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15 Project Management Tools For SEO Professionals

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15 Project Management Tools For SEO Professionals

Search engine optimization is complex.

Between changes to search algorithms, new keywords, and strategic changes made by competitors, the field is in a constant state of flux.

If you’re like most SEO pros, at any given time, you’re juggling numerous projects, plans, and tasks.

Just staying organized can feel like a full-time job in itself.

Luckily, you can put technology to work for you in the form of project management (PM) tools.

Why SEO Professionals Need Project Management Tools

If you’re already using a project management platform, you undoubtedly recognize the benefits it provides for busy digital marketers and web teams.

If you’re still getting by without one, you should get one as soon as possible. Why you ask?

Because it can uncomplicate your life and help you get more done in less time.

Some of the essential functions a good project management platform provides for SEO professionals are:

  • Accurate planning. From a bird’s eye view of all your campaigns to detailed information on how a specific keyword performs, SEO project management software allows you to create structured plans.
  • Task and time management. Whether you’re working solo or as part of a team, PM tools allow you to assign tasks and receive notifications about them, so you can more accurately work hours. This can also be used to generate accurate invoices for your clients.
  • Resource allocation. An SEO PM software will give you at-a-glance information about where your budget and resources are going. Useful for SEO, it’s also extremely helpful if you’re also running pay-per-click ads.
  • Reporting. Most modern PM platforms offer robust reporting features and dashboards, so you can generate and analyze data to improve efficiency.

It’s easy to see why so many SEO professionals have turned to PM platforms to help them stay organized and productive, but there are a lot of options.

How do you know which one is right for you and your team?

We’ve compiled a list of some of the top ones. Below, you’ll find our choices for the 15 best PM tools with a brief overview of each, including pros and cons.

Our Top 15 Project Management Platforms For SEO

1. Asana

The PM platform used by Search Engine Journal, Asana is a personal favourite.

This cloud-based platform provides a virtual workspace from which your team and various stakeholders can collaborate.

It’s useful for SEO and digital marketing because it allows you to clearly set and manage strategies, goals, tasks, and expectations.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Task management: Using the forms feature, you can create standard workflows customized to your SEO processes.
  • Automated workflow: Rules-based automation can replace tedious manual tasks.
  • Reporting features: Asana has dashboards, charts, and graphs with real-time reporting, so you can get a high-level view or dive into the details.
  • Free for up to 15 users: Asana has a free tier that can be used by teams of 15 or less. It includes unlimited tasks, messages, projects, and 100MB of storage for each user.
  • Integrations: Asana plays nice with more than 100 other apps and platforms, including Microsoft Office, Dropbox, and Salesforce.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Unintuitive design: If you’ve never used Asana before, it can be a little challenging to figure out. However, once you’ve mastered the learning curve, it’s quite easy to use.
  • No time tracking functionality: There is no built-in time tracking functionality in this platform. This can cause complications in billing clients or resource allocation.
  • Not ideal for small teams: With a range of advanced features and capabilities, it can be overwhelming for small teams or limited SEO projects.

 2. Monday.com

Garfield may hate Mondays, but SEO professionals who use Monday.com for project management sure don’t.

With an operating system that can be customized to your preferred workflow, it’s a great choice for smaller SEO teams looking for a tool to help them stay on track.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Clean user interface: Monday.com has a clean interface that allows you to customize your dashboard and extend data in columns. You can easily get multiple views of an SEO project including calendars, Kanban boards, and collateral.
  • Templates: Monday.com has many templates to choose from, so you will likely find one that matches your workflow.
  • Notifications and communication: This platform streamlines team communication. Team members can leave comments on tasks or documents and stakeholders can be notified via email.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Steep learning curve: Like many PM platforms, it can be challenging to get the hang of Monday.com. Bigger tasks with more communication can begin to get a bit unwieldy.
  • Slow dashboard loading: It can take some time for your Monday.com dashboard to load, particularly on larger projects where a lot of data has to be transferred from its servers to your computer.
  • Client licenses not included: If you want to invite clients to participate in your workspace, you will need to buy a license for them.

