Let’s not sugarcoat it:
SEO reporting is a pain in the ass.
There’s mountains of data to sift through, report layouts to fiddle around with, and cleverly-worded solutions to come up with for each problem presented in the report.
Multiply that by however many SEO clients you have, and we’re talking about hours of work.
However, there’s no denying that creating and sending regular SEO reports is one of the most important jobs of an SEO specialist.
It gives your clients a better idea of what you’re actually doing for them, and what’s happening on their site as a result.
Basically, it justifies that they should keep paying you to do their SEO.
So let’s talk about the process of creating a compelling SEO report that’ll impress any client.
What is an SEO report?
An SEO report gives your clients an easily-digestible overview of their site’s current SEO performance and how you intend to make it better.
If you’ve been working on their site’s SEO for a while, the report documents the strategies you’ve implemented over the previous period and their results.
The report should clearly show your client how their site is performing, and justify your current strategy.
The best way to present your results is with data and metrics to help clients make sense of the bigger picture.
Also, consider that not every client will understand how technical SEO works. Therefore, you need to present the report in a way that they’ll easily comprehend—which can be a tall order for SEO specialists.
It’s also important to remember that every client will require a different SEO strategy, have different objectives, and present different challenges. So, make sure the information you put in the report is customized to the client.
(We’ll come to the free report template shortly, which you can customize with ease.)
But while every client is unique, if they’re looking to improve their online presence with SEO, then their ultimate goals are the same:
Get more organic traffic to their site, and get more conversions from that traffic.
So, everything you present in your report should relate back to these two main goals.
What to include in an SEO report
Your SEO report should include the data points we’ll discuss below.
These are all commonplace in the industry and will give your client a full picture of how their site is performing, and how you plan to keep improving it.
Having a thorough understanding of each of these factors will help you create better reports for your clients.
An on-page audit will tell you what changes need to be made on the site itself. It’s a good place to start because fixes are relatively simple, and clients will be able to see the changes right away.
Some clients may have no idea about how on-page issues could be holding them back, so the audit can help you shed light on your client’s poor online presence.
It’s also a good way to start off your report with a bang, with a list of issues you’ve identified and an action plan to resolve them.
Some of the main factors you want to focus on in your on-page audit include:
- Broken links. Search engines don’t like pages with broken links. They see it as a sign that your pages aren’t on par with what they expect from a high-quality site.
There are many different reasons why a link can break, such as a linked site no longer being available or a URL structure being changed.
Your job is to identify and clean up any broken links on your client’s site.
- Metadata structure. This refers to your title tags and meta descriptions, which give users a description of what your page is about.
These are the first point of contact for users when they see your site in the SERPs. You need to update and optimize your metadata to align with your target keywords.
- Duplicate content. Google and other search engines don’t reward sites with duplicate content. These are pages with similar to exact content but different URLs, even if they come from the same domain.
Your report should identify any duplicate pages on your client’s site so that they can decide which pages to keep and which ones to get rid of.
- Redirects. Redirects function like forwarding addresses. They tell search engines where to send users when they click on a page that no longer exists.
There are many ways you can go about redirecting pages, with a 301 redirect being considered SEO best practice. You need to ensure the correct redirects are set up for dead pages, and fix any non-301 redirects.
Getting backlinks is a crucial part of the job for all SEOs. It’s the practice of acquiring links from other sites back to your content.
That said, not all backlinks are good for your clients. While higher quality links will help to push their rankings up in organic search and increase traffic to their site, spammy and unnatural links can cause keyword rankings to plummet.
Therefore, your SEO report should include a brief backlink analysis of any new links your client has acquired, to indicate the good links from the bad.
To help you understand what makes a good backlink, below are some quality factors worth considering for your report:
- Domain Authority (DA). Developed by Moz, a respected leader in the world of SEO, Domain Authority ranks websites based on the strength of their domain.
Sites closer to the perfect score of 100 have higher chances of ranking in SERPs. The idea is to get as many backlinks from high-DA sites as possible.
- Flow Metrics. Not to be outdone by Moz, Majestic also has an evaluation metric of their own called Flow Metrics: Trust Flow and Citation Flow.
Citation Flow predicts how influential a page is based on the number of sites that link to it. Trust Flow, on the other hand, takes into consideration the reputation of the sites linking to yours.
- Spam Score. Spam Score gives an idea of how spammy a site is on a scale of 0 to 17, with lower scores being better.
You’ll want to avoid getting backlinks from sites with a high Spam Score (7 and above).
- Nofollow/Dofollow. Nofollow links aren’t followed by Google, and don’t pass any link juice. Dofollow links are the opposite—and these are the ones you want for your clients.
The most tangible result of your SEO campaign is how many keywords you can get your client’s site to rank for in Google search.
It’s only with higher keyword rankings that you can achieve the ultimate goal of generating more organic traffic from SERPs.
So, if you can rank your client site for tens or hundreds or even thousands of keywords, then your SEO campaign could be considered a success!
To help communicate to clients how their sites are performing in terms of SEO, you need to include a keyword ranking report as part of your SEO report.
