Five Reporting Rules for Digital Marketing Agencies

Five Reporting Rules for Digital Marketing Agencies
November 18, 2015 Joe Vernon

In our previous post, Web Metrics that Matter for Businesses, we explained why reporting on metrics such as bounce rate, exit rates, and so on would not get you too far when talking to your clients. These metrics do not speak to their business’s bottom line, and clients want to see metrics that will affect their business and how your team influenced those metrics.

In this post, we’re going to provide a few rules on how to present these metrics to your client. Our first rule is not to dump a dashboard of data tables on your client.

Digital Marketing Dashboards

Before we dive into the other rules, let’s state the obvious: you must provide digital marketing dashboards to your clients every month. Reporting monthly builds credibility and trust, which helps with the following:

  • facilitate a long-term relationship
  • set expectations
  • increase your overall value

But oftentimes digital marketers can over-report on data and numbers when attempting to prove their worth. This is a dangerous trap to fall into and often turns out different from what the digital marketer had intended. Let’s look at the other rules.

Rule 2: Find the Right Metrics To Measure

Before you start creating a dashboard, you will want to have the specific metrics you will be reporting agreed upon. If you aren’t sure, stick with the metrics that matter (mentioned in an earlier post). Once you have those metrics, focus on those metrics only.

Rule 3: Don’t Bury Your Data

Adam Singer, an analytics advocate at Google, wrote in his post on

“. . . adding a long list of KPIs that don’t mean much, such as page views, can bloat a dashboard and lead people to focus on the wrong things. As a result, formalized reporting around a tight set of metrics is critical.”

You don’t want your audience to get lost in a rabbit’s hole griping about you and the high bounce rate on the blog when sales are up. Keep your dashboard simple and to the point, and if your clients request additional metrics on the dashboard, it is up to you to hold them accountable to what was already agreed on. Adam continued to write in his post:

“If the client decides they [sic] want to add new metrics to your reporting mix, use this as an opportunity to have a discussion with the client to ensure you’re all aligned on the strategy.”

Rule 3: Show Your Work

Be sure that your report not only focuses on the results but also includes how your team influenced the results. Ideally, you will have all the work documented so that it is easy to find and connect the marketing hours with either positive or negative results. If not, spend time determining what was completed that month, and include that information in the dashboard with dates of completions and how that aligns with the performance data.

Rule 4: Don’t Provide Notes, Rather Provide Insights

Avinash Kaushik on his blog states that most dashboards aren’t dashboards at all but are merely reports of data puke. He goes on to mention that where agencies are falling short when it comes to reporting is:

“The failure of just summarizing performance.”

Dashboards are great, but only when they provide summaries and insights. Simply stating that traffic is up 10 percent isn’t effective, especially if there is a visual aid that shows that. If traffic is up, explain why traffic is up. If traffic is down, explain why it is down and provide recommendations for action. Follow up the recommendation with the impact that the recommendations will have on business. Sounds like a great deal of work, doesn’t it? Well it should. Not everyone is skilled with seeing data and understanding what it means. It is up to you to interpret the data for your audience.

Rule 5: Summarize

Not everyone has time to read a report, so be sure to include a summary of what happened, why it happened, and what should happen next. Be sure to use language that everyone will understand. An expert commentator at Smart Insights wrote the following:

“Use simple terms; don’t try to wow your clients with your technical vocabulary. Explain concepts in plain English.”

Clients will be more wowed with the knowledge they’ve gained by reading your report than by your vocabulary.