Marcus Pentzec


Source: SEOSignalsLab

Pick His Brain!

I’d like to introduce one of our members, Marcus Pentzek, for our next ‘Pick His Brain’ session and I want to thank him for the participation.

Marcus started building websites since the early 2000s and got his feet wet in SEO back in 2006.

He was SEO consultant for various companies and organizations including Abakus Internet Marketing GmbH in Germany, Nestlé, Siemens, Bosch, Financial Times Business School, plus many more and is currently serving as Chief SEO Consultant for DSG (Digital Strategies Group), one of the biggest international SEO SaaS provider.

Marcus specializes in International SEO, including SEO for China, performing Google update audits, technical SEO audits, and various SEO strategies.

If you have any questions related to technical SEO and strategy implementation, 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

Where do you rank the value of reviews/reputation for businesses? What types of specific strategies do you use to manage these?

I think reviews are especially interesting for small and middle sized companies, even more if they are local businesses, as GMB rankings (as far as I know) heavily rely on reviews. Maybe a GMB pro can tell us more about it (not really my area of expertise).

With E.A.T. earning more space in the Google Quality Rater guidelines in the recent years, to grow your reputation gets more important also for larger companies, while I do believe that reputation is not only reviews.

To make it short: I do not deal with monitoring or managing reviews for my clients, but I do think there are quite some well known platforms out there allowing reviews – and Google probably knows them all – giving them (based on niches) different amounts of attention and trust.

But reputation can also be something that is “controlled” by websites not known as review-websites.

There are Q&A websites, forums, other UGC websites that are used by people to talk about a brand – and these people are using different types of words describing their experiences with these brands they talk about.

Google can easily see which mood people have when talking about the brand – and if this collective mood rather goes into one or the other direction.

Managing this kind of reputation is not easy and the best to do about it is probably providing really good products and customer service.

What’s the one technical SEO mistake that can have the biggest impact on organic rankings for (A) eCommerce (B) affiliate (C) b2b (D) SaaS websites?

I have to pick one? Well, the one with the most impact is probably JS framework based websites such as Single App Applications.

There are ways making them search engine friendly – but they can be extremely tricky.

Sure, Google can execute JS – and they do (on the second crawl – IF they think they should) but that really slows down the content indexing rate (if it is indexed).

So almost always working with pre rendering makes sense – but that again needs to monitored very closely.

Let me think if I can find technical SEO mistakes, that are specific to those areas.

A) eCommerce

creating individual PDPs (product detail pages) for each single product variant (sizes, colors, …).

While it can make sense to have a product variety on a single PDP – in most cases it just creates multiple pages that share the same content only being different in the size.

This creates near duplicate content. Especially if you did it right, and built individual content that differs from the manufacturers product description – you are losing part of your advantage again with those internal near duplicates. There are ideas coping with this dilemma though.

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B) Affiliate

Affialiates often think Google is their enemy – but they still want to play on Google game board.

This leads them to think they must trick Google.

But Google actually does in a lot of cases rank Affiliates better than actual e-commerce websites – on purpose, because it is the better choice for the user.

DO not try to (technically) trick your way into the SERPs, but try to build content that online shops can’t, like a product comparison page / price comparison / Product Review page /

C) B2B

The problem of B2B pages often is that the choice of the CMS is C-Level driven (we are an Enterprise – we need an Enterprise CMS – without knowing what that means).

These systems often are not well prepared for basic SEO stuff – so the technical SEO problems with B2B websites are often very diverse – not easy to fine THE one.

D) SaaS

Also not the one technical problem. SaaS websites more often have a content strategy kind of problem, describing their software and solutions but not the problems it is solving.

I saw many websites having table in Feature snippets.  How to do that?

You do not mean miniature site links (as they can be triggered by a table of content like jump marks navigation as we see it on Wikipedia) but the position zero featured snippet showing a table, right?

That is more a Google side decision. If they think a data table makes sense answering the search queries, and your website does provide a <table> with the date requested, your chances are higher being selected for the featured snippet.

