Google Ads 2018: Smart, Integrated, Maximized, Simplified

Google Marketing Live #googlemarketinglive #behindtheads is an annual Google Conference for Advertisers and Agencies where Google announce new products and functionalities.

In 2018, the overwhelming news was the rebranding of the platform to Google Ads. It used to be Google  Adwords because of the origin in Search Marketing and the basic functionality of bidding on keywords. Google Ads includes Adwords but also Display and Youtube ads. It further integrates into a wider Google Marketing platform that ties Ad products together with Analytics products. In the process, the DoubleClick name also disappears.

The dialogue has changed

Sridhar Ramaswamy introduced the conference stating Google’s attachment to some fundamental values: Ads should be Valuable, Transparent and Trustworthy. He also insisted on the changing user behaviour. The dialogue has changed and users are rejecting ads that don’t provide meaningful content and experience. Google therefore focus on speeding up websites and on improving the feedback loop, allowing users to mute ads.

Performance on Youtube, Responsive ads and Cross-device reporting

Google are happily announcing that Youtube can now provide campaigns across the entire user journey. There is Trueview for Reach and now Trueview for Action which is a persistent ad that can sit on a video all the way through – and even beyond. A case study showed great results but I guess you would automatically get some people reacting if the ad sits there permanently while you are watching the video. I can’t really help feeling that Youtube is not for performance and that it would be more clever to thing about a user journey beyond the one channel.

Responsive ads are already in beta and are both different in style and in behaviour from traditional ads which had already been expanded last year.

A responsive ad is composed of 2 headlines of 30 characters and 3 description lines of 90 characters. You can enter a number of variations and Google will automatically optimize the ad to the best combination of headline and description to fit with each ad placement. It sounds like automatic multivariate testing and is again based on machine learning and made in attempt to simplify the work you do. Google staff are recommending that you be “creative” and enter all the headlines you can imagine – you can enter 15 for an ad. It feels black-box’ish and it will be interesting to see how this performs.

On the measurement side of things, Google announced cross-device reporting and also remarketing as a new functionality. It has been a long way coming and will be useful to better understand the user journey and build campaigns accordingly.

When they say “smart” and “maximize” it means Machine Learning

Google have a number of recent products called Smart this and Smart that. It looks like this is the Google jargon for machine learning-based. In the keynote there were some references back to various Smart bidding features that already exist but also the new “Smart shopping campaign” and small-business oriented “Smart campaigns” that supposedly set up in minutes and launch across the “Google Ads” platform: search, display, shopping,

When the word “maximize” is used, it is to describe an optimization algorithm.

Integrate or Simplify 

With the number of channels Google now cover and the amount of new functionality they have added, it is great to see the strong focus on integration from Google. The demo of the Integration Center on the Google Marketing Platform was very compelling. The idea of having designers, marketers and planners on the same collaborative platform with shared resources and the possibility to compose and preview ads and campaigns is very compelling and the right way to go.

Does this not, however, go a bit against the trend for simplification? Digital Marketing is not simple and I think the majority of agencies and advertisers are not convinced that we can just “trust the AI” with the money to get the best results as some of the functionalities suggest (Smart campaigns). But for sure, the role of the Digital Marketer continues to evolve and perhaps the “marketing” aspect of the role is becoming more dominant as the “technical” side of things gets simpler. Marketers will certainly continue to adopt and test useful functionalities that drive better results or create simpler process.


The keynote can be found here:


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Takeaways from the European Search Conference 2018 in Liverpool

Liverpool is hot!! Both from the outside temperature and the presentations on stage at the European Search Conference I just came back from.

Liverpool is home to wonderful Beatles statues, to the Ferry cross the Mersey, to seagulls and Liver birds.

Liverpool was also host the the European Search Conference 2018 earlier this week. A one-day conference with a great line-up I was happy to be part of.

Chaired by Jim Banks, the one-day conference had several good friends speaking: Aleyda Solis, Lukasz Zelezny, Pierre Far and Dawn Anderson and then some new friends Zbigniew Nowicki from Bluerank, Matt Vignieri from Kenshoo, Vicke Cheung from Distilled.  I can not do everyone justice in this post. Rob Weatherhead, Michelle Wilding, Dewi Nawasari.

A Jim Banks quote is in place:

“It feels like they have picked all the speakers with names that are impossible to pronounce”.

Aleyda as always impressive with solid advice on web migration, Pierre Far going deep into GDPR and providing a tracking solution, Blockmetry, that supports it, Dawn Anderson showing us where Voice search is going.


Lukasz Zelezny did a great little presentation on Social Media: “things you can do tonight”. Hey Lukasz, I know you are tracking mentions, so I am sure you will find this post 😉 I love your tools and tricks on Automation, Social Media and brand monitoring. I too have fallen in love with IFTTT (although I later adopted Zapier) and with Sotrender for Social media monitoring.

I really enjoyed the fact that Lukasz was talking so much about Automation because it was one of the major trends I was going to address later on in my own presentation.

