Most companies with an online presence have at least heard the term “SEO.” It stands for “search engine optimization” and refers to the process of improving your website so it will appear on relevant search engine results pages, or SERPs. These efforts can include content creation, keyword research, and link building, among others. The higher your website ranks on targeted SERPs, the more traffic it will likely draw — which in turn can increase your audience, sales, ad revenue, and brand awareness.
Each search engine has its own algorithm for determining SERP rankings, and these algorithms change frequently. Although we don’t know the exact formulas being used, we do know a bit about what factors into the results. Marketing professionals can use that knowledge to inform the design and content of a website. The first step is creating an SEO report to identify what your website does well and where you can improve.
What Is an SEO Report?
An SEO report summarizes how well a website is performing in search engines. It can be used as a diagnostic report, a progress update, or even proof of value. Most SEO reports will start with a review of organic traffic, click-through rates, conversion rates, keyword ranking, link building, and other SEO-related metrics. A thorough report will also include some analysis and application that show what all numbers mean. All this culminates in a series of conclusions or recommendations.
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What Do Clients Want to See in an SEO Report?
The exact content of an SEO report will depend on the needs and goals of the organization. However, the basic concept remains the same. SEO reports show what is working, what isn’t, and what can be done about it. In other words, an SEO report should show three things:
- Statistics: Include SEO metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) relevant to the business’s goals.
- Analysis: Offer insight into what the statistics imply about SEO performance and progress made.
- Direction: Describe what you believe the next steps should be, based on the statistics and your analysis.
As you write your report, consider its overall length and readability. Clients want a report that is informative and insightful without being overly long or technical.
Why SEO Reporting Is Important
SEO reporting serves several vital purposes, both for marketing professionals and the businesses that hire them. For instance, an SEO report can provide the following:
- A baseline against which to measure improvement.
- Direction and focus as SEO strategies are developed.
- Objective evaluation of the effectiveness of a campaign.
- Accountability and progress tracking.
- Clues about what adjustments need to be made.
- Concrete evidence of the return on investment (ROI).
How Do I Make an SEO Report?
Follow these steps to produce a high-quality SEO report:
- Identify SEO goals. Having a set of clearly defined goals will help you narrow down which SEO metrics to track and guide your analysis and recommended action steps. These goals should be broken down into two parts: the SEO metric you are targeting and the real-world result you are trying to achieve. After all, increasing site traffic (or whatever online benchmark you’re trying to reach) is not the ultimate goal. Figure out what big-picture target lies behind the SEO goals you set.
- Analyze SEO metrics. Compile the KPIs most relevant to your goals and analyze them. Explain what the numbers mean and why these metrics are important. Note areas of strength as well as weak points. The goal is to provide a full, up-to-date picture of SEO ranking factors and how the website is performing.
- Review existing SEO efforts. Summarize and evaluate existing SEO efforts. Describe what steps have already been taken to optimize the website and how effective they have been. Compare current efforts with the most up-to-date SEO recommendations you can find. Remember that search engines are constantly updating their algorithms, so what worked well a year ago might not be considered best practice now. Look for gaps and opportunities for growth.
- Outline SEO next steps. Leverage your analysis into actionable recommendations. What steps do you think should be taken to improve SEO and, ultimately, move the company closer to its big-picture goals? Be specific. Explain what you believe these changes will achieve and how you will measure progress.
- Review the completed SEO report. Before sharing your SEO report with other parties, review what you’ve written. Look for sentence-level errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Make sure your writing is clear and your formatting consistent. Typos and other minor errors look unprofessional and will distract from the substance of your report. A well-written report should be easy to read and understand, even for someone with no SEO experience.
Why Should You Produce a Regular SEO Report?
Producing regular SEO reports is important to justify the time, money, and other resources that a business invests into marketing. If your SEO efforts are not producing quantifiable results, executives and board members may question the value of SEO marketing and decide that their marketing budget would be better spent on other efforts.
Choosing SEO Reporting Metrics and KPIs
When it’s time to choose which SEO reporting metrics and KPIs to include in your report, the most important thing to consider is which metrics are most relevant to your goals. Here are a few examples of what an SEO report might cover:
- Keyword performance: One way to measure a website’s visibility is by tracking specific keywords that could drive traffic to the site. These keywords should be terms that users are likely to type into a search engine when they want to find a site like yours. For instance, a Honda dealership in Austin may want to focus on how well it ranks with keywords such as “Austin car dealerships” or “2021 Honda Accord.” An SEO report can provide information about how high your website ranks on the SERPs for target keywords compared to your competitors.
- Organic traffic: An SEO report may explain how many people find your site through organic activity, as opposed to clicks from paid advertising. Low numbers could indicate that you haven’t effectively targeted high-value keywords or that other SEO ranking factors have been neglected.
