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Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing Reporting

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Beginner’s Guide to Content Marketing Reporting

Not sure how to prepare your content report? I get it — too many metrics to report, and what should a report look look in the first place? I promise this will change by the end of this guide.

In this guide, you’ll learn the three best practices of reporting and eight types of information that make a solid content report, including the actual KPIs used by content marketers.

From my experience, I’ve learned that having three key features in a content report makes all the difference: data-led, actionable, and function-driven. It keeps everyone on the same page and ensures our work counts.

Let’s unpack this.

1. Data-led

Instead of relying on gut feelings or assumptions, a data-led report is based on quantitative (numbers) and qualitative (observations) data to provide a clear, objective view of content performance.

This way, every recommendation or insight is grounded in verifiable facts, making it a reliable tool for decision-making.

2. Actionable

At the same time, a good content marketing report doesn’t just drown the reader in numbers and charts; it interprets the data to provide clear, actionable insights.

This means specific recommendations accompany the numbers on what can be done to improve performance. Whether it’s tweaking the content strategy, focusing on different topics, adjusting distribution channels, or choosing different SEO tactics, actionable reports transform data into a roadmap for better outcomes.

3. Function-driven

In reporting, form needs to follow function — the content and structure of the report need to be tailored to the specific needs of the person you want to share it with. You could also think of it this way: reports should be good enough to serve their purpose, but everything above that would be overkill.

Output vs. effort in creating reports.Output vs. effort in creating reports.

Don’t overthink, overcomplicate, or over-design your reports. Pick the KPIs that you can actually influence, add some actually useful commentary, and choose the form that won’t make your boss or client think that you’re spending too much time on “paperwork”.

To illustrate, a typical agency or freelance report is about ROI or generating value for the client. They come in the form of an entire document, nicely designed with a lot of data and insights (similar to this SEO report). It could even be accompanied by a live dashboard like the one below created in Google Looker Studio:

Example of a live dashboard created with Google Looker Studio.Example of a live dashboard created with Google Looker Studio.

On the other hand, in-house reports are typically about documenting performance and progress. They are much more streamlined. For example, the monthly blog report at Ahrefs is a short, public message on Slack with three types of information: the number of published articles, notable keyword movements, and any notable stuff. That’s it.

Streamlined in-house content report.Streamlined in-house content report.

In this part of the guide, we’re discussing content marketing KPIs and qualitative feedback that will allow you to build a solid report. These are based on our poll on metrics actually used by marketers and a few tried and tested suggestions from us.

Keep in mind that your final metrics may differ depending on your strategy. We encourage you to customize your reports.

Summaries are designed for stakeholders who just want to know the most important points. They may not have the time or the interest to dive into data and put together an overall picture of your performance. These people will be expecting something like this:

  • Content output: increased by 20%, with 20 new pieces published.
  • Traffic: rose by 35%, reaching 135,000 monthly visitors.
  • Keyword rankings: 50% of targeted keywords now in top 3 SERP positions.
  • Audience growth: expanded by 25%, now totaling 75,000.
  • Engagement: improved by 15% across all platforms.
  • Conversions: grew to 5%, resulting in an additional 50 sales.
  • Recommendations: we’re on the right track, and we’re ready to invest more in content scaling.

It’s a good practice to add summaries at all times, but you’ll find them especially useful in large teams and when working with clients.

Summaries are put in the front of the report but written last. Don’t write them before collecting and analyzing the data.

This section details the quantity and type of content published within a specific timeframe. This will tell your boss or client how efficient you/your team is.

It can include blog posts, videos, podcasts, infographics, and social media posts.

You can simply measure the volume of content produced and categorize it by type to assess productivity and diversity in your content strategy.

Traffic shows how good the content is at attracting clicks to the website.

Typically, stakeholders want to know the growth of traffic rather than just the number of clicks in a given period. A thousand more clicks in a month may be exceptional for one website but a poor result for another.

