Kevin Indig [Shopify’s Director of SEO] On How To Adapt and Win With SEO Changes

Today’s guest on the Niche Pursuits podcast is Kevin Indig.

He’s the Director of SEO at Shopify and has a wealth of knowledge in SEO, eCommerce, and affiliate marketing.

He joins us today to talk with Jared (our host) about the current state of affiliate marketing and some recent changes since the latest Google product release updates. 

Kevin deep dives into what he feels are the essentials to focus on to survive and thrive within Google’s ever-evolving relationship with affiliate marketing sites. He talks about the details surrounding the product release update and how he feels people should adapt based on the data he has seen.

He discusses linking to multiple sellers, Google’s aggressive approach to eCommerce, and much more. Some of the other things discussed during the chat include: 

  • What Google is looking for with regards to the Product Review Update
  • How affiliates can be successful today
  • FAQ snippets 
  • How-to snippets
  • Keywords
  • How to compete with the major brands dominating the SERPs
  • People also ask boxes and the relation to featured snippets and affiliate marketing.
  • CTR tips
  • Writing deep to compete well in the search engines
  • The importance of UX for websites
  • How affiliate marketers can work better with eCommerce
  • SEO tactics and testing
  • How to get more clicks to your Buying Guide from the SERPs

Kevin has a top-level understanding of SEO and affiliate marketing, and his wisdom will have you sitting up and paying attention from the start.

As Google’s relationship with affiliate marketing continues to evolve, the number of tips and tricks Kevin provides today is welcoming, educational, and relevant for all site owners.

In fact, you might need an extra piece of paper to take notes with this interview. So as always please enjoy!

LINKS AND RESOURCES:

This Episode is Sponsored by: Ahrefs & Surfer SEO

Watch the full interview with Kevin Indig:



Read the full transcription of our Interview with Kevin Indig:

Jared: Welcome to the niche proceeds podcast. My name is Jared Bauman. Today. We are joined by Kevin indig. Kevin, welcome on. 

 Kevin: Thanks for having me.

Jared: Yeah, we’ve been kind of chasing each other for a little while now, trying to to put this together. So it’s a real treat to have you on, and I’m really excited for what we’re talking about today.

We’re talking about affiliate marketing, but before we before we dive in, bring us up to speed on what’s going on in in Kevin’s life and, and maybe a little bit of background. 

Kevin: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for asking. So I live in Chicago used to live in the Silicon valley for six years just shortly before the pandemic moved to Chicago.

So it’s very cold where I am right now and very windy. All the stereotypes are true. But luckily I can work remotely, just, you know, stay at home and not deal with that. But all joking aside, I am director of SEO at Shopify. I lead the SEO team and a couple of other initiatives around organic growth.

I’ve been in this whole SEO space for Jesus, like making money with this for about 11 years now let’s put it this way. And I’ve worked at a companies like G2 atlastin Dailymotion Searchmetrics, a couple of agencies before that. So that’s, that’s where an today. 

Jared: You have quite a storied background? I have to say.

I mean, the names that you’ve been able to reference are pretty amazing. So I’m really excited about what, you know, what, just your insights, obviously you see you see data and SEO at a, at a scale, unlike maybe what a lot of us see, certainly on an individual level or even those of us. SEO agencies or something.

So I’m really excited to have you on board today. We are going to talk about affiliate marketing and maybe frame up today’s conversation with, with your thoughts in terms of where you see affiliate marketing nowadays, especially from your vantage point. 

Kevin: It’s a, it’s a really good question. I’ve seen a lot of change over even just the last five years.

And I would garden a little bit and say that probably every affiliate out there feels the same way. So if it marketing you know, it’s still, it’s still alive and it can still work well in a lot of niches. But what we’ve also seen is one that Google tightness has crews on. If it had marketing in December, they launched a product reviews update that made.

If his life, if it’s life a bit harder to. The pay outs are fluctuating heavily Google, sorry, Amazon cut their affiliate fees quite down a couple of years ago. So that’s, that’s been like a bit of a hit to the industry. And number three is just the aggregation of affiliates. So we see large players like red ventures thought dash Wirecutter, which was acquired by the New York times.

Basically. Going after affiliates in a, in a much, much larger scale way. I mean, NerdWallet recently went public. That’s another example. So there’s a lot of accumulation, aggregation and space, but in all these kind of three trends, make it harder for smaller affiliates to stand out and be successful, but not impossible.

[00:02:48] Jared: So let’s, let’s dive into each of those, because I think each of those, we could probably do an entire episode on, but, but still let let’s, let’s talk about each of them. I think let’s, let’s start with a Google product review update. And I guess maybe there’s been several now. There was the initial one in.

April of 2021, there was a supposed followup in December of 2021. And there’s, I think there’s a lot of confusion around where Google is going with this. And you know, I could reference the fact that Google’s now seems to have their own affiliate products in the SERPs. Now we could talk about. Some of the confusing language they’re using around how to, how to, how to reference affiliate products now and, and how to, how to write about them.

Let’s dive into that topic. And I mean, what do SEO’s do with, with this, with these product review updates, especially going forward? 

