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Go-Explore: a New Approach for Hard-Exploration Problems

A grand challenge in reinforcement learning is intelligent exploration, especially when rewards are sparse or deceptive. Two Atari games serve as benchmarks for such hard-exploration domains: Montezuma's Revenge and Pitfall. On both games, current RL algorithms perform poorly, even those with intrinsic motivation, which is the dominant method to improve performance on hard-exploration domains. To address this shortfall, we introduce a new algorithm called Go-Explore. It exploits the following principles: (1) remember previously visited states, (2) first return to a promising state (without exploration), then explore from it, and (3) solve simulated environments through any available means (including by introducing determinism), then robustify via imitation learning. The combined effect of these principles is a dramatic performance improvement on hard-exploration problems. On Montezuma's Revenge, Go-Explore scores a mean of over 43k points, almost 4 times the previous state of the art. Go-Explore can also harness human-provided domain knowledge and, when augmented with it, scores a mean of over 650k points on Montezuma's Revenge. Its max performance of nearly 18 million surpasses the human world record, meeting even the strictest definition of "superhuman" performance. On Pitfall, Go-Explore with domain knowledge is the first algorithm to score above zero. Its mean score of almost 60k points exceeds expert human performance. Because Go-Explore produces high-performing demonstrations automatically and cheaply, it also outperforms imitation learning work where humans provide solution demonstrations. Go-Explore opens up many new research directions into improving it and weaving its insights into current RL algorithms. It may also enable progress on previously unsolvable hard-exploration problems in many domains, especially those that harness a simulator during training (e.g. robotics).
Comments: 37 pages, 14 figures
Subjects: Machine Learning (cs.LG); Artificial Intelligence (cs.AI); Machine Learning (stat.ML)
Cite as: arXiv:1901.10995 [cs.LG]
  (or arXiv:1901.10995v1 [cs.LG] for this version)
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From: Jeff Clune [view email]
[v1] Wed, 30 Jan 2019 18:40:37 UTC (3,555 KB)

Where Digital Workplaces and Intranets Thrive

  • Since 2002, DWG has carried out 700 benchmark evaluations of intranets and digital workplaces of major organizations.
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DWG is a boutique consultancy covering all aspects of the evolving digital workplace. We provide vendor-neutral, expert advice and practitioner-led support, helping organizations tackle specific challenges on their digital workplace and intranet journeys – using our measurement and research-driven methods.

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Shimrit Janes – Social, knowledge sharing, strategy

Shimrit JanesShimrit Janes is a freelance researcher, writer and consultant, specializing in the use of social technology for knowledge sharing. She previously led an award-winning joint project with law firm RPC and The University of Westminster’s Business School, which included implementing and overseeing a bespoke social intranet. Her current work covers a range of projects, including continued research and writing work with The University of Westminster on implementing effective social knowledge platforms. Shimrit also carries out research and consultancy for DWG, in addition to being our Community Manager covering Europe.

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Blue Moon

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I Want You

Ask Me

Baby I Don't Care

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If I Can Dream

An Analysis Audit in Four Acts3smartphones.jpeg

With potentially thousands or tens of thousands of landing pages on a domain, you’re going to need a structured way of conducting this analysis. We recommend dividing a content audit into four main stages:

  1. Initial content assessment
  2. Performance analysis
  3. Structural analysis
  4. Benchmark analysis

We’ll describe each of these in more detail now.

1. Initial content assessment

Some content marketers might find working with spreadsheets intimidating and/or soul-destroying – content is supposed to be about words and emotions and not about data and tables! However, the great thing about Excel (or your spreadsheet tool of choice) is its flexibility. You can pull together data from numerous sources, sort it, filter it and make use of relatively simple functionalities like conditional formatting to get quick, helpful insights.excel-example-content-assessment

Your range of data sources will depend on your own setup, but commonly they will include Google Analytics, the Google Search Console and an SEO software platform like the Searchmetrics Research Cloud, among others. Viewing all the data in one place makes it extremely quick and easy to spot gaps. For example, a simple column filter can instantly show you which URLs are missing a meta description, giving you a great starting point for basic optimization measures.

