In this episode of the OMReport I will be interviewing Roy Huiskes from the Netherlands.
Alpar: So, hello, we are here at the Campixx and I found somebody who does not, who is not a native German. Roy, tell us about yourself.
Huiskes: Hey I am Roy, I used to work at a company called Onetomarket and I am doing the podcast State of Search with Bas van den Beld. Probably familiar with a lot of people, especially with podcast listener check it out. And I was for Onetomarket based, we did a lot of stuff in Germany so I went to German conferences and a lot of friends of mine are still here and I heard good stories about Marko’s thing and this is the reason why I ended up over here, drinking beer. And doing the podcast and having fun.
Alpar: No, I think it is a really great thing that you bring some international colour into a seemingly local conference.
Alpar: So, tell us about yourself, what, I think podcasts are not really the best way to earn money, so I assume you are doing something else besides that?
Huiskes: Yeah definitely, I am an SEO.
Huiskes: For instance, gee wonder why? I started to do SEO for Onetomarket, five six years ago. No, I started at Onetomarket five years ago, six years ago, whatever, before that I did SEO at a local shop but that wasn’t that big.
Alpar: So what did you do even before, did you study? Did you, you know, programme? What did you do?
Huiskes: I actually did…
Alpar: Drop out of school?
Huiskes: Definitely dropped out of school, tried to, ten years tried to get a diploma, nah, never worked out. Started, well was smarter than my teachers actually, so that didn’t work out that well. They were talking about ‘yeah you should be graphical, make art of websites’. Screw that, I want to make money from it, and everybody else should as well. So that’s why I dropped off and I started to do research marketing because I needed traffic on my site. I could create the best beautiful things and if nobody saw it, it’s still shit. So I wanted people to see my stuff. That is why I went into SEO.
Alpar: So how does the SEO scene, you’re from the Netherlands, if somebody doesn’t know, and how does the SEO scene in the Netherlands look like? I mean you know, is it…?
Huiskes: It’s nice compared to the German one, I think.
Alpar: What do you mean? What German, what is the nice thing about it?
Huiskes: The way people interact with each other. The German ones are more aggressive towards each other.
Alpar: You think?
Huiskes: I think it is more aggressive on a competitive level, not aggressive towards the persons, but more aggressive in getting on the number one position. And all of them were pretty straight against each other. We have still this thing called stop bugging us.
Alpar: So do you share the number one position?
Huiskes: Yeah definitely. Nah, we are switching, we are switching sides again, but I mean we are looking at start pages, start pages aren’t in Germany. But the start pages do work. It’s a lot of clones from that as well.
Alpar: Can you probably explain for people who do not know what start pages are. They are called Startpaginas, correct?
Huiskes: Yeah. Yeah, definitely, yeah. GoedBegin.com, it’s one of our crap sites
Alpar: What’s it called?
Huiskes: GoedBegin.com. It’s a crap site, don’t go there. Seriously, don’t go there. There is no
Alpar: I have to go train. GoedBegin?
Huiskes: Yeah, GoedBegin.com. Don’t go there, seriously. No, seriously that’s a bad sign for you. That’s the one that got banned. So, don’t go that way. But stuff like that, its clones, Startkabel, it is all pages with just links on it for if you’re elderly and you don’t know what to start with, this is the point where you start and you got links to everywhere. So there is lots of funny links on there and lots of bought links and trade links and, it’s crap, but it works, it ranks. It used to rank.
Alpar: It seems to be like, I have been active in the Netherlands as well and to me it seems it’s a, I haven’t seen this phenomenon in any other country, have you?
Huiskes: It’s a Dutch thing, yeah, definitely. It’s, the … who runs the biggest one, that’s the startpagina and it has 22 thousand sub domains, something like that, which are specific in niches. So if you run for instance a radio station, there is a radio station startpagina for you. If you are interested in that, you can start with your internet on that page. Ah, it is the same thing in China, they have this Emperor’s page, and Emperor does the recommendations on that as well, so it’s a nice way of getting rich.
