on January 25, 2023 • 29 minute read
An SEO strategy without consistent reporting is like flying an airplane wearing blackout goggles.
You could be moving heaven and earth for your client, but if you don’t know how to present the relevant data, they won’t know whether their business is growing and at what pace.
Or, as the American rock band Kansas would say, your SEO efforts will just be “dust in the wind”.
Luckily, SEO results are rather straightforward to measure and you have all the data needed to prove the value of your work right in your SEO analytics tools (from organic traffic and keyword rankings to average position, number of backlinks, and much more.)
But that’s just one part of the SEO reporting art.
Just pulling numbers from different tools isn’t enough – you need to know how to turn those numbers into insights. And that’s done by choosing the right amount of data, the right visualizations, and the right reporting format.
Lastly, SEO reporting should be done on a regular cadence.
Already feeling overwhelmed?
We got you.
Here is everything you need to know to build a consistent SEO reporting process and build SEO reports your clients will love. (For added context, we talked to 153 SEO agencies to learn how they do this and what works for them)
An SEO report is a concise summary of the most important SEO metrics that showcase a website’s performance.
They typically include crucial SEO metrics like backlinks, technical website health, click-through rates, keyword rankings, organic traffic, conversions, etc.
The main goal of an SEO report is to show your client the results of your SEO efforts and the impact your strategy is having on overall website performance.
At the same time, you can use this report to keep better track of what you’ve implemented and check how things are progressing.
While this might sound pretty straightforward and even a bit basic in theory, SEO reports are far trickier than they meet the eye.
Anyone can cough up a document with the basic Google Analytics/Ahrefs/Semrush SEO metrics in less than an hour and call it an SEO report.
But the trick is to create a clear overview of your most important metrics, show what progress has been made, explain the impact of your strategies, and provide recommendations for moving forward.
And this shouldn’t be a 50-page document either – just enough so all the actionable insights are presented in an easy-to-understand manner.
Related: Client Reporting 101: Tips and Best Practices for Agencies and Freelancers
Unfortunately, there are a lot of SEOs that create SEO reports for the sole purpose of getting clients “off their backs”. This is a pretty uninspiring road to take.
The SEO report should be as valuable to the SEOs as they are to the clients and managers.
By mastering the art of SEO reporting, you’ll be able to:
Related: Agency Reporting: 9 Tips to Effectively Prove Your Value to Clients
There’s no “one-size-fits-all” metrics checklist that you can use when devising your SEO report.
There are hundreds of SEO metrics you can include, so shortening the list down to a couple that you will include will mostly depend on what the goal is and what matters the most to your client.
If you overstep the line and add dozens of metrics, you’re not really helping your case, as the client will just get confused (even if they’re data literate).
With that said, there are a few SEO metrics that are a bit more equal than others and generally find their way onto an SEO report.
This is one of the most basic and telling SEO metrics you should include.
Organic search traffic is useful because it clearly showcases the efficiency of at least one area of your SEO strategy.
It shows the readers which pages are receiving the most organic traffic and which need to be improved moving forward.
If your SEO tool lets you segment traffic by country (Ahrefs e.g.), you can use that data as well, so the client has a better idea of where their product is the most successful.
Slawek Czajkowski of SurferSEO shares that it’s also crucial to explain organic traffic numbers to clients through comparisons:
“The traffic should be compared either with the previous month (for non-seasonal websites) or relevant to last year’s period (for seasonal businesses). Numbers, along with taken actions, should be explained comprehensively for the client, especially if the change in traffic was a succession of our SEO strategy.”
Lastly, don’t forget to separately showcase unbranded traffic. Lincoln Rinehart of Adept Marketing emphasizes why this is important:
“A website will always rank highly for its own brand in organic search. SEO really can only impact unbranded searches, and unbranded searches are the main source of SEO traffic and lead growth.
For this data, I refer to Google Search Console. I exclude queries containing the brand name. On a regular basis, I also consult Google Analytics, Google My Business, and SEMrush.”
Given this usage, it’s no wonder why Google Search Console is the most popular SEO tool to pull data from:
Display how many keywords the client’s website is ranking for, which keywords saw a boost in rankings, how search visibility changed, and the average keyword ranking position.
A good tip is to prioritize the keywords that you’ve determined are the most important for the client.
