Monthly Archives: May 2019
Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Frederic Lardinois and Ron Miller discuss major announcements that came out of the Linux Foundation’s European KubeCon/CloudNativeCon conference and discuss the future of Kubernetes and cloud-native technologies.
Nearly doubling in size year-over-year, this year’s KubeCon conference brought big news and big players, with major announcements coming from some of the world’s largest software vendors including Google, AWS, Microsoft, Red Hat, and more. Frederic and Ron discuss how the Kubernetes project grew to such significant scale and which new initiatives in cloud-native development show the most promise from both a developer and enterprise perspective.
“This ecosystem starts sprawling, and we’ve got everything from security companies to service mesh companies to storage companies. Everybody is here. The whole hall is full of them. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between them because there are so many competing start-ups at this point.
I’m pretty sure we’re going to see a consolidation in the next six months or so where some of the bigger players, maybe Oracle, maybe VMware, will start buying some of these smaller companies. And I’m sure the show floor will look quite different about a year from now. All the big guys are here because they’re all trying to figure out what’s next.”
Frederic and Ron also dive deeper into the startup ecosystem rapidly developing around Kubernetes and other cloud-native technologies and offer their take on what areas of opportunity may prove to be most promising for new startups and founders down the road.
For access to the full transcription and the call audio, and for the opportunity to participate in future conference calls, become a member of Extra Crunch. Learn more and try it for free.
Aside from perhaps the most unfortunate acronym in the industry, do single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) have a role in modern paid search?
For many years, single keyword ad groups were the hallmark of good PPC strategy. And aside from a slight feeling of unease when saying the word, SKAGs appeared to offer much.
In simple words, this was the practice of placing single keywords in an ad group, instead of a small group of closely themed keywords. This provided the advertiser with increased control, the ad copy could contain the exact keyword, maximizing relevance and the quality score. Match types and negative keywords could be used to ensure queries were matched to your keyword exactly, providing precise control over visibility. And finally, you could easily understand the true performance of an individual keyword.
Complexity at scale
Arguably, however, the benefits of this approach were incremental when implemented in an otherwise well organized and maintained PPC account structure. In fact, the benefits could be outweighed by the challenges they posed.
The complexity of the SKAG structure, when operated at scale, could jeopardize accuracy. For example, if you were operating a standard structure with 1,500 keywords, averaging three ads and five keywords per ad group, you would be managing 900 individual ads. Convert this to a SKAG structure, maintaining three ads per ad group, and that number jumps to 4,500 individual creatives to be maintained.
Not only that, but the application of cross-matching negatives to stream traffic accurately across this number of ad groups makes it significantly more complex. This is just a simplified example with a modest number of keywords, retailers with a large product range may operate keywords in the tens of thousands.
Operating SKAGs at scale increases the chances of inadvertently blocking traffic to keywords, as well as poor quality or inappropriate ad copy being overlooked. Both of which would have negative impacts on performance. To mitigate against this, increased amounts of “housekeeping” work is required, either detracting from more strategic work to develop and grow the activity or increasing costs to allow for the extra resource required.
So, are the merits of the SKAG structure outweighed by the effort to maintain them? Or even worse, and perhaps ironically, do they increase the risk of inaccuracy?
Are SKAGs still relevant?
Putting this question aside, there is a question over whether SKAG is even appropriate in contemporary PPC accounts.
In a greatly discussed recent article, Emma Franks of Hanapin Marketing makes the case that SKAGs no longer serve as a best practice for paid search. Her argument is centered around the evolution of Google’s match types, which are shifting to better match keywords to the user’s intent, rather than simply matching words to the query.
This means that a single keyword could effectively be matched to many variations, all of which are relevant and have the same intent. The below example of how this works is taken directly from Google Ads Help pages:
Source: Google Inside AdWords
This level of variant matching then implies that to truly achieve the goal of the SKAG structure, which is, complete control over what queries match and the creative that is served, the extent of negative cross-matching required would become too taxing and hard to achieve.
