One of the most difficult and time consuming tasks to manage for SEO is reporting.
Every client, business and agency has different specialties and goals. Whatever these are, understanding which SEO metrics to report is a crucial part of any campaign you launch.
How will you be able to tell what’s working and what isn’t?
The fact is that you cannot make the necessary changes to improve your campaign strategies without reporting. While it is hard to create a simple formula or template that everyone can follow, there are some essentials everyone should follow.
8 SEO Metrics You Should Be Tracking
While each SEO campaign might have different goals, there are some KPIs that are important enough to be included every time. All SEO campaigns will be able to show success or failure using these metrics.
1. Organic Traffic
One of the most common signs of a successful SEO campaign is seeing increased organic traffic to your website.
This is true for backlinks, citations, content marketing, technical SEO, and so on. Your goal could be to improve domain authority, keyword rankings, or even just conversions. You will be using organic traffic to measure or calculate your main KPIs.
To measure your organic traffic, you will want to pull the following data from your GA account:
- Sessions — how often did users come to your website through search engines.
- Comparisons over time — compare your sessions week to week, month to month, and year to year.
- Landing pages — are the pages you worked on optimizing seeing an increase in sessions?
There is other traffic-based data you can pull from GA, and other ways to segment it depending on how you want to measure the success of your SEO. But you should always look at these parts at the very least.
The next thing you need to do is look at the actual engagement that users had with your website once they arrived.
This represents behavioural data that can help you find out if the user experience of your website is enough to compete in the SERPs.
You can build lots of backlinks and have the best technical SEO in the world, but if users don’t engage with it you have a problem. If most of your sessions end with people quickly leaving without ever engaging with the page, Google isn’t going to show your site to searchers as often.
Once again, Google Analytics is the best place to find this engagement data. You will want to focus on the following metrics for your organic traffic:
- Bounce rate — how many visitors left your website without viewing any other page.
- Avg. session duration — the average length of time that all your visitors browsed your website.
- Avg. pages per session — the average number of pages on your website that visitors viewed in their sessions.
The signs of a successful SEO campaign is a decrease in your organic bounce rate over time.
This typically (but not always) means that people like what they see when they come to your site. You also want to see an increase in your average session duration and pages per session.
3. Goals & Conversions
There are different types of businesses that will lead to differences in how you report on conversions and goals.
Some businesses are more focused on services than products. For these cases, you will want to report on leads, appointments, and so on. This can also be true for businesses that sell products, but not until an appointment is booked, like car dealerships.
In these cases, you want to pull the following from Google Analytics:
- Conversion rate — with increased traffic you also want to see an increase in the rate at which visitors convert.
- Conversion volumes — nothing sells success better than an increase in total conversion volumes.
- Conversion value — for when there is an average monetary value associated with appointments booked.
Any business that has an e-commerce element to their website will have a different sense of what a “conversion” is. These businesses will want to report on revenue generated through the website as a result of a SEO campaign:
- Total revenue — you want conversions to lead to higher revenue, not smaller and less valuable conversions
- Average order value — a higher average order value is another way to balance total conversions with valuable transactions.
- Return on investment (ROI) — you should be bringing in more total revenue than your total spend to generate that revenue.
Whatever your client wants to define as their ultimate goal, you should be able to measure it in your SEO report.
4. Landing Pages
Every SEO campaign will want to increase traffic, rankings, or conversions on specific pages. It could be your home page, or specific landing pages that you build or optimize for your campaign.
We briefly touched on landing pages in the Organic Traffic section, but you need to measure success beyond that. You need to show any metrics for these landing pages that relate to the type of SEO campaign your client wanted.
Aside from organic traffic, these metrics include:
- Engagement — did you lower bounce rates, increase session durations on targeted landing pages?
- Conversions — did you generate more conversions through the target landing pages?
- Rankings — did you increase the search rankings of the targeted landing pages?
- Backlinks — did you build more backlinks for your targeted landing pages?
If you cannot show improvements on the landing pages you worked on, your clients will question how much of any success was because of you.
