Why do we need to measure SEO efforts?
As you may have gathered, SEO can be a difficult marketing channel to fully understand. To ensure that you and any stakeholders you report to, appreciate the value of SEO, it’s important to measure the success of your efforts. This can help to justify the use of budget or time, and get more business buy-in, to increase SEO spend and accelerate success.
What is an SEO Report?
SEO reports give your clients, managers, and stakeholders an overview of how a website is performing in search engines. A good SEO report shows the progress of the campaign, including key commercial metrics that the business uses to define success, such as sales and revenue. The report should show this progress daily, weekly, monthly or yearly depending on the business. It should also provide insight into issues and opportunities, and offers recommendations for the next few months.
Producing a clear and simple report aligned to business objectives is important to communicate the value of SEO. This guide will help you understand what to include in your SEO reporting and how to build the perfect report.
Why create a report?
We know SEO can be seen as a bit of a mystery to some clients or bosses. A visual and easy to read report is your chance to showcase successes and justify your value.
Like with any marketing channel, you need to know your return on investment. This means analysing the data and tying your efforts back to revenue. A good SEO report allows you to see how organic traffic is contributing to the client’s business goals and conversions. This can then be used to get more budget for your channel or increase a project’s scope.
Do I need to create a dashboard or a report?
SEO Dashboards and reports are similar in that they are both used to communicate data and information about a campaign or project. Generally, dashboards are used as a quick real-time overview, often of day-to-day metrics and broader trends. A report, on the other hand, is usually delivered monthly or quarterly. It gives a more detailed analysis of the data, including commentary on what work has been done, and plans for future growth.
Your report or dashboard needs to be adapted to fit the audience. If it is being shared with the rest of your SEO team you will probably go into more technical detail, but if it is for the board or C-level management you may present data only related to ROI or business goals. Talk to your audience in a language they understand.
What to report on and track for SEO
Start with the end goal in mind
When measuring and reporting on SEO, you should always start with the end goal. Why are you spending time optimising for organic search?
Firstly, start by establishing one specific primary end goal. This goal should be related to the commercial business objectives, for example revenue and sales. Additional objectives and KPIs should then be set and monitored on a monthly basis. These will help you track and establish if your SEO efforts and working and whether your end goal is achievable.
Specific SEO metrics you value as important, such as rankings and site speed can also be tracked monthly to help you focus your efforts and keep a better pulse on site health and growth.
|Company||End Goal (Annual)||Additional measures|
|Ecommerce||Achieve 2,000 online sales and £20,000 in revenue||
|Restaurant||Achieve £120,000 in revenue||
|Building company||Achieve £100,000 revenue from 10 large clients||
Goal setting tips
You’ve probably heard of the SMART way set objectives. This approach also applies to SEO. Specifically, here are our top tips to set your SEO goals.
- Make them measurable: If you can’t track a KPI, you can’t improve it.
- Be specific: Don’t let vague industry marketing jargon water down your goals.
- Timely: Set a timeline for achieving your goals and reforecast if needed
- Share your goals: Studies have shown that writing down and sharing your goals with others boosts your chances of achieving them.
SEO metrics you could report on
Once you know who your report is for, you need to decide what KPIs to track and present. Let’s explore some of the useful metrics you might want to measure.
Commercial SEO metrics
- Organic goal completions – monitor and report how SEO has contributed to achieving the goals you’ve set-up for your website. This could be leads, subscriptions or anything else you deem valuable.
- Organic revenue – if you operate an ecommerce site, how much revenue is being driven organically? How does it compare to your other channels?
- Conversion rate – conversion rate is a percentage and looks at how much of your unique traffic is completing your goals. The aim is to drive and convert more relevant traffic through SEO, thus seeing your conversion rate increasing overtime.
The main reason for investing in SEO is to get more traffic through search engines. How many people are reaching your site through organic search? Google Analytics and Google Search Console data can help you understand this.
When using Google Analytics, always remember to segment or filter by “organic” to avoid other channels skewing the data.
- Traffic over time – how has your organic traffic volume changed over time? Is it increasing monthly and yearly?
- New users – how many new potential customers is organic search driving to your website? Are they converting to leads or customers?
- Site content – which pages are performing the best and worst?
- Organic visitors by device type – we know that generally the majority of traffic is driven by mobile today. What’s the device split on your website? Are you doing enough to optimise your mobile experience?
- Non-branded traffic – are you increasing traffic from generic queries not including your brand name?
- Click-through rate – indicates whether your title and meta description entices users to click-through to your site
How are people behaving once they reach your site? Google Analytics data can help you understand this.
- Time on page – how long people spend engaging with a page.
- Pages per session – did you keep users engaged enough to continue to the next step? For example, a product, service or quote page.
- Pages per visit – did you keep users engaged enough to continue to the next step? For example, a product, service or quote page.
- Bounce rate – indication of a searcher visiting a page and leaving without browsing the site further
- Scroll depth – measures how far visitors scroll down individual webpages. Are they reaching your important content?
Other common SEO metrics
In general, we recommend that senior-level SEO reports should avoid focussing on vanity metrics, such as those we mention below. Scores such as, Domain Authority and Domain Rating are not used by Google so cannot directly explain your organic performance. Instead, these metrics are useful to help you benchmark your competitiveness against competitors and understand a website as part of your auditing.
