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Larry, Sergey, and the Mixed Legacy of Google-Turned-Alphabet

December 6, 2019 No Comments

With Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepping back (again\!), Google CEO Sundar Pichai is now in charge of Alphabet—and its dysfunction.
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The finite era of “actionable insights”

December 4, 2019 No Comments

For years, “actionable insights” have been the Holy Grail for data analytics companies. Actionable insights, the thinking goes, are the end product of data collection, aggregation, analysis, and judgment. They enable a decision-maker to modify behavior and achieve desired outcomes.

The process begins with data collection, which can take many forms. There’s a big difference between collecting data and aggregating it in a meaningful way that can provide a picture of reality. That’s the “insights” part of the puzzle. First, you need high-quality data, then you need the technological prowess to clean and organize it.

With high-quality data that’s been cleaned and organized, the next step is to provide context. This is the realm of companies like Tableau, which provide tools that translate machine-friendly data points into human-friendly visualizations that strive to depict an objective picture of current conditions.

But whereas a snapshot of current conditions may, in fact, yield new and meaningful insights (for example, if I look ‘sales numbers’ across an organization I can see which channels are over- or under-performing), human judgment has always been paramount in choosing a particular action. A perfect picture of static conditions doesn’t by itself offer any suggestions as to how to achieve particular outcomes. We still rely on management to tweak sales incentives or redistribute resources.

Or at least we did, up until recently. Machine learning is now shifting the balance of institutional decision-making. Advances in processing and algorithmic self-improvement mean that computers can now anticipate future outcomes and take steps to maximize particular ones. Intelligent systems can now see the world in shades of gray and evaluate likelihoods from multitudes of variables far beyond human comprehension.

That’s the world we currently live in, and the evidence is all around us. Machine learning algorithms have swayed elections by stoking targeted outrage. Our clothes, food, and consumer products are designed according to data-driven analytics. Every design feature in your favorite app is being constantly optimized according to how computers anticipate your future behavior. It’s why YouTube is actually pretty good at showing you videos that keep you engaged.

The day is coming when we will no longer require “actionable insights,” because the action will have already been taken. Nobody at YouTube is looking at your viewing history to determine what to recommend next. Computers do that. The value of the stock market is now largely driven by automated trading algorithms, and as a consequence, there are fewer stock analysts than there used to be. Not only can computers process information far better than humans, but they’ve also demonstrated better financial judgment.

The day will soon arrive when “actionable insights” will seem like a quaint notion from a simpler time. Computers will be smart enough to act on insights by themselves. In doing so, they may, in fact, diminish the need for human oversight.

Until then, however, human enterprise is still structured around hierarchies of decision-making and judgment. The CEO of a company still needs to delegate day-to-day responsibilities to human actors whose knowledge and judgment have proven sound.

And so, for now, we still need actionable insights. Data analytics companies will continue to build better mousetraps, until the day when there are no longer mice.

Gil Rachlin, SVP of Products and Partnerships at Synup.

The post The finite era of “actionable insights” appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Twitter launches a way to report abusive use of its Lists feature

November 19, 2019 No Comments

Like many things found on today’s social media platforms, Twitter’s Lists feature was introduced without thinking about the impact it could have on marginalized groups, or how it could otherwise be used for abuse or surveillance if put in the hands of bad actors. Today, Twitter is taking a step to address that problem with the launch of a new reporting feature that specifically addresses the abusive use of Twitter Lists.

The feature is launching first on iOS today, and will come soon to Android and the web, Twitter says.

Similar to reporting an abusive tweet, Twitter users will tap on the three-dot icon next to the List in question, and then choose “Report.” From the next screen, you’ll select “It’s abusive or harmful.” Twitter will also ask for additional information at that point and will send an email confirming receipt of the report, along with other recommendations as to how to manage your Twitter experience.

Twitter Lists have been abused for years, as they became another way to target and harass people — particularly women and other minority groups. They were particularly useful as a way to avoid being banned for abusive tweets, as Twitter took no notice of Lists.

Twitter has been aware of the problem for years, noted CNBC in an exposé that ran over the summer.

