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 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.

Death of Marketing

When I graduated from business school back in the last century, the Internet was just starting to expand beyond army and universities. The commercial internet was emerging. I tried the best I could to apply what I was taught in my Marketing courses to this new thing that came upon us, the World Wide Web. I tried to apply Kotler”s 4 P’s to this new world with very limited success:

  • Price – nope, it’s free.
  • Product – well not quite, more like a service.
  • Promotion – wasn’t the promotion a bit within the Product?
  • Place – euh…

If you would like to explore the old world of marketing check out this Wikipedia page:

Old fragments of Marketing

Set aside Philip Kotler’s Marketing theories, there were other things I had been fascinated by in Business School. For example something called Network Marketing – this was an approach to interaction between big suppliers and big client organizations where you would analyse and influence according to the network of people within the organizations. This of course had strictly nothing to do with the other network, that of interconnected servers across the world where the humans were on the outside and the machines on the inside… Much as I admired and respected my tutor, his opinion with regards to the Internet was close to disgust. Relations should be between people, not between computers.

Another branch of Marketing I had found extremely interesting was that of Retail Marketing and I found a few elements I could transpose to this new world: Entry Marketing, Exit Marketing and the notion of “customer flow” within a commercial oulet – store or supermarket. But still the rules-set did not really seem to apply to the Internet.

So, what else can you do when you are a bright young graduate with great adventures ahead than to proclaim the Death of Marketing. This projection was quite simple: the old framework did not apply to the new economy and the new economy would gradually replace the old economy so the old framework was necessarily dead. The King is Dead, long live, euh who? What?

How do you Proclaim in a World with no rules?

I should have probably written a book about it but would that make sense in this new world? I couldn’t be sure that a “book” wasn’t already an obsolete means of commundeath of marketingication anyway. So I stuck to a simple web site format. It was not my first website and a part from its proclamation, it didn’t really have an objective: there was no price, no product, the place was anywhere in the world where someone would consume it and the promotion was absent.

Little did I know that I had just committed my first act of what would later be known as Content Marketing at that stage…

In 2013 the Information Society has indeed changed our world and a new form of marketing is gradually emerging. It is strongly anchored in Contents and their Distribution on the Internet. I will be describing my view of this new article in a future post which is likely to be entitled the Digital Lotus.