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Businesses of all sizes love to see their websites ranking high on Google and Bing. For years, SEO consultants have been providing ranking reports to clients to show the success of the SEO work. But some SEOs have stopped providing ranking reports, saying it's not a true measure of success. In our "Discussion of the Week," we want to know what your stance is on ranking reports. Should SEOs be providing this data to clients, or is that time better spent on other reports/projects? This could go in a few different directions, so feel free to take the discussion where you want. The floor is open!
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Avatar Administrator
from MattMcGee 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I don't know if I'm in the minority or not, but I haven't created a rankings report in probably three years. And I won't create them now for current/future clients. I explain this right up front, too: If you want ranking reports, I'm not the person you should be working with.

But since consulting is only a small portion of my work life these days, that's a luxury I have and I imagine full-time consultants may not have the same luxury. Very curious to hear what others have to say on this -- is there still value in ranking reports? How do you deal with small biz owners, or with C-level execs at huge companies that expect to get regular reports showing where they rank?



Avatar Moderator
from toddmintz 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Personalized / localized search has made ranking reports irrelevant (though they were most irrelevant even before personalized / localized search).

Traffic / conversions is all that really matters.



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from Rhea 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 3

We still provide ranking reports, but in Raven (which we use for most of our reporting) there's a feature that lets you bring in traffic for your rankings. I only like to send a rankings report with Google Analytics traffic added, because it's a more effective measurement. Now we can see which keywords drove the most traffic, and within analytics, the most conversions. That's far more interesting and important data.



Avatar Moderator
from DavidWallace 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 2

I feel ranking reports are fine as long as you educate the client that what the report shows may not match what everyone across the board sees with personalized search and all. It's almost like looking at your Alexa Rank in that it is not a "all-in-one" matrix to base success of a campaign on but only a "spec" of data.

Ranking reports alone are a really bad matrix to measure any success by so they should be combined with other reports related to actual traffic - things like top search and non-search referals, top searched keywords, conversion rates per keyword, top pages, goals obtained and so on and so forth.

We use Raven Tools and do provide the ranking reports within the toolset but there is so much more info that can be provided as well and should be.

All that being said, there are still more clients than I care to count that feel if they are ranking # 1, 2 or 3 for their target terms, that they are winning the game. Only education between vendor and client can get them past that and rather look at the big picture.



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from paisley 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Not always...

Think Brand or product names.

Think keywords that have been shown to convert.

Think broad term describing a product or service.

"When customer asks how are we doing in search?"

possible answers:

a. "We have made the cash register ring 30 more times last month"

(requires client feedback and tracking keyword to cash register.. not always possible)

b. "We have increased traffic to your website 50%"

(requires keyword analysis to find out if traffic is qualified or bouncey)

c. "Search share percentages between you and your competitors that we have previously defined has increased, you now own more search engine real estate than your competitor"

(These require ranking reports and pre-defined measurable keyword info)


d. "You are #1 for (location of store, etc..) and (qualified term)" in all but 4 markets. We will be obtaining #1 placements for those next"

(requires ranking report)


IT depends on the client.. some clients.. don't care.. what was the "qualified traffic to my website?" we give them increased amount of visits based on keyword and which ones converted and which ones didnt.


I think it depends on the client and the channel..


Todd..

Set your location to Rogers' Ark. type in Rockfish...

Then set your location to Dallas, Tx then type in Rockfish, Tx


different results?

when doing ranking analysis on multiple location retail clients.. (think 1000+ locations nationwide), the ranking is specific to that location. You must change your location to the stores pre-defined area first then search to get where they show up.


some clients want that info, some waht conversion info, some want traffic info.. it depends on the client.. p.s. Since working with more fortune 50s at Rockfish.. i've learned SEO is about doing what you can within the clients limits.. because sometimes, those limits won't budge.






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from paisley 1168 Days ago #
Votes: -1

totally agree with Rhea and David.

DOES THIS LOOK LIKE LATIN?



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1168 Days ago #
Votes: -1

Absolutely not. They provide a false sense of security as well as a false sense of potential problems. Rankings are not what SEOs should be providing. They should be providing search engine targeted traffic.



Avatar Moderator
from Realicity 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

There are many data points that we put together for client reporting and ranking reports are one of the smallest and last that we include.

Why we include them:

  • Clients ask, therefore we provide.  It makes them happy to see the rankings and have a visible reference point to look at.  They just don't get as excited about web analytics as I do.
  • With personalization creeping into every SERP, it is nice to have an unbiased SERP report.  Because I'm in Minnesota and a client may be in Portland, we are going to get different results and this can be an equalizer for location and personalization algorithms.
  • And lastly, they help to understand where, and where not, your coverage is.  Since traffic for many search terms can vary from month to month and sometimes greatly from one season to the next, it is another reference point for coverage and progress from month to month.

