Since most SEO agencies work in a vacuum and generally do not publically share their reports (and rightfully so), it’s hard to get a read on the overall attitude of SEO report writing and the workflow behind it.
This lack of information is especially annoying because good SEO report writing is a pivotal cornerstone in the relationship between the SEO and the client and it’s hard to know where you stand industry-wise without a benchmark to compare to.
Last month Onely conducted a survey focusing on how SEOs communicate with their clients – specifically, how SEOs write and put out their reports.
This survey was done to confirm one of my personal suspicions regarding the way Onely handles its report writing in-house, which I’ll be addressing later in this article.
Let’s start with the quality of the SEO reports.
Roughly 60% of the SEOs who participated said that the quality of their report writing is a priority.
This is excellent news overall, especially considering that this is where clients tend to get the most actionable data. On top of that, SEO reports are in many ways the most concrete product you can provide the client on a regular basis – they’re consistent reminders of your value to the client.
That said, over 30% said that the quality of their report writing is not a priority, and almost 10% said that they’ve never given it consideration.
Considering that one of the biggest issues SEOs have when dealing with clients is communication, the fact that we have 40% of SEOs not caring about or not even considering the quality of their reports is pretty breathtaking.
How are those reports being written?
Nearly 60% of the SEOs said that the reports are individually written for the client, including Onely.
When we’re talking about Onely, by individually written, I mean that the SEO in charge of the project collects the data and writes the report explaining everything in detail.
Back to the survey, just over 26% of SEOs use a template, almost 10% don’t write reports, and 4.5% use a checklist of some kind.
The remaining 2.7% use a variation of the following: individually written reports with sections based on templates (0.9%); using Excel sheets to display the data (0.9%); and customized data studio reports based on templates (0.9%).
I’m happy to see that the majority of SEOs are personalizing these reports, as I feel this critical detail makes a HUGE difference for the clients.
Now, what’s the workflow after writing those reports?
Over half of SEOs simply write their reports and send them to the client. And only 8.1% of SEOs have someone double-check the data.
I get that there are deadlines to meet and resources can often be limited, but this data reveals some critical areas for improvement.
We have a specific workflow at Onely when it comes to our reports. Once the SEO in charge of a specific project is finished collecting the data and writing the reports, they’re reviewed by other SEOs for quality assurance.
Once that’s finished, the reports move on to a professional editor to check grammar, clarity, and other unsexy editorial things. We even have an internal style guide for all writers to follow to make sure we’re on the same page.
We also make an effort to preserve the writer’s voice for each of the reports so that the client understands that the documents they’re reading are personalized and that they’re reading the work of an SEO superstar!
This means that every report at Onely is peer-reviewed internally by a few SEOs and then professionally edited. We believe that the quality of our reports is a reflection of the quality of service we are providing.
This approach adds time to the process, naturally, but when you’re charging a lot of money for your services, having a handy and clear report for clients to page through makes them feel like they’re getting their money’s worth while they’re waiting for the devs to make their website shine.
So how do we stack up with the rest of the industry?
And here’s the big one.
The vast majority of the SEOs surveyed produce reports between 1-10 pages.
This is the reason why I was curious about how other SEOs were doing their reports. You see, the reports we’re editing in-house are crazy huge, and I had a hunch that our reports were not reflecting the industry as a whole.
The average length of our reports is 97 pages, which puts us in line with 2.7% of the SEOs who participated in this survey.
Our longest report, which was sent out to a Fortune 100 company earlier this year, was 186 pages long.
For perspective, this report amounted to 29,770 words, which puts it at nearly the same length as George Orwell’s Animal Farm (29,966 words).
What does a 186-page personalized report at Onely look like? I’m glad you asked…
Now I’m not advocating writing novel-sized SEO reports. For us, our reports are a reflection of Onely’s core values (in this case: Excellence Only, Data Driven, Digging Deeper, and Transparency), and creating long reports is just a part of our DNA.
Whether you’re writing a ten-page or a hundred-page report, the information you’re providing MUST:
- be organized;
- be clear to understand;
- provide the client with confidence by bringing them closer to their goals;
- and show progress over the course of your cooperation.
At the end of the day, what works best for you and your client is paramount.
If this survey is an accurate reflection of the SEO industry, there are huge opportunities for SEOs to stand out in the crowd with their reports:
- Don’t take your report writing for granted. It is an extension of your work; especially in terms of quality. Is the quality of your report an accurate reflection of the quality of your work?
- Don’t rely on templates for the majority of your reports. Your clients represent different industries and each has distinct issues that need to be resolved – so why are you treating them the same in your reports?
- Don’t send the reports to the client without letting someone else look at them first. If your client sees a significant mistake in your report, how are they supposed to trust the rest of your work?
- Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through all the lifeless data. If you’re like us and giving your client a Stephen King novel of SEO horror stories every month, it wouldn’t hurt to make it interesting to read, right?
- If you have an agency with a large SEO team producing various reports, consider the possibility of hiring an editor. And if that’s too much, then work together to produce an official style guide for the agency to ensure continuity among all the different report writers.
Thanks to all of the SEOs who took the time to participate in our survey. We hope you’ll find the information in this article valuable.