Episode
34

Jeremy Galante

ClickUp’s Journey to 2 Million Monthly Visitors, Exploring Content Formats, and Influencing LLMs with the Surround Sound Method

January 24, 2024

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Jeremy Galante for the thirty-fourth episode of the Optimize podcast. Jeremy Galante is currently the SEO Lead at ClickUp, where he applies his passion for optimization to both organic search and project workflows.

Since joining as the first full-time SEO hire in 2020, ClickUp has grown search traffic by over 2 million monthly visitors. With ten years in the industry, Jeremy‘s previous experiences span from agency director to adjunct marketing instructor.

In our episode today, Jeremy and Nate discuss content strategy and optimization, including crafting the perfect listicle, managing in-context internal linking, creating quality content, optimizing content, and more! During the episode, Nate and Jeremy review ClickUp’s journey to over 2 million monthly visitors, revealing strategies you can utilize on your sites.

In this week’s deep dive, Jeremy and Nate break down content formats, including listicles and roundups like best-of lists, product/service alternatives, and comparison pages. Listen to Jeremy’s “Surround Sound” strategy for building backlinks, influencing LLMs, developing brand authority, and expanding your audience. Rounding out the episode, Jeremy covers the challenges and strategies in scaling content channels, emphasizing the need for a solid workflow with checks to ensure quality control. Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions!

What to Listen For

Episode Transcript

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

00:00

I think a lot of it does come down to brand mentions and being included in certain places and certain publications — in some ways similar to how link building is, where, you know, if you are mentioned in these authoritative sources, it adds a layer of validity to your brand and what it's associated with. A lot of it ties back to what we would already consider best practices. It's definitely a question that I think SEOs need to be asking themselves, especially as we have all of these concerns and fears with SGE and all these other things that might be going on, rather than just being, like, worried that it's going to take away your traffic, like, think about what you can do to continue to position your brand best in whatever engine of search that someone's using.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

00:45

Hi and welcome to the Optimize podcast. My name is Nate Matherson, and I'm your host. On this weekly podcast, we sit down with some of the smartest minds in content marketing and SEO. Our goal is to give you perspective and insights on what's moving the needle in organic search. Today I'm thrilled to sit down with Jeremy Galante. Jeremy is the SEO lead at ClickUp, and at least from my view, things have exploded in terms of organic search traffic since he took over the reins back in 2020. In our episode today, Jeremy and I talk about the amazing work that he and his team are doing at ClickUp, content creation at scale, templates, and the year ahead in organic search.

Ad Spot:

This week's episode of the Optimize podcast is brought to you by Positional. My name's Nate, and I'm one of the co-founders of Positional. We've been working on Positional for about 10 months, and we've built a handful of what I think are pretty awesome tools, including we've launched Content Analytics. Content Analytics is kind of like a heat mapping tool, but for a content marketing and SEO team. We provide really granular insights into where users are dropping off within your pages, and we've actually just launched a couple of new capabilities, too. We've launched click mapping and click tracking to give you better insights into where your users are clicking and converting, and we've also launched a more general heat mapping view too, alongside our readmaps. We'd love for you to check out our entire toolset at positional.com.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Jeremy, thank you so much for coming on the Optimize podcast.

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

02:15

Thanks, Nate. I'm stoked to be here.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

02:17

I had a lot of fun chatting with you at BrightonSEO in San Diego. It was such a great conference. I learned a lot, and I thoroughly enjoyed the beers that we had after the conference. And I'm excited to, you know, talk about a few of the things that we talked about there in San Diego. But the first question I ask to all of our guests is, how did you get into the world
of content marketing and SEO?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

02:40

Great question…. It's always a weird path for everyone, right? Coming out of college, I knew … I wanted to be in the world of marketing. I think my perception of what marketing was at that point in time was much more traditional, not as digital-focused. I mean, I think I heard the word, the phrase “SEO” maybe one time in college in, like, one small chapter of a book. So I was applying to a lot of marketing agencies, probably 10, 15, 20 different agencies, was not having much luck. I eventually took a, kind of like a cold calling job at an agency selling, you know, old-school SEO audits, like, “Hey, we'll give you a free audit, you know, we'll set up a meeting,” and then all that would kind of go off to the sales team.
And I lasted about two weeks before I couldn't do it anymore. And I was lucky enough to build some good rapport just in that short time with my manager, who intro'd me to someone in their quote, optimization department, where they actually had a pretty sizable SEO squad. And they kind of gave me a, like, a small trial run to see, you know, if this is something I would be good at, if I liked it. So I was doing a little bit of SEO work —
very, very simple stuff back then. You know, we're talking title tags and small keyword updates to content. But I, you know, I fell in love with it, and it worked out really well. I moved on to a few other agencies, started doing some consulting work, and then kind of the rest was history.
And I just really fell in love with SEO and then eventually landed at ClickUp.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

