Some clients eat, sleep, and breathe data from their monthly SEO reports. Others can’t even find the time to open the emails containing them, even when progress is off the charts. That said, offering monthly reports as part of SEO is widely considered a best practice — and, if you don’t yet offer them, you don’t want to lose clients to agencies that do.
Before we get into the details of what to include in a valuable report, let’s talk about two types of report metrics you’ll want to distinguish: vanity metrics and actionable metrics.
Types of SEO Report Metrics
Your monthly SEO reports serve as regular progress reports. They should also aim to help you and your clients make better business decisions. If your reports are all fluff, they won't be able to provide the value you need them to.
Vanity Metrics look good when the numbers are heading in the right direction, but they can’t really guide business decisions or SEO strategy. If reporting metrics don’t make action steps obvious or help with course corrections, they are essentially useless.
A few examples of vanity metrics include sessions, page views, average keyword rank, total organic keywords, etc.
It’s fine to sprinkle a few of these in your reports, but you shouldn’t solely rely on them. Pulling together reports filled with vanity metrics is a waste of time for you and your clients. Instead, make sure your SEO reports contain lots of actionable metrics.
Actionable metrics help you and your clients make strategic business- and SEO decisions based on performance.
Examples of actionable metrics include conversions, time on page, individual keyword performance, individual page performance, etc.
Now that we've distinguished between those two types of metrics, let's talk about how to construct a basic monthly SEO report.
What to Include in Monthly SEO Reports
It's often best to include a mix of vanity and actionable metrics in your monthly SEO reports. Here are some of the relevant metrics we’ve found the most useful.
General traffic metrics like sessions and pageviews don’t offer specific information that’s relevant to SEO strategy; they’re vanity metrics. They don’t tell you much more than whether your traffic is going up or down. While they don’t measure the quality of your traffic, you can visualize traffic as a trendline in order to compare numbers month-over-month and year-over-year.
Clients — especially small- to medium-sized businesses — seem to want to see these vanity metrics, and it doesn’t hurt to give your clients what they want. To make the traffic numbers more insightful, consider breaking them down in the following ways:
Traffic by Marketing Channel
When you break down traffic by marketing channel, you’re able to quickly see which marketing initiatives are bringing in a client's traffic. You can use this information to prioritize future digital marketing initiatives. While this information isn't SEO specific, it does inform how SEO fits into the greater whole of a marketing strategy.
Traffic by Visitor Location
Breaking down your traffic based on visitor location is also a great way to gain additional insights. If you’re underperforming (or over-performing) in certain geographies, you’ll be able to adjust your strategy accordingly. If a client runs a hyper-local business, however, visitor location becomes less useful.
Traffic by New vs. Returning Visitors
One other useful way to break down traffic is by looking at new vs. returning visitors. If a client is getting mainly new visitors, they may want to focus on strategies to bring those visitors back to the site. If a client only has returning visitors, however, this means that the audience isn’t expanding, and they may want to focus any marketing initiatives on growing brand awareness. The right mix of visitor types will depend on a given client’s business goals.
While your clients may enjoy seeing the traffic metrics mentioned above, don’t forget to include valuable actionable metrics in your reports, as well.
User Engagement Data
User engagement data includes both vanity and actionable metrics. User engagement data also tends to make more sense when considered in the context of website content. For example, average time on site doesn’t tell you much, especially if your content types vary across the site. Bounce rate isn’t detailed enough, either. But some user engagement metrics — like pages per session and time on page — can be slightly more insightful, because it’s easier to tell which content is either helpful or needs more work.
Content Performance Data
Content performance metrics can be very valuable. Reporting at the page level helps you understand what is and isn’t working when it comes to SEO and content strategy.
From an SEO standpoint, a top-performing organic landing page report can be highly valuable. This is because it shows you how well your content is performing and which content can be improved. These reports are made even more useful when they include overall session and time-on-page data.
Keyword Ranking Data
It’s essential to know which keywords your client’s audience uses to find their products and services. It’s even more useful to know exactly which pages on your client’s site are or aren’t generating traffic for those specific keywords.
Clients love to see their pages performing well for the keywords they know their audience is using. When certain pages aren’t performing well, you know exactly where your efforts are needed.
Here’s an example of what keyword ranking data can look like.
Let’s now get into the most important actionable metric of all: conversion data.
Conversion data directly ties your SEO efforts to the business goals you’re helping your client achieve. Highlighting positive conversion data trends is an easy way to prove your worth to your clients.
To successfully track conversions, you first need to identify and understand your client's business goals. From there, you can identify the website visitor actions that positively affect those goals. For example, if a client wants to grow their newsletter audience, you can track how many people subscribe to their newsletter via their website. Each signup counts as a conversion.
Start by identifying business goals and then the key performance indicator (KPI) that can measure each goal. In the example above, the goal is newsletter audience growth and the KPI is the number of new subscribers.
If your clients need basic SEO reporting, data from the above categories should be more than enough to populate a report. Services like Pathfinder SEO make this data gathering simple by automatically generating everything mentioned above (and then some) into SEO reports for your clients.
Some clients may need highly customized reporting. In those cases, you’ll want to curate data using a tool like Google Data Studio that allows for a greater level of customization.
Remember: you’re reporting for your clients. No matter which reporting solution you choose, make sure your reports are more than just fluff. Your reports need to contain actionable data to guide your SEO strategy and decision-making. If they don’t, you may struggle to show your worth and therefore be vulnerable to losing clients. Don’t make that mistake; be helpful and thorough.