According to Bruce Hogan of SoftwarePundit, you can use this data yourself later on to “monitor the progress of your SEO efforts in improving your rankings, and quickly detect any negative impact of Google algorithm changes.”
Again, you’ll want to create comparisons with historical data since that’s the best way to show your client exactly what’s changed since you took over.
“The best SEO reports aren’t just those that show SEO as a snapshot of a moment in time, but that show a historical trend to ensure that SEO rankings and overall performance are trending positively over a longer time horizon.”
Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer (CSIO) & Co-founder at 301 Digital Media
Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles explained exactly which periods you should compare current performance against, based on the type of business:
“If the business you work for is seasonal, then ensuring you are comparing the results from the same month the year before is important. If your client is not seasonal, then you have the option of comparing to the previous month as well as updating your overall 6-month trend line.”
Related: How to Build a Comprehensive SEO Keyword Ranking Report
Your website can be as busy as a beehive, but if the bees aren’t buying any honey, all that traffic won’t make a difference.
So, make sure you separate traffic and conversions in your SEO report and also, define what exactly the desired conversion is for your client. While sales are one of the most frequent answers, it can also be anything from downloading a demo or filling out a form.
You can even get a bit more granular with this KPI by also including information like new visitor conversion rate, returning visitors conversion rate, cost per conversion, best converting pages, conversion by device and location, etc.
Jason Eland of Eland Consulting says that this is the metric clients care about the most since “traffic without conversions is just a vanity metric. The key here is contacts because you cannot control the client’s sales process. However, you can show and address the problem with conversion data.”
We use CallRail for call tracking, UTM tags, Google My Business insights, Google Analytics events, and conversion tracking. You might not capture all conversions, but it is far better than not having any metrics.”
Piotr Olesson of Reef Digital seconds this and shares that conversion rates are “invaluable business information that provides insights into:
PRO TIP: Learn how Help Scout improved its website conversion rate to increase demo requests by 56% and free trials by 6%.
Backlinks are one of Google’s main ranking signals, and as such, clients will want to check out how effective your link-building strategy has been.
Include how many new links the site acquired and make sure to mention the Domain Authority (DA) of the site that linked to you.
Make sure the clients understand that high-quality links are far more important than the number of acquired links.
If you aren’t using them already, consider trying out tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs since they provide the most granular backlink data.
Artem Klimkin of Linkshero explains that including backlinks in your SEO report will not only “create a bigger picture of your client’s optimization, but also give them insight into their organic presence elsewhere on the web.”
Here are the link-related details Klimkin includes in SEO reports:
Related: Link Building 101: The Ultimate Guide to Building Free Backlinks and Outranking Your Competitors
Domain Authority (DA) shows the quality of a website in the eyes of search engines and it’s directly linked to ranking.
You can include it to display how the client’s website quality has improved thanks to your SEO efforts and compare it with historical data.
What’s more, you can track your competitors’ DA scores and include that comparison in the report as well.
According to Dan Lacey, this metric is crucial to track because it captures so many different SEO areas under its umbrella.
“This is a number out of 100, which indicates how well your website is going to rank in search engines and takes multiple factors into account, such as your technical website setup, on-page optimization, and particularly your inbound link profile.
Every time your domain authority gets higher, the next number to reach gets harder, so it can be really difficult to achieve high numbers. Once you do achieve a high domain authority, everything else becomes much easier, including ranking your website highly for some popular keywords.
An added bonus is that it becomes much easier to persuade popular people in your industry to feature or guest post on your website if you have high domain authority, as linking to their website then gives them a very valuable backlink!”
You’ve already covered how many visitors you’re generating (organic traffic), but where they’re going is just as important.
Reporting on top landing pages has now become standard practice among SEOs because it clearly showcases what’s working and what isn’t.
The landing pages that are the most successful usually have a few Easter eggs you can pick up on. Try to figure out what’s making them perform so well and then apply that to the landing pages that aren’t seeing too many visitors.
Search Optimism‘s Sam Olmsted explains how to find top landing page data: “In Google Analytics, filter your view to only see organic results. This allows you to block out traffic from ads or referrals. From there, look at your top-visited landing pages so you can see the first pages that visitors are getting to on your site.”
If you want to understand how your visitors are behaving on your landing pages, there are several on-page events and metrics you can track from Google Analytics and Google Search Console that will help:
Now you can benefit from the experience of our SEO and website conversion experts, who have put together a plug-and-play Databox template showing the most important metrics for monitoring your landing page performance. It’s simple to implement and start using as a standalone dashboard or in marketing reports, and best of all, it’s free!