Machine Learning and AI

Zbigniew Nowicki from Bluerank presented a case study for their client Rainbow. I didn’t know Zbigniew before the conference but I knew his company Bluerank very well as they were a double winner at this year’s European Search Awards and also one of the companies I referenced in my own presentation. The case study was about the user journey and attribution in the Travel sector where bluerank have applied a machine learning approach to finding the most important step in the user journey. Fascinating research. Machine learning and AI is a major trend in digital marketing and it was great seeing this addressed from someone else than the big masters of AI, the Gafa, Microsoft and IBM who are traditionally dominant in the field.

 The importance of Research

Vicke Cheung from Distilled, presented the 10 Commandments for the Creative process and what I really liked about her presentation was the emphasis she laid on the Research process. There was a nice quote from Ogilvy about how Research can be boring but that it is extremely important. I found another one which I hadn’t heard before:

Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals.

David Ogilvy

I was so into the research phase that I didn’t take down her 10 commandments on paper but I clearly remember the most important message about Ideation: “ideas come from dialogue”, confront them, present them, challenge them.

Of course, agencies doing more research for digital marketing is one of the major trends from my own presentation, which I why I find it so important to stress…

Understanding the User journey

Matt Vignieri from Kenshoo told us a story of his own user journey in the last online purchase he made. He clearly illustrated how you are using different moments, different channels and how you state of mind is different from one step to the next in that journey towards a purchase or a conversion.

Kenshoo is a technology provider that allows you to track user exposure and engagement at various stages of the user journey and I was really happy he emphasized this as he was precisely on one of the major trends as well.

What are the best digital marketers doing that maybe you are not?

My own presentation was named Major trends in Paid Search and was based on research I have done into the best “PPC” entries in this years European Search Awards. In the presentation linked to on slideshare, I am providing a good view of just that.

However, the parts of the presentation I have not put on Slideshare were asking a slightly different question. What are the most advanced digital marketers doing? Well, you have some of the answers in the titles used in this post and some of them in the presentation. From the 24 PPC case studies I analyzed, the pattern that I could see was one of digital marketers constantly adapting to change, research for insights, trying to understand the user journey, trying new things, testing, raising the bar on what they already master by introducing processes, automation and machine learning. For the full story, come to my next conference but for a nice take on it, here is a tweet I liked from AgencyPedro summing it up:

My presentation can be found on slideshare here:

The European Search Conference 2018 was a great experience and I was really happy to get the opportunity to speak there and to discover the  great city of Liverpool.

If you like the content, please follow me on twitter for updates @soanders. It is likely that I push further on this research and publish more insights in the future and I will use Twitter to announce and share.



To do a little more justice, please find below 3 other presentations on Slideshare:

The SEO guide for successful web migrations by Aleyda Solis:

10 Commandments to demystifying the creative process by Vicke:

Voice search and conversation – Challenges and opportunities by Dawn Anderson:

Web analytics and EU regulations by Pierre Far:

Major Trends in Paid Search by Anders Hjorth:


Write-up from Kanuka Digital:



SMX Paris II: Penalty recovery, Snaplogging, e-Privacy, bots and DSA

What an ugly start of Day 2 on SMX Paris. I was so keen on supporting Purna Virji from the first row during the presentation. Not that she needs it but it is always nice to assist sessions with great speakers like herself. Unfortunately, Parisian Transportation Gods were particularly unfavourable today and I spent 2 hours getting to the venue and totally missed her presentation.

I got there in time for “Recovery” – not from Transportation Weariness – but from something much worse, Google Penalties!! Kaspar and his Search Bro, Fili Wiese, are Xooglers (ex-Googlers) who used to work in the Search Quality teams. They were managing penalties and reinclusion requests at that time and today, this is what they do for a living. Help sites that have been penalised to find their way back into the Google Index.

Doing this is both very easy and very complex. Very easy because all you need to do is to respect all the Google Webmaster guidelines. Work by the book and regularly do audits to make sure nobody has messed up to make your site look bad (Negative SEO is more rare than people think).

Very difficult, on the other hand, because if you do SEO, you are necessarily trying to do things to improve your rankings and therefore possibly moving inside the gray area where you could be penalised if you pushed too far.

Then what do you do? Weeeelll, if you have been penalized, the first thing you have to figure out why (sometimes you haven’t been penalized, you just haven’t been succesful with your SEO 😉). Google are not telling you. Then you have to clean up and document what cleaning you do. In this process, make use of some of the many tools available in the market (Kaspar mentioned screamingfrog, ryte, ahrefs, deepcrawl, semrush, majestic, linkresearchtools, botify) and especially the most important one, Google Search Console. And finally, once you have cleaned up – likely using the disavow tool for backlinks you don’t acknowledge if it is a link penalty – you will make your reinclusion request via the Google Search Console. In this phase, avoid annoyance, denial and excuses will not help you. Finally, you will need to wait for Google to react and maybe remove the penalty.

I did a Reinclusion project for a client many years ago and my question to Kaspar today was :

What has changed in the past 10 years on the process for reinclusion into the Google index?

Not much, according to Kaspar, you site still has to abide to the rules. There are more tools available to you, a bit more information in the Google Search Console and Google are dealing with the penalties more efficiently.

