Posted by Cyrus-Shepard
New year, new you — when it comes to SEO reporting, at least! We’re kicking off 2020 with a comprehensive yet gloriously simple recipe from Cyrus Shepard for creating truly effective SEO reports. From tying KPIs to business metrics to delivering bad news effectively, your reports have never looked so good.
Okay, so we have 400 broken pages. Ah, we rank number 7 for best plumbers in Idaho. Oh, hey, Moz fans. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today I’m talking about SEO reports, specifically how to create 10x SEO reports.
I’ve gotten hundreds of SEO reports like this in my career, and I’ve got to tell you that’s useless. No one is reading those. This is unfortunate because this is your direct way to communicate the value of what you’re doing, drive action, and essentially make more money with your job. Now a good SEO report tries to accomplish three things:
- You want to tie the report directly to your business metrics.
- You want to show the value of SEO, what you’re doing, how SEO is delivering to those business metrics.
- Finally, you want to drive action. When people read your SEO report, you want them to take action on specific things, fix site issues, those sorts of things, etc.
But people make a lot of mistakes. Typically, if you’ve created SEO reports, if you’ve read SEO reports, you’ve seen these mistakes over and over and over again:
- It’s not a site audit. It’s not a list of every single thing that is wrong, every single traffic metric. It’s usually just the top things, the things that we want to focus people’s attention on.
- It’s not something that only delivers good news. You see these time and time again, SEO reports, they paint a rosy picture. But people aren’t dumb. They know that if their business is not improving and you’re continually delivering good news, you’re not really tying SEO to the business.
So we want to create even reports.
5 things to include in every SEO report
Now over the years, with the reports I’ve created, I find that there are generally five key things that you want to include in every SEO report that help you drive action and show the value of SEO and ultimately help you make more money.
1. 2–4 KPIs
The first thing that you want to include in every SEO report is KPIs. These are key performance indicators. These tie directly to your business metrics. Generally, you want to include about two to four of these. You want to keep them top of mind.
A) Conversions, goals, sign-ups, downloads, etc.
Now, generally in SEO, these can be conversions, goals, e-commerce, how many things are you selling. It can be sign-ups for your email newsletter. It can be downloads.
Generally, anything having to do with money, your business metrics, or your key performance indicators, these are good things to include.
Pro tip: When reporting on your key performance indicator, organic traffic, the SEO work that you do is often the last conversion channel that people will use. So it’s good to use assisted conversions.
This is often found in Google Analytics or whatever analytics program that you use. This will set a look-back window and show how organic traffic, how your SEO efforts contributed even if their last visit was direct. So it’s good researching that and understanding how you can use assisted conversions in your reporting.
B) Traffic MoM, YoY
Another key performance indicator that is very common in SEO reports is traffic. In fact, some people like to lead with it. I like to lead with the business metrics. But it’s inevitable that if you’re doing an SEO report, you’re going to include traffic.
Now if you want to make that traffic report a little more valuable, you need comparisons, generally month-to-month comparisons or more useful year-over-year comparisons. This helps avoid the problem of like traffic was down because of Christmas or a certain holiday or regional event.
So when you compare year-over-year, you can show actual performance that varies a little more reasonably.
2. Search visibility & share of voice
Second, and this is where a lot of people stumble, search visibility or share of voice (SOV). Now where people stumble is this is not a rankings report.
A lot of SEO reports include rankings. Rankings, I’ve got to say, really aren’t the best thing to include in your reports. Rankings fluctuate. They are so personalized from country, device, and individuals. So including rankings for individual keywords is not very informative. Fortunately, there are many great alternatives that you can include that are much superior to rankings.
A) Search visibility (click estimates)
Search visibility, you’ll find this in many SEO tools. Moz has it. Different SEO tools have it. It’s basically an estimation of clicks for all your tracked keywords. So if you’re tracking hundreds or thousands of keywords, search visibility can show you an estimation of how much traffic you’re actually getting from those keywords based on rank and search volume and things like that.
