SEO Reporting in 2018

April 10, 2018

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The importance of SEO reporting cannot be underestimated. Your SEO campaign is only as strong as the measurement methods being used to track it.

It’s best to take a holistic approach to SEO tracking and reporting on a campaign by campaign basis. What we mean by this, is that for every new campaign you start, you should re-evaluate the key performance metrics (KPIs) that will matter most to that specific marketing effort.

It’s great to have basic guidelines in place for keeping track of your campaigns’ progress, but it’s a lot more effective to tailor your tracking/reporting tactics to each individual campaign. That way you can easily take note of the metrics that are most important for that specific effort.

We hope this article can provide you with some guidance so that you can go forth with your SEO campaigns with confidence and accurately measure the fruit of your labors.

SEO Reporting 101

Your approach to SEO reporting should be primarily shaped by 2 factors:

1) The campaign’s purpose/goals and the type of campaign it is

2) What will be easiest for both C-suite execs and non-tech savvy clients to digest

The first step is non-negotiable because you need to understand what impact you hope the SEO campaign will have. For example, one desired impact could be optimizing a retail ecommerce store for specific keywords in the hopes of widening their demographic and online reach.

Once you can clearly articulate the impact the SEO effort would ideally have (whether it’s visibility oriented or sales oriented) it will be a more straightforward process to track and show the value growing over time.

When your reporting reflects the thoughtful measurement of intentional KPI’s organized and condensed into a concise performance review, senior management and your clients alike will be satisfied.

Using KPIs as Your Anchor

Your reports should hone in on the KPIs that your marketing team decided to measure closely. Whether the KPIs are financial, behavioral or engagement based will depend on the type of campaign and the targets.

As we mentioned, the KPIs and targets will naturally change depending on the company and the client. Nevertheless, certain core organic metrics that demonstrate how SEO generates an impact are universal.

Also, it’s better to report on more than less metrics. Even though it’s critical not to get too scattered with your tracking and reporting, it’s also worth it to cover other relevant metrics.

However, it is very crucial to make sure these additional metrics can complement and help explain/bolster your core KPI’s. Otherwise, it might be difficult for the reader of the report to understand the relationship between the metrics (which can lead to confusion, frustration and doubt).

Let’s take a look at the 7 aspects of reporting that we have found the most helpful:

1) Website Traffic

Analyzing your web traffic is a key aspect of ensuring your SEO reporting is where it needs to be. Google Analytics is the most reliable way to track your SEO campaign progress. Whether or not you choose to use other paid services like SEMrush to help you organize and interpret this data is up to you and your team. These tools and platforms are driven by Google Analytics.

Using a week-on-week, month-on-month and year-on-year comparison, you can look at the sessions. You could even look at sessions on a quarterly basis, depending on the use case. A single session is defined as a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. One user’s session can contain multiple page views and business transactions.

Using the “Campaigns” section of Google Analytics, you can track sessions accurately in GA, is through. First, click Acquisition in the left navigation. Next, select “Campaigns”, and then click “Organic Keywords”.

You will see this takes you to a list of keywords. However, it’s much better to switch the primary dimension on Google Analytics to “Landing Page”, which shows all sessions that have arrived to your specific webpage organically.

Once you decide on a method of recording sessions from GA, don’t switch up your method for a considerable period of time. The more consistent you can be, the more accurate Google Analytics will be. After all, Google Analytics is only a tool. Like any tool, Google Analytics is only as effective as the person using it.

2) Online Visibility & Engagement

Your Online Visibility is going to be determined by your search visibility. Search visibility is a fantastic way to summary your organic performance.

There are a lot of factors that come into play such as: the number of terms you rank for, where you rank for them. Other things to consider are the search volume they have, and the estimated traffic they will drive as a result.

After all of this data is accounted for, a single score is then calculated and trended over time. When you set things up in this way, it’s super efficient for your reporting efforts.

3) Conversion Rate

If you’re a company that sells products or services online, then this metric is going to be of particular importance to you for your reporting efforts.

The financial impact of your web traffic, search visibility and engagement is critical to prove the overall effectiveness of your efforts. Luckily, Google Analytics has all the capabilities you need to create a reliable way to implement goal tracking in an ecommerce context.

The tricky part is that many marketers (even experienced ones) don’t fully understand how to put in place the correct goal tracking mechanisms in Google Analytics. How you set up your Google Analytics tracking for an online business depends almost entirely on how you define “conversion rate”.

It very well could be that you define a conversion as a lead or promising inquiry. On the other hand, conversion rate for you and your team could be strictly defined as a purchase.

First, let’s look at the scenario where a conversion for your company is a lead and not necessarily a purchase. In this case, the key metrics would be as follows:

1) Conversion Rate
2) Conversion Volumes

Next, let’s think about it from the perspective that your definition of a conversion is strictly a purchase. This would be the case if you were an online clothing retailer. In this example, there would be a few morel metrics to take into account that you didn’t account for before:

1) Total Revenue
2) Average Order Value

You might be wondering where exactly in Google Analytics you can find this valuable information.

