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How to create easy-to-understand SEO reports

An image of author Sophie Brannon, accompanied by search-related iconography, including bar charts, a pie chart, and mock-up clicks and impressions metrics

What good is an SEO report if it doesn’t clearly communicate the state of your site’s search visibility and provide stakeholders with actionable insights that align with their business objectives?

Even if the report includes all the appropriate metrics, it’s your job as an in-house or agency SEO to interpret those trends and make recommendations. Communication in a report is more important than the numbers themselves.

Merely compiling your impressions, traffic, rankings, and so on isn’t enough if you want to maximize your chances of getting buy-in for your recommendations. You need to present your findings concisely and unambiguously.

To help you create more accessible, effective SEO reports, I’ll cover:

What to avoid in SEO reports

The way you report to stakeholders or clients may change depending on their preferences or the tools available to you. It may also change depending on the level of understanding they have about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

So, instead of starting with how to create an easily understandable SEO report, let’s first look at what you should avoid, as that will be applicable regardless of what software you’re using to create the report.


Overcomplicating your write-ups and using uncommon phrases to explain what you’ve been working on isn’t going to resonate with stakeholders. A director of a local plumbing company isn’t going to understand what Core Web Vitals or a log file analysis is. And most likely, they’re not going to care either.

Avoid using too much jargon to keep your reports simple. If this is unavoidable, then offer a written explanation that clearly defines the term(s) you have included.

Information overload

Giving too much information is just as bad as giving too little. While data is important, data fatigue is all too real.

Even if the data is important to you, it may not be for the stakeholder. No matter how clearly the data and charts may portray information, without context this could be seen as just a collection of numbers.

Pinpoint the most important data based on what is relevant to your stakeholders and who is viewing the report, instead of simply including everything.

Meaningless metrics

This is one of the most common scenarios in reporting that I’ve seen. Equally, it’s one of the most common complaints from stakeholders and clients that I’ve seen, too.

Often, the data that you’re showcasing is meaningless to stakeholders (even if it’s important to you and your team). Refine your SEO report to show the most important metrics that tie back to the core business goals and defined KPIs.

This helps to keep your report clear and transparent without confusing the person you’re reporting to. If there is too much to consume, they will switch off and will not understand the value of your efforts, which could eventually lead to less support for your campaigns.

Incorrect attribution

Have you experienced an organic traffic spike to particular categories, products, or pages this month? Fantastic!

But, have you looked into the real cause of this spike or are you simply attributing it to all of the hard work that you’re putting into your campaign?

There can be extenuating circumstances or other channels that feed into the success of your SEO campaign—such as a trend in the overall market, an online sale, or even a successful email marketing campaign—which can drive success via your channel (alongside the work you’re doing).

Not acknowledging this within your reporting, and having the stakeholder pull this up, can quickly lead to distrust in the reports you’re delivering and the data you’re showing. Be completely transparent and attribute successes correctly.

Confusing layouts

An SEO report should tell a story. It should answer the questions that your stakeholders have without them having to ask. Piling in too much data, into too many slides, without a proper order can cause confusion.

If you’re using automated reporting, ensure that the system is user-friendly and that the action users need to take is clear. Frustrating the reader before they’ve even absorbed the report will lead them to feel negatively about the entire channel, regardless of the work you’ve done and the results you’ve achieved.

Focusing on just one metric

This could be a result of stakeholder priorities due to lack of “big picture” understanding, or it could be how you’ve always approached SEO reports. Focusing on just one metric (such as rankings, for example) is no longer as simple as it was before. Search results have changed, Google’s algorithm has changed, and technology has changed to provide a more personalized experience for the user.

This means that a lot of metrics are less certain than they used to be. All tools, even Google’s own Keyword Planner, can have discrepancies and this needs to be accounted for within your reporting. Otherwise, a myopic focus on a single metric could lead to a worthless report that neither shows your progress or provides a roadmap to better performance.

