TWiO-39: Discussing SMX Munich 2016 with top speakers from the event

This is the thirty-ninth episode of ‘This Week In Organic’, the weekly show that debates the ramifications of the latest SEO and content marketing news.

In this special episode of TWiO we have 7 SMX Munich speakers join us to discuss how SEOs and content marketers can leverage the power of public relations, how can you possibly do AdWords without keywords, and what are the latest happenings in the world of advanced technical SEO.

Our host @DavidBain is joined by @AriNahmani from Kahena Digital, @basgr from Grimm Digital, @bgtheory from BG Theory, @brentcsutoras from Pixel Road Designs, @rebelytics from Ranking Check, @MartijnBurgman from Stylight and @iPullRank from iPull Rank.

Sign up to watch the next show live over at and share your thoughts on what’s discussed using the hashtag #TWiO on Twitter.

Here are just a few of the topics that will be discussed at SMX Munich:

  • How SEO’s and Content marketers should leverage the power of Public Relations within their daily work and vice versa in order to achieve great results.
  • AdWords Without Keywords: Dynamic Ads And Customized Ads
  • Knowing What Matters: Large Scale PPC Management & Automation
  • How to optimize your crawl budget with pagination, indexable pages, faceted navigation, sitemaps, redirects, etc.
  • The Latest In Advanced Technical SEO
  • RankBrain & Co – Let’s Talk
  • Learn how to use hreflang without tripping over the pitfalls, how to use other tags, like the language tag (important for the other search engines) and all of that in combination with a redirect based on the IP address.
  • URL parameter facets + pagination + canonicalization? Mobile and hreflang? Local/geo + rel next/prev + AJAX + HTTPS?


DAVID BAIN: How can SEOs and content marketers leverage the power of public relations? How can you possibly do adwords without keywords and what are the latest happenings in the world of advanced technical SEO? All that and more on This Week in Organic, Episode Number 39, a pre-SMX Munich special.

Hello and welcome, I’m David Bain and each week I’ll be joined by some knowledgeable, opinionated folks to discuss the latest happenings in anything that impacts organic traffic. And that certainly includes paid traffic this time and as for you in the live audience, get involved. So tweet about what’s being discussed using the hashtag TWiO and I’ll keep an eye on that to see what you’re saying and I’ll try and incorporate that in part of the discussion. But let’s find out more about today’s guests, where they’re from and what they’re going to be speaking about at SMX Munich. So starting off with Ari.

ARI NAHMANI: Hey guys. My name’s Ari Nahmani from Kahena Digital Marketing. I’m going to be speaking about some sort of advanced technical SEO topics in Munich, particularly around ecommerce, index bloat and a bunch of fun geeky stuff there. So looking forward to it.

DAVID BAIN: Fun, geeky stuff is, I’m sure, what we’re all interested in. Also with us today is Bastian.

BASTIAN GRIMM: Yeah, that sounds pretty much like me. My name’s Bastian, I run a company called Peak Ace. We’re a German company and the SMX experience is going to be quite fun I guess. I have techy stuff as well, I’m going to be talking about indexation management, crawl budgets and that kind of stuff, so also quite techy I guess.

DAVID BAIN: Lovely, okay, thanks Bastian. And the third person with us today is Brad.

BRAD GEDDES: Hi, I’m Brad Geddes from AdAlysis and I will be going through a lot of different paid stuff, from enterprise to keywordless ads and leading off this show with a full-day workshop on adwords.

DAVID BAIN: Wonderful, thanks Brad. And also with us is Brent.

BRENT CSUTORAS: Hi, I’m Brent Csutoras. I’m from Pixel Road Designs, which is a design firm and I’m also part of Search Engine Journal, which is an on-line publication for search marketing. I’m going to be speaking about Reddit, pretty much everything about Reddit, what it’s doing as far as growth and what people are missing out as far as opportunities and why it should be important to people and that’s about it. And I don’t do anything with that, so it’s not in my company’s stuff, so I’m just actually going to talk about it because it’s a passion.

DAVID BAIN: That’s a wonderful place to be. And also with us today is Eoghan.

EOGHAN HENN: Yeah, hi, I’m Eoghan Henn. I live in Galicia in the North West of Spain and I work for Ranking Check, a German on-line marketing agency and I’ll be talking about hreflang annotation next week, so I guess we’ll be discussing that later. Looking forward to it. Thanks for having me on the show.

DAVID BAIN: I’m sure we will. Thanks for joining us Eoghan. And last but not least is Martijn.

MARTIJN BURGMAN: Yes, hi there guys. It’s Martijn Burgman, I’m working for Stylight, which is an affiliate fashion platform based in Munich, Germany and I will be presenting at SMX how we have merged SEO content and the PR angle and how everyone can easily introduce the best practice. So some case studies, lessons we learned, mistakes we made, successes we had. So some very tangible stuff hopefully.

DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. We’ll let’s try and make this just an informal discussion, a bit of a debate, so if someone says something that maybe you’d like to add to or maybe even disagree with, feel free to jump in and start shouting away and I’m sure we can foster a bit of a debate here. But maybe if we just go back to Ari to begin with, because you were saying that that you’re focusing on a lot of the geeky technical stuff. So what kind of geeky technical stuff is catching your eye at the moment?

