Jobs for first and fast movers or: Why it’s worth working in a digital agency

“We are a young, dynamic team. The organisational structures are flat, and doors are always open. Every week there’s fresh fruit and smoothies in the canteen. And for relaxation, there’s a ball pool and table football in the leisure lounge.” Have you ever read that in a job advertisement? Once or maybe more like a hundred times? Our new generation of employees would say: “Nice”. But in my view, the arguments listed above are of less and less use as real reasons for persuading people to move to an agency.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have nothing against playing table football in the lunch break, a latte from the cafeteria or an apple from the fruit basket. Nor anything against meetings on the patio, home office or flexi office solutions or brainstorming meetings involving all levels of the company. But I am firmly convinced that these are not the deciding factors which prompt young people to apply for a job with an agency. In my eyes, a job with a digital agency has very different attractions, especially for those embarking on a career or switching horses in mid-stream.

1. Learning more, faster

Ever done an internship in a large corporation in Department 4.7 and performed the same job for four weeks straight? In an agency, you get to know the business in a much shorter space of time. And in fact you’re thrown in the deep end time and again. But those are precisely the situations from which you usually emerge with more self-confidence and many new insights as an employee. From independent customer support, via project management and strategy all the way to reporting and evaluations: in digital agencies, there are numerous areas in which you can bring your interests and talent to bear and refine your skills. Of course, Fanta4-like (Fanta4 is a German hip hop band, they had a song called “MfG” with lyrics only made of abbreviations), we also have SSP, DSP and KPI, but in addition we programme skills for Alexa, helpful apps for refugees and invent new advertising tools. Nobody needs an A38 pass with us.

2. Taking on responsibility fast

Constant learning, new knowledge and more skills naturally go hand-in-hand with greater responsibility within a short space of time. Racking up a few years of servitude on the back benches before taking on some responsibility yourself, that makes no sense in our industry. Wherever specialist knowledge is needed, we require experts who can get stuck in immediately. And generalists or strategists who not only can see the wood from the trees but can also construct the most beautiful tree houses from it. Regardless of whether it’s an assignment for a new client or an internal process: anyone can make a contribution in a digital agency, no matter where they stand in the hierarchy. Stultifying committees and working groups don’t fit with a working culture shaped by scrum and the like. You can only sprint if there’s enough room to slow down. Taking on responsibility for the final result is in employees’ DNA in a digital agency. That can be strenuous at times, but usually satisfying is the more appropriate epithet.

3. Climbing the ranks faster

Four more years in a junior post and the next promotion will only come if a colleague is moved or resigns? That’s an absolute exception in digital agencies. If you’re a fast learner and show commitment, you are guaranteed to get the chance to climb the ladder. While employees in a large corporation often have to wait longer in the career queue, it is entirely possible in a digital agency to take the next step in your career every year and to reach a position of team leader after three to four years. These opportunities not only motivate individuals but are also important for the agency to enable it to develop as a company in as agile a fashion as possible. That’s why it’s in the DNA of digital agencies to give their employees the greatest possible leeway.

4. First movers, influencers, checkers

Artificial Intelligence, influencers, chatbots, data management platforms and customer centricity. Quite normal language for us, but just double Dutch to normal people. We are the first to develop the solutions which will later play a major role in people’s everyday lives. Anyone working in a digital agency, doesn’t just have their finger on the pulse of the times. They are among the first movers in our society. We get insights into companies and stimulating markets in a very early phase of development. And the rule for new developments is often that the experts are the ones who are the first to devote themselves to the subject — because no-one else has any experience of it. In the process, we don’t just develop new solutions with the latest tools and technologies, we also have to acquire a keen instinct for people’s motives and the way they behave. This also sometimes makes us influencers in private life when it comes to explaining new developments. Our job is exciting, with every day a fresh challenge. And we learn with every update.

