Meet Björn Beth, director of Digital Strategies at Searchmetrics EMEA and an expert in global SEO who has lived and worked in the UK, Malta, Latvia, Switzerland, and Germany. In this episode of the Voices of Search podcast, Björn goes in-depth on what it’s like to be an international SEO, working with clients all over Europe in eCommerce, publishing, and lead-generation, with their 24 languages and various alphabets and content. When it comes to global SEO, content, and marketing, what happens when a company decides to scale their business to another EU country? Björn covers the intricacies of traversing international EU markets:
- How should you approach new users in different EU countries?
- What are the strategies for dealing with the market fragmentation from multiple countries, some with multiple languages within one country?
- How do you create an entire marketplace in Europe – what are the cultural differences such as using various devices and preferences for different imagery?
- How do you go beyond translation issues and uncover the cultural issues and language nuances?
- What’s it like having an SEO career in the EU?
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Ben: Welcome to International Month on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re talking about expanding your horizons and your search strategies to new territories. Joining us today is a special guest. Björn Beth is the director of Digital Strategies at Searchmetrics EMEA, which is the parent company to Searchmetrics, Inc. And today, Björn and I are going to talk about what it’s like to be an international SEO.
Ben: But before we hear from Björn, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and Content Marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. And we’d like to invite you, our loyal podcast listeners, to our upcoming webinar, where we’ll discuss how SEO and SEM are joining forces to win the SERP.
Ben: On June 19th, Tyson Stockton, Searchmetrics’ Director of Services, and Leslie To, 3Q Digital’s VP of SEO, will dive into ways that you can combine your paid and organic marketing to be more effective together. To register for our “SEO+EM: Joining Forces” webinar, go to searchmetrics.com/webinar. Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Björn Beth, the Director of Digital Strategies for Searchmetrics EMEA.
Ben: Björn, welcome to the Voices of Search Podcast.
Björn: Hi, Ben. Thanks for having me. I’m super excited.
Ben: Of course, it’s a pleasure to have you here. It’s a pleasure to have a guest from what we call the Mothership. You work for Searchmetrics, but not Searchmetrics, Inc. So talk to us a little bit about the company you work for, and what’s your role at the parent company of Searchmetrics, Inc?
Björn: I’m the Director of Digital Strategies group at Searchmetrics, so meaning that I’m running the internal converting department, same as you have in the US. It’s a service department, but I’m just focusing on content marketing services, on SEO converting, and strategic converting. I think in the US it’s different because there’s like the technology part in there as well, which we don’t have. So we have ten converters in our unit which are serving European clients all around Europe, from eCommerce over to publishing houses, lead-generation platforms, and all of this.
Ben: And tell me about the difference the company that you work for, and Searchmetrics Inc., just so our listeners understand.
Björn: Well, I guess “The Mothership,” as you just called it, is actually the founding organization, right? So Searchmetrics was founded in Berlin, 2005, by our founder Marcus Tober. And he drew this company from Berlin and then expounded actually to the US as well as to Paris, and we have an office in London as well. But you know, actually it was founded there as well and so we grew quite big. So the development is based in Berlin as well as in Croatia, which is here in Europe as well. The US doesn’t have any developers based in Summit Hill, so I think in Summit Hill is just services, it’s ads, and it’s product marketing. And we here in Berlin have development, we have product marketing, we have all the financial departments, we are all the marketing department, and business development as well as sales, and our services department.
Ben: So, as I mentioned earlier, the company Searchmetrics GMBH is actually the company that develops all of the technology for the Searchmetrics platform. And Searchmetrics Inc. here locally in the US is a regional company that manages all of the United States, all of Northern America, Australia, and a few other countries that are sort of spread around the world. Björn and his team specifically are focused on reaching the European market. Talk to me a little bit about some of the challenges that you face, and what is the SEO landscape as you see it in Europe?
Björn: It’s quite different because you in the US, even if it’s such a big market and such a big country, you have one language and one market. We are smaller in the size when we look at Continental Europe, but we have 28 different actually members in the EU, so 28 different countries which we are looking at. That means also that we have 24 different languages which we are looking for, and within those languages we have different alphabets and different writing types, as you say. The good thing is that you can trade, as an eCommerce platform for example, you can trade with all those countries and you can ship your products to all those countries, meaning that you can scale your business much much rather than probably in the US in terms of other countries.