04:10

Yeah, no one graduates from college and says, like, they want to get into SEO. There's so many paths and so many ways to get into it. But, you know, I do want to ask: It looks from my view that things have really gone well since you moved out to San Diego and took over the reins at ClickUp. You know, there's different keyboard tracking tools.
And at least from my view, it looks like traffic has maybe, like, six or seven x
in that time.
I imagine a lot of it is branded because, you know, ClickUp is a very well-known brand, but it looks like things are going really well.
Is that accurate?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

Yeah, I think it's around 250,000, around 200,000 when I started, and then now we're over two million monthly visits.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

04:48

That's amazing. And in that time, I know you've done a lot of great work, and I actually do want to talk about title tags. So we will get there, in that outline that I sent over. But I know that on LinkedIn, you've described ClickUp's SEO strategy as product-led. And so I have to ask, what is product-led SEO? And what does that mean for ClickUp?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

05:10

That’s a really good question. I know you've had, like, Eli Schwartz on this podcast, and, you know, his definition in his book of product-led, you know, where you're actually creating a product for the searcher. In my definition, at least in the context of that description, it's still much more on the content side of things, but really focusing on incorporating the product into all the content we make. Now, it's not necessarily a groundbreaking strategy. You could think of some very basic examples. You know, Positional writes an article on internal linking best practices: there's obviously a natural way for you to incorporate the product there. For us, you know, ClickUp does, you know — it's a project management software, but it does so many things. You know, we have docs and whiteboards and timelines and such a wide feature set that pretty much any topic that our ICPs would search for, even if it's a little bit outside of work
management and project management, we can always find ways to tie it back to the product. You know, so if it's related to goal setting, sure, we have a goals feature, but there's also, you know, three or four different ways that you could be tracking your goals using a product like ours. Maybe you're using a whiteboard, maybe you're creating a list and incorporating a lot of different people from the team, and really just finding a way to always bring you back to the flexibility of the product and the different ways it allows you to work and even just live your day-to-day life.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

06:31

Yeah, and given ClickUp's product is so expansive in terms of the number of things that you can do with it and the number of tools within the platform, I imagine that it's not very hard to find new keyword ideas. Anytime, like, ClickUp adds a new feature or capability, I'm sure it unlocks, like, an entirely new set of keywords that we could go after. And it always surprises me when I'm searching for things that I see ClickUp pretty high up in the SERPs when I wouldn't expect ClickUp to be there necessarily. But to your point, like, it might be serving a similar ICP, and so it would still be, like, possibly a valuable
person to get out in front of. And so I do want to ask, because on this podcast we always say, like, traffic doesn't equal dollars. And so besides organic search traffic, what are some of those other KPIs that you track and measure that would indicate that things are going well at ClickUp?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

07:21

Obviously, we care about conversions, right? So we're looking at the signups associated with those visits. And I think a big piece of that is, okay, how many visits is this content generating versus, you know, what it's costing us to create that content? Maybe it is very, very top of funnel and the conversion rates is on the lower side, but it's getting enough traffic where over time we know it's going to be a positive gain for us. But there's other things that we look at: you know,  post-conversion — we also wanna see the quality of the conversions that we're getting. You know, are these coming from people that are, you know, associated with businesses, or is it just an individual looking for their own personal productivity tool? You know, if we're seeing that certain content is bringing in a lot more, you know, businesses and teams, you know, we're obviously gonna put more emphasis on creating other content in that cluster or for that topic. And we also look at retention: you know, are people staying in the platform when
they've entered through this way, when they're using this feature as a starting point. So we look at kind of those … post-conversion type things to indicate maybe what we prioritize. But we are still casting that very broad net and trying to reach as many people as possible that would find value in the product and use it on the day to day, especially, you know, if they'd be part of a team or a group where it's gonna be more than just an individual using the product.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

08:35

I think a lot of times content marketing and SEO teams will stop at the free trial or the click to the “book a demo,” but it sounds like you're looking deeper into, like, the funnel to see, like, what's the LTV by, like, page or type of content, what is, like, the retention by page or type of content. And so it sounds like at ClickUp, the SEO strategy — it might be a very cross-functional team or a cross-functional role. Would you say that's accurate between other parts of the team?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

