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E130: Kevin Indig

Shopify SEO: Go To Tactics for Ranking Product and Category Pages

kevin indig ecommerce podcast guest

Podcast Overview

You wouldn’t choose a car without doing prior research, so don’t implement an SEO strategy without knowledge first. 

Being the Ex SEO Director at Shopify, Kevin knows a thing or two about implementing SEO tactics that actually impact the bottom line. 

You will take away some real implementable advice, insights and actions to improve the visibility of your website.

eCom@One Presents:

Kevin Indig 

Kevin Indig is an Angel Investor, Mentor for Growth and Ex Director at Shopify. He has worked with thousands of websites, helping them to increase their organic revenue with SEO. 

After joining Shopify in 2020, Kevin’s role, along with many others in the tech world, was made redundant in 2022. He openly chats to us about navigating the emotional impact of this challenge and why this is a current common occurrence in the tech world.

In this podcast, Kevin discusses SEO in grave detail. He discloses the most important SEO factors that will impact your bottom line, frameworks for success and pitfalls to avoid with Shopify SEO. There’s some real golden information about ranking product and category pages in this podcast.

Find out how to choose the right FAQS, Google’s movement to a marketplace and the biggest opportunities in SEO over the next 12 months.

Topics Covered:

2:10 – How Kevin entered the world of eCom 

4:10 – His opinion on the rise of redundancies in eCommerce 

9:14 – Advice to anyone who is facing redundancy right now 

13:43 – Understanding what type of store you are to you focus on the right areas in SEO

15:51 – Product page optimisation 

18:58 – How to choose the right FAQs

23:37 – Go to tactics for ranking product and category pages 

28:30 – Category page optimisation 

30:40 – SEO frameworks 

34: 38 – Pitfalls to avoid in SEO 

41:19 – SEO Tip – Google’s movement from a search engine to a marketplace 

44:11 – SEO Tip – Site search

47:17 – Predicting what will happen over the next 12 months with SEO 

49:54 – Book recommendation 

This episode is sponsored by the team at Prisync.

Richard Hill:
Hi there. I'm Richard Hill, the host of eComOne. Welcome to episode 130. In this episode, I speak with Kevin Indig, angel investor, mentor for growth, and ex-director of SEO at Shopify. Kevin's experience working with the leadership team at Shopify, heading up a team of SEOs, developing the SEO side of the platform puts him in a great position to talk all things Shopify SEO. Consulting on hundreds of SEO projects on the platform's own SEO, a huge topic that I personally spend a large part of my time at the agency doing.

In this episode, Kevin talks openly about his role at Shopify and some of the challenges with redundancies across the tech space and how he's approached his own change of circumstances, Kevin's opinion on the most important SEO factors that influence e-commerce stores, and Kevin's own framework for Shopify's success, along with pitfalls to avoid with Shopify SEO.

There's a golden 15-minute section all around the specifics of ranking product pages and category pages. Kevin and myself share best practices from working on well over a thousand stores combined, what opportunities Kevin sees for merchants over the coming 12 months when it comes to SEO and so much more in this one.

If you enjoy this episode, subscribe or follow button wherever you're listening to this podcast. You're always the first to know when a new episode is released. Now, let's head over to this fantastic episode.

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Well, thanks for coming on the show. I think it'd be great for you firstly to introduce yourself and tell the listeners how you got into the world of e-commerce.

Kevin Indig:
Yeah, it's a great question. I've gotten really deeply into the world of e-commerce at Shopify. Until recently, I ran SEO and part of the growth team at Shopify. Our job was to bring new merchants to the platform and we also worked on some SEO features of the platform itself, but I have to say that something that I realized is that my whole family has been entrepreneurial for a long time. My dad is a doctor, my mom is a nurse, who then opened her own practice. My brother is in the medical field with his own practice. So I think I've been in the field of entrepreneurship for longer than I actually thought, but then the actual gateway to e-commerce really was Shopify. Before Shopify, I led a SEO and content teams at companies like G2, Atlassian, Daily Motion, and others. So my background is really in SEO growth and marketing.

Richard Hill:
So quite a varied expertise there, but in the background growing up, there's an entrepreneurial family spirit, I guess, an entrepreneurial spirit that's always had your eye. Obviously, you're very much doing your own thing now, but obviously worked for some of these very big, so we call them tech giants, and Shopify, obviously, there's not many episodes. We don't mention Shopify on the other platforms, Shopify specifically, but I think they're one of many that the bigger, if you like, the bigger thousand plus type employee tech giants should we call them, that seem to be struggling at the moment.

Why do you feel that that is? I know when it is very rare, you can turn LinkedIn on now without a hundred redundancies here, 500 redundancies here, 200 here, obviously depending on when you listen to this, but it's very much been the case this last maybe three or four months. Obviously this time of year, there's all sorts of chatter, isn't there, around there, but why do you believe there's quite a lot of change going on with that at the moment?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah. It's a challenging time, mostly economically. When you look at the statistics, you'll actually see that in Q4 of this year, of 2022, we already had more layoffs than in Q2 of 2020 when the pandemic broke out, right? So we reached the maturity curve of the economy where we have reached it and we're now changing, shifting into an economic downturn, but the background of Shopify is actually really interesting.

