How do you instantly tell the difference between a good SEO and a bad one?
Look at their SEO reports.
- Bad SEO reports – Clients get lost in pointless data, don’t know what work was done, and get no insightful comments.
- Good SEO reports – Clients see key data summaries and easy-to-understand insights and overview of the work done.
I’ve seen many SEO reports from consultants, in-house teams, and agencies. I discussed them with experts from our Ahrefs Insider community. The conclusion? You can’t create an SEO report template that covers everything necessary without knowing a client, their business, and your responsibilities in the project.
But what I have for you here will get you as close as possible to a perfect SEO report. That is the main reason why I started discussing SEO reporting with experts in the first place.
Before you steal our SEO report template, let’s first learn the following:
Let’s get into it.
An SEO report is an overview of important SEO metrics reflecting business growth, performance in search engines, backlink portfolio strength, and website health.
It’s the main resource for your clients, managers, or bosses that tracks the progress of your work and its impact. After all, these stakeholders want to see that their money is well spent on you.
And while you can’t win with SEO every month, an effective SEO report should still convey that your work is likely to have positive ROI in the long term.
This leads us nicely to…
What and how you report on your SEO efforts depend on how you set up expectations with your client. While SEO reports are dependant on a client’s business type, this is what everyone generally wants to see:
- SEO KPIs – Evaluate SEO metrics that are closely tied to revenue growth.
- Ranking progress – See how rankings of the most important keywords have changed.
- Organic traffic progress – Check how the previous two aspects translate into absolute traffic numbers.
- Backlink growth – See new, valuable referring pages that drive traffic and/or pass link equity.
- SEO health – Know that the website is doing well from the technical SEO perspective.
Your work doesn’t end with just dumping a bunch of metrics into a document, though. You need to interpret them. Your SEO reports should convey the impact of your work in the most succinct and coherent way possible. That’s how we made the template as well.
Now let’s get back to the expectations between you and your client. The report should primarily contain what you’ve previously discussed. If you sent an SEO report without educating the client beforehand, you’d get a lot of questions and demands to show more data. This is even if the SEO report is perfect. That’s because you’re the SEO expert, not the client.
I’ll explain all the used metrics and data as we go through the slides later on. But I also highly recommend you to check out our articles on SEO KPIs and SEO metrics that actually matter. These will help you and your clients be on the same page.
Based on what I’ve heard, SEOs can spend anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours per month on each SEO report. This depends on several factors:
- Your responsibilities in the project
- Complexity of the project
- Your SEO experience and knowledge
- Your data analytics experience and knowledge
- Reporting format you and your clients prefer
Let me expand on the last point. It seems most SEOs prefer using the good old PDFs and decks for reporting purposes:
SEO Reporting Polls for upcoming article/presentation (Please RT) 👇
1) What format do you use for your recurrent SEO reports to non-technical clients/boss/decision makers?
— Aleyda Solis 👩🏻💻 (@aleyda) November 12, 2021
Our SEO report template is also in a deck format because it’s the easiest to use and read for everyone. The downside is you have to go through new data every month and put it together manually.
Some seasoned marketers prefer to use automated data dashboards like Google Data Studio, Tableau, or Power BI. These may take you a lot of time to set up initially. But they can update all the data automatically, saving you time in the long run. If you’re wondering about this option, we’ll be releasing Ahrefs’ GDS connector soon to help you with that.
But back to the actual template…
As explained previously, our SEO report template (or any other) isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s simply a great starting point to create an SEO report your clients will appreciate.
To get this done from start to finish, you’ll need the following tools:
You can change the color scheme to the brand colors of your client, give it a bit of your own branding, make it look fancier, whatever you like.
Before we get into explaining the rationale behind each slide, let me emphasize a few things.
First of all, feel free to tailor the slides to suit your client’s needs, as well as your service offerings. We’ve made this report to cover all SEO areas for monthly reporting.
