October 4th, 2013 in Kyiv an annual conference about SEO and online marketing on the Western markets SEMCamp 2013 will take place. The event organizer is Promodo. In anticipation of this really long awaited by many internet marketing professionals event Searchengines.ru: decided to interview company’s CEO, head of marketing department at Promodo Roman Viliavin.
Roman specializes in the promotion of Western projects and has been working in SEO sphere since 2005. Roman is Google Adwords and Google Analytics certified individual; he has worked with on numerous projects from different business niches, including Bwin, Namecheap, InetGiant and other.
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SE: Roman, it might be reasonable to try to make a forecast at the beginning of our conversation: how promotion in Google will change in 2013? These days SEO specialists are continuously discussing link acquiring problems…Has something changed indeed or do paid links still work?
Roman Viliavin: new methods have not been invented for long. More probably, new instruments appear, some methods which were previously in the shade come to the fore. And, of course, search engines policy regarding paid links becomes more and more strict – this trend has been in place since Google algorithm Penguin was launched in April 2012.
Link farms do not disappear which means paid links still work. Another thing is that situation has changed, no longer you can invest one dollar and receive in turn the wealth. Low-quality links lead to collapse very quickly; good links are scare, as anything good in the world that is why their price is high.
SE: Is it reasonable in some cases to promote website only for low search volume keywords without paid links at all? If yes, then what strategies should be used?
Roman Viliavin: The situation is absolutely clear: you can opt out for paid links as well as promote website only for low search volume keywords. We always tell this at our conferences and demonstrate cases from our work with online stores – results are achieved without any external links, only through quality content and internal linking.
Another question is that such methods also cost money, and for small websites with limited marketing budget it is easier to buy links than invest into content.
SE: You personal thoughts about Disavow Links instrument: whether this method is effective if we want to disallow low quality links for promotion in Google? When is it better to use this method?
Roman Viliavin: Yes, this instrument was quite effective for several our clients, which came to Promodo with penalized website.
If the total number of links is not large, than the results from Disavow tool are quite good. You can filter the links mass thoroughly, make the list of links to disallow, and in 1-2-3 attempts manage to cure the website.
For big projects, with link profile containing hundreds thousands links the effectiveness of this tool will be considerably low. In this case you can filter the link mass for ever.
The appearance of function notifying about manual webspam actions in Google Webmaster Tools was very helpful too. Earlier, Google policy as to the penalized websites was not correct: it penalized them without giving any examples of reasons which were the cause.
Taking into account how quickly search engine opinion about different promotion methods changes, such approach could be called unconstructive. Happily, now situation improves.
SE: Lin building could be referred to external methods, in your opinion was is the optimal balance between оff-page SEO and on-page SEO? What should we pay attention most of all?
Roman Viliavin: There is no definite balance. It is not defined by abstract criteria which are probably convenient for SEO books; it is rather formed on the ground of result we would like to achieve. We should use the factors which work in the certain niche.
In competitive niches (gambling, forex, expensive services like legal help and so on) role of links is really essential – almost 100%. The winner takes it all, that is why without large budgets in such niche you are not able to do anything. However, it is true only from SEO point of view. Search engine optimization is not the medicine to all deceases. You can find plenty of wesbites, which do not use SEO at all and their business is doing really great: partner traffic, forum links, etc.
SE: Have you happened to have clients with websites hurt by Google algorithms Penguin and Panda, and do you have a positive experience of curing them?
Roman Viliavin: I will not lie, telling that we did not experience any difficulties. There is always something which you do and which search engine considers negatively.
Let me note, that I don’t see any reason to mention these well-known names in order to describe the exact problem of the exact website. In fact, it is only a small percentage of reasons when websites loses traffic.
If we call Penguin website penalization for using aggressive anchors, then in summer 2012 we had several unpleasant cases. We were successful at times, however not always, to be honest. As to the methods how to combat and prevent this, there is no secret, many specialists name them: migration to the new domain with 301 redirect, branded and no anchors links, and so on.
