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Episode 4 – Knowledge Exchange: The State of SEO

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In episode #4, the founder and managing director of Infidigit, Kaushal Thakkar, will be on the hot seat. He will discuss the importance of SEO, his journey in becoming an SEO expert, the reason why he founded Infidigit and started “The Growth Genius Podcast” series. Kaushal will be interviewed by Infidigit’s senior manager of digital marketing, Hiten Sanghani. So, let us find Kaushal’s insights on the world of digital marketing and SEO and the origins of Infidigit in this bonus episode.

A holistic marketing strategy, consisting of brand marketing, digital marketing, loyalty programs, product optimization, UI-UX, great amount of market research, all would contribute to this particular journey to achieve that 10X growth.

Some of the important points that are covered in this segment:

  1. What is the key requirement for growth? (9:55)
  2. What would be the impact if a website owner is not doing SEO?  (20:46)

[00:20] Kaushal: Welcome friends, to The Growth Genius Podcast, powered by Infidigit. My name is Kaushal Thakkar, I am the founder of Infidigit and your host for the show. Each week, I interview geniuses who have created phenomenal digital growth for their organization. We discuss the key techniques and share insights to help you learn and create your own growth story. Today, we are sharing a special episode with you. I have my colleague Hiten Sanghani from Infidigit with me. Hiten is a digital marketing manager who has helped several brands create their growth story. Today instead of me asking the questions, Hiten is going to fire the questions at me. We are going to use this opportunity to share some insights behind Infidigit and this podcast with you. So, without further adieu, let’s jump into the show, over to you Hiten. 

[1:16] Hiten: Let’s talk about the Growth Genius Podcast itself; why does it need to exist? 

[1:22] Kaushal: Let me start with this particular day when that thought came into my mind. I was doing a session with upGrad, and the session was around SEO and the trends of SEO in 2020. This was during the COVID times itself in the month of March, I believe. The session was attended by around 650 participants and all those people, mostly from India, they had one common thing among them. Most of these people were eager to join digital marketing, or some of the digital marketers who joined were interested in knowing that how we grow further from this particular point? At one hand, we have this particular data which is available, which says that the Indian geography in terms of digital investments is growing almost by five times in the next five years. With those kinds of numbers, we do not have enough hands to handle the digital ecosystem. 

And I personally also interviewed so many people and realized that many of these people do not understand what are the real challenges in terms of digital. So, this particular thing made me think that why not create a pool of growth geniuses, who come regularly on this particular show, share the information and the knowledge which they have, share the insights which they have and help us in transmitting this particular knowledge to the other people who can listen to this particular podcast and create their own growth journey. So, this is the thought process behind this particular podcast which started in the month of July.

[2:50] Hiten: Okay! So as I understand it would be realizing that there is a huge gap in terms of finding the knowledge that these digital marketers are seeking, or these professional marketers or professional product handlers are seeking, and you realized that gap, and since you have been in touch with a pool of knowledge, you want to bring it across to this platform, and maybe try to shorten that gap that you see at the moment. Would I be correct in saying that? 

[3:22] Kaushal: Yes! So, it’s bringing those privileged few who have been fortunate enough to work in the digital industry and getting them on this particular podcast and transmitting that particular knowledge to the people who have not been so fortunate to enter the digital industry, or they are stuck in their career somewhere, and they are not able to grow as fast as the other growth geniuses have been able to do. So, once we get these growth geniuses on this particular podcast and get those particular insights from them that okay, how did they manage to grow so well in their lives and in their career, it’s going to help the other people learn from them and grow faster. 

[4:00] Hiten: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And when it comes to learning, the best way to learn, I believe would be to know a certain kind of growth story, and that’s the reason you’ve chosen a format, which mostly revolves around growth stories, right? So, with respect to a growth story, that was a smart segue, by the way, with respect to a growth story, I wanted to ask you where it all began, like where did your journey start? And what was the first point where you realized, okay, this is the very first step towards the Himalaya that you’re about to climb?