If you however already own the position zero with a paragraph like answer – or with a bullet points list – you will probably not manage to switch this style to a table view – as Google already decided that they want to display a table.

I like calling the markups that you use for optimizing for position zero snippets as “structured data markup without using”. Before there was – Google already tried “understanding” data.

A table is a very classical form for such structured data. And HTML tables offer so many “structure” elements many (data) web designers do not make use of (such as <th>).

With HTML5 we have so many more semantical patterns that we can use helping the search engines to understand our data better – you should closely watch and make use of it.

You could try providing better fitting answers.

Google often does use the content they display in their voice search answers, reading it out loud to the users.

You could try creating a better paragraph or list based answer to the search query and mark it with readable markup – so Google sees that would be a great piece of content reading it to their users.

Depending on the search query – if it is a question – you could try placing it into Q&A markup … it really depends on your queries and what could be best for the user.

Who are your mentors? Who do you follow to learn more in the SEO space? Where as a season SEO you feel these people are still teaching you new things you have no considered of hears of.

I do not have specific people I am, following. In terms of people I think anyone can teach me new things.

I like going to conferences where anyone gets the chance speaking – even beginners and people from other industries.

From beginners I get to hear a different view onto things. It is not about if they are right or wrong – it is about their perspective.

Same goes for people from other industries – the different industries / people not focusing on SEO provide new perspective to me.

I usually do not try to trick my way up with SEO – I rather try to understand what the search engines want (build the perfect search results page for the users searching something) and what they could do to achieve it.

I do have so many ideas of what and how Google could do – which I am very sure they do not do (yet) but have in their draw to get it out, once it is needed to keep being a global leader.

Keeping this in mind, listening top what Google spokes men say, teaches me the most. Google spokes men will tell us what they think Google does (in most cases they can not be sure, as Google is much too complex nowadays. and too much driven by machine learning).

Sometimes they tell what would push webmasters (and SEOs) into a direction that makes it easier for them (although the Lagos don’t pay too much attention to something yet).

Always try to listen between the lines they are speaking about. Listen to the detailed words.

Example: When John Müller was asked what was better subdomains or subfolders – he answered that both is fine and Google crawls them in the very same way – no difference. The problem: the person asking the question didn’t mention “for SEO”.

John reacted to the technical capabilities. He is right – Google doesn’t have any problem with any of these setups.

But if you are distributing your website over many subdomains instead of subfolders, the subdomain version would usually perform worse in terms of SEO.

My advice for staying up-to-date in terms of SEO:

1. Think about what you would do if you were the search engine – what would you need to do to not get tricked but still deliver the very best search results to every single user.

2. Listen to what other SEOs (beginners, medium and professional ones), Online Marketers, Google spokes people, Offline Marketers, Business Managers, Entrepreneurs, Visionaers, people around you say and try applying it to what it could mean to SEO – but do not simply believe what anyone of them say – but make yourself a picture if you want to believe it or not.

3. Test stuff

What would you say are the most common technical SEO mistakes? How much of a ranking factor are those misstakes and how much should we care?

Quick answer: Semantical headline structures are so often neglected.

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BUT although that is probably the mistake I see most often, it is also a mistake with so little impact on common ranking factors, I guess.

Will have to think about it and come back to this question with some mistakes often seen with more impact.

The one technical SEO mistake is not paying attention to pictures: alt attributes, title attributes, file name, image dimensions, file sizes… human people are visually driven and Google knows that.

Not having (enough or the right) images on the pages is more of a content strategy problem.

But also the technical points around images (see above) are often neglected.

They highly pay out when optimizing for image rankings. But they also help with accessibility and PageSpeed.

Both are important points from Google perspective – Google wants to serve the best pages even to people with disabilities (that’s why they pay attention to technical aspects of accessibility) and to people with slow mobile phone connections (that’s why they care about PageSpeed).

Do you have any advice on ranking on a low (extremely low) budget?

Get to know your potential website visitors as good as possible. Think about what information they care about (in the different stages of their customer funnel).

