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Monthly Archives: January 2020

Apple buys edge-based AI startup Xnor.ai for a reported $200M

January 16, 2020 No Comments

Xnor.ai, spun off in 2017 from the nonprofit Allen Institute for AI (AI2), has been acquired by Apple for about $ 200 million. A source close to the company corroborated a report this morning from GeekWire to that effect.

Apple confirmed the reports with its standard statement for this sort of quiet acquisition: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.” (I’ve asked for clarification just in case.)

Xnor.ai began as a process for making machine learning algorithms highly efficient — so efficient that they could run on even the lowest tier of hardware out there, things like embedded electronics in security cameras that use only a modicum of power. Yet using Xnor’s algorithms they could accomplish tasks like object recognition, which in other circumstances might require a powerful processor or connection to the cloud.

CEO Ali Farhadi and his founding team put the company together at AI2 and spun it out just before the organization formally launched its incubator program. It raised $ 2.7M in early 2017 and $ 12M in 2018, both rounds led by Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group, and has steadily grown its local operations and areas of business.

The $ 200M acquisition price is only approximate, the source indicated, but even if the final number were less by half that would be a big return for Madrona and other investors.

The company will likely move to Apple’s Seattle offices; GeekWire, visiting the Xnor.ai offices (in inclement weather, no less), reported that a move was clearly underway. AI2 confirmed that Farhadi is no longer working there, but he will retain his faculty position at the University of Washington.

An acquisition by Apple makes perfect sense when one thinks of how that company has been directing its efforts towards edge computing. With a chip dedicated to executing machine learning workflows in a variety of situations, Apple clearly intends for its devices to operate independent of the cloud for such tasks as facial recognition, natural language processing, and augmented reality. It’s as much for performance as privacy purposes.

Its camera software especially makes extensive use of machine learning algorithms for both capturing and processing images, a compute-heavy task that could potentially be made much lighter with the inclusion of Xnor’s economizing techniques. The future of photography is code, after all — so the more of it you can execute, and the less time and power it takes to do so, the better.

 

It could also indicate new forays in the smart home, toward which with HomePod Apple has made some tentative steps. But Xnor’s technology is highly adaptable and as such rather difficult to predict as far as what it enables for such a vast company as Apple.

Gadgets – TechCrunch


Images Are Going To Infiltrate Google Search – And Other Hot Takes For 2020 [Video]

January 15, 2020 No Comments

In this video, Hanapin’s Mary Hartman and Dan Rocklin discuss what they’re excited for in 2020, their resolutions, and their hot takes on overrated strategies.

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The three pillars behind every successful content strategy

January 14, 2020 No Comments

As inbound marketing continues to be a dominant force, you’ve likely heard the phrase “content is king” more times than you can count. But getting the right message to the right person is not an easy task in a society that’s tangled in a web of digital content, and it requires a top-notch content strategy. 

A solid content strategy can help create meaningful, cohesive, engaging and sustainable content that attracts new customers and retains existing ones. Despite the importance that great content can have on your business, two of the biggest challenges for content marketers are knowing how to prioritize marketing efforts for one audience over another and communicating a content strategy effectively across teams so that everyone is on the same page.  

Content marketing is different than your typical product marketing efforts as it includes digital materials that answer specific questions and provides customers with valuable tools and information they aren’t getting anywhere else. These include: 

  • Educational articles 
  • Blogs 
  • E-books 
  • Videos 
  • Entertainment
  • Webinars 
  • Social media 
  • Graphics 

Planning a content calendar that includes every item on this list may seem daunting, but there are simple ways to get started.

The idea behind smart content planning is simple. You want to plan content in a way that is:

  1. Tied to an overarching business objective
  2. Linked directly to audience needs and desires 
  3. Can be shared in a simple and consistent format

The result is a content calendar that is more relevant to what people are searching for and is also differentiated from the competition. Today, smart content planning tools that use artificial intelligence are becoming more readily available and are making adopting this process a no-brainer.

While a Google search will yield a laundry list of best practices, the following three pillars – or fundamental building blocks – will help you create a successful content strategy that drives results. 

