David Amerland

Intentional by David Amerland


  • The Future Of Business (What You Need To Know)

    The future of business in the new post-Covid-19 world
  • The One, Vital Marketing Lesson Taught by RDR2

    Marketing lessons taught by RDR2
  • The Semantics of Google's Voice

    Google Voice illustrates semantic search working

    In a world where everything is data, navigating to the right place, finding the right answer or matching the right pair (of anything) is always a search problem. Data only makes sense when it is networked, connected, indexed, analyzed, assessed, abstracted, categorized, organized and presented in relation to other data.

    The process is an endless rinse-and-repeat cycle where the metadata surfaced becomes semantically dense enough to become data in its own right, allowing further metadata to be extracted from it. 

    Let’s get practical. Apply all the theoretical abstraction I’ve written above to the usual “Morning!” Greeting between neighbors. The depth of the relational connection between them (are they good friends, or are they being civil to each other?) will reveal itself in the warmth of the candour of that one, single word, exchanged. Is one distracted, lost in thought? Depressed? Angry? Clipped tones, trailing endings, a pitch that’s so low as to be barely audible or too high and sounds like a whine can be used to analyze emotions. Is the sound harsh? The word spoken fast, like an expletive almost, or are the syllables, long-drawn out? The difference could spell out whether there is enmity in the relationship, hidden aggression or it’s a casual, social connection with no other overtones. 

    We’ve only used one word and that’s before we begin to analyze whether there is a male/female interaction involved or whether a regional or national accent comes into play. 

    This is exactly the kind of semantic analysis Google does with speech in order to help improve its understanding of spoken queries in search. Because speech is data, possessing it also allows the accumulation of knowledge which stems from a sense of how speech is broken down into discrete units, analyzed for content, context and importance and classified. This allows Google the ability to reverse-engineer the process and create human-like speech using a computer that can now use inflexion, pitch, rhythm and speed to denote warmth, friendliness and openness. 

    There are several important takeaways here: 

    • In a data-centric world search is everywhere, even if we do not actively call it search or have a sense of it as such.
    • Everything that has an effect is information. Information is data. Data is subject to analysis and classification. That includes relatively ethereal things like emotion and intent.
    • Once metadata accumulates it becomes substantial enough to be subject to further analysis and classification so it becomes data which gives rise to further metadata.
    • The process of labelling, classification and refinement can be continued ad infinitum unless there are clear boundaries marked by benefits vs costs which do not fully justify the reiteration.
    • Data always has value. Its value is always contextual. 

    As Google’s machine learning gets better and better its voice recognition and voice synthesis capabilities will exponentially improve. Machine learning is closely linked to exponential growth because of the way training sets of data are sampled and the algorithms are then recalibrated. Exponential growth, as the graph below illustrates, has a latency period after which change accelerates dramatically. In practical terms this means that once machine learning gets past a tipping point it begins to produce good results at an accelerated rate.     

    Exponential Growth in Machine Learning Accuracy

    Getting to the Very Core of Reality

    Marketing has never quite been about being real. It has always been seen as the means through which a stimulus is created which is then satisfied by the product or service that is being marketed. But that is, to put it mildly, manipulation. It plays on desires, needs and fears to create a false sense of urgency that will lead to a purchase before the potential buyer has had the chance to research anything, think things through or change her mind. 

    Semantic search promised to change all of this by creating entities which are based on identity. This generates data, that needs to be classifed and validated.

    Machine learning makes all of this faster and less costly which means that more and more can be done without increasing operating costs. 

    Fire hydrant voice search querySearch queries posed in natural language can be processed and matched against real world concepts and objects without going through the traditional ‘translation’ phase where we try to think what specific search terms might possibly describe those objects. The search query “Red cylindrical object used to fight fire” returns, without any hesitation, “fire hydrant” on Voice Search.

    One of the most specific areas where this takes place is voice search and voice interaction. Without a keyboard to input a search query we have no drop-down autosuggestions from Google. We also cannot always remember what we searched for two queries earlier so the very concept of search terms (or even keywords) becomes redundant. 

    The approach has two very significant effects: 

    • Natural language description frequently supplants exact search terms and, even a search methodology.
    • It often does not feel like search. (Google Now, Waze, Google Maps, YouTube, GMail and Google Photos) are examples where search technology is active in the background. 

    The video below on Google Voice and how it is put together beautifully explains some of the concepts:  


    What it really means is that everything a business, a brand or a person does online and offline now really matters. This concept of “data density” was first broached in SEO Help designed, very specifically to address issues of identity, brand values and entity formation as part of a business’ or a brand’s day-to-day activities. 

     Because everything is data and everything is beginning to be understood and indexed, creating the necessary semantically rich data density required to succeed in search has to be part of an incremental, sustained and sustainable process that weds brand identity and core values with brand marketing activities and brand voice. Of course, in a semantic web, from a presence point of view everyone and everything is, from a practical point of view, a brand.  


  • Trust and the Attention Economy

    The attention Economy Runs on Trust

    The web has always been a publishing medium. As a matter of fact it’s the effect it had on the democratization of publishing that allowed ordinary people to produce content at will that has been a catalyst to dramatic change on many fronts.  

    When citizen-journalism is possible and content can be produced by anyone with a blog, a web cam and a digital camera (in any combination of the three) the gatekeeper role of content creators such as newspapers, magazines and big publishers becomes redundant. When content is created by so many, so fast, in so many different ways, indexing it requires more than just the ability to catalogue it. It needs context, importance, relevance and trustworthiness. 

