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SEO reporting for SMBs: How to get started

a graphic showing mock ups of a bar graph, pie chart, and total clicks and impressions. there's also an image of author Sophie Brannon on the left-hand side, above text with her name

Whether you’re working agency-side, in-house, or as a freelancer, reporting back to your stakeholders is important for getting buy-in and highlighting your achievements. Even if you’re the only employee of your own business, regularly creating reports can help ensure your SEO strategy is on track.

Often, the SEO report provides a justification for the budget that the company is spending on this area of marketing. The problem is, most SEO reports are not easy to understand for people who don’t already know SEO.

Here, we’re taking a look at SEO reporting specifically for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). In this article, we’ll cover:


What is SEO reporting?

SEO reporting offers insights into the performance of an SEO campaign. It should provide a summary of the key metrics and tell stakeholders (the decision makers that you’re reporting to, which could include yourself) what is working and highlight further opportunities for growth. Effective SEO reporting can help you to make smarter marketing and business decisions.

An SEO report can come in different formats, but will generally offer an overview of works completed, key metrics, and justification for why the work was carried out.


A screenshot of an SEO report showing charts for revenue, sessions, product adds to basket, as well as metrics for new users, conversion rate, revenue by channel, etc.
An example of an SEO report built on Google Looker Studio. What an SEO report looks like and the data it contains can vary depending on the business.

In most cases, an SEO report is the only tangible thing a client, stakeholder, or the wider team will see—meaning it is the most valuable way to show the work that you have been doing and the impact it’s having.

Demonstrating the value of SEO can be difficult—unlike with other channels (such as paid advertising, for example), it’s not always clear what the return on investment is, particularly in the early stages of a campaign. This is why quality SEO reporting is crucial.


What to include in SEO reports

If you’re working within an SMB and you’re managing the SEO for one or more websites, understanding how to report back to key stakeholders can help you showcase the value of the work you’re doing.

But, how do you structure these SEO reports?


Define the depth of reporting

First, you need to define the depth of the report you’re putting together so that stakeholders understand the business impacts and have all the information they need to make informed marketing decisions.


The granularity of your reports will be determined by the people you are delivering the reports to. Whether you’re working in-house or agency-side with SMBs, there are two groups of people your report is likely to be going to: marketing managers and business directors.


  • Marketing managers: This group will at least have a high-level understanding of what SEO is and may be interested in deeper metrics. Depending on the seniority of the marketing manager, they may already have access to Google Analytics or other reporting dashboards and are likely more interested in deeper insights and strategic decision-making. They may want to know how the SEO that you’re leading ties into the greater marketing strategy and other channels that they are managing. Your report should connect the dots and provide insights that they are not able to source for themselves.


  • Business directors: If you’re delivering a report to the director (or a board of directors) of a business, then different metrics are likely to be important to them. They will typically have a lesser understanding of SEO than a marketing manager will. The director of a business will likely be more interested in what impacts the bottom line. Metrics like revenue and transactions (for an eCommerce site, for example) or goal completions (such as form fills and leads) will be more valuable to them than metrics like search visibility. The report itself should be less complex than a report for a marketing manager and should clearly show the most valuable, relevant metrics. Insights and recommendations should be provided as well as an outline of the changes you have made and their impacts. A director of a business is unlikely to know what a log file analysis or an alt attribute is but they will want to know what the return on their budget is.


Match data to business goals

Show the data that matters most to the business in your SEO reports. In a study of 1200 small business owners and decision makers, 83% of respondents stated that SEO providers should be able to help them “access new customers,” according to Backlinko. Just over 60% of business owners cited that “increasing brand awareness” was also important to them. Specifying what these key metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are right at the start of the campaign can help you to better structure your reporting later and contextualize results.

This can also help you properly benchmark your performance and monitor campaign success. KPIs set at the start of the campaign will define the stakeholder’s idea of “success.” You may consider setting up multiple reporting dashboards:

  • One for you (as the SEO measuring relevant site metrics) but also metrics that feed into these that you deem important.