[4:37] Kaushal: So when you say, “first Himalaya you’re about to climb..,” it seems that my entire life has been a set of Himalayan hills which need to be climbed. Jokes apart. So, I have been fascinated with computers and the internet since the start of my college days. While computers were a subject in school, we could not do much around it, but by the time I reached the college days, the internet had started coming up. The good old days of the internet, we started working on a few projects, I started taking up some assignments around digital marketing from international geographies, helped some clients create a website, some clients with their PPC campaigns, and some clients with SEO.

I remember a few of these. One was the Portugal client by the name of Pixieland where kids come online, and play with fishes to feed them with currency. It was an interesting concept, and we helped them build that particular website and optimize it in terms of the marketing campaigns. The other was a paid campaign for a surgical website in India. And the client was so amazed to see themselves on the first listing of Google because they had never seen that okay, when somebody’s searching for surgical instruments, they can come and grab that first position on Google. So, they were so excited in those days even to get into digital. 

The other few websites which I remember are Mahindra South Africa and Mahindra Australia. We were working with them on the ecommerce website to sell tractors online. And this is something where I’m speaking of the years 2003-2004. Really interesting times. And this is what I would say that okay, this would be the first Himalaya where this particular company which I had formed, Softstar, through which we took all these particular projects. I would say that would be the first Himalayan mountain to climb. After that, there have been several, but yes, that would be the first. 

[6:33] Hiten: You started off with a Portugal client, and I believe the pivotal point in the time of your career if I had to see that growth, or that lift taking place, would it be at Myntra? Would you say Myntra helped you create that pedestal where after that there was no holding you back and there were new heights to be climbed after that?

[6:55] Kaushal: Definitely, Myntra does achieve a great credit in my growth story. It gave me a good exposure to multiple marketers and the way things need to be done on e-commerce domains. It was also the timing, 2011-2012 was the time when the demand for ecommerce and everything picked up, and it helped. But I would like to take you back further in the year of 2005-2006 when we started an ecommerce journey for India. So, while I was working with Softstar, I got this interesting opportunity to work on the first hyper-local store, which was about to be launched in India. The name was Order Cop and what we wanted to do was provide an opportunity for the local Kirana stores to sell their products online. 

So, this particular platform was created in such a way that it would collect the inventory from these particular stores, put it online and when these generic items were ordered online, let’s say if somebody ordered five kgs of rice from a particular pin code, the order will go to the nearest Kirana store which is connected with this particular platform. And that’s where we started working on the first ecommerce growth story. But unfortunately, that product did not go live. At that point in time, I was not only focused on search engine optimization, I was working on multiple things overall product as well as the marketing side of it. While we created the product at that point in time, we were too early. In 2005, ecommerce was not that strong in India, and we were not able to secure additional funding to make it a great success story. So, I would say these were the initial times when I started working more on the Indian market, focusing more on the Indian market to create a growth story, but it did not go through. But yes, the seed of this growth started from those days. 

[8:46] Hiten: Amazing! So, if I’m not wrong in today’s day and age, Dunzo and Swiggy are almost following that same model. And if I go on to Twitter today or LinkedIn today, and if I see a hashtag Vocal For Local, and supporting local retailers and everything, the product that you’ve just mentioned would have absolutely fit in today’s day and age. So, it was definitely way ahead of its time, what it looks like. And considering that to transform your career from there to still be part of ecommerce to such a great extent at various other products from other companies, which I already mentioned, like Myntra. So, in terms of growing, not just career-wise, now let’s take an example of an ecommerce product like Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon. What is the key requirement there in order to grow from a user base, for example, of 10 million to a 100 million? Since you have seen that so closely, would you like to share a few insights on that?

What is the key requirement for growth?

[9:55] Kaushal: Wow! Increasing user base from 10 million to 100 million. It’s definitely not an easy task. There are hundreds of marketers working in all these brand companies which you mentioned like Flipkart, Myntra, Amazon, to achieve these kinds of numbers. Having said that, while it’s difficult to get a 10x growth for companies like this, definitely not an impossible thing. And all these three companies have achieved a 10x growth over a short span of a few years. That’s where the Indian digital story is really amazing. And since we are now expecting further growth, even after this company is becoming much larger than unicorns itself. So, there are amazing times ahead. 

