A frequent query during my career has been “I know how to use Analytics, I don’t need a report” or “I’ll get Analytics to email me the traffic data“.
This initially seems like a good idea to reduce marketing budget since spending money to create a document every month can seem superfluous compared to doing something that directly delivers results. A report can seem even more questionable if the client is confident using Google Analytics themselves.
To help explain the benefits of a bespoke, monthly report, let’s take a look at the main factors that show how an online marketing campaign typically functions WITHOUT an SEO report:
1) Client tends to spend time every week/month navigating Google Analytics and coming to their own conclusion on why traffic has changed. Usually, the data is looked at over a narrow time period, with no broader context on why certain areas of traffic have changed. Was it due to a typical fluctuation, seasonality or were the changes in relation to a task done?
2) Points of discussion and insights from the client are stored across various notes and emails and are retrieved ad-hoc in reaction to a downturn in traffic, or a lack of faith in the strategy. This increases the admin time needed by the client and the SEO person, especially when both of their findings need to be joined to come to a mutual understanding or to push things forward.
3) With the client using Analytics, the SEO person still has to spend time using it to derive insights, manage KPIs and remove traffic spam. This means that any time that the client spent in Analytics is doubled up.
With a report, only a fraction of the time is needed by the client to understand what’s going on as the data is displayed in a visual and concise manner. This saves time compared to what’s needed by an SEO person to simply put the data into a presentable format.
Ultimately the decision to have a report comes down to how valuable the clients time is and their marketing expertise versus the budget for someone else to create a report every month. It can be a red flag if the client deems their time unimportant enough to trawl through Analytics data rather than grow the business. Also, if a small part of the budget isn’t deemed worthy enough for reporting, this also brings into question where priorities may lie when it comes to pushing their online marketing forward.
An SEO campaign WITH a monthly report!
1) Traffic changes over the previous months and years is displayed in a concise manner with graphics to enable quick visual consumption. Certain trends can be spotted that aren’t usually clear when using Analytics alone. This is because traffic in Analytics tends to be viewed across a small time-frame. If a larger time-frame is used, time is lost being buried under large amounts of data that may not be particularly useful. A custom Google Dashboard can resolve this to some extent but it still means that the data is isolated away from everything else without context.
A good example of efficient data retrieval can be seen in the trend-line graph below. We see a spike in organic traffic in January that begins to dip again in April. Also, there is a spike in social traffic in April that quickly loses momentum. This kind of traffic behaviour is difficult to see in Analytics, even when using a custom Google dashboard.
A bespoke report makes retrieving data and gaining insights more efficient for everyone involved. Traffic data can be seen at a glance and on a broader time-scale, with traffic changes and their causes all in one place. Without a report, someone on an ad-hoc basis spends time combing through various traffic screens, while needing to switch between various time periods. This wastes time, especially when a piece of data is unknowingly re-visited several months later, only to discover that it has already been discussed or dealt with.
2) Regular reporting encourages both the client and the SEO person to be proactive. It enables anyone with access to the report to be brought up to speed quickly and to have a joined up approach with the strategy and improvements that need to be made. Everyone involved is “Singing from the same hymn sheet”.
3) In addition to traffic data, a report enables a log of the tasks undertaken, search rankings, custom KPIs, PPC performance and any ideas discussed. All of this data is in one document for easy reference. This consolidation of data forms a solid base to maintain a long-term, cohesive strategy. It also stands as evidence to justify the tasks being done and the benefits they bring. Without such a report, doubts are raised more often and questions are more likely to be repeated. This can cause a campaign to unnecessarily stall.