SMX & International Search Summit 2018 – Munich

The International Search Summit or IIS is an annual event based in Munich and SMX (Search Marketing Conference). The main goal of the event is to share knowledge with running Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and PPC in many international markets. It is also a good venue to discuss key issues affecting business moving their online presence internationally.

Missed opportunities in international search

Speaker: Bill Hunt from Back Azimuth Consulting

Bill discusses issues that companies have translating content internationally whilst trying to scale translation services.

Most common issues with internationalization:

  • Sitemaps not migrated from http to https
  • 301 chain redirects for international content where the redirect has four plus redirects which is blocked by modern browsers
  • 302 redirects when international URL’s change

Additionally companies can rank for the correct queries but the correct URL is incorrect. Example of this is when one country is ranking higher than the local country. This is a problem because most international (global pages i.e. “.com”) pages cannot monetise traffic due to payment methods / shipping not showing.


Fixing issues with href-lang can increase search visibility by over 200% in the correct country. It also reduces significantly issues with duplicate content. A good tool to consider is Google Search Console / International Snippets.

“We assume Google can figure it out”

Other common issues with href-lang

  • Mapping ISO country-language in <head> but only country in sitemap
  • Indexing issues in other languages where duplicate content is found and Google / Search engines do not index the content
    • Fixing this can increase overall traffic by over 60%
  • Sitemaps with Issues in search console sitemap report
  • Incorrect canonical tags where website managers clone the content to other countries
  • DO NOT add canonical to main website, always canonical to the actual content on said country
  • Always self-reference back to itself (from one page to another).
  • Be careful with uppercase / lowercase in hreflang as they are caps sensitive

Forced Country Selection

Client question: “We set IP detection to give users a better experience but now traffic has decreased”

Common issues with auto IP detection redirect

  • Always check that the IP detection is correct, by using Proxies
  • Cookies settings sometimes override the auto IP detection redirection if you’ve gone to the main page first
  • IP the location but content is different meaning that the actual content on the page will be localized but the URL does not change. The issue with this is that that search engines would be unable to index said content as there is no unique URL

Ask yourself:

  1. What is the default website language?
  2. What happens with search engine visits?

You should use user-agent detection to see if it is a bot and disable auto IP detection for search bots.

“98% of html language tag are usually incorrect”

Ways to fix this:

  • Create a template driven website and not a localized site for each country, which can greatly decrease website manager / development costs.
  • You can still have a central template for campaign pages and allow local website managers to create their own campaign pages.

User a content Collaboration Matrix

Key takeaways

  • Test key points of failure
  • Ensure that local URLs / pages are indexing and NOT other markets
  • Ensure that all local pages are indexed


Could I use Google Translate to translate content to all languages?

There are two issues of this, one is that Google considers automated translated content as a form of machine writing therefore you could get flagged for low-quality content, additionally the quality of translations especially for languages such as Arabic, Japanese where translations from English to said language is bad.

Deploying Amazon’s GEO-targeting

Speaker: Andy Atkins-Kruger from Webcertain

What does this mean? How does Amazon do geo-targeting to selling physical content?

Ask yourself:

  • Where I love?
  • My cultural filters?
  • My Personal Interests?

How does search engines understand language?

Search [engines] should know who I am from the query and language I use and specify.

Getting it right: Geo-targeting and hreflang

Speaker: John Muller from Google

John talks about internationalisation and gives tips in order for Google to index and rank better by showing most common problems.

“Critical: fewer URLs is better”

There are a few options a website can do to move their website internationally

Internationalisation options

  1. One site to rule them all
  2. Language targeting: One page per language
  3. Country targeting: One site per country
  4. Language & country connected: Can get quite complex

Issues that Google has to identify the language / country of the user when:

  • A user is searching for the actual brand name
  • You might see other countries with the same language competing with each other

Google always recommends having a backup i.e. when a user hits the wrong page and move them to the correct site i.e. show a banner asking the user if they are on the correct page.

This is also useful for the search bot (that most likely will come from a US IP range), always allow the search bot to discover the other country-languages, i.e. having the URL’s to the other languages on page such as in the footer or as a dropdown.

  • Users search in a language and see content in that language

hreflang tips

“hreflang is NOT a ranking factor” – John Muller at Google

The main goal of hreflang goal is to show the right content to the user and not another language.

Main issues with hreflang

Absolutely clean canonicalization – Links must be between canonical URLs and must be the same type

Reasonable granularity level i.e. do not launch for all possible country-language combinations

  • Language – All users searching in said language
  • Country – All users in that language

Any URL structure works as long as it is clear

Issues with hreflang

If you have issues in your <head> tag such as bad html coding, Google will close, the header early and therefore not see the hreflang and canonical tag. Google tag manager tag for example WILL break the header (if you implement it as iframe) and WILL break the header page. A good way to see if this is the case then use the Google rich snippet test tool to see if Google can see the page.