09:03

It's accurate, yeah. We definitely collaborate with product marketing and other members of the team to understand what's working and what the focus is. You know … again, we use those metrics as a lever of, you know, understanding what to prioritize and maybe what to put more time in. But we do still lean back on, you know … the traffic and conversion as, like, the primary driver. Like … we have to achieve that first, no matter what, right?
So yeah, there is a lot of cross-functional work that helps guide us a little bit, but, you know, we do fall into the traditional scope of, like, “let's get people in the door.” And then, you know, product marketing and the product team and everything that happens post-conversion, you know, there's a lot of other folks that are focused in on those elements.  Bt yeah, very, very cross-functional.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

09:48

Do you find yourself talking to the paid search team quite a bit? Is that a relationship or a conversation that exists at ClickUp?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

09:56

Yeah, you know, we are within the same team as the paid search team. We use their data a lot, which is sometimes as good of research data as any because it's real. It's not coming from a third-party tool. Like, we’re seeing those actual raw impressions that may, you know, tell us certain keywords are searched a lot more than we expected. We don't work super close on, like, individual projects, but we're always using each other's data to
make better decisions.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

We talked a lot about content creation there in San Diego. And when I looked at the site earlier this week, it seems like you're creating quite a bit of content at ClickUp. How much content are you guys creating?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

10:34

It's a good amount. It ranges. You know, if we look back at 2023, there were certainly months where maybe we produced 20 or 30 articles. And then, you know, there's been times we've produced over a hundred. So it's certainly ranged, and we've scaled that over time,
especially when we find certain content formats that work really well. You know, I think we'll probably talk about best tool listicles and maybe templates and things like that. Like, when we see success with a particular format, you know, and we, okay, we know this is bringing traffic, we know we can rank for it, we know it drives signups,
let's go deeper on that format. And it doesn't always have to be, like, a cluster — like, okay, let's, we're focusing on marketing reporting, let's go deep on that cluster. Sometimes it's just the format of how content is laid out. Like, if we find a winning way to structure around a certain group of topics, and then we kind of go horizontal versus vertical,
or vice versa, and that's when we kind of scale up a little bit and invest a lot more resources in the creation process.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

11:34

And I know that at ClickUp, there are many different types of pages and types of content. I've seen quite a few template pages on the ClickUp site. At Positional, we have many different templates within our blog posts, too. Like, for example, we've got, like, an article about editorial calendars, and I think you do too, and, like, both pages have a template included that a user can actually use. For certain template keywords, it feels like we could attack them with either, like, a landing or a product page, but we could also attack them with blog or content pages.
From your experience, what types of pages work best for templated keywords?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

12:11

It's kind of both. It really — rom what we've seen, like you said, there's a lot of template targets on our site. And the longer-tail the query is, the longer-tail the template is, generally you can serve that intent pretty well with a landing page. The competition is a little bit lower. And what they're looking for is very specific. So you can hone in on that much easier with the content itself. Whereas if the template query is broader — like, let's say, you know, if you search for
CRM templates, you know, I think you'll find ClickUp toward the top, or Gantt chart templates, where it's a much broader category, where, you know, you kind of know the direction they're trying to go in, but you don't necessarily know what their specific use case is. You need to provide them maybe a couple of different template options and a lot more long-form content to support that, which also then supports Google's need, in that sense, to have more relevance around it and more depth because it is a more competitive keyword and more competitive category.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

13:08

Yeah, I was actually going to ask you about this. I think ClickUp does a really good job at building topical authority or topical relevance within its different product spaces. So, for example, like, Gantt charts, you'll build out, like, an entire portfolio of content in the Gantt charts ecosystem. And I think you do a really good job of targeting the high-in-the-funnel keywords, the middle-of-the-funnel keywords, and then the down-in-the-funnel keywords with those pieces. Does all of that keyword research fall to you as the SEO lead at ClickUp?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

13:38

A very large percentage of it, yes. You know, bottom-of-funnel keywords, things that are being driven from, you know, maybe new product features or announcements or, you know, finding certain new questions that customers are asking that we don't have the answers to. Some of that will definitely come externally from the upmarket team, from product marketing, from other areas of the org. Generally, anything that's SEO driven, SEO focused, like, we're trying to bring in someone in the door for the first time, potentially through our long-form content, like, all of those topics are typically developed by us. I mean, we'll take suggestions, of course, just because we are trying to produce so much content that there's never too many topics to have. And the more that we have in our backlog and the more we can choose from, the better it is when we get to planning, which we do pretty often.
So yeah, it's mostly in our court, but we certainly take influence and suggestions from other parts of the company.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

In my career, I think the most content I've published in a month was about 70 pieces of content as we expanded into new product verticals at my first company. And we were constantly working off a backlog of keywords that we wanted to attack. I'm curious, how big is the keyword backlog?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

