When Reporting Suites Just Can’t Cut It
Here are some tools that make reporting a breeze
The very principle behind automated report generation for us search marketing-types is quickness. In my short time working in this industry, I’ve already learned that the beginnings of every month are typified with mild groaning, feverish clicking and enough face palms to even dull the ever-radiant shininess of Jean-Luc Picard’s forehead.
Entertaining .gifs notwithstanding, numerous reporting suites have sought to automate this monthly task which has been met with great embrace. There are, however, times when the one-size-fits-all approach to reporting suites turns into one-size-fits-too-much in that the reporting features are either too complex or lack configurability to satisfy even the most convoluted accounts.
… Back to Excel.
This long walk back into manually creating reports is typified by a slouchy stance, thoughts littered with those of melancholy and a caffeinated, thousand-yard stare. Maybe some of you prefer Excel anyway, and it’s to those of you that I tip my hat; keep fighting the good fight.
For the rest of us, I’ve put together a list of some pretty neato tools I’ve found that should help jazz up any manual reporting situation that you’re saddled with.
1. Excel, err, PowerPoint
In a bizarre blog-twist, when I say back to Excel, what I really mean is back to PowerPoint (or Keynote for the Mac initiated). Take the meat of your data, or what really stands out, from Excel and throw it into a PowerPoint with as many (pertinent) graphs as you can muster using crystal-clear fonts. This is essential, do it immediately.
Next, you can use a cool little program called ChartGo to create charts from said data-meat. I like it primarily because not only is it roadrunner-quick, it also lands you on a single page where you can actively preview the various chart types you’re looking to create, as you create them. Like it? Right click, save as and boom, a chart just happened.
Another useful visual aid is word clouds, or tag clouds. For those I like to use Wordle. Ideas for use may be selecting the top 20 keywords in a campaign by quality score, cost or conversions (or all three). No matter the case, including this sparingly throughout your presentation could really help make it pop. Here’s one I came up with that’s pretty sweet and immensely informative:
This next tool is probably one of the more unique plug-ins for PowerPoint I’ve come across. It’s called OfficeTimeline. This is particularly handy for explaining, for example, major milestones within an account or campaign. Did you overhaul a campaign or shift it’s targeting focus? Did you introduce new keywords to embark on a mission to improve visible quality score? Running A/B tests for two landing page variants? This tool makes it a cinch to incorporate all of the notes you’ve kept on the account into an easy to read infographic.
This last bit of advice is a no-brainer, but worth mentioning anyway, and that’s to use a template that’s simple, clean and easy to modify. I would stay away from templates that use large images for backgrounds or low-contrasting color schemes. Taking this a bit further: I’d develop one to satisfy all potential clients and one that reflects your agency’s branding or appearance characteristics (i.e. logography, color schemes, tag-lines etc). This level of professionalism can go a long way with the customer if not for any reason other than impressing upon them that you took their reporting presentation seriously.
Altogether, this small cache of ad-hoc reporting nuggets should provide you with a great alternative to some of the mainstream reporting solutions, whether you prefer to generate reports yourself or if you run into technical problems on behalf of your reporting provider. Let your next reporting SNAFU turn you into a reporting BAMF.