5. Rankings, Keywords and Search Visibility
While not all SEO campaigns will focus on your website’s keyword rankings or visibility in organic search, it’s still important to measure. It will at least be able to back up that your SEO has had a positive impact.
There are two parts of this to include in your SEO report:
- Target keyword rankings
- Overall search visibility
The former has to do with quality, the latter with quantity. Both are important for any business.
Search visibility is important to measure to show your client that you are helping them grow their brand awareness. Target keyword rankings, on the other hand, measures visibility in searches that are the most relevant and important.
For example, let’s say your client sells running shoes.
More visibility from searches related to repairing running shoes isn’t bad, but it won’t help earn more revenue. You need to show that they have improved rankings and visibility for searches about buying running shoes.
6. Link metrics
Backlinks are one of the most important elements of any SEO campaign. Even when it isn’t always the main focus of your SEO strategy, it should lead to more links.
A great content marketing campaign should earn more backlinks organically, for example:
- Link growth — did the campaign lead to more backlinks over time?
- Domain authority — more links from relevant and quality domains should increase your client’s domain rating.
- New/lost domains — you should show more new linking domains gained over time than those that get lost.
These are all good signs that your on-page optimization or guest post outreach campaigns worked. Even if your client’s main goal is more focused on traffic or revenue, improving links and domains gained is a signal that your campaign is working.
All SEO reports should remember not to lose sight of the forest through the trees.
You shouldn’t panic at any sudden drop in metrics in the short-term, or get too confident at short-term success. Most SEO campaigns result in slow builds over time. It’s about trends, not sudden explosive changes.
Part of this is keeping in mind the marketing trends as well as trends of the industry, or your client’s niche.
Each new Google algorithm update tends to affect certain industries more than others. You need to keep these trends in mind whenever you see a significant change in your SEO reporting. This applies to decreases and increases.
Show your clients that you are on top of these trends, and you will only inspire continued confidence.
8. Commentary (Creating an SEO Report)
Analysis paralysis is a real thing. Even just these essential elements for SEO reporting can include a lot of data.
Your client doesn’t just want you to dump data on their plate and tell them to figure out what it means. Odds are they’re not familiar with the significance of most SEO metrics.
Plus, you don’t want them to take the wrong conclusions from the data.
Your reporting should include a commentary on what tasks you performed and point to the data points showing the impact. If there was anything like an algorithm change, make sure you mention it whether it helped or hurt your client.
Every SEO report should introduce the data, explain it, and outline how (if at all) you will improve on future performance. You need to anticipate the questions your clients would ask and have answers built into the report for them to see.
Putting Your SEO Report Together
With these eight essential elements of an SEO report explained, it’s time to pull it all together into one great report.
When it comes to report design, keep it simple. Create a section for each of the different metrics and clearly labeled with their own brief commentary.
Here are some general report design best practices you should follow:
- Balance text with visuals to make your information easy to digest.
- Use a single highlight color to draw attention to key information.
- Create a clear text hierarchy to make your report easy to navigate.
- Incorporate your branding for cohesive report design.
- Visualize your data with bar charts, line charts, bubble charts, and pie charts.
- Use a 2-column layout for optimal readability.
- Leave plenty of whitespace in your report design.
- Apply consistent motifs across every page of your report design.
- Use color blocks to group related information.
- Include an appendix with detailed tables and graphs.
Read More: How to Design a Report That Engages Readers
You don’t have to start from scratch each time either. In fact, it makes sense to use a marketing report template which you can edit for each client.
The data should be easy to read, so your clients can quickly find the information they want.
Make sure you put the metrics they care the most about at the start. Everything else that is essential to you but they might not care about as much can be put lower down.
A well put together SEO report lets your clients see the hard work you are doing and shows off your expertise.
Here’s a quick recap of what SEO metrics to include in your reports:
- Organic traffic
- Goals & conversions
- Landing pages
- Rankings & keywords
- Link metrics
It might not be your favourite part of SEO, but putting together reports for clients can be a useful way to build trust and show your value.