Alpar: The Chinese and the Netherlands they are connected by
Huiskes: We have the same stupid kind of way, yeah; definitely, we have the same stupid way of starting with internet
Alpar: Wow, international webs on the
Huiskes: We like Chinese food as well, though.
Alpar: How about the other way around? Ah maybe not.
Huiskes: Don’t guess now, no the Boerenkool wouldn’t work that well in China I guess. (Laughs)
Alpar: Alright, so so how do they, I mean are they, in other countries like in France everyone wants to blog, and in Germany some blog, some have their simple CMS websites so if people want to start out in internet in Netherlands, they really build a startpagina to start with?
Huiskes: Yeah, that is the fastest way to go and then they started out to weblog.nl, that is one of the common ways as well, that did pretty well.
Alpar: It’s something like a free blogging website, it’s just like WordPress or Blogger and ….
Huiskes: And it’s Dutch, that’s the main difference because Dutch people like to talk to other Dutch people.
Alpar: Obviously. Then it does make sense they understand each other well.
Huiskes: Most Americans don’t understand that, I don’t know where you’re running the podcast but people in Europe like to speak in their own language and that’s a big difference between the way of American people approaching Europe. For instance, I was looking at a travel site and they translated everything to Google translate. It doesn’t work like that over here, I mean we look at it like this is stupid, really this looks stupid, don’t go there. Just hire a Dutch guy to translate it for you and do it properly because otherwise nobody is going to book you because they don’t trust you.
Alpar: So obviously. So, how do they, I mean do they startpaginas? Are they so loved by Google.nl that they rank them automatically or then, I mean to me if I look at a startpagina its just one single sub domain with two hundred links or even more or five hundred links and there is like no content on it. You would think it’s not really valuable in, if you look at SEO in other countries.
Huiskes: It gets shared so much over time it has this much of a value from, if you look the key word startpagina it just has that much searches that Google says okay, maybe we don’t like it, maybe we think it shouldn’t be there on a content level but it is there because people are looking for it, so we have to put it…
Alpar: So people are looking for a keyword and startpagina as a combination
Huiskes: Could be, yeah. I haven’t looked it up, but I kind of imagine that happening, yeah. A lot actually.
Alpar: And then again they build their startpagina. The young and fresh and approaching SEO in the Netherlands, they build their startpagina for the niche they want to be active in and then they start link building for the startpagina?
Huiskes: You have to apply to get access to a startpagina, so you cannot build every startpagina yourself.
Alpar: Oh, really.
Huiskes: Yeah well, you can if you do a niche. For instance if you do some small thing and you, and they think its valuable enough to make a niche from it, you are allowed to. For instance, one of the rules
Alpar: So, what do you have to do, I mean, do you have to send a copy of your passport or do you have to just fill out a form?
Huiskes: No, just have a good story, it’s all money based. You sign a contract, some kind of contract with them.
Alpar: Oh really? Do you have to pay for a startpagina?
Huiskes: No, you don’t have to pay but you are not allowed to put on, I don’t know the guidelines specific for it, but it is something like you can put up ten.
Alpar: You don’t have a startpagina?
Huiskes: I don’t own any of them at all. In fact I am really happy.
Alpar: Oooh, poor Dutch SEO guy without a single one of those.
Huiskes: No, no, no definitely I have got my reasons for that, because I know people who do
Alpar: Ah I see, I see.
Huiskes: And that’s, I don’t do that much link building, so I don’t need to but what it states that you are obliged to not have more than ten commercial links on a start page.
Alpar: Oh really?
Huiskes: Yeah, that’s what you sign up for. Nobody does that, because everybody because everybody put in paid links without using, informing some of them. But the problem is you cannot put in more than ten tracker links from affiliate companies or something like that. So that’s the way of getting out of it.
Alpar: So if I use a URL shortener, I can still do it?
Huiskes: I would just link directly.
Alpar: Then you go and get the affiliate link, the affiliate commission.
Huiskes: Not for the affiliate network.
Alpar: Ah okay.