[00:03:38] Kevin: Yeah. First one, I got to paint the context a little bit because I think it’s really important with all the things that we talk about to share kind of the high level.

Movement that’s happening. Right? We as sales, we love our tactics and what the hacks and the like the little nitty gritty things. And I get that cause it’s attractive. But when you take a step back and see where Google is going, you actually get a lot of sense of why things are happening. So Jerry, if you look at Google one thing that they’re not doing very well or haven’t traditionally been doing very well as e-commerce and what we’ve been seeing since.

Earlier last year is it who is pushing very hard into the whole e-commerce and product space? So that means that they give products a more, a stronger representation and the Google search results, right? Like there’s, they’re, they’re more product listing ads. Mogul was shopping ads. There are different SERP features, different elements of.

Displays and uses in the search results to make it easier for people to find products. So there’s this, this generally high level trend of just pushing more into that space and they don’t want to step back. And the reason for that is that Amazon is just making a ton of headwinds, right? If you look at what Amazon has been doing, they are now serving more than 50% of searches in the e-commerce space are not starting on Amazon.

And that’s a huge problem for Google. On top of that Amazon, one of the largest Google ad spenders, one of the largest sites of Brinks, organically Google search. So everyone is really eating into Google’s piece of the pie. And they’re now slowly starting to push back on that. And maybe in a, in a, in a more aggressive way.

So that’s, that’s kind of the high level overview. And then the product reviews update that launched in December was really about Google pushing affiliates to Include more sellers linked to more sellers instead of just one. And then a couple of other things that they sell as recommendations, but we all kind of know that these are actually more, they’re going to reinforce these recommendations rhythmically, right?

So this is less of a recommendation. It’s more of a minimum requirement to play in that space. So some of the things that they shared is too, they want for this to share quantitative measurements about, about how a product. Measures up in various categories of performance. So they’re looking for, you know, like more data they’re looking for less opinions and more evaluations and analysis.

They also want to, they also want to foods to describe how our product has evolved from previous models. So they’re looking for a lot more depth about product information. And they’re looking about, they’re looking for key choices on how our product has been designed and the effect on users. So it’s, it’s, you know, a lot less shallow information, a lot more in-depth.

And so they they’re looking for, for basically basically experts in a certain model. I think, you know, if. To make that a bit more tangible. And a good example is probably MKBHD who, who put, or, you know, the, the many other examples, but just to pick one out, like he’s really deep in the product review space very focused on apple products, but an expert in this another example, who’s not an affiliate, but again, You know, example to make the point, it’s Ben Thompson who writes about product strategy, but he’s like he can tell you about the whole evolution of IBM computer chips, for example.

And it’s really that level of depth that Google is going for here. I’m going to pause because I brought up a lot of different things, but that should just go to tell how competitive. Many of these shits are today. 

[00:06:56] Jared: If you notice me looking down, it’s just me feverishly taking notes. So I think I, well, first off, I really appreciate the context, because again, you hit it off at the head of the, the, the, the, the interview here.

It’s like we get so kind of boxed in as SEO is focused on maybe, you know, certain tactics and certain data points that, that inspire us, but the big picture of Google, of Amazon, of the battle that’s happening, the SERPs, and then the subsequent product review updates. I mean, I’ll just hit you with the question that I think is in the back of every affiliate’s mind, which is, are they really going to algorithmically enforce affiliates linking to more than just Amazon?

And is that possible considering so many products aren’t available outside of Amazon in a, in a scalable fashion? 

[00:07:42] Kevin: Yeah, that is, that is, I think that is a part really. If I had to make bold assumptions, I think that’s where I would say that’s where Google tries to push. If it’s too, it’s not only linked to Amazon, right.

Because there’s still that kind of a natural tendency are, is Google going to be able to enforce it algorithmically? I don’t have a perfect, I don’t have a hundred percent conviction on that, but I think it’s very likely I have noticed that Google just gets so much better. Understanding the depth of content, understanding small little facts and pieces of information that, that may, that there are needed, that are required for users to be happy.

And so I don’t know about all the exact workings of how they get to that point, but I wouldn’t be shocked and have. Some larger affiliates. I’ve worked with, you know, some larger review sites. I’ve worked at G2 before. And so I can tell you that a lot of affiliates and bigger sites already seeing the implications of.

Core updates or these, these product review updates. So I don’t think it’s too far out there, but as always the, you know, the, the question is really what’s like, how are they going to tactically be able to distinguish between certain ways to formalize the that’s that’s where it’s hard to say on large-scale yes.

Seeing that I’ve seen that impact already today at small-scale. Are there going to be ways to fake it or work around it? Probably, but that’s where you know, that that’s where there’s a lot of. Right. Always, 

[00:09:03] Jared: always nuance in that, in those areas. How would, I mean, I’m hitting you with tough questions. I apologize to nail your router.

They were rolling like 10 minutes in here. And I mean, how it, how would you recommend an affiliate? And again, most people listening are probably not large scale affiliates, you know very often, very often on their own. Maybe part-time maybe running one site, maybe running a couple of sites, maybe with a team, but how do you feel.