Second, the type of business you’re doing SEO for should also be reflected in the report adjustments.
If you’re doing local SEO, you’ll probably include an overview of local rankings and local SERP features. E‑commerce client? You may want to include Average Order Value from the organic traffic and dive deeper into the technical side of things.
And lastly, keep in mind the template contains mostly made-up data, insights, and scenarios. Don’t try to analyze the content of it. Rather, use its structure as a guide.
Let’s get started.
1. Title card
The first slide is the easiest part to create.
Add in the date/month of the report, your own logo, as well as your client’s website URL. Once those are completed, you are good to go.
It’s time to move on to the actual SEO reporting.
A highlights page that summarizes the most important information of that month is a good intro.
This can be basically the first and also the last slide that a CMO or CEO looks at. Thirty seconds later, they’ll say, “Cool, good job,” and won’t bother with the rest.
What type of things can you include here?
- Brief summary of your SEO KPIs
- Stuff worth bragging about
- Most important tasks completed during that reporting period
- Tasks that require further attention
3. SEO KPIs overview
Next, you should dive into the SEO KPIs more. While the previous slide won’t cut it for most clients, some will already be pretty satisfied. This is as we’ve covered what matters the most on the first two slides:
As said earlier, you may want to include different or more KPIs, depending on the client and their business type. The rule of thumb is to choose metrics as closely tied to the business’s revenue as possible.
You can see the most universal SEO KPIs above: search visibility and organic traffic conversions.
Search visibility is the SEO version of one of the most important marketing KPIs: share of voice (SOV). It’s basically keyword rankings on steroids.
To get the search visibility metric, create a project in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker. In there, paste the main keywords that encompass what your audience is searching for (you need to finish keyword research first), tag it to enable filtering later, and you’re good to go:
You’ll then find the search visibility metric in the Competitors overview tab:
Regarding organic conversions, the screenshot in the report is taken from a custom Google Analytics (GA) report that only shows the source/medium dimension and selected conversions to avoid all the clutter in the default reports. The conversions are then compared month over month (MoM).
If the client’s customers go through a complex buying process, you’ll also want to report assisted organic traffic conversions. You can find this in GA under Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions. These will complete the picture of the overall impact of SEO on the business.
4. Ranking progress
The overall search visibility KPI isn’t the only visibility metric that clients are interested in. They have certain product categories or topics on the blog that usually differ in relevancy and value to the business. That’s where measuring search visibility for keyword segments comes into play.
You can get this data by creating more tags in your Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker project. Scroll down to your keywords in the overview, check those that you want to tag, and assign the tag to them or create a new one:
5. Money keywords ranking overview
While search visibility metrics are the best proxies to your organic growth, most clients also want to see position changes of their most important keywords.
It’ll get pretty messy to present position changes of possibly hundreds of keywords in a deck. We should, therefore, satisfy the client by only reporting on the most important keywords for the business, aka “money keywords.” You can then include the rest by linking to the exported spreadsheet if the client wants to see it.
Again, tag these keywords in the Rank Tracker. You can decide whether a keyword should be tagged like this based on its business relevancy and CPC. Or you can just go through the keyword list with the client.
6. Non-branded organic traffic progress
It took us a few slides before we got to the metrics a lot of SEOs and clients focus on first: organic traffic. The reason for showing this later is simple: Growing organic traffic doesn’t necessarily translate into business growth. The website can start ranking for keywords that drive traffic but not revenue.
The overall traffic number isn’t really a great SEO proxy for anything. To make it more relevant, let’s segment it into non-branded organic traffic only:
The reason for showing non-branded traffic here is to avoid attributing organic traffic changes to marketing activities unrelated to SEO. For example, if the marketing team launched a great PR campaign or started airing mass marketing campaigns, your organic traffic would naturally go up just from people looking up your brand more.
