In this comprehensive guide on digital marketing agency client reporting, you'll uncover the strategies, techniques, and insights necessary to create impactful reports that strengthen client relationships, showcase your agency's value, and drive meaningful results.
Holly Breedon, a Senior Account Manager at The SEO Works, shares advice and strategies for QuickMail’s audience, for improving your reporting. The advice and tips provided have been collected and refined over the years to ensure your reports demonstrate the true value of working with a digital agency.
Importance of Client Reporting
Without a strategic, comprehensive, and quality client reporting process in place, your agency won’t be effectively highlighting the value of your services. Reports are your agency’s opportunity to showcase the quality work your team are doing, the results you’re achieving, the short and long-term plans you have in place, and ultimately the impact you are having on your client’s ROI.
Transparency and Trust Building
Regular, detailed and transparent reports are a tool for building an initial and ongoing level of trust with your clients. By providing clients with a set time when they can expect an in-depth run-through of all the work you are carrying out, results, and plans, you set a transparent and open tone for their campaign.
The more open you are with your clients about the work they are receiving for the money they invest in your services, the more trust you will establish and maintain. The more trust your clients have in your team, the smoother and more efficient your campaigns will run, and the more positive the results you will be able to achieve.
Demonstrating Value and Expertise
In order to demonstrate value, all aspects of your reporting template must have this goal in mind.
Reports are an opportunity to showcase your agency’s expertise and validate your client’s investment in your services by providing quantifiable metrics that align with their Key Performance Indicators and allow them to easily measure their ROI.
Your reports allow you the opportunity to portray your agency’s skills, showcase your professionalism and give yourself an edge over your competitors.
Accountability and Performance Tracking
Client reports keep your teams on track with your planned strategy and hold you accountable, but it also holds clients accountable for their end of the bargain.
We see it time and time again, where clients invest in marketing with an agency and expect to hand over the responsibility completely and disengage once their contract is signed. Actually, the most successful campaigns are those where the client is engaged throughout, understands what is expected of them and is held accountable on their end too.
Your regular reports are a great check-in point with clients, to show you have kept accountability for the planned work and fulfilled this, and to set expectations with the client. They are also a means to outline any outstanding work that is with your clients for review or implementation, or highlight any input needed from them to allow the campaign to continue progressing.
Regular reports provide an opportunity to evaluate progress and identify areas for improvement.
Your reporting data and analysis will allow you to identify areas that may be performing poorly or not seeing growth, so you can adapt your future plans and focus accordingly to improve results.
Additionally, reports provide your clients with an opportunity to review and query any results, as well as raise potential new priorities for your consideration.
You ensure regular contact between you and your clients by establishing a schedule for compiling and sharing reports.
Whether you opt for sending reports each month, each week or bi-weekly, you ensure that both you as the provider and your clients know when to expect that touchpoint and have a set form of communication.
Not only does this mean your clients have regular contact with your team where you can share your progress, but it also benefits you. You can use it as time to chase your client on any work you are waiting to be approved or any input you need from them. Regular contact is important for forming a positive working relationship with clients.
Having established the importance of quality and regular agency client reporting, let's explore some tips for developing a framework, incorporating analysis, and ensuring effective communication.
Building an Effective Agency Reporting Framework
Here, I’ll offer some key components to building out your agency’s reporting framework.
Setting Standards and Frequency
There are various key elements to consider before you build out your reporting template and framework:
Decide on the frequency of your reporting. The most common reporting timeframe is monthly, which provides you with a whole month's worth of data and results to report on. However, if the nature of your work lends itself better to more regular reporting, you can opt for biweekly too.
If you report more often than biweekly, you are likely to find that the reporting time comes around too quickly, and you won't have enough valuable information to include.
Set standards of quality and consistency for your team to adhere to. As a manager or director at an agency, it is important to establish clear expectations and standards that you expect your teams to follow when creating, writing and sharing reports with clients.
