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A Winning Framework for SEO Reporting

This post was written by our SEO Channel sponsor, Link Assistant.

Inspired by an awesome talk by Vanessa Fox, Max Thomas and Marty Weintraub at SMX East (the one that took the Internet by storm), we’d like to continue the SEO reporting topic and investigate into what makes a solid modern-day SEO report.

Gone are the days when rankings were the only report filed by SEO’s. The industry has matured and clients have gotten much more SEO-savvy, which calls for some new standards in SEO reporting.

In this respect, what’s important to understand is that whether running an online or an offline business, marketing executives and business owners always keep track of at least one financial indicator – profit. In a very simplistic decision-making model, a manager would make decisions based on what impact they have on the profit. Thus, there should be proper reporting mechanisms in place that help one determine if certain steps are going to generate loss or yield extra revenue.

In economics, profit is revenue minus cost. For an online business this basically means:

Getting more quality traffic →
at lower cost, and →
converting this traffic into sales.

This can be applied to any traffic channel: paid advertising, email marketing, SEO, etc. Tracking paid ad channels is simple: for every dollar you spend you get N visits and a pretty stable amount of conversions. However, when it comes to SEO, things get tricky, because:

  • It’s a complex Internet marketing technique that includes many activities. Each activity has its own set of key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • SEO is not an exact science. Apart from some “best practices” articulated by search evangelists, there are no uniform proven manuals or “how to” guides.
  • As a result, there are a lot of SEO myths. SEO marketers will always use these myths to their advantage. When they underperform, they blame the “Google dance”, “Panda update”, etc.

Nonetheless, one needs to evaluate the performance of their SEO team to make sure that every penny of their marketing budget is spent wisely (a bigger company may have its own in-house SEO department, which normally consists of link builders, copywriters and project managers, or outsource these SEO tasks to a third-party SEO services provider).

This is achieved through a proper SEO reporting framework that should be established from day one. Having proper control over an in-house SEO team is a common managerial task, but how do you go about effectively supervising an outsourced team?

We would recommend the following battle-tested and proven reporting framework that has been developed by our SEO specialists based on the reports produced by SEO PowerSuite. It enables business owners and marketing executives to supervise a full range of SEO tasks performed either by an in-house or an external SEO team.

1. STRATEGIC (or initial) REPORTS
The reports are generated before an SEO campaign begins to determine the “as is” state, set the strategy and set the goals. For long-term projects, strategic reports may be generated repeatedly when required.

The reports:

  • Keyword Research Report
  • Competition Analysis (competitors’ backlinks and keywords)
  • Website Audit Report

Comments:

(1) Keywords are harvested from major keyword research tools (e.g. AdWords Keyword Tool) and from competing website (by scanning their page titles, meta tags, content and anchors). Apart from the list of keywords itself, a Keyword Report should contain answers to the following questions:

  • How many additional visitors will the site get if it ranks in the top 10 for the keywords reported? (You can even calculate the potential revenue, provided you know the potential conversion rate and the average conversion value.)
  • How hard is it to hit the top 10 for these particular keywords?
  • Is it cost-effective to promote certain keywords (e.g. you have a limited budget and don’t have enough resources to promote the highly competitive keywords)?

All in all, a Keyword Research Report should contain information that helps to evaluate the SEO budget and the potential cost.

(2) A Competition Analysis report should uncover the SEO strategy behind your competitors’ websites, i.e. it should contain answers to the following questions:

  • What keywords are the competitors promoting? Is it necessary to target the keywords that are missing from your main keywords list but are used by the competitors?
  • From what websites (forums, blogs, business directories, etc.) are the competitors getting their links? What are the properties of these websites: PageRank, TLD, Alexa Rank, etc.

(3) On-page optimization covers a myriad of factors that should be accounted for. It is important to check these factors against industry standards and identify potential trouble points and elements that need to be improved.

A good Website Audit Report should provide information on different content-related issues: page titles, meta tags, keyword density, html formatting tags and such techy issues as html validation errors or broken links. It should also include website and page statistics, such as PageRank, link popularity, the number of indexed pages, etc.

The Output:

  • A list of keywords and/or a keyword matrix,
  • Competitors’ backlink profiles and
  • A list of suggested improvements to the site.

2. ONGOING WEEKLY REPORTS

These reports are used to track the SEO progress. You need them to make sure the SEO team is heading in the right direction.