Kaspar ended up throwing in a couple of URLs for us. A guide to Google penalties on and a tool on

Let’s Snap over to something else

Bit of a gloomy start of the day but luckily there came this bright moment of the Snapchat session. How to build your brand equity on Snapchat. Quite a challenge for most brands as Snapchat seems such an impenetrable world for many.

Snapchat audience figures for France @snapologie

Clarisse Gratecap from Snapologie, helps brands work with Snapchat. She explained how the audience you find on Snapchat maybe a little different than what you expect. Of course there are teenagers but in France, the most important user group is 18-24 years old (38% of the population).

More importantly, Snapchat users have a certain level of exclusivity – there is only a 50% overlap with Instragram users. In other words, there are likely audiences on Snapchat you will not be able to address via other channels.

What stands out on Snapchat is the creativity brands are applying to their activities. Clarisse walks us through a number of examples. LACMA using snapchat to make art discovery fun for young people, Stranger Things (Netflix), connecting with fans via immersive experiences inside the TV series settings. A supermarket chain using snapchat stories with snapcodes in the shops to illustrate the story of product freshness. A retailer using a simple game to drive users towards product discovery and of course the great Easter egg search, Snapchat organised via their Maps function.

Margaux Dauce, Michel et Augustin

Clarisse was followed by Margaux Dauce from Michel et Augustin who have been using Snapchat extensively for 2 years. They use snapchat as a conversation channel with their audience and the channel corresponds really well to their values of creativity, authenticity and immersion. They use snapchat actively every day both to an internal and external audience. Their use of Snapchat inspired me to call it #snaplogging.

I learned a number of things in the session. I love snapchat for the face filters and sometimes exchange silly photos or videos with my kids. But practically, today was the first time I scanned a Snapcode. It is a bit like a QR code (which, by the way, I never really believed in).

snapcodes made as physical objects

Clarisse revealed the fact that you can create your own Snapchat Lenses with « Lens Studio » and have snapchat associate a snapcode to go with your Lens. Maybe something to try out as this is a completely free option. Thanks again to Clarisse and Margaux.

As one of the most advanced technologies in Augmented Reality, Snapchat should probably be part of every digital marketer’s roadmap in order to prepare for the future of engagement and of digital immersion.

Dynamic Search Ads (DSA)

It was a day of jumping from track to track. I was particularly interested in the following « SEA » or « Paid Search » track session on Dynamic Search Ads, or DSA as this functionality is something I mention in my “Major trends …” presentation at the European Search Conference a couple of weeks from now. Dynamic Search Ads are present within my « Functionalities » category as a major trend in 2018 and I was eager to see results from how Adquality and their client La Halle using it.

In short, Dynamic Search Ads are a bit of a magic tool in Google Adwords. You put in your URL, you trust Google to match your site with the searches that are relevant for your site and you start getting traffic. Like for many magic tools, it is about taking a Leap of Faith but still not totally trust the algorithm to do a good job.

The motivations for the use of DSA were anchored in the need to expand the reach of La Halle’s @LaHalle search campaigns. And according to Cem Senoz @CemSenoz, Xoogler and now Agency founder shared with us:

15% of search queries every day are new and will never be repeated again

You can hardly guess these search queries in advance and thereby target them once they occur and that is where Dynamic Search Ads come in handy. Google will target for you. Close your eyes, buckle up, and let Google take you on a journey… and you don’t need an agency anymore. Joking aside, when DSA is used intelligently like in this case, you can expand your campaigns profitably. According to Sandrine Ferrari from La Halle this is exactly what her objective with these campaigns was. Increase the proportion of the Web channel in the overall sales of La Halle significantly. Overall, they have seen a growth of almost 20% of sales and reduced the cost of sales at the same time and DSA has been an important contributor to this success.

The use of DSA was first implemented on a part of the catalogue where La Halle wanted to expand their presence. As Adquality explained, it was important to provide the right granularity by providing the URLs corresponding to key pages. While setting up the campaign, the agency would use the existing keywords in other parts of the campaign as negative keywords and thus avoid cannibalizing their existing campaigns. They would also continuously monitor what keywords where driving this new performance and this was used to enrich both the existing campaigns and also inform the content strategy for La Halle.

A great use of a new functionality and even a bit of secret sauce: a Dynamic Search campaign is very compatible with an effective content and SEO strategy. The better the content, the better your SEO results and also the DSA results. We don’t always find this type of virtuous circle in digital marketing.

How about a Privacy detour?

I couldn’t resist it. The Data Performance Summit was just next door and I sneaked in to follow a GDPR session. Privacy regulation and GDPR is still on everybody’s lips – it seems like the passing of the 25th of May 2018 where the regulation came into effect did not actually calm things down. On the contrary, there is a lot of turmoil in Biddable media these days as everyone wants to reduce their risk.

Most of this was not new to me. But just as a summary, here are the points addressed:

  • The need to have Consent to use personal data in your marketing – or the reason why you got GDPR spammed on the 25th of May.
  • Legitimate interest or the realm where you do not need consent for any treatment of personal data you may have – or the reason why you maybe shouldn’t have received so many GDPR spam emails on the 25th of May
  • Login networks – or the concept of centralizing your consent in one place which can then be shared with the various interested parties you are in contact with
  • Intra-community differences in the EU: « it’s a mess » according to the speakers
  • E-privacy regulation – the next step after GDPR, or the future of EU privacy regulation.