Back in 2017, Twitter said it would no longer notify users when they’ve been added to a list — an attempt to cut back on what were very often upsetting notifications. It then reversed the decision after people argued that notifications were how they learned what sort of harmful lists they had been added to in the first place.

Despite Twitter’s understanding of how Lists were abused, there have not been any good tools for getting an abusive list removed from Twitter itself — users could only block the list’s creator.

Twitter has admitted that despite the availability of its reporting tools and the increasing speed with which it handles abuse reports, there’s still too much pressure on people to flag abuse for themselves. The company says it wants to figure out how to be more proactive — today, the majority is not flagged by technology (only 38% is), but by reports from users.

This problem and all the many like it have to do with who has built our social media tools in the first place.

Twitter, like other tech companies, has struggled with a lack of diversity, which means there’s a large lack of understanding about how features could be twisted to be used in ways no one intended. Though Twitter’s diversity metrics have been improving, Twitter as of this spring was 40.2% female, but just 4.5% black, and 3.9% Latinx.

The other issue with Twitter — and social media in general — is that there’s some distance between the abuser and the victim of harassment. The latter is often not seen as a real person, but rather a placeholder meant to absorb someone’s malcontent, outrage or hatred. And thanks to the platform’s anonymity, there are no real-world consequences for bad behavior on Twitter the way there would be if those same hateful things were said in a public place — like in a community setting such as your local church or social group, or in your workplace.

Finally, Twitter’s trend toward pithiness has led to it becoming a place to be sarcastic, cynical and witty-at-others’-expense — a trend that’s driven by a prolific but small crowd of Twitter users. The goal has very much been to “perform” on Twitter, and accumulate likes and retweets along the way.

Twitter says the new feature is rolling out now to iOS.

 


Social – TechCrunch


Alpaca nabs $6M for stocks API so anyone can build a Robinhood

November 9, 2019 No Comments

Stock trading app Robinhood is valued at $ 7.6 billion, but it only operates in the U.S. Freshly funded fintech startup Alpaca does the dirty work so developers worldwide can launch their own competitors to that investing unicorn. Like the Stripe of stocks, Alpaca’s API handles the banking, security and regulatory complexity, allowing other startups to quickly build brokerage apps on top for free. It has already crossed $ 1 billion in transactions within a year of launch.

The potential to power the backend of a new generation of fintech apps has attracted a $ 6 million Series A round for Alpaca led by Spark Capital . Instead of charging developers, Alpaca earns its money through payment for order flow, interest on cash deposits and margin lending, much like Robinhood.

“I want to make sure that people even outside the U.S. have access” to a way of building wealth that’s historically only “available to rich people” Alpaca co-founder and CEO Yoshi Yokokawa tells me.

Alpaca co-founder and CEO Yoshi Yokokawa

Hailing from Japan, Yokokawa followed his friends into the investment banking industry, where he worked at Lehman Brothers until its collapse. After his grandmother got sick, he moved into day-trading for three years and realized “all the broker dealer business tools were pretty bad.” But when he heard of Robinhood in 2013 and saw it actually catering to users’ needs, he thought, “I need to be involved in this new transformation” of fintech.

Yokokawa ended up first building a business selling deep learning AI to banks and trading firms in the foreign exchange market. Watching clients struggle to quickly integrate new technology revealed the lack of available developer tools. By 2017, he was pivoting the business and applying for FINRA approval. Alpaca launched in late 2018, letting developers paste in code to let their users buy and sell securities.

Now international developers and small hedge funds are building atop the Alpaca API so they don’t have to reinvent the underlying infrastructure themselves right away. Alpaca works with clearing broker NTC, and then marks up margin trading while earning interest and payment for order flow. It also offers products like AlpacaForecast, with short-term predictions of stock prices, AlpacaRadar for detecting price swings and its MarketStore financial database server.

AlpacaForecast

The $ 6 million from Spark Capital, Social Leverage, Portag3, Fathom Capital and Zillionize adds to $ 5.8 million in previous funding from investors, including Y Combinator. The startup plans to spend the cash on hiring to handle partnerships with bigger businesses, supporting its developer community and ensuring compliance.