Plan content to meet business needs

To be truly effective, all content needs to be anchored to a clear business objective. Why? Because if it doesn’t, there’s no way for you to measurably show that it impacts the company’s growth. You may be nodding your head that yes, of course, it makes sense to plan content with the business objective in mind. But, how do we do that in a way that is meaningful and simple? 

You can start by picking an upcoming marketing initiative and stating the quantitative business goal, the intended audience and the competitive context for that initiative. Treating a business objective statement as a template that must be completed for each marketing initiative helps you to face the ambiguity and misalignment that may be bouncing around your organization. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect – the power comes from thinking about what matters most and then pressing forward with your best judgment.  

Understand your audience

Once you’ve created an objective statement, your entire team can focus on the true reason behind producing content in the first place: your audience. It’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind of day-to-day tasks. In that moment of desperation, marketers make a choice between creating content the right way and simply getting content out the door. In reality, content is the very first glimpse of a brand that customers see and first impressions matter. Not only is content your front runner for garnering new customers, but it guides customers through every stage of the buyer journey including initial sale and retention. 

A recent survey showed that 70% of consumers feel closer to a company as a result of content marketing. However, this is only possible when you understand your audience at a deep level so that the content you create answers the questions they have, helps them do their job more effectively, inspires, or entertains them. 

Understanding your target audience’s needs and desires requires the right tools. One way to make sure your content is helping the customer is to build – and then reference – personas when creating content. The modern marketer has access to content intelligence tools that provide key insights to help choose which topics to share, what channels to use and when to go live during the buyer journey. Using multiple data points like CRM, search data, the website traffic, and social listening can diminish false assumptions about your target audience and provide insights on: 

  • Targetable characteristics 
  • Customer journey 
  • Needs and desires 
  • Perceptions of our strengths vs. competition 
  • Content format preferences 
  • Marketing channels where our audience hangs out 
  • Past content performance

Align your team with the strategy 

We know inconsistent external messaging can lead to brand confusion, which in turn leads to a decrease in brand loyalty. The same happens with confusing internal communication. It causes internal teams to lose sight of business goals. The childhood phrase “sharing is caring” is applicable to small and large businesses. When your content strategy is shared within your organization, it will drive alignment across your company and create a stronger brand. As an added bonus, when your team members understand what you do and how you do it, it’s natural for them to see you as a leader. 

Once your team understands the “Why?” behind your content strategy, it’s important to create a central location for your content planning to live. Having all content in one spot can make your content more likely to be tied to overarching business objectives, and overall, it’s easier for all departments to align their internal activities with the overall business objectives. 

Planning effective content is hard and takes time, but don’t give up! The first step to improve your content planning process is to recognize that smarter content makes a big impact. Remember, smart content starts with an objective statement, audience insight, and a clearly communicated plan. When you take the time to research and outline your audience’s needs and desires, your content will thank you and so will your audience.

Documenting your content marketing strategy gives you the ability to communicate the importance of your content across departments, increase engagement levels with target audiences and create better alignment around customers and marketing priorities. Moving toward smart content planning can add that special ‘something’ to your organization. Let your content strategy be your competitive advantage. 

Bart Frischknecht is the vice president of product strategy at Vennli, a content intelligence platform for marketers.

The post The three pillars behind every successful content strategy appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Equinix is acquiring bare metal cloud provider Packet

January 14, 2020 No Comments

Equinix announced today that is acquiring bare metal cloud provider Packet. The New York City startup that had raised over $ 36 million on a $ 100 million valuation, according to Pitchbook data.

Equinix has a set of data centers and co-locations facilities around the world. Companies that may want to have more control over their hardware could use their services including space, power and cooling systems, instead of running their own data centers.

Equinix is getting a unique cloud infrastructure vendor in Packet, one that can provide more customized kinds of hardware configurations than you can get from the mainstream infrastructure vendors like AWS and Azure.

Interestingly, COO George Karidis came over from Equinix when he joined the company, so there is a connection there. Karidis described his company in a September, 2018 TechCrunch article:

“We offer the most diverse hardware options,” he said. That means they could get servers equipped with Intel, ARM, AMD or with specific nVidia GPUs in whatever configurations they want. By contrast public cloud providers tend to offer a more off-the-shelf approach. It’s cheap and abundant, but you have to take what they offer, and that doesn’t always work for every customer.”

