The role of SEO in product growth

Posted on 28 Feb 2022
Growth MarketingSEO

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About this episode

Matthew Kay interviews Kevin Indig, Director of SEO @Shopify to get his perspective of the intersection of SEO and product growth functions. And, about some of his learning and experiences working with companies like Atlassian and G2. Listen to this episode to learn about building high performance growth teams, and unlock the true potential of organic search as a performance channel. This episode packs umpteen insights and perspectives to up your SEO and growth game by 10x.

What they talked about:

  • What does the structure of high performing growth organization look like at companies like Shopify, G2, Atlassian
  • How the 'willingness to go down rabbit holes' deepens your expertise and understanding of a topic
  • When does SEO become growth
  • How to make organic search a performance or an interesting channel, overnight
  • What does organic growth outside of the context of Google look like


Matthew Kay: Hello, I am joined today by Kevin Indig, Kevin leads Shopify SEO program. Before that he led SEO at G2 crowd. And before that he was at Atlassian. He writes online at you can find him publishing a weekly newsletter called the Growth Memo. And you probably have seen him talk or have seen something that he’s written being shared. Kevin, thank you so much for joining me today.

Kevin Indig:  Awesome to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

Matthew Kay: When you were in high school, what did you want to be or younger elementary school? What did elementary school age Kevin wants to do when he grows up?

Kevin Indig: Kevin want to become a doctor. My dad is a doctor. And so you know, one way or the other, the sons and daughters of doctors often, you know, aim for that same goal. I had that goal until I was about 18, when I realized that there’s a lot more bureaucracy and a lot more hurdles than just helping people. But I always kept that kind of wish to make a positive impact to help people and I’m telling myself that, you know, by working for certain companies and investing my time and effort into something that makes the world better, I maybe can, can keep that trajectory in moving forward.

Matthew Kay: So you have taken the Hippocratic Oath of growth potentially.

Kevin Indig: I love that. Okay, let’s do that.

Matthew Kay: Now you please do it, please do? Absolutely. So what I know I think I personally I know a lot of people out there have like a maybe a me meandering path to grow through a meandering path to SEO. What were all of the, you know, the side quests on your journey? What was leaving high school life? What was college like for you?

Kevin Indig: I love, I love the wording use side quests pretty much hit it on the head because I was an avid computer gamer. And that was kind of my entry into SEO, you know, when when I was playing. I mean, I’m part of the age group now that that, you know, had a life before the internet, and during the time when you had to pay by the minute for internet, believe it or not. And that was also, you know, very, you know, amazed and excited when the thing called flat rate came out where you just pay a flat rate for internet. I mean.

Matthew Kay: I remember the day that I got broadband installed, and I was just like, Oh, my goodness gracious. What have we done here?

Kevin Indig: Yeah, I mean, this is people forget whatever, how epic that moment was, when he could just pay a flat rate for I mean, it mentioned. I don’t know that much like paying a flat rate for food. You know, it had that kind of significance, at least for me. And so I get pulled deeply into online gaming was part of a group. At some point, we needed a website to compete in online tournaments. I was trying to figure out how to build a website, and it pulled me down this rabbit hole. And so one thing you know, like, fast forward 15 years later, I’ve done a lot of reflection on how I work. And so my strengths, my weaknesses, and something I’m really good at is just getting fully immersed in a topic and trying to read everything about it. I mean, you could say I get hooked easily. But this, you know, this thing definitely hooked me. And so I got on this trip trajectory of building websites, websites work. And then eventually I came, you know, on this thing called, I discovered this thing called a search engine in Google. There were lots of other search engines back in the day, but also shortly and I got exposed to this by accident from a very early age. And then a couple years later, after college, I was lucky to do traineeship in an SEO agency and kind of follow up. At the time, SEO had a very negative connotation. It was a very heavy, mystical thing. You know, most most SEOs were affiliates have made a lot of money back in the day. And companies would hire them if they wanted some dark magician in the background to do some magic that they didn’t understand.

Matthew Kay: Yeah, a little bit of a dark art or definitely a dark art potentially. So you started agency side. That was that was the gist of it basically.

Kevin Indig: That’s correct. Yes. I was very lucky to do a traineeship in a very established enterprise agency that had very large clients that had amazing talent. And it was a it was a beautiful traineeship program without some mentoring less a hands on practice. And that really set me on the fast track for my career.

Matthew Kay: Absolutely. Well, what did the decision framework or your sort of thought process look like as you sort of departed the the agency client services world for, I guess, software, essentially.

Kevin Indig: You know, it was interesting, because it was it was certainly a gradual process. I was started agency side. I worked for another agency, and then I joined Search Metrics in something we call their in house agency. It’s called professional services. And so it was almost it was an in house role, but with an agency taste and after that, I joined DD motion. And there were a couple of different reasons for why I made that choice. But the great thing about agency side or consulting is you get exposure to lots of broad problems from all..

Matthew Kay: at a really fast pace and all that good stuff.

Kevin Indig: Fast paced, very horizontal. In house, you go very vertical, very deep, very narrow scope, and set of problems. So, I had really enjoyed that broadness. And at some point, I just wanted more depth.

Matthew Kay: Gotcha, gotcha. Um, I think a lot of people when they’re looking to enter into a new role, or they’re looking at a new company, they’re probably evaluating like the market. The company specifically, who are the leaders at that company? What is the position of the company on the market? What were you thinking about as you, you may be accepted the role at Atlassian?

Kevin Indig: There are multiple factors. I’m not gonna lie money was one of the factors and I like in a career, you should you should go for money until a certain point until you have a, I don’t wanna say comfortable lifestyle, but until you know, you if you’re, you have some security and some safety. So I would I would lie if that wasn’t a factor, but much more important, you know, how does the product work? What’s important is done. does SEO have in the company? Is it an afterthought? Or is it part of the of user acquisition? And is it a big part of user acquisition? And then market everything else on it? Like, in all honesty, at that point, it was it was very secondary for me. I was much more interested in what kind of companies or what’s the culture? Who do I work with? Who can I learn from? Now, you know, like with Shopify, with G to market played a very important role, you take in more factors over time. But back when I joined Atlassian, it was a lot about the product, the team, the compensation, and how it would fit into my career trajectory and my growth trajectory.

Matthew Kay: Absolutely, in your time there, biggest problem that you may be solved or work through what was your your macro takeaway that you’ll like, you’ll take to your grave?

