Ep 176: SEO Myths & Philosophies with Shopify SEO Director Kevin Indig

Being on the top of the search results page is the ultimate dream of any online business owners. More website traffic means online exposure that can, later on, translate into business revenues.

In this awesome and insightful episode, Kevin Indig came over to bust some SEO myths! 

(YOU too might be doing it wrongly?!)

Kevin Indig is the SEO Director @ Shopify, creator of the Growth Memo newsletter, and host of the Tech Bound podcast. Before Shopify, he ran SEO & Content @ G2 and Atlassian and helped companies like eBay, Eventbrite, Samsung, Pinterest, and many others multiply their organic traffic.

We have discussed SEO myths, SEO principles, and philosophies. What type of content no longer gets backlinks and what type of content does?

We also talked about building backlinks naturally versus unnaturally, targeting the same keyword but with different intent. When should start creating different content for a different categories?

Lastly, Kevin will share about A.I content, where is it going and will it be valuable, and if so when?

This is a perfect opportunity to learn from the SEO Guru himself – Kevin Indig.

Smash the ‘Play’ button to watch the video!

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Episode Highlights

03:06 “Non-talked about SEO myths”

07:17 Backlinks

11:44 What can help you get backlinks?

15:00 SEO principles

21:21 Just do it!

33:25 AI content where is it going?

39:43 Where can you find Kevin?

Courses & Training

Courses & Training

Key Takeaways

➥ Kevin sees SEO as a kind of reverse-engineered discipline. There is a handbook from Google but Kevin thinks it’s very surface level and there’s a big iceberg under the water that Google does not talk about. That’s because Google doesn’t want anybody to game their algorithm.

➥ For Kevin, the infographic-driven type of way of link building doesn’t work anymore but he still thinks that backlinks are very valuable.

➥ One of the SEO principles that Kevin applies to his work is test and learn. It’s collecting experience testing, trying them out, learning from that, and then building more tests on top of that. It’s this mathematical thing but to simplify it, it’s simply to build knowledge on top of the knowledge you already have.


About The Guest

Kevin Indig is the SEO Director @ Shopify, creator of the Growth Memo newsletter and host of the Tech Bound podcast. Before Shopify, he ran SEO & Content @ G2 and Atlassian and helped companies like eBay, Eventbrite, Samsung, Pinterest, and many others multiply their organic traffic.


Connect with Kevin Indig


Jaryd Krause: (00:00)

SEO tactics are strangling your business. Hi, I'm Jaryd Krause host of the buying online businesses podcast. And today I'm speaking with Kevin Indig, who is the SEO Director at Shopify. He's also the creator of the growth memo newsletter and host of the tech-bound podcast. Before Shopify, Kevin ran SEO and content at G2 and Atlassian and helped companies like eBay, Eventbrite, Samsung, Pinterest, and many others multiply their organic traffic.

Now in this podcast episode, Kevin and I talked about SEO myths, and it was a great conversation about the different myths that are out there around SEO that we dive into, why not just follow myths and how to debunk these myths but more so about SEO principles and philosophies that don't just lend to only SEO that can be applied to content marketing and different departments within your own business.

Then Kevin and I start to dig into the way a bit more and talk about backlinks, it is the first point of the call where we talked about what type of content no longer gets backlinks anymore, what type of content does and how we should start to create content for that.

Jaryd Krause: (01:11)

We also talk about building backlinks naturally versus unnaturally and how Google can detect the difference and is go a backlink is still a thing, is there much weight in backlinks now as there once was? We also talk about when should you start creating different content for a different category, rather than just focusing on one category and creating more and more and more content?

The better question that Kevin realizes is that when do you start diversifying into a different category? When is the best time to do that, which we talk about? We also talk about targeting the same keyword but with different intents, which doesn't equal keyword cannibalization.

We also talk about duplicate content and why some duplicate content isn't so bad for your business or your site. And lastly, we talk about AI content, where's it going, and where will it be in the future, and will it be valuable or not?

Jaryd Krause: (02:01)

Where is Google up to date with AI? Where do we believe they're up to date with AI? Do they have a strangle? Hold on to it, do they have a handle on it? Do they know what's coming? So there's so much value in this podcast episode around SEO. If you own an online business, you're going to love this episode so let's dive in.