  • Another more streamlined report that highlights the core business-related metrics for the stakeholder.


Essentials to report on

A checklist of SEO reporting essentials for SMBs, listing traffic, goal completions, branded vs non-branded growth, detailed insights, detailed recommendations, and year-over-year comparisons as essentials to include in your SEO report

So, what are the “must-haves” in an SEO report for SMBs?


  • Traffic (filtered by “organic”) — Show how many people are visiting the site via the search results

  • Goal completions (filtered by “organic”) — This could be revenue, transactions, form fills, etc.

  • Branded vs. non-branded traffic growth

  • Detailed insights (more on this below)

  • Detailed recommendations (more on this below)

  • A clear year-over-year comparison (rather than month-over-month, as this does not account for seasonality or trends)


Your SEO report should tell a story. It should have an outline of what your objectives are, what you’ve done to meet these objectives, and the impact of this work. It should include any key learnings or strategies/processes that have been put in place (whether they’ve worked out or not). It should provide detailed insights, looking not just at your changes, but also at the wider market: What are competitors doing? Has there been an algorithm update that possibly influenced performance? And, has there been a significant shift in buyer trends?


All of these factors can be included in an “insights” section. The insights should explain why the data says what it says. Your recommendations should explain what you are going to do about it (or what the business should). It is also important that your insights explain any barriers that you are facing.


Example of common reporting scenarios

Below are a few scenarios that may help you to structure your insights and recommendations.


01. Traffic, revenue, and goal completions have all increased

A graphic showing charts for traffic, revenue, and goal completions all growing over time.

The data shows that traffic is up and revenue and goal completions have also risen.


Insight (What has caused the data to look like that):


  • An increase in keyword positions

  • Growth in overall keyword visibility

  • Growth in top 3 or page 1 positioning

  • Keyword improvements, specifically on conversion-focused keywords

  • Peak seasonality for the business

  • Other marketing campaigns (such as email marketing or PPC) have contributed to the uplift in organic traffic

  • Growth in brand visibility

  • A combination of the above


Recommendation (What are you going to do about it?):

  • Replicate the success of the keyword improvements with other terms (you’ll likely need to explain how you’re going to do this as well)

  • Maintain the uplift in keyword positions (and how you’re going to do this)

  • Capitalize on the seasonality by focusing on the main target terms

  • Continuing to maintain visibility in other marketing channels so that they can all work as an integrated strategy (this may require collaborating with other teams)

  • Improve non-branded visibility alongside the increase in brand visibility

  • Focus on the company’s Google Business Profile to improve brand visibility in local searches

  • Improve positioning for all areas of the funnel

The report should explain that the campaign is going well (data), why it’s going well (insights), and what your team is going to do to make it better (recommendation).


02. Traffic, revenue, and goal completions have all decreased

A graphic showing charts for traffic, revenue, and goal completions all decreasing over time.

The data shows that traffic, revenue, and goal completions have all dropped.

Insight (What has caused the data to look like that?):

  • Seasonality (the industry as a whole has seen a decline)

  • Brand demand has fallen (this can be seen on Google Trends)

  • Impact from a Google algorithm update

  • Major website changes (such as migration or content removal)

  • Manual action

  • Your recommendations have not been implemented

  • Volatility (check if keyword positions for main terms have been moving around frequently)

  • Decreased demand (i.e., search volume reduction, decreased impressions). In this case, you’ll need to identify and report on whether it was a particular keyword, group of keywords, or page that has led to the impressions drop, as well as the cause.


Recommendation (What are you going to do about it?):

  • Identify opportunities for quick growth (i.e., create new content, re-optimize an important page that has dropped dramatically, etc.)

