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Monthly Archives: October 2020

How to navigate social media marketing trends

October 6, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Even if you have a small marketing budget, you can still compete with bigger competitors.
  • To navigate social media well, you must hone your social listening and online investigation skills to find out what topics are relevant to your core audience.
  • Success requires embracing trends early with a creative and positive mindset.
  • Arjun Rai details four strategies for learning to navigate the changing social media landscape.

It’s no secret that social media marketing trends change rapidly. You might see a hashtag trending on TikTok before you go to bed, but when you wake up, everyone’s talking about a new hashtag or meme on Twitter. Is it any wonder that small business marketers need a way to confidently navigate social media?

For certain, it can be hard for small companies and startups to put more than a few hundred dollars into a social media marketing strategy. Plus, many entrepreneurs lack the experience and expertise needed to spot hot trends and capitalize on those topics in real-time, unlike big competitors that have unlimited marketing budgets and personnel.

The good news is that developing a successful digital marketing strategy is possible, and it doesn’t have to take grunt work or cost you more than a cup of coffee a day. It simply requires innovation. (In other words, even if you have a small marketing budget, you can still compete with the biggest competitors — #yougotthis.)

Unlocking the secrets of digital marketing

If you spend any time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media platforms, you’ve likely seen how trends bubble up out of nowhere. The possibilities may seem overwhelming, but you can’t afford to wait and see what sticks. You have to jump in and offer relevant content that outshines other chatter before the topic shifts. Agility is the game.

To navigate social media, you must hone your social listening and online investigation skills. Identify where you should start by asking, “What’s going to be pertinent to my core audience?” A good way to find out is to see what your strongest competitor’s social media marketing strategy looks like. Is the company using specific hashtags or emojis? Which posts garnered the most engagement?

No matter what, joining the “First!” crowd (aka early adopters) is a win. This holds true for anything: memes, emoji, hashtags, social platforms, etc. If the trend takes off, you become an early adopter and net more brand awareness. If it fizzles, you learn from the experience and prepare for the next trend. All you need to keep going is creativity and a positive mindset. Plus, the platforms themselves may reward you.

How to navigate social media

Does digital marketing still seem daunting? Here are four strategies you can use as you learn to navigate social media:

1. Spend up to 10% of marketing resources on new social media platforms

Did TikTok sneak up out of nowhere? You might not have noticed its growth signs. Don’t worry; it won’t be the last social media platform to take off.

Start investigating new social media platforms and spend about 5% to 10% of your marketing budget there. Get to know how they work and figure out where your business could fit in. At the same time, devote the rest of your efforts to popular platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. When your “portfolio” is split up like this, you won’t lose too much if a new venture takes a nosedive.

2. Conduct A/B tests with your content

Split test different kinds of copy, hashtags, graphics, videos, and images to see what does well. Once you find what performs the highest, make it 90% of your strategy. You can continue to iterate and experiment with the remaining 10%.

Remember that it’s OK to regurgitate content to a certain degree. Twist existing content into a new angle and reuse other people’s videos and images — just don’t forget to credit the original creator when possible. Memes in particular require very little editing. All you need is a popular format and a pithy caption.

3. Enlist help — real or digital

You can’t spend all your time learning how to increase brand awareness on social media. Find opportunities to crowdsource and automate your digital marketing in order to efficiently keep up with trends.

In his book ‘Traffic Secrets‘, Russell Brunson talks about trying Instagram with his influencer friends. This group approach can lighten your workload. Find partners you can create content and share insights with or consider relying on digital marketing automation tools to help you identify trends and schedule posts.

4. Avoid the “quick win” mentality

Social media trends come and go, but winning the digital marketing game is a long-term goal. It may take months or years for your account to take off, even on a new platform.

So stay positive and keep going. If and when you see significant success, you’ll gain street cred for being an early adopter or a long-term user. Plus, you’ll be in a better position to stay ahead of the curve on trends because of your comfort level with the platform.

Social media has proven to be an excellent equalizer, enabling fledgling companies to compete with larger businesses for followers and engagement. By following these four strategies, you’ll be able to better leverage social media trends this year and find your social stride.

Arjun Rai is the founder and CEO of HelloWoofy, a social media and blog management platform driven by artificial intelligence that helps small businesses (or as he likes to say, “underdog marketeers”) with smart marketing for the digital age. You can find him on Twitter @arjunraime.

The post How to navigate social media marketing trends appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


A Guide For Letting Go of Outdated Google Search Best Practices

October 5, 2020 No Comments

One Sr. Strategist makes the case against the old best practice of hyper-segmented account structures and outlines 11 new best practices for simple accounts.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Twitter will make users remove tweets hoping Trump dies of COVID-19

October 5, 2020 No Comments

President Donald Trump’s positive COVID-19 result has made Twitter a busy place in the past 24 hours, including some tweets that have publicly wished — some subtly and others more directly — that he die from the disease caused by coronavirus.

Twitter put out a reminder to folks that it doesn’t allow tweets that wish or hope for death or serious bodily harm or fatal disease against anyone. Tweets that violate this policy will need to be removed, Twitter said Friday. However, it also clarified that this does not automatically mean suspension. Several news outlets misreported that users would be suspended automatically. Of course, that doesn’t mean users won’t be suspended.

