Kevin Indig (ex-Shopify, Atlassian & G2) talks SEO
Kevin Indig has held senior SEO roles at tech companies Shopify, Atlassian and G2 where he lead teams of 30 + SEO specialists. He publishes the weekly newsletter The Growth Memo on topics related to SEO & growth.
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Unknown Speaker 0:00
Hi guys, Michael here before we get into the show, if you’re a Twitter user head to at service scaling, I’m tweeting a bunch of stuff. I’ve learned scaling our digital marketing agency, and I think you’ll find it pretty interesting. All right, let’s get into the show.
Unknown Speaker 0:15
It’s time for the SEO show where a couple of nerds talk search engine optimization, so you can learn to compete in Google and grow your business online. Now, here’s your hosts, Michael and Arthur.
Unknown Speaker 0:37
Hello, good morning, good afternoon. Good evening, whatever the case may be where you’re listening to this. I’m Michael Causton. From the SEO show, and this week, we have a very special very well known very big guest. And that might be hyperbole, but it’s really not because we have Kevin indig on the show this week. Now, Kevin has held senior SEO roles at some companies, you might have heard of Shopify Atlassian, G to just to name our three of the big ones. He’s also worked agency side before that, and he’s pretty well known in the SEO space has big followings on Twitter. And he publishes a really excellent growth memo, which is a comprehensive weekly newsletter going in depth on all sorts of different topics. But the chat, the chat I had with him was great. We spoke about all sorts of different things, some tactical stuff, you know, Kevin grew Atlassian, this traffic from 4 million to 8 million visitors. So we delved into how he did it. And there were three main areas that Kevin spoke about that were really interesting. We also spoke about how he built 30 person teams, SEO teams at G two and Shopify and how the different functions of SEO were broken down in those teams. Then we also spoke about the state of Google at the moment, and its approach to content, and in particular, low quality content. There was all sorts of other topics we spoke about on SEO sprinkled in amongst that chat was really good. I really enjoyed it. So that’s enough for me, I’m gonna throw over now to my chat with Kevin indig.
Unknown Speaker 2:04
Hi, Kevin, welcome to the SEO show. For people who may not have heard of you, if you could give us a quick background about yourself. And I guess where things are at for you today. And we’ll get going from there. Sure, Michael. Yeah. Thanks for having me. Pleasure to be on. As you mentioned, my name is Kevin indig. I’ve been in SEO and growth for last 12 years, most recently at Shopify. And then before that, a company called YouTube, which is a software marketplace. And then before that, at Atlassian, probably company you’re you’re closely familiar with. Absolutely, yeah. Are the owners there? Funnily enough, the owner of Atlassian it seems like he’s buying up half of Sydney real estate at the moment.
Unknown Speaker 2:43
But um, yeah, look, I’ve been following you for a while, particularly through your newsletter, the growth memo, which is, you know, really great, really great topics in depth content that you’re putting out. So for anyone listening, well worth checking that out, if you haven’t. And I want to get to that in a minute. But I always like to go back to the start when I’m talking to people that work in SEO, because I’m always interested in how they discovered it, how they learnt it, and how they built their career in the space. So yeah, when it comes to that, how did you find this world of SEO and get into it? Thanks. For me, I think as for many other people, that was kind of stumbling into SEO.
Unknown Speaker 3:22
I think it started when I was a teenager. I grew up with Broadbent, ernet, in Germany. So I was born raised in Germany, as you can maybe, maybe tell from my speak.
Unknown Speaker 3:32
And when I was a teenager, it all of a sudden became very thick, a lot more affordable. You know, people forget that these days, but there was a time when he paid in rent by the minute. So, you know, when I was young, that changed, and I was an avid computer gamer. I was playing with friends. And when it became affordable, there were lots of online tournaments for games like Starcraft, Warcraft, Diablo, Unreal Tournament, and so on. And so we, you know, we, as a group, we wanted to play and compete in some of these tournaments. But to register, you needed a website. And so I became the guy to figure out how to build a website. I taught myself some very scrappy Photoshop, HTML, CSS, and I bought some very, very bad websites. They fulfilled their purpose, though. And after a while, I asked myself, okay, where are people coming from? I saw in the CMS back then, that there’s the there are different referrers and one of them is Google. And so I wondered, okay, why so many people come through Google, discover that there is something like a search engine and then I went down rabbit holes in online forums to learn more about SEO fascinated pretty quickly, you know, at the time was still a dark art and very hacky and mysterious, and that, that drew me in. And so yeah, and then, you know, fast forward a couple years later, I had a chance to start in industry on the agency side as a trainee. I did a traineeship in Germany at a agency that had been
Unknown Speaker 5:00
enterprise clients, which was a fast track for my career, because I learned hands on what works for large sites, and I had a chance to understand how to get SEO done in a large corporation. So that’s, that’s where it all began. Yeah, awesome. Okay. And back when you were doing that, were you learning it just by trying things, you know, trial and error experimentation? Or did you go anywhere to learn it? Groups? Courses, people that you followed? How do you sort of learn the SEO side of things? Before I joined this agency, it was really just, you know, some observation. And I didn’t do much real SEO, right. It just was fascinated by it or read about it. But it didn’t besides maybe a couple of smaller sites, there wasn’t, there wasn’t, I wasn’t really experimented with it. And it changed very quickly, when I joined that agency as a trainee, one of the first things that they had us do was to build a website. So you can choose Is it a blog? Is it a store or something else, and but they made sure that all trainees have their own projects. And that was another way that I just learned very quickly. And then the third thing that I already mentioned was that to, you know, to be hands on with clients to shadow other consultants, you know, consultants, and they’re very hands on from them. So I learned SEO luckily, very quickly, because I had a lot of practical experience. And I was able to shadow people who really knew it.
