Do you create Warm Fuzzy, Kittens and Bunnies Reports?

Why can’t we be honest and direct with SEO problems? It seems all of our reporting is just the good stuff. Yesterday I saw a PPC report from an agency that was managing over 20,000 keywords and it had main report showng the 20 best performing keywords and ads and some engagement graphs and that was it. There were a number of words that were underperforming but no mention of them and no one had asked for a full report.

I have seen this with SEO too – all the good stuff then all the issues dumped into some checklist without calling out any major problems the team indicated they needed to to get support from senior management.

Thursday I received a call from the kennel where we board Duke when we travel. Since we have and upcoming reservation they called to say they had a dog infected with Kennel Cough and that they were closing part of the kennel and their daycare to sanitize and work with the city to ensure it was all cleaned. About an hour later I walked into the living room to catch the weather and the leading story on the news was the kennel and the outbreak. I was impressed they got ahead of it. On Facebook many customers were also praising them for being honest about it and for doing all they could to take care of the problem.

Why can’t we do this in search? I have been in far too many meetings where everyone dances around the real issues or does not want to challenge a redesign that will impact search. I believe is senior executives knew more of the real problems, especially with the workflow they would want to change them. In nearly every case where I broke ranks and had a grown up conversation with the senior execs we have been able to break log jams. Yes, people feelings got hurt, others jobs were impacted but they should have been before this project.

I wrestle with this all the time. One of the things I have been noted for is my honesty. I have lost a lot of opportunities and some clients for telling them they have problems. When I was at IBM I had a number of “career limiting comments” when telling senior executives what they needed to hear and not what they wanted to hear.

Recently I met with a senior executive of a large global company and mentioned I had noted a few areas of improvement during the prep for my custom training program for them. He was a bit skeptical that I could make any improvements to their program as they have a “very capable team” and have had a half-dozen agencies and “top consultants” helping them. Clearly opening Pandora’s box he wanted to know what I had found. The junior execs in the meeting squirmed in their chair and suggested they review them and develop a proper brief. The executive, now curious asked me to give a couple of examples which I did and ended up going through the entire list. This resulted in a fairly large consulting project to help them get back to the fundamentals.

My own software, DataPrizm, again this week was told by a prospect that they would not use it because it points out too many bad things. They told me that you would need to hide the Cost of Not Ranking and Co-Optimization Reports in our version so our management would not see them. When asked why they told me that they have to spend a lot for paid words due to low quality scores from bad landing pages and a need to bid the #1 position. In organic, they don’t have the resources and executive support to make the changes they need so they don’t perform well. Ironically, the very reasons both reports were created in the first place.

I am an advisor for a couple of agencies and tools and they do the same thing. One has a cool diagnostic tool but they were nervous showing the users all the incorrect things their diagnostic tools had found. They, like most tools only wanted to show the good things. The actual response from the Client Services Team was “the customer won’t be happy if they open the tool and they see 100 problems” – my suggestion was to rename it “Warm Fuzzy Kittens and Bunnies Report” since you are only showing them things that are good.

I have had other client’s that had me do process and current state audits and then present my findings of all the issues as “Opportunities” as they don’t have problems but opportunities.

We need to find a way to constructively show the issues impacting our search performance and ensure that we do get the support of top executives. We need to break these log jams of communication caused by scared managers that don’t want to rock the boat or be a bearer of bad news.