Kevin Indig: There was a call it two different problems. One is more of a technical nature where the outcome of this was this whole idea of tipper to true internal PageRank, which is a model to optimize internal linking, factoring in for different factors, you can, we can go a bit deeper into that just a second. But then the other one that that maybe was even more impactful was just the, the scale of SEO, that’s an had a very small, I mean, I was one of the first SEO hires at Atlassian. And build out the SEO team there. And so SEO was not part of the core DNA bots, we never scaled to a huge keyword five people tops it with for a huge company. And so one of our ongoing challenges was scaling, SEO, and the way that we eventually did, it was just through a lot of education, short feedback loops of actions and results. And so we really tried to get everybody involved in SEO and everybody contribute to SEO. And that made it just so much more effective. And writers, you know, have some SEO knowledge engineers, designers, but this whole kind of orchestra plays in unison, when it comes to SEO, your impact is multiplied by 2x 3x. So that is, I would say almost more of a contribution. But secondly, as like some cool internal,

Matthew Kay: You know, well, you’re basically taking your like articulating the value of that channel, or you’re enabling others within the organization to like contribute and to be there’s a very interesting, maybe like paradigm that I observe over and over again, it’s like the the small business owner that has like a natural writing muscle. And they’re just very good at writing about what they’re thinking about and doing. And as a result of that, or as a byproduct of that they accidentally have a very, you know, in depth website that has lots of topical authority on a given topic, just because they write a lot and publish a lot. And it sounds like you basically just took that operationalize that and said, Hey, engineer, talk about this, write it publicly. Cool. Thanks.

Kevin Indig: Yeah, that’s at the time had about 3000 employees. Now, probably way more, probably more than doubled in that very engineering, heavy culture. But as you mentioned, also a very writing and documentation, heavy culture. And so you have these engines going on, you know, they have like a lot of people shipping code. If a lot of people creating content, you have a lot of people designing, and you just want to pour a little bit of SEO here and there. And you know, and if people get the taste of it and get a feeling that it matters, and they have an impact and see some of the results. It slowly becomes part of their core workflow and they concentrate they always think about SEO and how to factor it in. And that’s success. You know, like that’s, that’s when you win because then everybody starts thinking about SEO and you If they just do like a little bit for SEO, even if they just do like a little bit of keyword research or think about how to focus on a keyword creating content, or maybe focus on on internal linking when when shipping code or something like that, or speed, then as I mentioned, you know, like, then the impact is triple, quadruple, quintuple. Because everybody works in this, you’re not alone. Otherwise, you fight these uphill battles where you have to convince everybody to have to explain what SEO is and how it works. And that takes a long time.

Matthew Kay: You have to convince everybody, my name is Kevin, and I’m here to help. Let’s work together. But is that where you came up with this internal linking? Model? While you were there? Right. That was the what prompted that? And what were the outcomes of that?

Kevin Indig: Yeah, you know, as I said, has a huge app marketplace, huge lot of GMV a lot of value for the company, really important ecosystem. And it was just not performing as well, from an SEO perspective. And so we did a lot of investigation. And I just, you know, went down the rabbit hole, as I did. So often before, you know, like, I’m really good at immersing myself and in going deep on something. And so I realized how, okay, something about like, internal linking, I found all these, these apps pages, and they had a separate URL for every version. And so naturally, over time, you have some very established apps, they have a ton of versions creates a ton of thin content in you just spread the link equity that you have to thin. And so I worked at Search Metrics a couple years before I mentioned that in professional services and Search Metrics was, it’s what I learned about this idea of Chiron, I learned that from Marcus Tober. And Carrick is something like an inverse PageRank. And it’s kind of the missing link, for a lot of interlinking. You know, the thing is, two big mistakes that people make when it comes to internal linking. One is that they just look at interlinking within a website, but they don’t factor in that that website, get links from other sites as well. Right. So for example, if you have a imagine you have like a three page website, very scrappy homepage, and to say product pages, you can calculate your internal linking strength within these pages. But you also have to take into account that maybe one of these product pages gets a very strong backlink from some other page, and it skews the whole score for the other pages. And it’s often forgotten. So that’s one thing about tipper that’s really important to take into account. And the second thing is his idea of chi rank, which basically points out notes that are very communicative in a network. In other words, what are in a large sites, some of the pages that that get a lot of link equity, but also link out extremely often to other pages. And so, you know, it works, it is really something like an organism, right, where, you know, blood flows through all sorts of pages, and there’s, you know, blood with oxygen, but without oxygen, and you have to take both sides to account. And so I got on this trajectory, I found this thing because of a big problem that was trying to solve a place on the tools that I had learned before. And then out came this model, and we made some very straightforward changes. But I took this model and was able to apply it to lots of other sites. And by now many people have applied this in their companies and saw great results. And so I just yeah, just ended up you know, speaking about it at Tech SEO boost 2018. Which is funny, because it’s there was organizing, still organized by Paul Shapiro, who was at catalyst at the time, and who’s now now Shopify, yes, Shopify, so.

Matthew Kay: I love it. I love it. Yeah, no. And I think it’s, it’s interesting to the one trait I may be observed over and over again, is the willingness to go down rabbit holes, or just spend a lot of time getting familiar with a topic. That muscle does that carry off into other areas of your life, Kevin, like just, I’m just gonna learn everything about this one thing, okay, sure, fine.

Kevin Indig: Yeah, for sure. You know, I, again, I think back at the time was more something like natural that just happened. And again, like now, many years later, after a lot of reflection, I, one of my core values is growth, and learning. And that just stretches to all areas of my life. You know what, like, I’m very much into fitness. For example, I’m a lifter. I read a ton of books, you’ll see books all around me like I have a huge stack of all of these apps to read all of those. I mean, it’s just some of the books that I have. But yeah, I just I just like, I just like learning and growing in something. I also would I also would say I have a lot of grit. You know, I often start something very poorly but I have the grit and the tenacity to stick with something. So these two things always have always helped me a lot in my life.

Matthew Kay: 100% a really, really valuable skills or traits that have G2 craft if you are looking for soft where you’re going to run into The idea of the businesses, what would you say a directory for software reviews? What is the the liner notes?

Kevin Indig: Yeah, you know, if you were to take a snapshot today would probably be something like a review site, a software review site, but the greater idea is for it to become the marketplace for software. Right. So whenever you need about software, comparison, evaluation reviews, maybe some other things in the future, then you got to do to.

Matthew Kay: Gotcha. I think anyone that has had to sift through a demo before they’re able to get pricing or really understand the positioning or what others think about a given tool. It’s very appreciative of some of the work that G2 does. What was the the thesis coming in? And what was your time there like?