One major question is whether fintech businesses that start to grow atop Alpaca and drive its revenues will try to declare independence and later invest in their own technology stack. There’s the additional risk of a security breach that might scare away clients.

Alpaca’s top competitor, Interactive Brokers, offers trading APIs, but other services as well that distract it from fostering a robust developer community, Yokokawa tells me. Alpaca focuses on providing great documentation, open-source contribution and SDKs in different languages that make it more developer-friendly. It will also have to watch out for other fintech services startups like DriveWealth and well-funded Galileo.

There’s a big opportunity to capitalize on the race to integrate stock trading into other finance apps to drive stickiness because it’s a consistent, voluntary behavior rather than a chore or something only done a few times a year. Lender SoFi and point-of-sale system Square both recently became broker dealers as well, and Yokokawa predicts more and more apps will push into the space.

Why would we need so many stock trading apps? “Every single person is involved with money, so the market is huge. Instead of one-player takes all, there will be different players that can all do well,” Yokokawa tells me. “Like banks and investment banks co-exist, it will never be that Bank of America takes 80% of the pie. I think differentiation will be on customer acquisition, and operations management efficiency.”

The co-founder’s biggest concern is keeping up with all the new opportunities in financial services, from cash management and cryptocurrency that Robinhood already deals in, to security token offerings and fractional investing. Yokokawa says, “I need to make sure I’m on top of everything and that we’re executing with the right timing so we don’t lose.”

The CEO hopes that Alpaca will one day power broader access to the U.S. stock market back in Japan, noting that if a modern nation still lags behind in fintech, the rest of the world surely fares even worse. “I want to connect this asset class to as many people as possible on the earth.”


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Saudi Arabia reportedly recruited Twitter employees to steal personal data of activists

November 7, 2019 No Comments

Saudi Arabian officials allegedly paid at least two employees of Twitter to access personal information on users the government there was interested in, according to recently unsealed court documents. Those users were warned of the attempt in 2015, but the full picture is only now emerging.

According to an AP report citing the federal complaint, Ahmad Abouammo and Ali Alzabarah were both approached by the Saudi government, which promised “a designer watch and tens of thousands of dollars” if they could retrieve personal information on certain users.

Abouammo worked for Twitter in media partnerships in the Middle East, and Alzabarah was an engineer; both are charged with acting as unregistered Saudi agents — spies.

Alzabarah reportedly met with a member of the Saudi royal family in Washington, D.C. in 2015, and within a week he had begun accessing data on thousands of users, including at least 33 that Saudi Arabia had officially contacted Twitter to request information on. These users included political activists and journalists critical of the royal family and Saudi government.

This did not go unnoticed and Alzabarah, when questioned by his supervisors, reportedly said he had only done it out of curiosity. But when he was forced to leave work, he flew to Saudi Arabia with his family literally the next day, and now works for the government there.

The attempt resulted in Twitter alerting thousands of users that they were the potential targets of a state-sponsored attack, but that there was no evidence their personal data had actually been exfiltrated. Last year, The New York Times reported that this event had been prompted by a Twitter employee groomed by Saudi officials for the purpose. And now we learn there was another employee engaged in similar activity.

The cases in question are still open and as such more information will likely come to light soon. I asked Twitter for comment on the events and what specifically it had done to prevent similar attacks in the future. It did not respond directly to these queries, instead providing the following statement:

We would like to thank the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice for their support with this investigation. We recognize the lengths bad actors will go to try and undermine our service. Our company limits access to sensitive account information to a limited group of trained and vetted employees. We understand the incredible risks faced by many who use Twitter to share their perspectives with the world and to hold those in power accountable. We have tools in place to protect their privacy and their ability to do their vital work. We’re committed to protecting those who use our service to advocate for equality, individual freedoms, and human rights.


Social – TechCrunch


How to educate clients about SEO and earn their trust

November 5, 2019 No Comments

I’ve found that most of my clients know a little something about SEO, but they’re not exactly sure how to make it work for them as well as it should. Teaching SEO to clients should be part of the client management services that you provide during SEO sales presentations.