At that scale, how do you recommend they handle this? Do a, you know, where do they start when it comes to trying to follow along in this guideline of having more than one affiliate program recommended? 

[00:09:39] Kevin: Yeah, that’s a good question. And so, you know I think there’s a big shift in affiliate generally that it’s important to keep in mind.

And that is that this idea of like a white head, like, like You know, like invisible affiliate or generic affiliate that’s that model is staying out in what you see instead that first are really successful are the ones that have a brands where maybe the person behind the affiliate site is very visible and it’s kind of front and center, you know, at Shopify, we obviously have our own affiliate program.

In part competing with some affiliate when it comes to the online store space, the eCommerce space. So we’ve actually been doing a lot of analysis there. We see that the foods that are most successful are the ones where you see there’s a person behind them. They’re very specialized and they have a brand as opposed to this, you know, like, like, like back when I started at STLs, you’d see a lot of like generic keyword domains and you have no idea.

Who that person is. And just use a lot of like you know, like, like blonde, SEO tactics to go very aggressive and they make some money. And I think that model is, is, is dying out. To be honest, I’m not saying it’s a possible, there’s still dishes, which you can run that, but I think it’s a, it’s a data program.

And so when you asked him, when he would ask me, how do affiliates are, how can they still be successful in that changing landscape? It’s it’s really those things it’s specialized. Develop a strong brand that is recognizable and develop that kind of expertise. I’m not, I’m not even alluding to the.

Whole conversation around eat, which is a whole different situation, but it’s simply the fact that some affiliates don’t YouTube channels are present on social. They have a very good SEO content. You know, this is all optimized. It’s still driven by SEO, but it goes a step further. And that the kind of brand that Brent factors seems to become so much more important.

[00:11:22] Jared: We had a guest on the podcast awhile back, who is advocating that affiliates actually give multiple options. To buyers and actually, you know, give them those choices inside of the of like a, a, of a website of a page, a buying guide or whatever you want to call it. You, you, on the, on the e-commerce side of things from Shopify would probably have some interesting thoughts about that.

Do you have. Insights data or just opinions on, you know, saying, Hey, here’s a product. Here’s the product that I recommend. And here are maybe three spots to go buy it from instead of just the one Amazon destination that a lot of people default to 

[00:12:00] Kevin: for sure. So. 1, 1, 1 way to answer this question is brilliant.

A tactical execution. Like how do you make sure you always referenced several spots to buy products from , you know, like, like apps, integrations, like they’re all moving toward that, facilitating that, making that easier. So I think that’s something that, you know, with a little bit more time It will become second nature and will not be the biggest problem.

The bigger question is how do you how do you integrate that with your continent? So, one thing that I’ve seen is that you know, the, the UX plays a large role successfully affiliates that don’t just try to. To, to fudge in several places to, to buy a product, to have like a very nice module that displays the product and then several sellers below that.

And that seems to resonate well with buyers, which seems to have some impact on their organic performance as well. And I’ve gone out a little bit on a limb here because there’s a constant discussion and battle about how. Much how, what is the impact of user signals? And SEO is I’m not going to go too far out there, but what does he, you know, is that the presentation matters, the packaging matters.

And then, you know, in terms of like what integrations people use, what apps and plugins, that’s a, that’s a whole different conversation. And everybody has to answer. It has to, has to answer for them. 

[00:13:14] Jared: Taking a step back from the, the details where we’ve been talking about where it comes to recommending multiple products and that sort of thing.

Take a step back again, though, to the big picture of these product review updates. You talked about how affiliate sites and affiliate site owners need to make themselves more prominently brand focused, better UX you know, an expert across multiple channels. What other, you know, tips or recommendations you have for affiliate sites?

In the context of these product review updates that we’ve already seen in that are probably going to continue to roll out. 

[00:13:43] Kevin: Yeah, totally. One thing that I’ve, that I’ve noticed is, so let’s, let’s talk a little bit about like SEO tactics, because I know everybody always says that’s always important for us.

Let’s talk about like some tangible things that people can do after I’m always talking so high level, right. I want to like leave people hanging. So one thing that I’ve noticed is that which many affiliates don’t invest enough of their time into. Optimizing description and title in testing that there’s actually a lot of really cool stuff you can do.

Like this is so under underestimated and undervalued because where it often ends is to say, okay, this is the optimal length for descriptions and titles. I’m just gonna make sure I’m staying within that range. Maybe make it a little click attractive. I have the keyword in there and that’s it, but there’s so much more cool stuff that you can do.

And so when it comes to, you know for example the, the the, the need for Google to link to multiple sellers, right? Like what, if you, as an affiliate actually identified 10 different sellers and what have you reflected in your meta-description, right? Like 10 different ways to buy or 10 different spots, or always identify the lowest price.

There’s so much you can, you can do there. Same with some of the qualitative measurements that Google reference that they want to, for it to display or how the product has evolved. These are all. They’re not, they’re just doing that for fun. Right? Did they do that? Because they, they, they make these required requirements because they know that this is something that virus.

Hear more about, or want to read more about, and so you, as an se, or is it a food you want to ask yourself? How can I transfer post that to a meta title or description and make that more Clickworthy because what we’ve seen is that with more clicks usually usually come better rankings against that.