Huiskes: Which is never the best way to get link use from a page.
Alpar: True true true. Okay. So, and then are there like people who have huge networks of these startpaginas or how …
Huiskes: There’s a couple of companies who run a couple of start pages.
Alpar: Oh really. Wow so then they are not topically focussed, they are really focussed on, instead of having a blog network they have a start …
Huiskes: Mostly financial traffic.
Alpar: Hard core money key words instead.
Huiskes: That’s the focus spot.
Huiskes: But that’s okay.
Alpar: So they, do you think then the startpagina providing companies should charge those? Or do they do this? Wouldn’t it make sense for example let’s say credit would be a highly commercial valuable keyword? Then if I would startpagina dot nl or how the URL is, I could maybe charge my, the startpagina order of credit dot startpagina.nl.
Huiskes: If there’s not an owner, if there is an owner on it what some of them do is actually, if you are an owner you have it you are allowed to, if they lose it they are going to keep it to themselves, because if it’s not valuable, no nobody is going to get it and then it’s money for the publisher as well. So that’s the trick they do it right on.
Alpar: So, why does it pay off for the startpagina providers?
Huiskes: Oh, it doesn’t, it started out with not paying off, just creating content for people, helping people around and well if you will have for instance loans at startpagina.nl, that will certainly bring you money, not from an SEO paid link perspective, but as well from an affiliate perspective.
Alpar: Just because people are typing the stuff in?
Huiskes: Yeah, actually if you are looking for the homepage starpagina.nl there is five, the top five, the top five best click links, banks or other. That’s the money from startpagina. So they earn money from it and it’s all nofollow on the startpagina I guess. They are working on a nofollow thing, have a look into that as well, they are working on it.
Alpar: Obviously, okay, interesting, interesting. So, it’s really weird because….
Huiskes: We don’t have what the German word is for Artikelverzeichnisse.
Alpar: Article directories in German.
Huiskes: We don’t have it at all, it’s not in Holland. We have two that’s crap, it’s really just crap. Nobody uses it. Link building is completely different and you probably know a little bit about it. It’s different from, if you do it only Dutch based, it’s different.
Alpar: Why? Or how? I mean is it only the startpaginas and the article directors, that the main difference? Just this one tool?
Huiskes: I can get ten newspapers in Germany that will place paid links, and you can get as well and everybody can, we can find it. I haven’t been able so to say, I haven’t been able to find one in Holland.
Alpar: Maybe you are not nice enough, or you are not asking the right way?
Huiskes: If I am nice enough? I won’t have to pay, so that’s something different (laughs). If I am nice enough it’s a free link , but if I just go to a sale, sales guy, or know the guy who runs it, there is nobody I know who does that for Dutch newspapers.
Alpar: But do you think that they haven’t discovered this niche, monetization niche for them or they think it’s immoral or they….
Huiskes: It’s unethical, immoral I think and I think that’s first stop and then again they don’t know the value of it. So, they don’t even understand how much. We did a lot of newspapers in my old company and one of them just killed their whole archive. Well that’s from monetization is a bad idea.
Alpar: Yes, but then again big old companies, they are not usually the ones to secure about their online activities and how they should work. I know they don’t all have worked out online strategies. So, your podcast is in English or in Dutch?
Huiskes: It’s in English.
Alpar: Okay, so why in English? I mean you are Dutch based, you’re a Dutch person, and you do SEO in the Netherlands.
Huiskes: State of Search blog. We did the SearchCowboys before and that was English, that was one of Bart’s projects that okay well if we do a podcast, we do a SearchCowboys, it’s going to be in English and it’s more fun. We have a broader audience. We have then good SEOs that really listen to podcasts in Holland, that’s not really an audience, I can call them myself and I’d like to, it’s no problem. We drink every once in a while that’s fine.
Alpar: Skype conference.
Huiskes: Yeah, that’s on a daily base, its fine.
Alpar: Okay, okay, so how do you perceive from an outside perspective, SEO in Germany?
