Quick Tips for Starting an SEM Performance Report

May 31, 2019

The start of a new report can be a daunting task –  it’s difficult in ways similar to starting anything for the first time: you have to have a vision, a plan, and the ability to execute (and oftentimes lots of troubleshooting!). On top of that, no two reports are going to be exactly the same, so building one report doesn’t necessarily give you all the answers for your next report build. However, at the end of the day, what’s important is that the report effectively communicates your client’s data to them in a clear manner. If you’ve never built a report before, here are some quick tips to get you started off on the right foot!

  1. 1. If you are onboarding this client and they’ve had reports given to them from a previous agency or account manager, it could be helpful to ask them about their past reports and their formatting. Note: if the client has never had reports given to them before or if this is a new account, these are still things to consider!
    • How frequently was this report given, would they like that to change?
    • What did they like/dislike about the old report?
    • What metrics are important? How is success measured?
    • Would they like reports to be emailed, or would they like a dashboard they can access as needed? Would they like a combination of both?
    • Note that just because your client are used to a different format doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. We are often asked to build complex reports with only one specific element that ads any value for the client simply because that’s what they are used to. Save time and build a useful report!
  1. 2. Start your first page with a great, high-level overview of the account. No need to get into granular details right off the bat. Since you’ve identified the important metrics in the last step, you already have an idea of what to include here. In doing so, it makes it easier for your client to skim and find their most important metrics, since it’ll be right at the beginning of the report.
  2. 3. This almost goes without saying, but be visual! Use simple, well-designed graphs to quickly communicate what your data means or how it’s trending. Don’t hide data in massive tables.
  3. 4. Consider what time frame is good context for them specifically, because every business is a little different. Some clients will need their data compared to the same period last year, others will need to see month over month data. You won’t know until you ask, so be sure to communicate with your client.
  4. 5. As you progress further into the report, it’s a good idea to segment out data into more detail. Again, you need to consider your client’s business and what’s important to them. This could be segmented out into a number of different ways but here are just a few examples of segments we’ve found useful for specific client needs:
    • Geographic (Country, region/territory, city)
    • Source (Google Ads, Bing Ads, Facebook, etc.)
    • Device (Computer, Mobile, Tablet)
    • Branding campaigns vs Prospecting campaigns
  1. 6. Once your report is at a place you’re happy with, don’t just automate the reports  and send them out to be forgotten. This is your chance to develop a relationship with your client, so schedule regular meetings with them to go over their report. Even if it’s only a quick 15 or 30 minutes to touch base, setting aside a designated time to meet with clients goes a long way in developing your relationship.
  2. 7. Tell a story with data. Don’t just regurgitate numbers at your clients. Our clients pay us for insight and strategy as well as tactical execution. If they wanted a report builder they could just buy some automated software. Your data should be presented in such a way as to tell the story of what happened during the time-frame you are reporting on. Sometimes this story can be so complex a simple report can’t shed light on everything that is influencing performance; those meetings we suggested in #6 are your way to add this extra detail.

Lastly, always be honest. This isn’t limited to just reporting, it’s just good business. Sometimes your plan just doesn’t pan out the way it was supposed to and performance suffers. Failure is an inevitable part of running paid ads. Report the numbers to your client truthfully and provide an explanation as to why it happened. Use this as an opportunity to communicate and create a plan of action to start trending in the right direction again.