Motherboard reported that users would be suspended, citing a statement from Twitter. That runs slightly counter to Twitter’s public statement on its own platform.

On Thursday evening, Trump tweeted that he and his wife, First Lady Melania Trump, had tested positive for COVID-19. White House physician Sean Conley issued a memo Friday confirming the positive results of SAR-Cov-2 virus, which often is more commonly known as COVID-19. Trump was seen boarding a helicopter Friday evening that was bound for Walter Reed Medical Center for several days of treatment.

The diagnosis sent shares tumbling Friday on the key exchanges, including Nasdaq. The news put downward pressure on all major American indices, but heaviest on tech shares.


Social – TechCrunch


Cooler Screens raises $80M to bring interactive screens into cooler aisles

October 5, 2020 No Comments

Cooler Screens, which replaces the glass doors in store cooler aisles with interactive digital displays, is announcing that it has raised more than $ 80 million in Series C funding.

The startup has now raised more than $ 100 million in funding. The latest round comes from Verizon Ventures (Verizon owns TechCrunch), Microsoft’s M12 venture fund, Great Point Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank and others.

Cooler Screens is led by co-founder and CEO Arsen Avakian, who was previously founder and CEO of Argo Tea. Avakian told me that before starting Argo, he worked at a number of technology companies, including i2 Technologies.

“The joke was, I went from IT to tea, and now I’m back to IT,” he said. He also suggested the startup draws on all of his past experience — while Cooler Screens is a tech company, it also requires an understanding of how to build a consumer brand.

The idea of replacing simple glass doors with electronic displays might seem unnecessary or even annoying, but Avakian said his first priority is “winning consumers’ hearts.”

After all, we’re used to doing as much research as we want before buying a product online, but very little of that information is available in the brick-and-mortar shopping and experience. Avakian said Cooler Screens is changing that: “You could ask the screens, ‘Show me all the vegan items’ or ‘How many calories are in this product?’”

And it’s already available in some stores. After installing screens in 50 Walgreens locations in the Chicago area (where Cooler Screens is based), the startup announced plans to expand to 2,500 Walgreens stores across the United States. Other partners include Kroger and GetGo.

Avakian said he pitches stores on a partnership for “sophisticated digital merchandising and contextual advertising technology.”

Cooler Screens

Image Credits: Cooler Screens

He added, “We can digitize your stores, and as we do that, we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is and show you that the consumers will love us: The NPS scores will be through the [roof]. If we prove all of that to you, we’d love to start bringing into this marketplace the CPG brands that are relevant to consumers in your stores, and now we become the last mile of advertising.”

Avakian said that unlike most forms of digital advertising, Cooler Screens doesn’t gather any personal information about the viewer. Instead, its appeal to advertisers is the fact that it gives them a way to reach consumers “in a safe environment, where they’re in the mindset for shopping.”

Avakian said that since March, the startup has grown from 40  brands advertising on the platform to nearly 150.

Noting that stores like Walgreens and Kroger have been essential for many shoppers during the pandemic, Avakian said, “It’s obvious to everyone that brick-and-mortar retail is here to stay. It just needs to reinvent itself.”


Startups – TechCrunch


Pivoting with SEO: How Wildgoose reinvented itself during the COVID-19 crisis

October 5, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Distinctly’s SEO Manager, Matt Finch provides insight on how the team worked with events company Wildgoose to pivot quickly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • When lockdown began, Wildgoose’s sales and pipeline took an immediate downturn, with a year on year drop in sales of 62% for the month of April.
  • Operational costs were tightened along with evaluations of the marketing and tech spend, and Wildgoose was forced to downsize its workforce by over 50%.
  • The company had to act quickly, having just launched a new website in anticipation of a record-breaking 2020.
  • What were the make or break moments and how did Wildgoose turn around the situation? Let’s find out, we hope you’re ready to make notes.

Matt Finch, SEO Manager at Distinctly, provides insight on how the team worked with events company Wildgoose to pivot quickly in the face of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Founded in 2003, Wildgoose is a global leader in corporate events and team building, winning numerous awards for the thousands of experiences it delivers across the world annually. When lockdown began, Wildgoose’s sales and pipeline took an immediate downturn, with a year on year drop in sales of 62% for the month of April.

Operational costs were tightened along with evaluations of the marketing and tech spend, and Wildgoose was forced to downsize its workforce by over 50%. The company had to act quickly, having just launched a new website in anticipation of a record-breaking 2020.

A swift decision was made to repurpose Wildgoose’s offering into a set of remote team building activities to connect people virtually. This pivot would ultimately prove not only to protect the company’s immediate future but to help it thrive, and was backed up by an SEO campaign from Distinctly with three-month areas of focus in place.

What focus areas were targeted?

  • Using SEO experience to predict changing search keyphrases after lockdown for queries at the top of the conversion funnel – weekly analysis using specialist SEO tools to tweak the optimization and hone phrases towards the key converting audience.
  • Focus link building activity to build the authority and organic visibility of the brand new remote team building pages.
  • Driving product awareness through an expert comment from Wildgoose founder Jonny Edser talking around the new products.

What was achieved?

