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Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Conference Recaps

Why Going Global is Essential to Your Business – My SMX London Session

In the last days of May 2017 at the SMX London conference, I had the pleasure of presenting a session about the importance of going global, and the key considerations to ensuring success.

Here is what I had to say:

The world is a very big place with about 7.5 billion humans. And half of those humans are connected to the internet in one way or another.

The distribution of internet users is surprising to many, as only 8% of total users are in the U.S. and 9% in Western Europe; both lower than Africa at 10%, South Asia at 16% and East Asia at 24%. These statistics were compiled in a We Are Social and Hootsuite 2017 study.

Even more impressive is that only 29% of the African population is online (internet penetration ratio), which means that when a larger part of the African population eventually goes online, it will represent an even greater share of the world’s internet population. The U.S. and Western Europe have an internet penetration ratio of about 90%, leaving a smaller growth opportunity.

Looking at eMarketer’s data on projected digital buyers’ growth by continent, it is clear where the growth will continue at a double-digit rate (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) and where it will plateau (Europe and North America):

eMarketer’s data on projected digital buyers’ growth by continent

(Image Source: eMarketer)

All of this leads to one clear conclusion: Every company, regardless of size, needs to globalize in markets that make sense.

So how does a company globalize? It all revolves around three core considerations:

  1. Linguistics
  2. Cultural
  3. Technical


A company needs to make sure its brand name doesn’t mean something strange or inappropriate in the target language, and that the correct version of the language is identified and used. Many languages spoken in multiple countries have variations. Even within a single country (e.g., China), languages can have varying dialects. Identifying the right one is key to ensuring success.

Once the language is identified, the tone (formal or informal) must be chosen. French, German and Spanish, for example, have formal ways of addressing people (a politer way, if you will), which can be preferable depending on the company’s industry. Also, the tone may vary by country depending the company’s products. This all must be researched before developing website language.

After the language, tone and format are decided upon, cultural considerations, such as references, preferences, perception, awareness and local competitors, need to be researched.


Cultural references vary from country to country. In the West, babies are brought by the stork, whereas in Japan, babies come from big peaches. In China, red is synonymous with warmth and success, but disliked in South Korea. Movies stars, singers, authors and the like are different throughout the world. Target-audience research ensures cultural references are relevant.

Along the same lines, it is essential to cater to preferences (e.g., payment methods, formats, aspect), local norms and public holidays to avoid any faux pas.

It is also important to confirm if the brand is known and, if so, how it is perceived. If the brand is unknown, it might require a full explanation. If the band is known but misunderstood, it may require a change to affect perception. Doing the research is crucial. It can also help to identify and understand successful local competitors.


Finally, I touched upon the technical elements that should be used to ensure that well-written in-language content makes its way to the right platform and is understood.

Google provides multiple tools, such as geo-targeting, adding “hreflang” tags to signal the availability multiple languages and identifying potential markets.

While Google, Facebook and Twitter are the norm in many countries, different platforms may be more widely used in others. For example, Baidu is the lead search engine in China, Line is the lead social media platform in Japan and Yandex is the lead search engine in Russia.

Ensuring optimization of in-language, culturally relevant content on the right platforms and sites ultimately leads to successful business globalization.

For even more details and visuals, view my deck here.

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Posted by on Jun 6, 2017 in Conference Recaps

Two Days at SMX London

The world-renowned SMX Conference had its annual edition in London on May 23 and 24.

As usual, the program was jam packed and featured great speakers who covered the latest on many subjects from social, to paid, to SEO, to attribution models.

I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was fortunate enough to be both an attendee and a speaker this year. More to come in another post on MDS Decoded about my talk. But, as always, it was about global.

If I had to sum up the whole conference in three words, they would be:

  • AMP
  • Attribution

Most of the presentations revolved around these themes, as they are top of mind for digital marketers at the moment.

While HTTPS seems to be widely adopted (as high as 50% of domains according to Olga Andrienko, Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush), AMP is still in its ramping-up phase, with relatively low adoption as highlighted by many presenters.

Many reasons were invoked for the low adoption of AMP, which is hosted by Google. It’s not clear what they will do with the data collected this way – it’s too complicated to implement on large sites. But the general agreement is that it leaves a wide opportunity for marketers to be early adopters and get a head start on the competition.

