International Search Summit London Round Up

International Search Summit London Round Up

23rd October 2013

Webcertain have been running International Search Summit since 2008 when they saw a gap in the international search market.  Now Webcertain have events 6 times a year in the US, Italy and the UK.  They also run the international marketing school and the international digital hub. At their event today, there were a number of speakers, here are some of the highlights:

International Content Outreach

Lisa Myers, CEO of Verve Search

Lisa began her presentation about international content by stating that the Google algorithm has changed more in last 1 and a half years than the last 3 years. They have made the following major changes:

1. Tightened the linking algorithm

2. Deep pages, unique content and relevance

3. Over optimisation crack down

4. Semantic keywords and understanding of related works/sentences.

Now Google is  trying to measure the intent of the searcher.  The difficult part about this is people’s attitude to links has changed.  Now people think linking is bad and it will hurt their site.  Therefore they are making no follow tags on all links.  Of course this in not the case.

Change in on Page SEO

Penguins and Pandas

What has changed is that the on page SEO is no longer the ugly duckling, it is the ninja swan.  No matter how good your technical SEO and link developments efforts are. If the keyword i s not on your website, you won’t be found for that keyword.


So we need to understand how people search, this is the core of SEO.


How people search today is very different to how people searched back in 2005. The way people search is also dependant on country.  For example, in Scandinavia, they have not optimised their sites for the long tail keywords.  Many of the sites still use flash which is not crawl able by the search engine spiders.

The search path is very complex.  As a marketeer you should think about how people search, how you search and use this information when optimising your on page content.

Search path

The long tail keywords drive 70% of a site’s traffic but many companies optimise the hero keywords. The big brands want to to be number one in Google (rank number 1).  However it is more important to think what converts on the site, generates traffic and builds your business.

A successful SEO strategy is knowing there are more keywords than just the short term.  Marketers need to understand the users’ thinking before they start optimising.  Marketers should ask who are these users, what are they searching for, why are they searching?

Language and Culture

If you are working across different languages and cultures you will need to target each site differently. In 2007, Google started to scan all the books into Google.  In this way they were teaching the spiders/bots to understand different languages.

All the updates including Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird,  have affected the English speaking websites. The other non English sites should take note of what is taking place in and and apply this in their online marketing strategy.

It is also important to remember when looking to hire a new member of staff for content outreach, they should not only be a native speaker in the language you are optimising for, but also a good quality writer. Do not just hire someone because they can speak the language, they have to also understand SEO.

Don’t follow the big brands

Many of these big brands do not follow SEO best practice.  When companies start out in international markets, they begin looking at the large corporations. For example, Nike do not optimise their site for Nike trainers  called “joggesko” in Norweigan.

Links are still important

It is important to attract rather than sell links.  Create content that deserves links and market that content.

How would you do this?

1) Get blogging

A blog can:

  • Increase keyword research considerably
  • Increase usability and conversion by integrating content
  • increase link equity
  • Increase social equity
  • Adds personality and social presence
  • Make it easier to do outreach
  • Links will still be important for a long time

Blogging is especially important and powerful in countries where competition isn’t as high in the SERPs.  You can in effect rank within the first positions in Google overnight for long tail keywords in countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark. Lisa gave an example of a post Verve Search created on the Danish Expedia subdomain blog. Through the work that Verve Search did for their client, Yell doors,  they increased their long tail keywords by 600% their conversions and they only blogged once a week.

2) Smarter Outreach

Topics that you care about will always perform better.  If you hire people that are passionate about fashion, then they will write great content.  Encourage your writers to also outreach at the same time, this teaches them how the content outreach and creation works (it is not just about writing articles for the sake of it).

It is hard to sometimes write creative content or even have content accepted by other sites. When you hit a wall, find another way do not give up. For example a Verve search, they have started a campaign team in Verve Search. They found it difficult to have content accepted in Norway as there was a recent article stating it was detrimental to accept guest posts.

Verve Search decided to target Visit Norway, with an infographic about the northern lights for their client Expedia. It was posted on the Visit Norway site in English and in Norwegian. They also shared it on social and Expedia shared it as well. Verve Search created an embed code for the site which meant that if anyone put the infographic on their site, there was also a link back to Expedia and Visit Norway.

Lisa concluded by stating it is very important to make the content awesome or not bother at all. It is also crucial to make the content shareable which will in turn generate more links and traffic to your site.

Geo targeting – Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Arkadiusz Kostrzycki gave an in depth presentation about geo- targeting and that it is very important to optimise your site and ensure it appears in front of the relevant audience. If the site does not appear with the right content, then you may lose sales.

Geo targeting is not only important for online search marketers, but also for Google

Which Signals Matter?