Kevin Indig: Man thesis coming in was that there are, you know, from a product perspective, the, as you said, the software buying process is very convoluted, in transparent. very strenuous. And so there is a big opportunity to make it as transparent as say, booking your hotel is right. So TripAdvisor that model was certainly something like a blueprint, when it comes to just the core value proposition from an SEO perspective, huge potential, because High search volume, high competitiveness, but at the same time, the site follows a classic marketplace model, right? It’s a very scalable site. It’s an aggregator, meaning it has a handful of page templates at scale across hundreds of 1000s and millions of pages. And that is very attractive from an SEO perspective, because it allows you to test it to scale levers in a different manner. time there was great, had a fantastic time, not just because, you know, we achieved some great SEO results, we did some really cool things. But also because the the CEO of GE to his name is Goddard, Abel. He’s a very big proponent of conscious leadership. And I was lucky to be exposed and learn about conscious leadership. And so culturally, it’s a very nice place. So to save a lot to be learned. And so that’s where when I that was the first time that I led a large team, you know, I came in to G2 and we’re 35 People in SEO and content. There was a there was a there was a lot a lot more than a head lesson. And so.

Matthew Kay: It’s a considerable team. I would say most people would say that that’s a considerable Team 30.

Kevin Indig: Yes, answerable? And, yeah, it definitely set me up for success in terms of leadership, it gave me the space to develop more leadership skills and focus more on that aspect. You know, before it had been, I had, I had leadership, I was leading people managing people directly, but I was still very involved in technicalities and the tactics and execution. And then she too, I had to run a completely different approach. I wasn’t, I didn’t have the time to do all the keyword research myself, or to implement everything myself, you know, it was a very, it was way, way more strategic. And there was great, there was a great learning ground for me, it really set me up for success taught me a lot. I taught, I learned more soft skills, but also more outskirts from a strategic perspective and was able to learn how to scale myself. And so I just, I just took the next step in my career and had a wonderful time there.

Matthew Kay: I think words you just said, are something I that scaling yourself, what does that look like? Are you documenting a process? Are you sharing it with others on your team? Are there other things involved? What is scaling yourself look like?

Kevin Indig: That is a great question. It started at Avastin, right where we had this whole, as I mentioned before, you know this bigger impact, because we involve everyone in SEO, I repeated the same thing that you do. But as you mentioned correctly, we took a very rigid approach to documentation in the form of playbooks. Okay, so we want to optimize the product page. What’s our playbook here? We want to write some editorial content. What’s our playbook, we want to create a whole engine of in house writers creating content, what’s our playbook? So it was a lot more specification documentation of workflows that have been successful in the past. But then it’s also about instilling a culture of experimentation, documenting the results of these experiments, and then building like running new experiments based on the outcome of that it’s a it’s what I called Bayesian thinking. You’re a lot of people might be familiar with with Bayes theorem. And the basic idea is just simply that instead of having a lot of disparate, disconnected, disconnected experiments, why don’t why don’t you build experiments like a letter, right? So we eventually did edgy too, and these things take a while to To implement good rolling, what we did is, we ran an experiment, say I’m just making something up, but say title test, right? Okay, we achieve a positive outcome of the title test, we keep following the thread of that of that thesis, let’s just say adding whatever random characters to the title test, it has a 5% increments compared to not any random characters. Okay, cool. Let’s try different random characters, or let’s try some variations. What happens if you put them in the front? What happens if you put them in the back? So instead of just saying, okay, test Untitled, and each one in the description, internally kindling content, we follow the thread. And when you do that, what happens is you build a competitive advantage for a company become something like, like a moat, because that knowledge is connected, and it gets you closer to something that works really well.

Matthew Kay: For you, especially.

Kevin Indig: Exactly for you in your space. Exactly, absolutely. And that’s something you know that in terms of like scaling myself, starting that process, building a space where people can run failed experiments, and empower them, empowering them setting goals for that. That is another part of scaling yourself, you can maybe from experience, give a starting point for these experiments, but then setting people off and, you know, setting them up for success within that space. That’s been that’s been a huge factor.

Matthew Kay: That’s, that’s really, really powerful. And, you know, I think, when you think about the position of Shopify and the kind of problems that it’s trying to solve, what is the problem? Now? What is the what is the big thesis, maybe if we want to go back to that, again, you know, come into this new role.

Kevin Indig: You know, it’s fine, because there’s this whole push of web three right now, and decentralization and blockchain, how it empowers, you know, people and it is a bit of an antithesis to this idea of aggregators. So, just real quick, like there’s, there are basically three types of companies there. There are aggregators, which are marketplaces, Facebook, Google, eBay, you know, like all these scalable sites that have an inventory, and they kind of they, they, they, they own supply, and therefore, channel demand is like a one stop shop. As you get there, you go there, you get everything. The other side of the coin are integrators. integrators try to build a direct relationship with their customers and try to own that relationship all the way. Netflix, Disney plus, are great examples of that. And then, you know, a lot of sass companies as well. And then there’s a third type of company, which is platforms. And so, you know, like taking a step back and look at my career. Atlassian definitely, like mostly an integrator. Jeetu mostly an aggregator and then Shopify, a platform. And of course, 123 123 Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s, that’s, you know, like, that’s the, that’s the combo. And so they all of course, you know, there are blurred lines, like there’s some aggregator aspects of Shopify with an app store. There’s some.

Matthew Kay: There are people that call themselves platforms that really aren’t platforms at all. Use the word platform to describe that.

Kevin Indig: Word, of course, the difference it this gets back to Shopify, the thesis, right? Shopify is a platform because we don’t aggregate merchants, we don’t aggregate stores don’t have a directory of all our stores, which is by design, it’s not a bug. It’s a feature. And it’s kind of the the antidote to Amazon. Because on Amazon, every merchant every product competes with the product next to it, right, there’s a high degree of competition. And, and we just don’t do that for our merchants, right at Shopify, every merchant is empowered to have their own stores kind of this analogy of a, like a, like a, like a mall versus a small store is almost like, like American malls versus European downtown. You know, we have like a lot of small, independent stores. And so we just try to set independent merchants up for success, while if they if they want to. They can also sell on on larger marketplaces. And so from an SEO and growth perspective, a kind of already given away. We follow much more of an integrator playbook than an aggregator playbook. So you have very few scalable sites or scalable page templates that multiply themselves across a lot of number of pages is much more of a content play. We have some tools and some landing pages. Again, like there’s some exceptions, we have a theme store of an app store. But the majority of our new version acquisition really comes from blog tools and brochures and our landing page.

Matthew Kay: Yeah, from from you owning some of the conversation around a business online intersection of running a business selling things online. You’re present there and therefore, you probably acquire what what? What does the team structure look like? I think There’s been conversation and I’ve seen a few articles recently, something to the effect of there is no VP of SEO. And a lot of times that role ends up becoming a few are going to continue to progress in your career, maybe a VP of growth or a VP of what is your role? Who do you report to? What does that what does the structure of this high performing growth organization look like?

