Monthly Archives: March 2019

Inside a Ferrari Hypercar, Lyft’s IPO, and More Car News

March 31, 2019 No Comments

Plus, we ride the Jeep Gladiator and ponder the future of electric vehicles, courtesy of battery-swapping rickshaws.
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The Jeep Gladiator Pickup Is an Off-Roading Tough Mudder

March 30, 2019 No Comments

The $ 33,545 Gladiator is made for the toughest off-road conditions you can find—with a few creature comforts thrown in.
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ServiceNow teams with Workplace by Facebook on service chatbot

March 30, 2019 No Comments

One of the great things about enterprise chat applications, beyond giving employees a common channel to communicate, is the ability to integrate with other enterprise applications. Today, Workplace, Facebook’s enterprise collaboration and communication application, and ServiceNow announced a new chatbot to make it easier for employees to navigate a company’s help desks inside Workplace Chat.

The beauty of the chatbot is that employees can get answers to common questions whenever they want, wherever they happen to be. The Workplace-ServiceNow integration happens in Workplace Chat and can can involve IT or HR help desk scenarios. A chatbot can help companies save time and money, and employees can get answers to common problems much faster.

Previously, getting these kind of answers would have required navigating multiple systems, making a phone call or submitting a ticket to the appropriate help desk. This approach provides a level of convenience and immediacy.

Companies can brainstorm common questions and answers and build them in the ServiceNow Virtual Agent Designer. It comes with some standard templates, and doesn’t require any kind of advanced scripting or programming skills. Instead, non-technical end users can adapt pre-populated templates to meet the needs, language and workflows of an individual organization.

Screenshot: ServiceNow

This is all part of a strategy by Facebook to integrate more enterprise applications into the tool. In May at the F8 conference, Facebook announced 52 such integrations from companies like Atlassian, SurveyMonkey, HubSpot and Marketo (the company Adobe bought in September for $ 4.75 billion).

This is part of a broader enterprise chat application trend around making these applications the center of every employee’s work life, while reducing task switching, the act of moving from application to application. This kind of integration is something that Slack has done very well and has up until now provided it with a differentiator, but the other enterprise players are catching on and today’s announcement with ServiceNow is part of that.

Enterprise – TechCrunch

Five ways to improve your website’s bounce rate (and why you should)

March 30, 2019 No Comments

Bounce rate is the percentage of site visitors that land on your website and leave before viewing a second page. You can easily determine your website’s bounce rate by setting up Google Analytics.

Now, if you’re thinking this isn’t such a big deal and that as long as they visit your website, irrespective of how long they spend on it or how many pages they view, they at least know your business exists, that’s not good enough. The longer visitors stay on your site, the more time you have to turn them into subscribers and customers. But how can you convince users to stick around longer and visit more pages?

Luckily, there are a number of easy and free ways to improve your website’s bounce rate and grow your business.

Here are five ways to improve your website’s bounce rate

1. Create content consistently

Creating content consistently is one of the best ways to keep users around longer and get them to view multiple pages. Useful, engaging content will drive traffic to your website. Once that traffic is there, they’ll stick around, keep reading, and eventually become a subscriber or customer if you have a wide array of informative blog posts for them to read. In fact, according to HubSpot, companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5 times more leads than companies that published zero to four monthly posts.

So, create a content plan that’s consistent and offers something for everyone. Not everyone prefers written content, so include a mixture of formats such as written, video, infographics, audio recordings, and more.

Another important tip for your content: Practice effective internal linking. Relevant and useful internal links sprinkled throughout your content can guide users to more of your awesome content and keep them reading.

2. Add images and videos

Speaking of a mixture of formats, to improve your website’s bounce rate, be sure you add eye-catching images and videos to your website. Many users won’t spend a lot of time reading your website content, so you need to grab their attention with images and videos.

Add a large high-quality image or video to your homepage to grab the attention of viewers as soon as they see your site. Most websites do this while keeping everything else on the page simple, like the Panera website for example.

Example of images and video for website content


Image Source

If you don’t have the means to hire a photographer, you can find a ton of stunning, free stock images on a site like Unsplash.

3. Speed up your site

You may not have realized it before but your website speed is important for improving your website’s bounce rate. In fact, according to Google, 53 percent of mobile site visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load. And for every extra second that your page takes to load, the probability of users bouncing dramatically increases. So, don’t make your website visitors wait.

You can use a site like GTmetrix to test the speed of your site. Not only will it tell you what your site speed is, but it’ll also give you advice for improving it. If you’re running your website on WordPress, it would also be wise to download and install some free plugins like WP Smush and W3 Total Cache to help boost the speediness of your site.

