Frederick Vallaeys (Optmyzer): ‘We are currently witnessing the biggest mindshift in PPC in the past 20 years’

Nowadays automation handles most details within PPC efforts, which according to Frederick Vallaeys, Cofounder & CEO at Optmyzer and speaker at Friends of Search 2022, ‘forms the biggest mindshift in PPC in the past 20 years.’ The automated Performance Max Campaigns that Google will introduce shortly are part of this movement. We got the chance to talk to Frederick before his talk at Friends of Search.

Nice to have you back on stage at Friends of Search again in Amsterdam and Brussels. What are you looking forward to the most visiting Friends of Search 2022?

I can’t wait to eat ‘Stroopwafels’ and drink a ‘glas melk’ (glass of milk). The Netherlands is a great market for us as a company and I’m looking forward to meeting customers to find out about their recent challenges. These in-person interactions always lead to interesting ideas for new PPC management tools that can make advertisers’ lives easier. The Netherlands is very advanced in PPC advertising, which adds to the value of the feedback. Belgium is great because I’m Flemish so after speaking at Friends of Search in Brussels I will have the opportunity to visit my ‘Oma’ (Grandma).

In your book ‘Unlevel the Playing Field’ you tell readers about the biggest mindshift in PPC. Can you briefly tell us about the concept you write about in the book?

Currently we are witnessing the biggest mindshift in PPC in the past 20 years. We are used to managing details: managing bids, ad texts, queries, etc. to get more conversions from our campaigns. But nowadays automation handles most of these details so our roles need to shift to managing higher level details at the boundaries of the ad systems. For example, it’s more about optimizing structured data, setting the right goals and providing feedback to the system via better value reporting (in conversion tracking and with offline conversion data).

Another important element of modern PPC is automation layering. In my first book, Digital Marketing in an AI World, I wrote that humans should play the roles of Doctor, Pilot and Teacher to get the most out of automated PPC. But some of these roles can be very time-consuming. By using simple automations like scripts and PPC tools, you can recoup a lot of that time while still guiding the sophisticated machine learning algorithms from Google to do the best job for your business.

Remember Google’s machine learning can only optimize based on factors it knows. Advertisers should enhance performance by adding signals that are critical to their business and that Google may not be aware of. For example, do your customers book more luxurious hotel rooms when the stock market performs better? Perhaps that means that you should adapt your messaging as the stock market performance changes.

Google quite recently introduced Performance Max campaigns as its newest campaign type within Google Ads. Essentially, you could have a single campaign to help you manage creatives, targeting, channels, placements, budget and campaign goals. What are your thoughts on the concept of this campaign type?

It is another way for Google to deliver advertisers more automation. The concept of the campaigns is quite good and it makes advertising very easy. Most people I talked to report good results. The downside of the campaign type is the portfolio management of the channels. It aims to maximize conversions while staying inside the tCPA or tROAS boundaries but because this is averaging everything together, underperforming ads can be subsidized by overperforming ads. This hides optimization opportunities behind a screen of automated bidding. I’d rather know that some segment is underperforming and address the root cause.

What are your experiences with Google’s newest campaign type Performance Max? The good and the bad..

The additional reach by using all the different placements and channels drives incrementality for most advertisers. The lack of control and insights makes it difficult to learn from the campaign performance to optimize your account. A broader downside of the automation within Google Ads is that underperforming targeting options can be solved by bidding lower. Let’s say performance is less in Paris, Google Ads will bid lower in Paris. But why is Paris underperforming? You need to understand why and for example change your proposition for Paris.

I do love the concept of ads that are automatically created on the fly. In our recent RSA study, we see a tremendous 2x lift in impressions for ad groups that use RSAs. And even though conversion rates are about 11% lower, at the end of the day, automated ads drive more conversions. But I’m not a big fan of Ad Strength right now. It is a best practice score based on what everyone else has done, instead of your specific situation. Let’s say you work at the marketing department of Nike and you would write ‘Nike – Just Do It’ in your ad copy, Ad Strength might say: The Ad Strength of this ad is bad, because the term ‘sneakers’ is not in the copy. It’s also not a score that takes performance into account so when this new line of messaging delivers amazing results, it might still recommend you change the headline. I think the Ad Strength will get more useful over time, but for now advanced advertisers can probably ignore it.

Should an advertiser start testing this? If so, what would be your recommended approach?

Definitely Yes. Especially if you’re doing Smart Shopping campaigns or Local campaigns, Google will soon upgrade these campaign types into Performance Max campaigns. But even if you’re not running Smart Shopping or Local campaigns it is important to test it. You can get interesting insights from the audience data within Performance Max and add those audiences to your regular shopping, search and display campaigns. It is also important to build knowledge on the right approach for your specific account and how to incorporate Performance Max in your Google Ads strategy. Depending on the number of products you have, you should decide to create one or multiple Performance Max campaigns. Especially if those products have different margins, and hence different ROAS targets, it is important to split out the products in multiple campaigns.

Performance Max has less reporting data, less manual optimization options and 1st party data seems to unlevel the playing field ;-). How do you think this will impact the whole ecosystem of PPC advertising?

With all automations you still have to know the opportunities within Google Ads. In-house teams and agencies will need to create the right creatives and translate business objectives into campaign goals. It will also become even more important to feed Google Ads with the right business data, to be able to optimise the campaigns for your specific situation instead of on generic factors.

Hypothetically speaking: I just graduated from college in 2022 and would like to start a career of PPC advertising, where should I start? (next to visiting Friends of Search ;-))

One piece of advice: You graduated in a field with a ton of automation. Don’t forget the fundamentals of Google Ads, for example, how a target ROAS might use predictive algorithms to calculate the CPC that is used in the auction to ranks ads. When you know how that works, you will be able to understand how an event at your company, like a weekend sale, might impact performance and what levers you could pull to drive the best results in that scenario.

We’re really looking forward to your session. Can you give us a sneak peek of what you will be sharing on stage?

It is going to be about the biggest mindshift in PPC in the past 20 years. What I will talk about in my session is what modern PPC management looks like. We are not going to be talking about keywords or how to set bids. But we are going to talk about how to set goals and use business data to your advantage. I will also be sharing insights on the third round of RSA research we just completed last month, just in time for the upcoming migration from ETAs to RSAs at Google and Microsoft.

Lily Ray (Amsive Digital): ‘Any SEO who hasn’t jumped onto the E-A-T wave is not playing close enough attention’

According to Lily Ray (Amsive Digital) ‘any SEO who hasn’t jumped onto the E-A-T wave is not paying close enough attention to what Google has been up to in recent years.’ A bold a bold statement, but true if you believe ‘E-A-T should serve as the backbone to all SEO activities’, as Lily claims. We are thrilled that Lily will be speaking at this year’s edition of Friends of Search. Daan Aussems, Teamlead SEO at SDIM, got the chance to talk with her beforehand. 

Hi Lily, For those who do not know you. Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got into SEO?  

Hi! I’m Lily Ray and I serve as the Senior SEO Director & Head of Organic Research at Amsive Digital, a digital marketing agency based in New York City.  

I started doing SEO in 2010; although I was studying Politics and Spanish at NYU, I found a job posting for a job doing SEO and social media marketing and it sounded interesting to me. After a few months on the job, I quickly realized I had a knack for SEO and decided to pursue it as a career. Best decision I ever made! I moved into the SEO agency world a couple of years later and have been there ever since.

I’ve read that you are a DJ and a drummer. After heavy techno sets on the weekends, how do you manage to keep yourself fresh to dig into Google Patents and E-A-T the next day? 

I’ve been living somewhat of a “double life” for as long as I can remember. I started playing drums when I was 6 and began playing in rock bands when I was about 12. I spent my high school years playing in rock bands in San Francisco at night, and trying to maintain straight A’s in honors classes during the day. That set me up for a life of balance, as a DJ, drummer and SEO. I love working and using my brain, but always need to let loose and enjoy music and dancing in my free time. Balance is everything.

You’ve been an SEO for over 12 years now. How do you keep being inspired and what keeps you motivated? 

I’m lucky to have an incredible SEO team of 32+ people (and growing!) at Amsive Digital, all of whom are brilliant minds who challenge me, teach me new things, and inspire me to think differently about SEO. Learning from them and serving as a mentor for many of them is an honor for me and deeply fulfilling, professionally. 

I used to be much more hands-on with tactical SEO work earlier in my career, but have been lucky to evolve my day-to-day role into doing more research about what Google is up to on a broader scale. This shift has kept the job really exciting for me.

Lily Ray and E-A-T are almost synonymous. At friends of Search, you are talking about it as well. What makes E-A-T so important for digital marketers, and SEO specifically? 

In my honest and controversial opinion, any SEO who hasn’t jumped onto the E-A-T wave is not paying close enough attention to what Google has been up to in recent years. Google has clearly been trying to solve for what it means for individuals, brands, and websites to demonstrate expertise, authority and trust, as a way to improve the overall quality of its search results. We see the results of these efforts every day in our work, especially when Google rolls out broad core updates. E-A-T is a hard concept to grasp and even harder to optimize for, but understanding that it should serve as the backbone to all SEO activities is crucial. This is especially true for Your Money, Your Life (YMYL) sites. 

In a lot of presentations about E-A-T, you evaluate winners versus losers in organic performance. Can you pinpoint some insights the winners have in common?  

In previous years, I would have told you that the winning sites tend to double down on providing “transparency” signals to the user, such as who writes the content, which experts review it, their editorial process, why you should trust them, who they are, etc.  

This is all still true, but I believe Google is becoming increasingly more sophisticated about identifying who the true experts and true authorities are. It’s not enough to just add E-A-T enhancements to the content or look for shortcuts; if the site doesn’t have a proven track record of demonstrating authority on the topic (in the form of robust, high-quality content, authoritative backlinks and depth of coverage), it will be very hard to compete across many categories.  

Over the last years, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the way Google shows its organic results. Some examples are the prominent FAQ boxes, more local packs and for affiliate sites, it’s getting harder to get organic traffic because Google is showing product comparisons directly in the SERP. With these updates what’s your opinion on how websites should monitor their organic visibility? 