SEO is a broad topic that covers a lot of ground. The challenge lies in how to explain SEO is communicating all the ways that you can enhance SEO in terms that clients can understand so that it doesn’t seem so much like a foreign language. 

I’ve found that my clients have a better understanding of the value of SEO when I can help them understand its significance in today’s digital marketing plans and speak to them about it without being too technical with the terms. 

I’ve found some effective ways on how to pitch SEO services and with their help, I develop a custom SEO plan that’s designed for success. The points shared below will help you convey a lot of crucial information to your clients.

Why SEO is necessary for your business

When teaching new clients about SEO and demonstrating how to show SEO value, I keep three things in mind:

  1. Explain SEO using a language they’re familiar with
  2. Demonstrate that SEO is still relevant today
  3. Explain the value of SEO in the simplest way possible

In getting acquainted with my clients, I like to start by explaining that SEO is a vital tool for success as a jumping-off point to a more pointed conversation about how to show SEO value. 

Clients who don’t hurry to embrace SEO unless they fully understand one simple thing – online is the new offline. Virtually every business is now present online and people are used to doing everything online, too.

Why do SEOCustomers should focus on SEO because people go to Google to explore almost everything, from medical symptoms to new restaurants. This re-emphasizes that online is the new offline. Organiс search is the primary source of the traffic to most websites, and your online visibility depends heavily on how high you rank on Google. If you decide that you want to go out for dinner to a nice Italian restaurant this evening, you’ll browse online and find restaurants in your area in Google Maps, take a look at the pictures, the menu, and read the reviews.

Important points to refer when explaining why SEO is important

  1. Organic search is the primary source of web traffic
  2. SEO builds trust in your products and company
  3. SEO improves the buying cycle because it puts your business where the audience is

While most clients know what SEO means, they’re not usually as familiar with related terms. I try to gauge their knowledge base of SEO as quickly as I can, so I can help fill in their gaps in knowledge. 

Why educate clients about SEO?

Providing SEO services isn’t just about getting results, although, that’s a big part of it. Our society is more tech-savvy than they used to be. It’s important to give our clients credit for what they know and educate them on the “behind the scenes” factors that are at work with SEO.  

SEO is a valuable tool and when we can help our clients better understand how it works, they can more easily see its value. Our credibility, and livelihoods as SEO professionals, depend on our ability to explain and demonstrate value. 

I also recently had a conversation with Eugene Levin, CSO of SEMrush, who believes that it’s important to educate the leadership in companies. 

Here’s what he said

“We do our best to educate both our employees and our clients. Each of our employees should understand SEO and know how to use SEMrush and all its tools. While with the clients we often meet in person to find some tailored tactics that would help them increase online visibility and drive sales. We meet with companies’ SEO teams and figure out even more efficient ways to boost online rankings.”

Giving client education a deeper thought

SEO skills are important but don’t overlook the importance of assuring your clients that you have worth as a specialist who can help them take their business from good to great. Your clients aren’t going to be satisfied with you sending them links on marketing blogs, videos, or informational emails alone. It requires time, work, and energy to educate clients, but your client management skills will eventually pay off. 

As you spend more time with your clients, they will learn a little more from you each time about SEO which will bolster their trust in you as their SEO advisor and create a stronger mutual trust between you. While you are the SEO expert, don’t forget that they are the expert on their business. Their input during collaborations is a vital component of their ultimate success in SEO campaigns

1. Clarify goals and expectations

I make sure the goals and workflow are clear, so the report ties in with monthly deliverables. These are the details that prove how hard you are working behind the scenes for your clients. 

2. Share reports

During the course of planning for improving SEO results, clients will learn that much more time goes into it than they probably thought. To help them realize this, I always share reports as the ones mentioned below:

  • Reporting in calls
  • Emails
  • Reports with custom KPIs

3. Make SEO easy to understand for your clients

While I educate my clients as well as I can when I meet up with them, I supplement my teachings with blogs on my website that correlate to different aspects of SEO as resources if they’re interested in understanding more about a particular aspect of SEO. Over time, they will come to rely on my site for the latest information in SEO, which is a great way to reuse your content. They will probably even share it with others, which will help to expand your business.  

