This week we speak to Barb Davids, owner and SEO consultant at Compass Digital Strategies, about transparency and communication in client reporting.
Where to find Barb:
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Areej AbuAli: Hey, everyone, welcome to a new episode of the Women in Tech SEO podcast. I'm Areej AbuAli and I am the founder of Women in Tech SEO. Today's episode is all about transparency and communication in client reporting. Joining me today is the brilliant Barb Davids, who is the owner and SEO consultant at Compass Digital Strategies. Hey Barb!
Barb Davids: Hey Areej, how are you?
Areej AbuAli: I'm good. How are you?
Barb Davids: Doing good. It's midweek. It's good.
Areej AbuAli: I'm super excited to have you. You were just with us in WTS Workshop recently, so it's great to have you on the podcast as well.
Barb Davids: Yeah, this is fun.
Areej AbuAli: Can you tell everyone a little bit about you and what you do, how you got into the world of SEO?
Barb Davids: Sure, I'd love to. So I started my business full time in November of 2019 and like a lot of people it was because I got fired. And very interestingly a lot of the people were just stunned that it even happened. And I just decided, OK, universe, I understand what is happening. Fine, I'll go out on my own because the reason that I was fired was for something that wasn't even my responsibility. So it was a little like weird and I didn't quite know how to handle it. And then I just chalked it up to being a universal thing like, hey, I got it, OK, I'm going out on my own. And then before that, for probably a good year, solid year, I had more clarity in what I wanted to do. And the idea was to work any time, anywhere. I wanted to just not sit behind a desk anymore. And when I started the concept of Compass Digital Strategies, although it didn't start out that way in terms of the name and what it did, but I started working towards that and specifically with photographers because I was a fitness photographer at the time. I've since closed the business, but I started working with other photographers and learning about SEO and trying to figure out specifically for this industry, what do I need to know to do? And then I found that other people were having the same problem. And I'm like, OK, well, if it's even difficult for me and I've been in the actual the digital marketing industry for well over twenty years, how hard is it for people who don't have any of that background? So it started that way and I started helping some people and things kind of grew. And then Compass Digital Strategies kind of evolved. And now I do different businesses do some client work. Some of them I do it for them. And then sometimes I have consulting so people will do their own SEO, but with my guidance and sometimes I'll get in and do the things for them just to help them out. But basically they're learning it as they go and they do the SEO tasks. It's helpful because a lot of people don't know where to start or what to do or what to do next. So that is how it started.
Areej AbuAli: Yeah. And I think a lot of people over the past year, especially with lockdown and everything that's happened, you know, we're very adamant on the whole concept of having more flexibility with their hours and time. And it kind of sounds like it was meant to be for you.
Barb Davids: Yeah, exactly, it's very nice to be able to now. Well, now that we can travel again, start to look at going to different places like so the idea was to be able to go to Minnesota where my family is, or go to like Portland, where some friends are and be able to still have an income and be able to stay longer so that I could spend some time with them, because otherwise it's kind of restricted to a weekend and that's just not a lot of time.
Areej AbuAli: Yeah. And, you know, for people who are considering this journey of starting their own consultancy and going out on their own. What advice would you give them?
Barb Davids: So my biggest piece of advice is to definitely consider what your end goal is. So like mine was work any time, anywhere. And once I got clarity about it, it just seemed to sort of start falling in place. Like I used to think urgh, write down my goals. Like what the crap. That's just too much work. I don't want to deal with that. But when I started getting real clarity around what I was doing, I think there's a what is it called? Intention goes where energy flows or something like that. I can't remember the the the quote right now. But whatever your intention goes, it seems that's where things fall into place. So I think that would be a good one, is to write down the goals and to know your energy levels, basically. So know how much you can handle, because right in the beginning I did take on too much and I wasn't being able to spend any time on my own business, which was good. I mean, that's a good problem to have. But then I was sort of pigeonholed into one type of model and then when covid happened and everybody shut down. I lost half of my business, which was a really tough thing.
Areej AbuAli: I've heard similar stories, especially with COVID and lockdown and everything that's happened. Have you managed to find inspiration elsewhere? Like do you have like a support group or people within the industry that motivate you and you get some strength from?
Barb Davids: Well Areej, of course, WTS, definitely. This group this has been so amazing. And it's interesting because I've been in the digital marketing industry for a long time and we all know that there just hasn't been I mean, there's been groups out there, but I feel like this one has been extraordinarily helpful and it's so diverse in the knowledge and people it's like incredibly insane. So I think that has been a big piece of it. I don't know, it's just really super helpful and that makes a big difference, I think, to have that support.