Do you want to build or grow your content website? Niche website builders have helped hundreds of people take their content websites from a few hundred dollars per month to over tens of thousands of dollars per month with crafted content creation, buying age domains, and link building strategies. These strategies have helped people increase their traffic authority, monthly earnings and their website valuation too, head to www.nichewebsitebuilders/BOB/ to get 10% of any link building or 10% more from their content creation services. I'll put a link in the description too. Kevin, welcome to the buying online businesses podcast.

Kevin Indig: (03:08)

Thanks so much for having me. It's good to be on.

Jaryd Krause: (03:10)

I was thinking a while ago when we got you on scheduled in, what does one ask the director of SEO at Shopify about SEO, and I thought the first place to start would be some myths because there are so many ideologies and perceptions around SEO that are nonserving to so many business owners, especially people that are using Shopify and using WordPress and stuff like that. So what would you find, are some of the non-talked about myths, I guess, or not as exposed myths within the SEO community? Because everything could be proven wrong if you want to.

Kevin Indig: (03:50)

That's a good point. I agree, the problem is that SEO is a kind of reverse-engineered discipline. There is some sort of handbook from Google but it's very surface level and there's a big iceberg under the water that Google does not talk about, and rightfully so because they don't want anybody to game their algorithm.

So first of all there are different boxes of myths, that's how I think about it. So there's one box that is clear myths that have never been right. It's just people trying to sell some stuff or people making wrong assumptions and spreading those into the world. So that's one box with very clear myths, and then there's another box with things that have worked a while ago, and that might not work as well anymore.

Kevin Indig: (04:38)

And you can call the myths or you can maybe call them outdated SEO tactics and strategy but that also exists. And I think those are almost more dangerous than the box of myths that are wrong because, with a little trial in the error with a little bit of research, you can quickly get to that box. But the other one, the one in the middle with those tactics that have worked at one point that's much harder to see through because you still have a lot of people evangelizing these tactics or advocating for these tactics.

So an example that I could maybe provide is this idea of maybe link building? There was a while ago maybe even until a couple of years ago, there was this kind of trend where it was, you just create some infographics and you create a cool article and then people will link to it.

Kevin Indig: (05:26)

And maybe you could pitch it, and I will call that a second thing that doesn't work anymore. You just write 500 emails to different sites and ask them to include your link in their articles or their content. And then you get some links and that just doesn't work anymore. The tech has evolved much further than that, pretty much everybody understands that backlinks have some sort of value.

So in a lot of cases it either comes across as spam or as harassment or people just want straight-up money. You see that in the south, in Latin American markets where people know exactly what you want when reaching out and they immediately jump to requesting some money for a backlink. And so this whole area of SEO backlink building hypertext or hyperlinks is full of myths.

Kevin Indig: (06:12)

And one of them is also that they don't matter anymore. That's another myth, and Google has been very vocal about trying to make that the narrative that, don't worry about the bling. Also if you have SPMI backlinks back or bad backlinks, we'll just take care of them for you. And that is also not completely true.

So I think besides giving you a couple of myths that are not true any longer, the message I want to bring across is, first of all, be very critical about the things you hear. Second of all, make up your mind about all these things. Test them, get some experience and then reevaluate what you think about these tactics because there's a lot of outdated stuff out there sometimes fluff and sometimes it's just people trying to make money.

Jaryd Krause: (06:53)

Oh, that's so good. I think we're going to have to just unpack this a bit more because a lot of people listening are looking at buying blogs, and content sites, and a part of the strategy is let's buy some backlinks or let's go away and do some backlink building. And I think just helping the audience become a bit more conscious about what can be beneficial and what can be non beneficial would be so valuable for them.

So I'm fascinated when you say backlinks just don't work anymore or it's just not that much of a thing. Are you feeling that Google isn't putting as much weight into good backlinks as they once did for example, from a higher ranking authority site?