The keyword ranking report should include things like:
- Keywords that have gone up
- Keywords that have gone down
- New keyword rankings
- Competitor keyword comparison
Then comes arguably the most popular metric of all, and what many clients will look at first: site traffic.
This tells clients how many visitors are coming to their site from organic search at any given time, which pages on their site are getting the most traction, and subsequently, what kind of content users are searching for.
Some factors to look into when reporting on traffic:
- Unique visitors. There’s a difference between unique visitors and pageviews. Pageviews count each visit to your site, so if one person visits your page three times in one day, it would be counted as three views.
Unique visits is a more accurate count, treating each person as one view regardless of how many times they visited your page (unless they use a different IP address each time).
- Bounce rate. This is the percentage of people who leave your site after engaging with only one page. You want users to at least click on a couple of pages on their way out, because this shows they’re engaged.
Pages with a high bounce rate indicate they might be turning people off with poor design, navigation or other factors.
- Referral sources. Even though your focus is on organic traffic, you may also want to provide your client with the number of visits they get through referral sources in order to more clearly compare the two.
- Top pages. Providing a compilation of pages that get the most visits should also be included in the report. This helps you show that your content strategy is working.
At the very end of your SEO report, you’ll want to include some recommendations moving forward.
This is your opportunity to speak directly to your client, identify what needs to be improved, and present your action plan.
As you go about your job, you’ll find methods that work better than others. It’s important to be honest with your client and show them what’s working and what’s not. When something isn’t working, use all the available data to present a new strategy.
Transparency is key to a successful business partnership.
SEO can be fickle and any slight change to the algorithm can mean revamping an entire campaign overnight. As much as you may be tempted to focus on the great results in your SEO report, it’s just as important to highlight the not-so-great results and suggest ways you can turn the boat around towards more appealing results.
If you use your knowledge of SEO, critical thinking and can back your recommendations with data, most clients will appreciate your honesty and will be happy for you to run with your plans (even if the numbers are down).
How to Create an SEO Report That’ll Wow Your Clients (Plus Free Template)
Now that you have a better understanding of what goes into an SEO report, here’s how to create a report that’ll impress.
1. Collect the data
The first step is to gather all the information and data to be included in the report.
To conduct an effective on-page audit, you’ll need to use a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider. It’s free to use for sites with less than 500 pages.
Once installed, just enter your client’s site in the search bar and the tool will analyze its pages against a variety of on-page SEO variables.
Once the analysis is complete, you’ll see the list of all the URLs crawled by the tool in the “Address” column.
From here, you can flick through the different tabs to get a closer look at the on-page SEO elements that need to be optimized.
For example, if you click on the “Meta Description” tab, you’ll see something like this:
It shows you the meta description of each URL and its word count. The length of the meta description is just as important as the description itself, so if you see any URLs with overly-long meta descriptions (over 160 characters), they’ll need to be included in the report to be fixed.
In the lower-right corner, you’ll also see any pages with missing meta descriptions. Click on the bar graph to reveal the URLs without descriptions, and plug them in your report as well.
As I said, run through the different tabs in the tool to identify on-page factors that need your help.
Here are some quick tips on how to optimize the most common on-page factors analyzed by Screaming Frog:
- Make sure all title tags and meta descriptions are unique
- They should include keywords but shouldn’t sound over-optimized or spammy
- Keep word count in mind—title tags should be limited at 55 characters or less, and meta descriptions can go as long as 160 characters
- H1s, H2s and other header tags should include relevant keywords (but again, don’t over-optimize)
- Each heading should clearly describe the content that comes after it—don’t go off topic
- Each heading should be unique
- Similar pages should be clustered together for maximum effect
- Ensure all the links on one page are relevant to each other
- Pay attention to URL structure—make sure they’re short and simple
- Include rel=canonical tags where they’re needed to help prevent duplicate content
- Use smaller file sizes to help the site load faster
- Include unique and descriptive alt tags for every image
After your analysis with Screaming Frog, I’d also recommend a quick mobile-friendly test to make sure your client’s site loads quickly and correctly on mobile devices. Google has a free mobile-friendly test that you can use to check.
As previously discussed, you want backlinks from reputable and relevant sources in your client’s backlink portfolio.
To track and analyze their backlink sources, anchor text, quality metrics and more, you can use Monitor Backlinks to make this part of the report easy.
It allows you to track multiple client domains as well as competitors.
Just log in to your account and add your client’s domain for monitoring with the “Add New Domain” button in the top-left drop-down menu.
It’ll take Monitor Backlinks a little while to gather your backlink data.
(Hint: You can connect Google Analytics for faster and more accurate results!)
Once that’s complete, click on the “Backlinks” tab from the main menu.
You’ll then see a table of all your client’s current backlinks, along with corresponding metrics to help you determine their quality and relevance to your client’s site.
Along with the backlink source, anchor text and date it was acquired, you can also see each link’s Flow Metrics, Spam Score, MozRank, Domain and Page Authority, and more.
Using these variables as your benchmark, an authoritative site has high scores on all metrics except Spam Score (the higher the Spam Score, the lesser its quality becomes).
If your client isn’t big on numbers, you can also head to the “Reports” tab for an easy-to-understand, visual representation of the backlink data in graph format.