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics and Google Search Console accounts with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
As we said at the beginning, creating the perfect SEO report goes beyond just including the numbers.
Here’s what you have to do:
Before you start crafting an SEO strategy, you’ll need to talk with your client and see what goals they want to prioritize.
SEO covers a lot of areas and it’s impossible to deliver on all fields in a short time frame, especially if you’re creating reports on a monthly basis.
Organize a meeting with your client and make sure you understand what they’re trying to achieve in the foreseeable future. This can be anything from more organic traffic and conversions to better SERP rankings.
Some clients might ask for too much, and in these situations, you should explain the importance of focusing on just a few objectives at a time, or the strategy might blow up in your face.
While a lot of goals are interlinked and affect one another, that won’t always be the case. For instance, you could be targeting the wrong audience, which leads to zero conversions and brings down engagement.
Once you work out all the goal-related details, it’s time to develop your SEO strategy to reach it.
So, if they want more organic traffic, you’ll probably prioritize link building and rankings. Whatever it is, you’ll have a detailed plan on how to achieve the goal.
But when making your SEO report, make sure you only include the most relevant information. Clients typically only look for front-end data and how that strategy affects their objective. They don’t want to be bothered by what happens behind the scenes.
Aside from including what you plan to do, also emphasize the things you already did (e.g. on-page SEO, landing page optimization, links acquired, updating title tags and robot.txt, etc.)
You don’t have to go into much detail on these things, just frame it in a way that they see progress is being made.
Related: How to Set SEO Goals for Your Team (That Actually Drive Action)
This is another thing you’ll need to discuss with your client during the meeting.
In your SEO report, first list the KPIs they’ve expressed the most interest in and make sure to tell a story with the numbers.
Simply throwing in a bunch of raw numbers with no context won’t help anyone and they will get the impression that you don’t know what you’re doing.
Also, don’t try to hide bad numbers or masquerade them as something else. SEO isn’t always rainbows and unicorns and certain fluctuations are completely understandable.
“One of the biggest SEO reporting problems is that “too many marketers focus on raw data that is often presented in a difficult-to-understand way”.
Clients usually have little to no marketing experience, so receiving a report without any sort of explanation can be frustrating.
It’s important to highlight the most important things about the report at the very beginning and explain what this means for your client’s business in simple terms. Go the extra mile by including an action plan for dealing with any issues and explore opportunities for improvement.”
Director of Technical Support at Pixus
Related: 9 Ways Agency Reporting Can Help Create Transparency with Clients and Boost Client Retention
While your report should include a few more metrics besides the ones most important to your client, you shouldn’t go overboard.
Pick the KPIs that best showcase the progress toward a certain goal or can highlight the success you’ve seen so far with your strategy.
In general, the best practice is to include no more than 9 metrics in your report. Anything more than that can just overwhelm the client and leave them confused.
Aside from thinking about what data you’ll present, you should also focus on how you’ll present it.
This often gets overlooked by SEOs, but the visualization is just as important as the data itself. Visualizations help you make the numbers more actionable, simpler, and digestible.
Include charts and pies in your dashboard and pick some neutral colors to complement the data. Make sure there’s enough white space between the numbers and that everything’s laid out in an easy-to-understand manner.
Related: What’s the Best Chart Type for Your Dashboard Metrics?
At the end of the day, this is what matters the most in SEO reporting – whether your clients understand the report.
You can be acquiring backlinks like crazy, climbing the rankings, and driving more traffic, but if you don’t know how to communicate that data, you could end up losing the client.
The client is not an SEO expert, so make sure you’re explaining each term and number in plain English.
A good practice is to follow Einstein’s methodology – imagine you’re explaining it to a five-year-old!
Since it can sometimes be hard to step out of the “expert’s shoes” and identify what might be confusing, you can ask a friend or family member to take a look at the report.
Lastly, aside from making sure each metric is properly explained, Digital Quokka‘s Andy Chadwick adds that we shouldn’t forget to include “actions”.
“It’s all very well providing keyword ranking movements, increases/decreases in organic traffic, or errors that are in Search Console, but what good is the report if you don’t explain to your client the actions and insights off the back of them?
