SEO is a long-term marketing strategy with literally hundreds of actions required to make it a success. But how do you distil this into a report that matters to your CEO?

As a marketer, you may well be fonder of graphs than most, and capable of immersing yourself happily in reporting dashboards for hours at a time.

But, when it comes to reporting SEO to CEOs, it’s essential to strip down to the bare essentials: just because you have access to reams of data, it doesn’t mean you need to share it. In fact, to meaningfully report SEO to management, you just need 4 pages and 6 brief datasets, all of which are easily available in Google Analytics and Search Console.

Our recommendations are below, along with detailed instructions on how to find and display your key metrics in Google Data Studio (because, really, why would you use anything else?)

  1. Traffic from Organic Search

At a bare minimum, your CEO will want to see that website traffic is increasing as a result of their SEO investment. But don’t be tempted to show all ‘Sessions’ data in your SEO report: if your social media department is under-performing or your PPC campaigns have tanked, this will reflect badly on the overall data. For the purposes of SEO reporting you only need to show trends in organic (search) traffic.

In Google Analytics, this is the ‘Organic Search’ metric (found under Acquisition / All Traffic / Channels). In Data Studio, it’s ‘Organic Searches’ (spot the difference!)

For our SEO clients, we provide three datasets:

  1. Monthly growth in organic traffic
  2. Year-on-year growth in organic traffic
  3. Trends in Organic Searches over a 12 month period

Do it in Data Studio:

  • Use the ‘Scorecard’ option and link with your Google Analytics data source
  • Choose’ Organic Searches’ under Metric
  • Set the date range to ‘last 30 days’ (or choose ‘Auto’ if you’ve already set a date range for the whole report)
  • Set ‘Comparison Date Range’ to ‘Previous Period’ or ‘Previous Year’ (we include both for our SEO clients)
  • To show trends for the past 12 months, select the Time Series option and use the date picker to select a 12 month period
  • Under ‘Style’, make sure ‘Linear’ is selected under the ‘Trendline’ option

How to explain it:

In this reporting context ‘Organic Searches’ refers to any traffic that’s arrived on your site via a search engine.Traffic categorised as organic can come from any of over 50 ‘default search engines’, not just Google (you can view the full list here).

  1. SEO as a contributor to overall success

To understand their ROI, your CEO needs to understand how SEO is contributing to company goals. To put SEO’s contribution in context, you need to compare it to other channels such as pay-per-click or social media.

You should already have goals / Ecommerce tracking set up in Google Analytics (if not, stop reading now and read this instead).

Depending on your set-up, there are three ways to report on SEO ROI:

  1. For our Ecommerce clients (with Ecommerce tracking in place) we present organic search’s contribution to total revenue
  2. For lead-based clients whose goals have a value attributed to them in Google Analytics, we report on Goal Value compared to other channels
  3. For lead-based clients with no monetary value applied to their goals, we report on the number of Goal Completions originating from organic traffic

Do it in Data Studio:

Ecommerce Revenue SEO report

  • Use the Pie Chart option and link with your Google Analytics data source
  • Choose ‘Default Channel Grouping’ under Dimension
  • Choose ‘Revenue’ under Metric
  • Set the date range to ‘last 30 days’ (or choose ‘Auto’ if you’ve already set a date range for the whole report)
  • Set ‘Comparison Date Range’ to ‘Previous Period’ or ‘Previous Year’ (we include both for our SEO clients)
  • If you’d prefer to display actual revenue as opposed to a percentage of the total, go to Style and choose ‘Value’ under Label

Lead-based SEO report with a goal value assigned

  • Use the Pie Chart option and link with your Google Analytics data source
  • Choose ‘Default Channel Grouping’ under Dimension
  • Choose ‘Goal Value’ under Metric
  • Set the date range to ‘last 30 days’ (or choose ‘Auto’ if you’ve already set a date range for the whole report)
  • Set ‘Comparison Date Range’ to ‘Previous Period’ or ‘Previous Year’ (we include both for our SEO clients)
  • If you’d prefer to display actual revenue as opposed to a percentage of the total, go to Style and choose ‘Value’ under Label

