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Benefits of a Standalone Digital Marketing Reporting Platform

Published September 15, 2016
From keyword research to bid management, countless platforms exist claiming to make life easier for digital marketers. Whether they offer a better bid management solution or an SEO research hub, sales reps bombard our inboxes with messages pitching yet another tool.
But how do you know what you need? In the midst of all the tools available for SEO, PPC, content marketing, conversion rate optimization and analytics, how do you choose the one that will be the most valuable for you? Trying to put together the right box of tools can be exhausting and expensive.
So that’s when we turn to the all-in-one digital marketing platform, offered in several variations by different vendors. This tool promises keyword research, rank tracking, AdWords campaign monitoring, competitive research, real-time dashboards, and report building all under one simple login.
All of those features you say? All of the research and the reporting in one place? Perfect.
Or is it?
Even if you are implementing effective strategies and are able to achieve exciting results, the average client may not fully understand and appreciate your work without a proper report. That’s why you don’t want to skimp on the presentation of data to your client.
While reporting is often one of multiple features included in a larger toolset, the all-in-one tool may not provide the best possible solution for one of your agency’s most important activities: communicating results to clients.
An all-in-one solution sounds good in theory, and many of them are excellent. But a juggernaut of digital data may not deliver on all expectations. There are benefits to using separate tools for research and reporting. In this article, we’ll cover some of the advantages of using a standalone platform that’s dedicated to reporting.

 

Reporting Tool

 

Prioritization of Reporting

One major benefit of a standalone reporting platform is the focus on doing one thing well. While a reporting-only platform may not offer tools for keyword research or rank tracking, the platform focuses specifically on providing the best solutions for reporting.

With a platform that’s focused on multiple solutions, priorities get spread across the feature set. For example, the company producing the platform may focus on building a highly effective competitor research tool but may put less focus on maintaining a user-friendly reporting interface. When a tool narrows in on just building one feature set (like reporting), you know that the focus is entirely on building a better reporting platform.

A multi-functional platform may also change its focus over time. While it initially may include a robust reporting section, the reporting end may be dropped if more users are taking advantage of an SEO tool section. Meanwhile, a platform solely focused on reporting is less likely to change its core product over time. That means you can most likely count on the reporting features improving over time rather than the possibility of seeing them diminish as other aspects of the tool receive focus.

Support Focused Toward Reporting

In line with the prioritization of a single feature, tech support will spread across the various features offered by an all-in-one platform. If a keyword research tool runs into some major technical bugs, the reporting part of the platform will likely fall back in the queue for programmers to fix.

Conversely, when a tool focuses solely on reporting, 100% of the tech team’s efforts are put toward fixing bugs and building out new features directly related to reporting. When you need an issue addressed, you know that you’re talking to tech support that works directly and exclusively with the part of the product that you use. As browser updates require technical changes to HTML versions of reports, you want to know that these reports can still be viewed properly across multiple devices.

Also, you know that new integrations into the reporting platform won’t take a back seat to providing better competitive research data. As Google updates its products, such as when it shifted from Webmaster Tools to Search Console, you know that pulling data via updated APIs into your reports will be priority number one for a reporting-only tool.

Why Not Real-Time Dashboards?

Sometimes, extra features included in an all-in-one platform have the potential to hurt more than they help. As one major example, in addition to offering reports for larger timeframes, many digital marketing platforms provide an option to customize a real-time dashboard for your client.

This dashboard allows the client to see data for anything from AdWords campaign performance to how many organic search visits they’re getting at any given moment, every day. Live streaming data! This is so exciting. (I’m going to grab my popcorn. Do you like butter?)

While, in theory, this option sounds like a great way to keep clients involved and up-to-date on performance as it happens, in reality, these real-time dashboards can actually cause unnecessary complications.

Looking at data hourly or even on a daily basis without context can often raise red flags that aren’t actually concerns, and may even distract from actual concerns.

For instance, your client may see that organic search traffic dropped 50% since yesterday. On the surface, a 50% decrease in traffic sounds like something to investigate. However, when looking at a wider timeframe, traffic is actually up 10% month over month. In the bigger picture, daily fluctuations in traffic aren’t as important as long-term trends. This kind of temporary drop can cause unneeded panic, or result in your attentions being directed toward a futile mission rather than toward the work that you should be doing.

Even when looking at longer timeframes, dashboards can lead clients to focus on metrics that aren’t as important as others. They may hone in on any metrics showing “red” as alarm bells for a failing campaign. For example, they may see that bounce rate has increased 10% and assume this means that something is wrong with the campaign. However, a little research may show, in turn, that bounce rate has increased due to more advertising traffic going to a one-page landing page. When you’re standing too close to the data, you may not recognize that, ultimately, this landing page has improved conversion rates.

By taking the time to build a custom report instead of relying on a dashboard feature of a digital marketing platform, you’re able to tell a story with data and point clients to the metrics that actually matter.

When you’re working with a robust reporting platform, you can build out a detailed report that incorporates metrics from a longer timeframe, showing the metrics that best represent your client’s overall performance. With real-time, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees.

This also gives you the perspective to identify and discuss negative results as they relate to patterns rather than anomalies. This allows you to focus on true downward trends to isolate and resolve them, rather than allowing your client discovering those metrics in a dashboard without full context. It’s better to have a real grasp of potential issues in the data and a strategy to bring to your client when the situation truly warrants one.

Conclusion

When choosing digital marketing tools for your business, be sure to take the need for quality reporting as a priority rather than an afterthought or an extra feature. If you’re not giving your agency team a solution that allows for detailed, highly customized reports, they may find themselves coming up short in one of the most important aspects of their jobs.

A generic reporting tool built into an all-in-one “package” may seem appealing, but take a step back and consider how well you’re communicating data to clients. A dedicated reporting tool is more likely to provide the resources to prove success to your clients, while other standalone tools effectively contribute to the technical aspects of your work.

There’s no right answer for every agency. That’s why it’s essential to evaluate multiple platforms based on your company’s needs. When you rely solely on the recommendations or promises of salespeople or even scramble to deliver what your clients think they need, you may find yourself compromising on what you actually need to make informed decisions and have meaningful conversations.

Make sure you involve multiple people on your team, across specialties, to find the best solution for your company needs. Sure, your SEOs may want automated site audits and the PPC team may be dying for the latest competitor analysis features, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to present the most insightful and complete data to clients. Maybe there’s an all-in-one tool that does it all for you, but if reporting isn’t the strong suit, then it may not be everything you need. It’s better to have multiple tools that excel in their roles than one that will just suffice.

ALSO IN THIS BLOG

Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.

 

When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:

 

 

It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
There are a lot of reasons why you might want to share access to your company's Instagram account with your digital marketing agency.
  1. You want your agency to run ads for your business on Instagram.
  2. You'd like your agency to boost some of your Instagram posts to achieve specific marketing objectives.
  3. You want your agency to create content and post directly to your feed.
Instagram advertising is handled through Facebook Ads. So, you can achieve the first two objectives by sharing access through Facebook Business Manager. In the third case, you will need to share your company's Instagram account password with your agency or else give them access through a third-party tool like Hootsuite or Buffer.
We've put together this blog post to walk through the steps in each scenario and provided screen shots to make it easy to follow. So, if you are ready to begin sharing Instagram access with your agency, but haven't known how to get started, you've found the right resource.