- Rankings – the average position of your website in search for engines for a given keyword or query. The higher you rank, the more traffic you can expect from SEO.
- Domain Authority – a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages
- Domain Rating – an Ahrefs’ metric that shows the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile (in terms of its size and quality)
- Backlinks – Total number of backlinks pointing to your common. Avoid focusing on total quantity, rather than on the number of quality and relevant links
- Trust and Citation Flow – Majestic metrics looking a popularity and trustworthiness/relevance of website based on their backlink profile
- Performance score – a Lighthouse overall score based on various metrics impacting real-user experience on your site
When and why should you avoid focussing solely on keyword rankings?
Rankings are generally considered the most important SEO metric to monitor and measure success. However, sometimes obsessing over rankings can take your focus away from what matters and being realistic.
Your SEO position and traffic don’t necessarily increase the bottom line. You need to focus on keywords with the right searcher intent, as well as ensuring your site is optimised to convert. Rankings fluctuate daily so position 1 can be difficult to maintain, however, a good user experience will convert and evergreen content will drive incremental traffic increases.
Additionally, unless you spend thousands or more than your competitors on SEO annually, you probably won’t achieve position 1 for a 200,000 monthly search volume term. This shouldn’t deter you from SEO though as there are plenty of opportunities to go after. For smaller companies with less budget, longer-tail search terms that are less competitive can be easier to rank for. Additionally, they often convert better than broad competitive keywords.
As a final point on these metrics, you also need to think about how to present them. If it is a monthly report you typically compare the relevant metrics against the previous month. For traffic trends, backlink growth and keyword visibility you would typically plot these over 12 months.
What else should I add to a report?
At upUgo we always add a summary page first. This is your chance to explain what work has been done during the previous period, why it was done, and what work you plan to do next. Your report should bring all the data together and build a story that even your grandma could understand!
An effective SEO report should detail:
- Campaign progress: How have you grown organic traffic this month or how many keyword positions have moved positively? Share your knowledge and explain how the campaign is progressing.
- Insights: Highlight any issues or opportunities.
- Recommendations: What you would recommend the client do to reach their goals?
What tools do I need to build my SEO report?
A good report requires good data but it shouldn’t be a time-consuming task to bring it all together. If you are spending hours of your clients’ time each month reporting then you have less time to get the results they are paying for. Wherever possible, the data feeding your report should be automated. For a simple SEO report, you should find that Google Analytics and Google Search Console are sufficient data sources. If you want to report on keyword rankings and backlinks more accurately, then a paid SEO tool will likely be needed.
To build your own report from scratch using free tools you can use:
- Google Data Studio – This is to create the report
- Google Analytics – For traffic, site behaviour, and goals/revenue data
- Google Search Console – Click data, search data
- Google Sheets – For any manual data
If you want a more in-depth report and have some budget for a paid tool, add:
How to build your report
- For a simple report that uses free tools start with Google Data Studio. You can use a template included in the tool, find some free ones online, or make one from scratch. Often it can be a combination of all three.
- Get your report styling set up: change the default font to your company’s font, add your company logo, your client’s logo and set any style options to your brand colours.
- Use the first page as an overview of the month. Write up a brief summary of what was done and add any insights or next steps.
- To keep a clear structure to your report, start top level before moving into more detailed data. Present overall traffic and keywords trends and compare topline metrics against the previous period.
- These metrics can easily be pulled from Google Search Console and Google Analytics. Connect both of these as a data source in Data Studio and you will be able to create almost endless visuals.
- After your initial overview, present conversions and goals to highlight how organic traffic (and therefore your SEO efforts) is contributing to revenue and business growth. This is key to showing the importance of SEO. Again, this data should be easily accessible in Google Analytics if you have goals set up or eCommerce analytics switched on.
- Finally, report on keywords and positions. Clients love to know they are outranking competitors for key terms. This is where the report gets a bit more granular so it’s good to put it at the end for those that are interested. You can use Google Search Console data to plot average positions, or export from a keyword tool into a Google Sheet and then into Data Studio. If you are working on a large site with thousands or tens of thousands of keywords, then provide a filtering option or focus only on key agreed pages.
How long does it take to see SEO results?
How quickly you will see results depends on a few things, namely:
- Your budget or how much time you invest in SEO
- The consistency of your activity
- The existing state of your website (e.g. it’s brand new or has just be given a Google penalty)
- Organic competitiveness in your niche
- How often search engines crawl your website
Depending on the above, I would aim for 3 months to one year to see consistent incremental growth. New or penalised websites could be closer to a year. If your boss or client wants to see results quicker, we’d recommend increasing the budget, time, and consistency of your SEO efforts.
Recap on reporting
The perfect SEO report should:
- Be aligned to the overall business goals
- Straight to the point commentary to summarise performance from a top-level perspective
- Focus on the commercial metrics first, followed by additional success measures
- Includes an explanation or simplification of complex terms
- Shows monthly and yearly changes
- Includes a digestible and useful amount of information (not too little or too much)
- Is easy to navigate
- Has a good visual design and company’s logo
Need a helping hand with your SEO and reporting? Get in touch to find out more about upUgo’s services.