6 ways ad agencies can thrive in an AI-first world

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have long been part of PPC — so why are AI and machine learning all of a sudden such hot topics? It is, in part, because exponential advances have now brought technology to the point where it can legitimately compete with the performance and precision of human account managers.
I recently covered the new roles humans should play in PPC as automation takes over. In this post, I’ll offer some ideas for what online marketing agencies should consider doing to remain successful in a world of AI-driven PPC management.
Be a master of process
According to the authors of the book “The Second Machine Age,” chess master Garry Kasparov offered an interesting insight into how humans and computers should work together after he became the first chess champion to be defeated by a computer in 1997. In matches after his loss to Deep Blue, he noticed a few things:

A human player aided by a machine

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PPC agencies will play these 4 roles when automation takes over

Earlier this year, I wrote about how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are driving automation in PPC and then again about how Google’s latest wave of AdWords innovations is driven largely by these same technologies.
As the move towards automation accelerates, how should agencies and PPC managers update their strategy? What processes will they need to remain competitive? And what can they really expect from automation tools in the market today? I’ll cover all these topics in a series of upcoming posts, so I’d love to hear your ideas. But today, let’s begin by looking at what roles humans and agencies will play in PPC. .
1. Agencies will teach machines to learn
Now that machines can learn, they certainly will surpass humans, right? The reality is that machine learning is still very dependent on humans. We program the algorithms, we provide the training data, we even manipulate the training data to help the machine get it right.
Machine learning often

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Looking to get out of the SEO business? Good!

It’s not your imagination — there’s no denying that SEO has become increasingly difficult over the last few years.
A recent thread on WebmasterWorld highlighted this fact when a poster lamented the challenges he has faced adapting to changes in the SEO industry, and he said that he was considering leaving the industry entirely. This prompted Barry Schwartz to share a poll collecting feedback on the topic from a wider pool, and I was initially quite surprised to see that a large percentage of respondents shared the same concern as the original poster.

In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been surprised at all. I can definitely understand the frustration. You build a business based on what you think the rules are, and almost immediately, they seem to change.
Isn’t that the nature of every industry, though? Amazon, Uber and Netflix all shook their respective industries in seismic ways. And as that happened, we heard the same cries that things are getting too

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An update on executive changes on the editorial team

This month, Third Door Media’s Michelle Robbins takes over as SVP of content and marketing technology, overseeing editorial direction as Editor in Chief of the three industry publications and aligning the content strategy with programming at Third Door Media’s event series, Search Marketing Expo and The MarTech Conference.
Robbins succeeds Search Engine Land founder Danny Sullivan, who shifts to an advisor role at the company.
Robbins, who has a background in publishing and has been with Third Door Media since its inception, working across all divisions — editorial, marketing, events and sales — while managing the corporation’s technology, will bring a fresh perspective to all three editorial properties.
Her significant technical expertise, 360-degree view of the company’s business objectives and depth of knowledge in both the search marketing and marketing technology fields align in this new role.
As an integral part of Third Door Media’s conference operations behind the scenes and as a member of the program development team, Robbins

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LISTEN: Danny Sullivan reflects on 21 years covering the search industry

There aren’t many people who can claim to have created an industry, but Danny Sullivan is one of them. When he first published “The Webmaster’s Guide to Search Engines” in 1996, he attracted an audience of online marketing pioneers who wanted to understand how search engines of the day — think Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos and the like — ranked online content. Soon after, he launched Search Engine Watch and started hosting search marketing conferences. And in 2006, he co-founded Third Door Media — the company behind Search Engine Land and its younger siblings, MarTech Today and Marketing Land.
As journalists, we don’t like to consider ourselves “the news,” but when Danny announced earlier this week that he’d be stepping away from daily duties as our Chief Content Officer and taking an advisory role, it was industry news. Big news. And so we think it’s apropos to spend this week’s episode of Marketing Land Live chatting with Danny about

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Monetizing your SEO expertise

