E171 – Tips for Excelling as an In-House SEO w/ Kevin Indig

A special thanks to Kevin Indig, VP of Content for hopping on the show on such short notice but we thought the topic and tweet were both very interesting.

To see the full thread visit his Tweet.

Kevin got some great responses so check them out as there is a great list of reasons, ideas and discussion.

If you like podcasts and want another one to check out, Tech Bound is Kevin’s own podcast.

Do You Make a Strong Business Case?

Kevin’s first response to his own question is that SEOs traditionally have been bad at making business cases for the budget and resources. We often talk not in dollars and sales but other metrics (if any) instead.

What is the impact of your project? While we can’t guarantee results, an attempt should be made to “speak dollar” and present a real business case backed by the impact to the bottom line.

Test, document and start small. Look for small wins to convince executives and higher ups to give you more budget and resources. You don’t have to have exact and super complex formulas to predict impact but do the work and use what data you have to try and give a best estimate for what that impact will do to sales and leads.

I’d add are included in that thread but I think the most important consideration is whether or not the SEO team has (and has earned) a seat at the table; and has fostered a positive relationship with the CTO/dev team leads.

Michelle Robbins

In-House SEO is a Skill

Build on small wins to get more resources and budget. Start by asking for 30 minutes of development resources and then show the uplift. Move to more hours and bigger projects. The goal is to stack win after win and show over and over that SEO projects can move the needle and drive a great ROI.

When you do these tests make sure your data is as connected to the money (i.e. leads, sales, revenue!) as you can.

I would say … because of lack of influence. The in house SEOs who have a harder time getting buy in. Is because they’re not 1) high enough in the organization so easier to overlook 2) The SEO work is not integrated with the product/marketing areas which is critical

Aleyda Solis

Adjust Your Story’s Angle for the Audience

If you are pitching your boss, the CEO, the owner of the company, CMO, CTO, CFO, VP of Development, CRO, or whatever person/role – speak to that audience.

Adjust your slides, pitch, metrics and story all for whom you are speaking too. Each department and role will have different metrics and goals that they care about and to win them over it will take different points from each other.

How to Master the Art of Inhouse SEO

To dig deeper check out Kevin’s own recent article on this topic check out his blog and learn about the following problems and solutions.

  1. Problem 1: Not enough resources
  2. Problem 2: Technical SEO lives in Marketing instead of Product
  3. Problem 3: SEOs can’t show the value of SEO

Full Transcript

Matt Siltala: [00:00:00] Welcome to another exciting episode of the business of digital podcast, featuring your host, Matt silt and Dave roar. Hey guys, excited to have everybody on another one of these business of digital podcast episodes. And today we have a special guest with us, Dave. Uh, we have Kevin indig with G2 and so welcome, Kevin.

I appreciate you joining us today.

Kevin Indig: [00:00:25] It’s a pleasure to be on. Thanks for having me.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:27] And I know that we’ve got Dave over there. How’s it going, bud?

Dave Rohrer: [00:00:29] I am here. Ready to ramble.

Matt Siltala: [00:00:31] All right. So let’s get ready to ramble. Okay. We don’t want to get sued for that. So scratch that just all right. So, um, what we’ll do, uh, Kevin, because I just gave you that quick intro that you’re with G2, but you are the vice president of content and SEO.

And so if there’s anything else that you think that, uh, our listeners would like to hear about you, like, feel free to just give a little intro about yourself. And then I know that Dave will jump in and cause a, you know, the whole purpose of us chatting with you. He, [00:01:00] he found a tweet that you did.

Interesting. And so, uh, we’ll just take it from there and

Kevin Indig: [00:01:04] sounds good to me. Yeah. I’m not going to dwell on for too long. Um, I’ve been in this. Space that is SEO for a bit. Over 10 years now started on the agency side, then moved in house, worked at companies like, um, Searchmetrics, steady motion, Atlassian, and now G2.

Um, and, uh, yeah, I started in the very technical SEO space broaden up over time. And now, um, I’m more or less at the intersection of SEO and growth. Um, and also write a, a weekly, uh, email or a newsletter called tech balance. Um, that fills up 99% of my time.