3. GanttPro

For more than a century, PM professionals have been using Gantt Charts to track their project schedules.

GanttPro is a web-based PM solution based around these visual trackers.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Readily understandable: You don’t have to have a project management certificate to track tasks with GanttPro. It gives you status information in an easy-to-understand visual format.
  • Undo functionality: A simple mistake doesn’t have to derail your project because this tool saves your history and lets you undo actions with CTRL + Z.
  • Customizable fields: You can create custom fields for every task.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Not as many integrations: Unlike other PM platforms, GanttPro is light on integrations with other apps.
  • No billing or invoicing tools: You will need an outside program to generate invoices for your SEO services.
  • Manual date input: Changing dates for benchmarks and project completion must be input manually, which some users find tedious.

4. Trello

One of the most popular platforms for project management, Trello uses boards, lists, and cards to help keep you organized.

With a free basic plan, it is useful for SEO teams of all sizes.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Free basic plan: Your entire team can try Trello for free. If you like it, there are premium plans available that add integrations, automation, and other functionality.
  • Intuitive Kanban boards: Trello’s drag-and-drop card system makes it easy to track the status of any project.
  • Useful for campaigns of all sizes: Trello works just as well for huge, complex campaigns as it does for simple projects.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Kanban-reliant: If you don’t like to use Kanban boards, this is not the PM tool for you, as most of its functionality is built around them.
  • Upload sizes limited: Trello restricts free users to 10 MB of online storage and paid users to 250 MB. For most SEO teams this probably won’t be a problem, but you may differ.
  • Timeline relationships are not always clear: Trello does not allow users to manipulate relationships for a better understanding of how they work together.

5. Teamwork

Another Kanban-based PM tool, Teamwork offers a drag-and-drop interface with more advanced reporting features.

Teamwork lets you create custom branding accounts, which is useful if you’re working on more than one client.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Unlimited users: You can add any number of users to a single task.
  • Clear vision of scope: Teamwork’s board view makes it easy to understand what is going on with each project.
  • Repeating tasks: Teamwork lets you simply copy any task, which is especially useful for SEO professionals.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Can be overwhelming: The upside is Teamwork has a lot of features. The downside is all those features can get confusing, especially when you’re a new user.
  • No in-platform chat functionality: You’ll need to use an outside app to “chat” with your team and/or stakeholders.

6. Zoho Projects

A cloud-based platform, Zoho Projects provides the functionality you need to manage several SEO projects at once.

You can choose from a limited free version with basic features and four premium plans with different features and user caps.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Communication tools: Zoho Project has real-time chat and forum pages, so you can quickly and easily share information with your team.
  • Timekeeping: If you bill your SEO clients by the hour, this platform is a good choice because it has excellent time tracking functionality.
  • At-a-glance-info: Zoho makes it easy to spot delays, lags, and bottlenecks.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Features can be overwhelming: Because it offers so much functionality, some users may be intimidated by this PM platform. It also has a steeper learning curve.
  • Inflexible: It can be difficult to customize projects to your needs with this platform.

7. Wrike

Wrike can help you simplify planning while keeping your SEO projects on track.

Customizable workflows and ample communication options help you reduce emails, meetings and status updates.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Task prioritization: With Wrike, you can push critical tasks to the front to make sure you don’t miss deadlines.
  • Natural workflow: Wrike is structured in a way most people will find logical and easy to use.
  • Advanced features: Functionality for task management, Gantt charts and real-time newsfeed is built-in.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Pricier than some options: There is a free version available with limited functionality, but premium plans with more functions are more expensive than other PM tools.
  • Difficult onboarding new users: Adding new users and assigning tasks to them must be done manually, which can be time-consuming.
  • Can be difficult to navigate: Users who are unfamiliar with Wrike may have difficulty navigating projects.