Attribution modeling was debated at length across various sessions and panels. While no one seemed to have the perfect solution, all agreed that current attribution models are incorrect. First and last click provide only one side of the explanation, leaving much crucial information out of it.

During the two-day event, consensus was reached: Agencies, in-house marketers and technology partners need to have serious discussions, put personal bias aside and find a solution together.

Google coincidentally announced the release of a new attribution tool. It was welcomed, but with a lot of skepticism from the search community.

As always, the world of search marketing is a busy, exciting and continually evolving one to watch.

Here are the key things I overheard at SMX London this year:

SMX Key Learnings

(Image Source: Fred Schaub)

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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Conference Recaps

2017 Skift Forum Europe Recap

The “TED of travel” is what media, speakers and participants have been calling Skift Forum. Held usually in New York, this year the for the first time, the European forum was held in London, UK. On April 4th, 2017, two of our European team members had the pleasure of attending this one day conference focused on top marketers, strategists and technologists in travel. Deepa Arthur and Kasia Rudnik share their thoughts from a full day spent with travel professionals being grilled by Skift journalists about the hottest travel trends and the future of travel. There is no doubt that the first European forum sent a very clear message of what is important: customer’s trust, loyalty, uniqueness and understanding the fragmented European market. Have a look at what were their top 3 picks.


To read more about the forum and subjects discussed in London, head to the official page of the event:

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Posted by on Jan 24, 2017 in Conference Recaps, Social Media

State of Search – Social Takeaways

Since accepting a role within Digital Services, I have experienced varying perspectives on search. From weekly videos of Rand Fishkin from MOZ, to weekly calls with other teams at Marriott. Much like every winter snowflake, each perspective is slightly unique compared to the next. That is why I didn’t hesitate when asked to attend State of Search’s 3rd Annual marketing conference in sunny Dallas, Texas.

State of Search Conference

(Image Source: State of Search)

As I stepped off the plane at Dallas Love Field Airport for the conference, I had three questions lingering in my notebook, all of which were I answered during my trip.

1.) Is social media a direct ranking factor in search?

Mark Traphagen State of Search 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)

To find the answer to this question, I sought out Mark Traphagen’s presentation from Stone Temple Consulting. Through his presentation of “Social Media & SEO: Separating Myth from Fact,” Mark leveraged video interviews from SEO Power Players. A video with Google’s Former Engineer, Matt Cutts, concluded that Google constantly monitors how they view social media pages, specifically Facebook and Twitter. In a later video, Matt Cutts goes on to say, “Sites that get lots of shares are so good, they likely also earn signals that do affect rankings, such as links.”

Google has been slowly indexing tweets for quite some time, and many believe the search engine favors higher authority users. Since the digital landscape has grown to an endless field, complete indexing will not be possible overnight (or any time soon). This does not mean brands with small followings should think any less of social media in search, it simply means that instead of being on social specifically for search rankings, use this space to build your brand and drive qualified traffic.

2.) How can I help others create more engaging content?

For any problem or question I have, the first place I visit is YouTube. From installing a new SSD on my MacBook, to jumping my car battery, YouTube has never let me down. With this in mind, I decided a presentation from former YouTube star Deandre Upshaw was going to be a presentation I wasn’t going to miss.

In “Creating Video Content that People Will Actually Want to Watch,” DeAndre was quick to point out that for moving content, the future continues to function in 60 second segments. This doesn’t mean each piece of moving content should be in this proximity, it means the total content digestion should take no longer than 60 seconds. On episodic platforms like Snapchat and Instagram stories, profiles can provide small segments that result in no more than 60 seconds of content.

The importance of having a stable shot is a given, but the importance of clear lighting and audio are proving be a heavier weighted factor. If you were to search for the first videos of the current viral phenomenon, you are likely to find poor audio or bad lighting. There is a constant desire to be an innovator and have your video posted first, but it usually results in violating the importance of lighting, audio or stability.

3.) Where should I go for dinner?

Before each conference Digital Services attends, we reach out to the team for suggestions of activities after the conference concludes for the night. In addition to asking my Digital Service coworkers, I enlisted the help of the Marriott Traveler website for all necessary recommendations.