To answer your question, a holistic marketing strategy is something which is needed to ensure that the user base increases from 10 million to 100 million kinds of things. Many of these companies may already be on that thing, but I’m more looking towards a 10x growth for companies like these. A holistic marketing strategy consisting of brand marketing, digital marketing, loyalty programs, product optimization, UI-UX, great amount of market research, all would contribute to this particular journey to achieve that 10x growth. Since our podcast is more focused on the digital aspect, I would like to deep dive a little on to the digital side. 

On the digital front, what would power these brands is their overall digital marketing strategy which would again comprise of paid marketing, earned marketing, and owned media. I see a lot of people focusing on the paid medium especially, and we have also covered it in our previous podcast in terms of Facebook ad campaigns where Manik was there on the show. However, SEO is something which I yet see that many of those brands are not using it to the optimal extent. While Myntra, since we have been working on this particular brand, or I have been working on this brand since the last eight years now, started my journey in 2013. And, yeah, helping them as an agency partner now in 2020 I’m looking forward to many more successful years with them. 

So, while Myntra has implemented it many of these other brands… I’m not pinpointing Amazon or Flipkart, they would definitely have great marketing strategies in place, but I’m speaking about the other large ecommerce companies. Many of these do not have that kind of rigorous focus on search engine optimization. That’s where I believe they need to focus because, in my experience, this is one channel which can bring in lots of new users onto a particular platform. And if successfully implemented, it can create at least a multi-fold growth even for large ecommerce brands if not 10X growth. 

[10:40] Hiten: So, Kaushal when you say SEO, you being the biggest advocate of SEO, so I believe it must have come with some kind of experience or personal experience that you’ve seen with ecommerce products or maybe enterprise products. So, could you give us an example wherein you can tell us the absence of SEO, what it could do to a particular product, and the introduction of SEO, how it can transform the growth story for a product into. So, it could be either or example, or if you have one example which covers both, that’ll be amazing. 

[13:19] Kaushal: Sure, let me take this question into multiple parts. Speaking about my personal experience, and being an SEO evangelist or an SEO advocate, this primarily comes from multiple experiences which I had especially with this channel, and that’s the reason why I love this channel, much more than my love for other digital channels. One thing which stands out in terms of SEO is its return on investment. While other websites depending on the size of the ecommerce store or the enterprise website, or even a small website, depending on the size of a particular store, the cost may vary. 

And also, it would depend more on the kind of domain for which you’re bidding for a particular keyword or looking out for a visitor. Let’s say the insurance domain would have really expensive paid campaigns, or you would be paying much more for user acquisition as compared to the other mediums. But considering that, let’s take a ballpark number of 5 to 10 rupees which a visit comes from a paid medium. The cost of acquisition if the SEO channel is optimized really well, would be much lesser in case of organic search. And that’s where the return on investments would be much higher. The second point over there would be mediums like paid marketing; they are temporary in nature. That till the time you’re paying money to the advertiser, or be it any organization be it Google, be it Facebook, be it an affiliate marketing company, till the time you’re paying money, you will get visits from those particular channels. 

Earned media as compared to that, especially SEO, the results would continue for a longer period. Even when you pause the particular campaign, the results would be shown at least for the next few months. The third thing over there would be even on large enterprise websites, SEO is one thing which can provide a 3x-4x growth because there is a huge search volume if the website is not properly optimized, easily with the help of technical SEO and other best practices of SEO, we could create a 4x-5x growth story out of it. The other reason why I am an evangelist of SEO is in 2016, or maybe 2015, I attended this SMX Search Engine Land conference in the US, and there were thousands of CEOs attending that particular conference, and there were people who were creating e-commerce stores over there selling stickers. This was one thing which I came across and found a gentleman who said that, hey, “I have this particular company and I sell stickers online”. I had to ask him once that, “did you just mention stickers?”. He said, “yes, we sell stickers online”. And then how big is your company? He said we are a five people company, but we are earning much more than what we would traditionally earn on our jobs. So e-commerce has penetrated well, plus there are so many SEOs powering it. For this particular sticker website, this guy just wanted to understand SEO well, so that he can gain visits to that particular website. This kind of implementation in terms of SEO has not yet reached India. Infidigit was founded for that particular thing, but yes, we could take it much ahead from here onwards. Referring to the other point that you mentioned in terms of the example, let’s speak about the brand, which I have been associated with since 2013 to 2020. And now it’s not a secret; it’s Myntra itself. So, even for a website, like Myntra, when I joined them in 2013, the organic search visits were really flat, and we needed a change over there. We wanted to understand while we did not want to lose those particular visits, we also wanted to understand what is it that could create a good growth for that particular thing. While I do not have the privilege of sharing the details in terms of the numbers, I am going to speak in terms of one of the case studies which is published on the Myntra website itself. And I am going to share some bit of information with you. 

