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Fight Back Against Back: How Search Engines & Social Networks' AI Impacts Marketing



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Rand's presentation on machine learning and deep learning in Google, Facebook, and beyond, and how engagement reputation will become key to every online marketing effort.

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Fight Back Against Back: How Search Engines & Social Networks' AI Impacts Marketing

  1. Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish | Fight Back Against Back Why the back button has become web marketing’s greatest enemy (and how to defeat it)
  2. Slides online at
  3. Let’s Go Back to 2012…
  4. Keywords, content, links, and a crawlable site could get you here… And keep you there.
  5. Even if the experience users had wasn’t superb, so long as you could outearn your competitors’ links, you were likely to stay on top
  6. On Facebook, the likes and shares determined how often you’d be in the news feed of your fans.
  7. On Twitter, visibility was entirely determined by publication time.
  8. In 2012, we only had to worry about the path to conversion and CRO on our own sites.
  9. We could let audiences self-select out of these phases after an initial visit without fear of repercussions
  10. If putting a price here meant 80% of visitors left, no problem. So long as the more qualified ones (those we really wanted) stayed, we were doing our jobs.
  11. What Happened that Made 2016 so Different?
  12. Google Moved to Learning Algorithms
  13. Early On, Google Rejected Machine Learning in the Organic RankingAlgo Via Datawocky, 2008
  14. Amit Singhal Shared Norvig’s ConcernsAbout ML Via Quora
  15. In 2012, Google Published a PaperAbout How they Use ML to Predict Ad CTRs: Via Google
  16. 2012 “Our SmartASS system is a machine learning system. It learns whether our users are interested in that ad, and whether users are going to click on them.”
  17. By 2013, It Was Something Google’s Search Folks Talked About Publicly Via SELand
  18. In October of 2015, they finally revealed RankBrain, anAI- system input to the search rankings Via Bloomberg Business
  19. As MLTakes Over More of Google’sAlgo, the Underpinnings of the Rankings Change Via Colossal
  20. Google is PublicAbout How They Use MLin Image Recognition & Classification Potential ID Factors (e.g. color, shapes, gradients, perspective, interlacing, alt tags, surrounding text, etc) Training Data (i.e. human-labeled images) Learning Process Best Match Algo
  21. Google is PublicAbout How They Use MLin Image Recognition & Classification Via Jeff Dean’s Slides on Deep Learning; a Must Read for SEOs
  22. Machine Learning in Search Could Work Like This: Potential Ranking Factors (e.g. PageRank, TF*IDF, Topic Modeling, QDF, Clicks, Entity Association, etc.) Training Data (i.e. good & bad search results) Learning Process Best Fit Algo
  23. Training Data (e.g. good search results) This is a good SERP – searchers rarely bounce, rarely short-click, and rarely need to enter other queries or go to page 2.
  24. Training Data (e.g. bad search results!) This is a bad SERP – searchers bounce often, click other results, rarely long-click, and try other queries. They’re definitely not happy.
  25. The Machines Learn to Emulate the Good Results & Try to Fix orTweak the Bad Results Potential Ranking Factors (e.g. PageRank, TF*IDF, Topic Modeling, QDF, Clicks, Entity Association, etc.) Training Data (i.e. good & bad search results) Learning Process Best Fit Algo
  26. Deep Learning is Even MoreAdvanced: Dean says by using deep learning, they don’t have to tell the system what a cat is, the machines learn, unsupervised, for themselves…
  27. We’re TalkingAbout Algorithms that Build Algorithms (without human intervention)
  28. Googlers Don’t Feed in Ranking Factors… The Machines Determine Those Themselves. Potential Ranking Factors (e.g. PageRank, TF*IDF, Topic Modeling, QDF, Clicks, Entity Association, etc.) Training Data (i.e. good search results) Learning Process Best Fit Algo
  29. Last October, Google Finally Went Public with Their Use of ML-Based RankBrain Via Bloomberg Business
  30. And RankBrain is Clearly Important: Via Bloomberg Business
  31. Google Leverages the Outputs from RankBrain Despite Not Knowing for Sure What It Uses: Via SERoundtable
  32. Google’s AI Just Keeps Growing in Power… Via The Verge
  33. No wonder these guys are stressed about Google unleashing the Terminators  Via CNET & Washington Post
  34. But Google Isn’t Alone
  35. Facebook’s Visibility Algorithms
  36. Via Slate Machine learning based on engagement determines what appears in our Facebook News Feeds
  37. Twitter’s Emerging Visibility Plan
  38. Twitter’s new home screen will work the same way – highlighting the “most important” (aka “most engaged-with”) tweets from accounts you follow Via Mashable
  39. Instagram’s New Algorithmic Feed
  40. Instagram announced the change March 15th saying they will “take their time to get this right.” Via Mashable
  41. Engagement is Becoming the Web’s Universal Quality Metric
  42. Google Suggest The order of suggestions is based on engagement w/ those queries
  43. ChromeAutocomplete Ordered by what I (and others) have engaged with most that contain these letters
