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Digital marketing reports should be accurate, informative, and easy to understand. Do yours fit the bill?
Here, you’ll find:
- Common problems with digital marketing reporting
- The negative effects of marketing report problems
- Solutions to these reporting problems
- Tips for ensuring your reports are effective and accurate
Just like report cards in school summed up your progress, digital marketing reports 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.
Let’s break down 7 common marketing reporting problems, complete with solutions for how to fix them.
1. Only reporting on cherry-picked 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 be selective about which results you showcase so the outlook looks better than it might be in reality.
But the fact of the matter is, without being able to accurately pinpoint a marketing program’s weaknesses, you may continue putting ad budget toward the wrong initiatives. Basically, cherry-picked reports won’t help or change a sub-par situation.
Don’t be lured into flattery by false reports. They’ll 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. You can also add more context to less impressive data either in person or via a comment or summary on the report itself.
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.
It’s not uncommon to duplicate conversion actions when setting up conversion tracking. It’s also easy to double-count revenues mistakenly when working with multiple key performance indicators (KPIs) that link to revenue.
However, this can seriously throw your projections out of whack and set you up for disappointment down the line when the issue is finally caught.
Whether you’re just getting started with Google Ads or have years of experience on the platform, 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 include this in their reports.
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. Getting overly detailed
Depending on how multi-channel and layered 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 poring over 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.
When creating or analyzing a marketing report, make sure the big-picture points are easy to identify.
If the report’s recipient likes to have all the details at their disposal, you can always summarize key points or top takeaways.
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.
Especially in the case of implementing SEO tactics, 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.
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.
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.
While these things are out of marketers’ control, you can always highlight and note these things so the client, higher-up, or recipient doesn’t panic when they see their traffic suddenly tanked, even if it was temporary. (And if you’re following best practices and not leveraging black-hat tactics, it should be.)
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: data visuals can help people better understand a report’s overall concepts and figures more easily.
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.
Consider adding screenshot charts from a tool like Google Analytics or having 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.
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.
This article has been updated and was originally published in September 2020.