Björn: So, US and SEO especially as an online marketer, especially you have to take this in account. So as soon as you work for a company who wants to scale their business to another country, you have to have people from those country working in your company, writing content, focusing on SEO, focusing on marketing, because the way how you approach those users in those countries is way different from how we approach people here in Germany. And it’s not only the content, it’s also the way how you design websites, where you place the menu button, what kind of pictures you use or which devices … it’s very different on what devices people are surfing on across Europe. So you don’t have to just try to copy paste everything you do in Germany and copy paste it to the UK. It wouldn’t work, so you have to keep in mind.
Ben: Björn, what I’m hearing from you is one of the biggest challenges for working as an SEO in Europe or in your case working in a services business in Europe, is this concept of localization, right? The territory that you’re working with is fragmented not only because it’s multiple different countries, but within those countries, some countries have multiple different languages, right? Obviously, you need French for France, and Spanish for Spain, but you get to countries like Switzerland where you have German, French, Swiss German. There’s a whole mess of other languages and it can be quite confusing to be able to have to translate your content.
Ben: Talk to me about outside of just localizing your content and translating it to the different languages so people can read it. Talk to me about some of the cultural differences that you’re running into. You mentioned that there’s different countries are using different devices, and sometimes you need different imagery. How do you tackle solving that problem when you’re working on a collection of twenty to thirty countries to create the entire marketplace in Europe?
Björn: What you actually have to have is people from those countries working in your team. And I can give you two examples, Ben.
Björn: First example is actually if you look at Switzerland and you look at Germany, both countries speak actually the same language. Oh, it’s a different dialect, but we actually understand each other, right? But Swiss people are very focused on products made in Switzerland and they’re really focused on, if they buy products, that they are made in Switzerland. You can’t just ship your products from Germany and say “Look, this is a German product, you speak the same language, eat it.” You have to think about this national thing in Switzerland.
Björn: The other thing is in the UK, for example, UK people are looking very much on what kind of value something has if you buy stuff online, right? Now, we in Germany we don’t have that that much, so, if you just copy paste your website into the UK, you have to focus on those values and focus on different symbols on the website, different approach how you write content, different approach how you do the imagery, so that this value has been pointed out much better than in other countries.
Björn: So, these are just two examples.
Ben: I think my big takeaway here is that we talked about, as you said it, “Finding people that speak the mother tongue,” for each country, finding people that are living or native speakers in a country and that’s not just something that you need to do for localization of the content, right? It’s not just a translation issue. It is a cultural understanding, it’s understanding what the business rules and regulations are.
Ben: I want to turn the page a little bit and talk about what the career is for an international SEO. I think of the SEO career path here in the United States being one where, the good SEOs on some level are sort of cast as the nerdy engineers who understand marketing that are sitting in the corner and they kind of speak their own language about how to optimize content and game Google. And there is a career path for people to grow up in SEO, but at some point they need to branch beyond just SEO into SEO and content, or from SEO into general growth marketing.
Ben: Do you feel that that is different from a career path perspective in Europe, and what is the culture of being an SEO in Europe?
Björn: Well, I don’t think that it’s so much different from the US. So what I see in Europe is you have different pillars or different clusters.
Björn: So, you have those people who are very much into technical SEO and they are just really, as you claim, that they are really nerdy, they don’t want to have anything to do which is not technical, right? So they are very technical, they write a lot of case studies about technical stuff they’ve found out, and focus very much on this.
Björn: And on the other side we have the broader marketer, which also much into content, and they’re sitting on positions of being an SEO, but have a much more content focus rather than technical, because they don’t understand the field very much.
Björn: Then we have another cluster which is rather academical, I would say? Because you know, they’re publishing blogs, they give lectures on universities, and stuff like that.
Björn: And then you have those people who go on conferences and they’re leading or heading a big organization or a big agency. But they’re not doing actually the operational work anymore.
Björn: So, these are the different career path you can step into. I think it’s fair to say that especially in Europe, it has developed very, very much from being close scene ten or fifteen years ago, we were very much looking to the US and very much looking to the UK, they were five years ahead of us when it comes to the broader marketing picture because Germany was so technically, and still is very technically, but at that time very technically, in terms of their not looking at other marketing tactics or other marketing fields, if you want to say.