  44. Google Maps & Local Results Search volume, driving directions, and SERP engagement are all elements of local rankings
  45. Social Networks’“Trending” Content
  46. SuggestedAccounts to Follow
  47. What’s “Important” in Gmail If lots of folks ignore, delete, or report spam on your emails, you won’t get this label anymore
  48. Sites & Brands Earn an Engagement Reputation that Determines Visibility
  49. Quantity of Posts/Emails/ Pieces of Content/ Rankings/etc Quantity of clicks/likes/shares/ reactions/etc Engagement Reputation=
  50. Every Time a Visitor Clicks that Back Button, It Saps Away at our Reputation
  51. How Do We Fight Back Against Back?
  52. Understand & Serve All of Your Visitors’ Intents#1
  53. Don’t JustAsk “Who is My Customer?” Via Moz
  54. Ask “WhatAreAll the Needs of These Searchers?” Then ServeAs Many as Possible You might be trying to sell desks, but searchers are seeking answers to all of these
  55. If the Competition Delivers Value to Searchers Who Aren’t Buyers, But You Don’t…
  56. They’re Likely to Win the Engagement Battle Via
  57. Outearn Your Ranking’s Avg. Clickthrough Rate#2
  58. Optimize the Title, Meta Description, & URL a Little for Keywords, but a Lot for Clicks If you rank #3, but have a higher- than-average CTR for that position, you might get moved up. Via Philip Petrescu on Moz
  59. Every Element Counts Does the title match what searchers want? Does the URL seem compelling? Do searchers recognize & want to click your domain? Is your result fresh? Do searchers want a newer result? Does the description create curiosity & entice a click? Do you get the brand dropdown?
  60. Given Google Often Tests New Results Briefly on Page One… ItMayBeWorthRepeatedPublicationonaTopictoEarnthatHighCTR Shoot! My post only made it to #15… Perhaps I’ll try again in a few months.
  61. Driving Up CTR Through Branding Or Branded Searches May GiveAn Extra Boost
  62. #1 Ad Spender #2 Ad Spender #4 Ad Spender #3 Ad Spender #5 Ad Spender
  63. With Google Trends’ new, more accurate, more customizable ranges, you can actually watch the effects of events and ads on search query volume Fitbit was running ads on Sunday NFL games that clearly show in the search trends data.
  64. Optimize Signal:Noise Ratio on Every Channel#3
  65. Better Content > More Content A lot of SEO used to be about establishing authority through brute quantity, but Panda, and now Rankbrain, are changing that.
  66. Better Social Shares > More Social Shares Via Rand’s Facebook Page When I have a successful post on Facebook, it boosts Facebook’s likelihood to show my posts in the future…
  67. Better Social Shares > More Social Shares High engagement grows my reach potential. Low engagement shrinks my reach potential.
  68. Better Emails > More Emails Via
  69. Better Emails > More Emails Via
  70. Better Rankings > More Rankings A brand that consistently gets on page 1 but isn’t holding searchers’ interest or develops a negative brand reputation in SERPs may find those page 1 rankings are hurting their ability to get #1 rankings!
  71. Put User Experience First in Your Marketing#4
  72. Speed, speed, and more speed Delivers an easy, enjoyable experience on every device Compels visitors to engage, share, & return Avoids features that dissuade or annoy visitors Authoritative, comprehensive content that’s uniquely valuable vs. what anyone else in your space provides The Marketer’s User Experience Checklist
  73. Uniquely Valuable Content Via R2D3 Lots of articles try to explain machine learning, but this one SHOWS how it works in a way anyone can grasp.
  74. Speed, Speed, and More Speed Via Moz
  75. Easy, Enjoyable Experience on Every Device Via CNN
  76. Via CNN Easy, Enjoyable Experience on Every Device
  77. Engagement, Sharing, & Repeat Visits Via
  78. Nothing That Dissuades Or Annoys Visitors Ads, more ads, distractions, and no salary numbers? It’s a miracle they rank at all.
  79. Cyrus May Have Gone a Little Overboard… Via Cyrus on Twitter
  80. Craft Compelling CTAs at the Top of the Funnel#5
  81. Top-of-Funnel Content Can’t Be Used Solely to Filter Out the Non-Customers Trying to rank w/ content that only serves one niche of your search audience may be a recipe for failure
  82. FightingAgainst Back Means Serving a Broader Audience AngelList’s tool makes salary comparison easy, fast, and serves a huge range of roles, locations, and markets Via AngelList
  83. Or, Getting More Precise with Your Search Query -> Content Targeting By targeting a less competitive, lower volume query, Compass can reach the audience they’re seeking
  84. Either Way, Engagement Metrics on Content Must Become KPIs Improving Pages/Session and lowering Bounce Rate should probably play a “link-building- like” role in your SEO arsenal
  85. Our Content CTAs Deserve to Be Customized, Tested, & Refined (just like conversion-focused landing pages) e.g. I bet I could make a better CTA for the comparison tool than this (which looks far too much like an ad IMO) Via Talkpay (Comparably’s Blog)
  86. Welcome to 2016: A World of Engagement-Based Reputation
  87. The Machines Are Judging Us…
  88. Let’s Show ‘Em What We Got.
  89. Fight Back Against Back.
  90. Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish |