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.

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The keynote can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmfaZV96x7A

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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.

 

 

BADams 

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:

Oui.sncf : 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

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
https://www.europeansearchconference.com/
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

SMX Stockholm 2013 will have a “Nordics” track

I will be the chair of SMX Stockholm 2013 on 14-15 October together with Jens Hård, the CEO of Outrider Sweden. With a Danish-Swedish tandem in charge of the program it is obvious that we will aim to further broaden the scope and we are setting up an Advisory board including representatives from all the markets.

We are launching something new called the Nordics track. This track which is on the second day of the conference will focus on the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Icelandic markets seen as a whole and from the outside.

There will be a focus on Ranking factors specific for the Nordics. What? Different ranking factors in different countries? Well as keyword morphology and backlink profiles are very different from one market to the next, ranking factors differ. Marcus Tober founder of SearchMetrics is aiming to do dedicated research on this for the conference.

In paid search, there are obvious differences also and I have convinced Sean Malseed from SEMrush to also do some dedicated research for this conference. He will be looking more specifically on the ecommerce sector and compare across the Nordic markets.

We are also planning to address the topic of “the Nordics as ONE market”. Adding the 5 populations together you reach some 25 million inhabitants. From a global marketers perspective that may not seem much but the market has some fascinating characteristics in terms of buying power, internet penetration, standard of living. Remains therefore the challenge of managing Search campaigns across 4-5 languages of which at least 3 are very close but not the same.

There will be plenty of reasons for coming to SMX Stockholm this year and catching the early bird AND an early flight booking can even make it quite affordable. Oh, and we will be aiming to do some SMX After Dark as well…

I will do some more updates on this event as we progress towards the final program and speaker line-up!