1-Hour Guide to Writing a Year-End SEO Report

Let’s turn to your SEO year-end review and reflection report. Off the bat – did you see progress and growth this year?

I’d like to challenge you to spend ONE HOUR ONLY outlining this report, looking at the data, sketching in the details, hitting spellcheck, and calling it a day.

Get in and get out people.

I beg you, please don’t turn this in to a full-scale SEO audit if you don’t have the time, as you’ll never get this report wrapped up and give closure to the year. Jot down questions and items that come up, and you can plan for an audit in January. I’d much rather you put together a quick and dirty document and get into action than create a beautiful report full of data that will sit and collect dust.

Get your life preserver on and let’s dive in to the fun pool of SEO year-end reporting.

How to Write an SEO Year-End Report in 1 Hour

Here are the sections you may want to include:

  1. Introduction
  2. Plans for the upcoming year
  3. Data from important reports and tracked metrics + insights
  4. Final reflections

Caveats and Warnings Before You Dive In

Before you start looking at any data, a few important notes:

  • All year long, I have been pulling monthly reports. At year end, I may pull quarterly reports, but what I’m really looking for is a high-level 12-month report.
  • Be careful comparing 2021 to 2020 – last year was such an anomaly. One ecommerce client, for example, is down 10% from last year (a year when they saw crazy growth) but up 30% from 2019.
  • Be careful comparing month to month – if your business is seasonal (which I’m fairly confident most businesses are) then this won’t always give you apples to apples.
  • Speaking of seasonal fluctuations, I like to note those in the report
  • Keep in mind that your SEO results is a result of on-site, off-site, and technical SEO factors. Not to mention industry best practices. Many industries require extra checklist items and best practices. For example, local businesses, ecommerce, enterprise, legal, medical, etc. Document any of those pieces.
  • Remember, a great SEO report summarizes data, gives commentary, and documents actionable insights. To get to that point, you have to look at and point to specific data, metrics, and reports. But most stakeholders and higher ups don’t care about the details, they care about what it means and how you’re going to get better results. Personally, I am working on this myself. I overshare, which can make my client’s eyes glaze over.

Fancy or Informal?

Is this report for your internal purposes, or do you need to put together an official *deck you’re going to present on? Perhaps an hour won’t cut it and you really need detail and slick graphics.

*Fun fact – I recently heard that people know you’re old if you say “PowerPoint presentation” instead of “Slide deck.” Damn it. I always say PowerPoint presentation. Even if I’m using Google Slides. I’ve worked from home for 12 years, ok?!?!?

If you need something simple, open up Word or Google Docs, and include sections, summaries, downloaded tables/data and screenshots as needed. Keep it simple. If you need a full PowerPoint presentation deck, I like the sample SEO report Ahrefs provides here. But fair warning – if you click on this link you’ll most likely go over the one hour I challenged you to.

4 Important Sections for Your SEO Report

1.     Introduction/Overview – Recap of the Past Year

Depending on how formal you want to get, here are four sections you might want to have in your report:

  • a brief summary of your SEO goals and objectives – what was your eye on the ball?
  • specific activities, programs, and campaigns planned to help achieve SEO goals and to move the needle
  • team members involved in SEO
  • a summary of what was achieved in the past year – was progress made?
  • describe any challenges or obstacles – this could be staffing and resource issues, a shift in priorities, an unstable/uncertain market, a decrease in budget, etc.
  • did Google updates cause your site to go up or down in rankings?
  • what did you learn? Did you specifically attend any SEO trainings or professional development that contributed to your efforts?
  • what unresolved action items need to move to the next year?

2.     Plans for the Next Year

  • describe opportunities identified from the past year that you’ll continue to explore in the upcoming year
  • share what tools you’ll use for SEO (Google Analytics, Search Console, a premium tool (optional), a site speed tool, etc.
  • share any changes to the SEO strategy, focus, direction, prioritization, etc.
  • make a case for any SEO trainings (conferences, courses, workshops, webinars) on your wishlist for next year (shameless plug – I have lots of trainings in the works for 2022)
  • share internal and external team members who will be involved, resources needed, expected budget allocation, etc.

3.    Data + Insights

Don’t just data dump 💩 – assign meaning! As with anything, data is data unless you assign meaning. Here are metrics that will show you progress:

Expand your data out from January 1 until the latest date you can go. Here are a few areas and metrics you might consider reviewing and reporting on.

  • Organic traffic – take this with a grain of salt; less traffic could mean you’ve better qualified traffic
  • Traffic channels – what was the breakdown of how traffic go to the site
  • Conversion rate and goal completion for areas related to SEO
  • Most popular/visited pages
  • Top SEO landing pages
  • Time on site, CTR, bounce rate, and # of pages visited
  • Device traffic: percentage of mobile vs desktop vs tablet
  • Geographic breakdown: where did your traffic come from?
  • Rankings and SERP visibility
  • Backlinks acquired and/or lost (again, losing spammy links is not a bad thing – it’s about quality not quantity)
  • Site speed and performance
  • Page-level speed and performance
  • Overall health of the website (this is a number you’ll only get from a paid tool, like Semrush)

4.     Final Reflections

Ok, last chance to add in your reflections and put this bad boy to rest.

  • SEO is about many micro-tasks coming together. if you feel like you are moving in the right direction but haven’t seen significant growth, don’t worry. It takes a while for it all to come together and gather steam. Be sure to share the wins, and look for indicators that things are moving in the right direction. Conversely, share lessons learned from initiatives that didn’t go as planned.
  • SEO reporting means not sticking your head in the mud. If you are a marketer juggling many balls, including SEO, try to keep self-judgement out, and be objective about what you see. If there was no growth, or declines, then guess what? That means opportunity abounds in 2022 and it’s better to be aware and clear.
  • If you saw meaningful growth, congrats – you’ll want to stay in action and make sure you know what activities you need to continue doing every month.
  • how did you create value this year? I am a big believer in giving high-fives and kudos to deserving people on the team. SEO takes a village. Along with this, I am REQURIING you to toot your own horn. How did you contribute value?

And that’s it! What do you think—can you get this done in an hour? Roll up your sleeves and get reporting!

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.
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