Matt Siltala: [00:01:38] Excellent. So Dave, if you’re ready, just jump in. Uh, let’s get to the tweet and, and we’ll go from there

Dave Rohrer: [00:01:46] and Kevin didn’t mention it, but he’s also done a number of videos on YouTube that will include a link to it with some good interviews.

Some of them are pretty technical. So for some of our listeners that don’t give a hoot about technical SEO stuff. Um, some of them might not [00:02:00] work, but there’s a ton of them that no matter what your space is, it will probably be interesting. So the question that you posed, mr. Kevin was a legit question as you pose, as you said, why do you think in house SEOs have such a hard time getting engineering design resources before we dig into any that I was able to.

Procure from a couple people or from your responses, what would be your initial response?

Kevin Indig: [00:02:29] Yeah, thanks for bringing that up. I, my initial response would be, is because SEOs don’t make good business cases and I’m probably going to offend a couple of people with that. Um, and that’s okay. But I think that we don’t seek enough responsibility on our own side.

And I think that. In most cases. Um, and I include myself from, uh, into that. Don’t get me wrong. I think I learned over time. I think I got really good at this, but I used to not be good at this at all. Right. And I, I know what the other side looks like. So I think most of the time we just bring asks to the table.

We don’t show [00:03:00] opportunities enough. We don’t speak dollar enough. And, uh, that’s one of the reasons for why SEO is don’t get enough resources.

Dave Rohrer: [00:03:08] Can you give an example from.

Kevin Indig: [00:03:11] Yes, of course. So something like, Hey, I need say eight hours of engineering or developer time to fix broken titles. That’s a really weak business case that makes sense to SEL, but that does tell it tells nothing too CMOs, CPO, CTO, CEOs, any C suite person, any VP person, probably not like maybe it’s something directors depending on how big the company is.

And so instead, what you want to say is, Hey, What I need is X amount of time and you can, it doesn’t have to be a hundred percent exact, right. But you have to have some sort of rationale. And what I want to do is going to do X and the result of that. Is probably going to drive X conversions or maybe even dollars.

Right? That’s the important point? Like what [00:04:00] is the impact of what you are suggestion suggesting? And I perfectly know that we’re dealing with imperfect information, SEO. We cannot guarantee results. And there’s a lot of complexity involved, but that does, that should not be an excuse for us to just lay back and say, I don’t know, you know, live with it because reality is that a lot of things are very uncertain in business, but other departments seem to make a better business case to get resources.

So we can go really deep into the complexity of making these business cases and how to quote unquote, speak dollar. But that’s in my mind. One of the biggest problems or maybe the biggest one that holds SEOs back. I changed my opinion over time. Right. I used to think that it’s all about the latest trick and going super technical.

And that’s where all the gold is, but that’s not where the gold is. The gold is in getting things done.

Matt Siltala: [00:04:52] I love that. You say that I love that you put it that way because that’s what I’ve been trying to preach forever. I, I, I get so [00:05:00] frustrated sometimes that just like following the shiny things, you know what I mean?


Kevin Indig: [00:05:04] and there’s another shiny stuff out there. Don’t get me wrong. I love SEO. I’ve been, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now and, um, it’s, it’s super satisfying to, to dig for new things that might work to test, you know, to come up with creative stuff, to, to, to compete in a highly competitive niche.

All of those things are fun and I love them, but none of these things matter if you don’t get things on the road.

Matt Siltala: [00:05:27] Very true. And I th I think also about a lot of that too, a lot of us. Back in the day we did that. You know, a lot of us had sites, personal things that we tested, where we pushed the limits and we did, you know, stuff like that.

But I don’t know that it’s appropriate to do that, um, in a different kind of a situation when with other people’s money and you know what I’m saying?

Kevin Indig: [00:05:46] Absolutely. And the way that I see it is, first of all, I completely agree with you. I, I think one of the reasons poor, um, Why I have a career is because it was very early on push to have my own [00:06:00] projects and learn from them.

