Ultimate Guides to SEO Reporting

SEO Reporting can take a lot of time and often the data is not not widely shared within the company. Sometimes it stays only within the SEO team (and the respective clients), it is filled with way too much information and is basically a data dump which is hard to understand for anyone not in SEO. This has a negative effect on the client as they soon lose interest.

In the past, these reports used to include rankings and organic traffic and sometimes the number of back links. They also did not always reflect all the results from the work the team had done that month/quarter. The SEO industry has developed since then and many of us have moved away from rankings and using this as a KPI metric, however reporting can still consume a lot of hours. It can be difficult for some teams to include metrics the C level wants to see such as conversions and overall traffic.

It is important to educate your clients and your wider marketing team highlighting the results as well as touching upon some of the technical changes to be made to the site to achieve even better results. Reporting should include processes, data analysis and insights.  At Tea Time SEO, we were joined by Steph, Barb and Christopher who each shared with us their own way of creating SEO reports which will take less time, get more buy in from the wider team and truly reflect the results from the past month/quarter.

Chapter 1. BigQuery and Automation

Big data set? You need to get familiar with Big Query!

The first thing I want to talk about is something that came into my life during lockdown when I’ve been asking myself how to do things faster and more efficiently, Big Query.

If you’re working with a lot of data, it’s a great idea to get acquainted with BigQuery. BigQuery is part of Google’s cloud services. It’s all hosted in the cloud, which means it’s extremely fast and is perfect for working with huge datasets. If you’ve ever been stuck in Google Sheets, with it crashing due to the huge amounts of data, then BigQuery will change your reporting life forever. Who knows what you can achieve if you start to save that time you previously spent in Google Sheets. 

BigQuery uses SQL, which stands for Structured Query Language. The great thing about SQL is that it’s quite human-oriented in terms of coding language. SQL can be complicated to learn, luckily, it’s well-resourced on the internet so there’s plenty of places you can practice or pick up tips. Big Query is very economical, around $5 per terabyte and you are given an allowance when you sign up for free on Google. The first million queries you’ll be running, (unless you work with ginormous datasets), will be cheap, if not free.

The other great thing about SQL is that it’s integrated with the programs that SEOs use, including Google Sheets, Google Data Studio, and Google Drive. If you have a massive data set you can upload it to Big Query’s cloud storage and use the data in all these tools and many more besides.

The one drawback of BigQuery is that it’s not great for exploratory tasks. If you need to finish a task and you know what it is you want to get out of BigQuery, then it’s really straightforward. However, if you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for and are in the research stage, then BigQuery is not for you. You need to know what you want to achieve first, break down your data and remove excess columns before starting the task.

For example BigQuery is really useful is when you have lots of log file data and want to combine it with Google Analytics and crawl data. Whatever provider you use, that’s a lot of data. Luckily, with BigQuery, it’s easy to combine this data and create a bespoke data source which you can analyse and work with quickly.

Automation is the future! Embrace it

My second tip is about saving time, and it’s really about automation. It does involve setting-up at the start, which is an investment on your time, but you will make this time up if you set it up efficiently.

1. Set up Google Analytics alerts

For example, set up an alert where if conversions drop week on week by 30 plus percent, you receive an automated notification. You can set up all kinds of automation in terms of report delivery. If you have a lot of stakeholders, you can amend within Data Studio the time range for the report so that it automatically updates itself and you don’t have to intervene. It can be delivered to the stakeholders the exact same time of every week, ready for their Monday meetings or reports.

2. Using APIs

Every piece of data we have at Blue Array, we extract using an API. The main tool that we use at Blue Array is Google Data Studio, which is great because it connects to almost everything. The only disadvantage with APIs is that your company might have a lot of bureaucracy, or you can struggle to get buy-in or budget from your managers. You can work around this by downloading the data that you need to use and connect Google Sheets as a data source within Data Studio. That can save you a lot of time and can circumnavigate that issue a bit.

‘Organic’ users and pages are not all the same - dig deeper

My last tip is that organic users and pages are not all the same. You need to dig deeper into your data, to understand it properly. 

