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Friends of Search 2019 takeaways

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What a day! What a party in De Kromhouthal in Amsterdam. The 6th edition of Friends of Search took place there today and 650+ search professionals came together to hear and discuss about the latest updates on search. On the big screens we followed insightful presentations from esteemed (inter)national speakers while watching the boats pass by in the background. At the bars and food trucks we enjoyed fresh fruit juices, coffee and snacks to accompany our conversations. And at our Artefact table we had fun with colleagues and our relations while catching up on the learnings of the day. Whether you were not able to join or are simply interested in a summary of today, read on for our takeaways from Friends of Search 2019.

 

Start building & measuring natural conversations for Google Assistant – NOW!

Let’s make one thing clear to begin with: Google Assistant is not a synonym for Google Home. Google Assistant is the AI of Google while Google Home is the device in which the Assistant is available for us to use.

Google Assistant is now available in 80 countries, 30 languages, and 1 billion (Android) phones. There’s plenty of ways to let the Google Assistant help you, native or through a 3rd party app so let’s see how the Assistant can help you improve your customer experience.

Lee Boonstra continues to tell us about the best-known example which is the chatbot technology that is already used in call centers since the 90’s. Then why did chatbots become so popular only recently?

That’s because now we design more applications with AI in mind (from mobile-first to AI-first). Just like humans, chatbots can learn language through examples, which we call machine learning. The Google Assistant uses machine learning for natural language understanding, which is why voice search queries can be more natural than written search queries.

When designing your conversations, remember that there’s no screen, so focus on the conversation instead of just copying your web content. In the case of designing conversations for smart displays (voice assistants with screens), display only relevant information to support the conversation (i.e. tutorial video in a cooking app).

Customers expect to find you on the virtual assistance channels, so they’re complementary to the other marketing channels when it comes to customer experience optimization.

Do you want to get started with building your own 3rd party voice integration, just like Bol.com, Albert Heijn, Post.nl and Rabobank? You can use Dialogflow as a tool for designing your own conversations or contact Artefact to see how we can help you!

 

How to optimise for conversational voice search

Aleydo Solis shows why and how we should optimise for conversational Search – not just voice. Voice is action-driven, you’re on the go or check simple facts. However, we still need visuals to satisfy Search. We want to see what it looks like.

So, how do you optimise for conversational Search? 70% of search queries are in natural language, as if asking a friend for advice.

  • Identify a pattern in your queries, look in Google Search Console for queries starting with how, where, who, what etc. What are the questions asked? Also check with your competition, ‘People also ask’ and the ahrefs questions filter.
  • Focus on featured snippets! 40.7% of answers come from featured snippets like answer boxes.
  • Use Structured data, but also make sure you’re concise and you structure the content.
  • Another option is to start building in Google Actions, to interact with your customers via Google assistant. Start focusing on conversational Search.

Stop wasting your time – Achieve PPC stardom with automation

Frederick Vallaeys touches upon the topic of automation within PPC, and how we as PPC specialists can make efficient use of automation. Most importantly he points out that to start with automation we need to understand its opportunities:

  • Humans can outsmart predictable automations, so learn how automations work and use this to your benefit
  • Human assisted machines outperform machine performance alone. Use automated solutions to shortlist your opportunities but make improvements to your accounts yourself.
  • A strong process takes companies to the next level. When implementing automated solutions make sure to create a process that allows you to scale the solution as well as have it adapt to the rapidly changing ads landscape.

Automated solutions always have their shortcomings so make sure that you assist automated solutions by feeding them human insights. For example, within smart bidding Google uses all available signals to set the best bids. However, to get the most out of smart bidding you will need to feed additional signals that are important to your business to Google. The best way to compensate for these shortcomings is by implementing Adwords Scripts. Implementing scripts does not have to be as hard as it sounds. Many scripts nowadays only require you to copy, paste, and configure the basic settings to effectively implement.

Artefact’s main advice? Take an hour a week to check what automated solutions you have implemented, analyze whether they are working as intended, and Google whether there is an Adwords script to compensate for the solution’s shortcomings.

 

Don’t let the lack of (IT-) resources or tooling dictate your progress on SEO optimising

If you feel that the busy schedule of the IT-department or the lack of budget for tools is keeping you from executing optimizations or measuring the performance of your website. Don’t worry! Arturo Ronchi (Takeaway) showed that using existing platform implementations and technologies actually can help you getting things done, for example by using a proxy with minimal development for a creative content hub. That way your visitors can visit a sub-domain while they follow the domain.com/contenthub path. This keeps the relevance and authority on your website. This proxy is used by Takeaway on their FoodWiki and Jobs pages.

Checking on important SEO elements such as: schema.org implementations, page speed or page title length mostly is done by SEO specialists in tools or an Excel spreadsheet. Keep in mind that the last one is prone to mistakes due to the formulas in each cell. Google App Scripts can help you with protected formulas, automatic measuring and email warnings. It takes some time to set it up but can eventually pay off as you can also set up dashboards.

 

The marriage of SEO and PR is inevitable

Everyone knows that the future of SEO is affected by the in-SERP search results. Answer boxes, recipes and local results push regular SEO optimised pages further down the fold. Kirsty Hulse (ManyMinds) stresses that SEO specialists need to remember the impact of their work on all marketing aspects, not just on rankings. The focus shifts from set-in-stone formats to brand stories. News, ideas, gift guides, whitepapers and interactive infographics.

But how do you start? By thinking like a PR specialist that is! Business is an interesting story to tell, but product is not. Go and find that content sweet spot, between your brand story and products, and reach out to journalists. Base your creative content ideas on data, so you know what people are searching for, look for news that you can piggyback on and keep reaching out. Oh! And don’t forget to invest time and money in good ideas.

There are not only online or offline customers

In an era of increasing digital activity, HEMA wanted to test whether customised digital advertising could replace their traditional brochure.

HEMA performed geotargeted campaigns for several test stores in which they only used digital advertising. Brochures have been delivered to a control group of similar store areas.

Communication in the digital campaigns was dynamic and relevant to sub-audiences based on HEMA first party customer segments in combination with second- and third-party data.

Results implicated that the brochure could be replaced by purely digital campaigns, especially when costs of creating and distributing brochures were taken into account.

We don’t need to turn offline buyers into online buyers. Everybody has their own purchasing habits. However, personalized and customised digital marketing is strongly contributing to incremental offline sales.

That was Friends of Search 2019 and a few of our takeaways. We’d love to hear from you if you’d like to know more about anything of the above or about Artefact.

We’re already looking forward to the 7th edition which will take place on the 6th of February 2020! Will you be there?

This article is brought to you by: Brechtje van Houtum, Nicole Schalkwijk, Job Hilbers, Ron Szigetti, Marthe Verpoucke and Elisaveta Merkourieva

 

 

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Liza Merkourieva, Business Development and Marketing Communications Consultant