For large agencies with an established reputation, like The SEO Works, where our teams are comprised of professionals and Account Managers with varying levels of experience, it’s important to set standards for the frequency, quality and format of all reports being sent out to our clients to ensure consistency.
We have set processes in place for putting together, reviewing and sharing reports, to ensure they are all uniform and in line with the quality and level of analysis and transparency our company is committed to providing. This includes regular quality assurance checks at different stages of client campaigns, thorough training for new starters and templates for our teams to work from.
Selecting the Right Tools and Platforms
The right tools and integrations required for your agency’s reports will depend on your services. For example, the tools used for reports on organic social media will differ from those used by a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) team.
I’ll provide an example here of the tools and/or integrations that The SEO Works’ SEO department uses as part of our monthly reports:
Looker Studio for our reporting dashboards, which allows us to pull data from various sources into one user-friendly, intuitive interactive dashboard for clients to review.
Google Analytics, to pull in data on the key metrics our clients use to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns and their ROI. Data we utilize from Google Analytics, and specifically GA4, includes Organic Traffic, Organic Conversions and Events, Organic Revenue, and other valuable data on user demographics and characteristics.
Google Search Console, again, we use this to pull in data on key metrics used to monitor organic search visibility and progress, such as Clicks and Impressions.
SEO Monitor for highlighting keyword positions, movements, search volumes, and trends.
These tools allow us to provide all the data we need to carry out analysis, draw conclusions and factor these into plans for client campaigns.
Consider the work you carry out day-to-day and the tools you use to monitor the results of your campaigns. Find an interface that works for your agency and allows you to integrate all the metrics that best demonstrate the impact you’re having. For us, that’s Looker Studio, as it allows us to easily compile and share interactive custom reports for our clients, but your agency may find an alternative interface that better suits your needs.
Customizing and Branding Reports
Your agency will (hopefully) have its own branding that is used consistently across your website, socials, and communications. This should also extend to your agency's client reporting. You should aim to customize and incorporate your branding throughout your reporting dashboards, so this is clear throughout and instantly recognizable. This should include colors, images, fonts, and styling so your reports reflect your agency throughout.
See an example below of the front page of our reports; the use of brand colors, fonts, and logos throughout ensures they are in keeping our branding and reflective of our agency. Not only does branding ensure your reports are easily recognizable, but it also adds to their professionalism, legitimacy, and trustworthiness.
Creating Insightful Reports
In this section, I’ll run through key elements to include in your reporting, ensuring they offer value and insights for your clients.
Providing Summaries and Round-Ups
It is likely that not all of your clients will have the time to read through and digest your entire report. So, while it’s important to carry out analysis and as much insight as you can into your work and the results achieved, you should also offer summaries and round-ups of key information. Think of these as the ‘headlines’ of client reports.
By providing more concise snapshots and summaries in your reports, those clients who are limited in time can gather all the most significant conclusions from a simple skim read or glance. This saves your clients time and can help those who may need to pass on key statistics from your report to other members of their teams.
In addition to summarizing and providing clear key statistics in your reports, you should also consider how you are visualizing and demonstrating your data and results. Many of us are naturally drawn to visuals and prefer to learn information from a visual rather than large paragraphs of analysis.
Your reports should factor in varied types of visualizations such as graphs, charts, tables and more, to display data in a way that is easy to understand.
When it comes to SEO reporting, examples of different types of visualization our agency uses include:
Line graphs with trend lines to show patterns of organic data over time, whether you are reporting on traffic, conversions, or revenue.
Pie charts to show different mediums, devices, and demographics like age or gender.
Tables to show a website’s top landing pages, rankings, queries, and more.
Scorecards to highlight trends for key organic metrics including sessions, users, conversions and more.
Incorporating Business Impact Analysis
Your report should aim to draw back to the main point, which is what impact your services have on your client's business. There are several ways you can ensure this is achieved in your reports.
Connecting Metrics to Client Goals
Metrics really matter. While you should have blanket metrics that you include in all your reports that are relevant to your agency’s offering, you should also consider any further metrics you can incorporate for your clients that are specific to their goals and KPIs.