Every client is in a different place in understanding their digital marketing needs, so I try to cater my teaching to their level of understanding. 

My process of educating clients involves one or more of the following steps:

  • Learning how much the client knows about SEO and the internet 
  • Determining their learning style
  • Breaking down the meaning of SEO and what it does
  • Choosing an analogy that has meaning for them 

4. Gauge your client’s understanding levels

When having discussions with clients, I make eye-contact with them. If I start getting puzzled looks when I mention things like search engines and backlinks, it helps me pick signals whether I need to explain some of the technical terms or whether I can offer a simple definition and move on. 

5. Understand and choose an ideal learning style for your client

I know that there are three main learning styles – verbal, visual, and physical. Using one or more of these styles helps drive home certain points. 

I know that some of my clients do well when we have discussions in person or on the phone. Other clients need the help of a chart, diagram, or a simple drawing. Physical learners need me to demonstrate the concept. The best way to do this is by giving them an analogy or showing them an example on the computer. 

Clients that are new to technology may need to understand what SEO is, so I like to start by explaining that the acronym, search engine optimization is. I also explain what optimization means and how it helps to rank websites higher on a page and how authority gives the search engine a way to rank its importance.

6. Use analogies to make SEO relatable

Finally, an analogy is always a great teaching tool because it gives my clients a way to compare a challenging concept. In the course of the discussion, I usually grab onto a comment they made. If they mentioned they were late because they had to meet with their insurance agent – I present an example using the same context in which I can show how an insurance agent can use SEO to rank high on a web page.

His insurance agent has a website. Most likely the agent has a blog and some testimonials. The more content the agent has, the higher the site ranks. Ranking higher will mean that the agent’s site takes advantage of titles, product descriptions, and summaries. It will have photos and videos and it will link to other pages. Because the agent is looking for local business, he or she will target customers within a certain radius of the office. The agent may also have a target audience of married people who are homeowners, so it’s important for them to advertise in places that will attract that market rather than online locations that attract millennials. 

Extra tip

I often spend some time on my clients’ websites before a scheduled appointment. That gives me additional opportunities to apply some of the concepts we’re discussing to the work that we can begin doing together. 

Closing note

I never anticipated that teaching would be part of my job as a digital marketer. What I enjoy so much about the client management aspect of my job is that I’m continually finding out new information about SEO and it makes me eager to share it with my clients. It’s rewarding for both of us to share details that will help them to become a success. 

Which of these tips would you practice to help educate clients about SEO? Feel free to share your thoughts, experiences, and tips in the comments section.

Karina Tama is a contributor for Forbes, Thrive Global and the El Distrito Newspaper. She can be found on Twitter @KarinaTama2.

The post How to educate clients about SEO and earn their trust appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Why website security affects SEO rankings (and what you can do about it)

November 3, 2019 No Comments

A few years ago I started a website and to my delight, the SEO efforts I was making to grow it were yielding results. However, one day I checked my rankings, and got the shock of my life. It had fallen, and badly.

I was doing my SEO right and I felt that was enough, but I didn’t know there was more. I hadn’t paid attention to my website security, and I didn’t even know that it mattered when it comes to Google and its ranking factors. Also, there were other security concerns I wasn’t paying attention to. As far as I was concerned back then, it didn’t matter since I had good content.

Obviously I was wrong, and I now know that if you really want to rank higher and increasing your site’s search traffic, then you need to understand that there is more to it than just building links and churning out more content. Understanding Google’s algorithm and it’s ranking factors are crucial.

Currently, Google has over 200 ranking factors they consider when they want to determine where to rank a site. And as expected, one of them is about how protected your site is. According to them, website security is a top priority, and they make a lot of investments all geared towards enduring that all their services, including Gmail and Google Drive, use top-notch security and other privacy tools by default all in a bid to make the internet a safer place generally. 

Unfortunately, I was uninformed about these factors until my rankings started dropping. Below are four things you can do to protect your site.

Four steps to get started on website security

1. Get security plug-ins installed

On average, a typical small business website gets attacked 44 times each day, and software “bots” attack these sites more than 150 million times every week. And this is for both WordPress sites and even for non-WordPress websites. 