I have a theory: the best SEO practitioners in the world are not consultants helping their clients get rich. Rather, they are their own clients. Or, if they do have clients, they’ve figured out a way to have them on a performance pricing model in order to share in the client’s upside.
How are these rock-star SEOs their own clients, you ask? It could be a range of things — they could be affiliates, “infoproduct” sellers or lead generators who are leveraging SEO expertise. Or a combination of the above.
One thing is certain: they use their SEO knowledge and expertise to make money for themselves rather than helping clients make all the money and in turn getting paid for their time. Dollars-for-hours consulting is a hard slog and doesn’t scale.
Contrast that with building an income-generating asset — one that makes money for you while you sleep. It can appreciate in value even when you aren’t expending energy and time

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Moz trims product line to focus on search, lays off 28% of staff

Moz has announced they are refocusing their toolset platform to focus on search. That means they are no longer going to offer the Moz Content or Followerwonk tools and that they are laying off 28 percent of their workforce.
Sarah Bird, the CEO of Moz, said “after a lot of analysis and soul searching, we decided to radically simplify our strategy to re-focus on what we love and what our customers value from us: search.” She said this focus will help the company build better and great search tools, which they were founded on and continue to be most well-known for.
The sad part is that 28 percent of the Moz staff will be let go. Many of those people are people our community has grown to love. Sarah Bird called that part of the change in Moz’s strategy the “gut-wrenchingly painful part.” Having to let go of any employee is hard, but almost one-third of your staff gone

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SEMPO announces its newly elected Board of Directors & Officers

SEMPO has announced its newly elected Board of Directors and officers for 2016 through 2018.
Mike Grehan, CMO at the digital marketing agency Acronym, was re-elected as Chairman, and Mike Gullaskin, who serves as iProspect’s COO, was named President.
“Congratulations to the new SEMPO Directors,” said Grehan in the release announcing the search marketing association’s new board members. “Thanks to the outgoing Directors for their service and contributions, and to my fellow Board members for their expression of confidence in re-electing me Chairman.”
According to SEMPO’s list of officers, Grehan will also serve as the organization’s VP of programming.
Here is the full list of SEMPO’s Officers and its newly elected Board of Directors:
SEMPO Officers:
Chairman: Mike Grehan
President: Mike Gullaksen
Secretary/Treasurer: Mike Corak
Sponsorship VP: Christie Reed
Membership VP Mike Bonfils
Programs VP: Mike Grehan
Research VP: Mark Engelsman
Education VP: Chris Boggs
SEMPO Cities VP: Krista LaRivière
SEMPO Board of Directors:
Chris Boggs, CEO/Founder, Web Traffic Advisors, LLC
Michael Bonfils, International Managing Director, SEM International
Mike Corak, VP/GM, DAC Group
Marc Engelsman, Director,

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SEMPO’s latest salary survey shows search marketer average pay up 16% over 2013

According to SEMPO’s most recent salary survey, the average pay for search and digital marketing professionals is up 16 percent since 2013.
The nonprofit organization for SEO and SEM professionals polled nearly 600 search and digital marketing professionals across a variety of roles, from entry-level to executive. Survey questions covered a variety of salary and work-related topics, including compensation packages, bonuses and benefits, professional responsibilities and search marketing budget sizes.
Other key findings from the survey showed a growth in SEM salaries at the $100,000 range, and the ranks of search veterans also on the rise. On the flip-side, the number of entry-level practitioners was on the decline.
Ninety-four percent of respondents said analytics were a key part of their search duties, and more than 10 percent of respondents claimed to manage 50 or more accounts or websites.
As far as job perks are concerned, being able to work remotely was the most-cited work benefit.
Marc Engelsman, SEMPO’s vice president of research,

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The SEM agency is dying (and what to do about it)

Search engine marketing agencies will face many business challenges over the next couple of years, including increased competition, fee pressure, clients bringing SEM in-house and a decline in the prominence of SEM in general. SEM agencies that fail to pivot into broad-based digital agencies will either need to focus exclusively on small business SEM or cease to exist.
Why do companies hire agencies?
There are two vectors against which companies evaluate agencies: 1) the value that the agency provides; and 2) the scarcity of the agency’s services. For agencies, scarcity is determined by two criteria: a) the number of other agencies that offer the same service; and b) a potential client’s ability to perform the same service in-house. When you plot these factors on a chart, it looks like this:

As the chart shows, agencies tend to attract business when they can fulfill a scarce need. As supply increases, agencies lose their leverage with clients, resulting in either price wars

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