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Written by Sam Yadegar on Sep 2 , 2020

Marketing reports should be accurate, informative, and easy to understand — here’s how to make sure yours fit the bill. 

Here, you’ll find:

  • Common problems in digital marketing reporting
  • The negative effects of marketing report problems
  • Solutions to these reporting problems
  • Tips for ensuring marketing reports are effective and accurate

Just like report cards in school summed up your progress, the same goes for digital marketing reports. They can offer an overall look at how your programs and campaigns are performing, where strengths and weaknesses lie, and more.

But there’s no single right way to create a marketing report. The way a report is created depends on a variety of factors from the size and scope of your marketing initiatives to how detailed and often reports are made. That also means you could run into marketing reporting problems, resulting in things like skewed data or misaligned expectations. 

Here, we break down 7 common marketing reporting problems, and offer solutions for how to fix them.

1. Only reporting on certain results

No one wants to see a marketing report with downward-sloping graphs and less-than-impressive numbers. Because of that, it’s tempting to cherry-pick or doctor up results so the outlook looks better than it is in reality. 

But, at the end of the day, cherry-picked reports won’t help or change the situation. Plus, without being able to accurately pinpoint a marketing program’s weaknesses and determine how to fix the issues, your program may fall into disarray. 

Solution 

Don’t be lured into flattery by false reports — they will only throw your whole operation off balance and result in revenue that doesn’t match up. It’s key to have transparency in your marketing reports, whether your efforts are being done in-house or through a partnership with an agency

marketing reporting problems

Advances in digital marketing tools have made it easier to hyper-target various audiences. (Image via Unsplash)

2. Double-counting revenue and conversions

Throughout our years of working with clients to get their digital marketing on track, we’ve seen one reporting problem over and over: double-counting revenue and conversions. As Search Engine Land reports, it’s not uncommon to duplicate conversion actions in Conversion Tracking setup.

It’s also easy to double-count revenues mistakenly when working with multiple key performance indicators (KPIs) that link to revenue. But it’s something that can seriously throw your projections out of whack and set you up for disappointment down the line when the issue is finally caught. 

Solution 

Whether you’re just setting up your Google Ads account or have had one for years, there are steps you can take to ensure conversions and revenue are counted properly. For instance, you can choose to enable just one conversion type in your Google Ads account and save the other KPI tracking for Google Analytics. 

3. Ignoring organic reach

Advances in digital marketing tools have made it easier to hyper-target various audiences. Reporting on the demographic information of those who your advertising reached can be highly beneficial to your overall strategy. Yet, ironically, many marketers and agencies don’t articulate this in their reports.

Solution 

Organic reach data should be a primary point of interest in a marketing report. It can show how the site performed in organic search results, their demographics, genders, ages, interests, and more. You can also go a step further and create a personalized evaluation of this specific section of your report.

4. Including too much detail

Depending on how multi-channel and involved your marketing program is, it can be easy to get a bit too detailed in your report. Being thorough is great, but no one wants to spend hours reading a report with hundreds of metrics. 

The aim of a report is often to get an overall sense of how a program or campaign is performing. Lengthy reports can make finding key takeaways difficult. Consequently, clients tend to dismiss them and usually end up in the dark or with a handful of follow-up questions.

Solution 

A long-form report with lots of metrics is difficult to review and understand. When creating or analyzing a marketing report, make sure the big-picture points are easy to identify. Even better if they’re annotated or summarized. 

5. Inconsistency in reporting

Seasoned marketers know there’s a delicate balance between too much reporting and not enough. While you want to have a consistent look at how things are trending, you don’t want to waste time pulling reports too often, particularly at the beginning of a new campaign or initiative. 

Particularly for things like SEO, real results will take time. When you pull reports too often, you can risk feeling like your efforts aren’t producing any results. On the other hand, without pulling reports at least every few months, you risk investing time and money into strategies that simply aren’t working. 

Solution 

Come up with a consistent reporting schedule and make sure everyone is on the same page. A monthly schedule often provides enough time to analyze data and generate reports. Weekly snippets on the campaign’s progress can be helpful, but make them brief and easy to understand.

Ultimately, your reporting schedule will be determined by the nature of your different marketing campaigns. 

marketing reporting issues

Using visuals along with data can help people better understand the overall concepts and figures. (Image via Unsplash)

6. Not accounting for external factors

No matter how fool-proof our processes are, we’re still at the mercy of search engines. And with Google’s often-changing algorithm standards and parameters, it’s not unheard of to rank on page 1 one day and page 7 the next. Not to mention, sometimes Google’s new rollouts feature glitches that can affect reporting. 

Solution 

While these things are out of marketers’ control, it’s best to highlight and note these things so the client doesn’t panic when they see their traffic suddenly tanked, even if temporarily. And to keep yourself accountable in between reports, Google Analytics makes it easy to annotate these changes (or things like a site migration) directly in the tool. 

7. Reporting without visuals

Visual aids are always helpful when it comes to understanding complex information. That’s why people love infographics: using visuals along with data can help people better understand the overall concepts and figures. 

When you report without any visuals, you may be setting yourself up for having to do more explaining about exactly what the numbers show or having things get lost in translation.

Solution

Whether you screenshot charts from a tool like Google Analytics or have a designer whip up a simple graph, including visuals in your reporting not only helps clarify details, but it makes the overall report more interesting and digestible as well. 

The takeaway

When done properly, marketing reports are a great way to get a feel for how your overall initiatives are performing. The best ones give a clear picture of a program in a way that’s transparent, thorough, and easy to understand. 

Want to leave your marketing reports to the pros? We can help with that.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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