In a blog post announcing the deal, company co-founder and CEO Zachary Smith had a message for his customers, who may be worried about the change in ownership, “When the transaction closes later this quarter, Packet will continue operating as before: same team, same platform, same vision,” he wrote.

He also offered the standard value story for a deal like this, saying the company could scale much faster under Equinix than it could on its own with access to its new company’s massive resources including 200+ data centers in 55 markets and 1,800 networks.

Sara Baack, chief product officer at Equinix says bringing the two companies together will provide a diverse set of bare metal options for customers moving forward. “Our combined strengths will further empower companies to be everywhere they need to be, to interconnect everyone and integrate everything that matters to their business,” she said in a statement.

While the companies did not share the purchase price, they did hint that they would have more details on the transaction after it closes, which is expected in the first quarter this year.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Anchor text variations: Your key to link profile diversity

January 14, 2020 No Comments

Anchor text variation is one of the best ways to tell Google what a specific web page is about. It is used to help readers find more information about a topic and also factors into ranking your web pages. While it is a great tool, it can be the downfall of your SEO efforts if not used correctly. 

Many people have tried (and are still trying) to manipulate search results. One way to do this is to link from specific anchor text in an attempt to rank for the specific word or phrase. Unfortunately for these folks but fortunately for those of us doing it right, we are no longer in the olden days of SEO and these types of black-hat techniques no longer work. In fact, they are likely to get you penalized. 

One of the best ways to stay out of a penalty is by practicing link diversity. There are many ways to do this – you could try linking from various domain extensions, different domain authorities, and using a mixture of “follow” and “nofollow” links. For the sake of this article, however, I want to focus specifically on varying anchor text. 

Why vary your anchor text?

Because. Google…

That’s the simple answer, but let’s go a little more in-depth. Google looks at your link profile when deciding how to rank your web pages. Part of your link profile involves the anchor text used to link to your website. 

Google's list of ranking factors

Source: SparkToro

So, you should have specific anchor text that talks about your web pages, right? Well, sort of.

Using specific anchor text is fine, but when you start to use the same anchor text, Google will get suspicious. It will make your backlink profile look unnatural and likely lead to lower search rankings, if not a Google penalty. 

When linking to your website, you need to vary the anchor text. Natural links will come from various anchor texts as webmasters link differently. There is no way all websites got together and decided to link to your website from the exact same anchor text. Google knows this, which is why you will be going down the road of a Google penalty if you don’t incorporate diversity. 

Using long-tail in your anchor text variations

So, how do you choose anchor text variations? There are many ways to do this, but I will show you some that will keep the meaning of your anchor text to best help with SEO. The first is mixing in long-tail keywords with your exact match anchor text. 

Example

Let’s use the keyword phrase “anchor text” as our example. Instead of linking from that exact phrase, use the following long-tail variations:

  • “using variations of anchor text in your backlink profile”
  • “how to vary your anchor text for better link diversity”
  • “how anchor text variations matter in your link profile”

I just made those up, but you can see how we use the exact match keyword within a long-tail anchor text. Google will still see the main anchor text and take that into account, but you also have a variation so as to show a natural link profile (and not artificial link building). 

Using LSI Keywords

The above examples I just made up on the fly, but you can get more technical if you want to vary your anchor text and ensure you keep the meaning of the term you are trying to rank for. What do I mean by that?

Sometimes people simply choose anchor text variations that they think are similar. While they may be similar in wording, they may not be similar in meaning. And yes, it makes a difference. The term “anchor text variation” and “exact match anchor text” contain the same keyword, but they will return very different results when you search Google. 

Example of using LSI for anchor text variations

Source: Google Search

That is where LSI keywords come into play. LSI stands for latent semantic indexing and is a term used to describe keywords that Google feels are similar to each other. And hey, if Google says they are similar, then they are (since Google is the one who determines where they rank). 

You can find LSI keywords in a number of ways. Use an online LSI keyword generator or go to your Google AdWords account and search for specific keyword variations in your ad campaign. You can also simply Google your main term and then look at the bottom of the page for similar searches suggested by Google. 

Using the last suggestion mentioned above, I found the following LSI keywords for “anchor text variation”:

  • “how to create anchor text”
  • “anchor text best practices”
  • “anchor text generator”

This means you can use all three of these to link to the same webpage and Google will see them as the same or similar, without penalizing you for using the “exact” same anchor text. Make sense?