14:54

Right now, it's in the hundreds. Since we have produced a lot in the last year,
we've made a pretty good dent in it. As far as our team goes, we're always trying to put, make sure every month that we're putting more topics in than are being produced, so that the backlog's consistently growing. So I would say it's in the hundreds right now. And there are a lot that maybe we've archived over time or we've just kind of felt like,
hey, clearly after a year of this sitting here, we just don't feel like there's enough value in it, so let's — you know, we do some auditing, there's some cleanup,
but there's a good batch to work off of at all times.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Do you find that you're proactively planning for new products or is it more reactive from a keyword research standpoint? So say for example, if you were going to launch, like, a new product, would you be like getting out in front of it from an SEO standpoint? Or would it be reactionary — like, once the product's launched, then we'll actually go and build out the content portfolio
around that new product space?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

Proactive when we can be, you know. If I look back to maybe, like, a year or two, like, two years ago or whenever — I forget when we launched whiteboards, it's been a little while now. You know, we knew, you know, the whiteboard feature was coming long before customers did. And, you know, we have a basic mind map feature and some other elements, but, you know, we looked at an article, like, creating an article like “Miro Alternatives,” for example. Like, we weren't really a true Miro alternative at the time because we hadn't had that whiteboard feature out. But, you know, let's create that content now. Let's speak to the features that we do have that kind of overlap? And then when, you know, those features officially come out, let's update that content.
Let's make it reflect what the product can now offer. So yeah, anytime we can get ahead and get that content out there, get Google to crawl it and then start to try and rank it somewhere, we can always add to it after the fact.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

And I wanna ask then, alternatives pages, how important are alternatives or comparison pages
to other different products you might compete against?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

16:51

They work, right? That's the reason why everybody does them. They certainly are a big part of our strategy. It's very clear when looking at the pages that are driving traffic, like, we do have a lot of those. And until they don't work, like, we're gonna keep doing them. I know sometimes the listicle, software listicle,
like, content can get a little bit of a bad rap … in the world, the SEO world a little bit. But if you, you know, generally look at any page that's in a listicle format, there's always going to be a bias. There’s always, you know, it's very hard to find something that's truly, you know, truly authentic. And I think as long as you're writing about the products accurately, you're not making up information, I think it's, you know, it’s sometimes … it’s worth the risk of being able to put some of your competitors out there for the potential gains you get from being in that position of grasping the commercial intent traffic that people
are ready to buy.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

17:42

I love alternatives pages. I recommend to all of our customers to create them. A lot of the times, they don't want to mention their competitors on their website, but at least in my experience, like, very often people don't scroll very deep into these pages. And so I always suggest to our customers to take a look at them because they tend to be, like, very high-intent keywords, very low competition, especially compared to, like, a “best tools” page, for example. They tend to be lower search volume,
but often in my experience, keyword research tools will underestimate the actual search volume for keywords like this, because I think there are a large number of longer-tail keywords that don't often get picked up. I do want to ask about, like, “best of” pages, since I just mentioned it. How important are “best of” pages? For example, like, “best project management software” or “best tools for whiteboarding?”

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

I put them in the same grouping as alternatives. I think, if anything, you can be a little bit more confident in the intent because alternatives, you know, they could be using that product or maybe they're interested in that product and they're trying to find others. Like, you're just, you're not 100% sure that they're in the complete buying
stage where, and there’s … you’re just never 100%, but when you're looking for a best tool in a certain category, I feel like there's a little bit more confidence where they are in their journey, potentially. So, you know, I value that kind of content very similarly to alternatives — more competition typically, unless it's a new emerging category or you're going very long-tail. You know, so if it's “SEO tools” versus “SEO tools for internal linking” or “SEO tools for content creators,” like, if you're going long-tail, it'll get a little bit easier. And, you know, if you're a site with a little bit lower authority, that might be the best way to start. But I consider that commercial intent traffic almost, in some cases, more valuable than alternatives.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

That makes total sense. And I agree with you. I do think those keywords tend to be quite a bit more valuable from a conversion standpoint. If there was one keyword where you could wake up tomorrow and rank number one for it for the rest of this year, which keyword would it be?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

19:50

Probably “project management software,” just because it's still, like, the category that people search for the most that we serve as a product. It's a very volatile SERP. It changes every single month. So it is quite competitive. We do very well with some of the longer-tail variants around that, but we aren't ranking number one for “project management software,” so I'd probably take that.