And on another thing that comes to mind when you mentioned that, is that. Another thing that we, as CEOs don’t do well enough is to test things, small skill, you know, like it, yeah, it can be super scientific. Right. I, I have, for example, a data, data scientist here at G2, uh, she’s a statistician and she’s absolutely brilliant and she can help us.

If we, for example, want to run tests on title techs to come up with a statistically significant sample size and time to run the test based on traffic conversion rate impact all this cool stuff. Right. But. It doesn’t, it doesn’t always have to be that sophisticated. Right. But it can also be a very simple thing of like, you know, make a change on a page and see what happens.

It doesn’t tell you as much. Right. But that’s where you start. And then you build on that. And when you bring something like that to the table, that can also give you resources. Right? If you, if you go to an executive and say, Hey, look, um, I want to take. X, like I want to take eight hours of developer time.

Um, but I [00:07:00] would love to make the case for us with maybe half an hour. That’s very easy to say yes to, and that’s also a very easy decision, right? You could then say, Hey, if the, if the test shows this, then we’re going to go forward. If the shit, if the test shows that, then we’re going to not go for it. And that leaves an impression on executives.

I promise, you

Matt Siltala: [00:07:17] know, it’s funny and, and, uh, I’ll let, uh, I’ll stop interrupt you. I know David’s been wanting to jump into this and ask you questions, but, um, it, it was funny cause it got me thinking of a conversation I had just this morning. Um, With Mike Benner here and talking about, yeah, sure. There’s, there’s so much stuff that he could be doing, um, SEO wise and, and like, I guess you would look at it at, at like two or three or three or three type levels, but he knows right now where he needs a work in certain things as instead of, you know, the, the simple thing, like you were saying, like, you know, with images, he’s got hundreds, if not thousands of images of different things and.

You know, currently labeled, uh, you know, four or five, seven dot JPEG, knowing that those need to be switched to [00:08:00] keywords and then matching them up with the proper URLs and, you know, the, the simple stuff. And he’s like, you know, let me get through with these simple things that I know that need to be done.

And then I can work towards, you know, some of these other things that people keep talking about that must be done. And I kind of look at it like that, from what you’re saying too, it just, you know, finding that priority and, and starting, you know, making, making those simple things work at first.

Kevin Indig: [00:08:22] Absolutely.

You know, basics are very powerful. Um, and I have to sometimes painful you remind myself on that and I don’t think you can do the basics well enough. So, you know, I think there’s a lot more low hanging fruit than, than sometimes SEO is, uh, I think there is. And I think SEO is also tend to make things complicated.

I certainly did in the beginning of my career, you know, I always was like, okay, what’s the most complex problem I can solve out there. No, it started with the most simple one measure the impact, bring that to the table and who see it will build on, on each other. You know, that’s, that’s another art or that’s, um, Another skill that I learned.

And I wrote about this in an article that I recently published on my [00:09:00] blog called mastering the art of in house SEO. And I strongly believe that in house SEO is a skill. Like you can learn it, you can refine it and you have to learn it to be successful. And one of these things is to build on small successes and showing them over and over.

And that will, that will be an entry ticket, um, or a door opener for more resources.

Dave Rohrer: [00:09:23] That leads me to, you talked about, you have a data person for a really small company that you know is just starting out or someone that’s just starting out in SEO. They probably don’t even know what data they would feed that person.

For an in house person that is doing full time. SEO maybe has one or two developers has a small team of support, but they don’t even have, you know, there’s no way they even have access to Tableau and they probably don’t even have BI installed. And you know, if they have Excel, that’s probably all they use.

What data points and what data, or what data in [00:10:00] general would you say that they would start to go to beyond the very, very basics, but not to the point where you’re doing that kind of really deep down analysis.

Kevin Indig: [00:10:10] Right? So in general, I would always start with data as close to the money as possible, but as close to revenue, as you can.