By including actions and insights off the back of your report, you are not only signifying to the client you know what you are doing, but you are being transparent as well as making it easier for yourself to prioritize and plan your own workload.”
If there’s one tried-and-true way you can streamline your SEO reporting process, it’s to use an SEO template.
With most clients, you’ll be delivering SEO reports at least once a month, and doing it from scratch every single time will cost you a lot of hours.
SEO dashboard templates are one of the best solutions for organizing your data and customizing it to align with the client’s objectives.
Databox’s template gallery has 100+ SEO templates at your disposal, each containing dozens of prebuilt SEO metrics from the most popular SEO analytics tools, like Google Analytics, Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush, and more. Thanks to our robust connections with Google Sheets and Excel, you can also easily connect any spreadsheet.
By using one of our SEO templates, building a report will literally take you a few minutes. Just plug in your data and watch how the metrics populate on the dashboard.
Now that we’ve covered the pre-building preparation, let’s move on to the exact step-by-step guide that you can follow in Databox to create a professional and digestible SEO report.
Firstly, you should head over to the “Agency Accounts” > “Client Page” > “+ New Client” to open up a new Client Account.
The best practice is to create a separate account for each of your clients since this lets you efficiently organize the data and later customize it.
Plus, you won’t have to worry about mixing up their documents or misplacing some numbers.
Organizing and categorizing your client’s data is one of the most tedious parts of the process, especially if you use several SEO tools to track performance.
Not with Databox.
You can connect 70+ data sources, including the most popular tools like Google Analytics, Moz, Ahrefs, SEMRush, etc.
To do this, open your Client Account and go to “Data Manager” > “+ New Connection”.
Now that you have your data sources included in the Client Account, it’s time to start building the report and adding the metrics.
You can use the Wizard and click on “Blank Databoard” if you want to build your report from scratch and already have specific metrics in mind.
Go to “+ New Databoard” > “Use Wizard” and then select the data source and metrics you want to include.
Or, you can use a template from the “Public Template Library” for additional guidance and speed up the process a bit. Different templates include different metrics, but you can customize them as you move forward.
SEO reports created in Databox are fully customizable and you can modify them until they fit your client’s goals and expectations.
Once you go through the basics of connecting a data source and adding the metrics, you can later resize the datablocks, change the layout, and try out different visuals. Rearrange the elements until you get the SEO report you have in mind.
Lastly, you’ll want to share that awesome report you created with your clients.
There are a few different ways you can share your results, including:
You can find these options once you click on the “Share” button in the Designer.
That piece of paper where you outlined your client’s needs and objectives – you’ll need to pull it out one more time.
You can easily find tons of different SEO report templates, but you should always go with the one that best matches your client’s goals and reporting schedule.
Generally, the best practice is to create SEO reports on a monthly basis – it’s not too frequent so that tiny details can disrupt the process and not too rare so you end up overlooking certain aspects.
In our survey, more than half of our respondents shared that they create SEO reports on a monthly basis.
With that said, let’s go through some of the most popular SEO report templates and see what you can present and emphasize with them.
As the name suggests, this report is designed to give your client’s a detailed overview of your SEO efforts and how they’ve affected the overall performance.
It helps you keep track of the most popular SEO metrics like keyword rankings, organic sessions, ranking distribution, average search position, backlinks, and much more.
Here’s an SEO Overview report example from our gallery that pulls data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMrush and Moz.
You can download this template for free and answer some common client questions like:
The site audit report is an ideal choice if you want to highlight the website’s health and performance to the client (and get better insights yourself).
It helps you track website crawlability, HTTPS implementation, indexing, internal linking, errors and warning, and more.
With these things in one place, you’ll be able to quickly diagnose any issues and share recommendations on how to proceed with your clients.
You can create a Site Audit report like this one in Databox in just a few minutes. This report pulls data from Semrush, but you can replace it with an SEO tool of your choice.
You can use it to answer questions such as:
This type of SEO report is popular among clients since the metrics it showcases are pretty straightforward and easy to read.
Plus, it displays whether organic traffic and overall engagement have improved since you’ve taken over.
It typically includes metrics such as bounce rate, average time on page, number of unique visitors, goal conversion rate, returning visitor percentage, and more.
The things you’ll clients will learn are:
Here’s an example of an Organic Traffic and Engagement report in Databox you can download for free.