Ben: That’s interesting to me. When I think about the overarching landscape here in the United States, I think of the suburbs of San Francisco, the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, being sort of the center of the technology hub. With Apple and Google, Yahoo, eBay, Twitter, there’s a huge community of large companies and large venture capital community here in the Bay Area where Searchmetrics is located.
Ben: And there are other tech centers, like Seattle and Austin and New York is also becoming one. There are other places in the United States which are locations where other industries are centered. Wall Street in New York is obviously the center of the financial capital for the United States.
Ben: Talk to me about where the tech centers are, and where do the SEOs hang out in Europe, and what are some of the places where you find other pockets of industries that are relevant to SEO and technology?
Björn: Well, you know, it’s very hard to say. One of the tech centers are, I’d say in Berlin definitely. You have most of the SEOs in Germany working in Berlin. Then you have in London, of course, there’s a big big market for SEOs as well. Especially here in Germany, you have a lot of these so-called SEO meetups. So there are different cities, smaller cities, and different events which are being hosted by single SEOs who just want to have a small conference, and they’d invite a lot of people over and meet up. And they do these SEO Meetups, which is quite famous, especially in Berlin or in Hamburg or other cities as well.
Björn: Then you have a lot of conferences in Germany and in the UK and a bit in Austria, Switzerland not so much, you have some in Eastern Europe, but they are rather small. And you have local people speaking there. In the UK and Germany, you have often the same people speaking at those conferences, there’s not much being added. But SEO’ one of the biggest NASEO conference in Yearbook, say, so 5,000 attendees coming twice a year to Brighton, very much focused on having a variety of different speakers, a lot of female speakers. But other than that you have a lot of conferences where always same people speaking. So they meet up there and that’s where you meet most of the SEOs.
Ben: I’m curious to hear what your perspective is, not you specifically, but what do you think the European SEO community thinks of the SEO community based in the United States? Is there animosity, are they looking to the US for leadership and think that they are cutting edge? How do people just generally think of the Trans-Atlantic community?
Björn: I think that leadership is definitely something we as European SEOs would look at the US. Most of the SEOs we know in Europe learned SEO through Rand Fishkin and his whiteboard Fridays and Moz, right? So this is leadership, of course. Then you have a lot of magazines like Search Engine Land, you have others where people are actually reading all that stuff, following on Twitter, following on Instagram, on Facebook. I’d say that most of the European SEOs learning a lot from the US, especially because you’re ahead of European standards.
Björn: So yes, we are learning a lot from the US, and I personally follow a lot of US SEOs and learn a lot, so I appreciate this.
Ben: Yeah, it’s one of the things having worked at Searchmetrics being a German based company but working for the US portion of the organization. The camaraderie that I’ve seen or international collaboration amongst the SEO community I find to be uplifting. It doesn’t seem that there is any sort of competition or animosity amongst the different countries. It’s all about knowledge sharing, and it’s one of those things that I wish was adopted across things outside of the technology community and even in the rest of the world. SEO seems to be a language that speaks no borders.
Björn: I just wanted to add that it’s in your blood as Americans, you’re very positive and you like to share things, and that’s a good thing. Especially because it formed the SEO industry as it is today. And we as Europeans, we are not as expressive. We are learning and we are doing this now, but that was actually mostly formed by the US, not by Europeans.
Ben: If anything, I think you’re being too kind. I think that there are plenty of innovations that have come out of Europe and the European SEO community, Searchmetrics, the underlying technology being one of them. While the home of SEO is likely to be centered around Google, which puts it in the United States and in Silicon Valley, I think there’s plenty of talented SEOs spread around the rest of the world. And I can say here at Searchmetrics we appreciate the international flavor of the SEO community.
Ben: So, Björn, let me just say thank you for joining us, thanks for holding it down at the Mothership, and it’s been a pleasure to have you on the Voices of Search Podcast.
Björn: My pleasure, thank you Ben.
Ben: Okay, and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thank you for listening to my conversation with Björn Beth, the Director of Digital Strategies at Searchmetrics GMBH.
Ben: We’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Björn, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter, where his handle is bjoernbeth or you can visit his company’s website which is searchmetrics.com.
Ben: If you have general marketing questions, or if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet at benjshap. And if you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/request-free-consultation for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team.
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Ben: Okay, that’s it for today, but until next time remember, the answers are always in the data.