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Key takeaways from 15 talks at SEO Zraz 2020

12 minutes of reading time
Zuzana Bodnárová
Špecialistka na obsah
Andrej Salner
Senior konzultant
Charlotte O'Dwyer
SEO zraz found its place as the biggest SEO conference in the CEE region with its 2nd year. We summed up important ideas and takeaways from its talks.

SEO zraz was originally planned as a small meet-up of the Slovak community, but its first year had exceeded all expectations. Some 200 SEO specialists and marketers from across Slovakia and the Czech Republic met in February 2019 at Atelier Babylon in Bratislava, Slovakia.

At Basta digital, we did not rest on our laurels and we set the bar a few notches higher for 2020. Why not organize the largest SEO conference in the Central and East European region?

On Monday, February 10, we managed to bring an international line up of 15 established speakers to the historical Old Market Hall in the centre of Bratislava. They definitely had plenty to say about SEO, along with the other 400 SEO specialists and marketing enthusiasts from around the region. The choice of topics was broad and there were many useful takeaways across specializations and levels of expertise.

Marieke van de Rakt: The Importance of Readability for SEO

Marieke van de Rakt, the Dutch CEO of Yoast (creators of the world-renowned SEO plugin for WordPress) gave the opening presentation. Primarily, she addressed the importance of readability, which the Yoast SEO plugin evaluates using a type of a traffic light. Screens are read differently than printed books or magazines. However, the emergence of mobile devices is intensifying these differences further. 

On mobiles, long sentences can be hard to read. People tend to get bored quickly and we also need to keep comprehension in mind. “Shakespeare was not optimized for online,” Marieke quipped. On the other hand, Marieke’s doctoral thesis had passed the Yoast readability test. Therefore, a readable text does not have to be simple.

Search engine optimization should never come at the expense of the readers’ needs. Fortunately, search engines are getting much better at understanding text. Marieke shared a number of practical tips to help increase online readability:

  • Use short sentences
  • Pay attention to the structuring of the text
  • Use the words that your audience use
  • The first sentence of each paragraph matters the most

Fili Wiese: Better Understanding Google Penalties

SEO consultant Fili Wiese also came from the Netherlands. He explains from the position of ex-Google engineer the punishment that ensues for breaking the rules of the biggest search engine in the world. “If you have children, you know that when they spill something, you don’t wipe it, but give them paper towels to clean it up themselves. But you also know that they won’t do it perfectly,” he used the metaphor to explain Google’s approach. 

Fili stressed several times throughout his presentation that we should not mistake the decline in organic traffic after some Google updates with a real penalty. Google does not penalize unless it has a genuine justification to do so. It does not make algorithmic penalties, only manual ones.

However, if the search engine decides to punish you, follow Fili’s recommendations when requesting a review:

  • Apologise.
  • Be polite and concise, don’t cry about it.
  • Describe what you repaired and explain your lessons learned.

The final step is to hope you have solved the right problem.

Daniel Duriš: One Year After the Medic Update: Highs, Lows and Lessons Learned

For many websites, the Medic update of August 2018 was a disaster. How to avoid its consequences? Daniel Duriš, the main consultant of Basta digital, discussed it all.

One thing is certain, some type of update is fast approaching. You should have a backup plan to put in place in the event of a dramatic drop in organic traffic. Keep in mind that after the crashes of positions and organic traffic, you will work harder and earn less to restore trust of the client.

Taking precautionary measures is the best approach:

  • Check your backlinks (including the old ones) and remove any potentially toxic ones.
  • Edit existing ones and create useful new content that will pull backlinks.
  • Make friends with the authoritative website and get strong backlinks from it.
  • Fix any technical issues and build structured data in order to help search engines better understand your site’s content.
  • Your content should be backed by clearly identifiable experts and you should quote trusted sources.

Gábor Papp: Manual vs. Automated SEO? Call it Semi-Automation

The Hungarian SEO specialist, Gábor Papp, provided a number of useful hacks during his presentation, including how you can partially automate work and thus simplify it. Manual work can bring many errors that can be avoided with these automated processes.

For example, you can use Google Docs queries and filters to help you analyze your keywords. He also showed “content optimization on steroids”. This a process that compares clicks and impressions for individual terms and pages based on data from Google Search Console.

