Monthly Archives: January 2021
- PPC advertising is a highly effective way to drive targeted prospects to websites, sales pages, or blogs.
- Even though PPC can take up some parts of your budget, there are important benefits attached to this practice.
- Did you know, 92% of all keywords that people type into search engines are long tails?
- This article gives you a brief on the benefits of having a PPC strategy, must-haves for PPC advertising through Google Adwords, elements of attractive and effective PPC Ads, and more on optimizing your Google Adwords PPC strategy.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is an important component of online marketing. Specific strategies can be used by advertisers to maximize the return from their PPC marketing. PPC advertising is a highly effective way to drive targeted prospects to websites, sales pages, or blogs. Digital marketers can choose between Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, or Bing Ads. However, most online marketers prefer using Google AdWords for their PPC strategy since it displays their ads on Google SERPs.
A. Benefits of Google Ads PPC advertising
Though PPC marketing costs money, it has five important benefits:
1. Convenience and speed
Advertisers can set up their PPC ad campaigns easily and quickly. They can use PPC ads to target their prospects with precision and get results almost immediately. According to Neil Patel, SEO expert and co-founder of both Crazy Egg and Hello Bar:
“With PPC, you can drive visitors to your website in hours, not months”
Ad text, keywords, and other elements of PPC ads can be constantly tweaked to optimize and so maximize their effectiveness.
Google Adwords charges advertisers only when there are clicks on their ads and not merely when ads are displayed.
4. Budget flexibility
Advertisers can decide on the budget of their PPC campaign since Google Adwords does not have any minimum spending limits. For instance, they can set a maximum daily budget of twenty dollars and a maximum cost of twenty cents for each click on their ad, which they can change whenever they want.
With a PPC campaign, digital marketers can easily predict the number of their visitors based on how much they spend. The search engine algorithm is less of a factor. In one of his PPC related articles, Neil Patel stated,
“Spend more, get more visitors. If you want exactly 10,000 visitors, you can get exactly 10,000 visitors”,
Despite all these benefits of Google Ads PPC advertising, first-time digital marketers should be attentive as they may lose a lot on their invested money if they ever fail to properly set up their PPC marketing campaigns.
B. Preparation before starting a Google Ads PPC campaign
The first thing new marketers should do is to read thoroughly the Google Adwords Getting Started Guide, which has a large amount of useful information. Next, they should use the Google Adwords Keyword Suggestion Tool and create a comprehensive list of relevant keywords for their products or services.
Use of long-tail keyword phrases
Since the price per click of PPC ads is determined by competitive bidding of search terms, popular search terms such as “insurance”, “stop smoking”, and “weight-loss” cost several dollars for the top three positions on the search results. On the other hand, long-tail keywords are phrases that are not searched very often but are more likely to be used by people who are willing to buy.
Ahrefs, in fact, reports that 92% of all keywords get 10 or fewer searches per month. In other words, 92% of all keywords that people type into search engines are long tails.
C. Elements of attractive and effective PPC ads
Well written ads are decisive to the success of a Google Ads PPC strategy. They should highlight the key benefit of the product or service so that potential clients click on them.
Marketers should also include these elements in their ads:
1. The price of the product
Users who see the price of the product and still click the ad are more likely to buy the product. If they think the price is too high, they may not click on the ad and save the cost of that click.
2. A strong call-to-action
Specific call-to-action phrases such as “purchase”, “buy”, “call today”, “sign up”, and “order ensures” the prospects understand what they are expected to do after they clicking the ad.
3. The best performing keyword preferably in the title of the ad
Whenever users type that keyword and the ad is displayed, the keyword phrase appears “in bold font” within the ad on the Google search page. This will draw their attention to the ad.
4. The URL of the specific page on the website that has the product
If people who click the ad do not find the product on that page, they are likely to exit and click some other ad.
D. Fine-tuning PPC management to boost its profitability
Advertisers can experiment with different offers and call-to-action phrases and test multiple ads. Google Adwords rotates ads automatically within the ad group and displays, more often, the better-performing one. They can remove keywords that are not getting enough clicks and replace them with others. Also, they can decrease or increase the maximum cost-per-click and check the effect on the performance of their ads.
E. Additional strategies to increase the cost-effectiveness of your Google Ads PPC marketing
Submit negative keywords
Advertisers should make a list of keywords that cause their ads to be displayed but are not related to their product. After that, they should submit them as negative keywords by putting a negative sign in front of those keywords. By doing this, they will ensure that anyone using those keywords won’t have their ad displayed to them. For instance, if the product is about “how to stop smoking”, advertisers should exclude anything like “smoking chimneys” or any other sources of smoke!