Do your competitor research on which of these topics are not well (enough) served.

Prepare the best content available and fill this niche.

The more unique your content – not only from the perspective if the exact sentences are used anywhere else – but rather if other websites do cover the topic that well – the better your chances to rank #1 (for long tail and niche topics). Build your website as attractive and fast as possible – provide good products and the best customer service.

What do you see online publications (multi-author blogs on specific niches) often do wrong when it comes to technical SEO?

It is not that much of technical mistakes that I see with multi-author but more of a structure thing. Often they are missing clearly “communicated” siloing structures defining the niches within the niches.

Well, maybe you could call it technical mistake, if you take the mega menus into consideration, many of such websites have in place linking to dozens or even hundreds of sub-categories (niches) form every single page.

To the user that looks well structured – but taking the click path – every of these sub-category hub pages is only one click away from any other page on the website.

If these mega menus were not in place and there are only the main level categories are reached from the menu – and click on them you will find links going only one level deeper – on on these pages you will find going one further level deeper – only THEN you would be building a siloing structure that the crawler can experience click by click.

If these click paths are mirrored by the URL structure as well, and additionally “communicated” using structured Breadcrumb markup, you would have three different ways telling Google about the very same structure – helping them to understand where within the website architecture belongs a single page.

One of my Facebook page (created in 2013) is indexed on Google. But it’s not coming up on google SERPs (USA). All the settings on Google page are fine. Any reason for that page not showing up on its brand name?

That is a hard one to answer without seeing it / knowing the brand name and having a look at what ranks instead.

Google tries ranking what they think people want to see. It could eventually be that the other ranking pages have higher authority than your Facebook page?

The high PageRank the Facebook homepage has doesn’t mean that your page gets enough share of it to be ranked high.

So the brand name which is (to me) clearly a product brand.

I see the official websites showing up, I see amazon and alike ranking, which makes perfectly sense to me for a product related search query.

What are your ideas / reasons why you think Google should rank the Facebook page? What would be the benefit for the users searching for the brand name on Google? What would be the user intent being served if the Facebook page would rank?

I do not see a reason / a valid user intent for it to show up – not for the pure brand name. Eventually if you combine it with “community” of similar it might be valid and making sense?

In your view, is CTR a ranking factor?

I have seen John Müller from Google stating multiple times the CTR was not a ranking factor.

Sometimes one could read between the lines that it is not a factor for a particular page – but rather as a cumulative factor.

My experience is different from what John communicated. In my experience CTR can have a direct impact on rankings.

Once I had a client who bought a exact match keyword domain for his e-commerce business.

This domain was burned due to extensive exact match link text links pointing to it.

Google saw this as a signal of artificial link building, although the the domain name was exactly the same one word that was so extensively used as a link text.

Instead of disavowing all those links, we decided to “imitate” an massive TV / Print Media campaign.

We sent thousands of people in different waves from the country the domain was targeting (Germany) to Google, googling the exact match keyword and going to Google page 2, 3, 4… until they found our clients website, click the result and spend time on the website (the users had the task of finding something on the website, which took them some time).

As a result the website started ranking better and better for their keyword until it was on the first page of Google.

So yes – I do think CTR is a ranking factor.

How did you isolate that factor against other variables?

We simply didn’t do anything else. And repeated usage of this technique with other websites proof me right (at least to me it looks like that)

What your type backlink, PBN, guest post, or web 2.0 or blog comment to build new web? using naked URL or contextual backlink?

I do not artificially build backlinks – and I do not recommend doing it.

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Whenever you are building links manually (or automatically) – you are creating patterns – especially if you follow the advice from anyone.

Patterns can be detected. If something can be detected – it can be flagged as unnatural.

This said, I would recommend doing everything that drives traffic to you your website. If you find a cool blog, that you can write a blog post for that will lead to traffic for your website – do it!

If you place a link in this blog post – do it in a way the user will expect it to be – not how you think it might be useful for your SEO.

If you as a person / webmaster of a website can answer some questions on on Q&A websites that will help those people – do it.