Unknown Speaker 6:25
And I would say, that was an accelerant to my, to my career. Yeah, absolutely. So for people listening, thinking about getting into the space, I always say, working at an agency for at least a couple of years really lights a fire under your skills and your you know, career development. So sounds like it was the case for you. Yeah, for sure. For sure. It’s, uh, you know, as with everything, when somebody shows you how to do it, it just goes so much faster, way faster than just reading about something. And if you then have to try it yourself with a small side project that tops it off, right, those are the two best ways and fastest ways to learn SEO? Yeah, absolutely. Awesome. All right. And so after the agency stint, you went client side, and you worked at some really big brands, a, you know, Shopify, Atlassian, G, two different types of sites, but you know, a lot of traffic going through to them. I’m curious, you know, when you’re working at a big brand like that, in house, what does a typical day look like? What does a week look like? You know, where are you spending your time once you’re in those types of roles? Yeah, you know, at Atlassian, I was one of the first probably the second SEO hire, and it was still very hands on. So that was the day there looked very different than as a director at Shopify or VP at GE to. So you know, maybe a comment on the last couple of roles, because there’s so much more, you know, there’s so different from being in the weeds. So was it was pretty much all, it was 90 95%, managing, and setting the strategy in division. So I had large teams that my hand that actually tool was about 35 people at Shopify initially 25 And then it was at.
Unknown Speaker 8:02
And that means you’re really you know, you have a you have to define the roadmap, you have to understand how you track against goals, you have to direct teams in the right direction, discuss key projects and understand how they go in and what, you know, how, what the approach is, and then do a lot of stakeholder management, you know, like, report upward sideboards, make sure you have your peers, bought in and aligned, and a lot of time really goes into, you know, kind of setting expectations, aligning with various stakeholders and people and kind of making sure that teams have the resources that they need.
Unknown Speaker 8:38
Okay, and when you’re working in that sort of a role, you know, later on at G two, and Shopify, did you still get a chance to get your hands dirty? And do SEO, so to speak? And if not, did you miss doing SEO,
Unknown Speaker 8:52
I didn’t get as much of a chance there were there were some opportunities where we, you know, had maybe a little bit of extra spare time. And I could go deep on some projects, which I greatly enjoy, which I, you know, always enjoyed, and definitely a bit of an itch in those manager positions. But not enough to say I don’t want to go down management track, I have to say that I you know, I really enjoy tinkering with sides and trying to figure out problems and going really deep on something. That’s a path that you see throughout all my history, right, even before I had before I joined an agency, right, just this idea of like, you know, playing computer games and really figuring out the tactics are what works. And then same with, you know, with SEO, just like reading forums and blog articles, deep into the night really immersing yourself said, I’ve greatly enjoyed immersing myself in things.
Unknown Speaker 9:42
But there’s just very little to know, to know time when you’re leading and managing. But I also enjoy that greatly. You know, I enjoy this idea of like building an engine or building systems and the idea of defining strategies so that that then became kind of the new thing to figure out just in a month.
Unknown Speaker 10:00
larger scale? Yeah, absolutely. Okay, well, I sort of want to take a step back maybe, to your Atlassian days, maybe when you were a bit more hands on, before we sort of move and maybe talk about some of the other things you got up doing. Now at Atlassian, I’ve seen case studies or articles in the past about you doubling traffic, you know, 4 million to 8 million a month, I believe it was.