To show a more accurate overview of organic traffic progress, simply apply a query filter in Google Search Console (GSC):
Again, you want to compare the current month’s performance with the previous month’s and, ideally, even with the year-over-year (YoY) performance. Most businesses tend to have seasonal swings, so some MoM comparisons may look bad just because the high season has already ended.
Be careful here. GSC only provides 28-day views and comparisons by default. Thus, you need to select custom dates to compare whole months. Remember to compare the same number of days. Let’s look at a scenario where a month has 31 days (e.g., in such a case, start the comparison on the last day of August to account for only 30 days in September).
Your client may also get a significant amount of traffic from Google Discover or Google News. If that’s the case, it’s probably worth dedicating a separate slide to it.
7. New referring domains highlights
Next up is the backlink profile—showing the client what new, interesting coverage they got in the past month.
However, you should only report on backlink profile changes if your activities in the project influence the acquiring of new links. That can range from creating link bait content to planning and executing outreach campaigns. I mention this because link building is quite often a separate activity from many SEO projects.
If you are responsible for backlink profile growth, go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, check the Referring domains report, and filter for new referring domains in the past 30 days (as you can see in the slide).
We show the highlights of the newly acquired referring domains sorted by Domain Rating (DR) score because it’s a solid and easy-to-understand proxy for improving backlink profile growth.
If you engage in outreach activities and see a new referring domain gained from that, you can highlight it in the screenshot so that the client can differentiate earned and acquired links.
8. Link building progress
This slide is designed to let you go into further detail about your link building work done during the month.
It can include:
- The pages you built links to.
- Any standout, new referring pages.
- The number of links those pages got.
- Your link building statistics, e.g., prospects contacted and success rate.
- Any insights you deem relevant, e.g., exceptionally good or bad link bait content.
Ahrefs’ Best by links growth report in Site Explorer is good to include here because it shows you pages that received the most backlinks in the past 30 days.
Truth to be told, there’s much more to evaluating link building than the number of links and DRs of referring domains. But that’s relevant for link prospecting before launching outreach campaigns, not for SEO reporting. Your clients don’t need to dive into all the nuances.
9. Technical SEO health overview
This is where you’ll give a snapshot of the website’s health that takes into account all technical SEO errors and issues.
To get this data:
Go to Ahrefs’ Site Audit, set up a project for the client’s website if you haven’t done so already, and let the tool crawl the website. Depending on your crawl settings, Site Audit can recrawl the website periodically, providing you with all the current and historical technical SEO data.
You get the Health Score on the overview page after each crawl is done:
If this is your first time crawling the website, use this Health Score as a starting point. You can start referencing monthly comparisons in your second report.
Now, you may be thinking that one metric isn’t enough to reflect the whole state of technical SEO. And you’re right. But you’re usually not sending SEO reports to developers or other SEOs who can easily understand more in-depth information. For this reason, the Health Score is the best proxy for a client-friendly, technical SEO metric.
Again, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report on more technical SEO metrics, etc. Some projects involve huge websites and complex, technical SEO tasks. In such situations, it’s likely the client will welcome crawling and indexing statistics, details about the most important issues, etc.
10. Next month
After showing your client all the data and reports, you should give them a plan of the most important SEO tasks you’ll be working on next month.
A quick to-do list that summarizes your main focus for the following month will suffice. It will also serve as an anchor for your next SEO report.
So there you have it. A fully customizable SEO reporting template to give to your clients. In case you skimmed through the article first, here’s the link again:
Reporting will probably never be anyone’s favorite activity. But it’s crucial that you nail this to have satisfied and well-paying clients.
To wrap up, I want to thank everyone who shared their reporting insights with me over the years. I’m also grateful for Ahrefs Insider members, who proactively reached out with their knowledge and reports before I even started creating the template. And special thanks to Gyorgy Bolla, the search performance lead at Westpac, who introduced me to enterprise SEO reporting—the only area I wasn’t familiar with.
Think there are more metrics or slides this SEO report template should have? Got any questions? Ping me on Twitter.