Kevin Indig: (07:37)

It's a good question. I would say if I had to refine my answer a little bit, I would say that this kind of infographic-driven type of way of link building doesn't work anymore but backlinks are still very valuable actually. And I think it's gotten a lot harder to get them unless you pay. So just to be clear, by buying backlinks, paying for backlinks is clearly against Google guidelines.

So if they will catch you doing that, whatever way that is, they will penalize you and it will have severe consequences up to a point even where the block you just bought or the website you just bought is completely burnt, that can happen. However, on the other side, this is where I'm departing from Google's narrative and I want to share some more real-life experiences.

Kevin Indig: (08:23)

On the other hand, there are a lot of companies that pay for backlinks, and that still works. So that's kind of the real-life experience there. And so you want to pay attention to a couple of things. So first of all, if you buy backlinks then you want to make sure that these backlinks appear as natural as possible. So make sure that you buy links from relevant sites, and don't buy anything in the casino space, porn space, or pill space.

There used to be the three P's, the porn and pills and poker. So avoid these at any cost, even linking to them. Don't do it unless you're in that space. Of course, that's a completely different situation but let's pretend you're not, and make sure that not just the site is relevant to yours but also that the position of the link makes sense.

Kevin Indig: (09:08)

It's very easy to see when somebody has bought links. When you read a blog article, the link is kind of squeezed in. It's a link about topic X and then all of a sudden there's a sense about topic Y and it goes back to the topic. X machines can understand that very easily today. So avoid that at all costs but backlink buying from a high quality site, it still works.

That's just the reality, and it is in part when it's done well. It is nearly impossible to understand for Google but again, you want to be careful with negative signals. So one signal again is the irrelevant site, a backlink that doesn't make sense in the content. Another one is getting backlinks too quickly. So if there's a new site that hasn't gotten a lot of links, all of a sudden it gets a thousand links overnight, a very bad signal to Google.

Kevin Indig: (09:53)

And this is when we talk about unnatural, we're talking about pattern recognition and if Google is good at one thing, it's pattern recognition. And so anything that stands out from the common patterns is a red flag and will trigger, maybe an algorithm or maybe a quality rate to take a closer look at your site and see what's up there. Another really important one is hard to anchor text. So if you're selling shoes and all your backlinks have the anchor text shoes, there's a point where you can overdo it.

When you buy backlinks again, which is judgment-free, a lot of companies decide are doing that. Then you want to make sure you have a natural link profile. So you take some tools, you assess your competitors, you see what are they doing? How many links a month are they gaining? What kind of links do they get? And you want to be on the upper bound of that kind of pattern or of that's link profile mix and that's how it approaches it, so I think it still works.

You have to be a bit more careful and Google tries to push the narrative that they can, it doesn't matter anymore. And it's just the content that matters, and they're not there yet.

Jaryd Krause: (11:01)

That's excellent. I agree, wholeheartedly around it looking natural and looking on the same trend as the site has been going, and you can slowly reverse that but you can't just do it all in one, hint says buy a million links. Just in one go, and look natural. That's just not a thing, depending on the site, obviously also with the infographic, this is a thing that people will be if we just create good content and we just create infographic because people are going to want an infographic on their site, and they're going to want a source the infographic that we create then great but I find infographics may be, they've had their time in terms of the type of content to consume.

Whereas now videos are really valuable. People want to put videos in their content more so than an infographic. Would you say videos can help get backlinks? Or what would you say can help you get a backlink if you are a blogger these days.

Kevin Indig: (11:58)

We're on-site? That's such a good question. That's a great question because some sites still do this. Shopify is a great example. At Shopify we have such a strong brand we get a lot of links organically, it's the same. I worked at Atlas a year and a while ago, a popular Australian company and their products were just so popular. They don't need to do active link building.

They don't need to reach out to sites but they can still drive organic links with really good content marketing or linkable content or linkable assets. Those things can be articles where they, for example, just share some stats, in the case of Shopify, when we write about, we have a lot of merchants on our platform a lot we have a huge chunk of the eCommerce ecosystem.

Kevin Indig: (12:43)

And so we write for example about the GMV of that whole ecosystem. The gross merchandise volume or all the money floating through that ecosystem is very attractive to even some big news outlets or some big publishers. And they will reference that simply because we're Shopify and because of our product but then of course as a small blogger that's a completely different game. And so there are a couple of tricks you can apply.

