Wiep Knol does a rare thing in the SEO industry – blog about it without sucking. Incredibly enough, besides not suck, Wiep actually does quite the reverse. For that reason, I hold him in very high regard. I wanted to interview Wiep both because I respect him and also because he has a unique perspective, being based in the Netherlands, that I wanted to learn more about – and similarly, felt anyone who read this would want to know about as well. Personally, I’m most jealous of his name, as I sorta imagine that Wiep might have a shot at being an action movie star in the USA if he ever gets acquired by Blueglass in the next few years and that ends up not working out.
1. You’re most known for two things – your link building blog, and also, for existing outside the main SEO hubs in the Netherlands. Do most of your clients come within the Netherlands or does your internet reach mean you can pull down lots/any American/UK clients? Do you prefer not to do so? Are there any distinct difficulties that come with cross-continent SEO operations? Are there any specific stories you can share?
I am the co-owner of a Dutch link building agency, Linkbuilding.nl, and I run several website publishing projects of my own, so my time to take on large, international link building campaigns is quite limited.
I work on some campaigns for companies based in Europe, but not for companies from the US at the moment. As the time difference of at least six hours makes link building for a US website somewhat difficult (I prefer sleeping at night, in stead of sending out link requests), I mainly provide consultancy for companies overseas.
2. As a fellow SEO blogger who does so to driving SEO consulting gigs (at least partially), you have a unique perspective on the value of SEO blogging. SEO blogging, in many ways, is unlike many other industries, in that a lot of the information is regurgitated and largely throwaway – and yet, some 15 million SEO blogs (according to Google) have taken upon themselves to contribute to the echo chamber. How deep does the value run? Does it make sense for a small agency with 5 RSS feed subscribers to have a blog? How many SEO companies/bloggers do you think see real ROI from blogging on SEO?
For me, blogging has been extremely valuable. It’s the perfect way to show what you’re capable of – are you an echoer or are you unique? Do you regurgitate, or do you actually think about things and test stuff? If your blog is different (in a good way), the same will probably go for your services.
Besides that, it’s also a great networking tool, a source of extra organic traffic and a link building asset. And not to forget a great place for inspiration, as every blog post you write (hopefully) makes you think about SEO, but also about what you do and what you offer.
3. How does “social networking” translate across the pond? What percentage of the almost-300 people you follow are from the United Kingdom? Does Twitter take on a different identity in Europe? What cross-cultural differences do you see between interactions between those in Europe and the United States, if any? Are there more retweets? Less engagement? Less narcissism? More narcissism?
Social networking here and on your side of the pond is basically the same, except from a few hours time difference. The market share of most social networks might be a bit higher in the US, and the same goes for the amount of heavy users, but not dramatically. A small difference is probably that Europeans generally dislike self-promotion – this seems to be less in the US.
I think that about 40% of the people I follow on Twitter are people from the Netherlands, 30% from the UK and the rest of Europe, and 20% from the US. The rest are probably bots and feeds
4. You have a unique perspective in that I imagine you do a lot of Netherlands and UK SEO, when a large portion of English websites on the web – and SEO-worthy sites, as I’ve heard you mention – are based in the United States. How have you found value transfers across the pond? I know nobody ever wants to get an exact ratio, but how much value do you feel is lost if you’re trying to rank in Netherlands but you get a link in the United States, if at all? I never see this mentioned (or approximated), but it seems obvious that Google must devalue – but not not completely disregard – links from different countries and/or languages. Do you feel a less significant dropoff from UK hosted links (when trying to host a site in the Netherlands) as opposed to USA hosted links? Or is cross-continent a pretty stable negative condition on a link?
One big difference with links on sites in other languages is the language itself – it would be weird if I got a link with a Dutch anchor text to a deep (Dutch) page on an English site. Since this rarely happens, you’ll see that the links do pass value, but that passing anchor text value is a different story.
I think that this also differs per niche. For example, the internet marketing industry, but also poker, travel and many more, are quite international, so international links are more common. For most SMB’s it would be very unusual to have lots of links from abroad.
5. “International SEO” is something I hear with increasing regularity, and I am beginning to see more websites and agencies prop up international offices, such as Performics – and there are several websites with presences internationally (and unique TLDs as well). Do you see this increasing dramatically in the next few years – if you aren’t seeing it occur already? Do you think it’s more likely the US/UK “moves” over to the UK to take stead as it comes to SEO or is it more likely the sophistication of these sectors will catch up first? Savvy SEOs are beginning to take notice of “entrenchments” in certain verticals, which means ranking 1st page could take over 2 years for domains without a revolutionary value add – so maybe it makes sense to instead jump continents with the same products instead of trying to beat the New York Yankees in baseball. But then again, maybe I am missing some lots of cross-continent barriers to entry that I’m not seeing that you could help us out with.
I’ve seen quite a lot of SEO agencies open up international offices as well, but I’ve also seen several of these companies retreat within a few years or even months – including the company I used to work for. I think that some companies underestimate the complexity of Europe. There’s a reason why there are only very little *really* international SEO companies.
I see a bigger trend when it comes to websites. More and more large English-language websites seem to roll out versions in other languages, such as French, Spanish or German, but also the smaller languages. Considering the immense international competition, I think it’s a smart move to do at this moment. You can still try to grab some market share with a translated website and a global strategy in some countries. I think this will be different in a year or two, though, when local markets start to become saturated as well. Then you need to localize your content and marketing strategy as well, and some companies are already making this switch, and gaining market share rapidly.
6. As far as mindshare goes, I know SEO Gadget and Distilled are the big players in the UK, and as such, there is an international SEO presence in that area. However, beyond that, the only people and/or agencies I know (and can recognize based on location outside the United States/U.K.) is you. Is it that you’re bilingual exclusively, or something else? How big of an advantage does this give you? Is there another “major” SEO agency that’s not-English that you know about that’s worth checking out?
There are lots of bilingual bloggers and Twitter users in Europe (just have a look at the State of Search bloggers, for example), but to be honest, I don’t know much about the companies who they work for. Most companies are ‘leading in their field’ (at least according to themselves) and directories like Topseos are laughable at best, so that can’t be of any help either. Sorry, I guess you’re better off asking on Twitter.