Escaping the cold and out into the sun. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter whether you book your next winter break at the travel agency around the corner, or on your mobile phone. In January’s SEO News, we will discover how, with Google’s help, we will soon be sending ourselves jet-setting off into the distance, and why you should never underestimate supposedly harmless hoaxes.

Travel agencies – fasten your seatbelts

This column has often spoken about Google’s vision of an omnipresent machine that provides information, solutions, and comfort.  Measuring the world in entities, to provide the basis for a real-time classification of all individual sensibilities, is a project whose scope could hardly be larger. In order to be able to know and serve the needs of each and every individual, however, as a company you have to get pretty close to people.

It’s safe to say that 2019 was not an easy year for the travel industry. Not only did the insolvency of the British tour operator Thomas Cook send shock waves through the industry and cost many jobs, but “flight shame” and “overtourism” have been two social trends that have really put the brakes on growth within the sector, rather than strengthening it.

The traditional travel agency, which has for decades been the administrative headquarters of our holiday dreams, has experienced a small uptick, despite the adverse conditions. Although their numbers have been steadily declining for years, physical travel agencies have recorded a small but constant increase in turnover over the past 15 years. The reason for the success of travel agencies in the age of online bookings lies in the comprehensive, personal advice they provide and the transparency of prices and fees for customers. Both of these factors are forces that the online travel business has not yet been able to overcome. Against a background of changing travel behaviour, moving away from package tours to individual holidays, all market participants seemed to have settled down comfortably into their respective segments of the almost 800 billion US dollar global travel market.

This column has often spoken about Google’s vision of an omnipresent machine that provides information, solutions, and comfort.  Measuring the world in entities, to provide the basis for a real-time classification of all individual sensibilities, is a project whose scope could hardly be larger. In order to be able to know and serve the needs of each and every individual, however, as a company you have to get pretty close to people.

As humankind’s entirely natural digital partner, the Search channel is virtually predestined for such a venture. A large number of us think nothing of trusting the input field of a search engine with our most intimate secrets, greatest fears, and most hidden passions.  For companies, webmasters, and SEOs, though, the challenge of generating genuine value from this social potential is growing ever greater. Paid ads, answer boxes as featured snippets, and the beloved “People Also Ask” questions – each of these is displacing the classic, organic click result from the top spots on the search results page. This is the other side of Google’s metamorphosis from a gateway to a portal for all of life’s questions and situations.

Google Travel as the new gatekeeper

A golden exception to these current developments is local search. Freshly fortified with an algorithm update for better recognition of local queries, and thanks to its prominent display featuring area maps, a route planner, and user reviews, the so-called “Local Pack” is evolving into the most important piece of inventory that the search engine from Mountain View has to offer stationary trading so far. As an electronic business card, however, the Local Pack has much more to offer besides. Branch operators have the option of chatting directly with potential customers, submitting individual questions and answers, and publishing upcoming events and company news as so-called “posts”. The “Mybusiness” service continues to provide the interface for this. As time goes on, however, local interactions with real people are set to become more important for rankings, as even in local searches, spam isn’t uncommon.

But all that is about to change… After several acquisitions, iterations and experiments, Google is starting to expand its flight and hotel search into a comprehensive, personalised travel consultant and planner. The new travel search tool “Google Travel” has been live in the US since the start of the year and has received positive initial reactions  from both the press and users alike.

Bookings are still made on the travel providers’ own websites, but as a gatekeeper Google will certainly soon be monetising its dominance. Last spring, SEO veteran Rand Fishkin had alreadyexpressed his regret regarding this to the start-ups and online travel industry employees present at SMX Munich. A few months earlier, on the other side of the Atlantic, a small website called Touringbird, an individual travel planning provider, which could not even be found via organic search, was launched. As it turned out a year later, the supposed start-up was in fact an experiment by Google’s incubator, Area 120. The site, which has since been discontinued and merged with Google Travel, allowed the search giant to test the application of its wealth of data in combination with the use of artificial intelligence under market conditions.

A golden exception to these current developments is local search. Freshly fortified with an algorithm update for better recognition of local queries, and thanks to its prominent display featuring area maps, a route planner, and user reviews, the so-called “Local Pack” is evolving into the most important piece of inventory that the search engine from Mountain View has to offer stationary trading so far. As an electronic business card, however, the Local Pack has much more to offer besides. Branch operators have the option of chatting directly with potential customers, submitting individual questions and answers, and publishing upcoming events and company news as so-called “posts”. The “Mybusiness” service continues to provide the interface for this. As time goes on, however, local interactions with real people are set to become more important for rankings, as even in local searches, spam isn’t uncommon.

A recent patent shows that, in addition to online check-ins and reviews, Google also wants to incorporate offline user behaviour into its quality evaluation of local companies. According to the document, movement patterns of individual users or EXIF data from uploaded photos are to allow conclusions to be drawn about the quality and relevance of local listings. This leaves a lot of room for imagination as to how conventional SEO work at the computer may also shift into the real world in years to come. In addition to optimising website technology, structure, and content, clever strategies for obtaining good signals from offline searches are now set to be in demand as well. Before long, the free cup of coffee offered in exchange for a longer stay at the corner shop may very likely count among the modern search engine optimiser’s trusted tools.