Emma’s summary of the potential issues was
- Multiple ad groups that address the same keyword intent
- Duplicated ad copy that is no longer customizable for each individual search
- Cross-contamination among keyword search terms for multiple ad groups
- The potential for missed impressions/clicks/conversions/revenue due to an overabundance of negative keywords
- Wasted time spent on keyword additions and exclusions, ad copy testing and revisions further topped with stress about new Google updates
Essentially, as Google increasingly takes benefit of machine learning to match ads better with the user’s intent, the SKAG structure offers advertisers an increasingly more difficult way to grab that control back from Google and control it manually. But, in an industry that is being driven by automation, machine learning, and AI, can a manually-controlled account ever keep up?
Is there a middle ground?
So then, SKAGs are a challenge to manage at scale and essentially pull in the opposite direction to the way in which Google is developing the Google Ads offering. In this case, they don’t have a place in a well-managed PPC campaign, right? Well, not entirely.
Where individual keywords command a very high share of the overall search volume, placing those terms in ad groups all of their own can offer greater flexibility. You get the control over the matching landing pages and copy SKAGs provide but at an infinitely more manageable scale. But you can also apply specific audience targeting, demographic and device modifiers and, day-parting at an effective keyword level. This provides a lot more levers for optimization of such high-volume terms. Take things a step further and place each SKAG in its own campaign and you now can apply specific budgets, the ad rotations, and delivery methods for that keyword, as well as its very own bid strategy.
Once again, this comes back to an assessment of “effort vs reward”. To be truly worth it and indeed to make automated features such as bid strategies work, the individual keywords themselves must drive a high volume.
A blended approach
So in the war of opinions on this subject (refer back to the comments section of Emma Franks article!), there is an answer to the entire “mixed feelings scenario” for SKAGs. Yes, SKAGs do have a role in effective PPC activity, but they should be used strategically alongside other strategies to maximize performance.
High-volume hero or brand terms can benefit from the SKAG structure to increase the levels of control and flexibility at a keyword level for the terms that drive the largest proportion of your traffic. Using traditional, tightly themed ad groups for the bulk of your remaining inventory will ensure more manageability while it continues to deliver performance. Finally, tools such as Dynamic Search Ads can offer a “catch-all” strategy to capture new and emerging search terms when deployed correctly.
An approach such as this provides maximum control over the terms that drive the most performance, whilst also allowing advertisers to reap the benefits of machine learning and automation to efficiently and effectively manage the body and long tail terms.
Advertisers are all different, so inevitably, each paid search structure will be unique as a result. The key, as ever, is finding the right balance that works for you.
Jon Crowe is Director of PPC Strategy at a global digital marketing agency, Croud.
The post The middle ground for single keyword ad groups (SKAGs) appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
A year ago Instagram made a bold bet with the launch of IGTV: That it could invent and popularize a new medium of long-form vertical videos. Landscape uploads weren’t allowed. Co-founder Kevin Systrom told me in August that “What I’m most proud of is that Instagram took a stand and tried a brand new thing that is frankly hard to pull off. Full-screen vertical video that’s mobile only. That doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
Now a dedicated hub for multi-minute portrait-mode video won’t exist anywhere at all. Following lackluster buy-in from creators loathe to shoot in a proprietary format that’s tough to reuse, IGTV is retreating from its vertical-only policy. Starting today, users can upload traditional horizontal landscape videos too, and they’ll be shown full-screen when users turn their phones sideways while watching IGTV’s standalone app or its hub within the main Instagram app. That should hopefully put an end to crude ports of landscape videos shown tiny with giant letterboxes slapped on to soak up the vertical screen.
Instagram spins it saying, “Ultimately, our vision is to make IGTV a destination for great content no matter how it’s shot so creators can express themselves how they want . . . . In many ways, opening IGTV to more than just vertical videos is similar to when we opened Instagram to more than just square photos in 2015. It enabled creativity to flourish and engagement to rise – and we believe the same will happen again with IGTV.”