Lead-based SEO report without a goal value assigned

  • Use the Pie Chart option and link with your Google Analytics data source
  • Choose ‘Default Channel Grouping’ under Dimension
  • Choose ‘Goal Completions’ under Metric
  • Set the date range to ‘last 30 days’ (or choose ‘Auto’ if you’ve already set a date range for the whole report)
  • Set ‘Comparison Date Range’ to ‘Previous Period’ or ‘Previous Year’ (we include both for our SEO clients)

Calculating ROI

If you have values assigned to your Goals or Ecommerce tracking, you can include ROI in your SEO report using the following formula:

Revenue from Organic Search – Cost of SEO investment / Cost of SEO investment. To present ROI as a percentage, multiply the resulting number by 100

Be sure to calculate ROI for other marketing channels as well so you can compare.

How to explain it:

These reports show how organic traffic is directly contributing to your business goals. However, in your reporting you should make two things abundantly clear:

  1. SEO is a long-term marketing strategy and it’s rare to see results for at least 6 months (we say this a lot)
  2. The purpose of SEO is to increase organic traffic to your website and, as such, a low conversion rate is not indicative of poor SEO performance. If you want to make sure searchers convert when they get to the website, you need to be working on your Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).
SEO brings the horse to water; CRO makes it drink Click To Tweet

  1. Target Keywords

For a marketer presenting SEO data, keywords can be the hardest area to manage expectations for three key reasons:

1. As previously mentioned, optimisation takes months to have an effect, and improving search position is highly labour-intensive. As well as the on-page optimisation your CEO may be able to see, a huge amount of behind-the-scenes work is required for effective SEO including adjusting metadata, improving page load time and backlink building. There are still swathes of old-schoolers who believe that sticking a keyword in your Page Title and stuffing it liberally within the text will get you on to page 1 of the SERPs.

2. Everyone wants to be on the first page of Google. Despite it being, quite clearly, impossible (there are only, after all, a maximum of 10 spots on the first page). Even if you’ve demonstrated at the start of your report that your organic traffic is climbing and bringing you more conversions than any other channel, if you can’t show a first page position you’ve failed, right?This is where you will reap or rue the quality of initial keyword research and how successfully you’ve convinced management that quality and searcher intent is WAY more important than search volume.

3. Keywords are not what they used to be. Google’s move into more sophisticated semantic search means that, although identifying one keyword to optimise for is still advised, it needs – more than ever – to be couched in text that Google deems relevant and that answers key questions about the theme. Content, and addressing searchers’ queries, has never been more important. From a reporting perspective, it’s therefore much more valuable to report on a keyword theme rather than an individual term.

All that said, management LOVES keyword reports. Consequently, this section of your report will probably come under the closest scrutiny. We keep it simple and meaningful using two simple summaries:

  • Target keywords
  • Other search terms

Creating a Target Keyword report in Data Studio

  • Use the Table option and link with your Search Console data source
  • Choose ‘Query’ under Dimension
  • Choose the Metrics you’d like to report on under Metric. We use ‘Average Position’, ‘Impressions’ and ‘Clicks’
  • Set the date range to ‘last 30 days’ (or choose ‘Auto’ if you’ve already set a date range for the whole report)
  • Set ‘Comparison Date Range’ to ‘Previous Period’

This will display all Queries the website has received impressions for in the last 30 days – way too much information. To make it meaningful, you need to just report on those search terms your SEO strategy is targeting. Here’s how you do it:

  • Under the date selector, click on the blue ‘ADD A FILTER’ option
  • Give your filter a name you’ll easily be able to recognise (e.g. Website name Target Keywords)
  • ‘Include’ will be set by default – leave this as it is
  • Choose ‘Query’ from the Metric dropdown menu
  • Choose ‘RegExp Match’ from the list of conditions
  • Add your target keywords, separated by a pipe (but no spacing between terms): e.g.