I joined the company in 2020, so pretty much during the pandemic, if you can say that, really. I don't know if it officially ever ended. There's probably some debate here. Anyway, I joined the company, and when I joined, the numbers were already making a 10-year leap, which is something you never really see, all the numbers, net new merchants, retention, new businesses across the whole economy.

A huge driver for that was that people were staying at home. Some people were furloughed or laid off or couldn't work because they were self-employed and independent. So they started to look into what it's like to start their own business. So we saw this massive leap and we were not the only tech company that saw that. It's other tech companies like Zoom and all the technology companies that were servicing people at home and either making sure that they could talk to their loved ones or keep working or getting groceries, Instacart, DoorDash, whatnot. So it was a tech phenomenon.

At the time, despite the despair and downsides from the pandemic, there was also euphoria about this trend, and there was a real scenario that tech would leap 10 years into the future. Little did we know at the time that it wasn't actually a blank check, but it was actually a credit on the future, right?

So fast forward from 2020 to 2021, numbers started to change as most companies around the world open up again. So we saw this tremendously strong correlation between shutdowns and our numbers going up and down, right? You could, at the time, get mobility data from Google and Apple and you could very clearly see that when people went outside again and when countries would open up, our numbers would go down.

So that was the first time when this new reality set in. I think in 2022 it became very clear that this pandemic trend would not sustain but would shift back to pre-pandemic trends, pre-pandemic numbers. During the pandemic, I mean, a lot of tech companies hired like crazy. I mean, Shopify before the layoffs, had about 15,000 people, and I cannot reveal the exact numbers, but let's just grow. The number before the pandemic looked very, very different. So a lot of these companies, look at Google, Meta, Alphabet and so on, they added swaths of people. Now that the numbers are reverting back to pre-pandemic, there has to be some action that has to take place, and that's why we see a ton of layoffs right now. I actually think that we've only seen the beginning. I think we'll see a lot more of that.

Richard Hill:
Yeah. I think that was brilliantly explained. I think the credit on the future sales or the credit on the future growth, yeah, it was unbelievable, wasn't it? I mean, I actually bought Shopify shares probably the week or two when the pandemic hit, which I think was officially, well, we officially got sent home on the, I think it was the 16th of March two years ago. That week, I bought shares in Shopify and, literally, I thought I was the share master. Literally, I was invincible. I was like, "Wooh!" It was like the best move ever, but as was every tech stock, and then obviously fast forward to two, almost three years, sorry, later, and it's obviously now, that has reversed as have some of that exceptional, potential growth of those companies.

I think one thing I look at is also looking at those headcounts that you see on LinkedIn company profiles. You see the count going and the average tenure, but then I think you've got to have 50 employees. So obviously, it's for certain size companies. We saw it in the agency space as well. The agencies were going from 40 to 80 to 120 to 150 people, three, four, five hundred percent headcount increase in a couple of years, but then a lot of reversal this last six months has definitely, there've definitely been some changes, hasn't there, to say the least.

So it's obviously a lot of people listening are probably no people that have been made redundant. Obviously, you were made redundant as director of SEO, the top job on the only SEO side of things. Obviously, tough times for everybody. What advice would you give to those guys that are maybe facing challenges around redundancy, potential redundancy? What would you say to those guys?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah. It was a interesting experience. I had never been laid off before. Interestingly, I knew that layoffs were coming and I didn't expect myself to be on the list. To be fair, I made some internal changes to my role before the layoffs happened, so that definitely didn't help. So that would be my first advice is that if you're seeking to internally change your role or step into a new organization, maybe right now is not the best point. I think right now is the time to solidify your value, stay within your lane and really play to your strengths and not enter into a new field. So that's a good lesson learned for me.

Just in general, I mean, we spoke about the stock price earlier, when I joined Shopify, the stock price was $1,600. So that was pretty much the peak of it, and now, it's a little over 400, granted that Shopify did a stock split, 10 to one, so it's now a little bit over 40 instead of 400, but yeah. It was an interesting experience and a lot for me to be learned. Part of that is that when ... I think a second piece of advice is typically that when you see these massive changes and shifts, there typically is some a recoil to that, right?

It's always easy to judge in hindsight. It's always easy to say, "Oh, companies shouldn't have overhired," or, "You should have seen that the numbers would go back to the pre-pandemic trend." It wasn't that obvious at the time at all. So I think number two is to be very cautious when these massive shifts occur. If you're working at a company and you currently you have a suspicion that the company might do layoffs, and I think most companies actually will, again, is how I read the numbers, then be very careful when suddenly numbers go up somewhere and you want to jump on that opportunity because they typically tend to come down again.

