Monthly Archives: January 2020
Podcasts Can Be Hard to Find
I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. They can be fun to listen to while doing chores around the house, like watering plants, washing dishes, cooking meals, and cleaning up. There are podcasts on many different subjects that I am interested in. A good number about Search Engine Optimization.
Someone asked me If I had seen any patents about podcasts on Twitter recently. I hadn’t at the time and I told them that. A patent application later appeared on January 9, 2020. I returned to the tweet where I replied that I hadn’t seen any, and tweeted that I had found a new one, and would be writing about it. This is that post.
I am not the only one listening more to podcasts. Techcrunch from last year had an article about the growth of audiences for podcasts: After a Breakout Year: looking ahead to the future of Podcasting.
It seems Google noticed this trend and has worked on making podcasts easier to find in search results and by releasing a Google Podcasts app.
Google Tries to Make Podcasts Easier to Find
At the Google Blog, the Keyword, a post last August from Sack Reneay-Wedeen, Product Manager at Google Podcasts, called: Press play: Find and listen to podcast episodes on Search
If you produce a podcast or are looking for one to listen to, you may find this article from last autumn helpful: Google will start surfacing individual podcast episodes in search results.
It tells us that:
Google is taking the next step in making podcasts easier to find. The company will now surface individual podcast episodes in search results, so if someone searches for a show about a niche topic or an interview with a specific person, Google will show them potential podcast episodes that fit their query.
In Google Search Help is a page about finding Podcasts titled Listen to podcasts with Google Podcasts
There are also Google Developer pages about how to submit your Podcasts for them to be found using Google at this page: Google Podcasts, which offer guidelines, management of podcasts information, and troubleshooting for Google Podcasts.
The Google Play Music Help pages offer information about using that service to subscribe and listen to podcasts.
There are also Google Podcast Publisher Tools, which allows you to submit your podcast to be found on the Google Podcasts App, and preview your podcast as it would appear there.
The Google Podcasts App is at: Google Podcasts: Discover free & trending podcasts
How the New Podcast Patent Application Ranks Shows and Episodes
The new Google patent application covers “identifying, curating, and presenting audio content.” That includes audio such as radio stations and podcasts.
The application starts out with this statement:
Many people enjoy listening to audio content, such as by tuning to a radio show or subscribing to a podcast and playing a podcast episode. For example, people may enjoy listening to such audio content during a commute between home and work, while exercising, etc. In some cases, people may have difficulty identifying specific content that they would enjoy listening to, such as specific shows or episodes that align with their interests. Additionally, in some cases, people may have difficulty finding shows or episodes that are of a duration that is convenient for them to listen to, such as a duration that aligns with a duration of a commute.
It focuses on solving a specific problem – people being unable to identify and listen to audio content.
The method this patent uncovers for presenting audio content includes:
- Seeing categories of audio content
- Being able to select one of those categories
- Seeing shows based upon that selected category
- Being able to select from the shows in that category
- Seeing episodes from those shows
- Being able to select from an episode, and seeing the duration of playing time for each show
- Ranking the episodes
- Seeing the episodes in order of ranking.
Rankings are based on a likelihood that a searcher might enjoy the episodes being ranked.
The episodes can also be shown based upon a measure of popularity.
The episodes may also be shown based upon how relevant they might be to a searcher.
The identification of a group of candidate episodes is based on an RSS feed associated with shows in the subset of shows.
The patent application about podcasts at Google is:
Methods, Systems, and Media for Identifying, Curating, and Presenting Audio Content
Inventors Jeannette Gatlin, Manish Gaudi
Applicants Google LLC
Publication Number 20200012476
Filed: July 3, 2019
Publication Date January 9, 2020
The methods described in the patent cover podcasts and can apply to other types of audio content, such as:
- Radio shows
- Any other suitable type of audio content
- Television shows
- Any other suitable type of video content
The patent describes a number of techniques that podcasts are found with.
A group of candidate shows are selected, such as podcast episodes using factors like:
- Inclusion of evergreen content relevant to a listener
- Related to categories or topics that are of interest to a particular user
Recommendations of shows look at whether a show:
- Is associated with episodic content or serial content.
- Typically includes evergreen content (e.g., content that is generally relevant at a future time) or whether the show will become irrelevant at a predetermined future time
- Is likely to include news-related content based on whether a tag or keyword associated with the show includes “news.”
- Has tags indicating categories or topics associated with the show.
- Has tags indicating controversial content, such as mature language, related to particular topics, and/or any other suitable type of controversial content
- Has previously assigned categories or topics associated with a show that are accurate.
