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How Digital Marketing Can Harness the Power of Data Science & Machine Learning

An Interview with Dennis Ventura

In this episode of Ecoffee with Experts, Matt Fraser hosted Dennis Ventura, Founder and Managing Director of Local Interactive. Dennis addresses several aspects of machine learning, such as producing content, Voiceover, and analyzing data from SEO and campaign. He also discloses his approach to integrating data science into SEO. Watch now for some deep insights.

I think, we’re living at a time where so much information is available and I really feel we’re living in a time where anything is possible if you really put your mind to it.

Dennis Ventura
Founder and Managing Director of Local Interactive
Hello everyone. Welcome to this episode of Ecoffee with Experts. I am your host, Matt Fraser, and on today's show, I have with me Dennis Ventura. Dennis is going to be talking to us today about how Digital Marketing can harness the power of data science and machine learning. Dennis is the Founder and Managing Director of Local Interactive, a full-service Digital Marketing, Web Development, and SEO agency headquartered in New York City. He has an impressive 25-plus years of expertise and holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Fordham University in New York. And he is currently researching how Digital Marketing can harness the power of data science and machine learning. Dennis, thank you so much. It's a pleasure to have you here on the show.

It’s awesome to be here, Matt. I’m looking forward to it.

So off camera, we talked a little bit about AI and all these things to get acquainted. But, how do you think Digital Marketing can harness the power of data science and machine learning?

So we’re at a point right now, which, we’ve been here so many times, if you look at history, it’s just an iteration of technology. And right now, we’re at the point where the Internet will be iterated into its third form. And machine learning has been at the forefront from the beginning because an algorithm, like when Google made the algorithm, and Facebook’s algorithm, are all some form of machine learning. So it’s not a new concept. So now we have the computing potential, both on an enterprise level and a business-to-business, small business, and individual level, to be able to use machines to help us process data at an enormous rate. With that comes so many advantages.

So one of those ways that I think about, and I've had my own experience, and for some reason, it's amazing. It's a controversial issue, as you and I were talking about, people used to think the Internet would be a fad and laughed when they said it would replace the Yellow Pages. And now look where we are today. But regarding content creation and artificial intelligence with platforms, there are various platforms out there. I won't name-drop them; people can find them on their own, which can assist you in writing content. So that's one of the ways that I see machine learning and that becoming an advantage. So what do you think about that? Are you yay or nay for using content creation tools such as jasper.ai or comp.ai?

I can tell you that there is, and I work with clients everywhere, from small to medium-sized businesses to enterprise level companies, you know, billion-dollar valuations. And everyone is using some form of content-based AI, whether it’s to write it. There are already iterations of AI being able to do the voiceover. So there’s voiceover-based AI, where instead of hiring a voiceover person, you could have an AI take a transcript and pick an English accent. And it’s gotten to that point where we’re so early, and as I told you off camera, we’re at a point with AI where if you compare it to the Internet, it’s like when we were still using dial-up 56 modems. So that’s where we’re at. And it’s, we’re at this, people are using GTP three, that’s the main machine learning platform, and GTP four is about to come out, which they’re saying will be 500x as powerful as GTP three.

And it's amazing, open AI was developed by Elon Musk in conjunction with other people, but it's just amazing what that guy is doing to our world. And because you talk about it, I was thinking about it from a content perspective, but writing articles and making content. But it wasn't the movie where Carrie Fisher died and was recreated with CGI and her voice done with AI.

So, as I said, it’s been with us for a while. And I think also people need to understand that content is not just written content. Images and videos are content. Voice, podcast, and audio is content. So content is what convinces. And this is like a thought that I thought of at one point. Okay, it doesn’t matter the format, but the content is what convinces algorithms or the Internet if you want to use that term to position you or elevate you. So if you look at whoever is a top YouTuber, if you look at whoever is a top Tik Tok, there right now, they’ve published an X amount of content. And that’s the reason why they’re in the top rankings. So when it comes to using SEO, Google lets us know there are about 200 ranking factors, and content is one of those. So that’s what I think people have a problem with, that maybe people are bypassing the hard work of writing the content, and maybe they feel it’s a way of cheating.

That's what I think people think.