Successful linking of different Google services

To be sure of ending the year with one more compelling overview, let’s round off the last SEO News of 2019 with a detailed look at the newest mobile phone camera to hit the market. Here we encounter a cold, electronic eye; behind it, no didactic supercomputer like the HAL 9000 of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but instead the new addition of a search engine.   Already integrated into the current generation of Android mobile phones and driven by such enterprises as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Pinterest, in the coming year we’ll see that the fastest connection between the user’s brain and their wallet isn’t the ear or mouth, but the eye.

Google actually laid the foundations for its development work a few years earlier with its app Google Trips, which has also now been discontinued. The result they are now presenting is a tool that combines personalised searches with historical and real-time data to offer the entire spectrum of individual travel inspiration and planning using three simple tabs.

Broken down into “Where to stay”, “When to visit” and “What you’ll pay”, at first glance all the basic questions relating to travel are presented in an easily accessible and comprehensive manner. The comprehensive and familiar information from Google’s local search for almost any location around the globe can not only be marketed within the immediate geographical area, but can now be directly monetised as added value in travel planning. The company deliberately places the transparency of the final price at the centre of its marketing communication in order to distinguish itself positively from the competition. According to a study by EMarketer, despite ecological and social headwinds, the global travel market will be reaching the trillion dollar mark in just two years’ time. This means that the pie is getting bigger, but who gets a slice is still up for grabs.

To be sure of ending the year with one more compelling overview, let’s round off the last SEO News of 2019 with a detailed look at the newest mobile phone camera to hit the market. Here we encounter a cold, electronic eye; behind it, no didactic supercomputer like the HAL 9000 of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but instead the new addition of a search engine.   Already integrated into the current generation of Android mobile phones and driven by such enterprises as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Pinterest, in the coming year we’ll see that the fastest connection between the user’s brain and their wallet isn’t the ear or mouth, but the eye.

The proliferation of technologies that enable open searching with the help of visual information is now also underway in Europe and North America, several years after Chinese search machines like Alibaba and Baidu first made important pioneering achievements in this area. Through advancement in the development of artificial intelligence and the gathering of ever more extensive volumes of data, it’s becoming increasingly easy for users to perform search queries that would be difficult to express assisted only by text or even speech.

The most important driver for visual search, however, will turn out to be that optimal searching is the ideal partner to e-commerce. With the launch of its visual search tool, US fashion chain Forever 21 has succeeded in increasing its average shopping cart value by approximately 20%. Inspiration portal Pinterest recently announced that around 80% of its users begin their shopping session with a visual search. The shortening of the customer journey in the young target group of 18 to 34 years is a powerful factor in the battle for online sales. Soon enough, the path from “I want” to “I have” will be just a camera click away.

From the point of view of search engine optimisation, this means it would be advisable to extend content strategies by a visual dimension, and to optimise technical deployment of picture and video files within digital assets. 2020 will not only see us experience the proliferation of visual searches, however, but also witness the first steps on the road to a multimodal search matrix consisting of text, speech, camera input, and (offline) context.  That’s why we advise you to stay on the ball, keep reading our little column, and, most importantly,  have an excellent start to the new year.

Duck Duck Go buys into Android

With almost 90% of the market share, Google’s Android dominates the smartphone operating system market worldwide. Hard-wiring your browser to your own search engine gives you quite a valuable asset. The EU’s competition watchdogs have now also realised this, imposing on Google a fine of around five billion US dollars in March 2019. In addition, the company was required to provide users with a choice of search provider when setting up their mobile device, much in the same way as Microsoft had to make alternatives to the Internet Explorer browser available in the Windows 7 operating system in 2009.

Google has now successfully fulfilled this obligation with the help of an auction, much to the disappointment of the search engines participating. Three selections were auctioned in a total of 31 EU markets. The bidding was on the click price that the third-party provider would be prepared to pay Google for each search action.

Duck Duck Go comes out on top

The result of these auctions now reflects neither the market position nor the quality of Google’s alternatives. For example, Microsoft’s successful search engine Bing was only used in the high-revenue UK. In Germany, new Android users will have the choice between the US providers Duck Duck Go, InfoSpace and GMX-Suche from Germany’s United Internet group. The search engine Duck Duck Go, which specialises in the data protection, was the biggest winner in the auction and was used immediately in all markets. Despite criticism from participating companies, this procedure has not yet been called into question by the EU. Even though the auction procedure is a proven method of ensuring fair access to a limited market, the demand for a permanent click price speaks volumes about our beloved monopolist’s understanding of the market.

Christmas is widely recognised as an opportunity for us to put our mobile phones down for more than 15 minutes and feel truly at ease in the offline world. To explain why that would be a bad mistake, here’s December’s edition of SEO News.