- Has episodes likely to include advertisements (e.g., pre-roll advertisements, interstitial advertisements, and/or any other suitable types of advertisements).
- Has episodes that are likely to include standalone segments that can be viewed or listened to individually without viewing the rest of an episode of the show.
- Has episodes often with an opening monologue.
- Has episodes featuring an interview in the middle part of an episode.
- Features episodic content instead of serial content, so it does not require viewing or listening to one episode before another.
- is limited in relevance based on a date (after the fact).
Human evaluators can identify episode based upon features such as:
- General popularity
- Good audio quality
- Associated with particularly accurate keywords or categories
- Any other suitable manner
Some podcasts may have a standalone segment within an episode that may feature:
- A monologue
- An interview
- Any other suitable standalone segment
That standalone segment could be trimmed as a new episode and included to be selected with the other episodes.
Episodes that are deemed too long in duration could be blacklisted or deemed not suitable for selection as a candidate episode.
An episode that contains adult-oriented content may be blacklisted from being presented to a user during daytime hours based on parental controls.
An episode containing a particular type of content may be blacklisted from being presented to a user during weekdays based on user preferences (e.g., particular topics for presentation on the weekdays as opposed to particular topics for presentation on the weekends).
Ranking of Candidate Episodes
Ranking can be based upon:
- Likelihood of enjoyment
- Previous listening history
- Relevance to previously listen to content
- Audio quality
- Reviewed by human evaluators
The patent tells us that this process can rank the subset of the candidate episodes in any suitable manner and based on any suitable information.
It can be based on a popularity metric associated with a show corresponding to each episode and/or based on a popularity metric associated with the episode.
That popularity metric may also be based on any suitable information or combination of information, such as:
- A number of subscriptions to the show
- A number of times a show and/or an episode has been downloaded to a user device
- A number of times links to a show have been shared (e.g., on a social networking service, and/or in any other suitable manner)
- Any other suitable information indicating popularity.
This process can also rank the subset of the candidate episodes based on a likelihood that a particular user of a user device will enjoy the episode.
That likelihood can be based on previous listening history, such as:
- How relevant a category or topic of the episode is to categories/topics of previously listened to episodes (Is it associated with a show the user has previously listened to?)
- A number of times the user has previously listened to other episodes associated with the show
- Any other suitable information related to listening history
This process can also rank candidate episodes based on the audio quality of each episode.
Alternatively, this process may also rank candidate episodes based on whether each episode has been identified by a human evaluator, and episodes that have been identified by human evaluators are ranked higher than other episodes.
A combined episode score might be based upon a score from:
- A trusted listener
- The audio quality
- The content quality
- The popularity of the show from which the episode originates
This patent appears to focus primarily upon how podcasts might be ranked on the Google Podcasts App, rather than in Google search results.
The podcasts app isn’t as well known as some of the other places to get podcasts such as iTunes.
I am curious about how many podcasts are being found in search results. I’ve been linking to ones that I’ve been a guest in from the about page on this site, and that helps many of them show up in Google SERPs on a search for my name.
I guess making podcasts easier to find in search results can be similar to making images easier to find, by the text on the page that they are hosted upon, and the links to that page as well.
SEO Industry Podcasts
I thought it might be appropriate if I ended this post with a number of SEO Podcasts.
I’ve been a guest on a number of podcasts, and have been involved in a couple over the past few years. I’ve also been listening to some, with some frequency, and have been listening to more, both about SEO and other topics as well. I decided to list some of the ones that I have either been a guest on, or have listened to a few times. They are in no particular order
Hosted by Dan Shure. Dan interviews different guests every week about different aspects of SEO and Digital Marketing. I’ve been on a couple of podcasts with Dan and enjoyed answering questions that he has asked, and have listened to him interview others on the show as well.
A Weekly podcast about Google Algorithm updates, and news and articles from the digital marketing industry. This is a good way to keep informed about what is happening in SEO.
Jim Hedger and Dave Davies have been running this podcast for a few years, and I’ve been a guest on it about 4-5 times. They discuss a lot of current industry news and invite guests to the show to talk about those. My last guest appearance was with David Harry, where we talked about what we thought were the most interesting search-related patents of the last year.
Danny Goodwin, Brent Csutoras, Greg Finn and Loren Baker take turns hosting and talking with guests from the world of SEO. No two SEOs do things exactly the same way, and learning about the differences in what they do can be interesting.
