Does your SEO reporting give you what you need?

7 Minute Read

We explain the importance of SEO reporting, how to run an SEO report, what should be included and why it should deliver more than historical campaign performance.

An SEO report provides a visual summary of a website’s performance in search engines. The basic premise is that a report should show how metrics and KPIs vary over time to illustrate the impact of your search marketing strategy.

In the early days of search marketing, this may have been enough to show senior directors that SEO was making an impact. Now, we have more access to data than ever and simply showing monthly traffic volumes isn’t going to cut it. Modern SEO reports need to offer a comprehensive breakdown of SEO activities, demonstrate the value of your data and attribute campaigns to business objectives.

How do I run an SEO report?

The purpose of an SEO report is to demonstrate the progress your organic search strategy is making. You want to illustrate historical performance over time and attribute changes to specific marketing actions so you can prove the value of your efforts.

There are six key steps in SEO reporting:

  1. Define your audience: Know who each report is for and what their priorities are.
  2. Choose your data sources: Are you simply using Google Analytics and Search Console data or pulling insights from other sources, too?
  3. Choose your metrics & KPIs
  4. Compile your data: Bring all of your data into one analysis tool so you can manage, clean and compare.
  5. Analyse your data: Determine the most important insights from your data and look for new findings by comparing datasets.
  6. Visualise your data: Show your findings in the most visually descriptive way.

SEO reporting has come a long way over the years and data literacy has improved at the same time. You can’t send shareholders screenshots of Google Analytics charts showing traffic numbers for the past month and call that an SEO report – anyone can log in to Google Analytics these days and see this data for themselves.

To create a descriptive and meaningful SEO report, you have to pull in data from multiple sources. Otherwise, you’re not telling recipients anything they couldn’t find out themselves by using the same reporting tools.

For example, our standard SEO reports compile data from many sources, including:

  • Google Search Console
  • Google Analytics
  • Google AdWords
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Google My Business
  • Google Page Speed
  • Bing Webmaster Tools
  • SEMrush
  • Moz
  • Majestic
  • Ahrefs
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn

By combining data from these sources, we’re providing in-depth information that saves our customers from logging into all of these platforms and comparing data. Still, we don’t simply want to pull reports from each data source into a new report that has nothing new to say.

We want our reports to provide insights our customers can’t get anywhere else.

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So we pull all of this data into our custom-built intelligent automation system, Apollo Insights. The platform analyses the combined data to find new insights that can’t be found from a single source.

For example, we analyse keyword data from Google Search, SEMrush and several other sources to find Keyword boost opportunities for our customers. These are keywords where they’re currently ranking just outside of the top positions, meaning we might be able to get them up in the top-ranking spots by ramping up content production for those terms and running some key SEO checks.

Boost opportunities from a Vertical Leap SEO report

Our customers won’t get these recommendations using any other analytics tool, which means our reports deliver value. We also discover new content opportunities, identify competitor weaknesses and a range of other insights that maximise the impact of our SEO actions.

So we’re not simply combining datasets from multiple sources into a single report. We’re using all of the data we have available to analyse our customers’ search performance in great detail and find unique insights that will give them a competitive edge in the SERPs.

Why is SEO reporting important?

The most important function of an SEO report is to attribute success (and failure) to specific marketing actions. You need to show stakeholders and other senior figures that your SEO strategy is having a positive impact upon business and this means attributing key metrics, such as clicks, page visits and conversions to revenue.

This is the primary purpose of an SEO report but it’s not the only one it should play.

Your SEO reports should also demonstrate the lessons learned from specific marketing actions, campaigns and experiments. These lessons lead to further success and board members should see where any failures are valuable lessons, too – ones that contribute to future successes.

Transparency plays a key role in this, too, with your reports showing SEO activity, attributing outcomes and establishing accountability for the good, bad and everything in between.

Add all of this together and your SEO reports provide ongoing proof of the impact your SEO strategy is having upon business results.

What should be in an SEO report?

To an extent, this depends on who your SEO report is designed for (senior executives, other marketing teams, etc.) and the information you want to convey. Your reports will also vary depending on the type of customers you’re dealing with because an eCommerce business and, say, a B2B software company have different priorities.