Please refrain from saying in your reports, “This is the bounce rate for my website” because it doesn’t mean anything. You have different areas of your site which have different visitors, actions and behaviours. For example, your blog posts will have a different user profile in terms of behavioural metrics, compared to product pages which are transactional or converting. Both pages need to be treated differently.

In Google Analytics, you can automate data collection and set up segments and filters to use with the data, this will help you understand your data better. Google Analytics comes with some inbuilt segments, but you can set up your own depending on your business KPIs or anything you are looking at in detail. For example it could be days since last visit or number of visits before converting. This can give you more information to build actions and insights.

Finally, look for patterns that crossover with above-the-line efforts. This comes back to an important principle of reporting, which is communication. It’s not enough to report in isolation, and say, “These are the results” it is important to understand wider macro factors that are affecting your target market and how users are interacting with your website. Make sure you know what is happening in the wider marketing teams. Especially if you work in an agency, where you might not have those conversations with your client’s business. What marketing activities are being executed at the same time as your projects? Is there a PR campaign going live? This will also affect organic traffic. It is not enough to say, “We did this work and we had a 45% uplift in organic visits” it actually might be a myriad of factors.

Whether you are meeting the C-suite, the marketing or the SEO team, SEO reporting is about understanding the data and knowing what to do with it. You need to ensure the dashboard is operational and there are actions from the report. For example, if we’re getting this amount of clicks or if we’re seeing these keywords performing better it should be clear what direction the business and the SEO strategy is heading.

One of the ways that we’re trying to do this at IMPACT Extend is if you look at keywords, for instance, we might have a list of keywords that we’re tracking. Then we go in and blend the data, the organic traffic data with conversions from Google ads. These search queries, you can see directly in Google ads. You can see if they’re converting, or if they have led to assisted conversions. If they have, we can add this data to our rankings and decide if these keywords are not just important for the SEO team, but also for the C-suite, marketing and the wider business.

If we have landing pages that are not performing as well, we could go in and put in demographic data there. We can then see if the content that has been written is tailored to the right market. For example, if the bounce rate for that page is high and the target audience is 50 plus, we would have a look at the demographic data. If we take a closer look, we can see that it’s actually 20-30 year olds who are digesting this content. Therefore the content should be edited and tailored for that demographic.

It’s important that we ask ourselves the question, “What do want to show from the report?”” and  “How can we use this data from a business perspective?”. We are getting all the data from BigQuery into Power BI so we can dissect any information we choose and have it ready for the three different business units mentioned earlier.

How to encourage usage of the dashboard?

From Power BI we can nudge users to view the dashboard by sending them alerts, which can be screenshots of the dashboard in their inbox, once a week or month – the frequency is up to you. I would not suggest more than once a week to your clients as it can be a little overwhelming. However, you could send it to the internal SEO team once per day and set up rules to get notifications if you are reaching more than a certain amount of visitors. This way you are not waiting until the end of the month to report on figures but SEO reporting is becoming a daily task. Just a few minutes a day to investigate surges or drops in traffic instead of leaving it until the end of the month.

My last piece of advice which has worked well for our agency is to start thinking about SEO reporting as a tool that you can use within the company on a daily basis. It is not to be used just once a month, forgotten about until the next time you run the reports. Make sure SEO reporting is integrated within the business as a whole, not just for the SEO team.

Chapter 2. Target Metrics

Use target metrics instead of comparing year over year

I’m going to dive into some of the aspects that Steph touched upon. My first tip is that you should use target metrics instead of comparing year over year in dashboards.

The reason is that your top management will be comparing this year’s numbers with last year’s, instead of looking at the forecast. What is the forecast? That’s something which goes all the way down in the organization, so sales and marketing, they’re not looking at last year’s figures, they’re focussing on what targets they’re going to reach? Therefore, we need to align the metrics and measurements that management are looking at with what the teams are aiming for.

So, when we’re building dashboards, we’re setting up forecasts. Forecasts could be usual stats like impressions and traffic but also more relevant metrics such as conversions, leads, conversion rate and average order value.