Erin Sparks hosts a weekly show about Internet Marketing, and he takes an investigative approach to this show, asking some in-depth questions. He asks some interesting questions.
Hosted by Robert O’Haver, Matt Weber, and Michelle Stinson Ross. They offer “Expert Advice on SEO and SEM. I had fun talking with these guys – I just listened half of my last appearance on the show.
Kate Toon is the host of this show, and she focuses on actionable tips and suggestions from guests on doing digital marketing.
Hosted by Mike Blumenthal, Carrie Hill, and Mary Bowling. They often discuss news and articles that focus on local search, but also discuss topics that have a broader impact on sites such as image optimization.
This is hosted by Jason Barnard. The “AEO” in the title is “Answer Engine Optimization” and Jason has been attending conferences to give him a chance to interview people for his podcast. The last time we did a show it was in a bakery across the street from my hotel in a suburb of Paris, talking about Entities at Google.
Martha van Berkel is the host of this show and is one of the people behind Schemaapp. She and I talked about featured snippets.
Barry Schwartz runs Search Engine Roundtable, which is originally based upon the roundtable in tales of King Author that knights would sit at. In this VLOG, he visits people where they work, and asks them questions about what they do. It’s fun seeing where people are from and learning more about them.
This is a weekly conversation between a number of SEOs having discussions, often about marketing and SEO, but sometimes veering off into different topics. It takes inspiration from early days of SEO where conferences such as Pubcon were often meetups in bars, with people sharing stories about what they had been doing. I am one of the hosts, and recently I’ve been joined by Doc Sheldon, Terry van Horne, Zara Altair, and Steve Gerencser.
Hosted by Jacob Stoops and Jeff Louella. They have guests join them from the world of SEO, and they ask them about their origin stories as SEOs. They have added a news section to the show as well,
These shows feature interviews with some really sharp and interesting SEOs and provide details on tips and techniques involving digital marketing and technical SEO.
With David Harry, and Terry van Horne. The Dojo is a center for training and learning SEO. It often includes guests who have been sharing ideas and approaches about SEO for years.
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If I watch a Story cross-posted from Instagram to Facebook on either of the apps, it should appear as “watched” at the back of the Stories row on the other app. Why waste my time showing me Stories I already saw?
It’s been over two years since Instagram Stories launched cross-posting to Stories. Countless hours of each feature’s 500 million daily users have been squandered viewing repeats. Facebook and Messenger already synchronized the watched/unwatched state of Stories. It’s long past time that this was expanded to encompass Instagram.
I asked Facebook and Instagram if it had plans for this. A company spokesperson told me that it built cross-posting to make sharing easier to people’s different audiences on Facebook and Instagram, and it’s continuing to explore ways to simplify and improve Stories. But they gave no indication that Facebook realizes how annoying this is or that a solution is in the works.
The end result if this gets fixed? Users would spend more time watching new content, more creators would feel seen, and Facebook’s choice to jam Stories in all its apps would fee less redundant and invasive. If I send a reply to a Story on one app, I’m not going to send it or something different when I see the same Story on the other app a few minutes or hours later. Repeated content leads to more passive viewing and less interactive communication with friends, despite Facebook and Instagram stressing that its this zombie consumption that’s unhealthy.
The only possible downside to changing this could be fewer Stories ad impressions if secondary viewings of peoples’ best friends’ Stories keep them watching more than new content. But prioritizing making money over the user experience is again what Mark Zuckerberg has emphasized is not Facebook’s strategy.
There’s no need to belabor the point any further. Give us back our time. Stop the reruns.
If robots are to help out in places like hospitals and phone repair shops, they’re going to need a light touch. And what’s lighter than not touching at all? Researchers have created a gripper that uses ultrasonics to suspend an object in midair, potentially making it suitable for the most delicate tasks.
It’s done with an array of tiny speakers that emit sound at very carefully controlled frequencies and volumes. These produce a sort of standing pressure wave that can hold an object up or, if the pressure is coming from multiple directions, hold it in place or move it around.
This kind of “acoustic levitation,” as it’s called, is not exactly new — we see it being used as a trick here and there, but so far there have been no obvious practical applications. Marcel Schuck and his team at ETH Zürich, however, show that a portable such device could easily find a place in processes where tiny objects must be very lightly held.
A small electric component, or a tiny oiled gear or bearing for a watch or micro-robot, for instance, would ideally be held without physical contact, since that contact could impart static or dirt to it. So even when robotic grippers are up to the task, they must be kept clean or isolated. Acoustic manipulation, however, would have significantly less possibility of contamination.
