Not all reporting is created equal

Search engine optimization is essentially all about improving the rank for a keyword phrase in the Google search results. It therefore makes sense that most digital companies would report on rank improvement. It is fairly easy to track and thus show improvement or, heaven forbid, a decrease in rank.

Here is an example of an SEO report we provide our clients on a monthly basis –

SEO Vancouver

From a client perspective, this probably looks like a fantastic report; a lot of keywords in the top 3 spots and most have made significant progress since we started and even month over month.

The problem with reporting on rank is tri-fold:

1). Google’s search results can vary quite significantly from person to person as they personalize the result based on a number of factors.

This, of course, makes reporting on rank less accurate.

2). Volume. If you are optimizing for a keyword with zero search volume and get to the #1 rank it doesn’t matter at all. That keyword won’t generate traffic and thus can be a complete waste of time.

This graph shows, as a rough aggregate of data, the click-through rates of organic results –


(Source –

So if you are ranked in the #1 spot for a keyword with 1,000 searches per month we could reasonably anticipate about 364 clicks. And you would expect to get fewer clicks on that keyword the lower you rank. There are a lot of different factors that can increase/decrease your click-through rate but just as a rough picture of what one might expect.

The next question we get asked quite often is “what is a good volume for a keyword?” This leads to the third issue, which can be correlated to the volume question.

3). What is the value of that keyword and how well does it/will it convert? Not all keywords are created equal and there has to be a balance between the volume and intent. For example, a law firm in North Vancouver might be trying to optimize their website for “Personal Injury Lawyer” which has a high volume of 3,600 nationally or 10 searches per month when geo-targeted to North Vancouver (according to Google’s keyword planner). Personal Injury Lawyer North Vancouver has 40 searches per month nationally.

So what is the best keyword? If we target volume alone 3,600 is the easy winner but has extremely low intent for anyone searching outside of BC for that law firm. Although we might think 40 searches per month is low, it’s a fantastic keyword with solid intent and we would expect there to be a great return on results for a top rank result.

So what’s the best way to report on the results for search engine optimization?

There is a better and best report. The better report is to combine any rank report with Google analytics reports. Under acquisition in analytics, we can see organic search results. Ultimately the purpose of SEO is to increase organic traffic to the site. Using analytics and comparing it to the same time period (or previous year) when you didn’t have SEO might be a valuable way to see a total lift to your website. We would expect to see a report like this –

This would clearly show that not only have rank results improved but that they have significantly impacted organic traffic to the site.

The BEST report would combine the traffic to the site with a conversion goal/metric. It’s not enough to just get more traffic to your website you need that traffic to DO something. If you have a way to track online behaviour as a measurement of conversion than setting up a goal will show results, and we typically see organic traffic CAN convert better than other types –

When was the last time your agency actually showed you not only a rank report but an analytics report AND a conversion report to justify your SEO investment?