If you are predominantly German like me, you have probably been asked questions like “why does your language sound like people choking in rage” or “do you really shove sausage into your mouth every chance you get?” Today is National German American Day, and in reflecting on the stereotypes of my people (yeah, all are true) I suddenly realized something: folks from Das Mutterland and their obnoxious behavior can help illustrate a great set of SEO tips for beginners and advanced digital marketers alike; you can learn what to do, and what not to do when optimizing eine website.
Achtung! Be Structured and Organized!
Germans are notorious for being well-structured and organized. In fact, if you visit Berlin you can ask your tour guide to point you to the Ordnungsamt–a government office that literally translates to “Office of Order”. If you are caught walking across The Kurfurstendamm at 3AM on a red light, even if there is zero traffic, you will get a fine and a stern wag of the finger from a member of the Polizei. Structure and organization helped make Deutschland the economic powerhouse it is today, and it is also what can make your website rank high in the SERPs. Let’s look at different types of structured data and organized matter that is SEO-friendly:
- Structured Data – Structured data is a vital part of SEO because it allows Google bots to crawl your content and determine what it should rank for. It also helps Google understand your relevancy, which leads to its overall quality. Structured data helps search engines categorize content by pairing the names of things with values. In other words, it allows SEOs to tag various pieces of data. The most popular implementation people use for microdata is Schema.org–a project system that runs structured data with agreed-upon standards. With the right plugins and a WordPress platform, you can even add Schema Rich Snippets to your site without having to spend hours of time coding. It is efficient, well-defined, and therefore, Herr Schema is likely German.
- Website Architecture – Want your site to be SEO friendly? Then it’s architecture must be as structurally sound as the Reichstag. Its aesthetic, technical and functional elements must all work in unison to please both Google, and the human user. A well-structured sitemap, easy navigation, internal links that point to the right pages with information people want, a crystal-clear header, lots of good content, and a properly formatted footer will garner SEO das ist gut!
- Content – How you structure your content will automatically say one thing to any experienced digital marketer: do you care more about SEO or creative design for websites, or are they evenly paired? Ever see a website that is 80% visual and looks great, but it has thin content and ranks like scheisse? The efficient German will say, “we are in the business of making money, not looking pretty”. Of course, part of the user experience is to have an aesthetically pleasing website, but too much “sliding techy big graphic boom boom” will make the site slow (especially on mobile where it counts the most) and Germans are far too impatient and punctual to wait, even if the train looks great. Run a series of tests to determine the perfect structure–heat mapping, A/B testing, your analytics, and some data from a technical audit will help you determine what’s best for your SEO and the user experience.
If your SEO has nailed these three components, then it is well on its way to being German.
Prompt, Punctual, Always on Time
Germans are never late. After all, one of the things they are most famous for is the Bavarian cuckoo clock. These clocks may not be stylish, but their finely-tuned accuracy is due to the intricate parts and movements that keep it set to the tune of real-time. If your SEO is German then it will empower a speedy website with a load speed faster than Lufthansa, which should not exceed two seconds. So how does SEO impact load speed? By following these steps (many require SEO know-how), you will be well on your way to Nummer Eins:
- Use plugins sparingly
- Optimize your CSS and JS files
- Ensure images are appropriately sized
- Use caching
- Use a good hosting plan
- Address HTTP requests
- Junk unnecessary external scripts
- Lighten the plane; chuck out web baggage
To see how German your SEO is, you can check the Google Speed Test tool and find out if you are Fritz, or just the pits.
Don’t Have Cold Content Like an Old Herring
The Germans are trying (bless their effort) to shake off that cold, distant exterior they are known for. Unfortunately, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel isn’t helping what with her Amish boy’s haircut, sour-puss face, and uni-colored pant suits that only a humorless woman built like a brick tool-shed would wear.
Today’s younger Germans are trying to be funny, personable, and considerate. In fact, many have even started smiling. If you strive to optimize your content to be user-friendly and not just keyword-based for the bots, your material will be SEO-happy. Remember, Google’s goal is to give the best experience to the user. This means your content must do the following:
- Provide informative info
- Educate the reader
- Entertain and tell a story
- Be well-written and original
- Help readers identify and have an emotional experience (people buy from people they like)
Using the right keywords and implementing technical SEO is important, but always trying to cast a human voice for human readers will help you rank high in the SERPs. Remember, Google RankBrain is a combination of artificial intelligence and human learning; it runs off an algorithm designed to identify user intent, which is emotionally-driven. Here is a classic joke told all over Berlin: What jumps higher, a kangaroo or a house? Houses don’t jump. Warm your content with enthusiasm, humor, and joy–don’t limit your pen to the search bots, use a voice that resonates with others, or your content will have the appeal of a cold fish.
All the Colors of the Keyword Rainbow, Or All the Varieties of Beer
Germans love beer. In fact, half the stuff that flows in our veins is Weissbier. We just talked about the Germans loving structure. This even plays into their beer, as they have laws about what ingredients are used in all beer produced in Germany (there are over 5000 kinds of beer made in more than 1500 breweries from Hamburg to Munich.