I am really a supporter of privacy regulation as I think we need to defend the degree of freedom we have in our societies and that was not necessarily the case with all the personal data circulating on the internet (a couple of articles I wrote that may be of interest: Start making sense againHow to figure out if you are Human)

Let’s just round this up with a really useful trick. IP addresses are personal data according to GDPR. And IP addresses are used for things like geotargeting and for server logs and more things. But by replacing the last 3 digits in an IP address, it becomes anonymous data although you can still geotarget to some extent. Useful trick in some cases.

IA, Chatbots … Future of Search

Back to our main topics, Search marketing. The last session of the day is about Chatbots. When they first started to appear, I admittedly saw them as a potential future for Search. The new interactive Search interface. Now, a couple of years later, we have come close with the combination of Voice assistants (Google Home, Amazon Alexa, etc) but there are some obvious challenges like the economic model – what happens when you are not looking for a product…

This last session of the day had three speakers presenting different aspects of Chatbots. Not so much about AI and the Future of search but interesting nevertheless.

Javier Gonzalez@javierhelly from botly insisted on the potential for Chatbots as well as the fact that the first generation of bots had not been particularly convincing. They were too linear and inflexible. The second generation of bots are both flexible and conversational. They are also connected with company data bases and can therefore provide more than a superficial exchange with the user.

Javier showed a few client examples of 2nd generation bots for clients like La Poste, Blablacar and FDJ.

The following presentation by Caroline Chupin @CarolineChupin ‏ from SNCF was also a good illustration of the evolution. She presented the Ouibot, a proprietary bot development deployed across the various platforms. They started out with a Facebook messenger bot, later built a bot for the Google platform and then for the website and now recently joined the bot on Amazon Alexa. At this point in time, the Ouibot can be used to search, book and alert but not yet to buy tickets. Several people in the audience asked whether the bot was able to inform about strikes and Caroline told us that this was a project they had now started working on so people could interrogate the bot about strike times and availability of the trips you planned.

Seems like the start and the end of this post  is talking about SNCF and the Parisian Transportation Gods… and may they be with us in the Future!


This was the write-up for Day 2 on SMX Paris 2018. The write-up for Day 1 can be found here: AI as a service, AI for SEO, Vectors, Clusters and Audiences
I live-tweeted a lot of this on my Twitter account @soanders in French/English. Please follow me on Twitter to keep up to date on my activity.

SMX Paris I : AI as a service, AI for SEO, Vectors, Clusters and Audiences

Today was Day 1 on SMX Paris, an event I have been involved in for the past 5 years as member of the Advisory board. I spent the day enjoying sessions over a wide spectrum and with high quality speakers. This year is clearly the year of AI and GDPR. AI in all the presentation titles and GDPR in all the Q&A’s. I discovered AI as a service – #AIAS, a bit of AI for SEO, Vector analysis, Clusters and Audiences and then some Javascript indexing and some AMP and PWA.

(Day 2 is here: Penalty recovery, snaploggin, e-privay, chatbos and DSA)

This year’s SMX Paris is in a new venue but some things do follow traditions : they start with a railway strike so that everyone is late, just like the past 3 or 4 editions. We are at Marriot Rive Gauche close to Denfert Rochereau in a very nice set up with a central area and access to three different tracks on the side.




My first stop is on the SEO track as I finally get to meet Barry Adams face to face. I do love your twitter handle, Barry – @badams. A bit of a legend and his first time on SMX Paris, although he has actually lived and worked here many years ago. Barry is here to tell us about SEO and Javascript rendering. As he starts out telling us how Search Engines work, I get worried for a moment – is he process of Crawl, Indexation and Ranking because the Indexation step actually splits in several phases with an initial HTML crawls like always and then the second crawl with a Chrome 41 user agent rending the Javascript version of the page.

Barry makes an excellent case for Server-side rending of Javascript through solutions like Angular or React (preferred) and we get to understand why Client-side Javascript for anything else than stylesheets is bad news for SEO. As the initial crawl sees no data and only schedules a second crawl – which can take 1-3 weeks to arrive and which is more demanding on resources (hence more costly and less attractive to Google) – there are very clear down-sides to using client-side javascript rendering for a website.

My question to Barry was:

How does this type of javascript rendering work out for tools like Webshed who allow you to externalize the management of your SEO optimisation?

Barry talks about SEO split testing tools and the fact that they can be slow because they need to wait for the 2nd crawl and it’s rendering of the changed code. Thanks Barry 😊

Online marketing and the AI perspective

I change tracks for the 2nd sessions and go to the BingAds track. They have teamed up with some people from WPP – disclaimer: I used to work there – to build this session. It is a half French, half English session. We get insights into some of the things that Microsoft are doing from Alex Sinson. Very impressive indeed. Richard George @richgeorge from Wavemaker steps in to give insights into AI and Big Data. Admittedly, a lot of the content presented is not reeeaaaaaly about Artificial Intelligence and more about Automation and the overall technology changes we are facing – but it is a great way to make the topic concrete. I absolutely love the case study on breastfeeding in the UK where Wavemaker worked with the British Government to create a Skill on Alexa (Amazon) – it is like a voice chat bot that works around the clock and especially between 2 and 5 in the morning when breastfeeding mothers need advice and comfort the most. Great use of technology for a noble cause.