And in some businesses it’s relatively straightforward. Right? I think, for example, in e-commerce, or maybe even in a, an advertising driven businesses, it’s easier to make the connection between traffic and money. It gets much, much harder in businesses where you have, um, a sales team involved. Um, at least a sales summit stands between revenue and traffic.

Right? I’ve got those contacts. I’ve got to nurture leads, all the good and fun stuff. Dad’s much, much harder. Um, so that’s, that’s where I would start, you know? And so in best case, you can, you can point at the. Impact of organic traffic from revenue. Um, but at least, you know, um, show, show some sort of impact show, traffic impact, organic traffic impact.

I think, [00:11:00] um, user behavior and metrics are also very often very fuzzy. I would try to shy away from that. It’s cool to show, Hey, our time on site improved somewhat, but there’s so many things that go into this and, um, you have to be hyper-specific. To show an improvement on user behavior, right? Like there’s so much gray zone so much you can argue about, you know, not always is the only time on site better.

Uh, so we’ll try away from that. Um, and then yeah, conversions are, you know, are what I would really go for. Um, even with a sales driven business, I would try to look at an increase of MQL. Um, and sometimes it can be as simple as, Hey, we changed the title tech, we got more traffic. As a result, we noticed more MQL on that specific page deck.

That can be really it, but that last part is often missing. Right. And then also, if you want to, if you actually want to do a good job, look at how much an MQL is worth and then see how much of that business actually closed and den it yet. Then you can attach a dollar amount to it right there. Then you can go [00:12:00] from there.

Dave Rohrer: [00:12:02] I really, really, really, really, really, really miss getting keyword data from Google on the SEO side we used to, when I worked, um, At SurePayroll we actually had it set up that I was tracking that keyword on it. Like I knew the landing page that you came in and the keyword, and I put that into Salesforce.

And every month when I would look at rankings and traffic to pages and stuff, and the lead quote unquote leads are form form fill outs, we would then look at MQL SQLs. And what business closed. And then we would go back to those keywords just like they would do on PPC side. And so every month it didn’t really matter if we ranked number five or number one, or number eight, what really mattered was the keywords that we were targeting and the keywords that were driving traffic.

Were they driving qualified people to our sales team or was the sales team going to come over and bought me in the head?

Kevin Indig: [00:12:58] Yeah, we all miss those good old [00:13:00] days. Um, and just having that level of data

Dave Rohrer: [00:13:02] was

Kevin Indig: [00:13:02] beautiful. Oh, absolutely no doubts. No doubt. I think my, my personal opinion is that SEO has gotten way more complex over time.

And some people like to fight me on that, but, um, I, I still hold onto that opinion. Um, and I have also a feeling that some of our PPC colleagues, brothers, and sisters are suffering under that right now where a Google is getting way fuzzier with their keyword reports. And sometimes doesn’t even report that data.

And so as a result, What is a reaction to that? We have to rely more on the page level data and actual traffic or clicks that arrived there. We can still say in some cases, Hey, 80% of that traffic, what these 80% of the clicks come from. Keyword X. But, um, it’s, it’s certainly has gotten much, much fuzzier and much, much more difficult to attribute it to keywords.

So, but you know, there there’s some trends to kind of play into our hands as well. Uh, one is that pages now can rank or not now, but for a couple of years already can make rank for hundreds, sometimes thousands of keywords. And on the other hand, Traditional click curve [00:14:00] in the search results, uh, where, or the first result gets by far the most clicks and, you know, your heartbeat, you get anything on position five and six.

I think that’s flattening a bit. And there is some data to show that, for example, from a, from New Zealand group. So, you know, things just change. And I think it, it, it becomes less a, a, an 80 20 thing and more maybe a, a 60, 40 situation, you know, but, uh, yeah, we’re getting philosophical here.

Dave Rohrer: [00:14:27] It’s about, I was looking, I know will Everett sear and Sierra interactive has been looking at it and I know someone else looked at it.

Um, and they created a script and I’ll find a link and I’ll drop it in there. I know we’re talking to SEO, but that’s also interesting for SEO people because I’ve always looked at the search terms from PPC people. Cause I want to know when we lost that data, I’ve always wanted to know from the PPC side, not what you’re bidding on.