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20:12

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Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Yeah, well, you're on the first page. That's a very hard keyword. And I see, like, a bunch of listicles ranking for this keyword. And I think a number of them actually, like, do mention ClickUp. From, like, an SEO standpoint, is it helpful to get, like, your brand mentioned onto some of the comparison or other listicle pages you're ranking against?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

Very helpful. We're huge advocates of the surround sound approach. We actually invested a lot of time into this a couple of years ago, and, you know, trying to make sure that we're not only ranking for that keyword, but we're hopefully in the articles that are mentioned. And that has a lot of benefit from our stance. I mean, in one, it could just be, you know, referring visits, which you can track, right? You might get traffic from these other listicles, especially ones that are maybe outranking you. But also, you know, there's other softer benefits.
Well, maybe Google is now associating you more with that category, or maybe OpenAI, as they've crawled the web, are now associating you more with that category because you're in that content. And even just the people that are writing new listicles: where do they often go to pick out those best tools? They go to the other listicles that are currently ranking and see what tools they're mentioning. So there's a lot of, like, benefits to that that aren't necessarily attributable to success, but, you know, we know that there's a lot of value in.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

22:12

I totally agree with you. And I think Google's gotten very good at being able to detect, like, brand signals, whether people are searching for your brand directly or just seeing your brand across the internet. And like you mentioned, that also might be helpful in terms of ranking or performing in a tool like ChatGPT. And I'm going off the script a little bit here, but, like, should we be thinking about ranking in ChatGPT? And if so, is there anything that we can do?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

22:37

It's a really good question. It's definitely something that we're thinking about. How can we influence LLMs, I would say, is the broader question. And not in a hacky, negative way, but in a positive way. Like, how can we make sure that we are best positioned to be considered from these models? And I think a lot of it does come down to brand mentions and being included in certain places and certain publications — you know, in some ways similar to kind of how link building is, where, you know, if you are mentioned in these authoritative sources, like, it adds a layer of validity to your brand and then what it's associated with. A lot of it ties back to what we would already consider best practices.
It's definitely a question that I think SEOs need to be asking themselves, especially as we, you know, we have all of these concerns and fears with SGE and all these other things that might be going on — rather than just being, like, worried that it's gonna take away your traffic. Like, think about, you know, what you can do to continue to position your brand best in whatever engine of search that someone's using.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

23:40

Content creation, you're doing a lot of it. Does it make sense to hire a content agency to help you in actually creating this content?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

23:46

It depends on what stage you're at and how much content you're trying to produce. If you have a small team and some of those team members are writers or are capable of writing and you're looking to produce maybe just a couple articles a month and some of it's product driven, like, you might be best keeping that in-house and getting by and kind of getting your feet wet internally. As you are looking to scale beyond that, I think it's definitely more cost effective to bring in an agency. And if you're looking to scale, you know, beyond — if you're trying to get to 70 articles like you mentioned earlier, that can get quite difficult and quite expensive to do all internal. Freelancers are a way to kind of supplement that. And I think that it’s always, the best answer is always a blend.
You know, you want to have people in-house that can help guide an agency or your freelancers to make sure that they're speaking to the topic and how it relates to your product in the best way possible. And the people in-house are going to have the best perspective there. And also just to help maintain consistency with brand voice and, you know, the overall language that you want to use when speaking to your target customers. And it really depends on what stage you're at and what kind of content level you're trying to scale to.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

24:54

I wanted to
ask you about that quality control, because in my career, I found that when you go from, you know, 10 articles a month to 70 articles a month, in my case, or in your case, maybe 100 articles per month, what type of processes do we put in place to ensure that quality is maintained as we scale up the number of pieces of content that we're creating?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

25:16

It's a great question. It'll always be a challenge. Some of the obvious factors are, like, you need to have really strong documentation that is guiding, you know, whoever is working on this content with, you know, brand voice direction, formatting direction, like, nailing at least the bare minimum consistency factors that you want to have from post to post.
Beyond that, I think it's just having a really strong process in place, a really clear-cut workflow where, you know, there are steps for review, there are steps for auditing. You're not just publishing content without, you know, any oversights. And that workflow has to be created, and the workflow also has to be consistent. You know, even if you're working with a freelancer versus working for an agency versus working with in-house writer, you know, the process with each of those groups of people that are developing content might be a little bit different, but the workflow that it has to go through to be published on your end needs to be the same. It needs to go through the same level of auditing. So I think that's a big piece of that. It'll always be a challenging thing when you're scaling content to keep consistency. There's really no way around that not being a challenge. So I think a strong workflow,
strong documentation, those are really key pieces to that.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