For example, does a client rely on sign-ups to a newsletter to monitor their success? Are they an e-commerce site that tracks revenue and purchases? Or, are they looking to increase the number of inquiries they receive through their website? You should adapt your report to focus on these metrics and connect them up to their KPIs, so they can instantly see the impact your work is having on their business and ROI.
An example for an e-commerce SEO client of ours would be to include a section to analyze overall e-commerce performance, including data such as:
Transactions and revenue by marketing channels
But then break this down even further to a product level for additional value, including data such as:
Top products by revenue and transactions
Product group performance by revenue and transactions
Adapting reports in this way ensures clients of all business types and models are getting as much value as possible from your reports.
Converting Data into Tangible Results
The more clearly you can spell out the effect that your work is having on your client’s business, the better. While reports generally present a breadth of information and data to your clients, there’s no good including data that doesn’t translate into something tangible for the client.
Examples of questions we ask ourselves when writing SEO reports include, if a client’s click-through rate has increased, is this related to work you have done on improving metadata? If organic traffic has increased, which pages have seen an increase and is this related to improvements and optimizations you have made? If conversions or events have increased, is this related to user experience or conversion rate optimization work you have implemented?
It’s crucial to not just state increases or decreases, but to analyze these and make sure they are always explained in a tangible way to your clients, so they can easily identify the impact your agency is having.
Adjusting Strategies Based on Business Impact
Reporting periods don’t just benefit clients by showing them the work carried out, the analysis also helps our teams to identify patterns and potential campaign performance issues, so we can adapt our strategies accordingly.
Perhaps we see that organic traffic has skyrocketed due to increases in visibility in the search results, but when compiling a report we see this traffic isn’t being reflected in conversions or events on the site. Increased traffic is great, but if this traffic isn’t converting on the site, it isn’t having an impact on the business. We would therefore likely decide to shift our focus to reviewing a website’s user journey and experience on the site, as well as conducting conversion rate analysis to improve this.
Effective Report Communication
It’s all well and good to achieve positive results for your clients, but if you don’t phrase these effectively, the true value may not be understood.
While it can be easy to use industry terminology and phrases throughout reports, if your clients aren’t familiar with these, this will actually impede the value of your reporting. Instead, make sure to avoid using industry jargon where possible, and if you do include certain terms that are important, make sure these are explained, so your clients can still easily understand your analysis, results, and recommendations.
Where we include metrics, particularly any newer metrics, like Engagement Rate and Engaged Sessions, or even older metrics like Users, Sessions and Conversions, we provide explanations as to what these are referring to. It is better to assume your clients don’t know the terminology than to include all these terms that are familiar to you. This can lead to them not being able to understand and therefore not seeing the value in your results.
See an example of a clear and effective way to analyze results and draw conclusions used by The SEO Works team below:
“Over the course of [month], there has been a significant [increase/decrease] in users to the site, making up [X%] of all users. Sessions have also [increased/decreased]. This is likely due to [ranking improvements/decreases for [related terms/KW group].”
Hosting Productive Reporting Meetings
As mentioned above, agency-client reporting time is a great way to ensure there is a set, regular form of communication between you and your clients. When sharing your reports, you should also offer a meeting to run through this. For clients that find face-to-face communication useful, you can run over and emphasize the key results achieved, outline your future plans in line with these, and answer any questions your clients will likely have.
Make sure your report meetings have a set agenda beforehand to ensure they adhere to the time you have available and are structured conversations. You should also allow for time throughout and towards the end of a call for the client to ask any questions, too. Clients who may have never worked with an agency before or seen a typical report dashboard can seem overwhelmed by the breadth of data included. It is important to address any confusion and answer any queries early on in a campaign.
