How To Prepare End Of The Month Reporting

If you're a search marketing professional - you've been there. It's the end of the month and you need to prepare reports for your clients to show progress. You've done all the work, but the client doesn't know, heck, they even insist that you produce a report to show them what's been done. So, how do you go about creating an end of the month report if you're an online marketing professional?

What have you promised your clients?

The intangible nature of SEO makes it difficult for clients to see what they're buying when they buy it. Ultimately your report is a delivery on your promise and the expectations you have set. It presents the results that you have obtained in a way that your customers can see the fruit of your efforts. These results could be in terms of organic traffic, ranking, conversions by keyword, etc.
If you've succeeded in managing your client's expectations, it is not difficult to use these reports as a way to show continuous progress towards the goals you have set. By setting and meeting benchmarks along the way, you can use these metrics to highlight your success. These metrics must be mentioned in your report so that your client understands what you are doing and what you hope to achieve.

Report Structure

1 Cover page

The first page of your report acts as an overview of your efforts and how it has resulted in progress for your client's SEO. This could include:
Any increase in rankings for specific keywords
Visits from referral traffic, organic search, and paid campaigns
Leads generated

In this section, it's best to just summarize your overall report with key numbers and metrics.

2 Highlight Key Performance Indicators

Once you've provided an overview, you need to elaborate on the KPIs using visual representation such as graphs, tables and charts. These would be different for different clients depending on what their goals are.

It could include the overall site performance for the month, a general overview of the traffic sources or even leads generated. It's important that you highlight the relevant metrics that your client is focused on and how they are progressing.

3 Secondary or Tertiary Metrics

These are the less prioritized metrics you track, and how they have changed over the last month. If there are significant changes in these, you can use extensive graphs to highlight the impact and how it directly benefits your client.

4 Monthly Comparison

This section shows the specifics of the monthly changes that have occurred in your client's website. You can tabulate or plot data obtained from google analytics to show a comprehensive summary of how the site has performed over the month.

5 Breakdown of Tasks

This part of the report is optional but useful if you want to save time on explaining your work. Here, you can segregate the tasks you have to do for specific long term goals, and describe how each task will contribute to the overall performance of your client's site. The links you have developed, the content properties you have created, the citations that you have created etc. can all be included here.

6 Monthly Goals

SEO is a process that takes time to provide results, but you can set monthly targets to achieve your long term SEO goals. In the final section of your report, it's a good idea to set the goals you want to focus on for the coming month, along with how that relates to your end goal.

Crisp Highlights

When it comes to writing a good highlight, the secret is to keep it short and sweet. You should cover all the essential details of your report that you want your clients to focus on, and provide a quick summary of their progress.

Tools for Visualizations

Reports have to provide a great deal of information without rambling sentences. The best way to do that is through concise visualizations that can convey the information in a simple and elegant way.

Some great tools to create these graphs include, RAW, and ChartBlocks. You have to register to use them, but they create very professional, well designed charts that you can use to add that extra oomph factor to your report.

The Look

When you're preparing a report, you might get tempted to use fancy fonts and color schemes, but ideally you want to keep the reader's focus on your report and the information you're trying to communicate.

To keep your report professional and crisp, it's better to stick to a font that enhances readability. Generally, serif or sans-serif fonts are known for better on and off screen readability.

When you choose a color scheme for your report, avoid using more than 3 colors. The key is to stick to one or two main colors and use shades of those colors to differentiate sections of your report. You can use subtle coloring to improve the look of your report without seeming like you painted a rainbow on your report.

One of the easiest indicators to follow while you create reports is the existing branding color scheme. If your client has certain colors, fonts, and styles they stick to in their logo and website content, it might help to follow a similar suit.

Sample Reports you can Follow

Source: Moz

The Future of Reporting

While you're manually working on your reports, here's some food for thought: there are a lot of tools out there that can generate tailored reports based on your individual needs for the next time around.

Raventools - Their comprehensive reporting provides insights on social media, PPC, SEO, and backlinks.