4. A/B test

As you’re attempting to improve your website’s bounce rate, don’t leave it up to chance. You should be A/B testing everything in order to determine what’s working and what’s not. You might be surprised by the small things that can cause users to abandon your website. It might even be something as simple as the color of your call-to-action button.

So, perform A/B tests, or split tests, of every aspect of your website. Does your bounce rate improve with a popup on your homepage or does it get a bigger boost on another page? Does one font convert more visitors over another? Does showing or hiding a progress bar help or hurt your bounce rate? When we say A/B test everything, we mean everything.

5. Target abandoning visitors

Did you know that over 70% of people who leave your website will never return? If you don’t start to improve your bounce rate now, that’s a lot of potential leads and customers your business is missing out on. One effective way to stop those users in their tracks and get them to stay on your website longer, and eventually convert them into subscribers or customers is by utilizing exit-intent popups.

Example of utilizing exit-intent popups to improve site bounce rate

Image Source

Exit-intent popups are able to track when a user is about to leave your website and send them a targeted message at exactly the right time. Your popup can encourage website visitors to subscribe to your email list, download your lead magnet, or even offer a discount if they purchase. So, not only can exit-intent popups improve your bounce rate, but they can also boost your sales in an instant.

Got more points to share on improving bounce rates? Share them in the comments.

Syed Balkhi is an entrepreneur, marketer, and CEO of Awesome Motive. He’s also the founder of WPBeginner, OptinMonster, WPForms, and MonsterInsights. Syed can be found on Twitter @syedbalkhi.

The post Five ways to improve your website’s bounce rate (and why you should) appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch

Scroll, Scale, Save: Using SEO Data for Smarter Search Query Analysis

March 29, 2019 No Comments

There is a ton of information on search pages that can tell us why terms aren’t converting. Here are features to use for smarter Search Query Analyses using User Intent.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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Best iPhone for 2019: Which Model Should You Actually Buy?

March 28, 2019 No Comments

Picking the right iPhone has become an increasingly difficult choice, but this breakdown should help you figure out whether you want an iPhone XR or another model, where to buy a case, and whether it’s a good time to purchase.
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4 Paid Media Lessons In Podcast Advertising

March 27, 2019 No Comments

It seems these days everyone has a podcast, learn how to make your podcast campaign stand out with these 4 lessons.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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European parliament votes for controversial copyright reform (yes, again)

March 26, 2019 No Comments

The European Parliament has voted to pass a controversial reform of online copyright rules that critics contend will result in big tech platforms pre-filtering user generated content uploads.

The results of the final vote in the EU parliament were 348 in favor vs 274 against.

An amendment that would have thrown out the most controversial component of the copyright reform — aka Article 13, which makes platforms liable for copyright infringements committed by their users — was rejected by just five votes.

In an earlier vote last fall the EU Parliament also backed the copyright reform proposal, passing negotiations to the EU Council. Months of closed door negotiations followed between representatives of EU Member States and institutions, in so called trilogue discussions, culminating in a final text being agreed last month — which was then handed back to parliament for its final vote today.

Tweaks to the reform agreed by Member States agreed during trilogue appear intended to address criticism that it imposes so-called ‘upload filters’ by default — instead requiring larger platforms to obtain licences for certain types of protected content ahead of time. Though critics still aren’t impressed.

Speaking out against the proposals in the parliament ahead of the vote, Pirate Party member and MEP Julia Reda, who is part of Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance in the EU parliament, highlighted the scale of popular protests against the copyright reform, saying 200,000 people attended demonstrations in the region this weekend and five million have signed a petition against the reform — claiming there has “never been such broad protest” against an EU directive.

She also accused of the parliament of “thoroughly ignoring” the popular protests and warned it risks convincing young people there’s no point in engaging with democratic protest.

“The most tragic thing about this process is a new generation who are voting in the European elections for the first time this year are learning a lesson: Your protests aren’t worth anything, politics will spread lies about you, and won’t care for factual arguments if geopolitical interests are at stake,” said Reda in an impassioned speech in parliament this afternoon ahead of the vote.

Her speech was interrupted several times by shouts from other MEPs disagreeing.

Freedom of expression vs creative industry

The copyright reform campaign has been massively polarized throughout, with one side claiming it means the end of the free Internet and the death of memes because it will result in all online uploads being pre-filtered; and the other accusing opponents they’re in the pay of tech giants which they accuse of freeloading and leaching off Europe’s creative industries by monetizing copyrighted content without paying for use.

Both sides have also accused each other of spreading disinformation to further their cause. There’s been zero love lost across this divide as lobbyists from the two sides have piled on (and on).

Another element of the reform, Article 11, is a proposal to extend digital copyright to cover the ledes of news stories — which aggregators such as Google News scrape and display.

Unsurprisingly that measure has strong support among European media giants like Axel Springer and critics of the reform accuse its architects of being in hock to the newspaper industry which hopes to benefit financially by being able to charge link aggregator platforms like Google for displaying its content in future.

