Creating Simple, Yet Impressive Charts

Making reports that can be viewed and understood by clients or C-level executives can be a pain at times. But I just started using a tool that has been getting some “oohhs” and “aahhs,” and figured I should share. I’m a great guy like that!

Everyone wants to know how their organic listings are doing for various keywords. Simple enough, but you should be pulling where they are for a given week and adding it to an ongoing chart to watch them (hopefully) climb or maintain a strong spot on the front page.

The tool I love for this is Aaron Wall’s Firefox plugin RankChecker. It actually grabs your positions for keywords in all three major engines at the same time and allows you to export it in a spreadsheet. Once you have the weekly or monthly report, you should create a master sheet that holds each keyword over time. This makes a nice simple graphic that monitors your efforts and shows the client or C-level exec in house what you’re achieving.

Now you need to add the real wow factor.

You also need to pull the amount of traffic each of those keywords have brought in during the same time period. With it, you can set up a spreadsheet that has the keyword name, position in each engine, and amount of traffic the term brings in by each engine. For a visual, use the following as your headings: Keyword, Google Position, Google Traffic From Keyword, Yahoo Position, Yahoo Traffic From Keyword, Microsoft Position, and Microsoft Traffic From Keyword.

Now for the true visual for the client: place these in graph form for each engine and keyword. Here’s an example of a great graphic that also provides insights that can be reinforced by the image.

Example Traffic Graph

As rank increases, so does the traffic, but in many cases there’s an exponential relationship between them. A jump in rank will generally have a bigger percentage jump in traffic. When a position falls, the traffic numbers fall drastically as well.

Using this type of graph will ensure your clients understand when you get a good position why you need to keep spending. The next raise in the SERPs could bring a huge spike in traffic beyond the straight mathematical image they have in their heads. Though, it’s funny that most understand the drama behind a sudden drop in rankings.

Chris Boggs Fires Back

Search reporting can be informative and actionable, depending on how it’s set up. I wrote a column on this topic a couple months back, specifically related to SEO reporting.

I agree that charts sometimes make the difference when it comes to fostering a better understanding of exactly what we do, and why. Typically, the same exact data is more digestible in a chart than on a spreadsheet, for whatever reason.

The level of business intelligence available within the recorded metrics for a particular campaign can really help to drive more useful charts. Frank, I like your idea of overlaying the traffic numbers on the visibility report, and agree that it should usually be the traffic that exponentially increases as a result of expanded visibility. The key is to have both visibility and analytics reporting that can be trusted.

In some cases, ranking tools can be less than completely accurate, so basing decisions on rankings is something that should be done only from an illustrative perspective. Of course, not all analytics systems are perfect either, so it helps to periodically ensure that the tool is properly collecting data, and doing things like correctly parsing paid search results from organic results, for example.

One caution: using any ranking tool from your computer can get you in trouble with search engines that don’t like being scraped for results. If you use such a tool, and want to avoid having to enter text found within an image in order to prove your humanity every time you try to do a manual search, I recommend running these reports somewhere other than from your primary IP address.

Charts are valuable, but without the right tool capturing the data, the right person presenting the data, and the right people basing decisions on it, pretty charts are nothing more than lipstick on a pig. Data integrity should be the primary goal, with look and feel secondary.

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