So, SEO was the top priority for the company in those days, and we worked on it, we made several changes to the website and within a span of some time as compared to the baseline numbers we achieved a 65% increase in organic sessions. This, in turn, increased the contribution of organic search, which was 20% or so, during the recording of the baseline to around 32% and for an organization like Myntra around the year 2015-2016, 32% contribution is not a small thing. So, this is something that was possible via the three-pronged strategy that we implemented. It was not as complicated as the strategies that we create here at Infidigit. But yes, at that time, we created this particular three-pronged strategy which spoke about relevant pages, relevant content, and relevant links. In terms of relevant pages, what we did is we ensured that we create optimal content so that the indexed pages which are there on Google are restricted to the relevant few pages which are needed instead of just creating more and more pages. 

So, while many other SEOs believe in increasing the pages, the strategy we implemented was to reduce the number of indexed pages so that Googlebot can crawl those pages easily. And we weeded out those pages, which were having similar content or not that optimized. We removed those pages. The second thing is the content which we created really helpful content for a user. Once he or she lands on the website, it should help them to convert it into a transaction, that was the other thing. And we created good internal linking on the website, especially via the footer which was again a contextual footer there, and this helped us in gaining really good growth. Based on that case study, which was published, we also nominated ourselves for the Echo award. That was my first nomination. And we were really proud to get the highest honours in India for the Echo award, which is a prestigious award. And again, the same campaign won a bronze at an international level. So, this was my first campaign which was nominated, and we won two awards for that particular campaign, both at the Indian level and at the international level. So, I believe that answers your first question. 

[19:41] Hiten: Yeah, so just for our audiences, you kind of got a bit technical there. So for them, I’ll just help them understand. So, what Kaushal was trying to say is indexed pages are basically a number of pages that Google identifies and is able to index it on their own server or on their own search engine result page, while crawling is basically the functionality of being able to identify a web page. So, when Google is able to read your website is considered to be crawling. And what Kaushal was trying to say over here is just by taking care of a few things, through technical SEO, they were able to publish millions of pages overnight, and that helped in a lot of sessions. Okay, and now you would like to transcend into the other part of the story where the ending is not that great, I believe.

What would be the impact if a website owner is not doing SEO?

[20:46] Kaushal: Sure, that’s your second question where you mentioned that what would happen if there is an absence of SEO on some website? So, for that particular question, yes, definitely the ending will not be that pleasant if SEO is not there. But believe me, some people don’t even realize that they are missing out on such a crucial channel. They had some bad experiences in the past where they landed up with somebody who was not able to implement SEO to a great extent, and that’s where they have stopped considering it as a channel. But many successful organizations have implemented SEO strategies really well. And if implemented well, it could create wonder. But yes, in case of SEO being absent, what happens? 

So, one thing which definitely happens is the organic search visits would be almost flat without presenting any growth and or even declining for some of those cases. Because even with brand visits, we see these days that many of the competitors are bidding on brand keywords of their competitors, right? So, it could even lead to a reduction because for these companies, most of their organic search visits are nothing but brand visits. So, let’s say people are searching for Amazon and landing on an Amazon website. And that’s the organic visits which they may be gaining. So, the organic visits may be almost flat in Google Analytics or Adobe analytics software, which they’re using. 