8. Smartsheet

With project and work management tools, Smartsheet is an online work execution platform that allows you to automate tasks and generate real-time visuals, including Gantt charts and dashboards.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Robust communication and collaboration: Smartsheet makes it easy to create and implement communication plans.
  • Adding tasks and dependencies: Smartsheet has an intuitive design that allows you to add tasks and dependencies with ease.
  • Custom dashboards: Set up your dash to display the information you want.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Doesn’t support detailed documents: Users are only allowed to upload 10 documents per ticket, which can be troublesome for highly specific campaigns.
  • May be too simple for larger teams: If you’re overseeing a big team with many stakeholders, you may find this platform doesn’t include all the functionality you want.

9. Celoxis

Designed to be an all-in-one PM platform for enterprise-level organizations, Celoxis has nearly all the functionality an SEO professional could ever want.

It has high-level visibility and numerous reports, to help your campaigns stay on track and on budget.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Easy to use: Celoxis gives you the tools to dive deep into a project, without sacrificing usability. It’s also easy to set up.
  • Includes time tracking, resource management, and budgeting: It also has ample reporting features to keep you on track.
  • Good value: Celoxis offers the functionality of a top-tier PM platform at the price point of a mid-tier one.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • No billing or invoicing functionality: You will have to use an outside program to bill your clients.
  • No free version: If you’re looking for a free-to-use PM platform for your SEO team, this isn’t it.

10. ProofHub

ProofHub doesn’t have as many features as some other PM platforms, but it’s still a good fit for SEO.

It provides a centralized hub for task lists, workflows, calendars, and documents.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • All the tools you need: ProofHub gives you everything you need for SEO planning, team collaboration, and management.
  • Unlimited users: You can add as many people to the platform as you need.
  • Communication: All discussions can be centralized in one place thanks to built-in chat and document sharing features.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Recurring tasks must be entered manually: ProofHub does not provide you with the option to repeat tasks.
  • No budgeting: You will need to use a third-party platform to oversee budgeting for your SEO tasks.

11. ClickUp

ClickUp is a cloud-based platform that combines centralized company information and business tools in one place.

It allows you to create and manage to-do lists, workflows, and schedules in a variety of formats.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Easy to use: ClickUp has a short learning curve, meaning you and your team can start benefiting from it faster.
  • Multiple views: Track your campaigns via a list, board, calendar, and workload view, among others.
  • Perfect balance of functions and ease of use: ClickUp falls in the Goldilocks zone by including the features you want without the complexity.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Navigation can be confusing: The differences between tabs is subtle.
  • Implementation can require significant planning: Because it’s highly customizable, you may have to systematically plan workflows to maximize ClickUp’s benefits.

12. Forecast

With Forecast, you can put all your SEO projects, resources, and budgeting in one convenient tool.

An AI-native platform can significantly reduce your administrative workload.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Easily track the lifecycle of projects: You can assign and allocate tasks and budget for your entire SEO PM operation through this platform.
  • Schedule visualization: You can get information on a team member’s workload at a glance.
  • Gathering data is easy: Want to compare a current campaign to an old one? Forecast makes it easy to pull data.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Updating time and task entries can be tedious: Manual entry can be a time-consuming process.
  • Not ideal for larger teams: Visualization elements can be overwhelming if you have a lot of people working under you.

13. Adobe Workfront

Adobe’s solution for project management needs, Workfront is configurable to your needs and includes extensive integrations, so you can easily track the latest developments in your SEO projects.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Well-designed user interface: Workfront is easy to use and visually appealing.
  • Real-time information: It keeps you abreast of any status changes.
  • Good transparency: This platform helps eliminate confusion about who is supposed to do what, as stakeholders and project scope are easily visible.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Lengthy setup process: A high level of customization means Workfront requires a more in-depth initial setup.
  • May offer too much detail: With Workfront, you can get as granular into tasks as you like, which may lead to some people becoming lost in the details.
  • Finding tasks can be difficult: If you don’t know what project a task is assigned to, it can be difficult to locate.