The problem is that it isn’t obvious exactly which combination of frequencies and amplitudes are necessary to suspend a given object in the air. So a large part of this work was developing software that can easily be configured to work with a new object, or programmed to move it in a specific way — rotating, flipping or otherwise moving it at the user’s behest.
A working prototype is complete, but Schuck plans to poll various industries to see whether and how such a device could be useful to them. Watchmaking is of course important in Switzerland, and the parts are both small and sensitive to touch. “Toothed gearwheels, for example, are first coated with lubricant, and then the thickness of this lubricant layer is measured. Even the faintest touch could damage the thin film of lubricant,” he points out in the ETHZ news release.
How would a watchmaker use such a robotic arm? How would a designer of microscopic robots, or a biochemist? The potential is clear, but not necessarily obvious. Fortunately, he has a bit of fellowship cash to spend on the question and hopes to spin it off as a startup next year if his early inquiries bear fruit.
As brands and their marketing departments deploy strategies to capitalize on record ecommerce spending — which soared to $ 586.92 billion in 2019 — new research from leading provider of brand protection solutions, BrandVerity, has brought to light important findings and hidden risks pertaining to the journeys consumers are taking online.
In order to give brands a better understanding of the search experiences their customers are having and how they are impacting brand perception and customer experience, BrandVerity commissioned the “BrandVerity’s Online Consumer Search Trends 2020” research study in Q4 of 2019 to over 1,000 US consumers, balanced against the US population for age, gender, region, and income.
Amongst the many findings, three main themes stood out:
Consumers confused by how search engine results work
Only 37% of consumers understand that search engine results are categorized by a combination of relevance and advertising spend.
The other 63% of consumers believe that Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are categorized by either relevance or spend, or they simply “don’t know.”
Additionally, nearly 1-in-3 consumers (31%) say they don’t believe search engines (e.g. Google) do a good job of labeling which links are ads.
Consumers more included to click on the result that appears first
Without a clear understanding of how search results are served up, consumers are more inclined to click on the result that appears first, believing it to be the most relevant option.
With 54% of consumers saying they trust websites more that appear at the top of the SERP, this isn’t just an assumption.
Consumers feel misled by the website they find in the search engine results
51% of consumers say that when searching for information on a product, they sometimes feel misled by one of the websites in the search results.
An additional 1-in-4 report feeling misled “often” or “always.”
Even further, 25% also say they often end up somewhere unexpected that does not provide them with what they were looking for when clicking on a search result.
“Against a backdrop where consumers have increasingly high expectations of the brands they do business with, and are holding them to equally high standards, companies must ensure that the entirety of the experiences they provide meet customer expectations,” said Dave Naffziger CEO of Brandverity.
“As these findings show, a general uncertainty of how search engines work, combined with the significant occurrence of poor online experiences, mean oversight of paid search programs is more important than ever for brands today.”
The post New study: Majority of consumers are unaware of how search engines work appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Snyk, the company that wants to help developers secure their code as part of the development process, announced a $ 150 million investment today. The company indicated the investment brings its valuation to over $ 1 billion (although it did not share the exact figure).
Today’s round was led by Stripes, a New York City investment firm with help from Coatue, Tiger Global, BoldStart,Trend Forward, Amity and Salesforce Ventures. The company reports it has now raised over $ 250 million.
The idea behind Snyk is to fit security firmly in the development process. Rather than offloading it to a separate team, something that can slow down a continuous development environment, Snyk builds in security as part of the code commit.
The company offers an open source tool that helps developers find open source vulnerabilities when they commit their code to GitHub, Bitbucket, GitLab or any CI/CD tool. It has built up a community of over 400,000 developers with this approach.
Snyk makes money with a container security product, and by making the underlying vulnerability database they use in the open source product available to companies as a commercial product.
CEO Peter McKay, who came on board last year as the company was making a move to expand into the enterprise, says the open source product drives the revenue-producing products and helped attract this kind of investment. “Getting to [today’s] funding round was the momentum in the open source model from the community to freemium to [land] and expand — and that’s where we are today,” he told TechCrunch.
He said that the company wasn’t looking for this money, but investors came knocking and gave them a good offer, based on Snyk’s growing market momentum. “Investors said we want to take advantage of the market, and we want to make sure you can invest the way you want to invest and take advantage of what we all believe is this very large opportunity,” McKay said.
In fact, the company has been raising money at a rapid clip since it came out of the gate in 2016 with a $ 3 million seed round. A $ 7 million Series A and $ 22 million Series B followed in 2018 with a $ 70 million Series C last fall.
