The most relevant SEO News for December 2017

New wine into old wineskins and an endless relationship drama are what kept us busy last month. Meanwhile, in the Far East, a new player is gaining ground on the search engine stage. Find out who it is – and much more – in the SEO News for December.

1) YouTube data now available in Google Trends

Happily, belittled by SEO experts as a child’s plaything, Google Trends has been an extremely popular tool for many years, used to easily analyse the search market. In addition, the company from Mountain View likes to use its trend feature as a PR vehicle for clickable headlines (“The most important search terms of 2017”). Since the end of November, however, even experienced SEO experts have found it useful to look at the web tool, which quickly and simply provides a comparative overview of search demand and its development over time for up to 125 keywords simultaneously. While the data used to be based solely on Google’s web search, the results can now be filtered by Google’s news, shopping and images categories. What’s more, the search volumes from Google’s YouTube video portal can also be displayed separately. Particularly in times when moving image content is becoming increasingly important, Google provides a reliable source for preparatory market analysis and monitoring.

2) The pivotal question: Is social media important for SEO?

You might think this question is as old as humanity itself. This cannot be true, of course, as humanity is much older than Facebook, StudiVZ and Myspace together. Nevertheless, since the rise (and fall) of social media portals and apps, the search scene has been wondering: Do I really need this to do my SEO job right? To put it bluntly, social media content is not a direct ranking factor in the same way as backlinks, for example. This already inhibits the limited visibility of many posts and likes for search engines behind the login barriers of social media applications. But when viewed from a distance, it becomes clear that Social and Search pay for the same goals: both want to attract the attention of users, satisfy their need for information or entertainment and anchor a product or service as a brand in the collective consciousness of Internet users on the intricate paths of the user journeys. The paths can cross at different points, for example in the search hits of social media content on search engines. Even though it is hardly possible to verify a measurable connection, the realisation is obvious that Social and Search are brothers in spirit who can strengthen each other.

3) Top ranking factors of 2018 according to SEMrush

Now is the time for SEO experts to reflect on the achievements of the fading year and ask themselves what they might be up against in 2018. We started to look forward to the coming year in the last SEO News. A new study of the popular analysis tool SEMrush has now examined more than 600,000 keywords with the help of a self-learning algorithm and has compiled the 17 most important ranking factors. Not surprisingly, direct user signals are at the top of the ranking, such as the amount of direct traffic to a page, the time spent on the page and the bounce rate. Interestingly, the often disregarded off-page factors were considered relatively important by SEMrush. The classic factors such as referring domains, backlinks or IP circles are still ahead of content factors such as text length, metadata or rich media integration. This means that the findings of the study at least partly contradict the publicly announced position of the major search engines such as Google and Bing. Every search engine practitioner should definitely take a look at the study – if the holiday season permits.

4) Tencent floats Chinese search engine subsidiary on the stock exchange

Whether the future will be built in China may only be answered with certainty in a few years’ time. However, the fact is that China is rapidly on its way to becoming a new centre for technological development. The Chinese technology giant Tencent is the company behind the successful chat apps WeChat and QQ. Its search engine Sogou (literally: Search Dog) has been around since 2004, but was not able to escape the field of defeated competitors behind the industry giant Baidu. This is now set to change with the help of fresh money from an IPO and massive investments in artificial intelligence. According to the wishes of the parent company, Sogou users will also be able to search English-language websites within China’s legal boundaries. Tencent also wants to use its immense data pool from WeChat to raise the recognition of natural language and user intentions to a new level. Whether a new Google of Asia will emerge here remains to be seen.

The most relevant SEO News for November 2017

It’s all about speed when it comes to online marketing. Therefore, in November, we are already looking at the new year and thinking about everything that will change in 2018. Will SEO be dead and gone and robots take over the world? It won’t be that bad, but there is a hint of truth behind this. You can find out more in the current SEO news.

1) Google launches its Mobile-First-Index (a little)

The launch of the Mobile-First-Index will be the dominating topic for SEOs in 2018. A year ago, the search engine, based in Mountain View, had already announced that it will realise mobile versions of websites in the future instead of using the desktop version as a reference for contents and rankings. However, it is not all going to happen on one specific day, the change will be quite gradual and accompanied by extensive tests, according to Google. Google spokesperson, John Mueller, has now announced that work has begun on converting the first websites to the Mobile Index in trial operation. Although it is still too early to talk about the official launch of regular operation, it is more of an initial testing phase. However, the changes in rankings that were observed by web masters in the middle of October are not related to these tests, according to Mueller.