  • Assess algorithm update, industry impact, and restrategize (i.e., has Google changed its understanding of intent)

  • Explain how you’re going to get your recommendations implemented (this is especially important if performance is suffering because your previous recommendations weren’t implemented)

  • For a demand drop, identify whether there are other areas of growth that can be focused on and restrategize

The report should explain that the campaign is not performing as expected (data), why it’s not going well (insights), and how you’re going to make it better (recommendation).


03. Traffic is down, but revenue and goal completions are up

A graphic showing charts for traffic, revenue, and goal completions, with traffic decreasing over time but revenue and goals still increasing.

The data shows that traffic has decreased, but revenue and goal completions have grown.


Insight (What has caused the data to look like that?):


  • Some of the pages that aren’t critical for conversions (such as blog posts) may have lost traffic. This could be seasonal (e.g., guides that do well in winter but lose traffic from spring), or it could be Google updating its understanding of intent for the terms that page is targeting. Conversion-based pages may still be performing well.

  • Other versions of the site may not be performing as well as they were previously e.g., alternative language versions that are being tracked on the same analytics account, but aren’t optimized for search). In this case, focus on the main version(s) of the site, if that’s what you’re tracking.

  • Visibility drop or keyword drop, but branded traffic is still driving conversions.

  • Visibility dropped overall, but main conversion-driving keywords are still performing well.


Recommendation (What are you going to do about it?):


  • A content audit might help your team get a better understanding of what has gone wrong in the blog and what you can do to improve it. This could help build a new content strategy as well.

  • Recommend investing budget into other (international) versions of the site.

  • Review the specific keywords that have dropped. Can a page be re-optimized for these terms? Has Google changed the intent and, therefore, do you need to reframe the content that was ranking for this term? Do you need to direct more links towards these pages if it’s a primary term that dropped?

The report should explain that the campaign is going well (data), where it can be improved and why (insights), and how you’re going to make it better (recommendation).


04. Traffic is up, but revenue and goal completions are down

A graphic showing charts for traffic, revenue, and goal completions, with revenue and goals decreasing over time but traffic still increasing.

The data shows that, while traffic is on the rise, revenue and goal completions have declined.


Insight (What has caused the data to look like that?):


  • This could be a result of seasonality, where we see a higher number of inquiries than direct sales through the website, even though traffic is still visiting the site.

  • This could be because more traffic is visiting inner pages, such as the blog or the contact page, and not converting at the same rate.

  • This could be informational-based traffic rather than conversion-based traffic as a result of long tail keyword content driving keyword rankings.

  • This could be due to increased branded traffic from customers who may have previously converted and are now returning site visitors.

  • A higher proportion of new visitors have landed on the site. Historically, the average conversion time for this site is X number of visits through different channels before converting, so this traffic is likely to convert at a later date.

  • Measuring macro vs. micro conversions (e.g., they may not have purchased on the site, but we’ve seen an increase in email sign-ups).


Recommendation (What are you going to do about it?):


  • Make sure exit intent (an offer or promo code that can appear, usually in the form of a pop-up, as the user is trying to leave the site) and other customer-nurturing strategies are implemented on the site.

  • Make the most of other channels (such as email marketing) to convert users at a later date.

  • Focus on conversion-based keywords if a lot of the traffic is being driven by informational content.

  • If this is becoming a regular pattern, then perhaps the user experience needs to be reviewed and tweaked.


The report should state that the campaign is going well (data), how it can be improved and why (insight), and how you’re going to improve it (recommendation).


Since your insights and recommendations are based on your performance data, let’s briefly discuss some industry-standard tools that you’ll likely be using to collect that data, as well as other options for your reporting needs.


Free tools to track SEO performance


Large enterprises and agencies are likely to have several advanced tools at their disposal. With an SMB, the budget may not be available for this. But, that doesn’t mean your reporting has to be any less detailed. Some of the most beneficial tools for SEO reporting are free.

Google Analytics

A screenshot of the Acquisition report in Google Analytics 4, showing users and new users.