But it’s just a natural progression of where we’re at. It’s like saying, okay, instead of having a car, why not have a horse? I love my horse. I feed him, he’s a great horse. I jump on him whenever I want, and I go. But now we have cars, planes and trains. The natural progression, and I think the people that look down on the AI the way it is right now, yes, as I said, we’re at the beginning. So it’s not like it’s meant to replace anyone. You still need someone in front of it. That’s the thing that many people think is like, Okay, I press the button, and I don’t have to do anything. So it would help if you had somebody behind it. And they need to be trained on how to use it. But what it’s going to do is grow how content is distributed exponentially, and the people that are using it are going to get a competitive advantage.

I agree with you. And I think you can write bad human-written content, human-generated content, you can do both. And you can do both with AI you can write badly. And if you take what it gives you and spit it out, don't edit it, don't review it, and don't try and generate another instance of what you're trying to do. I've been doing this because I've been using it for six months now. And I've shown some people some of the things I've generated, and they're like, I can put an article in front of them. And in fact, I did this, I rewrote an article that a human wrote and wrote with AI. And you can't tell which one was done by a human.

I can tell you like myself, I’m not a writer, I’m a marketer. So for me, writing is not something that comes naturally. But even using an AI tool for me, it still probably takes me about an hour to pump out some content. So the AI is there to help you when you get that writer’s block. So it’s eliminating that, and that’s the part that’s like helping you scale. So I think if people look at it from that point of view, and not like at the beginning of the Internet, it’s like, oh, push this button, and you’re going to make $1,000. Push button marketing. Like I’m going to be rich by buying this one shiny object. It’s not that, it’s another tool marketers and businesses will have, like the Internet. But, like the Internet has broken the barriers to starting a business, think about everything you would need to do to start a business 30 years ago. You would need financing to buy a location in a mall or avenue. You could register a domain, publish a website, and have a business with the Internet. Now the challenge is traffic. So it’s just another tool.

It's just it's incredible. You're talking about creating content and then voices for getting the narration done. I don't know what voiceover actors should be. And voiceover people. Maybe they can lend their voice to be licensed for AI usage. I don't know how they're going to make money. Because I don't know, do you think it will put people out of work eventually?

I think it will put some people that are not going to embrace it, like anything else that will leave people behind that don’t adapt to it. But I think, from what I understand in terms of voice, you have a real voice actor that speaks to the AI and trains it with its voice, and then that’s how it’s able to generate an additional voice, based on who is using it.

It doesn't create a voice from anything. Someone who wants to sound like me would use my voice to train it. I would have to train it with my voice, and perhaps I could even license my voice for other people's use, like trademark my voice.

And then also video. So it’s like, you’re getting all these tools that will help you and anybody the same way you would build a business to publish content. And there’s going to be good and bad parts of that. And it’s like anything else, the people who take the time to use the tools and produce quality stuff will probably win.

And the people who are already good content writers will enable them to push out even more content faster.

I know I have a staff of content writers and one content writer who could probably write an article daily. And they are good content writers. They know how to write content. So they’re able to do 3 to 5x the amount of content and still have it be quality because you still need to put it through, say Grammarly, and make sure that it’s not plagiarized, like all those things. Like Copyscape, you still need to do all of that. So I think that’s where people are like, Okay, people are just pressing a button and automating it’s a great website. So yeah, I mean, and I’ve seen many Amazon affiliate sites, and I’ve seen them go from millions of searches to a sudden ranking tank.

Google knows what they're doing, and if it's quality score crap content, she's got more time to put some good content together.

And I think there’s always a client right now in the healthcare niche, and they have a lot of content on their website. But it hasn’t been optimized for any specific keywords or anything relevant. It’s just kind of like telling and not selling. It’s information for information’s sake. So with the tools we use, we can figure out okay, this is what the algorithm needs to see and get them to start ranking faster.

You can plead the fifth if you want, but are you willing to share any of the names of those tools, or is that part of your secret sauce?

I think everybody knows the tools out there like you said the first one, Jasper.

Or surfer, are you referring to surfer?

