6 min read

Many of the marketing-related posts I write come from user questions and things I notice in consulting projects. This was another case of asking questions that my client couldn’t answer because their previous agency hadn’t provided any insights.

Everybody varies on exactly how much data they show their clients, as well as how often they send that data. Some agencies think sending metrics every week is useful, and others never send anything unless it’s demanded.

This client had only been provided with the equivalent of Google Analytics reports of basic traffic numbers, along with a simple report that showed supposed rankings for a couple keywords. “This is it?” I asked.

They looked suddenly troubled that I asked. “What else should we be seeing?”

To my mind, here were the issues with this limited reporting:

  • The ranking report listed very few keywords, some of which did not seem to be well-researched because I could tell by looking at them there would be little buyer intent in that search.
  • The ranking report did not track shifts since the last report, so it’s not clear to the client whether there had been improvement or not.
  • The basic site traffic numbers have no context, so it’s not clear how much of that traffic even came from Google search versus other marketing.
  • There is no measurement of site conversions, so it’s unclear whether the entire campaign is ultimately having effect or not. (After all, site traffic for a business site that doesn’t result in new business is not useful.)

First off I want to say this. I’ve certainly had months meeting with my own clients where we didn’t go over much as far as reports go. But those types of meetings always occur because it’s already clear to them that their phone is ringing notably more than before and they aren’t interested in reviewing data, or that their campaign has been successful for long enough that their priority is mostly to plan for the following month.

In my opinion those are the only circumstances that clients should receive so little data. If they’re curious, if they’re unclear, showing them so little information implies that either…

  1. The agency is deliberately withholding data because it would not show improvement or paint the agency in a positive light, or
  2. The agency lacks the proper knowledge and/or tools to adequately track the data and is not aware that what they’re providing is so shoddy.

Not to mention that in this case the agency sent this minimal reporting via email and called it a day. There was no review meeting, no explanation of work that’d been done or plans for further work. It seemed to say, “Here is my weak justification for another paycheck, whether you understand what you’re being sent or not.”

Yeah, that’s a bit harsh. But it’s not the aim here to waste your time as the reader with timid observations about how marketing works.

After a few years doing SEO consulting (as opposed to only doing campaigns) and after 12 years in the industry I can tell you that this kind of confusion is rampant. I’m not saying that every agency I’ve come in after was being dishonest or shady, but I’ll say that I’ve seen enough to know that enough of them hide behind nebulous reporting that businesses should definitely ask questions.

I don’t share this next bit to needlessly throw shade, but to be 100% honest about what I’ve seen.

I’ve taken over a lot of sites over the years where I had to clean up a mess. In each of those cases they’d been provided almost no reporting and one of the following conditions were true:

  1. SEO work had clearly been done, but the site still didn’t rank well and it wasn’t clear what the specific plan had been.
  2. It didn’t look like anything had been done at all. (And the client didn’t know because they never checked and never got reports.)

My loyalty is to my clients and not some faceless agency that’d come before. I never set out to trash anyone, but all the same after it becomes enough of a continuous pattern it’s tough to try to give the benefit of the doubt.

If you’re a business paying someone else for marketing services, or thinking about doing it, you owe it to yourself to ask for validation. And better yet, be very clear from the beginning of the business relationship about what reporting you’ll receive and ensure any questions you have get answered. If they’re evasive on the onset, it’s unlikely to change.

What you should be looking for in your marketing campaign:

This post has already had a lot of lists in it, but here’s one last group to illustrate what a good campaign should have.

  • What is the plan? The simplest and probably most important of the bunch. Having a solid plan even excuses going light on some of these other items, but you’d be surprised how often campaigns move forward without a plan. Who is the target audience? What specific media are you using to appeal to them? How is your content geared to build rapport? What future items are planned for inclusion according to this plan?
  • Access to analytics – How many people have seen your business as a result of the marketing efforts? If it’s marketing related to your website, do the analytics make it clear where the traffic is coming from? Even Google Analytics will do this without setting up specific goals.
  • Detailed ranking info – If you’re in an SEO campaign, do you know where your site ranks for keywords? Do you also know what keywords your campaign is targeting? Are the changes positive or negative versus the previous report?
  • Conversion metrics – Can you measure how much of the traffic and attention you’ve received has resulted in a buying action? Even if it’s as simple as reviewing Google My Business insights, which shows how many phone calls, website visits, and clicks-to-navigate your local listing has received. If you’ve enabled call tracking, heat mapping, or other measures, those will give you even more data. If you’ve run ads, the platform (such as Facebook) should provide a lot of this information.
  • Understanding the data – Reports often have a lot of sections, jargon, and different types of graphs. It’s understandable if you don’t at first understand what it all means, but your marketing team should also be explaining everything to your satisfaction so you have a clear picture of what has happened and what is planned to happen.

In short, you should at least understand what the campaign’s goal is and how each month is serving that goal. What has happened this month that accomplished some part of it? If your team hasn’t quite hit a projected mark yet, what is the plan to still get there? How has what’s already been done served your business?

You should always know the answers to these questions. If you don’t, it may be time for a review session.