My question to Alex Sinson of Bing @BingAdsFR:

what are your thoughts on Quantum computing. Recently, I heard people from Google talk about Quantum computing becoming a reality within 12 months ?

No official announcement from Bing here but an acknowledgement of some major shifts coming up. Richard George adds in to confirm the importance of Quantum computing to solve some of our upcoming challenges in terms of data handling.

Thanks for a great session from Alex Sinson and Richard George.

The new challenges for Paid Search (Expert panel)

I am staying on the BingAds track as they have set up a panel discussion on a subject I really care about : major trends in Paid Search. This is the topic I will be presenting on the European Search Conference in Liverpool so of course I will be listening very attentively to the panel discussion.

Some extracts from the panel inputs: : Damien Boistuaud explains how their main challenge is to qualify audiences and target the younger generation. Automation is a big thing for them this year as they are running Dynamic campaigns and Dynamic ads.

SFR : Benito Donison is not convinced by the concept of User journey as he feels the tracking tools do not perform well enough to support that approach. He is more focused on integration Drive to store into marketing mix.

The Experts panel – best photo I could get…

The founder of Resoneo, Richard Strul @RichardSTRUL, gives us the best input (disclaimer: we are good friends and have known each other for 10+ years) : Main challenges are related to Audience qualification and segmentation. In the case of their client Allopneus, they aimed to push the qualification of 23% up and managed to reach 60-70% by integrated data from all the ad platforms. This created a new challenge of work load and forced them to do intensive Automation in the set-up. Richard also stressed the rise of Shopping representing sometimes up to 60% of the full ad budget for some clients

I liked the session and was happy to see a lot of the themes I will be presenting in Liverpool mentioned:

  • User journey
  • AI
  • Audience segmentation
  • Automation

Keynote with Andrey Lipattsev @andrey_l1nd3n, Google

How can you not love what this man tells us :

« We love the Web because it is the biggest collaborative project in Human history. ».

Where we do diverge in bit in our opinons, Andrey and I, is that he believes AMP (Accelerated Mobile pages) and PWA (Progressive Web Apps) are major improvements to the web experience, where I see them as temporary patches to something we haven’t quite been able to fix : the free and open internet.

IA tools for SEO

I was curious about this session. On one hand because of the title which didn’t quite make sense to me; I was really not expecting SEOs to be thinking about AI tools at this stage – generally speaking, I find the subject of IA hyped and exaggerated. But on the other hand, I was curious due to fact that the speakers are two very clever and very respected Search Professionals, Sylvain @speyronnet ‏and Guillaume Peyronnet @GPeyronnet. The original Search Bros 😉

This ended up being one of my absolute highlights of the day as the guys explained who Search Engines convert phrases into vectors and how these mathematical objects are being manipulated and handled to create search results. And in consequence, how the only way to create semantic clusters are by ways of using similarly machine-learning driven approaches to generate the keywords you want to use to create the perfect cluster enabling you to hit the algorithm.

The Peyronnet brothers explained the algorithm of Rocchio and the importance of user rating feedback into the ranking system. They also demonstrated how you could use machine learning techniques, decision treees, « R » and « Random Forest » techniques to do your own ranking factors study. As always, the data input makes all the difference and is the biggest challenge for any research you do. You need high quality, homogene data in decent volumes to be able to make any real findings.

I am surely not doing full justice to this session by means of these explanations but I was truly inspired by this very technical and in-depth presentation that pretty much explained how Rankbrain probably works.

This was the session where I didn’t ask any questions. Thanks guys !

Microsoft Bing outlook

For the last session, I went back to the Bing Ads track. I was interested in understanding where Microsoft are going and this session was giving a full perspective of the state of the art at Microsoft. Microsoft presented the « Microsoft Graph » – the mapping of the various data points they can use for their various Advertising solutions. Worth noting that LinkedIn is now part of that mix allowing you to target Companies, Professions, Job titles in your digital marketing.


During the day the concept of AI As a Service (AIAS), had really dawned on my. IBM Watson is a remote service and Google’s ML services are tools you can plug into. Microsoft explains this as their « Cognitive Services » and these are also tools that you can access via APIs

Microsoft demonstrated a number of application based on face recognition and sentiment but my preferred case was the video depicting a blind Microsoft engineer who has developed a tool by which he uses Microsoft AI to inform him about his surrounding by the use of photos, image recognition and sound restitution.

My question to Bing :

I am really impressed with your use of AI for image processing and voice. Are you using any of these tools to identify things like Propaganda, Fake news and Fake profiles?

The answer : all of our AI tools in Microsoft originated from Bing which is where we have had the most use for these tools. They are applied to things we see on the web and remove before we show them to users. We can not reveal how we do this.