Surfer is in everybody’s toolbox. Cora, I think if you are in very competitive markets like CBD or anything super hyper-competitive, then you’re probably using Cora at that point. But if you’re in E-commerce based businesses, Surfers will probably be one of the tools you use. You will need a good keyword research tool because Google is stripping. So now they’re going from analytics to GA4, they’re going to strip more of the information that would help you. And they’re claiming for it to be more private. So that’s what they’ve always done.

I don't buy that. I figured Google out. I do not buy that they're saying they're doing something under the guise of privacy, for profit, because they don't want marketers to know what to do. And therefore, people have to spend more money on Google ads. But then, how will you spend money on Google ads if you don't know what keywords to target? If you don't know what to search while you're missing those keywords? So we have these tools that help us, and for those who don't know what Cora is, it's an SEO tool by Ted Gubitis, whom I know and worked for, for a brief period. Ted is an amazing guy. He thinks about SEO on a level that's the matrix as far as I'm concerned. So, that being said, many questions went through my mind, like the competitive advantage if everybody has the same tools?

It’s an arms race at that point.

There you go, it's an Arms Race, you are weapons of content.

You are right. Now there are some markets where whoever has the most money wins. There are markets where if clients don’t have a certain budget, they’re not even on the paid traffic side. That’s why many people tend to go to social, but then with Facebook updating and Apple?

And that’s the reason why Tik Tok is growing so fast because their algorithm is brand new, Whereas, like, every single algorithm before, Tik Tok has been based on who you follow. Whereas Tik Tok is honed in on what exact content you’re interested in. So just constantly feeds you, plus it’s shorter content. And all these tools are helping people create content at a very fast level. And the reason why Tik Tok has grown so fast is that it gets to learn what you like fast.

I have not been on Tik Tok. There are so many things to do. I know one person who started making $1 million a month from teaching about Excel spreadsheets through Tik Tok.

They’re taking the model that worked on YouTube and probably doing it on Tik Tok in shorter versions.

So I'm trying to think of other ways that you maybe know that I don't, because I'm not in the game anymore, because I'm doing this sort of stuff, which I love doing. I have my side projects, but how will data science help improve SEO rankings? Do you think what Cora does will eventually be automated by AI?

Well, it will help you do predictive analysis. Which is what clients always want to know, like, how long is it going to take for me to get traffic? How long is it going to take for me to convert? So, many people in the industry don’t tell clients this. Still, anybody that starts a business needs to expect at least a year of publishing content or having their website index and letting Google know that they’re an expert and an authority in whatever they’re doing. So it takes like about a year to do that. Then the second and third years, you start seeing that, like hockey stick growth, if you’re doing the right stuff. So, what it’s going to do for SEO, it’s going to be able to, hopefully, get rid of the people who sell people on these guaranteed results, like in 30 days. And many of those companies call me and say, hey, we’ll manage your clients. And I’ve asked them, Okay, so how can you guarantee results? So many say, okay, they’re vanity words with no traffic. And the client will be like, Okay, we’re on page one. There’s no commercial intent, and they’ve satisfied their contract. So they’ve guaranteed they’ve gotten them on the first page for word. So but getting them on the first page for a word and a word that generates sales is different. It’s like having somebody who knows how to talk to a client is different from somebody who knows how to learn from a client and then give them a solution. So that’s different too.

You know how you have a data dashboard. And you can feed all your data into like, data analytics.com, or let's take Google Data Studio and supermetrics.com, you can grab all that data in your Google Analytics, or matomo or whatever you're using, and you can pull it into a central place. But the hardest part about that is interpreting the data of what to do next. There are tools out there that are like Google Ads coach. I can't remember the name of it right now. OPTIO uses AI to a certain degree and machine learning to tell you what to do next in your Google ads campaign, and I find it very helpful. Somebody may look down on me and say, Well, you don't know what you're doing with Google ads because you're not doing it manually. But it's like a coach, it tells me what to do. And I'm pretty sure it could save someone from making a $100,000 mistake, managing a million-dollar ad spend. So my question is, do you think it's going to like, help with those things like to be able to interpret the data? Are there any other use cases where you've seen AI and machine learning be able to do that? And the data science things I haven't mentioned yet?