14. WorkOtter

With WorkOtter, you can plan resources for your SEO campaigns at a project, rather than task level.

One of the easiest PM platforms to use, it’s an excellent choice for SEO work.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Very easy to use: You don’t have to be a tech wiz to use WorkOtter for SEO project management.
  • Good communication and reporting tools: Real-time information keeps your entire team on the same page.
  • Good for resource management: This platform is useful for deciding exactly where your SEO resources will be allocated.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Cloud-only: There is no local version available, which can be problematic if you are trying to work offline.
  • English-only support: This may present challenges for non-native English speakers.

15. PSOHub

This versatile PM platform is as useful for SEO teams as it is for architect firms or financial companies.

It has predictive project management to allow you to more accurately project how your SEO campaigns will run.

Why It’s Good For SEO:

  • Excellent time tracking functionality: PSOHub is one of the best platforms for tracking where your team’s time is going, on both group and individual levels.
  • CRM Integrations: This platform integrates with Hubspot and other CRMs, so you can track your SEO campaigns alongside email initiatives.
  • Flexible reporting: PSOHub lets you choose the data you want to include in reports.

Potential Drawbacks For SEO:

  • Time-consuming setup process: It can take some time to manually enter all your campaigns and tasks into this platform.
  • All users must have the same license level: You cannot have some users on a basic level and others on a more complex one.

How To Pick The Right PM Tool For Your SEO Needs

We’ve given you 15 different project management options that can work for your needs as an SEO professional. But how do you pick the right one for you?

It all comes down to your specific needs. Any of these platforms will help you streamline your operations, manage campaigns more effectively, and eliminate wasted time. But each of them has slightly different functionality.

It’s up to you to decide what will work best for your needs. But hopefully, by this point, we’ve given you enough information to get started.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

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Unlocking Brand Growth: Strategies for B2B and E-commerce Marketers

In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, scaling a brand effectively requires more than just an innovative product or service. For B2B and e-commerce marketers, understanding the intricacies of growth strategies across different stages of business development is crucial.  

A recent analysis of 71 brands offers valuable insights into the optimal strategies for startups, scaleups, mature brands, and majority offline businesses. Here’s what we learned. 

Startup Stage: Building the Foundation 

Key Strategy: Startups focus on impressions-driven channels like Paid Social to establish their audience base. This approach is essential for gaining visibility and creating a strong initial footprint in the market. 

Case Study: Pooch & Mutt exemplified this strategy by leveraging Paid Social to achieve significant year-on-year revenue gains while also improving acquisition costs. This foundational step is crucial for setting the stage for future growth and stability. 

Scaleup Stage: Accelerating Conversion 

Key Strategy: For scaleups, having already established an audience, the focus shifts to conversion activities. Increasing spend in impressions-led media helps continue generating demand while maintaining a balance with acquisition costs. 

Case Study: The Essence Vault successfully applied this approach, scaling their Meta presence while minimizing cost increases. This stage emphasizes the importance of efficient spending to maximize conversion rates and sustain growth momentum. 

Mature Stage: Expanding Horizons 

Key Strategy: Mature brands invest in higher funnel activities to avoid market saturation and explore international expansion opportunities. This strategic pivot ensures sustained growth and market diversification. 

Case Study: Represent scaled their efforts on TikTok, enhancing growth and improving Meta efficiency. By expanding their presence in the US, they exemplified how mature brands can navigate saturation and seek new markets for continued success. 

Majority Offline Brands: Embracing Digital Channels 

Key Strategy: Majority offline brands primarily invest in click-based channels like Performance Max. However, the analysis reveals significant opportunities in Paid Social, suggesting a balanced approach for optimal results. 

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How To Use The Google Ads Search Terms Report

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How To Use The Google Ads Search Terms Report

One of the most essential aspects of a profitable Google Ads strategy is reaching the right people, with the right message, while they’re searching.