ARI NAHMANI: Well, it’s interesting because I know Mike couldn’t join, but I know that he’s going to be speaking about prerender, which a lot of people have seen and I’m really excited, not only to hear from him, but I’m speaking a bit about prerendering as well. More on the sort of how to deal with AJAX issues, so Google has come out, I believe it was October, and deprecated their old recommendations around how to deal with AJAX, specifically around escaped fragments and HTML snapshots and what I’ve found, at least in my experience with our clients, our large enterprise, ecommerce clients, is that Google is just not up to the task yet at properly rendering JavaScript and AJAX and all of the popular frameworks that developers are really hot on right now, and so what we’re seeing is that although they’ve stopped recommending it, this HTML snapshotting, a legacy way to deal with AJAX is still effective and in the latest core ranking update, we saw huge gains. I don’t know if they’re correlated or not, across several sites that are using this technology. So I think that there are a lot of brands out there that are trying to be ahead of the curve from a technology standpoint and are really trying to implement the latest and greatest JavaScript frameworks and so on. But from an SEO perspective, Google is really still catching up. As much as they’ve made gains, they are really still catching up and so that’s kind of what I’m going to be exploring in my talk, alongside how to deal with other largescale ecommerce related SEO hang-ups.

DAVID BAIN: What percentage of sites are we talking about here? Is it a significant chunk of sites that are using this kind of technology that you’ve been talking about here and Google are struggling to actually really, I guess…

ARI NAHMANI: I think that because of the sort of development world, the web-dev world moves so quickly and new technology gets implemented very, very quickly, they’ve always struggled to keep up. But particularly the amount of computing power necessary to render all of that JavaScript and for Googlebot now to decide, or whatever the algorithms behind it are, to decide whether or not they’re going to truly render everything or not of if there’s one new element in your code that they get stuck on, it’s a huge challenge and honestly I think that SEOs or developers are taking Google at their word and they’re just not there yet. I mean John Mueller said two months back on a webmaster help hang-out that we’re really struggling with some of this stuff, so you best make sure that if you can’t figure out why it’s happening, just go with the HTML snapshot. So I just find that very telling. Obviously you can’t trust everything that comes out of one person’s mouth, but…

BRENT CSUTORAS: What’s the ramifications of running, say, both of them at the same time? Can you do something where you’re not putting yourself backwards and then they do figure it out and all of a sudden you’re behind?

ARI NAHMANI: One of the solutions is something called, I don’t know if you guys can check that out? And this is actually a service. You can do this yourself, but if the developers aren’t going to take the time to basically prerender and store a different version of the page and serve it to the engines, which is again the HTML snapshot I’ve been talking about, this service will basically render all of your JavaScript pages like HTML – like raw HTML – and serve it instead and it’s very easy to install. So I think we’re going to see a lot of services or simple software sort of solve, but again we’re still serving, we’re not letting Google render the JavaScript in this case. Just imagine an ecommerce site and you’ve got faceted navigation and you’ve got endless scrolling or you have a single page app, where the URLs don’t change and you’re clicking around and it’s really great for users. While that’s wonderful for user experience, Google still can’t figure it out, or they know how but maybe it’s a computing power issue.

BRENT CSUTORAS: Do you see them focusing more on the AMP direction instead of really solving this? Just driving their direction anyway?

ARI NAHMANI: I think for a content sites, sure. And I think that from a JavaScript perspective there’s no reason why…and I just read another article about this, you don’t always need the latest and greatest tech from a development standpoint, the latest and greatest frameworks, because the developers are really excited about using it, and especially just for content sites or publishers, I think that’s the direction they might go in. There’s a whole other conversation around AMP and the Facebook articles and so on. But from a ecommerce perspective, there is a lot of reason to use that technology for app heavy pages, like single app pages I think there. So ultimately I think Google is going to be playing catch-up, or all the engines are going to be playing catch-up in terms of rendering JavaScript and all the latest frameworks and until then I’m telling clients that they should really focus on what we know 100% and that’s, until now, the HTML snapshot still works and works well, even though they’ve deprecated the recommendations. But it still works. I don’t know, Mike just joined, but we’ve been talking about rendering and JavaScript and all that geeky stuff…

DAVID BAIN: Hi, Mike. Thanks for joining us.

MICHAEL KING: Sorry guys. It’s really early on the West Coast.

DAVID BAIN: Oh, you’re on the West Coast are you? I thought you were on the East Coast, sorry about that.

MICHAEL KING: Yeah. I actually do have a lot of thoughts on rendering JavaScript and such, because we have a lot of clients that we’ve done this for and the problem with the snapshot is that sometimes when the cache expires and then you have to serve a new page, the time it takes to generate that new snapshot will make Google think it’s an outage. So let’s say it takes like fifteen seconds to return it, you know that they may think that’s a 503 and then they’ll pull that page out of the index. We’ve seen that happen a lot and what we’ve done is actually just remove the prerender altogether and the pages still get indexed just fine. So the main takeaway there is that prerender is great because it speeds up the crawl, because they can use a different crawler to access that content, but you don’t necessarily need it to get indexed. And when you think about it, we are SEOs, we’re optimising it, so using prerender is faster and that’s the optimal situation, but you don’t absolutely need it in order to get your stuff in there.

ARI NAHMANI: Right, and I think that that’s the key takeaway, is that you have to test and I would only recommend using, again, the sort of old school method of doing the meta fragment tag and then having Google crawl the parameter version with escaped fragment if you know that you’re stuff isn’t getting indexed properly. That’s why we’ve used it a lot on large ecommerce sites and from a development perspective, instead of using a third party tool or service, we’re just serving a dumbed down HTML version of the same page. But that’s for a very specific context, so I can see most of the time and I think Adam O’Dell and his team did a test on JavaScript, crawling and so on. But for most cases, I think that it’ll get indexed fine by today’s Googlebot. But again everybody has different experiences with it, it’s interesting.

MICHAEL KING: My working theory is that essentially they have two Googlebots now, right. They have the standard text-based crawler and then they also have the headless crawler. And what they do is they figure out should this page be crawled headlessly? If it is they put it in a queue and then they come back and crawl it later. And so that’s what you’re seeing, it’s because crawling headlessly is more computaneously expensive, it takes longer. Even if you use PhantomJS yourself, it takes a lot longer to render a page in a browser than it does to just download the code that doesn’t construct the full DOM and the CSS arm and all that. So my working theory is that they don’t always crawl with the headless browser. It’s just that oftentimes it takes a lot longer to come back and crawl it with that.