That said, most of our SEO reports include to following sections, as standard:

  • Highlights: A summary of the report and its key findings including stats, visualisations and notes from our SEO team.
  • Keyword performance: A summary of monthly and historical keyword performance with impressions, clicks, average position and CTR, as well as device and geographical data.
  • Keyword groups: A series of graphs showing impression and click data for different keyword groups – eg: brand queries, content keywords, etc.
  • Keyword boost opportunities: A table showing keywords the customer is ranking for – just outside of the top positions – that can be optimised for rapid impact.
  • Page visibility: A summary of how each page performs in search, including impressions, clicks and CTRs, as well as the keywords used to find each page – plus device and geographical segments.
  • Website traffic: A breakdown of website traffic, including the total number of visits (sessions) and the number of individual users who visited (the same user can visit multiple times).
  • Page performance: A breakdown of individual page traffic, including total sessions, unique visitors, impressions, clicks, bounce rates, avg. time spent on page,  source (Google, Bing, etc.) and device type.
  • Event tracking: Analysis of key events on your website to track how users interact with your pages – eg: link clicks and form submissions.
  • Goal tracking: Analysis of conversion actions and goal completions to ensure your marketing objectives are being met.

Depending on the customer, we may include additional reports such as Google My Business analysis for local SEO or eCommerce tracking for online retailers.

The most important aspect of any SEO report is quality data but, as we’ve explained before, analytics is nothing without data visualisation. This is especially true for reporting where raw data is represented in visual formats that allow analysis to see patterns, gain insights and understand the meaning behind the numbers.

Given the amount of data in our reports, we can’t rely on static graphs or other visualisations. Instead, we have to create interactive reports with filters for our customers to segment data and interactive graphs so they can click on one data point to access more contextual information.

So, at the top of each page, customers can apply filters to segment data by dates, locations and other variables, depending on the reports in any given page.

Query filter in a Vertical Leap SEO report

Every graph is interactive, too, allowing them to look at monthly, weekly and daily comparisons. They can also click on one data point (eg: impressions + clicks for Jan 2021) or click specific keywords to access more insights, such as CTRs and average position.

With interactive visualisations, we can include significantly more visualisations in our reports and allow customers to explore this data without overloading pages with endless graphs. Instead, we can use one graph or chart to provide detailed insights and greater context.

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What are the best automated SEO reporting tools?

There are plenty of SEO reporting tools available on the market and the obvious names include Google Analytics, SEMrush and Ahrefs. The problem is, you don’t want to get all of your data from one source because they all provide unique datasets and they’re also vulnerable to occasional inaccuracies, which are easy to spot when you’ve got multiple data sources.

By using multiple data sources, you engage in something called recombinant data, which refers to the combination of data from multiple sources to create insights none of those sources could produce by themselves.

This improves the depth and quality of your insights by overcoming the following weaknesses of only using a single tool:

  • No single marketing tool collects all of the data available to you.
  • Generalist tools collect a broad but shallow set of data.
  • Specialised tools collect a detailed but narrow set of data.
  • People use tools based on preference and familiarity.

The downside to recombinant data is that it’s very time-consuming to do manually so this is why you need an automated SEO reporting tool – one that pulls data in from multiple sources and visualises it without any manual input (aside from the initial setup).

Here at Vertical Leap, we built our own intelligent system that not only pulls in data from dozens of different sources but automatically analyses it to find valuable insights no other platform provides. We call this platform Apollo Insights.

For example, Apollo collects keyword data including search volumes and competitiveness from all of the major keyword research tools. It can, then, analyse your target keywords, content performance and current search rankings to identify new keyword opportunities and prioritise them in order of difficulty and required resources.

This means we can pick the keyword opportunities that are expected to make the biggest impact – as fast as possible, with the least resource investment or a compromise of the two.

Normally, an SEO team would have to do this analysis manually for every customer but Apollo automates the entire process, as well as dozens of other analysis tasks. As a result, we can deliver transformational insights without our SEO team getting bogged down in repetitive tasks, such as compiling reports or running the same keyword research over and again.

This means our customers don’t need to pay us to keep performing these same tasks every month. Instead, we can focus our time on putting insights into action while Apollo keeps compiling new data.

Need help with your SEO reporting?

If your SEO reports are falling flat with senior executives or failing to demonstrate the value of your search marketing strategy, we can help you turn them into an asset. Speak to our SEO team by calling 02392 830 281 or filling out the contact form below.

Lee Wilson profile picture
Lee Wilson

Lee is Head of Services at Vertical Leap and has led search marketing departments and services in house and agency side since 2003. He is a multiple published author with books including Tactical SEO', 'Data-Driven Marketing Content' and '30 Minute Website Marketing'. He regularly contributes to Search Engine Journal, The Drum, and State of Digital sharing his insights on SEO strategy, content, and eCommerce.

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