Monthly Archives: May 2019
Starbucks plans to double its store count in China to 5,000 in 2021 and Luckin, a one-year-old coffee startup, is matching up by aiming to reach 4,500 by the end of this year. Luckin’s upsized $ 651 million flotation has brought American investors’ attention to this potential Starbucks rival in China, where the Seattle giant controlled over half of the coffee market as late as 2017. But as soon as you make your first purchase with Luckin, you realize its ultimate goal may not be to topple Starbucks.
To get your caffeine intake from Luckin, the ordering process happens entirely on its app. First, you will decide how you want to fetch the drink: have it delivered within 30 minutes, pick it up at a nearby Luckin kiosk, or sit back and sip at one of its full-on cafes, or what it calls ‘relax stores.’
Say you’re tied up at the desk, you can input your location to check if you’re within Luckin’s delivery radius. Luckin has essentially built a vast coffee delivery network through its partnership with one of China’s biggest courier services SF Express, which dispatch staff to ferry the drinks on scoot fleets. You then place the order, choosing from a range of drinks and customizing it — hot or cold, the amount of sugar and portions of creamer, the type of syrup flavor and the likes. When you get to the end, Luckin will ask you to pay via its app. If you’re a first-time user, you get a ‘first order free’ voucher, a common strategy for many Chinese consumer-facing apps to lure new users.
Samsung is taking its time bringing the Galaxy Fold back to market. And frankly, that’s probably for the best. The Note debacle from a few years back was an important lesson about what happens when you rush a product back to market. That one resulted in a second recall — PR nightmare upon PR nightmare.
With a release date still very much in limbo, Best Buy has sent notes to those who pre-ordered the Fold. Spotted by The Verge, the letter has since been posted to Best Buy’s support forum. It cites “a plethora of unforeseen hiccups,” (fair enough) adding, “Because we put our customers first and want to ensure they are taken care of in the best possible manner, Best Buy has decided to cancel all current pre-orders for the Samsung Galaxy Fold.
The letter goes on to assure customers that the big-box retailer is “working closely with Samsung” to help deliver the product to customers. At the moment, however, their guess on the time frame is as good as ours.
Recent reports have suggested that an announcement was imminent, with the company having solved design flaws that had reviewers peeling off screens and getting debris jammed in the holes of the folding mechanism. More recent reports gave the product a June 13 release date, but that, too, appears to have been scrubbed for the time being.
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.
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- The 11 best startups from Y Combinator’s S19 Demo Day 1