The only thing here I want to point that out, but there’s a lot more to it again, during this. Optimizing meta title and description, trying to trying to kind of communicate the value that you can provide in your content before users even click through. But it could be something like what I’ve seen.

For example, it’s like X like product reviews 600 hours spent evaluating in a minute or in a description, right? Like these kinds of things where you communicate that you’ve been going deep, you’ve done research, right? You’ve include a lot of data. That’s something that most affiliates miss. And that’s a, that’s a huge lever on top of that come all the SERP features, if you can display in your Google search results.

So FAQ schema. That’s been a big one that was very effective at the beginning. Then Google limited to two results, max per search results page, but there is a lot of information you can convey in an FAQ snippet. First of all, these still attract a lot of clicks. Second, you want to be creative. And what other information you can park in these FAQ snippets review stars.

That’s a basic one that has been there for a long time, but then also when it comes to. To, to buyer guides, how to snippets super prominent on mobile very under leveraged in my mind, but draw a ton of clicks, a ton of attention if you more surface and real estate to convey value and help users out.

So that’s where I think a lot of creativity is missed. And we’re too many foods over focus on the continent, self, and less on how it appears in the search results were users have. A decision have very short attention spans. Google already shows more information in the first place. 

[00:16:52] Jared: It’s like drinking through a fire hose right there.

I don’t even bother taking notes. I’ll just go back and listen to that when we were going to do it like, okay. Two two questions, two important as it came out of what you said. Number one is you wrote, I had this in my notes to ask you about, I was going to ask you later, I’m going to ask you now, because you sort of referenced that you wrote an article a while back about people also ask versus featured snippets and some interesting data that you were, you were seeing and, and really discussing on there.

You just talked about how two snippets. Schema, we’ve talked about FAQ schema. Can you talk about people also ask and, and featured snippets as it relates to affiliate marketers and give your insights there. 

[00:17:27] Kevin: Holy philosophically, they’re kind of at different ends of the spectrum. A featured snippet is all about the one true answer collect.

It gets by far the most clicks. It really creates this winner, takes it all to space. People also ask on the other hand, very different to that. They typically. Are chewed for engagement. So we find a lot of very provocative questions to them. They are now appearing much, much higher on the search results pages and they offer kind of a secondary avenue for more sites to rank in the search.

So what I’ve noticed, I’ve done this analysis. I like venture too for like a large data set from rank ranger who tracks these SERP features particularly. And there are a couple of very, very interesting takeaways from this analysis. So just like to just short cut to the results. So I looked at data over the last three years from 2018 to 2021.

And I’ve noticed that first of all, people also have. So pictures are growing much, much faster than featured snippets. And so what that means is that more search results display people also asked features then featured snippets. That’s very interesting. Number two, is that just in general, the ratio of search results that have a PAA, which is people also have.

As much, much higher than featured snippets. In fact, over five times more. Wow. He words displayed PAs then featured snippets. And so what that means for foot marketers and really any SEO out there is that we need to give those pays more attention and need to figure out how to rank them because they get a lot of engagement from users.

A lot of users actually are actually clicking on them. The site nodes is actually. Like hard for SEOs to understand how much engagement goes to these PA’s because Google doesn’t give us that information. So that’s, that’s like a common pain, a common, common problem. But they can drive a ton of traffic if you optimize for them.

And the way to best optimize for them is obviously to look at like, you know, where do they show up? What kind of questions do they entail? And then answer these questions in your content. And there are a couple of different tools you can leverage out there. Maybe to, to name drop one that I’ve found really helpful is called search response.

You can find that on search response that I O not in any way affiliated with them, no pun intended or, you know, I’m just, I just discovered them and they were really great and they’re free as well. So that’s one to leverage to identify. The relevant PA’s for your set of keywords. So these things got a ton of engagement.

They show up higher in the search results. They’re growing faster than featured snippets. It’s really, really becomes a core part of any search results page. And you want to have a strategy in place for how to appear in these things. Cause again, 

[00:20:08] Jared: So FAQ schema, how to schema work on PAs and focus on them.

Is there some really great tips? I’m really, really glad we talked about that. Going back and is my last question on the product review update topic that we have, cause we have so much else to get to, but you know, going back to the big picture, when you started the conversation around it, you talked about Google.

I’m not gonna try to paraphrase your words, but basically, Hey, Google and Amazon are going to. In terms of Amazon’s taking so much of the direct search that goes along with an e-commerce type of query as affiliate marketers, we’re getting more and more used to seeing Amazon the product itself actually ranking for say affiliate queries, best review versus we’re also seeing Amazon now produced sort of thinly worded buying guides that are also ranking.

Anything we can do about that. Anything that you would, you would say is alarming there, or any ways around that, Gwen? 

[00:21:08] Kevin: It is a tough landscape to compete. I’m not going to lie. Amazon has invested a lot more in content. They’re specifically sourcing content from their affiliates, which then syndicate and sometimes, you know use to, to, to enrich their.

Their product landing pages, our category pages. So that’s, that’s a kind of tough environment to live in at the same time. Google shows more reviews about products in the search results directly in sources for reviews. So that’s, that’s like a direct kind of a battle that they’re fighting over reviews.