For example, we do employ data scientists. It is not easy because they’re very analytical. So you must understand how to translate the information they’re giving you. So I think what AI is going to be able to do is, like you said, give you recommendations and be able to narrate scenarios, like potential outcomes, like predictive results. So that’s what I think will happen and help agencies. Business owners can have a lot more confidence in launching campaigns and making decisions regarding when a campaign is working and when a campaign is not working. So there’s a lot of times it’s very much, especially with SEO, you’re lagging, even with paid, because we pay traffic, you’re always setting up the campaign and then waiting to see what negative keywords you need to kind of isolate. So, machine learning will give you a lot of that information. And you’re still going to need someone with the skills to be able to make decisions.

I think that's amazing. So you employ data scientists in your agency?

Yeah, we have a couple of scientists from Columbia and NYU.

Wow. That's amazing. So what is your process for incorporating data science into your SEO?

We try to pull data from all the tools and then have an internal way to grade them. And then from that, be able to have, like I just said, like, a couple of scenarios that we’re able to look at and say, Alright, this would be like a scenario that we think would be much more profitable, and we’ll be able to help clients get results faster.

So, is there a general example you can share without going into client details?

My company’s name is called Local Interactive. So I started working with local businesses. A lot of that was because, after college, I worked at many boutique agencies. I think the last agency I worked for was Reach Local, and they went public. And so, at that point, working with local businesses was, since I come from a family with local businesses, I said, I want to empower local businesses. So today, eCommerce is what the mainstay of a lot of internet marketing is all about

Oh, yeah, whereas before local was the wave, eCommerce is now the wave.

eCommerce is the wave right now. And a lot of local businesses, if they do decide to optimize, need to consider Yelps, Angie’s, like all of these directories that have already, I mean, they could rank for anything anywhere, you do need to have a presence on there. So I guess to give you an example, it would be like maybe Shopify is a great platform that allows you to do a lot with it. Because they’re liquid, the way they’re programmed in liquid, a programming language, allows you to extract the data and model it pretty coolly. So we’ve been able to look at predictive sales and have an idea of what the projections will do in regression analysis based on competitors. They have apps and websites to tell you what your competitors are selling and their best sellers. So it’s similar to what Amazon does when they see somebody in their market. And I’ve had so many clients come from Amazon, where they’ve been a leader in their space, and then Amazon knows their sales and buying from them, making it an Amazon choice product. And then at that point, sellers get a little bit pushed off, and then that’s when they tend to go to like a Shopify and to be on Walmart and Target and stuff like that. So, Shopify has a lot of good ways to plug into the data and be able to model it.

That's amazing. Do you think AI will be involved somehow in web design, or is it already?

There’s something called Webflow that supposedly you give it your niche and build a website for you. I think they already have something like that.

It's incredible what will happen with all these things. I'm blown away.

I think if people are not going to embrace it, that’s fine. Because we’ve all been here before with the yellow pages and people thinking the Internet was just a fad.

I think AI is a fad or machine learning. Are they the same thing?

Machine learning is being able to learn. It just gets smarter and smarter the more data you feed it. So we’re in a data-based world where you’re getting everything right now, every single step wherever you go. I think I drove somewhere, and then Google said, Oh, this was the day you drove the most. And I was just like, Yeah, wow, can you rate all these places that you pass? And I was like, wow, They know everything. So I think if you don’t embrace it, then you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage. And there’s going to be like everything else. there’s going to be people that use it for good and people that use it for shortcuts. And it’s like anything else, they’re probably going to have some short-lived success. But the people who try to learn how to use it correctly will iterate like everything else. So they’re going to have a competitive advantage.

That's amazing. And the other people will go the way of the dodo and the dinosaur.

It will be like, for example, when I first started, Locksmith was a big industry in Manhattan. And now, trying to rank for Locksmith in Manhattan, you’re not going to do it unless you have a big budget. But it just understands that it is technology, and you’ll use it or watch what it does.

And maybe go out of business. So, where do you think marketers can learn more about this and how to embrace AI and machine learning and data science? Should we be taking courses from somewhere or hiring data scientists if we have the budgets you've done, or what would you recommend?

