on long-tail ranking opportunities and chart the progress of long-tail keyword position growth over time.”

“While it’s helpful to be aware of and protect high-ranking keywords, too little focus on growing long-tail keywords can cause hugely negative consequences, especially in the case of periodic algorithm changes by Google, Bing, et al.”

However, when doing this, Brooks Manley advises to “cluster same intent keyphrases together. For example, ‘marketing trends 2020’ and ‘2020 marketing trends’ are essentially the same search.”

“Clustering their ranking and click data helps reveal the big picture performance of your page, rather than looking at each keyphrase’s data in a vacuum.”

3. Referral source breakdown

Tabitha Young of 30 Degrees North thinks you should “breakout your referral sources in your reporting.”

“A view of your referral sources can give you a good indication of how well any partnerships, backlinking efforts, collaborations, etc. are bringing in traffic.”

Related: Here’s How to Increase Your Referral Traffic (Tips from 42 Marketers)

4. High-conversion pages

“One important part of the report is pages that drive conversions. We look at the top pages and order them by the conversions they generate, not traffic,” says Cayley Vos of Netpaths Marketing.

“Actions speak loudest and put money in your bank account. We prioritize data that has generated some kind of conversion that can be tied to a keyword, query or page.”

Vos continues: “High traffic pages are a cool thing to show off at events, but pages that drive conversions will make you successful.”

5. Qualified leads

You’re likely monitoring the number of leads you’re getting through your SEO strategy.

“If your business counts leads rather than transactions, it’s vital to track qualified leads in your dashboard so you can adjust your SEO strategy accordingly,” says Terakeet‘s Jonas Sickler.

“Knowing that you had 5 qualified leads is a much stronger indicator than 100 generic leads.”

6. The overall direction you’re heading

When we asked Lightning Virtual Solutions for their best tip for creating an SEO dashboard, Shannon Trimble said: “Don’t become weighed down by the little metrics.”

“Yes, it’s great to focus in and try to improve things by 1% every day, but dashboards allow you to combine certain figures and features to look at the big picture. Make sure you don’t zoom in too close so that you can actually see the direction your SEO is going in.”

Farasat Khan explains how they do this at IsItWP‘s: “The dashboard should not be limited to just ranking visuals, but in fact, I will really advise every dashboard to have a Ranking Trend.”

Khan continues: “A ranking trend allows us to visualize quick changes in improvement or otherwise. Such on the spot visualizations also lets you discover any spikes due to Google updates.”

Michael Landry of The Influence Agency explains why this is important: “Firstly SEO is a long term strategy and should be viewed as such. Second, you’ll avoid unfair comparisons due to seasonality by comparing apples to apples.”

Final thoughts

As you can see, creating an SEO dashboard doesn’t have to be a time-consuming task.

Use these expert tips to create yours, and you’re bound to end up with an engaging client-facing report everyone can pull value from.

About the author
Elise Dopson
Elise Dopson Elise Dopson is a freelance B2B writer for SaaS and marketing companies. With a focus on data-driven ideas that truly provide value, she helps brands to get noticed online--and drive targeted website visitors that transform into raving fans.
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