The company reports over 4X revenue growth in 2019 (without giving exact revenue figures), and some major customer wins including the likes of Google, Intuit, Nordstrom and Salesforce. It’s worth noting that Salesforce thought enough of the company that it also invested in this round through its Salesforce Ventures investment arm.
Google Ads trademark issues can cause delays to your campaign. This article covers common trademark issues and steps you can take to fix them.
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Facebook spying on teens, Twitter accounts hijacked by terrorists, and sexual abuse imagery found on Bing and Giphy were amongst the ugly truths revealed by TechCrunch’s investigating reporting in 2019. The tech industry needs more watchdogs than ever as its size enlargens the impact of safety failures and the abuse of power. Whether through malice, naivety, or greed, there was plenty of wrongdoing to sniff out.
Led by our security expert Zack Whittaker, TechCrunch undertook more long-form investigations this year to tackle these growing issues. Our coverage of fundraises, product launches, and glamorous exits only tell half the story. As perhaps the biggest and longest running news outlet dedicated to startups (and the giants they become), we’re responsible for keeping these companies honest and pushing for a more ethical and transparent approach to technology.
If you have a tip potentially worthy of an investigation, contact TechCrunch at email@example.com or by using our anonymous tip line’s form.
Here are our top 10 investigations from 2019, and their impact:
Facebook pays teens to spy on their data
Josh Constine’s landmark investigation discovered that Facebook was paying teens and adults $ 20 in gift cards per month to install a VPN that sent Facebook all their sensitive mobile data for market research purposes. The laundry list of problems with Facebook Research included not informing 187,000 users the data would go to Facebook until they signed up for “Project Atlas”, not receiving proper parental consent for over 4300 minors, and threatening legal action if a user spoke publicly about the program. The program also abused Apple’s enterprise certificate program designed only for distribution of employee-only apps within companies to avoid the App Store review process.
The fallout was enormous. Lawmakers wrote angry letters to Facebook. TechCrunch soon discovered a similar market research program from Google called Screenwise Meter that the company promptly shut down. Apple punished both Google and Facebook by shutting down all their employee-only apps for a day, causing office disruptions since Facebookers couldn’t access their shuttle schedule or lunch menu. Facebook tried to claim the program was above board, but finally succumbed to the backlash and shut down Facebook Research and all paid data collection programs for users under 18. Most importantly, the investigation led Facebook to shut down its Onavo app, which offered a VPN but in reality sucked in tons of mobile usage data to figure out which competitors to copy. Onavo helped Facebook realize it should acquire messaging rival WhatsApp for $ 19 billion, and it’s now at the center of anti-trust investigations into the company. TechCrunch’s reporting weakened Facebook’s exploitative market surveillance, pitted tech’s giants against each other, and raised the bar for transparency and ethics in data collection.
Protecting The WannaCry Kill Switch
Zack Whittaker’s profile of the heroes who helped save the internet from the fast-spreading WannaCry ransomware reveals the precarious nature of cybersecurity. The gripping tale documenting Marcus Hutchins’ benevolent work establishing the WannaCry kill switch may have contributed to a judge’s decision to sentence him to just one year of supervised release instead of 10 years in prison for an unrelated charge of creating malware as a teenager.
The dangers of Elon Musk’s tunnel
TechCrunch contributor Mark Harris’ investigation discovered inadequate emergency exits and more problems with Elon Musk’s plan for his Boring Company to build a Washington D.C.-to-Baltimore tunnel. Consulting fire safety and tunnel engineering experts, Harris build a strong case for why state and local governments should be suspicious of technology disrupters cutting corners in public infrastructure.
Bing image search is full of child abuse
Josh Constine’s investigation exposed how Bing’s image search results both showed child sexual abuse imagery, but also suggested search terms to innocent users that would surface this illegal material. A tip led Constine to commission a report by anti-abuse startup AntiToxin (now L1ght), forcing Microsoft to commit to UK regulators that it would make significant changes to stop this from happening. However, a follow-up investigation by the New York Times citing TechCrunch’s report revealed Bing had made little progress.
Expelled despite exculpatory data
Zack Whittaker’s investigation surfaced contradictory evidence in a case of alleged grade tampering by Tufts student Tiffany Filler who was questionably expelled. The article casts significant doubt on the accusations, and that could help the student get a fair shot at future academic or professional endeavors.