“Some keywords might have far different user intent and bring in clicks that are an immediate bounce but won’t turn into a conversion”.
Explained SEO expert Rinko de Jong, in an email interview.
“This could also lead to ad impressions that result in no clicks. Both can weaken the quality score of your ad resulting in negatively impacting your ad placement and cost per click”, he added.
Disallow ads to be displayed in Google’s content network partner sites
Clicks originating from these websites are usually of a lower quality than those from search results because they come from people who are browsing that website, not people who are actively searching for the product of the advertiser. So, these clicks might result in fewer sales but will cost definitely just the same.
Pay-Per-Click marketing has the potential to drive a steady stream of visitors to affiliate sites, sales pages, or websites resulting in increased sales and profits if it is properly set up and constantly monitored.
Jacob M. is a copywriter, marketing blogger, and inbound marketing consultant.
The post Ways to get the most out of your Google Adwords PPC strategy appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
- Optimizing your ecommerce site’s SEO is essential to maximizing your ecommerce site’s traffic and revenue potential.
- Improve your SEO by structuring your website and page in a way that is easy for Google to understand.
- Pagespeed optimization is a necessity, not an option, with the upcoming algorithm change.
- Writing a relevant, informative blog on your ecommerce site will help increase organic traffic.
A recent statistic shows that 33% of global ecommerce traffic comes from organic searches. In other words, you will be missing out on a significant portion of potential traffic if your ecommerce site is not optimized for SEO. Although some SEO components are not entirely within your control, you can still do many things to improve ecommerce site’s SEO.
In this article, we’ll go over eight ways you can audit and improve on your ecommerce site’s SEO health.
Additionally, we will discuss why it’s now more important than ever to optimize your page speed for the algorithm update in the coming months.
Let’s get started.
1. Canonical tags for filtered pageviews
In most ecommerce sites, you can filter product types based on different categories, such as color, fit, and size.
If your ecommerce site has many filtered pages, you want to use canonical tags in your filtered pages to avoid duplicate content.
Having duplicate content on your site can make it difficult for Google to rank your page since your duplicate page will compete for the top spots in search results.
The image below shows filters on the Underarmour website. You can also see that the URL comes with the “/shoes” text at the end when you filter based on shoes.
By placing the canonical tags on your filtered pages, you tell a Google crawler which page is the main page you want to rank.
In this case, the canonical tag on “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens/shoes” points to the “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens” URL.
This lets Google know that the latter URL is the primary URL you want to rank. You will also prevent your site from potentially receiving a duplicate penalty from Google.
2. Optimize a meta description for each page
Does each one of your pages have a unique meta description?
Writing a relevant and unique meta description for each page increases the likelihood of people clicking your link.
Since click-through-rate (CTR) is an important ranking factor in Google search results, you will be jeopardizing your search ranking if you fail to optimize a meta description for your page.
That said, you may find it difficult to implement this in practice if you have hundreds and thousands of pages on your ecommerce site.
In such a case, I recommend you start optimizing meta descriptions for pages currently making you the most revenue and moving down in the order.
3. Keyword placement
While you certainly want to avoid stuffing your page with your target keywords, it’s a good idea to strategically include them throughout your page to let Google know what keywords you are targeting.
You will want to include a few keywords in your URL, title, description, and alt image text to ensure your page is relevant for your target keywords.
Here is an example.
And an example of keywords in the description.
4. Breadcrumb trails
Breadcrumb trails help website visitors navigate through your website and help organize your site in a well-structured manner.
Additionally, breadcrumbs make it easy for Google crawlers to understand your page better, which, in turn, may help your page rank better.
Moreover, search results will show breadcrumbs instead of your page’s permalink, which is another clue that Google emphasizes breadcrumbs for SEO.
You don’t need to overcomplicate things when implementing breadcrumb navigation. Just make sure to follow the standards of good practice, such as using breadcrumbs only when it makes sense and progressing from highest to lowest level.
5. Optimize your ecommerce site for sitelinks
Here is an example of sitelinks that appear in search results for a well-optimized site.
Google states that they only show sitelinks for structured websites that allow their algorithms to find good sitelinks.