The point is to understand why you do SEO and how you do it. Only then can you find a better solution, which is usually a process. You want to automate the process as much as possible, because automation helps you:

  • Work more
  • Work faster
  • Work with fewer errors

Pavel Ungr: 10 Tasks to Avoid End-Game in Long-Term SEO Strategy

Czech SEO consultant Pavel Ungr played on an Avengers motive during his presentation in which he highlighted the 10 important decisions that will help with the sustainability of your SEO strategy:

  1. Choose a project manager carefully. SEO is a long-term process in which you need a reliable partner, not a one-night stand. Take care of team selection and task distribution.
  2. Don’t waste your time on content that you don’t need. For example, meta captions for sites that don’t place on the 1st or 2nd side of SERP, non-indexed sites, or image searches, if it’s not really useful for your client.
  3. Improve your snippets. How to improve CTR? Choose a business approach, use emojis and rich snippets.
  4. Don’t give everything to Google. Index only your best content that will bring you customers. This will save you a crawl budget.
  5. Use access logs. If you know what’s going on and where the core of the problem lies, you can solve it.
  6. Don’t lose the juice of your messages. Beware of incorrect internal linking related to redirected and canonical pages.
  7. Track and record important changes. There are many useful tools on the market for this.
  8. Control your competition. Meet your enemies in SERP!
  9. Learn about the latest news. Follow top experts, blogs and tools.
  10. Be the first to be the first. Analyze trends and catch them as soon as possible, it can be extremely fruitful.

Thomas Kloos: Where to Put Your Money in SEO Strategy

Austrian born Thomas Kloos from Kloos. spoke about the differences in the allocation of SEO budgets for the different starting positions for a product or service. As one of his clients said: “SEO is the most elegant way of marketing, because it doesn’t shove stuff down the peoples’ throats.”

However, you need to know when to reach for it. SEO is a good channel if you offer people the solution to their problems that they are searching for. In other cases, it is more effective to use a combination of SEO and paid advertising.

SEO itself does not work very well when your target audience is too narrow (or vice versa), too general or you have too much competition. Also it’s not very useful with it if your product is actually unnecessary or people do not even know they need it.

Mihai Vinatoru: SEO in the Personalization Age

Mihai Vinatoru, from the Romanian agency DWF, discussed how personalization can shuffle the cards from an SEO perspective. Google has a huge amount of information about each and every one of us. We are often unaware of it, but we live in a filter bubble that is difficult to escape. According to a study quoted by Mihai, incognito mode or signing out of Google services will not help.

SEO specialists face new challenges:

  • How do I reach relevant audience search history that will keep Google offering our content?
  • How do I get personalized content to our audience without harming our Google rankings?
  • How do I really measure the performance of our SEO efforts?

Tibor Peták: Website Information Architecture Based on Faceted Classification of Keyword 

In his presentation, Slovak SEO specialist Tibor Peták discussed the best approach for creating the information architecture of websites, which he creates based on keyword classification and hierarchy. This allows for the use of keywords, not only to increase organic traffic, but also to improve site navigation.

Information architecture usually falls to UX specialists, but Tibor confirmed that it is largely an SEO task. His approach works in almost every case, and it is not just a tactic, but a whole strategy that implies further activities. In addition to better internal navigation, this structure also helps with page usability and crawl budget. Tibor and his colleagues have even developed their own tool called Mabidac, which helps with sorting and categorizing large amounts of data and keywords.

Mikuláš Prokop: How to Take Down the Server of a Big Media Website 

SEO specialist Mikuláš Prokop is doing SEO for one of the largest news portals in Slovakia, Sme.sk, and his work is garnering numerous awards. Organics carry such high numbers during major news events that even their servers sometimes cannot handle it. Mikuláš shared some of his tips on what makes SEO specific to this type of site.

If you are optimizing for a specific news event, you should keep the following 5 things in mind:

  1. Timing: Search intent and SERP are constantly changing. It differs before, during and after the event. Optimization should begin early, approximately half a year before the event itself, and as much content as possible should be created in advance.
  2. Topic: The topic needs to be thoroughly understood. It is best to have a journalist or expert who knows it thoroughly. You’ll also learn a lot from careful keyword analysis.
  3. SERP: Try to target every possible placement. Make the most of your content – different users prefer different formats and content types.
  4. Strengths: Internal linking can make a big difference and it pays to put in some extra work on it.
  5. Weaknesses: Do not count on something to work the same way as it did last year. The next one won’t necessarily be that way.