2) 2018 SEO expert oracle

A glimpse into the SEO crystal ball fascinates the search industry again every year. Renowned experts have made predictions for 2018, on what the dominating trends will be in the coming 12 months. They all agree that Google’s transition to the Mobile-First-Index, the rapidly increasing use of language assistants and the triumph of artificial intelligence will bring about serious changes to the technological side of search marketing. Companies and web masters should watch these changes closely. The fight for organic traffic will quickly intensify. Since Google increasingly appears as a publisher and already provides a lot of information on its own search results using the so-called Featured Snippets, the use of structured data, in-depth analysis of contents and user behaviour as well as the focus on a good user experience all remain the most important areas of activity. Aaron Wall from SEO Book even speculated that Google’s dominance in the search sector will decline and that users will increasingly resort to specialised search systems. In summary, SEO expert John Lincoln easily adapts an old classic: “The old SEO is dead and gone – welcome to a new era. It’s 100 times better and much more exciting.”

3) Microsoft and Google rely on human support

Barely a day goes by when there isn’t something written about the unstoppable spread of artificial intelligence and its effects on online marketing. Search provider giants, Google and Microsoft, rely on the use of learning machines. However, if you look closely, there is also an opposite trend: Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, first announced in August that it wants to rely more on its collaboration with users in the “Bing Distill” community in order to improve the quality of its direct answers in the future (we reported). At the start of October, Google invited its “Local Guide” community to the second conference in San Francisco. According to the company, the organised user community already has around fifty million participants worldwide, who primarily check and correct entries in Google Maps. In addition, almost 700,000 new entries are composed by local guides on a daily basis. Google said that this is a great help, especially in developing countries, because information from local businesses and services in these countries is difficult to automatically record and check. It remains to be seen whether this trend is taking hold or whether humans are just a bridge technology until artificial intelligence has acquired the same skill set.

4) How artificial intelligence will change search engine optimisation

Search Marketing faces great changes and, at the core, it’s all about the effects of integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into the technology of major platforms. In terms of the organic search, according to SEO veteran and expert, Kristopher Jones, this means that keyword rankings will no longer be subject to dramatic changes in the future and that there will be no superior, universal algorithm. In fact, specialised and dynamic algorithms in a variety of versions will be used for various search requests. Ultimately, the search provider’s aim is to accurately grasp the exact intention of the user using technological aids and to be able to deliver better results, according to Jones. The search expert believes that the classic keyword analysis and technical SEO would therefore be obsolete. In response to the challenges of artificial intelligence, Jones suggests a combination of user experience optimisation, strictly tailoring the contents to user intentions and using more natural speech patterns for voice search. He went on to say that search engine optimisers will not be able to develop their own analysis tools based on artificial intelligence and that agencies and advertisers will have to develop strong responses to the technological challenges in order to not be overwhelmed by the progress.

The web page is dying, long live SEO.

When Google announced the dawn of the Age of Assistance [1] last spring, it certainly didn’t underestimate all the changes it would trigger.

11 mn to read Interaction with various technologies and interfaces means that the way we search for information on the Internet is being turned completely on its head.
And along with it, the way we need to think about how we use SEO.

First, you no longer have (full) ownership of your content…

It’s been rumoured for a few years, we’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that the web is now a series of platforms. This global phenomenon means that access to the digital audience, is centralized, managed by a handful of players in Silicon Valley.

Google AMP, exemple de mise en scène pour le Washington Post ou le New York Times

Google AMP, with examples of how the Washington Post and the New York Times are displayed

If we only consider access to information, it is primarily Google and Facebook that lay down their own law. For commercial reasons – mainly audience retention and control of advertising space – each of them has deployed its own platform for hosting content: Instant Articles by Facebook [2], AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) by Google [3]. If you want to reach a large audience, especially in the media sector, it has quickly become essential to consider sharing information on these platforms.

The benefit for the reader is obvious. With these technologies, users can access and consume information more quickly. With Facebook for example, you don’t need to wait for a web browser to open up, the articles are readily available in the Facebook app on your smartphone. It’s the same with Google, AMP is an “accelerated” platform, a no-frills setup that delivers an optimal mobile experience.

However, when you post an article on AMP or Instant Articles, you abandon your website and depend solely on the environment that the GAFAs agree to provide for you. While it is still possible for your brand to emerge, a great many web user habits have begun to disappear: auxiliary browsing, page separation, and of course advertising design. Content is brought right down to its bare bones.

This can be a good thing, in that the news, content or function displayed is exactly what the user was looking for. But it has a huge impact on how the information is presented, and especially how the internet has learned to capitalize on its readership over the last 20 years.

With AMP, it’s no longer the page, but its content… that generates satisfaction, viewing habits, even repeat behavior.