    The wave of content that led to the explosion of Big Data on the web, became the reason that led us to sematic search. A clever means of organizing massive amounts of data so they do not overwhelm us semantic search (search, really, as semantic technology is powering almost every search engine) also changed the way we view the veracity of content. Used to taking advertising at face value, our response to it highly dependent on the inclusion of emotional triggers (playing heavily on our fears, concerns and worries) we now want content to talk to us using our language, addressing our real concerns, appealing to logic as well as emotion and connecting with us as real people, rather than faceless units in a potential audience addressed en masse by a cleverly crafted marketing message. 

    Branding, marketing, search engine optimization and content creation, then stopped being separate disciplines in the marketing toolbox, only passingly acknowledging each other. In the 21st century they have become a unified means of addressing the needs of the audience and a direct way of making contact with them. 

    A recent study by Chartbeat on the online news media data metrics showed that: 


    About 40% of visitors leave having spent fewer than 15 seconds engaged on the page — and yet the pageview is often viewed as the most important metric.


    It’s not enough to get someone to click. We have to get them to read.


    Chartbeat provides editorial reporting to 80 per cent of the leading digital publishers in the US, and in a further 60 countries globally, using its publishing tools to help editorial staff create engaging content and design sites so its statistics are based on sufficient data to sound a warning bell.  

    It’s All About Money

    Online news sites of course don’t just serve news. They also serve ads and it is these that the statistic posted above is actually killing. When the news content you create is barely sufficient to stop the eye for 15 seconds, you can guarantee that no one is looking at the ads you charge clients, to place on the site. 

    The fact that attention and engagement are better metrics than pageviews has led the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s European body to urge adoption of viewability as the basis for display ad transactions, giving a virtual greenlight for publishers and advertisers to start using ‘attention’ as a significant advertising currency.

    This is where trust comes in. News and content become compelling when it comes from a trustworthy source, has something relevant to say and presents it in a way that is very accessible. Making readers jump through hoops by separating a 500 word article into four pages so you can serve more ads and more pageviews (as an example) is neither the best way to grab their attention nor gain their trust. 

    So, what works? 

    • Transparency – by all means serve your needs as a publisher, eCommerce website, marketer but also acknowledge the fact that you care about your readers. Work hard to show you do. No one says business should not work hard to make money, but a business that resorts to the online equivalent of ‘dirty tricks’ in order to do so, fails to gain the respect of the audience it seeks to attract. 
    • Vulnerability – if you’re running a site you really need people to get there. Acknowledge that, then work to make their time on your site as productive as possible even to your own detriment. If an article can deliver its content in 200 words, beefing it up to 800 is a disservice to the reader. Yes, you want them to stay on your site and yes you want them to remember you and come back. Treat them like you would yourself. It’s the only way to gain trust and attention.
    • Value – Stop producing content for content’s sake. Yes, the web has turned us all into publishers but the content we produce now needs to truly work to justify the time it has taken to create. So take pride in your work, create content that says: “I am pouring my soul into this because I think it really matters” and then let your online audience do the rest.
    • Stop begging – Sites that ask you to share their content with action calls that actually say “Share this with all your friends” may feel clever because they are ticking the “call to action” box in creating content, but they are also annoying the hell out of those who want to make up their own mind on what to share and what not to. This includes those annoying pop ups that always have the equivalent of “Do the clever thing and subscribe to our newsletter/RSS/mailing list” in big red letters while smaller bold font gives you the option of saying: “I want to remain uninformed/stupid/in the dark” and not subscribe to whatever they’re offering. Really, that is so transparent it really turns people off.
    • Start leading – Don’t wait for people to find your site. Lead the online conversation on the issues that truly matter to your business by starting it, first. At the end of the day it is your business. If you don’t care enough to raise your voice, who will? 

     The web is changing fast. If you’re still using Google Analytics to count pageviews, maybe you’re not changing fast enough. 


    Additional Links and Sources

    Why Publishers are Killing Pageviews (White Paper)
    Defining and Measuring Digital Ad Engagement in a Cross-Platform World
    Digital Ad Engagement: An Industry Overview and Reconceptualization (White Paper)


  • Understanding the Future of Digital Marketing

    Understanding the future of digital marketing

    From where we are standing there are only two available paths that lead into a future that make sense. One takes us into a world where “digital” and “real” are indistinguishable from one another. They become labels that describe the landscape we operate in at the moment in time when we need to access information. It is information and capabilities then (i.e. functionality) that begin to define which layer of the whole we are in and the edifice, in its entirety, is called Augmented Reality (AR). 

  • WAQ19 Conference in Quebec City

    WAQ19 Conference in Quebec
  • What Happens After The Pandemic Is Over

    The world after the pandemic has passed
  • What if we Had a New Value System for Goods and Services?

    Maybe the time has come to apply a new value system on transactions in our world.
    This is a thought experiment. My posts on SEO, social media and marketing, reach these days into realms which I would not normally consider. Such is the pervasive power of social media to disrupt traditional notions of value and the traditional ways of doing things that over the last eight weeks I have written in-depth, detailed posts covering parenting, obscure US legislature, the law-making process, the nomenclature of bread and whether our focus on common sense sometimes circumvents logic.

  • Why Branding is the Space Where Your Business Values Meet Your Customers’ Minds

    Branding takes place in the mind of consumers

    Every business understands the value in branding, but few get the values of branding. In presentations I’ve often discussed how branding now cannot be separated from other business considerations like search, content creation, a social media presence and the core values that make a business what it is. 

  • Why Marketing Is Not A Conversation

    Conversation in Marketing
  • Words That Are Overused

    “Disruption is killing us.” I overheard this at a meeting recently. One Head of department to another. It’s marketing. 

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