Last year I suggested IGTV might have to embrace landscape after a soggy start. “Loosening up to accept landscape videos too might nullify a differentiator, but also pipe in a flood of content it could then algorithmically curate to bootstrap IGTV’s library. Reducing the friction by allowing people to easily port content to or from elsewhere might make it feel like less of a gamble for creators deciding where to put their production resources,” I wrote.
The coming influx of repurposed YouTube videos could drive more creators and their fans to IGTV. To date there have been no break-out stars, must-see shows or cultural zeitgeist moments on IGTV. Instagram refused to provide a list of the most viewed long-form clips. Sensor Tower estimates just 4.2 million installs to date for IGTV’s standalone app, amounting to less than half a percent of Instagram’s billion-plus users downloading the app. It saw 3.8 times more downloads per day in its first three months on the market than than last month. The iOS app sank to No. 191 on the US – Photo & Video app charts, according to App Annie, and didn’t make the overall chart.
Instagram has tried several changes to reinvigorate IGTV already. It started allowing creators to share IGTV previews to the main Instagram feed that’s capped at 60 seconds. Users can tap through those to watch full clips of up to 60 minutes on IGTV, which has helped to boost view counts for video makers like BabyAriel. And earlier this week we reported that IGTV had been quietly redesigned to ditch its category tabs for a central feed of videos that relies more on algorithmic recommendations like TikTok and a two-wide vertical grid of previews to browse like Snapchat Discover.
But Instagram has still refused to add what creators have been asking for since day one: monetization. Without ways to earn a cut of ad revenue, accept tips, sign up users to a monthly patronage subscription or sell merchandise, it’s been tough to justify shooting a whole premium video in vertical. Producing in landscape would make creators money on YouTube and possibly elsewhere. Now at least creators can shoot once and distribute to IGTV and other apps, which could fill out the feature with content before it figures out monetization.
For viewers and the creators they love, IGTV’s newfound flexibility is a positive. But I can’t help but think this is Instagram’s first truly massive misstep. Nine months after safely copying Snapchat Stories in 2016, Instagram was happy to tout it had 200 million daily users. The company still hasn’t released a single usage stat about IGTV usage. Perhaps after seemingly defeating Snap, Instagram thought it was invincible and could dictate how and what video artists create. But the Facebook pet proved fallible after all. The launch and subsequent rethinking should serve as a lesson. Even the biggest platforms can’t demand people produce elaborate proprietary content for nothing in return but “exposure.”
When budgets are time flexible, the client’s bottom line is more than likely to be positively impacted. I’ve noticed four specific areas where this setup is tremendously beneficial: flexibility With Inconsistent Seasonality, End of Month Opportunity, Capilization on Unexpected Traffic Changes, More Room for Error
Read more at PPCHero.com
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A massive database containing contact information for millions of Instagram influencers, celebrities and brand accounts was found online by a security researcher.
We traced the database back to Mumbai-based social media marketing firm Chtrbox. Shortly after we reached out, Chtrbox pulled the database offline.
Last week, the Trump administration effectively banned Huawei from importing U.S. technology, a decision that forced several American companies, including Google, to take steps to sever their relationships. Now, the Department of Commerce has announced that Huawei will receive a “90-day temporary general license” to continue to use U.S. technology to which it already has a license.
GM is scaling back its Maven car-sharing company and will stop service in nearly half of the 17 North American cities in which it operates.
The actress who became famous playing Arya Stark on “Game of Thrones” has fresh funding for her startup.
The company, which operates popular app TikTok, has held discussions with music labels to launch the app as soon as the end of this quarter.
In its recent user research, Future Family found that around 70% of new customers had yet to see a fertility doctor. So today, the startup is rolling out a new membership plan that offers customers a dedicated fertility coach, and helps them find a doctor in their area.