The move has led to an overall increase in organic traffic of 56% and a sales increase of 158%, since the company’s lowest point in April. In addition:

  • 40 backlinks returned from relevant HR and business publications via linkable asset press release promotion.
  • Features in Forbes, the Chartered Management Institute, and Thisismoney.co.uk.
  • Wildgoose has seen a huge spike in demand for its virtual events, with recent web traffic figures up by 54% YoY and website conversions up 158% YoY in the 3 months since launch.
  • The same is happening with total revenue figures, with an increase of 180% in gross profit from April to May and 26% from May to June.
  • The website is now ranking in the top three search results for key traffic-driving queries including “virtual team building uk”, “virtual away day”, “virtual treasure hunts”, “virtual team quiz”, “remote team building solutions”, “team quizzes for work” and “virtual team escape room”.
  • The virtual team building products received excellent reviews and an average rating of 5* on TrustPilot. This is particularly crucial when encouraging people to enquire about a new product.

How it was done: Rethinking Wildgoose’s business model

Within days of the main revenue drivers effectively disappearing, Wildgoose founder Jonny Edser and the team were working on a way to secure the future of the business. The solution they came up with meant they could not only reshape their existing offering but take advantage of the sudden upswing in demand for virtual communication during the lockdown.

Jonny Edser says,

“By working proactively to deliver a brand new portfolio of remote team building activities that could be used to motivate employees while they worked from home, we could successfully evolve in this new socially-distanced world. At the same time, we could help thousands of companies to keep their teams engaged and connected during an uncertain and challenging period.

Having invested heavily in industry-leading technology in the years prior – and incorporated a new tech division in 2019 – we found that Wildgoose had a real headstart on competitors in the market who were all trying to switch their team building offering to something more technology-based.”

Using SEO for a successful launch

Before coronavirus, Wildgoose wasn’t ranking in the search results for any queries relating to “remote”, “virtual”, or “online”. With the business model shifting, search visibility needed to follow suit, so this needed to change as soon as possible. Wildgoose’s new products were one of the first to market, but they needed to be put in front of the right people.

Matt Finch, SEO Manager at Distinctly, says,

“The speed at which the market was evolving made traditional SEO more challenging than usual. We were (and still are) tweaking the optimization of the key Wildgoose pages a couple of times per week, as new data keeps showing up in Search Console . digital PR promotion of the new Wildgoose products were identified as key targets.”

Keyphrase and content optimization

People’s searching habits have changed since lockdown set in, so traditional keyword research has had to change with it. Instead:

  • Distinctly set about ‘guesstimating’ what people might be looking for, optimizing the key product pages for short-tail keywords and ‘top of the conversion funnel’ queries.
  • Once these started ranking, Google Search Console could then be used to see exactly what search terms were bringing users to Wildgoose’s product pages.
  • The pages could then be better optimized around these terms, becoming more targeted.
  • This was checked multiple times per week, representing the extraordinary circumstances (normally it would be once a month to once a quarter for websites in stable verticals).
  • This meant that new product and hub pages could rank highly for people’s new search queries. Rather than targeting “team building activities”, the site could now target and rank for specific, long-tail keywords like “remote team building solutions”, “virtual team building for employees working remotely”, “virtual away days” and more.
  • Speed was of the essence in the race to get ranking, as not many sites were originally targeting these queries.

Digital PR and link building

Wildgoose’s unusual experience of redesigning its business offering meant there were unique data and content that could be used in relevant publications to promote the new products. A survey into people’s experiences of remote working secured coverage and backlinks in over 40 HR and business publications, allowing links and authority to be built into the new product and category pages, aiding ranking chances.

An effective internal linking structure was also utilized, meaning pre-existing powerful pages were funneling authority to the new pages to boost them further.

MD Jonny Edser was promoted as an expert in the field of virtual team building, leading to features in Forbes, the Chartered Management Institute, and Thisismoney.co.uk. All of this combined to show Google that Wildgoose was leading the way in the field, and so deserved to rank highly for its new target keywords and queries.

Turning Wildgoose’s fortunes around

Wildgoose is now firmly focussed on the future, with a renewed energy around product development and new gameplay formats. The company is streamlining its sales and operational processes and scaling its business model based on updated forecasts for the months ahead. Expect to see more traditional team building activities made virtual over the coming months.

Matt Finch is SEO Manager at Distinctly, an award-winning search marketing agency.

The post Pivoting with SEO: How Wildgoose reinvented itself during the COVID-19 crisis appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Three uncommon on-page SEO analysis techniques (That move the needle)

October 3, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • On-page SEO is one of the most effective ways to boost your organic search engine rankings, improve your website’s user experience (UX) offerings, and grow your business consistently.
  • But, without understanding your audience and measuring your results, how can you make changes or create strategies that actually make a difference? In short, you can’t.
  • To help you enhance your search engine optimization activities and grow your business, here we explore three uncommon on-page SEO analysis techniques, complete with examples, that you should use to your advantage.

With so many on-page elements to optimize, knowing where to start and what to prioritize can seem impossible. But don’t worry, because we’re going to show you three unique on-page SEO analysis techniques, as well as the exact tools we use at Bubblegum Search, to make the entire process easy and effective in equal measures.

Once you’ve got the insights and discoveries gained from these practical on-page analysis techniques, we’re confident you will earn higher engagement, increased rankings, and more conversions.