Google Analytics - To make things easier, Google analytics lets you create custom reports based on the metrics you want to measure directly from their dashboard. Additionally you can browse through their template gallery to find the format you need and import it into your account easily.

Advanced Web Ranking - AWR's white labelled reporting provides insights on keyword rankings, competitor analysis, and your client's progress over time.

Synup - Synup's reporting allows you to track your client's rankings, reviews, and the status of their citations across the web.

SEO Reporting Dashboard - AgencyAnalytics - Build SEO reporting dashboards for clients in minutes with rank tracking, SEO audits, backlink monitoring, Google Analytics and more.

The 10 Rules of Awesomeness

1. Find Your Niche

It's extremely important that you establish your expertise in a niche that you understand, have worked with for a long time and have a passion for.
The basic tenets of local SEO hold true in all sectors, regardless of the type of business/industry. However, if you know the niche well enough, it will be easier for you to learn and execute your plan for a particular business. Moreover, when the business owner or decision-maker sees that you really understand their industry, they are more likely to open up to you and trust you. Dentists will not be impressed if you start talking about how they can optimize their marketing plan for customers who are looking for orthodontists now, will they?
When you understand the industry, it will be easier for you to leverage your knowledge of the industry in your favour. It will also be easier for you to understand where the money is. If it's a niche where people can't afford to pay you more than couple of hundred dollars a month it wouldn't make sense to pitch your whole plethora of services. At the end of the day you are running a business and you need to be profitable.
The massive advantage that you will have by being niche-focused when you're selling to the local business audience cannot be overstated. After all, even large local business sales-focused companies like Yodle and ReachLocal use industry-specific reviews to sell to the market.
Read about how industry guru Mike Ramsey is trying to build a multi-million dollar local marketing business focused on lawyers.

How to go about finding your niche:

- Look at your existing customers. If a majority of them are coming from one industry, then it makes sense to go after that particular niche, provided there is enough demand.
- Figure out the markets that need Local SEO and online marketing the most in your local area. For instance, if you're in a state with fluctuating weather like Alabama, you should be targeting HVAC contractors who are probably going to be in high demand.
- If all else fails you can go after the golden targets: legal services, home services and medical services. These industries all are very good prospects for local SEO services; you should just pick one of them.

2. Brand Yourself

For a business owner to trust your words and for people to refer your work or seek your expertise, they need to know you. For that to happen, you'll need to do some amount of groundwork that helps establish your expertise on a given subject/industry. After all, as a marketing professional, you should practice what you preach and market yourself.
You will need to create a solid presence for yourself, both on and offline.

#1 - Establish your own website and social media following

Make sure you have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter and Google+; post regular updates on these sites and respond to interactions frequently. You can use software like Buffer and HootSuite to save time managing your social media accounts.

#2 - Frequent industry blogs and forums

Provide regular and easy to understand content updates in industry forums and blogs that business owners visit often. Take genuine interest and involve yourself in local chamber of commerce, business gatherings and social events. It will help develop trust and bonding before you go ahead and try to sell your services to the businesses.
For example, if you're focusing on contractors, you might want to visit forums like Contractor Talk regularly; there are plenty of online forums focused on specific industries that you can participate in and engage with potential customers. Just do a Google search for forums relevant to the industry you're attacking and you're bound to find a few.

#3 - Work towards becoming a "thought leader"

The holy grail of Local SEO marketing is becoming a "thought leader" or someone who creates content that is widely shared. This can result in a surge in customer inflow and can gradually get you to the point where you're regularly obtaining a few customers a week.

i. Create useful content on your blog on a weekly basis; and by useful, we mean something that will help a local business (your potential customer) get more from their online marketing or business
ii. Start a newsletter and curate this list to include businesses who want to hear from you.
iii. Write on other blogs to leverage on their existing readership. This can be a good start when you don't have a brand and would much rather have your content reach a larger audience.

3. Partner Up

It is extremely difficult for small firms to survive the local SEO game alone. You will need people to build, develop and execute your plans. You will need designers, web developers, content writers, assistance in responding to phone calls & emails to sustain your business and grow.