Penguin is not the biggest problem these days, in fact this is only a question, what anchors to use for links. If to use “aggressive”, will face algorithm, if not – then sanctions will be not applied.
As to Panda, we almost have not experienced this kind of problem as for long we have been sticking to the policy – do not take for promotion projects with large amount of not unique content which owners do not want to remove.
SE: Do you agree with Matt Cutts saying that website owner should create something special, unique and useful with the hope that users will spot that and start actively sharing links and website will be extremely successful? Could this theory applied in real life? Websites are created with different aims and sometimes they are simply not able to place there super unique content….
Roman Viliavin: In theory Cutts is right. In practice however, this statement doesn’t make so much sense. Work best of all will be things that will bring results, not those which are just right to do.
As for now, in practice in most of niches rule that bare content is useful for promotion doesn’t work. Many understood Cutts as that they need to buy more “empty” reviews, make low quality infographics and run a blog stuffed with loads of information which brings no value.
Not many companies at all are good at writing, filming or making really cool videos, infographics, and so on.
At the same time, making everybody issue tons of extra useful content is not good in my opinion. Simply because, for example, for a store or air tickets website the main purpose is to sell, not to write reviews, infographics or post cute kittens.
Another question is that for example if you promote in the search results online store selling electronics (which are plenty on market already), then it is desirable to make it stand out from the crowd in order to surpass the competitors. For example, placing on the website You Tube video review of new telephone model will be an excellent solution. If on top of that, users will be able to read customers feedback, it will be perfect. Useful content is good only when it is needed, when it serves the business main purpose.
If such rules of game do not suit – lack of money, strengths, aspiration, and so on – then it is better to search for another Universe, where there is no Matt Cutts and his sophisticated theories.
SE: Roman, proceeding from mentioned above, should webmasters, SEO specialists and website owners listen to Matt Cutts, John Muller and other Google representatives’ advice? And whether we should understand them literally?
Roman Viliavin: Of course you should not understand them literally, however, in the whole, they say very useful and right things and never outright lie. In my opinion, if to listen and filter attentively, and think over later, then it will be definitely useful.
SE: A bit more about social: Roman, has something changed in SEO with Google Plus appearance? How effective is this Google child for web source promotion?
Roman Viliavin: For local projects – very important: just recently Google integrated Google Places for Business with Google Plus, and suddenly working with Google Plus has become very important. For big content projects Google Plus is of certain interest as a referral traffic source (impact on rankings has not been spotted). For others I don’t notice anything, to be honest.
SE: How important for Google is authorship rights in your opinion? What website will benefit from it? Similar question is about “rel=publisher”, whether commercial websites can use this attribute for better rankings in Google?
Roman Viliavin: Honestly, I have not noticed any special impact so far. We do use Google authorship for almost all clients. I see no problem in using it, but I would not also claim that by applying it commercial websites will receive extra positive results in rankings.
SE: Whether it is possible to promote website in the English and Russian version of Google at the same time? And how to implement it correctly?
Roman Viliavin: The most correct variant is to create separate websites on separate domains and promote them independently from each other.
If it not possible, then through subdomains or folders create local versions (difference is little from our experience, however there are certain points which should be considered), and once again, promote them separately.
SE: What is a particular feature of multiregional website promotion in Google?
Roman Viliavin: There are two regional levels for search engines today.
Key feature of multiregionality on country level is mentioned in my answer to the previous question – best of all to do everything on separate local domains, i.e. for the Great Britain use domain co.uk, for Spain – .it, and so on.
If to take regional level – it is city for Google – you should work with Google Plus and Google Places for Business. In short, every website should be registered as a separate place tied to the certain address of a city. Filling in and developing your profile, encouraging users to leave feedback – this is what influences on rankings in the local search results.
And the third case (like subdivision of the second) is when you have one website, but would like to be ranked for local search queries for different cities. For example, hotel booking website has one address but needs to be ranked for queries Barcelona hotels and Madrid hotels.