It is just natural if you tell (in your profile) which website you usually write your content for.

If you have content on your website, that would help users – why not linking to it.

Which technical seo factors have the biggest impact in your experience?

In many Google Update Analysis I did in the recent months, the winning pages did have better Performance scores than the losing pages – especially time-to-interactive.

I would consider page speed as one of the most important technical SEO factors in a mobile first world.

I can say, that I did not always see this correlation – but often enough to be certain, that PageSpeed does matter.

Thinking about it – it actually does make sense. Google knows that more than 50% of the searches are done by mobile devices nowadays.

5G is far from being available in all countries – in fact, many countries do have insufficient mobile network coverage.

Google wants to provide the best possible user experience to users of Google search.

If Google lists too often too slow websites in their search results, the users wouldn’t be very a happy about it.

So making PageSpeed a ranking factor (meaning a fast enough loading – not necessarily the fastest website) is simply logical.

This logic and my observation of correlations do “speak the same language”.

I have no reason doubting it.

I wanted to ask for some tips or any helpful knowledge. I normally work with local SEO but recently picked up an international client. It’s been a little difficult to get things to really start picking up.

Local SEO highly relies on ranking for local keyword combinations (city + keyword) and ranking for generic keywords locally (often in the Local Onebox). The techniques used to rank locally are different from ranking globally.

While it might help locally building landing pages for different cities and using them as target pages for your local GMB pages, you do not build landing pages for countries.

If all the countries you want to rank for share a common language – it is “easy”. You only need one website and “simply” make it better than your competitors (in many perspectives, product, trustworthiness, content, expertise, backlink profile, authority, …).

If they have different languages, you might want to build a multilingual website.

If your offers are different in different countries – you do not want a multi-lingual, but a multi-localized website.

With different languages and/or languages Hreflang comes into play.

While with local websites you want GMB in place and backlinks from the cities you want to rank for, with globally acting clients you want backlinks from all around the globe, with international websites you want backlinks from the countries you are targeting (pointing to the right pages), with multilingual websites you want backlinks from websites using these languages (pointing to the right pages).

But in general there is no easy general advice – it always should be unique advice for the specific situation.

I wrote a blog post about “my” perfect Global SEO Setup of a website (technically).

Maybe that helps

Let’s say I have 1 main page /legal-act/ and a few long tail pages /legal-act-company-type-x/ (and I got 3-4 x).
I want the main to rank for “legal-act” and the rest to rank for “legal act company type x”, because there is a common “act”, but some variations by company type. How would you interlink them?

Your setup is absolutely what I would do as well.

Make sure that you are using Structured Data Breadcrumbs, to tell Google more about the relationship of the Hub page /legal-act/ towards the detail pages.

In terms or PageRank (and first rankings a website usually can gain) are often on the homepage.

Maybe that is what you are experiencing. But your structure does make sense for the users – and so it should make sense for the search engines as well.

What you should take care of from the content point of view:

Do only teaser the sub topics from the main page and then link over to the detail pages.

On the detail pages provide all the information a user might want to see when visiting those pages – it’s all about user intent.

There is no breadcrumb we can do, as the category we have is /legal/ and the fake hub page /legal-act/ and the other one all fall under this cateogry. Does that change anything ? Regarding content, that’s exactly what we do.

Ahhh, I understand. So for your technical system it is more parallel pages / topics.

But from the content logic point of view (regardless how it is organized in the CMS) the /legal-act/ is a child-topic of /legal/, isn’t it?

I love it communicating logical patterns to Google. The more different ways you chose the communicate the same logic, the easier Google will understand – and believe you.

So placing the /legal-acts/ under /legal/ means not only linking from /legal/ to /legal-acts/ but also to help re-engineering the click-logic by implementing style structured Bread-Crumb information.

If your CMS / Structured Data plugin can do it – I don’t know.

But it would be a logical thing to do.

A third way communicating the same information would be to mirror it in the URL structure with /legal/ and /legal/legal-acts/ or /legal/acts/.


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