One of them is to just collect a lot of statistics about your area or your niche, and just provide them because bloggers or other bloggers and journalists look for statistics when the right articles, they look for some hard data, and so you can aggregate that from the web accumulate that in the best case, you can provide some unique data. However, you do that there are different ways. It surveys sometimes it's combining different data pools or some public data or visualizing public data.

Those things still work well, and anything that's relevant to journalists. And the problem is that compared to, for example, 10 years ago, there's just not as much organic linking going on anymore. So you have to send out, you have to provide something very original and juicy for journalists to reference.

Jaryd Krause: (14:00)

I don't think people if they didn't pick it up certainly should. You did mention collecting a bunch of data so people can take that data but it's mainly what you are trying to write for, or trying to create content for journalists to use as a reference. I hope people picked up that for the journalists because they're the ones who are going to pick that up and need to plug where they found that data. I'm so glad you mentioned that.

It's like you said, it's very different between bigger sites and smaller sites. You guys are getting a bunch of natural links, and smaller bloggers have to work for it. Moving on, we've talked about links a lot. I want to talk about a few different philosophies that you may carry or teach within Shopify around SEO.

Jaryd Krause: (14:50)

So SEO principles, people have good content backlinks, build your authority, a few different things. What are some SEO philosophies that you like to teach the team at Shopify to adhere to? Because I think too many people will stick in the space of SEO, not just SEO digital marketing will be looking for the next tactic and looking for the next little strategy but may not understand good principles and philosophies around SEO to run those strategies and tactics through to see if they're going to be the right thing to do for their site or business. So do you have some philosophies, and principles that you'd like to adhere to?

Kevin Indig: (15:36)

I love that question. I'm so glad you asked that Jaryd because everybody is asking for the tactics and for what's the latest trick and thing and sure. That's fun and exciting but the principles are what it's really at. In essence, if you think, and you can apply that to life, you can apply that to digital marketing, SEO, whatever but principles that's where real-life experience comes in.

And if you can tell, I'm pretty bullish on this point, read everything that's out there on the web but then if we can apply it and get a taste for it yourself, build your own Corpus your inventory of experience. And so that's one of the first principles that teach, whether it's the Tropic fires from the other companies that I worked at its test and learn.

Kevin Indig: (16:20)

It's so basic but most people don't do that. They come to the table and they're like here's this thing that I'm recommending. And then you ask, so why do you recommend that? Why do you think that works? It's like everybody says that. Or I think it makes sense, and that's cool but that's not enough. So again it's a very scientific mindset, and so far that we run a lot of tests.

I have a full team of SEOs at Shopify that only run tests all day and they validate tactics. They see Hey, what happens if I do this? What happens if I do that? And we do this on a very scientific level because we do have data scientists who work with us on these tests and engineers but even as a one-person army, you can apply this methodology, even if it's in a very simple way.

Kevin Indig: (17:07)

It doesn't have to be this statistically correct. Sometimes it's enough to just make a change, see what happens, revert the change and then see if it goes back to baseline. And so just that's one of the basic principles then that I'm building my whole philosophy, my whole methodology on, right.

It's like collecting experience testing, trying them out, learning from that, and then building more tests on top of that. And that's the Basian mindset. I wrote a block article about this a while ago and the idea of beige or base is founded on the base theorem. It's this mathematical thing but to simplify it, it's just simply to build knowledge on top of the knowledge you already have.

Kevin Indig: (17:53)

So if to make that very concrete, if you've run a test on a meta title, you added a keyword, you reverted the change you saw, oh man, this moves the needle. So you roll it out, you keep it, and then instead of then running to run, maybe a content test or a snippet test, run another title test. Squeeze it out, run another test, and see what happens if you go that direction.

Oh, that's even better. So you're going to keep going in that direction, and that's the mindset. To build on top of the knowledge, and on top of the learnings, you already have, instead of jumping around because sure you can test other things but you start from zero again. So instead test something, squeeze it out until all the changes to make only have a small, tiny impact.