It’s also a good idea to break down traffic growth by:

  • Source: in the case of content, that will mostly be organic, email, referral (but only from the sources you influenced), and social media. Include direct traffic only if it actually correlates with content. Paid traffic is typically the domain of performance marketing, but if you’re running any ads for content, add that, too.
  • Target: this depends on whether your goal is to drive traffic to the entire site or its parts, such as product landing pages, pricing, contact, etc.

Traffic is easy to measure. Free tools such as Google Analytics or Matomo should be enough. For organic traffic from Google, make sure you use Google Search Console, though.

Tip

Google Search Console will give you the most accurate organic click data, but SEO tools like Ahrefs will give you the means to improve it. For example, you can see how a site stacks up against competitors (and break down their strategy) or see which pages gained and lost the most traffic in a given period.

Organic competitors report from Ahrefs.Organic competitors report from Ahrefs.
Organic competitors report in Ahrefs showing a month-to-month performance change.

For traffic reporting, you will also find Ahrefs’ Portofilos feature helpful. You can track organic traffic and other SEO metrics for any collection of pages. For instance, a set of your client’s websites, competitors, or all content directories.

Portfolios feature from Ahrefs. Portfolios feature from Ahrefs.

SEO (search engine optimization) metrics help you understand the visibility and ranking of your content in search engines.

There is a variety of metrics you could report here, but according to our insights, marketers usually report these:

  • Impressions: how often a site appears in search results.
  • Rankings: what pages rank for a given keyword. The higher the rankings, the more organic traffic you can get.
  • Share of voice: percentage of all possible organic clicks (from SERPs) for the tracked keywords landing on your website.
  • Backlink growth: refers to the increase in the number of inbound links pointing to a website over a specific period. Worth tracking if you’re creating link bait content or doing link building.
  • Organic traffic: already covered in the previous paragraph. It overlaps with the SEO metrics category because, generally speaking, organic traffic growth is the outcome of effective SEO.

You’ll need two types of tools to report these metrics: Google Search Console for organic traffic (i.e., clicks) and impressions and an SEO tool like Ahrefs for everything else.

If you feel that the recipient of the report will be interested in top-level metrics only, consider reporting just the share of voice and organic traffic.

Organic share of voice report in Ahrefs. Organic share of voice report in Ahrefs.
You can find the share of voice metric in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.

The benefits of being visible in Google are obvious even for non-marketers, so you’ll send a clear and strong message if you prove with these metrics that your content makes the brand stand out in Google, and because of that, you’re able to attract more visitors.

On the other hand, if your audience is SEO-savvy and that channel is a big part of your strategy, you can make your report shine with additional metrics explained in this guide to SEO reporting.

This measures the increase in your content’s audience over time, including new subscribers to newsletters, video/podcast channels, and social media followers.

Tracking these metrics helps assess the effectiveness of your content in attracting and retaining a growing audience. In other words, audience growth shows the demand for more content like the one you’re already making.

For example, at Ahrefs, we track the subscriber growth on AhrefsTV YouTube channel, and we simply use YouTube’s native metrics for that.

Audience growth data from YouTube.Audience growth data from YouTube.
An actual screenshot of our YouTube channel audience growth.

Engagement metrics gauge how actively your audience interacts with your content.

Here are some common engagement metrics tracked by marketers:

  • Likes and comments on social media: you can track them easily with native social media platform analytics or by using a tool like Buffer to collect all data in one place.
  • Email list engagement: these typically include how many people open your emails (open rate), how many click on the links inside them (click rate), and spikes in unsubscribe rate. All email marketing tools are equipped with these metrics.
  • Time on page: how long people spend reading or interacting with a specific page on your website. Tracked by default in GA4, needs setting up in Matomo.
  • Scroll depth: how far down a page a visitor scrolls. In many cases, deeper scrolling should indicate the content is engaging enough to keep readers interested. GA4 and Matomo can be set up to display an event when a pre-defined scroll threshold has been reached (e.g., 10, 25, 50%). But if you want a bit more data without the need to dabble with technicals, use Hotjar or Microsoft Clarity.
Microsoft Clarity - page scroll data. Microsoft Clarity - page scroll data.
Scroll depth report in Microsoft Clarity.