Burned by an educational laptop
Natasha Lomas’ chronicle of troubles at educational computer hardware startup pi-top, including a device malfunction that injured a U.S. student. An internal email revealed the student had suffered a “a very nasty finger burn” from a pi-top 3 laptop designed to be disassembled. Reliability issues swelled and layoffs ensued. The report highlights how startups operating in the physical world, especially around sensitive populations like students, must make safety a top priority.
Giphy fails to block child abuse imagery
Sarah Perez and Zack Whittaker teamed up with child protection startup L1ght to expose Giphy’s negligence in blocking sexual abuse imagery. The report revealed how criminals used the site to share illegal imagery, which was then accidentally indexed by search engines. TechCrunch’s investigation demonstrated that it’s not just public tech giants who need to be more vigilant about their content.
Airbnb’s weakness on anti-discrimination
Megan Rose Dickey explored a botched case of discrimination policy enforcement by Airbnb when a blind and deaf traveler’s reservation was cancelled because they have a guide dog. Airbnb tried to just “educate” the host who was accused of discrimination instead of levying any real punishment until Dickey’s reporting pushed it to suspend them for a month. The investigation reveals the lengths Airbnb goes to in order to protect its money-generating hosts, and how policy problems could mar its IPO.
Expired emails let terrorists tweet propaganda
Zack Whittaker discovered that Islamic State propaganda was being spread through hijacked Twitter accounts. His investigation revealed that if the email address associated with a Twitter account expired, attackers could re-register it to gain access and then receive password resets sent from Twitter. The article revealed the savvy but not necessarily sophisticated ways terrorist groups are exploiting big tech’s security shortcomings, and identified a dangerous loophole for all sites to close.
Porn & gambling apps slip past Apple
Josh Constine found dozens of pornography and real-money gambling apps had broken Apple’s rules but avoided App Store review by abusing its enterprise certificate program — many based in China. The report revealed the weak and easily defrauded requirements to receive an enterprise certificate. Seven months later, Apple revealed a spike in porn and gambling app takedown requests from China. The investigation could push Apple to tighten its enterprise certificate policies, and proved the company has plenty of its own problems to handle despite CEO Tim Cook’s frequent jabs at the policies of other tech giants.
Bonus: HQ Trivia employees fired for trying to remove CEO
This Game Of Thrones-worthy tale was too intriguing to leave out, even if the impact was more of a warning to all startup executives. Josh Constine’s look inside gaming startup HQ Trivia revealed a saga of employee revolt in response to its CEO’s ineptitude and inaction as the company nose-dived. Employees who organized a petition to the board to remove the CEO were fired, leading to further talent departures and stagnation. The investigation served to remind startup executives that they are responsible to their employees, who can exert power through collective action or their exodus.
If you have a tip for Josh Constine, you can reach him via encrypted Signal or text at (585)750-5674, joshc at TechCrunch dot com, or through Twitter DMs
French startup Qonto has raised a $ 115 million Series C funding round led by Tencent and DST Global. Today’s news comes a few days after another French fintech startup Lydia raised some money from Tencent.
Existing investors Valar and Alven are also participating in today’s funding round. TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and Adyen CFO Ingo Uytdehaage are also joining the round. Qonto says that it represents the largest funding round for a French fintech company.
Qonto is a challenger bank, or a neobank, but for B2B use cases. Instead of attracting millions of customers like N26 or Monzo, Qonto is serving small and medium companies as well as freelancers in Europe.
According to the startup, business banking in Europe is broken. The company thinks it can provide a much better user experience with an online- and mobile-first product.
The company has managed to attract 65,000 companies over the past two years and a half. The product is currently live in France, Italy, Spain and Germany. In 2019 alone, Qonto has managed €10 billion in transaction volume.
With today’s funding round, the company plans to double down on its existing markets, develop new features that make the platform works better in each country based on local needs and hire more people. The team should grow from 200 to 300 employees within a year.
Qonto obtained a payment institution license in June 2018 and has developed its own core banking infrastructure. Around 50% of the company’s user base is currently using Qonto’s own core banking system. Others are still relying on a third-party partner.
Moving from one back end to another requires some input from customers, which explains why there are still some customers using the legacy infrastructure. Over the coming months, Qonto plans to launch new payment features that should convince more users to switch to Qonto’s back end.
Even more important, Qonto plans to obtain a credit institution license, which could open up a ton of possibilities when it comes to features and revenue streams. The company says that it should have its new license by the end of the year.
For instance, you could imagine being able to get a credit card, apply for an overdraft and get a small loan with Qonto.