Kevin Indig: Yeah, great question. So I’m part of the growth organization, we work fundamentally different than than other teams and other companies. And so I report to Morgan Brown, who’s the VP of growth marketing, I’m director of SEO. And so I lead, I’m a leader in two functions. One is as the SEO leader or as the SEO director, we have a team of 25 SEOs across five different teams. But I’m also what we call a mission lead. And so a mission is a group of cross functional people from different craft that all go after the same goal. And so I’m the lead for the organic growth mission. We’re about 80 people across engineering, SEO, UX design, data science, growth programs, cup of other functions, we are a huge group. And our goal is to scale organic traffic, but then also converted into email or convert them into leads. And so we have these three main areas where we try to not just get people to the site, also think about the next action that they take. And that’s usually signing up for emails, signing up for text, notifications, that kind of stuff, or converting straight to lead. And then there’s a lot of conversion optimization that kind of goes on my main responsibility, email campaign optimization. And we’re also building a ton of our own internal tools. So I have a division. So to say we’re a team that is very engineering heavy, and they build all sorts of SEO tooling and other tooling.

Matthew Kay: That’s having engineering resources at your disposal. Is that is that as fun as it sounds? To be able to?

Kevin Indig: Definitely, I mean, comes with its own sets of problems. I think, you know, SEO is always quick to say, hey, we, if we just had engineers, and all of our problems would go away. That’s not true. It just, you know, just comes with other problems. So there’s there’s also never enough engineering resources. I don’t think that I don’t think there’s a company that says I don’t think there’s a single person on the planet. Yes, we don’t want yeah, I built

Matthew Kay: Everything I want to build this is good. Now. What are your some of your comments about the position of Shopify in kind of the larger context of the world of business and the Internet in 2022? are very interesting. What do you see, as you know, the path forward for a company like Shopify, obviously, you have Amazon and Google and these platforms like Facebook, where they you know, it, there’s just so much attention kind of consolidated into such a large entity? Where does Shopify, you know, intend to go? Like in a macro standpoint.

Kevin Indig: There are multiple answers to that question based on where, what part of the company you look at, and where you look. But generally, there are a couple of very interesting trends, right? One of one huge trend is entrepreneurship, there’s more and more people starting their own businesses, right now living in times of the great resignation, where people are just not putting up with some crap with their employers, or even if it’s just a job that they’re unhappy with, right. And we just see in the numbers, I mean, these are like public numbers. More people in the US quit their jobs than ever before and start their own business. And a lot of these companies have maybe one, one employee, so these are not becoming huge companies. But these are small businesses. And so we want to be front and center of that trend and provide people an easy way to start doing business. That’s one thing. The other thing is that commerce is becoming so much more important everyday internet, right? Like if you look at some of the most valuable startups, for example, today, they’re all payment side. They’re on the fintech. And part of that is just payment processing something like plaid or stripe, which are huge companies played a crybabies not too long ago. And stripe supposed to be valued at over $90 billion ready and then the other side of that are by now paleo companies like Klarna or, which she huge valuations as well, multiple, many, many billions. And so that space is just heating up. It’s a direct outcome of the the rise of commerce. And then the other interesting trend is that social networks are starting to integrate commerce natively. So you’re able to build a storefront on Facebook or on Instagram or on tick tock, I think Twitter has been playing around with that a little bit. And so they’re trying to find their footing. But just this idea of selling directly to your audience is becoming more and more prevalent. And the cool thing about Shopify, the way where we’re positioned is that we just want to, we just, we don’t want to pigeonhole you into a channel or platform or like a marketplace, right? We just want to say, like, Hey, you can use Shopify, you can sell wherever you want, you know, it can be Facebook can be Amazon can be, you know, Etsy, whatever you have, or you can just create your own site and directly sell to your customers, you shouldn’t be, you shouldn’t be kind of put in a corner. And so that’s how we fit into this overall macro trend. We’re kind of, we’re still trying to be the platform, we always want to be the platform that enables people to sell on many different channels, but own their audience own their kind of business. Because when you build a storefront on Facebook or Amazon, you don’t get the email addresses, you can export them. You don’t you don’t own your phone, nobody owns anything. But you know what I mean? Like, you know, you don’t have ownership over your, your customer data, and we want to change that.

Matthew Kay:  Yeah, I think if you talk about people selling on marketplaces, if you have an Etsy store, for instance, you know, you you can wake up one morning and your Etsy store has been taken away from you, because of some algorithmic, you know, penalty for copyright or so on and so forth. The notion of being able to own your audience. But you know, Shopify is still a platform, you don’t necessarily you’re not hosting the code on your own server. But what what is there like a bill of rights that exists for these businesses with these merchants that you maybe are familiar with?

Kevin Indig: It’s a good question. I don’t think we have a an official Bill of Rights. Today that let’s see how things change with Blockchain, everything, you know, you’re not able to sell NF t’s on Shopify as well. So we’re very deeply embedded in this whole idea of independence and decentralization. I don’t think we have an official Bill of Rights, but we have a very strong commitment to our shareholders, we’re very, you know, like, this is this is a great company. So if we were to start, you know, a marketplace tomorrow and start breaking our promise, I think that would would be reflected in the value of the company.

Matthew Kay: Absolutely, yeah, I as a complete anecdote, just, you know, I’ve done some ecommerce in the past. And just when you really sit back and look at everything that Shopify offers, or at least, you know, gives to a merchant, it really, it’s, it’s incredible how much work would be to recreate all of that, on your own independently. It’s just unbelievable.

Kevin Indig: It’s funny, you say that, because we before talked about how a lot of software solutions call themselves a platform, because it’s a sexy name. But there is an actual definition of a platform, and it was given by Bill Gates many years ago. And it goes like this platform is a platform when the users building on top of the platform, get more value out of it, than the platform itself. And so the way to measure that, for example, is our GMV versus our revenue. Right, are GMV the money that our merchants made for Yeah, exactly. I that the fully the full transactional value is many billions, you know, many 10s of billions, for merchants, the revenue that Shopify makes is just a fraction of that. And that kind of goes to show that and that that ratio has to stay that way, right? We’re only successful or merchants successful. It’s a it’s a nice buzzword e marketing claim, but that it can be measured in hard financial statements.

Matthew Kay: That’s the dollars or dollars, dollars.

Kevin Indig: Dollars, right in financial statements. I mean, you ever spoken to an accountant, you know, what they take? They take facts very seriously. There’s not a lot about marketing bullshit. And so you know, you can you can you can understand the value of a platform by how much value its users get out of it. And I think in that regard, Shopify does a great job right now.

Matthew Kay: Absolutely. How do you think about, like some of the internal optimate? Like you’ve mentioned the App Store, and I think there’s a lot of angles there. What does that look like, as it comes to someone with the title of SEO, at an organization with an app store? That is a very large ecosystem in of itself?