When you look at target metrics instead of year-on-year traffic (especially with the 2020 coronavirus pandemic), you can react more quickly if the target metrics are not being met for that month. If they are too ambitious or the site is not performing well, then you can adjust the targets. If you look only at year over year stats and perform 10% better than last year, it might look great from one aspect, but if the growth expectations are 20%, then you are actually off-target. It is important to use target metrics in your dashboard.

Reporting to the different stakeholders

SEO reporting, is so much more than just showing clicks, impressions, top landing pages and the statistics in Google Analytics. What we need to understand is, who will be reading the report? There are three types of people interested in SEO dashboards and reporting should be different for all three.

1. C-Suite

The C-suite are looking at business numbers such as the turnover generated from SEO. What leads and micro conversions have been a result of the work by the SEO team?

2. Marketing

They are interested in brand awareness and if this has increased over time. Their report should show if the clicks and impressions have increased over time due to marketing campaigns. Has market share increased and are we beating competitors?

3. Operations

As an SEO consultant, my clients working in the SEO team want to know about clicks, impressions and rankings. My client needs to know if the site is performing well. 

Whether you are meeting the C-suite, the marketing or the SEO team, SEO reporting is about understanding the data and knowing what to do with it. You need to ensure the dashboard is operational and there are actions from the report. For example, if we’re getting this amount of clicks or if we’re seeing these keywords performing better it should be clear what direction the business and the SEO strategy is heading.

One of the ways that we’re trying to do this at IMPACT Extend is if you look at keywords, for instance, we might have a list of keywords that we’re tracking. Then we go in and blend the data, the organic traffic data with conversions from Google ads. These search queries, you can see directly in Google ads. You can see if they’re converting, or if they have led to assisted conversions. If they have, we can add this data to our rankings and decide if these keywords are not just important for the SEO team, but also for the C-suite, marketing and the wider business.

If we have landing pages that are not performing as well, we could go in and put in demographic data there. We can then see if the content that has been written is tailored to the right market. For example, if the bounce rate for that page is high and the target audience is 50 plus, we would have a look at the demographic data. If we take a closer look, we can see that it’s actually 20-30 year olds who are digesting this content. Therefore the content should be edited and tailored for that demographic.

It’s important that we ask ourselves the question, “What do want to show from the report?”” and  “How can we use this data from a business perspective?”. We are getting all the data from BigQuery into Power BI so we can dissect any information we choose and have it ready for the three different business units mentioned earlier.

How to encourage usage of the dashboard?

From Power BI we can nudge users to view the dashboard by sending them alerts, which can be screenshots of the dashboard in their inbox, once a week or month – the frequency is up to you. I would not suggest more than once a week to your clients as it can be a little overwhelming. However, you could send it to the internal SEO team once per day and set up rules to get notifications if you are reaching more than a certain amount of visitors. This way you are not waiting until the end of the month to report on figures but SEO reporting is becoming a daily task. Just a few minutes a day to investigate surges or drops in traffic instead of leaving it until the end of the month.

My last piece of advice which has worked well for our agency is to start thinking about SEO reporting as a tool that you can use within the company on a daily basis. It is not to be used just once a month, forgotten about until the next time you run the reports. Make sure SEO reporting is integrated within the business as a whole, not just for the SEO team.

Chapter 3. Google Search Console, Tag Manager and Data Studio

Google Search Console

This is my favourite tool of all three of I will look at today. Google Search Console, if you don’t have it, get it and start setting this up. Google Search Console will give you insight of how Google sees your website, your errors, performance of your site (with Core Web Vitals) and terms your users are searching to reach your site.

The fun part is you can see the keywords that you’re ranking for and which pages are ranking, as well as the impressions and clicks for these terms. One drawback is that you have to manually look at it through Google Search Console. If you wanted to go into the report, you’d have to look at a specific page or query, and then if you export the data and it still shows in separate tabs.

With Search Analytics for Sheets add-on, you can see all of it in one place. It will output a table like you see in the image below of all your pages and queries. Not just one query and not just one page, but also all the clicks and impressions.

When you run the add-on, choose to group by page, query.

Data range
Excel sheets

Sort the data above descending by either impressions or clicks. Whichever is most relevant to you. Then use the formula below to find the keyword with the most impressions or clicks for each page.