It’s almost never bad if you get high numbers on those metrics. In an ideal world, they indicate that people really enjoy your content, but in reality, these metrics are quite nuanced. For example, some types of content are less likely to get likes on social media, and a short time on page may mean that people found what they wanted and left immediately.

Therefore, it may be best to use engagement metrics in the right context.

  • Use likes and comments to compare content. You can also use it to gauge interest in new types of content or topics.
  • Use engagement rate on Twitter instead of total engagement: (Likes + retweets + replies) / (total number of followers)
  • Use scroll rate and time on page only for long-form content, i.e., pages meant to keep the user a bit longer.

Conversion metrics measure how effectively your content prompts users to take a desired action, such as signing up for a free trial.

Examples:

  • Revenue/signups correlation with traffic: the more people visit your site, the more opportunities to convert visitors into subscribers or paying customers.
  • Conversion growth from the bottom of the funnel content: conversion tracked only for visitors that may be considering buying (comparisons, white papers, customer success stories, etc.).
  • First page seen to paying customer: if your content is the first page a visitor has seen and then converted into a customer, that means the content works.
  • Content downloads: high download rates can signal that your audience finds your content valuable.
  • Leads: people who leave contact information in exchange for access to content. Marketers typically track MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads) and SQLs (Sales Qualified Leads): people who have shown interest and may be ready to buy in the future and contacts who are likely ready to be contacted by the sales team.

Leads, downloads, and even revenue vs. traffic correlations are quite easy to track (and prove). Most tools that allow you to create a lead capture form will have built-in analytics, while esoteric data analysis stuff like correlation can be handled by ChatGPT in a breeze these days.

Example data analysis by ChatGPT.Example data analysis by ChatGPT.
 Correlation analysis done entirely by ChatGPT.

But if you want to prove that a specific piece of content generated X number of sales or Y amount of monthly recurring revenue, that’s going to be tricky. Essentially, you’ll be trying to prove the ROI of content marketing — something everybody wants to know, but nobody can really prove without using the word “probably”.

It’s very likely that the people who will read your report, or even yourself, might like to know the “return on investment”, so let’s stop here for a brief moment.

The problem with ROI in content marketing lies within imperfect attribution models and non-linear customer journeys. Ryan Law explains it in his guide to calculating content ROI:

Did someone convert because of an article or in spite of it? When they read multiple articles, which had the biggest impact? If someone buys because of an advert, should we still credit the blog post they read beforehand?

Ryan LawRyan Law

Customer journeys are also rarely as straightforward as we’d hope. One person might read 50 articles and never buy anything; another might read a single article, disappear for a year, and immediately buy. What role did content play in those journeys?

That said, the ROI of content is not a topic you should avoid. You basically have two choices here:

  • Try to calculate ROI by using imperfect but reasonable methods. Ryan explains three of them in his guide.
  • Assume positive content ROI based on its strategic role. Essentially, ROI is an excellent argument for pursuing content marketing, but it’s not the only one. Content marketing plays a strategic role because it has multiple benefits that are really hard to say “no” to. Think about it. If all competitors do content, can you afford to be the exception? In what other way will you demonstrate to the audience how the product/service solves their problems? If your boss or client doubts in the very idea of content, it’s a good idea to discuss it and manage expectations before you go all in.

Finally, finish your report with anything worth mentioning that goes beyond raw data or beyond the ordinary.

These could be:

  • Mentions in newsletters and other content roundups.
  • Social media praise.
  • Feedback on content quality from the audience.
  • Content mentioned by prospects in conversations.

For example, I use Ahrefs every month to find sites featuring my articles. This example shows two industry influencers linking to my recent SEO study.

Backlink report in Ahrefs. Backlink report in Ahrefs.

This is also a good opportunity to mention operational feedback:

  • Roadblocks, like low availability of the design team.
  • Projections, for example, aiming to recover lost organic traffic by focusing on updating old content.
  • Opportunities for improvement, such as aligning content more closely with sales goals.

Final thoughts

No report can be effective without support from stakeholders. Rather than insisting on a specific report format, show a sample of the report, explain the value of it, and ask for feedback. You’re the expert, but they’re the client, so be open to finding a middle ground.