And so is it the best way that you can do there is really to go deep where Amazon kind of sources high level information. More shallow information as if it is the best thing you can do is to really develop deep expertise and and, and kind of almost provide the opposite of what Amazon is doing, right.

Amazon, very show information that kind of tried to abstract it to the most important things you need to know using affiliate. You want to see, okay, how can. How can I convey the depth of my information that I’m an expert in? How can I provide information that Amazon cannot has a hard time aggregating and it’s really expertise.

And let me, let me try to make that a bit more concrete. So what have you made that is so Amazon, they, they, they syndicate some affiliate content, but they also have a ton of reviews and reduces really how they create a lot of their content. But those reviews are. From from buyers of the product. We’re not always experts most of the time.

They’re not experts. What you actually see when you look at Amazon reviews is that they try to surface the reviews that are most in-depth sort of trying to somehow like surface it expertise on their own site, but it’s really hard for them. And so that’s your advantage as an affiliate? Right. Deep guides.

You want to go really deep in terms of information, make it like simplify. And decomplexify the information for your readers, but display how much you actually know about the product, which is also where Google drives to, to drive it for the it. So you kind of always want to do the opposite of what the big incumbents do, and because they have to aggregate all the information, source it from others, you have the advantage of being able to.

To go deep and display the expertise yourself. I hope that’s, that’s tangible enough for for the audience. I don’t want to just leave you hanging with philosophical advice, but it’s like really like write long in-depth guides. Explain how you evaluate the product. What you know about it goes super deep and super long form.

It really does 

[00:23:27] Jared: help. Actually. It helps. I hadn’t thought about that before. You know what it reminds me. As a, as an SEO, we’re trained that when we see a forum post ranking in the top three or five spots for a query, we know we can take that, that risk, that, that SERP down, right. With writing a piece of content, that’s on point and on topic.

And I’ve always thought, Hey, that’s probably because the forum is a response to the question from someone who Google does not know whether they’re an expert or not. And if you, as an, hopefully an expert in your space by Google’s eyes respond to that, they’re going to prioritize your response. It kind of reminds me a bit of.

[00:24:00] Kevin: Absolutely. Absolutely. Let me give you an example. So when you look for a query like best podcast, Mike, I’m just making something up because of a podcast microphone of me. You, it doesn’t, you don’t see Amazon ranking in the top 10, at least on my end. Quitting this from Chicago us you see the classic search features like the top ads.

You see some kind of aggregated products for Google, the top 24 podcasts microphones. You see the map pack, like all the classic suspects, but then there are actually a couple of affiliates in there. Like just creative.com is one of them. Like what, what that is super long form content. I mean, I haven’t like looked at how much, how long this piece of content actually is, but I’m like scrolling for five minutes and it hasn’t really stopped yet.

Right. So this is like one of the most in-depth guides that I’ve seen. And that’s what, I’m really what I mean when I’m saying like, this is how it foods have to compete with Amazon, right. Is to like, have that depth that Amazon cannot get and write super deep pieces of content that are. You know, they have a good user experience or they should have a table of contents.

It should be very easy for users to find their key piece of information. It should be structured. It should be distracted by ads. It should, there should be too much going on and that’s kind of, that’s really the way for how to still be successful in affiliate in 2022 in my mind. 

[00:25:15] Jared: Let’s spend the second half of the conversation talking about that.

You kind of almost teased it right there. How do you compete as an affiliate marketer? Again, we’re gonna go back to that avatar. We’ll just talk about maybe a an affiliate marketer who’s listening who has one website that they’ve put their time into maybe two. Definitely not authoritative, like some of the bigger affiliate websites, maybe wire cutters ended up.

And the top 10 results for their, their, their SERP targets. These kinds of how do affiliate marketers compete against these bigger sites in today’s world and going through. 

[00:25:46] Kevin: Yeah, it is. It’s a great question. I think I alluded to that a bit earlier, but there’s some large aggregators or something like very large players that go after the food market in a, in a more systemic way.

Right? Wire cutter is a very popular example of they’ve been acquired by New York times. They’ve been doing a great job leading up to that. Red ventures has a ton of brand to have lonely planet. Bank rate point sky Healthline, see Ned, right? These are these a huge companies. Dot dash is another one.

They kind of they’re born out of what used to be about that calm, which used to be like really like large side. And that was killed by Google’s Panda update. And then they, they kind of they, they created a lot of smaller brands from that, like the balance, which has different variations, like the bounce careers and so on.

And so But that’s really, that’s really who you’re competing with next Emma’s on. And these are companies that have huge STL teams, very seasoned, but their own tooling have large content generation engines. Right? So they do this whole thing at a huge scale and to do this very, very successfully. And they really next to some of that e-commerce players like Amazon, they really dominate the search results in a lot of ways.

So that’s a, that’s a major, you know, other headwinds. That smaller affiliates are facing. And so the advantage that these huge companies have is that they can go out for a lot of times. And at large scale, right? Like NerdWallet is not a great example. However, the disadvantage is going deep into micro.