Kevin Indig: (18:41)

Then you got the most out of this, and then the third is to just execute very quickly and very well. So execution is this thing that's often forgotten because SEO is such a theoretical thing. Most of the stuff that we do as SEOs is giving recommendations to writers, designers, or engineers. So really good execution is to roll things out at a small scale, see if they have the expected impact, and then roll them out at a larger scale, and this mostly applies to larger sites to larger companies but one mistake that a lot of companies and people make is they build up this business case and they work on a staging environment for six months and then they roll out this one big thing, and that is just too slow.

You want to rather see how can we roll something out every week or at least every other week so that you can learn very quickly, and it goes back to the first two principles that I mentioned testing and the patient mindset. You want to accelerate this cycle of learning and doing something different so that you can just outpace everyone else.

Jaryd Krause: (19:47)

Amazingly said Kevin, I have an experience where, or an example, I mean so many in my life and businesses but one that I've used with a client around your Beijing mindset for growing a business first and foremost what I like to teach people is to not just go after, listen to a podcast, listen to a YouTube video, go to an event and try and find the marketing or SEO tactic, and then try it out in your business.

I'm more about digging into the business and getting the data right, and the information, which is what the patient mindset is to find out what's working, and then sort of test more around that and solidify it, I guess, make it more concrete. Once you realize it's a bit more concrete, then just add more in and then keep tweaking and testing it.

Jaryd Krause: (20:36)

For example, a client who came and bought a website business, we built it up and within a year, in 2 years and a half, we doubled the business with him doing no extra work, running a system and a process that we built based on learning how the business was once grown and built that out and hired somebody run that and then just do little tweaks and tests with the system that we built to make it better and better as it went through so it would convert better.

I think that can only be done by having that Basian mindset, understanding you need to collect the data and then test again, to get more data and then just make that flyback wheel far more concrete and far more solid to once you have confidence in something's going to work right.

Kevin Indig: (21:25)

A hundred percent.

Jaryd Krause: (21:26)

Why would you not do it? You're just going to do more of it.

Kevin Indig: (21:30)

Yeah, exactly. It's stripping away the fat, and it goes back to the Beijing mindset. Another perspective to look through is the 8020 rule or the Perretta rule. And you see that everywhere in business, and SEO example is that oftentimes a few block articles or a few lending pages bring in by far the most dollars, and it's so very similar in marketing.

A few channels bring in the most dollars, maybe a few people have the biggest impact on a marketing organization. And if you buy even a small business, you want to carry that same lens. Where is the fad? Where can we trim the fad? And how can we double down on the things that work and how can we learn faster in the things that work than in everything else. It's, as you said, you have these mental models or these principles or frameworks that apply over again, this applies to life, and business as well.

Kevin Indig: (22:20)

And that's why I love talking about these so much more because I can share a couple of tactics. What happens when you use these tactics or what happens when you're out of tactics and you're going to go ask more people.

You want to develop your tactics and the own things that work and that's what gives you a competitive advantage over other companies, the stuff that's out there publicly is already used 50 times or you want to figure out a way to develop your stuff, and that happens through principles.

Jaryd Krause: (22:45)

Oh, that's so good. Developing your stuff based on the experience of what's worked. How else are you going to be more confident in what's working when you've got proof nobody else knows it. It's so nice to know about your business and what one of my clients calls it is business therapy. When I do one-on-one coaching, it's like you come to the table, sit down with Jaryd and you go, these are my problems in my business.

What do I need to do? And Jaryd's not business God, he's just a good, he's just a man that can ask good questions and then leave those questions to you working out, oh, this is working well on the business. Let's just do more of it. You leave the table with far more confidence, and less stress about the business because you've just thought about it a bit more and asked the right questions based on what's already happening within the business rather than going. Should I try a bullet point list on my SEO post about this subject?

Kevin Indig: (23:47)

That's all where it's at, it's how do they say answers are cheap but questions are expensive. Technically if you find the right question and everything else falls into place, you don't need the answer but I'm getting philosophical here. I think we're on the same page about this but it's something that I learned the hard way. Let's put it this way.

