Adam Guerguis

 

Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

Adam Guerguis has been doing SEO for 12+ years. His most recent job was Growth Marketing Manager at Airbnb.

He was responsible for overseeing multi-million dollar SEO campaigns. He also worked with other interesting websites like Skrill, Yahoo, and MSN.

Very recently, he started his own SEO consulting business. Adam is also currently in my mastermind group and is an active member.

Fun fact: Adam dreams that one day we would have a magic button that can do all the needed SEO work for any given website.

If you have any questions related enterprise technical SEO, working with and landing large brands, please feel free to pick his brain.

Here are the rules.

1) I’ll let the thread go on until he asks me to stop. Theoretically, this thread can continue until the FaceBook stock value goes to zero.

2) Please, no snarky remarks. I will not tolerate any intentional negativity. We are here to learn from each other’s successes and strategies.

3) Please do not PM him and bother him. If you have a private question, ask for his permission on this thread when appropriate.

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Table of Contents

As far as technical seo, is curing all errors on GTmetrix, GSC and on an SEMRush audit enough? Are there any other tools we need to use to identify what might be wrong with technical seo?

It depends on the size of the website. If you are auditing a multimillion or multibillion page sites, it would be impossible to knock all the technical errors off.

Instead you would be focusing your efforts on optimizing your crawl budget, fixing major tech stack limitations like CSR or responsiveness.

We used to have internal tools at airbnb to look into these issues but My go to 3P tools are botify or OnCrawl or any crawler that can let you segment page types, filter by specific issues, and join different data sources to spot anomalies (or opportunities).

Why does Google approve some vacation home rentals for GMB & rejects others all things being same – business signage & onsite booking desk with or without. Follow up – Any ideas on what has worked – recasting as property management, etc.

Another challenge OTAs have with GMB is that Google wants to have the full address and contact info which is something that OTAs don’t want to give Google.

What’s the hardest aspect of your job?

When working in house for a brand that doesn’t prioritize SEO.

It takes a lot of effort to convince other stakeholders like product or engineering about the importance of SEO.

So a big part of the job is to evangelize, teach, and building a business case for pretty much every SEO ask.

How to handle XML sitemap for property and category pages? What’s your internal linking technique for a large site? How to handle meta tag for the same property title? How to handle caching system for a large site like Airbnb ? How to generate content for million of category pages ? What’s your SEO performance benchmark process for a large site? Do you have any suggestions for who is doing the vacation rental business? What’s the Airbnb PR and Backlink tactic?

For a site like airbnb, property description pages are not of a high priority. So we built the HTML and the XML sitemaps for the P2 pages (cities, countries, etc.).

We even at some point blocked the PDPs from the robots.txt to save on crawl budget and it paid off very well.

For internal linking, we did a lot of things, but basically we focused on a clear hierarchical site structure for the homes.

And when creating other content assets like the city guides or POI pages, we made sure to map them with their relevant P2s with the help of the DS team of course.

Property titles were left to the host to decide. As mentioned earlier our focus was on the P2s not the PDPs.

Caching was a huge issue, especially that the site runs on very complex algorithms.

But in brief we created a static SSR site for SEO and left the CSR version for after the users land on the site (but blocked the whole experience from the robots.txt). This is actually how most travel websites do it too.

What do you see as the biggest gap between regular SEOs and Enterprise SEOs as far as skillsets?

Enterprise SEO is all about efficiency. So you’d be focusing mainly on crawl budgets, scaling and pruning content, and experimentation with on page elements.

For regular seo, I think it can be boiled down into keyword research, content development, and linkbuilding.

What I think are common in both:

– oprimzimg the site’s performance / UX / speed / responsiveness
– Increaing the brand weight (how often people Google the brand name)
– optimizing for the long click or the navboost.

Also in terms of skills, I found that enterprise SEOs need to have some SQL knowledge to be able to query large databases.

And of course some courage to make changes to mega websites.

What kind of links does AirBnB go after?

Airbnb.com gets tons of links through PR initiatives.

But other sites owned by airbnb like Luxury Retreats had a significant budget to spend on linkbuilding through Blogger outreach.

What do you think of AI writing tools like Conversion.ai and how do you think they’ll impact SEO?

As a personal opinion, I wouldn’t use them to create content. I still prefer the human input.

Plus they do make grave mistakes and were caught copying content from other sources.

However, I find them very useful for copywriters to give them ideas and directions.

They also become very powerful when coupled with SERP data which is probably why Conversion.ai now integrates with SurferSEO.

At the enterprise level (my work is almost exclusively enterprise ecom), would you say that targeting specific competitors’ high-ranking keywords would justify a major modification of an existing mega website to add pages/content to target keywords that competitors may be ranking for, but your client site is not?

It depends on how strong your client website is and if they would have a chance to compete with their competitors.

If both are on the same level, then yes for sure, a content gap analysis to identify new KW opportunities is a great idea.

I would be mindful though of the crawl budget (especially you said that it’s a mega website).