Areej AbuAli: Yeah, definitely. And, you know, a big thank you to you. You always make the time to go in and answer tons of questions. So, yeah, I'm sure a lot of people are really grateful for that. And even the recent workshop you had with us was just extremely helpful. So thanks for always taking the time to share your knowledge.
Barb Davids: Yeah, thanks. Happy to get back to those who help.
Areej AbuAli: Awesome. Well, today we want to talk about all things client reporting. And what I really liked when you pitched your topic was you specifically touched on you want to talk about climate reporting, transparency and communication. So I'd really like to start off by understanding what made you label it that way,
Barb Davids: Probably just because it is very specific. And a lot of what I've been running into are previous SEO companies with some of my clients or people that I've heard where they talk about, they get these reports, but they don't know what's happening and they just spit out like whatever report comes from the tool. And like, for example, the one client that I had, the person was doing local SEO and they spit out some report from Google my business, but they weren't posting to Google my business. Well, you have to post in order to do local SEO. You can't just monitor like that's not a doing thing. And I also think SEO is such a black hole for people that don't understand what's happening. So by being transparent in what you're doing and what's coming up and communicating that on a regular basis really helps the client or your boss to understand that there are things being done, even though it's not like a tangible activity.
Areej AbuAli: And this definitely applies all around. So I used to work agency side before working in-house. And whether you're a consultant or whether you work within an agency or you work client side, this definitely applies all across.
Barb Davids: Yeah, yeah.
Areej AbuAli: So what are some of your go to tools that you said to use for reporting?
Barb Davids: I like to use Google search console and Google Analytics in terms of grabbing data and also SEMrush. And then to report on those, I typically use Google Data Studio. There are times where I'll pull up the screen for like SEMrush to show some things to some of the clients who understand it a little bit more and like to see the data, but for the most part, I take all the data sources and pull them into Google Data studio because it's a very nice, simple way to pull all the content together from the different sources.
Areej AbuAli: And with Google Data Studio, it's interesting because there are some people who absolutely love it and some people who find it a little bit overwhelming. And I'm sure you felt that same way as well. The first time you used Google Data Studio.
Barb Davids: Yeah, that's true. Yeah.
Areej AbuAli: We had a few workshops as well on it, but what are some good starter tips for people who want to wrap their heads around Google Data Studio?
Barb Davids: Yeah, get all the free templates you can. So I went and did a lot of downloading of the free templates and looked at it that way and just started putzing around with my own website so that I could see how it connected. Definitely used YouTube a lot. Yeah, I think the templates are very helpful because the more you download, the more you can see all the different ways that it can be used. There are some of them that are so in depth and so crazy good. But then there's some other ones that are so crazy simple that it's very nice to have as well. So you can decide whoever you're reporting to which one makes more sense.
Areej AbuAli: Yes, with Google Datas studio, I feel it's this concept of it's so overwhelming to start with a blank canvas. But then if put a template in and you start connecting some of your own data, it feels much more simpler and less overwhelming.
Barb Davids: Yes, absolutely. And I think the overwhelm comes from I'm going to get a little philosophical. I think that the overwhelm just comes from that plane not knowing what you don't know. So it's really about just taking the time. Sit down. And I still have a hard time doing this, but I have the awareness of it now, which is really helpful. But like just sitting down and saying, OK, this is what I'm going to look at. This is what I'm going to do. And then once you start working with it more, that overwhelm goes away.
Areej AbuAli: And I think the same can definitely be said about Google tag manager as well, which you told us a lot about in the community. And I think that's yet another platform or tool that people can easily find overwhelming if they haven't come across it before.
Barb Davids: Oh, yeah. That is still overwhelming for me because there's so much I haven't tapped into yet with it. But I think the first part of it was learning like the testing part, because it was a little confusing at first. So I had to go through it a few times to to get comfortable with that piece of it, because if you don't test it, you can get wrong data or no data at all
Areej AbuAli: And so when you when you put together these reports, what are some of your key metrics that you always make sure that you tend to report on with all clients?