Left out in the cold

This column has often spoken about Google’s vision of an omnipresent machine that provides information, solutions, and comfort.  Measuring the world in entities, to provide the basis for a real-time classification of all individual sensibilities, is a project whose scope could hardly be larger. In order to be able to know and serve the needs of each and every individual, however, as a company you have to get pretty close to people.

As humankind’s entirely natural digital partner, the Search channel is virtually predestined for such a venture. A large number of us think nothing of trusting the input field of a search engine with our most intimate secrets, greatest fears, and most hidden passions.  For companies, webmasters, and SEOs, though, the challenge of generating genuine value from this social potential is growing ever greater. Paid ads, answer boxes as featured snippets, and the beloved “People Also Ask” questions – each of these is displacing the classic, organic click result from the top spots on the search results page. This is the other side of Google’s metamorphosis from a gateway to a portal for all of life’s questions and situations.

The prospects of local search

A golden exception to these current developments is local search. Freshly fortified with an algorithm update for better recognition of local queries, and thanks to its prominent display featuring area maps, a route planner, and user reviews, the so-called “Local Pack” is evolving into the most important piece of inventory that the search engine from Mountain View has to offer stationary trading so far. As an electronic business card, however, the Local Pack has much more to offer besides. Branch operators have the option of chatting directly with potential customers, submitting individual questions and answers, and publishing upcoming events and company news as so-called “posts”. The “Mybusiness” service continues to provide the interface for this. As time goes on, however, local interactions with real people are set to become more important for rankings, as even in local searches, spam isn’t uncommon.

A recent patent shows that, in addition to online check-ins and reviews, Google also wants to incorporate offline user behaviour into its quality evaluation of local companies. According to the document, movement patterns of individual users or EXIF data from uploaded photos are to allow conclusions to be drawn about the quality and relevance of local listings. This leaves a lot of room for imagination as to how conventional SEO work at the computer may also shift into the real world in years to come. In addition to optimising website technology, structure, and content, clever strategies for obtaining good signals from offline searches are now set to be in demand as well. Before long, the free cup of coffee offered in exchange for a longer stay at the corner shop may very likely count among the modern search engine optimiser’s trusted tools.

A special look

To be sure of ending the year with one more compelling overview, let’s round off the last SEO News of 2019 with a detailed look at the newest mobile phone camera to hit the market. Here we encounter a cold, electronic eye; behind it, no didactic supercomputer like the HAL 9000 of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, but instead the new addition of a search engine.   Already integrated into the current generation of Android mobile phones and driven by such enterprises as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Pinterest, in the coming year we’ll see that the fastest connection between the user’s brain and their wallet isn’t the ear or mouth, but the eye.

The proliferation of technologies that enable open searching with the help of visual information is now also underway in Europe and North America, several years after Chinese search machines like Alibaba and Baidu first made important pioneering achievements in this area. Through advancement in the development of artificial intelligence and the gathering of ever more extensive volumes of data, it’s becoming increasingly easy for users to perform search queries that would be difficult to express assisted only by text or even speech.

The most important driver for visual search, however, will turn out to be that optimal searching is the ideal partner to e-commerce. With the launch of its visual search tool, US fashion chain Forever 21 has succeeded in increasing its average shopping cart value by approximately 20%. Inspiration portal Pinterest recently announced that around 80% of its users begin their shopping session with a visual search. The shortening of the customer journey in the young target group of 18 to 34 years is a powerful factor in the battle for online sales. Soon enough, the path from “I want” to “I have” will be just a camera click away.

From the point of view of search engine optimisation, this means it would be advisable to extend content strategies by a visual dimension, and to optimise technical deployment of picture and video files within digital assets. 2020 will not only see us experience the proliferation of visual searches, however, but also witness the first steps on the road to a multimodal search matrix consisting of text, speech, camera input, and (offline) context.  That’s why we advise you to stay on the ball, keep reading our little column, and, most importantly,  have an excellent start to the new year.

It will soon be time once again for us to take out our Advent calendars and start opening another little door with each passing day. Meanwhile, Google is announcing acquisitions and partnerships at almost as rapid a rate – and with the biggest players in the most important industries and sectors. Here to explain what it all means – and why we should be giving Sesame Street another watch – is the November edition of SEO News.