So I just did a quick Google search, and it looks like there are over 30,000 indexed URLs for the ClickUp.com site, and that's a lot of pages, that's a lot of content. How much time do you and the team spend going back to previously published pages and updating
them?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

26:45

I don't know what the percentage would be on a monthly basis because it varies, but specifically for the SEO content, you know, we are always looking for ways to, number one, defend our positions, which often means keeping content fresh, combat against, maybe, decay. If we're seeing us starting to lose a position, we might need to go back into that content and rework it. Or, you know, sometimes it's the emergence of a new feature, right?
So we talked about how we launched whiteboards way back when. There's a lot of content that we had maybe around brainstorming or maybe around, like, planning where we could go back into those articles and now better incorporate the product because we have new features to support that. So sometimes it's to defend position, sometimes it's to combat decay, and then other times it's just to enhance the content because we have a new perspective to add or a new benefit to connect to the product itself.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

27:38

That must be a total pain in the butt to, like, go back and update those pieces to make sure they currently reflect, like, the current state of the ClickUp product. Because I'm sure the product is changing very regularly. I'm sure there are constant updates being pushed. And this is a problem even for us at Positional, with, like, our 50-page blog. So at scale, I imagine that takes a lot of time — just to ensure that the product
is being displayed properly across the site.

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

Yeah, I think it always comes down to prioritization, right? What are the the pages that matter the most, that are bringing in the most traffic, that are bringing in a lot of signups? You have to have some level of prioritization because you can't hit everything when you want it, when you want to. You can't get to all of the content, especially in a small time period. So I think that's where, you know, prioritizing and focusing on maybe your top-tier pages and then working your
way down is really the only way you can do that when you have such a massive library of content.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

28:34

I know we joked about title tags earlier in this episode, but how important are they? Are they impactful? Is that something you're testing or working on?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

28:44

Yeah, I mean, I think title tags are still important. We know they’re still a big influence with Google with understanding what the page is about and still optimizing for keywords. Like, there's still a lot of value in that. I think what — it's kind of shifted a little bit more away from just focusing on the keywords being there and trying to focus more on, like, being a true hook or call to action or reason why someone would click on your result versus everybody else. Especially, you know, as we talk about people publishing AI content and, you know, everything being very, very
saturated, people talking about the same things, and you need a way to stand out, and hopefully you're doing that in the content itself. But the title tag is a great place to start, right, to add an angle that everybody else isn't already talking about, right? So if it's a definition of, you know, “agile workflow,” is everybody in the search result — you know,
is their, all their titles “What Is Agile Workflow”? And maybe your title is, you know, “How Can You Improve Your Agile Workflow?” You're still targeting the primary keyword, but maybe the angle you're taking is maybe better for the customer you're trying to reach, but is also maybe something that stands out in comparison to everybody else. So I think finding a balance between being something that is interesting for the user to click on, that stands out … and also incorporating the keywords that, you know, still have that value that they've always
had for SEO. I think finding that balance is important, but they're definitely still something we need to care about as SEOs.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

30:13

Yeah, I think they're quite important. I remember back a few years ago, we were trying to rank a page for a review keyword, for, like, a financial services company. And we were struggling to get higher on the first page. Like, we were on, like, the bottom of the first page, like, the ninth spot. And we changed our title tag to, like, “The Secret You Need to Know About Company and Product.” And as soon as we did that,
it, like, shot up in the rankings from the ninth spot to, like, the second spot. Everybody wanted to know, like, what was that secret about big bank that we won't name? I don't know if that's what we should be doing, but I think your point about making your title tags engaging is a good one. In my career, I've always loved using numbers and dates. I feel like people love to click on numbers and dates. And so that's always something I'm keeping in mind with our title tags. Meta descriptions: do you think meta descriptions are important or Google's just going to rewrite them anyway, so we don't need to worry about them.

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

31:12

Yeah, we've, we've lost … we don't put much effort into our meta descriptions. They're often getting rewritten. I think you can rely on AI to help write meta descriptions nowadays. And yeah, I mean, I think we still write them briefly when we put them in the article. I think the right — we test that with the writers specifically, but it's not something we put a lot of weight behind or spend time trying to optimize. Maybe for, like, the five most important pages here or there, like, maybe we'll look at it just to see what it says
and see if we can change it and influence it and have that one actually be visible, but it's a very rare occurrence for us to care much about meta descriptions.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

31:53

I know you mentioned backlinks before. I saw on LinkedIn that you mentioned that the number of referring domains to the ClickUp site has increased pretty significantly since you took over. And I imagine a website or a company like ClickUp probably acquires a lot of links organically each day. At a company like ClickUp, do you even need to worry about building backlinks, or do they just accumulate naturally?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