Unknown Speaker 10:23
Obviously, that’s a big achievement. And when you’re doing that work, there would have been all sorts of tactical things you’re up to, you’re able to delve into some of the stuff that delivered that sort of growth. Yeah, for sure. There are a couple of key projects that really helped. And it also helped me kind of accelerate my career from there, and I call it career making project. So I think it’s really important that if you want to go down the career track in SEO, or for that matter, any marketing discipline really,
Unknown Speaker 10:50
to collect some career maker projects, these are projects that had a huge impact on the company, that you were one of the key drivers off, and that you can, you know,
Unknown Speaker 11:00
showcase in your application for the next role, for example. And so a couple of these career making projects, one of them were certainly these content hubs that we build that allows him so that’s in. For those who don’t know, a software company has a product driven growth loop, meaning there is an inherent function in the product that helps it grow. Like when you start with JIRA, for example, the flagship product or product, you it only really becomes valuable once you invite your colleagues and you collaborate. So that means you automatically spread the product or the people. That’s a product, that growth loop. And we support it that with content hubs and content hubs are in this definition, they’re basically little micro sites that live on atlassian.com. One example is if that’s not calm, slash agile, or slash DevOps, slash ITSM, etc. And they have sort of their own look and feel. And they’re very focused on one topic, in the case of agile, obviously agile, and it brings you really, from the very beginning of what is agile, all the all the way down to how to do Kanban with JIRA, right? So there’s a lot of content between, it has a very, very linear flow. So you can, wherever you are in the user journey, you can enter this content hub, and it kind of brings you in a linear path to the product. And we did that for most of our products. And that worked really, really well. Well. So the challenge there is that all the content was created by ourselves. Two other projects that were super impactful successful. One of them was the marketplace, right lesson has an app marketplace. That is pretty large. And that is a very different plates much more you open the conversation with integrators versus aggregators. The content hubs are a typical integrator play where you have to create the content themselves. An app marketplace is an aggregator play, right? Do you have an inventory of apps and maybe categories of apps. And so technical SEO was really important there. This is where I developed this this interlink optimization model called tipper. We can go deeper into that if you’d like to. And then the third very impactful project was the Atlassian. Community. There used to be a site called answers that at last minute calm, and we transformed that from a forum to an actual vibrant community. Big investment from the company. We had, you know, lots of moderators, engineers working on this was like really almost like its own product group. And that also came with its own kind of technical SEO challenges. Awesome. Love it. Love it. Let’s talk about the Marketplace first, because you mentioned tipa there, I definitely keen to hear a bit more about that. My understanding of that, is it a similar approach to let’s say, Zapier, where they have, you know, a lot of content around the different apps and integrations that you can build was that the general approach? And yeah, let’s talk about tip of your internal linking strategy that he is there. Sure, sure. So the marketplace was slightly different than Zapier, I think it could have evolved into something that separate us which again, I think they’re doing a fantastic job. It was it was slightly different, not that much. And so
Unknown Speaker 14:02
the way that I discovered tipper and by the way, that’s an acronym that stands for true internal PageRank. And so the, you know, the challenge with internal link optimization is that a lot of times you take a crawler like Screaming Frog or maybe sem rush h ref Spotify on crawl the crawler, whatever they call, and you crawl the website, and you get an internal PageRank calculation. Now, that in itself is not terribly bad. But the problem is that it’s an incomplete model because in reality, websites don’t live in isolation, right? And we all see reality they get backlinks and these backlinks don’t all go to the homepage or to the starting page of a hub. They go to all sorts of pages right and so with if you don’t factor these backlinks into your internal link optimization model, then you’re you’re missing a lot of key information that might make you pick the wrong choices right the right wrong ways to optimise
Unknown Speaker 15:00
Unknown Speaker 15:01
what we learned about the marketplace is that there was a lot of concentration of link equity around categories, because all the apps linked to the category page. But on the app pages themselves, there were links to every version of the app, which means that some apps, they have hundreds of different versions, right? Every time they update the app, there’s a new version, and it creates a new mini page and an internal link to that mini page. And so there was something like a leaky bucket situation where the category pages would get all interlink equity, the product pages would lose all the InterLink equity, because they had barely any incoming links, but lots of outgoing links. And so we Dipper is basically the way to identify that and once we realise that now, in hindsight, it makes perfect sense, right? But when you look at the site, you’re like, Oh, I this product page isn’t ranking. It took a lot of, you know, working in financing and analysing. And then eventually we discovered that that was the case. And then tipper was kind of the the way to conceptualise that or to productize that. So in a nutshell, yeah, an internal link model paired with backlinks and factoring in incoming and outgoing links. And that drove massive success. So I think we 160 We drove an additional 160% of organic traffic to that marketplace and made a huge difference on a small fix. Beautiful. And so what was your fix? You know, you have a lot of versions of app pages, are you canonical? Like putting canonical back to the main page or, you know, indexing them? Or how did you deal with it? Yeah, we just basically kept all the diversions on the same page. So we didn’t, we kind of remove this function of creating mini pages. And we’ll just have like, fold out. So instead of getting to a new page with barely any content and information, you’ll just be able to follow and see what are the new updates. And that’s pretty much it, you get more content on the page was actually helpful. And you drastically reduced the number of pages and outgoing links on the product pages or the app page. Apep pages. Yeah, love it, as you say, very, I guess, simple in hindsight, but it’s good to understand the process you went through to figure that all out? And yeah, awesome. Well, um, let’s talk about the content hubs that you’re building. I’m interested, you know, you spoke about DevOps there. And I forget what the other one was agile, I think it was, how did you did you go to like, the developers or product team to get the topics? How did you sort of research an idea or the content that you’re creating for these content hubs? It’s great question. It really came from the product, in terms of what does the product do? Or what does it help people to do?