To do this correctly, you need to know exactly how your ads are doing and what words potential customers are using to search.

This is where the Google Ads search terms report comes in handy.

This report is a goldmine and an invaluable asset to every Google Ads account.

With insights into exact phrases being used to trigger your ads, the search terms report can help:

  • Significantly refine your keyword strategy.
  • Enhance your targeting.
  • Boost your return on investment (ROI).

Let’s get into why the Google Ads search terms report is not only helpful but essential for maximizing Google Ads profitability.

What Is The Google Ads Search Terms Report?

The search terms report is a performance tool that shows how your ad performed when triggered by actual searches on the Google Search Network.

The report shows specific terms and phrases that triggered your ad to show, which helps determine if you’re bidding on the right keywords or using the right match types.

If you find search terms that aren’t relevant for your business, you can easily add them to your negative keyword list repository.

This helps you spend your budget more effectively by ensuring your ads are only triggered for relevant, useful searches by potential customers.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between a search term and a keyword:

  • Search term: Shows the exact word or phrase a customer enters on the Google Search Network to trigger an ad.
  • Keyword: The word or phrase that Google Ads advertisers target and bid on to show their ads to customers.

How To Create A Search Terms Report

Creating a search terms report in your Google Ads account is simple, and better yet – it can be automated!

To view your search terms report, you’ll need to:

  • Log into your Google Ads account.
  • Navigate to “Campaigns” >> “Insights & reports” >> “Search terms”

Below is an example of where to navigate in your Google Ads account to find the search terms report.

Screenshot taken by author, April 2024

After running this report, there are multiple actions you can take as a marketer:

  • Add top-performing searches to corresponding ad groups as keywords.
  • Select the desired match type (e.g. broad, phrase, exact) if adding new keywords.
  • Add irrelevant search terms to a negative keyword list.

3 Ways To Use Search Terms Report Data

As mentioned above, there are numerous ways you can use the search terms report data to optimize campaign performance.

Let’s take a look at three examples of how to use this report to get the best bang for your buck.

1. Refine Existing Keyword Lists

The first area the search terms report can help with is refining existing keyword lists.

By combing through the search terms report, you can find areas of opportunities, including:

  • What searches are leading to conversions.
  • What searches are irrelevant to the product or service.
  • What searches have high impressions but low clicks.
  • How searches are being mapped to existing keywords and ad groups.

For searches leading to conversions, it likely makes sense to add those as keywords to an existing ad group or create a new ad group.

If you’re finding some searches to be irrelevant to what you’re selling, it’s best to add them as negative keywords. That prevents your ad from showing up for that search moving forward.

If some searches have a high volume of impressions, but very few clicks, these will take further consideration. If it’s a keyword worth bidding on, it may indicate that the bid strategy isn’t competitive enough – meaning you’ll have to take action on your bid strategy.

If a search term is being triggered by multiple keywords and ad groups, this is a case of cross-pollution of keywords. This can lead to lower ROI because it’s essentially having multiple keywords bid on that search term, which can drive up the cost. If this happens, you have a few options:

  • Review and update existing keyword match types as necessary.
  • Add negative keywords where appropriate at the ad group or campaign level to avoid cross-pollution.

Ultimately, using the search terms report in this way allows you to determine what is performing well and eliminate poor performers.

2. Understand How Your Audience Is Actually Searching For Your Product

Something I often see is a mismatch of how a company talks about its product or service vs. how a customer is actually searching for it in the real world.

If you’re bidding on keywords you think describe your product or service but are not getting any traction, you could be misaligning expectations.

Oftentimes, searches that lead to conversions are from terms you wouldn’t have thought to bid on without looking at the search terms report.

One of this report’s most underutilized use cases is finding lesser-known ways customers are searching for and finding your product.

Finding these types of keywords may result in the creation of a new campaign, especially if the search terms don’t fit existing ad group structures.

