What are the Key Elements of Great Reports?

Every single marketing freelancer and agency is afraid of this particular scenario: a client leaving them for their competitor.

To everyone working in this industry, it feels like a dagger in the heart.

Picture this: it’s time for your regular monthly meeting with one of your top clients and you’re prepared to discuss every single win you had in the last 30 days. You’re also ready to pitch a ton of new ideas that will take your partnership to the next level. Instead, the client cuts you off and says that he might not renew the contract. His company can no longer justify your retainer because the firm is having a hard time calculating the exact return on their investments.

What does one do in such a situation? Do you start explaining to your client how hard you’ve worked to bring more visitors, sales, and conversions to his business, or do you just provide a compelling, detail-oriented report that backs up all your claims with indisputable data?

I hope it’s the latter.

Quality reporting is the only thing that can strengthen your relationship with the client, provide clear understanding, and give meaning to your actions. It is basically the cog that ensures that the wheels of your well-oiled machine are properly spinning.

Even though most brands and businesses (especially those who work in service industries) know the value of frequent reporting, most of them still struggle to make their reports meaningful and influential.

We live in an age of transparency where a demonstrating value is an essential part of any type of business or service. If you aren’t able to provide meaning and rationally back your activities, you risk losing your accounts and credibility. You need to make it clear as daylight what your clients are getting in return for their money.

Having all that in mind, we have decided to provide all of our readers with a bulletproof formula on how to craft compelling reports that have the power to bring understanding, trust, and loyalty to the relationships you have with clients. Even though our tool already makes quality reporting easy, thanks to our intelligent marketing templates and other relevant features, we still feel the need to dissect the process in front of your eyes and address the importance of every element of your report in this article. As you begin reading, you’ll also see how our tool helps you enrich the quality of each and every one of these listed segments, making up a quality report:


1. Project Overview

This should always be your starting point. Regardless of whether you’re working with a new or returning client, it’s always a good idea to highlight the objective of your partnership and what tasks you have completed for them in the previously agreed-upon time period. This particular element of your report will ensure that the client is being constantly reminded why they decided to work with you and invest in SEO in the first place. 

Project objectives come in many different shapes. The usual ones are oriented towards generating more sales, leads, and conversions. The job of any project overview, regardless of its mission, is to immediately inform the client which of the prearranged targets you have managed to reach in a specific period of time.

That’s the main reason why Reportz has a live reporting feature (See a full list of features here).It allows you to easily track the performance of your key metrics at any given time. This is extremely important for you, the user, and your clients, the recipients of your reports.

With the custom date range option, you can easily sort your metrics by days, weeks and months, or you can list them by custom date ranges.

For example Day-by-day, June 2016 compared to May 2017, and the first 14 days of February 2016 to the last 5 days of June 2016.

Reportz - Dashboard date range

2. Understand Your Audience, Adjust the Format and Type of Your Reports

If you want your reports to actually mean something, you need to tailor them to the needs and desires of their recipient. If you, for example, work in a digital marketing agency, you need to understand that sending a report to your management is different from creating a formal report for the client. Tailor your language, use of data and supporting images and graphics to the audience.

Also, be sure to write in a tone and style that works best for the recipient. If someone prefers a more informal tone, be sure to adjust to that. Adapting to the needs of your recipients will make them more open and receptive to the ideas and numbers you’re presenting in this particular document.

Be sure to understand what is actually asked of you. Don’t just push the same report on everybody. It won’t do you good. Before you start working on it, determine whether you’re writing a formal, informal, technical, SEO, marketing, social media, fact or problem-oriented report, and then adjust your theme and template in accordance with what’s being asked of you.

Having this in mind, as an experienced team of marketing professionals, we have decided to put our knowledge and years of working in this industry to use and create preset templates that make it easy for the user to successfully present specific groups of metrics that usually go together. It doesn’t really matter if you’re creating a social media, SEO, or PPC-oriented report or your client – we’ve got you covered.

Reportz dashboard template

Reportz has custom reporting templates that can be easily edited to your liking. And the best of all  – you can save those settings, clone, and reuse them anytime you need them. This particular option will cut your reporting process down to size.

3. A Narrative Focus, with a Clear Structure

A good narrative can help you highlight all the similarities and differences that you have noticed from the time you started working on a particular account, up to the day you mailed your report.