DAVID BAIN: I just wanted to ask Bastian actually – Bastian you’re talking about how to optimise your crawl budget. How does the conversation so far actually relate to what you’re going to be talking about yourself?

BASTIAN GRIMM: First of all can I say that I agree with Mike and also confirm with John Mueller that they’re actually doing two crawlers if you like, which is quite interesting because if that is true, that would also impact your crawl budget, because you would have sites being crawled multiple times, which is probably not the best thing in the world, depending on how large the sites are. Especially if you’re talking about millions of sites, then either you don’t want to delay it more, you don’t want to have re-crawled stuff too often, because then you don’t get your new stuff in there. So they are two interesting aspects. And the other thing that Ari mentioned I think is also interesting from a performance point of view, the prerendering thing, for me, yes it is accessibility on the one hand, but it just so useful to prerender and/or prefetch also from a DNS point of view, all the stuff that you need down the road to make the site really, really fast. So it’s not just one angle I think for all those topics, it’s probably multiple ones, where you have positive and/or negative impacts depending on how you look at it.

DAVID BAIN: So, Brad, listening to this conversation, does this make you happier than you focus on paid?

BRAD GEDDES: Yes. It’s interesting, because we actually have a lot of SEOs as clients who are doing things like using dynamic search ads to crawl pages to understand what Google is reading for the keywords or to test headlines for writing title tags. I mean everything on a Google page is an ad. It’s a matter of you get render there. I mean an ad is anything designed to have a user take some actions. So organic listings are ads, just with different payment methods. So we actually see a lot of SEO teams and paid search teams work together now as opposed to even five or ten years ago.

DAVID BAIN: Interesting. That actually makes me think of Martijn, because Martijn is going to be talking about how SEOs and content marketers should leverage the power of public relations and that is tying back to advertising and how your brand is positioned. And perhaps a lot of SEOs now are a little bit guilty of actually just focusing on the technical side and keywords and site performance and not so much on really maximising click through rates and how their brand is perceived online. Martijn, would you say that’s fair?

MARTIJN BURGMAN: Yes, I think you really hit the nail there. So the main thing is of course all the technical things definitely need to be in place, they’re the number one key thing to do, but then most of the time that’s also what we saw with our internal teams. We focus so much on making sure that, from a technical point of view, everything works and especially the content that we’ve created and try to promote, it did not get the attention that we wanted to give. Then we started adding one PR person to the team and we just saw so many different changes and I think that is one of the huge advantages that we can leverage on as SEOs looking at where currently old-school advertising is. I’m not talking paid advertising, just the standard advertising firms if you see what kind of content they’re producing, if they would know all of these SEO backgrounds and technical things then they would be able to make a much bigger splash than they are currently doing, so I think there is huge opportunity for us in that field.

DAVID BAIN: But realistically, will most SEOs be comfortable and able to do that kind of thing or are we starting to see the SEO world really just splinter into different disciplines and we can’t realistically expect everyone to be able to do everything?

MARTIJN BURGMAN: Totally, that was also something that we saw internally within the team, like outreach, we created a campaign and now we need to outreach, we’re going to send out mail blasts and then talking to the PR girl actually there were already the contacts – hey, we have all these contacts, why don’t we include you from day one on in all the content we produce? That actually works together, so you can outreach better and get better results out of that. And there we’ve seen really tremendous results. At first I was slightly worried that it would splinter and also PR always sounds very, oh no, you just take something, spin it and try to make it sound nice. But we can really see good results there by introducing them from day one on.

DAVID BAIN: Intriguing, intriguing. So, Brad, you said that you also work with SEO clients as well, what aspects of SEO can you actually work with and actually tie-into what you’re doing with paid search as well?

BRAD GEDDES: Okay, so I’m not an SEO. When you talk prerender, my brain just…I tune out. I do not hear any of the conversation.


BRAD GEDDES: So I’m a marketer at heart. It doesn’t matter how your ad shows up. If your organic ad shows up, if your Reddit blog post shows up, it’s all content designed to influence the user. So we see people who test ads to understand how to write headlines. We see other types of companies look at how do we use our ad data in our emails? Because your email button is your click through rate, right, information. And so all this stuff is completely inter-related, so it really is how do you leverage one area to test and understand how users react and then take that information into other aspects that you’re doing, whether it’s organic, email, social, whatever – they’re all still influencing users to take some sort of action or do some kind of activity. So marketing is marketing and the way it’s shows up is what the different tactics are.

DAVID BAIN: And do you generally use Google Analytics to track the impact that different activities have on each other?

BRAD GEDDES: That depends on the size of the company and if they compete with Google or not. So like an Adobe or a Microsoft – no way. For most people – yes. So from a technology standpoint, all the analytics systems can do it, it’s just a matter of where you want your data? Do you have to have multiple stacks talking to each other?

DAVID BAIN: Got you. So who else is finding that they’re getting more heavily involved actually with other marketing activities and they’re finding that they’re being sucked away from traditional SEO into more thinking about integrated marketing?