  1. Local Domains or ccTLDs
  2. Webmaster Tools
  3. Server Location
  4. Rel=”alternate” hreflang
  5. Other signals
  • Languages
  • Currency and address formats
  • Inbound links

Google does not use the meta language tag or HTML attributes for geo-targeting.   It is important to try and maintain consistency for all signals.

Geo- Targeting Strategies

Webcertain have a geo-targeting matrix as shown below:

Webcertain matrix

Geo-targeting settings will limit visibility for users outside the target country. World languages create duplicates. Google does not have a majority of searches in Chine, Russia, Czech Republici and korea and therefore do not have all the geo targeting tools like webmaster tools.

Domain strategies

– ccTLDs –


  • Clear geo-targeting, server location irrelevant, website autonomy


  • Expensive, limited availability, legal requirements, infrastructure required

– Subdomains –


  • Easy to set up, geo-targeting in Webmaster Tools, separation of websites


  • Not fully clear geo-targeting

Subfolders –


  • Easy to set up, webmaster tools geo-targeting available, authority of main domain


  • Not fully clear geo-targeting
  • Single server location

URL Parameters –


  • Not recommended


  • URL-based segmentation difficult
  • Geo-targeting in webmaster tools not possible
  • Webmaster Tools Geo-Targeting

If there is a no marketing department in each country, it is best to have a .com and then a sub folder.


Rel=”alternate” hreflang = “x” – helps Google serve the right language or regional page. When should it be used?

  • Pages are nearly identical eg broadly similar content within a language and small regional variations
  • Only page template is translator – eg translated navigation and footer
  • Pages are fully translated equivalents eg one pate entirely in Spanish, one in English

You must create a separate URL element for each URL.  Each URL element must include a loc tag indicating the page URL and an xhtml:link rel=”alternate” hreflang =”XX” sub element for every alternative version on the page including itself.

It is possible to use the Hreflang with canonicals but be very careful as this has been abused.

Webcertain International Search

Never use canonicals with pages that do not have the same language or pages where there is not a 100% duplicate (eg currency differences)not in the same language

It is also important to have local links and shares, currency and address details

So when should you use rel=”alternate” hreflang?

  • Implement when the need has been identified
  • Rel=”alternate” hreflang does not replace geo-targeting
  • More signals – more potential confusion
  • Scale and size can make a difference



The Global Opportunity of China, Russia and South Korea

Immanuel Simonsen, WebCertain

The last session of the day was presented by Immanuel, from WebCertain and he spoke about great opportunities in China, Russia and South Korea due to the following:

1) Size of the online population

2) Online population demographics

3) The role and important of mobile

4) Ecommerce sites

China is projected to have 700million internet users by 2015.  India  is estimated to have 201 million by 2015.  This is a contrast to the year 2000, when there were 22.5 million internet users in China, far lower than the 95.3 million internet users in US.

Webcertain  - global opportunties

At the moment, there are 2.4 billion global internet users and out of this, nearly 1 in 4 of the online users are Chinese.

Russia is the 6th largest internet market in the world.  Russia continues to grow much faster than most other European countries. 15% of Europe’s internet users are now in Russia.

South Korea has the highest internet penetration of all the Asian countries, even eclipsing Japan.  South Korea has 40.3 million internet users which is 82.5% of its population.  This makes South Korean the 14th largest internet market in the world.

China has seen rapid growth.  81.4% of its online users are below 40 years old. However, only 29% of the  population have a smart phone, whereas in South Korea, this figure is 67%. Despite the fact that 71% of the population in China have a feature phone, mobile commerce is thriving and it is sold more online through mobile than any other country in Q4 2012.  In the same quarter, there were only 10% of US internet users purchasing through their mobile.  In China, this figure was 55%, followed by South Korea with 37%.

 A few key points to take away

1. It is only a matter of time before China becomes biggest online spender.  There are currently 270.9million online shoppers in China, this is expected to rise to 423 million in 2016.

2. Mobile is crucial to succeed in China and South Korea. Russia is catching up, but for now desktop should be the primary focus

3. Undeniable economic potential in South Korea and Russia, but how you succeed will require different approaches.

There is more than a third of all internet traffic in South Korea that comes from mobile devices and is the only developed country above the global average.  Mobile continues to represent a minuscule percentage of overall web traffic in Russia (5.1%).  South Korea will be the first country win the world where mobile ad spend will exceed 20% of total digital ad spend.

International Search Summit was a great event and there was even an award for the best speaker of the day – Lisa Myers. Thanks to everyone who presented today and look forward to the next one.

Lisa Myers



Written By
Jo Juliana Turnbull is the organiser of Search London and the founder of SEO Jo Blogs, which provides practical advice and tips for those in SEO.
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