There's obviously context, nuance, when and ifs, but stay, be very cautious with volatility. Plate your strengths into your value, have ongoing conversations with your managers, and try to gauge where you're at. If there are performance reviews, typically, it's the last performance review that will be taken into account. Then sometimes it also really matters what kind of role you have in an organization. Reality is that certain jobs are often cut much, much earlier than others. So when it's a tech company, engineering, product management, typically, relatively solid, and sales, marketing can be a bit more shaky.

I think there's no perfect insurance against being laid off. I would say it can happen to anyone, and sometimes it's not because of the performance of somebody. It's just simply because of the role or because where the company is right now. Something that I found to really help in this case is to make sure that you have some presence on social media. Maybe you put some of your content out there. Some that really helped me, especially with where I am right now, is that I have a strong personal brand and people know my name and that opens a lot of doors.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, no, I think that's great advice for the individuals that are listening. Let's take that a step further. So as the marketing managers and the business owners that are maybe listening in, and obviously, they're going to ride through this volatility, shall we say, that we're in and we're going through at the moment as the guys listen to this episode, but obviously, the idea is, let's say, the idea is to grow those e-commerce stores using SEO. Obviously, as the ex-director of SEO at Shopify, what I want you to do now, we're going to share, you're going to share some cracking stuff with our listeners that's going to help grow those Shopify stores, but also, obviously, there's other platforms and other listeners that are using.

I do think, what, from the data I have, which is about 50% of our listeners, which equates to, well, I know that from 50% of our clients, which a lot of listeners become clients of our agency or some do obviously, that 50% are on Shopify. So let's get into the SEO bones of it and try to get some very actionable pieces for our listeners that can help them ride the next few months. So what would you say some of the biggest or the biggest SEO factor on the e-commerce side at the moment? What's one of the biggest things that shift in the SEO piece at the moment?

Kevin Indig:
Sure, sure, sure. So first of all, before we jump into some very specific actionable items or tactics, the most important thing is to understand what type of store you are. Are you a retailer that sells many brands across many categories or do you create, say, one product or a small portfolio of products that are all interconnected? That is one of the most important differences because it really decides where you spend your time. So for a large retailer who sells products across many categories, you typically benefit a lot more from improving things like internal linking, adding content to category pages.

When you are a small retailer with a smaller product portfolio, it's a lot more about optimizing your product pages, maybe creating some block content to attract potential customers when they haven't made a decision, but generally, across all of these types of e-commerce stores, there are a couple of commonalities that always matter.

One of them is the title tag, right? Very basic, this is SEO 101, but still people don't pay enough attention to the title tag. So it's one of the first things that users see. So it has to be enticing to click. There has to be some signaling of value. Of course, you want to include the main keyword that you're optimizing for. So when we think about, say, a product that is a toothbrush. Let's just make something up. Of course, on the product detail page you want to have toothbrush in your title, but a lot of competitors will do the same thing. So you want to really think about how does your product send out? Is it maybe made out of sustainable material? Does it last longer than other toothbrushes? Is it free shipping, 30-day return policy, and whatnot? These things should live in the title.

There is a limited space in the title, right? It's typically 60 characters, roughly. So you want to really think about what's a good combination of my main keyword and the right value propositions, but these value propositions matter and they matter greatly. Too many people don't think enough about how can they signal that in a title. This is number one.

Number two, when we speak about product pages, a lot of times what happens is that store owners will upload some good visuals and that's important, that's great, and they will copy/paste the description of the product from the manufacturer. There's so much more you can do with the product detailed page. One is, if you have only a few products, try to write a unique description yourself that's going to be a strong signal to Google. Then of course, you want to add reviews. When you add reviews, there's something called review schema. Schema is a little annotation to your code that helps search engines understand what the page is about, and if you implement it right, which is not difficult, I would argue you could probably do this in five minutes or use a plugin if you're in Shopify, you get little star reviews in the search results which attract additional attention.

You can, on top of that, add FAQ. So frequently asked questions, of course, I think every product page should have that because people have questions about products. It's no different than going into a store where you ask a customer service representative for certain questions about the product. You should carry that same principle over to your product detail pages and your category pages. So think about commonly asked questions or source them from your audience, and then when you add them to the product page, add FAQ schema as well. It's the same principle as review schema and it gives you these expanded questions to your search snippet in the search results, right?

So there's a lot of stuff that can be done to just get more attention for your search result in the first place. This is something I criticize that this company forgotten is the search experience stands in the search results not on your website. So the first step is to attract attention and then convert that into customers.

Richard Hill:
I think that's some great stuff there. I think that absolutely, ultimately, the vast majority of your clients, the guys that are listening don't even know you exist, and the first way they find out potentially, they're coming by search. It's obviously that search. They've gone to Google, they've typed in sustainable toothbrush, if we're going on the toothbrush, the toothbrush angle. Obviously then, they're seeing a wave, those adverts at the top, but we're not talking about those below those ads. Then we've got usually 10, not always because we could have, as Kevin said, we could have some schema coming in, whether that's FAQ schema popping up, and quite often and with a lot of product searches, that is very much the case now. So I think, yeah, absolutely, FAQ schema on those products.

Have you got any advice in terms of what the best way to decide on what FAQs to put in there? Obviously, you can ask your customers, I think you mentioned that, but obviously, you can go to Google and see what FAQs and what questions are getting indexed. Is there any go-to tools or go-to methods of, "Okay, I've got this toothbrush. I want to put four FAQs below the product or on the product page to deal with that particular toothbrush." It's a sustainable toothbrush, we'll go there. So are we going to Google and looking at what is ranked already?

Kevin Indig:
Yes, I think that's a great step. I think there's a lot of information to be harvested from the search results themselves. Google also has this little module called People Also Ask, which is really, really important in my mind. It gets a lot of engagement and it has very engaging questions, right? So one good way to think about that is when you Google a brand name, let's just say Gymshark because they're first ones that are on Shopify that come to mind. Google will often show questions like, "Oh, is Gymshark legit?" or, "Can you trust Gymshark?" These are very engaging questions, often intentionally, and they can help you find things that are top of mind for potential customers.

I think the most elegant way is probably to source these questions straight from a customer. So if you can find a way, and there's some Shopify apps, there's one called Helpful FAQ Page, but there are many out there and they can really help you identify what the ... or ask your customers after they bought, "Hey, what are the biggest questions you had?" or maybe even before they bought, "What are top questions top of mind for you that we can answer right now?" I think that's a way to stay ahead of the game a little bit and maybe get a small competitive advantage.

Richard Hill:
I think that's great because the reality is a lot of the questions maybe not been asked yet, so they might not be indexed. If you're getting them from your users, then you are the first potentially and going down a trail of thought with a series of questions or a question that is unique. Therefore, you've got more unique content to do with that product. So yeah, I like that train of thought, Kevin. Yeah. So we've got-

Kevin Indig:
Exactly. I'm going to give you another tip too. Sorry for interrupting you. I just want to make sure I dropped this for the audience really quickly. Something that a lot of people are not doing is now that you have a list of questions, say that the five most asked questions about this sustainable toothbrush, now go ahead and write a blog article for each question. That's a great way to not only write ... Think about the experience when you're in a product page and you see the FAQ. It's typically a couple of sentences, but now you can actually link them over to the blog and say, "Look, if you're not ready to buy a toothbrush yet, go over to our blog and read more in-depth the full answer to the question."

Oftentimes, it's something that will help the customer make a better choice, ideally on buying the product on your store, and then vice-versa as well. When you write these blog articles, link back to your product page so that maybe if customers are already at that point, they got a direct gateway to your product.

Richard Hill:
Yeah. So it's internal linking to other assets that are talking about the detail. So great stuff. I'm going to rewind a little bit there. So we've got a title tag. Obviously, we want to get the main keyword in there, but obviously then making sure it's unique, understand that that title tag is lightly to be shown in the index, not always, because Google's rewriting quite a few of them now, isn't it? It's just a bit of a change this last, I think the timeline, three, four, five months, but obviously, it's got to get that information from somewhere.

Then I want to go back to categories in a minute because I really want to find out more your opinion on the category side of things because we are doing some really interesting stuff from really interesting testing in our agencies around categories, and it's a unbelievable. So on the product pages, we talked about FAQ schema. We've got review schema. You can also have product schema as well. So schema, listeners, how many schemas are you working with? Trying to get that extra piece in the index to show your reviews, show how many you've got in stock, to show a FAQ a question.

In theory, you can have almost double the amount of space, if you like, on page one of Google, then a competitor and have number one. So you can have an F FAQ and a listing, by a listing, that's showing your review stars, your stock availability, pricing, et cetera. So I think that's a great one, Kevin.

Okay. So before we, actually no, we'll stay where we are. I'll stay where we are. So categories then. So we talked a bit about products. So categories, obviously, with an e-comm store, I think I would say the vast majority of our listeners have got thousands of SKUs, thousands and thousands of SKUs. I know the vast majority of our clients ranging from, of course, dozens of SKUs, but 50,000 SKUs, but I would say, okay, you've got five, ten thousand SKUs split over half a dozen categories and 30 or 40 subcategories and maybe a few sub subs in there. What should go to strategies, tactics for ranking those categories and subcategories?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah. That's a great question. As we mentioned earlier in the conversation, the larger your store, the more important these categories become. If you sell five products, your category page probably won't matter that much. I would go on a limb, but they're important scales with the number of SKUs you have.

So first of all, the same ideas of title optimization apply the same, the ideas of snippet optimization, FAQ, maybe not reviews, but FAQ, certainly, all these apply as well as you want to do them. Two, I've tested it over and over again. I know it's a bit of a controversial topic in the SEO industry, but I have a very clear opinion about content on category pages. It has to be there. It does matter. It makes a difference.

Then a big question, of course, is what type of content you put on your category page? I'm talking specifically about text. I'm talking about text that increases the page's relevance for the category keyword, right? So if your category is toothbrush, then you want to add a text to the category. It's even fine if this text lives at the bottom of the category. Ideally, listen, in an ideal world, you want users to read their text and get value from the text. Don't write something like, "Oh, a toothbrush is a little thing with some pins in it and it cleans your teeth."