It’s true that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to monitor changes with all the new SERP features, which seem to change almost every day! And given that Google Search Console doesn’t report back on all these features, it can be very confusing to get a good handle on how exactly your site is appearing in the search results. 

I would strongly encourage all SEOs to use rank tracking tools that include screenshots of the SERP, such as Stat or SEMrush, and to track keywords from a variety of relevant locations and devices. It’s also very important to understand all the reporting metrics in Google Search Console, because they can often be confusing, even for advanced SEOs.  

You are mentioning in one of your talks that when websites focus on a lot of different categories it is harder to build authority for all those categories. Do you see a chance for niche websites to gain more organic visibility when they are focussing on E-A-T?  

Yes, I do think this is a trend that is growing and one worth paying attention to. That said, it’s not enough to just build a “niche site.” The site has to be built with real expertise, not just re-hashing what everyone else has already said on the topic. Google seems to be rewarding sites who focus in one area, or a closely related set of topics, and demonstrate first-person expertise in these areas with original ideas. 

E-A-T is especially important for YMYL websites. How does Google check if an author is actually an expert or that the article is evidence-based? 

I believe that Google has been doing this for a long time, starting with Author Rank and moving into the Knowledge Graph. Google is trying to identify all the relevant entities in the world and evaluate E-A-T on the entity level. Google obviously can’t know every single author and certainly doesn’t have all of them included in the Knowledge Graph, but there is evidence showing that Google can still recognize entities outside of the Knowledge Graph, such as in the “Articles” carousel.  

Authors should focus on building out a robust profile for themselves and provide quality content on the topics where they have proven expertise. Sourcing other authoritative sites is always a good practice, as well.  

What are the challenges for us SEO’s in the coming years? 

Google continues to roll out SERP features that cut into organic traffic, which has always been somewhat of an existential threat to SEO. Also, as Google gets smarter with looking for information in different formats and different languages, this makes it even more competitive for your content to rise the top. It’s important to make your brand and your content as visible as possible not only across search, but with video, audio, podcast, multilingual content, and any other medium that makes sense for your business. 

Is there any chance you are dropping a set in the Amsterdam nightlife scene any time soon? 

I would love nothing more! Let’s make it happen. 

Lily Ray will be speaking at Friends of Search 2022 on June 14 (Amsterdam) and 15 (Brussels).

Rodney Ip (Google): ‘Performance Max helps our advertisers stay ahead of ongoing changes in consumer behaviour’

According to Rodney Ip (Google), Performance Max Campaigns are the next big thing in PPC. ‘It brings together the best of Google’s automation to help our advertisers grow conversions across our full range of ad inventory’. We are thrilled that he will be speaking at this year’s edition of Friends of Search. Martijn Beumer, co-founder Producthero, got the chance to talk with him beforehand.

Rodney Ip is Global Product Lead at Google and working on the product strategy and go-to-market of Performance Max campaigns, Google’s newest campaign type within Google Ads that leverages the best of machine learning. It helps capture customers across all Google Ads channels from a single campaign.

What does a day in the life of a Global Product Lead at Google look like?

One of the things I love about working at Google in a Global Product Lead role is actually that every day is vastly different. One thing that remains consistent is that we’re always working on initiatives that help our advertisers drive growth for their businesses via Google Ads. Being in a global role, more often than not it can start early and can end late, checking in on the latest product improvements from our Engineers & Product Managers in Zurich or New York, working on the next Keyword Blogpost with our Marketing team in San Francisco, or getting feedback from our regional go-to-market and sales teams in London, Singapore, Chicago to ensure customers globally are offered the best Google Ads experience. Google is dedicated to ensuring employees have a strong work-life-balance and as such our team is supportive of flexible work hours, so throughout the day I try to take a run or bike-ride around Downtown Manhattan (New York) to maintain energy for the rest of the day.

Performance Max is a new campaign type within Google Ads. Can you briefly describe what this campaign type does and why advertisers need this?

Performance Max is our newest campaign type that aims to deliver better ROI and the greatest channel coverage of any other Google Ads campaign.

It brings together the best of Google’s automation to help our advertisers grow conversions across our full range of ad inventory and stay ahead of ongoing changes in consumer behavior. Due to the automation, it’s super easy to use and saves our users a lot of time during campaign setup, reporting and optimization so our users can spend more time on experimenting and identifying strategic opportunities to grow.

Performance Max takes the guesswork out of figuring out the right mix of channels, inventory and formats by optimizing these in real time to help advertisers capture conversions they otherwise would have missed. On average, our advertisers are seeing conversion uplift of +13% when they launch a Performance Max campaign alongside existing campaigns.

Many agencies and ads specialists are in the middle of sorting out how to approach Performance Max for their accounts and what place it must have within their current campaign setup. Do you have valuable best-practices and recommendations for them? 

Before Google, I worked at WPP in Australia, so very cognizant there may need to be some planning required when Performance Max is implemented. However, Performance Max performance uplift is strong and we’re working to help our customers adapt . What we’re seeing a lot is advertisers carving out channel agnostic performance test budgets to run Performance Max. Channel budgets are still used for existing channel-based campaigns. On average, advertisers testing Performance Max alongside existing campaigns are seeing great uplift in conversion performance.

From a technical perspective, Performance Max currently supports lower-funnel conversion goals so many of the best practices that our experts use for these types of campaigns are transferable. A few easy principles to remember is that 1. Performance Max is goal based and automation will maximize results if you define the goal and it’s value to your business, so ensure Performance Max is set up to target goals important to your business with defined values so automation can prioritize these. 2. Add as many assets as you can to your Performance Max campaign so automation can create the strongest creative and optimize these if you see any with a ‘Low’ performance score. 3. Lastly, Performance Max automation works more effectively when it has more data, so use features like Audience Signals and URL Expansion to help your Performance Max campaign use your data to learn. There’s a link here for more best practices for Performance Max. As a teaser, I’ll also be sharing more best practices at the Friends of Search conference in Amsterdam and Brussels in June!

What do  you recommend to Smart Shopping advertisers who have not yet begun upgrg their existing campaigns to Performance Max? 

We just launched a Performance Max migration tool in Google Ads to eligible advertisers and have been encouraged by the advertisers who have already started upgrading their campaigns. Smart Shopping advertisers that see these Recommendations in their accounts can see a forecast of the sales uplift from migrating Smart Shopping to Performance Max and easily upgrade their Smart Shopping campaigns. So far, SSC advertisers migrating to Performance Max are seeing a 12% increase in conversion value so it’s recommended that advertisers take advantage of this feature where it’s eligible.

With Performance Max, Google has migrated all advertising possibilities in one campaign. Medium/Large advertisers will probably not settle with the idea of just having one campaign. What kind of Performance Max campaign segmentations do you see emerging (in the future)?

In Google Ads, we have not seen a correlation between a higher number of campaigns getting better campaign performance. What we have seen at scale is that those advertisers that leverage automation features x-channel are getting strong performance uplift. Based on this insight, we are investing in more sophisticated features within Performance Max, such as expanding on the marketing objectives and goals that you can target with Performance Max, and developing more Insights and Optiscore Recommendations so our advertisers can continue to learn more about automation and provide inputs to grow performance.

Any new features for Performance Max that Google is working on where you can already give us a hint about?

An upcoming feature I’m super excited about will be updates that we have coming for Performance Max Insights. Advertisers have been asking us for more insights so I’m excited about the new Audience/Assets insight card to see which ads are resonating with which audience.

As well as this, being a data nerd myself, A/B Experiments for Performance Max will be a great way for advertisers to easily test the impact that Performance Max has on their results and the best set up moving forward.

What can people expect from your session at Friends of Search?

I mentioned earlier in the ‘day in the life of a Global Product Lead’ question, all the initiatives I work on revolve around helping advertisers drive growth for their businesses – my session at Friends of Search will be no different. You can expect to hear about Google’s latest innovations to help your business grow and how you can leverage best practices to maximize this. I’m looking forward to meeting all the brilliant experts in the EU and hearing the feedback on Performance Max.

Bartosz Góralewicz (Onely) “The internet is only going to get bigger and more complex and difficult to render”

With Google increasingly revealing the workings behind their platforms and tools, SEOs have to evolve and become even more technical, according to Bartosz Góralewicz, CEO at Onely. Still, there’s a reluctance among SEO’s to evolve: “SEO’s simply don’t care.”

In this interview Gerk Mulder (Briljante Geesten) speaks with Bartosz Góralewicz (Onely), one of the star speakers in the line-up of the upcoming edition of Friends of Search, on November 16 (Amsterdam) and 17 (Brussels).

Bartosz Góralewicz, finally! You are a kind of mythical figure to me. In 2016, when I was still working at my former SEO agency, we were still speculating about the future of link building. In those days, we were also very angry at JavaScript. Those were also the days we could still extract organic keywords from Google Analytics. And there it was, an experiment from Poland; What we only dared to dream about (but had no idea how to set up and implement) had suddenly become reality. In 2016 you gave us the Javascript SEO Experiment! Which was jokingly referred to as “eksperyment” by me and my colleagues. Your experiment was a revelation in the SEO agency world. Everybody was talking about it. What did the experiment bring you?

It means a lot to hear you were so positive about the experiment. So, throughout all these years, I keep on finding out more and more about what happened in 2016. We actually gathered a lot of understanding of how Google renders now. And to be honest, the research way back then seems a bit naive. As of 2021, we’ve actually done a few other experiments and pieces of research I expected to  go even more viral than the one in 2016.

What I got from our 2016 research, long story short, is that Google doesn’t know a lot about mechanisms. They don’t know how they work. Obviously, they design it with the best intentions. But then a lot of those elements don’t work as planned. This led us to the indexing and rendering research we started 3 years ago, which resulted in finding literally hundreds of rendering issues. The problem is that this research is way more significant than the first JavaScript experiment in 2016, but nobody gives a peep. Like partial indexing, it affects pretty much every single e-commerce store. Did you know that only 45% of big webshops get indexed? This should be the single most shocking element in the industry, but SEOs don’t really seem to care.