And if you’re not running a media site?

Rest assured, Google hasn’t forgotten you either. The search engine is developing and distributing a Progressive Web App format [4] that will eventually become the AMP for eCommerce and transactional platforms. In the same way that press articles are fast-tracked by smartphones, transaction forms – flight check-in, quote requests, etc. – will be fast-tracked for an improved mobile experience. The outlook looks promising in terms of the user experience [5], but the impacts for the industries that will use this format remain to be seen.

…by the way, you no longer (really) need to try to rank web pages…

AMP and Instant Articles have already changed how content is perceived on the Internet, and have begun to separate it from its traditional base: the web page. Featured snippets (SEO experts refer to these results as being in position zero) in Google results [6] are also having a massive impact on the way SEO is approached.

Basically, a featured snippet is a ready-made answer, generated by Google, to a question from the user.

It takes the form of a paragraph of boxed text, sometimes even with illustrations, that is presented above the usual organic search results. And that’s why it’s called position zero.

A Google featured snippet, generated for a search into... featured snippets

A Google featured snippet, generated for a search into… featured snippets…

The format appears mainly when the user asks questions; full sentences in interrogative form… but also when requests are understood to be searches for information on processes or concepts. Anything that requires more explanation than transactional search results.

How does Google identify the information that will appear in a featured snippet? It first evaluates the relevance of a page on the subject requested and then extracts the paragraph or paragraphs it considers to be the most explicit.

What matters then to the engines is no longer just the relevance of a page on a specific keyword, but how part of this page can answer a concrete question.

The evolution of searches towards featured snippets means that content creators have to stop thinking only in terms of web pages, and start thinking in text units – paragraphs, lists, processes – and how they can work on their content so that it is presented as a response rather than raw information. This is probably going to change a lot of editorial style guides.

The impact of featured snippets goes hand-in-hand with the deployment of AMP technologies. If Google is able to find, and therefore provide the user with, a suitable response in one paragraph, there is no longer any benefit in it driving traffic to a website. The featured snippet can potentially be enough for the user. Finding a web page isn’t the user’s priority any more!

…so you no longer (really) need to target keywords…

Where is all this going? The two revolutions we’ve covered so far only involve the display and processing of web data. They do not really affect how the user interacts with search engines. And yet, the biggest revolution in progress is coming straight from the users themselves.

By relying more and more on their smartphones (people are now pulling out their devices more than 150 times a day [7]), users prefer their own micro-questions and are moving away from keyboards. The emergence of featured snippets in Google is a direct consequence of this change in behavior [8].

Last spring, nearly 20% of queries made using the Google app in the US were voice queries [9].

And these figures are set to rise. Many queries are now only related to smartphones: to look for directions, call a contact or play a track.

Infographie : quel usage en recherche vocale pour les adolescents et les adultes aux USA ?

But other uses are emerging, such as requests for homework assistance from teenagers (31%) or queries about movie showtimes from adults (9%) [10]. These are searches for basic information.

How are Internet users’ voice queries formulated? It’s quite simple, they are spoken. When we make a voice query, we no longer depend on a keyword, we ask a real question. Advertisements for voice assistants – like Apple’s Siri – have inspired this behavior.

When questions are fully formulated, they have the advantage of being able to concentrate on a point of detail about a person (age, place of birth, role for an actor, etc.) or a retail outlet (location, opening hours, etc.). And that’s exactly what featured snippets are designed to do: they provide a precise answer to a specific question [11].

So what does that change in how websites are to be designed?
This changes what kind of information is displayed: we’re no longer trying to position results based on a request, but to answer a question.

It’s no longer about trying to display as much information about Angelina Jolie as possible, but to convince Google that you are the best source of information to give her age . This involves a little technical skill – microformatting, information management – but above all it means thinking about content in a different way, separating it into basic information blocks, based on the user’s questions, rather than in long encyclopaedic articles.

Questions, unlike queries, require quick and simple answers. And so content needs to be quick and simple too.

…anyway, soon you’ll no longer be displaying any text at all…

The next revolution will be simplicity. Can you see where we’re going with this?
The natural partner for voice queries is of course voice responses. Voice assistants – Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod mark the latest development in how we search for information on the web.

Google Home, l'assistant vocal de Google est bien entendu le futur du Search

Google Home, Google’s voice assistant is of course the future of Search

Amazon Echo, the most popular voice assistant, was installed in nearly 9 million American homes last spring [12].

These terminals have no screens – even though Amazon has been testing new versions of its terminal[13] – answers to users’ questions are purely vocal and should leave no doubt or room for interpretation.