5. Integrated, overarching work

Graphic designers, creatives, media planners, programmers, strategists — a digital agency works most efficiently when it takes an integrated approach. Together with numerous advertising trades, acting as the client’s general contractor. We are the architects, foremen, bricklayers, electricians or tilers of the Digital Transformation. The only difference is that our building sites are called “campaigns”, “applications”, “skills” or “solutions”. The common goal is not a finished building but the financial success of our clients. And because every assignment highlights different aspects, requiring varying strategies and communication measures, the team constantly faces new challenges. Thinking in the round and focusing on the outcome are bread and butter for a digital agency. This also includes mutual understanding. On a personal level, of course, but predominantly from a professional perspective. For this reason, the usability expert must know what the SEO advertising professional does, and creatives have to know how media works. That is not always easy in detail but very enriching in totality.

6. Variety as the rule

Every day by rote? That rarely happens in a digital agency. Different clients from a wide variety of sectors, new tools and technologies. The fast pace of things digital in the world makes demands on us every day. Very little of it can be learned at universities, and every update throws up a new challenge. Digital agencies represent the ideal professional environment for first and fast movers. And salaries and working hours? Appropriate, totally competitive remuneration and flexible working time arrangements almost go without saying in a modern digital agency. We know what a competitive world it is, and we have long since taken the fight for talent to heart. A good salary, a working environment that promotes initiative and a modern workplace are therefore part of the compulsory programme. The freestyle element does not include a ball pool. It is the DNA of digital agencies (see points 1 to 6) that makes us as employers attractive to young people starting out on their careers.

The most relevant SEO News for February 2018

The New Year is not giving us any breathers. The New Year’s Eve fireworks have barely died down and we are already invited to enthuse about the long-awaited relaunch of an important tool. How it’s not too long before we’ll be browsing with our reading glasses and why voice assistants are likely to get on our nerves soon – this and more you’ll find out in the SEO News bulletin for February.

1) Hooray, the new Google Search Console is here!

With the start of the New Year, the mailboxes of webmasters, in-house SEOs and agencies far and wide have been overwhelmed with countless emails. What initially looked like spam soon turned out to be a long-awaited message from Mountain View. After a test phase lasting many months, the new Google Search Console is now available to all users. Though officially still in its beta phase, the data portal for monitoring the organic search aspect of website performance formerly known as Webmaster Tools has had its design completely overhauled. Alongside its fresh look, the Search Console also offers real improvements, such as access to historical data from the last 16 months instead of the previous mere 90 days. There are new functions too, like the Index Coverage Report, which enables superior tracing of the search function performance for individual URLs. Although some basic functions are still missing, Google has announced that it will further expand the range of functions for the new Console within the year. At the same time, new functions will also be added to the API. The fact that the highly-anticipated rollout took so long was mainly due to the need to collect and evaluate the beta testers’ feedback, a Google spokesperson said. Google is also still interested in Webmasters’ input. They have been asked to submit ideas to Google for useful reports and functionalities. SEOs and Webmasters should not let this opportunity slip by to further adapt one of the most important tools of the sector to the changing needs of our time.

2) Voice search ranking: new study reveals first figures

The British online performance agency Roast has run a study to investigate the connection between rankings of classic Google search results and responses of the Google Home digital voice assistant. To this end, 616 top search terms from the areas of medicine, retail, travel and finance were entered as queries, and in the UK, an “answer box”, the so-called featured snippet, was shown as the search result. The Google Home voice assistant could answer roughly 75% of the queries through its automated search process; the remaining 25% left Google speechless, although the desktop search showed a corresponding answer box. No statement could be made about the rules governing the answers displayed, as the study shows. What’s more, about 20% of the queries answered by the voice assistant did not tally with the featured snippet on the desktop. For search marketing, these results mean that a successful battle for featured snippet ranking in a desktop search is far off from guaranteeing an equivalent reception on Google Home, and the Google My Business tool is still indispensable for managing information that serves search queries for local services.