How to be then? Sadly, there is no effective solution. Google policy as to the local organic search is the following: first of all, search engine tries to show in the local search results a direct supplier of the services (hotel, laundry, language school, etc.), not the service-collector. But what user will look further than Google AdWords block and local search results? Especially it is true for mobile devices – old pattern of organic search results is not seen there at all. This way Google “gently” hints website owners that they should head to Google AdWords if they want traffic.
SE: Let’s talk now about working with local search on Western markets. How to offer SEO services and work with overseas customers correctly?
Roman Viliavin: This question is so broad that you can make a separate interview!
First of all, you should position the company as SEO-company only. It will only hinder during the sale. Overseas customers are looking for complex approach.
We find for customers the solutions, which will be really effective in his case, and on the base of this we form the offer. If keywords should be selected or meta tags should be corrected – we will do it. If the website needs to solve the problem with old link profile filter – ok. In case the customer needs the blog to be run, we can undertake to run it, and if he would like to ne active on forums and open a discussion, we will do that too. The main criterium is result.
We had that experience when we tried to offer standard SEO-packages (keyword research, typical internal optimization, a certain number of external links, some conversion rate optimization recommendations). But it was not interesting for clients and rarely worked out. So we decided to give up such approach.
SE: How reporting system is built with overseas customers?
Roman Viliavin: As to the reporting, we usually try to adjust it to customer needs; we don’t have any strict pattern.
For all our new clients we create projects in Basecamp. There we communicate, exchange files, etc. Overseas customers better understand such mode. This is convenient for us too: everything is in one place, several participants can comment on the task promptly, etc.
Similarly, such workflow process is a very broad topic as well, so it’s difficult to fully answer this question in a few words.
SE: What is a main difference between overseas customers and Ukrainian together with Russian? What can SEO specialist guarantee overseas customer and what is his responsibility?
Roman Viliavin: Overseas clients take work without guarantees more easily, they don’t think of it as of buying a bun at bakery: gave money – received a bun. It is easier to explain them that third party (Google) also influences the result, and sometimes you should wait for it. Also, they better understand that success depends on their readiness to implement our recommendations.
Definitely, I can stress on their “law-obedience”. These people get used to paying taxes, calling the police, if they see domestic violence, etc. For the company it results in timely payments and following all Google recommendations.
Besides, these people have not got used to risk their business in exchange for here-and-now result. That is why when it comes to methods, overseas customers often use this phrase “white hat SEO only” and so on.
Of course, they all are different, and it is difficult to categorize them by calling “ours” and “not ours”, however, the main particular features I have named.
SE: Some time ago Aleksandr Kolb said that majority of overseas customers are not interested in SEO as a separate service – complex approach is more important. Do you agree with such opinion? And what does “complex internet marketing” term include?
Roman Viliavin: Yes, it is true. It is much easier to discuss partnership with the person if we can cover several directions at once. I mean, when we are able not only help with the traffic problem, but also improve conversion rate. We benefit from it as well, because if even the best traffic in the world won’t convert on customer’s website, he will leave us sooner or later.
I don’t want to annoy you with boring formal definitions of what we mean by “complex internet marketing”. I understand it this way: we undertake to solve for the customer problem with visits, regardless of channel which will supply them. Our task is to bring visitor to the website and lead him to the target action on the customer’s website. How we will do that – by working with Google AdWords, organic search, through optimizing landing page for search queries, decreasing number of fields in the registration form – to customer it is rather a secondary question. Result is the main indicator of success in this case.
SE: Roman, at SemCamp conference in Ukraine you plan to give a workshop on topic “Integrated B2B marketing strategies: how to get, educate and grow leads to customers”. Tell us briefly about it. How will it be useful for?
Roman Viliavin: I want to share my knowledge which I gained developing internal marketing and sales in Promodo. I want to give practical tips which could be implemented by anybody in this sphere. We built and continue building all this for many years and, as it seems to me, we achieved some success in this field!