That’s shocking indeed! I have heard from a SEO at the biggest e-commerce store in the Netherlands how hard it is to get their content and products indexed. That’s is why crawler CPU and crawl budgets are getting stricter, which results in us keeping our sites really light. Is that the best way to handle it?

This is not as complex as creating a viral link campaign. I would assume that creating a 100% organic backlink campaign that’s really good is way more difficult. It has a lot more metrics, so you simply cannot control this by just optimizing your website and have it rendered and indexed properly. But Google is decreasing crawling indeed.

I had a discussion with Martin Splitt after a webinar on rendering we hosted. Martin kept saying – and this is a common problem with Googlers – that rendering is not the problem and that Google does not have a problem with rendering and indexing. But at the webinar, he said that only 25% of a website is indexed, while websites should be fully indexable. The problem is the heavy rendering. Google cannot admit openly and say “Folks, we’re struggling with rendering” because it reflects bad on them. And other search engines are working on a different solution.

We have some interesting data, something that will be of interest to you. We didn’t publish this yet. Something I want to talk about at Friends of Search: Google actually decreased crawling rates threefold. Right now they’re only crawling a third of what they crawled in June. And it’s becoming less and less.

So is that why you are calling it Rendering SEO and not Technical SEO anymore? 

Technical SEO got so much more technical throughout the last two years that I don’t think technical SEO is a proper name for it anymore. I remember technical SEO being just about optimizing titles five years ago. Now, it’s all about core web vitals, the critical rendering path, how Google renders, and if content is visible for different user agents. I could go on about this for hours. So, I think this is one of the most exciting times for technical SEO because we never had this much data about how Google works. Google’s not really a black box anymore. Maybe it’s more of a gray box now. But despite this knowledge, it’s very difficult to get the community to shift being this technical, towards being this deep in the code, working this close with dev teams. Still, I do believe that a lot of technical SEO’s eventually want to evolve. They have a massive opportunity.

It’s very interesting that we learn more about how Google works, but that they are hiding their rendering issues at the same time. What are your thoughts on that?

I don’t think Google has enough quality assurance around to double check that what they think is happening. This is mostly because of their reliance on buggy tools like Google Search Console. There’s enough examples of URLs that have been in the index for two years, but that are reported as such in Search Console, or the other way around. This is something we checked on large scale.

What Google should say is “we have a problem with heavy JavaScript websites”, which is hard to admit for a company like Google, as it would be for any large company to admit their faults. Google actually did start talking about the indexing queue for the first time. So now we know that there is a queue to get indexed, and that you can get kicked out as well.

Technical SEO is now about an in-depth understanding of the critical rendering path, of how the web browser is working for the core web vitals, and how web rendering service on Google’s side is working for the SEO reasons. And those two are completely different ecosystems. But they’re both very complex. The internet is only going to get bigger and more complex and expensive to render.

In the whole field of SEO, how would you divide your attention between rendering in comparison to content and links?

I think this is not one of those black and white answers. I think if you have a small website, and not pushing 3 megabytes of JavaScript, I would focus on nice architecture and good content marketing. But if you have a large, long-existing website then I would tackle the technical side first.

For instance, let’s say you have a small WordPress website, ensure your theme is lightweight with no heavy stuff like JavaScript. If you’ve done that, I would only focus on building some links through the most white-hat method you’re able to. But at the same time, if you’re a software house, getting organic links is fairly easy. So, depending on that, I would find a way that’s the least aggressive, let’s call it that. On the other hand, if you are a company like Walmart, Amazon, or the Guardian, I wouldn’t worry about links at all and focus heavily on handling the technical .

So did you start your SEO career with purely link building? How did your career progress over the years?

In the beginning of my twelve-year career it was purely black-hat, not something I’m very proud of. But I think this allowed me to learn quite a bit of both ends, so I can see a full spectrum. Just to give you an idea, we started with affiliate websites. We would rank high for some of the most competitive keywords, but all short-term and very black-hat and nothing to be extremely proud of. Even though it was good money at times, we had a bit of a hard time with the first couple of Google updates. I kept on going into understanding of why this was happening. That eventually drove me to patents. And to be honest, this was the most exciting thing ever because I thought “If we can understand that, we can deliver way more to the business owners than through this kind of ridiculous nonsense, the black-hat thing.”

When I first started researching this, and start talking and publishing about it, especially in Poland, people would say, “Okay, there are white-hat SEOs, and there are SEOs with traffic,” and all those funny jokes like, “This is never going to work out.” I wanted to find a niche, and I wanted to understand something that nobody knew about. We started researching some websites that couldn’t recover. That’s how we found one website with this preloader wheel that was blocking the indexing of the whole website. That was shocking, and this led us to JavaScript research.

Cool to see how you have evolved in your SEO journey, and also, thanks for fucking up the internet! So, from link building to patents, which led to JavaScript and rendering. What do you think is coming our way as SEOs? Are we still going to have a job (Jono Alderson and Rand Fishkin certainly think we don’t)?

Fucking up the internet, guilty haha! I remember those conversations. They changed a little bit, but they never disappeared. So, after the first Panda and first Penguin, I remember a lot of people thought that everyone was going to move to a different search engine, either Bing, DuckDuckGo or something like those.” But they didn’t and they won’t. Google is going to take more and more because they’re a company.

But if you think about that, this is going to affect very low-hanging fruit that people are used to getting. So, if you search for something that can be answered in Google and this is your daily bread and butter, there’s something significantly wrong with that. Imagine you’re a weather forecast company, it’s either going to be Google showing the weather in searches, or there’s going to be an app on your phone and so on. So, I think this is just progress of technology. Still, this is a slow progress. If you told me five years ago what SEO would be right now, I would not believe you. SEO is now different per vertical, per way of working. In some verticals the success rate is for 90%  about links. But it is really shifting slowly.

It’s the same with content. Even how you create the content is shifting. What we’re seeing is not really about the length of the content. It’s about who can tackle that content first. There are a lot of websites with 300 words, that completely outrank websites with 3000 words. The one with 3000 is just not written very well. And Google is really focusing on killing those queries quickly. The focus is slowly shifting from “I wrote the most on the topic,” to, “I wrote it in a way that’s the most digestible.” So next to not needing many links, you also don’t even need a ton of content. Maybe you just need to make your content better or just somehow unique. In conclusion, I believe that we will still have jobs but that they will be more and more technical and focused on content.

So in short, your advice for future SEOs would be: get technical and know your end-user?

90% of the problems coming to us are about website owners not fully understanding who’s coming to their website and why, and what their challenges are? Are they using the same device, are they from different cities, how to look at intent? In the end, it’s about connecting the technological layer with the UX and psychological layers. And if these two are in line, there’s no stopping you.

Interview Frederick Vallaeys: “Search professionals need to understand how they can collaborate with automation technology, rather than compete against it.”

Automation is playing an ever-more important role in PPC. According to Frederick Vallaeys, CEO at Optmyzr and speaker at Friends of Search BE, search professionals need to understand how they can collaborate with automation technology, rather than compete against it. In this interview Vallaeys talks about the three ways to do this, and gives a preview on his presentation at Friends of Search 2021 in Brussels.

You’re a well known speaker, writer and SAAS-entrepreneur in PPC. For the people who are new in PPC, or haven’t read your book yet: Digital Marketing in an AI World (They should, it’s a great read). Who is Frederick Vallaeys?
There are so many ways to answer this question… Aren’t we all so much more than what we can write down! But what’s probably most interesting in the context of Friends of Search is that I am a Belgian who moved to Silicon Valley at the age of 15. I was enthralled with technology and startups and jumped at the chance to be hired by Google as one of their first 500 employees. They needed someone who spoke Dutch to help translate AdWords and support customers in the Benelux.

A funny story is that Google cofounder, Sergey (Brin), introduced me to the other Googlers at our weekly company meeting by saying: “This is Fred, he’s drinking a Heineken because he’s Dutch!” I made sure the next week they served some Belgian beers too! But I suppose Sergey bucketing me together with a whole different country because of my language wasn’t as egregious a mistake as the one committed by several others who constantly stopped by my desk asking me to translate something from a .dk website. They’d ask “Aren’t Danish and Dutch basically the same?”

In your book there are three roles for PPC experts: The Doctor, the Teacher and the Pilot. Can you explain the concept briefly and what would be your personal favorite role? And why?
The core idea is that automation is playing an ever-more important role in PPC and search professionals need to understand how they can collaborate rather than compete against technology.

There are 3 ways to do this, based on jobs we’re all familiar with:

  1. The doctor diagnoses the problem, recommends a way to fix things, and prevents bad interactions of the ‘medicine’ to fix the patient.
  2. The pilot monitors the automated systems, intervenes when needed to prevent disaster, and when thought of as a fighter pilot, knows which buttons to push to beat the competition.
  3. The teacher teaches the machine learning systems how to perform better and get the advertiser more of what they truly want.

I personally like the teacher role. Figuring out how to manipulate the machines into doing my work for me is really exciting.

Where do you find the inspiration for coming up with ideas for your content and the software you develop?
A lot of my inspiration comes from interacting with smart people at conferences. One time I sat in a session about Shopping Campaigns with a big audience. All the panelists complained about the same problem: how much time it took to build a shopping campaign with the structure they wanted. Then I asked if anyone had seen a solution and when nobody had one, I went back to the office and we built a solution in a few weeks.

It helps that I worked at Google for so long. I feel like I have a pretty decent sense for what Google is thinking and what problems they’re prioritizing. That leaves me and my team at Optmyzr with a good opportunity to fill the gaps and build solutions that Google cares less about.