32:16

They definitely accumulate naturally, and our concern for backlinks or the value and the time we may spend trying to build them has decreased over time as a result of that. You know, once you get to a certain level of authority, it really comes down to finding a way to make your content stand out, right? Like, you're in the game, you can compete with some of the bigger players, so find a way to close that gap with something that's — maybe it's the quality of the content or a format and the way that you're trying to target it. You're more likely to win there. And yeah, we don't spend as much time investing in link building as maybe
we would have two or three years ago. There's still obviously a lot of value in backlinks. It's still a very important SEO factor. And depending on what stage you're in as a company, that value is going to range.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

How important are internal links?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

Extremely important. They're one of the most important things. Even though, like, the SEO community has learned to value them more over time, I still feel like they're undervalued, right? Like, there's still so much you can accomplish by being very diligent with your internal linking.
You know, even though we know that and we invest a ton of time, even I know that there's things that we could be doing better. It's such an important factor, not just for Google crawling your content, but just for being able to associate certain pages, for being able to provide visibility to new content in itself. Yeah, it's extremely important.


Nate Matherson (Speaking)

We had Ethan Smith from Graphite on the podcast, and he said that the optimal number of internal links to a page was seven. And that five was okay, but not as good as seven. Three wasn't very good. And if you had less than three, you were basically going to struggle to rank a page. Do you buy into that idea that you need, like, a certain number of internal links to a page or that's just overkill?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

34:04

I don't know if it's overkill. I, did listen to that podcast, and I, I did think about, “Okay, he did, he did a study, did some studies there. He came up with a number. Like, I'll think about that a little bit.” I think for us when we are, you know, adding internal links to let's say new content, the amount of links we add will typically range based on the type of content, like, the format, and as well as the value in that piece actually ranking.
So, like, if it's an alternatives post, there's not a ton of places to internally link to that article. And generally, it doesn't need many internal links for that article to rank. We've published content with no internal links, and it had it rank. And part of that is because Google is seeing us publish a lot of content, they're hitting our site very often, they're hitting the site map. We've found ways to rank without internal links. So it really ranges from my perspective based on the type of content itself. Is there a magic number? I don't know if there's necessarily a magic number, but it's a valuable insight, and I think people need to be thinking about, you know, when they publish the content, the value of that content, the amount of internal link opportunities for it, and kind of make decisions on a case-by-case
basis.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

This one is a little controversial: How important is anchor text or anchor text differentiation when it comes to internal linking?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

That's a good question. For us, we do try to create some variation with anchor text. I recall a pretty good study that Cyrus Shepard put out a couple years ago that showed some positive correlations with anchor text variation. And I remember reading that and thinking about it a little bit more and talking to our team about it. So I think it's helpful, especially if that article, you know, can — you know, we talk about articles that, you know, maybe serve a ton of variants, right? Maybe it's, it has a primary keyword, but you also might rank for a hundred or 500 or a thousand different variations of it or, you know, similar words. And I think, especially in those cases, I don't have any data to support it, but I think that's a good place to consider having more variation in your anchor text because you are trying to target a very wide range of types of intent with that specific topic. I don't have any data to support that it works better
than just keeping it being the exact same anchor, but, you know, we try to mix it up when it makes sense.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

36:23

I saw a pretty interesting use case for ChatGPT the other day. And it was actually, like, finding anchor text for internal links from, like, heavily in-context sections within those pages and basically, like, taking what might be, like, an H2 or H3 or like a subsection of an article and then generating internal link anchors based on those, like, more deep-in-the-weeds topics or concepts within a piece instead of, like, internal linking on, like, a primary keyword. And the site's doing quite well.
So I thought it was quite interesting to see that approach. But we're actually having Cyrus Shepard on the podcast here in a few weeks. So I'm definitely gonna ask him about this as well. You and I were at the BrightonSEO conference together in San Diego, like I mentioned. And if you remember, Danny Sullivan commented that it would likely be another
very volatile year for us SEOs, and that we should expect more algorithm updates. There were a lot of algorithm updates in 2023. What do you make of all of the recent algorithm updates? Is there anything we should be doing differently?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