Huiskes: I like it, it’s fun people, professionally it’s a bit more on the Black Hat side I guess, it’s not Black Hat, but it’s more aggressive getting their good positions and I like that as well. I like the competition in it.
Alpar: I think, if I can add one…
Huiskes: It’s less whiney.
Alpar: Excuse me.
Huiskes: It’s less whiney I think.
Alpar: Yes it’s true. You know I think aggressive; I wouldn’t share that opinion, if I can add my perspective to it. I think it’s more like in sports, you we are running as long as it’s the race but after the race we are friends and we go for a beer. It’s like a sporty game, but everybody wants to win.
Huiskes: Yeah, I agree, it’s not an aggressive…
Alpar: Like sports you know, during the race everybody is, you know.
Huiskes: Yeah, we can kill each other but afterwards we drink beer.
Alpar: Yes, yes, yes exactly, so it’s friendly, I think.
Huiskes: No, I agree but it’s …
Alpar: You don’t even know.
Huiskes: That’s aggressive for the position not for everything else so I agree on that part, it’s not hatred towards people, especially maybe some Polish … but that’s old.
Alpar: Nah, that’s old, that’s old. So, which other countries do you have experience in?
Huiskes: We did a little bit in Spain.
Alpar: Okay, so how’s Spain?
Huiskes: Spain was, I haven’t been in Spain for well one and a half years seriously, so, it was pretty new to us, at least SEO was pretty new over there and it’s a huge amount of traffic over there, so Spain was a good market to start in but that’s what this other companies discovered as well, so everybody went to Spain.
Alpar: Is that with Onetomarket still? Or with the company afterwards?
Huiskes: Yeah with Onetomarket, ja. And Italy that’s one of the companies, it’s a big country especially well for instance fashion is big over there, so you can do it. It is not too big on internet yet, it’s a developing country in community internet, if you look at a Dutch or a German or a Scandinavian perspective.
Alpar: It’s true. But if you look at the fashion traffic, you mentioned fashion traffic in Italy, right? If I think about, let’s say I would have some insights in some fashion topics in Germany and if I look at that traffic, a high portion of that traffic is very very relevant regarding transactions, so, if I divide traffic, you know some is maybe more informational, some is more transactional, how would you think is the Italian traffic? Do you think it is as … ??
Huiskes: It is not transactional yet, but if you are there right now, you’re going to be ahead of everything else so I think it is a good idea to start out, if you do anything, Italy is I think one of the developing countries in that. Especially when everything is growing over there. It’s improving, it’s getting better. It’s not as professional as you see over here, and in general if I look at German, UK, Dutch companies there are more advanced at measuring everything. I mean the analytics are better than what I see from most companies in the US. I have to say. And I am also quite….
Alpar: You have been inside the US; I mean have you been there, have you worked there?
Huiskes: I saw stuff in there. Carb, people I work for in the US, it’s also smart guys on a marketing level but they don’t care about, measuring is not that important for us, and I think…
Alpar: Do you know like the details so much?
Huiskes: Maybe, I don’t know?
Alpar: Do you think that’s what the Germans especially like about SEO?
Huiskes: The Gründlichkeit. (laughs) Could be, could be. No, but I do think it a little bit in the, it’s not, they don’t care as much. They care about the product instead of the money wise side. I think the UK and the Netherlands, because maybe our overall heritage or maybe it’s a culture kind of thing. We are more spot on and we, our why is really important for a lot of people. We link based deals from two fifty a link. Yeah, whatever. It doesn’t work for me like that. Could be working for somebody, but I don’t work like that. I cannot guarantee because I cannot guarantee and if I can, I would do it but it doesn’t…
Alpar: You sound professional.
Huiskes: Nobody can guarantee, so that’s fine with me. You can buy, if you have your own network you can guarantee, that’s the risk you take for buying into a network, so I agree with that part, I can give you insights into how I am and how I work and that’s fine with me and that works, and I can show you cases that worked so, I can do a lot of stuff but I….
Alpar: It’s a lot about trust, right?