Kevin Indig: You know, it’s interesting, because we’re my goal, my North Star and our North Star growth is to bring more merchants to Shopify. And different parts of the sites have different functions in the lifecycle of our merchants. So blog tools, landing pages, very front and center when it comes to bringing new merchants on board, but then something like an app ecosystem. It does pay onto that a little bit but it also helps a lot with retention activation, because merchants find some apps that they need to run their business built their business. But it’s not always the first thing you check out before you sign up for a platform. So we have a lot of other parts of the site besides the App Store Theme Store, you know, there are lots of different, it’s actually stunning how many different sites we have a Shopify. For Sale, we have a, we have our own stock image sites called bursts, you find them burst And so all these kind of sites and aside, they fulfill different functions and lifecycle of a merchant. And that’s where we look at the App Store, Theme Store, we help optimize, but it’s not the it’s not the, the spearhead of our strategy, because it just simply doesn’t drive as many new merchants as something else, like a blog.

Matthew Kay: Absolutely, absolutely. Um, in all of this, and, you know, talking about SEO, I think we’re talking a lot about acquiring users through organic search and Google. What when does SEO become growth? I think you have the word growth floating around and like titles and things that you write, and so on, and so forth. What does that line look like for you?

Kevin Indig: I love that question, I think is a really important question. And the reason I’m saying that is because as soon as growth is very product, heavy, very product driven mindset. Very kind of driven by opportunity sizing, a very kind of holistic approach, not like so what I mean by that is we don’t we don’t just ship a tool or content and then forget about it. It’s not, it’s less marketing heavy is much more. Okay, what are the big opportunities? How can we stack rank them? Okay, we shipped something, how can we make it better over time? How can we keep going back to it, that’s, that’s one aspect of it. The other aspect is a very testing heavy culture, I have a full team just dedicated to SEO testing. All they do all day, just testing, testing, testing all sorts of different things with our own experimentation framework framework, with our own data scientists and engineers to help ship tests. So that that’s the second thing. And then third is just a very high diligence when it comes to being numbers oriented, numbers driven. So for us, you know, if it doesn’t, if something doesn’t help us achieve our North Star or goal, then we don’t care about it, we separate very, very harshly between impact and distractions, and everything that’s a distraction is cool as it looks as much fun as it would be to do. It’s just not a top priority. And so these are three things that distinguish SEO and growth from your maybe under marketing or somewhere else. I’m not saying as your marketing cannot be successful. I’ve done SEO and marketing myself, it can totally work out. But with growth, you have a lot more tailwind and headwinds?

Matthew Kay: Absolutely, yeah, I think, you know, if your only pursuit is the pursuit of impressions and clicks in Google Search Console, and that’s the only thing that Kevin cared about, you know, in his day to day, the things that you’re doing, and probably, that’s a that’s a different world, if you’re sort of isolating yourself to that 100%.

Kevin Indig: That’s exactly right, you know, the kind of growth mindset looks a lot of the looks a lot at the inputs and outputs of systems, right? I’m a big fan of systems thinking, and understanding what inputs drive certain outcomes. And unfortunately, if you don’t have that growth mentality, and again, it doesn’t mean you have to live the growth organization, but it definitely helps, then you have a very high bar for understanding the inputs that drive outputs. And it’s not done, as you mentioned, with just a rank or with a, like, just organic traffic, it has to go much further than that, it has to be connected to how the business works, right. So you look at the end and outputs of SEO, but then you also connect that to the outputs of how the company works. And it has to be a sound system, it has to make sense. And then you can go hard and aggressive on a lever or on an input to make sure you do everything to to maximize that input. But it cannot happen without a good understanding of how it pays on to the greater company goals, the growth goals and how it makes sense for the company to invest.

Matthew Kay: If you are maybe walking into or talking to an organization that I I’m trying to say like an inoffensive way, but it does like traditional marketing and doesn’t necessarily have any sort of a growth function. What does setting a growth team up at a company look like to you? What would that look like? Or what would you recommend?

Kevin Indig: You first want to understand what makes a business successful? What are the different steps, you know.

Matthew Kay: What’s their mode is like what is their mode? What is their

Kevin Indig: exactly what’s their modes? Like what’s their product market fit, how do they measure product market fit? How would they come? What’s a competitive advantage but also, you know, Where do I have to pour in money for more money to come out? Is it you know,

Matthew Kay: that’s a good phrase?

Kevin Indig: Yeah, yeah. It’s like just follow the money. And you’ll find a lot of things. And then you’re being very systematic in how you dissect and separate these different steps. And then you should have a long chain of things that happen. And look for the bottlenecks. You look for where where things have blocked, where things moving slow, where can we add more help supports speed, to make things move faster and smoother? And that in itself brings up a lot of answers. You know, a lot of people think that oh, yeah, sure. You come in with this blueprint, you hire three people there, and then you blow by the tool, and then you, you know, yeah, it’s not like that at all. It has to go back to first principles, every single word about this on my blog, and it’s very, very near and dear to my heart. Because when you take the first principle of view, you’re agnostic to the business, you’re agnostic to the problem, it doesn’t matter, you can take that same framework and apply it to every different problem. But again, like this, this takes time. It takes support from other people, sometimes like, you know, data scientists or engineers. And but it’s something that, in my mind, is the only way to lasting success. Like if you go back to first principles to deeply understand the business like deeply to its core atomic elements, then you’re better placed to optimize it, then you see the weak spots. Again, sounds Sounds easy, in theory is very difficult in practice, but also fun.

Matthew Kay: Incredibly fun problem to try to solve for. Yeah, I think there’s like to love quote, Nassim Taleb, something like the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence or the the maybe the reverse of that. But yeah, there’s some sort of a corollary there, potentially. Yeah. I like that. The positioning bits? Sorry, go ahead.

Kevin Indig: No, you’ve got.

Matthew Kay: it the positioning of like growth and product and marketing, if you’d like, look at that as a triangle, do you see it as a triangle? Where do they all meet?

Kevin Indig: Absolutely, I think it’s, I think this notion of separating, marketing, and growth and product is pretty much dead, except for very small businesses, right? Like, if you’re, if you have like a, you know, a store in the city selling clothes, or something like that, like we don’t, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about tech companies, a lot of money online, maybe even ecommerce, including that. But I don’t think these are separable anymore. And so I, for example, my team I have, I have product managers who play a very, very important role that goes to show how important product is. And we do some marketing stuff, we do use some marketing channels, we instill some marketing principles in our thinking, but deep down, growth is a product discipline, right? It’s growing the product. That’s that’s where it comes from. And so I for myself to kind of close the loop a little bit about my career and where I come from, I, I did so much development over the last two to three years in product management and product development. That, for me, has been huge. You know, it’s a, it’s a combination of several things, right? It goes from opportunity sizing to defining a roadmap and backlog to stakeholder alignment and management. And a couple of other things. And that’s been from my personal development. It’s been huge, and it has really helped me getting more things done and understand problem from a different lens. So I Yes, I absolutely think this is it’s a it’s a strong triangle. And I think it’s, it’s, it’s probably something that most companies would benefit from greatly.