- Backlink profile: Backlinks are generated when another website links to yours. In general, backlinks are good — but not all backlinks are created equal. A good SEO report will evaluate both the quality and quantity of backlinks. The value of a backlink depends heavily on the anchor text used and the credibility of the linking site. Backlinks from spammy sites can actually harm your SEO rankings.
- Page views: In addition to overall traffic numbers, an SEO report might highlight the numbers of views for specific pages. This metric often shows more clearly the relationship between keywords and site traffic. For instance, when discussing page views, the report might note the highest-performing pages on a website and what keywords are leading people to them. It could also identify which pages see the least traffic and may be most in need of a refresh.
- Conversions: In most cases, attracting more people to your site is really a means to an end. You don’t simply want them to find your site; you want them to do something. For many businesses, the ultimate goal is to make a sale. However, you can track other types of conversions, too. Signing up for a mailing list, filling out an inquiry form, booking an appointment, RSVPing to an event, or making a donation are all good examples.
- Local SEO: If the website in question belongs to a local business, the SEO report should offer metrics specific to local traffic. This could include impressions, photo or post views, actions (such as how many people booked an appointment online or signed up for email updates), ratings, and reviews.
- Technical site health: Several technical aspects of a website also affect its SERP rankings. These include page-level factors such as content length, image optimization, publication date, and page loading time, as well as site-level factors such as mobile optimization, sitemap use, contact information, site uptime, and SSL certification. Reviewing these details can provide insight into web design, metadata, and format issues that need to be addressed.
SEO Reporting Tools You Need
The internet is full of tools that can help with the creation of your SEO report. These analytical tools will provide the data you need to evaluate SEO performance and track any changes over time, and many of them are free. Here are few examples of free SEO report tools:
- Google Analytics: This Google tool covers a wide range of metrics and can be used in conjunction with other Google tools, such as Optimize and Data Studio.
- Google Search Console: The data available via Google Search Console provides insight into a site’s search traffic and alerts you to potential issues.
- Google PageSpeeds Insights: This Google tool grades your site’s loading time, mobile performance, and desktop performance on a scale of 0-100.
- Bing Webmaster Tools: Although Google is by far the most popular search engine used today, the millions of people who prefer Bing make a look at the Bing Webmaster Tools worth your time.
- Enhanced Google Analytics Annotations: Download this Google Chrome plugin to help determine whether changes in your site’s SEO metrics can be attributed to an algorithm update or a major holiday.
- Answer the Public: If you need help identifying keywords to target, Answer the Public offers two free searches per day. You type in a couple of words, and the site generates a list of related keywords based on common search terms.
- Ahrefs Webmaster Tools: After verifying their websites, website owners can use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and Site Audit tools for free. These tools provide organic and paid traffic research, a backlink checker, and an exhaustive website analysis that flags potential SEO issues and offers recommendations for fixing them.
- Moz Local Listing Score: This tool from Moz will scan your business’s listings on a long list of search engines and directories to identify gaps, errors, and other issues.
- Similarweb: Because this tool can be used to view data on any website, it’s a great way to see how your site measures up to the competition. The free version provides limited information, but you can sign up for a paid account to unlock more features.
Other Things You Can Include in an SEO Report
In addition to the basic elements mentioned above, your SEO report could include the following:
- Information on how the client’s site compares with competing sites.
- Visual elements such as graphs, pie charts, or infographics.
- An overview of what has been done since the last report.
- Highlights from the metrics and analysis section.
- A concise list of next steps.
- A one-page or single-slide summary of the key takeaways from the report.
If you run across interesting information that doesn’t fit well into the main body of the report, you could include that as a supplement at the end. You could also include a list of citations or resources used, if relevant.
SEO Report Templates
Using an SEO report template can be a big time-saver. You can start with one of the many templates available online. For instance:
If you need more inspiration, Supermetrics has compiled its own list of SEO report templates.
Process of Creating an SEO Report
Although creating an SEO report from scratch may sound like a daunting task, the process is actually fairly simple:
- Compile key SEO metrics.
- Analyze and explain the data.
- Develop an action plan.
Of course, as we mentioned in the earlier how-to section, there are a few steps to complete before and after the actual drafting process. For instance, you need to identify specific goals beforehand, and you should take time to review your report once it’s finished. Still, the entire process does not need to be too complicated or time-consuming.
Once you have compiled your SEO report, it’s time to put your plan into action. Whether you represent a small business or a multinational corporation, a strong content marketing campaign can help you unlock better SEO performance. Consider bringing on an experienced content marketing team to develop high-quality website content optimized for search engines.