Sitelinks improve click-through-rates and help searchers quickly see pages that are relevant to their interests.
Furthermore, they add credibility to your sites. Google doesn’t show sitelinks for websites that aren’t well optimized and not trustworthy.
If Google trusts your website enough to give a large space on search results, you can sort of view that as a seal of approval from Google.
At the very least, you can assume Google doesn’t see your website as untrustworthy and scammy.
While you can’t fully control whether your ecommerce site shows sitelinks in search results, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance.
- Enable breadcrumbs and a sitelink search box
- Structure your website clearly
- Use anchor text for your internal links
6. Do you have reviews on your product page?
Reviews on your product page serve several purposes.
First, they give useful information to people who visit your website and help them make better purchasing decisions.
Furthermore, your page can show a star rating in search results, which will help your search result stand out and improve your CTR.
As a matter of fact, a study done by CXL found that review stars can improve CTR by as much as 35%.
You can check out documentation from Google to learn how best to structure your page so you can maximize your site’s chance to display review snippets in search results.
7. Optimize your site speed
You’ve probably heard about the importance of website speed optimization.
But with Google confirming that page loading speed will become a ranking signal in the coming months, it’s now more important than ever to optimize page speed on your website.
According to Moovweb, 87% of ecommerce sites do not meet the page experience standards set out by Google.
You can also see this as an opportunity for your site to gain a competitive edge over others.
There are many things you can do to improve your page speed, such as:
- Get a better hosting service
- Use lazy loading, so your image only loads as users scroll down
- Remove large elements on your page
You can use PageSpeed Insights from Google to determine what elements on your page are slowing down speed.
Here is an article with more good advice on optimizing your page speed for the upcoming algorithm changes.
8. Does your website have informational content?
Finally, it’s always a good idea to write blog posts around keywords that your target audience is searching for.
A study shows that 61% of online shoppers in the US are more confident about purchasing from recommendations that they read in blogs.
Blogging for your ecommerce site can help your business in several different ways.
- Build trust with your audience by providing helpful content
- Establish your brand as an expert in the field
- Improved search engine ranking with relevant, high-quality content on your blog
A blog post you publish today isn’t going to bring an impressive result by tomorrow. But it’s a long-term investment that will help your ecommerce site generate more traffic and build trust and authority with the audience in your niche in the long haul.
Improving SEO for your ecommerce site is rarely ever a quick, easy process.
This is especially true if your site has hundreds of pages that need to be optimized.
In such a case, it would be wise to start with pages that are generating the most amount of traffic and revenues.
Start optimizing from the best-performing pages and move down in the order as your time and effort allows.
Your results with SEO won’t be instantaneous, but you will be glad you put extra effort into optimizing your site’s SEO down the road.
Jin Choi is a writer at the MoneyNam blog.
The post Eight great ways to audit your ecommerce site’s SEO appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
WhatsApp delays enforcement of a controversial privacy change, Apple may get rid of the Touch Bar in future MacBooks and Bumble files to go public. This is your Daily Crunch for January 15, 2021.
The big story: WhatsApp responds to privacy backlash
Earlier this month, WhatsApp sent users a notification asking them to consent to sharing some of their personal data — such as phone number and location — with Facebook (which owns WhatsApp). The alert also said users would have to agree to the terms by February 8 if they wanted to continue using the app.
“No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp,” the company said in a post. “We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15.”
The tech giants
Uber planning to spin out Postmates’ delivery robot arm — Postmates X is seeking investors in its bid to become a separate company.
Apple said to be planning new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros with MagSafe and Apple processors — This could be the end for the Touch Bar.
Amazon’s newest product lets companies build their own Alexa assistant for cars, apps and video games — Yes, that means your next car could have two Alexas.
Startups, funding and venture capital
Bumble files to go public — The company plans to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange, using the ticker symbol “BMBL.”
Tracy Chou launches Block Party to combat online harassment and abuse — Currently available for Twitter, Block Party helps people filter out the content they don’t want to see.
Everlywell raises $ 75M from HealthQuest Capital following its recent $ 175M Series D round — Everlywell develops at-home testing kits for a range of health concerns, and it added a COVID-19 home collection test kit last year.
Advice and analysis from Extra Crunch
Fifteen steps to fundraising a new VC or private equity fund — Launching is easy; fundraising is harder.
Lessons from Top Hat’s acquisition spree — The acquisition of Fountainhead Press marks Top Hat’s third purchase of a publishing company in the past 12 months.
Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson says wisdom lies with your developers — Takeaways from Lawson’s new book “Ask Your Developer.”
(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which aims to democratize information about startups. You can sign up here.)
Video game spending increased 27% in 2020 — According to the latest figures from NPD, spending on gaming hardware, software and accessories was up 25% in December and 27% for the full year.
DOT evaluated 11 GPS replacements and found only one that worked across use cases — The government wants to create additional redundancy and resiliency in the sector.
The Daily Crunch is TechCrunch’s roundup of our biggest and most important stories. If you’d like to get this delivered to your inbox every day at around 3pm Pacific, you can subscribe here.
- Through all of the turmoil, key marketing trends emerged that will impact the way small businesses operate in 2021.
- From catalyzed digital transformation and conversational marketing to AI’s application and data privacy emphasis, these are some themes that will serve as pillars for marketing success.
- Five predictions for how these trends will play out this year.
In 2020, small businesses were forced to be nimble to grow and survive. As a result, more small businesses accelerated their digital transformation efforts to quickly and effectively reach customers online.
Through all of the turmoil, key marketing trends emerged that will impact the way small businesses operate in 2021. Here are my predictions for how these trends will play out this year:
1. Small businesses put their foot on the gas to digitally transform
According to the Small and Medium Business Trend Report from Salesforce Research, one in three small business leaders said that the pandemic has accelerated their digitization initiatives, and more than half of growing small businesses said technology drives their customer interactions. Brick and mortar small businesses that once depended on a physical presence adapted to the times and pivoted to ecommerce. Even farming businesses that never established an online presence set up integrated payment systems and chat services to better serve customers.
This year, small businesses will continue their path to digitalization and invest in building and maintaining an online presence. There will be a greater emphasis on tracking the entire customer lifecycle journey online and using data to inform decision making. This will open up more opportunities for small businesses to compete with larger businesses that operate in the same markets.
2. Conversational marketing takes center stage
During the pandemic, internet traffic has skyrocketed and more consumers are engaging in conversations with brands online. While this presents an opportunity for marketers, it also has created a unique challenge. Now, more than ever before, marketers are experimenting with conversational marketing to deliver personalized experiences and collect rich customer insights. With the release of cross-app communication features from Facebook earlier this year, it is becoming even easier for brands to reach customers where they spend most of their time.
In 2021, small businesses and successful brands will invest in conversational marketing to build brand loyalty and boost sales. Personalization will become key and brands that don’t offer customized communications for customers will fall short. As marketers and small businesses invest in conversational marketing, the adoption of instant chat and messenger services as communication channels will increase.
3. Machine learning and AI becomes practical for small businesses
In the past, artificial intelligence and machine learning have been viewed as valuable technologies, yet only recently have AI and ML-driven campaigns become mainstream practical tools. Marketing automation is now smart enough to adjust messaging based on intent signals, but it relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning to make this happen.
This year, artificial intelligence and machine learning will become more useful for small businesses, allowing them to quickly and effectively target and communicate with desired audiences online. Advances in AI-based chatbot services will take place and consumers will be able to engage in a rich two-way conversation, which will provide rich data and valuable insights for small businesses in 2021.
4. Data privacy pressures intensify – Small businesses should prepare
As big tech continues to draw more government scrutiny around how user data is pulled and managed, the demand for privacy protection and transparency from consumers continues to heighten. According to RSA, nearly half of Americans have had their personal information compromised by a data breach within the past year and according to a study by Cisco, 84% of consumers want more control over how their personal information is managed.
Digital marketing is no exception to this and as small businesses continue to fully digitize, they will be faced with the same level of scrutiny on how they manage consumer data. While sourcing data is an essential component of successful marketing, in 2021, small businesses will need to invest in implementing data privacy compliant processes and communicating those transparently to customers. This becomes an even greater challenge as these small companies fight to survive in the current economy.
5. The market demand increases for all-in-one digital marketing platforms
The demand for all-in-one digital marketing platforms has increased significantly within the past year as more small businesses are engaging with their customers online to drive sales. This has led to widespread innovation across multiple industries including food and beverage, fitness, farming, retail, and more. Larger companies are also turning to these platforms to efficiently manage all of their marketing needs in one place.
