August 30, 2011

Interview with International Heavyweight SEO Tadeusz Szewczyk aka Tad Chef


Seoblog recently got the chance to interview Tadeusz Szewczyk aka “Tad Chef”, he is arguably the most notorious White Hat SEO from Germany. Apart from being known for his White Hat strategies he blogs on SEO 2.0, SEOptimise and cognitiveSEO. You can also Find him on Google + and Twitter @onreact_com giving his views on current online topics. He has also been featured on blogs such as searchenginepeople as well as writing his popular post “SEO vs SEO 2.0: Top 15 Differences“. Seoblog were lucky enough to throw some of our own questions at him and see what he came up with.

Below the Tad Chef gives his unique perspective of the SEO world and what the future holds for the online world, whether it be a small company or trying to predict the changes Google will make.

1. Could you please give us a short description of yourself and how you got into SEO?

My name is Tadeusz Szewczyk alias Tad Chef or onreact. I blog on SEO 2.0, SEOptimise and cognitiveSEO. I’m probably the most notorious white hat SEO from Germany despite the fact that I’m actually a Pole. Nonetheless my avatar looks like a Mexican wearing a huge white sombrero. I started working in SEO accidentally in 2004 when I was still looking for web development clients. This particular project was about tourism so it was very hard. I failed, after all I had only one month time, but learned so much during this project that from then on I focused on SEO.

2. Can smaller companies contend in competitive industries using only ‘white hat strategies’?

The great news is they really can. It depends on the site of course, the industry and the budget or rather the will to succeed. In some cases it will of course be better to find niches first as long as the authority of the site can’t match its competition. There is always a way to optimize a site so that small players can compete with big guys. Small businesses are faster, more versatile and customer friendly. Thus they can be quicker to react to changing tides, more focused and user oriented. With local SEO there is a whole new range of opportunities for SMBs. You can even rank for generic phrases like [shoes] in your area.

3. What is the state of the SEO industry in Germany compared to the US and UK?

Excellent question! I could write a whole book on that topic. First off Germany has a language barrier. Most people understand some English but still prefer German sites. So some things are easier to achieve while others are more difficult. You don’t have to compete against the whole world in a way so in some industries the market has still room for new players in the SERPS.

On the other hand Germany had no real social media for years and even the blogosphere never went prime time. So you never went after sites like Digg or Delicious to get lots of links unless you did in English. Only a few German language sites ever got popular on Delicious. Today with Facebook being also popular in Germany it gets easier but Twitter is not as useful in German as in English and Google+ /+1 is not big enough yet to have a major impact yet.

So link building in Germany tends to be quite tedious and in many cases techniques from five or even ten years ago still have to be applied.

4. What’s one of the most frustrating questions you regularly get asked by clients?

Clients tend to use outdated metrics even though I spend considerable time on analytics reports. I’ll be talking conversions etc. for ages and than almost a year later a client will come up and say something like “My PageRank is down! What are you doing all the time?” Or “I have only four backlinks according to Google!” In such cases I consider moving to Alaska and becoming a lumberjack. Not due to my poor performance which in reality was excellent but due to the lack of understanding and appreciation for my hard work.

Also everybody asks me about paid links, three way link exchange and other low quality tactics. People approach my clients with such offers all the time.

5. What changes do you think Google will make to their algorithm in 2012?

I think Google will push social metrics as ranking factors very hard. Google +1, Google+ , the acquisition of PostRank and other similar steps all lead in this direction. Google doesn’t need social for its own sake. It needs social media to organize and rate its search results.

Also personalization will sooner or later become all encompassing. I wouldn’t be surprised if Google would even check the browser history of not logged in searchers to provide personalized results.

Moreover Google will keep on copying Blekko. They did with the content farms, Blekko was first to downrank and later ban them. They might even come up with their own version of slashtags or otherwise curated search results.

6. With the Google Panda update having been rolled out, is there anything you’d do differently?

Yes, I would focus more on onsite editorial content in contrast to an adjacent blog. Some sites do not need a blog but high quality editorial content right up front on the home page and inside the categories. The only UK shopping search engine that survived Panda did just that. My German client who was one of the biggest winners of Panda already had editorial picked items where the competitions relied on automated systems.

7. We’ve seen many examples of sites still ranking via blog comment spam. Do you think blog commenting, link wheels and other strategies of that type are still viable?