3) Visual search on the rise

While we’re still waxing lyrical about the influence of voice search on digital marketing, AI is yet again opening up totally new avenues. With new apps like Google Lens and Pinterest Lens, as well as expanded functions on Microsoft’s search machine Bing, we’re advancing in the visual search era. Since the early days of Google we have been able to look for images using key words; later came reverse search for image files with the aid of structured data. In the next developmental step of visual search, AI will recognize the content of photos or only sections of images, completely without context, and will not only come up with similar images in its results list, but also detailed information on the properties of the depicted object. For the e-commerce sector, this means a new access point on the customer journey. Information searches and purchase decisions can be conducted quickly and intuitively. The need to translate your own search purpose into a written or spoken search phrase becomes obsolete; results are instantly reflected in an augmented image. For search engine optimization, this development means that providing product information via automated data feeds and data banks will become even more important. In this way, suitable information be stored in the search systems and successfully served by this kind of push paradigm. The transferred content – images and text – need to be optimized for quality and relevance and be able to excel as structured data in order to take their place in the competitive data world. The integration of visual search in cameras, browsers and apps will take place very quickly and accelerate the transition from on-page to data optimization even further.

4) Alexa gets her own opinion

In the meantime, we know that digital voice assistants like Alexa and Siri have female voices because studies verify that both men and women find the female voice more trustworthy than its male equivalent.
But apart from fact-based question-and-answer exchanges, so far it has not been possible to carry on a conversation with the voice assistants. This should now change through an Amazon decision. According to Techcrunch, Alexa will be endowed with her own opinion and also express this confidently in conversation with her user. By way of example, the company gives comments on films in its own video product range. As she once did with the funny character at the video shop counter, (the older reader will remember this), in future Alexa is intended to start up conversations with users looking for the right evening entertainment – which will not be based on content curated by humans. Instead the artificial intelligence of the voice assistant will independently generate the necessary portion of attitude and humour that is crucial for lifelike conversation in all its nuances and suitable for the market. With use of this strategy, Amazon expects to win an advantage over its competitor Google, which has recourse to information and facts from a disparately larger data set, a company spokesperson has explained. Thus, Alexa is today already declaring the US beer brand Budweiser to be her favourite drink. Humour aside, a machine’s skill in conducting a natural conversation with a human will shape and change the future of search marketing in a more decisive way than any leap in technology we have experienced so far.

The most relevant SEO News for January 2018

The quiet period before the start of a new year helps us to find peace of mind and to reflect on the fundamental questions in life before embarking on a new year full of surprises and changes. As always, there are also surprises and changes in store for the SEO landscape. Here are the SEO news for January.

1) SEO at its limit: Is there still any organic traffic growth?

Using extensive data, SEO expert Rand Fishkin has been searching for an answer to the question of whether search engines can still honour their promise to act as inexhaustible traffic sources with huge growth potential more than 20 years after the launch of Infoseek, Altavista and Lycos. Fishkin explores in detail the questions of a) whether the number of queries on Google is still growing and b) whether the volume of queries asked on landing pages outside of Google has decreased. The answer: Both. On the one hand, Google traffic is still increasing by 10 percent per year on average despite seasonal fluctuations and the increasing importance of Amazon as a starting point for transactional searches. On the other hand, the new Google search result features, such as instant answers, featured snippets and interactive knowledge panels, have ensured that approximately 23 percent less traffic found its way from Google to other websites in comparison to the same time the previous year. According to Fishkin, so far the traffic growth has still been able to make up for the loss of clicks. But even the SEO master Fishkin did not expect the results to be so revealing.

2) Google Analytics examines individual users

The free online tracking suite “Google Analytics” has had a real success story since its launch in November 2005. It is currently used by more than half of the world’s websites. The continuous development of measuring technology and graphical user interfaces were always prerequisites for Google in order for them to keep up with transforming digital marketing channels and to represent the constantly changing consumer decision journey in all its forms in the best possible way. Since mid-December, Google Analytics has expanded its features to place individual users at the centre of its analysis. This is news that will make every SEO manager happy because over the past five years, optimisation of user-related added value and the increase in relevance to the target group have caught up with the old, empirical benchmarks such as backlinks or keywords. Google Analytics is now taking this development into account by providing information on the behaviour of individual, anonymised users over the entire lifetime of their cookie. This includes all sessions, the session duration and sales or transactions. In conjunction with the now more extensively applicable target group analysis, valuable data can be gathered to create and verify search persona and demand patterns that can be used as the basis for sustainable and content-related optimisations.