Wrongly or correctly, but I want to know which keywords that people are searching for are actually [00:15:00] converting so that I can make sure that we’re optimizing for it. And that it’s something we’re targeting.

Kevin Indig: [00:15:05] I think that’s a very smart thing to do, right. I think that’s another thing that SEL should hopefully somewhat rely more on is paid data, um, to quickly test new landing pages, quickly, test content, quickly, test keywords, all that good stuff, you know, uh, if you can, and if you have the monetary funds and you constantly bid on certain keywords, you get a much, much better.

Idea of its search volume, then keyword planner can give you or any other tool. Right? I think impressions are that, uh, that the true is the true search volume. And if you have a pay compared, running for a long enough time, you get really smart about that. So, yeah, I think that’s a great way to get smarter about a lot of things in

Dave Rohrer: [00:15:44] SEO.

So I asked a couple people, some questions, the same question that you asked, um, Michelle Robbins. Had a point that I think you and I, and Matt have all seen. And I think, you know, there are a number of people on your thread talked about it. Um, but it [00:16:00] was that most important commiseration is w is not, is whether or not the SEO team has and has earned a seat at the table, whether w and also the relationship with devs.

A lot of times I see SEOs teams passed between one internal group, especially the larger, the larger the company. The more often this SEO. Team or group or, you know, whatever gets shuffled between PR and dev and, you know, they don’t know where to put them. Do you think from an SEO standpoint of fighting for budget fighting for resources, what, what have you seen or what have you done?


Kevin Indig: [00:16:37] worked. Yeah, that’s a really good point from Michelle. What I have seen a at a very much, but depends on how important SEO is to the business in general. And it was lucky to always. Work in house for companies that really rely on SEL. I think of that emotion. Atlastin G2 like various European businesses, but on the agency side, the [00:17:00] first half of my career, I was consulting a lots of enterprise companies and many of them did not have, um, a high reliance on SEO and therefore did not have big SEO teams.

And so. I would always start with asking myself, what do I actually need to be successful? Um, so the good thing is that if or good or bad, however you see it, right. A thing is that if you work in a company that might not rely so heavily on SEO, maybe technical SEO is not the biggest driver. Maybe it’s more a content marketing, like approach, which still has some technical SEO elements, but not as strongly.

And maybe you can get a lot of stuff done without engineers, but then you fight for writers and for designers, right. Or for PR people. So there’s probably always a fight. And again, a couple of things that work really well for me in the past is again, first of all, speak money. Second of all to not burn your relationship with weak asks like the one that I mentioned at the beginning that can really burn it.

And then second of all, or third of all to really evangelize and advocate for SEO. So when I was at atlastin, um, the, the SEO team [00:18:00] was a about five people. It depends on who you code in or not. But, um, Deb, there was, there would have never been enough. 15, 20 SEOs would not have been enough for the traffic and from the size of the business.

So instead, and I knew I wasn’t, I was never going to get. So many people from my team. And so instead I went out on a campaign to evangelize STR throughout the company. I showed some of the successes that we had, the things that we did what’s currently working well in SEO thinks that our competitors are doing to be successful.

And then I had workshops with writers, engineers, designers, and, you know, really instructed them of what moves the needle and to make sure that when they, when they accomplished a success or did something that. That that drove traffic to immediately report it back to them and close the feedback loop and show them the impact of that.

So I think there’s this, this meta game relationship building of evangelization and storyteller. That is another missing component of which SEO is. Don’t spend enough time with it. [00:19:00] Yeah,

Dave Rohrer: [00:19:00] without a champion it’s it’s, it gets really difficult. And I think one of the, um, I know I’ve talked to him about it before, but Ryan Jones has this hilarious example where the agency he was at, they were working with a large company and they were trying to get some video put on the site and they were trying to get the PR people to actually work with them and promote it.