Find likeminded people that you can work with. People who have the specific skillsets that complement your own will help you support and sustain growth in the long run. It will also give you the opportunity to specialize and work on things that you do best rather than trying to be a generalist

While partnering, it is also important that you "spread the riches" - don't try to micro-manage or be involved in everything. Focus on your core expertise (i.e online marketing) and split other work (content, design etc.) with others. What you'll need to do is create a "mastermind group" - eventually, as group members succeed, they will also start sharing with you and you'll all grow together.

5. Lead Generation

Closing sales is one thing, but generating leads is something completely different. Lead generation is mostly a numbers game where you'll need to get as many (high quality) leads as you possibly can in the process of doing it.

The general mantra with this activity is experiment, track and expand the strategy that's working out well for you.

Typical sources for leads include:

#1 - Cold Calls

The most abused lead-gen strategy there is. Works for some, doesn't work for many. The secret to this strategy is volume, a proper script and quick hand-off to a real consultant. Stay away from this strategy if you're afraid of rejection.

#2 - Direct Mail Campaign

Contrary to popular belief and opinion, this still works. While sending out direct mail, it makes sense to personalize it a little bit. Go one step further and tell them something they don't already know.

#3 - Your Online Presence

Making the best use of the internet to make sure that your name is visible to people who could end up potential clients is an absolute necessity. Some of the things that you can do to achieve this are:
- Optimizing your website
- Posting on SMB forums
- Referrals

#4 - The Conventional Approach

The fact that people spend most of their time online has not rendered the conventional way of doing things obsolete. The good ol’ tried and tested methods to reach your customers and thereby keep the leads coming in are:
- Advertisements on Online Directories/Newspaper sites
- Flyers
- Radio ads
- TV Ads
- Newspaper Ads

Each of them have their pros and cons. You will need to try them you to find out what suits your need the best.

4. Solution Provider

Let's be honest - we are all skeptical of the dreaded sales pitch. The over the top promises, the hyperbole, the lure of the Promised Land that fails to be delivered.

Rather than selling them a cookie cutter rehearsed sales pitch, provide a solution to their problem.

#1 - Do your homework about the business before you go in for the meeting or get ready to send out a proposal

Do they have a website? If yes, is it responsive? Are their title tags optimized? How big is the company? How long have they been in business?

You should be able to find all of this information fairly easily just by looking at a business' website. To make things easier, analyze the important steps in the Local SEO Checklist to see if the business is doing everything right.

#2 - Take a look at how their business is doing online, and more importantly, what their competitors are doing

Nothing closes a sale as fast as telling a business owner what their competitors are doing and how that's helping them outrank. It drives the point across with evidence and helps you sell better. You can use a whole host of tools to check on competitor data including Synup, Ahrefs, Spyfu and SEMRush

#3 - Ask the business owner the most important questions you need to ask without wasting their time

Before you take the time and effort to prepare a proposal for a business, make sure you spend a few minutes with them on the phone asking the right questions. Ensure that your questions are short, concise, easy to understand and don't take a long time to answer. The last thing you want to do is waste the business owner’s time on something you could have already gotten the answer for looking at their website.

Some questions I like asking when I'm doing pre-sales are:

- Are they doing any online marketing right now? Have they used consultants in the past?

- What kind of results have they seen with online marketing so far?

- What kind of budget do they have for online marketing?

You should structure your questions based on what you think is important to ask.

#4 - Create an uncomplicated, easy-to-follow proposal

Break everything down to steps that the business can implement with your expertise that can help improve their performance. Show the business owner in steps what you'll be doing, how long it'll take and how it'll impact their performance.

This will help them understand how you're going to go about doing things and will also allay any unrealistic expectations they may have of you.

Be straightforward and promise what your can deliver. Believe me, it will take your business relationship to a new level when businesses know that you are not bullshitting them.

The business owner will actually appreciate the fact that someone is being honest with them unlike 1000 other cold callers who all promise them the first spot in Google overnight.

