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

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.

Content Marketing: is it SEO or SMO? (SMX Paris)

It is not a simple “either… or…” question we decided to deal with on SMX Paris this year together with Erick Hostacy from Yourastar. My background is Search Marketing whereas Ericks background is Social Media.

 


We decided to deal with the subject in a provocative way. I would be the SEO-man and Erick would be the SMO-man. Each of us introduced the subject explaining how “Content Marketing is SEO” and “Content Marketing is SMO” to then alternately present our Proof Case Studies illustrating our case and making nasty allbeit almost politically correct comments on each other’s cases.

I have extracted my part of the presentation below and will embed Erick’s presentation if he decides to publish it also.

Thanks to our moderator Annie Lichtner and thanks to Erick for a session people seemed to enjoy.
We had a lot of fun 🙂

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!

Online Performance Triggers: from SEM to Remarketing

Below is my presentation from SMX London 2013. It is an Online Marketing case study which traces performance back over 4 years with a focus on the introduction of Display Remarketing into an online Marketing Mix dominated by Search Engine Marketing. My favourite slide is the one on the right.

 

SMX London 2013

Aside

15-16 May 2013 – Search Marketing Expo London

I will be presenting a case study from BDBL MEDIA and also moderate several sessions:
» Ready, Aim, Fire… Then Retarget!