Now all that being said, I usually do not talk to clients about rankings once we start showing them traffic and conversions.  It's amazing how quickly they can forget that they ever wanted to look at ranking reports:)



Avatar Moderator
from nickfb76 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I personally believe they should be included in a report.  I no longer send out reports that include 100 keywords.  We're talking about a handful of keywords that the client understands is a long term battle to achieve.

More importantly though, I include site metrics such as visits and conversions.  In fact, I typically include a list of keywords that are driving the most traffic and generating the most sales during the period in which the report is being drawn up for.

Top rankings don't matter if they dont drive the right traffic and force conversions.  However, clients like to see progress and actively like to see what is being done for them.  Sometimes its easiest to show them via keyword rankings. This includes targeted keywords, long tail keywords, and even branding keywords.



Avatar Moderator
from incrediblehelp 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Just show them the backend of Google Webmaster Tools!  Shows impressions, clicks, CTR and rankings.  Not 100% accurate but a good idea of what is going on with Google.



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from jerednel 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Refusing clients ranking reports is a luxury afforded by those who can pick and choose their clients.  Unfortunately, for the vast majority of people who do SEO, this is not possible.

In the real world, the client is your boss.  If a ranking report makes your boss happy, you provide them with that.  Especially if it's a small business such as a law firm or restaurant.  This is not to say that you cannot provide other reports that show a more measurable ROI that you can use to ween your clients away from traditional ranking reports though.



Avatar
from paisley 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

FYI.. if you are new to SEO.. Read Rhea.. Read David Wallace's replies.. Read Todd Mintz's reply because he knows local very well. Read the one above from Realicity.. these are REAL WORKING SEOs with customer experience.

Ranking reports are part of SEO, not all of SEO.. but a big part and (shutting up before i go off anymore)



Avatar Moderator
from Jill 1168 Days ago #
Votes: -1

I disaree @jerednel. It's not a luxury, it's about educating the client. It would be the same with a boss. What sort of boss would just want a "yes man"? Wouldn't they prefer someone who explained what they really needed and why? And why the ranking report is not only inaccurate but unuseful? As a boss, I would be annoyed with the employee who just gave me what I wanted even if they knew it wasn't what I needed. At least without putting up a bit of an argument. (I realize not all bosses are like that, nor are all clients...so I do see where you're coming from.)

But unfortunately, the more that SEO consultants don't try to educate on this point, the more ranking reports will never die.



Avatar Moderator
from hugoguzman 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 6

As innacurate as ranking data is nowadays, it can still provide a small semblance of perspective/value when paired up with traffic and conversion data.

It helps identify keywords that have a potential for exponential increases in ROI (e.g. keywords that are already driving visits and conversion even though they don't yet rank in the top spot)



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from jerednel 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Jill Thanks for the reply!

I never said you shouldn't educate your client.  If I have a client that requests a ranking report, I will not refuse that to them.  I am still going to communicate the value of SEO through metrics such as non-brand vs brand traffic/revenue, AOV, etc...And eventually they will see that frequently ranking reports mean little when they are not ranking for their vanity terms, but traffic and sales are increasing.

I agree completely that it is bad to be a Yes Man.  I do, however, think it's a little self righteous to flat out refuse a client a requested report.




Avatar Moderator
from nickfb76 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I think Hugo nailed it.



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from misterlister 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Instead of ranking reports, I try to get our clients to focus on Page Rank.   :)


All kidding aside, as James mentioned, Ranking Reports are now a small segment of the overall summary we provide in our monthly reports to our clients.  Yes, it is up to us to educate them about the statistics that are truly important, but at the same time we don’t expect to do this overnight.


When initially talking with a potential client, I’ll often ask why they are interested in SEO.  A majority tell me it is because they don’t show up when someone does a search in Google for xyz.  From the onset we have an understanding of why they want to hire an SEO agency, so we want to make sure we provide them with statistics that they readily understand and provides them with the data that was initially important to them.


However, once the campaign is underway we immediately begin discussing the statistics that are truly the most important to the success of their site; things like non-branded traffic, conversions, conversion rates, search traffic, etc.  I think that it is imperative to gain the trust of your client, after which it becomes much easier to educate them.



Avatar
from paisley 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Good Advice.

Thanks Misterlister.


"When initially talking with a potential client, I’ll often ask why they are interested in SEO.  A majority tell me it is because they don’t show up when someone does a search in Google for xyz.  From the onset we have an understanding of why they want to hire an SEO agency, so we want to make sure we provide them with statistics that they readily understand and provides them with the data that was initially important to them.

However, once the campaign is underway we immediately begin discussing the statistics that are truly the most important to the success of their site; things like non-branded traffic, conversions, conversion rates, search traffic, etc.  I think that it is imperative to gain the trust of your client, after which it becomes much easier to educate them."



Avatar Moderator
from JulieJoyce 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Bit of nastiness going on here I see...