Because the main problem with searches, and especially answers, is in how they are interpreted, and the doubt that can be generated by the absence of visual support or backup solutions. On a computer screen, if the first result of a query isn’t what you want, you can always click on the next one. And if you do not fully understand a featured snippet, it often comes with a visual to illustrate the subject, or a link to go into more details.

This reassurance, or redirection, is crucial in the user experience; it encourages them to go deeper into a search, to check back, to explore further.

In voice queries, answers don’t offer any further options. You can’t ask for another result or confirm the first outcome with an illustration.

In voice queries, “I did not understand” doesn’t exist.
In fact, anything that could be confusing about the answer is eliminated.

First, the source of the generated information[14] can have a tremendous impact on its meaning. Users must make do with what they have, and assume that if they have chosen an assistant produced by the Amazon brand, they agree to see the world, or at least part of it, through the eyes and sources that are available from Amazon.

But there is also the way content providers formulate their answers. The spoken media is not the written media – print and radio reporters are well aware of that – and being convincing on a Google Home device is not the same as being reassuring from the search engine’s homepage.

The answers provided by brands will have to evolve towards facts rather than elements of communication or “projection”…

Are you still doing SEO?
Yes, but not really in the same way as before…

We have cast SEO aside so many times that it will probably still survive many a revolution in the future. Appearing on a search result page or being quoted by a voice assistant will always require a minimum amount of information structuring and technical expertise, a minimum amount of thinking and the ability to use algorithms.

Having said that, voice searches, and especially the emergence of new consultation tools on the web, are sure to drastically change the way we think about how we optimize access to information. First, because the page as a unit of measurement for the web will soon disappear. Social networks have already eliminated the need for a website[15].

The web page is still the basic unit of SEO optimization. We use web pages to consider how we segment content, tree structures, semantic silos, etc. Separating content providers from web pages will require most information specialists to take a look back at their content: texts and semantic notions. And to reflect on this moving matter without necessarily sticking to permanent and structured support tools.

The death of the web page will force site managers to think in terms of information flow, and no longer only in terms of support tools.

A great many content managers and community managers have been getting into that habit over the last few years. They flick between broadcast media – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. – depending on the targets and objectives of their content, and have learned to handle information flows and divert physical media. They have also learned how to adjust content and change its structure, depending on its objectives and how it is published.

In some ways, community managers have also learned to speak to algorithms before addressing human beings.

And that goes to show that businesses and expertise are getting closer, coming together, and merging.

After all, given that conversational interfaces are the search engines of tomorrow, community managers might indeed become the SEO of tomorrow?

Inspirations

– One album: US (Peter Gabriel – 1990), for the introduction track Come Talk to Me 🙂
– One book : The Library of Babel (Jorge Louis Borgès – 1941)

Sources

English translation by Ruth Simpson

Artificial Intelligence: Who is responsible?

Auf dem Innovationstag von Serviceplan diskutierten der renommierte Münchner Philosoph und Kulturstaatsminister a. D. Julian Nida-Rümelin und Martina Koederitz, Vorsitzende der Geschäftsführung IBM Deutschland, gemeinsam mit Klaus Schwab, Geschäftsführer der Plan.Net Gruppe, über neue ethische Standards.

Context beats keywords

Why the approach for search-engine advertising in future will focus more on context

The days of search-engine advertising (SEA) insisting chiefly on category accounts and generic campaigns with thousands of ad groups and keywords are coming to an end. Nowadays, excessive keywording is actually proving to be somewhat counter-productive. You could be extolling the virtues of a small Kölsch beer to a fan of Munich’s famous stein – a complete waste of time. The main reason for turning our backs on absolute keyword dominance is that, in the past, Google has continually expanded its keyword options. As a result, the context in which the keyword appears is becoming increasingly more relevant.

Originally, when planning SEA campaigns, care was taken to choose keywords that were as precise as possible, not least because of the strict policy implemented by Google. Nevertheless, over time, Google has become increasingly flexible with the range of its “exact match” and “phrase match” keyword options. For some time now, to ensure that potential customers do not fall between the cracks, misspelt keywords, regional language variations (e.g. tram instead of trolley) or abbreviations have also resulted in a hit list being returned. The aim of this measure was not only to generate more clicks and thus also more money for Google, it was also intended to simplify the process for advertisers to focus on the intentions of the people conducting the searches and thus ensure more relevant results.

Ultimately, all users are different and therefore have a different way of expressing themselves and a different idea of which adverts are personally relevant to them. There has also been a change in user behaviour with the increasing use of voice technology. According to Google, more than a fifth of enquiries are already made on Android smartphones using voice input. Consequently, for the SEA business, dynamic search ads (DSAs) are becoming more and more appealing.