Danny Crichton says it’s the best and worst time to be in semiconductors right now. (Extra Crunch membership required.)
Phone sales have been trending downward for some time now. There are a number of reasons for this — many of which you can read about in this piece I published last week. The creeping cost of premium handsets is pretty high on that list, with flagships now routinely topping $ 1,000 from many of the big names.
The big smartphone makers have begun to react to this, with budget flagship alternatives like the iPhone XR, Galaxy S10e and Pixel 3a. A new crop of mid-range flagships, however, are giving them a run for their money and serving as an important reminder that a quality handset doesn’t need to be priced in the four digits.
The Honor 20 Pro fits nicely in the latter camp, joining the likes of the recently announced OnePlus 7 Pro and Asus ZenFone 6 in demonstrating that premium specs can still be had for what was once considered a reasonable flagship price.
Of course, before we get into specifics of pricing with the newly announced handset, it bears mentioning whether Honor, a brand owned by Huawei, will actually ever make it to the States. That’s all pretty complicated — like Donald Trump in a trade war with with China complicated. The pricing on the London-launched Pro version is €599, putting it at around $ 670.
The phone’s got Huawei’s latest and greatest Kirin 980 processor, coupled with a 6.26-inch display with hole-punch cutout and a quartet of rear-facing cameras. Those include a wide angle with 117-degree shots, 48-megapixel main, telephoto and a macro, which is an interesting addition to the standard array. The Pro’s out at some point in the June or July time frame.
Huawei bans aside, it will be interesting to see how this new crop of more affordable premium devices impacts the rest of the big names up top.
Services meshes. They are the hot new thing in the cloud native computing world. At Kubecon, the bi-annual festival of all things cloud native, Microsoft today announced that it is teaming up with a number of companies in this space to create a generic service mesh interface. This will make it easier for developers to adopt the concept without locking them into a specific technology.
In a world where the number of network endpoints continues to increase as developers launch new micro-services, containers and other systems at a rapid clip, they are making the network smarter again by handling encryption, traffic management and other functions so that the actual applications don’t have to worry about that. With a number of competing service mesh technologies, though, including the likes of Istio and Linkerd, developers currently have to chose which one of these to support.
“I’m really thrilled to see that we were able to pull together a pretty broad consortium of folks from across the industry to help us drive some interoperability in the service mesh space,” Gabe Monroy, Microsoft’s lead product manager for containers and the former CTO of Deis, told me. “This is obviously hot technology — and for good reasons. The cloud-native ecosystem is driving the need for smarter networks and smarter pipes and service mesh technology provides answers.”
The partners here include Buoyant, HashiCorp, Solo.io, Red Hat, AspenMesh, Weaveworks, Docker, Rancher, Pivotal, Kinvolk and VMWare. That’s a pretty broad coalition, though it notably doesn’t include cloud heavyweights like Google, the company behind Istio, and AWS.
“In a rapidly evolving ecosystem, having a set of common standards is critical to preserving the best possible end-user experience,” said Idit Levine, founder and CEO of Solo.io. “This was the vision behind SuperGloo – to create an abstraction layer for consistency across different meshes, which led us to the release of Service Mesh Hub last week. We are excited to see service mesh adoption evolve into an industry level initiative with the SMI specification.”
For the time being, the interoperability features focus on traffic policy, telemetry and traffic management. Monroy argues that these are the most pressing problems right now. He also stressed that this common interface still allows the different service mesh tools to innovate and that developers can always work directly with their APIs when needed. He also stressed that the Service Mesh Interface (SMI), as this new specification is called, does not provide any of its own implementations of these features. It only defines a common set of APIs.
Currently, the most well-known service mesh is probably Istio, which Google, IBM and Lyft launched about two years ago. SMI may just bring a bit more competition to this market since it will allow developers to bet on the overall idea of a service mesh instead of a specific implementation.