I have a few clients who ask for a ranking report in conjunction with their link building report, and that's fine with me, but more and more are monitoring rankings on their own. I personally check rankings on my own anyway for the clients and try to keep an eye on them, because they can tell me a lot about what's going on.



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from chasegreen 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I am new to SEO and this is an eye opener for me. I need to check out Raven Tools it looks like. Anyone care to point me to a sample report with conversions/traffic together? I think that's the most important report you can give a client. Show them the best performing keywords based on traffic to conversion ratios. Showing clients where they are in Google doesn't matter anymore.



Avatar
from MaryBowling 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 1

What clients really care about is getting more customers and making more money. If all you want them to judge your work by is rankings, then they are probably not going to stick around for long.

It's easy enough to give them ranking reports if they ask for them, but showing them how you are helping them to get more phone calls, walk-ins and sales is what will really make them happy.



Avatar
from nuttakorn 1168 Days ago #
Votes: 0

We provide SEO report with number of metrics from marketing perspective and SEO perspective. For the ranking, we don't focus on that, but we do have search visibility report that show the corelation on organic traffic and conversions.



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from Bharati 1167 Days ago #
Votes: 0

We provide ranking reports of some niche keywords which are the source of targeted search engine traffic along with other metrics that matter for SEO. It is a consolidated report of an overall view about how the site is improving on the search engines and the web.

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-analytics-metrics-monitor-the-seo-progress/25493/

Totally ruling out ranking reports is not a correct thing but totally focusing on it as a performance metric is not correct either.

We had expressed our views regarding this topic on our blogpost some time back:

http://blog.webpro.in/2011/05/seo-is-much-beyond-serps-but-importance.html



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from rustybrick 1167 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Well, now that GA is releasing their own SEO reports which shows rankings, those are easy to give clients access to. :)



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from St0n3y 1167 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Aside from rankings not being an accurate reflection of what anyone sees, and most ranking reports being innacurate anyway, clients still take comfort in them. We stopped providing ranking reports enmass, but do often highlight certain pages/keywords in their analytics reports and consider ranking factors, among many other things, when determining where there are wins and losses and understanding why.



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from SeanWF 1167 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I still work with ranking reports, but their value is relatively minor compared to our other reports. It's only one KPI among many. As the SERP becomes more complex, I believe that our definition of "ranking" needs to change along with it. Specifically, we should start focusing more on a website's position in the search results, as well as its share of the page. Position is different from rank because it takes into account blended results, paid search listings, and other modifications to the traditional SERP.



Avatar
from Thos003 1167 Days ago #
Votes: 0

What does the customer want?

Beyond all of the flaws in ranking reports, the problem with simply providing a ranking report is that what you are reporting is what they will be focusing on. If you make the rankings the core value of your service then you will be judged solely on the rankings. Do you as a SEO only want your value associated with a rank?

From an owners perspective, a search engine rank is easy to understand. It's easy to watch. It makes sense. It has a value. An owner and a SEO can both agree that being #1 for the businesses vertical is a good thing.


Just be careful as a service what you put your value on. As a pest control guy, I understand that customers don't want bugs. But customer retention is not just in the lack of bugs. Customers’ perception of our kindness also determines whether they stay with us or not. It’s not simply the absence or presence of bugs.



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from Archana 1166 Days ago #
Votes: 0

To some degree it is good to provide SEO ranking report to the clients. It helps them to check the performance. But at the same time there are so many good tools nowadays that will help them personlly to check the rank anytime. As per my opinion it it good if the client would go for the rank checking himself.



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from Sudeep 1166 Days ago #
Votes: 0

There are two types of customers in SEO industry the first type, who believes in quality and the second type who believes in quantity of work. Rank reports matrices are common choice of second type of customers. I accept, without ranking of keywords SEO losses its shape but it is not the end of the world. From my experience I can say the second type of customers hardly cares about Google Analytics Report because for them Ranks are only important factor. It is quite possible the keyword for which you are coming on second page brings good amount of traffic and which are meeting set “Goals” but for second type of clients they will still tell you- “it would have been better if this keyword appears on first page with my other keywords.”



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from BrianL 1166 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I'm sure I'll catch some major grief for this, but those of you claiming that personalized or location specific results has made ranking reports irrelevant are a little uninformed. We're tracking millions of terms and over a billion pages a month for ranking data and there really isn't that much difference from place to place and personalization only adds a small change here and there. Ultimately, there are still organic results mixed in with whatever you see and while they may not be as prominent as in the past, they are still something that's worth trying to get or at least monitor. Another major reason for tracking rankings is that with updates like Panda, there are huge swings in ranking on some terms. Those may be important terms. If you're not tracking that movement, you're missing out on important information. I think that just like SEO itself has evolved quite a bit, tracking rankings and what you are tracking has evolved and it's not just about trying to track getting to #1. It's about tracking movement, both for yourself and your competition. Monitor what competing sites are doing so that you can get clues on what may be more valuable to focus on.



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