Building out campaigns by different search themes allows for appropriate bidding strategies for each because not all keyword values are created equal!

Understanding how a customer is describing their need for a product or service not only helps your keyword strategy but can lead to better-aligned product positioning.

This leads us to a third way the search term report can help your campaigns.

3. Optimize Ad Copy and Landing Pages

As discussed in #2, customers’ language and phrases can provide valuable insights into their needs and preferences.

Marketers can use the search terms report to better tailor ad copy, making it more relevant and appealing to prospective customers.

And let’s not forget about the corresponding landing page!

Once a user clicks on an ad, they expect to see an alignment of what they searched for and what is presented on a website.

Make sure that landing page content is updated regularly to better match the searcher’s intent.

This can result in a better user experience and an improvement in conversion rates.

How Using The Search Terms Report Can Help ROI

All three examples above are ways that the search terms report can improve campaign ROI.

How so?

Let’s take a look at each example further.

How Refining Keywords Helps ROI

Part of refining existing keywords is negating any irrelevant search terms that trigger an ad.

Having a solid negative keyword strategy gets rid of “unwanted” spending on keywords that don’t make sense.

That previously “wasted” spend then gets redirected to campaigns that regularly drive higher ROI.

Additionally, adding top-performing search terms gives you better control from a bid strategy perspective.

Being able to pull the appropriate levers and setting proper bid strategies by search theme ultimately leads to better ROI.

How Understanding Audience Intent Helps ROI

By understanding the exact language and search terms that potential customers use, marketers can update ad copy and landing pages to better match those searches.

This can increase ad relevance and Ad Rank within Google Ads.

These items help with keyword Quality Score, which can help reduce CPCs as your Quality Score increases.

More relevant ads likely lead to higher click-through rates, which leads to a higher likelihood of converting those users!

How Updating Ad Copy And Landing Pages Helps ROI

This example goes hand-in-hand with the above recommendation.

As you start to better understand the audience’s search intent, updating ad copy and landing pages to reflect their search indicates better ad relevance.

Once a user clicks on that relevant ad, they find the content of the landing page matches better to what they’re looking for.

This enhanced relevance can significantly increase the likelihood of conversion, which ultimately boosts ROI.

Use This Report To Make Data-Driven Decisions

Google Ads is an integral part of any digital marketing strategy, often accounting for a large portion of your marketing budget.

By regularly reviewing the search terms report, you can refine your marketing budget to make your Google Ads campaigns more effective.

Using this report to make data-driven decisions that fine-tune multiple facets of campaign management leads to more effective ad spending, higher conversions, and ultimately higher ROI.

More resources: 


Featured Image: FGC/Shutterstock

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Google’s Search Algorithm Exposed in Document Leak

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The Search Algorithm Exposed: Inside Google’s Search API Documents Leak

Google’s search algorithm is, essentially, one of the biggest influencers of what gets found on the internet. It decides who gets to be at the top and enjoy the lion’s share of the traffic, and who gets regulated to the dark corners of the web — a.k.a. the 2nd and so on pages of the search results. 

It’s the most consequential system of our digital world. And how that system works has been largely a mystery for years, but no longer. The Google search document leak, just went public just yesterday, drops thousands of pages of purported ranking algorithm factors onto our laps. 

The Leak

There’s some debate as to whether the documentation was “leaked,” or “discovered.” But what we do know is that the API documentation was (likely accidentally) pushed live on GitHub— where it was then found.

The thousands and thousands of pages in these documents, which appear to come from Google’s internal Content API Warehouse, give us an unprecedented look into how Google search and its ranking algorithms work. 

Fast Facts About the Google Search API Documentation

  • Reported to be the internal documentation for Google Search’s Content Warehouse API.
  • The documentation indicates this information is accurate as of March 2024.
  • 2,596 modules are represented in the API documentation with 14,014 attributes. These are what we might call ranking factors or features, but not all attributes may be considered part of the ranking algorithm. 
  • The documentation did not provide how these ranking factors are weighted. 