We already talked about organic conversions as one of the most important SEO metrics, and clients will sometimes ask you to emphasize it in the report.
Since more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean more conversions, this report can show them whether they’re targeting the right audience.
Also, they’ll get granular insights into KPIs like new/returning visitor conversion rate, top converting pages, cost per conversion, conversion by location, and more.
Here’s an Organic Conversion report example that our clients use to stay on top of their conversion metrics, in one place.
If your client wants to focus on improving their SERP rankings, you should go with this type of SEO report since it provides the most concise overview of rankings and keyword performance.
With metrics like average search position, impressions, clicks, and keyword rankings, you’ll provide them with a clear overview of how they’re currently ranking on Google and pinpoint areas that you’ll optimize.
And, if you use software that displays changes in real-time, the client will also be able to monitor significant fluctuations, specific page search positions, and see how many search queries each position group receives.
Here’s one of our Site Ranking and Keyword Performance report examples you can download for free and further customize. This report uses data from Google Search Console.
Backlink reports demonstrate the efficiency of your link building strategies and provide all the necessary insights the client needs to understand the big picture.
Some of the most common metrics included are referring pages, domain rating, new backlinks acquired, the total number of backlinks, the number of do-follow links, and more.
In essence, this SEO report answers questions like:
You can create this SEO report in no time by downloading our free Backlink Analysis report template and customizing it according to your metrics and data. This report uses data from Ahrefs.
Content marketing and SEO go hand in hand — the more efficient your SEO strategy is, the better your content will perform, and vice versa. And by using a content performance report, you can track exactly how the content you are creating performs and report it in a straightforward manner to your clients.
Most SEOs include Google Analytics metrics like pageviews, sessions, audience behavior, events by events action, goal completions, etc.
Overall, it’s a useful report if your clients want to gain an overview of traffic and conversions, audience behavior and trends, and other content-related insights.
Here’s one example of how this SEO report should look like:
You can download this Content Performance report for free and customize it with your data in a matter of minutes.
A lot of SMB business owners require insights into site speed and ask SEOs to provide them with website speed performance reports.
The reasons are pretty clear – as site speed directly affects user experience, it also affects your conversion rates, traffic, and SERP rankings.
If your site takes forever to load, you’ll end up losing a visitor that could’ve even been a customer.
A website speed performance report can be extremely useful in helping your pinpoint broken pages and areas that need to be optimized.
In most cases, the report includes metrics like pageviews, bounce rate, average page load time, and page load time by device.
Here’s a website Speed Performance report example from our gallery:
You can pull your own metrics data to this template and learn things like:
Lastly, if you’re doing business with a local client, you’ll probably need to create a local SEO report at some point in your collaboration.
A local SEO report typically focuses on Google My Business data such as phone calls, actions, reviews, etc.
Here are some of the questions it can answer:
These SEO reports might take up a lot of time to create – unless you download our free Local SEO report template.
In just a few minutes of customization, this is how your report could look like:
If this isn’t your first rodeo with SEO reporting, then you’re already familiar with the tedious and time-consuming process of *shivers* manual reporting.
You first have to go through every SEO tool you’re using individually, adjust the time frame, and collect the most important KPIs and metrics — from more than one tool.
Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz…
If you are not taking screengrabs, you are probably downloading data into spreadsheets and then figuring out how you’re going to transport that data onto another spreadsheet after you filter it in the first one.
Once you finally pinpoint which data to include, you have to make it understandable and insightful through visualizations, columns, the right fonts, a proper layout, etc.
You then realize that your report looks like a Picasso painting. You probably hire a designer to “make it beautiful”.
Lastly, you turn the report into a PDF and forward the report to your client… and repeat the same process over and over again, each month or maybe even each week.
Why go through all this trouble when you can automate the entire process with an SEO reporting tool like Databox?
Databox transforms hours-long processes into a few minutes of reporting magic.
Here’s how easy it is to create an SEO report in Databox:
That’s really it, no hidden steps in between.
Once you wrap up the report, you can immediately share it with your client (or the entire team) and the numbers will be updated in real-time. So even if they don’t check it out right away, you won’t have to make any manual changes.
And, if your deadline is near and you have your hands full with other things, you can always contact our team for a free dashboard setup. Just tell them what you want them to include and you’ll receive the report in less than 24 hours.
The best of all? Streamlining and automating your SEO reporting process is just a free trial away.
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