As for reporting frequency, the norm is monthly, quarterly, and annually. Additionally, reports may be prepared for specific campaigns, which can vary in duration. Again, this is something worth discussing with the recipient of the report.

Got questions or comments? Let me know on X or LinkedIn.



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Google Clarifies Organization Merchant Returns Structured Data

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Google updates organization structured data for merchant returns

Google quietly updated their organization structured data documentation in order to clarify two points about merchant returns in response to feedback about an ambiguity in the previous version.

Organization Structured Data and Merchant Returns

Google recently expanded their Organization structured data so that it could now accommodate a merchant return policy. The change added support for adding a sitewide merchant return policy.

The original reason for adding this support:

“Adding support for Organization-level return policies

What: Added documentation on how to specify a general return policy for an Organization as a whole.

Why: This makes it easier to define and maintain general return policies for an entire site.”

However that change left unanswered about what will happen if a site has a sitewide return policy but also has a different policy for individual products.

The clarification applies for the specific scenario of when a site uses both a sitewide return policy in their structured data and another one for specific products.

What Takes Precedence?

What happens if a merchant uses both a sitewide and product return structured data? Google’s new documentation states that Google will ignore the sitewide product return policy in favor of a more granular product-level policy in the structured data.

The clarification states:

“If you choose to provide both organization-level and product-level return policy markup, Google defaults to the product-level return policy markup.”

Change Reflected Elsewhere

Google also updated the documentation to reflect the scenario of the use of two levels of merchant return policies in another section that discusses whether structured data or merchant feed data takes precedence. There is no change to the policy, merchant center data still takes precedence.

This is the old documentation:

“If you choose to use both markup and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

This is the same section but updated with additional wording:

“If you choose to use both markup (whether at the organization-level or product-level, or both) and settings in Merchant Center, Google will only use the information provided in Merchant Center for any products submitted in your Merchant Center product feeds, including automated feeds.”

Read the newly updated Organization structured data documentation:

Organization (Organization) structured data – MerchantReturnPolicy

Featured Image by Shutterstock/sutlafk

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What Is It & How To Write It

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What Is It & How To Write It

In this guide, you will learn about alternative text (known as alt text): what it is, why it is important for on-page SEO, how to use it correctly, and more.

It’s often overlooked, but every image on your website should have alt text. More information is better, and translating visual information into text is important for search engine bots attempting to understand your website and users with screen readers.

Alt text is one more source of information that relates ideas and content together on your website.

This practical and to-the-point guide contains tips and advice you can immediately use to improve your website’s image SEO and accessibility.

What Is Alt Text?

Alternative text (or alt text) – also known as the alt attribute or the alt tag (which is not technically correct because it is not a tag) – is simply a piece of text that describes the image in the HTML code.

What Are The Uses Of Alt Text?

The original function of alt text was simply to describe an image that could not be loaded.

Many years ago, when the internet was much slower, alt text would help you know the content of an image that was too heavy to be loaded in your browser.

Today, images rarely fail to load – but if they do, then it is the alt text you will see in place of an image.

Screenshot from Search Engine Journal, May 2024

Alt text also helps search engine bots understand the image’s content and context.

More importantly, alt text is critical for accessibility and for people using screen readers:

  • Alt text helps people with disabilities (for example, using screen readers) learn about the image’s content.

Of course, like every element of SEO, it is often misused or, in some cases, even abused.

Let’s now take a closer look at why alt text is important.

Why Alt Text Is Important

The web and websites are a very visual experience. It is hard to find a website without images or graphic elements.

That’s why alt text is very important.

Alt text helps translate the image’s content into words, thus making the image accessible to a wider audience, including people with disabilities and search engine bots that are not clever enough yet to fully understand every image, its context, and its meaning.

Why Alt Text Is Important For SEO

Alt text is an important element of on-page SEO optimization.

Proper alt text optimization makes your website stand a better chance of ranking in Google image searches.

Yes, alt text is a ranking factor for Google image search.

