When we're talking to prospects and marketers, one of the biggest issues we find they have with their current search engine optimization (SEO) agency or strategy is receiving a report that ties everything together. From research to tactics to results and next steps, having a comprehensive SEO report that paints the whole picture is imperative for any business who invests in SEO as part of their ongoing digital marketing strategy.

So, in that spirit, we wanted to put together a high level blog post that helps your marketing team prioritize the information that should be included in a solid SEO report that gets everyone on the same page and rowing in the same direction for driving quality traffic, leads, and ROI from search through your website.

Know Your SEO Goals

Before you can determine an effective search engine optimization strategy, you must know who you’re trying to reach. One of the most effective ways to know your target audience is to create a customer persona based on past sales data, market research, studying who buys from your competitors, and clearly identifying what makes the products and services of your company unique. Your customer persona should not only include basic information such as age, location, and income level, but also what searches they may be conducting to get to your site and products, and what content they need to have once they land on your website. One great way to get this information is to survey your customers.

Once you know who your target audience is, you have a better understanding of the type of content you need to publish to reach them. For example, a target demographic of young professionals with limited time who want to remain physically fit would appreciate content with tips on how to incorporate fitness into their busy schedules. Knowing what content to include makes it easier to plan the technical and offsite SEO tactics you need to accomplish to bring new readers to your website. Some of the most commonly used offsite SEO tactics include:

  • Article promotion
  • Commenting on blogs
  • Directories
  • Forums
  • Guest blogging
  • Press releases
  • RSS feeds
  • Video creation

Technical SEO means that you have taken the time to ensure proper coding on your website. Creating XML sitemaps, making sure pages and internals links aren't broken, having a mobile friendly website, as well as ensuring fast loading time for pages, are just a few examples of technical SEO done correctly.

Looking at everything you need to do to produce a high-ranking website can be overwhelming. The process runs more efficiently when you break down each of the tasks you need to complete such as content creation, offsite SEO, and technical SEO into weekly and monthly tasks. It’s also a good idea to run a monthly report to ensure that your organization is meeting its target goals and that your site is running efficiently to meet search engine best practices.

Know Your Key Performance Indicators (KPI)

As an online marketer, you must decide which metrics are most important for your company to achieve and then name them as your KPIs. While KPIs will vary from one organization to the next, factors such as bounce rates, conversions, conversion rates, time on site, and determining the percentage of organic and paid search engine traffic are essential metrics for any company that markets its products and services online.

Backlinks are critically important to the success of your websites and something you should include as a KPI. A backlink consists of a hyperlink on another company’s website that directs the reader to your website as a source of information. When others choose to link to your company, it tells the search engines that your website contains authoritative content.

You can acquire backlinks by using one or more of the offsite SEO strategies listed above. Another common way that businesses acquire backlinks, especially when new, is to exchange them with another company. Ahrefs, Majestic, or Moz Pro are just some a few of the tools you can use to alert you to the presence of backlinks from other business websites to your website. Here's a great starter guide from our friends at Moz.

Before placing new content on your website, be sure to research both keywords and long-tail phrases that people are most likely to use when searching for a business like yours. Google’s Keyword Planner is an excellent resource to determine how many monthly searches people perform for the keywords and phrases you’re considering as well as how much competition currently exists for each one.

You will want to continually monitor the performance of your keywords using tools such as Moz Pro or SEMrush. These tools also allow you to track the keywords and phrases used by your competition along with the performance of their websites.

Know What Your Team Needs to See

Meeting with your team regularly is the best way to ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals. As you present at each meeting, be sure to break down conversion, engagement, and organic vs. paid search engine traffic in a meaningful way. Storytelling, which has become so popular to reach customers in marketing, can also be an effective means of presenting information that your team is more likely to remember than facts and figures.

Remember that all numbers tell a story. When updating your team on monthly reports, try to start with the good news first of what they are doing especially well. Don’t be afraid to highlight specific individuals if their contribution has exceeded your expectations. This can naturally segue into what the team could do better as a whole and ways that your competition is succeeding that your company has not yet reached. You want people to leave the meeting feeling inspired, ready to take on challenges, and excited for how they can do even better with SEO marketing efforts.

Include “So What?” Data

You have done your research, implemented SEO strategies, monitored keywords and long-tail phrases, acquired backlinks, and provided your team with an SEO report update. Now it’s time to pull everything together to explain why it matters and where you go from here. For example, have the monthly performance reports made it clear what you need to prioritize in order to take advantage of specific organic opportunities? If not, what could you do differently to help you prioritize actions and goals for the entire marketing department?

If you feel disappointed with the results you're getting, it might be time to change the efforts and tactics you're implementing and test new avenues. The important thing is to continually evaluate the SEO marketing performance of your organization and take bold actions to change when you see disappointing results or the method of data collection is unhelpful or confusing to you.

Every SEO report and presentation should end with projections. For example, if your team completes a certain action, this is the result that you anticipate. You can then revisit the report next month to see if your team is making progress towards the desired result. Finally, review your report to make sure that next steps, results, and tactics described in it are tangible in some way and not merely abstract concepts. This empowers you and your team to move forward to reach the projections you identified in your report, and also keeps you moving toward your SEO goals and true ROI.

Work with an SEO Industry Leader

If you're having issues with your SEO reporting efforts or simply don't know where to start - give us a shout. We've been providing SEO strategy and reporting for over 16 years, having helped businesses build and execute world-class SEO and digital marketing strategies. Feel free to reach out - we're always happy to help where we can!