As the demand for these platforms continues, more businesses that offer complementary solutions will become partners with companies that offer these solutions to address the market demand. Integrations for payment, sales, helpdesk, and contact management services will become even more powerful and easy to use. Other integrations will also be established to help small businesses streamline their digital marketing operations. As more businesses invest in providing helpful solutions for these platforms, a thriving ecosystem will be established where the services offered for small businesses continue to increase in value.
To succeed in 2021, it will be vital for small businesses to focus on creating seamless customer experiences online. The small businesses that excel in this area and harness the power of creativity will become stronger than ever before.
Steffen Schebesta is CEO at Sendinblue.
The post 2021 Digital marketing predictions for small businesses appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Last CES was a time of reckoning for lidar companies, many of which were cratering due to a lack of demand from a (still) non-existent autonomous vehicle industry. The few that excelled did so by specializing, and this year the trend has pushed beyond lidar, with new sensing and imaging methods pushing to both compete with and complement the laser-based tech.
Lidar pushed ahead of traditional cameras because it could do things they couldn’t — and now some companies are pushing to do the same with tech that’s a little less exotic.
A good example of addressing the problem or perception by different means is Eye Net’s vehicle-to-x tracking platform. This is one of those techs that’s been talked about in the context of 5G (admittedly still somewhat exotic), which for all the hype really does enable short-distance, low-latency applications that could be life-savers.
Eye Net provides collision warnings between vehicles equipped with its tech, whether they have cameras or other sensing tech equipped or not. The example they provide is a car driving through a parking lot, unaware that a person on one of those horribly unsafe electric scooters is moving perpendicular to it ahead, about to zoom into its path but totally obscured by parked cars. Eye Net’s sensors detect the position of the devices on both vehicles and send warnings in time for either or both to brake.
They’re not the only ones attempting something like this, but they hope that by providing a sort of white-label solution, a good size network can be built relatively easily, instead of having none, and then all VWs equipped, and then some Fords and some e-bikes, and so on.
But vision is still going to be a major part of how vehicles navigate, and advances are being made on multiple fronts.
Brightway Vision, for instance, addresses the issue of normal RGB cameras having limited visibility in many real-world conditions by going multispectral. In addition to ordinary visible-light imagery, the company’s camera is mated to a near-infrared beamer that scans the road ahead at set distance intervals many times a second.
The idea is that if the main camera can’t see 100 feet out because of fog, the NIR imagery will still catch any obstacles or road features when it scans that “slice” in its regular sweep of the incoming area. It combines the benefits of traditional cameras with those of IR ones, but manages to avoid the shortcomings of both. The pitch is that there’s no reason to use a normal camera when you can use one of these, which does the same job better and may even allow another sensor to be cut out.
Foresight Automotive also uses multispectral imagery in its cameras (chances are hardly any vehicle camera will be limited to visible spectrum in a few years), dipping into thermal via a partnership with FLIR, but what it’s really selling is something else.
To provide 360-degree (or close) coverage, generally multiple cameras are required. But where those cameras go differs on a compact sedan versus an SUV from the same manufacturer — let alone on an autonomous freight vehicle. Because those cameras have to work together, they need to be perfectly calibrated, aware of the exact position of the others, so they know, for example, that they’re both looking at the same tree or bicyclist and not two identical ones.
Foresight’s advance is to simplify the calibration stage, so a manufacturer or designer or test platform doesn’t need to be laboriously re-tested and certified every time the cameras need to be moved half an inch in one direction or the other. The Foresight demo shows them sticking the cameras on the roof of the car seconds before driving it.
It has parallels to another startup called Nodar that also relies on stereoscopic cameras, but takes a different approach. The technique of deriving depth from binocular triangulation, as the company points out, goes back decades, or millions of years if you count our own vision system, which works in a similar ways. The limitation that has held this approach back isn’t that optical cameras fundamentally can’t provide the depth information needed by an autonomous vehicle, but that they can’t be trusted to remain calibrated.
Nodar shows that its paired stereo cameras don’t even need to be mounted to the main mass of the car, which would reduce jitter and fractional mismatches between the cameras’ views. Attached to the rear view mirrors, their “Hammerhead” camera setup has a wide stance (like the shark’s), which provides improved accuracy because of the larger disparity between the cameras. Since distance is determined by the differences between the two images, there’s no need for object recognition or complex machine learning to say “this is a shape, probably a car, probably about this big, which means it’s probably about this far away” as you might with a single camera solution.