Unknown Speaker 17:42
To be fair, you know, like that, like agile as a topic that that was invented, and started way before I came to Atlassian was I had no doing that, but connecting the product and what it helps teams to do with Agile, and then with other topics. You know, after that, that was something that we took a little bit of a of a baton, and then we had a lot of super skilled product marketing managers and writers who then created the content for these hubs. And those hubs have very, very high quality of content. You know, at the time, the concept of agile when I was added last time that we talked about 2016, right, this was the cause of agile was not as default and basic as it was today. Same with things like DevOps and ITSM. So there was a bit of a bit from the company to invest in owning topics that they thought were really important, because they help teams work better and organise themselves in a better way. Yeah, great. Love it. I can. We’ve touched on internal linking, then obviously, with a domain like Atlassian, you’re making the most of all of the strong backlinks that that domain would accrue naturally.
Unknown Speaker 18:55
Where did you stand on link building, you know, actually going out and trying to acquire links? And, you know, maybe get them coming back to those content hubs and trying to rank them? Was there much of an effort there? I generally think links are really important. But to be to be completely honest, we didn’t we didn’t do any link building at Atlassian. We I had a link to LinkedIn ng two and Edwin at Shopify, but lesson was just so strong in the software space and the kind of work in team space that we didn’t really need. Backlinks was you know, there were slight exceptions, like I was part of the slack competitor that then we build. So a lesson for a longtime head of product called HipChat was actually pretty cool, had a strong following. And then they realise that slack was just you know, on the fast track getting gaining a lot of market share growing really fast. And there was an effort to rebrand HipChat and kind of you know, make it the cool competitor to slack. We call it stride and stride you know, as opposed to slack. The thing is, was stride it was a brand that was very heavily
Unknown Speaker 19:59
Unknown Speaker 20:00
were lots of other companies for right it was tried Health Strategy diversities tried everything. And so we were, for a while really struggling to get to, to rank on the first page, and then top results in the first page. And we achieved it in relatively fast time, it was all through internal link building, we just made sure that from the blog from the content hubs, wherever it really makes sense. And as appropriate, we link to stripe. And that helped us with all of these other brands. So, of course, you know, there’s always some like PR and marketing that supports the effort as well, as is never just SEO, there’s also some, you know, ad campaigns and bars and whatnot, that helps Google understand, okay, maybe I should rank like everybody’s searching for this trade app that don’t want straight health or straight University. So should rank that higher, but all that together did the trick. So I think reality is that very, very strong brands, they need minimal link building effort, sometimes none. Whereas, you know, very generic or are weaker brands, quote unquote, might need more lengthening.
Unknown Speaker 20:59
Okay. All right. And on the internal linking topic, they’re,
Unknown Speaker 21:03
they’re sort of, you know, I guess advice in the SEO world with your content. People might call them content hubs like that. silos, let’s say where they say with your internal linking, you want to keep it within the silo and then not linked to other ones or then other people say you should, with you having such a focus on internal linking and making the most of all that domain equity that you have there. What’s your take on that?
Unknown Speaker 21:26
I think there’s definitely something to
Unknown Speaker 21:28
it not to say that a different approach cannot work. But I had made very great experiences with
Unknown Speaker 21:36
content hubs that are maybe not 100% siloed, but that have their own digital world, if you want to write another brand that by the way does that is Adobe, they have their they have different content hubs, or microsites for all different products. And if you’re if you land on Acrobat, for example, which is about PDFs and signature and a signature and whatnot, then you see blog articles only about that topic, and you see tutorials only about that topic and landing pages on about that topic. So I think there is a lot to it. But there are probably also some counter examples where somebody does something that is much less siloed and concentrated and maybe much broader. And that can work as well. And that’s kind of you know, another question because it tickets out the nature of SEO a little bit, where you don’t always have this one path, that is the one and only way to do it. But you have to take into account that there are many factors that can decide what works and what not. In the case of these more, topically siloed content hubs.
Unknown Speaker 22:33
I think I think it made it much easier for Google to understand Oh, yeah, you know, all the pages are probably relevant for this one key topic. And you can probably also do it in different way. But then you might have to pay more attention to good backlinks or to, you know, some other type of stuff. So there are multiple ways to get there. And this one has worked really well for me. Yeah, awesome. So you’re touching on what I love about SEO there, which is it’s part art part science, and you’re just going to come up with an idea and hypotheses and then test it and see how you, you go really in the real world with your sight, your unique circumstances. Exactly, exactly. I love that. You mentioned testing. And then she mentioned trying right there is there is this, you know, even in other fields outside of SEO, or even marketing or even the internet, right, they’re very established, there’s a lot of trying a lot of like, you know, doing things medicine is no is no different. Right? And don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you know, like, water medicine doesn’t work? I absolutely think it does. But even if you go to a regular doctor, there might be different options of treatment, right? Save. I’m not a doctor, but that is darker. But you know, it’s a cancer, right? Like, sometimes you have to do surgery and other times you have to do chemotherapy. So there is even these various tablished non online non techie fields, there’s not always there’s only one route to go, there are often multiple routes and even doctors might say, Okay, we’re going to try this treatment. And then if it doesn’t work, then we’re going to try the next treatment. And I think the exact same applies in SEO, just with the difference that we’re not saving lives or saving ranks.