6. Customers First

Every business has their strengths and unique set of problems. Do not go to meet a prospect thinking you know exactly what their problems are. You'll end up alienating the client by trying to find problems to suit that services you can sell to them rather than finding a solution to the problems they are facing.

Listen to them closely, ask probing questions for more information and take a genuine interest in their affairs before you start talking money. They will appreciate it if you tell them that you may not be a good fit for the kind of services they are looking for. It’s good to say ‘NO’ upfront, rather than delaying the inevitable.

7. Don't talk Jargon

We all understand that SEO is a complex process that takes a while to understand. Do not expect your customers to be familiar with the technical terms that are prevalent in the industry.

Do not use jargons like robots.txt, xml, disavow, penguin, panda, pigeon, goat, unicorn etc and complicate things. Most business owners will not understand what these words mean.

All they understand is "leads" and "revenue". Educating the client on what we do is part of the job description. However, we do need to know where to draw the line, as we are not trying to train them to become local SEO specialists.

8. Diversify Revenue

Cashflow is the lifeblood of every small business. Keep tracking that at all times and make sure that one client alone doesn't make up more than 15-20% of your revenue source.

1. One big client = bad news

The biggest mistake you can make running your consulting business is to have more than 50% of your revenue coming from one client. A lot of us have been guilty of doing this and have learnt our lesson the hard way. Always keep looking for ways in which you can diversify your revenues to come from multiple clients.

You shouldn't be a single-client’s “hostage”, so to speak, and should have the freedom and liberty to drop a client if you need to.

2. Always collect money upfront

There is nothing wrong in collecting an advance from your customers. You are providing top quality services and need to be paid well in advance. If you feel guilty collecting money from a customer, or have a customer who doesn't trust you paying in advance, you should just fire them.

Never make the mistake of giving a customer a line of credit, whenever a client asks you this, ask them if they would work without getting payment from their own customers.

9. Engage

Even the experts need help at times in this ever changing world of Local SEO. With the number of animals & birds (a-la penguin, panda, pigeon etc.,) the search engines are throwing into the mix every few months one needs to take a step back and learn about the latest and greatest in the industry.

Here are our top 3 forums run and frequented by industry experts who can be of tremendous help -

- Linda Buquet's : Local Search Forum

- Max Minzer's : Local Search Google+ community

- Local U forum : Frequented by industry stalwarts

10. Sell

Now that you know all the things that you need to do to become an expert at local SEO sales, the only that is left to do is sell your product. Though I agree that this is much easier said than done, there are a few things that you can do or keep in mind before you successfully close deals week in, week out.

1 Set Targets

There is no absolute number when it comes to the sales targets that one should set, for it differs depending on the size of your firm. In any case, the intention behind founding any firm is to grow, and having a high yet achievable sales target for the growth of your firm will be instrumental in making you reach greater heights. A growth rate of 20% in sales will be a fantastic target to maintain, though it is completely up to you to come up with a practical figure on this front. Set a target that will help your firm scale rapidly with time.

2 Make Friends

Nobody wants to be the client of a firm that doesn't make them feel like that they're their biggest customer. May it be with your partners or your clients, make sure that you have a healthy relationship with them that makes them feel happy to be associated with you. Establish a dedicated client success/support team for this purpose. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't cut ties with a customer that demands more for less or treats you badly. Weed them out if you need to. But make sure that the customers that you have feel comforted by the fact that you are taking care of their online marketing and local SEO. This especially helps when the client likes you a lot, to the point where they start recommending what a good job your firm is doing to other businesses. And other businesses = more potential customers, and more potential customers = more sales

3 Practice

This might seem like something too basic to read so far down the post, but no expert became one without months (if not years) of practice and experience. Countless hours of trying and failing at something is the key to honing your skills, because failing helps you develop an instinct that will tell you what will work when you're selling and what won't. Don't expect the time spent reading and writing about the subject to get yourself to the top. As much as they will help you, the only way to truly becoming a rockstar in sales is to sell, sell and sell even more.

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