The key benefit of dynamic search ads: greater reach, less manual effort

With dynamic search ads, keywords are no longer entered – apart from the keywords which should not be used at all (the so-called negatives). Instead, the text displayed is created (semi) automatically. In connection with dynamic search ads, keywords are only used in the context of a negative exclusion test, i.e. to ensure campaign granularity. With DSAs, rather than using keywords, Google compares search queries with the contents of a website or data feed. If there is relevant information with regard to the search enquiry, Google returns an advertisement, after approval of the campaign – automatically and with no keywords entered. In so doing, both the combination of words in the ad title and the URL of the target page are generated individually based on the way the search query is worded.

An example: a user is about to travel to Switzerland and wants to buy a new pair of hiking shoes. In the Google search window, he enters the words “men’s hiking shoes”, whereupon, based on the contents of the web shop, an ad is generated with the title “men’s hiking shoes”. Google takes the text for the ad from the product data feed or the text on the website. Because data feeds are often based on identical manufacturer’s information for all web shops, without content optimisation, no distinction in the headline of the text ad can be made. Companies therefore need to specify which type of criterion (price, selection, delivery, promotion etc.) should be selected. User and enquiry-related optimisation of contents in the web shop and data feed is the key to higher conversion rates here among search-ad competitors.

Dynamic search ads are already obtaining very good results. The reason for this is that the increase in targeting options on data feeds and new opportunities in text design means that ads can be placed with great precision, without any reduction in output by Google and if necessary without getting highly relevant traffic or paying more for this traffic. The more precise and relevant the ad, the more likely it is that the potential purchaser will click on it. It also ensures that considerably more users are reached than with campaigns purely based on keywords.
However, this partial automation in Google’s system certainly does not grant Google a free licence or allow the search-engine giants alone to decide what hits should be delivered. In fact, the opposite is true: agencies need to manage the complex craft of dynamic search ads. This means that they need to specify negative exclusion tests which ensure no advertisement is returned. In the earlier hiking-shoes example, this could be a combination of the terms “fall”, “mountaineering accident”, or something similar. They need to put together campaigns with clearly structured themes and optimise data feeds or the website structure and URLs.

It is also necessary to continuously monitor the quality of campaigns, constantly adjust what is returned and continuously review the rules and regulations that govern this. The tasks for agencies are therefore changing.

The e-commerce sector in particular stands to benefit from dynamic search ads. Online shops often have a large and ever-changing product range and extensive content, such as product data feeds, which can be accessed by generating dynamic ads. Despite the freedom offered by DSAs, campaigns can be closely controlled, as there is an option to advertise on the basis of the website as a whole, as well as specific categories. There is also a logistical advantage with dynamic search ads: because an online shop’s range often changes, this used to require a great deal of work with classic search-engine advertising. This work has been reduced to a minimum by the semi-automatic creation of DSAs.

Therefore, the work of search-engine advertisers will also change in future: we shall no longer be putting most of our effort into keyword sets and variant texts. Instead, for our SEA campaigns, we shall use dynamic search ads that extract their information automatically from data feeds and websites. In future, agencies will have to deal much more with pure campaign optimisation to ensure quality and thus long-term success. Furthermore, website optimisation and data-feed optimisation will increasingly become a central focus.

The most relevant SEO News for October 2017

The issue of security doesn’t just motivate people when they’re casting their vote; it also motivates them on the internet. This is where the search engine giant Google is now exerting its market power. Also in SEO news – trends and new developments in the B2B sector and the Chinese market, the end of a long relationship, as well as a fresh look at a fundamental question: do I really need backlinks to be successful in SEO?

1) Google withdraws confidence in Symantec

Google has announced that it plans to withdraw confidence in Symantec’s security certificates and is going to remove them from its Chrome browser step-by-step. With a market share of around 40 per cent, Symantec is the largest issuer of security certificates, e.g. for verifying secure SSL connections. Google is criticising Symantec for alleged quality deficiencies and will gradually withdraw confidence in Symantec’s products from March 2018. Users of the popular Chrome browser will no longer be able to directly access websites with the affected certificates. Webmasters are now being asked to implement an alternative for Symantec certificates as fast as possible.

2) Great SEO potential in B2B

The US search engine has, for the first time, called on around 4,500 German politicians to fill in the contents of the information box to the right of the search results with their own ideas on the election program. The politicians are given a maximum of 500 characters to present their manifestos and appeal to their voters. Additionally, each politician can make three main points, each with a maximum of 140 characters. According to a statement from the company, the offer is optional and is primarily aimed at candidates who are not yet well known at an election level.