Huiskes: I think SEO is about trust. I mean you are so tied to the core of everybody’s business. I always draw this map when I talk to customers and searches, a lot of people, you have verticals like bannering like own advertising like affiliate marketing and email marketing. They put it at verticals besides each other and search is actually underneath all of those, because if you do good affiliate marketing it will affect your search. If you do good TCF data it will affect your search. So, a search’s ambient findability is what the nice word is. Yes!
Alpar: Buzzword Bingo.
Huiskes: Yes! Bullseye for that. I mean it works like that. If you’re, you need to be final, you need to be found. That’s what you want and it can be on so many levels that you can be found so it’s okay to integrate that in your whole marketing but it’s okay, it’s realise that it’s in your core, same what you talked about. Transactional informational, what kind of content are you producing is your website actually transactional or is it just putting out lots of content for other purposes. It’s okay with that. You have to figure out and think about that.
Alpar: So you have listened to some of the presentations that have been here during the day, did you hear one thing that you probably, you know, people seem to be thinking about here a lot and they don’t think about so much in the Netherlands besides the aggressiveness? Other topics that we seem to care about and you guys….
Huiskes: I mean link building is always a hot topic in Holland, but it’s, there’s more to be said about links over here than there is in Holland.
Alpar: How come?
Huiskes: Don’t have a right answer for that. I am not sure what to think of it. For instance, we don’t have link networks. Not big link networks like the ones you have in Germany.
Alpar: So, how big, what kind of a link network would you consider big?
Huiskes: I cannot order links for a thousand Euros, somewhere. I have to go to a specific company which I know does that for me, but there is no network that says okay TLA like networks.
Alpar: Okay, but there’s few of those in Germany, there’s probably two, so it’s not like there’s many
Huiskes: No, but it’s more, so and if it’s two there is spin off, if there is spin off there is something to be talking about, you can talk about, so I think in general there is a bit of a stretch over there at that part.
Alpar: So, what do you think, do you think because the Dutch and UK and German market, they are developed more so they are kind of
Huiskes: Measuring, measuring market.
Alpar: They are measuring more? do you have a feeling that still those are kind of conquering into other markets who are less developed because they think it more of an opportunity rather than to be like in a very sporty environment as in Germany?
Huiskes: I think.
Alpar: Do you see that happening or do you think that the language gap is just too big?
Huiskes: I think the language is definitely a setback for a lot of people because people think to, it’s not a language it’s a culture thing and I think there is a difference between, you can translate a thing, but its, you don’t get the culture then. The culture is important as well for getting the right E commerce numbers out of it. I mean it is nice to rank number one, but if you sell shit, then the number one position doesn’t help you that much. It does drive you traffic and it will cost you eventually money without getting anything. So, you need to understand the culture of the country that you are in. Especially when going to for instance Saudi Arabia, it’s different. It’s harder to sell, well….
Huiskes: Yeah for instance (laughs). That’s one of the things.
Alpar: Just as an example I could think of.
Huiskes: It’s harder to do that, you cannot advertise that at once. Casual gaming. Kissing games is pretty big.
Alpar: In, big as in they like? And look for it?
Huiskes: Casual gaming is a, kissing games is pretty big if you look at girl games. Girl games are a pretty big niche in casual gaming.
Alpar: Girls for girls as in kids? Or girls as in women?
Huiskes: Girls as in Kids, not the women. Boys is pretty big as well but…
Alpar: Why is it a niche?
Huiskes: I don’t know, it’s just there. They like, girls like to play this dress up games and there is this niche in there that’s called kissing games and you need to kiss and somebody is going to watch and not stop kissing. If you do that in Saudi Arabia, it’s not going to go down well for your site. I can tell. Well it will get links though but in general it is not a good idea to do that.
Alpar: So, what, they cannot kick your site out of Google?
Huiskes: Not out of Google but they can just ban it from a proxy of the country, so, it doesn’t work like that. So that’s not the smartest way to go in that case (laughing) and then all the press and the legal stuff you get into, it’s no fun. Nobody wants their hand chopped off.