Matthew Kay: So if you’re someone and your title maybe involves SEO and growth, and you know that you need to do more with product and, you know, begin to dip your toe in that proverbial water. What is the action item? What does the bulleted list look like? When you start like evaluating or thinking about something like that, you know, first step is realizing you have a problem? And then, and then what?

Kevin Indig: Yeah, there are many tools when it comes to product management development. And what I want to point out that I’m not a PM, I’m trying to become a better PM, but I’m not a better PA. I like that. There’s like resources are in it that are really helpful. I for myself, for example, I learned a lot from Reforge. They also have a product management, or civil product management tracks. But it’s, I would start by just googling what are some of the core pillars of good product management and how can I better instill them in my practice. So for example, creating a product vision for SEO huge, right, really thinking about what should that look like in the next one to three years. From a user perspective? Right. Well think about the search engine perspective. But how can I combine the SEO and the user perspective? How can I maybe just write a Google doc was one or two pages, that that, that synthesizes this tools, a exciting vision that I can then share with others and get them ready around me? How can I then from there, build a product roadmap, maybe for this year of some things we want to do some features we want to launch. And it really goes back to looking at SEO as a product, which again, differs a little bit from integrator to aggregator, if it’s about integrator, you look more at content as a product, if it’s an aggregator you look more into different page types as a product. And then how can you how can you create a roadmap and a backlog that gets you to a desired outcome? And then how do you opportunity size, that outcome? You know, how do you measure? How do you prioritize your backlog in your roadmap? And how do you measure success? What are some of the metrics you should pay attention to? You’ve probably already noticed that by taking this product lens, a lot of SEO stuff falls into place, you know, a lot of things, or kind of a lot of SEO tactics are more connected to a vision. And they just make a bit more sense. And the opposite of that is just SEO. So a lot of experience with a strong opinion how things should look like doing a lot of random stuff. That is not random stuff. Yeah, random, left and right. That might make sense as a tactic. But it’s not tied together in a strategy.

Matthew Kay: Yeah, that the whole notion of like Tactics versus Strategy, I think the when we’re talking about product, and we’re talking about growth, it’s almost like, you know, their SEO tactics make a ton of sense. But those are the frameworks that they give them, like real meaning, and a lot of legs.

Kevin Indig: Exactly. And we’re very obsessed with tactics and SEO. And I hate that, because good tactics are the result of great strategy. And if you’re overly obsessed about tactics, you’ll never develop new tactics, you develop new tactics by having a good strategy, and then experimenting, that’s where good tactics come from. And so everybody just getting hung up and tell me, you know, being being so obsessed about the latest tactics, tactics and tricks and hacks, the never develop their own tactics and tricks, they will, they will just, you know, copy paste something and not have it this deep understanding that I mentioned before of why this works, or the first principles, how does this tie together to something larger, which then enables you to find new stuff, right, that’s how you how you are competitive, that’s how you win and being others is by defining your own tips, right? And the best example is when like, the competitors come to your site, and I see something like, oh, shoot, like, how did they do that? Like, where’s this coming from? I didn’t see where did they get that from? Yeah, where did that yeah, how does this work? And if you’re in that position, then you’re leading, and you’re not chasing? That’s very important.

Matthew Kay: Yeah, how do you? I think we can all sort of maybe, easily, like, kind of fall into tactics. And just start just let’s do it. Because that’s, you know, maybe that’s what you read? Or maybe that’s what people like to talk about. How do you go to first principles or catch yourself or avoid, you know, maybe that shiny object syndrome or just like, oh, let’s just try this tactic? What does the what guardrails do you have in place? So maybe avoid that?

Kevin Indig: Sure. Sure. So one thing is to not be too attached to a certain thing you do, but always have the bigger goal in mind, right? So as I mentioned, then end of the day, want to bring new merchants to Shopify, everything has to lead up to that, right. So if something just doesn’t fit into that, then it’s probably not worth the time, right. And so the second thing is to experiment not getting too attached to a certain tactic or lever, but experiment with lots of different things being very open minded. And just like, you know, looking at what makes the biggest sense. Third thing is prioritizing ruthlessly, right? So, again, everything has to be opportunity sized. And that makes it very easy to staggering things and just go after the biggest, you know, problems. And then lastly, is in terms of like, first principles, like how do you how do you get back to first principles, you kind of follow the, the thread in terms of assumptions. So we all operate under assumptions, thoughts, experiments, and if you just ask yourself why, often enough you event.

Matthew Kay: And just keep asking and keep

Kevin Indig: child you know, that it’s like, why, why, and you eventually hits like, like fundamental truth non negotiable. So I wrote about this on my blog a little bit. An example for SEO is that in a fundamental truth is that for a page to rank, it has to be indexed. And for it to be indexed. It has to be crawled, right? There’s no, there’s just no, that that’s just true in everything. sense, right? The same thing is that we still operate under keywords right? Now, you know, there’s other factors in that pool as well, like there’s topics as user intent and so on. But the basic idea of approach engine is still very keyword driven. So you go back to this fundamental truth by asking yourself, why, why. And then everything else has to build on top of that every assumption that you test, right? Every every test is a validation of assumption has to be connected to a fundamental truth. And if that’s proven to be true, then you can build more assumptions on this. So you go back to this construct to this letter of experiments and assumptions that are all connected to first principles, but that build on top of each other. And so I know we talked, we talked very, very like up they’re very abstract now. But, you know, at the end of the day, you have to have this vision roadmap backlog that all has to make sense, be tied to a Northstar metric, clear indicators for success or clear requirements for success. And then you just, you just go and execute at a very high level against this list of priorities.

Matthew Kay: Yeah, I think the only thing I’m thinking right now, so there are some organizations where it’s like, as soon as you start asking why too much, you might really not like the answers or the things that are coming back. So that’s unfortunate, I guess, if you’re in that situation. Oh, dear.