=ArrayFormula(QUERY({SORT(A2:D,1,false,4,false),IFERROR(row(A2:A)-match(query(SORT(A2:D,1,false,4,false),”Select Col1″),query(SORT(A2:D,1,false,4,false),”Select Col1″),0))},”Select Col1,Col2,Col3,Col4 where Col5<2″))

Put it over in cell H2 or somewhere over there.

This is very useful if you’re working on your keyword strategy or looking for some new content ideas. You can see what Google is already recognizing your website for and you can then incorporate this into your content strategy.

Of course, the Authoritas Google Search Console integration does all this and a lot more. 

Google+Search+Console+CTR+models

Google Tag Manager

Some people are afraid of Google Tag Manager as you can easily set up tags incorrectly, but it’s a helpful tool for adding things to your Google Analytics without having to know how to code. All of the following are found in Events.

One example is looking at tracking scroll depth of a page. Let’s say you notice a high bounce rate on a specific page. Therefore an initial step is to analyse how far people are scrolling down on your page. If you notice that they’re only going down to 50%, then you can alter your call to action, either add more at the top or make the content more engaging to encourage users to stay on the page.

In order to set this up, go to your Google Analytics, then once there follow these steps:

Google Analytics > Behaviour > Events > Pages

Choose a page and then choose Event Action as the primary dimension.

Here are some Google Tag Manager recipes to help you get started:

Events in GA

Google Data Studio

I’m recapping what Steph and Christopher talked about in terms of making sure that you’re tracking your macro and micro goals. It’s something that you have to do regularly basis, rather than just every month or when you see a problem. Google Data Studio is an easy way to pull in all the data from everywhere.

For example, you could have one page with all your high-level metrics, then on the sub-pages, you could have some of those metrics that impact the bigger ones. You can pull in Analytics, Search Console, Google Sheets. However, if you have data in Google Sheets you can track your keywords over time in a much more friendly interface for you or your clients.

Download a sample report here.

Of course, Authoritas has a couple of useful integrations and tools that help pull data into Google Data Studio and Google Sheets.  There’s a new Google Sheets App that allows you to pull fresh keyword rankings and SERP data from their SERPs API into Google Sheets (free for 1,000 keyword checks per month).

Authoritas also has a comprehensive integration with Big Query and Google Data Studio that allows you to automatically pull keyword ranking, crawl data, analytics, search console, link data, share of search and more into Big Query and then automatically update and customise some great Google Data Studio templates.

Next Steps

We have shared a few recommendations about SEO Reporting at Tea Time SEO and how you can extract a lot of data without it consuming too much of your time. It is very important to have insightful reports that reflect the work from the team and can be shared with the C-level. SEO as we know, can be difficult or more complex to see results (when compared with PPC) and therefore any reporting should be easy to understand as SEO is not just a silo channel, it is an integrated part of online marketing.

Next Steps

Get some great ideas for in-depth SEO Reports from industry experts on our blog.

Try Authoritas for free today and showcase your progress with our reporting software.

Or, get in touch with our team and see how our tools can meet your reporting needs!

About the Co-Authors

Steph-W from Blue Array

Steph Whatley

SEO Manager

Steph is an SEO Manager at Blue Array, with a special interest in data, reporting and analytics. She’s spoken on the main stage at Brighton SEO as well as at Reading SEO, Authoritas’ Tea Time SEO and Women in Tech SEO meetups. She loves both learning and teaching.

Christopher Hofman Laursen

Christopher Hofman Laursen

SEO consultant

Christopher is the lead SEO consultant at the agency IMPACT Extend. He helps omnichannel players in Denmark and big B2B companies with SEO. He has also been a speaker at SEOday in Denmark in for three years running. He is excited about customer journeys, content and data.

Barb Davids on Tea Time SEO

Barb Davids

Owner of Compass Digital Strategies

Barb Davids is a digital marketer, SEO strategist and owner of Compass Digital Strategies. Driven by data and analytics, she works hard to get business-changing results for her clients, such as 256% more website traffic and 22% more leads. Her own business as a result has pivoted and begun to offer online courses so that business owners can work to gain more site traffic and leads at a more budget friendly cost.

The latest posts on SEO Reporting from our blog