For example, let’s say that the main theme of your report is “generating more conversions”. In that case, the metrics you highlight and anecdotes you include in your report should all support that particular theme. Include metrics that show that you have met your goals and overcome all the obstacles on your road to success. Fill your report with metrics like page views, mobile vs. desktop visitors, page timing, new vs. returning visitors, traffic acquisition, time on page, landing page data, exit rates, etc.

Once you do all that, make sure your reports begin with a summary, which shall be written at the very end of your reporting process. Most people use this segment to determine how much of the report they really need to read. That’s why it’s necessary to provide a context for the report and outline all the structures of the content displayed inside the report.

In Reportz, you can enhance the overall user-friendliness of your data-driven documents by adding passive element widgets, that serve to improve the structure of your reporting and add commentary (if necessary) to specific numbers.

Reportz Plain Regular Text Card
Example of custom passive element widget: Plain, Regular Text Card

Passive elements are fully customizable. You can resize and move them around anywhere you like. They can come in the form of headlines, subheadlines, notes, comments, basically anything that you can think of.

4. KPIs and Goals

This is the most important part of your report. Even though all of the above-mentioned details have the power to improve the overall success of your reporting, this is still the only element that could really make or break you and influence your client retention percentage. If you don’t really do a good enough job of filling your reports with relevant data that clearly communicate what has been done for the client, then you’re doomed.

You need evidence to support your claims. The main objective of every report is to make your achievements transparent and easily understandable for everyone who comes into contact with it. That is why it’s always best to organize your KPIs in different groups and lay them down in a way that grabs the recipient’s attention. For example, if you’re creating a basic SEO report for your client, you should probably organize your KPIs in these 3 groups:

  • Basic analytics data: This group should focus on your basic metrics, such as traffic, conversions, and leads. Traffic reporting is all about reporting on sessions using weekly, monthly, and annual comparisons, depending on your client’s requirements. In order to do that, you need nothing more than a Google Analytics account.
Reportz Demo Traffic Report
Example of traffic report data
  • Keyword analysis: This will help you understand how your current SEO strategy is performing, how well it’s improving your client’s site in search compared to his direct and indirect competitors. You can track that through tools such as SEMRush, Google Search Console, and Rank Ranger.
  • Other search statistics: This segment should be reserved for on-page and link acquisition metrics that aim to make it clear to the client how your efforts in this particular department are helping him rank better in the search. You can easily track all these statistics through a tool like Ahrefs.

But this is just an example concerning a specific case of SEO reporting. The hardest part here is to gather all the relevant metrics and arrange them in the right order. That’s why Reportz allows users to easily collect, merge, filter, and analyze all the data from their favorite marketing tools using the custom widget builder tool.

Reportz Integrations
Integrations: Current and in production

It eliminates all the manual labor from the process and makes it possible to easily handle even the most complex projects, from a single location.

5. Visuals, Design

If you want your reports to stand out and grab their recipient’s attention, you need to work on their visual appearance. Nothing bores a client like a block of text that’s accompanied by a set of numbers. Information is often easier to digest when it’s presented through interesting graphics.

That’s why most marketing professionals often create various graphs and presentations. The key here is to make your work and achievements memorable and transparent. In order to do that, you need to illustrate your key metrics. Visuals won’t just break the wall of text and numbers, they will also give the recipient a clearer picture of all the things you have achieved for their brand and company.

The design is a big element here. Apart from making sure that your reports are filled with valuable data, it’s imperative to make them visually appealing to the recipient as well. Creating a user-friendly experience is just as important as collecting the right data. It’s not really smart to just stuff your data into Excel sheets and mail them to the client.

Reportz is all about the details. We know that presentation is everything, so we have made it possible for each and every user to configure a custom subdomain for white label reporting and customize the URL of their reports, add a logo to your client’s docs, work on the background, use the client’s brand colors, etc.

Reprotz Dashboard customization
Dashboard customization

All these little details can really influence how your clients feel about your reporting.

Over to You

Thank you for taking the time to read this article from top to bottom. As you can see here, there are loads of different element and details you need to focus on when creating your reports. In order to come up with something that justifies your efforts and provides your clients and management with everything they need to understand your worth, you need to really keep your eye on all the details. That could steal hours and hours of your life. Luckily, there’s a tool like Reportz out there that can almost automatically complete this entire process for you and help you create effective reports every single time.