Alexander Rus: How to Rank Videos on YouTube and in Google Search

Youtube SEO was the chosen topic for Austrian native Alexander Rus, because “that’s where the cheap attention is right now.” According to Alexander: “Everyone loves video, reading articles is f***ing boring.” He also states that videos on Youtube can increase organic traffic by up to 157 %. 

His presentation was packed with various practical tips on what affects Youtube SEO;

  1. User satisfaction (time and average view time)
  2. Video optimization (headline, thumbnail, CTR…)
  3. Engagement (comments, save, share, likes)
  4. Channel authority (number of subscribers, views, total watch time)

It’s also a good idea to use a keyword-based strategy when creating videos. Your videos should be informative, inspirational, educational, and/or entertaining, as well as being at least 4.5 minutes in length. Dedicate half an hour creating a title and thumbnail and create videos in larger batches in order to get the most out of YouTube Ads.

Steven van Vessum: International SEO: Winning by Working Faster Instead of Harder

With SEO, you can beat big brands internationally if you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie. However, It must be done by reason, not by force. This was the main message of Dutchman Steven Van Vessum of ContentKing.

Big brands often have a problem with implementing their SEO strategies – they are slow in making decisions, have old systems, don’t have enough courage, and everything has to go through too many people. You have to bet on speed, flexibility and risk appetite. Sometimes opportunities are also found in markets that are not necessarily the first obvious choice.

These are some of the things to keep in mind when dealing with SEO for international projects:

  • Use local language, currency, phone numbers and local social proof
  • Choose the right tone of communication – beware of appropriate images and colors
  • Use hreflang – different language versions can have benefit from the strongest one

Šárka Jakubcová: How to Use Data for E-Commerce SEO

Czech SEO specialist, Šárka Jakubcová, demonstrated her own method of using data for e-shops. The only condition is that the online store has to have been working for some time, as it requires a few months worth of data.

By combining search data and e-shop business data, you can better prioritize and focus your SEO activities. For example, you can discover products that are interesting for your business but may have poor search performance.

Zdeněk Dvořák: Linkbuilding Helps People

Zdeněk Dvořák, the Czech SEO specialist, focused on linkbuilding throughout his presentation. The basic question that every linkbuilder should ask is, “How can I help people achieve their goals?”. Every website owner has a goal that led them to create it – whether it’s money, ego, or helping others.

So what can you offer them help with in exchange for a backlink?

  • Traffic
  • Content
  • Visibility
  • The feeling of appreciation

One of the less traditional ways to get backlinks is to invent an award – you would be surprised how many sites would show it off with a link.

Alexandra Tachalova: E-mail Outreach Strategies That You Won’t Find on Google

Russian marketer, Alexandra Tachalova, of Digital Olympus admits that she has not paid for a single link in her life. She owes this to her “smart e-mail outreach” strategy:

  • Only send 2 – 3 e-mails
  • Ensure each is 100 % personalized
  • Relationship building potential
  • Zero risk for your reputation
  • Provides new growth opportunities with partnerships

The basis is relevance and common goals with the addressed subject being.

Alexandra revealed various tips on finding contacts that are most likely to have a (positive) response. You need to find people who do the same thing – building links. To do this, you can do SERP analysis, search in Facebook or Linkedin groups, or find regular contributors to various blogs in your industry. If you offer them a link (but ideally from another site, not reciprocal), they will most likely accept.

Venchito Tampon: 10 Tactics for Linkbuilding and Content Creation in Bulk

Venchito Tampon of SharpRocket Agency arrived at SEO Zraz all the way from the Philippines. In his dynamic lecture, he reitterated the words of both Zdeněk and Alexandra – ask why people should be interested in your offer? You should not only try to personalize, but also to contextualize what you are offering. Linkbuilding can be used not only for positions, but also for branding. Venchito showcased many interesting ideas regarding obtaining links. 

Bastian Grimm of Peak Ace was scheduled to speak at SEO Zraz. Unfortunately, due to bad weather conditions he was unable to attend this year and deliver his presentation about SEO and the best practices of successful website migration. 

The success of the event was also contributed to by stand-up comedian and our moderator, Michael Szatmáry. Although he knew nothing about SEO and marketing, admittedly so, he was successful in keeping the audience entertained. 

SEO Zraz has quickly made its mark on the map of important marketing events in the CEE region with its second event, and here at Basta Digital we are already thinking of how we can improve it for next year.

See all the photos on our Facebook page.

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