Compared to traditional banks, Qonto lets you open a bank account more easily. After signing up, Qonto offers a modern interface with your activity. You can export your transactions in no time, manage your expenses and get real-time notifications. Qonto also integrates with popular accounting tools.
When it comes to payment methods, Qonto gives you a French IBAN as well as debit cards. You can order physical or virtual cards whenever you want, customize limits and freeze a card. Qonto also supports direct debit and checks. Like many software-as-a-service products, you can also manage multiple user accounts and customize permission levels.
The year is still new and running an SME in 2020 isn’t getting any easier. While there’s so much that founders, CEOs, and fellow C-suite need to juggle and struggle with, SEO is yet another running goal added to this list. We caught up with Chris Rodgers, Founder and CEO of Colorado SEO Pros to talk about the conundrum of SEO and SMEs, challenges, trends, user behavior, voice search, and lots more – a chat you can not afford to miss.
SEW: 2020 will see or shall we say, “hear” 50% of search queries in “voice” – How should small and local businesses – make themselves more visible on Google?
Chris Rodgers: Voice search is dramatically changing the way people search for information but not necessarily the information they are seeking. A few years back Google introduced the concept of micro-moments. Google defines a micro-moment as “an intent-rich moment when a person turns to a device to act on a need – to know, go, do, or buy”. These needs have not changed, but what we are seeing is that instead of typing search queries into a device, people are increasingly speaking more conversational queries via voice search… and it’s growing very rapidly.
Getting started with a voice search optimization strategy
As a small business, you need to understand the concept of “micro-moments” and identify the specific needs of your customers in order to create great content that matches search intent. So, if you’re a plumber, you are likely aware of the top questions and problems your customers have. Focus on creating content that meets specific customer needs. This content could be informational, commercial, navigational, or transactional. Creating content that matches user intent will increase the chances of ranking in the top-three results, and as a result, being served in voice search answers.
Last June a study was released that dove deep into voice search ranking factors, and there were some interesting findings.
Chris Rodgers spoke about some of the important ones that you need to be aware of as you formulate an approach to voice search optimization:
- 80% of voice search answers came from the top three organic search results
This means you should continue to focus on ranking in the top three positions of search results, creating high-quality content that matches user intent, and getting relevant and trusted backlinks to your website.
- 70% of all voice search answers were from a SERP feature, most being rich snippets
You should research and understand SERP features, and create a strategy to be featured in rich snippets and in other features where it makes sense.
- A majority of voice search results were from pages that loaded faster than the others
This means you should be paying close attention to page speed. A few tools to help are Google Lighthouse Tools, GT Metrix, and Google Search Console (the GSC tool is still classified as “experimental” by Google).
Three tips to follow for voice search optimization
- Take a more fluid and conversational approach to the content being created, avoid awkward keyword stuffing, and focus more on “topics” versus exact keyword usage. Consider adding related keywords that are relevant to your search terms and topic.
- Include questions and answers in your content and use PAA (people also ask) from Google search results to identify questions. Another tool for topics/questions is “answer the public.” Consider which questions prompt a rich snippet (position zero) in search results and try to provide a better explanation of that keyword search/topic.
- Research types of schema mark-up that can be used on your site and how to implement (there are some WP plugins out there that make it easier). Some types of schema to consider might include local business schema, organizational schema, FAQ schema, Q&A schema, and maybe even review schema. Google has a free structured data testing tool that is useful as well to test your mark-up.
SEW: What do you think were the top challenges for businesses/SMEs in 2019?
Chris Rodgers: Understanding and integrating SEO throughout SME organizations – We often see enterprise organizations with disjointed marketing and operations structure that siloes SEO. This approach limits the success and impact of SEO. We work with some forward-thinking enterprise organizations that are building enterprise SEO strategy across departments. For example, the web development and IT infrastructure group are thinking SEO, but so is the PR group and marketing specialists who influence language, tone, and content strategy.
Communicating the value of SEO and quantifying results for SME stakeholders – While this is true for SEO across most businesses, when we look at small and medium-sized enterprises it is very common. Marketing managers generally have a basic understanding of SEO, but as information goes up to the C-Suite and business owners, much is lost in translation. It is best to focus on a few important SEO KPI’s that are more easily quantified (keyword rankings, organic traffic, landing page organic visits, and conversions). We recommend tracking conversions down to the lead level with sales close data to more effectively calculate and communicate true ROI.
Understanding SEO strategy and processes – Whether we are talking about SME’s, start-ups, or larger enterprise organizations, there is often a fundamental lack of understanding around how SEO works. It is worth doing some research to understand SEO strategy basics and how agencies manage SEO strategy, regardless of whether you are working with an outside vendor or are working with an in-house SEO provider.