Jaryd Krause: (24:06)

By going to too many, taking on and doing, taking on too many tasks that just didn't work running around the circles. So I want to bring back to content structure because you've done, you've been in content for a long time, and I was going to ask you the question around, what are some of your principles and philosophies in content.

But like you said, these philosophies run across not just SEO but your life, which runs across content as well, which we can say the same thing, double down on your content that's working and all those things that you've mentioned but when it comes to structuring content, would you use the same? And I presume I know the answer but would you use the same philosophy?

So for example, you've worked out that there's a category on your site that's doing quite well, bringing in traffic, getting backlinks and people are reading it. Would you go away and create another category or would you double down on that category and find more keywords to create more content around that and support all of those that are starting to uphold in Google?

Kevin Indig: (25:09)

The question that applies most here is when would it make sense to follow a different structure? And the framework that I use for that is, and it's not my framework, this is common, I don't even know who came up with that but it's user intent. And the life philosophical approach to that is probably context. What's the context of a search that decides the format of content that I want to provide. It all goes back to what people are searching for.

And the modern understanding of keywords is more. So what intent are people trying to express when they search for a certain keyword? So we're not optimizing for keywords in that sense anymore. We're optimizing for user intent, and sometimes those can be the same but oftentimes they can divert.

Kevin Indig: (25:57)

And so what I mean is that nowadays pages, block articles, and landing pages can sometimes work, and rank for hundreds, if not thousands of keywords. And so that's why it doesn't sure we do still do keyword research but it doesn't make sense to just optimize for one keyword because you can rank for a thousand.

So you want to think more about the intention of the user and optimized towards that. And that then decides your optimal conduct structure. So when somebody looks for, say best business tips, that is an intent that often means people want to list. They just want to see the 10 best, the 50 best, or the 100 best tips. And that will often then decide the structure of my blog article which is more realistic. I then want to write about the best tips.

Kevin Indig: (26:44)

And of course, there has to be a bulleted list. If you have the best as a modifier and a keyword, then there has to be a bulleted list. Sometimes numbered, sometimes unnumbered depending on what people wanted in that situation but when it comes to something, why did the stock market go down that obviously cannot be answered by a list?

I mean you can squeeze it into a list but what people want is say qualitative explanation and that's where paragraphs make a lot more sense to take this further, even probably a video might be a better answer to that. So I'm going to overcomplicate this but for certain user intents, Google just chose a video because that's the best way to answer because you can say it in one minute instead of reading this long text anyway, the way for me to come to an answer, whether I should use a different content form or not is to look at intent that I'm optimizing for often in the form of a keyword but you don't want to take that keyword.

Kevin Indig: (27:45)

Airbnb in 2016, had these beautiful landing pages around the intent things to do in the city. So things to do in San Francisco, things to in Chicago, things to do in New York City, and it was a perfect page because it had a list of things to do, and it had a map next to that list. So you could see where you can do that thing. And the intention is people traveling to a city they're probably new to that city and they just want to do some fun stuff in that city.

Some tourist attractions, maybe something different, and these pages, each of them rank for thousands of keywords because there are so many different permutations and ways to express that intent. It could be things to do in San Francisco or what to do in San Francisco or tourist attractions in San Francisco.

Kevin Indig: (28:27)

These are all the same intention but they're different keywords. And that's why I'm saying don't optimize for the keyword but try to understand the actual intention or user intent that people have when they search for that and then base the format of your content on that. Now if you go after lots of similar user intents, then sure you can repeat the same format.

So say, for example, you bought a review site and reviews different products then sure. If you go for the intent of best bells, best barbells, best fitness bands, or best protein powders. You can repeat the same content format for those but that's because they all target very similar user intent.

Jaryd Krause: (29:07)

I guess with your category or however, you want to call it, structuring it, having the different levels of intent within different articles will be valuable, not just having a list of one article but also having another article with an intent that where you need to explain something in further depth and you can produce a video around that and also have it in the text where people will consume that over maybe a list as well. So would you suggest having all those different types of formats?

Kevin Indig: (29:43)

It's such a good question, and my stronger recommendation is to play around with that a little bit, test what we've seen, for example even up until maybe three years ago, maybe even two or three years ago is that long-form content outperforms short form content. So you could basically take five articles around the same topic and put them together and they would be greater in some than each of these articles by themselves, and now I'm not so sure anymore.

