Kaspar Szymanski

Kaspar Szymanski

Co-Founder - SearchBrothers

At SearchBrothers.com, Kaspar Szymanski is a renowned Google Search expert specializing in recovering websites from Google manual penalties and algorithms like Panda and Penguin. Before offering SEO consulting services, Kaspar was a senior member of the Google Search Quality team where he was the driving force behind global anti web spam initiatives and the public face spearheading Google webmaster communication.

Speaker Interview
UnGagged Las Vegas 2015:

Who are you and what do you do?

Hi, I’m Kaspar Szymanski, I’m one of the co-founders of SearchBrothers.com. We help our clients make their websites better understood by search engines, and hopefully to be better experience for users alike. We do a lot of backlinks, risk mitigation, and obviously penalty removal; these kind of things.

What have you been speaking about at UnGagged?

I’ll be speaking tomorrow, but so far I was at the panel with a couple of other say, senior SEOs, which was a great experience. We were talking about the future of search, and the future of search will be very exciting for all of us.

What are you speaking about tomorrow?

Tomorrow it’s all about the audience really, the topic of my session tomorrow is actually the rumours of the industry; the biggest misconceptions of the industry. That session really is going to be a Q&A session as I want to make sure the audience gets the answers that they’ve been craving for.

What have been your favourite sessions, and favourite speakers so far?

Well I’d say our panel was great, wasn’t it? Honestly, I have not seen every single session because this is a great networking event, so I spent quite a lot of time just hanging around, getting to know new people; and this for me was actually the biggest value. I probably missed out on some of the newest trends, in terms of just following the sessions that were out there, but the people I got to know I’m sure I’m going to benefit from that, I’m sure my business will benefit from that; so I feel like it was totally worthwhile.

If you could summarise UnGagged in one sentence, what would it be?

Worth going to, I suppose. Thanks for having me.

UnGagged London 2015:

Please introduce yourself and tell us, why UnGagged?

For starters, thanks for having me. My name is Kaspar Szymanski, I’m one of the two search brothers, former Google search quality guy and currently running an agency; helping people to max out their potential with their websites, doing audits and recovering sites for manual penalties, and that’s what we do. Now, why you should come to UnGagged? I think the format is quite unique, for all I know it is the first time that UnGagged is being offered in London. If you look around, if you see the other people speaking later, the names out there; it’s quite a unique bunch of people, very experienced, I think it’s going to be exciting, and it all comes down to the questions. That’s the main point. Anybody can come, and ask any search questions they’ve ever wanted to ask. So, I think it’s a fantastic opportunity for anybody to come.

What are your top tips and priority actions for overcoming issues associated with any big Google algorithm roll outs?

That’s a very good question. Preferably, you try to stay ahead of the curve, and future proof your website, and make sure that your site is not impacted by any major either policy or algorithmic changes. That’s obviously not always the case; like with the mobile update, and in the past with panda and penguin, to name a couple of those really big and visible updates; not naming the countless little ones. At times, your site tends to be impacted. I think the most important thing at the time it happens is to stay calm and not panic. Avoiding panicking is the most important thing. No hasty moves are really the best way to address a situation like that. Instead, you really need to dive into the data. Try to identify the search signals, try to identify what patterns might be causing your site to be less visible; to fall off serp for some reason or another. Draw conclusions when going forward and try to apply improvements in a calm manner. So, if you’re asking me for the one thing that I would recommend as a site experience and algorithmic issue, stay calm, collect data, analyse it. That’s the things that need to be done, for sure.

How can businesses with smaller budgets and resource best respond to big updates?

Again, a very good question. As we were talking of small and medium businesses, obviously budget is a major constraint, and it’s an expensive business to run a 100% SEO proof site. If you’re talking about smaller businesses, I suppose picking and choosing your battles is a very important thing to do. You can’t get everything perfect, you can’t have a very large online platform that serves a very short period of time, you can’t have it perfectly optimised in terms of search engine marketing; search engine optimisation UX, you pick and choose. The one thing that is important to all websites across the board, regardless of the size, and your budget; is the user’s. Now this is no news, but this is something that a lot of businesses and online businesses need to focus and refocus on. If you provide a spectator product or service that users just love, SEO will be working for you as well because user signals will be good. So, if you’re saying, I have a limited budget hence I need to pick and choose; focus on users. For instance, if you can make your site just a little bit faster, loading just a bit faster; which tends to be something that users value, go ahead. That’s your battle to choose.

Are you aware of any gamechanger developments on the horizon that in-house or consultant SEOs should be aware of?