B) Share of voice (visibility & volume)
Share of voice is very similar to that, but it’s not based on clicks. It’s based on visibility and volume. For enterprise, STAT does an excellent job with share of voice. What’s cool about share of voice is it tracks all of your keywords against all of your competitors for those keywords. So if you have 200 keywords ranking for best plumbers in Wisconsin, it will show you where all your competitors are and how much of that traffic you are actually gaining, whether it’s 13% or 30%. That way you can track against your competitors. It’s a much better metric than those individual keywords that don’t tell you much.
C) Rank index (grouped keywords)
Finally, if you don’t have access to the premium SEO tools, you can do something which is called a rank index. A.J. Kohn has an excellent post on this. It’s a little older, but still very relevant.
A rank index is basically grouping all of your keywords by type. For example, maybe they all have the word “plumber” in them. You track their rankings together as a group, hundreds or thousands of keywords, and you can see fluctuations. That gives you a much better performance indicator than those individual keywords.
3. Site health
This is your on-page work, your technical SEO. Again, where most people stumble, this is not an audit. You don’t want to list every issue on your site, all the 404s, all the 500s, and things like that because no one really wants to read those things. They get very repetitive.
Focus on your most important issues
Instead you want to focus only on your most important issues. Generally, when I create an SEO report, that’s three to five issues. If people want more information, you can deliver it to them. You can give them in-depth downloads, site stats, and all that. But for the report, we only want to focus people’s attention on three to five issues, that they can actually fix, that you want them to work on. We’re going to list the most important issues on there that we want them to take action on.
Pro tip: When you’re writing your site health report, use the word “because.” When you use the word “because,” it helps people take action. For example, “We have a lot of 404 pages on the site because we introduced some new broken links.” That tells people that we have a problem, this is why, and they want to take action.
Also, if you’ve made any progress since the last time you showed the report, you fixed those 404s, this is a good place to include it.
4. Content performance
One thing I like to include, that often isn’t, is content performance. This is your top content, whether it’s a blog or whatever content you produce, by links, shares, and traffic.
Drive actions through recommendations
Now the reason I like to point out to the site owners content performance is because I want to show them what’s performing well to encourage them to create more of it. I want to drive action through recommendations. This content, this blog post that Britney wrote did very, very well. We should have Britney write another one on this.
Suggest topics, keywords, and authors
By doing this, you’re helping your client or your boss or whatever help you by creating that content that’s going to do well.
Highlight low-performing content
Also, if you want to highlight low-performing content or content that has gone stale and is going down, this is also a helpful place to do that, just to help inform the decisions of your content team.
This is probably the most important one. This is the crux of the SEO report — opportunities. Opportunities is the key that you’re trying to drive here. These are recommendations.
4–5 recommendations per month
Based on everything that we talked about here, what are the four or five most important things that we can do right now to improve SEO next month?
You want to prioritize. This is the most important. This is the second.
Keep it simple
We want to employ KISS. If you’re not familiar with KISS, it’s an acronym, keep it simple, stupid. You’re not stupid. You’re just going to keep it simple.
You want to make your recommendations as simple and easy to follow as possible. One, two, three, four, that’s it. We’re not going to include everything. A lot of SEO reports want to list dozens of things. We want to hold those back. If you have dozens of fixes that you need fixed on the site, it’s probably not a great thing to put them in there because you’re going to overwhelm your clients and bosses and people taking action.
Provide exact steps monthly
Again, four to five a month or whatever sort of cadence you’re on, weekly, monthly, and how many things you think your client can reasonably tackle. Next month you’ll give them four to five more, and you’ll stay employed and you’ll continually have a new list of things to work on.
Tie fixes to KPIs
You want to make sure they’re tied to the KPIs.
We want to fix these because they directly influence these. In fact, I want to shake things up a little bit. I know we listed number five as opportunities. Don’t end your report with that. Make opportunities the number one thing in your report. Open it up, here are the opportunities, and then here are KPIs, search visibility, etc., so they know exactly what they should be working on.
We just released a new guide on SEO reporting. You should check it out:
We released some new functionality in Moz Pro too if you’re into that sort of thing. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below. If you like this, please share. Thanks, everybody.
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