3) 2017: What’s new at the Chinese search engine Baidu

Baidu, the Chinese search market leader with around 77 per cent share, is copying the strategies of its American competition to a large extent. With their version of mobile-optimised websites, MIP (Mobile Instant Pages), the Chinese are backing the same horse as Google with AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages). The preferred presentation of secure HTTPS websites and the relatively new Progressive Web Apps (PWA) technology also underline the fact that Baidu wants to see itself as a technology leader. In addition to an algorithm update called “Hurricane”, which cracks down on illegally-used, protected content, Baidu has also introduced a new crawler that is better able to understand the layout and UX of the page examined. Here’s some practical SEO tips for the Chinese market – a website should not be larger than 128KB and, if possible, URLs should be shorter than 76 characters. You should therefore avoid using Chinese characters in the URL. In contrast to Google or Bing, you can de-index 404 pages using an XML file, and new domain endings, such as .TOP or .WIN are categorised as spam by Baidu.

4) Apple’s Siri now loves Google (not Bing any more)

People that search on their iPhone using Siri in the future will no longer be shown search results from Microsoft Bing when Apple’s voice assistant can’t provide a spoken answer. The group based in Cupertino in California explained its decision to change the iPhone search provider due to wanting to standardise search technologies between its iPhone (Siri) and Mac (Spotlight) platforms and in internal searches on iOS. Apple states that the displayed results will include website links and video. Since the market launch of the iPhone 4s in 2011, the Siri voice assistant has used Microsoft’s Bing search engine as standard.

5) Bing: Links are still an important ranking factor

In the beginning there was the link. The era of PageRanks started in 1997 with Google. PageRanks weights websites according to the number of links and the quality of its linking structure. For many years this meant that a good backlink was the gold standard in the SEO sector. Unfortunately, the optimisation industry is exploiting the potential for manipulation in this technology, meaning that search engines started to downgrade links as a ranking factor in 2012. They were replaced with metrics that are less open to manipulation, such as social signals, clickstream data or engagement data. This doesn’t mean that the age of backlinks is anywhere near over though. Microsoft has now confirmed that its Bing search engine is still not at the point where backlinks can be forgone as a ranking factor. Microsoft states that outbound links that add value from authoritative pages are essential.

The most relevant SEO News for September 2017

While half of Germany are still enjoying their holidays, we are presenting the SEO News for September – with search results for DIY, the renaissance of an old SEO theory, an update to e-commerce with Amazon’s Alexa and an important technology update from Russia.

1) Bing allows direct answers to be optimised directly by users

So far, the quality community “Bing Distill”, which was launched by Microsoft around two years ago, has remained relatively quiet. Now, observations from the USA are attracting attention: Users of the search engine can directly revise the responses to commonly asked questions that are shown in the results (direct answers, e.g. “How do I change a car tyre?”) and send optimisation suggestions to Microsoft. In contrast to the fully automated Google system, which is also seeing a sharp increase in the use of instant answers, Microsoft is taking a completely different, human-based approach to ensure the quality and relevance of this popular feature. According to company information, the membership in the Bing Distill group should theoretically be open to every user.

2) Google stirs up the electoral campaign

The US search engine has, for the first time, called on around 4,500 German politicians to fill in the contents of the information box to the right of the search results with their own ideas on the election program. The politicians are given a maximum of 500 characters to present their manifestos and appeal to their voters. Additionally, each politician can make three main points, each with a maximum of 140 characters. According to a statement from the company, the offer is optional and is primarily aimed at candidates who are not yet well known at an election level.

3) SEO quality factor with Google – so yes after all?

Search guru Rand Fishkin has recently been a breath of fresh air in the discussion about an old SEO theory. Does Google have a quality factor for evaluating websites that works similarly to the organic search of the official “Quality Score” in the paid AdWords program? Here, the advertiser is informed about the quality of his advertisements, keywords and target pages – this is certainly an important optimisation aid. With regard to the organic area, Google has never commented on the speculation. The observations from previous years strongly suggest that a high level of user engagement on selected pages (click rates, average stay, clicks per visit, etc.) can have a positive effect on the visibility of entire domains. According to Fishkin, the aim should be to improve the performance of entire domains with the targeted quality optimisation of some pages. This not only includes the development of new subpages, but also the exclusion of content with low user interest.