Think about actually advising a customer when they come to a store. What do they need to know about selecting the right toothbrush? That's what this content should be about. So you should be proud about the content and you should want customers to see it. If you want to hide it, that means it's not good content. So ideally, it lives maybe in a bit more of a prominent place, but reality is that most of the time, products and product listings are at the top of the page and the center of the page. So most of the time, it lives at the bottom.

There's probably going to be some questions about how long should it be, and there's no perfect answer. It really depends on, in my mind, have you given users and visitors a full picture of how to make the right choice? What we can say is that if it's three to five sentences, probably not enough. We're talking about several paragraphs, but I'm always trying to give a word count because people obsess over the word count and say, "Oh, it has to be at least a thousand words." It's not how it works. It's all in the value and it's all in how good you answer questions.

The underlying logic here is that Google understands the relationship between information. So Google understands that when you write about toothbrushes, you probably want to talk about different types of toothbrushes. Google does understand that. There's probably a price to toothbrushes, maybe some availability and other features. So really think about what are the common product features and how should customers evaluate them to make the right choice. That's a huge lever for category pages.

Richard Hill:
Yeah. That's great. We've been testing a lot of stuff internally with this. It's incredible., literally game-changing working on your categories. Obviously, we always have, but there's quite a lot you can do. I think that text piece is quite, it's almost like a controversial one because people are obsessed with the look and feel of that page and you start adding text to it. Obviously, depending on how you do it, it can really change the look of that page if there's a block of text there.

So as you said, obviously, you can put it at the top, you put it at the bottom. Ideally, you want it at the top, but if you've got a 900-word block of text at the top of a category, all your products are pushed below the fold, and then it's like, "It doesn't look very e-commy at all." All of a sudden it looks like a potential, a blog on the category page. So it's a case of formatting that correctly, and whether that's just a snippet of the bigger text.

So what we've been testing is having an introductory paragraph at the top that then links down to the rest of the content that is then below the products. So you've still got a little bit of text at the top, but then clicking below that little block, which might be four or five lines, and then clicking and then going to a longer block, but then that longer block then also links off to, as you talked about on the product page, it then links off to other content pieces that you may have talked about, the sustainable toothbrush blog post comparing. The five sustainable toothbrushes is then linking to another blog, and then linking to another blog, and then linking to another blog, and then maybe linking to a guide. So then you're creating what we call it internally a catalyst.

So it's a category, but we call it a catalyst and it's our catalyst framework, and it's taking those categories and really, really go into town on them. That's like what we refer to as level one. That's like the level one catalyst, and then we can start adding in other things. Have you got any other things that you would recommend to adding to the categories? We've added the content. What other things would we add in? What would you recommend to add in?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah, by the way, I love this catalyst idea and this concept of having a bit of an introductory paragraph and then much more text at the bottom. I think that's a fantastic idea. We did that actually at G2 in a very different context, not e-commerce, but it's the same idea of a category page and it worked really, really, really well. So love that. Can echo that back.

The second thing, when we talk about content reversal, category page optimization, this is something that most SEOs even missed these days, is there's a lot of value in information that's in the listings themselves, right? So a lot of times, I see many e-commerce store just showing a product picture, maybe the title of the product, and that's it. Sometimes they'll show the price, but there's so much more that you can show to help users make the right choice, right?

You can maybe show something like availability, shipping times, reviews, features. You really want to think about how to optimize the product listing on your category pages because, again, Google has an expectation of what type of information should be present on a category page for it to work really well. So think about what all the different features are that makes sense for users when they see these listings of categories.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, no, understood, understood. I think it's an interesting one, isn't it, where you might have 50,000 SKUs and you've got 30, 40 categories and five or six. It's a lot. It's that big piece of work. I think a lot of listeners will think, "Well, just where do we start?" This is a question we get asked quite a lot, but where would you say. Ultimately? We're talking about this, to do this, that, and the other to the categories and to the products, but that's a lot of time, isn't it, or a lot of resource. Either way, it's got to be paid for, isn't it, whether it's internally or to an agency.

Do you have any specific, I would like to refer to frameworks and systems and processes? Have you got any specific frameworks of ... Right. Okay. In terms of if we look to the site, we know we've got a lot of stuff we need to do, some of the things you've just discussed, but is there any priorities that you look at or frameworks specifically?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah, yeah. So there's really two approaches that make the most sense in my mind. If you start out or if you haven't done an SEO and now you realize, "Oh, I really want to invest in SEO," you see a lot of these SEO redundancies or optimization potential. It either makes sense if you want to move fast to just take one field of optimization and streamline it across the whole site, for example, meta title, you would start there. It's one of the basics, and you would just optimize all your titles across all of the pages and then you would think about content and then snippet optimization, et cetera, et cetera. So you start from with very basic and simple, brought that over across the site and you go more and more advanced and things that take more time.

