Andre Alpar is one Partner of an international SEO company AKM3, based in Berlin. Andre has been very busy in the search industry, he has published a number of open source SEO software (www.seerobots.com), is a speaker at key events, podcasts (www.omreport.com), runs a cigar shop (www.noblego.de) and has a book coming out. When I was in Berlin, I caught up with Andre and asked him a few questions about search in Berlin.
How long have you been in SEO for?
I started to build websites in 1996 back when there was just search engine watch.
In 1997/98, I had an internship in a yacht charter company in Hawaii. They wanted to rank for the products and I did get them ranking. Once the internship had finished, I went I back to Germany. The search landscape became more competitive and I thought I could offer SEO as a service. However, I was met with resistance to SEO back then as people thought that as they had a website, they would not need any SEO. I built my own website, I was number one for the term “games” in German. I received a lot of traffic and then when Google appeared, I was still number one.
In 2001, when the dot com bubble burst, I moved away from online. I lost belief in it and I went to do my PhD.
What does your company do? What is the USP?
AKM3 – has different meanings. We wanted something short and easy to remember.
1) Our USP is our unique approach. All of the MDs and myself have worked client side so we all put a lot of thought into how an SEO agency should be run so that clients will want to work with us.
Many SEO companies in the market in Germany have in their contract agreement with their clients that the links they develop for their clients are only valid as long as they stay with that agency. Clients are afraid to go elsewhere as it would mean losing their links and rankings.
Therefore from the beginning, we set up our company so that the client is free to leave our agency services should they so wish at any time. If we build links for them, which we call “link marketing” they will still have these links if they leave.
This has proved to be successful as the company grew from 0 to 60 employees in 2.5 years.
We are very open to our clients, as demonstrated e.g. by how we report our link marketing results.
We can help with SEO in 20 countries, something other companies may not be able to do. We employ native speakers for each of the different markets. But we have everybody working closely togeather from our Berlin office for these different countries.
How do you find working in Germany?
Our clients are mostly German and they have a certain idea how they want their SEO agency to be run such as the reporting, the on page optimisation and the link marketing. They have problems finding agencies abroad when they want to take their product into different countries. For us it is really easy to service German clients when they develop their product or service abroad. We help them to get an SEO presence in every market they want to enter.
What is search like in Germany?
Germany is one of the most competitive markets. There is a reason why there are a lot of good SEO in Germany. There are lot of people all round the world, who want to live in Berlin. We employ them to work in their native language and the fixed costs of living are much cheaper then if we were to have this office in London.
What are your KPIs?
We have the same KPIs as many agencies.
CPC, CPL (cost per lead) if fixed fee, CPS (cost per sale) (CPA) – not used CPA in Germany.
Visibility index – aggregated ranking usually evaluated via different German SEO tools.
What type of clients do you have?
I am unable to disclose the clients we have at this company. However, before I was working at AKM3, I was at Rocket Internet (eDarling, Wimdu, Groupon, Zalando, etc.) servicing more than 30 of its companies with SEO consulting and other services.
Do they understand SEO and PPC?
They definitely understand PPC over SEO. We give a lot of strategic advice, where as not much is need for PPC. There is a higher tendency of doing PPC in house but outsourcing SEO to an agency. I have just written an article about In House SEO.
Have you been affected by these Google updates – Penguin and Panda?
They have all increased in rankings –mostly affiliates got killed. If your client is a legitimate site and a big brand, then it has not been affected.
How has link building changed in the past year?
There has been a shift more on the quality of links which has an effect on cost. It is more important to have less links which are of higher quality than many low quality links. We also help clients to set up internal process to acquire links.
Do you attend search marketing events in Germany?
Yes I attend SMX and this past year have spoken at 20 different conferences throughout Europe. I set up and run OMCap (www.omcap.de) which is partnering with SES. It takes places in October in Berlin. From this year on we will have some English presentations as well and hope to attract some international online marketing people as well.
What are the different SEO products you offer your clients and why?
We offer on page optimisation and link marketing.
Reporting is included in all the services. If use the sophisticated tools, then there is no a lot of reporting needed. Sometimes we even teach the clients how to use the reporting tools.
What SEO tools do you use?
I mostly use Sistrix – my colleagues at AKM3 like Searchmetrics and SEOlytics as well.
What reports do you do?
We use one of the SEO tools mentioned above for reports – what we have been doing, what links able to acquire, information about the links, where we get them from etc.
What do you see as the future of SEO?
I think it is will be more strongly interlinked with regular marketing. SEO will be more about relationships and the relationship it has between PR, marketing and social media.