What are you currently working on?
We’re seeing a continued shift towards smart bidding so we’re adding new capabilities to support advertisers who use automated bidding from Google, but who also still want the ability to optimize their bids further. It all comes down to better communicating what your goals are to the machines, the teacher role we covered above. So we have tools to change tROAS and tCPA based on your business data (like a promotional calendar, margins, etc.) or to do it automatically based on shifts in competition like when the impression share lost due to rank changes. And then we’re going even further by building ways to make new tools from Google, like Value Rules, much simpler to set up and maintain.

We’re also working on tools that take structured data, like a product feed, for example, and turning this into a fully-built, inventory-driven account with a variety of campaign types and all the modern ad formats that Google supports. These are all huge time-savers, and in this day-and-age of supply chain issues and labor shortages, are really great solutions for teams that take PPC seriously.

Hypothetical: As an e-commerce advertiser, I paused all my regular campaigns and I started using Smart Shopping campaigns, Performance Max campaigns and Smart Display campaigns. Initial results are great, but over time performance is declining. What can I do to analyze and optimize my campaigns?
This is exactly the problem of a set-it-and-forget-it approach to automation. It’s nice when things go well, but when things go wrong, there often aren’t any settings to tweak so you can either wait and hope for a recovery or revert to a campaign type with more control.
In my next book I talk about automation layering, the idea that you can maintain your own tools and scripts that control the automations from Google. When you deploy automation layering, you get the time savings of automation, you get the performance gains from modern tools from the ad engines, like smart bidding, AND you also retain control because you have an automation where you control the settings and you’re not completely dependent on Google.

Google released a blogpost that performance max campaigns show very promising results. Do you have any experiences on this new campaign type you can share?
I think it’s great that Google is making it easier for small business owners to be able to be successful at PPC without having to get a mini-education in search marketing. Campaign types like Performance Max and Smart Shopping are great for these advertisers. I work much more with professional marketers and people who live and breathe PPC and they are generally less interested in these campaigns because they want to take performance to the max and performance max campaigns are not the right fit for that, despite what their name suggests.

What skill should PPC professionals be learning in 2022? 
In 2022, being successful in PPC is less about knowing how to manage the details of a campaign. Instead of being hyper-focused on keywords, bids and ads, a modern PPC marketer will be more focused on how to leverage offline conversion tracking and manipulating tCPA and tROAS goals to achieve maximum profits. PPC pros should learn how to help the machine. Be a teacher who feeds the algorithms better data so it can do its job better. If you teach it right, it will handle many of the details that you used to spend a huge amount of time on, and then you can recoup that time to be more strategic. And of course, learn how to be a pilot who monitors these automated systems. And how to be a doctor who knows how attribution models, targets, and a variety of automations can all work together to achieve business goals.

Do you expect the ecosystem around PPC advertising to change in the next few years, because of the simplification of ad tech platforms, but also the changing needs of advertisers, regarding agency business models and tool suppliers?
The only constant in PPC is change! So yes, I believe that the ad engines will continue to simplify things to make access to high quality advertising more equitable. At the same time, I believe Google realizes their biggest customers are the more sophisticated advertisers who need that extra layer of control to get even better results. In my experience, Google will continue to allow these advertisers the control they want, but they won’t always do the greatest job making it easy for them. That’s where 3rd party tools come in. We fill the gaps for these advertisers so they can do what they want without spending a crazy amount of time manually handling all the details. This can be with a script you found on a blog, or a PPC management management and optimization platform like Optmyzr or one of the many others that exist.

What can people expect from your session at Friends of Search? 
We’ve seen so much change in the world since we last saw each other at Friends of Search. What I will talk about in my session is how PPC has been impacted and how it’s redefined what a successful PPC marketer looks like. I’ll talk about how supply chain issues and automation are both big contributors to this new world that requires us all to have a huge mind shift and rethink how we deliver successful campaigns.

Wijnand Meijer (TrueClicks): “Google’s OptiScore still has many flaws”

The way in which Google weighs its Recommendations is not entirely fair, according to Wijnand Meijer, founder of tech provider TrueClicks. In this interview, he discusses what exactly goes wrong with Google’s Recommendations, as well as the importance of independent parties assessing SEA management strategies. Finally, he gives us a small preview of his presentation as a speaker at the upcoming edition of Friends of Search 2021.

Wijnand Meijer is the founder of TrueClicks, a software company that provides tooling for auditing and monitoring PPC advertisements. Before that, he gained years of experience on the agency side of the search market. Wijnand Meijer will speak on November 16 (Amsterdam) and November 17 (Brussels) at the search conference Friends of Search 2021.

How did you get started with PPC?

I was already ‘online’ in the mid 90’s. As a high school student I made my own sites for a while by tinkering with Dreamweaver and other people’s HTML code. After my studies in business administration, I planned to find a ‘serious’ job with a multinational or consultancy. That didn’t go as planned. Towards the end of my studies, I came across the first AdWords success stories, at the time mainly written by (affiliate) cowboys who bought clicks for a dime and turned them into a quarter. But also marketers who managed to turn searchers into customers. From that moment on, I was hooked to the field and I wanted to make it my job.

When I started experimenting in 2006, I discovered that it’s a magical concept that by entering a few keywords and writing an ad, you can see the first results the next day. And that you can continue to improve those results. That is why, in 2007, I decided to become a SEA freelancer, partly because of Eduard Blacquière’s market research into search engine marketing in the Netherlands. That did mean that I had to learn SEA all by myself with the limited budgets of the SMEs who hired me at the time. Every euro counted, which made it a perfect learning experience.

After freelancing for two years, I wanted to work for an agency to learn more and work for bigger clients. It had to be in Amsterdam, so my search started simply by Googling “online marketing agency Amsterdam”. I soon came across Netsociety, where I started in 2009 as a SEA consultant.

You have years of experience on the agency side of the search world. What have you learned in all those years?

A lot. The fact that I that I stayed there for eight years says enough. To start with, I’ve been very lucky with the clients and colleagues I’ve worked with over those years. The clients were very diverse and challenging and I was surrounded by a growing group of intelligent and ambitious colleagues who also made me laugh a lot.

In those years, I’ve analysed hundreds of accounts from every industry imaginable and worked with just as many different clients and colleagues. That experience is worth everything. All these different perspectives have given me a complete picture of the market and the skills to make the most out of every situation. I was also given the opportunity to develop all kinds of beautiful ‘side projects’, like setting up a traineeship, writing articles, giving presentations and improving our SEA working method in general. Because of these projects, I discovered that I get the most satisfaction from inventing or writing something that is accessible and useful to a large audience. Naturally, achieving great results for specific clients is also satisfying, but towards the end of my time at agencies, I knew I wanted to work on something with a larger reach. Something that doesn’t depend on how many hours a client has available. Advertisers should seldom have to pay agencies by the hour anyway, but that’s a topic for another time.

In short, I have a lot of great memories of my time at agencies, and I couldn’t have wished for a better environment to start my career.

You have started developing your own software, TrueClicks. Why did you start developing software?

Like I said, I knew I wanted to work on something scalable. Developing software is the obvious choice then. I’ve always had an affinity with it anyway. With new tools some people think “No, not another tool”, but I always think: “Yes! Another tool to play with.” The beauty of a self-invented tool is that you truly believe that it will solve problems that bother you. I had the idea for TrueClicks for a while, thanks to writing the audit articles and the positive reactions I got from it. But it wasn’t until my co-founder Ales got seriously involved that the foundation was built to really make something out of it. Ales’ vast knowledge and experience in the technology field and my SEA background were the ideal combination to start TrueClicks.

In addition to the money and time savings a tool should always achieve for customers, I also started TrueClicks because I believe there is a need for an independent third partiy that can assess how well SEA accounts are managed. Most agencies that ‘audit’ their own work or that of their competitors will look at their own work quite leniently, while work of competitors is judged very strictly. The same goes for Google, who also categorizes and judges advertising strategies with exams, partner badges and Optiscores. We should always take into account that Google has a certain interest in these scorings. That why we, as TrueClicks, take on the role of an independent quality mark, since we don’t manage accounts ourselves (such as agencies) or sell clicks (such as Google).

With Google’s ‘Recommendations’, Google offers organizations a helping hand by making suggestions to improve the performance of their campaigns. In addition, with each recommendation, Google displays an optimization score (Optiscore), an estimate of how the optimization score changes if the recommendation is followed. What do you think of these functionalities?

Let me start by answering this question on a positive note. A few years ago all you had was the Opportunities tab and that was a laughably self-serving functionality. It was almost only about increasing budgets and CPCs. The Recommendations functionality is about much more than that and I advise organizations to look at them at least once a month and pick out what applies to you, regardless of the weighing in the OptiScore. As far as I’m concerned, the score itself has all sorts of flaws. For starters, it’s hilarious that the visible score jumps up instantly when you click ‘dismiss’. I understand that a ‘real’ score remains in the background, but in terms of transparency to users with little knowledge of SEA scoring like this seems questionable. By clicking on ‘dismiss’ a few times you can easily achieve a score of 100%. Also, recommendations regarding expansions or automation seem to weigh more heavily then others. Things like adding broad match keywords and turning on smart bidding will get you the most points. In general, those can be good ideas, but not five times better than recommendations on other matters, an impression that is often given.

What I also find striking is that OptiScore is valued very differently, also within agencies. For example, one agency finds it extremely important and the other total nonsense.

Friends of Search 2021 is just around the corner. What can visitors expect from you?

Strangely enough, nothing about auditing or monitoring your accounts. I’m going to talk about a relatively new development: generating text with AI. In the summer of 2020, OpenAI launched the beta of GPT-3, and since then there have been numerous tools and news outlets claiming that this technology can write text that is indistinguishable from human-written text, all in a matter of seconds. During my session, I explain how this technology works and how you can use it to generate ad copy, product description, blog, etc. In addition, I tested “AI-assisted” ad texts against 100% self-written ads and show the results.

That’s all I’m going to say about it for now, except that nowadays I always turn on the AI ​​before actually write something. Still, you should never just copy and paste AI-generated text. If you want to know why this is the case, you have come to see me at Friends of Search. The answers to the questions in this interview are at least 100% human-generated.