Disclaimer before we get started, we’d just like to say that we’re not affiliated with any of the tools mentioned in this guide—they’re platforms we find helpful for on-page SEO analysis techniques and other great alternatives likely exist too.

1. Improved UX content and functionality

Studies show that just one dollar invested in user experience (UX) offers an average return on investment (ROI) of $ 100 ( that equates to an ROI rate of 9,900%).

By making enhancements to the usability of your website pages, you will create a frictionless user experience.  If you understand your users’ intent through analysis and research, you will ensure the messaging, design elements, and layout of your webpage provide an answer to a specific question. 

In doing so, you’ll simplify the user experience by guiding the visitor through their journey, helping them to achieve their goal. Let’s look at our example:

To test specific performance and functionality-based elements of your web or landing pages, the Unbounce Landing Page Analyzer is a powerful tool:

On-page SEO analysis techniques - Unbounce landing page analyzer

By entering a specific URL and outlining your page’s target key terms, Unbounce’s intuitive algorithm will provide a report that offers an overall page score while drilling down into relevant UX-centric elements.

In addition to page speed performance, content relevance, and trust & security ratings, Unbounce’s on-page analyzer tool offers a score on Message Match.  

When it comes to SEO, content really is king. If your on-page copy is rich, engaging, and fulfills its promise, you will increase your chances of ranking well for relevant search terms exponentially.

As Unbounce quantifies all of these essential UX and performance-based elements, you can benefit from a clear-cut snapshot of the elements that are currently working well and what needs improvement.

As you can see from the example, the overall page score of 78% suggests that the Bubblegum Search homepage is well optimized for UX and SEO. The report also shows that while trust and Message Match is at 100%, the page could benefit from improved conversion-centric design.

In addition to these invaluable insights, Unbounce’s page report also provides a color-coded priority list of detailed actions to help optimize overall page performance

on-page SEO analysis techniques - Unbounce site analysis

These data-driven insights are based on specific tactics and strategies you can use, designed to make your web pages more engaging, more functional, and as a result, optimized for improved SEO performance.

2. Multimedia and content enhancement

Not only does inspiring, value-driven content drive engagement but it also helps in creating a healthy, SEO-boosting backlink profile.

Compelling copy, eye-catching imagery, videos, and well-designed on-page multimedia content make powerful on-page SEO boosting assets.  

One of the most effective methods of analyzing the success of your on-page content, in terms of user engagement, is through heat mapping.

Heatmaps are essentially interactive data visualization tools that provide practical insight into how your website visitors interact with your web page and the content contained within it.

With heat mapping, you can learn about user intent and ultimately understand how to optimize your webpage content better for maximum SEO success.

On-page SEO analysis techniques - Heat mapping

From the Mouseflow heatmap (screenshot above), you can gain a definitive snapshot of where users are focusing their attention, scrolling, and clicking when engaging with any of your pages. 

By focusing on click and scroll rates, you can see the percentage of visitors that drop off before ever seeing the curtain content lower down on the page.

If the content further down the page earns a lot of clicks or attention but a low percentage of views, positioning this copy higher up the page, for example, will help offer more value, increase user satisfaction, and boost dwell time, enhancing the overall performance of the content as a result.

When it comes to understanding the value and relevance of your on-page content, heat mapping is invaluable—and an Onpage SEO analysis technique worth your time and investment.

3. Mobile-first design optimization

We live in a time where there are more smartphones on the planet than humans

To succeed in today’s world, adopting a mobile-first approach is essential—and if you fail to optimize your website’s content for tablets and smartphones, your SEO rankings will suffer.

While many CMS’ like WordPress optimize your website content for the mobile experience relatively swiftly and simply, not every platform optimizes web pages for every screen size. 

And, by making sure that every aspect of your website is 100% optimized for mobile, you will boost your Mobile SEO rankings while driving more organic traffic to your website.

 

To understand the specific actions you must take to optimize your on-page content for mobile devices, analytical tools like Window Resizer (a Chrome extension that will help you get your screen resolutions just right) and WooRank will perform audits and provide data on the specific elements of your website that need changing to enhance your content, functionality, and user experience or fix existing errors, which include:

  • Mobile-only 404 links
  • Design elements and images that don’t fit the screen
  • Unplayable multimedia content
  • Poorly formatted text
  • Blocked JavaScript, CSS, and image files
  • Slow loading times

While an experienced web developer will carry out many of the responsive design-based improvements and fix any technical errors, by using mobile optimization analysis software, you can pinpoint any issues on mobile or tablet and work with them collaboratively to ensure the best possible outcome.

Bonus

To achieve complete mobile optimization success, check out our mobile SEO audit checklist.

By exploring these on-page SEO analysis techniques, you will connect with actionable metrics, data, and insights that will make your online offerings more engaging, boosting your brand authority and improving your organic search rankings in the process.

Invest in on-page SEO analysis techniques and you will remain relevant, adaptable, and visible in a digital landscape that is ever-changing. Don’t get left behind—the time to act is now.

Do you have any practical Onpage SEO tips of your own? Please share them with us by leaving a comment below.

Matt Cayless is an SEO Consultant at Bubblegum Search. He is an expert in Search Engine Optimisation having worked on campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands and has a passion for helping SMEs grow online. When he’s not chasing the Google algorithm he can be found training for his next marathon. You can find him on Linkedin.

