Defending SES: The UK is not behind the US in Search

At my European case study track at SES, Jaron Schaechter, a co-speaker and German entrepreneur suggested that the UK, Germany and Netherlands were at "SEO 2006".

I respect Jaron's opinions. He's a smart man. I disagree with this assessment, though.

He wasn't alone though. A number of the US visitors - the first time visitors to London SES - noted how high level some of the presentations were. It's something that Nan Dawkins and I had a chat about in the small Hilton bar afterwards.

SES London tends to be composed of Search people - agencies, freelancers and in-house teams. It's increasingly rare to find any 'clients'. That's the been the trend for a while. As a result of this the native UK speakers do not tend to show off their good stuff. Much of Search - especially SEO - is about your IP and agencies tend to guard that. None of the UK agencies who spoke even hinted at the advanced or thorough analysis they do.

It's also worth noting that a large number of the speakers had flown in from the US. Even these speakers kept their presentations very basic and very top level. Are they behind the rest of the US? No! Where they wrong to keep things simple? No. That's the culture of SES London. Just as a side note; I thought SES really benefited this year from having a fresh bunch of speakers. I think Kevin Ryan, Mike Grehan and team should be thanked for that one.

We have a US office. We have three UK offices. Two German offices. I know these markets well and the techniques are all equal. Do you think the Germans don't read Search Engine Watch or Search Engine Land? They do. Of course they do.

In fact, European Search Marketers tend to have more experience in dealing with multi-lingual and multi-currency campaigns.

There is a difference in traditional media in Germany and the Netherlands when it comes to Search though. It's far easier to get interest from Trade Press journalists in the UK and US than it is in mainland Europe - but that's changing.

Search Engine Strategies made a lot of progress this year. I was pleased I went. I was pleased we didn't send any sales people. Given the progress made I'm sure the SES London team will begin to address the issue of the "top level culture" if it is even an issue for them at all.


Richard said…
Great piece Andy, and I absolutely agree it is more to do with the Culture of the events.

I think this is predominantly tied to geography. There is no doubt that a visit to SES New York/San Jose/Chicago (or Danny's US SMX events for that matter) will demonstrate more knowledge sharing but I believe this is because most US SEMs don't really operate outside of their US state and therefore don't seem many of the other speakers as competitors. This creates a more open environment for sharing.

For me, more of the value at the London event come from the networking and grabbing people where they're not on the stage.

Anonymous said…
Full agreement there, Andy - in terms of required sophistication I can see no difference between US and EU based SEOs, with the latter having the advantage of working in multi lingual market spaces, as has been pointed out already.

There is some merit to this view however on the technical front: Because ranking algorithms aren't quite as advanced in non-English environments (e.g. stemming, stop word definition, etc.), applied search engine optimization in the European field actually is still a lot more rudimentary. Though that's more like 1999 than 2006 in our experience!
This doesn't, however, imply that EU SEOs aren't up-to-date with what's going on elsewhere, quite the contrary in fact. Obviously, their networking will focus on other areas and people, though, which may add to the confusion on this score.
Anonymous said…
I got really annoyed by the Frederick Marckini interview Greg Jarboe did for SEW, where he was like "in the UK everyone is a long way behind on SEO".

That would be precisely why a lot of people and businesses in the US keep whinging about the serps and discussion forums being over represented by UK websites and talent?
Hi Andy,

now let me defend my assessment :-)

I was not relating to the skills and practices applied towards SEO by professionals in Europe. I was referring to the state of Google & Co. in terms of their search engine algorithm ... and how you can address them.

From my observation the options available and the pressure that SEs put on the market are different. Take Universal or Base... they are still not here (at least in Germany) with the full impact that they have in the US. Now that means that if I am a company (let`s say Yellow Pages) and I am looking at my SEO strategy I should be aware that I need to address what is happening in the US if I want to address what`s coming.

Looking forward to your assessment (even if I had a major delay) ;-)

Jaron Schaechter

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