About the author: Martijn Beumer is one of the founders of Producthero. He is also active within the DDMA Search Committee

Astrid Kramer (Astrid Kramer Consulting): “SEO brings me nothing at all if I do not take into account UX”

This article was also published on Emerce.

Although SEO and UX are often seen as two separate teams at companies, Astrid Kramer, Corpororate SEO & UX Consultant, believes SEO doesn’t result in anything if you don’t take UX into account. So how then, do we implement SEO and UX strategies in a way in which they support each other?

Astrid Kramer became known as “Nerd in Skirt” over 13 years ago in the still small and kind of private SEO scene in Germany. Since then she has been considered a pioneer of strategic search engine optimization, focused on big corporations. The combination of SEO with user experience and business requirements and conditions has brought her international key accounts. Astrid Kramer will speak on November 16 at the Dutch edition (Amsterdam) of Friends of Search 2021.

You currently live in Marbella. Are there any differences in the digital marketing landscape in Spain compared to Germany?

I have to admit that although I live in Spain, I work exclusively with clients from Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland. There would also be hardly any relevant customers for me in my area, since I work specifically with large corporations. For that, I would have to leave the beautiful Costa del Sol and move to Madrid or Barcelona. What is striking here, is that Whatsapp is a very important channel in communication. Service providers such as real estate agents, hairdressers, etc. communicate almost exclusively via Whatsapp. On the negative side, it can be noted that although the Internet infrastructure here is significantly better than in Germany, the websites are in a much poorer condition. For example, the official site of Marbella does not use HTTPS and cannot be visited without a warning message.

What are you going to talk about at Friends of Search or, why should people come to your session or the conference in general?

My presentation is especially interesting for publishers who earn money with advertising on the Internet and know the area of conflict SEO – Sales. Most of the time, these are two areas that fight rather than work together. In my talk I will show a way how to achieve the best possible result taking into account SEO and UX, but also revenue goals.

SEO and UX departments don’t always work well together. How do you see that nowadays?

SEO brings me nothing at all if I do not take into account UX. Traffic that doesn’t convert and that doesn’t lead to customers or readers is just server load. Conversely, an excellent UX is of no use if no one visits my site. In my opinion, these two fields are inseparable.

You will also talk about the relationship between ad sales and SEO/UX. Can you tell us more about this?

As I said, these two areas are often considered to be in opposition to each other. Ad sales usually leads to poorer page performance and can negatively influence the UX. This means that SEO suffers under ads. On the other hand, SEO is very often perceived as a breadless art in companies and therefore not taken seriously. How often do people ask: “What’s the benefit of SEO for me monetarily?” But I will show in my presentation that SEO and ad sales don’t have to be contradictory at all.

Google’s algorithm has consistently taken the user experience into account. Are there specific ways you can improve your SEO performance with user experience factors?

For SEO, every subpage you come to via Google is a landing page. And every landing page must be optimized with regard to the user and his search intention. Good SEO work always consists of not only being happy about good rankings, but also visiting the pages and asking yourself: “Do I even find what I’m looking for here? Does the site make me happy?” And since you often can’t evaluate that objectively at all, user tests can provide crucial insights for improvement.

In May 2020, Google announced its new Core Web Vitals, a set of user-focused metrics designed to measure a page’s “health” in terms of providing a smooth and seamless user experience. More than one year later now, do you think this has had an impact more and should it be incorporated into our work and plans?

I’ve been doing SEO for a lot of years now and I think it’s a shame that our industry very often waits for Google to provide metrics that you can then use as a guide and optimize towards. What are the Core Web Vitals, when you take a closer look? We have metrics here that say, for example, how much page elements shift when you visit the page, an extraordinary negative user experience. Or how long it takes for the page to load visibly. How important a good performance is, every good SEO should have known before 2010, before performance officially became a ranking factor. Yes, we care about what metrics go into the algorithm and thus influence our rankings. But we should consider the optimization of the product “website” independently and want the best for our visitors.

Can SEO and UX be served optimally on one page or do you think it’s OK to have separate “SEO pages” and “UX pages”?

In general, it is NEVER okay to have separate SEO pages. As I said before: SEO is part of the “product website”. And so is UX. They have to come together, everything else does not make any sense at all.

You can find more information on Astrid Kramer and here presentation at Friends of Search 2021 here.

Gianluca Binelli (Booster Box): “Performance marketing is broken”

Gianluca Binelli is the founder of PPC Agency Booster Box. On November 16 and 17 he will speak at Friends of Search 2021. According to Gianluca, performance marketing is broken. What are we doing wrong? And what do we have to do to fix it and take back control?

Author: Martijn Beumer (Producthero)

How is life at Booster Box, in Tuscany Valley?

Booster Box is in the heart of Pietrasanta, Tuscany. Here in Silicon Tuscany, we are lucky to have the opportunity to give a small contribution to reshaping the local economy. We are doing our best to grow as much, and as fast as possible. It’s exciting to see the growth that is occurring within our company as well as within the local economy in Pietrasanta. Silicon Tuscany is being built right in front of our eyes and it is priceless.

Let’s not beat around the bush: Performance marketing is broken? Is there still hope? How can we fix this?

Yes, it is broken because we are all going after the wrong KPIs. But of course there is hope. We need to bring marketing closer to the metrics that actually matter. We need to focus on elements that are closer to the business, also from a financial perspective. This 360-view generates a clear and more accurate representation of the long term value that we are offering users and companies.

Do you think platforms like Google Ads & Facebook are showing us vanity metrics?

I’m not sure I would define them as vanity metrics, but I do think that Google and Facebook, along with other platforms, have the tendency to depict a picture that makes them look like it. I think it is important to build an agnostic point of view both in terms of attribution models, as well as in terms of KPIs that are crucial for the business. New customers are a key element to the ‘Land Grab’ phase start up, more than they are for a well-structured and established brand. We need to adapt to the users we have and really get to know them in order to find ways to optimize our marketing budget against the type of users we identify with and the value we recognize in them.

Google has made a lot of changes trying to simplify advertising in Ads. How do you feel about that?

Google is a complicated product that’s trying to become simpler. It was designed and is kept up by very smart people, but we must recognize that it is not easy. This may be deceiving, as it looks easy, but in reality it is not. For this reason, Google can sometimes be dangerous. Smart people sometimes – more often than not – forget that the rest of the world is not as educated or as intelligent as they are, or simply do not have time to analyze and understand all the details behind Google that other smart people instead dedicate to the product.

I praise and applaud Google (and Facebook) for portraying simplifying things as positive news. This gives enthusiasm to the audience about the use of their platform and makes it accessible to everybody. On the other hand, simplifications sometimes sacrifice visibility and transparency on the mechanisms. By simplifying the process, you skip many details that can harm more advanced advertisers. This puts the ‘beginners’ at advantage and advanced, smarter advertisers at a disadvantage.

Another important consideration is that we are living in a duopoly and there is not much we can do about this. Google and Facebook could pursue their strategic direction as they want, with their decision being out of user control. In fact, the platforms could follow strategies purely ignoring feedback from operators.

Does this simplification have a positive or a negative impact on the performance of Google Ads accounts?

In the long run, it will be positive. Consumers are shifting more towards online media by the day. Complex platforms sometimes leave out SMBs, as they are poorly timed, and are cash-strapped, and cannot leverage online platforms as much as they can leverage big players. Therefore, the fact that Google and Facebook will become really self-sufficient is a good incentive for many SMBs to leverage the power of the web.

What should PPC specialists do to take back control?

As PPC Specialists, we have three approaches towards moving forward. Firstly, we have to become more strategic. I don’t love buzz words but, for lack of a better term, we must “Look at the big picture”. This is crucial to help the client improve their overall business. Secondly, we must focus on creatives. Lastly, we must also focus on first-party data. In particular, we must analyze what we know about the users we interact with and that are interacting with our business, as well as the product. In fact, the product is our secret sauce, as we need to push that into the algorithms. We will go into more detail of products and algorithms during the webinar.

In his book ‘Join or Die’, Patrick Gilbert wrote that being an early adopter of Google’s smart campaigns can give you a competitive advantage. What do you think?

I agree with the general idea that there is not much room for debate, automation is already here; it is a part of our lives and we do not have much choice other than to adapt to it. Automation is just a new iteration, and is one additional change to the horizon. All this to say that it’s nothing new – we’ve already had a dozen in the last few years!

I am not always supportive of early adopters – not always does having a head start give you the competitive advantage. Generally speaking, products that are machine-learning-driven require a lot to learn. The first people to get their hands on them do not necessarily have an advantage. In fact, those who come after may sometimes have the advantage because the people before them may have already worked out the basic features and have done the hard work already. Smart bidding and smart campaigns solutions improve over time, and therefore are not applicable to the concept of first come first serve.

If we take a step back and look at the big picture with an abstract point of view, we can draw the conclusion that there is a correlation between early adopters and more successful agencies. This is not necessarily due to better performance of new solutions, but rather due to constant evolution. In fact, being an early adapter indicates that an agency is ‘on their toes’ and is constantly trying to improve.

What do you expect from Google’s new campaign type, Performance Max Campaigns?

We are in the process of testing Google’s new campaign type at the moment. Given the recency of the new advancement, I do not have enough empirical data to form an opinion.

Looking into the future, what will be the next big change within Google Ads?

What has happened on App campaigns with Universal App Campaign is a preview of what’s going to happen with the entire Google Ads experience.

What can people expect from your session at Friends of Search?

Mostly jokes. Nah, I am kidding.

Cindy Krum (MobileMoxie): ‘Marketers should look at their phones more often’

I recon you must have been very young when you started in marketing. Way before the iPhone you already had a strong vision and voice on the mobile spectrum. In 2010 you published “Mobile Marketing: Finding Your Customers No Matter Where They Are” and your company is the greatest and oldest (2008!) Mobile marketing and mobile Tooling oriented company’s out there. For those who have been living under a stone last decade, next to a marketer, an SEO, an CEO and an author, who is Cindy? ?