The other thing is the click share, which is the market share of organic rankings. So, even the market share, which would be almost zero for these kinds of companies, because SEO is absent. The traffic coming only from the brand visits would also be one of the symptoms or again, an indicator of the absence of SEO. I believe, also, because SEO is absent, the return on investments may be negative or not so great, and the marketers would be struggling in terms of creating profitability for that particular product. And the other symptom I would say is the new customer acquisition would be a challenge for such a brand where SEO is absent. 

That brings me to your last question in terms of the growth story, which would bring in a transformation to a particular brand. And happy to share the Zivame case study which is published on our website and present that across to our audience. So, this classic challenge which SEO creates was the same challenge which Zivame had. And we even received a testimonial recently from Anuj who heads marketing and product over there and many more things. I have not seen his LinkedIn profile recently, but yes he’s doing really well over there. And for the Zivame case study, the challenge which Zivame had, this around a story from almost two years, more than two years back, where they were not gaining much visits from crucial non-brand keywords. And that’s where they had given Infidigit a target of achieving at least a 100% growth from non-brand sessions in a period of 12 months. Fortunately, with the right kind of organic strategy and creating content to target featured snippets, implementing the right kind of technical SEO, we were able to gain around 116% increase in organic search over a span of one year. Definitely, according to me for a brand like this, which has been there in the online space for quite some time, a 116% increase in non-brand visits is quite an achievement. And even this particular case study when it was published, we won multiple awards for Zivame as well. So, that’s something which I would like to share in terms of a growth story which can transform brands. I hope that answers your question. 

[24:44] Hiten: Amazing! So, with respect to the return on investment, organic search, being one of the most profitable when compared to other channels is what you have seen over a period of time, and is that the reason your Infidigit’s foundation is based on that?  Is it the reason why we try to maximize someone’s return on investment because this has an exponential benefit when it comes to choosing a channel? 

[25:17] Kaushal: Yes! So, that’s where when I started Infidigit, this was one particular thought that hey, why not create this particular organization which helps other companies solve their ROI challenge. And that was one of the major factors, and over the years, we have proved ourselves with multiple success stories. There are case studies which are published around Myntra, Zivame, Dream11, and several other organizations. And all these case stories just point in one particular direction that if this channel is allowed to implement the right kind of strategies, it can create wonderful returns on investments 

[25:59] Hiten: Understood that concludes all of the questions that we had today for you Kaushal. I hope you liked the hot seat that you are always serving others with. Any parting words that you want to leave at the Growth Story?

[26:14] Kaushal: So, a few things. One thing is, hey guys, digital is one medium where there are enough job opportunities. I see many of you out there looking for jobs or are stuck in your particular career, consider digital as a solution to your challenges. It has an amazing potential, especially in India, considering that we are so far behind many of the other advanced economies in terms of digital and these are the next five years when we would be growing in a significantly larger way. And while the India growth story happens, make it even your growth story by joining the digital journey. And that’s my last message for the audience. 

[26:57] Hiten: Amazing! So, thank you for those inspiring words. I hope every one of our listeners and everyone out there who’s trying to struggle at this pandemic time, is able to make the most of the situation that is in front of them and overcome if there are any challenges in front of them. So, that was it. That was the Growth Genius Podcast. And I hope it was insightful to hear from Kaushal Thakkar. My name is Hiten Sanghani. Until next time.

[27:28] Kaushal: Thank you, Hiten, for helping me by hosting this particular show. And you were really amazing. Thanks for that. And to the audience out there, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Growth Genius. I hope you learned something today that would help you with your digital journey. If you did, please share this episode with your friends and family. If you’ve not yet subscribed, please subscribe to The Growth Genius Podcast, wherever you are listening to this podcast. If you’re listening to it on the Infidigit website, I would request you to use a podcast app on iPhone or download Google Podcast or Spotify, if you do not already have it. Subscribing to this podcast on a podcast app will help you ensure that you get these episodes regularly on your phone, and you don’t miss a single episode. If you enjoyed the show, consider giving us a five-star rating on your podcast app. It helps people like you discover the show. Thank you so much for listening. Now go out there and create growth for yourself and your company. Thank you!

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