Kevin Indig: You know, like, it’s a quality that I’ve seen good growth experts marketers have is that they’re very emotionless when it comes to the reasons now, why if it’s just that, if the answer is just, hey, we have a sexy brands, or we got lucky, or something like that. That’s okay, too. You know, you don’t have to, let’s be honest about it. Yeah. Let’s be honest, because you’re honest, you can acknowledge it, then you can do something about it. You know, like, okay, cool, we have a sexy brand, we got lucky. How can we capitalize on that? How can we build something more structured around that, that makes us say, in a year or two, hey, the reason for why we’re so successful is because we have the best product on the market or because our marketing user acquisition engine is just humming. So there’s, there’s a certain you know, you want to be emotionless when it comes to to these things you want almost operate like a robot, and then you can get fired up and be passionate about solving these problems. So but I asked why a lot of times, like, Oh, God, the hard truth here is that there’s a harsh reality.

Matthew Kay: So when you are thinking about, you know, what the next 5, 10 years old Google right now, despite what they’ll tell the European Union, and all of the European Union’s or the EU as lawyers, it is a very, very dominant player in I guess, the market share of mind for the average consumer, as far as you know, terminating their their queries is Google macro outlook. from your standpoint? What does Kevin Indig think about the future for Google and organic search and consumer behavior and that way?

Kevin Indig: They definitely have some regulatory action coming for them. But Google is a huge organism with many different limbs. And so where they now are facing a lot more regulatory scrutiny, for example, is in their ads business, and they’re at at x marketplace, where more facts are coming out about how old they are manipulating the market, or, or probably have replayed the market. It’s not, it’s not extensively here. But on that side of the end, you know, there’s a lot of a lot of dark clouds coming together on the organic search side of things. I’m not so sure that we’ll see regulatory action the next five years, maybe 10 years, depending on how aggressive they get, right. One thing that, um, that I’ve been seeing for last couple years, and that I see for the future as well is just a squeeze of organic search, more ads, more SERP features that draw clicks, less traffic going to other websites. And in that sense, Google becomes more of its own app. That gives you information right away that, as Sundar Pichai, the CEO of alphabet saying wants to be helpful, right? The URL is not. Google’s goal is not to send traffic to websites. That’s a means to an end. But the end is to give you the answer right away to help you with things and so they, they double down on that. And so I think, for SEOs, though, that there are two paradox true truth, or two paradox things are true at the same time. One is that SEO search will never really go away. In my mind. We’re still far away from a search engine that reads your mind, or that just like voice search when because this.

Matthew Kay: This is is what the metaverse promises, right?

Kevin Indig: This is actually I’m actually more bullish on the metaverse. To be honest and search, we’ll find a place in the metaverse to but you know, all these SEO killers that that some people saw coming on the rise in the last couple years just turned out not to be true like voice search, for example, it’s just not just hasn’t replaced search. So that is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin is that search is becoming more complex, because Google is using more machine learning more neural networks that make it really hard to separate the inputs from the outputs. That’s why today is.

Matthew Kay: the opportunity, the like opportunity window whereby, like, circa 2005, you could come in and do a lot of really weird things, and began to capture an inordinate amount of traffic without a lot of effort that like opportunity, Windows basically closes that kind of what you’re.

Kevin Indig: Yes, I agree. I agree. You have to build a business today. It’s not enough, like even affiliate projects have to have their brand and have to be, it has to be a real brand. Yes, we were the brands. And so the way that I explained this to myself, my mental model is that imagine you have a bar that that symbolizes 100%, of our understanding of the inputs and outputs of search, right? So we know for example, that content is a big input backlinks are big input brand is somewhat attached to that user intent. These are all inputs, that we can tweak and dial up or down to get to a certain outcome. Now, there’s a another factor, which is symbolized in a question mark, and that factor is growing. And so I you know, for example, this is not hard data, right. But just for the sake of visualizing that, I think today, that factor is about 20%. And maybe a couple years ago was 10%. And I think in a couple more years, it will be 30 to maybe 40%. And what I mean by that is that there’s a growing factor of inputs that we just simply don’t understand or know as SEOs, which lead to leads to the problem that sometimes your rank will drop, and you will have no idea why you look at this, you analyze the content, backlinks, user intent, everything. And you’re still saying, I have zero clue why this happens. Matter of fact, you see some websites, you know, the grown organic traffic, and all of a sudden a core algorithm comes out, and it drops by 20%. It stays 20% down for six months, and it goes back up. And nobody made a change. Nothing changed. You know, that’s just Google kind of tweaking their, their neural nets, their understanding, they’re basically like the way that I explained this to myself, I don’t know this for a fact. But the way they explained to myself is that the Google ranking and engineers there, I mean, Google algorithm is actually 50,000 algorithms or how God knows how many interrelate with different people working on this, there’s not this one unified, you know, there is a core group of core engineers working on Google’s algorithm that are very sheltered from everybody else at Google and from the rest of the world. That is a fact. And they’re kind of had, like, very ingrained in this problem. But again, Google search is the combination of many different things, and the ranking algorithm is just one of them. But the way that I explained it to myself is that these engineers are basically painting a picture of what great results look like, they feed that into the neural net, and the neural net kind of figures out all the outputs that have to happen for that outcome to achieve, or for that outcome to occur. And that’s why very often, some sites are just popping in rank, and then come back up, because it’s this constant tweaking and changing of results until they hit the right one. So that’s a harsh reality that SEOs face. And I think that will become more in the future. And so our goal is to stay on top of these inputs and see, you know, what else can we do? And one of the things that have become more important is just this idea of treating your site like a product and really thinking just beyond user intent, really thinking about, okay, how can I might make my site more valuable for users? Because that’s something that it seems like search engines are looking for more and more.

Matthew Kay: Yeah, no, there’s a lot there. Absolutely. I think the notion of like the opportunity, I think the maybe the a better way of saying is to stand up an SEO program or to, you know, make organic search a performance or an interesting channel, overnight. Now. That’s not to just like, write a few articles, build a few links, and I’m done. That’s so far from from where things are. You wrote an interesting piece about buying attention. Recently, what does that look like for you? Or how do you sort of think about that?

Kevin Indig: Yeah, buying attention, basically expressed the idea that it as you mentioned, it’s really hard to build an audience. It’s hard to compete. Yes, search. And one of the ways to accelerate the process is just simply to buy a platform not in the product sense but a newsletter a question community, a website, a podcast, a YouTube channel that already has an established audience and then funneling that into your product. Spotify has done a lot of that, you know, they brought Joe Rogan on they brought a ton of other very successful podcasters on was huge value to their business. The hottest sorry, another hustle. HubSpot has also done that recently, they acquired the newsletter, the hustle and bustle, million and a couple of others, the smart move in my mind. And so the reality is that our attention is finite, there’s only so much time and so much attention we can give I’m sure, you know, a lot of people find themselves constantly overwhelmed and constantly pulled into different directions. And so we only can exert so much time paying attention to one thing. And there are a lot of entities out there a lot of companies, people, sites, podcasts, YouTube channels competing for that attention. And in order to increase our attention market share, it’s often easier to buy other concentrations of attention and kind of funding back funding them back to your own.