3) Bing: New search features with artificial intelligence

When you think about the news on artificial intelligence and its possible applications in search engines and voice-operated assistants, Google and Amazon have dominated the headlines up to now and have demonstrated their technological capabilities in the best possible PR light. Microsoft has been relatively quiet on this front except for a few bizarre mishaps from its AI-controlled voice-operated assistant. But this is about to change. The old giant from Redmond has announced that users of the search engine Bing will get to experience an entirely new range of features in 2018 that are based on the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The new image search feature which recognises and categorises objects automatically has already been live since December. This should burst the much-discussed “filter bubble” in the news search feature. With the “machine reading” system, texts will not only be recognised and understood, but aspects such as the political perspective will be identified, which means that Microsoft will be able to ensure balance in their search results. According to Microsoft, another new feature will be the improved auto-complete function on the search screen in order to achieve higher search result relevance. The Windows veterans don’t want to limit the use of artificial search intelligence to Bing. Microsoft has announced their intention to implement corresponding features soon in Office products OneDrive, SharePoint and Excel. This is a route that is not available to competitor Google, and so we are anxious to see how it works.

4) Welcome! Yandex has given us Alice

If your active circle of friends becomes smaller and smaller as you get older, the prospect of virtual acquaintances is even more exciting. Over the last few years, we’ve been able to get to know Alexa (Amazon), Allo (Google), Bixby (Samsung) and Cortana (Microsoft). If you were thinking that the next voice-operated assistant would have a name starting with “D”, you’d be wrong. The Russian search engine giant Yandex has named its youngest daughter Alice (Russian: Алиса). Since the end of 2017, Alice has been providing Yandex search results, weather reports, games and nursery rhymes. Of course, Skills can also be developed for her platform. In her own words, Alice provides the most reliable recognition of the Russian language and thanks to artificial intelligence, she can automatically identify the user’s search intention. So far, however, we have only been able to meet Alice in the Yandex app, but according to the company, further products are already being planned.

Innovation at the point of sale – a journey around the world

By Björn Portillo, Managing Partner at hmmh

Several years ago, experts predicted the end of over-the-counter trade. That is to say, it would not be able to exist alongside online trade in this new digital world. However, this viewpoint has once again shifted as connected commerce concepts are slowly but surely taking hold. Previous online “pure players” such as notebooksbilliger.de or mymuesli have even set up stationary concept stores, and now find themselves in the product ranges of large retail chains. But what are the reasons behind this change, and which innovations are bringing retail back into the game?

In order to understand the “how” and “why” of this paradigm shift, we are embarking on an economic and cultural journey that will take us to the USA and China, before returning to Germany.

Packing our bags in Germany

Many companies and agencies have worked hard to promote technical development and harness innovations to simplify our day-to-day lives. Concepts for interactive consultancy solutions, as well as mobile consulting via smartphone, mobile payment or augmented and virtual reality, are well-developed enough for implementation in stores. But these opportunities are often not exploited in this country. Why is this? Is it down to retailers who ignore the potential due to traditional reasons? Or perhaps it is a scepticism of all things new and a distrust of technology itself? Are German store owners, their customers, or even both, wary of innovation?

The risk-averse, conventional German likes to carry out research and product comparisons, particularly online. The product and the context then determine where they make purchases – sometimes online, sometimes offline. A decisive factor is that they feel well-advised and well-informed, and that they are able to closely examine their desired product.

Technical hurdles and a lack of acceptance

Not only do traditional retailers need to offer a range of products that is varied and constantly available – they must also provide the right setting for brands and products in order to present these to each customer. However, attempts to implement connected commerce concepts often fall at the first hurdle – Internet access for the customers. Furthermore, the use of different systems that cannot be easily combined is another reason why retailers are often faced with such great challenges. That makes it difficult for retailers to recognise their customers, and impossible to collect relevant data, offer comprehensive advice or provide a quick and simple payment process. Except for a few individual examples.

A further challenge: although German consumers place great importance on being able to test their desired product – ideally even trying it out in a private setting – and also expect comprehensive individual consultation, they are often not willing to share their personal information.