BERT and ELMO from the big brain factory

The best school for life is a happy childhood. Despite being barely out of puberty at 20 years old, Google too now seems to have cottoned on to this piece of universal wisdom; what other explanation can there be for the Mountain View-based search engine’s decision to name its new colleagues from its artificial intelligence department after characters from Sesame Street? Helping machines to understand people better is now the responsibility of BERT and ELMO. Both are acronyms for digital manifestations of machine-learning processes (“Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers” and “Embeddings from Language Models” respectively). If that all sounds rather complicated, we can use more analogies from our childhoods to help simplify things: For one thing, sheer human curiosity is overwhelming the abilities of Google’s impressive tech stack. The company reports that, more than two decades after the search engine was founded, it still can’t understand even the gist of around 15 percent of search queries. The extension of input technology from text to speech has made this problem even more acute. For another thing, the complexity of speech, reality and life can only be accommodated by organising the learning process of machines in the same way that we approach the education of a child. This means that every individual expression of a search query has to be considered and understood in context. It’s only in this way that accuracy can be reliably predicted. The new BERT algorithm enables Google to more reliably identify different intentions in a search query based on language constructions and changing contexts, and associate them with the most relevant results. Compared to artificial intelligence used by its competitors, this represents a decisive step for Google, because Facebook, Microsoft, Alibaba and Tencent are all working away on the same problems.  Although this doesn’t mean any direct transformations for SEOs and website operators, for Google’s vision of developing an omnipresent information, solutions and convenience machine, BERT marks a ground breaking turning point.

Google’s transition to portal status

Even though Google’s motto for its first twenty years was “Don’t be evil”, the search engine giant from Mountain View appears to have a harsh future ahead of it. Increasing numbers of public voices are now saying what daily use of the search engine and an enlightened glance at the columns of the business press should have made clear long ago: that Google is presently undergoing a backwards metamorphosis from a search engine to a good old-fashioned Internet portal. The inflation of so-called “no-click-searches” – search queries that are answered on Google’s own pages and no longer generate any organic traffic for third-party sites, the aggressive dismantling of sales verticals in such areas as travel, medicine and finance, and the upcoming relaunch of the Shopping division, including payment processing with Google Guarantee, leave us wondering just where this journey is headed. At his recent talk at the “Transformation of Search” conference, CEO of analytics firm Jumpshot, Stephen Kraus, personally awarded Google the title “AOL of the Year 2020” (5:50 minutes into the video). In his keynote address to the “SMX East” conference, veteran SEO expert Rand Fishkin bemoaned the fact that the sector would have to adapt in the future to optimising in Google’s direction in order to meet its customers’ expectations. According to Fishkin, brands are being caught in a kind of prisoner’s dilemma by the fact that, rather than positioning itself as a moderator and provider of relevant traffic (and of turnover with it) as it did before, the search engine is now positioning itself as a market participant in almost all areas of the sale of products, services, and information. The result is that brands are finding themselves obliged to choose between click-free visibility and avoiding the competition in unused keyword niches. The outcome is sub-optimal in both cases.  Fishkin’s answer to this predicament, which he calls “On-SERP-SEO”, can be understood as a form of brand building on Google’s search results pages in combination with widely distributed awareness campaigns. The consequence of these developments won’t be the much-desired “death of SEO”, even in 2020, but instead a signal for closer cooperation between the search sector and conventional marketing channels, and for the need for the technological professionalisation and automation of SEO in order to make it possible to keep up with the search engine’s evolving complexity. Google hasn’t turned evil overnight; it’s just grown up.

Fortnite has shown the way forward: the brilliant (and interim) end of the online game captivated hundreds of millions of viewers, and still has people talking more than a week after the event.  For the advertising sector, this demonstrates one thing in particular: that e-sports and gaming are niche no more, and promise a multitude of marketing opportunities.

The first chapter of co-op survival game Fortnite recently ended with a big bang, in the truest sense of the phrase: the conclusion to season 10, entitled “The End”, saw developer Epic Games destroy large swathes of the in-game world with a meteorite.

For more than two days, millions of fans, players, and the media were left in the dark about whether and how the game would continue – those keeping watch on their screens saw nothing but a black hole.
The breadth of reporting on the event was enormous. Outlets ranging from the New York Times, the Independent, The Verge, Forbes, and Spiegel to Bild, Sport1, and, of course, countless social media accounts wondered what could lie in store for the extremely popular game and its predominantly younger fans.

This end of the game’s first chapter can readily be compared with other highly popular live events, such as the football Champions League, the Apple Keynote, or the Game of Thrones series finale, so enormous was the attention that it attracted.  For us as an agency, this points to advertising impact: e-sports, or gaming under competition conditions, are niche no more!

Positioning of (non-)endemic brands

It’s clear at this point that the fascination, appeal, and attention enjoyed by the gaming genre have also been gathering momentum outside the scene. Brands that are taking advantage of this pull and harnessing it from a technical marketing point of view are still few and far between, however. Why is this the case? Our hunch: company and brand decision-makers are still assuming that e-sports are “only” of interest to gamers, and therefore irrelevant to their brand.

In response to that, here’s another impressive figure: the finals of the League of Legends World Championship in 2018 were followed by 205 million people – while the Super Bowl, which is as much about the ads shown in the breaks as it is about the match itself, was watched that year by “only” approximately 160 million.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/490480/global-esports-audience-size-viewer-type/

Marketing and Sponsoring in E-Sport

The advertising opportunities in e-sports are just as numerous as they are in “classical” marketing or sponsorship, and are always revealing new horizons – including for non-endemic brands.  This is because online games and e-sports users are very open-minded towards brands that are active and position themselves in this sector, with just over half of users surveyed even expressing the opinion that advertising and sponsorship make the gaming world feel more real. They know that if it wasn’t for advertising and collaborations, the beautiful, colourful world of e-sports wouldn’t be possible.

Another welcome side effect is that engagement of this kind makes the brand more interesting as a potential employer. HR and recruiting departments will take note of this as a positive development, as the younger generation has grown up with e-sports and views them far more positively than current company decision-makers or parents.

Want to learn more? Willi Kaiser also made an interview with Alex Müller, CEO of SK Gaming, one of the most successful esport teams in Germany and Hiro Kishi, VP Sports Sponsoring at Deutsche Telekom: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ak0MLcUf71g&feature=youtu.be

Companies and brands beyond sponsorship

In the meantime, entire leagues, individual events such as Gamescom and the League of Legends (LoL) World Championship, and company e-sports teams are now being sponsored. Deutsche Telekom, for example, now supports SK Gaming’s LoL team in the LEC (League of Legends European Championship). Fashion brand Puma has released its own Teamwear collection for Cloud9, together with a powerful ad on YouTube.

The same principle can easily be applied to the gaming/e-sports world itself. The implementation of creative in-game advertising is still at a relatively early stage, not counting classics like the virtual perimeter ads in FIFA. A striking example of where this approach is headed is the collaboration between Nike and basketball simulation NBA 2K20. As the American sporting goods manufacturer recently announced, from the end of October players will have the opportunity to unlock and purchase exclusive trainer models.  It’s easy to imagine a similar development in Fortnite, with equipment and maps powered by a favourite delivery service or  holiday provider. Once a brand also finds a clever and creative way to get in on the Big Bang buzz in content marketing (keywords: real-time and always-on marketing), this will open up completely new fields in online communications that go further still.

In conclusion, the possibilities are numerous

Engagement portfolios in e-sports can be driven by solutions ranging from ads in the context of in-game events or campaigns, podcasts, influencers on Twitch and similar platforms, and event sponsorship all the way to in-game advertising and item provision,   with the marketing of own teams and product development for the gaming market serving as two yet more extreme examples.

Whether and how a company ventures into the e-sports world is largely dependent on its target group and product, and should be considered with the help of expert analysis.  Such a venture needn’t always involve extensive funds for sponsorship; smaller brands with a modest budget also have many and diverse opportunities for content-based collaboration.

Many website owners were shocked by the news earlier this week (perhaps reading this article) revealing that Google was “planning its biggest algorithm update in five years”. According to the information provided, a new technology called BERT (which stands for “Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers”) is set to provide better recognition of search queries.

With horror we remember that in 2015 the search engine released its mobile index, which was dubbed “mobilegeddon”, and which was dragged by the press. Just a few months later, hardly anyone remembered this paradigm shift on Google and the effects of the update were, thanks to diligent search engine optimisers, barely noticeable. A similar situation is expected when it comes to BERT.

It has been several years now since modern SEO work has been focused purely on keyword optimisation. The focus has rather shifted to the coordination of search intention with digital offers. The new BERT algorithm enables Google to more reliably identify different intentions in a search query based on language constructions and changing contexts, and associate them with the most relevant results. When it comes to artificial intelligence competition, this is a big step for Google. Website operators, on the other hand, do not have to respond immediately to the announcement from Mountain View. The creation and optimisation of relevant content for human users should continue to be a top priority in order to build authority and trust for generic searches in key target groups with their own offerings. This content should provide appropriate results for high-volume search queries for maximum relevance and engagement. For websites that primarily benefit from brand searches, the BERT update is unlikely to have a significant impact. What’s more, the company also states that the new algorithm will initially only be rolled out for the English language. A date for its launch on the German market has not yet been announced.

In any case, it is a good idea to regularly monitor your organic traffic when a search engine update like BERT has been rolled out to detect mid and long-term changes. However, there is no need to blindly take action, as Google usually extensively tests its updates, rolls them out slowly, and regularly re-calibrates them after they’ve gone live.

Climate change is blurring the boundaries between the seasons, and the search engine business is also facing major upheavals. While autumn still feels like spring, we are looking to the future with SEO News for the month of October.

The profanation of search engine optimisation

Fire has set us apart from the rest of creation, the steam engine has accelerated our lives, artificial intelligence is killing millions of jobs and the mysterious world of search engines is finally becoming a self-service store. From the outside, our SEO industry is still surrounded by an aura of mystery.  Search engine optimisers always enjoyed playing the part of a sort of guardian of this powerful knowledge, who, with the help of magical formulas and actions, could influence the abstract nature of the search engine, at least to a certain extent. An ability that required a minimum level of secret knowledge and a huge wealth of experience.