Such low quality SEO techniques are more tactics than strategies. They might work in the short run, or even a year or two, but one day you will wake up after another update and all your links may not count anymore or you might even get flagged for low quality links. I see plenty of sites ranking due or despite of paid links for instance. I still do not recommend them.

SEOs who get paid by rankings can get away with it, they buy a few links, rank quickly and once the sites gets penalized they simply quit. They have earned their money meanwhile with minimal work done.

As a business owner I’d always ask myself: is this just a tactic that gets me quickly to the top or this a future proof strategy that will stand the test of time?

When checking broken link on my blogs I see lots of generic dead sites that have been pushed by blog commenting. I never have heard of them in a more trustworthy context. Sites like to use a made up example.

8. When it comes to an SEO campaign, how much would you focus on the social aspect – like increasing Tweets, gaining Likes, getting Google +1′s etc?

Social media has to be at the center of your SEO strategy. People  rarely link these days. They rather like, tweet, plus or vote. You have to adapt. You can bet that Google already did.

9. What are some of the best ways to market good content?

Guest posting, blogger outreach, relationships with influencers, building up power accounts on social media, smart mobs as in banding together with like minded webmasters to push each other on social networks.

10. How important is readability, usability and user experience from an SEO perspective?

It was always very important indirectly, now, after Panda, it is crucial and part of the “human algorithm”. Remember that Google employs human quality raters to assess sites based on their overall user experience. Also Google can IMHO by now automate the process of determining whether your text size is too small or whether your site design is too cluttered to be useful. Especially things like ads to text ratio get easily determined.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions Tad.  You definitely offered some great information, and we look forward to hearing from you again soon.

About the Author

Nathan has been honing his SEO skills over the last few years and is on his way to achieving true SEO ninja status. He has already helped his clients achieve their goals in regard to ranking on Google


  1. Jean Stevenson

    Great Post I read his SEO2.0 vs SEO and thought it was very eye opening so its good to see what he says on other issues

  2. Ben

    Good interview! Tad sure has some unique ideas on SEO and is defiantly one of the white hat leaders.

  3. Smaller companies can compete in the bigger industries with just white hat seo. You just have to choose the keywords you target wisely and follow a solid consistent strategy. I have seen many small companies give up on their seo efforts just because they are not prepared to wait a few months to rank. If they did their efforts would have been well rewarded.

  4. I have to disagree with you guys on the topic of smaller companies can compete in competitive industries.. They almost never have the money to invest in SEO for the 6 – 12 months it takes for white hat strategies to show some sort of a return on investment. Sure there are the odd example where it happens, but competitive markets mostly gets dominated by big spenders or black hats! Thank for a good interview tho.

  5. Andy

    I got whacked by the Google Panda update myself aswell…

    I have been looking for ways around the Google Panda update and I’ve done alot of testing on my own niche sites.
    Below are several key points to take into account:

    1) reduce bouncerate on your web sites
    2) remove/nofollow/noindex thin and low quality pages of content
    3) boost Ctr in the serps (E.g implement crazy call to actions and stuff on your page titles)
    4) provide more increased value on your site (increase users onpage time)
    5) interlink your website with optimized anchor texts
    6) use a privacy policy, about us, contact us, google maps location, SSL, address/phone number, images, subtiles, paragraphs, bulletpoints etc etc (virtually all “achievable” extra quality factors you can think of)
    7) Obtain more quality backlinks with effective anchor text variation.

    Link-building must be done in a very diverse and consistent manner.

    Another thing, I’m a ‘beta’ tester for LinkALoha at the moment and I am seeing GREAT results. I know they are going to open several new spots shortly, you guys should take a look. Those guys are awesome

  6. [...] help you quite a bit. For instance my avatar is so ridiculous that over the years I’ve become one of the most recognizable figures in the SEO industry, at least online. I have considered changing the avatar to look more trustworthy but by now the [...]

  7. I think smaller companies can also compete in a competetive industry.As a small industry they can still find a way of establishing best practice guidelines, maturing and, in some cases, still proving their worth as SEO experts which the competetive industry do aswell.

    • Frank

      I dont agree with you, its almost impossible for smaller companies to compete with the big guys – and best practices will get you nowhere. You need unique creative strategies. With the social media boom it is becoming even more difficult for the small sites to compete. The big sites are getting bigger faster and the small ones staying small.

  8. Aden Smith

    Best work on utilizing the information. I really appreciate the way in which information is written in the post.
    Web Promotion Singapore

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