Unknown Speaker 24:08
Okay, well, let’s maybe move on from the Atlassian world. You touched on D two and Shopify there and you’re doing better link building there. I’m always curious on the link side of things. It’s such a polarising topic in the SEO world.
Unknown Speaker 24:23
I want to get your idea, like first of all, what do you think when you’re doing link outreach? What makes a good link? What are you looking for? And then I want to get into the world of paying for links or not paying for links. So when it comes to links, what’s a good link in your world? What’s a good link?
Unknown Speaker 24:38
There’s one very easy definition. And elegant in my mind, which is that link that delivers referral traffic is good link. I think that’s that’s kind of the most essential atomic definition of inequality that I’ve encountered. The challenge is you can only measure that when you are the sort of the Destiny
Unknown Speaker 25:00
issue that the link points out, right? So I think it’s fine to use proxy metric like metrics like domain authority, page strength, all that kind of stuff. As long as you know what they truly mean, right, you don’t get hung up on them. But when it comes to measuring the quality of your own links, I think referral traffic is probably the best, best way to go about it. But there are challenges operationally to set up tracking, tracking that to be honest.
Unknown Speaker 25:26
When it comes to paying links versus not paying links,
Unknown Speaker 25:31
I actually think it’s fine to pay for things you don’t want to, I think what you have to pay much more attention to is that you’re not too aggressive in your link building efforts, you keep the relevance very high, right? So you’re not, you’re not a car dealer, who then gets a link from a recipe site. So like, don’t do those kinds of things. But
Unknown Speaker 25:49
I’ve seen I know, I mean, this is vibrant, like black market right to backlinks. And I doubt that you can probably some people will agree with me, but I probably wouldn’t try to buy links from like the New York Times, The Washington Post, at least, like highly established
Unknown Speaker 26:05
newspapers and publishers, I think you need a much more organic approach, or really strong relationships either than works. But I think money itself can get you in there. And there might be some people who had different experiences. But for me, that has never worked or have been been, like, feasible. And then when it comes to like Link outreach, I actually think that I have an opinion that this becomes less and less efficient. And I’m saying that as somebody I have built an outreach team at Jeetu. And that has worked. Okay, but we’ve seen the open rates go down over time, the conversion rates are that how many links we got from from from outreach go down over time. So I think it’s just a lever that gets weaker, because everybody on the internet knows now about the importance of links and what it means. In some countries. It’s just a transactional thing, right? Like in Latin America, very often, people will right away ask for money and they expect money, there’s no way around paying for links. And then I think in the in the, you know, they can maybe in the US and maybe in Europe as well, there might actually be more opportunities to do really good organic link building by, by telling really good data stories, right, like Grammarly is one of the is a very famous example of a company that has just built amazing links with great data stories. Of course, they they had an outreach component, and they had some relationships with journalists, right. So I guess, I guess my guess the question to ask yourself is when you do outreach, where are you like coming from? Is this is the email sent by, you know, a marketer who has no relationship to the person that they pitch? Or is there is it a warm handshake, and, you know, maybe even like a friendly type of relationship? And so, in my mind, relationships, like Outbound Link building is either paying for links, which is fine, or it’s really good relationship building? Absolutely. Yeah. Another example that always comes to my mind about using data to build links was, during COVID, there was a website that sort of tracked all the stats around the world cases and that sort of stuff. And then that was just constantly being used by journalists in their articles, different news sites. So if you can tell a compelling story with your data, and package it all up nicely, journalists, you know, their work, they’re under the pump, they’re overworked. So they’re going to leverage that to make articles and then you’ll get links on the back of it. So yeah, always a good angle. Totally, totally.
Unknown Speaker 28:24
All right. Well, you touched on G to building an outreach team and Shopify G to you sort of mentioned, you know, teams are 2030. Plus, I’m curious how you structured those teams, you know, what, how did you break down the functions of SEO? And what sort of roles were people working in? Yeah, great question. So at Jeetu, the way we were structured is we had a technical SEO team, with a very large content team of writers and editors. And then we had the link building slash outreach team. It was very straightforward. at Shopify was slightly different. And the reason is that they both just have, you know, different business models, and they have different growth mechanics and SEO mechanics. So Jeetu was an aggregator. Shopify is more of an integrator, their slight approaches to aggregation, but they’re not as built out in essential as with YouTube. And so choppa phi, the way that I set my SEO, SEO teams up was, I had five teams, I had a content SEO team at a technical SEO team, I had an off site team, a
Unknown Speaker 29:26
experimentation team, and then an international SEO team. So they structured them and build them based on the levers that really mattered for SEO and that’s what I generally recommend teams to do is to say, Okay, where are leaders at large companies where you have you know, that maybe more than five SEO is is to say, Okay, what what are the levers that if we pull them, we get more organic traffic, and then structure and build your teams accordingly. So I’m bigger like on a big proponent of saying that org design has to have a purpose you know, it’s
Unknown Speaker 30:00
It’s more than just, you know, spending an afternoon and you know, building a nice picture or something or constellation. But there has to be a goal that you build these teams for.