Product description copywriter|ecommerce copywriter|seo copywriting agency

This can be a bit fiddly: you may find it easier to want to write this in a text document and then paste it in. Remember that you’ll only have to do it once! If you have hundreds of keywords, you may want to separate them into themes and create multiple tables.

  • Click ‘Save’
  • Sort the table using whichever metric you feel is most useful to your CEO. We tend to sort by Average Position (in Ascending order)
  • Remember that you’ve already shown the value of traffic from search at the start of your report. Feel free to include it again here, though.

How to explain it

This report is fairly self-explanatory, however it can be helpful to include the following notes:

  • How the data is sorted (e.g. by Impressions, Average Position or Clicks). You may also want to tell your CEO how to re-order the data by clicking the three dot icon at the top of the table (visible when you select the ‘View’ option as opposed to in edit mode)
  • A reminder of how much value organic traffic has provided in the reporting period
  • An explanation that the keywords displayed are the ones your SEO strategy is focussing on
  • A reminder that SEO takes at least 6 months to take an effect and is a long-term marketing strategy (you may have noticed, this can’t be overstated)
  • A brief explanation of terms, e.g.:
    Impressions = The number of times any URL from your site appeared in search results viewed by a user, not including paid Google Ads search impressions.
    Average Position = the average position of that search term in the reporting period
    Clicks = the number of clicks to your site generated by that search term (on Google)

  1. ‘Other Keywords’

While it’s important to have a set of target keywords front of mind when reporting on SEO, it can result in a bit of tunnel vision. Search habits change and, as a marketer, you need to be in a position to spot emerging trends and work with your SEO agency to act on them.

Your CEO also needs to see that the website is appearing for lots of different search terms – particularly important if your SEO strategy is new and you’re waiting to see results.

To make what would otherwise be a huge report useful, we only report on other search terms that have a decent number of impressions. How you set this will depend on your industry - if you’re targeting niche search terms then you may want to report on any terms with more than 50 impressions; for more mainstream businesses you may set the bar higher - say, anything over 500 impressions.

Whatever you choose, here’s how to display it in Data Studio:

  • Find the Target Keyword report you just created (above), hover over the three dot icon next to its name and choose ‘ Duplicate’
  • Scroll down to ‘Add a Filter’ (NB: do not edit the existing filter or it will amend the data in the Target Keyword report)
  • Choose a name, and then pick ‘Exclude’ from the first condition drop-down
  • Choose ‘Query’ from the Metric dropdown menu
  • Select ‘RegExp Match’ from the list of conditions
  • Add your target keywords - again separated by a pipe (but no spacing between terms)
  • Click Save
  • To add the Impressions filter, choose Create a Filter’ again but this time select ‘Impressions’ from the Metric option and ‘Greater Than’ from the conditions dropdown. Choose your minimum number of Impressions and click Save.

How to explain it

You can use the same explanations as provided for the Target keyword report, but explain that this table shows all other keywords with xx Impressions or over.

A note on Branded search terms

As search engines attempt to wade through the proliferation of fake news and misinformation, they are placing increasing attention on strong brand presence. Although this is more relevant to a PR report than an SEO one, your CEO may still want to see trends in brand-related searches. This is best done using the Scorecard option, with the metric set to ‘Impressions’. In your filter options, create a filter for Queries containing your brand name.

What next?

There you have it: a 4 page report specifically designed to demonstrate the value of SEO to CEOs. We report monthly to our clients; you may choose to send this data quarterly, but don’t be tempted (or coerced into) sending it weekly. For a long-term strategy, weekly data is next to meaningless and will provoke more questions than it answers.

What do you think? Do you struggle to meaningfully report SEO to management? Are there any other metrics your managers require? Let us know in the comments below.

We offer a full-management SEO & Content Marketing service, including monthly blogs and all the reporting elements mentioned in this article. To find out more, give us a call on 01803 865025 or drop us a line.


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