Matthew Kay: Yeah, absolutely. If you have capital, by the things that you could not so easily just recreate overnight.

Kevin Indig: Of course, of course, you know, part of that is advertising. And part of that is M&A Part of that is organic marketing and brand marketing. Just bring like what we talked about before, from the from the talk back down to something more tangible, right, you can do an SEO, you can still do the basics really well, right, like keyword optimization, content, Link, building, all that kind of stuff. But then you want to build the brand on top. And you know that that’s like, that’s one way to, to get attention to gather attention. But, you know, if you buy another site, and either you implement, you add it to your cosmos of sites, or you redirect everything to your site, that is also very, very impactful tactic. These are all things that that can that can really accelerate your growth. Good example, red ventures, they have their whole portfolio of different sites keep buying new sites and businesses, adding that to their cosmos. But then there’s also other sites like chewy, who like about almost 10 years ago, they bought a smaller animal related blog, they redirected one to one these URLs, and then they saw a big increase in traffic. So there are different ways of how that can manifest in SEO, or in a greater company wide sense.

Matthew Kay: Absolutely. organic growth beyond Google, what does? Like how can I think that the paradigm is maybe, you know, you can grow organically by word of mouth, you don’t have to just grow through a search engine. But if you are thinking about organic growth outside of the context of Google, what does that look like?

Kevin Indig: I love that question. Because it really means to maximize every click, that’s kind of my if you will model or tagline for organic growth. And so there are many different ways that people can come to your site organically, there is direct traffic where people heard about your brand, or saw maybe an offer like an ad somewhere. And then they Google your brand, they come to your site. There are there is organic search, which we’ll talk about at length, but then there’s also referral traffic, it is very, very underestimated. But if you’re pretty established, if you’ve been very active out there, you get a lot of traffic from other sites that is often converting much better is much higher quality. That’s very, very, very underleveraged, in my mind, and then there are a couple of other ways to get traffic to. But I would point out these three core ways they’re all very powerful in their own sense. And then the question after the traffic challenge is what you make out of that traffic. And I also consider that part of organic growth. And I mentioned that before, you know, our I really designs my organization that way that we think about what is the next action that people take when they come to our site? Are they signing up for a newsletter? Are they clicking through this site, which is also very under leveraged under under observe? Or are they signing up for lead straightaway, and each of those paths is of each for each of those actions, have their own next steps, and you got to treat them like a journey, right? You got to really, you know, think about all the branches that people can can follow when they took that action when they come to your site. And those journeys have to be connected, they have to lead to the same destination. And that’s, that’s really how we look at organic growth. Again, there’s this growth mindset around it very test heavy, very, very rigid, very numbers driven. But from a conceptual sense, we think beyond just people arriving at our site, because it’s so much harder to get traffic these days, right. It’s all connected, so much harder to get attention. It’s all it’s so much harder to rank an organic search. So when you get that traffic, you’ve got to be so much smarter about What do you do with people? How do you help them? And how do you guide them?

Matthew Kay: Exactly? Yeah. So round us out here, Kevin, if you had to give advice to someone, maybe early on in their career, or if you have a bit of a mindset shift, something that you maybe didn’t think or didn’t believe when you were early, early on, and now, that’s something maybe you hold like courtier being, what does that look like? Or what would Kevin Indig Say to earlier Kevin Indig?

Kevin Indig: You know, there is this not trying to become too philosophical, but philosophers.

Matthew Kay: but please do if you feel if you feel the need.

Kevin Indig: I promise that makes sense. Bear with me here. But there’s this philosopher named Gerrard. And he’s very, he’s famous, most famous for his mimetic theory, and actually learned about this from Peter Thiel, who’s one of the, like, a huge kind of proponent of mimetic theory. And basically, music theory is the idea that humans mimic each other right? For we’re not going to go down to the reasons, some, like evolutionary stuff and whatnot. But at the end of the day, human humans like to mimic each other, right? Like, you stand down on the street and you look up on the sky was like a, you know, they exist pression. You will.

Matthew Kay: That’s my favorite thing to do on the weekend. go downtown, to stand up and start looking for people, or just to point at stuff. People start looking at. Oh, wow.

Kevin Indig: Yeah, exactly. That exactly that. And, yes, that that that is a one way that this can express itself. But another way is just simply that, again, we read some like SEO blogs, and we consumed some stuff, we see some people being successful in the industry. And we’re like, Okay, I just copied what they did. We don’t see that consciously towards selves, but that’s how we operate, which is okay, sure, just copy that. And it’s not always wrong. But between seeing some that works in copying, there’s a moment where you have a chance to bring a bit more intention and consciousness about what you’re actually doing. And so what I recommend, to my earlier, myself, or somebody just starting out is, you see some of the best practices in industry, right? Write down how you understand that, right? Like, for example, you see everybody optimizing the titles, okay. So then you want to write down, okay, title has an impact on organic traffic. And then you want to start writing down some of your theories, keyword, and title is very important for SEO. And then think about how can you test that? What data can you accumulate or gather to see if that’s really true? And you’ll very quickly realize that keyword in title is important is actually not always the case. It’s a very fuzzy thing, right? And so it’s a way to question axioms or common beliefs that are not always true. And then there are many ways to test that right. I recommend everybody, for example, SEO, who starts out to develop their own project, but to bet to do exactly that, right to like, validate and question these common beliefs, these axioms and be very deliberate about that. And you do that 100 times. And you very quickly, get a great understanding of something and where the fundamental truths are that the first principles. There’s a lot of fluff out there a lot of hearsay, a lot of thoughts and opinions. And so being diligent about that, from the beginning, developing your own SEO first principles, which should be universally true, not just for yourself, but going down that journey for yourself is immensely powerful. You learn you can do that with everything, right? Everything whether it’s fitness, human relationships, cars, whatever the question your beliefs in debts, disciplined weight, superpower.

Matthew Kay: Incredibly powerful. Well, Kevin, never stop asking why and never stop questioning things. I would recommend that anyone go to Sign up for the Growth Memo newsletter. You’re sharing a lot of really, really interesting stuff there. And Kevin, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it is.

Kevin Indig: Awesome. Matthew, you brought some great questions to the table. Really appreciate your prep.

Matthew Kay: Thank you.

In this episode

Matthew Kay Growth Marketing and SEO

Growth-minded marketer with a proven track record and years of experience driving positive outcomes across digital channels. Pursuing excellence every day in SEO, email marketing, web design, and beyond.

Kevin Indig Director of SEO at Shopify

+10 years of experience in SEO, Content Marketing, and Growth

A talk by Kevin Indig
Director of SEO at Shopify
Hosted by
Matthew Kay Growth Marketing and SEO

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