Off to the USA

The land of opportunity – is this also the case when it comes to store innovations? If so, which developments have already taken hold? With a significantly higher population across a land area 25 times the size of Germany, it is difficult for us to sum up the average US citizen. What we can say, however, is that the average citizen is open to new things, thinks practically and is always on the lookout for a bargain. They like to use their credit card at the small business around the corner, and their thick coupon booklet is the most valuable companion when it comes to the weekly shop. Perhaps the most important drivers of innovation are the thriftiness and desire for convenience of the American people.

Ideas are tested and optimised

Every day, new concepts emerge that are aimed at giving US citizens the shopping experience that they want. At the end of 2016, Internet giant Amazon opened its Amazon Go grocery store in Seattle, where customers do not need to wait in queues or make physical payments. All thanks to a motion detection system installed in the store – the so-called “Just walk out technology”. Payments are via PayPal and the Amazon.com account. However, the store is closed for the time being due to technical issues with the motion detection and tracking of more than 20 customers at the same time.

Amazon Go

Amazon Go – Shopping without having to queue up at the checkout: just walk into the store, put the item in your bag and then leave. Source: Amazon

This example shows that not everything needs to go to plan first time round for innovative companies. Whereas in Germany it is frowned upon to make mistakes – which means that attempts are not even made to try and establish new concepts – the successful principle of “trial and error” applies over in the USA. Courage is rewarded.

US retailers know what their customers need

In contrast to the cautious mentality of German offline retailers, the US market offers numerous examples of its digital transformation. For example, the retail giant Walmart is buying up online shops and start-ups, and in doing so is making strides towards e-commerce. The other big player in the stationary retail sector, Target, offers its customers a practical app that not only allows them to manage coupons easily using their smartphone, but also provides them with in-store navigation to show the direct route to the desired product. Other concepts are already being tested. Unrestricted data allowances in mobile phone contracts are making it much easier to use these services.

“Whether it be artificial intelligence in the form of multiple interfaces, robots in the store, speech assistance through in-ear consultants or delivery to your front door without you even needing to be in: these trends in the US market are not necessarily compatible with the German market due to the differing mentality of consumers”, explains Nicolas Roemer, Chief Business Development Officer at Serviceplan US.

Moving onto China

Anyone who has visited China will be aware of the people’s affinity for technology, and their group-oriented way of thinking. They will also have an image of the typical urban landscape before their eyes: millions of people on the streets with their smartphones out enjoying unlimited data volumes. Driven by progress and further development, new concepts catch on quickly in this society.

A step ahead when it comes to innovations

For years, retailers that have also enjoyed success with e-commerce have been looking for ways to combine the online and offline worlds with one another. Pioneers on the market such as Alibaba.com recognised the unfolding “mobile boom” in China, and came up with concepts to match the mentality and the new purchasing behaviour of the Chinese people. The result was futuristic stores with sophisticated technology. For example, a self-service store called “BingoBox” was opened in China’s Guangdong province. Although nowhere near as complex and extensive as the Amazon Go store, it was adapted to the demand for mobile shopping. As the Amazon Go store was being trialled in the USA, Alibaba.com was already introducing a sophisticated variant of the fully-automated store concept in China: the “Tao Cafe”. Here, customers can log in with their smartphones and pay at the checkout cash-free thanks to facial recognition.

Tao Cafe

Tao Cafe – purchasing through facial recognition: The cash-free café combines automatic optical sensors and facial recognition for quick payment. Source: VCG Photo or CNR

The era of staff-free shopping

Cash-free stores and automated services have become part of everyday life in Chinese shopping centres, as quick payment via smartphone continues to boom: 6 in 10 customers now pay for their shopping using their phone. This represents great potential for Chinese retailers. Payment service providers have a good understanding of Chinese social interaction, and combine the popular payment method with social media functions. For example, users of WeChat Pay can follow the official WeChat account of the respective retailer in order to get advice or ask questions. Users can also exchange information with one another and provide recommendations. The way we see it, the retailers there seem to act like private individuals. They know that customers identify much more strongly with brands and connect a lot more emotion to them than people in Germany.

