A bloggers view on search in Europe: Dennis Sievers

Mon 26 January 2009 14:23, Dennis Sievers

A bloggers view on search in Europe: Dennis Sievers

[Editor]Last week we announced Dennis Sievers as one of the new bloggers at Searchcowboys. Dennis is a loyal Searchcowboysfan and is an SEO specialist from the Netherlands. He works for Gladior as a product manager, the same function he has at Indenty. Dennis also has his own company, Webiteers, so he keeps himself pretty busy.

Dennis responded to our question to write a post about Search in Europe with an extensive post below. We asked our blogger what their thoughts ree, how do they see the future of Search in Europe and what is the difference between US and Europe. Dennis gives his view and refers to other Searchcowboysbloggers as well. It’s well worth the read!

Dennis Sievers' view on Search in Europe

Thank you for reading my first post at Search Cowboys. I hope you enjoy reading what I have to offer, and that you consider my future posts to be a welcoming source of information. All new cowboys are asked to start with an introduction post about their view on European search. Since a lot has been written about the complexity of the European market, I would like to take you all back to the beginning, when search was still like ‘a first tooth peaking through the gum line’ for most of the European organisations. From that moment on, I’ll go through some strategies and algorithmic changes, to end up with the current situation in the land of search.

Search Engine Marketing
As a product manager my job is to keep an eye on the market and anticipate on what is coming or should be coming. When I started doing SEO, the SEM market in the Netherlands was relatively small. Only a few players knew the power and potential of SEO and started offering optimization services to a fast growing market. Back in the 'old days' SEO basically was nothing more than stuffing pages with keywords and spaghetti texts, and buying tons of domains to point them out to each other. Every search engine visitor was redirected below water, so they wouldn't see the crappy content that was taking care of the high positions in search engines. You know, the tactics that we consider black hat SEO nowadays, but were no big deal those days. Tactics that were successful world wide, no matter what language, no matter what location you were, it just worked. And all SEM companies used them, although some still might say they weren't ;-).

By the way , the clients didn't bother either. As long as they had top positions in search engines and got visitors, they were happy. They didn't really know anything about SEO or SEM. They heard SEO was great, and that everybody should do it before it was too late. The train was leaving and they'd better get on board. And so they did. 

Google changing their strategy
Once Google found out they had to bind users to their search engine, they started changing their strategy. Advertisements in the search engine were an important source of income, and to make sure it stayed that way, they had to do something about the rubbish that was polluting their search engine. Most search engine results definitely were not satisfying for users, and when we don't get satisfaction out of something, we tend to go and look for it somewhere else: lost of income for Google. 

So, Google changed their strategy. Not only did they focus more on the algorithm and detection of spam (tactics like described above), they also started developing other services and applications to attract and bind more users to their network. Next to that, they also bought companies to further extend their online reach. We all know Google Video, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Earth, Google News, Google Reader, Google Sketch, YouTube etc. You can view the whole list here. Google's income went sky-high with a growing list of advertisers and a rising amount of ad-spenditure. And it is still growing. 

Google and their search algorithm
When we focus on the search algorithm, we clearly see that Google has done a lot to improve the online search experience for the regular user. Their algorithm probably is the most advanced information retrieval algorithm in the world. Google is no longer only ranking results based on keywords and backlinks. At this very moment, not only on-page optimization comes into play. 

We need to make sure websites are search engine friendly. We have to deal with language issues, quality and uniqueness of content, relevant backlink profiles, the influence of localisation, universal search, personalized search, and the new kid on the block, social media. Say what? You have 52 domains for your website? Oh, 52 domains only for the Dutch part of the website. There are 143 more left for the whole bilingual website? And you did not 301 redirect those yet? Oh, you don't know how to? No problem, we will fix it for you!

Search in Europe
At this very moment, search in Europe is one of the most complicated markets in the world. With almost every country having its own language and own culture, each search campaign has to have its own strategy. You cannot just translate keywords or content and think you'll perform well in all countries. Search is always about research. Probably 90% of your time is consumed by research. Only 10% really is about implementing or optimizing a strategy. For a more detailed view about the European market and its complexity, I would like to refer to the articles fellow Searchcowboys Peter Young and Barry Adams wrote last week. They did an outstanding job describing the pro’s and cons of the European search market. As Barry said, the rise of local vertical search engines are definitely worth to keep an eye on, as they really do have the potential to take down Google’s monopoly. Next to that, the fact that personalization and universal search are getting more integrated with search  means that advertising and optimization campaigns are becoming more and more complex to handle. The positive side (well is there really a downside) of personalized search is that the ROI will go up when users get tailor-made results, bases on their real interest.

Search in Europe is evolving, and the financial crisis is speeding things up!
Although the US got ahead of us a few years ago, the European market is rapidly catching up. The last few years search has been all about getting top positions, mostly in Google, and to get as much visitors as you possibly can. In fact, if the economy would still be going steady, it would probably take another year or two, maybe three, before most organizations truly realize its not about the number of visits you get on your website, but how many of them convert and do just that one thing you want them to do. But, with the financial crisis pouring all the money down the drain, this process really got into fast lane. Accountability is by far the most important trend for 2009 and the following years. This means clients won’t throw around with their money any longer to create massive visibility in the search engines. They simply want to see how much visitors really convert into customers, how high their ROI is. And with the complexity of the European market and developments of search engines it definitely is great to be part of this experience.

So, to sum up, search in Europe will finally become really mature when more clients start to realize its about the revenue you make, not the number of top positions, hits, visitors, pageviews or bouncerates, but the amount of money your websites brings in. ROI and Accountability are key the next few years, no matter what country you operate in.

  • Comments (3)
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Comments (3)


  • excellent post Dennis!

    I'm just writing my first blogpost for Searchcowboys at the moment but not sure how the heck I'm going to follow you, Barry and Pete =)

    Ma 26 jan 2009, 17:58

  • Thanks Lisa.

    You only have to tie up the knots and make a post full of references and quotes ;-)

    Ma 26 jan 2009, 20:07

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