But now both Google and Bing have announced that webmasters will have more control over how their content is displayed on search results pages. In a blog post, Google has announced a new set of attributes, which enable concrete restriction of the content shown on the results page – the so-called snippet – and can define them in advance for optimal presentation. This is all covered under the title “More controls on searches”. Using structured data, content providers hosting news sites and video portals in particular can more precisely control the preview of their offerings. In addition to a better display in search results, this step is also a peace offering in the conflict between search engines and website operators when it comes to the use of content in snippets and the growing number of ‘no-click-searches’. These allow user’s information requirements to be satisfied on Google’s pages already, without the click being forwarded to the source page.

Microsoft moved on to offer a feature that will help website owners to not just submit a list of URLs directly to the BING search engine, but that will also push content such as text, images, and videos directly. Again, this marks a departure from the two-decade-old paradigm that search engines trawl through content itself to assess relevance and timeliness.

Organic searches in the auction process

So, is it the case that the profanation of search engine optimisation is creeping into our house, in the course of which organic results will not be more than the sum of webmaster submissions through various self-service tools from the major search providers?

At the Bay Area Search Meetup search engine conference in San Francisco,Google’s house-elf Gary Illyes surprisingly outlined an interesting analogy that fits well with this development. According to Illyes, organic searches can be considered like an auction model similar to paid search ads. Instead of a monetary bid, each search hit provides a combination of different arguments that qualify it for the results display. After examining these signals for intention, relevance and quality, the available organic search positions are distributed using these non-monetary bids. Only a limited inventory is available in different intentions categories. For example, if it is a transactional search, such as “Samsung Galaxy S10 without a contract”, a site with a purely informational bias and no opportunity to convert will be excluded from the auction in advance.

Of course, the comparison of paid ad auctions and organic searches is exaggerated, and SEO will not be reduced to clever use of the right tools from Google, Bing, etc. in the future. However, the organisation of information is the central task of search engines and the influence of artificial intelligence on these processes can already be seen to a huge extent today. The boundary between paid ads and organic search services will continue to blur both technically and economically. Monitoring the resulting opportunities for synergy will be one of the key challenges for search engine optimisation in the coming years.

Amazon is getting closer and closer to its declared objective of becoming the global “Everything Store”.

Ever since the platform opened itself up to third-party providers at the turn of the millennium, the numbers of retailers using it, and of products listed, have continued to grow. According to a study by Marketplace Pulse, over 100,000 new retailers joined the German marketplace in 2018 alone. Meanwhile, the number of products listed on Amazon.de stands at well over 200 million.

As this development continues apace, ever more retailers are offering the same products, which is resulting in a bitter fight for conversion-maximising preselection for the trolley – the so-called BuyBox. From both a short and a medium-term perspective, this is a situation that is chiefly benefiting the consumer, with a multitude of attractive offers.

Growing competition between retailers

By contrast, the continual expansion of the product catalogue is resulting in increased competition between similar, substitutive goods. Making their own product visible and preventing it from disappearing amid the mass of similar offers is, consequently, one of the biggest challenges faced on Amazon’s Marketplace by vendors and sellers alike.

The retail giant from Seattle recognised this state of affairs early on as an opportunity to enter into an additional, extremely lucrative business segment. Since as early as the end of the 2000s, Amazon has offered a multitude of advertising solutions that both manufacturers and retailers can use to promote their products and appeal to enthusiastic consumers over the full length of the customer decision journey. 

The Amazon division founded specifically for the purpose of marketing, originally named Amazon Media Group, is today simply named Amazon Advertising.  The division provides its advertising partners with a comprehensive tech stack that is extremely complex to use, and can only be fully exploited with the help of profound expertise. In order to make your product as visible as possible, you should devote special attention to the following two systems:

1. Sponsored Ads

Launched in 2015, this self-service tool was known up to the beginning of the year as Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). It currently includes three advertising formats (Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Product Display Ads), which can be implemented in a performance-based manner via pay-per-click ads on the search results page and product description pages. The possible targeting options are numerous, and vary from format to format, ranging from an automated delivery to a keyword, product, or category-specific delivery of the advertising material.

Equipped with a corresponding advertising budget, as a retailer you have the option, for example, of placing your product directly among the coveted first search results, in order to appeal directly to potential customers with your range.

Due to the existing demand, the advertising formats are blended into the customer’s experience (pull marketing), and are hardly perceived as adverts thanks to their strongly native character. This means that Sponsored Ads presently represent Amazon’s best-performing advertising solution, and are even responsible for what is the largest share of Amazon’s advertising revenues by some margin.

2. The Amazon Demand-Side Platform (DSP)

Known prior to 2019 as Amazon Advertising Platform (AAP), this purchasing system enables display and video inventory to be programmatically purchased and precision-modulated using search and purchasing data gathered by Amazon from millions of its users.

This means, for example, that users who visit a product description page on Amazon without making a purchase can be appealed to again in a targeted manner even outside the marketplace, and guided back to the product range to make the final transaction (this process is called re-targeting).  Even campaigns that come in at earlier stages in the decision-making process can be segmented into numerous so-called in-market or lifestyle segments, in order to appeal in a targeted way to people with specific tastes, interests, or lifestyles.