2. Performance Analysis

The next step is to analyze the performance of your pages. By looking at keyword rankings and traffic potential, you can identify those URLs that have the greatest optimization potential. A good rule of thumb is to look for keywords with:

  • high search volume
  • a good, but not excellent ranking (e.g. position 4 to 30)
  • low level of competition (e.g. based on the cost-per-click of keywords)
  • ompetition (e.g. based on the cost-per-click of keywords)

research-cloud-content-audit-example

These KPIs, all of which can be viewed in the Searchmetrics Research Cloud, can act as a good guide for identifying high-potential pages. In your specific case you may have other indicators that should also be considered, such as the average basket value for product purchases.

Once you’ve found URLs and keywords that look like good candidates for optimization, a good way of seeing ­how to optimize the pages is to check out the content itself. With content analysis software like the Searchmetrics Content Experience, you can assess the strength of on-page content by looking at performance factors such as word count and the inclusion of relevant keywords. If the page you’re targeting for optimization has sub-standard content, then improving the quality of the text is a great place to start.

example-content-experience-content-scoreBut, as mentioned in the beginning, there is often just too much content on your website. It’s  sometimes not about improving existing or adding new content; it’s more about getting rid of content that’s out-dated, not relevant for your target audience or doesn’t have a brand fit anymore. Underperformance and low search volume are always first indicators of where to start, but always check the content goals and match these with your strategic direction. Often, pages have a key role internally, and therefore a right to exist.

3. Structural Analysis

As websites expand, categories, sub-categories and standalone content sections are often added on the fly, resulting in domain structures that are near-impossible to follow, with the user experience resembling The Place That Sends You Mad in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix. Obviously, this should be avoided if users are to be encouraged to stay on (and return to) your page. Furthermore, a well-structured site is much easier for a search engine crawler to navigate, meaning that more of your content can be correctly processed and indexed, giving it a chance to appear in the organic search rankings.

When restructuring the content on a site, it makes sense to take a top-down approach. First, directories should be established for the website’s main topics. Then, content pieces can be assigned to the relevant directories. Finally, the structure of individual texts can be analyzed to ensure their information architecture communicates to users in an appealing, effective way.

content-audit-structural-analysis

Working from the top down is an excellent way of spotting overlaps in topics, where directories can be eliminated or merged together, and content pieces that may address near-identical topics and are only creating confusion, without adding any value for visitors to your site.

4. Benchmark Analysis

The first three steps of the content audit have dealt directly with the content on your own page. The fourth step, a benchmark analysis, involves looking at the pages competing within your search environment. This doesn’t mean that you try to duplicate a competitor’s content – or even their strategy – but, for example, looking at the keywords your competitors rank for is a good way of identifying potential topics that might be missing on your own site.shared-keywords-content-audit-research-cloud

A benchmark analysis goes beyond an introspective look at your own website and uses the available data to analyze what is making those around you successful. This gives you a more rounded understanding of what ranks well in organic search within your industry or topical niche, and helps you make optimizations that can lead to real improvements in performance.

Take-aways

To summarize, content audits:

  • create transparency and give you an overview of your content
  • help identify content with the potential for quick optimization
  • reveal redundant content that can be eliminated from your website
  • create a clear, targeted structure for your website and its content
  • lay the foundation for the creation of a content strategy
  • are an investment in the performance of your content

One last question: When should I do a content audit?

The easy answer is: Now!. There is never a bad time to gain a better understanding of your content and its structure, and see where your areas of potential lie. That said, there are certain milestones in the life-cycle of a domain where a content audit is of particular value:

  • website launch or relaunch
  • change in the company’s strategic direction
  • change in the company goals
  • observation of visible drop in website performance

Of course, rather than wait for performance to fall, regular audits (e.g. annually) can help prevent any decline before it happens. The organic search environment is constantly evolving, as your competitors become more sophisticated, Google updates its algorithm and user expectations change over time. A content audit won’t solve all your problems overnight, but it will give you a detailed understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and set you off on the path to realizing your potential.

Request a Content Audit

 

 

 

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