in Business & Marketing, News

From Search Marketing to Search Experience

[Below is a blog I wrote for Savage Marketing 2017, which was published on their blog last week. Here is an unaltered re-publication for the readers of this blog.]

I found myself in the middle of a savage storm last week as the second edition of the Savage Marketing conference unfolded in the Meervaart theater in beautiful Amsterdam. This wasn’t just any storm, it was a storm packed full of brilliant but savagely determined marketers, all with the desire to learn, connect, teach, inspire and be inspired with a common mission: to build meaningful relationships through technology.

I got in early on Tuesday the 13th, which was day 1 of the 2 day event. One reason was to beat the morning traffic and another was the fact that I was also speaking at the event as well a moderating the SEM/CRO track for the day. Headphone on, Eminem’s lose yourself pumped up to maximum volume, I bumped into our conference MC (actually stands for Master of Ceremonies) at the entrance who also got in early. Evan Waters and I shared a coffee and a pleasant morning chat while shaking off some nerves before entering the magnificent Red Hall of the Meervaart theater.

I walked to the back of the theater to absorbed the amazing beauty, while Evan ran through some last minute preparations (bottom left in photo) for his busy day as MC as well as speaker in the SEM/CRO track.

The Red Hall of the Meervaart Theater, Amsterdam

The 2017 event drew a crowd of 500+ marketers, which was a significant growth from last year’s event that drew a little over 300 attendees. Not bad for a second year! It was an action packed event full of amazing content and very smart and friendly people.

Evan, who is the Director of Growth & Performance Marketing at Naspers got off to a great start with his welcoming speech and was followed by keynotes from Sarah Papamichalis (Global Digital Strategy Director, Philips) and Ben Williams (COO, AdBlock Plus, Eyeo). This moment in Ben’s keynote was worthy of a picture, so out came the phone to capture and immortalize this moment, which for me, really sums up the state of our online advertising industry today and was a perfect start to the day ahead.

Ben Williams, COO, AdBlock Plus, Eyeo.

After Ben’s very interesting keynote of the state of ad blockers, we all split up into breakout sessions to deep-dive into the different themes. I took on my role as moderator for the SEM/CRO track, which was an action packed breakout session full of amazing content and very smart people.

It was wonderful to be able to welcome speakers from all over the world: Fili Weise from Berlin, Germany, Karen Carbonez originally from Belgium and recently moved to the Netherlands, Srikant Kotapalli all the way from India, Esther Alonso from Spain, Evan Waters from California who recently moved to Amsterdam and Alexandra Kulachikova from Russia. And of course myself also speaking and coming from Vanuatu, Australia and France now living in the Netherlands.

This track covered SEM (Search Engine Marketing), CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization), community building, relationship building, analytics, attribution, data and machine learning. Below, I will present some key takes from each presentation that took place in the context of search experience, which is really what this is all about: The user experience –  from questions to answers.

You see, our lives are about the relationships we have with people and everything else. Check me out with Fili Wiese, our first speaker of the day. How’s that for happiness?

Fili Wiese (right) from and myself

Fili Wiese from based out of Berlin, presented on the importance of speed when it comes to the online user experience and how important this is for the user, Google and your business. Do you know anyone in this world who is willing to wait around for excessive periods of time waiting for a website to load? We sometimes have to do it, but we hate the experience right? And Google knows this. They have tested it and build solutions to ensure pages load almost instantaneously from their search engine. They call these pages AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages. Fili, who is a rebound International SEO expert, keynote speaker and former member of Google’s quality team has worked with the legendary Matt Cutts and knows the rules of Google better than just about anyone. You can view Fili’s slides here.

Key Takes: Speed matters (A LOT!). It’s one of the most important Google ranking factors (a top 3) and every millisecond counts when it comes to rankings and converting users. Speed is key to user experience and user experience means EVERYTHING to Google. More speed equals more dollars for your business.

Next up was my turn to present on the role technology plays in our society and how the best technology companies of our time are using data to build relationships through it. I actually recorded the presentation and added it to my slide deck and uploaded to youtube so hope you like it (you should at least get a lough out of it :)).

Key take: The best companies of our time use data to understand the relationships they are building at scale and building frictionless, loving relationships that people want to belong to. Chris talks about the steps in building relationships through technology: Personalize to the individual, create amazing experiences, empower us to get things done, bring incredible value into our lives and ultimately lead us to happier ones…which keeps us coming back for more because happiness leads to success in life.

We then welcomed Karen Carbonez, Search Specialist at Google who currently lead’s Google’s search automation activities in the Netherlands. Karen stressed the importance that machine learning, voice and image search and how the marketers need to be aware of this incredible opportunity to boost and enrich their search marketing campaigns to build meaningful connections with consumers.