Malware security breaches can lead to hackers stealing your data, data loss, or it could even make you lose access to your website. And in some cases, it can deface your website and that will not just spoil your brand reputation, it will also affect your SEO rankings.

To prevent that from happening, enhance your website security with WordPress plugins. These plugins will not just block off the brute force and malware attacks, they will harden WordPress security for your site, thus addressing the security vulnerabilities for each platform and countering all other hack attempts that could pose a threat to your website.

2. Use very strong passwords

As much as it is very tempting to use a password you can easily remember, don’t. Surprisingly, the most common password for most people is still 123456. You can’t afford to take such risks. 

Make the effort to generate a secure password. The rule is to mix up letters, numbers, and special characters, and to make it long. And this is not just for you. Ensure that all those who have access to your website are held to the same high standard that you hold yourself.

3. Ensure your website is constantly updated

As much as using a content management system (CMS) comes with a lot of benefits, it also has attendant risks attached. According to this Sucuri report, the presence of vulnerabilities in CMS’s extensible components is the highest cause of website infections. This is because the codes used in these tools are easily accessible owing to the fact that they are usually created as open-source software programs. That means hackers can access them too.

To protect your website, make sure your plugins, CMS, and apps are all updated regularly. 

4. Install an SSL certificate

installing an SSL certificate for website security SEO rankings

Image source

If you pay attention, you will notice that some URLs begin with “https://” while others start with “http://”. You may have likely noticed that when you needed to make an online payment. The big question is what does the “s” mean and where did it come from?

To explain it in very simple terms, that extra “s” is a way of showing that the connection you have with that website is encrypted and secure. That means that any data you input on that website is safe. That little “s” represents a technology known as SSL.

But why is website security important for SEO ranking?

Following Google’s Chrome update in 2017, sites that have “FORMS” but have no SSL certificate are marked as insecure. The SSL certificate, “Secure Sockets Layer” is the technology that encrypts the link between a browser and a web server, protects the site from hackers, and also makes sure that all the data that gets passed between a browser and a web server remains private.

why is website security important for SEO rankings, example with http vs https

Image source

A normal website comes with a locked key in the URL bar, but sites without SSL certificates, on the other hand, have the tag “Not Secure”. This applies to any website that has any form.

According to research carried out by Hubspot, 82% of those that responded to a consumer survey stated that they would leave a website that is not secure. And since Google chrome already holds about 67% out of the whole market share, that is a lot of traffic to lose.

research, how many users would consider browsing on a website that is not secure

Image source

Technically, the major benefit of having Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) instead of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) is that it gives users a more secure connection that they can use to share personal data with you. This adds an additional layer of security which becomes important especially if you are accepting any form of payment on your site.

To move from HTTP to HTTPS you have to get an SSL certificate (Secure Socket Layer certificate) installed on your website.

why does an SSL certificate work for website securityImage source 

Once you get your SSL certificate installed successfully on a web server and configured, Google Chrome will show a green light. It will then act as a padlock by providing a secure connection between the browser and the webserver. For you, what this means is that even if a hacker is able to intercept your data, it will be impossible for them to decrypt it.

Security may have a minor direct effect on your website ranking, but it affects your website in so many indirect ways. It may mean paying a little price, but in the end, the effort is worth it.

Segun Onibalusi is the Founder and CEO at SEO POW, an organic link building agency. He can be found on Twitter @iamsegun_oni.

The post Why website security affects SEO rankings (and what you can do about it) appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Showtime Is Making a Limited Series About Uber

October 17, 2019 No Comments

Also, Zoë Kravitz is going to play Catwoman, and there’s a new trailer for the final season of ‘The Man in the High Castle’.
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[Hero Academy Video] What You Need to Know About Naming Conventions

October 16, 2019 No Comments

In this new, short video on Hero Academy Hanapin’s Senior Project Manager, Lauren Rosner, will further explain why naming conventions matter and break down some of the best ways to set it up.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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Paid and Organic are Indistinguishable

October 14, 2019 No Comments

The hidden costs of living in a digital world where we have to pretend everything makes sense. Down the rabbit hole in #ppc & #seo we go.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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