In recent years a couple of individual EU member states have passed similar laws to extend copyright to news snippets — which led Google to pull Google News entirely from Spain, while in Germany publishers ended up providing their snippets for free. An EU-wide rule could change the dynamics, though.

It’s certainly a much bigger business decision for Google to pull the plug on Google News across the whole of Europe, rather than just in Spain. Though, equally, Google could just come up with a compliance workaround to evade the requirement to pay.

Less discussed elements of the reform include proposals around text and data mining (TDM), which have implications for AI research — including a mandatory copyright exceptions for TDM conducted for research purposes. Teaching and educational purposes are also exempt. But rightholders can opt out of having their works datamined by entities other than research organisations.

The European Commission’s VP for the Digital Single Market tweeted in support of the parliament’s vote today — dubbing it a “big step ahead” which he said will reduce fragmentation across the bloc.

But in a follow up tweet he sought to address concerns that the reform will chill freedom of expression online, writing: “I know there are lots of fears about what users can do or not – now we have clear guarantees for , teaching and online creativity. Member States must make full use of these safeguards in national law.”

In a press release following the parliament’s vote the Commission confirms the text will need to be formally endorsed by the Council of the European Union — which will take place via another vote in the coming weeks, so likely early next month.

Assuming the Council gives its thumbs up the final text will be been published on the Official Journal of the EU, and Member States will then have 24 months to transpose the rules into their national legislation. So the timetable for the copyright directive coming into force is likely 2021.

An accompanying Commission memo on the directive also seeks to address some of the criticisms, with the Commission claiming it “protects freedom of expression [and] sets strong safeguards for users, making clear that everywhere in Europe the use of existing works for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature as well as parody are explicitly allowed”.

“This means that memes and similar parody creations can be used freely. The interests of the users are also preserved through effective mechanisms to swiftly contest any unjustified removal of their content by the platforms,” it adds, in what critics will surely dub cold comfort attempts to paper over the overarching chilling effect on expression from pushing content liability onto platforms.

In another section of the memo, the Commission also writes that the directive does not “impose uploading filters” — nor add any specific technology to recognise illegal content.

“Under the new rules, certain online platforms will be required to conclude licensing agreements with right holders — for example, music or film producers — for the use of music, videos or other copyright protected content. If licences are not concluded, these platforms will have to make their best efforts to ensure that content not authorised by the right holders is not available on their website. The “best effort” obligation does not prescribe any specific means or technology,” it writes.

Though, again, critics argue that will simply translate into upload filters in practice anyway — as platforms will be encouraged to “over-comply” with the rules to “stay on the safe side”, as Reda tells it.

Also critical of the reform, former MEP Catherine Stihler, who’s now CEO of an open data advocacy not-for-profit, called the Open Knowledge Foundation.

In a reaction statement she dubbed the vote “a massive blow for every internet user in Europe”. “We now risk the creation of a more closed society at the very time we should be using digital advances to build a more open world where knowledge creates power for the many, not the few,” she suggested.

Following the vote, Tal Niv, GitHub’s VP of law and policy, also took a critical but more nuanced position, writing: “We’re thankful that policymakers listened and excluded ‘open source software developing and sharing platforms’ from the potential requirement to implement upload filters, which would have made the software ecosystem more fragile. However, the Directive that passed still contains challenges for developers.”

“Anyone developing a platform with EU users that involves sharing links or content faces great uncertainty. The ramifications include being unable to develop features that web users currently expect, and having to implement very expensive and inaccurate automated filtering. On the other hand, inclusion of a mandatory copyright exception for text and data mining in the Directive is welcome, and puts EU developers on a more even playing field relative to their US peers in the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence; looking ahead it will be crucial for member states to implement this exception in a consistent fashion.”

The Computer & Communications Industry Association reacted with disappointment too, warning in a statement that Article 13 undermines the legality of the social and sharing tools and websites that Europeans use every day and saying the reform falls short of “a balanced and modern framework for copyright” despite citing some “recent improvements”.

“We fear it will harm online innovation and restrict online freedoms in Europe. We urge Member States to thoroughly assess and try to minimize the consequences of the text when implementing it,” added Maud Sacquet, CCIA Europe’s senior policy manager.

Monique Goyens, director general of The European Consumer Organisation, BEUC, also described it as a “very unbalanced copyright law”.

“Despite the warnings and concerns of academics, privacy bodies, UN representatives and hundreds of thousands of consumers across Europe, the European Parliament has given its go-ahead to a very unbalanced copyright law. Consumers will have to bear the consequences of this decision,” she warned.

On the flip side professional content creators were jubilant.

