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As an SEO, I like to keep pretty detailed records of all my search optimization efforts. I document everything I do and each action I take for optimization and note it in a series of spreadsheets I call my "SEO Log."
There are a number of reasons why I keep an SEO Log, which I'll discuss in detail. Plus, I'll talk about the three documents I consider critical to my SEO Logging, and describe the components of each.
My goal in writing about this information is to share some of the methods I use for recording my optimization research and analysis efforts, which I hope may be interesting or helpful to other SEOs or anyone looking to become a SEO.
I consider SEO be part art, part science. You've got your core principles, best practices and plenty that's still totally unknown with organic search engine optimization.
So like any good scientist (notice I'm calling myself a scientist), I'm compelled to record the processes and results of all my optimization efforts and experiments. Because let's be honest, with all of the inherent "unknowns," SEO involves a lot of trial and error. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
So by keeping an SEO Log, I'm armed with:
- Detailed accounts of all my actions
- Detailed records of the outcomes and progress that resulted from my actions
- Reams of in-depth research and analysis
- A blueprint for optimization, which informs all my future efforts
What's more, I'm constantly tinkering, tweaking and trying new things, so my SEO Log is a journal of insights into what works and what doesn't. So as rankings change, for better or worse, I can consult my research notes and get a pretty clear idea what caused the movement in the SERPs.
Big picture, it’s about productivity and efficiency. And by keeping a comprehensive log, I'm able to refine my techniques and evolve as an SEO.
Because there's nothing I hate more than wasting time on work that isn’t going to produce better keyword rankings  and traffic.
My SEO Log consists of dozens of files and spreadsheets. But the centerpieces are really three primary spreadsheets that are the heart and soul of my SEO Log: the "Keyword 100," the "Link Profiler" and the "SEO Sandbox."
One of my top logs is something I call the “Keyword 100.” It’s a running record of roughly 100 to 150 keywords/head to mid-tail terms that I specifically target to try and achieve page one and/or top five rankings. It reveals the current state of rankings, and illustrates progress in rankings, traffic and conversions. In black and white terms, it shows how my efforts are fairing in the SERPs as well as how much traffic and how many conversions I'm generating.
The "Keyword 100" file consists of the following categories:
- Search Engine Rank - Includes current month and previous month comparisons
- Change in Rank - Benchmark to show progress, which is updated monthly in the main file (I have other satellite files with bi-weekly updates)
- Page One Terms - Total targeted queries that rank on page one in Google
- Top Five Terms - Total targeted queries that rank in Google's top five
- Organic Visits - Compares current month and previous month's visits from organic traffic, excluding branded queries
- Conversions - Previous month's conversion vs. current month's
Here's a snapshot of just the changes in rank portion of the "Keyword 100" file. I use the same format for change in visits and conversions as well. By the way, the Excel formula for the "Change in Rank" section is "=IF(B2=0,C2-B2,B2-C2)."
I run this report both weekly and monthly. The monthly one goes out in an email to anyone who wants it, but the weekly one is for me and offers a “big picture” overview, so I get an idea of how our pages are ranking, and any ranking changes for target keywords .
Point being, if anything’s falling that needs my attention, I want to know sooner rather than later so I can intervene and stop the bleeding.
My other primary log is my “Link Profiler," where I keep a diary of all my link building  efforts. All my records of link acquisitions, link failures, links in limbo, link building notes, etc. are contained in this master list, linking dossier.
Categories for the "Link Profiler" include:
- Site - Website of the link attained
- Anchor Text - Shows which text is displayed with which link
- PageRank - I know: toolbar PageRank  is crap. I hear you. But it's a fun stat nonetheless.
- Date - The date the link was acquired, obtained or requested
- Site Notes - Random insight into the link, like if the link is a paid directory link, or the link is nofollowed, or the site encourages deep links, etc
- Page Associated - Which page the link points to on my site
- Status - Pending, live, rejected links
The data in the "Link Profiler" journal is just more layers and levels insight into my link building efforts, which gives me a detailed overview of the link profile for every page I've built links for. I also maintain other, more granular, link profile, "child" logs, where links are segmented by types of links.
In short, my "Link Profiler" files are essential to my link building efforts. Without them, I'd be totally in the dark as to how to gauge the effectiveness of my link building work and which steps to take going forward.
Finally, my favorite file is my “SEO Sandbox.” This is my daily journal of more tinkering with my optimization efforts than anything. It's my nuts and bolts research journal, where I get to play mad scientist and experiment on pages to try and find the perfect (or close to perfect) optimization formula.
With the "SEO Sandbox," I create individual sections for each keyword/page and isolate and document which specific optimization tactics I'm performing, be it link building (internal and external), specific on-page and off-page optimization tweaking, indexing issues, etc. I rely on this file to figure out what's going on at the core of my SEO and to learn what's driving rising and/or falling rankings.
Categories for the "SEO Sandbox" file include:
- Keyword - The keyword or the page associated with that keyword
- Timeline - Series of dates associated with changes
- Rank - Notes where the page ranked when I started and all subsequent changes
- Actions - Shows precisely what I've done to the page or actions taken related to this page
So all my cards are out on the table (well, not exactly all my cards). Now it's your turn.
Tell me, what's your process for documenting your SEO research, analysis, actions? What files do you keep? Are they similar to the files and methods that I've discussed, or do you keep records I may be missing?
If so, feel free to share them.