The hype surrounding mobile payment in China has been a strong driver behind the development towards connected commerce. For retailers, this method of payment not only drives revenue, but is also a new form of communication and interaction – both online and offline. A prime example of an optimal, integrated user journey.

Back to Germany with our bags full

When it comes to implementing connected commerce concepts, the Americans and Chinese in particular show us how it’s done. Apple Pay and Samsung Pay are essential for this, as are large mobile data packages at low rates, which allow 360°retailers to offer integrated services in the store via smartphone. However, German retailers still find it difficult to take this step. The seamless customer journey still has clear barriers, and customers themselves have played a part in creating these. The cautiousness of the German people, the data protection barriers and the inhibitions regarding the use of existing technology need to be dismantled. “Many German retailers feel that their hands are tied and that they are trying to perform a difficult balancing act”, reveals Björn Portillo, Managing Partner at hmmh. Here, it is important that they have the right partner by their side. They can then develop options and methods that offer consumers added value, and in return consumers will be happy to make their data available.

Whereas Germans still worry about making mistakes and therefore often act too late, a different error culture dominates in the USA. “Test, optimise, then test again – these steps are part of the innovation process and are ingrained in the mentality there”, says Nicolas Roemer, Chief Business Development Officer at Serviceplan US. “Even if a concept doesn’t quite work out and needs to be scrapped, it doesn’t mean the brand is doomed. Quite the opposite – bravery pays off.”

In China, it is the urge for progress that drives the digitalisation of over-the-counter retail. However, it does not make sense to simply copy innovations and force ourselves to apply them. “Together with retailers, we must first determine which problems of the target group we want to solve. Only then should we look at which innovations we use and how we use them, so that they actually catch on”, says Björn Portillo.

We are aware of the needs and fears of German customers, as well as the technical challenges faced by retailers, and already have approaches for individual solutions. Experienced international agencies are just waiting to be given the go-ahead.

Strengthen your future viability with a platform strategy

An important key to success and future viability in the digital age is the perceived relevance of a company’s offering in the eyes of the users. This can be increased through added value such as product enhancements and services. It is a strategic option to open the own offer to partners and to integrate their solutions according to the actual needs and potential. That way, it is possible to flexibly design the own offering in the sense of a modular system and to significantly increase the relevance in the eyes of the users. The requirement for this is to exactly know the customers and their demands, to observe the competition intensively, and to look for appropriate partners in order to constantly increase the added value of the own offering.

Examples of such platform strategies can currently be found a lot in the financial sector, where established financial service providers are being attacked from different sides. FinTechs particularly, but also nonfinancial providers such as telecommunications and technology companies take over individual parts of the bank’s value chain and develop separate business models for this purpose. The new players offer products and services that are easy to understand, easy to use, and often even fun. What distinguishes the traditional players are above all their broad customer base, decades of tradition and experience, brand strength, customer confidence, market knowledge, human and financial resources, as well as existing structures and networks. In order to prepare for the future, start-ups and banks have to cooperate with each other – finding and networking with the right partner from both worlds becomes a decisive success factor for the own future viability. And this is certainly not only true for the financial industry.

Data is the oil of the 21st century

Data-based marketing is the wave on which marketing and communication professionals, technology providers and agencies are riding and talking to each other. Due to people’s constantly changing, digitising media consumption, target groups have to be profiled more precisely.

They have to be addressed in the right time window and environment in a needs-oriented manner and converted to customers as efficiently as possible.
The plan is good and right. And at best, it ends the unnecessary media channel discussions between “classic” vs.”digital” supporters.

However, companies and their communication service providers must first of all face the challenge of being able to adequately meet these channel-neutral requirements.

My trend for 2018 is therefore to look at data-based marketing from a new perspective: Many marketing decision-makers should aim for and initiate a strategic change of direction towards new data-based marketing compared to the tried and tested.

In this way, we can generate data for you, process it in a meaningful way, and then control needs-oriented content at the right time and in the right place.

Stretch out!

In the search for the trends for 2018, everyone likes to look at his desk in a reflexive manner and describe the topics that can be found there.