Depending on your website’s niche and specificity, Google image search traffic may play a huge role in your website’s overall success.

For example, in the case of ecommerce websites, users very often start their search for products with a Google image search instead of typing the product name into the standard Google search.

Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner]Screenshot from search for [Garmin forerunner], May 2024

Google and other search engines may display fewer product images (or not display them at all) if you fail to take care of their alt text optimization.

Without proper image optimization, you may lose a lot of potential traffic and customers.

Why Alt Text Is Important For Accessibility

Visibility in Google image search is very important, but there is an even more important consideration: Accessibility.

Fortunately, in recent years, more focus has been placed on accessibility (i.e., making the web accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities and/or using screen readers).

Suppose the alt text of your images actually describes their content instead of, for example, stuffing keywords. In that case, you are helping people who cannot see this image better understand it and the content of the entire web page.

Let’s say one of your web pages is an SEO audit guide that contains screenshots from various crawling tools.

Would it not be better to describe the content of each screenshot instead of placing the same alt text of “SEO audit” into every image?

Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Alt Text Examples

Finding many good and bad examples of alt text is not difficult. Let me show you a few, sticking to the above example with an SEO audit guide.

Good Alt Text Examples

So, our example SEO guide contains screenshots from tools such as Google Search Console and Screaming Frog.

Some good examples of alt text may include:

”The
”Google
”List
”Screaming

Tip: It is also a good idea to take care of the name of your file. Using descriptive file names is not a ranking factor, but I recommend this as a good SEO practice.

Bad And/Or Spammy Alt Text Examples

I’ve also seen many examples of bad alt text use, including keyword stuffing or spamming.

Here is how you can turn the above good examples into bad examples:

”google search console coverage report
”google
”seo
”seo

As you can see, the above examples do not provide any information on what these images actually show.

You can also find examples and even more image SEO tips on Google Search Central.

Common Alt Text Mistakes

Stuffing keywords in the alt text is not the only mistake you can make.

Here are a few examples of common alt text mistakes:

  • Failure to use the alt text or using empty alt text.
  • Using the same alt text for different images.
  • Using very general alt text that does not actually describe the image. For example, using the alt text of “dog” on the photo of a dog instead of describing the dog in more detail, its color, what it is doing, what breed it is, etc.
  • Automatically using the name of the file as the alt text – which may lead to very unfriendly alt text, such as “googlesearchconsole,” “google-search-console,” or “photo2323,” depending on the name of the file.

Alt Text Writing Tips

And finally, here are the tips on how to write correct alt text so that it actually fulfills its purpose:

  • Do not stuff keywords into the alt text. Doing so will not help your web page rank for these keywords.
  • Describe the image in detail, but still keep it relatively short. Avoid adding multiple sentences to the alt text.
  • Use your target keywords, but in a natural way, as part of the image’s description. If your target keyword does not fit into the image’s description, don’t use it.
  • Don’t use text on images. All text should be added in the form of HTML code.
  • Don’t write, “this is an image of.” Google and users know that this is an image. Just describe its content.
  • Make sure you can visualize the image’s content by just reading its alt text. That is the best exercise to make sure your alt text is OK.

How To Troubleshoot Image Alt Text

Now you know all the best practices and common mistakes of alt text. But how do you check what’s in the alt text of the images of a website?

You can analyze the alt text in the following ways:

Inspecting an element (right-click and select Inspect when hovering over an image) is a good way to check if a given image has alt text.

However, if you want to check that in bulk, I recommend one of the below two methods.

Install Web Developer Chrome extension.

Screenshot of Web Developer Extension in Chrome by authorScreenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

Next, open the page whose images you want to audit.

Click on Web Developer and navigate to Images > Display Alt Attributes. This way, you can see the content of the alt text of all images on a given web page.

The alt text of images is shown on the page.Screenshot from Web Developer Extension, Chrome by author, May 2024

How To Find And Fix Missing Alt Text

To check the alt text of the images of the entire website, use a crawler like Screaming Frog or Sitebulb.

Crawl the site, navigate to the image report, and review the alt text of all website images, as shown in the video guide below.