SEW: If you were to strongly suggest one platform for small businesses to spend their money and resources on in 2020, which one will it be? – Google SERP, FB, YouTube, Email?
Chris Rodgers: One platform is a poor strategy with too much risk. That being said if I only had one I might choose email marketing (if you have a solid email list). Email can be low cost and high ROI, even though it’s not too sexy and the potential is based on your email list. If you don’t have a well-targeted list, it would definitely be SEO because of the ROI it historically drives.
SEW: You’ve mentioned that you purely practice white hat SEO – What are the most common myths that your clients have had and how have you helped burst them?
Chris Rodgers: There aren’t many SEOs that are 100% white-hat. It’s more of a marketing term used by SEOs. I would not consider us 100% white-hat, because we manage link-building campaigns, which by its very nature is at least partially grey-hat. I guess the biggest myth would be that there are just a handful of factors (or any one “trick”) that make sites rank, and if you use the right strategy you go right to the top (there are hundreds of factors + multiple AI systems).
No one has a buddy at Google that ranks sites. No one person has control over the algorithm, and even more, there are AI systems at play that would likely override any single factor or single person’s influence.
SEW: Consumer search habits you can predict for 2020 and how local businesses can make the most of it.
Chris Rodgers: Voice search will grow in 2020, as will the use of smart speakers & home assistants – Use the resources in this article to create a voice optimization strategy to both create new content and optimize current content. Identify the questions your customers have and perform research on Google (incognito) to confirm. If you ask the question in Google and you are seeing SERP features and PAA (people also ask) questions, you’re probably on the right track. Tools like SEMRush and Answer the Public can provide questions as well.
Video will continue to appear more prevalently in search and drive more traffic – If you don’t currently have a video SEO strategy, it might be time to get started. If you weren’t aware, YouTube is owned by Google and by serving more videos in search results, Google can drive organic users back into their paid eco-system. Video is a different content type, but you can use many of the same topics for video. There are however certain video types like “how-to videos” and “product reviews” that can be particularly popular. Do some searches around the video topic you are considering in YouTube, are there tons of results and views? The goal is to increase engagement on your own site by adding video, as well as driving referral traffic directly from YouTube (the second largest search engine).
Rich snippets and other SERP features will continue to grow in search results – Rich snippets and SERP features are an important part of SEO going into 2020. We have more zero-click searches than ever before, so it’s critical to be there. Rich snippets also play a big role in voice search, so research the various schema types that might be relevant for your business and optimize for them. Use Google’s free structured data testing tool to verify your mark up and make sure it’s done properly.
SEW: Could you tell us about some holiday season trends you observed in 2019 – And what would you have done differently for better results?
Chris Rodgers: People are looking for deals, and with how huge Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become, people expect to find them. I have noticed the sales for Black Friday/Cyber Monday have been extended even more this year. There may be opportunities to capitalize on the expectation for sales and deals continuing through the holiday season. Specifically, look to target search around “sales”, “deals”, “doorbusters”, and more such keywords.
SEW: Word of advice for CEOs regarding SEO 2020
Chris Rodgers: 2020 SEO dos – Focus on trying to understand the customer journey for your products and services, define customer roles and personas, and map keywords based on the intent type of first-page ranking web pages. Use Google incognito to perform target searches and note what content types are ranking. If you see informational blogs dominating search results, that tells you those users are more top of the funnel and looking for information. If you see product/service pages ranking, that tells you those users are more bottom of the funnel and are closer to making a purchase decision. This intent is key to solving users’ problems and ranking higher in search results, so create similar content to what is ranking well for your target keywords.
2020 SEO don’ts – Avoid “all-in-one” marketing agencies when it comes to SEO. There really aren’t any general digital marketing companies that lead the way in SEO. They typically rely on other channels like paid search to do the heavy lifting and shy away from the more challenging and complex SEO issues that really matter. SEO is hard, so find someone that specializes if you are looking to be an SEO leader in your space.
SEO timing in 2020 – On a final note, SEO opportunity shifts over time and as more competitors enter a particular industry, the more challenging it becomes. Get serious about SEO sooner than later. Start small if you must, but don’t wait until you need it to begin. It takes a long time to do well, and the best SEO strategies materialize over the long-term, slowly. Going fast with a bigger budget doesn’t work as well as a long-term, well-managed SEO strategy.
Are there any questions or challenges that your SME is facing/overcoming? Feel free to share them in the comments section.
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