4) With Amazon’s Alexa, SEO Score has a name

The topic of voice search is increasingly becoming a part of classic e-commerce. According to traffic reports and weather forecasts, the sale of goods and services that use voice-activated assistants is steadily coming to the fore. In the middle of August, it was announced that Google Home would be collaborating with Wal-Mart, the market leader in US retail, which clearly shows the hopes of new technology. The fact that the home assistants Alexa and Echo are direct extensions of Amazon, makes things clearer but not necessarily easier. Therefore, it is important that when receiving a spoken command, Alexa and Echo firstly browse the user’s purchase history for previously ordered items of the same type. If Alexa does not find any identical items, she automatically suggests a product from the “Amazon Choice” selection. It is therefore necessary for retailers to qualify their products for the “Amazon Choice” program. Similarly to a quality factor, the product must be available in Prime, have a high conversion rate, a competitive price and positive reviews.

5) Yandex takes off with artificial intelligence

After Google had declared the “Al first” motto at its developer conference in May and thus proclaimed artificial intelligence as the basis for its search technology, the Russian search engine Yandex is now trying to emulate it. The company announced that an update based on neuronal, self-learning networks called “Korolyov” (named after a Soviet space research centre) was being taken live. Similarly to Google’s RankBrain algorithm, using this new technology, Yanex can gain a better understanding of the intention behind rare and complex search queries and can now apply the detected search intention to entire websites in large numbers. Up to now, Yandex had only used headings of web content to match search intentions to the suitable page relevance. This is an important step towards better voice search expertise for the company.

Smartphone on wheels

Many questions will be raised when carmakers present their solutions and concepts for mobility of the future at IAA in Frankfurt in just a few days’ time: What do we do in the car if the car can soon drive itself? If the dashboard and side windows consist of screens in future, which contents do we use during the journey? What data does a fully connected vehicle supply and who uses it for what purpose? Manfred Klaus believes that achieving reduced emissions is just one aspect of what the car of the future will have to deliver. Writing in a guest article, the Plan.Net boss sees cars becoming their own communication platform in future – with new business models.

It is a mere coincidence that elections to the next German Bundestag are taking place on the final day of this year’s International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt (24 September 2017). Fitting at the same time however, since Germany’s motorists suddenly find themselves in the middle of the election campaign. The debate revolving around banning diesel vehicles, electric mobility, software updates and hardware retrofits is dominating the media as well as political discussions.

There is no question but that the emissions from private vehicles are a key issue for the public at large – especially in the larger cities. Yet electric mobility is currently lacking the infrastructure and the reach to seamlessly replace the combustion engine on a grand scale. The same applies for the topic of autonomous driving. Just because studies indicate success, failure would still be the result in mass operation at present. As soon as the discussion on the diesel front becomes de-emotionalised, a different topic will raise its head for carmakers: with progressive vehicle digitisation and connectivity, the cars themselves will increasingly evolve into independent communication platforms – so a type of smartphone on wheels.

Many aspects of this development are grouped presently under the catch phrase “connected car”, which essentially encompasses three main feature areas. Firstly “general features” such as seamless Internet connection, WLAN hotspot in the vehicle or personal driver registration. Then there are the “vehicle-related features”, which include information on the vehicle condition, its position or additional on-demand features (brighter headlights, 4-wheel drive, and such like). Finally the “infotainment and entertainment features” provide real-time information on traffic as well as location-based services and content offers. Digital technologies can therefore already be found today in an entire range of car features – even aside from autonomous driving.

It’s just that most Germans have barely noticed it yet. Digital features have been advertised slightly cautiously to date by the manufacturers. According to a study on behalf of Motor Presse Stuttgart, only ten percent of Germans are acquainted with the terms “connected car” or “connectivity”. And even among Generation Y, the key target group for connected car offers, only one in every two is familiar with the term according to Deloitte. To add to this, the terms are also interpreted completely differently by motorists: from automatic parking assistance to the emergency call feature through to WLAN hotspot or a music playlist on the driver’s smartphone.

Initial studies by manufacturers, as demonstrated at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, illustrate what could be conceivable in the near future: smart windscreens that offer more than just a pure head-up display, dashboards that simply consist of touchscreens and on which key features are processed like in apps or side windows that can be used via touchscreen to surf the Internet or call up apps. And when it comes to defensive driving, apps already exist in abundance. The latest offer however rebukes young people in an unusual way: if the novice driver exceeds the specified maximum speed limit, the app plays their parents’ favourite music. Now that should be punishment enough for most!

How marketing automation and creation fit together

When it comes to programmatic advertising or marketing automation in general, media or technology experts usually lead the discussion, while creation often remains sidelined. However, in a world of advertising where computers are increasingly performing control-based processes, creation is an important criterion of differentiation for brands and businesses and should not be considered as separate to the technical implementation.

In the key discussion regarding programmatic advertising and marketing automation, the market is driven exclusively by technology and media experts. So far it simply hasn’t been necessary in creation to speak about technological solutions.