BRENT CSUTORAS: That’s something that happened to me ten years ago. When I started getting into SEO, when I first got into social it was link building. I realised that I could, with sites like Dig and Reddit, I could get deep-seated links into the content and then all of a sudden I hit the front page, crashed my server, got 10,000 links and a PR6 site after 30 days and went, ‘Holy shit – there’s something to this.’ And I stopped doing SEO and started focusing 100% on doing social in that early stage. But one of the things that has really driven me and excites me the most right now is the transition in the way that people are integrating and using the internet. I think we got really excited with social media and a lot of the structural shifts as technology became essentially like a layer in our everyday marketing lives, it became less of a segment and became part of everything that we do – our smartphones and everything like that. And so what I think is really cool and what I’m really following is the concept around virtual reality and augmented reality. How much is that going to shift everything that we do from design to content generation to interaction rates and click throughs and purchase rates and everything. When people are virtually engaged, how does that shift everything we do? When you look at the AMP project, that really excites me, not because I give two craps about the way that they’re trying to deliver faster content, but to me it’s interesting to watch how the companies are smart enough to know that the future is changing how you perceive your experience online. If they can set a standard where you feel like not having these extra things, not having the load time, not having a lot of the extra ads becomes what you’re used to, then when you try to go back, you can’t. It’s like who goes to a Yellow Pages and looks up a number these days? Even though the number is still adequately there and easily categorised for you to find it? And so I think AMP is what they’re trying to label. I think they’re trying to get away from the terminology AMP. Progressive web apps, I don’t know if anybody follows Ilya Grigorik from Google, but he’s been working on a lot of future progressive web apps where you don’t actually download the app, it caches everything and it makes calls and it allows you to essentially have an offline app that connects whenever you have an internet. That’s really exciting, that’s also where I find a lot of my passion in Reddit, because I think a lot of people don’t understand how much Reddit has shaped the cultural acceptance of web activity across the whole world, through some of their things. So those are the things that I follow a lot right now, because it’s societal change, it’s taking technology and changing people’s expectations for that technology.

DAVID BAIN: So is Reddit particularly impactful for certain industries? Is it like an underground social system that some sections of people…?

BRENT CSUTORAS: It’s not really underground. I think the big misconception on Reddit is that it’s like some small niche site. Reddit has over 10,000 communities, they have a community for every single city, every single culture, every single hobby. They have twenty communities for automotive and they’re doing 230 million uniques a month and they’re growing. In the US, it’s more significant than anywhere else. That’s where they’ve really grown and with 62% of the audience being US-based, they get 145 ish million uniques a month, which is one third of the US population. So it’s pretty significant, but more importantly if you look at the stuff like SOPA, a lot of the censorship issues, a lot of that got strength, it was driven on Reddit. When you look at the concept of memes, which we all love so much, those started on Reddit. When you look at AMAs, the Ask Me Anythings, those were founded there, so I think it’s definitely a sub-culture from where it started, but you’re talking about a site that’s done absolutely zero marketing ever, never done a newsletter, never did anything until this year and grew from virtually, in 2011 it had 13 million users and 2016 they have 230 million and they’re gaining about 25% growth month on month and now they took funding and started a growth team and started a newsletter and a podcast and documentaries and websites, like upboat it and they’re doing all their social channels and they’re getting into Instagram and all those other places. So they’ve done all that with nothing and how they’re actually going to make an effort. So that’s why I’m so excited about it, because I think that their growth potential is to get to 500 million, a billion users a month, pretty easily over the next two/three years.

DAVID BAIN: Is there a certain type of business that should treat Reddit more seriously though?

BRENT CSUTORAS: Everything, everything. The difference between Reddit and other social sites is that when you’re on, for example, Facebook, your family and friends, let’s say you have your crazy uncle who says something totally racist and you don’t believe that, but you don’t typically take a stand and decide to start arguing with him on Facebook. You’re just like, that’s crazy Eddie, just ignore him. When people say things you don’t like in family environments you kind of ignore it. You might banter a little bit, but for the most part you’re not looking to start an argument or really debate something. The same thing with Twitter, if you’re looking at something in a Starbucks line, you’re not really going to spend a lot of time, unless it’s personal, very, very personal you’d debate with your followers, you might debate with strangers, but you typically treat your followers a little differently. Reddit doesn’t have that social connectivity. They don’t have a sense of, ‘I’m here to hang out with my family and friends.’ And so what you get is blunt honesty and you get people who are there to learn and they’re there to interact. So when you go there as a company and you don’t prepare, you don’t research and if you have skeletons, I think this is the big thing, companies that go there and have really big skeletons in their closet, I think Wyclef went there recently and had a really big problem. If you have things that you’ve done like you’ve broken the law, ripped people off, you’re a company that’s kind of abusing human rights or environmental issues and you go there and you’re not willing to discuss those things, then that can be dangerous. So who shouldn’t be on Reddit? People who have something to hide and who aren’t prepared to stand their ground.

DAVID BAIN: So just taking a straw poll here of the seven people who are on here, is anyone else actively on Reddit and using it at the moment?

BRAD GEDDES: A little bit. Not a huge amount. We get more referrals from Reddit that Facebook and we don’t try to actually do a lot on Reddit, but we couldn’t ignore the numbers. The numbers were so strong, they were like, ‘Okay, we have to go to Reddit somewhat.’ And so we spend some time on Reddit just because it’s better than Facebook for us.

BRENT CSUTORAS: You have to understand that there’s a front page lurking audience and then there’s a front page logged-in, but if you can get into the top 50 categories on Reddit and hit the front page, you’re going to see anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 visits in a 24 to 48 hour time period. It’s a significant group of traffic and again a lot of people can brush that off, but the thing is that you’re not tricking them. They are not in family mode, they’re legitimately interested in what they’re coming to see.

BRAD GEDDES: And that’s the difference. So I’m talking about our little company. We’re an ad testing software company and our conversion rates from Reddit far outpace Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatnot, because someone mentions us in context of something interesting and people aren’t just reading, they’re actually buying, becoming customers, where Facebook, your bounce rates are 97%, Twitter it’s higher sometimes. Reddit’s not and so it’s a very different traffic source and so we actually treat it very, very differently.

DAVID BAIN: Intriguing. Okay, moving back to SEO a little bit actually, I’d like bit from Eoghan, because you’re going to be talking about things like hreflang and internationalisation of web pages. What are the biggest challenges that you’re seeing at the moment in terms of bad implementation of that kind of thing?