The other approach, which I'm also a huge fan of, but that it's really an accuracy versus speed decision here. The other approach is to say, "Okay. Look, if I have a lot of products and categories, I'm going to optimize something on just a few categories and I'm going to see what the change in performance is, how much more traffic they gain, how many more products they sell or how much more revenue they drive," and then I gain an understanding of the incremental impact of these changes.

The benefit, again, this is much slower, but the benefit is you develop a real understanding of how much something is worth, how much sense does it make to actually work on the title here or the snippet optimization in terms of revenue. The good thing is it helps you down the line to prioritize SEO in the right way and to understand where the money is really, but again, we spoke about how economic times are changing. It's a lot harder and consumer behavior is changing. So I assume that most cases, when you identify an SEO redundancy, you just want to streamline it across the site and just be done with it. Then once you're in stable water, shift more to an understanding of incremental impact.

Richard Hill:
Yeah. I think that is the trick, isn't it? Everybody listening knows that we are just talking about SEO, and I could within five seconds pull up a list of 250 technical checks and probably another 200 things to do with content, and then so on and so forth. Obviously, that's quite overwhelming and we would never just go and give that to a client, but ultimately, we've got to and our listeners need to invest best they can in terms of that return, so that we refer to internally for many, many years the 80/20 principle of focusing on the 20%, well, usually the 4%, the 20%, the 80/20, the 80/20, the 4% of the areas.

Quite often, that can correlate, I think, to when you look at a store with 50,000 SKUs. There's probably a lot of SKUs that never sell and maybe never will. So I'll be going to rewrite that title tags. I would say maybe not, but if you've got certain amount of SKUs at a certain price point and profit point and stock availability and the fact that I've got a hundred grand worth of sack in the warehouse, you want to be all over those. It's an element of common sense, isn't it, as well of working on the categories, products, services, well, products, categories that you've got the margin in, isn't it? So I think it's having a bit of a good understanding or a very good understanding of the what's in the warehouse, what bills are due maybe in terms of the stuff that's sitting in the warehouse, what we need to clear and that type of thing, a bit more of a commercial overview of it.

Now, obviously, you've worked with dozens of in-house SEO. I think you had about 25, 30 SEOs underneath you at Shopify, and obviously worked with a lot of private companies on a consultancy basis. So ultimately, what I'm driving at is you've worked on and with hundreds, if not thousands of different stores and seen the different things that are going on in SEO. What are some of the things that our listeners should avoid with SEO, some of the biggest mistakes you see?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah, yeah, it's a good point. I think there's some traps in SEO that you want to avoid at all costs. One of them is to just, again, I think at some point you need to start understanding or collecting your own insights about your website and start learning how the website works and your vertical, and your niche. There are many. It's like humans, right? 99%, we have the same genes, we have all the same structure and makeup and whatnot, but then there's a 1% variability, and that same applies to website.

So I think if you start out, you just want to follow the best practices and you find a lot of these on the web, but then there comes a time at which you need to start collecting your own understanding and your own insight. So you want to shift from just making changes to measuring the impact of changes and ideally only making one change at a time to truly understand, "What does this bring and how does this help me?"

You'll also find a lot of, and this is due to the nature of SEO not because of bad-willed people, but you also find a lot of rumors and thoughts about SEO out there. So the fallacy here or the trap is to just follow this blindsided and just make the change. You want to test everything, really, right? Even the documentation from Google itself, they have an SEO documentation where they give tips and recommendations and whatnot. You want to live on a test everything basis and gather your own experience and your own information. I think that's really the key to being successful.

You also mentioned the 80/20 rule earlier, which is I think a fantastic way to think about SEO. So when you do SEO, you really want to make sure that what you do has an impact and that you work on products and categories that are impactful to your company and don't waste your time on products and categories that aren't.

Another thing is that SEO is a very collaborative discipline. If you think about what we as SEOs actually contribute, it's mostly recommendations to other teams. There may be three things that we ourselves do as SEOs and the rest is all recommendations to other teams. So another SEO fallacy, maybe to mention here, is to just work in a silo or to not involve other teams. You really want to make it a company-wide effort and include as many teams as possible.

Richard Hill:
I think that is a whole topic, isn't it? Obviously, to do the job right, there is potentially half a dozen, very deep skills that are needed or different departments, people, obviously depending on the size of the business. Now, if they're not talking or they're not even, it is quite often quite normal. You do an SEO audit, you see an SEO audit, there's 25 technical actions. I know it's that sheets maybe just center, a technical guy or a web dev and he's like, "Nah, I'm not doing that. I'm not doing that. I've already got 150 changes on my roadmap for the next six months. I'll do it in 12 months time."

Obviously, if that process is happening, that's shocking. Obviously, it's about building that understanding within the teams, educating those different teams around the impacts that, "Okay. There's 25 things on there, but if we can do those five in the next three weeks, that could impact that particular category by about five, 10 percent in search share, which could equate to an extra 50 grand in sales."