And here’s the kicker: several factors found on this document were factors that Google has said, on record, they didn’t track and didn’t include in their algorithms. 

That’s invaluable to the SEO industry, and undoubtedly something that will direct how we do SEO for the foreseeable future.

Is The Document Real? 

Another subject of debate is whether these documents are real. On that point, here’s what we know so far:

  • The documentation was on GitHub and was briefly made public from March to May 2024.
  • The documentation contained links to private GitHub repositories and internal pages — these required specific, Google-credentialed logins to access.
  • The documentation uses similar notation styles, formatting, and process/module/feature names and references seen in public Google API documentation.
  • Ex-Googlers say documentation similar to this exists on almost every Google team, i.e., with explanations and definitions for various API attributes and modules.

No doubt Google will deny this is their work (as of writing they refuse to comment on the leak). But all signs, so far, point to this document being the real deal, though I still caution everyone to take everything you learn from it with a grain of salt.

What We Learnt From The Google Search Document Leak

With over 2,500 technical documents to sift through, the insights we have so far are just the tip of the iceberg. I expect that the community will be analyzing this leak for months (possibly years) to gain more SEO-applicable insights.

Other articles have gotten into the nitty-gritty of it already. But if you’re having a hard time understanding all the technical jargon in those breakdowns, here’s a quick and simple summary of the points of interest identified in the leak so far:

  • Google uses something called “Twiddlers.” These are functions that help rerank a page (think boosting or demotion calculations). 
  • Content can be demoted for reasons such as SERP signals (aka user behavior) indicating dissatisfaction, a link not matching the target site, using exact match domains, product reviews, location, or sexual content.
  • Google uses a variety of measurements related to clicks, including “badClicks”, ”goodClicks”, ”lastLongestClicks” and ”unsquashedClicks”.
  • Google keeps a copy of every version of every page it has ever indexed. However, it only uses the last 20 changes of any given URL when analyzing a page.
  • Google uses a domain authority metric, called “siteAuthority
  • Google uses a system called “NavBoost” that uses click data for evaluating pages.
  • Google has a “sandbox” that websites are segregated to, based on age or lack of trust signals. Indicated by an attribute called “hostAge
  • May be related to the last point, but there is an attribute called “smallPersonalSite” in the documentation. Unclear what this is used for.
  • Google does identify entities on a webpage and can sort, rank, and filter them.
  • So far, the only attributes that can be connected to E-E-A-T are author-related attributes.
  • Google uses Chrome data as part of their page quality scoring, with a module featuring a site-level measure of views from Chrome (“chromeInTotal”)
  • The number, diversity, and source of your backlinks matter a lot, even if PageRank has not been mentioned by Google in years.
  • Title tags being keyword-optimized and matching search queries is important.
  • siteFocusScore” attribute measures how much a site is focused on a given topic. 
  • Publish dates and how frequently a page is updated determines content “freshness” — which is also important. 
  • Font size and text weight for links are things that Google notices. It appears that larger links are more positively received by Google.

Author’s Note: This is not the first time a search engine’s ranking algorithm was leaked. I covered the Yandex hack and how it affects SEO in 2023, and you’ll see plenty of similarities in the ranking factors both search engines use.

Action Points for Your SEO

I did my best to review as much of the “ranking features” that were leaked, as well as the original articles by Rand Fishkin and Mike King. From there, I have some insights I want to share with other SEOs and webmasters out there who want to know how to proceed with their SEO.

Links Matter — Link Value Affected by Several Factors 

Links still matter. Shocking? Not really. It’s something I and other SEOs have been saying, even if link-related guidelines barely show up in Google news and updates nowadays.

Still, we need to emphasize link diversity and relevance in our off-page SEO strategies. 

Some insights from the documentation:

  • PageRank of the referring domain’s homepage (also known as Homepage Trust) affects the value of the link.
  • Indexing tier matters. Regularly updated and accessed content is of the highest tier, and provides more value for your rankings.

