To kick off the CopyPress Monthly Interview Series, it’s our pleasure to introduce our first guest, Dennis Goedegebuure.
Photo attributed to: Michael Dorausch
Dennis Goedegebuure, known on Twitter as TheNextCorner, has been working as an in-house SEO since 2004. First at eBay, where Dennis was responsible for the global SEO strategy for 21 eBay websites. At Geeknet Dennis has been looking after websites like SourceForge & Slashdot. Now at Airbnb, Dennis is now responsible for Global SEO for setting up a new in-house SEO team, focussed on growing the search visibility for the places on Airbnb you can rent as a vacation rental or a unique way to travel and meet local hosts. You can follow him @thenextcorner or his blog TheNextCorner.net
1. Can You Tell Us What Your Role Is At Airbnb?
Dennis: I’m responsible for the Global SEO strategy and execution for Airbnb. In the last year, the company launched more than 15 localized versions of the site. Countries like The Netherlands and Japan now have their own local version of Airbnb (NL or JP). This means we need to invest in translation services, building the local profiles for these sites and community engagement. For me, in particular, it means we need to educate the local media to start linking to the local websites, to build up the profiles for these sites.
All the local sites are being built here in San Francisco, so the code reviews for SEO is just a couple of desks away from me.
2. Can You Briefly Explain What Airbnb Is/ Services It Offers?
Dennis: Taken from the “about” section of the Airbnb website, you can see the official statement what service Airbnb provides. Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world — online or from a mobile phone. Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries.
Having worked here now for a little over 60 days, I have come to realize Airbnb is more than just a marketplace. Airbnb enables connections between guests & hosts, which create memorable experiences. Just think about it, if you travel to a city you don’t know anybody and stay in a hotel, you will be reliant on the concierge to point you in the right direction.
I traveled through Central America for 5 months about 10 years ago. My most memorable experiences were due to the local people I was staying with, or met on the way. They showed me around, took me to places no tourist would ever come, or helped me with the language where needed.
This is what Airbnb facilitates every day. Guests & hosts helping each other, learning from each other’s cultures and sharing the space in the houses you can find on Airbnb.
3. Airbnb’s Site Is Mostly Images. What Creative Content Marketing Techniques Do You Use To Reach Your Audience? Any Successes And/Or Failures You Would Like To Discuss?
Dennis: Since I’ve only been at Airbnb such a short time so far, it would be hard to call out any specific success project initiated by our team. However, some SEO peers received the launch of the Airbnb Neighborhoods with some great comments. A number of public tweets were mentioning the direction we take could be seen as an example in the travel vertical. And I received a number of personal emails in which the project was celebrated.
4. How Important Has Social Media Been To Airbnb? How About SEO?
Dennis: Every room that is booked on Airbnb is an opportunity to bring people together and have meaningful conversations and share ideas and learn from each other’s culture.
Apart from advertising on Social Media, which allows us to target people specifically on what they like, Social Media has been built into the platform as a way to build connections between host and guest prior to their trip, if they choose to. You can sign up with Facebook for an Airbnb account. This allows you to see how you are connected with the host through Facebook Connect.
So if I search for a room to book on my trip to Amsterdam, I can see a host who is friends with two of my friends back in Amsterdam, and I can see a host who attended the same university as I did.
Furthermore, I can share my wish lists with my friends on Facebook, so they can dream with me where I would like to take my kids next on adventure. Or just get inspired for a nice vacation on the beach. How about a stay at a private island? You have to keep dreaming..!
I recently went on a trip with my daughter and we stayed in a tree house in Burlingame for her sixth birthday. I shared this on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during and after the trip. I got overwhelming responses back, and inspired so many people to build lasting memories with their kids. How many times do you really have the opportunity to easily share your experiences with your friends, without the need for copy paste and multiple browsers or applications?
The write up of my experience in the tree house was liked almost 200 times and the URL got tweeted more than 100 times.
A good user experience and design does not have to bite SEO! However, SEO has not been a big focus for the company until recently. From a presentation Brian Chesky did a couple of months ago, I captured these tweets:
5. Airbnb Has A Clean, Very Attractive And Extremely Easy To Use Website. How Has The Design Influenced The Success Of Airbnb?
Dennis: I have been blown away by the poor design & UX at some of the travel sites out there. SEO has clearly played a large role in the success of these example companies, as I’ve seen homepages used as giant link farms; over optimized Exact Match Anchors in internal links, like using keyword Rentals 82 times on the homepage links; or low quality footer text of around 300 words to make a search page viable to rank. This all still works for SEO, however I like to ask the question; for how long?
The Airbnb founders come from a design background, so they are extremely focused on the UX and the design of the site. With this focus on the experience a guest has while booking their trip, is what I believe is one of the drivers of the success of Airbnb. You can almost picture yourself already staying in the place you picked.
6. As A Very Experienced SEO That Has Worked With Massive Companies Like Ebay And Geek.Net, Can You Tell Us How Important You Think Effective Content Marketing Is Today?
Dennis: Let’s just make sure we understand what we mean with content marketing. I see content marketing as a way to engage your costumer with your company through engaging and value adding content. While you as the company build up the relationship, you can listen what services the audience need, and provide these through the trusted relationship.
I can’t believe how much crap is still out there, and makes it into the search results. A trusted, old authoritative domain can still be used for all kind of self-serving content farm pushing crap. Although Google’s Panda is designed and focused on cleaning up the lower quality content, still you see it appearing on certain searches.
While working at the Slashdot site, I’ve seen how easy it is to rank for fairly competitive queries, based on a great headline and the domain authority. A site like Slashdot would be able to dominate the technology vertical in search when you put 3-4 great tech bloggers on the project and have a scalable WordPress installed. A company like BuzzFeed really should have bought Slashdot when they had the chance.
Back when I worked at the SEO strategy for eBay, I was a big ambassador for using the unique marketplace data from eBay. What do people search (my favorite example is the Ugly Christmas Sweater rage for 2 weeks in November), what is the hottest Christmas gift or where do unique and scares product being shipped to. For example, for the launch of the first iPad I created a unique overview of where iPads were exported to in the world.
Now just imagine what you would be able to do with all the Airbnb data, combined with traveller’s stories about their adventures and the most unique places to stay on a dream holiday. The content you would be able to create can be so much fun, helpful and inspiring. The challenge becomes execution and scaling!
7. What Are Some Common Content Marketing Mistakes You See Medium-Large Businesses Making Today?
Dennis: Jumping on the Content Marketing train, without understanding what this could bring in terms of revenue. If you are serious in putting Content Marketing into your overall Marketing, make sure you have a proper Content Marketing Strategy, which describes not only what kind of content your company is going to build, but also how this will be measured, what are the processes to get the content produced, who is responsible for what and what does success looks like.
Jumping on the buzzword Content Marketing because everybody does it and is now the hottest thing since sliced bread.
Can you give your top 3 (or more) content marketing recommendations for businesses?
- Write something that people will love to read. Make it worth it for your audience to spend 5 minutes of their life reading your article.
- Content marketing is not only written text. Content marketing is about pictures, video, graphics, and flow charts. Anything that can help you tell a better story, supporting my first point, should be considered in the project
- Like Jonah Stein just recently mentioned in his 2013 resolutions, “Don’t forget to “Marketing” in “Content Marketing”.