In addition to SMI, Microsoft also today announced a couple of other updates around its cloud-native and Kubernetes services. It announced the first alpha of the Helm 3 package manager, for example, as well as the 1.0 release of its Kubernetes extension for Visual Studio Code and the general availability of its AKS virtual nodes, using the open source Virtual Kubelet project.
Few technologies promise to have an impact on the marketplace as tremendous as the blockchain technology. Though many professionals in the search marketing industry are still entirely unfamiliar with it. Blockchain’s disruptive nature is changing the nature of digital advertising regardless of whether some professionals hear about it or not, however, meaning it’s imperative to catch up on how this technology is changing the industry if you want to remain competitive.
Here are five of the major ways that blockchain will impact search marketing, and how advertising professionals are already beginning to master this interesting technology as it takes over.
1. Blockchain will make ads trustworthy
Consumers hate advertisements for a number of reasons, but by and large the most common is that they simply think advertising technology is untrustworthy. Nobody likes feeling as if they are being surveilled 24/7, and few people trust digital advertisements that appear on their screen enough to click on them, even if its contents are interesting. Blockchain technology promises to help this problem by securing the ad supply chain and making the marketing process more trustworthy to consumers everywhere.
Soon, thanks to blockchain services, ad tech vendors, buyers, and publishers will be more connected than ever before. Transparency, that is sorely needed in the ad supply chain can be brought about by the application of blockchain services, which thanks to their nature as ledgers are accessible to every party involved in a financial transaction. Website owners and ad vendors of the future will thus be able to operate with one another much more securely when making marketing arrangements.
2. Blockchain is delivering ad transparency
Elsewhere, blockchain services will be applied to make ads more transparent in an effort to win over the trust of skeptical consumers. Companies like Unilever are now teaming up with the likes of IBM on blockchain projects that they hope will disclose information about their business footprint and the way they collect and utilize information on customers. As these endeavors become more successful, others will be convinced to enlist the help of blockchain technology when it comes to ensuring a transparent advertising industry.
3. Blockchain is changing ad payments
Blockchain technology will also impact search marketing by disrupting the way that advertisement payments are facilitated. Companies like Amino Payments will soon be springing up left and right as the market for blockchain services grows larger and larger. These businesses will help mainstream blockchain-powered ad buys that make use of interesting smart contracts. While smart contracts are only just beginning to become an accepted part of the business world, they’ll be a mainstream facet of doing business sooner than we think, all thanks to the wonderful power of blockchain.
4. New advertising ecosystems are springing up
Some of the ways that blockchain is impacting search marketing are truly monumental. Blockchain technology is helping new advertising ecosystems get on their feet, for instance, with nascent companies like Adshares that are working hard to create a blockchain-based advertising ecosystem. As cryptocurrencies and other blockchain-powered technologies become more mainstream, we’ll see an increased need for blockchain-friendly payment systems.
Search marketing professionals in the future may have to rely on specialized expertise when navigating these new blockchain-powered advertising ecosystems that use a standard bitcoin wallet, which will become dominated by the IT-savvy. Programmatic advertising has already been upended time and again in recent years as the digital revolution brought about better computers, and the rise of blockchain could very well be the next stage in that cycle of disruption.
5. New blockchain browsers will reshape user experiences
Finally, the digital experience of the average consumer will be fundamentally changed by the introduction of blockchain browsers. Browser options like Brave are becoming more popular and grabbing headlines as they promise a privacy-respecting internet experience that features more honest and safer ad tech. Our current understandings of the marketing world may be entirely useless a few years from now when blockchain powered browsers off secure, personalized search options to users who are sick and tired of modern advertising gurus.
Search marketing is in for more than its fair share of disruptive changes in the forthcoming years, largely because of the advent of blockchain technology. Like any other technological innovation, blockchain will take time and investment to grow into its full potential, but it’s already quite clear that its development is jarring advertising professionals.