Monthly Archives: November 2019
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.
Voters in San Francisco have resoundingly rejected an attempt to overturn a citywide ban on e-cigarettes by a margin of around 80:20.
Reporting on the count in the Bay Area, CBS SF says at least 78 per cent of voters rejected the ballot measure, known as Proposition C.
The measure had been heavily back by e-cigarette maker Juul — until just over a month ago. It is reported to have spent at least $ 10M promoting the attempt to flip the ban, before withdrawing its support at the end of September as part of a company-wider review under new CEO, K.C. Crosthwaite, that’s also seen between 10-15% of its workforce lay off.
The 2017-founded company, which has raised some $ 14.4BN in funding to date per Crunchbase, has faced trenchant criticism over the level of youth usage of its products.
In a statement responding to the Prop C vote, San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera attacks Juul — dubbing the company “Big Tobacco” — and writing: “San Francisco voters are too smart to be fooled by Juul. Juul is Big Tobacco, and it’s using a classic ploy from the Big Tobacco playbook to try and hook another generation of kids on nicotine. Voters saw right through Juul’s deception. San Francisco already has the toughest e-cigarette regulations in the nation. By law, e-cigarettes must undergo FDA review to ensure they are safe for public health. Complete FDA review and you can sell your product here. If you don’t, you can’t. It’s that simple.”
We’ve reached out to Juul for comment. Update: A company spokesman told us:
As previously announced, Juul Labs ceased active support of Proposition C in September as part of new CEO K.C. Crosthwaite’s broad review of the company’s practices and policies. Crosthwaite said at the time, “I am committed to seeing that Juul engages productively with all stakeholders, including regulators, policymakers and our customers. This decision does not change the fact that as a San Francisco-founded and headquartered company we remain committed to the city. San Francisco is not only the home of our company’s founding but is also the home of many of our talented employees.”
In October Juul announced it would stop selling mango, creme, fruit and cucumber flavored nicotine products in the US, while continuing to sell the flavors elsewhere. But it did not commit to permanently giving up on selling flavored nicotine products — in the US or anywhere.
Vaping generally has also been under a growing cloud of suspicion after a number of e-cigarette users died from an acute lung condition which appears related to the process of chemicals being vaporized and inhaled — and potentially to devices being used to vape THC.
Third party sellers hawk unofficial cartridges for e-cigarette devices such as Juul’s which can contain the psychoactive compound found in marijuana, along with other unknown substances. But studies have also shown that even popular e-cigarette brands don’t know exactly what chemicals are produced when the substances contained in their cartridges are vaporized.
“If the FDA can’t verify that these products are safe, then they don’t belong on store shelves,” added Herrera in the statement. “The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that we are in the midst of a youth vaping epidemic. Juul spent millions trying to mislead San Franciscans and rewrite the rules to benefit itself before realizing that was a fool’s errand. It could have put that time and effort into completing the required FDA review. If Juul had done that the day Supervisor Shamann Walton and I introduced our e-cigarette legislation back in March, Juul would have had its answer from the FDA by now. Perhaps FDA review is a test that Juul is afraid it can’t pass.”
Last month a lawsuit filed by a former Juul executive alleged the company knew that a batch of contaminated e-liquid had been used in about one million pods shipped to retailers earlier this year but did not inform customers.
It sounds like the two companies aren’t direct competitors, but they offer related tools: Seismic helps companies create and manage the content they use in sales and marketing, while Percolate expanded from a social media publishing tool to a broader suite of software for managing the marketing process.
As part of the acquisition, Percolate CEO Randy Wootton is joining the Seismic team, where he will continue to lead Percolate, and where he will report to Seismic CEO Doug Winter. The combined company will have a headcount of more than 800 people.
“Both of our companies endeavor to foster better alignment between marketing and sales and improve the buyer/seller interaction, resulting in accelerated deals and pipeline for our customers,” Wootton said in a statement. “Combining with Seismic allows Percolate to provide even more capability to our customer base and more value to the marketing ecosystem.”
The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. Percolate raised a total of $ 106.5 million from investors including GGV Capital, Sequoia Capital, Lightspeed, Slow Ventures, Lerer Hippeau and First Round Capital, according to Crunchbase.
Seismic, meanwhile, raised a $ 100 million investment at a $ 1 billion valuation last year.
A new guide, Best Practices for Website Redesign & Migration, outlines detailed best practices for implementing search engine optimization (SEO) for a website redesign.
It includes a list of comprehensive tips aimed at educating website owners about common redesign obstacles, website structure as it relates to SEO, preserving domain and URL equity, keyword research, and more.
This post summarizes some key SEO migration elements listed in the guide, with an emphasis on helping organizations avoid costly errors related to a website redesign and domain or platform migration.
Content produced in collaboration with Investis Digital.
Common SEO obstacles in website redesign and migration
A proliferation of web design platforms and tools have made it easier than ever for businesses to complete a website redesign in record time.
However, many of these platforms aren’t fully compatible with older computers, slower connection speeds, and present obstacles for search engine spiders.