Open AI is a great place to start because there are four different AI preloaded sources you can work with and then learn. Depending on how deep you want to get into the technical side, that will be up to the individual. But some people are building tools for the interface to work with them. So it’s worth trying out because, as you said, everybody is using it, and people who are using it and saying they are not are, maybe they are not.

I know people who refuse to use it. They think it's a fad. They don't remember, but people thought the yellow pages were a fad. Or the Internet is just a fad.

It was like first when we had Google, and then Facebook came out, and everyone was like, yes, Facebook is for college kids, and now you can have a store on Facebook. It’s like everything else, you must be able to look at it and see how it applies to your business. So it’s better to learn it now than when it becomes super complicated and you can’t get a grasp of it. So I think now it is in the early stages and bewoes everybody to take a look at it and see if it is something they can use or not.

It's amazing. It's exciting to think about. Here is a question. What are some of the things people misunderstand about Data Science and SEO?

I think they feel like it’s a shortcut, and so they are cheating with it, whereas it’s another tool you can use to help you make decisions. Whoever is not using data to make data-based decisions they are just guessing. Like that adage, fifty percent of my Marketing and advertising is working; I don’t know which. These tools can have a statistical level of confidence and understand, okay, the data is letting me know this is working and is not working. People think it’s a shortcut, but using it to help you make decisions on the data will give you an advantage.

Dennis, one of the mistakes I see Marketers make a lot of Marketers, and I don't mean to sound high-minded, but it's not using UTM properly for attribution. So I think the human element, being able to come up with a campaign name and using UTM medium, will AI replace all that, or will it know you don't have to do that anymore? It will know where all that is coming from. Maybe there is a minimum element, but it will know based on IP addresses and all the things it can know, so we don't have to worry about that so much for attribution.

I think it will help a lot more people to know that information because I can tell you that when I have clients come in, they don’t have any of that setup. And they have gone through so many agencies or consultants, so I would say the same fifty percent of campaigns do not have proper UTM setup, and if AI is going to help them get that implemented, that’s another advantage.

I am now thinking about Marketing Automation, like setting up tagging systems for Marketing automation, whether you are using Marketeur or Infusion Soft, Chimp, or my favorite Groundhog, which is a WordPress Marketing Automation plugin. Regarding moving people in and out of campaigns and funnels and knowing where they are.

You mean like Chatbox. I think everybody, whether they know it or not, a lot of the chats they are doing are preprogrammed to get it to a point where they become a warm lead. Because at the end of the day, machines will not replace people. Because at the end of the day, people buy from people. So if you buy from a company, you are because of its branding and how it makes you feel, but there is a personality behind it.

There is a person behind creating that personality.

So there is a personality to it. Chatbox helps companies put people through the funnel more efficiently and profitably because, at that point, they don’t need to hire somebody that will only be doing mundane stuff and then get to where they get prequalified, very profitable leads.

It will probably be able to tell the difference between a marketing-qualified lead and a sales-qualified lead. Get more qualified people in front of your salespeople because there is no point in having someone sit at their desk chatting when you could have AI doing it for you and answering all the questions.

There are a couple of tools out there that depending on how people answer, will either set them a follow-up email or an appointment.

You mean tools like Manychat?

Yes, that is one of them.

So, there are different facets of machine learning that we have covered. For creating content, Voiceover, Videos, analyzing data from SEO, campaigns. Using chatbots will automate conversations, save companies money, and move people along the customer journey to become better-qualified leads.

I always have clients asking, what do you think is the best campaign I could start? And I would go, okay, if you want to know the best campaign, it starts with content, so if you want to start with video content, for example. Video content has the most value. Because with video content, you can use the world’s second-largest search engine, Youtube. If you build a presence there, you’ll be able to put it on your website, which becomes much more engaging. People are going to watch a video before they read something, But then you can transcribe that video, which then becomes content that can feed Google’s current algorithm for ranking. You can then take the video clips and put them on social media. All from the production of that one video could generate paid, social media, and SEO content. If there is one strategy that I would tell anyone out there, I would say- that it is labor sensitive and takes some time, but you will get the most value from video content.

So many ways I can think of that. I will talk to you about it off camera.