Although State of Search had a fun filled schedule intricately planned, I found myself with a final night of dinner unaccounted for. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to get a recommendation from Marriott Traveler’s website. After a quick conversation with my coworker who also attended the conference and a few scrolls on our smartphones, we found ourselves in a trendy area of Dallas with sidewalk lined boutiques and quaint restaurants. Among the restaurants was “the Porch” which Traveler highlighted with a heading “Graze Over Modern, Moderately Priced Meals.” From the candle lit tables to the pristine food presentation, Marriott Traveler had delivered a great recommendation and perspective for a first time Dallas visitor. My answer for navigating new cities was quickly answered for future occasions.

The Porch, Dallas Texas

(Image Source: Ryan Sanecki)

Working in the digital emporium, we are bombarded with a variety of opinions and perspectives to answer various questions. With the opportunity to continue to grow my digital knowledge at conferences and trainings, I look forward to sharing my perspective on further digital growth.

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Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in Conference Recaps

State of Search Conference Recap

The Lone Star State became the State of Search as the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association hosted its 3rd annual digital marketing conference this  past November in Dallas, Texas. The event presented a variety of topics throughout the search and digital landscape, however there were three main topics that stood out as the most prevalent throughout the conference.


Industry speakers Maile Ohye from Google and Purna Virji from Microsoft, shared very different presentations, but nonetheless settled on the theme of communication. Maile took a present day focus, sharing data on search behavior, including that 1/3 of all mobile searches are location based, 20% of queries are by voice and that 53% of users abandon ship if your site takes more than 3 seconds to load. Purna shared futuristic data on how we communicate; Millennials speak with text but Gen Z will speak with images and 3.6 billion people are predicted to use messaging apps next year. Moreover, Purna said that by 2020 85% of business to consumer relationships will be managed without interaction. But what does this all mean? It means that digital communication needs to be adaptable and flexible. Searchers want fast, true, quality and easy connection across all search platforms. There are many different ways to communicate, whether it be pictures, mobile, voice, etc. and the communication delivery is just as important as the content. It’s vital to understand your audience and keep their intent in mind.

State of Search 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)


The second topic catered around the idea of elevation. As digital marketers it is important that we strive to achieve a higher level of everything we do. Whether it’s reaching our target audience, becoming more creative with storytelling content, or even personal growth, it’s time to raise the bar for clients and businesses.  To no surprise, the industry is elevating the customer experience as well. For instance, take Google’s decision to implement AMP and start indexing mobile first. Google knows that more than 50% of searches are performed via mobile, so why not enhance the user experience with these two changes? Or think of Amazon, which shared by speaker Christian J Ward from Yext, is working on making Alexa recognize human emotion. Then of course there is virtual and augmented reality; keynote speaker Duane Forrester from BruceClay shared recent news regarding Uber’s purchasing A.I. startup Geometric Intelligence. As companies like Uber are going all in with elevation, it is vital to implement your own elevation strategy too.

State of Search Conference 2016

(Image Source: State of Search)


Wil Reynolds from SEER Interactive took the stage with an impactful presentation on empathy. As digital marketers it is easy to get wrapped up in all the changes Google is making in their algorithm, but we need to be focusing on the humans behind the search. Wil gave examples of how people bring baggage to their search and how great marketers step outside of their own bubbles to understand the needs of people. Wil went on to explain that marketers should remove any amount of friction between the searcher’s question and the answer; it’s about giving people what they need and want. He shared how companies like Facebook have associates work for an hour on a 2G network to build empathy for users that have slow connections. Wil presented on a personal study in which he changed 8 meta descriptions for a client. Although meta descriptions do not affect ranking, the small change generated more than $100,000 in revenue by truly connecting with people through small story telling.  Throughout other presentations during the conference it became apparent that the core value of marketing is empathy, specifically how we can form authentic, lasting relations with existing and potential customers. Digital marketing is about being present in the customer’s journey and not about just ranking on keywords. To understand the journey, empathy is required.

2016 State of Search Presentation

(Image Source: State of Search)

As the digital world continues to change and develop, it will be interesting to see how these themes take charge. The Digital Services team will be keeping these themes top of mind when strategizing for our hotels in 2017.