EOGHAN HENN: With hreflang annotation especially I think the biggest challenge for most companies is getting them right technically. We see lots of companies implementing hreflang, I think it started a few years ago. It’s been around for a while, but we still get the feeling that most people struggle with the implementation or with getting the concept right, getting the strategy right. So that’s what I’ll be talking about. I’ll be talking about how to avoid the most common mistakes, how to get it right technically, but then one point I would also like to make during my talk is that it’s not just about getting in right technically, you also need a good foundation beneath it, you need a good international domain strategy in order to get good international rankings. So that’s what my talk is going to be about.

BRENT CSUTORAS: It is interesting that even as long as we’ve been talking about international SEO it’s still such a question mark. I mean it’s like when people go about it, there is still a handful of people in the world that you can talk to that have experience and the depth of really running an international campaign and I still find that so interesting that it’s so valuable, especially in today’s world of connectivity, but yet it’s still so under-matured.

ARI NAHMANI: And big brands screw it up a lot. You can see this and I’m sure you’ve got plenty of examples of that, but whether you’re redirecting users hard or not, based on their IP, geolocation and their browser language and storing cookies and hreflang, there are a lot of complexities.

BRENT CSUTORAS: Do you think the industry is that complicated or is it the same kind of approach people did with everything that they don’t really embrace 100% where it’s half-arsed. Like somebody is not really putting together a true full strategy of, ‘How am I going to do this from A to Z?’ And they are just like, ‘We’ll buy that domain and build an account there and let’s change some language on a page and publish something here.’ What’s the real issue with why it’s so complicated?

DAVID BAIN: I think it’s with tools and with CMSs and things like that as well. Because recently I launched, I’m wondering do I need a version for the US and the UK? Because those are the two main target markets, but I want to do things like actually if I was to have a site targeted at the US and another site targeted at the UK, I would probably also want to have a blog that was international English and not targeted just in the one country. Then looking into that there are challenges with getting comments set up. If I was to have one comments section for all languages, so it’s not that easy to set up and I don’t believe the majority of CMSs or WordPress plug-ins if you want to use that, will really cater towards delivering a combination thing that is able to actually do international English and English for different countries quite well.

BRENT CSUTORAS: And not confusing it at the same time. We were going to try and do some Spanish language content, we realised that you have to do a ton, you have to make sure that the ads are not in different languages, that the links are not in different languages, that the header…I mean you really have to go into even how you define your content to Google, say, hey this is a UK site, don’t treat it like a US site. Put all the code in the parameters and everything in place and again I’m not that technical to be able to talk about all of it, but I realised from the conversations it was a lot tougher to get right than it was to get the concept together.

BASTIAN GRIMM: I think it gets even worse when you have a lot of mixed signals. So it’s one thing happening in a header, the other one is happening in the mark-up and the last one is what you get from external link sources that are from totally different geolocations and then you’re literally fucked, right, and that’s the biggest problem really. Because then as you said Brad, if there is no strategy in place that covers all of those aspects from the beginning onwards, then you really have a mess and it often takes way longer to clean that up – sometimes months or years – versus if you had done it properly from the beginning onwards.

BRENT CSUTORAS: Or you may never at all, right?


MICHAEL KING: I think Bastian brings up a good point about headers, because most of our tools don’t even look at headers for things like XRobot, hreflang and rel=canonical so your page may not be indexed for a reason that your tool hasn’t even thought of.

BASTIAN GRIMM: Totally agree.

DAVID BAIN: Eoghan I see you nodding away there. In the example that I was talking about English speaking sites, I see the majority of big brands in our industry, something like a, just going for English and not trying to actually deliver content for different countries like the UK separately. Is that generally the best strategy to go for if you just have an English site, do you think?

EOGHAN HENN: No, I wouldn’t say so, but it’s a pretty simple and easy strategy because if you only have one version of your website and it’s in English, you don’t have any problems with internationalisation really. Where it gets complicated is when you have several versions. So let’s say you have an English US version, you have an English UK version and then you have an English version for the rest of the world and you might have a German version, a Spanish version and a French version and this is where it gets really complicated for search engines to crawl and index your pages correctly and to deliver the right results to the right users, based on their language, based on their location and everything. So that’s when you have to take care of things like hreflang annotations and getting your indexing right and one thing Bastian said that’s very important is the signals. You have to get your signals right and most websites just send different signals in different places and that’s where search engines get confused and deliver the wrong results to users.

BASTIAN GRIMM: One of the added complexities nowadays is also like with the new stuff, like for example or local mark-ups and that kind of thing. We had a client that actually wanted to target the UK, but they only had a German residency or a German office, so they put on the schema mark-up to mark-up their address and that kind of stuff. That was really confusing for search engines. When they got rid of that all of a sudden that page started ranking in the UK again. So those weird kinds of things with new mixed signals makes it really complicated nowadays.

EOGHAN HENN: So basically it’s really important to get your concept and your strategy right and then to get the technical implementation right and if you make mistakes in of those two areas, it’s not going to work out for you. We also get a lot of clients coming to us and asking us to sort out their international SEO, sort out their hreflang annotations and we just noticed that they should start a lot earlier. They should start with a good strategy, with a good domain strategy, with a good version of your website that make sense for your target audience, for your users, choose the right languages, choose the right countries, choose the right domains and then take care of the technical implementation.

BRENT CSUTORAS: Is it easier to fix or to start over?