Unknown Speaker 30:10
Love it, I can when it comes to Levers, what were the what were the most impactful ones that you know, when you pulled them? You saw the biggest impact? Yeah, the as you know. So for, for Jeetu, which is an aggregator technical SEO is so much more important. And the website is really an extension of the product. Essentially, maybe you could even say that the website is the product almost almost.
Unknown Speaker 30:34
And so technical SEO is super important. And then other product decisions, right? Like, what are the critical piece of information that users want on each page type? What how can we make the experience more delightful? Not just talking about, you know, coronary vitals or PageSpeed? That’s what how as most SEOs think about user experience, but how easy is it to find the most important information? How do you like, is it served to you and just text? Or do you see some charts that help you to put things into relation and really understand how the information is connected? So you can all do, you can do all sorts of things, to make user experience better, and then we’re some of our strongest levers at YouTube. Of course, this some stuff like you know, internal linking was really important. We did some amazing stuff with title tags with the on page content. So of course, we did predominantly SEO stuff. But when you talk about an aggregator, you really have to look at it from a product perspective. at Shopify, on the other hand, levers were very different. We did a lot with blog content, content hubs, programmatic landing pages, some lead generation tools. So since we had to create all the content ourselves, it was a very much more marketing like approach to creating all these piece of content. And I think that the thing that differentiated us the most was that we build a whole tool stack internally. So at Shopify, we both all SEO tools in house from Rank Tracker side crawler, sides, search scraper, log file analyzer, keyword miner, like all this kind of stuff lead went and we built it all from scratch. Awesome, why? Why? Why did
Unknown Speaker 32:13
Unknown Speaker 32:15
it was more of a principal decision to be honest.
Unknown Speaker 32:19
Shopify is very big on building everything in house, I mean, they have their own kind of
Unknown Speaker 32:24
confluence or notion like tool, they have their own video streaming service, they own everything that their own game that employees could play, you know, like their own was insane. So they built everything from scratch. And there are also some benefits from building things from scratch, I think, to be completely truthful, I think there are some downsides. But you know, some of the benefits is just that you can build the technology completely proprietary to what you need, and how your CMS works, or how your data lake works, and all that kind of stuff. So the integration is pretty powerful. And you can just build the features that you, you know, you think you should really have, and that allowed us to get to an understanding of what’s really happening, the search results, and on our own site so much faster than our competitors. And I think that allowed us to, to, to win, you know, very cool. And as a, you know, in the SEO team, did you have much, I guess, say in a lot of those products, like Rank Tracker, for example, is that does that have a product manager and someone building it? Well, you as the SEO team involved in the scoping and what you’d love to see in it? And totally, yes, yes, absolutely. Yeah, we were the owner. I was, you know, the owner or owner of the organisation, we had engineering teams, and they built I mean with us, right, but we were driving, we’re basically the product managers for these tools. Brilliant. Okay. Well, sort of on that topic. You’ve touched it due to, you know, the SEO strategy being product led, I guess, and then over Shopify, it’s more on the marketing side of the in general, where do you see the SEO team sitting? Is it like engineering? Is it product? Is it marketing? How do you sort of best set setting within these types of organisations normally? Yeah, it’s a good question. And today I have like a very, I have much more clarity on that topic, you know, initially struggled a little bit with that. And so these days, I think, for aggregators, SEO has destroyed our product and for integrators on a marketing. It’s just simply because if you are not under product, an aggregator you have no leverage, you have no resources or no way of doing things. To be fair, at G to win out I was there we set on remarketing. And then when I left, they put SEO on our product, which was a wise decision and we made it happen with me under marketing. But if we made it happen because we had insanely strong alignment, because SEO made the majority of revenue, I mean the absolute majority, and that’s makes you know, I don’t want to say SEO is everybody’s job but you know, it’s like it’s easy to align on goals, but say when you’re working at Zillow
Unknown Speaker 35:00
And you’re in marketing, and I’m just making this completely outright. I don’t know how they’re structured. But if you’re in marketing, right, and you have is supposed to optimise city landing pages or category pages like there’s you don’t have any leverage, you don’t have access to resourcing. So it depends on the business model. And the business model depends on who creates the content from an SEO perspective. And that decides where SEO has to be housed. Yep. Makes a lot of sense. Okay. Well, um, I want to change the pace a little bit here and talk about the growth memo a little because I touched on, you know, the articles are really in depth, well researched, interesting and consistent. So it is definitely worth the follow.
