How often should you be reporting to your clients?

by Taylor Pratt May 31st, 2011 

reporting

It's the question we run into with just about every client we work with, and no matter how often we ask it – we seem to always get a different response. Reporting can be time consuming. Not just from pulling data (there are tools to help you with that), but from having to go over the reports with your clients and explain to them why things happened a certain way. If you have to do that more than once a month – you'll end up spending half of your allotted hours just pulling and explaining data. That's why I believe you need to set expectations for your clients that reporting will be limited to once a month.

For some of you, that might not be a big deal. However, if you're an agency this can be a tough system to put in place. But I think the reason we have such a hard time keeping all of our clients on a consistent reporting schedule is because they don't fully understand why it's in their best interest to be updated only once a month. They are used to telling their vendors when they want to be reported to, regardless of whether or not they actually need to be updated that frequently. It's your job to become the exception and show them the error in their ways.

This is where things become a little bit tricky depending on whether you're dealing with existing clients or new clients. Let's take a look at how I recommend you approach each client type.

Existing Clients

existing-clients

It's not going to be easy to change your reporting frequency to once a month with existing clients. You need to be prepared to have solid answers to the many questions they're going to ask you:

  • Q: Why are we making this change now?
  • A: We've spent some time analyzing the efficiency of our campaign and we have found that we could reduce reporting time by 75% (going from weekly reporting to once a month) with this change. With that time saved we can invest it into driving better results for you.
  • Q: Does this mean we won't be getting as much for our money?
  • A: Absolutely not. In fact, you'll be getting much more value from our services with this change. We can't make actionable decisions on a week's worth of data. This change will allow us to execute more of our strategy, obtain larger data sets and give us more time to analyze that data.
  • Q: What if we need the data more frequently?
  • A: We'd be more than happy to pull together any specific data you request from us. Our goal is not to withhold information from you, but to provide a more informed report and to optimize the time we spend in meetings instead of executing our SEO strategy.

You should also have a monthly report ready for them when you bring up this discussion. Show them how much more in-depth and actionable it is. Remember to reinforce that they'll be getting more out of your agency with this change, because you'll spend less time sitting in meetings talking about the same things each week.

Another option for your team would be to use a toolset, like Raven Tools, that would also allow you to create read-only access to any and all of the tools in the system for your clients. Because you can whitelabel the toolset, you could create a branded experience for you clients that gives them access to any data in the system that you'd like (from rankings and analytics to the links you're building). It's a great way to ease the transition to monthly reporting, and to give them insight into all of the work you're doing.

New Clients

new-clients

New clients are going to be much easier to roll into this process because you can set expectations for your reporting frequency in your proposals and sales meetings. You're going to want to stress the same things we talked about in the Existing Clients section. They may be used to getting weekly reports from vendors, or maybe their previous agency had a reporting system in place that they are used to. Your job is to make them feel comfortable with a monthly report system, and to show them exactly what kind of insight they can expect from those campaigns.

The best thing you can do is to have a sample report ready. Using metrics from one of your own website properties, have a report ready that will be almost identical to the type of report they will be receiving. That means having a report complete with data, analysis and recommendations for next steps. You may even consider having multiple sample reports available that demonstrate what your reporting looks like at the beginning, middle and towards the end of your engagements.

It's important to note that I'm not suggesting you stop meeting with your clients when you present your reports. It's still very important that when you deliver the report you set time aside to explain the data further and answer any questions they have. Instead, I'm suggesting that you stop doing this more than once a month. It's much more beneficial for you and your client to have one longer monthly meeting, than four shorter ones. The goal here is to free up time that you could be spending executing your SEO strategy.

Taylor Pratt

Taylor Pratt is an online marketing consultant at Built to Search. Built to Search offers customized SEO, PPC and social media consulting services.

You May Also Like

3 Responses to “How often should you be reporting to your clients?”

  1. Jim Rudnick says:

    @Taylor….

    we follow the same format that you espouse above, i.e. we report to our own clients once a month for their SEO Campaigns…as well tho, we also send out a quarterly Newsletter that features changes noted to the various search engines and any further new developments in the SEO world…

    works for us and our clients too!

    :-)

    Jim

  2. Stever says:

    Working with primarily small businesses at local levels (read they don't have monstrous budgets) I don't do a lot of reporting. It just eats up too much of their budget. Instead I train them on some basic metrics they can monitor themselves. Then I'll do more extensive reporting quarterly. Plus I'll highlight anything significant that comes up between those reports, if warranted.