Well, the truth is that those things take up a lot of time. Beyond that, I love animals, and spend a lot of time with my dog Barkley. I also love travel, love to laugh, and I am addicted to listening to audio books – I am dyslexic, so in some ways, Audible has changed my life! I also have a degree in art, so I love to make things with my hands, though I don’t get to do it as often as I would like.

And how old were you when you had your first mobile phone and what brand and model was it?

Good question! I had my first mobile phone in highschool – I think sophomore year, so I would have been about 14. I don’t remember the brand – probably Nokia, but I do remember that I was confused about the difference between hanging up and turning it off. I also remember 3 years later when a friend got a phone and told me it had ‘the internet’ on it. It was a text-only, closed-garden style internet, with number-selection menus to navigate – probably from T-mobile. I distinctly remember telling him that while that stuff might have been ‘on the internet’ it was definitely not ‘the internet.’

If you had to choose and you could just pick one device what would it be: Smartphone, Tablet or Laptop? And why
Another great question – no one has asked me this before! I think I would pick phones, because now they can cast to big screens, and even project a keyboard that use video to figure out what keys you are touching – stuff like that sometimes blows my mind! It would have to be a really great phone though, but so much software is moving to the cloud now, that relying on the phone as a personalized, portable device that can dock with bigger things, and leverage the cloud is now within the realm of possibilities.

In your book, one of the first statements you make is: “Mobile Marketing is the most personal form of web marketing”, if you would edit your book, would you still hold on to this statement or has technology changed the mobile game completely since 2010? I mean, what are your thoughts now on mobile marketing in comparison to 2010 when it was mostly messaging / email and the start off mobile apps.

Mobile has changed a lot since 2010, but I still believe that statement to be true. In some ways, it seems like the personalization, and the false sense of privacy that people feel when they are on their phone had caused a lot of big problems – when you think about all of Facebook’s problems. Something else that most people have yet to feel major outrage about is the GPS in the phones. Most people are aware of the GPS, but forget about it when they are not using it, or think that turning location information off is good enough – but I am not so sure. Just think what you could do from a marketing perspective, if someone sent you a year’s worth of GPS data for a certain population! It could be very creepy!

I agree, but ignorance is bliss. Even if it is a chosen ignorance ?. What are your thoughts on Sparktoro’s research about zero-click results and in particular the decreasing of the Mobile CTR. Do we have to take action?

I think the information that Rand is putting out from Sparktoro is fascinating and scary at the same time. I do believe it is true, and feel like it is a problem. I would hope that there will be some self-correction from Google, and the pendulum would swing back a bit, but this is not a guarantee. Our places in Google have never been guaranteed, so it seems like clever marketers who were great at ranking in Google’s algorithms will have to continue to evolve and be more clever. We believe that there will be a growing set of opportunities to rank with video and audio content, as well as How-To style content that is in any format. FAQ, Fact and Q&A content is also a main focus, since Google has started considering itself an Answer Engine, instead of a Search Engine. Having good web pages is a strategy for Search Engines. Having good, authoritative, simple answers is a strategy for an Answer Engine.

It’s all about the intent. I wonder in what way Google will eventually transform rich SERP items like the FAQ serp or the Featured snippet into the paid advertising spectrum. We will always be too late when we know eventually.

Everything is increasingly getting more and more mobile, if I would ask the second question to a great deal of people in my network I am sure over 90% will pick the phone. The KaiOS project, the getting online of 800million offline people etc. Why are we as marketers still mostly focused on big screens do you think? What has to happen to make us see the light?

This is a big problem that MobileMoxie is trying to help solve. Marketers work on their computers, so they test searches on their computers, and look at results on their computers, but the truth is, they should be looking at their phones. We created the SERPerator tool (which is free for 5 tries) to let marketers who are sitting at their desks, still easily test on phones, and even save tests over time and take screenshots or videos. You can choose from a bunch of different phones and select any location in the world – down to the street address, set any phone language, and see what real results look like. We have spent a lot of time making these tools perfect and validating the results with friends around the world. We also have the Page-oscope, for doing roughly the same thing to test and preview landing pages on different phones, from different locations.

One of the biggest problems is that many SEO tools still focus on desktop too. We have built API’s to both of these tools to help encourage the big SEO tools to let their users see real, interactive mobile SERPs and real, interactive mobile landing pages in their platforms, so that all of the SEOs using their tools can do a better job really serving their customers.

And we should all just throw away our laptops and cast ou screens to out monitors indeed! But then again, one of the things that frightens me the most is the really bad conversion rate on mobile for ecommerce platforms. We are doing everything to get the users to our (mobile) website via various methods, using the SERP features to the max (Fraggles as you call some off them ?), but it’s only resulting in less traffic and less conversions (on the broad range of websites and audiences). Will users ever convert on mobile as good as they do on big screens?

Yes – I think they will. This is different by generation, and different by location, but in general, you are right. Conversion tends to be harder to get on a mobile phone. Part of this is often because webmasters and developers are not testing their conversion process on phones – this is part of the value of the Page-oscope, and part of why we created it – the pages are fully interactive, and you can go all the way to actually completing a purchase on a mobile device from our tools. Test-test-test!
Google is pushing hard on PWAs, partially because people convert better in apps. PWAs feel like apps, but they actually live on the web. Google is also working into their own eco-system to make mobile conversion easier – especially in PWAs by helping manage the register/login and pay portions of a conversion – sometimes with only one or two clicks. Simplifying this, and making users confident that it is secure should go a long way to help improve mobile conversions across the board.

And what are your thoughts on conversational search? Do you ask everything orally or do you still type? And where do you see this going?

I do think that conversational ‘search’ is going to be a big deal, but the problem that marketers have is thinking of it as ‘search.’ Google talks about it in terms of micro-moments – I want to Go, I want to Know, I want to Buy, I want to Do. If you think about conversational search like this, you realize that sometimes it is less of a ‘search’ and more of a ‘command’ or even a simple ‘information retrieval.’ For instance, asking my Google home is less of a search – it knows where I live, and just pulls today’s weather data from an XML feed. It is more of an information request, because it is not ‘searching’ the internet at large for it. I think that there will be more opportunities to provide Google utilities like this, such as Google Actions, Google Assistant Apps and Google Instant Apps – all of these are basically giving Google access to a database of information and relationships, with a ‘skin’ for when it is presented on the web – but the main value is in the cloud, and all the functionality can happen in the cloud, with the database. This is the shift that marketers need to be ready for.

it’s all getting more and more interesting! I love it. In 10 years from now, what greatness do you see coming for “mobile” and more important, is mobile still an entity apart from “regular” or is there no difference anymore?

Mobile is still different, because every device is somewhat different. If they were not, we would not need or want to use all of them. The differences in the devices reflect the differences in the use-cases, but Google’s unified register, login and purchase system could be a game changer. SEO’s go a long way to joke about how voice search has not taken off, and never will, and that there is no way to optimize for it, but I think they are wrong. It is and will continue to be a game changer, but it is happening in subtle ways, like I mentioned in the previous question about conversational search – and it is not always ‘search.’ In the same way that cell phones made it so that we never had to remember a phone number, voice search will de-couple us from remembering or knowing many things.

If you think about voice remotes, for a TV, you already can forget the number of your favorite channel, and you don’t have to know what channels play a particular show – you can just voice-search for your show, or for the brand name of the channel – the number is forgotten. Voice search will make it so that we don’t have to remember things like domains – users won’t care if the information came from a brand’s website, or just their database of information.

Thank you so much for your great answers! I cannot wait to see you on our stage! What greatness can we expect from your presentation at FOS, and why should nobody miss it?
The presentation for FOS is a new one about how language impacts search results. Most SEO’s believe that changing the query language is enough to see what a result looks like in a different language, but this is actually not true – at least in mobile. The query language and the device language, or the language setting in search both impact Google’s query understanding. This is important for SEO’s who are jumping onto things like BERT, ALbert and the Natural Language API. This is also important for zero-click searches, because different language settings on a phone can determine if there will be a Knowledge Graph, Map or Featured Snippet in the search result or not. Google’s understanding comes from language and Entities, and these are what control all of the content at the top of most zero-click search results.

Brad Geddes (AdAlysis): ‘The development of Google Ads since 2000 is huge’

It is almost impossible to not know you when working in the field of PPC. I personally am a begin fan of your book Advanced Google Adwords and your blog on For the people who don’t know you, what should they know of Brad Geddes?

I’ve been involved in PPC since 1998, before Google even had paid search. Over the years, I have a variety of experience from working on reseller accounts (we managed 42,000 PPC accounts), to building two agencies, to working on accounts that spend over $100 million a year. That means I often go from thinking about scale to efficiency depending on each situation.

I’m a logic-driven creative thinker, so I like to look at the available features of a system and think of creative ways in which to put strategies together for accounts. I’m also a time management geek, so I like to temper scale and time with the strategies so everything can get done in an efficient manner.

As a side note, I write frequently on the Adalysis blog right now if you want to follow some of my thoughts and ideas.

Google Ad(word)s has been serving ads since the year 2000. What do you think are the most important updates and/or developments throughout these years?

If we look at the top developments that make Google what it is, we need to go back to 1943 when Walter Pitts and Warren McCulloch created the first Deep Learning system. It’s the work of the early computer scientist pioneers that even allowed Google to exist in what we think of today.

Before Google could grow, they needed to monetize their traffic. In 1998 Bill Gross launched the first PPC engine,, as that was the first time ads were served based upon user intent – the search term. This would later be adopted by Google to create its billions of dollars in revenue.

Google’s first innovation was launching AdWords Select (what we now call Google Ads) with a CPC x CTR positioning in 2002. In 2005, the positioning formula morphed into Quality Score, which went on to become Google’s first machine learning algorithm. That same year, Google acquired Urchin, which became Google Analytics. Pairing SEM with easily integrated analytics created a wave of data-driven marketers.

With a nod to eFrontier, who launched portfolio style automated bidding in 2002, in 2010, Google launched CPA bidding. That allowed smaller companies access to automated bid tools and would forever change how much time companies spent setting bids.