Find the most accurate source for the data that you’re showing, adjust for any ambiguities, and look at a combination of metrics over a period of time to showcase your results.

I prefer a year-over-year comparison to mitigate any seasonal trends that may muddle the month-to-month data. During the pandemic period, I would compare against 2019 pre-pandemic figures to get a clear picture of the market (positively or negatively). Focusing on one metric over a short period of time can make your SEO efforts look far less successful than they actually are.

Highlighting only positives

If you’re showing only positives, you’ll likely raise a few eyebrows. Particularly when the stakeholders are involved with the business and can see the bigger picture. Don’t be afraid to show where things have gone wrong or if things are not quite going to plan.

This is all part of the communication behind the report. It’s more important to show what you’re going to do about it if it’s not going as planned. Showing only positives when this isn’t the case can make your data (and, consequently, you as a professional) seem untrustworthy.

Business owners and stakeholders know that things aren’t going to be perfect all of the time.

Not personalizing reports

I see a lack of personalization all too often in SEO reporting. Your SEO reports should be bespoke to the person or people reading them. This means tailoring the data to the expertise of the reader to show them what they care about most. I’ll go into more specific detail about how to effectively personalize your SEO reports in a later section.

How to create SEO reports for easy data consumption

Technically, there are infinite ways to structure an SEO report, but Looker Studio, PowerPoint/Google Slides, spreadsheets, and automated tool reporting are some of the most common ways to construct a report.

This is important as each tool will have different strengths and potential shortcomings for you to consider when it comes to crafting a clear, intelligible story about your SEO efforts. Here, I’m breaking down the do’s and don’ts of these common tools to help you build a report that is easy for the reader to consume and potentially act on.

Looker Studio

Formerly known as Google Data Studio, Looker Studio offers a dashboard style of reporting, connecting multiple channels via APIs to build an interactive, real-time report.

A screenshot of an example report within looker studio, showing metrics for sessions, conversion rate, transactions, total revenue, etc., as well as a revenue over time chart, revenue by channel, country, and device.
An example of a reporting dashboard in Looker Studio.


  • Your dashboard should be consumable at a glance. Use Looker Studio dashboards to provide a clear and simple helicopter view of a campaign by adding relevant charts and graphs in an easy-to-read format.

  • Automate your internal reporting, including the technical details and metrics that matter to your team. This level of granularity won’t always be useful for your stakeholders, but it may be imperative for your colleagues, particularly those working alongside you.

  • Create tabs within the dashboard to divide information, enabling stakeholders to get a clear view of how various efforts are going without getting bogged down with information overload.

  • Utilize the various APIs that Looker Studio supports to integrate the most important data in your reports, quickly and easily. This will save you time with your monthly reporting and also provide an interactive dashboard with up-to-date data that can be referenced at any time.

  • Add annotations to your charts and graphs to make sure that everything is clear to the reader with regard to the relevance of the data and why you’re showing it.


  • Do not simply refer clients and stakeholders to the dashboard in place of regular reporting. You still need to accompany your reports with an account of the work you put in and the success you’ve achieved over time—this is the storytelling component and it’s vital if you want SEO to continue to be a priority for your organization or client.

  • Avoid adding unnecessary widgets or sections. These can draw attention away from the details that matter most.

  • Don’t adjust filters without checking if the changes you’ve made have broken any of the widgets.

  • Try your best not to over complicate your dashboard. It’s easy to get carried away with BigQuery and all of the different adjustments you can make with a Looker Studio dashboard. Keep your dashboard clear and concise based on what your stakeholder wants to see within it.

PowerPoint/Google Slides

PowerPoint, Google Slides, or even a document (such as a PDF) can offer a more detailed reporting option if you want more write-up space. A lot of text can be overwhelming to stakeholders that have little understanding of SEO, so make sure to refine your doc/slides if this is the option you’re choosing. Bulleted and/or numbered lists with key insights and actions can make this more digestible.

An example of an SEO report created in Google Slides. Each slide goes over a different aspect of the campaign, such as webinars, blog content, videos, social shares, etc.
An example of an SEO report created in Google Slides.