These backlink reports break down your client’s links according to factors like:
- TLD distribution
- IP location distribution
- Top anchor text
- Nofollow vs. dofollow
- Top linked pages
- Majestic (organizes your links according to Trust and Citation Flow)
- Moz (organizes your links according to Domain Authority and Page Authority)
You can then download the individual reports in CSV format by clicking on “Export as CSV” at the top-right of any report.
Another great feature of Monitor Backlinks is the ability to track the backlinks of your clients’ competitors alongside their own. This can be a great way to show your clients how they compare to their biggest competitors.
To do this, click on the “Competitors” tab and to add competitor domains for tracking. Once they’re added, they’ll show up in a list like this:
You can click on any of them to view a list of the site’s backlinks, not too different from your own.
You can see the date that the competitor acquired the link, the link’s anchor text, Flow Metrics, follow status and more. The idea is that you can use this information to identify backlinks to replicate.
But for the purpose of creating reports for your clients who want the lowdown on their competition, click on “Export” in the top-right corner to download the competitors’ backlinks in CSV format.
As another option, you can also get a quick overview of a client’s new backlinks, new competitor backlinks and link status changes right from the main dashboard.
For some clients, this might be all they really want to know, so you can just copy this information right into their SEO report.
For more information on how to extract valuable backlink data using Monitor Backlinks, check out this guide.
Click on the “Keywords” tab for this, and add the keywords you want to track and monitor.
Give the tool some time to gather the data, and before long, you’ll have a long list of keywords as well as where you rank for them, and where your added competitors rank for them.
To download the keyword report for closer analysis, you can either select individual keywords or use the drop-down menu to select “All,” and then click “Export.”
Like with the backlink analysis above, you can also get a quick snapshot of keyword activity from Monitor Backlinks’ main dashboard, which can be helpful to include in your report as well.
To analyze your client’s traffic data for their SEO report, you need access to their site’s Google Analytics.
You might be surprised by how many clients don’t already have Google Analytics set up, and you may need to do it for them—as well as add the Analytics tracking code to their site.
To get the best results, make sure to add the tracking code before you launch your SEO campaign, so you can accurately see the impact of your work.
You can find the code in the Admin section. Just click on Tracking Info > Tracking Code under the “Tracking info” section, and then copy and paste the tracking code before the </head> tag of your client’s site.
You’ll start to get traffic data right on the Analytics dashboard.
Or, click on Audience > Overview to get more detailed site traffic data and make sense of your SEO campaign.
Take bounce rate, for example. If your client is suffering from high bounce rates, there’s a need to go over their pages to find a commonality. It could range from poor UI/UX to slow page load times. It’s also possible that the content is lacking.
This post will take you through the finer details of checking organic traffic in Google Analytics.
For this section, you need to consider your analysis in each of the above sections, and come up with a plan to move forward.
It could be as simple as a list of bullet points, or more thorough with graphs and data to support your suggestions.
Remember to take into account any external factors that may have contributed to the results over that period, such as algorithm updates and lost backlinks.
2. Develop the report
Now that you’ve gathered all the data from various tools, the next step is to put the SEO report together.
The format and structure of the report depends on you and your client. PDFs are a nice option because you can include graphs, images and other visuals to make it look more professional and appealing.
However you go about it, just make sure you’re including all the information your client wants to know. You should consider creating custom report for each client based on their needs.
Here’s a free downloadable template of what an SEO report should look like. Use it to guide you in creating an engaging report for your own clients.
SEO Report: http://examplesite.com
|Issue||Description||Pages Affected||Action Plan||Status|
|Title tags||Need to include target keywords||URL 1||Revise title tags to include target keywords||Ongoing|
|H1s||Exceed recommended character length||URL 2||Shorten H1s and optimize for keywords||Ongoing|
|Link From||Status||Link To|
|Keyword||Position||Competitor Position||Competitor Position|
|New Keywords||Lost Keywords||Total Keywords Ranking||Average Position|
|This Period||Previous Period|
- Recommendation #1
- Recommendation #2
- Recommendation #3
3. Send the report to your client
And now, the final step: Sending the report!
Ideally, you should be sending an SEO report once a month to give your clients a regular progress update on how their SEO is going.
Monthly reports let you focus on implementing your SEO strategy for the following month before analyzing the results. A month is generally considered a large enough sample size to know whether your strategy is working or not.
From there, you can then provide better and more informed suggestions on how to improve your client’s website and ranking in the SERPs.
Some clients may request weekly reports, but you should do your best to explain to them that seven days’ worth of SEO data isn’t enough to make sound decisions or know what’s working. Putting together a new report every week is also not a good use of your own time.
That’s why monthly SEO reports are ideal—it’s a long enough period to see tangible results, and still often enough for your clients to feel like they’re being kept up to date with their campaign.
SEO report wrap-up
Creating and sending SEO reports may not be one of the most exciting parts of the job, but it sure is one of the most important.
It gives all parties a better sense of what’s going on and helps create the path to get a website moving up in the search engines.
All it takes is a proper understanding of all the factors that go into developing an effective SEO report.
And over time, the process becomes much easier to handle!