Report Generating SEOs

SEO is not a report generating business. It’s a roll your sleeves up and dig in kind of activity. What’s sparking this post is that a few times recently I have been shown the large formal reports that some SEO firms offer. Very pretty. Glossy. 80% to 90% completely filled with non-unique content (i.e. not specific to the customer, but instead consisting of general SEO advice).

But reports do nothing for you. There is plenty of free SEO advice out there, being shared by people who regularly break new ground. The client could read those free reports and figure out what makes sense for their business themselves if they had access to the right type of resources and time. But they don’t. That’s why they went looking for an SEO firm in the first place.

Action drives results. Here are just three examples of typical client needs we have seen over the past few months:

  1. Duplicate content issues. To help you understand the complexity of this, here is a list of 12 ways webmasters create duplicate content. Figuring out where the duplicate content is, and how it is generated is a hard core exercise requiring real effort.
  2. Site moves, with significant renaming of URIs. This requires developing a specific and detailed map of the old site and the new site and defining the 301 redirect plan to minimize any collateral damage.
  3. Saving the best for last – link campaigns. There is no way that this is anything other than a custom activity. It’s too wrapped up in the content and tools available on the site, the budget of the client, the availability of resources to generate new content, and the topic area of the site.

An SEO really needs to be someone who is a business analyst, with a strong mix of both marketing and technical skills. They also need to be able to dig in and get their hands dirty. If you don’t there is no way that you are going to help your client increase the level of traffic they get from search engines.


  1. says

    I find that producing reports to clients can help them become more involvoed in the process. Initially I’m looking to help them improve internal mechanisms for basic on-page SEO skills. In 3 months time I still don’t want to be working with them on renaming their products and rewriting descriptions, I want them to be aware of the process of optimisation and marketing. Ulimately, they wont need me for that and it will be become a cultural thing with their organisation, and I get to work on more “interesting” things.

    With a report you can show how their work has affected rankings, how the new long tail keyword list improved CPC, and give them instructions for the next month/quarter. You can use reports to show where the money was spent, where the money should be spent next, what competitors are up to…

    I completely agree that the report isn’t the work, but a report is a great way to keep a client (and yourself) aware of the work that is going on and still needs to take place.

    And it’s a nice place to attach an invoice.

  2. says

    My viewpoint is this: many times, people go “fishing” for SEO agencies. Unfortunately, these are the same people that are quite uninformed about SEO. At the same time, its those same people that often go looking for the cheapest prices and simply go with them.

    It is a screening processes on both ends. The client submitting the RFP is trying to gauge the best price vs. service offering while the agency is trying not to waste their time on one of the dozen or so RFP’s it gets each day. Everyone’s resources are limited.

    In situations like this, the SEO Analyst (yes, every RFP should have an SEO Analyst analyze the site) should make personal notes as well as compile the informational proposal. The need to inform about general SEO is there and is often requested. However, the Analyst should be able to get on the phone with the prospect and, using their notes, dictate specific aspects of the site that need attention.

  3. says

    Hi Marty – I think you are probably referring to PPC campaign reports, or analytics reports, which are things I thing that SEOs and SEMs should absolutely help generate.

    What I am downplaying here is the idea of reports that are focused solely on high level technical SEO observations (e.g. in bound links are good, duplicate content is bad, etc.).

    I believe that plenty of that type of generic advice is available for free on the Internet. The devil is really in the details, and what clients need to know is what the priorities are (what to do first), and specifically what needs to be done with their site.

    I have recently seen reports from other SEO agencies that is filled with this generic SEO advice, and the client had to pay to get that report. I think this is the kind of thing that gives SEOs a bad name.

  4. says

    Amen brother! I’ve found typically the larger firms love to produce lengthy reports, if for no other reason than to bore the client into thinking they are actually doing something.

    I run a very small SEO firm, and as such I choose to spend my time actually doing work rather than creating reports – which as you have mentioned – don’t actually “do” anything to help the client’s results.

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