I see very short form articles ranking for some juicy keywords, an example would be what is keywords. What is dropshipping? What is free cash flow or whatever comes to mind. You don't need as long of an article any more to rank for these types of keywords.

Kevin Indig: (30:30)

It seems to me, and that this could have been Google's paragraph ranking update, or who knows what update it was, can only speculate at this point but it seems that Google has come to understand much better how deep a piece of content is rather than how long it is. And oftentimes these go hand in hand but for certain keywords, what are queries? It seems like we don't need a long keyword anymore or a long article anymore.

You can do it with a shorter one as well. And so I would honestly play around with that. What we also see is that the understanding of duplicate content or keyword cannibalization has completely changed. I'm not bought into that anymore, which will be controversial for lots of SEOs out there. I think if there is to put that into context.

Kevin Indig: (31:16)

If you have an eCommerce site, you have two category pages and they show the same products and there's no content to differentiate them. Then it's probably a case of duplicate content. So there are these hardcore cases where the content is a hundred percent the same but what we also see is that you can rank with several articles on the same domain for the same keyword.

A huge example for Shopify is drop shipping, Google drop shipping and you will see us ranking with at least two or sometimes three pieces of content. One of these pieces is what is drop shopping. Then the second one is a drop shipping guide, and the third one is something, is drop shipping legit? Or is it legal? And that works because it's a short head keyword. And there are many different intentions that this short head keyword covers.

Kevin Indig: (32:00)

So yeah, in the official Google documentation and their quality rate guidelines, you find explanations about how short head keywords target three different types of user intents. One is the dominant intent. The second one is the common intent and the third one is the minor intent. And so the reality is that short head keywords drop shipping or shoes, I don't know what desk there's so ambiguous.

There are so many things that can be meant with that keyword that Google just understands what the three kinds of most common ways are. And then it will rank sites accordingly. And if you have a piece of content or two pieces or three pieces of content that address three different types of user intent for a single keyword or a single query. So to say, then you can rank itself pieces of content for the same keyword. So long, and a winded way to say that you want to play with long form and short form content.

There's no one answer to, or one universal answer to saying, you always want to write long articles or you always want to write short articles. So the short answer depends. And the long answer is what I just gave you.

Jaryd Krause: (33:10)

I love it, I love it. So testing it all out, and I'm so glad that you mentioned something a bit controversial around, you can rank for the same keyword, in multiple different places, and the way you explained it, it makes sense. I want to shift gears into AI content. We don't need to spend a long time on this. I have my thoughts and doubts about it, how well do you see it these days? And do you see it being a thing or do you see us and Google going? It's just not going to cut it.

Kevin Indig: (33:43)

Yeah, it's interesting. Even up until two years ago I was very skeptical and doubtful about AI content, and my thinking there was that if everybody can create the same type of content then why would Google reward that in a sense, if everybody has the same content, then other factors make a bigger difference. And I still believe that to an extent but what I have learned in the last two years is that there are actually some ways to create good enough AI-driven content and rank with it, and sometimes rank even well with it.

And so as always, the answer is much more nuanced as it does not work. It's not that easy, but I think it works in certain situations and circumstances, for example, if you are an eCommerce site and you have a lot of category pages or even product descriptions and you want to rewrite those, that's a perfect use case for machine learning.

Kevin Indig: (34:35)

And no writer wants to write this by the way. There's this good work that can be outsourced to the machines but I see more and more, really good even long form content written by machines. There was just a kind of a scandal where an engineer from Google was kicked out of Google, he was fired because he rang the alarm so hard about Google's AI becoming sentient, and it's really interesting.

You can read the conversation. He had Google develop a machine learning model, and it's pretty crazy. So machine AI has not become sentient but I can understand why this guy made such a big deal out of it because it seemed scary and real. And so I think I underestimated how fast the developments in machine learning progressed.

Kevin Indig: (35:28)

And I think you can in part, make some really good content today with AI. Now we've tested a lot of tools. We've tested AI content at Shopify, but it didn't work as well. So I don't think that this technology is as easily accessible. And I don't think we're yet at a point where you can just publish it without an editor, really grooming that piece of content, streamlining it, making some corrections, and making it more readable. But the reality is that there's some good machine learning content out there and Google ranks it.