The Investis Digital SEO guide lists twelve of the most common obstacles and includes tips for avoiding them. Here are a few examples:
Dynamic URLs that don’t include keywords
Dynamic URLs rely on variable parameters provided by the web server and are not easily indexed by search engines since they change based on user query input. A dynamic URL typically includes character strings versus keywords. Investis Digital recommends that dynamic URLs be rewritten to include relevant keywords.
Since text is the backbone of how search engines determine keyword relevancy, the Investis Digital guide recommends that some relevant content be included on all pages. Ideally, at least one short paragraph of unique text should be present on each page. If this isn’t possible, then tier-one and tier-two pages should incorporate text-based, keyword-rich headers.
Three of the twelve obstacles listed in the Investis Digital SEO guide
Six key elements of an SEO-focused redesign
The Investis Digital guide lays out a comprehensive list of elements that companies should incorporate into their redesign strategy, from website structure to keyword research, and from to meta information to internal site linking. The guide acts as a blueprint for businesses so they can minimize the impact of the redesign on organic search engine rankings and traffic. Here is a brief summary of each element:
1. Website structure
Folder structure, web page file names, and keyword-rich content all play a role in an optimal website structure. “The decisions you make about the naming conventions of your folders and files, and the way in which you point to specific pages of your website, can have a huge impact on overall traffic and sales,” writes Investis Digital.
2. Keyword research
Keyword research should be the starting point of your website redesign so that you can incorporate relevant, high-volume keywords throughout the entire site structure. Investis Digital reviews important keyword guidelines such as how many different terms to target and what keyword research tools to use when gathering information.
3. Meta information
Meta information—also referred to as metadata—is the information that appears in search engine results pages for organic listings. SEO meta information includes a variety of tags such as <title> and <meta-description>. The guide provides checklists to help businesses fully optimize each of these important tags.
4. Body content
Body content is important for good search engine rankings as well as overall website usability. The Investis Digital guidelines cover the specifics of creating high quality, SEO-friendly content attributes that will contribute to search ranking such as keyword choice, frequency, placement, spacing, and titles.
5. Internal site linking
Internal links are an important element of good SEO design as they determine how search engines perceive relevancy for specific keywords. Investis Digital covers the best practices for internal link creation such as using descriptive text-based links in the main navigation, limiting the number of links on a page, and more.
6. URL equity
URL equity is “the sum of several important values tied to URL structure.” Dynamic versus static URLs, as noted above, play a role in URL equity as do a URL’s external links to the website, age of the domain, and more.
The importance of creating an SEO redesign strategy
A key pain point with any redesign is the loss of organic search traffic that occurs when established domain equity is lost. The Investis Digital guide provides information to help companies avoid the negative effect a large-scale redesign can have on search visibility and website traffic.
Example of a successful client domain migration. Source—Investis Digital
With a strong emphasis on maintaining URL equity, a sample workflow to help with planning, and a list of expected obstacles, businesses can use this guide to create a comprehensive SEO strategy for their website redesign or platform migration.
For more tips on how to create an SEO strategy for website redesign and migration, check out the full guide, “Best Practices for Website Redesign & Migration.”
The post How to create an SEO strategy for website redesign and migration appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
WeWork’s efforts to cut costs following the ouster of its chief executive officer and a delayed initial public offering looks to be impacting its subsidiaries. Meetup, which WeWork acquired for a reported $ 200 million in 2017, announced a round of layoffs this morning, TechCrunch has learned.
The company, which helps people foster in-person connections by facilitating events across the globe, has shed as much as 25% of its workforce, most of which were employees of the company’s engineering department, sources tell TechCrunch.
“Meetup’s top priority is building the best possible product for our community of more than 44 million members around the world,” a representative of the company said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “Today we made some organizational changes with that goal in mind, including restructuring across some of our departments.”
The news follows WeWork’s own well-documented attempts at restructuring its high-loss business. Late last month, SoftBank provided the over-valued co-working business a much-needed lifeline in the form of a $ 5 billion loan, a $ 3 billion tender offer and another $ 1.5 billion in equity funding, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s in addition to the billions already invested by the Japanese telecom giant, which now owns a roughly 80% stake. SoftBank’s mountain of cash had previously valued WeWork at an eye-popping $ 47 billion; the latest investment package, however, valued the company at just $ 8 billion.
Understandably, WeWork’s new leadership (former vice chairman Sebastian Gunningham and former president and chief operating officer Artie Minson are serving as co-CEOs) seem to be hyper-focused on its new cost-cutting strategy. Multiple reports have indicated the business is weighing sales of several of its subsidiaries, including Meetup, Managed by Q and Conductor. We’ve asked Meetup whether its parent company enforced the staff cuts and will update this story if we hear back.