Google Analytics has always been an important data platform for understanding how users are arriving at and interacting with your site. Google Analytics 4 (GA4) is the latest version of Google’s analytical platform and offers a variety of predefined reports that you can use for your SEO reporting. By default, you can view the following reports:

  • Acquisition – Where your traffic originates from

  • Engagement – Events and conversion events triggered by the user

  • Monetization – Revenue generated

  • Retention – How frequently users visit and for how long

  • Demographics – The type of users visiting by age, location, language, and gender

  • Tech – The technology your visitors are using

You can then proceed to drill down further into this data, adjusting the date range and channel.

Google Analytics 4 can allow you to develop a combination of reporting based on your needs. You can view built-in dashboards for more basic reports on the metrics outlined above. For more complex reporting however, you can dive into Google’s reporting APIs, which offer more advanced segmentation. Simply put, Google Analytics 4 offers an invaluable data source which can help to automate both simple and more complex reporting tasks, no matter the type of online business you’re reporting on.


Google Search Console


A screenshot of the Google Search Console overview dashboard, showing performance and indexing metrics.

Gathering data straight from what the search engine can see is another important part of the equation and can also help you monitor your site’s technical healthGoogle Search Console is the platform that can do this.

​​The reporting options available in Google Search Console include:


Bing also offers Bing Webmaster Tools, which can provide similar data but specific to Bing as a search engine. Google accounts for over 90% of the market share globally (at the time of publication) so while Bing should not be discredited and can be a valuable data resource, Search Console may be more relevant for your SEO reporting.


Your content management system

Some content management platforms offer data insights directly within their dashboards, such as the Wix Analytics reports.


A screenshot of the Traffic overview in Wix Analytics.
An example of a Wix Analytics report, showing site sessions over time, unique visitors, top traffic sources, top pages by sessions, etc.

Wix offers pre-built, editable reporting split into a Traffic Overview, Behavior Overview and Marketing & SEO reports. While this data is particularly useful for quick insights and can form the basis of automated reporting (perhaps on a weekly or monthly basis), you’ll have more freedom to get granular with the data on more detailed analytics platforms such as Google Analytics or similar.


Keyword positions

One thing we haven’t mentioned throughout this guide is keyword positions: Keyword positions are generally an old-school reporting tactic. Google’s advancements mean that different keywords can appear in different positions based on device, location, user behavior and more. This makes tracking individual keywords difficult—especially without the use of paid SEO tools.

It can also lead to warped views of SEO performance as those with little to no SEO knowledge may hyper-fixate on specific keyword positions (as opposed to bigger-picture metrics like traffic or conversions). Generally, business-aligned metrics offer a more valuable performance measurement.

Unless directly specified by the stakeholder as something to track, avoid reporting on keyword positions unless you have access to tools like Semrush, Ahrefs, SE Ranking or similar that can automate this tracking for you.

Generally, combining multiple reporting and data platforms can provide you with a well-rounded view of your SEO performance. With multiple metrics to consider, measure these against the business objectives that you are looking to meet to determine what to include within your reporting.


Communicate your needs, recommendations, and success with SEO reports

Remember, reports are the core channel of communication to showcase SEO’s value and return on investment. As such, they can make or break a relationship with a stakeholder.


When managing SEO for an SMB, there are some key fundamentals to remember to help with your SEO reporting:


01. Define the metrics you should report on at the start of the campaign, and get direction from the key decision maker on what these metrics should be.

02. Tailor the report based on who is receiving it and their level of knowledge.

03. Keep your report only as detailed as it needs to be and avoid excess data.

04. Provide actionable insights and recommendations based on the data.

05. Make sure your report tells a story.

06. Connect all areas of your report to the main business goals and KPIs.


The better your SEO reporting, the more buy-in you will receive from the stakeholders that manage budgets, enabling you to make an impact on the company’s success—not to mention your own professional success as well.


 

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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