  • Use bullet points or numbered lists with key insights and actions to make the report more digestible.

  • Use graphs and charts where possible to make data clear.

  • Give context for all of the information that you’re providing. The “why” is sometimes more important than the “what.”

  • Provide an executive summary of the most important stats. This way, a stakeholder who may not have the time to peruse the entire presentation can get the most important information on one slide.


  • Do not use filler content to fill empty white space.

  • Do not use outdated data during your reporting period. This can lead to a lack of trust and authority in your reporting. With a lack of real-time APIs, you can easily fall into a trap of using data that is no longer relevant, so always cross-check this before submitting your reports.

  • Try not to make presentations any longer than they have to be. This is something that I learnt the hard way after delivering deck after deck of over 100 slides to clients who just didn’t have the time to read through that much information. Where you can, keep your decks as short as possible, without underselling your work.


Some SEOs prefer spreadsheets for their SEO reporting. Again, this can quickly become data-heavy, so ensure that you have clear visuals and only the data that matters most to the stakeholder to keep this clear and actionable.

This is typically one of my least favorite types of SEO reporting, usually because the examples have been unclear and data-heavy. But, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be used effectively.


  • Similar to Looker Studio, use the tab functionality to segment data clearly.

  • Use graphs and charts, alongside annotations, to showcase information.

  • Clearly format all data and information to keep the spreadsheet tidy. Highlight headers in tables, centralize numbers, and use consistent formatting throughout.

  • Use VLOOKUP functions to pull data from different sheets (and even different files, if needed) to cleanly collate the information you need to show.

  • Use formulas to automate calculations to keep your reporting output quick.

  • Color code positives and negatives to clearly highlight what the stakeholder/client should pay attention to.

  • Extract data directly from tools such as Google Search Console using APIs, and use Power Pivot to handle large rows of data and complex data sets.


  • Don’t use the report as a data dump or technical audit export without any proper formatting or explanation. Instead, build out a static dashboard.

  • Try not to overload a sheet with numbers. If you’re struggling to read the numbers, then your stakeholders will likely have an even harder time.

  • Avoid including millions of rows of data just because Power Pivot can handle it. Keep your report as streamlined and visual as possible.

Tool-generated reports

With the wealth of tools with increasingly sophisticated capabilities available to SEOs, many professionals like to generate their reports via the software that they use day to day.

A screenshot of an automatically generated report presented as a PDF. There are sections for traffic, keywords, backlinks, etc.
An example of an SEO report automatically created by a tool (presented as a PDF).


  • Use the automated functions of tool-generated reports to speed up your reporting processes. This way, you can spend less time on reporting and more time on the work that makes a difference.

  • Use the graphs and charts that the tool provides, and use these consistently over time for clear comparisons month-over-month and year-over-year.

  • Utilize any API functionality to pull in data from elsewhere (e.g., Google Analytics or Google Search Console).

  • Take advantage of the ease of reporting by customizing pages or charts automatically in one place.

  • Export the report—don’t leave it just within the platform. If you unsubscribe to the tool at any time or the client needs data, but the tool has changed its features and the “live” version of the report has broken, you may be left in a sticky situation. Exporting your reports and saving them as static PDFs (for backup purposes) can give you some protection for the future.


  • You should not rely solely on data from just one tool. This can sometimes be inaccurate due to the way tools compile their databases or if they’ve made changes to their reporting functions and other features. Compare this data with other information to get the most accurate numbers for your report.

  • Do not interpret the numbers that the tool gives you as 100% fact. Generally, tools will provide an “average case view” of your data. Results in Google are highly customized, so it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact, 100% accurate figure through third-party platforms for all circumstances.

  • It’s not necessary (or even desirable) to pull in every bit of data the tool provides you with. Keep your reader in mind and make sure you’re not going into too much detail. For example, exporting a technical audit as part of your report every single month can result in clients caring more about how many alt tags they have left to resolve than the fact that their MoM/YoY revenue is significantly increasing as a direct result of your work.

What you should always include in your SEO reports

So far in this article, we’ve covered the don’ts and we’ve covered some of the top tips for the most common reporting tools in the SEO world. In this section, I’m taking a look at what you should always include, no matter what tool you’re using.


Any report, no matter the tool you’re using, should be personalized to the person you are delivering it to. This means the metrics should align with the KPIs they are interested in and the level of detail within the report should be tailored to the expertise of the reader.

If you’re handling more than one client or stakeholder at a time, templating your report can be tempting. But, this can be a downfall in terms of gaining trust and buy-in from a stakeholder, because, nine times out of ten, a template won’t show them what they want to see.

Here’s some general guidance to help you customize your reports for the specific type of stakeholder:

  • For a business owner, focus on the direct impact of the channel on revenue or conversions as a result of your work.

  • For a marketing manager, you can include more detailed information on impression share or market captured, and how other channels are feeding into SEO and how SEO is feeding into other channels.

  • For a more senior SEO, you can document exactly what you’ve done so far in a campaign and exactly what you’re doing next.


With all reports, accompany your graphs and charts with annotations and write-ups. I recommend including both insights and recommendations in the following format:

The data and the charts — This is the “what”

The insights annotation — This is the “why”

The recommendations — This is what you’re doing about it

This can help you clearly explain what your report is showing, how this aligns with what the stakeholder wants to achieve, and how this feeds into your current and future strategy.

This also helps explain where things aren’t going to plan and why. It can even promote action if the cause is internal or not related to you directly, but impacts what you are doing.

Clean and clear layouts

No matter the format, no matter the tool, and no matter the data you’re showing, make sure that it’s always clean and clear.

Graphs and charts typically display data in easy-to-read ways. Consider your audience and their understanding of SEO, and structure your reports (and annotations) around this.

A report should be easy to consume on first look. If there’s too much going on, then the stakeholder isn’t going to connect with the report and may therefore look sourly upon all the work that you’re doing.

Metrics that matter

The most important thing about creating reports that are easily consumable is to always clearly include the metrics that matter to the stakeholder.

This doesn’t mean that you should ignore other datasets, particularly if they’re important to showcase the value of the work that you’re doing, but they should be a subset of the report (i.e., shown on a different page or on a different tab).

Pull in the reader with the metrics that they care about most through an opening page or executive summary on the report. Then, use other data and annotation to clearly supplement the report.

The campaign’s story

Your report should always be structured in a way that tells a story, no matter the software you’re using to build it.

Lead with the most important stats that summarizes the work you’ve done and the results you’ve achieved, which link directly to the KPIs or business objectives that the stakeholder compares your achievements against. Use the data as the “what” and use insights and recommendations in the form of annotation or clear notes (bullet points work well for this) to explain the “why” and what you’re doing about it.

Be transparent with your story and don’t try to bury poor results. Explain why they occurred and how you’re going to adjust the strategy to counter this.

And, don’t forget to always follow up a report that you’ve sent with a call or a meeting to talk the stakeholder through it. This helps to ensure that there is no confusion with any of the data or recommendations that you’re suggesting. As with anything in SEO, clear communication is key.

You’ve already done the work, all that’s left is to report the story

Clearly, there are a healthy amount of factors to consider when compiling a successful SEO report, but they’ll become intuitive over time. Remember, it’s worthwhile to spend time and meticulously craft your reports because, otherwise, your efforts may go overlooked. Or worse yet, you could take the blame for factors that are out of your control.

The upside of appropriately detailed, personalized reports is equally high—you stand to secure buy-in for future campaigns, which can enable you to drive success for yourself and your company or your client.


Sophie Brannon

Sophie is an SEO specialist with 7 years of agency experience. She's led strategy, implementation, and communication for local campaigns through to multi-language international campaigns. She's also an industry speaker and led the Web Almanac 2022 SEO chapter. Twitter | Linkedin


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