Alpar: So, what are you doing these days?
Huiskes: I am actually a consultant. A lot of consultants…
Alpar: As anyone is who has read a SEO blog once or twice.
Huiskes: Don’t call me a social media guru now. (Laughs)
Alpar: Yes, yes yes, it was so close, I was, I thought you were going to say that.
Huiskes: No, fuck that, no truly, I
Alpar: So, you are an SEO guru.
Huiskes: Yeah, I do SEO stuff, I consult companies with SEO, I build a little bit as well, I develop on websites. Because I want to do the full, I don’t want to work for
Alpar: Are you like the classical one-man army as they would say?
Huiskes: Yeah I do, I partner up with friends, like …, friends from all of one’s market or just from the Netherlands or whatever country they are based upon, because I think you need a specialist for the right tool for the right job. So I, it’s still a one-man shop, but I do grab my network when I need it and what I like do do is, and it’s harder to get there because I have a bit of a name in Netherlands for doing consultancy so I get consultancy for the bigger companies and for smaller ones, I do the full Monty. I go just all out and I say okay, this is your site and no, I am not going to write a report for you because a report is going to cost me sixteen hours to write it or whatever it just figure out all…..
Alpar: You build it from scratch instead?
Huiskes: I am going to rebuild it for you in twenty four, it’s going to be a bit more hours, but you are done afterwards. Don’t crap about reading stuff; I am going to do it for you. And then
Alpar: It does make sense a lot.
Huiskes: And I am going to do on a retainer for Ad or whatever and I am start building up…
Alpar: Especially for small and medium size enterprise, it does make lots of sense.
Huiskes: And there is money to be made on the small business side. I mean everybody is changing…
Alpar: There is a lot of missed opportunities, I think, because it is hard to do for the, it’s hard to do to buy into a SEO, because SEO companies like larger SEO agencies, it seems to target only the big really well paying companies but I think any small and medium sized company, I think there is still even in Germany there’s a gap, what is the right thing for them to do if they can spend a thousand Euros a month. What’s the right thing? It’s real hard to answer that.
Huiskes: Yeah, but local search works pretty good.
Alpar: Yes, absolutely.
Huiskes: Product search, it’s amazing, I mean, its twenty percent of your traffic easy and it’s selling traffic, I mean it’s transactional so, it’s okay. You can start, Adwords is okay as long as you have the knowledge of what you are doing at once, and have the insight that it still keep, whatever you do it’s a monthly base, so it is never going to be cheaper than it is. It is always going to be at the end. You are going to pay as much as everybody can afford to especially in a competitive market, so I think Adwords is a great way to start but you have to build it up and try to get better with organic.
Alpar: So, as a one-man army, how many clients can you deal and satisfy?
Huiskes: It depends on the kinds of things I am doing.
Alpar: It’s like five, fifteen or…
Huiskes: If I do consultancy it can be lot because, well I can answer a phone every day, that’s not too hard to do but if it is building websites and maintaining, it is not too much, three, five, somewhere there.
Alpar: All the time? Oh that’s not too much.
Huiskes: No, its fine.
Alpar: It could have been fifty, you know, how would you know?
Huiskes: Ah, could be, depends on the project. Some projects are easy to manage, bit more, other projects it’s undoable.
Alpar: Are you focussed on certain topical areas? Or are you broad let’s say?
Huiskes: I have a lot of experience in travel, and that comes back again and again and again.
Alpar: Yeah sure, it has always been one of the big topics on the web rate.
Huiskes: It’s a big one and I know how it works. I have been doing a lot of stuff in that area as well. I am not too fond of it anymore, I’d say. Got a little bit bored by it. They always have the same issues, that’s the problem and it’s never going to change because they don’t want to change.
Alpar: It’s a very long tale.
Huiskes: That’s the problem, they keep all of their own business and ah well, and it works for them and it fine. It pays the bills.
Alpar: Well, thanks a lot for your time. You have been a great partner to talk to.
Huiskes: Cool, its fine.
Alpar: Yeah, Let’s go have a beer.