If you want your off-page SEO to actually do something for your website, then focus on building links from websites that have authority, and from pages that are either fresh or are otherwise featured in the top tier. 

Some PR might help here — news publications tend to drive the best results because of how well they fulfill these factors.

As for guest posts, there’s no clear indication that these will hurt your site, but I definitely would avoid approaching them as a way to game the system. Instead, be discerning about your outreach and treat it as you would if you were networking for new business partners.

Aim for Successful Clicks 

The fact that clicks are a ranking factor should not be a surprise. Despite what Google’s team says, clicks are the clearest indicator of user behavior and how good a page is at fulfilling their search intent.

Google’s whole deal is providing the answers you want, so why wouldn’t they boost pages that seem to do just that?

The core of your strategy should be creating great user experiences. Great content that provides users with the right answers is how you do that. Aiming for qualified traffic is how you do that. Building a great-looking, functioning website is how you do that.

Go beyond just picking clickbait title tags and meta descriptions, and focus on making sure users get what they need from your website.

Author’s Note: If you haven’t been paying attention to page quality since the concepts of E-E-A-T and the HCU were introduced, now is the time to do so. Here’s my guide to ranking for the HCU to help you get started.

Keep Pages Updated

An interesting click-based measurement is the “last good click.” That being in a module related to indexing signals suggests that content decay can affect your rankings. 

Be vigilant about which pages on your website are not driving the expected amount of clicks for its SERP position. Outdated posts should be audited to ensure content has up-to-date and accurate information to help users in their search journey. 

This should revive those posts and drive clicks, preventing content decay. 

It’s especially important to start on this if you have content pillars on your website that aren’t driving the same traffic as they used to.

Establish Expertise & Authority  

Google does notice the entities on a webpage, which include a bunch of things, but what I want to focus on are those related to your authors.

E-E-A-T as a concept is pretty nebulous — because scoring “expertise” and “authority” of a website and its authors is nebulous. So, a lot of SEOs have been skeptical about it.

However, the presence of an “author” attribute combined with the in-depth mapping of entities in the documentation shows there is some weight to having a well-established author on your website.

So, apply author markups, create an author bio page and archive, and showcase your official profiles on your website to prove your expertise. 

Build Your Domain Authority

After countless Q&As and interviews where statements like “we don’t have anything like domain authority,” and “we don’t have website authority score,” were thrown around, we find there does exist an attribute called “siteAuthority”.

Though we don’t know specifically how this measure is computed, and how it weighs in the overall scoring for your website, we know it does matter to your rankings.

So, what do you need to do to improve site authority? It’s simple — keep following best practices and white-hat SEO, and you should be able to grow your authority within your niche. 

Stick to Your Niche

Speaking of niches — I found the “siteFocusScore” attribute interesting. It appears that building more and more content within a specific topic is considered a positive.

It’s something other SEOs have hypothesized before. After all, the more you write about a topic, the more you must be an authority on that topic, right?

But anyone can write tons of blogs on a given topic nowadays with AI, so how do you stand out (and avoid the risk of sounding artificial and spammy?)

That’s where author entities and link-building come in. I do think that great content should be supplemented by link-building efforts, as a sort of way to show that hey, “I’m an authority with these credentials, and these other people think I’m an authority on the topic as well.”

Key Takeaway

Most of the insights from the Google search document leak are things that SEOs have been working on for months (if not years). However, we now have solid evidence behind a lot of our hunches, providing that our theories are in fact best practices. 

The biggest takeaway I have from this leak: Google relies on user behavior (click data and post-click behavior in particular) to find the best content. Other ranking factors supplement that. Optimize to get users to click on and then stay on your page, and you should see benefits to your rankings.

Could Google remove these ranking factors now that they’ve been leaked? They could, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll remove vital attributes in the algorithm they’ve spent years building. 

So my advice is to follow these now validated SEO practices and be very critical about any Google statements that follow this leak.

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