37:27

To be honest, we don't, and I don't, pay a lot of attention to algorithm updates. You know, especially, you know, we're talking about core updates. You know, at the end of the day, it all boils down to the same best practices: you know, creating quality content, creating content for the searcher, not the search engine. I think when you're following best practices, you can be
much less concerned and not need to worry about being reactive, necessarily. But I also think it depends on the type of updates that are happening. You know, for example, the more recent Hidden Gems update, I think we're calling it, where some things in search results have changed. You know, we’re seeing more form results with Reddit and Quora
appearing more often. I think when there are updates that kind of impact how, you know, the search results are being presented, I think those are things to maybe pay a little bit more attention to versus algorithm updates that are just continuing to crack down on quality. So I think it depends on the context of what you, what we're referring to as an update. But as far as, you know, just the, “Oh, the volatility's high right now … with rankings, with certain sites,” like, we're not really tracking that or being too concerned about that unless maybe we saw ourselves tank, then we might want to take a step back and try to understand why. I'll even say maybe, like, a year and a half ago — there was a core update back in, I think, 2022, where we did see our site take a little bit of a dive. And, you know, it was, there was no, nothing really we could draw from it, from the content that maybe had went down. And then a week and a half later, everything went back up. It was just kind of Google figuring things out and kind of rolling that out and then kind of re-leveling. And there was actually nothing to really do. And if we would have overreacted or tried to change a bunch of things, it would have been unnecessary.
So I think it really depends on the context of the update itself.

Lightning question round:

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

39:21

Well, Jeremy, this has been so much fun. And I appreciate you bearing with me as I've wavered from the outline. If it's OK with you, I've got a few rapid fire questions I'd love to ask you. Does that sound good?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

Let's do it. Let's do it.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

39:34

Core Web Vitals, do they matter?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

39:37

They matter more for user experience than for SEO. You want your site to be fast. You want users to have a good experience.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

Speaking of user experience, is UX and UI important when it comes to ranking well?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

I don't have data to support that it does. It might. I'm not — yeah, I don't know about that one.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

What's the first thing you check in the morning in terms of SEO?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

First thing I check in the morning in terms of SEO. Ooh, I guess I might be looking at week-over-week traffic for key pages, maybe not every morning, but a lot of mornings.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

40:10

Has the cost of content gotten more expensive over the last couple of years?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

I think the cost of creating something that's truly differentiated from what everybody else has already written about: that is increasing significantly. I would say the cost of just overall content is probably a slight increase.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

40:28

We talked a little bit about SGE. Is SEO finally dead?

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

40:32

SEO's not dead; it's just going to continue to change as it always has. But I do think SGE is coming. It just might not be what we anticipate. It might be a form of it, but we'll see.

Nate Matherson (Speaking)

40:44

Well, Jeremy, this has been so much fun. You've built at least one backlink today. We will link over to the ClickUp site in the show notes. Thank you so much for coming on. This has been great.

Jeremy Galante (Speaking)

Thanks, Nate. I really enjoyed it.

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More Ways to Listen

Optimize Episode 034: Jeremy Galante on ClickUp’s Journey to 2 Million Monthly Visitors, Exploring Content Formats, and Influencing LLMs with the Surround Sound Method

Jan 24, 2024

Join Nate Matherson as he sits down with Jeremy Galante for the thirty-fourth episode of the Optimize podcast. Jeremy Galante is currently the SEO Lead at ClickUp, where he applies his passion for optimization to both organic search and project workflows.

Since joining as the first full-time SEO hire in 2020, ClickUp has grown search traffic by over 2 million monthly visitors. With ten years in the industry, Jeremy‘s previous experiences span from agency director to adjunct marketing instructor.

In our episode today, Jeremy and Nate discuss content strategy and optimization, including crafting the perfect listicle, managing in-context internal linking, creating quality content, optimizing content, and more! During the episode, Nate and Jeremy review ClickUp’s journey to over 2 million monthly visitors, revealing strategies you can utilize on your sites.

In this week’s deep dive, Jeremy and Nate break down content formats, including listicles and roundups like best-of lists, product/service alternatives, and comparison pages. Listen to Jeremy’s “Surround Sound” strategy for building backlinks, influencing LLMs, developing brand authority, and expanding your audience. Rounding out the episode, Jeremy covers the challenges and strategies in scaling content channels, emphasizing the need for a solid workflow with checks to ensure quality control. Closing out the episode is our popular lightning round of questions!

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As an SEO novice, Positional makes it easy. I can quickly go from keyword research, to clustering, to content outlines, then go focus on just making good content. I felt like it helped bridge the gaps between what would’ve taken 3 or more tools in the past.

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The first time we used Positional's toolset was to revamp an older but important piece of content. We used Optimize for optimization, and Internals for internal linking suggestions. We went from position #6 to #1 with the changes and increased our organic search traffic to the page by 400%. Today, Positional is an integral part of our blogging strategy, from topic generation to blog renovation.

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Positional's tools are an essential supplement to any search-driven content effort. They help us save time and produce better content for both our company blog and our clients.

Karl Hughes
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