The post Three uncommon on-page SEO analysis techniques (That move the needle) appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


My Country’s Leader Got Covid, Too. It Sucked

October 3, 2020 No Comments

First you’ll ask yourself feverish, dead-end questions about the nature of sympathy—and then it gets much worse.
Feed: All Latest


Featured Snippet Answer Scores Ranking Signals

October 3, 2020 No Comments

Calculating Featured Snippet Answer Scores

An update this week to a patent tells us how Google may score featured snippet answers.

When a search engine ranks search results in response to a query, it may use a combination of query dependant and query independent ranking signals to determine those rankings.

A query dependant signal may depend on a term in a query, and how relevant a search result may be for that query term. A query independent signal would depend on something other than the terms in a query, such as the quality and quantity of links pointing to a result.

Answers to questions in queries may be ranked based on a combination of query dependant and query independent signals, which could determine a featured snippet answer score. An updated patent about textual answer passages tells us about how those may be combined to generate featured snippet answer scores to choose from answers to questions that appear in queries.

A year and a half ago, I wrote about answers to featured snippets in the post Does Google Use Schema to Write Answer Passages for Featured Snippets?. The patent that the post was about was Candidate answer passages, which was originally filed on August 12, 2015, and was granted as a continuation patent on January 15, 2019.

That patent was a continuation patent to an original one about answer passages that updated it by telling us that Google would look for textual answers to questions that had structured data near them that included related facts. This could have been something like a data table or possibly even schema markup. This meant that Google could provide a text-based answer to a question and include many related facts for that answer.

Another continuation version of the first version of the patent was just granted this week. It provides more information and a different approach to ranking answers for featured snippets and it is worth comparing the claims in these two versions of the patent to see how those are different from Google.

The new version of the featured snippet answer scores patent is at:

Scoring candidate answer passages
Inventors: Steven D. Baker, Srinivasan Venkatachary, Robert Andrew Brennan, Per Bjornsson, Yi Liu, Hadar Shemtov, Massimiliano Ciaramita, and Ioannis Tsochantaridis
Assignee: Google LLC
US Patent: 10,783,156
Granted: September 22, 2020
Filed: February 22, 2018

Abstract

Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for scoring candidate answer passages. In one aspect, a method includes receiving a query determined to be a question query that seeks an answer response and data identifying resources determined to be responsive to the query; for a subset of the resources: receiving candidate answer passages; determining, for each candidate answer passage, a query term match score that is a measure of similarity of the query terms to the candidate answer passage; determining, for each candidate answer passage, an answer term match score that is a measure of similarity of answer terms to the candidate answer passage; determining, for each candidate answer passage, a query dependent score based on the query term match score and the answer term match score; and generating an answer score that is a based on the query dependent score.

featured snippet answer scores

Candidate Answer Passages Claims Updated

There are changes to the patent that require more analysis of potential answers, based on both query dependant and query independent scores for potential answers to questions. The patent description does provide details about query dependant and query independent scores. The first claim from the first patent covers query dependant scores for answers, but not query independent scores as the newest version does. It provides more details about both query dependant scores and query independent scores in the rest of the claims, but the newer version seems to make both query dependant and query independent scores more important.

The first claim from the 2015 version of the Scoring Answer Passages patent tells us:

1. A method performed by data processing apparatus, the method comprising: receiving a query determined to be a question query that seeks an answer response and data identifying resources determined to be responsive to the query and ordered according to a ranking, the query having query terms; for each resource in a top-ranked subset of the resources: receiving candidate answer passages, each candidate answer passage selected from passage units from content of the resource and being eligible to be provided as an answer passage with search results that identify the resources determined to be responsive to the query and being separate and distinct from the search results; determining, for each candidate answer passage, a query term match score that is a measure of similarity of the query terms to the candidate answer passage; determining, for each candidate answer passage, an answer term match score that is a measure of similarity of answer terms to the candidate answer passage; determining, for each candidate answer passage, a query dependent score based on the query term match score and the answer term match score; and generating an answer score that is a measure of answer quality for the answer response for the candidate answer passage based on the query dependent score.

The remainder of the claims tell us about both query dependant and query independent scores for answers, but the claims from the newer version of the patent appear to place as much importance on the query dependant and the query independent scores for answers. That convinced me that I should revisit this patent in a post and describe how Google may calculate answer scores based on query dependant and query independent scores.

The first claims in the new patent tell us:

1. A method performed by data processing apparatus, the method comprising: receiving a query determined to be a question query that seeks an answer response and data identifying resources determined to be responsive to the query and ordered according to a ranking, the query having query terms; for each resource in a top-ranked subset of the resources: receiving candidate answer passages, each candidate answer passage selected from passage units from content of the resource and being eligible to be provided as an answer passage with search results that identify the resources determined to be responsive to the query and being separate and distinct from the search results; determining, for each candidate answer passage, a query dependent score that is proportional to a number of instances of matches of query terms to terms of the candidate answer passage; determining, for each candidate answer passage, a query independent score for the candidate answer passage, wherein the query independent score is independent of the query and query dependent score and based on features of the candidate answer passage; and generating an answer score that is a measure of answer quality for the answer response for the candidate answer passage based on the query dependent score and the query independent score.