Wow, that’s hard, I suppose. So, we need to keep in mind, that as we speak today and at the course of UnGagged, likely, in average two updates will be rolled out, two changes to search, to Google search, everyday. A ton of those are really under the radar, and a good few are a little more visible, they get funny names and all the exposure in the media. But, the only constant in our industry really, is change. I’m not referring only to Google changing their policies and Google changing their algorithm, and refining the user experience as they go. I’m talking about all the competitors of a website, that new ones coming up, the old competitors improving their websites. So, if you’re asking me for the one change, for the one significant factor that will impact the industry in the future to come across the board, that is in my opinion, the users and changed, improved, advanced user behaviour. This is something we have to look after, this is something we have to anticipate. Users demographics change a lot, users become more and more sophisticated as they learn to search better. New generations enter the search market and these people are used to searching in a completely different manner. On top of that, the way we interact with search, changes. Google voice for instance Google voice tends to produce completely different queries compared to Google search. This is the thing that will profoundly change our industry over time. However, it is very difficult to anticipate how exactly the change will be happening going forward. We don’t really know, we can’t really anticipate 100% how users behaviour will change going forward. However, this is an opportunity in disguise, really. Again, focusing completely on your target audience, completely focusing on your users. The people that come to your site whether through search, or directly, or through social media; focusing on their needs and their language and how they evolve, will help the future proof every business and in that regard, future proof against the biggest challenge and the biggest change going forward; which is changing and evolving user behavior, in my opinion.

Do you find there to be any evidence of different google indexes? Or, is it one big Google index delivery in a different way, based on the input factor rather than the question put forward to Google?

Interesting question. You have to keep in mind, I’m formerly from Google; obviously I don’t speak on behalf of Google anymore, I used to do that. Today I share my experience as a search engine consultant. Interestingly enough, the focus of our daily activities at SearchBrothers is not so much finger pointing flaws in communication or trying to reverse engineer, or to uncover bits and pieces of search anymore so much; rather it really is seeing the impact and trying to make the best out of it for clients. From our point of view, from where we stand, what really makes a difference is understanding how Google goes about improving search, and how they go about improving the user experience; and they are really consistent over the years. They don’t say it everyday, but they really live by the rule of improving search for users. Not so much for particular websites, not so much for individuals, but across the board making search your go to point if you happen to have a question. Now that question can be individual, it can be general. One example that comes to mind quite recently for myself when I’m a user, I query london departures, and on top of the search results a lot of other people would be seeing. I also see a result which is individual that says, oh by the way your flight to london is scheduled for 9:35am tomorrow, and that result is for your eyes only. That shows a little bit of how Google goes about it. They get better and better in making results more and more individual. Which makes it obviously more challenging for us and an SEO industry to anticipate and see how sites will interact with search engines, and how sites will interact with users. Nonetheless, the focus is the same, and that is the important bit. Focusing on users is generally an excellent SEO strategy, whether in terms of mobile or desktop, regardless. The reason of that being, Google loves sites that are loved by users. That is why good SEO includes an absolute focus on users. We live by that, we believe in that, and the results that we have been able to produce so far, really prove that that is the way to go going forward, in order to be successful.

In your niche or sector, what’s the most annoying SEO misconception? Please feel free to set things straight!

Wow, I wouldn’t say annoying, but there’s a good few very very persistent ones. We refer to them as SEO myths and no conference that you go to, will go down without at least one person asking one question or another that you answered many times over. Now, there’s a good few of them but there’s one that I find particularly interesting, is the one about site owners, that they are ‘Edwards’s clients’ and they claim that they experience some sort of search issue, however this ‘Edward’s’ person, their point of contact at ‘Edwards’, was able to help them. Now of course there can be exceptions where the ‘Edwards’ person is able to point a client towards a public source, towards an information source, towards a channel such as Google webmaster forums or Google hangouts on air which is basically office hours, run by Google as another channel to talk and address search issues. But there is no such thing as a channel particularly reserved for clients for ‘Edwards’ or ‘Etson’s’, or other paid Google product clients that is reserved in order to help them, serving their search issues. So, whenever I hear somebody saying yeah but my Edwards representative pulled some strings on my behalf, and they helped to solve my penalty; that is really hearsay. That does not happen. All I can say for my time at Google, I’ve never seen any double standards like that, it just does not happen, and there is good reason for that. There is complete separation of those teams, at least for my time at Google that was the case and I really don’t see how it would benefit Google setting a double standard; helping one side just because they’re a client and neglecting another one which could be a great information source, just because they happen not to be a client of ‘Edwards’ or any other paid services. So, that’s one that was very persistent, even during my time at Google I was asked that question an awful lot, and over the years the question has not aged obviously. It comes up on a regular basis, but I can debunk it right here; it’s just not true.

Current favourite SEO tool or platform? Or can you give us the inside track on any sexy SEO related platforms, tools or developments coming soon?

Alright, I do not know what the other guy said, but there is a good few that I really, really like. We, at SearchBrothers, use a variety of public tools. Of course, we utilize Google webmaster tools, and that’s one that everybody should be using, it’s not the first time I’m saying that. Huge fan of OnPage.org, I presume you will be hearing more about that over the course of UnGagged London. There’s a new tool that we had the opportunity of testing, it comes in handy very much if you’re investigating backlinks, if you’re trying to investigate backlink profiles on scale; we’re talking about analysing data and trying to remove manual action applied to websites because of backlinks. Now, that tool is not quite publically available yet, I know that there is going to be a beta rolled out. If you’re interested, the tool is called Powerdrill.com, have a look. We’ve been very, very happy testing it for quite a while, and I think this is one of the tools up and coming in the industry that will make a difference in the future.