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Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish | rand@moz.com
Fight Back Against Back
Why the back button has become web marketing’s
greatest enemy (and how to defeat it)
Slides online at
bit.ly/backenemy
Let’s Go Back to 2012…
Keywords, content, links, and a
crawlable site could get you here…
And keep you there.
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
On Facebook, the likes and
shares determined how often
you’d be in the news feed of your
fans.
On Twitter, visibility was entirely
determined by publication time.
In 2012, we only had to
worry about the path to
conversion and CRO on our
own sites.
We could let audiences
self-select out of these
phases after an initial visit
without fear of
repercussions
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.
What Happened that Made
2016 so Different?
Google Moved to Learning
Algorithms
Early On, Google Rejected Machine Learning in the
Organic RankingAlgo
Via Datawocky,
2008
Amit Singhal Shared Norvig’s ConcernsAbout ML
Via Quora
In 2012, Google Published a PaperAbout How
they Use ML to Predict Ad CTRs:
Via Google
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.”
By 2013, It Was
Something Google’s
Search Folks Talked
About Publicly
Via SELand
In October of 2015, they
finally revealed
RankBrain, anAI-
system input to the
search rankings
Via Bloomberg Business
As MLTakes Over More of Google’sAlgo, the
Underpinnings of the Rankings Change
Via Colossal
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
Google is PublicAbout How They Use MLin Image
Recognition & Classification
Via Jeff Dean’s Slides on Deep Learning; a Must Read for SEOs
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
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.
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.
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
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…
We’re TalkingAbout
Algorithms that Build
Algorithms
(without human
intervention)
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
Last October, Google Finally Went Public with
Their Use of ML-Based RankBrain
Via Bloomberg Business
And RankBrain is Clearly Important:
Via Bloomberg Business
Google Leverages the Outputs from RankBrain Despite
Not Knowing for Sure What It Uses:
Via SERoundtable
Google’s AI Just Keeps Growing in Power…
Via The Verge
No wonder these guys are stressed about Google
unleashing the Terminators 
Via CNET & Washington Post
But Google Isn’t Alone
Facebook’s Visibility
Algorithms
Via Slate
Machine learning based on
engagement determines
what appears in our
Facebook News Feeds
Twitter’s Emerging Visibility
Plan
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
Instagram’s New Algorithmic
Feed
Instagram
announced the
change March 15th
saying they will
“take their time to
get this right.”
Via Mashable
Engagement is Becoming the
Web’s Universal Quality Metric
Google Suggest
The order of suggestions is
based on engagement w/
those queries
ChromeAutocomplete
Ordered by what I (and
others) have engaged
with most that contain
these letters
Google Maps & Local
Results
Search volume, driving
directions, and SERP
engagement are all
elements of local rankings
Social Networks’“Trending” Content
SuggestedAccounts to Follow
What’s “Important” in Gmail
If lots of folks ignore,
delete, or report spam on
your emails, you won’t
get this label anymore
Sites & Brands Earn an
Engagement Reputation that
Determines Visibility
Quantity of
Posts/Emails/
Pieces of Content/
Rankings/etc
Quantity of
clicks/likes/shares/
reactions/etc
Engagement
Reputation=
Every Time a Visitor Clicks that
Back Button, It Saps Away at
our Reputation
How Do We Fight Back
Against Back?
Understand & Serve All of
Your Visitors’ Intents#1
Don’t JustAsk “Who is My Customer?”
Via Moz
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
If the Competition Delivers Value to Searchers Who
Aren’t Buyers, But You Don’t…
They’re Likely to Win the Engagement Battle
Via JustStand.org
Outearn Your Ranking’s Avg.
Clickthrough Rate#2
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
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?
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.
Driving Up CTR Through Branding Or Branded
Searches May GiveAn Extra Boost
#1 Ad Spender
#2 Ad Spender
#4 Ad Spender
#3 Ad Spender
#5 Ad Spender
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.
Optimize Signal:Noise Ratio
on Every Channel#3
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.
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…
Better Social Shares > More Social Shares
High engagement grows
my reach potential.
Low engagement shrinks
my reach potential.
Better Emails > More Emails
Via Pinpointe.com
Better Emails > More Emails
Via CrazyEgg.com
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!
Put User Experience First in
Your Marketing#4
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
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.
Speed, Speed, and More Speed
Via Moz
Easy, Enjoyable Experience on Every Device
Via CNN
Via CNN
Easy, Enjoyable Experience on Every Device
Engagement, Sharing, & Repeat Visits
Via Meshable.io
Nothing That
Dissuades Or
Annoys Visitors
Ads, more ads, distractions,
and no salary numbers? It’s a
miracle they rank at all.
Cyrus May Have Gone
a Little Overboard…
Via Cyrus on Twitter
Craft Compelling CTAs at
the Top of the Funnel#5
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
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
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
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
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)
Welcome to 2016: A World of
Engagement-Based
Reputation
The Machines Are Judging
Us…
Let’s Show ‘Em
What We Got.
Fight Back Against Back.
Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish | rand@moz.com
Bit.ly/backenemy

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

  • 1. Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish | rand@moz.com Fight Back Against Back Why the back button has become web marketing’s greatest enemy (and how to defeat it)
  • 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
  • 36. Via Slate Machine learning based on engagement determines what appears in our Facebook News Feeds
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 JustStand.org
  • 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.
  • 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 Pinpointe.com
  • 69. Better Emails > More Emails Via CrazyEgg.com
  • 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 Meshable.io
  • 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…
  • 90. Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz | @randfish | rand@moz.com Bit.ly/backenemy