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The Captivating Fortune 500 Growth Advisor Story of Kevin Indig

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Kevin Indig

Kevin Indig, Growth Advisor & Author of 'Growth Memo' Newsletter

Kevin Indig is a seasoned Growth Advisor with a robust background in leading growth strategies across various industries. With a career spanning over a decade, Kevin has established himself as a pivotal figure in organic growth, leveraging SEO, CRO, and product-led growth strategies. His expertise is sought after by executives from top-tier companies such as Shopify, G2, and Atlassian, guiding them through complex challenges like breaking traffic plateaus and refining SEO strategies.

Before becoming an independent advisor, Kevin was instrumental in shaping growth teams at renowned tech giants and has since helped companies acquire over 100 million users through SEO. He is also the mind behind 'Growth Memo', a weekly newsletter that has garnered a readership of over 12,000 subscribers, providing incisive commentary on the broader SEO landscape and web technology.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Kevin's early interest in technology was sparked by his passion for gaming. This led him to explore the web's mechanics and the pivotal role of search engines, setting the foundation for his future career in SEO. His initial foray into the professional world was marked by a significant stint at a leading agency in Germany, where he honed his skills and worked with large enterprise clients, accelerating his expertise in handling large-scale SEO operations.

Having lived and worked in both Germany and the United States, Kevin brings a unique blend of international perspective and technical acumen to his advisory roles. He currently resides in a quaint town in Michigan, where he balances his professional life with his responsibilities as a father. Kevin's journey from gaming enthusiast to a respected advisor in the tech industry highlights his adaptive strategy and deep understanding of digital growth, making him an invaluable asset to any organisation aiming to enhance its market presence through organic growth strategies.

The Unscripted SEO Interview Podcast with Kevin Indig

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(50 minutes long)

Unscripted Bluechip Growth Q&As with Mark A Preston and Kevin Indig

Who is Kevin Indig, the growth advisor?

It's a pleasure to introduce myself. Briefly, I am an advisor to rapidly growing start-ups and the author of a weekly newsletter. That's the succinct introduction, but to offer a broader view, my name is Kevin Indig. I've collaborated with companies like Snapchat, Reddit, and Dropbox, and led growth teams at Shopify, G2, and Atlassian. My newsletter, 'The Growth Memo', offers commentary on the SEO landscape and tech developments. It's difficult to categorise succinctly, but with over 12,000 subscribers, it clearly strikes a chord with many. Outside of work, I'm a father, born and raised in Germany and now residing in a small, little-known town in Michigan, USA.

What has your career journey been like, Kevin?

My professional journey in SEO started nearly 15 years ago in Germany, where I was first paid for my expertise. The field wasn't well-known then; it was more obscure and less structured. My path to SEO began with my passion for gaming. I played online games with friends, which led me to build our first website for tournament applications. This sparked my interest in the internet, search engines, and ultimately SEO. After a brief stint in banking, I pivoted back to SEO and started at an agency, where I rapidly gained experience with enterprise clients. This experience proved invaluable. After several years, I moved to the USA, working with companies like eBay and later on in Silicon Valley at Dailymotion, Atlassian, G2, and Shopify. Eventually, I transitioned into advisory roles, helping executives navigate SEO and product-led growth, which remain central to my work.

What did you build your very first website with?

My first website was a bit makeshift. I designed it in Photoshop and then transferred it to Illustrator where I sliced the layout into tables, exporting these into HTML. I assembled the pieces using tables and iframes. It was quite a patchwork setup, but somehow, it functioned.

Has your background in studying business helped you to get a foot in the door when advising large corporate companies?

I would say yes. If I had the maturity back when I was at university that I possess today, I would have gained so much more from my studies. I studied business because I knew it was necessary, but at the time, I wasn’t particularly fascinated by it. Nowadays, I find it incredibly engaging. So, while my business education has indeed been beneficial, it could have been even more so if I had been more invested in the subject matter back then.

What is the best way for an SEO professional to secure blue-chip clients?

Joining a large agency that already works with such clients is one of the quickest ways to gain exposure to large sites. There's certainly an element of working your way up. Initially, as a trainee, my tasks were quite basic, which was fortunate because not many companies offer that kind of hands-on training anymore. I started with the groundwork and gradually progressed to attending client meetings and preparing reports. Working in an agency provided a broad view of common challenges across various companies, which has been invaluable. In contrast, working in-house at a company allows you to develop deep expertise in a specific industry, although you might miss out on the broader perspective. Both paths have their advantages, but gaining experience at an agency can provide rapid career progression and a comprehensive understanding of the industry.

What does career progression look like on the enterprise ladder?

Based on my experience, it’s important to choose the right career ladder within a company. My ambition was always to climb as high as possible, managing numerous people and shouldering a great deal of responsibility. I reached a peak at Shopify, where I managed an organisation of 80 to 100 people, which was immensely challenging. Looking back, I'm happier now, not being in such an intense management role. The higher you go, the more your role shifts from hands-on work to primarily managing operations and people. However, companies like Google and Meta offer tracks for individual contributors, where experts can excel without managing teams. For instance, Jeff Dean at Google, a leading AI expert, does not manage a team. This highlights the importance of choosing a path that aligns with your preferences and strengths. Remember, it’s also possible to move down a ladder if a change is needed, so you're never locked into one trajectory.

What opportunities are there for SEOs who do not want to manage people but still want to climb the ladder?

Absolutely, you're right to consider how to maximise a person's potential. Some individuals naturally excel at management and enjoy it, making them ideal managers. However, there's a principle, the name of which escapes me now, that discusses the issue of promoting highly skilled individuals to management roles where their talents may be underutilised. Unfortunately, many companies still adhere to outdated practices. Even in innovative environments like Silicon Valley, the concept of a career track for individual contributors reaching the highest levels was relatively new just five years ago. I urge business owners and agencies to consider how they might be wasting talent by pushing people into management simply so they can earn more or gain recognition. This approach often doesn't leverage their strongest skills.

How can we offer SEOs more money without forcing them to do things they do not enjoy?

These days, there seems to be a stigma around the pursuit of money. While it's true that some may prioritise wealth excessively, it's also clear that reaching a certain level of financial security allows people to engage more deeply in activities they genuinely enjoy. I consider myself to have reached this point; I now spend more time on activities like dissecting businesses through my paid newsletter and creating content. This shift in focus often occurs once financial security is achieved. Managers and company owners should think about how to enable employees to thrive in their "zone of genius"—the areas where they excel without effort. This approach not only adds significant value to the company but also aligns with the employees' best skills and interests, potentially leading to greater job satisfaction and productivity.

What prompted you to become a Growth Advisor independently?

Mark, there wasn't a grand scheme leading to my decision to go solo. Rather, I was unexpectedly laid off from Shopify in July 2022, part of a larger reduction that affected over a thousand employees. Fortunately, I received a generous severance package, which isn't common in the US. This unexpected change gave me some breathing space to consider my next steps. After posting about my layoff on LinkedIn, which surprisingly generated over a million impressions, I received numerous consulting offers from executives. This led me to temporarily take on consulting roles while considering permanent positions. However, consulting proved so lucrative and fulfilling that I decided to pursue it longer-term. This shift allowed me to avoid the intense management roles I had grown weary of, and instead, focus on activities I enjoy like writing newsletters and speaking at conferences. It turned out to be a highly rewarding decision, made not through a planned strategy but through adapting to unexpected circumstances.

What level of involvement do you have with the companies you're advising?

That's a great question because it often requires some clarification. As an advisor, my role is purely strategic. I don't engage in keyword research or technical audits but focus on identifying strategic issues such as gaps in execution, areas for investment, or hiring needs. My approach includes providing frameworks for SEO and content strategy, advising on best practices, and helping to set up execution plans. However, I do not get involved in the hands-on creation of content or content briefs. This work is typically done by freelancers or consultants who handle the more operational aspects. My main contacts within a company are usually C-suite executives, VPs, and directors, and my guidance is aimed at high-level strategic decisions concerning the growth and management of SEO as a channel.

As a growth advisor, how do you ensure that your advice is implemented?

Implementation can be challenging, and it provides valuable lessons about the company's operational dynamics. We often review what has actually been accomplished and identify any barriers to execution, whether due to resourcing, prioritisation, or lack of clear direction. My extensive experience in high-level companies like Shopify lends credibility, which helps in persuading decision-makers. Although it may seem unfair, having an objective outsider's perspective is highly valued, and I can often influence significant decisions by simply discussing them directly with CEOs. Despite this, I still prepare thoroughly, gathering data and building robust arguments to support my recommendations, ensuring I use my influence responsibly.

How important is it for you to understand the business and financial challenges of the company you advise?

Understanding a company's business and financial challenges is crucial. Making a business case is not just about telling a compelling story; it involves translating technical issues into financial implications that resonate with top management. SEO can be a complex field with unpredictable outcomes, which makes creating precise business cases challenging. However, it's essential to develop this skill to succeed, especially in-house. Most CEOs may not have an in-depth understanding of SEO, so presenting a strong business case is vital. It's about showing the potential return on investment and making the case relatable and understandable, which is critical in securing the necessary support and resources for SEO initiatives.