So it's going to be very interesting over the next couple of years, how all of that is going to play out and what the use cases are for machine learning and how Google is going to be able to reverse engineer that and reward human written content. That's going to be tricky and that can speculate more about how they could do that, and how that would work. I think that my impression is that Google is not on top of it, and let's see how accessible that's going to be.

Jaryd Krause: (36:27)

I don't think they are on top of it as much as we would like to think they are. So I've got Stephan Spencer, he's a great SEO, a buddy of mine, and he says, how do you control an AI? It's with another AI. It's a black box, and you need to have something quite sophisticated to be able to take over and control something that we may no longer be able to handle. Now, this is a conversation that we shouldn't go too deep in because we could talk about this for a long time.

Kevin Indig: (37:12)

It's a deep conversation and tricky the way I see this play out maybe I can give you my take on this, expect Google to develop a very strong understanding of things that an AI can answer very well and things that an AI cannot answer very well. So for example, today going after very shallow keywords, that are very quick and easy to answer, and that have a very definite answer.

It doesn't pay off as much anymore because a lot of times Google answers that question themselves. For who's the current president, how long was the 30th war? What's the capital of Zimbabwe. These are quick and easy answers. No SEO should go after those, because there's barely any traffic coming after it, and I assume the same will be the case for topics that are just very easy for an AI to answer and replicate.

Kevin Indig: (38:03)

A lot of processes, a lot of existing knowledge that's already out there. We just really have to aggregate it or synthesize it, and on the other hand, is stuff that's difficult for an AI to comprehend simply because it's a lot of forward-thinking. If for example, you have to combine or basically, if you need a lot of experience to answer a certain topic.

That could be something that for an AI might be difficult to understand say, the current economy. Is it gonna be deflation? How long is this going to last? Are we going to recover quickly? Very difficult to handle for an AI, even though an AI could probably synthesize all the information out there much, much faster than a human being.

Kevin Indig: (38:49)

But an AI does not have an understanding of how all of these factors could play together because there's not a good description. If it was easy to answer, we all would know what happens tomorrow but it's not. And so I think those are the kind of topics that humans will still dominate in and where human-created content is still going to be so much better.

And I think that's what Google is in part going to reward. And for all the other things it's going to be stuff brand recognition, backlinks, or other signals that may be page speed that is outside of content.

Jaryd Krause: (39:18)

I love it. I think where people get tripped up is they like, oh, an AI. I can get this done cheaper, faster, and better to replace a human being in the next sort of few years in terms of great content. It's going to be a tricky one to do. Kevin, thank you so much for coming on. It's been a pleasure to chat with you.

Love hearing your thoughts and philosophies around SEO and business and life and how it all relates. Thank you so much. Where can we send people to check out more about what you are doing?

Kevin Indig: (39:49)

Thanks, Jaryd. It's been great coming on, we probably only covered 10 of the 70 questions that you're prepared for but are happy to do around two at the same time in the future.

If people are curious to read more and read through some of the concepts that I referenced on the podcast, they can go to kevin-indig.com, and on Twitter I'm @kevin_indig. So real name, just type on Google. You should find me.

Jaryd Krause: (40:13)

Awesome guys, check that out. There'll be links in the show notes as well. Thank you for listening. If you have an online business, doesn't need to be a content site. If you have an online business, make sure you go back and listen to this again. There are so many profound philosophies and principles that we talked about that can relate to not just SEO within your business but many other departments within your business.

And if somebody that has an online business or is going to buy an online business, make sure you share this podcast episode with them. We love it when you subscribe and you like the show and all that sort of stuff but sharing this is the best form of currency to be able to help people. And we'll speak to you next.

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Jaryd Krause is a serial entrepreneur who helps people buy online businesses so they can spend more time doing what they love with who they love. He’s helped people buy and scale sites all the way up to 8 figures – from eCommerce to content websites. He spends his time surfing and traveling, and his biggest goals are around making a real tangible impact on people’s lives. 

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