Unknown Speaker 35:39
I want to talk about some articles that I’ve read lately on there. Because there’s something that’s very topical at the moment in the SEO world, which is the helpful content update, and I guess, quality of content and how maybe AI feeds into that. And you did an article recently about how Google’s most recent work, they went on a run of Back to Back algorithm updates, and it’s really leaving no room for quality content. Can you walk through maybe your findings and what you think is going on with Google at the moment in that regard? Sure, for sure. So there’s basically three big trends at play here that brought us to where we are today.
Unknown Speaker 36:15
One is that it’s easier than ever before to create content, right? Anybody can pick up their phone, create, you know, accounts on social, a YouTube channel, a website, you know, you can go to Wix, Squarespace, you can start your store with Shopify, it’s it happens in 30 seconds, and boom, you have a website. That is one thing. The second thing is that Google’s resources are limited. They always have been, they try to expand them. But in essence, they’re, they’re limited, right? They can only do so much. And then the third big trend that’s innate to search is that you only have so many spots on the first page of Google. And I’m saying that I’ve been hesitantly because they used to be this idea of like, top 10 search results. And that is not the case anymore. So we still have the top spots. And they’re limited, right? So it’s very different than a social network or in an entertainment network like tick tock, where you get an experience that is tailored to you. In search, even though there’s some personalization on the horizon, there are only so many results. And you put all of these three trends together. And you very quickly come to the conclusion that the bar for what quality means has to raise and has to grow with the amount of content. And Google has to be very, very picky about what they spend their resources on. Because the web is way, way larger than what Google can handle, at least according to estimations.
Unknown Speaker 37:42
And so that’s that’s where like these, these three recent updates was helpful content update, the product reviews update and a core update all within the matter of a couple of weeks and overlapping, which Google said they never would do, which then have actually done. That’s, that’s kind of what a lot of these updates went after. Right? So the helpful content updates in the product reviews updates, but it’s up without frequent updates. So that update really went after sites that
Unknown Speaker 38:07
that have just a very low quality of content. Sometimes it’s it’s, it’s like spam content, sometimes it’s agent AI generated content, but it’s basically you come to the site, you can already tell by the design, it’s terrible. It has like way too many ads. And then the content on is just not very helpful. I saw some sites in my analysis and wrote about them on the blog article that were basically targeting keywords like oh, what is, you know, what is one quarter of 15? And then somebody tried to write a painful article about that topic, right? So it’s just to address people who Google that and then get some traffic and show them ads, right. So that’s something that Google just doesn’t want to spend the resources anymore. The product reviews, update targeted sites that predominantly pretended to have tested and reviewed a product but actually have not. And then, by the way, hit a lot of larger publishers pretty badly. And so there’s also no world anymore where you can pretend to have tested a product and then write about it. But there’s actually no evidence that you ever really had the product in your hands or you had it on your computer. And then the core update is just an ongoing version, where Google reevaluate what quality means and what users are really searching for, and what what sites users are happy with. So again, all that together, leaves no room for these for cutting corners to display more ads or quickly gets in search traffic. If you have a business model that that depends on on organic traffic and on SEO, you really have to go the extra mile to provide something that’s way, way better than everything else that’s out there, and that’s not going to slow down or go away. Every company has to ask themselves, okay, how is my result? The first of all differentiated and how is it better than everything else out there? Right? If you’re one of a million people who will sell T shirts on the internet, you know, good luck differentiating yourself or if you write about the same topic as everybody else. You gotta
Unknown Speaker 40:00
Find a way to stand out from the crowd. And that bar is continuously raising. Hmm, I can speak from experience in this space actually had some affiliate sites that were built based on like using an API and it would pull data from the API, but it’s the same data that anyone else that wants to do that has. And the site’s had, you know, 10s of 1000s of pages, and they’ve done well for years. But this year, they’ve slowly but surely been obliterated. Because it’s Google saying, No, we don’t have time for that our resources are not going into crawling your site, which is similar to anyone else that’s doing that same strategy. And, you know, if you want to win in that space, you need to, I guess, stack on top of that, and build out more value and content in the page, because they’re the only ones that are going to survive when you’re commoditize. Like that, right? Totally, totally. You already mentioned the keyword here, commodity, I call this type of content, commodity content. And really means when everybody has the same information, and provides the same type of stuff. And in, as you mentioned, that worked really, really well, for a long time it was make some good side money. And sometimes you build a living off of that. So you know, the other power to you. And now you have to, I think I think there’s still there’s still versions of that that can work out, you just have to be clever about how you combine different data streams and different inputs into something new, that maybe doesn’t exist, that really helps users out, right. So there are all sorts of versions for that. But
Unknown Speaker 41:23
