Wojtek and I spent a few days in Warsaw to attend the Search Marketing Week workshops. I was particularly interested in SEO workshop with Ex-Googlers - Google and Panda Recovery. Here is a little bit more about this event and what I've learned from it...
Kaspar Szymanski - in Poland also know as "Guglarz", left the Google Search Quality Team in June 2013.
Jonas Weber - A former member of the Google Search Quality Team. At the moment, an SEO expert, specializing in online marketing for doctors (I've seen some examples of his work, if you are a doctor from Germany - there is no better guy to take care of your online presence).
Fili Wiese - He is a former member of Google Search Quality Team - Web Spam and Click Spam in Ad Traffic. Worked at Google for 7 years. Now, he is an international SEO specialist.
Event was organized by MaxRoy agency and as usual, they did a great job as hosts. The workshop itself was hosted by Kaspar Szymanski, he personally welcomed every participant and he was trying to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable.
The workshop was divided into 3 parts corresponding with 3 speakers and a Q&A part.
SEO = Google by Kaspar Szymaski
In this part, Kaspar focused on penalties and algorithms. He strongly divided site penalization by Google and position/traffic drops due to algorithm changes. In his words, drops in positions caused by algorithms are not penalties. A penalty is only given to your site manually by Search Quality Team.
He gave a handful of tips about submitting reconsideration requests. It was really interesting to hear all about dealing with manual penalties from actual Search Quality Team manager.
You crapped all around the web, and now you have to clean it up
SEO = Onpage by Fili Wiese
Part of the workshop entirely focused on the SEO side we can 100% control - the website. Apart from a lot of info about, as Matt Cuts would say "creating great content that you would recommend to your mother" :), Fili focused on many on-page ranking factors that are not used frequently enough by webmasters, like authorship, schema, proper use of rel canonicals, etc.
Your website content should solve someone's problem
SEO = Marketing by Jonas Weber
Jonas's part was one of the most inspiring for me in terms of online marketing. I'd actually say that his part wasn't even a little bit focused on SEO in the way that we understand it. If i would have seen this presentation not knowing it was the part of the SEO workshop, I'd say he was a public relation expert. I admit I was truly impressed with Jonas's case studies of his customers. Don't get me wrong, he has huge amount of SEO knowledge and achievements, but from what I've seen, he is not doing any SEO in terms of link building. Most of examples he showed, didn't even have a do-follow link or ANY link for that matter.
It was quite an interesting experience to meet with three former Google employees. I could ask them about all the problems I come across on daily basis while working on customers sites or trying to rank some of our projects. There wasn't any "Google leaks" or shocking news that would knock your socks off, but it sure was worth meeting with these guys face-to-face. I had a chance to discuss some of my projects with Fili and have a look at my sites from a Googler (ex-Googler) perspective. Also there was many SEOs from Poland struggling with either customers or their own sites and it was quite surprising to me, how more that 20 guys in the room and everyone had a different view on whole SEO than the guys from Google. That might be the one simple reason why the last algo changes hit us so hard.. :)
What I've learned?
1. Googlers see SEO different than SEOs!
After this workshop I definitely know much more about how Googlers look at our (SEOs) work. And I don't say ex-Googlers for a reason. They might have a different name on their pay slip, but they sure look at things just like they did while working on Search Quality Teams. I think that years of working in Google made them true believers that "content = king" (check the photo if you don't believe it).
2. SEOs see SEO different than Googlers!
While I believe all that, there are some areas where it;s just not gonna happen. There was one great question (I don't think Googlers found it as great as I did), guy sitting in front from what I understand dealing with roughly 200 sites of customers in an SEO agency asked: "Ok guys what if I got like 200 sites, all local and I want to do SEO for those?". Knowing the Polish market, it was clear to me that he is NEVER going to create super content that "you would recommend to your mother". He was looking for simple solution he can scale. Ex-Googlers, I think it was Fili that gave him quite a good example of a hair dresser, which would record short YouTube videos with advice on how to choose perfect hair dye colors etc. This way she gained customers and good brand name for herself. This brings me to point 3...
3. Like it or not, SEOs have to adapt and play by Googler's rules.
Example above (hairdresser), shows two sides of the same business. I can bet any of you guys that this guy asking the question is not making his customers to record videos doing their jobs. Mostly because in Poland 90% of the SEO market is signing SEO contracts for RESULTS. This is really unique to my nation and I don't think that you can see that anywhere else, but still it's gonna have to END and its gonna have to end sooner rather than later.
4. As Fili said, "don't ever underestimate the computing power of Google.
Not many comments on this point - I never will Fili :D
5. Create sites that you would recommend to your mother.
We got some sites in adult industry so this advice is a little bit f..d up ;), but you know the way of thinking Googlers have. User experience is most important for them, no matter what.
Was it worth the trip?
Answer is simple - YES it was!
Most if not all of the questions were answered by Kaspar via Twitter: