Since Google's landscape is always changing, some have raised the question whether or not ranking reports (such as those offered by AgencyAnalytics) are something which can be relied upon.
If you're one of 70% of SEO companies providing rankings reports to your clients, this article addresses the following questions:
Are keyword rankings still relevant?
What additional information is important for clients to know?
How to communicate effectively about key performance indicators.
Ranking reports are important to clients. Why? Because as an SEO expert, your primary job is to increase exposure on search engines. Ranking is a huge, HUGE part of increasing exposure on search engines.
It's been said that the best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google. While rankings are only one metric to measure, they still are the steak and potatoes of SEO progress. While I believe you should have key performance indicators as closely tied to the bottom line as possible, rankings increases are beneficial before that increase in revenues occurs.
For instance, if you're a dentist who is waiting for the phone to ring, wouldn't it help to know that you're moving up from position 45 to position 13 for a "dentist (your city)" type keyword?
Such a rankings increase wouldn't likely make this dentist's phone ring (most people won't travel to page 2 of Google). So how else will this dentist know that your SEO efforts have been the least bit effective?
If you think of this from the dentist's perspective, you would have no clue what you're even paying for (without proving a rankings increase).
Maybe this is why AgencyAnalytics serves 30 dental marketing agencies, and 934 other agencies that serve at least one dental-type client.
It's because in SEO, reporting matters.
In the years that I've been offering dental marketing ideas to help dentists grow their practice, I've noticed a theme in the SEO industry. It's a troubling theme. And it's really, really time for this theme to stop.
It's the theme that there is a "secret sauce" to SEO, that only our brains can process. That dentist's and other small business owner's brains are just too little to comprehend these crazy "ranking reports."
That's complete hogwash
In a 5 second glance at an AgencyAnalytics report or client dashboard, anyone of ordinary intelligence can see if you're making progress (or regressing). If your rankings report shows a move from position 45 to position 13, this would be a powerful Key Performance Indicator (KPI). Can you think of a single SEO who wouldn't show off a move from position 45 to position 13? And yet, zero phone calls would ensue. Not a drop of revenue, most likely.
So why are ranking reports so important ?
Because SEO takes time. And the more you can show progress being made before your client reaches the top of page 1 of Google, the more likely that client is to respect and appreciate what you're doing for them.
Ranking reports are important to showing SEO progress. I feel almost silly saying that out loud.
So why is this statement controversial ?
I believe there are two major reasons:
1.Some SEO companies don't want accountability. It's easy to say, "just give it more time" and run the debit card for indefinite periods of time when you have no KPIs.
2.Some SEO companies feel that while ranking reports are indeed important, more data is required in order to show the full picture to the client. There is merit in this approach.
What additional information is important for clients to know?
It's important for clients to understand what the implications of your SEO efforts are. Part of this means going over ranking reports, making sure the client is on the same page as you. By answering questions about SEO, you're able to gain your client's trust in your abilities.
While you want to tie your SEO results as closely as possible to the client's profits, you know that the road to increased profits often takes time. Many of AgencyAnalytics' features and plugins can help you with everything from call tracking data to PPC management. Here is my proven, step by step KPI blueprint for dentists:
First, if the website is ranking on page 2 or lower, begin measuring rankings immediately. It helps if you get a "baseline," for the current rankings (even if the rankings are volatile).
Second, show deliverables. While not all SEO tasks show an immediate bump in rankings, informing the client that you're working on their case is reassuring. If you're building powerful, editorially granted links for your client, this would definitely be something to share with them!
I've found that showing updates of writing I've been working on can help put even the most anxious clients at ease. Showing updates of citations being built or corrected, schema markup being optimized, or even something as little as a meta tag update. This will help you build good will between you and your client.
Third, once you arrive on page one of Google for at least some of your target keywords, it's good to show them some stats for traffic. This depends on the client's interest in your efforts, and what kind of data you promised them at the outset of your relationship with them. You can use Google Analytics, but I've found that once you reach this point in SEO, the primary measurement of success for dentists is phone calls.
How to communicate effectively about key performance indicators
Although it's not exactly SEO, this will really differentiate you. Find out how much new business they're getting from SEO.
For instance, working with a consultant who specializes in the client's industry can help prove that your SEO efforts are helping your client achieve the desired results. Sandy Pardue with Classic Practice Resources helps dentists create systems that measure their ROI and improve efficiency in their dental practice.
"Knowing the numbers in your practice is something that most dental offices need to improve on. By using software such as 'Practice By Numbers' we help expose what's really going on in a dental practice, and make adjustments and recommendations based on the dentist's goals," says Sandy.
Forming a strategic alliance with well-respected business consultants in your client's niche can not only help you prove ROI from SEO, but also help drive leads (through referrals).
Put yourself in the shoes of your clients. If you open a brain scan of your clients, what do you see? Are they confused about how SEO is helping them reach their goals?
I often ask my dentist clients what their new patient flow is like. I take things a step further, by asking what kind of new patients they're getting from our work together.
For instance, for many dental offices, a new dental implant patient who is paying cash ("fee-for-service") is worth a great deal more than a PPO-insured patient who is price shopping for "just a cleaning" from the cheapest dentist in town.
By showing that you care about the client's actual, real-world success, you differentiate yourself from all the other SEO companies that aim to replace you.
These are just a few of the techniques I've used to retain nearly 100% of my clients.