It’s actually in the same area of Google Analytics, but the ecommerce-specific numbers are found near the top of the page, under the tab heading called “Explorer”. When you find that, you will then see an “E-Commerce” option which will show you the aforementioned metrics.

Google Analytics can also reveal lead generation conversions. However, in order to find these, you need to navigate to the area on the left of the navigation and select “Goals” and then “Overview”. This will enable you to see the Source/Medium, which reveals goals achieved from organic search.

4) Landing Page Success

In most cases, your website is going to have multiple landing pages. Keeping track of these landing pages and figuring out which of them drive the most traffic (and conversions) is important for you to accurately track and report on.

Naturally, there are pages that historically drive value and that are needed to track performance. However, it’s critical to realize which of your webpages are doing what they’re supposed to do and which need a revamp in order to attract the amount of traffic you need.

One effective method for achieving this is to create a summary report to list the top performing landing pages. First, go to the “Acquisition” tab on the left hand side of Google Analytics. Next, select “Campaigns”. Finally, click “Organic Keywords” and set “Landing Page” as the primary dimension.

5) Search Engine and Keyword Rankings

Keyword rankings are likely important markers of success from the perspective of your clients. Frequently, they’ll have a specific vision of a certain key term achieving a top 5 search engine result ranking, and they’ll be disappointed if it isn’t achieved.

In these cases, it’s important to remember to clearly communicate with the person you’re reporting to that SEO is a long-term, ongoing process in which results cannot be guaranteed in a restricted time frame.

Many SEO experts are actually gravitating towards a more holistic approach that no longer obsesses over specific keywords’ or key phrases’ rankings. Nevertheless, kyword rankings are still quite often a key KPI for many businesses, so they need to be reported on carefully and accurately.

If you’re unsure of what tool to use to help analyze keyword rankings, we recommend SEMrush. SEMrush’s keyword analysis tool is not free, but the depth and clarity of the insight it provides makes it one of the best tools of its kind on the market.

However, if you want to save money and don’t mind teaching yourself a few things along the way, default to using the Google Search Console. When you click on “Search Analytics” within the Console, you’ll be able to see a list of keywords and precisely how many clicks each keyword generated within a time frame of your choosing.

Better yet, the filter bar option (which you can find at the top of the page) enables you to add the position of the keyword in the search engine results pages by simply clicking the Position box. When you are able to find the average position of each of your key terms, it allows you to trend the top ranking ones over time in order to do weekly/monthly/annual comparisons.

Additionally, this feature shows you which key terms are most effective for you and that’s super useful if the most effective terms are not the same as the vanity metrics, which is an important distinguishing factor.

6) Backlink Metrics

Backlink metrics are so incredibly important. They are an excellent way to show how your on-page SEO efforts are empowering your website to acquire backlinks from legitimate sources. Since link acquisition allows a site to rank better and have more visibility/reach, it’s an extremely popular and competitive tactic.

These are two common metrics to track/trend regarding website reputation:

1) Domain Authority – This free tool from Moz is a Chrome extension that measures the authority of the site’s link profile.

2) New Referring Domains – SEMrush can show you the new sites that are linking to your home page, blog, etc.

7) Trends

When you try to look at KPIs in isolation, it’s never a good idea. Context is key in reporting. Follow these 3 tips:

1) Try to understand the reason behind your landing page driving more conversions.

2) Try to concretely figure out the effect that any recent technical changes you made could have had.

3) Consider if your traffic has decreased anywhere and if you might need to revert to a previous tactic because a new method isn’t delivering the kinds of results you were expecting.

Just because you thought you were making a positive change doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily produce positive results.

It’s also important to consider how a website’s new and improved customer/user journey/experience is affecting engagement.

When you trend key metrics over time, it’s one of the most surefire methods to show growth. There are a multitude of different factors that contribute to how metrics trend.

Therefore, you can’t necessarily account for everything at once. At the end of the day, you need to pour all of your energy into reporting on what’s most important to you, your boss/CEO, and/or your client.

In Summary…

Reports should always help you make a decision, but not necessarily directly dictate your course of action. Instead, the action you take off a report should be forming a carefully constructed decision making process.

For example, one question an SEO report could help answer would be, “How is changing the design of our user experience affecting our customers’ online engagement and interactions on social media?”

The best thing you can possibly do to help you with your reporting is to make sure it’s accurate and carefully executed.

As SEO experts, Chainlink Relationship Marketing can help you make sure you’re implementing strategies that produce tangible results and the highest ROI possible.

Reach out to us below to learn more about how we can help your business grow online. We’d love to give you a free consultation.

Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive tips and strategies that are both effective and easy to follow.

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