And the PR people wouldn’t work. Wouldn’t work with them, work and work with them. And finally, they got an answer. It was because the PR people were bonused on something completely different. Yeah. So it actually them promoting that would help the company, but it would hurt that entire team in that group.

Kevin Indig: [00:19:42] Wow. Yeah. Those horror stories happen. Uh, I’ve heard of some of those as well. And so I think there’s also an opinion that might offend some people, but yeah. I think there might be situations in companies where you just can’t win the battle and then you have to leave. You have to either accept that you don’t get enough [00:20:00] resources and make the best out of that situation or you leave.

And that’s okay as well. Not every company has to live on SEO, not everywhere does as yo have to play the highest priority or a priority at all. And it’s a harsh reality, but it’s a reality.

Dave Rohrer: [00:20:17] I think that’s true. Well then there’s also the. No matter what you do, Kevin, no matter what slides you put in front of me as the CTO, I’m looking at you going, I have six developers and I have one project manager and I have this other technical person and they’re booked on this project for the next year.

So no matter what you do, I can’t touch anything.

Kevin Indig: [00:20:39] That’s true. That’s absolutely true. That happens a lot. I think the only counter punch to that situation is to show enough urgency. And enough value from a monetary perspective. Um, and sometimes you can make a case or a competitors or new competitors that move really fast.

Do an amazing job are growing at a much, much faster pace. And if you are [00:21:00] able to connect that again with, with dollars or with money, and you are able to speak to leadership about that, that is a way for you to maybe counteract that. But, you know, it’s a tough battle. It’s a tough fight.

Dave Rohrer: [00:21:18] So, I know we didn’t want to keep you too long.

So if you had one last tip for how to master the art of in house SEO, what would, if, if someone’s was just starting up, what would you tell

Kevin Indig: [00:21:28] them? Take a storytelling course and a look at the data that you have available and spend time on telling stories with that data. And that data can be, can be traffic.

Data can be conversion, data, revenue, data, whatever, but get better at it. Getting people excited about SEO. You know, if you go to an SEO and you tell them, Oh man, our technical SEO audit was terrible and we have all these 300 twos and my gosh, and he’s going to say, yeah, that’s awesome. Talk to you in a month or [00:22:00] something, you know, but if you, if you’re able to talk in a gripping story with that, that people can relate to that is the, that’s the gangster move in my mind.


Dave Rohrer: [00:22:10] actually, I’m going to piggyback on that. Take, take what Kevin said, tell that story, but also know your audience. So if you’re talking to your boss, what are their, what things do they care about? What are they bonused on? What are they looking at? What are they trying to fight for budget? If you’re talking to the CTO, if you’re talking to developer, if you’re talking to someone else, understand, you know, PR social PBC, understand what projects that are working to understand what the product is coming out, what new things are coming up.

Understand how to tie your story and your projects into whatever they’re working on. Also, what level they’re at and what they care about. If you can tell your story so that it matters to them, that data will then suddenly actually they’ll actually look at it. If you’re just telling everyone the same story, the CTO, the CFO, the CFO is not going to care.

He’s just going to see [00:23:00] you spending money. If you start pointing out more about the ROI in your story than you did about the savings and. Tech updates that you’re going to have to do for the next year, because you’re going to do this different thing that each person’s going to care about something different.

Kevin Indig: [00:23:16] Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Nothing to add here. Some point.

Matt Siltala: [00:23:22] Well, again, Kevin, thank you very much for joining us. And so again, Kevin indig with G2, um, we do appreciate you taking the time.

Kevin Indig: [00:23:31] Thanks. This was fun. All right.

Matt Siltala: [00:23:32] So, or Kevin, uh, with G2 and, and Dave roar with more side metrics, I met Sylvia with avalanche media and thank you guys for joining us.

And we look forward to having you on another one of these episodes. As a final reminder, we are on, um, you know, we’re on Spotify. Make sure you go and check us out anywhere that you find us. Give us a five star review so we can continue to bring these to you. Uh, we appreciate and love that. And so thank you guys.

And we’ll talk to you later. Bye bye.

Dave Rohrer: [00:23:58] Thanks.