So imagine yourself being an SEO or affiliate, or like, like a manager at one of these large companies, you’re probably responsible for thousands of keywords. And so you optimize at a different scale. Whereas a small affiliate maybe goes after like a much smaller set of keywords, even if. 50 to a hundred, which is, you know, quite a lot.

You can still go into more depth and react faster to changes in the Google landscape than one of these mega affiliates. 

[00:27:42] Jared: So let’s, let’s, let’s, let’s maybe example that out or it may be what you’re are you referring to like going back to your best podcast, Mike, would that be going for longer tail queries or would that be going for the best podcast mic, but going more.

Or both. 

[00:27:58] Kevin: Yeah, this is actually the right way to think about it. I would, I would suggest both, but the long tail is something that smaller affiliates can really optimize for where it’s much, much harder for these mega corporations that are going for head terms at scale. Right. So that’s a benefit you had.

And the another thing there is. But optimizing it for the long tail, you can, you can source a lot more information where a lot more potential queries from different sources. So for example, if you’re, if you’re super deep in the podcasting mic space, you want to be in all the forums and all the Reddits you really want to see what are the kind of topic to jurists that the big topics and questions that are people, if people aren’t asking about and you might even discover some queries that.

That have maybe zero search volume because there’s so long Tayley, but you know that people are talking about this and are interested in that. And that’s another advantage, right? Where these bigger corporations, when they do SEO, they re they look at probably, I mean, I’m pretty sure they look at search volume, which is fine, but search foam is a very, very flawed metric.

It can be very misleading and so forth. The long tail, that’s kind of, that’s a competitive advantage for the long tail. You can identify potential keywords in different ways through the Reddits, chorus, forums, discord slacks of the world and then create content for that. That’s something that a large, large, Well, not too well, not yet, 

[00:29:12] Jared: because if it doesn’t show up in a tool with, with volume, they’re probably not going to have the bandwidth to deep dive those topics.

It’s a great point would in terms of practice in terms of the practical execution of that how important do you think it is for an affiliate marketer to kind of build out a complete silo versus sharpshooter topics that are longer tail and not dominated by. By bigger players. And again, I think a question I hear a lot when we talk to people is, Hey, I know I’m never going to rank for best podcast mic.

So do I bother writing it or do I write best podcast mic? Not because I think I’m gonna rank for, but because in order for Google to trust me, to rank for best podcast mic for traveling, I need to write that. And then if, depending on your opinion, they’re like, what order, how do we tackle those? How do we go about building that silent?

[00:30:00] Kevin: That’s a fantastic question. I love that. Because in my mind, my concept or my framework for that is that every short head stands on the long tail. So what I mean by that is you would almost, you almost want to see the long tail as sort of like the base of a pyramid with the short head at the very top.

In my mind, the best way to demonstrate your expertise, not just to Google, but also to who your audience is to start with the, with the long tail and then become more short head or like then cover more than mid tail and then short hat over time. And that in my mind is the best way. So you eventually want to write it for the short head keyword, but I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t start out with that.

I don’t think. I don’t think the chances are high to compete straight off the bat. I would much rather like develop a strong base with lots of long tele articles and then slowly lead up to the short head would probably also make it easier to develop a better audience or a an audience that recognizes the brand more because the short head is where you have much, much less competition, so much higher success rate.

And then you slowly build up to that shortage. 

[00:31:04] Jared: Yeah, you get that, you know, you get that, that you’re much more likely to rank quicker for those longer tail topics. Which gives you that nice energy boost, you know, getting traffic as nice as days. If you’re, if you’re just starting off a website or just starting off in a, maybe a, a new topical silo of sorts.

So, well, let’s talk a little bit about affiliate marketing and how it can intersect with e-commerce to kind of close off our conversation. Obviously you’ve been the lead SEO at Shopify. You work with e-commerce brands and, and site owners on a daily basis. How can affiliate marketers do a better job of integrating with e-commerce brands again?

So many affiliate marketers, just default to whatever’s on Amazon. How can affiliate marketers work better with ease with these e-commerce brands that you’re seeing every day? Yeah, 

[00:31:49] Kevin: the best deals are actually straight with the, with the brands themselves. So if you can. Get to an exclusive partnership or even just like, you know, if a, if a brand doesn’t have an official affiliate program, but he can figure out a partnership with them.

Those are the best deals. They’re more high touch to take more time. They need more outreach and time investment, but those are. Way way better for many different reasons. You know, at the end of the day, Amazon is also just a middleman between some of these brands. If you really think about it that just aggregate a lot of inventory, which then pulls in demand, but they also have their third party seller program, which means they just like take a cut from from the whole process.

So. If you, when you develop this expertise, which is really the, the whole, everything we talk about is just going deep into the niche and is telling yourself as an expert you should, sooner or later, either hear from Southern brands in that space, or you should reach out to them. So as soon as you get like a substantial amount of traffic, whatever that means in your space, you get some key rankings.

You want to reach out to some of the other brands that are competing there and see, Hey, Like, should we talk about some sort of like you know, like like a stronger partnership that we can develop outside of even some of the bigger affiliate platforms right. Which are also taken a cut from the whole deal.