EOGHAN HENN: It depends, it depends on the situation. It is often a good idea to start with a good strategy. Start with a good domain strategy. And from my point of view, for most companies a good domain strategy would be one generic top level domain for the entire world, and then a good directory structure for the different languages and countries. Whatever you need. Some companies don’t even need country directories, some companies just need one version of their website for each language that is spoken in the world. It depends, if you don’t have offices in a country, if you’re not an online shop, if you operate globally you don’t really need country versions, you just need language versions. So in the end the strategy is going to be very individual for every single company, but it is important to start with a good strategy. If you have a good strategy, the technical implementation actually isn’t that tricky at all. Like hreflang, you read up how to do it and you do it.

ARI NAHMANI: But sometimes developers really bungle it. Have you ever just gone the site map route, just you guys are screwing this up so bad, I don’t know if people are still using that method, but have you done that when you just see that they keep messing it up and the engines are getting confused?

EOGHAN HENN: You mean implementing hreflang in the site maps?

ARI NAHMANI: In the site map.

EOGHAN HENN: I think it’s actually my favourite way of doing it, but developers tend to prefer the header section one, just including the…

ARI NAHMANI: I guess the challenge is if you’re hard coding it in the site map and something gets updated, if it’s manually run, if it’s automatically run then, if they can do it here, do it there, I guess it doesn’t really matter, but I like the fact that you can come in and just be like, just erase everything in the head and let me put this on the site map for you.

DAVID BAIN: Eoghan, what’s your preference for automatic redirection of users based upon IP?

EOGHAN HENN: My personal preference is don’t do it. It works perfectly in a country like Germany, where it’s one language, it works in the US. I lived in Belgium for a while and it was a pain in the arse, really. I ended up on the French version one day, on the Dutch version the next day and the English version another day and then the pages didn’t even remember which version I had selected, so they didn’t set a cookie or anything for my next visit. So I’m not a big fan of IP or browser language based redirects. They do come in handy sometimes, but you should only do it if you’re going to run it and that means doing it right for every user in the world.

BRAD GEDDES: As a frequent traveller who sometimes goes to sites and I don’t speak German but I’m in Germany three or four times a year. When a site locks me into the language and won’t even let me get to English, I can’t do anything and I spend money online. So if you’re going to do it, at least let people easily switch languages or actually use your sites.

ARI NAHMANI: And I think that’s the comment or the best practice now is serve an overlay and let the user decide, empower the user. But there are all sorts of challenges. I mean, Brent, you mentioned why is it so hard? We had a client that was Australia based, but depending on where their user came, they had different fulfilment centres, for where they were shipping the products. And so we had to figure out not only the overlay of language, but also which pathway that led them to the right cart that had the right currency and so on and which fulfilment centre. It was a huge challenge, so I think we just kind of give the instructions to the user on an overlay, whether it’s a top box or at the top and let them figure it out. Never mind the indexation issues that we have, because even if you’re 302-ing and not 301-ing, even though it’s temporary, we found that all of the non-US content was not getting indexed.

BRENT CSUTORAS: With PayPal one of the things that drives me nuts is because my other half is Chinese and reads a lot of the Chinese based sites. It will actually just base it on which site you’re visiting. Every time I log in to PayPal I’m on Chinese PayPal and I have to go through and delete it and put EN and then log in and then it’s fine, but every single time I open it, it’s Chinese.

ARI NAHMANI: Check your browser language, the preferred browser language in your content settings, there’s a little setting in your browser that’s…

BRENT CSUTORAS: But even on a different computer, it’s not even my computer, it’s like she’s on a whole different computer and because she has that set up in the IP…

DAVID BAIN: One of the things that I’d just like to talk about a little bit is also what’s happened with Google’s algorithm at the moment? Because obviously a few months ago we had RankBrain brought into it and that’s something that Mike’s going to be covering at SMX Munich. Mike, what are your initial thoughts on what’s happening with RankBrain at the moment and what we can expect to see in terms of the evolvement of the algorithm because of it?

MICHAEL KING: That’s news to me, I didn’t know I was covering that, but I guess I should.

BASTIAN GRIMM: I think it’s on the Webmasters on the roof panel isn’t it?

MICHAEL KING: Honestly, I think the study that Eric Enge did recently is the most definitive thing that we’ve seen in the difference of what’s been going on, but the difficulty that I have with RankBrain is that they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, all of a sudden we’re using machine learning.’ Like, no you’ve always been using machine learning, you just repackaging it and making it sound more exciting. So I think the other difficulty is that there is not much we can do about whatever RankBrain is doing because it’s just taking more features and then trying to figure out rankings in a way that isn’t necessarily even understood by Google engineers yet. So I think it’s going to be a cool thing to see evolve, but right now nobody really has any real answers about what RankBrain is and what it’s doing.

DAVID BAIN: Surely, RankBrain is a combination of different factors. If it’s machine learning, because people are saying, ‘Oh, RankBrain is going to overtake link building as the most important part of Google’s algorithm.’ But surely RankBrain is a combination of factors? Is that not the case?

ARI NAHMANI: Will Critchlow had an interesting post about this – sorry Mike…

MICHAEL KING: I was going to say exactly that. Go ahead.

ARI NAHMANI: …and it created a lot of controversy and the comments are actually hilarious to read. But like you said, that links the sort of backbone of the algorithm are still going to be there, it’s just that RankBrain is a machine learning that uses different signals. I honestly think it’s a lot of PR and…

BRENT CSUTORAS: RankBrain is a result. How can you have a result trump authority? To me it seems like a silly concept, but all it’s really done in my eyes right now, is get a lot of people to try to start writing one page answers on their site like crazy. I think the only thing you can really say to yourself if you really want to do anything is if you find you’re in a space and you have questions that are being asked regularly in your space, that you create content that answers that question. But that’s something we’ve been recommending to people for ten years. If your customer has a problem, answer the problem, right.

