Ruud Questions: Tadeusz Szewczyk aka Tad Chef aka Onreact

Tad's a smart person. Strikes me as such and shows it in the things he posts, says online. He lives in Europe, I come from Europe; instant bond. Us knows us.

ps: contains tweet-thisweetable quotes

In 2005 you described the state of SEO in Germany as backwards, out of time, virtually non-existent. How are things today?

Tad Chef I guess I was a little provocative.

Germany had a lively SEO scene of many people doing SEO on their own sites even in 2005. On the other hand in 2005 I was still quite new to the game so I considered finding an SEO job with an agency, but I couldn't find any in Berlin. Then the guys who make Mister Wong, it's made by an SEO firm, opened a dependency in Berlin. They wanted to hire me but I got my first business blogger job back then. This was the first and only job offer in an SEO agency in Berlin at that time.

Everybody does SEO nowadays, the big papers are really good at it by now so I love to outrank them even more these days.

Still you have nobody to look up to like in the US. I could recommend you an SEO company or consultant in almost every country but I still couldn't in Germany. It's not just because I compete with them, I have enough clients. I have too many prospects asking me to do SEO for them but I have nobody to send them to. I see how the others work and I know their history. Also the few good guys I can recommend are always busy so they can't take new clients either.

I remember working for one of the biggest SEO firms in Germany for a month, two years ago. It was awful. It was mostly about buying links. I really had to fight to be allowed to do a link bait instead. This was an agency with the highest profile clients (major newspapers etc.) and they got paid 2000+$ a day! I was like: They can't be serious. Is this the best the German SEO industry can offer? I left after 4 weeks partly because I couldn't take this no more.

Last but not least: Take note that I updated the article about SEO in Germany a few months ago.

Knowing the German market and being sufficiently exposed to the North American/English one, what is really different between the two, SEO-wise?

Tad ChefVery good question. Almost everything.

From 2005 upwards internationally you would target Digg and Delicious for getting links. You couldn't do that in German. Digg didn't accept German submissions and there were not enough German users to get more than a few most popular German sites on top of Delicious.

The German social news and social bookmarking sites never really took off. Mister Wong is quite popular but you still wouldn't link bait Mister Wong users to this day. The only SEO people do on Mister Wong is submitting their own bookmarks there.

In contrast the Polish social news site Wykop has huge traffic. Even a submission to the queue gets hundreds of visitors. So it's not only about the demographics. Poland has less than half the population.

We had a great article directory system in Germany a few years ago but Google killed it over night. Most article directories were run by SEO practitioners who were keen on having unique content etc. but one day Google decided that they all were low quality and the mass slaughter began.

After that, link building in Germany became even more of a mess. The blogosphere is quite small and amateurish and the best way to get links is to get a cease and desist letter as a blogger. Otherwise blogs have only little influence.

So you really also have to look for forum links, link exchanges, directories like it's still 2001. Plus the number of directories that actually make sense is very tiny. At the end of the day many try to use images or other international content to get links from elsewhere in the world.

Many more people are forced underground and to take shortcuts. Buying links and reviews is still very common.

That's also one of the reasons why I went international with my SEO 2.0 blog. At first I started blogging as a guest blogger for Google Blogoscoped and it was fantastic. I loved it. People really linked to me!

Apart from that there are a few Q&A sites and social networking behemoths who basically copied Facebook and LinkedIn. In case you do ecommerce a dozen of shopping search engines are your friend.

With the spectacular success of Twitter the situation got a little better in Germany. Now you can reach a significant number of German users via Twitter.

The German language market is about 1/3 of the population of the USA ... or all of Mexico. Would you label it a "smaller market"?

Tad ChefI would label it a more conservative market.

People search online for what they've seen on TV. They visit the sites of real life publications instead of blogs.

The early adopters read and buy the English stuff anyways. It's cheaper to get Star Trek from the UK than to buy it here.

Is ranking in easier or simpler because A) the market is smaller than the English one, and, B) there are less SEO's in action?

Tad ChefWell, that would be great but it depends on the keyword or market.

In tourism for instance people discovered SEO in the late nineties and optimize in-house for a decade. My first job was to optimize for hotel berlin which back then was too difficult for me. 2 years later I succeeded for hotel frankfurt with ease on the other hand as I had to optimize a neglected authority domain. So if you start in tourism with a new domain these days, good luck.

Also, as I said before, other people will buy links so if you want to stay clean in German SEO you'll get outranked by those who play dirty at first. Just check the backlinks of the firms that rank for Suchmaschinenoptimierung, the German term for search engine optimization.

On the other hand there are niches which have almost no competition so when small business from the UK expand to Germany and I help them we do some basic onsite SEO and build a few links and we are on top.

You're a real big WordPress proponent, indicating it does most of the SEO one needs to do on-page. You recommend using it. What if a company comes to you? Tell them to switch to WordPress?

Tad ChefTo be honest, I'm quite disenchanted by now with WordPress. The SEO of it is great no doubt but WordPress is the Internet Explorer of blog software tweet-this , it's one huge security hole.

WordPress is
Internet Explorer
of blog software
Last time I offered a blog to a client I did about two days of examination what the clients needs were and which blog software can best suite them. I did a whole lot of research on alternatives so that I was even able to write a blog post on top WordPress alternatives over at SEOptimise afterwards. The two reasons why we didn't take MovableType was the lack of cross-platform pingback and the complexity of theming it. There was no big budget for designing a theme. And we wanted to socialize effortlessly with other bloggers.

I wouldn't recommend using WordPress as CMS for non-blog sites. Take a look at Drupal or Plone instead.

If WordPress or another blog does the basic SEO and some link building -- what's left to do SEO-wise? What's your job?

Tad ChefVery good question. Over the years I have morphed more and more into a business blogger. That's partly due to the fact that I love writing anyways. I even ventured into serious journalism a few times. On the other hand SEO is nowadays not about chasing the algorithm or tweaking code anymore. Half or more of SEO is content creation actually. Not just keyword stuffed crap content but link-baity killer content, flagship blog content, highly targeted content.

Also SEO is about socializing and trust.

It always was about that. People wouldn't exchange links with someone they don't trust or know at least a little bit. Now that social media is mainstream I have the impression that half of my day is simply socializing. I'm not a technical person though. I started as a web developer in the nineties but I prefer to work with humans not bots. So I'm a little biased.

you can code, write or meet people and
it's still SEO
I'd suggest you do one third content, one third web development and one third socializing for the best SEO effect. Many people in the international SEO community seem to like me and to trust me. I'm quite proud of that especially due to the fact that I rarely even show my face. I've been to the German SES twice and there are two images of mine on the Web. Everything else I earned by my virtual actions on the Web; the things I've said and done. Or not done. Some people annoy others with too many link or vote requests but I've managed not to do that in most cases.

These days in companies like SEOMoz there are at least half a dozen roles for SEOs. You can be an SEO consultant, an SEO writer or an SEO manager. So SEO is basically whatever you want it to be. There are many ways to succeed. That's one of the things I love about SEO. It never gets boring, you can code, write or meet people and it's still SEO tweet-this .

If you wouldn't be in SEO or marketing you would be doing... what?

Tad ChefI don't do marketing. I do SEO as in optimization!

Actually, I don't like the term marketing but I guess many people consider me a marketer nonetheless. As I love writing I might become a real writer or poet. I've been writing poetry, even JavaScript poetry when I was younger. I even had some ideas for SEO poetry. For instance you could create a living poem by ranking 10 times for the same keyword with 10 different sites. The poem would change its meaning based on ranking changes or your personal search history.

About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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