Final word on anchor text variation

There are a number of techniques and strategies available to you when it comes to SEO, but building a diverse link profile is one of the highest impacts. Even within the context of diversifying your anchor text, there are multiple strategies, as you can see. For example, you can add advice such as isolating your current anchor text structure to ensure it is diverse. Without going too far and adding a layer of confusion, however, I think you get the main point which is you must vary your anchor text. By doing so you are creating a diverse link profile that will show Google your links are coming naturally, and you aren’t involved in any link building schemes. 

What variations have you used for anchor text diversity?  

Anthony Gaenzle is the Founder of AnthonyGaenzle.com a marketing and business blog. He also serves as the Head of Marketing and Business Development at Granite Creative Group, a full-service marketing firm.

The post Anchor text variations: Your key to link profile diversity appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Over two dozen encryption experts call on India to rethink changes to its intermediary liability rules

January 14, 2020 No Comments

Security and encryption experts from around the world are joining a number of organizations to call on India to reconsider its proposed amendments to local intermediary liability rules.

In an open letter to India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday, 27 security and cryptography experts warned the Indian government that if it goes ahead with its originally proposed changes to the law, it could weaken security and limit the use of strong encryption on the internet.

The Indian government proposed (PDF) a series of changes to its intermediary liability rules in late December 2018 that, if enforced, would require millions of services operated by anyone from small and medium businesses to large corporate giants such as Facebook and Google to make significant changes.

The originally proposed rules say that intermediaries — which the government defines as those services that facilitate communication between two or more users and have five million or more users in India — will have to proactively monitor and filter their users’ content and be able to trace the originator of questionable content to avoid assuming full liability for their users’ actions.

“By tying intermediaries’ protection from liability to their ability to monitor communications being sent across their platforms or systems, the amendments would limit the use of end-to-end encryption and encourage others to weaken existing security measures,” the experts wrote in the letter, coordinated by the Internet Society .

With end-to-end encryption, there is no way for the service provider to access its users’ decrypted content, they said. Some of these experts include individuals who work at Google, Twitter, Access Now, Tor Project and World Wide Web Consortium.

“This means that services using end-to-end encryption cannot provide the level of monitoring required in the proposed amendments. Whether it’s through putting a ‘backdoor’ in an encryption protocol, storing cryptographic keys in escrow, adding silent users to group messages, or some other method, there is no way to create ‘exceptional access’ for some without weakening the security of the system for all,” they added.

Technology giants have so far enjoyed what is known as “safe harbor” laws. The laws, currently applicable in the U.S. under the Communications Decency Act and India under its 2000 Information Technology Act, say that tech platforms won’t be held liable for the things their users share on the platform.

Many organizations have expressed in recent days their reservations about the proposed changes to the law. Earlier this week, Mozilla, GitHub and Cloudflare requested the Indian government to be transparent about the proposals that they have made to the intermediary liability rules. Nobody outside the Indian government has seen the current draft of the proposal, which it plans to submit to India’s Supreme Court for approval by January 15.

Among the concerns raised by some is the vague definition of “intermediary” itself. Critics say the last publicly known version of the draft had an extremely broad definition of the term “intermediary,” that would be applicable to a wide-range of service providers, including popular instant messaging clients, internet service providers, cyber cafes and even Wikipedia.

Amanda Keton, general counsel of Wikimedia Foundation, requested the Indian government late last month to rethink the requirement to bring “traceability” on online communication, as doing so, she warned, would interfere with the ability of Wikipedia contributors to freely participate in the project.

A senior executive with an American technology company, who requested anonymity, told TechCrunch on Wednesday that even as the proposed changes to the intermediary guidelines need major changes, it is high time that the Indian government decided to look into this at all.

“Action on social media platforms, and instant communications services is causing damage in the real world. Spread of hoax has cost us more than at least 30 lives. If tomorrow, someone’s sensitive photos and messages leak on the internet, there is currently little they can expect from their service providers. We need a law to deal with the modern internet’s challenges,” he said.


