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: https://www.slideshare.net/aleydasolis/the-seo-guide-for-successful-web-migrations-eusearchcon

10 Commandments to demystifying the creative process by Vicke: https://www.slideshare.net/VickeCheung/the-10-commandments-to-demystifying-the-creative-process-103496955

Voice search and conversation – Challenges and opportunities by Dawn Anderson: https://www.slideshare.net/DawnFitton/voice-search-and-conversation-action-assistive-systems-challenges-opportunities

Web analytics and EU regulations by Pierre Far:

Major Trends in Paid Search by Anders Hjorth: https://www.slideshare.net/secret/KnlwWEmoEkyvdI


Write-up from Kanuka Digital: https://www.kanukadigital.com/2018/07/european-search-conference/



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