typically, this is not a weekend project anymore, but maybe, you know, like, like a couple months of a weekend project. Or maybe you take two full weeks off and build something really amazing. But if you have the technical chops, I think he’s still can, can do some of that stuff. But you always have to ask yourself, Okay, what can I provide that nobody else has that is actually valuable to users? Yeah, yeah. That’s a matter of value to the user. If you think in those terms, usually you do. All right. When it comes to most things in SEO? Yes. So you touched on AI there, which is interesting topic. You know, there’s there’s people creating sites purely in AI, ranking, well, making a lot of money from it. There’s other sites being blown out of the SERPs. What’s your take on AI content? Yeah, it’s funny, you bring that up, because I recently had a little bit of a discussion on Twitter about that. And, you know, who knows if you should really have any discussion on Twitter. But it’s, it’s a controversial topic. And here’s my stance, I made good experiences with AI content, I have created content with or helped multiple companies to create content and perform really well. And but the thing is that not all content can be created well, with AI right now, there is only a certain use cases. And that brings us to basically think about what are the different functions of content, sometimes content is the product, right? When you for example, grow permit, primarily with a blog and you write all the content yourself, the content really is the product and that type of content, is really hard to let that be created by machine learning or by AI. But then sometimes there’s content that’s much more functional, where it just either it describes the main product, in the case of E commerce, right, all the description content, that’s all much more functional, it’s not the main thing, it just helps users to really understand the benefits and value of the main product that they’re evaluating. So I think that’s where AI can come into play, it does come into play. And then the last one is, excuse me, where
Unknown Speaker 43:29
maybe maybe it’s just a very shallow piece of information that users are looking for, think about, like a glossary, right, where they just want a definition of a term. And that’s also something that machines can do so much better than humans. And I think this is good. I think this is good for humans too. Because who wants to write about, you know, some some boring definition about something you want to, you want to write about, like pretty exciting stuff, or you can bring your craft to the to the table, right? And we can make a difference. So I think the there are certain use cases for AI content, I think this these use cases, if you do it well and do it right, it can absolutely rank and there are many, many examples. And I would also even question whether it’s good or bad that AI critic content in my mind, all that should count is how good and how valuable that content is. Now, there are some things maybe many things that AI cannot do that humans can do right now. And I think the down you know, down the line, the best results will come from a combination of AI in humans, humans will use AI to create much like better content much, much faster. But I don’t think that humans will have to outsource completely to AI and that there will be no more writers or no more designers. Yeah, I totally agree with that. Anything. I guess creative Ameet you know, funny showing a bit of personality. I can’t see a point where AI ever is able to do that or not for a long time anyway. But as you saying using it as a tool for the, I guess a lower level stuff that is just soul destroying
Unknown Speaker 45:00
Do as a writer, absolutely it makes sense. As long as it as we say serves the end user. It’s a good experience for the end user, which is what it’s all about at the end of the day. Exactly.
Unknown Speaker 45:09
Well, look, it’s been awesome chatting to you today, Kevin. What I like to do with everyone that comes on before we wrap things up, is ask the same three questions about SEO just to see how people think about it. So I’m going to throw it to you on these three. The first one is what do you think the most underrated thing in SEO is?
Unknown Speaker 45:28
I think the most underrated thing in SEO is to actually invest the time to truly understand what’s happening with the search results. I think we spend way too much time behind tools behind data and we don’t look at the search results enough. And there’s actually a tonne of stuff that impacts our performance that most people don’t even notice. And I’m speaking specifically about SERP features and the layout of the SERPs. Okay. And conversely, what do you think the biggest myth in SEO is?
Unknown Speaker 45:58
The biggest myth? That’s a good one, because there are lots of myths.
Unknown Speaker 46:03
I think, you know, okay, I’m going to pick one that I know will upset people.
Unknown Speaker 46:08
I think the biggest myth is that it doesn’t matter whether you have, you know, content on a subdomain or subdirectory or ccTLDs. All these things matter greatly. And I think you can tell whether people actually have experienced the topic or not better based on how they what their argumentation looks like. Okay, yeah, I agree with that one. Okay. Last one. In the SEO world, were all pretty nerdy by nature. We love our software, we love our tools. But if you had three to get the job done every day, what would you pick?
Unknown Speaker 46:42
Three SEO tools.
Unknown Speaker 46:45
is a good one.
Unknown Speaker 46:51
Let me think about something actionable. Because you know, like these days, honestly, some of the most tools, the tools I use the most are
Unknown Speaker 46:57
like Google Docs and notion to just, you know, communicate and write stuff down and whatnot. But I would say probably SEMrush H refs, and let’s take
Unknown Speaker 47:10
let’s take Sistrix Okay, great. Well, it’s been great chatting to you, Kevin, for people that want to get in touch, or maybe follow you where can they go to find out more about you? Thanks. Yeah, appreciate the conversation as well. Great questions. We had a lot of fun with us. If you want to learn more about me or follow me, my website is Kevin dash in digg.com. And then on Twitter, ads, Kevin and Nick and on LinkedIn, I’m pretty active as well. Awesome. All right. Well, thanks, Kevin. love chatting to you. Thanks for coming on the SEO show. Likewise. Thanks so much.
Unknown Speaker 47:46
Thanks for listening to the SEO show. If you like what you heard, don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review wherever you get your podcasts. It will really help the show. We’ll see you in the next episode.
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