You can also export only images that have missing alt text and start fixing those issues.

Alt Text May Not Seem Like A Priority, But It’s Important

Every source of information about your content has value. Whether it’s for vision-impaired users or bots, alt text helps contextualize the images on your website.

While it’s only a ranking factor for image search, everything you do to help search engines understand your website can potentially help deliver more accurate results. Demonstrating a commitment to accessibility is also a critical component of modern digital marketing.

FAQ

What is the purpose of alt text in HTML?

Alternative text, or alt text, serves two main purposes in HTML. Its primary function is to provide a textual description of an image if it cannot be displayed. This text can help users understand the image content when technical issues prevent it from loading or if they use a screen reader due to visual impairments. Additionally, alt text aids search engine bots in understanding the image’s subject matter, which is critical for SEO, as indexing images correctly can enhance a website’s visibility in search results.

Can alt text improve website accessibility?

Yes, alt text is vital for website accessibility. It translates visual information into descriptive text that can be read by screen readers used by users with visual impairments. By accurately describing images, alt text ensures that all users, regardless of disability, can understand the content of a web page, making the web more inclusive and accessible to everyone.

More resources: 


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Google Dials Back AI Overviews In Search Results, Study Finds

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Photo of a mobile device in mans hand with generative google AI Overview on the screen.

According to new research, Google’s AI-generated overviews have undergone significant adjustments since the initial rollout.

The study from SE Ranking analyzed 100,000 keywords and found Google has greatly reduced the frequency of AI overviews.

However, when they appear, they’re more detailed than they were previously.

The study digs into which topics and industries are more likely to get an AI overview. It also looks at how the AI snippets interact with other search features like featured snippets and ads.

Here’s an overview of the findings and what they mean for your SEO efforts.

Declining Frequency Of AI Overviews

In contrast to pre-rollout figures, 8% of the examined searches now trigger an AI Overview.

This represents a 52% drop compared to January levels.

Yevheniia Khromova, the study’s author, believes this means Google is taking a more measured approach, stating:

“The sharp decrease in AI Overview presence likely reflects Google’s efforts to boost the accuracy and trustworthiness of AI-generated answers.”

Longer AI Overviews

Although the frequency of AI overviews has decreased, the ones that do appear provide more detailed information.

The average length of the text has grown by nearly 25% to around 4,342 characters.

In another notable change, AI overviews now link to fewer sources on average – usually just four links after expanding the snippet.

However, 84% still include at least one domain from that query’s top 10 organic search results.

Niche Dynamics & Ranking Factors

The chances of getting an AI overview vary across different industries.

Searches related to relationships, food and beverages, and technology were most likely to trigger AI overviews.

Sensitive areas like healthcare, legal, and news had a low rate of showing AI summaries, less than 1%.

Longer search queries with ten words were more likely to generate an AI overview, with a 19% rate indicating that AI summaries are more useful for complex information needs.

Search terms with lower search volumes and lower cost-per-click were more likely to display AI summaries.

Other Characteristics Of AI Overviews

The research reveals that 45% of AI overviews appear alongside featured snippets, often sourced from the exact domains.

Around 87% of AI overviews now coexist with ads, compared to 73% previously, a statistic that could increase competition for advertising space.

What Does This Mean?

SE Ranking’s research on AI overviews has several implications:

  1. Reduced Risk Of Traffic Losses: Fewer searches trigger AI Overviews that directly answer queries, making organic listings less likely to be demoted or receive less traffic.
  2. Most Impacted Niches: AI overviews appear more in relationships, food, and technology niches. Publishers in these sectors should pay closer attention to Google’s AI overview strategy.
  3. Long-form & In-Depth Content Essential: As AI snippets become longer, companies may need to create more comprehensive content beyond what the overviews cover.

Looking Ahead

While the number of AI overviews has decreased recently, we can’t assume this trend will continue.

AI overviews will undoubtedly continue to transform over time.

It’s crucial to monitor developments closely, try different methods of dealing with them, and adjust game plans as needed.


Featured Image: DIA TV/Shutterstock

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