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Posted by on Nov 24, 2016 in Conference Recaps

SMX East Recap: Google AMP vs. Facebook Instant Articles

Google AMP vs. Facebook Instant Articles

(Image Source: Upwork)

In 2015, Facebook and Google each debuted solutions to poor mobile web experience for their users, Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA) and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), respectively. Both platforms were designed in an effort to combat common issues experienced by mobile users: slow page loading, nonresponsive scrolling and shifting content – nearly 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load!

Facebook Instant Articles are published directly inside the Facebook app, as seen above, allowing publishers to host their content on Facebook. Google AMP articles appear directly in mobile search results on Google, operating in a carousel at the top of the search results page.

During the SMX East conference in September, much of the focus was on AMP and its impact on mobile search, but little attention was paid to FBIA. Being digitally curious, the Digital Services team thought it might be beneficial to compare both of these platforms and see which industries could benefit.

How Do They Work?

Facebook Instant Articles, using the Facebook servers as a backend, creates a mobile version of the article that preloads in the background when appearing in the news feed. This preloading helps Instant Articles load at a lightning speed, especially when considered against standard mobile articles. Facebook Instant Articles uses HTML5 to allow autoplay videos, interactive maps and explorable photos.

AMP, utilizing an open-source architecture, uses Google’s servers to display its content. Similar to FBIA, Google begins caching and preloading content before the user taps on an article but uses AMP HTML over HTML5, eliminating third-party scripts like Javascript and emphasizing static content. AMP is available on WordPress, Drupal and Squarespace. There is an AMP section for analysis in the Google Search Console and the AMP format is being utilized by Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other popular sites.

How Do They Measure Up?

Facebook has announced their own statistics regarding Instant Articles. They are 10x faster than standard mobile web articles, 20% more Instant Articles are read on average, readers are 70% less likely to abandon the article and readers share IAs 30% more often than mobile web articles.

AMP has seen some seriously impressive results since integrating AMP listings into mobile search results in February 2016: average rankings have increased by 5 spots, average CTR of AMP articles is up 4% and over 7700 developers have engaged with the platform. A live case study during the Oscars showed that when comparing an AMP site vs. a non-AMP site, AMP queries got 15x visits, 7x impressions and received 2x higher average rank.

AMP Format

(Image Source: SMX East 2016, AMP: Above & Beyond by Adam Greenberg)

In this context, Facebook Instant Articles is far more restrictive to potential publishers than those choosing AMP because open-source allows developers to utilize far more features within the Google platform while Facebook is somewhat limiting.

Is My SEO Impacted?

AMP articles are fast and mobile-friendly, and Facebook Instant Articles generate news feeds used by Facebook, therefore AMP and Instant Articles impact SEO without being direct search engine ranking factors. Instant Articles operates within the Facebook app which may begin to push your user base toward the Facebook app instead of the SERP results – influencing mobile web traffic. AMP has an immediate effect on clicks, impressions and UX. AMP articles rank higher in SERPs which can lead to more clicks, furthered user engagement and higher mobile rankings. Now that we have the facts – let’s explore what industries should be developing these platforms.

AMP Example

(Image Source: Eric Bodnar)

Brands that can consistently provide fresh content to a large user base stand to gain the most from platforms like AMP and Instant Articles. AMP is currently accounting for double the search traffic to newly published content in the SERP results while an Instant Article has the potential to reach Facebook’s user base of over 1 billion. Brands like Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue and The Verge have found much success in Google AMP while a brand like Tasty, the 30-45 second video recipe brand, experiences high interaction rates in Instant Articles. Go with AMP if you are a brand with unique content looking to push traffic to your website, but focus on FBIA if you find much of your customer interaction comes from Facebook.

So what have we learned? AMP is an open source program designed to improve mobile experience with stripped-down versions of standard web pages. Facebook Instant Articles provides a better content-delivery service. AMP improves user experience with an average median load time of .7 seconds compared to 22 seconds for a non-AMP pages, while Facebook Instant Articles are 30% more likely to be shared by readers. Publishers with an established Facebook presence (daily videos and consistent user interaction) should utilize Facebook Instant Articles while publishers with an ever-changing array of relevant content should get AMPed.

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