See a typical report meeting agenda used by The SEO Works team below:
Calendar Title - [Client Name] SEO Report Run-Through [Month]
A Brief Overview of Reporting Purpose and Aims
Key Areas and Components of the Report
Key Statistics to Note
Work Completed in [Month]
Organic Traffic Overview
Organic Conversions Overview
Keyword Movements Overview
Work Planned for [Month]
Work Outstanding for Review/Upload (where applicable)
Next Steps for [Month]
Addressing Client Concerns and Queries
As an agency owner or employee, you will likely have experienced feedback from clients on your work at some point along the way. It is how we deal with and respond to this that affects the working relationship long term. When it comes to reports, you should make sure that your clients have plenty of opportunity to query any of the metrics or data used and that you address these in-depth to avoid confusion further down the line.
We aim to adapt reports slightly to ensure they are relevant to the client at hand. For example, for an e-commerce client whose primary focus is organic revenue, we include a full additional page of data and analysis for e-commerce-related metrics. Adapting reports to suit the client’s industry and goals should aim to minimize any negative feedback. However, if concerns do arise, you should be open to adding in any requested additional information, where appropriate, to suit their needs.
As we know as agency teams, not all client campaigns will be a roaring success. There are a wide range of factors that can impede the success of a marketing campaign, such as how engaged your clients are with the work, changes in marketing trends or algorithms, and other limitations. There is an art to presenting negative results to your clients in a way that acknowledges these factors and draws conclusions on how your strategy can be adapted to suit them.
Managing Client Expectations
Dealing with negative or fluctuating results actually begins way before your first report or piece of work, as it is all about setting reasonable expectations. Many clients will come to us with unrealistic expectations about the timeframe for SEO success. It is up to us to navigate these expectations and reframe them so that the client does not end up disappointed and difficult to manage further into the campaign.
Dealing with Fluctuating or Negative Results
Negative results or fluctuations can be framed as opportunities for your clients. Rather than simply showing clients at the surface level that their traffic or visibility has dropped, dig deep into what the potential causes might be and make detailed recommendations as to how your work will be adapted to combat this.
Examples of causes of negative results for our agency have included Google algorithm updates, clients being disengaged or unresponsive, or limitations on what we can improve due to the way a website has been built. Instead of flatly presenting poor results in a report, we identify the likely causes and explain how our work will be adapted to improve this.
See an example below of how this could be phrased to a client:
“There have also been some negative movements:
- [Keyword]: position [X] to [X]
- [Keyword]: position [X] to [X]
- [Keyword]: position [X] to [X]
To counteract this and recover rankings, we plan to work on [task].”
Reports are not static things that can be left alone and used long-term without any reviews or changes.
Continuously Improving Reporting Processes
As marketers, we have to be agile and adapt in line with ever-changing algorithms and trends. Failing to do so can lead to our work becoming stagnant and appearing outdated to clients.
The SEO Works recently reviewed our entire reporting process in line with the release and enforcement of Google Analytics 4, for example. The new metrics introduced meant it made sense for us to re-look at how we display and review the data to ensure our reports are still offering as much value and insight as possible. We added further sections for in-depth analyses, increased reviews of SERP features, and additional areas for specific types of conversion analysis to suit clients with all types of business models.
H3 - Incorporating Client and Team Feedback
Listen to the feedback you receive from both your clients and your internal teams. It is easy for agency owners or managers to set reporting processes and leave your teams to get on with it each month, but you should always welcome feedback to address any issues found.
Agency client reporting is arguably the most important tool for showcasing your agency’s value and the impact you’re having on your client’s businesses. While there’s a lot of information presented here, the main premise is to ensure that all metrics, analyses, and conclusions drawn by your agency are related back to the effect this has had on your client’s bottom line and ROI.
Holly Breedon is a Senior Account Manager at The SEO Works, who specializes in content marketing and strategy. She has a background in linguistics and is passionate about providing effective and refined long-term strategies to improve visibility for clients.
The SEO Works are a UK-based multi-award-winning digital growth agency. We’ve worked with clients in a vast range of industries and sectors to help them elevate their business online.
We have established a strong reputation for delivering tangible results and outstanding customer service through SEO, digital PR and PPC, helping our customers to get customers and conversions from search. Get in touch with our team today to find out more about how we can help your business and receive a free website analysis.