As it says in this new claim, the answer score has gone from being “a measure of answer quality for the answer response for the candidate answer passage based on the query dependent score” (from the first patent) to “a measure of answer quality for the answer response for the candidate answer passage based on the query dependent score and the query independent score” (from this newer version of the patent.)

This drawing is from both versions of the patent, but it shows the query dependant and query independent scores both playing an important role in calculating featured snippet answer scores:

query dependent & query independent answers combine

Query Dependant and Query Independent Scores for Featured Snippet Answer Scores

Both versions of the patent tell us about how a query dependant score and a query independent score for an answer might be calculated. The first version of the patent only told us in its claims that an answer score used the query dependant score, and this newer version tells us that both the query dependant and the query independent scores are combined to calculate an answer score (to decide which answer is the best choice of an answer for a query.)

Before the patent discusses how Query Dependant and Query Independent signals might be used to create an answer score, it does tell us this about the answer score:

The answer passage scorer receives candidate answer passages from the answer passage generator and scores each passage by combining scoring signals that predict how likely the passage is to answer the question.

In some implementations, the answer passage scorer includes a query dependent scorer and a query independent scorer that respectively generate a query dependent score and a query independent score. In some implementations, the query dependent scorer generates the query dependent score based on an answer term match score and a query term match score.

Query Dependant Scoring for Featured Snippet Answer Scores

Query Dependent Scoring of answer passages is based on answer term features.

An answer term match score is a measure of similarity of answer terms to terms in a candidate answer passage.

The answer-seeking queries do not describe what a searcher is looking for since the answer is unknown to the searcher at the time of a search.

The query dependent scorer begins by finding a set of likely answer terms and compares the set of likely answer terms to a candidate answer passage to generate an answer term match score. The set of likely answer terms is likely taken from the top N ranked results returned for a query.

The process creates a list of terms from terms that are included in the top-ranked subset of results for a query. The patent tells us that each result is parsed and each term is included in a term vector. Stop words may be omitted from the term vector.

For each term in the list of terms, a term weight may be generated for the term. The term weight for each term may be based on many results in the top-ranked subset of results in which the term occurs multiplied by an inverse document frequency (IDF) value for the term. The IDF value may be derived from a large corpus of documents and provided to the query dependent scorer. Or the IDF may be derived from the top N documents in the returned results. The patent tells us that other appropriate term weighting techniques can also be used.

The scoring process for each term of the candidate answer passage determines several times the term occurs in the candidate answer passage. So, if the term “apogee” occurs two times in a candidate answer passage, the term value for “apogee” for that candidate answer passage is 2. However, if the same term occurs three times in a different candidate answer passage, then the term value for “apogee” for the different candidate answer passage is 3.

The scoring process, for each term of the candidate answer passage, multiplies its term weight by the number of times the term occurs in the answer passage. So, assume the term weight for “apogee” is 0.04. For the first candidate answer passage, the value based on “apogee” is 0.08 (0.08.times.2); for the second candidate answer passage, the value based on “apogee” is 0.12 (0.04.times.3).

Other answer term features can also be used to determine an answer term score. For example, the query dependent scorer may determine an entity type for an answer response to the question query. The entity type may be determined by identifying terms that identify entities, such as persons, places, or things, and selecting the terms with the highest term scores. The entity time may also be identified from the query (e.g., for the query [who is the fastest man]), the entity type for an answer is “man.” For each candidate answer passage, the query dependent scorer then identifies entities described in the candidate answer passage. If the entities do not include a match to the identified entity type, the answer term match score for the candidate answer passage is reduced.

Assume the following candidate passage answer is provided for scoring in response to the query [who is the fastest man]: Olympic sprinters have often set world records for sprinting events during the Olympics. The most popular sprinting event is the 100-meter dash.

The query dependent scorer will identify several entities–Olympics, sprinters, etc.–but none of them are of the type “man.” The term “sprinter” is gender-neutral. Accordingly, the answer term score will be reduced. The score may be a binary score, e.g., 1 for the presence of the term of the entity type, and 0 for an absence of the term of the correct type; alternatively may be a likelihood that is a measure of the likelihood that the correct term is in the candidate answer passage. An appropriate scoring technique can be used to generate the score.

Query Independant Scoring for Featured Snippet Answer Scores

Scoring answer passages according to query independent features.

Candidate answer passages may be generated from the top N ranked resources identified for a search in response to a query. N may be the same number as the number of search results returned on the first page of search results.

The scoring process can use a passage unit position score. This passage unit position could be the location of a result that a candidate answer passage comes from. The higher the location results in a higher score.

The scoring process may use a language model score. The language model score generates a score based on candidate answer passages conforming to a language model.

One type of language model is based on sentence and grammar structures. This could mean that candidate answer passages with partial sentences may have lower scores than candidate answer passages with complete sentences. The patent also tells us that if structured content is included in the candidate answer passage, the structured content is not subject to language model scoring. For instance, a row from a table may have a very low language model score but may be very informative.

Another language model that may be used considers whether text from a candidate answer passage appears similar to answer text in general.