Barb Davids: Some of them are pretty, pretty standard organic search visits. So we take a look at overall traffic, because a lot of my reporting and here's where I think a lot of SEO companies, at least in the past, it's gotten way better from what I know, but in previous years, you would always see these reports with all the traffic that people were getting to the website, but there wasn't any insight or clarity into. OK, but is it hitting our goals? So not only are we reporting on that the total traffic, but the organic search visit. So how much traffic are we getting from Google or just organic in general? How much is coming from Google my business? How much is coming from Facebook? How much is coming from paid ads? So even though I don't do paid ads, I do report on it for my clients because it's part of the overall picture. And then we also take a look at the conversions or leads or whatever their main goal is, because if I'm driving traffic to the website, I don't want them just to go away. I don't think it ends there. And I think a lot of companies, at least in the past, I'm not sure how much it's changed, but I do think it's getting better, that it's not just about sending traffic, it's sending quality traffic and making sure that people are converting the way that you want them to on the site because you can get all the traffic in the world but they're not going to keep you on if those people aren't converting and that piece of it. So sometimes my clients are very good about knowing this. Sometimes you'll have another person outside of the SEO or another person that works on conversion only. And that could be a way but then you work together. So that's one big piece. Then I like to also report on sort of the visibility or the impressions that are coming from like Google search console. So I'm like saying, OK, well, we've had more impressions or more search results showing than we did last week, for example. And then we had the click through rate at this such and such number. And I'm going to pause a little bit on what I report on just to say it's not also just those numbers, but saying, OK, why is that important? Because if you have a low click through rate from Google search console, that means people aren't necessarily that excited about your page title and meta description. So explaining this whole thing about what they do and that kind of thing also helps. What else do we report on? Keyword rankings, so that one gets like down a black hole because you rank for more than the target keywords you're trying to hit. So I do things a little differently on a monthly basis than I do on a weekly basis. I do report weekly with my clients because I want them to see what's happening each week and so typically will report on certain things I see with certain keywords as I'm digging in. So I might say, OK, well, this keyword, we lost traffic or this keyword, we gained traffic and I'll do that on the weekly basis, like some insights that I can see. And then on a monthly basis, take a look at the overall keyword ranking list. So we'll take a look at first what's being targeted? Where we ranking for those? But then we might even dip into, OK, but you're also ranking for this keyword, which we're not targeting. And then think about later if we wanted to start targeting it or whatnot. So there are some of the things and then the conversions. So some of them are for leads specifically using goals in Google Analytics will report on that or revenue number, for example. And for the one client, even the revenue number that I pull into Google Data studio is actually a manual process. I even go that far because it's part of the bigger picture because they can get revenue from instore. That doesn't come from the website, but it still makes a difference. But then I also report in a different number just below saying, OK, well, this is how much came from organic search. So that way they know what they're getting from that work that's being done.
Areej AbuAli: I think the bit you said about adding the why something is important, we tend to have use the curse of our own knowledge, right. Where we think, OK, everyone knows why this is important, but that's not the case because most times we're not really reporting it to SEO's. We're reporting to CEOs or founders of companies or the business development person or so forth. And so it's really important to actually be emphasizing why this specific metric is important or what it means for that number to go up or down or what the correlation is.
Barb Davids: Yeah, exactly. And it's really fun when they do happen to know kind of what it means. But you do have to once you give that to give like recommendations, I think that's the other added piece of it. So if they say, OK, like conversion rate, I think typically and this may vary by industry or by personal experience, but typically, we want to get a conversion rate of, say, two percent. Well, obviously some other industries are like way, way higher. But for the couple of clients that I have, that's the number that we're shooting for. But, what do we do then if we're not hitting two percent, so that's where we go into OK, well, what are they doing on the website? Where are they dropping off that kind of thing and then start digging into that piece of the analytics.
Areej AbuAli: And anything specific that you completely avoid when it comes to reporting?
Barb Davids: I think it's more of a general idea that you don't want to include things that are too minute, typically, again, it is probably going to vary by the person that you're reporting to. Some people like a lot of data and they want to know all the things. But if you start getting into the the smaller stuff, then it just makes it a longer process. And it's I mean, like the stuff that's even smaller that you don't want to report on necessarily on the front facing it may be something that you look at, but it's not necessarily important to the end result for the reports or for the person who's getting the reports.
Areej AbuAli: And I think that touches a lot on the concept of rankings. Right, and keywords we look at because we might be looking at thousands and thousands of keywords. But it's all about that overall pattern or how that category as a whole is performing as opposed to here's is a breakdown of every single keyword and how it's performing.
Barb Davids: Right, exactly. And then you have those those people out there who want to rank for a certain keyword, but there's no searches for it. So then you have to go in to be like, OK, well, here's why you don't need to spend your energy there.
Areej AbuAli: And how does competitors fall into this? Do you do tend to include some form of competitor analysis or tracking within your reporting?