I had hoped they would make some tools available to the wider public and maybe use human input so we can all Fight the Fake together…

SEMY Awards

The day ended with the SEMY Awards ceremony celebrating the best French case studies in various categories. This is a great addition to the SMX conference and I have great respect for the various winners of the Awards. We had an odd moment of power outing but got safely through to the networking cocktail at the end.

Want to follow?

A long day at SMX full of inspiration and great discussions. I have been tweeting a lot of this during the day on @soanders. Some in English some in French. Please follow me on Twitter if you find this useful.

Or read on. Day 2 is here: Penalty recovery, snaploggin, e-privay, chatbos and DSA

SMX London 2018: Artificial Intelligence, Privacy, Niche-focus for SEO and the importance of Speed

SMX London 2018 was a great edition. I am just back from the event and still have my head full of all the things we discussed on the closing panel I was part of.

The main topics were of course Privacy and GDPR on one hand and then Automation and Artificial Intelligence on the other. In the conference programme, various topics touched on AI: Automation for PPC and Voice Search being the most prominent ones. But GDPR was discussed in every break, over every drink and in most of the questions asked during the individual sessions.


The conference addressed some really interesting questions this year:

  • Should you use Ranking factor studies to guide the way you do SEO or simply use for inspiration?
  • What are your options when organic reach in Facebook and other social media is dropping?
  • Is AMP for mobile rendering or or just a temporary patch to a problem of speed?
  • Should we be worried as marketers with the arrival of AI in the optimization interfaces?

Overall, there was a lot of discussion of Speed. Speed as a ranking factor – not time to first byte but time to full page render as Marcela de Vivo from Semrush stressed. There were session on AMP which are in essence a way to speed up pages.

At the beginning of the year, my prediction was that AI would be big but that it would be more of a hype effect than a reality for the Digital Marketer this year. Well, it looks like AI is more prominent than that. Frederick Valleys from Optymzr reminded us that the Quality score was the first Machine learning functionality in Adwords and has been around since the beginning of Paid Search. And we have seen new ML driven functionalities enter the scene little by little. The Smart bidding options (Target PPC, Target ROAS, Maximize Clicks and Maximise conversions) are all part of this, as Brad Geddes reminded us. And in a separate session, Ann Stanley showed an example of smart bidding for shopping campaigns involving remarketing: Optimize by Goals which you can find here.

What we won’t see is perhaps the shift from Machine Learning (ML) into Artificial Intelligence (AI) for these functionalities.

Voice search is another area where Artificial Intelligence has a big role to play. It was covered in the keynote by Beshad Bezhadi but also at a more concete level in a very popular session by Pete Campbell:

As is often the case, I met some wonderful people in the networking around the event – and also had some of the more interesting discussions off the record.

  • Changes in the Google algorithm favouring niche approaches
  • The need to constantly renew ourselves in this industry of constant change
  • The need of business in other industries to learn from our experience as they will soon be facing the same challenges of constant change that we have for 20 years due to major technological, organisation and behavioural disruption across all business sectors.

Soon it will be time for SMX Paris – the programme is very different and there is no real speaker overlap so it will be another exciting conference on Search, Social, Analytics and Digital marketing overall.

Major trends in Paid Search #EUSearchCon

What is going on in Paid Search these days? What strategies and tactics are being used? What new functionalities in Google Adwords are Search marketers using for themselves or for their clients?

I have analyzed 25 of the best entries in the European Search Awards in order to identify the major trends in Paid Search. I will be presenting the results on the European Search Conference in Liverpool next month.

Paid search was such a powerful marketing tool at its inception. In the early 2000s, Search Marketing would be a challenger to all media and communication budgets as it could drive volumes, drive conversions and even prove its value. Since then, Paid Search has become a bit more humble and opened up to the marketing mix and it is fascinating to see how Paid Search integrates with other channels; Social media, of course, but also Shopping engines, email and even offline.

Strategies, tactics, functionalities and hacks

I have structured the analysis around 4 different categories:

Strategies: for many years a Search Strategy would be built on 3 elements: Granularity, Expansion and Optimisation. We still see this approach in entries in 2018 but the more advanced strategies are looking at the wider user journey and are pulling data or inspiration from outside of the Search channel.

Tactics: it is at the tactical level that most of the trends are visible. The spectrum of tactics used seems to be expanding quite a bit. We see several tactics deployed within one entry.

Functionalities: the search engines are adding a lot of functionalities and Paid Search has become a complex beast. It was never really « 15 minutes and a credit card » as Google originally announced on the Adwords entry page. Extensions are some of the most adopted functionalities and we also see mentions of machine learning.

Hacks: some of the entries are using innovative techniques. I am hoping to be able to share some of these hacks in my presentation but can’t reveal anything at this stage.

I have been a Judge on the European Search Awards for the past 4-5 years. That has given me the priviledge to see some of the best work in Search Marketing carried out across Europe. The judging experience is very rich but also time-consuming and I believe these awards are doing a wonderful job of compensating excellent work and also of making a whole industry aim for excellence.

The Awards ceremony is a great celebration but there is no time available for celebrating the content of individual entries. Each year we see new ideas emerge and each year we see quality improve.