So, assuming that you won’t add new pages, and only modifying exiting content to leverage competitors high-ranking KWs.

I’d make sure that I do that only on pages that are not ranking first before experimenting with pages that rank for low volume KWs in case that the change can make it lose what it’s already ranking for.

I’d also be looking at conversions data. You may find that your client’s site is ranking for high intent long tail KWs while the competitors rank for more informational head terms with high volume but low CR for example.

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What’s the SEO success measuring stick at Airbnb?

Mainly bookings and nights (w/w & w/4w & w/last year)

What’s the most valued marketing channel at AirBnB? How does SEO stack up?

Well.. SEO is not a prioritized channel. I mean compared to TripAdvisor for example which takes SEO a lot more seriously.

Instead, airbnb focuses more on direct traffic and branded. In fact, Airbnb treats Google as a competitor!

Do you use python script or any other tools for content automation?

No! But I would love to.

What was your content strategy?

The core website is mainly UGC for property description pages.

But to scale and target other KW clusters we did projects like the city guides and points of interests to target people searching for {homes} near {POI}.

We also had a very professional blog that gets very high quality links.

But for seo, most of the content efforts are either leveraging UGC or programmatic.

Does big company already know about upcoming google updates?

No. But we get to meet regularly with SEO colleagues from other big companies and share theories and test results, which is very helpful.

How do you get buy-in from stakeholders to make website changes requiring development for SEO benefit?

That’s the toughest part in the job, tbh.

What I found working is 2 things:

1- Dedicating enough time to train the stakeholders on SEO (you’d be surprised how most people like learning about SEO).

I created SEO courses to engineering, to product, and even to the leadership team. And it was a lot of fun and made my life easier when asking for changes.

2- People love data, and it doesn’t have to be 100% accurate. A back of a napkin calculation with some logic baked into it can go a long way into convincing stakeholders.

Plus, people are risk averse. So if you cannot come up with growth numbers, you can show them how they stack against competitors or what they might lose if cannot take seo a little more seriously

What’s your process like for choosing agency and consulting partners? Are you able to be nimble or is there a lot of red tape?

I learned the hard way that agencies work best when given specific projects and KPIs.

Otherwise, they just add me to an assembly line and just do what they do to everyone else with not much ROI for me.

When you get hit badly by a Google Update, what is the first step you take? How do you overcome it?

I would start by identifying which pages (and page groups) got hit and try to find a pattern.

I then do the same thing on competitors websites.

I highly suggest that you spend enough time reading about the update and its impact on other sites (top lossers/winners) and analyze them to come up with hypotheses and see if can be applied to your site.

Before, I would say it’s worth auditig your backlinks profile and doing some link detox.

But most of the time, there is not much to do with a google update but to keep working on optimizing the site to the best of your abilities.

What’s the fastest you’ve been able to rank a website in a highly competitive niche/industry on page 1 of Google and what factor did you attribute the most value to?

In one month I managed to rank a website for hundreds of thousands of KWs and increased its traffic 300% just by cleaning up its structure. (The secret: I removed almost 90% of its pages because they were just noise with zero value).

What has been the best source, where you got majority of your knowledge from?

Twitter, seo newsletters, and traffic think tank.

It would also help alot creating or buying sites and running your own experiments. I find that very useful

How do you get any work done, how do you prioritize things? Will you be accepting #dogecoin Lol yes serious question.

I always like to start with the low hanging fruit opportunities (low effort and high impact).

I bought dogecoin back in 2016 at 0.0002 but I cannot locate my wallet. seriously

How does a site like Airbnb track any minor changes in the website?

Airbnb uses an internal experimentation reporting framework (ERF) to test changes before scaling.

You can read more about it here:

https://medium.com/…/https-medium-com-jonathan-parks…

And

https://medium.com/…/experiment-reporting-framework…

How do you get high paying or high ticket seo clients?

I think it all comes down to showing the value and the ROI.

If your work will help them increase their revenue $1MM a month, it won’t be an issue to get paid $10K/month.

You can find tons of opportunities with companies that spend a lot on PPC.

Another tactic, but takes time and effort, is to build your own brand with blogs, tools, courses, podcasts, etc.

That will give you the credibility hiring managers need.

What’s the craziest or most unintuitive thing you’ve come across in the rankings?

Semi-duplicate content or even thin content are not as bad as we think.

Of course better to avoid them if you can, but you’d be surprised how you can actually rank for such pages with very minimal effort.

But who knows for how long!!

What’s the best SEO Tool you relying on?

I like Botify and SEOClarity

What is the structure of the SEO department at AirBnB?

The SEO team was under the Growth and Traffic department.

I was reporting to the director of G&T who also managed paid search.

Within the same team we had 2 engineering teams, one for foundational work and the other for growth projects.

We also had data science and PM resources to support the SEO projects.

What metrics you used to measure growth?

I like to use metrics that non-SEOs understand to help me get things done.

So revenue and transactions.

