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Rand Fishkin SMX: Fight Back Against Back

Last week, the Peak Ace Team attended the 2016 SMX Conference in Munich. The two-day event featured some of the best speakers and the days were organized into 10 tracks. From content-republishing, to crawl budget best practises, to programmatic buying, the speakers aimed to deliver actionable insights for all online marketing professionals.

I was able to attend Rand Fishkin’s (Founder of opening keynote in which he spoke about Google’s learning algorithms and how search engines as well as social networks’ artificial intelligence keep on growing and how this is ultimately impacting marketing in general. Machine learning is not new, it is already happening when we, for example, look at:

  • Google Suggest
  • Auto-Complete
  • Trending Content
  • Suggested accounts to follow etc.

If we look at Google suggest, the user types in a word, and the machine, Google in this instance, is coming up with potential search queries based upon the first letters you enter (also known as semantic search).

So machine learning happens when the machine (Google in this instance) is coming up with the outcome on its own, instead of relying upon us to have to tell it all the inputs to consider. Google is also using machine learning in image recognition & classification in which they are able to read and comprehend images through testing and reinforcement repetition.

Scott Santens describes this so called “machine learning” in his article as followed:

“Instead of describing “chairness” to a computer, we can just plug it into the Internet and feed it millions of pictures of chairs for a general idea. Next, we test it with even more images. When the machine is wrong, it’s corrected, further improving its “chairness” detection. Repetition of this process results in a computer that knows what a chair is when it sees it, often as well as a human can. Unlike us, however, it can then sort through millions of images within a matter of seconds. And when one machine learns something, it can pass on that knowledge to an entire network of connected machines — instantly.”

Rand discussed how machine learning in search could work, if we were to swap the “Potential ID Factors” for “Potential Ranking Factors” such as PageRank, Clicks etc. and “human-labeled images” for “Good” or “Bad” searches.

The formula works as follows:
Initially for every search query, different types of potential ranking factors are accumulated and determine the search results. If your search result proves to be a “good search result” (searchers rarely bounce, rarely short-click and rarely need to enter other queries or go to page 2) or a “bad search result” (searchers bounce often, click other results etc.), this will directly impact your future search rankings. Although all of your potential ranking factors may be pointing in the right direction, if the user does not value your result and does not engage with your site, Google will learn that your result for the particular search query is not a good fit. This in turn means, that you will drop in rankings. On the other hand, if the user does value your result, Google learns that your result is a “good search result” which results in higher rankings.

Rand also emphasized how 2016 is very different from 2012 in terms of what you need to do, in order to stand out from the crowd and outrank your competitors. These days, it is all about what people like, what they interact and engage with that will determine whether or not you will be visible in the SERPs. In other words, engagement is becoming the web’s universal quality metric. In order to achieve higher visibility through earning engagement reputation, Rand gave away 5 tips:

#1: Understand & Serve all of your visitors’ intent

  • Don’t just ask “Who is my customer?” but think about the wider audience who may be reading your content.
  • Think about how to serve all the people who will search for the content you create.
  • In the end, you want to make sure you are delivering the value to all searchers in order to win the “engagement – battle”.

#2: Outearn your ranking’s Average click-through-rate

  • Optimize the title, meta-description and URL a little for keywords but a lot for clicks.
  • Think about whether or not the title matches what the searcher wants and does the description create curiosity and entices a click?
  • Bear in mind that branding may also increase your CTR.

#3: Optimize signal: Noise Ratio on every channel

  • This point is all about how to stand out from the crowd considering that earned marketing (social, content, e-mail etc.) is harder than ever because a true majority of businesses are investing in all marketing channels. Therefore, try to think quality over quantity:
    • Better Content >More Content
    • Better social shares >More social shares
    • Better e-mails >More E-mails
    • Better Rankings >More Rankings
  • For more info on how to stand out in a crowded web marketing, check out Rand’s slides from last year’s SMX.

#4: Put user-experience first in your marketing

  • Ensure you have authoritative content that’s uniquely valuable vs. what anyone else in your space provides.
  • Ensure your site-speed is taken care off (Check out Bastian’s slides on site speed)
  • Deliver an easy and enjoyable experience on every device.
  • Compel visitors to engage, share & return.
  • Avoid features that dissuade or annoy visitors.

#5: Craft compelling CTAs at the top of the funnel

  • Trying to rank with content that only serves one niche of your search audience may be a recipe for failure.
  • Try targeting a less competitive, lower volume query.
  • Engagement metrics on content must become KPIs.

Many thanks to Rand for the valuable takeaways and actionable advice! 🙂
Download his slidedeck here.

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