In 2012, Google launched Google Website Optimizer. This was the first free, and widely accessible, website optimization tool based upon multivariate testing. This took the small market of conversion optimization and spun out an entire sub-industry of marketing.

Also in 2012, Google launched AdWords scripts. While many of us had been working with the API for years and doing things at scale, the availability of creating your own small scale automation and analysis made it so companies of any size could put their own spin on automation.

While there have been many innovations over the years from audience targeting, DSAs, responsive ads, call tracking, Google local, Google Shopping, and so forth, the big turning points can really be attributed to machine learning, conversion optimization, and data-driven marketing.

There seems to be a divide in-between PPC-experts being pro and against the automation of Google, especially when it comes to Google’s smart solutions. Where do you stand on this, and why?

I think this is a resource question. If you are a large company and you want to use proprietary data in your marketing, then you are going to build a lot of your tools in-house as they are more custom to your needs. Google has to build to the masses, you can build to custom specifications.

If you are a company that doesn’t have the resources to build your own technology, then leveraging Google’s tools is a wonderful idea.

I don’t think this is a question of “do you trust Google with your data?” Instead, it’s a question of how you allocate your time and money based upon the resources you have to work with to make an account efficient.

What do you think of the statement from “Black Box to Black Hole” regarding smart automation?

I think it’s a very smart statement. The biggest issue with automation right now is that you can’t audit the decisions or learn from the data from it since it’s a black box.

This makes it so a marketer using smart automation can’t get better on their own in how they think about marketing, strategies, and customer interaction from this data as they don’t get to analyze, audit, or learn about the decisions being made by the algos.

In addition, you can’t ‘help’ the algo along by introducing your own variables or custom data. This is often why larger companies like to build their own systems since they can introduce variables that Google can’t use (as they aren’t consistent across all accounts) or variable that Google doesn’t know.

Lastly, since the data is locked into a single system, you can’t transfer what’s been learned to other platforms.

Google seems to be taking away control for the keyword-based advertiser with the latest updates of Google Ads. Why do you think this happens and do you consider this a bad thing?

I think it happens for a few reasons. The first is that Google thinks they are smarter than everyone else and they trust deeply in their machines to figure out what is right and wrong, even if in the short term it hurts a lot of companies. They are usually looking long term once the computer has figured out the variables, while marketers are looking at their results on a daily basis.

The second is that with desktop, mobile, and voice inputs, the universe of search terms has changed and Google is trying to accomplish an initial vision of marketing from Larry Page and Eric Schmidt where Google was smart enough to just connect searchers with companies without marketer’s needing to do any work. To get there, you need to understand the intent and anticipate the need. Google is nowhere near that right now, but they think they can get there so they are taking keyword control from advertisers as they think they can discern intent from the keywords.

Overall, the new match types are not working well for many advertisers, but it can be a huge amount of work to analyze and fix it all. When you put a lot of work in front of people, their options are to do the work or let Google eventually figure it out. We see people following both paths right now.

A common practice for a lot of search advertisers is using Single Keywords Ad Groups and for e-commerce advertisers also Single Product Ad Groups (for Shopping). Do you think this practice is still valuable?

I was never a fan of this practice. It’s called an ad group for a reason – it’s all about the ad. Is the ad relevant to the user? Does the ad help the user to make a decision and cause them to take action?

A keyword just says show an ad or don’t show an ad. If an ad is relevant with 1 keyword, then you can have a single keyword ad group. If it’s relevant to 100 keywords, then you can have 100 keywords in an ad group.

SKAGs often create more work than it’s results brought in. There are always exceptions, such as high-value words or brand terms you need to watch closely, and you might have some SKAGs in your account – and that is fine.

The way Google’s match types are working right now, anyone using SKAGs often has the same search term showing up in many ad groups. That means your query bidding and ad testing aren’t working very well since you need to aggregate data across many ad groups to do something simple like set a bid modifier.

Google advises to use BROAD match type keywords when an automated bid strategy is active. What would you advise when the campaign goal is performance based?

There are a few additional factors to this question:
How often are your search terms in multple languages at once? (i.e. half German and half Arabic)
How well does Google understand your language?
What’s your available volume?

For instance, if you are using English keywords in a large market, then broad match is usually a terrible idea as you end up with more useless queries than good ones. You are paying for Google to learn. If you start with more restrictive match types, even modified broad, then you are letting them learn from a more relevant keyword universe and you usually waste less money for their system to learn.

If you are in a small niche market, then you might need to use some broad match to get volume. If you have a lot of queries that cross languages, broad match has historically been better at matching across languages than other match types. We are seeing the other match types start to match across languages (and even product names to product part numbers), so this might not be fully true in another few months with regards to multi-language search terms.

If you are advertising in Japanese, and Google doesn’t understand the nuance of the language very well, then broad match often does work well.

Lastly, if you just want to know or reach everyone (which means you are also looking at branding, impression, and reach metrics), then broad match can be useful.

When bidding and targeting is automated by using bid strategies, what do you consider most important to guide the machine in the right direction?

Incredibly accurate data. Are all your conversions being tracked? Is the proper data being moved between systems and back into Google’s algo? Are there conversions leaks? The better your data, the better the machine can make decisions.

Refinement. Are you looking at what is not working and helping the machine to refine it’s targeting.

Ad and landing page testing. The better your data becomes, the more the algo can optimize just for you.

As co-founder of the PPC management tool Adalysis you work with a lot of agencies and clients. Do you expect the work of agencies to be totally different or maybe even non-existent in the near future? What do you think of the future of the agency landscape will look like?

I think everyone is going to have a job if they can think creatively and strategically. Machines are not good at interpreting human behavior. They aren’t good at being creative. Machines work from a set of inputs to create outputs.

If your job is to push button A when X happens and push button B when Y happens, then you should already be out of a job. If your job is to create the same reports month over month, then you shouldn’t have a job now.

If you are guiding the machine, creating innovating marketing campaigns, and thinking about how all the data fits together to create new strategies for your clients, then you’ll have a job for a long time.

To quote Rob Norman (long-time CEO of GroupM North America):
To my peers and friends who are still worried that their jobs may be replaced by machines, I’d offer this: 30 years ago we were information workers, then machines beat us at processing. So, for the last decade, we’ve adapted to become intelligence workers. Now it’s time to adapt again. And in this new age of assistance, I believe we’re called to be imagination workers.

Any job where I can be called an imagination worker, I’m quite happy to have.

What can people expect from your session at Friends of Search?

I’m going to dig into the match type changes, the good and the bad, and show how search terms and keywords need to be evaluated and managed in light of Google’s recent changes.

I’ll get into pivot table analysis, year over year keyword comparisons, and show how to keep your search terms relevant and organized as Google keeps changing match types.

Martin Röttgerding on “Smart” Shopping and smarter use of Ad customizers

Martin is Head of SEA at online marketing agency Bloofusion Germany. As a PPC geek, he loves to take things a bit further – by digging into the mechanisms of Google Ads, building tools, or doing cool things with data. He will be presenting his latest work at Friends of Search on the 4th and the 5th of February in Amsterdam and Brussels.

How did you get started in Search Engine Marketing?
I have been in search engine marketing for 15 years now. I started as an intern at Bloofusion, where I worked for Markus Hövener doing both SEO and PPC. The internship turned into a permanent position and I basically became employee #2. Around 2010 we agreed that I would shift my focus towards PPC and develop this area for the agency. I actually had mixed feelings about turning my back on SEO, which I found more interesting at that time.
After a while I started researching Quality Score and made a somewhat huge discovery: QS is basically click-through probability. All the talk about quality, user happiness and so on was just marketing. I wrote a series of blog posts called “The Secret of Quality Score” to present my findings. It didn’t generate the buzz I thought it deserved, with many people skeptical and experts dismissing the conclusions (it’s all common knowledge nowadays). Still, it gave me a lot of confidence and showed me that I have something to contribute to the industry.

What do you think is the biggest difference after working in both PPC and SEO?
SEO has a reputation of being something magical, or an art, while PPC is more about numbers, machines and automation. SEO is often about the coolest strategies to get people to link to and talk about the content being produced and to rank it in search engines. PPC is important for performance, but compared to SEO, there are few secret creative strategies. In my opinion there are many talented people in the PPC industry, but not many people blog or talk about what they do. Getting feedback is also a lot more difficult than in the SEO community. Not because the content is secret, but it just isn’t part of the PPC DNA.

You are very innovative and have come up with a wide range of creative solutions in PPC. What is your biggest success?
That is certainly the search term segmentation strategy for shopping campaigns. The strategy is about using keywords where Google didn’t intend for them to be used by constructing a double negative of sorts. As a result, you can segment your traffic based on its value and bid accordingly – something that Google never intended to be possible.
That strategy put me on the map five years ago. It was a combination of finding the right thing at the right time and having a great platform to spread the word. I spoke about this at Marketing Festival and they let my post a video of the presentation on my blog. It started slowly, but people wrote about it and talked about it on other conferences, often giving credit to me. Special thanks for this goes to Kirk Williams, who has been a big proponent of the strategy.

Where can you find the inspiration for these things?
I think my inspiration comes from very often looking at a problem from different angles. I don’t really have a certain process; ideas come if you think about something long enough. Some things such as the segmentation strategy for shopping campaigns are about simple logic. I have the luxury of not having to work on customer projects every day, so I can take some time to mull over problems and come up with new ideas.
That said, failure is definitely part of the process. For every cool idea that I can eventually talk about, there are many others that don’t make it that far. I try out a lot, especially with tools. Some things don’t work at all, some are too specific, some aren’t interesting enough. The best ones make it to conferences… you’ll see ?

