Putting the human back into SEO reporting
Another dreaded Monday afternoon. Another dreaded call with the web agency our VP so desperately wanted us to take on due to some half-assed recommendation from a local “Internet guru” who spent the most of his time pandering “digital ecosystems” and selling his over-priced services as a “growth accelerator” for start-ups.
But I digress. Back to the call.
I got on the call with my colleague, Marie, who was in charge of our company’s online marketing initiatives. As the head of the marcom department, I wanted to check in to see how she and the agency were getting along and what progress was being made with our SEO and PPC campaigns (read: we were going to finally get our first report). While we were waiting for the Pavlov “dee-doot” to start the convo with our agency’s lumberjack-hipster account manager, Bernard, in pops our VP, Mark*.
This was exactly what I had feared: our agency was now faced with a three-headed monster: an analytics freak (Marie), a Type A personality (me), and a I-get-the-Internet wannabe (ahem, guess who?). This was going to be a lonnnnng call.
Predictably, Bernard was late on the call. I asked Mark for the reason of his impromptu appearance.“Ah, don’t mind me,” he said with a casual flick of the hand. “I just want to—”
“Heeyyyy Marie. Heeyyy Trace.” It drove me nuts when he called me Trace like he was giving me a slap on the back after having played a good rugby match.
“Hi Bernard. We’ve got Mark here too.” Marie hoped that the subtle nudge was enough to snap Bernard into full-out presentation-to-a-VP mode.
Bernard’s screen popped up. A PowerPoint. Ok, so far so good. No Google Analytics report in sight to overly confuse Mark.
But as Bernard started the presentation, I realized that Bernard had geared up his reports for Marie, a data-hungry geek that wanted to get into the nitty gritty, and not for me, who wanted an overview of our performance (top queries, visits, conversions, transactions etc.), and definitely not for Mark, who a) expected droves of new instantaneous sales from a three-month Google AdWords campaign and b) thought that putting a few extra keywords on our web site would GINORMOUSLY improving our rankings.
To Bernard’s credit, his SEO and PPC report was tailored to Marie’s needs. They salivated over every minute metric. They were in ecstasy over several KPIs that, admittedly, I was happy had improved. But as a Type A, I needed the overall picture—STAT!—so that we could quickly determine what had to be changed and what the rest of the team had to do to get it done. As the surprise guest, Mark deep down wanted an crash course in SEO and PPC 101 as well as what bragging rights he was able to bring back to the management team. After all, the VP of Sales was breathing down his neck for mo leads! mo leads! for his “boys” (confession: they wanted the website to sell for them). The CEO “simply” wanted accountability and an ROI. So Mark had to deliver something—anything—to show results. Good results. Results that spoke to the needs of the head honchos.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
I felt for Bernard…and for all you other agencies out there. One-on-one SEO and PPC reporting with your dead ringers is fairly cut and dry. But creating SEO and PPC reports that tell stories, that are meaningful to different audiences with multiple agendas is a whole other ballgame. When you get to this point, you are not in Kansas anymore.
Does this mean you have to whip out a Meyers Briggs test for each person/team you may have to present your SEO/PPC reports to? No. However, it does mean creating several dashboards with different audiences in mind.
No groans or eye rolling please. Hear me out!
By mapping out, for each client, who will actually look at and understand your reports, bluntly put, you will create quality reports that better prove your worth. Let’s face it:
- You need people like Marie to fine tune your strategies and improve performance. Create dashboards for her based on the company’s overall goals.
- You need people like me to get other people/teams in the organization aligned to support the strategies. You also need me to sell your performance to the rest of the organization. I don’t have time to wade in a sea of data, so give me dashboards that are straight to the point, with the metrics IIIII need to make decisions and demonstrate results to the upper brass.
- And you need the VPs and CEOs because ultimately, they hold the coffers. Provide uber-high-level reports based on what Marie and I have told you what they need, what’s stressing them out, what will make them shine, or what will spur them into action. The more clarity and context into our online marketing initiatives we can provide management, the more likely they remain “all in” in terms of your value and expertise. The less likely you’ll be next on the chopping block. In a nutshell, help us help you.
You’re reporting for humans, after all.
For some of you, these suggestions may sound like no-brainers. But you would be surprised at the number of agencies that still use the cookie cutter approach to SEO/PPC reporting. Start by talking to your primary stakeholders at your accounts. Sometimes, clients are just too plain shy or uncomfortable to ask for changes in reports that they may not understand or additional dashboards to turn the clueless into clever. For other ideas on how to create kickass dashboard for your clients, head on over to this post.
*The name has been changed to protect his identity—and ego.