However, avoiding the modern opportunities for advertising certainly isn’t a solution with a future. Creative minds should know and use the possibilities for involving new technologies such as programmatic advertising – even if it isn’t their main task to promote the standardisation of advertising media or the measurement methodology of online videos on Facebook or to discuss interface problems between DSPs and SSPs. But they do need to develop an idea at the beginning of the process that will surprise the market and that isn’t expected. Only once this umbrella idea for a brand or product has been developed is it possible to meaningfully engage automation in marketing.

The greatest hurdles for programmatic creation lie in everyday work. This is because advertisers’ briefings for media and creation are unfortunately rarely coordinated with each other. Completely different objectives are frequently formulated for the two areas – depending on whether the aim is to achieve something for the brand or for sales. Furthermore, media and creation are usually different departments (both for the customer and the agency) that don’t always communicate with each other. How exactly the creative process works in an agency and in cooperation with the advertisers strongly depends on how the campaign planning is organised. The areas of strategy, media and creation are usually involved. If one of these areas starts the work on its own or dominates the planning process (which is usually the case) then at least one department is often dissatisfied.

Anyone wanting to advertise successfully in the programmatic age should try to engage all those involved at an early stage and incorporate all their perspectives. Creative minds need to understand how algorithms work and how media people tick. While media needs to realise that creative individuals have an emotional connection with “their” motif and that it isn’t just any old piece of cargo. Only in the symbiosis, in the understanding that the other group also has a very important contribution to make, do we get an end result with added value and a meaningful strategy. The foundation for this approach in the future should be for creation and media to have a shared budget. If, for example, creation addresses users with more target-group-specific advertising and varying motifs (and requires more time and money to do so), this money can then be saved from the advertising effect and the media budget can be lower.

As a first step towards finding a common solution, advertisers should precisely define what they expect from their communication or campaign. Ideally, marketing, media, sales and other stakeholders should get together for this and formulate clear targets for creation, strategy and media. After all, only once a good strategy has been decided upon and a compelling creation developed can programmatic advertising and automation demonstrate their strengths.

This article was published at Arabian Marketer.

Augmented reality milestones

The first marketing initiatives with augmented reality (AR) appeared in Germany around the year 2011. Back then, Plan.Net integrated AR functions in a campaign for the special interest channel Syfy, for example. Posters were impressively brought to life using the technology available at the time from the Munich-based company Metaio.

Ever since, individual projects involving augmented reality were implemented every now and then, but the big breakthrough failed to materialise. Yet last year, AR suddenly became a hot topic of conversation again thanks to Pokemon Go. Augmented Reality was euphorically celebrated by marketing experts – they believed this would be the breakthrough. But this certainly was not the case. There was enormous hype surrounding Pokemon Go, but AR barely received a mention. Instead, it was virtual reality that appeared on the scene and drew the attention with HTC, Sony and Oculus hardware, associated with lots of interesting application scenarios. However, VR has so far more remained a good option for local productions or audiences enthusiastic about technology.

By releasing ARKit, Apple is now achieving another dimension. Hidden within the system is the software that Metaio from Munich have been enhancing since 2011; it is now much more accessible to all Apple developers and can be implemented even more easily in iOS apps.

With great joy and excitement, we relied on the new options available in the recently founded Plan.Net Innovation Studio – and we certainly haven’t been disappointed by the beta version of the ARKit which is currently still available. Habitually good software documentation provides the user with a quick introduction to the available options and therefore makes it as easy as possible to understand the world of AR.

Even though the beta version published by Apple in June still appears to be somewhat limited in terms of technical functionality, in a short space of time we have already explored many exciting applications and have used them to improve the first customer projects. The application examples range from AR-based navigation, to the placement of virtual furniture and the first mixed reality examples. A flood of ARKit-supported apps can certainly be anticipated in the App Store when iOS 11 is released.

Source: Apple

It will take some time before the full potential of the platform can be exploited. There is certainly still a functional gap when it comes to location-based data layers (Location Based Services). But Apple will probably add other functions soon and upgrade one or two components with new iPhone hardware before long.

Nevertheless, the options in existing devices are already very promising – and with around 380 million supported devices currently in circulation, the target audience isn’t exactly small.

The next anticipated milestone is certainly like to keep us in suspense: when will augmented reality applications continue to go beyond the constraints of smartphones and find their way into everyday glasses and lenses? Once this has been achieved, the gap between hardware obstacles and available data will be closed and everyone will be immediately able to access surrounding information in any place. About buildings, artwork, people, products.

A world of unlimited networking that we can help to shape both constructively and critically. We are certainly looking forward to this time!