ARI NAHMANI: Featured snippets are potentially different in terms of RankBrain as an algorithm component, but in terms of featured snippets, which I think is what you’re talking about, I spoke at SMX Israel about this and that’s a fascinating thing in terms of, it’s very, for lack of a better term, gameable. There’s a lot that you can do in terms of reverse engineering, how featured snippets works and if you’re in an industry that has a lot of informational queries, a lot of informational requests in terms of what your competitors are doing, there’s a lot you can do to answer direct questions and use languages and structure language with bullets and so on.

BRENT CSUTORAS: That’s the problem about not being an SEO, is it’s very easy to mix up…

ARI NAHMANI: Yes, but RankBrain is all PR. That’s my opinion. It’s all PR.

MICHAEL KING: I agree. I think the really interesting thing about it is that fundamentally what they’re trying to do is replicate a quality rater. And I think that Will’s point is that once they can replicate a quality rater, well maybe they don’t need links as much. Once they can replicate someone actually looking at a site and thinking, ‘Oh, yes this is good and it’s about this topic’ then we don’t necessarily need the whole page rank thing as much anymore.

ARI NAHMANI: It’ll be interesting though, because I know that with the machines taking over completely, there’s no if then statements anymore, there’s no human coated development that goes into understanding quality, which is like Skynet a little bit.

DAVID BAIN: So should every business be trying to answer questions that are appearing in these direct answers that Google are favouring for many queries at the moment, or is that something that only works for certain types of industries?

MICHAEL KING: Well, how is that different fundamentally from what we do with search in general? Like having the instant answer gives that sense to the user that these are the authority, because they have they answer to my question directly at this point in the search, which essentially is position zero. You’re above all the other organic results, in some cases you might be above or below the paid results, so why would they not want to be seen as more authoritative by answering the question? And the other component of it is a lot of the content that we create in general is supposed to be educational so that you feel like I know enough about the thing that you’re trying to buy, whether it’s a service or a product. So I think, yes, every business should be thinking about how can I continue to be that authority and then show up above other people?

DAVID BAIN: One of the problems is that Google are using the information, this content, displaying it within their search results and the user sometimes doesn’t actually go through to the website. They see the direct answer, they’re happy with the direct answer and they move on.

ARI NAHMANI: There have been studies that show that the click through rate is astronomical with the link right below it and I still, any day of the week, even though Google is scraping my content and serving it to users, even if you’re ranking number one, if you’re able to get the snippet, you can see that there’s a…I forget who did a study on it, but you can Google around and you’ll see it, I think it’s very valuable. The question is whether they start removing the link, that’ll be…

BRENT CSUTORAS: I asked Eric if he would release the list of all the ones that he had that didn’t have an answer, all the unresponded ones, and he refuses to release the list, because I would have loved to have that kind of information. Which ones are not getting an answer, so you can start working on that? I think the biggest thing with that stuff is that you have to be careful, because we always get caught in that, it was the image carousel that we had to jump in for local listings and then it was Google authorship which everybody was talking…we just have to be careful, because Google does a lot of testing and we can find ourselves really chasing the carrots on the stick.

DAVID BAIN: It reminds me of paid advertising, as well, Brad. In that obviously it’s possible on Google adwords to have so many sub-links within an advert as well. Generally, when you offer that you’re probably going to get a higher click through rate, but will you get a higher purchase rate as well if you do that?

BRAD GEDDES: Generally, conversional rates don’t change by site links. They usually stay static and then you just get a better click through rate, so essentially you are getting more total conversions. There are some exceptions to that, especially on mobile, but for the most part conversion rates are static in that. You’re just getting more buyers.

DAVID BAIN: Okay. What about taking out certain links and webmaster tools and search console. Obviously you can’t select the links that organically appear there, but you can request Google not to have certain links appear there. Does anyone do that on a regular basis for different sites and actually think that the deliver a better user experience by doing that?

BRAD GEDDES: Like I, not an SEO, I don’t claim to be, but we actually look and say, okay, Google those are three terrible ones you put in there and remove it ourselves. I think the experts here definitely are doing that.

ARI NAHMANI: We get clients all the time that are larger brands that even just for, not only their own brand search, but if you type like brand plus vertical or whatever the different categories, the sub links there also can be demoted. So this is a constant maintenance level. Sometimes you have crawling issues from your navigation that we just kept getting store locations showing up there when we searched the brand and we finally figured out that it had to do with a URL parameter configuration issue in webmaster tools, but ultimately the demoting of those, I think is a huge value…

BRENT CSUTORAS: What do people look at for metrics to kind of determine that? Is it bounce rate, conversion rate? Is there any specific metric that you’re thinking about?

ARI NAHMANI: Go more basic than that. I think we’re just talking about when there’s a horrible result, like you type a brand and there’s a random store location page as opposed to a main vertical or like just the terms of service page is showing up there…

BASTIAN GRIMM: What I would recommend just doing one by one, because otherwise you would be demoting two at the same time, you would lose that one line in the search results, so only do one and wait before another one comes in and then do the next one, takes a bit longer, but if it’s not a totally bad result, I will always do one by one.

DAVID BAIN: Great. Well you guys have shared so much great information so far, but shall be maybe start to wrap things up and actually maybe think about just one takeaway for viewers in terms of what has been discussed so far, what do you think is a good action point for people to take away and then if you can perhaps just remind people what you’re talking about at SMX Munich and just any contact details. So shall we start off with Ari again?

ARI NAHMANI: Well I won’t say Reddit, because I’m sure other people will say that. But something I didn’t get to mention and I think is a huge takeaway is how the surf is changing and how the entire real estate is constantly shifting. Brad mentioned about everything is an ad, it’s just a matter of where it shows up and what the payment structure is? Featured snippets for me is something very new and although we don’t want to game it too much, because marketers always ruin everything, there is a lot of tech out there and again I spoke about it at SMX Israel, if you Google it there’s a way to use lots of tools to see which of your queries that are coming into your website don’t contain it and ones that do where you don’t rank and I think that that is just an awesome opportunity that’s underutilised. I’m speaking about something completely different at SMX Munich, but the ever-changing surf and chasing the real estate I think in all aspects of it is something that I’m really excited about and have heard a lot about that today.