I’m afraid that won’t last much longer. The long preached collaboration of all disciplines and perspectives will become a trend in 2018, and the practice will demand it. Open thinkers lead and combine offline, online, artificial intelligence and common sense into a strong commitment to brands and customers.

Collaboration in our understanding transcends all boundaries. Between departments, companies, customers, partners. It is a matter of close cooperation between people with different perspectives and skills, but with a common goal: to develop new, future-oriented solutions.

Undoubtedly, this will be a wonderful, inevitable feat of strength! And we will all have to stretch out to overcome the horizon of our own desks.

Content that understands me

In 2018 we will creatively prepare ourselves to combine technology and storytelling in new ways. With the rapid pace of technical development, it will not only be possible to create different content for different people, but also to make the content reactive. A film that notices that I’m in a bad mood and tries to cheer me up, but surprises another user with another ending; a visual that immerses my mood in colours; music that adapts to my situation. In terms of narrative, this results in infinite, progressive possibilities.

The most relevant SEO News for December 2017

New wine into old wineskins and an endless relationship drama are what kept us busy last month. Meanwhile, in the Far East, a new player is gaining ground on the search engine stage. Find out who it is – and much more – in the SEO News for December.

1) YouTube data now available in Google Trends

Happily, belittled by SEO experts as a child’s plaything, Google Trends has been an extremely popular tool for many years, used to easily analyse the search market. In addition, the company from Mountain View likes to use its trend feature as a PR vehicle for clickable headlines (“The most important search terms of 2017”). Since the end of November, however, even experienced SEO experts have found it useful to look at the web tool, which quickly and simply provides a comparative overview of search demand and its development over time for up to 125 keywords simultaneously. While the data used to be based solely on Google’s web search, the results can now be filtered by Google’s news, shopping and images categories. What’s more, the search volumes from Google’s YouTube video portal can also be displayed separately. Particularly in times when moving image content is becoming increasingly important, Google provides a reliable source for preparatory market analysis and monitoring.

2) The pivotal question: Is social media important for SEO?

You might think this question is as old as humanity itself. This cannot be true, of course, as humanity is much older than Facebook, StudiVZ and Myspace together. Nevertheless, since the rise (and fall) of social media portals and apps, the search scene has been wondering: Do I really need this to do my SEO job right? To put it bluntly, social media content is not a direct ranking factor in the same way as backlinks, for example. This already inhibits the limited visibility of many posts and likes for search engines behind the login barriers of social media applications. But when viewed from a distance, it becomes clear that Social and Search pay for the same goals: both want to attract the attention of users, satisfy their need for information or entertainment and anchor a product or service as a brand in the collective consciousness of Internet users on the intricate paths of the user journeys. The paths can cross at different points, for example in the search hits of social media content on search engines. Even though it is hardly possible to verify a measurable connection, the realisation is obvious that Social and Search are brothers in spirit who can strengthen each other.

3) Top ranking factors of 2018 according to SEMrush

Now is the time for SEO experts to reflect on the achievements of the fading year and ask themselves what they might be up against in 2018. We started to look forward to the coming year in the last SEO News. A new study of the popular analysis tool SEMrush has now examined more than 600,000 keywords with the help of a self-learning algorithm and has compiled the 17 most important ranking factors. Not surprisingly, direct user signals are at the top of the ranking, such as the amount of direct traffic to a page, the time spent on the page and the bounce rate. Interestingly, the often disregarded off-page factors were considered relatively important by SEMrush. The classic factors such as referring domains, backlinks or IP circles are still ahead of content factors such as text length, metadata or rich media integration. This means that the findings of the study at least partly contradict the publicly announced position of the major search engines such as Google and Bing. Every search engine practitioner should definitely take a look at the study – if the holiday season permits.

4) Tencent floats Chinese search engine subsidiary on the stock exchange

Whether the future will be built in China may only be answered with certainty in a few years’ time. However, the fact is that China is rapidly on its way to becoming a new centre for technological development. The Chinese technology giant Tencent is the company behind the successful chat apps WeChat and QQ. Its search engine Sogou (literally: Search Dog) has been around since 2004, but was not able to escape the field of defeated competitors behind the industry giant Baidu. This is now set to change with the help of fresh money from an IPO and massive investments in artificial intelligence. According to the wishes of the parent company, Sogou users will also be able to search English-language websites within China’s legal boundaries. Tencent also wants to use its immense data pool from WeChat to raise the recognition of natural language and user intentions to a new level. Whether a new Google of Asia will emerge here remains to be seen.

