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jigsaw puzzle pieces

How to Stop Confusing Your Clients with Metrics

Hal Conick

jigsaw puzzle pieces

“Deliver the information that will make the most impact, boil down your KPIs to one or two pages and provide further information if requested or when necessary,” says Britney Muller, senior SEO scientist at Moz

Marketers have become more familiar with metrics, analytics and measurement over the past 10 years. But clients? Less so. Giving clients large reports often leaves them confused by what these reports mean.

Moz put together a guide to help marketers make clients less confused about the numbers. Marketing News spoke with Britney Muller, senior SEO scientist at Moz, about common points of client confusion, how marketers can ensure clients understand the stats and common missteps made by marketers.

Where do clients commonly become confused when seeing reports?

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One of the most confusing aspects of an SEO report is when agencies highlight a certain metric but don’t provide any context. An 8% increase in organic search traffic sounds impressive, but is it really? Is this increase from before or after the agency stepped in? Is this increase typical or atypical for the industry? Did this increase in traffic result in additional sign ups or sales? Context matters.

A much more informative and powerful statement would sound something like this: “Through effective keyword usage, we increased organic search traffic by 8%, resulting in a 5% increase in sales valued at $10,000.” This tells the reader what you did, what it means and how it boosts ROI.

How can you work to ensure clients understand what they’re seeing?

When I read poorly developed reports, two things tend to stand out: jargon and unhelpful graphics.

As with any industry, SEO has its own “secret” language. Words and metrics that are common to agency professionals can sound like nonsense to clients. When putting together reports, take the time to define, clarify and even use analogies to help your clients understand the data.

Even the best data can be spoiled by a bad visualization, so choose charts and graphs that communicate metrics clearly, accurately and in a way that leaves a strong impression. Some of the most popular options you have to choose from:

  • Bar charts: Good for comparing categories of data such as leads from email, social and SEO efforts
  • Pie charts: Good for showing parts of a whole, such as sources of total website traffic for a given quarter
  • Line charts: Good for showing changes over time, such as increases in total traffic or decreases in website bounce rate year to date

Is there a misstep marketers commonly make when showing reports to clients?

Yes, and it’s at the very first step of the process: Too many marketers don’t take the time to truly understand the client and their business. The strongest way to get clients on board with your reports is to incorporate the metrics that matter to them. Make sure you uncover their needs early in the relationship.

Building on that, communication is key in maintaining solid relationships with clients. Don’t let clients get comfortable with the same report every week or month. Throw in interesting surprises and new graphics to keep them engaged and show that you care and are thinking of them.

How much access should clients have of their business’s SEO reporting? Do there need to be extensive explanations before they see complete reports?

Transparency is one of Moz’s core values, so I’m a firm believer in complete and total access to metrics and data. If everything is above board, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

That said, SEOs have a bad habit of providing long, exhaustive, book-like reports that clients never read. Deliver the information that will make the most impact, boil down your KPIs to one or two pages and provide further information if requested or when necessary.

As for explanations of reports, here’s what I would recommend: The first report should include a dedicated call to walk them through format, definitions, layout and data; subsequent reports should include a dedicated call but you can stick to what went well and what did not and end with questions. This allows you to be both respectful of the client’s time and accessible for questions and comments.

Finally, I’d recommend a dedicated call any time the format of a report changes in a significant way, this way the client feels as though they were a partner in the improvement to the report format and not like you’re pulling a fast one on them.

Hal Conick is a freelance writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at halconick@gmail.com or on Twitter at @HalConick.