The competition never sleeps     

Even though Amazon presently offers what is certainly the most comprehensive and developed advertising portfolio, it shouldn’t go unmentioned that with Ebay Advertising, Zalando Marketing Services (ZMS), and Otto Group Media (OGM), other marketplaces are investing in their own advertising portfolios and developing exciting retail media solutions of their own.  Due to its comparable positioning as a general stockist and offer of mechanics and advertising formats similar to Amazon’s, OGM in particular has the potential to represent more than just a good add-on for advertisers in the years to come.

How email campaigns can be made more efficient, even as personalisation levels continue to rise.

Addressing customers directly via newsletters is a more attractive option for advertisers than even before, as this makes it possible to send loyal fans precisely the information that interests them. The art of the right message at the right moment – it’s what the future of email marketing is all about.

Long gone are the days of the scattergun approach based on sending everybody the same generic email. Also gone is the time when inserting “Hello firstname lastname!” into the greeting was enough. From now on, Mr Jones needs to receive his post right on time for his morning coffee at 7. Mrs Jones, on the other hand, needs to receive hers at teatime – in polished English, of course – and including a weather forecast. It also needs to include an offer for a jacket that goes perfectly with the blouse that she bought yesterday – not to mention with the low pressure front in the forecast. Long live personalisation!

And automation longer still, because without it, these ever more complex levels of personalisation would no longer be possible. But how can email campaigns as diverse as these be developed so quickly and kept so up to date?

Bundling all of the processes involved together makes for faster newsletter generation

CRM and dialogue agencies have already developed future-oriented newsletter toolboxes that reproduce each working step in a single system: from briefing, to creation, to sending. This enables rapid newsletter production, content adjustment, population with variable data, and distribution on a more individualised basis than ever before – to a million recipients in a million versions, with a single click.  What follows is a short summary of what makes these toolboxes so efficient.

Usability In order for everybody involved to be able to work in the same system, the toolboxes are intuitive and extremely easy to use. Theoretically, no training is required. Much like in Tetris, content modules of different sizes can be placed together one after the other. LIVE! MOBILE OPTIMISED! What you see is what you get. This enables the briefer to define the composition of the newsletter themselves without having to expend large amounts of imaginative effort.  The results can be seen immediately.

Filling the modules is ingeniously simple as well: just upload pictures and enter the texts and links, and you’re all finished. Any changes needed? You can make them at any time.

State-of-the-art design In newsletter template design, “form follows function” is very much the guiding principle. And this is for a good reason: the ultimate objective of a newsletter is to elicit clicks from its subscribers, in order to achieve the highest conversion rates possible. That’s why text and images are perfectly combined in a way that takes into account reading flow, the findings of eye tracking studies, and other relevant factors.

Automation The modules can be linked with corresponding, intelligent databases that permit dynamic content (such as prices, weather forecasts, and times) to be brought into play on a flexible basis

Personalisation Based on a master layout, any number of versions can be easily copied and subsequently personalised, for example by transfer into other languages. Deluxe options among the toolboxes on offer even support languages with different writing directions, such as Hebrew, Farsi, and Arabic.

A/B testing scenarios can be produced easily and within a matter of seconds using the copy function.
By subsequently enriching the versions with individual content – for example, based on user behaviour data from re- or geotargeting – highly relevant content can be created and the full attention of the newsletter readers secured.

Distribution Test emails are a thing of the past – specially developed high-end technologies and regulations ensure no more surprises. Following a quality check, the newsletter is ready to be sent directly, using a delivery system of your choice: Oracle Responsys, Cheetah, Epi, Marketo, or one of many others.

In daily use by Deutsche Lufthansa AG…

…is the so-called Newsletter Cockpit, a multifunctional tool of the type described above created in Munich at the request of Serviceplan Group subsidiary Plan.Net Connect.   The tool sends highly personalised communications winging their way to over 4,100,000 receivers in 104 countries and 16 languages – and is set to send them to many more in the near future.

Once one or more marketplaces have been decided on and the perfect purchase model is found, it’s time to focus on content optimisation and its appearance. How products are represented and displayed on the selected platforms has to be understood from the point of view of potential customers, to avoid the competetor to attract them. After all, on marketplaces the decision to purchase an alternative offer is always just a click away.

This discipline is generally referred to as marketplace optimisation (MPO) and is particularly relevant and essential for sustainable market success for three reasons:

  1.  Appealing and convincing presentation of the brand and its products

Limited, poor quality and carelessly designed product presentations can quickly ruin all your hard (and capital-intensive) work creating your brand image. Use all the options you have available to optimally present your products. Extend brand experiences consistently across all touchpoints, including the digital point of sale.

High-quality images, videos and engaging content should clearly describe the purpose, benefits and boundaries of the product to the competition. In addition, various components of the listing can be used in many marketplaces to provide in-depth information. This may be promotional campaign elements (such as testimonials) or even product comparisons to aid decision-making. For a better user experience within the scope of the marketplace’s options, it is possible to individually present different variants and product portfolios in specific in-store areas.