A query independent scorer accesses a language model of historical answer passages, where the historical answer passages are answer passages that have been served for all queries. Answer passages that have been served generally have a similar n-gram structure, since answer passages tend to include explanatory and declarative statements. A query independent score could use a tri-gram model to compares trigrams of the candidate answer passage to the tri-grams of the historical answer passages. A higher-quality candidate answer passage will typically have more tri-gram matches to the historical answer passages than a lower quality candidate answer passage.

Another step involves a section boundary score. A candidate answer passage could be penalized if it includes text that passes formatting boundaries, such as paragraphs and section breaks, for example.

The scoring process determines an interrogative score. The query independent scorer searches the candidate answer passage for interrogative terms. A potential answer passage that includes a question or question term, e.g., “How far is away is the moon from the Earth?” is generally not as helpful to a searcher looking for an answer as a candidate answer passage that only includes declarative statements, e.g., “The moon is approximately 238,900 miles from the Earth.”

The scoring process also determines discourse boundary term position scores. A discourse boundary term is one that introduces a statement or idea contrary to or modification of a statement or idea that has just been made. For example, “conversely,” “however,” “on the other hand,” and so on.

A candidate answer passage beginning with such a term receives a relatively low discourse boundary term position score, which lowers the answer score.

A candidate answer passage that includes but does not begin with such a term receives a higher discourse boundary term position score than it would if it began with the term.

A candidate answer passage that does not include such a term receives a high discourse boundary term position score.

The scoring process determines result scores for results from which the candidate answer passage was created. These could include a ranking score, a reputation score, and site quality score. The higher these scores are, the higher the answer score will be.

A ranking score is based on the ranking score of the result from which the candidate answer passage was created. It can be the search score of the result for the query and will be applied to all candidate answer passages from that result.

A reputation score of the result indicates the trustworthiness and/or likelihood that that subject matter of the resource serves the query well.

A site quality score indicates a measure of the quality of a web site that hosts the result from which the candidate answer passage was created.

Component query independent scores described above may be combined in several ways to determine the query independent score. They could be summed; multiplied together; or combined in other ways.


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Oracle’s TikTok and Zoom deals won’t move cloud market share needle significantly

October 3, 2020 No Comments

While the overall cloud infrastructure market is booming having reached $ 30 billion last quarter worldwide, Oracle is struggling with market share in the low single digits. It is hoping that the Zoom and TikTok deals can jump start those numbers, but trying to catch the market leaders Amazon, Microsoft and Google, never mind several other companies ahead of it, is going to take a lot more than a couple of brand name customers.

By now, you know Oracle and TikTok were joined together in unholy acquisition matrimony last month in the acquisition equivalent of a shotgun wedding. In spite of that, Oracle founder and chief technology officer Larry Ellison gushed in a September 19 press release about how TikTok had “chosen” his company’s cloud infrastructure service. The statement also indicated that this “choice” was influenced by Zoom’s decision to move some percentage of its workloads to Oracle’s infrastructure cloud earlier this year.

The mechanics of the TikTok deal aside, the question is how big an effect will these two customers have on the company’s overall cloud infrastructure market share. We asked a couple of firms who closely watch all things cloud.

John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research Group, wasn’t terribly optimistic that they would have much material impact on moving the market share needle for the database giant. “Oracle’s cloud infrastructure services growth has been consistently below overall IaaS and PaaS market growth rates so its market share has [actually] been nudging downward. Zoom may be a good win but it is unlikely to move the needle too much — and remember Zoom also buys cloud services from AWS,” Dinsdale told TechCrunch.

As for TikTok, Dinsdale, like the rest of us, wasn’t clear how that deal would ultimately play out, but he says even with both companies in the fold, it wasn’t going to shift market share as much as Oracle might hope. “Hypothetically, even if Zoom/TikTok helped Oracle increase its cloud infrastructure service revenues 50% over 12 months, which would be a real stretch, its market share would still be nearer to 2% than 3%. This compares with Google at 9%, Microsoft 18% and AWS 33%,” Dinsdale said.

He did point out that the company’s SaaS business is much stronger. “Broadening the scope a little to other cloud services, Oracle’s SaaS growth is running roughly in line with overall market SaaS market growth so market share is steady. Oracle’s share of the total enterprise SaaS market is running at around 6%, though if you drill down to the ERP segment it is obviously doing much better than that,” he said.

Canalys, another firm that follows the cloud infrastructure market says their numbers tell a similar story for Oracle. While it’s doing well in Saas with 7.8% market share, it’s struggling in IaaS/PaaS.

“For IaaS/PaaS, Oracle Cloud is at 1.9% for Q2 2020 and that isn’t moving much. The top three providers are AWS, Azure and Google Cloud, who have 30.8%, 20.2% and 6.2% respectively,” Blake Murray from Canalys told TechCrunch.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Google hired Diane Greene five years ago with the hope of accelerating its cloud infrastructure business. Former Oracle exec Thomas Kurian replaced her two years ago and the company’s market share still hasn’t reached double digits in spite of a period of big overall market growth, showing how much of a challenge it is to move the needle in a significant way.

Another big company, IBM bought Red Hat two years ago for $ 34 billion with an eye toward improving its cloud business, and while Red Hat has continued to do well, it does not seem to have much impact on the company’s overall cloud infrastructure market share, which has been superseded by Alibaba in fourth place, according to Synergy’s numbers. Both companies are in the single digits.