I think that’s great. Not only because you can straight up just make more money for. But also because you might get more exclusive material we’re announcements, we’re information, and that’s how to like really build a bit of a competitive advantage in that space. If you have a good relationship with the key brands in your niche you know, you can, you can really like do a big job, a big part of the job for them.

Right. And the. Drive all the demands straight to them. Right? So you almost become a mini Amazon in that, in that niche. 

[00:33:34] Jared: What are the best ways for an affiliate marketer to make themselves attractive to an e-commerce brand? Is there a certain way to reach out or a certain type of thing to offer? Is there a certain things that e-commerce brands maybe look for more or attracted to more that an affiliate marketer could utilize?

And I’m almost also thinking by the way, it may be for someone who isn’t quite there. But can start to focus on this over the next couple months or the next year to them position themselves really well for that sort of an option. 

[00:34:01] Kevin: Yeah. And aggressive way to go about this is to like, almost like, look what’s brands, sort of what keywords that brand is ranking for.

And then go after these same keywords, that’s a very aggressive way, less aggressive ways to just simply like you wanted to demonstrate. How much business, you can bring two brands. That’s what they, what they really care about. And that’s where you find these win-win deals that work for both sides. Right?

So, you know, a lot of eCommerce brands, they have a lot of challenges at their hands. They need to care about logistics and procurement and the suppliers, and some refund, some customer service, right? Like marketing is just one of 50,000 things that they’re dealing with. So if you can take that load off their plate, It show them how much traffic you can send them or how, how many how much business that’s a good deal.

And then of course it really depends on like what your requirements are, how much you want from that, what the margins are. But if you have, if you come to a brand and you show them the keywords you rank for the traffic, you can potentially send them. That in itself is often enough to get a good conversation started because they can on there and then figure out how.

Lifetime value that gives them, or how much, you know, what the margins are under that deal. If that’s attractive to them or not what doesn’t work well, most of the times is just saying, Hey, by the way, I rank for this keyword, should they, you know, should we have a partnership that is often a bit, even too abstracted from any e-commerce brands, especially the smaller ones.

They really care about the traffic and the business. So if you can show any click through rates any affiliate link clicks. Any, any of that stuff, that’s most attractive to them. And if you, if you tie a nice package of information, send over to them, they very often get on the phone with someone where you might exchange.

[00:35:37] Jared: That’s great. Those are great tips. Do you do you ever see a use case for an affiliate website to actually maybe host their own products on it and maybe add a Shopify component to their affiliate site so that they can sell products directly? 

[00:35:53] Kevin: Yes, absolutely. You know, I think you can, you can go downstream to market where you can be, might start as an affiliate and then you just build your own trouble on top of that.

Depending I think e-commerce is as much simpler in SAS or something like that. It’s, it’s, it’s almost impossible. But. Yeah, sure. It’s selling your own products. Absolutely valid. Actually, I actually think it’s a nice evolution of an affiliate project where eventually you just simply become the brand yourself.

The challenge is when you have established partnerships with other brands and you start competing directly with them, that’s something you want. Communicate early balance manage. There is a, there’s a risk involved, no doubt. But I think in terms of margins and revenue over time, it, it makes a lot of sense.

If you want to take an affiliate project to the next level. I also think, you know, on top of that, that if it, if it gets too one dimensional in we’re in how they can sell, right? So. The website is only one way, but what about email newsletters? What about YouTube channels? What about maybe podcasts? So, you know, if I were an established affiliate in a space, I would ask myself, what are other platform platforms?

So little surfaces that I can create or serve. To address a larger audience or audiences in a different way. 

[00:37:06] Jared: That’s a great point. We just had a guest on I interviewed yesterday actually much critical live before or after yours, but that was really what the whole episode was about, was about talking about how, Hey, you’ve gotten this traffic and it’s affiliate marketers.

We’re still prone to just put our heads down and take three or 4% from Amazon and move on. There’s so many other monetization avenues that are at our disposal with this is harder and traffic, 

[00:37:25] Kevin: right. And that’s, that’s just another way to build a competitive advantage. To, to build a model that that’s very lucrative for yourself, but again, it takes that expertise and is tableting establishing yourself.

It’s almost impossible or very, very difficult. It’s like a, like a white label or generic affiliates. Yeah. 

[00:37:44] Jared: Yeah. You’re right. Yeah. Yeah. You gotta have a brand. Yeah. Going back to what you said earlier, it’s 

[00:37:49] Kevin: all good. It is all 

[00:37:50] Jared: connected. Hey, I’ve got you for in the last couple of minutes here. Maybe I’ll just take us back to a couple of top level questions as it relates to affiliate marketing and a couple of good ones to close this out on how as things are are evolving, how important is it that affiliate marketers maybe focus more on user intent than ever before?

Especially with how they write their content and they pick what content. 

[00:38:15] Kevin: As absolutely crucial in my mind, I would go as far as saying that it’s a, it’s a gateway to rank for important keywords today. So reality is that you can rank for thousands of keywords today. If you get it right. And that’s because Google really measures every page.