Well, if you are worried about redundancy, stop, that might help. So it's educating between the different teams, isn't it? Because I think quite often, I think you use the word siloed, these things are very siloed and there's no comms between the different stakeholders in a business, whether that's the management team, but very much the technical, the content, the account manager, the owner. It's quite often disjointed, isn't it? Then the true value is never really communicated across the team.

Kevin Indig:
Yes, yes, yes, very common.

Richard Hill:
Very, very common, isn't it? Quite frustrating, actually. I think about that because it is very common, very, very common.

Kevin Indig:
Yeah, and it goes back to something we spoke about earlier, which is to understand the incremental impact of something. That allows you to prioritize and go to your CTO or engineering head off and say, "Look, we got this thing that we have a strong conviction of we'll increase our revenue by 10%. How does that match up against all the other things you're working on?" This is a language that an SEO we're not used to speak because we're all obsessed with technical things. SEO used to be a hacky discipline.

When I started over 12 years ago, it was not this channel that companies can use to grow. It was a hacky thing. So that spirit still lives on and we need to overcome that by speaking business language and that then helps us open the doors to resources that we need to make changes.

Richard Hill:
Totally, totally, yeah. I like that, that hacky thing. That was very much how I started, yeah, just testing stuff and just, "Oh, I've just read this thing, but hang on a minute." It's all right when there's one or two of you, but when there's a multi, multimillion pound, multimillion dollar, whether that's even monthly, then it's like, "Right, okay." It's communicating the commercial impact or potential upside for that channel, i.e., SEO to the right people, and whether that's doing a test phase around something with a test amount of money, test amount of time, budget, agency, people, content, "Right. We're going to put 100K into this over six months," but obviously, the focus is to get to a certain point. Obviously, six months is not that long in SEO, but ultimately, a lot of action, a lot of focus on the elements that are potentially going to move the commercial side, a lot more than maybe just focusing on, "Right. All we're going to do is write blogs." It's like, "Well, hang on a minute."

There's a lot of things. There's an issue with the crawlability of the sites. Therefore, 8% of the products aren't really getting crawled more than once every three weeks or not at all. That's a bigger problem than trying to, yeah. Love it.

So it's been an absolute pleasure, Kevin. I've got a last few for you. So if we were to say, trying to think. So listeners, I want two more SEO tips off you, two final SEO tips that are very rarely talked about. We've done title tags, we've done schema, categories, e-commerce, specific SEO tips. A couple that maybe you've seen work well or ideally you've seen work well for clients and past Shopify store owners, two more.

Kevin Indig:
Yes, 100%. So one certainly has to be the Google Merchant Center, right? Google is really, really, really pushing the merchant center. I assume everyone in your audience has already set that up, but if not, strongly urge you to get there for a couple of reasons. So the bigger picture here is really that Google is changing from a search engine to a marketplace for products. I think that's the best way to say it. Amazon is one of the biggest competitors to Google and they're losing and have lost market share over the last decades to Amazon, and they're losing the grip or have lost the grip on e-commerce and they're set out to get it back.

Part of the gateway here again is the Google Merchant Center, which allows you to upload a few products, but also give certain information about your products like is there a discount right now, what are the shipping times? Availability or is it in stock. These are all super important. The thing is you can also use schema markup to indicate that to Google, but then you rely on Google coming to your site, and the Google Merchant Center is a direct gateway to feed that information to Google.

Just make sure there's parity between the ... If you use both methods, make sure there's parity. That's a big trap and can lead to all sorts of problems, but if you do it right, then your products might appear in a free carousel on Google that Google shows more and more for e-commerce terms. That gets a lot of clicks, a lot of sales. It's basically an implementation from the Google shopping tab.

If you do it well and if you get good customer reviews on the web, on Google itself, Google might verify your store and boost your visibility in the search results. This is something that I don't think everybody is aware of, but that is a competitive advantage that people can use right now. So use Google Merchant Center, use information you get there, make sure you provide all this information to Google because it's a direct sales channel, basically, to your customers.

Richard Hill:
Brilliant. Merchant Center, get in there. We talk a lot about Google shopping. I think we've done about eight episodes on Google shopping. We've got a team of Google shopping guys and feed guys and absolutely get the flip in feeds up and running. Obviously, you don't have to be running paid ads. I think that's a differentiator probably that from now until 12 months ago, you don't have to be running paid ads to have a merchant center and be running the ads on the free side. You're going to get some traffic from the free side, but what Kevin's saying there more so is the fact that you're getting your site indexed more, Google's visiting more, and you are showing them the site uploading it specifically rather than potentially waiting for Google to crawl. Yeah, brilliant.

Kevin Indig:
Exactly, exactly. Maybe let's wrap it up with a bit more advanced tip. So this tip has basically two parts to it. The first part is to, first of all, make sure you have an internal site search on your website so that customers can search, especially when you have a lot of products and categories. Then use that information to potentially create new categories or block articles or subcategories. So some people might search something on your site and not find a good result and then bounce. This is something that you can measure most of the time depending on your shop platform and how you set up, but use that information to then create relevant results for your customers. It's a no-brainer. There's a treasure trove of data from site search.