  1. Improved visibility of the listed products and increased organic traffic

Whether a search is classified as relevant for a particular product is determined by the marketplace algorithm, based on various criteria. In addition to correct category mapping, the content and keywords used on the product detail page play a particularly important role.

The starting point for any optimisation should therefore be a thorough and comprehensive keyword search. The most relevant search terms determined in this way must then be integrated into the content at a suitable point. For example, on Amazon, these are indexable sections, such as the product title or description of features. Important keywords can often also be added directly in back end. As a result, they are indexed by the algorithm and the product is displayed as a relevant search result for corresponding searches.

With the growth of the digital marketplace also comes increased platform competition. Consequently, the technical infrastructure and user experience are constantly being optimised and adapted. These changes directly affect product detail pages and brand shops. It is therefore of great importance for retailers to keep an eye on the presentation of their products and to quickly adapt or add to content when it comes to platform updates.

  1. Increased performance

The essential heart of any marketplace business model is selling products. Therefore, offers with comparatively high sales are classified as particularly relevant. As a result, these products gain high visibility on the platform and in the users’ search results. But it’s not just strictly sales that make a difference at this point. A high click-through rate of ads or search hits on product detail pages, and the conversion rate of detail page visits to purchases are crucial metrics.

To be able to make both of these metrics positive, a number of other factors must be taken into account in addition to product presentation and visibility. The general availability of the product and speedy, free delivery are also significant factors in addition to an attractive and consistent price. Important psychological factors that also have a role to play are above-average product ratings and a high number of meaningful reviews. Public interaction with customer via product review and FAQ areas also increases brand loyalty and positively sets your offer apart from the competition.

But what to do if, despite optimised marketplace appearance, organic traffic is still low and your sales figures leave something to be desired? In this case, all major marketplaces now have a vast arsenal of advertising tools to reach communication goals along the entire customer decision journey. You can find an overview of these options as well as tips and tricks to make the most of the promotional inventory on digital marketplaces, in the fourth and final part of this series.

Memes are part of the Internet in the same way as food pictures are part of Instagram. Success Kid, Bad Luck Brian, That’d be great or Grumpy Cat are some of the best known memes out there and have had countless users laughing. At first glance, memes seem like trivial forms of modern online culture. But if you look again, many memes are really creative, pick up on current events and convey political opinions. So, it’s also time to take memes seriously in online marketing. You can discover the different types of memes and how to use them for communicative purposes here.

Memes are now an integral part of social media

My grandmother and older generations are probably shrugging their shoulders when it comes to the question of what memes actually are. The term meme is a derivation of the Greek word “mimema”, which means “imitated”. Memes are photos, videos, GIFs or social media posts whose content, form or message is imitated or modified in a creative way. Memes are then shared via channels such as Instagram and Twitter or even special meme websites and blogs.

39% of German Internet users know what memes are and more than a third have shared these kind of images and videos before. Memes are already very popular with 16 to 29-year-olds online. In fact, 43% of young users regularly share them and 37% even regard memes as art (Bitkom Research, 2019).

Meme marketing: a creative content format for brands

Memes are no longer only created by millennials and GenZ’s – more and more customers and companies now also use memes to reach younger target audiences and to transmit a humorous brand image. To do this, brands can follow two different strategies. They can either create their own, new memes, or jump on the hype wagon of an existing meme.

The beauty brand Glossier often integrates memes it has created alongside product photos on its Instagram feed and effortlessly combines “Internet Ugly” with modern Instagram aesthetics.

How brands can modify and adapt existing memes for themselves can be seen in the current example of Area 51 memes. Background: Two million users responded to a Facebook event on 20 September 2019 that invited them to storm Area 51 in Nevada. Conspiracy theories suggest that aliens are hidden in the highly classified United States government facility. Thousands of memes have resulted from this event and many brands have joined the hype with creativity and humour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whether created or adopted, if brand memes are done well, they can lead to high visibility and increased engagement. In times of infinite content but limited receptivity, memes are an appropriate format to stand out from the crowd and grab consumers’ attention.

Meme accounts and memers as content producers

A company decides to integrate memes into its marketing strategy and tasks its marketing agency with the implementation. But where can the agency employees find the right memes to use for their customers’ creative marketing? Websites such as reddit, me.me, cheezburger and knowyourmeme have extensive meme collections.. Knowyourmeme is particularly helpful as it also explains the meaning and the origin of the meme, as well as showing several variations of the meme.

There are also a number of meme accounts on Instagram, which have considerable reach with millions of followers. The biggest accounts include @epicfunnypage (16.8 million followers) @fuckjerry (14.4 million followers) and @sarcasm_only (14 million followers). These accounts are bigger than the accounts of many beauty, fashion and lifestyle influencers. This is why it is time to take the meme community seriously and to see memers and operators of meme accounts as relevant content producers or curators. They know their community and understand the humour of their young followers the best, so agencies and brands should make use of their expertise and collaborate more with them in the future.