And our user intention. Whereas, you know, like maybe like five, six years ago, they used to, to really look at the exact keywords that people were looking for. So using intent, absolutely crucial. It is often simplify it. Two two large degree. So what I mean by that is most CEO’s or affiliates speak about using 10 as you know, information and transaction navigation maybe like four categories, but that’s too high level.

The way I would think about user intent is really in a very nuanced way. So when people look for best podcast, Mike, what are they actually trying to achieve there? Actually, If you think about it, if you, if you think, you know or put yourself in the shoes of a searcher who would look for that, they probably don’t have an exact understanding of what they should be looking for.

Otherwise they will look for best USB podcast, Mike, or best, you know, like these specifications. So. That’s really how you want to think about user intent. It’s where are searches coming from? What are they really trying to get to? I would, I would argue that, you know people looking for the query, they either want something that they can quickly set up that just quickly works.

They’re probably not going to buy your $500, 600, $700 advanced podcast mic. And how can you reflect that in your content and in your title? So if you actually look for some of those. The results for the query boss, the best podcast, Mike they really try to. Convey that value. So one of the top twos on the title says bet, podcast microphones for great audio in parenthesis, all budgets.

And it really, you know, alludes that that’s how we address user intent. It’s not just making sure you’ve covered that keyword. It’s think about what are people looking for and trying to achieve in the context of the keyboard. That’s great. Yes. So it’s 

[00:40:11] Jared: not just about, Hey, our store, our users searching for this query in an individual article or as a part of a bigger article.

It’s actually about how you write 

[00:40:20] Kevin: the. Exactly. Exactly 

[00:40:23] Jared: final question from me. And I’m guessing you have some, at least strong opinions, but probably even a data to support it from your Shopify from your Shopify experiences. I don’t think affiliate market. Pay very much attention to CTR click-through rate.

Not only on their we’ll call it titles or, or, you know, getting people from the SERPs to their pages, but then once on their pages to the products that they’re offering or at least a lot of affiliate marketers, miss out on CTR tips and ways to get conversion and click through better. What are your, what are your, what are your tips or any tips for affiliate marketers on that?

[00:41:00] Kevin: Yeah, it’s a good question. So number one is. Some of the texts we spoke about before to just increase like the white, the top of the funnel by getting more people to click through to your site. And by the way, even if you ranked number one, you still want to squeeze out more of that, of their clicker.

Number two, when it comes to your site, I see a lot of affiliates. That are not doing this as good as they could is they try to convert users right on the spot reality is that in some cases, people just, they need more information before they’re happy before they’re willing to pull the trigger. And so you want to get a better understanding of are people actually converting on that specific.

Page or are they clicking through another page or they may be performing a search on that page. So you want to just learn more about, do you, are people getting all the information that they need on that page? Or do I funnel them to another page and then try to have them click through their affiliate link on that other page?

Right. So what does the user journey look like on my website? And that can then really increase clicks rate. So I think like if you can, if you can get about a percent. Of your visitors to convert by clicking on your affiliate link? I think that’s, that’s already pretty good. That’s already pretty decent.

But there there’s fluctuations from niche to niche, right? There is in some more higher price. If the niches you have much, much less traffic, but more willing people who are clicking through their field links because it’s so specialized and so high price. So, you know, take that with a grain.

[00:42:25] Jared: Okay. That’s great. Yeah. Yeah. That’s a good point. And that’s, that’s where again, understanding the user in their intentions really well comes back to, to, to having a higher click through rate, higher conversion rates. So Kevin, that was, I feel like I just ran a marathon in about 45, 50 minutes here.

So I don’t even know how are you feeling? Thank you so much. That was so much good information. I think this is one of those ones where I know I’m going to go back and. Re-listen to it at least once or twice. I I’m going to guess a lot of who are going to come out with pages and pages of notes, where can people follow along with what you’re doing, obviously lead at Shopify.

But but you know, where can people keep up with what your with what you have. 

[00:42:59] Kevin: Yeah, thanks, Jared. I really, really enjoyed the questions. The best way to follow me is on my website. Dub dub, dub, Kevin dash, indig.com. I N D I G same on Twitter. I, you know, I use my, my my real name on Twitter.

I write a weekly free newsletter, which is called the growth memo where I kind of share my. Observation, sometimes strategy, sometimes tactics about growth, specifically organic growth was with a lot of SEO sprinkled in there. And then I have a podcast, it comes out like once a month. It’s very conversational.

It’s called tech bounds where I, when I talk to some of the best in growth and how they don’t just grow, the companies that they work for and with, but also how they grow them. 

[00:43:39] Jared: Wow. A lot of places. That’s awesome. I did not know about your podcast. I mentioned signup 

[00:43:43] Kevin: growing still growing. Good. 

[00:43:45] Jared: Good.

I love it. Thanks so much for coming on Kevin and I really appreciate it. Thanks for all the, all the knowledge and all the value share. 

[00:43:51] Kevin: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Joe. This was a pleasure. 

[00:43:54] Jared: Again, a big thanks to for sponsoring today’s podcast. Atreus is an all-in-one SEO tool set. They help you get more traffic from Google by helping you understand what you need to fix on your web.

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Updated: April 27, 2022 — 11:28 pm

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