“Through this historic vote, a message was sent by Europe to the world, in favour of culture, creation, authors, artists and journalists, and their right to fair remuneration in the digital world,” wrote the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music in a wordy statement that goes into detail in an attempt to rebut specific various laid charges against the reform. (Such as pointing out that the final text of Article 13 includes an exception for startups — “whose growth will be promoted by clarifying their situation for the use of content protected by authors’ rights”, it suggests.)

“This vote was an act of European sovereignty and a victory for democracy, because it was possible despite one of the most violent campaigns of lobbying and disinformation in the history of the European Union, on the part of those who wanted at all costs to avoid adopting a balanced text,” it added.

In an analysis following the vote law firm Linklaters’ Kathy Berry suggests the controversy and polarization around the copyright reform debate is part of a broader “Hollywood v Silicon Valley” tension — between “content creators that want a high level of copyright protection based on traditional models, and the tech industry that wants to clear the path for new and innovative ways to use and share content”.

“While Article 13 may have noble aims, in its current it functions as little more than a set of ideals, with very little guidance on exactly which service providers will be caught by it or what steps will be sufficient to comply,” she writes delving into the implications for big tech. “This is likely to result in an ongoing lack of legal and commercial certainty until the scope of the Directive is fleshed out by either the Commission’s proposed guidance or by European jurisprudence.”

On Article 11 extending copyright to news snippets Berry says the final version of the text is “much watered down” — noting that it excludes both hyperlinks and “very short extracts” of publications — going on to suggest it’s “unlikely to have any significant impact on news aggregators like Google News after all”.

Social – TechCrunch

Europe’s New Copyright Law Could Be Bad for Memes

March 26, 2019 No Comments

The European Parliament approved a sweeping new copyright directive aimed at big tech platforms like Google and Facebook.
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Lola.com raises $37M to take on SAP and others in the world of business travel

March 26, 2019 No Comments

Business customers continue to be a huge target for the travel industry, and today a startup has raised a tidy sum to help it double down on the $ 1.7 trillion opportunity. Lola.com — a platform for business users to book and manage trips — has raised $ 37 million to continue building out its technology and hire more talent as it takes on incumbents like SAP targeting the corporate sector.

The Series C is led by General Catalyst and Accel, with participation from CRV, Tenaya Capital and GV. All are previous investors. We are asking about the valuation but it looks like prior to this, the company had raised just under $ 65 million, and its last post-money valuation, in 2017, was $ 100 million, according to PitchBook.

There are signs that the valuation will have had a bump in this round. The company said in 2018, its bookings have gone up by 423 percent, with revenues up 786 percent, although it’s not disclosing what the actual figures are for either.

“As business travelers have become increasingly mobile, Lola.com’s mission is to completely transform the landscape of corporate travel management,” said Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola.com, who took the top role at the company last year. “The continued support of our investors underscores the market potential, which is leading us to expand our partner ecosystem and double our headcount across engineering, sales and marketing. At the core, we continue to invest in building the best, simplest corporate travel management platform in the industry.”

Co-founded by Paul English and Bill O’Donnell — respectively, the former CTO/co-founder and chief architect of the wildly successful consumer travel booking platform Kayak — Lola originally tried to fix the very thing that Kayak and others like it had disrupted: it was designed as a platform for people to connect to live agents to help them organise their travel. That larger cruise ship might have already said, however (so to speak), and so the company later made a pivot to cater to a more specific demographic in the market that often needs and expects the human touch when arranging logistics: the business user.

Its unique selling point has not been just to provide a pain-free “agile” platform to make bookings, but for the platform’s human agents to be proactively pinging business users when there are modifications to a booking (for example because of flight delays), and offering help when needed to sort out the many aspects of modern travel that can be painful and time consuming for busy working people, such as technical issues around a frequent flyer program.

Lola.com is not the only one to spot the opportunity there. To further diversify its business and to move into higher-margin, bigger-ticket offerings, Airbnb has also been slowly building out its own travel platform targeting business customers by adding in hotels and room bookings.

There are others that are either hoping to bypass or complement existing services with their own takes on how to improve business travel such as TravelPerk (most recent raise: $ 44 million), Travelstop (an Asia-focused spin), and TripActions (most recently valued at $ 1 billion), to name a few. That speaks to an increasingly crowded market of players that are competing against incumbents like SAP, which owns Concur, Hipmunk and a plethora of other older services.

Lola.com has made some interesting headway in its own approach to the market, by partnering with one of the names most synonymous with corporate spending, American Express, and specifically a JV it is involved in called American Express Global Business Travel.

“Lola.com offers an incredibly simple solution to corporate travel management, which enables American Express Global Business Travel to take our value proposition to even more companies across the middle market,” said Evan Konwiser, VP of Product Strategy and Marketing for American Express GBT, in a statement.

Enterprise – TechCrunch