Synergy Research Q2 2020 cloud infrastructure market share graphs

Image Credits: Synergy Research

All that means, even with these two clients, the company still has a long way to go to be relevant in the cloud infrastructure arena in the near term. What’s unknown is if this new business will help act as lures for other new business over time, but for now it’s going to take a lot more than a couple of good deals to be relevant — and as Google and IBM have demonstrated, it’s extremely challenging to gain chunks of market share.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Leveling the playing field: Ahrefs’ free product to help content creators compete in Google

October 3, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google antitrust, the market cases you need to know.
  • Google’s featured snippets do not payback content creators.
  • How to make content discoverable — no matter the marketing budget.
  • Tim Suolo, Ahrefs’ Chief Marketing Officer explains how they intend to level the playing field for smaller players.

While Google faces lawmakers with antitrust cases, it continues making billions from search result ads. Big players invest heavily in professional SEO tools and expertise to help get their content found in Google. Small businesses, nonprofits, and educational institutions struggle to get the organic traffic that their websites deserve. Today Ahrefs, an SEO toolset for digital marketers, releases a new free product – Ahrefs Webmaster Tools – to make SEO more accessible for website owners and help improve the discoverability of valuable content in Google.

Google’s antitrust case: What you need To know

Google faces antitrust issues for its dominance in web search, digital advertising, and smartphone software. Making $ 160 billion per year from ads in their search results, Google leaves online businesses struggling to get the free organic traffic that their websites deserve.

Travel antitrust crackdown of 2019

In 2019, Expedia Group Inc. saw its biggest revenue drop for 14 years, and TripAdvisor Inc. for two years. This is largely thanks to Google inserting its “Flights” feature into the search results for relevant travel queries.

Ahrefs example of Google's antitrust case

Back to 2016: Warner’s staff reduction

In 2008, Brian Warner launched CelebrityNetWorth.com to detail celebrity financial information. He hired a team of 10+ people to research the data, maintain its accuracy, and publish the investigations.

In 2016, a Google representative contacted Warner for permission to scrape his data. Warner declined but found his data in Google’s freshly-launched “Featured snippets” nonetheless. As a result, CelebrityNetWorth.com’s traffic dipped 65% within a month. This led Warner to cut staff by half.

SERP features scrape your content with no payback

Google’s featured snippets aim to answer a user’s query instantly. Since users get their answers directly from the search engine, they no longer have to click through to pages. However, these features pose a problem for businesses that invest heavily in their content.

SERPs scrape your content without any return

Google produces no content of its own. The answers for the SERP features come from existing content on websites, like Wikipedia. Google conveniently takes content from publishers and other websites and uses it in their SERP features.

In 2019, Rand Fishkin published the study confirming that less than half of Google searches now result in a click. This is a problem for content creators as they lose out on traffic from Google and, therefore, potential sales.

Budget is no longer crucial: Quality content will be found

Big players invest vast budgets in professional SEO tools and expertise to dominate organic search, making it difficult for small and medium businesses to compete in search results.

Omid Ghiam, Content Marketing Manager at Webflow said,

“In an ideal world, great content would show up at the top of search results. In reality, the lack of basic SEO knowledge makes the quality content unheard.”

To level the playing field for content creators, Ahrefs releases a free product – Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

The initiative aims to improve the discoverability of valuable content from nonprofits, educational institutions, small businesses, and others who can’t yet afford to hire SEO specialists or invest in professional SEO tools. Dmitry Gerasimenko, CEO and Founder of Ahrefs explains,

“Our goal is to facilitate the infrastructure of the free and independent web, where everyone has an equal opportunity at getting discovered online. The competitive advantage should lie in the utility and quality of the information you produce, not in the knowledge of optimizing it for search engines.”

How does Ahrefs webmaster tools work?

A completely free SEO tool, Ahrefs Webmaster Tool (AWT) allows website owners to get deep and actionable insights to improve their website’s performance in search.

AWT scans any verified website for 100+ technical issues that might hinder its search performance, highlights what they are, and explains how to fix them.

It also shows website owners their backlinks, most linked pages, keyword rankings, and estimated monthly organic search traffic.

To get started, all users need to do is sign up. Then, upon registering for a free account, users will need to add and verify ownership of their website(s) via Google Search Console.

Ahrefs new webmaster tool to help content creators fight in the Google SERPs

Once done, users get access to two tools: Site Audit and Site Explorer.

Site Audit lets users scan their website(s) for 100+ SEO issues that could be hurting their performance in organic search. It also shows a breakdown of the most critical issues, how to fix them, and the affected URLs.

Ahrefs site audit report

Site Explorer shows website owners important SEO data, including their backlinks, keyword rankings, most linked pages, and more.

This data will help make better SEO and marketing decisions.

“Great content always needs to be the starting point. However, any result beyond the first page won’t get found. Through our current SEO strategy, we’ve seen traffic increases up to 62%, and Ahrefs’ toolset has been a key part of that,” says Fergus Taylor, an SEO specialist at Typeform.

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools provides website owners with the data and insights they need to outrank big players with deep pockets for free.

Tim Soulo is Chief Marketing Officer at Ahrefs. He can be found on Twitter @timsoulo.

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