As for WeWork, it must make a concerted effort to boost its balance sheet in the next few months if it plans to stay committed to a 2020 IPO. The company initially revealed its IPO prospectus in August, disclosing revenue north of $ 1.5 billion in the six months ending June 30 on losses of $ 904.6 million. Shortly after, its co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann’s misbehaviors were published in a number of incriminating stories by The Wall Street Journal and other outlets. Neumann’s trashed reputation coupled with WeWork’s mounting losses forced the company to replace its founding CEO and shelve its IPO, which would have been the second-largest offering of 2019 behind only Uber.
Meetup, founded in 2002, was one of the first IRL social networks. Today’s cuts are not the first since WeWork came into the picture, according to earlier reporting by Gizmodo. Meetup shed roughly 10% of its staff amid negotiations for the acquisition and underwent cultural changes as managers pushed for growth and “more aggressiveness in the workplace.”
The future of Meetup is unclear. WeWork may move forward with a sale of the business or pressure its own cost-cutting measures on the company. In a recent email to Meetup members, CEO David Siegel wrote that he appreciated the recent outpouring of support from the community, as it became apparent the company was in a precarious position because of its owner.
“As you may be aware, there has been significant news about our parent company, WeWork, and what this means for the future of Meetup,” Siegel wrote. “As Meetup’s CEO, I want to personally tell you we’re as committed as ever to bringing people together in person.
Co-founded by researchers Joseph Glorioso, from the University of Pittsburgh’s microbiology and molecular genetics department; and Dr. Nicholas Boulis, the founder of Emory’s Gene and Cell Therapy for Neurorestoration Laboratory; Coda uses gene therapies to treat neurological diseases starting with severe pain and epilepsy.
America is a country in pain. There are over 19 million Americans who live with chronic neuropathic pain, according to Coda’s own statistics. And over the past twenty years the doctors treating those Americans and the drug companies developing therapies for them have managed to turn their treatment into a new epidemic — opioid addiction.
In 2017, 47,600 Americans died from opioid-involved overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Of those deaths, about 60% involved synthetic opioids.
“The incentives were there for people to prescribe more and more, particularly when they had already been convinced it was the right thing to do — the compassionate thing to do,” Keith Humphreys, a psychiatrist at Stanford University and a former White House drug-policy adviser, told the journal Nature.
As the pain epidemic and attendant opioid crisis began to skyrocket several companies have been racing to find alternatives to the drug treatments that were now killing Americans by the thousands. Other approaches like electrical nerve stimulation can carry risks, and invasive surgeries are an unappealing last resort, according to Coda’s chief executive.
Coda’s experimental treatment is based on a science called chemogenetics, which uses a harmless virus to create new receptors in the sensory neurons that provide signals to the brain about physical stimuli. Those receptors can be unlocked by small molecule drugs, which would instruct the sensory neurons to stop firing, thereby cutting off the signals of pain to the brain.
The idea behind chemogenetics is to engineer a receptor that when you put it in with a… gene therapy… it does nothing. We’ve engineered it so that it is no longer responsive,” says Michael Narachi, the president and chief executive officer at Coda. “Most of these receptors are naturally opened or closed by acetylcholine… We’ve engineered these receptors so that they’re no longer responsive to acetylcholine, but they are responsive to a man-made drug.”
The company then draws from a portfolio of receptor small-molecule drug pairs that were developed and tested for their pharmacological and toxicological effects, but discarded because of a lack of efficacy, to create new therapies with receptors tailored to respond to those drugs.
“What we’ve done is flipped the whole paradigm on its head. We’re making the lock that can work with these keys,” says Narachi.
So far, the company has raised $ 34 million as investors including Versant Ventures, MPM Capital and Astellas Venture Management have doubled down on their initial $ 19 million commitment to the new drug developer.
“Since coming out of stealth mode last September, the CODA team has made tremendous progress in developing its gene therapy program that is tunable, durable and highly selective, which allows for better efficacy and safety with fewer off-target effects,” said Tom Woiwode, Ph.D., managing director at Versant Ventures and CODA Chairman, in a statement. “CODA’s platform holds great promise to significantly transform how we treat challenging conditions and disorders for which new therapeutic options are greatly needed.”
Pain isn’t the only condition that Coda hopes to treat. The company is also working on therapies that can reduce the severity of epilepsy for the nearly 3.4 million people in the U.S. who have the condition. While the company can’t treat all kinds of epilepsy, Coda says that it could address focal epilepsy, which represents 60% of all manifestations of the condition, and is linked to a specific region of the brain.
By engineering neurotransmitter receptors that are activated by medicines that can be taken orally, Coda thinks it can control the activity of neurons responsible for both chronic pain and focal epilepsy.
The next step for the company — and part of the use of proceeds from its new $ 15 million cash infusion — will . be to proceed with early animal trials. These clinical trials will be followed by human trials.
“This is a research platform,” says Narachi. “We have this portfolio of engineered receptors and we’re testing them in cells. The next step is to go into human clinical trials.”
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:
- Explain SEO using a language they’re familiar with
- Demonstrate that SEO is still relevant today
- 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 SEO? Customers 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
- Organic search is the primary source of web traffic
- SEO builds trust in your products and company
- 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
- 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.
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.
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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