In http response (same as <head>) will override what it sees on the page

Canonicalization methods:

Google will ignore your canonical tag if they do not match across the board.

  • 301 redirects
  • Rel=canonical link elements
  • Sitemaps entries
  • Internal & external links
  • hreflang links

Duplicate content issues with hreflang

Pure duplication can be combined as translations are not a duplicate content, but sometimes the content will be displayed. This is a big issue for DACH markets where German language is very similar.

AMP / Mobile pages must have canonicals to that AMP page.

This can be ignored if you go with responsive design and not a version for each page type.

Homepage is very important; you can use the x-default for the homepage.

Country restrictions

Googlebot mostly crawls from the US & needs US-content; therefore, if your US is blocked, Googlebot cannot index it, then you will not index.

“Fewer URLs are better” – John Muller


  • Reduce first, fewer URLs is better!
  • Learn and fix canonicalization
  • Get help from experts

Mobile first indexing

Google will primarily index / crawl content with a mobile search bot i.e. as a smartphone. It will still discover the desktop URL, but the rankings are based on mobile version.

Why: Most users are using mobile devices

  1. Check readiness i.e. if it is ready to be crawled by a mobile crawler
  2. Then crawl the page and track the desktop vs mobile page and then
  3. Crawl the desktop page

Are you ready for mobile first crawling for SEO? Here is a quick checklist.

Next Planned steps for mobile

What about AMP pages?

Readiness is determined per site by seeing if the content is equal (similar), and have a similar our0links. The images and alt-text is available, matches, and works. Additionally the data structure and hreflang / AMP etc.. is available on both versions.

International Keyword Research

By Umay Jones from Webcertain

Keyword research is founded upon three main pillars.

Image of three pillars of language


Defines how you interpret information and is the lens on which you few things.

Case study: company selling “chairs” in:



Analysis of queries:

Therefore if you use a machine translation (automated translation) it WILL NOT.

“Use linguists, as translators will not know the culture in the country” – Umay Jones

Misspellings and accents droppings and compound nouns: Be careful when Google AdWords and other bid / web analytics tools do not do a good job at really understanding misspellings with other languages apart from English, therefore be very careful in not “trusting” said tools.

Brand names should also be localised

Some countries do not use a Latin keyboard; therefore, if your brand name is in Latin characters then you will have issues targeting said country. Therefore, consider localising your brand name in other characters. Example is how Adidas changes its name in other markets, as the meaning can also be offensive in some.

Adidas keyword search volume in other countries

Conclusion: knowing the language does not mean being an expert in said language, a person might know how to write but might have little cultural knowledge of said country, therefore consider hiring / contracting specialists that really understand the culture and not just the language.

Keyword planner issues

You need to be aware of limitations on many keyword planner tools

Take away from this talk

  • Understand the culture
  • Be aware the language and include misspellings, accents, terminology etc…
  • Don’t rely on the translators and the keyword tools
  • Always work with not only native, but also skilled, experienced linguistics
  • Explore the local search options

International PPC on a global scale

Case study looking at ELS an English language learning company.

Company facts:

  • In 13 languages
  • Active in PPC campaigns in 26 languages with AdWords, Yandex, Baidu etc…
  • Active campaigns in 38 Countries

Year on Year (YoY)

  • CTR by 61%
  • CPA decrease by 30%

Key market achievements

“This was accomplished by Website Improvements, Campaign Management Optimisation, Linguistic Optimisation and Content Improvements”

Additionally having a centralised Approach to account management was key in this optimisation as this allowed the company to standardise campaigns and align overall KPIs and ROI. Whereas with a country-centralised approach there are issues with in-country teams were they my want more responsibilities and power within their own market and thus might create an agency dilemma (my comments, not speakers).


ILS wanted to optimise the entire account as Google had released extended ads in 2016 and therefore they created an approach (see below).

The roadmap looked as follows

  1. Preparation
  2. Research
  3. PPC Campaign structure optimisation
  4. Content Creation
  5. Report and Budgeting
  6. “Try to treat each market as a completely unique one as each market is different even if they speak the same language”

With the above implementation in the Thai market together with an optimisation of the contact form submission logic, the Thai campaign had an average contact rate from 20-40 per month to over 150 successful contacts. As this worked well in the Thai market, this was then “cloned” the strategy to other countries.