This presentation is an aim to share some of that experience so that the industry can build upon an even stronger foundation for coming years.

I hope to see you there.

European Search Conference 2018
27 June, 2018, Liverpool International Business Festival
Discount code: ESC20SP

European Search Awards 2018 – enter before 16/02

The European Search Awards celebrate the best of the Search Marketing industry. I have had the priviledge to be one of the judges for a number of years and the quality of the entries seems to increase for each year. It is a great pleasure to be part of the 2018 Judging team also and we are looking forward to your entry!

There are 29 different categories and I am convinced that most agencies, in-house teams and software editors will have at least 1 outstanding client story to submit.

Building and submitting a case study in itself can be an enriching experience and it also allows you to benchmark your organisation against the market. Will you make the shortlist? Could you win one of the trophees?

Shortlists are due to be published on the 23rd or March. And all the excitement will culminate in an amazing Event ceremony which will be held in Prague on 16 May.

You can submit your entry here: European Search Awards

Start making sense again – Digital Marketing in 2017

Start making in sense again

In 1984 the rock group Talking Heads made a movie named « Stop making sense ». The title came from the lyrics in their songs and for me it was a welcome refreshment to the all-too-sensible 1980’s with their economic crises and tediously well-organized society where everything seemed to be set in stone.

Via wikipedia Fair use_Link

Then in the 90’s I was released from boredom as the WWW arrived with the promise to change the world. Make something better. Break the monopolies. Even the playing field. Let creativity come loose. Give everybody access to information. Set innovation free.

And with the internet came a new form of marketing, and with internet marketing came my career and my passion for many years. We were caught by the spell of novelty, opportunity and disruption. We invented SEO, discussion groups, communities, emailing, 1to1, stickiness, personalization, virality, social media. Everything didn’t always fit together but we were constantly trying and learning and improving.


We invented remarketing, RTB, programmatic, marketing automation, audience planning, gamification, geofencing, native ads and chatbots…

And somewhere along the way, we lost something. The most precious thing for anyone who communicates. We lost the audience. We lost the end-user. Fed up with spam and with inconsistent messaging, the end user bails out. Done with ads, done with flames on social media. Need for Digital Detox. But we only really found out once adblocking changed the rules of the game.

I think it was the story that broke. The story we try to tell with our brands. We have been so eagerly focusing on getting the message out, that the story got bent and distorted and over-repeated. Everybody is to blame because we forgot what we were really trying to do. In communication, the key is the audience. In marketing the key is the customer experience.

2017 will be the year where we aim to Start making sense again. We will stop bidding on keywords just because they represent an economic opportunity and start thinking about the user moment and the fit with our brands. We will stop using multiple remarketers in parallel and start thinking holistically about exposure capping and consistency and sequencing of our story. We will stop doing sprinkler campaigns covering the entire marketplace and start systematically building our campaigns on the basis of qualified audiences. And most importantly, we will start considering the omnichannel experience and try to build the story from the end-users point of view. This will require the digital marketer to deeply understand brand values, personas and transmedia storytelling. We have work to do…

(this article was originally published as my contribution to the Acquisio 2017 Digital marketing predictions ebook)

Speaking on SMX Paris 2015


smxpar15_125_spkrTime flies, SMX Paris is already next week (8-9 June 2015). I will be speaking together with François Houste on the subject of Content Marketing. We will be talking about the importance of Ideas, the mechanics of Distribution, the many ways in which you can Amplify your message through Paid Media.

Ideation, Viralisation, Brand Content, Native Advertising. I think it will be a lot of fun.

Hope to see you there!






The Missing Link in Digital Marketing

Missing link in digitalThe Missing Link in Digital

There is a missing link in Digital Marketing. I am talking about a discontinuation of meaning from one area of marketing excellence called Brand Advertising into another area of marketing excellence called Performance Marketing. The link has been missing forever. It was the same one described in the famous phrase “I know half my advertising budget is wasted but I don’t know which half”. Well, this is 2015 and we know a lot more about what works and what doesn’t. However, in most cases, it is impossible to establish the direct link between the Brand exposure and the final conversion on a website.

When you invest heavily in brand exposure it has an impact on the performance of your conversions. You KNOW it works but you can’t always SHOW it works.

From TV to Digital

In order to illustrate the missing link from TV to digital, I had the chance to monitor a website during TV exposure. The founder of a small company got exposure on National TV in France. No paid media was active at that point in time and as the brand has only existed for 3 years, it does not show up in Google Trends – it is an emerging brand. Needless to say, exposure on National TV generates an immediate traffic peak the very moment the company is mentioned on TV. Boom. Three and half minutes of brand happiness.

This is what a 1000% lift in traffic looks lik

This is what a 1000% lift in traffic looks like

The TV exposure could not in any way be seen in the tracking data. No clicks from the live streaming or the TV channel’s website. So obviously there is a missing link between TV exposure and the traffic on the website. Fair enough, there is a missing link between an offline and the online effect, you would say. On the monitoring side, we can see the peak in Analytics as illustrated above, but we can’t show where the traffic came from. When we dig deeper and analyze the origin of the traffic, the referrals show that 86% of the traffic on the 21st of April comes from organic search. We could draw a fully documented wrong conclusion saying we did a great job in SEO.