How do you personally handle the pressure of being a growth advisor when discussing significant figures for large blue-chip companies?

Indeed, the pressure is substantial. To manage it, I employ meta-thinking, which involves developing a structured logic to guide decision-making. This approach prevents reliance solely on gut instinct. For example, if considering setting half of our pages to 'no index' or blocking them on robots.txt, I'd start by repeatedly asking why to deepen our understanding of the decision. Additionally, I look for ways to de-risk decisions, such as starting with a smaller percentage of changes and scaling up based on results, or ensuring decisions can be quickly reversed if necessary. This methodical approach helps reduce the pressure, as it involves careful planning and consensus with executive teams before making significant changes.

What has been the steepest learning curve in your career?

The most significant learning curves for me involved understanding the dynamics of different types of websites and mastering organisational management. Initially, distinguishing between 'integrators' like SaaS or direct-to-consumer companies that need to generate their own content, and 'aggregators' like TripAdvisor or Amazon, which rely on user-generated content or large product inventories, was pivotal. Recognising the distinct strategies required for each type was crucial. Furthermore, advancing rapidly through management roles at companies like Atlassian, G2, and Shopify presented another steep learning curve. Managing large teams and learning effective organisational strategies were critical lessons that significantly shaped my professional growth.

As a growth advisor, what do companies typically expect from you?

Often, there's a misconception that I'll execute tasks directly, but most companies soon realise my primary value lies in strategic guidance. About 80% of my role involves providing high-level strategic insights. I assist companies by reviewing their roadmaps, critiquing designs, and evaluating engineering processes. Essentially, my contribution focuses on helping them make informed decisions and guiding their thinking processes within a strategic framework. The ultimate aim is always to drive revenue growth, typically starting from increasing organic traffic to achieving final revenue targets. My role is to facilitate these steps and ensure the company's strategic objectives are met.

Why do these big companies hire you as an outsider growth advisor?

Half the time, these companies have attempted to implement strategies that have not succeeded, and they seek an outsider's perspective to identify what went wrong. The other half are looking to invest further in SEO and wish to minimise risks from the outset. They engage someone with proven experience—like an external advisor—to ensure they can avoid as many pitfalls as possible and streamline their strategy effectively.

How could an existing growth or SEO advisor get themselves into advising large Fortune 500 companies?

While I haven’t conducted controlled experiments on different approaches, my personal experience suggests that increasing visibility and accessibility are key. I've been active on social networks, participated in podcasts, and consistently published content through newsletters and blogs to enhance my visibility. Additionally, offering some of your services for free can be a strategic move. If I were to advise my younger self, I’d suggest setting aside time each week to offer free advice to companies. This not only hones your skills but also builds your portfolio. You can request that these companies allow you to list them as clients or provide feedback to further your development. While aiming for Fortune 500 companies is common, it's important to recognise the value in advising lesser-known companies that are also highly successful and can benefit significantly from SEO. Surprisingly, many of my clients come from referrals, which outnumber those from LinkedIn or my newsletter, highlighting the power of word-of-mouth in building a consultancy practice.

Do you think people in the industry can be too extroverted and share too much?

Mark, indeed, we could discuss this topic for hours. I've had a unique career path, characterised by a considerable amount of luck and a very outgoing approach. However, it's important to note that being highly visible isn't necessary for everyone. There is certainly a spectrum—some visibility is beneficial, but it doesn't need to be as extensive as mine has been. Being overly visible can sometimes send negative signals. It's crucial to remember that everyone has their unique style and preferences. For me, being open and sharing my ideas has led to valuable feedback and many constructive conversations. However, this approach isn't the only path to success. Success comes in various forms, and if it involves financial gain, there are numerous ways to achieve it without necessarily managing large teams, speaking at global conferences, or advising extensively. My advice to anyone listening is to be true to yourself, envision what you truly want, and consider how you wish to live your life. There are many paths to success, and with some reflection, you can find the one that suits you best.

What conversations would you like to have with people and where can they find you, Kevin?

Thank you for asking. I'm particularly interested in learning about the main challenges people face and what they are keen to understand better. My goal is to create content and share knowledge that genuinely assists others. You can find me on X and LinkedIn under my real name, Kevin Indig, and also through my newsletter, Growth Memo, available at Be cautious of any imitators—there's an entity called 'the growth memo' which is not affiliated with us. I'd be delighted to engage with you through any of these channels and explore topics that matter to you.

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