This to consider when running international PPC Campaigns

  • Do not direct translate
  • Share PPC keywords with translators and create landing pages
  • Have an international calendar so you understand key events in said market
  • Create marketing personas to better understand the audience in said country
  • Campaigns in similar languages should be adapted linguistically

Try, Analyse and optimise your campaigns

What they observed:

  • In developing markets: Users do not want to submit a lot of information about themselves.
  • In developing markets: Internet connects is slow
  • Decision process fast in developing markets
  • Festive periods make decision making longer especially in developing nations i.e. carnival in Brazil
  • CPA in developed markets higher therefore have more focused campaigns

Different markets have a device distribution higher than others do and therefore mobile ads should be forced above the fold on mobile.

Key takeaways

Featured snippets at SIXT

Speaker Izzi Smith from Sixt

“its no longer enough just to rank first place”

Rich snippets and greatly increase the quantity of traffic to your website. As the visibility is before the 1st SERP results. The quality of the traffic is also very good as they already are aware of what content to expect. Additionally, users often trust more featured snippets then other content on the SERP. With conversational search, the data is also derived from featured snippets.

Old rich snippets:

Featured snippets:

How to start and be featured in the featured snippets?

  1. Do keyword research: Find question / phrases
  2. Evaluate what keywords you currently rank with
    1. You could also use RYTE tool where it stores all past keyword rankings and not just 3 months
  3. Evaluate your potential queries

Additionally, use tools such as “answer the public” where it will create lists of potential questions with said query.

Asses the query intent

Ask yourself if you would like to create a featured snippet that is too easy to answer, as the intent would have been fulfilled within Google SERP and not on your site.

Avoid knowledge graph


  • Be factual
  • Provide data and source
  • Write as a human
  • Structure answer content with the most relevant format
  • Paragraphs: Often triggered with Do, what etc…
  • Length should be between 40-50 words
  • Prepositions and plurals for lists

Avoid fully answering a question so that you have a “more” in the list.

Case study: Car model landing pages

When SIXT has as new car, they create a landing page for said car i.e query. “rent a ford mustang”.

Tools: AWR Cloud keyword tracker where you can filter for featured snippets.

Day Two at SMX Munich 2018

Mobile first indexing

Is your website ready for mobile first indexing? Use the Google search console to find errors in the crawler.

Be careful with hreflang annotstions, always use the hreflang to the mobile equivilant.

You can check if your international targeting tags are working by using GWC

There are other tools in the market you can use such as Polly with python and other free tools.

Be careful with JavaScript and never block those in the robots.txt, as it might bock key resources for he mobile device and indexing. Additionally server side content is better then client side as it’s easier for the bot to index and faster ad more efficient to make it efficient.

set your time out in your own career to simulate JavaScript rendering.

Use the tool to see if your mobile site is working.

Keep your eye on loading times

Use tools like kingdom and server analytics to determine if there is an error

Consider doing a page speed audit

Don’t forget the basic SEO things such as title, meta description etc… and don’t make content for the crawler only.

Consider a readability test

Consider a html 5 and not iframe for video content

Image quality over quantity always

Don’t use stock photos

Remember to add rich snippets for the featured snippets in google SERP

The SEO playbook

Session by @suzzicks

This session talks about what’s key in SEO.

Mobile first articles that go more in detail.

You can see that Google is changing queries from query search (keyword) to entity search I.e. being able to understand the fundamental question itself.

Prioritizing the query in context and to better understand the intent

we must understand that a location / time is an entity.

An entity does not need a website, it can also have a location in maps / my business etc…

entities are language agnostic

i.e. they are the same no matter what language they where queried and therefore are universal. Therefore they started grouping the “entities” together such as “supermarkets”, “restaurants” etc…

Entry understand slide

Google is asking users about the entities to enrich their understanding of the entity (POI). Such as the type of restaurant etc… This will also help with voice search and answer questions based on its input.

Google explore slide

Thing have to be classified correctly for the machine learning to improve and suggest recommendations

Google has started translating reviews from other languages to yours.

Google translating reviews of places

Google has added PWA where it uses universal links to link from website to within an app installed.

Google SERP entity result screen shot

Multiple choice parameters to perform actions within the local space. This information can also be use with Google voice assistant.

Multiple input options in Google SERP

Local SEO

Do an SEO local audit for the client.

Check out local SEO Guide

This will give you a lot of insight and what factors influence local SEO rankings.

Clients always what to Benin the map pack.

  • Number one signal is your address within the city and the proximity of the user to the POI. Sadly you can’t optimise for proximity
  • Link signals: 29% of Ranking factor. These are links from local business, entities etc… Look at things that that company is doing locally and ask them what relationships they have.

Get client signals to determine what links you can get by asking them some questions.

Finding Marketing unicorn campaigns

Search markets tweaks

SpeakerSimi Ahava

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