DAVID BAIN: Great, okay and sorry what’s the domain name, what is your website again?

ARI NAHMANI: Oh,, but don’t go there, it’s a horrible site.

DAVID BAIN: And Bastian?

BASTIAN GRIMM: I would say probably for me the biggest thing right now really is speed. So speed really, really matters on each and every device. I’m a really, really impatient guy and I hate waiting, especially as the guys said, especially if you travel and are on slow mobile connections, it’s a pain to wait for something that you want to look up quickly. So for me that’s not really a core SEO issue, but rather more of a user experience kind of thing. So, yes, not necessarily AMP, I’m not a big fan of that, honestly, but speed in general, make sites fast, that’s probably the key thing and it helps in rankings as well.

DAVID BAIN: And is that what you’re going to be talking about as well?

BASTIAN GRIMM: I did last year, so this year I’m going to leave it over to Cindy Krum who’s obviously also very, very good in site speed kind of thing. Last year we shared the stage, this year I’m going to do crawl budget and indexation kind of thing, because I think that’s the second biggest thing for me right now. Proper indexation management and those pages being crawled that really matter. So yes, this is going to be my stuff for next week.

DAVID BAIN: And in terms of finding more about you? It’s isn’t it?


DAVID BAIN: Great stuff. And also with us today is Brad.

BRAD GEDDES: Yes, so I would say focus on the fact that everything is an ad, right. Everything you’re doing, it doesn’t matter if it’s organic, an email, social, whatever, it is an ad designed to have a user do some action, whether it’s read content, interact with content, buy something, everything is an ad and no matter how you get there, you have to think of what’s the end result to the user experience, which is why at SMX I’m doing a full day workshop on adwords and then one talk on enterprise, but enterprise from the ad standpoint and another one on ads beyond keywords. In the end users don’t care about the technical stuff, they don’t care about your bids if you’re paid. They don’t care about any of that, right. The users only care about what ad do I see and what’s the content I interact with? Everything else is for us, right, it’s not for them.

DAVID BAIN: Great thoughts. And in terms of getting hold of you, Brad, is it the best place to go?

BRAD GEDDES: No, that’s the holding company, so @bgtheory is my Twitter handle where I hang out a lot, but would be the easiest place to find us.

DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. Okay, well thanks for joining us. And also with us today was Brent.

BRENT CSUTORAS: Yeah, you know the biggest takeaway I have from all of this, it was kind of mentioned a couple of different times in the conversation, is to really focus on having a strategy and really thinking before you do things. We see this across the board in social, SEO and everything, it’s just there’s this sense of I need to do everything and I think we really are at a point right now where we need to focus more on what we actually think works and has a return and focus energy around amplifying return instead of spending 100% energy experimenting. I think with all of these things it’s just sitting back and thinking about how it works for you and that’s one of the things – I’m speaking about Reddit – and one of the things that I always say is that no site is the best site for everyone. You have to pick and choose your angle. And again, where I’m from –Pixel Road Designs and Search Engine Journal.

DAVID BAIN: Wonderful, okay, thanks, Brent. And also with us was Eoghan.

EOGHAN HENN: I loved everything we talked about today, so thanks for that guys. I’m very passionate about international strategies and SEO and paid search, so I’d be happy to follow up on that in the future and I’ll be talking about hreflang annotations at SMX next week.

DAVID BAIN: Lovely and what’s your website again?

EOGHAN HENN: My company’s website is, but as that’s entirely in German I would recommend you visit my blog, where you can read my stuff in English.

DAVID BAIN: Wonderful. And also with us was Martijn.

MARTIJN BURGMAN: So yes, I think Brad and Brent both mentioned it, it all depends on what is the goal that you want to achieve in the end, why do you do certain things and on which channels do you do that? For example we discussed Reddit quite a lot – only go on there if it’s genuine, really think what is it you want to achieve and how do you get there. In the end try to be as genuine as the brand as well, because I think that’s going to be the main focus also in my talk. That’s what I will be focusing on – what can we learn from each other? So from the SEO point of view and the PR and how can we bring that together and you can find us on

DAVID BAIN: Lovely, thank you, Martijn. And also thanks for getting up very early Mr Mike King.

MICHAEL KING: I’m on the road, I’ve got to make it happen. So I agree with Bastian, I’m very much about speed right now as well. Primarily optimising to the critical rendering path, but one of my biggest takeaways is that we as an SEO industry, or the SEO industry rather, have gotten away from the whole testing and learning and making our own stuff culture and I think we need to get back to that, because like I said before, a lot of our SEO tools just aren’t cutting it and they are very much behind what search engines are able to do and one of the things I really harp on in my talk is how we can get back to creating small tools for ourselves that are going to help us do the technical things that we need to do at this point.

DAVID BAIN: Wonderful and the best way to get hold of you?


DAVID BAIN: Superb and you were also going to say what you are talking about as well, weren’t you Mike?

MICHAEL KING: No, I was going to say where to find me.

DAVID BAIN: Well thank you so much for joining us. It was great to have everyone on. I’m David Bain, Head of Growth at, actionable big data for enterprise content marketing. And you can also find me interviewing online marketing gurus over at Now if you’re watching the show as a recording, remember to watch the next show live. So head over to and be part of the live audience for the next show. But for those of you who are watching live, we also have an audio podcast of previous shows, so again sign up to email updates at and you will receive a link to the podcast from there too. But until we see you again, have a fantabulous weekend, have a great time at SMX Munich next week and thank you all for joining us. Cheers everyone, thank you for being a part of it.

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