When you think of your keyword strategy, think of it as a banquet of multiple beer types. Some are light wheats, others are dark Marzens, and some are golden Kolsch. Your keyword list should never just include your primary keywords and the secondary ones generated by some online tool. Sure, those matter, but adding variety will button up your content and optimize it to reach a much larger audience while adding enhanced quality:
Long-Tail Keywords – These are keywords that are more specific, longer, and are applied at stages where online visitors are about to convert. For example, let’s say you own a brewery and sell beer by the keg, growlers, and bottle. It is a safe bet you will never rank first for “beer” because the competition is way too mammoth. However, if you specialize in making dark German-style beers, then using keywords like “craft Bavarian style smoked schwarzbier” are likely going to bring your product to the people who want it. But wait; the search volume for that keyword is slim, so what’s the point?
Enhanced Head Term Keywords – The enhanced head term keyword is what brings your long-tail guys to life, and together they can rank your site while targeting a wider variety of people. But let’s back up and look at the head term, which in this case would be “lager”–a type of beer. What are the chances you would buy it based on that word alone? If you google “double imperial lager” you know exactly what you want. Now let’s add a long-tail keyword into the mix: “barrel-aged imperial lager with Spalt hops”. On its own, a long-tail keyword will likely not draw much traffic, but when writing a descriptive piece of copy using all three of these types to describe a product, you will still get a smaller group of traffic than optimizing for “double imperial lager” alone, but your traffic will be the exact kind you want who know what they are after, and who are ready to hand you their credit card.
Germans Come in Area-Specific Flavors, So Does Local SEO
Did you know that much of Europe tends to agree that Germans from the South are friendlier than Germans from the North? Also, one’s attire and diet can represent what part of Germany they live in. Unless Oktoberfest is in full swing (and even then it would be a stretch), you would be hard pressed to see a man walking through the heart of Berlin donning a pair of lederhosen and an Alpine hat. Primarily, people in Bavaria wear them for special occasions, and generally you’ll only spy farmers and rural folk from the mountain regions wearing them as everyday attire. But we can get even more local than little leather shorts. For example, there are more than 40 kinds of sausage in Germany, and many come from specific regions, and every good German knows where to go to get the best Laberwurst.
To ensure your SEO is German, it needs to have a local strategy–a way for localized searchers to find you, which is something that is getting increasingly harder for businesses. When Google took the axe to its local pack going from seven to three listings, there was a fiercely competitive ad battlefield for local businesses. Of course we know that citations, Google My Business, and on-site considerations to local optimization are important ranking factors, but Google uses a number of signals to determine which bakery in Hoboken ranks higher than the other. These include:
- Localized organic
- Negative ranking factors
- Local pack factors
- Competitive ranking factors
- Your overall ranking factors
This is where businesses find great value in the best SEO ageniecs; professionals in digital marketing know all the considerations that fall into each category, and how to put you in the best possible situation to show face in the all mighty 3 Pack.
We Come Back to Keywords
Depending on your use of head term keywords or long-tail keywords, your business may rank for some terms in the 3 Pack, but not others. When I type “German beer” from the desktop in my office, these results populate:
As you can see, this common head term brought up Wurstkuche twice (different locations) for a term that can’t get any more general. Clearly, these guys are being very aggressive with their local SEO, and when I checked them against their local competition, indeed they are ranking for significantly more keywords. Then I performed a second search from a fresh browser for “where can I drink marzen style German beer near me”, and here we have the answer:
We see that Wurstkuche appears yet again, this time their location in Venice Beach, which is a massive tourist destination. This brings up other ranking factors that play into your annexation of das 3-Pack, and in an area like Venice Beach you know idiotic tourists are out with their selfie sticks checking in, sharing on social media, and writing reviews at far greater volumes than the 3rd Street location where locals tend to go (and there is still tons of traffic there). Here is a graph by Moz showing what they claim to be the percentages of overall ranking considerations for Local SEO:
When comparing Wurstkuche to the local competition, their social signals, review signals, link signals, and multiple other signals worth considering were far greater with the Venice location clearly dominating the local space. Not only does this show the importance of keyword selection and the interplay of keyword types, it also says that social media, on-page efforts, and other factors play a huge role in local SEO that stretch well beyond citations and spamming hundreds of directories.
Quatsch! Ich bin wütend! Get Angry and Pumped About SEO!
Germans are notorious hotheads when it comes to sports; especially during the World Cup. Their emotions run deep in football (don’t say soccer) and when they win the streets from Düsseldorf to Nuremberg are filled with uproarious people partying into the night. But when they lose, you see a lot of red-faced, angry Germans that weep openly into their beer. Then once the sting of defeat settles, they jump to the drawing board to determine what went wrong pinpointing weak links in players and coaching, trainers, and everything in between. A new blueprint is immediately drafted, and ready to spring into action. Your SEO strategy should be dealt with the same way. If you aren’t going to get passionate about your digital marketing, be sure to hire a SEO agency who will. Your goal is to raise your online visibility, grow your business, and make a healthy ROI every quarter. As someone who is German and passionate about SEO, I am not going to sugarcoat anything: when I check the analytics and discover a strategy I designed dramatically improved a client’s organic ranking, CTR, and conversion rate, I quietly excuse myself from my office, go out back, and scream in victory as I beat my chest before running in circles with airplane arms. When you have an iron-clad SEO strategy that is well-organized, reaches the right searchers, optimized for humans and bots, and has advanced enhancement considerations, then all you need to do is look at search marketing as a game that you are playing to win. This in itself will make you better, and your SEO playbook will be something Das geht und schicki micki!