And that is for those AI tools because when you transcribe it, that’s an AI. You won’t be stopping the video every minute. Instead, you would use something like Temi, where you can upload the video for twenty-five cents per minute, and it will transcribe it. You then take that and throw it into something like Jarvis run it to clean it up. Then throw it through something like Grammarly to make sure it is grammatically correct, Copyscape it. You are still doing a lot of work. You must do a lot of work to get it done and then host it. Then have something like Whosuite or Buffer that distributes it. So it’s not a push button magic thing it’s a tool like anything else you need to learn to use.

Forgive my ignorance, but is Grammarly using machine learning?

Yes, it is. So many things are being used, so people don’t look because they are not marketed as AI but as AI-based.

One thing I think about is that you talked about creating videos. But many businesses don't know their customers and have been in business for ten years. Like I worked for a car dealership, and the OEM didn't have a customer persona on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis for what they were selling and who their target market was. So I was trying to use it for targeting on Facebook. So I had to figure it out myself. So this is probably possible. I don't know how to do it, But can you extract the data, let's say a specific vehicle like a Honda Civic, not the company I worked for. Could they pull all the data out of who bought a Honda Civic and use AI and machine learning to build the persona of who that person is on a male and female basis?

You mean trying to make like an avatar?

Yes, an avatar. A persona.

Yes, it’s probable right now. If not, it will be possible with GTP4. But, as I said before, I think it was a month ago when someone in Sweden took GTP3 and had it write a paper for a Scholar Journal, and they are reviewing it right now to see if it’s acceptable to be submitted. So if it can write on an academic level at the iteration, the future is limitless.

That is unbelievable. An academic paper? Do you think people who use AI should have to disclose that they are? There is a book by Sam Smith with Suzie Smith, and underneath it says by this person and this person. But you know that a ghostwriter wrote it.

That’s what I was just thinking about. I think about that, like, okay, what’s the difference between the AI and people who have a ghostwriter? Because people have been using ghostwriters for centuries.

They don't divulge they have the ghostwriter.

So, they pump out books, which is part of their branding and marketing strategy.

They are building their personality, customer base, and community. So I think they need to get over the stigma.

As you said, I think there will be people who use it to take shortcuts, which is the nature of anything in life. People on Wallstreet take shortcuts. We all know things like that in technology. I think that is just human nature. There is a sort of human law that people will do. But it will also propel us to a level where we will have a competitive advantage in marketing and advertising.

Do you think it will also level the playing field? For instance, people from non-English speaking companies can now compete by building websites that can create English-based content instead of writing crappy content. For example, someone from India could write an article and get Grammarly to fix it. And you wouldn't notice it was written by someone whose second language is English rather than their first.

I think that’s where you still need somebody to look at it. So I don’t think we are at that point yet. Will it eventually get to that point? Possibly.

Because you still have to understand proper English and what isn't.

Like somebody in the US and somebody in the Uk writes different dialects. So somebody needs to be there to understand, like we just talked about, Who they are trying to portray and who they are trying to reach. So I think that’s where it will not be a total push button. So you need to have somebody behind it with the skills to manage it.

What one big takeaway do you want our listeners to get from this episode?

The main thing is we are living at a time where so much is available regarding information, and I fear we are living in a time where anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Many businesses were on the fence about the Internet even coming out of the pandemic. And it forced them to use the Internet for eCommerce, it grew the Internet exponentially by two to five years. So that is how people should look at machine learning and how it will naturally help us reach the next level. So, in the same way, we are going toward electric cars.

Self-driving cars.

Yes, self-driving cars. We are not there yet. I think it has been four iterations of the Tesla. You still need somebody behind it, but the main takeaway is that if you are going to try and compete on the Internet in terms of commerce, selling either goods or services, you need all the tools available. And not looking at machine learning, which is already part of the Internet, is short-sighted.

You are doing yourself a disservice. I want to thank you so much for being on the show today. I enjoyed it. How can our listeners connect with you online?

Our website, local-interactive. On social, I am at thedennisventura.com or the Dennis Ventura on all social media. LinkedIn and everywhere the at the beginning Dennis Ventura. I help clients understand how to use technology to grow their business, no matter their level. If anybody has any questions, feel free, I am happy to help them and point them in the right direction.

That's fantastic. Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure having you here.

I had a blast.

You have a great day.

You too, take care.

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