Why? Because human beings communicate largely via voice, hearing and sight. Our hands are for working. Only the deaf communicate with their hands so why are we using hands to communicate via technology through typing? Well, it because through technology we have been deaf….until now. Intelligent digital assistants are helping us use our voice to ask questions in a much more natural way of communication we are all very familiar with in the real world and technology will soon mature to a level where speech, hearing and sight are the main ways of communication. Think video, images, voice and sound. Snapchat, instagram, facebook, livesteam … see a trend?

Google is constantly evolving their search engine to meet consumer needs. With Google’s enormous focus on mobile the past 5 (or even 10) years, we are now seeing the rise of voice and image search, which marketers need to be aware of. These new trends have an impact on the way people are searching and the way search campaigns should be set up. To provide relevant messages to your consumers at scale in the future, automating your search activities with smart algorithms will also be key to greater performance. This will have an enormous impact on the role of the future search marketer and it will become increasingly important to have people with the right skills in place to power your marketing teams. You can view Karen’s presentation here.

Key take: Voice and Image search are on the rise and marketers can use these as signals to improve their marketing activities. Use automation to efficiently run your search campaigns and find people with the right skills to power your marketing teams.

Karen Carbonez, Search Specialist at Google.

The stage then turned to Srikant Kotapalli, from India, who is Head of Products at VWO (Visual Website Optimizer) a Wingify company product. Srikant talked about the importance of really understanding user behavior to drive better user experience on your webpages for improved conversions. Optimal user behavior is now a ranking factor for Google so improving the behavior of users on your webpages through testing, helps not only your users in achieving their goals, but helps you reach your goals by improving your bottom line as well as to your Google rankings.

Adopting a structured framework and validated learning approach is key to building a winning conversion optimization mindset into your organization. This session was all about how to take your A/B testing to the next level. There were some very nice slides which you can find here. He also managed to muster up a full house!

Key takes: Test, Test, Test and fail fast. Every test is a learning into user behavior. A successful optimization engine involves having the right people, processes and techniques.

SEM/CRO Track at Savage Marketing 2017

After a refreshing lunch break and come great conversations, we re-grouped for the second breakout session of the day which was kicked off by Esther Alonso, from Spain, who is the Marketing and Development Director and (“The Newspaper” when translated to English). Esther is a seasoned advocate of social causes such as child poverty, education and public health. She spoke to us about social marketing for social good, and how eldiario, which launched in the middle of the financial crisis with minimal funding, managed to grow and service a journalistic community of now greater than 20,000 members, through an innovative membership program. A fantastic success case on how to build community while also building business and growing sustainably with no external investment. You can find Esther’s slides here.

Key take: The power of community is more relevant than ever before in a world where trust is at an all-time low. By servicing a community through investing in their success, you can build a sustainable business model that is a win-win for everyone.

Added tip: One secret to success, is to invest in the success of others.

Esther Alonso, Marketing and Development Director and

We then welcomed Evan Waters who is Director of Growth & Performance Marketing at Naspers – one of the world’s largest global internet and entertainment technology investor. Evan spoke about the foundations of a kick-ass search marketing team and how SEM is an awesome tool to test and optimize just about anything when it comes to data-driven validation.  You can find Evan’s slides here.

Key takes: Build strong people relationships with your growth team. SEM is ideal for powering a global PR program, testing SEO title tags with DSA, finding affiliates through GDN, testing product page conversions. PWA (Progressive Web Apps) is a huge advantage over traditional Apps where storage and bandwidth are still an issue.

Evan Waters (right), Director of Growth & Performance Marketing at Naspers and myself.

The last speaker of the day was Alexandra Kulachikova who heads up Yandex.Metrica and originally comes from the Google Analytics team. She spoke about Yandex.Metrica and how this platform can help in attributing search related conversions using the power of predictive machine learning in real-time. Her slides can be found here.

Key take: Machine learning is at a level now where real time attribution is a reality. Attribution is essential to improving user experience and improving business performance.

So as you can see we focused all of our session on how to use data to build great customer experience online through measurement, testing and insights. Great customer experiences leads to the formation of valuable relationships through technology between brands, products and people.

Change your thinking from Search Engine Marketing/Optimization to Search Experience Marketing/Optimization and start working on improving the experience of the users who come from search engines to you website. But do not stop there! Continue to improve experience on your website and beyond with CRO and a thorough understanding of user behavior. Also help you customers online by attributing value to touch points and moments where they need you. For this you will need a robust and testing mentality with a willingness to fail fast and learn by doing.

Focus on user experience and Google will reward you with better quality scores and higher rankings. Everything I covered above is very relevant on your journey to the ideal customer experience.

This article was written by Chris Baldwin, PhD, Strategy Director at Traffic4u / IPG Mediabrands. With a background in Biotech and Entrepreneurship, chris tries to shed some light on the role technology plays in our lives by addressing the fundamentals of relationships and business in a digital age. You can connect with chris through his personal blog.

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