Your approach with campaign priorities for Google Shopping was introduced five years ago. Has it developed further since then and what are the most important changes?
I think the strategy has been fairly stable over the years. It is still about dividing shopping campaigns into two or three layers. The distinction between brand and non-brand remains key. There’s some additional content about troubleshooting and large campaigns on my blog, but not really any changes.
We’ve done this for a lot of customers, so naturally we’ve made refinements and build our own set of tools to handle things a bit more smoothly, but at the core it’s still the same idea.
Sometimes it makes sense to deviate from the standard model and use other segmentations, but these are all individual cases. The beauty of the original model is and always has been that it works well for everyone.
It’s unclear what the future will bring for the approach. Perhaps it will one day become obsolete because smart bidding already takes the different levels into account. Maybe people will switch completely to smart shopping campaigns and give up all control – who knows?

Google pushes many of their smart solutions, what is your vision on this topic?
I think “smart” should be in quotation marks. “Smart” means that Google does things for you. The message is of course that Google’s systems will do a great job, with buzzwords like “machine learning” everywhere. In reality, these “smart” solutions are designed as black boxes. This means that all you can do to assess their performance is look at the KPI’s that Google provides – that’s not good.
For Google, these solutions make sense. The system grows and gets more and more complex, with new channels, formats and other things added all the time. “Smart” solutions provide a way to combat this complexity. The last thing that Google wants is for people to stay away from the system because it’s too complicated. It’s important to realize that some “smart” solutions are aimed at people who want to do something but don’t have the resources to do it properly.
Personally, I hope that Google will keep both options open: The “smart” solutions for beginners and the more complex approaches for sophisticated advertisers. However, I’m unsure whether this is where we’re going. Take local campaigns for example: Even though it’s not in the name, they are basically a “smart” campaign type – a black box with hardly anything you can control manually. Another bad sign: Google is pushing advertisers with regular shopping campaigns to use Smart Shopping instead. I think this is a very bad idea.

What are you currently working on?
These days, I spend most of my time in tool development. My current focus is tapping into the Google ecosystem. It’s too early to go into specifics, but the idea is this: For us as an agency, structured data is very valuable. However, asking each client to provide data specific to our needs is impractical. Yet they all do it for Google. So why not build on this?
The potential is especially big for retailers. A product data feed alone holds a lot of potential, but there’s no need to stop there. Google Analytics has some performance data on the same products. Google Ads has data from yet another perspective. And that’s just the beginning.
One important aspect is that things need to work within existing structures – you don’t want to throw away your campaigns in order to use a new tool. One way to accomplish this is using ad customizers. In this area, we came up with a new approach that I will present at Friends of Search.

What can people expect from your session at Friends of Search?
My session will be about ad customization and how we can make it more accessible for everyone. Ad customizers are one of these great features that people rarely use since it’s a bit more complicated due to the involvement of data feeds, buggy interfaces, and poor documentation.
To counter this, we have developed a simpler approach to ad customization. At the core it’s this one weird logic trick that apparently no one has found before. You could call it a hack… it basically comes down to preparing some things once and then never having to deal with data feeds again. This is especially helpful for teams, where only one person needs to do this and then the whole team can reap the benefits.
In my presentation I will show how my approach for ad customizers works and then give you some ideas about what you can do with it. Some will be simple; others will be really advanced – up to ad adjustment based on the weather.

Bastian Grimm about how to offer 20+ SEO languages from only one location; Berlin.

Today we talk with the Director Organic Search at Peak ACE and the greatest expert for large-scale, international SEO for highly competitive industry Websites. With a background as software and webdeveloper and nearly 20 years of experience in online marketing, he still enjoys a huge range of all aspects of SEO. Peak ACE is an 100+ employee, award-winning, Berlin-based full-service Performance marketing agency with a strong focus on “all things Search” that serves customers in more than 20 different languages. Today we talk With Bastian Grimm.

Hi Bastian, congratulations on your birthday! Too many candles for you? Or don’t you mind the aging part of birthdays?
Thank you Gerk – much appreciated! However – yeah – way too many candles. I mean, thinking about it for a bit, I guess I really don’t mind aging that much. But I also have to say I am kind of enjoying my mid-30s. I’ve seen a lot, done a lot and I’ve been in the industry for almost 20 years now; I sold my first business at 16. Nevertheless, still super excited about all things search and the next 20 years!

Anybody who knows you can answer the next question for you: when you went to bed last night, how full was your inbox? ? Be honest…
You got me there. It was hardly an empty inbox! In my defence, we had a Peak Ace AllStaff meeting in our offices in Berlin starting at midday, follow by our annual Christmas dinner and closing out with the infamous Peak Ace Christmas rave. So I didn’t touch my inbox for hours – which is a very rare thing to happen. Generally though, I religiously follow an inbox zero routine with the help of Outlook and a fantastic product called SaneBox.

For all who don’t know Bastian that well, can you give brief introduction of yourself which does not include the words “dynamic”, “decisive” and “team”? ?
Absolutely. Hi – I am Bastian, born in Hoya/Weser (which is in the north of Germany, close to Hanover) in ’83. With a background in C/C++, I started my career in software development building fan websites in ‘99 (covering cheats, walkthroughs, etc.) for online games such as Half-Life, Delta Force and the like. I got frustrated because those sites didn’t get any traffic. So I started spamming Fireball, Altavista, Lycos and later on Google. ?

So profession by practical need, you’ve came a long way! How do you manage your business nowadays? Your company has scaled up a lot, do you depend much on others to lead teams? Or is it still you running the company?

That is very true; Peak Ace has seen tremendous growth in the last few years. We’re currently close to 130 people in staff. My partner Marcel and myself have basically divided the responsibilities. From a channel perspective, he oversees all performance advertising, while I am responsible for organic search, which means our SEO consulting business as well as performance-driven content marketing. Both teams have department heads who run day-to-day operations. Also, I oversee business development and sales, as well as our marketing efforts. All in all, these are five direct reports – which I think is somewhat the limit of what you can “manage” effectively. I am sometimes partially involved in some of our very large SEO accounts and I do run a handful of workshops myself. The rest of the time I spend travelling for either conferences or pitches. ?

We have all had that moment when we said “YES” to our occupation, so getting traffic to your own built websites was yours?
When those aforementioned fan websites suddenly got crazy amounts of traffic from my organic search “activities“, I was like: “yeah, this is actually quite cool!” So I continued playing with search, obviously got involved in affiliate marketing before moving inhouse for a while (amongst other things, I built SEO for a little ringtone company called Jamba/Jamster which got “famous” for stuff such as Crazy Frog… yeah, I know!) and then moved on to consultant/agency-side.

Crazy Frog ?, So it was part you? Thank you haha. But Jamster must have been a cool brand to be involved with, old school! Nowadays, what is the most challenging part of your job? Did you beat hreflang? Are you fully focusing on JS? Or are you all-in on conversational search?
Pretty hard to just name one challenging part, to be honest. I feel most sites have their unique challenges and it very much depends on each setup. If I had to pick just one topic though, right now, I’d go for all things render – the implications of Google reading and processing information that has not been available previously has significantly changed how we do SEO. And it’s not only JavaScript, which – I think – is a massive topic in itself, but rather Google’s general understanding of the visual representation layer, developments in crawling technology and much more. However, going back to your question, I honestly think hreflang is one of the most complex things to get right – only very few sites manage it. And it’s broken at its core, to be honest. It works almost as well as canonical tags. ?

As a full-scale international SEO manager, what are the biggest challenges you face with your clients? I can imagine that the content part of a multilingual, multi-country domain can be very challenging on resources internally at Peak Ace and at your client’s side. Can you share your secret?
Efficient, streamlined communication, strong project management and proper localisation. Peak Ace has always been set up to serve international clients and accounts; by now we’re serving 20+ languages with native speaker expertise – all from a single location, Berlin. We never believed in pure translation or working with freelance resources for projects like this. Quality will suffer, no matter how hard you try. So, from early on, we started hiring native speaking staff and getting them to Berlin; this seems to work quite well for us. ?

Some of your colleagues are very sceptical about the near future of digital marketing. Fili Wiese thinks we are all screwed by the filter bubble; Jono Alderson says we are too late to anticipate AI, our jobs will soon be obsolete and we should all become affiliate marketers; and Rand says we are all slaves to Google and get a bad deal out of filling their index. What are your thoughts about the future of search and the role of marketers within the process?

I suppose our roles are going to evolve even further and faster – but that’s nothing new. Looking back to what I was doing even five years ago, it was drastically different from digital marketing today. But I can see the ways in which each of my esteemed colleagues are correct; the amount of info that’s available online can be quite overwhelming and depending on which circles you’re in, it might be biased. But let’s face it: the cat and mouse game is nothing new – in fact we’ve been doing this for years and years now. I get that it can be frustrating when Google “all of a sudden” changes something, but it would be insane to just depend on one single tactic to acquire traffic. As long as you’re optimising for Google, you have to play by their rules and those are liable to change.

If you could get back one “SEO technique” from the past, what would it be?
You know – the past is the past; I am happy to leave it behind me. Some stuff was just way too easy (even though I’ll be forever thankful for all the money I made selling links back in the day.) ?

If you could share just one piece of advice with our readers, what would it be?
Test, test – and test. SEO is only ever getting more complex and, in my opinion, people rely way too much on either (unvalidated) third party opinions, meetup discussions and/or tweets from search engine representatives. However, the reality often looks very, very different; again, because you don’t have the context. Test everything for yourself, draw your own conclusions and only implement after. And only once you understand the “whys” of it!

10 years from now, do you still see yourself in the digital world? Or are your dreams bigger than the Internet?
10 years is a long, long time from now – frankly, I have no idea. But I’ve heard retirement can be quite fulfilling as well…?

Why should everyone see your presentation at Friends of Search?
That’s a tricky one – I don’t want to spoil you guys too much, but I have to admit I’m super excited about returning to FoS! I still vividly remember the first edition in 2014, when I did a well-received talk entitled “Hardening WordPress”, a presentation that has been referenced a lot in the years since then. 2020 will be very different though – we at Peak Ace have built something really exciting with our SEO and development team. I’ll be premiering it exclusively on the Friends of Search stage – and no, it is not a new SEO product and yes, I will be sharing everything with the community afterwards. And I can promise that it will change aspects of how you do technical SEO in the future. Stay tuned!