International Search Summit (ISS) Interview with Andy Atkins-Krüger

Following on the theme of conference interviews with Danny Sullivan from SMX London and Kelvin Newman for BrightonSEO, todays interview is with Andy Atkins-Krüger ahead of the International Search Summit (ISS) in London on 14th May 2012.

The International Search Summit is obviously coming up soon in London – can you just give us a bit of background about the event for those who haven’t attended before? The first public International Search Summit was organised in London in May 2008 – originally it was created because the major search conferences didn’t have enough space on the agenda to accommodate a deep content on international search subjects. Personally, they were mostly kind enough to invite me along and I’d have 10 minutes to cover what is a huge subject. Compare that with the typical presentation which today, I open the ISS with which runs to some 30 minutes followed by speakers throughout the rest of the day. Since then we have been running the ISS twice a year in London, with a selection of other cities which, for one reason or another, have invited us. The last year we teamed up with the great team at SMX to run the event alongside SMX in most locations globally.What are the main sessions you’re looking forward to seeing yourself and the key takeaways attendees should be looking to learn? Difficult to choose – we have some great speakers this year including Pierre Far from Google, Bas van den Beld from State of Search, Nick Garner from Unibet and Lisa Myers from Verve search. However, I’m particularly interested in learning more from Lee Macini of Sekari who will be talking about the Arabic web. I believe the Arabic speaking world is still wide open for search marketers and whilst we’ve been working in that region for some years, I think we all have a lot to learn. However, I have to add that the most valuable things I’ve learned from ISS in the past were things I hadn’t even thought about. ISS is very good at opening your eyes to new opportunities.The last 12-months have been crazy in terms of the number of changes we’ve seen in search. How has this impacted global SEO strategies? Over the last 12 months the impact of search engine changes on global SEO strategies has been huge. Currently, the most hotly contested issue is the use of canonicals combined with Hreflang tags which is pretty recent by anyone’s measure. Pierre Far will be the third speaker this year addressing this issue and we’re certainly aiming to try and clear some of the fog surrounding it. Mind you the Hreflang tag, in my opinion, is a response by Google to try and help global search marketers to cope with the vast waves of movement we have seen on global websites in the last twelve months. Panda, in particular, was targeted at improving the quality of content and removing abusers – but it has had a very negative impact on big global websites too, especially those using machine translation. It seems that Panda thinks a website automatically translated into multiple languages by machine falls into the same category as content spinners! Trouble is, to fix the problem in 40 languages and 160 countries costs huge sums of money that no one can really justify. And this only scratches the surface. As more and more companies try to gain a foothold internationally, the competition is growing and the need to market effectively has put huge pressure on the SEO teams. Whilst some of the technical aspects are the same, the impacts and the means of addressing them are not!In terms of SEO strategies – how different do you see tactics being across different countries? For example, have the rollouts of Google panda, Google Venice, Google+/personalisation etc affected the global search market in the same way as the US and UK? Or do some of the old tactics still work in certain countries better than you’d expect? SEO strategies do need to vary by market because the markets are different – even though Google’s overriding algorithm works principally in the same way. The biggest issue is dealing with language, relevant local keywords and understanding really what the customers want to know and how it’s different. About Us pages, for instance, are really important for some countries, less so for others. Of course, we also have to keep an eye on Yandex, Baidu, Seznam and Naver which are all very different to Google. They’re also now spreading into other international markets than their home bases – such as Turkey or Egypt – so delegates to ISS are often interested to learn more of these search engines as they can be somewhat obscure. And as we cover social media and its connections with search, Google+ is a BIG topic for international folks right now. The agenda looks great – obviously it’s very internationally focussed with a nice mix of speakers from different regions.Is the ISS audience aimed at global marketers look to take SEO to the next level internationally? And how do you see this fitting in alongside SMX London this year? ISS delegates include agencies who are looking after clients with international needs as well as clients with years of global search marketing experience and “newcomers” to the field – noting that these “newcomers” are often highly experienced SEOs or search marketers who’ve acquired new responsibilities. We also have teams from organisations which have just decided they should “go global” and now they need to figure out how. The discussions to locate ISS alongside SMX in London happened because for a couple of years ISS took place the week before SMX and we were getting delegates flying in from all over the world to attend ISS, stay the weekend and then go to SMX. So it made sense to bring the events much closer together. But it also meant that SMX didn’t have to worry so much about spending more of its valuable agenda grid time on international content even in a global city like London. So the combination worked really well and has continued to develop. I first met Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman in 2004 and it is a privilege to work with them – as the ISS team we do feel a great sense of responsibility to deliver top notch content on international topics to complement the great work they’re doing!

This event is running alongside SMX London this year – so maybe sign up for both with our 15% off discount code (SEOPTIMISE012) and see you there!

Kevin Gibbons is Founder/Director of Strategy at SEOptimise. Kevin is well known within the search industry as a blogger for sites such as Search Engine Land, Econsultancy and Search Engine Watch. Kevin is also a frequent SEO speaker at a number of conferences including Search Marketing Expo (SMX), Search Engine Strategies (SES), a4uexpo, SAScon and BrightonSEO.

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