The Reports:

  • Keyword rankings report
  • Competitors’ rankings report
  • Link building report

Comments:

(1) It is vital to track keyword rankings regularly to diagnose problems at an early stage. A decline in rankings during several weeks may indicate a problem (e.g. backlinks with respective anchors got removed or devalued).

It’s also good to compare your current keyword rankings not only against the previous check, but also against the best results ever achieved. You may also align rankings and traffic for the keywords to see if you are getting what you expected.

(2) Keep an eye on your competition. If an abnormal growth in their rankings is detected – it’s time to look into their backlink profiles and their on-page SEO again to see what they are up to and steal borrow their strategy. ;)

(3) Link-building is the most tedious, time- and money-consuming of all SEO tasks. To keep your expenditures to the minimum, follow closely your link providers’ activities (whether it’s an in-house link building team, an outsourced company or a link brokerage).

A link building report should include: link source URL, link destination URL, anchor text, linking page’s PR, the number of external links on each linking page and the number of backlinks on each linking page (for various reasons, a page’s PR may not be supported with the respective number of backlinks).

You should also be able to re-review older reports and update them to see if the backlinks are still in place and the backlink pages have not deteriorated (have not received an unreasonable number of external links, for example).

The Output:

  • Current keyword rankings compared to the previous rank check,
  • Current competitors’ rankings compared to the previous rank check and
  • A list of links obtained during the reporting period.

3. CONTINUOUS AUTOMATIC MONITORING

It should be implemented to make sure that your website is performing well and you are continuously getting traffic from important sources.

Reports:

  • Automatic warning messages or alerts

Comments:

Many site owners use Google Analytics. But only a surprising few are aware that this tool can send you automatic alerts based on the parameters you predefine. For example, you can get an alert if the website stops getting traffic from Google or Bing. You can then take immediate action to diagnose the problem.

THE CONCLUSION

There are some requirements that apply to the reporting framework as a whole:

  • Eliminate duplicate reports
  • Minimize the time required to generate the reports
  • Schedule and generate reports automatically using SEO reporting software, whenever possible
  • Generate actionable and easy-to-understand reports (those looking at them should be able to grasp the information at a glance and make the necessary decisions based on the presented information)

For instance, you can look at some SEO report samples in SEO PowerSuite to get an idea of what we mean by a clear-cut SEO report. Although SEO PowerSuite does not report one’s profit or conversion rates, its SEO reports create a solid base for ROI estimation, and, what’s really good, allow for automatic generation.

About the author:

Alesia is an SEO and an Internet marketer at Link-Assistant.Com, a major SEO software provider and the maker of SEO PowerSuite tools. Link-Assistant.Com is a group of SEO professionals with years of SEO experience. Based on their expertise, company’s four-app SEO toolset was created, setting the industry’s benchmark for technology-powered Web promotion.

The information and opinions in this post do not necessarily represent those of Marketing Pilgrim.

  • http://www.brandignity.com Maciej Fita

    Clients are slowly starting to realize that marketing a business online is much more than just rankings. The days of impulse shopping are slowing down and building a brand is more important than ever before.

    • grumpyoldseo

      Nice article. I think most people would love to have that level of analysis for their reporting but unless you have clients paying 4 figure monthly fees, it’s not feasible in my opinion. Some great metrics you mentioned in there although I would take issue with being able to predict search volume based on any keyword research data. Whatever you use (google adwords data etc) the numbers reported are way off the reality. The only way you can get remotely accurate traffic predictions is to run PPC campaigns for your target phrases – which of course is very expensive. Again, fine if you have big clients with big budgets.

      • http://www.link-assistant.com/ Alesia Krush

        Hi, thanks for your comment.

        Indeed, predicting search volumes based on keyword research data would come in handy. Actually, right now our reports include “Expected traffic” for keywords, and we believe that it is potential traffic that is more important.

        Our marketing director is preparing an article on various methods of estimating search and traffic beforehand – so stay tuned!

  • http://www.tenddeapact.com Alex-Web design Ireland

    This is comprehensive and gave me some new insights. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.seowebsitehero.com sem company

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!.

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  • Prabal Chowdhury

    What tool do you use for your SEO? Have you ever tried colibritool. Probably it’s the best SEO tool. I tried many of the free tools over the internet but they couldn’t just able to satisfy me. At last I’ve found colibritool, and still stick to it. You can also find it here (http://colibritool.com).