From Facebook to Website via Replay

After the TV exposure, we tried to prolong the positive effect of the exposure by posting a link to the video replay URL and boosting its audience on Facebook – it seems to have had an effect the following 4 days where traffic was still significantly higher than normal. This was an entirely digital exposure. There was no physical link from the TV Replay page to the website.

The afterburner effect was most likely generated by this boosted post on Facebook promoting the replay of the TV sequence exposing the post to 12000 people. We KNOW it but we can’t SHOW it. Looking into Analytics we find 4 visits from Social Media and 77% from organic search compared to an average of 66% organic search traffic the month before. Traffic was more than double its normal level. There is thus a missing link between Social Media exposure and website traffic.

From Display to Website

Similar effects happen in Display Advertising although there is a way to start measuring the impact of Display advertising, namely using a post-view and a post-click approach. In short, this would mean a tracking cookie would be placed on the computer viewing a banner ad. If a subsequent conversion happens within a certain time-period, the Display View could possibly have caused or contributed to the conversion. If we there is no tracking of postview or the cooking is not kept or if the user shifts device (shuffling computer, smartphone, tablets), the link goes missing again.

Taking Down Goliath

I had a discussion a while back with a highly respected online marketer, Kevin M Ryan about his new book on Digital marketing. « Taking Down Goliath » is a hands-on, no BS Digital Marketing Manual written from the perspective of small business which I can strongly recommend.

The underlying thesis is sound and compelling: the Internet has levelled the playing field. You don’t have to be a Goliath to succeed in Online Marketing.

In one of the early chapters, I dwelled on a phrase I had to give some thought. The authors say something in the line of:

“There are 2 types of campaigns, Direct Response and Branding. You have to set your objectives in order to succeed what you venture to do. For Direct Response, your objective will be conversions and for Branding it will be exposure”.

I am not usually that categorical about the division as I have always wanted to believe that you can achieve what everyone wants: Branding with Performance. I know from my own agency that we try to carry everything into a performance objective in our yearly plans – but then I also know that we can rarely show the direct relation between branding effects and the performance. We factor them into conversion rates and direct traffic. In the end it comes to this: In a long term view you can see the relation between Branding and Performance but in the short run and at the campaign level, there is a missing link.

Meantime in real life

In the process of documenting a presentation for SMX London, I dug into some client data at the campaign level. I factorized the data so as to show no real figures and only relative proportions and I arranged the communication “channels” on a range from Brand to Performance based on a wonderful tool Google provide on the customer journey to online purchase in that particular sector: Budget and ROI trendsThe red bars show a comparative cost per click and the green bars show an indication of the ROI as measured on the last click (well, ROAS, Return on Ad Spend, really but let’s call it ROI for simplicity). The data includes no postview tracking and no attribution modelling. What we see is massive cost and inexistent ROI of “Display Advertising” and “Facebook Ads” and massive ROI of “Direct traffic” and “Organic traffic” at no media cost. Due to the missing link, what the graph show us is this: If you want Branding, don’t look at channel-wise ROI, if you want short term ROI don’t do Branding.

Remarketing is part of the answer

There has been a lot of talk about remarketing for the past years and the beauty of remarketing in its traditional form is to marry a classical Branding channel, namely Display advertising, with a performance metric. Remarketing allows you to do the trick of doing a targeted Performance campaign to someone who had previously been exposed to your brand. Remarketing often tries to do more than that but also has its limits. Remarketing is not the missing link – it is merely a patch.

DMPs are probably much better

More recently, the digital marketing community talks about Data Management Platforms (DMPs). A DMP plugs into all an advertisers’ audiences and ideally into the advertisers’ CRM also. It concentrates all the different knowledge of the customers into a common view and can be used to design multi-channel campaigns and further add understanding. It can be used to pursue the same goal of identifying an audience which has been sufficiently exposed to a brand in order to run performance campaigns and drive revenue. The promise of an end-to-end solution to compensate for the missing link is there. Will we still be able to take down a “Goliath with a DMP”, I wonder?

And Facebook Ads have it all

Until recently, remarketing and DMPs would be counting on a great Display inventory for their campaigns. It was called the FBX, or Facebook Exchange, and it allowed external advertisers to place ads within the Facebook ecosystem. But recently, it looks like Facebook are looking to turn the tables. Looking closer into the Facebook advertising universe, it has dawned on me that Facebook actually already provide an end-to-end solution of Brand to Performance. Within the Facebook universe, you can run a Branding exercise and subsequently use the exact audience who saw your ads as a “Custom Audience” for which you subsequently run a Performance or Direct Reponse campaign. You will still be looking at 2 different campaigns with different metrics but if you want to establish the link between them that is an easy exercise.

With digital communication continuing to fragment across an ever increasing number of channels and sites it will not be an easy task to keep up with the interrelations in the data. Even with Big Data and DMPs. We are likely to have to continue living with the missing link in its various forms for a while still.

(Comments and feedback welcome on the LinkedIn version of this article which you can find here)