Social – TechCrunch


Browsers Are Fixing the Internet’s Most Annoying Problem 

January 14, 2020 No Comments

After years of invasive pop-ups asking for notification permission, Chrome and Firefox have finally taken action. 
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A Deep Dive Into Advanced Pivot Tables for PPC

January 14, 2020 No Comments

A deep dive into how to look at audiences, ad copy, and data over time through quick and easy Excel pivot tables.

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Instagram adds Boomerang effects as TikTok looms

January 12, 2020 No Comments

TikTok has spawned countless memes formats from its creative effects, challenging Instagram for the filtered video crown. Now nearly five years after launching Boomerang, Instagram’s back-and-forth video loop maker is finally getting a big update to its own editing options. Users around the globe can now add SlowMo, “Echo” blurring, and “Duo” rapid rewind special effects to their Boomerangs, as well as trim their length. This is the biggest upgrade yet for one of mobile’s most popular video creation tools.

The effects could help keep Instagram interesting. After so many years of Boomerangs, many viewers simply skip past them in Stories after the first loop since they’re so consistent. The extra visual flare of the new effects could keep people’s attention for a few more seconds and unlock new forms of comedy. That’s critical as Instagram tries to compete with TikTok, which has tons of special effects that have spawned their own meme formats.

Starting today, people on Instagram will be able to share new SloMo, Echo and Duo Boomerang modes on Instagram” a Facebook company spokesperson tells TechCrunch. “Your Instagram camera gives you ways to express yourself and easily share what you’re doing, thinking or feeling with your friends. Boomerang is one of the most beloved camera formats and we’re excited to expand the creative ways that you can use Boomerang to turn everyday moments into something fun and unexpected.”

The new Boomerang tools can be found by swiping right on Instagram to open the Stories composer, and then swiping left at the bottom of the screen’s shutter selector. After shooting a Boomerang, an infinity symbol button atop the screen reveals the alternate effects and video trimmer. Mobile researcher Jane Manchun Wong spotted Instagram prototyping new Boomerang filters and the trimmer last year.

Typically, Boomerang captures one second of silent video which is then played forward and then in reverse three times to create a six second loop that can be shared or downloaded as a video. Here are the new effects you can add plus how Instagram described them to me in a statement:

  • SlowMo – Reduces Boomerangs to half-speed so they play for two seconds in each direction instead of one second. “Slows down your Boomerang to capture each detail”
  • Echo – Adds a motion blur effect so a translucent trail appears behind anything moving, almost like you’re drunk or tripping. “Creates a double vision effect.”
  • Duo – Rapidly rewinds the clip to the beginning with a glitchy, digitized look. “Both speeds up and slows down your Boomerang, adding a texturized effect.”
  • Trimming – Shorten your Boomerang with similar controls to iPhone’s camera roll or the Instagram feed video composer. “Edit the length of your Boomerang, and when it starts or ends.”

The effects aren’t entirely original. Snapchat has offered slow-motion and fast-foward video effects since just days after the original launch of Boomerang back in 2015. TikTok meanwhile provides several motion blur filters and pixelated transitions. But since these are all available with traditional video, unlike on Instagram where they’re confined to Boomerangs, there’s more creative flexibility to use the effects to hide cuts between takes or play with people’s voices.

That’s won TikTok a plethora of ingenius memes that rely on these tools. Users high-five themselves using an Echo-esque feature, highlight action-packed moments or loud sounds with Duo-style glitch cuts, and conjure an army of doppelgangers behind them with infinity clones effect. Instagram Stories has instead focused on augmented reality face filters and classier tools like layout.

TikTok Screenshots

Hopefully we’ll see Instagram’s new editing features brought over to its main Stories and video composers. Video trimming would be especially helpful since a boring start to a Story can quickly lead viewers to skip it.

Instagram has had years of domination in the social video space. But with Snapchat finally growing again and TikTok becoming a global phenomenon, Instagram must once again fight to maintain its superiority. Now approaching 10 years old, it’s at risk of becoming stale if it can’t keep giving people ways to make hastily shot phone content compelling.


Social – TechCrunch


Funeral Tech Startups Expand Your Posthumous Possibilities

January 12, 2020 No Comments

You can’t choose when your time runs out, but you *can* opt to transmute your ashes into diamonds or be buried in fungus. 
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