Then the second part to this tip is related. Sometimes people and customers search for facets of categories. So if your category is toothbrush, they might look for bamboo toothbrush. There are situations where it might even make sense to let Google index and crawl facets, right? So the typical setup is that a facet has a canonical tech back to the root category. So if you have toothbrushes and then you have, say, bamboo toothbrushes, yellow toothbrushes, gray toothbrushes, all of these should have a canonical tech back to the category page of toothbrushes to not create duplicate content, but sometimes facets are different enough from the root category to let them both be an expert Google and both stand on their own feet. A way to uncover that is to look at the search results and see how many pages rank for both terms, the root category term, toothbrush, and the facet, bamboo toothbrush. If those are separate pages, there is a higher likelihood that a facet can stand on its own feet.

Obviously, something more for advanced SEOs, there's a ton of stuff you should and can do before that, but when you're in point where maybe you squeezed out 80% of the potential on your website, you want to look into facet the next time.

Richard Hill:
Brilliant. That is absolutely brilliant. I love that. I mean, how many people can actually say that a listing right now, that they're monitoring their site search for one, and then from that data, adjusting whether it's canonicalization, canonical tags based on sub products, facets, et cetera or creating content that's going to target that. When you're thinking about that next blog topic like Costa or a topic or whatever it may be, where you're looking, what tool are you going to, "Well, hang on a minute. You've got your own site search, haven't you? You've got your own site search."

Whereas if there'll be data in there, if there's 80 people been looking for bamboo toothbrush sizing or whatever it may be, there you go. The clue is there. Well, it's been an absolute pleasure. Last two questions. So we sat here in 12 months time and we are having a SEO update from the previous 12 months. What do you think other guys should be looking at or what's coming down the line in the next 12 months SEO-wise for e-commerce?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah, yeah. Prediction is always interesting. I love making predictions, not because I think I can get it right, but because the sheer act of thinking about what happens in the future I think is very fruitful. So I think one big wave that's coming over SEO now is AI. I think AI will fundamentally change the game. It will make content creation very easy, image generation relatively easy. So I think there's going to be a whole swath of tools that we'll have next year driven by AI, in part by AI that will impact SEO for e-commerce tremendously.

Let me just give you one example, right? There's so many different touchpoints where I can come into play, but one is just in understanding your numbers better and crunching numbers. So last week, Google has published a free Google Sheets integration. It's called Simple ML for machine learning. That allows you to not only train your models, but you can also use it to find outliers in your data.

So you could, for example, export the traffic of all of your pages over the last 12 months and then see where there are outliers, where could traffic be going down or up, where pages standing out, applying the 80/20 rule, whether 20% of pages that drive 80% of traffic, and so on, data forecasting, traffic forecasting, which is especially valuable in these volatile times. So there's a whole swath of options coming out now and I think that will tremendously change the game.

So where I'm seeing this heading is that I would argue if we're having another show in 12 months, I would say that the majority of marketers in e-commerce probably use a tool that's mainly driven by AI, their day-to-day work that we don't know yet today. I think that that space is exploding and I think there will be a ton going on for e-commerce over the next 12 months.

Richard Hill:
Yeah, that's brilliant. I think that is a brilliant place to end, AI, AI and e-commerce, so many usages, isn't there, with AI? We actually genuinely had or I had this exact conversation around AI with our head of digital PR and content yesterday because it is, yeah, there's a lot of things out there now that are gaining serious ground, serious investment that are not going to go away, which is in interesting times. Well, thanks for coming on the show, Kevin. It's been an absolute pleasure. I'd like to finish every episode with a book recommendation. What book would you recommend to our listeners?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah. One of my favorite books is Principles by Ray Dalio. Have you read it?

Richard Hill:
It is right behind me and I have not read it all, no.

Kevin Indig:
Okay. Good. I really wanted to suggest a book that you haven't read yet. I know you're an avid reader with a huge library. It's one of the books that I say have changed my life. The whole idea is basically that everybody should develop their own principles and I found that to be an incredibly valuable exercise for SEO, for personal life, whatever. Ray has just published a daily journal that's sitting right next to me that helps you develop your principles that I can also recommend. So that would be my book tip.

Richard Hill:
Brilliant. So Principles. Brilliant. Brilliant. Well, thank you so much for that and thank you for coming on the show. For the guys that want to find out more about you, reach out to you after the episode, what's the best way to do that?

Kevin Indig:
Yeah. Thanks so much for having me, Richard. It was a great conversation. Lots of fun. If you want to follow me, Kevin-indig.com and same on Twitter, @Kevin_Indig.

Richard Hill:
Brilliant. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I'll speak you again in 12 months. Cheers. Bye-bye.

Kevin Indig:
Thank you.

Richard Hill:
Thank you for listening to the eComOne e-commerce podcast. If you enjoyed today's show, please hit subscribe and don't forget to sign up to our e-commerce newsletter and leave us a review on iTunes. This podcast has been brought to you by our team here at eComOne, the e-Commerce marketing agency.

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