When you have so many choices, and directions and ideas you could pursue, but your time is limited, how do you handle the mental fatigue of thinking it all through?

I wish If I have a better answer because I am totally in the same boat but what I end up doing when in these situations is just picking something I enjoy doing and spend the time doing it while just ignoring the other things.

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In the end, it’s the thinking that makes us tired not the doing. But it’s the doing that gets us results.

It seems that occasionally Google slams big websites every now and then. What steps do you take for this since it could be pretty catastrophic at your scale?

Luckily, airbnb relies mainly on Branded traffic. Which makes it immune to Google updates to a great extend.

Also, even without an algorithm update, Google is considered a huge competitor and threat to most OTAs after they launched the hotels and the vacation rentals metasearch engine.

Do you buy or rent links for enterprise SEO campaigns? If so, in which situations? Are there special ones, like giving discussion content campaigns a first push?

Not buying or renting links But running digital PR campaigns.

Can you elaborate on more specific examples what sort of digital pr campaigns for Airbnb and do you have a PR in-house team?

Yes! airbnb has an amazing PR team with strong connections with news outlets.

Plus it’s always easy to get PR coverage when you are a big name like airbnb.

Do you have any automatic SEO tools in place. I am thinking of something like:
– monitoring rankings or the most important landing pages
– if keyword rankings to these pages drop, automatically increase internal keyword links to these pages

I am a big believer in SEO automation.

Although, I don’t know of a commercial tool that does that, but we built something similar in house.

What is Airbnb’s SEO strategy outside the US and for non-English regions?

There is a localization team. But their focus is mainly on translation and policies not much on SEO.

Is there ever any sort of concern that companies like Google and Facebook will try to cut into airbnb marketshare such as when Google started adding booking features for hotels?

Absolutely! Google is indeed considered a huge competitor to most OTAs and for companies like airbnb to survive.

They need to keep working on the brand authority to be the go to place when people search for vacation rentals instead of using Google as a channel like with other seo-dependant websites like TripAdvisor.

That explains why airbnb did relatively better than most hotels during the pandemic after everyone stops their ad spending.

Automatically extracting insights from SERPs to help create better content. What insights/data would you focus on if there were no technical barriers?

I think tools like SurferSEO looks at tens of SERP data points and suggest content accordingly.

They also integrated recently with conversion.ai to automate data driven content creation

What is your fave enterprise SEO platform or set of tools? Did you end up using custom tools or building anything cause it wasn’t commercialy available?

At airbnb, we had our internal tools, but otherwise I cannot work without an enterprise SEO tool that can join different data tables.

My favorite would be botify and for keywords seoclarity.

Any good tip for crawl budget analysis?

There are many ways to do it depends on your site and goals.

But maybe try to have a crawl rate per URL groups for googlebots and possibly marry this data with URLs with clicks and maybe calculate a coefficient that you can monitor.

Some tools can do that for you very quickly like JetOctopus or OnCrawl

What’s your process for choosing low competition keywords for a new site? Any Specific KD and KV you go for?And which tool do you use?

I don’t have a fixed process but generally I like the keyboard golden rario concept.

There is a simple tool that provides it very quick:

https://allintitle.co/

Do you find yourself constantly in a death by meetings working in a corporate atmosphere? If so where/how do you find the time to get any actual work done?

Yeah! Unfortunately that’s the worst part of corporate atmosphere.

But I try as much as possible to work around it.

For example, I have a no meetings Wednesdays policy.

I also book meetings with myself to get work done, and I like to make meetings either 15 minutes for short recurring meetings or 45 mins for long meetings.

What is your recommendation for organic advantage for a brand when the category is dominated by review sites with massive authority?

It depends! But generally I like to start with small goals to collect data, like aiming to rank after those strong review sites, and then play with CTR and long click to outrank them.

My question is that we all know content is the king, it’s not just one piece of the content will bring the result, it’s the list of 10s or maybe hundreds content working together that will bring results. What is the proven strategy to come out with list of ideas, article topics that will bring result in a specific niche.

I believe that in order for content to perform it is not enough to be good.

It needs some form of amplification, whether through linking or virality.

Can an OTA white label AirBnb listings within their website as part of an affiliate or partnerships? We are over at Insider777.com

Unfortunately i don’t have an answer to this.

But from personal observations I saw other sites doing that and some of them perform even better than airbnb.

But beyond the ranking, you will have to get accepted at the affiliate program to make it worth the effort.

I think nowadays a lot of enterprise clients are using sites with Java scripts based such as angular js or Vue js. How can you make sure google can crawl the javascript content properly?

Most sites that rely on JS have a cached SSR static version of the site for Google and another CSR for the users and block the dynamic CSR pages from the robots.txt

If you were starting in SEO, what steps you should be making?

I would start by having a website to have a hands-on experience which is way more valuable than any SEO course.

Even better, start a WordPress blog and write your own seo articles each time you learn something new.

In terms of good material, I recommend Aleyda Solis’ new site https://learningseo.io/ and her newsletters SEOFOMO.

 

 

 

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