The most relevant SEO News for November 2017

It’s all about speed when it comes to online marketing. Therefore, in November, we are already looking at the new year and thinking about everything that will change in 2018. Will SEO be dead and gone and robots take over the world? It won’t be that bad, but there is a hint of truth behind this. You can find out more in the current SEO news.

1) Google launches its Mobile-First-Index (a little)

The launch of the Mobile-First-Index will be the dominating topic for SEOs in 2018. A year ago, the search engine, based in Mountain View, had already announced that it will realise mobile versions of websites in the future instead of using the desktop version as a reference for contents and rankings. However, it is not all going to happen on one specific day, the change will be quite gradual and accompanied by extensive tests, according to Google. Google spokesperson, John Mueller, has now announced that work has begun on converting the first websites to the Mobile Index in trial operation. Although it is still too early to talk about the official launch of regular operation, it is more of an initial testing phase. However, the changes in rankings that were observed by web masters in the middle of October are not related to these tests, according to Mueller.

2) 2018 SEO expert oracle

A glimpse into the SEO crystal ball fascinates the search industry again every year. Renowned experts have made predictions for 2018, on what the dominating trends will be in the coming 12 months. They all agree that Google’s transition to the Mobile-First-Index, the rapidly increasing use of language assistants and the triumph of artificial intelligence will bring about serious changes to the technological side of search marketing. Companies and web masters should watch these changes closely. The fight for organic traffic will quickly intensify. Since Google increasingly appears as a publisher and already provides a lot of information on its own search results using the so-called Featured Snippets, the use of structured data, in-depth analysis of contents and user behaviour as well as the focus on a good user experience all remain the most important areas of activity. Aaron Wall from SEO Book even speculated that Google’s dominance in the search sector will decline and that users will increasingly resort to specialised search systems. In summary, SEO expert John Lincoln easily adapts an old classic: “The old SEO is dead and gone – welcome to a new era. It’s 100 times better and much more exciting.”

3) Microsoft and Google rely on human support

Barely a day goes by when there isn’t something written about the unstoppable spread of artificial intelligence and its effects on online marketing. Search provider giants, Google and Microsoft, rely on the use of learning machines. However, if you look closely, there is also an opposite trend: Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, first announced in August that it wants to rely more on its collaboration with users in the “Bing Distill” community in order to improve the quality of its direct answers in the future (we reported). At the start of October, Google invited its “Local Guide” community to the second conference in San Francisco. According to the company, the organised user community already has around fifty million participants worldwide, who primarily check and correct entries in Google Maps. In addition, almost 700,000 new entries are composed by local guides on a daily basis. Google said that this is a great help, especially in developing countries, because information from local businesses and services in these countries is difficult to automatically record and check. It remains to be seen whether this trend is taking hold or whether humans are just a bridge technology until artificial intelligence has acquired the same skill set.

4) How artificial intelligence will change search engine optimisation

Search Marketing faces great changes and, at the core, it’s all about the effects of integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into the technology of major platforms. In terms of the organic search, according to SEO veteran and expert, Kristopher Jones, this means that keyword rankings will no longer be subject to dramatic changes in the future and that there will be no superior, universal algorithm. In fact, specialised and dynamic algorithms in a variety of versions will be used for various search requests. Ultimately, the search provider’s aim is to accurately grasp the exact intention of the user using technological aids and to be able to deliver better results, according to Jones. The search expert believes that the classic keyword analysis and technical SEO would therefore be obsolete. In response to the challenges of artificial intelligence, Jones suggests a combination of user experience optimisation, strictly tailoring the contents to user intentions and using more natural speech patterns for voice search. He went on to say that search engine optimisers will not be able to develop their own analysis tools based on artificial intelligence and that agencies and advertisers will have to develop strong responses to the technological challenges in order to not be overwhelmed by the progress.