“The industry has already shown that camera arrays do well in harsh weather conditions, just as human eyes do,” said Nodar COO and co-founder Brad Rosen. “For example, engineers at Daimler have published results showing that current stereoscopic approaches provide significantly more stable depth estimates than monocular methods and LiDAR completion in adverse weather. The beauty of our approach is that the hardware we use is available today, in automotive-grade, and with many choices for manufacturers and distributors.”
Indeed, a major strike against lidar has been the cost of the unit — even “inexpensive” ones tend to be orders of magnitude more expensive than ordinary cameras, something that adds up very quickly. But team lidar hasn’t been standing still either.
Sense Photonics came onto the scene with a new approach that seemed to combine the best of both worlds: a relatively cheap and simple flash lidar (as opposed to spinning or scanning, which tend to add complexity) mated to a traditional camera so that the two see versions of the same image, allowing them to work together in identifying objects and establishing distances.
Since its debut in 2019 Sense has refined its tech for production and beyond. The latest advance is custom hardware that has enabled it to image objects out to 200 meters — generally considered on the far end both for lidar and traditional cameras.
“In the past, we have sourced an off-the-shelf detector to pair with our laser source (Sense Illuminator). However, our 2 years of in-house detector development has now completed and is a huge success, which allows us to build short-range and long-range automotive products,” said CEO Shauna McIntyre.
“Sense has created ‘building blocks’ for a camera-like LiDAR design that can be paired with different sets of optics to achieve different FOV, range, resolution, etc,” she continued. “And we’ve done so in a very simple design that can actually be manufactured in large volumes. You can think of our architecture like a DSLR camera where you have the ‘base camera’ and can pair it with a macro lens, zoom lens, fisheye lens, etc. to achieve different functions.”
One thing all the companies seemed to agree on is that no single sensing modality will dominate the industry from top to bottom. Leaving aside that the needs of a fully autonomous (i.e. level 4-5) vehicle has very different needs from a driver assist system, the field moves too quickly for any one approach to remain on top for long.
“AV companies cannot succeed if the public is not convinced that their platform is safe and the safety margins only increase with redundant sensor modalities operating at different wavelengths,” said McIntyre.
Whether that means visible light, near-infrared, thermal imaging, radar, lidar, or as we’ve seen here, some combination of two or three of these, it’s clear the market will continue to favor differentiation — though as with the boom-bust cycle seen in the lidar industry a few years back, it’s also a warning that consolidation won’t be far behind.
Some time ago, I gave up on the idea of finding a thread that connects each story in the weekly Extra Crunch roundup; there are no unified theories of technology news.
The stories that left the deepest impression were related to two news pegs that dominated the week — Visa and Plaid calling off their $ 5.3 billion acquisition agreement, and sizzling-hot IPOs for Affirm and Poshmark.
Watching Plaid and Visa sing “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off” in harmony after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to block their deal wasn’t shocking. But I was surprised to find myself editing an interview Alex Wilhelm conducted with Plaid CEO Zach Perret the next day in which the executive said growing the company on its own is “once again” the correct strategy.
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In an analysis for Extra Crunch, Managing Editor Danny Crichton suggested that federal regulators’ new interest in antitrust enforcement will affect valuations going forward. For example, Procter & Gamble and women’s beauty D2C brand Billie also called off their planned merger last week after the Federal Trade Commission raised objections in December.
Given the FTC’s moves last year to prevent Billie and Harry’s from being acquired, “it seems clear that U.S. antitrust authorities want broad competition for consumers in household goods,” Danny concluded, and I suspect that applies to Plaid as well.
In December, C3.ai, Doordash and Airbnb burst into the public markets to much acclaim. This week, used clothing marketplace Poshmark saw a 140% pop in its first day of trading and consumer-financing company Affirm “priced its IPO above its raised range at $ 49 per share,” reported Alex.
In a post titled “A theory about the current IPO market”, he identified eight key ingredients for brewing a debut with a big first-day pop, which includes “exist in a climate of near-zero interest rates” and “keep companies private longer.” Truly, words to live by!
Come back next week for more coverage of the public markets in The Exchange, an interview with Bustle CEO Bryan Goldberg where he shares his plans for taking the company public, a comprehensive post that will unpack the regulatory hurdles facing D2C consumer brands, and much more.
If you live in the U.S., enjoy your MLK Day holiday weekend, and wherever you are: Thanks very much for reading Extra Crunch.
Senior Editor, TechCrunch
I'm taking the credit/blame for this headline https://t.co/2KYLsTxeHq
— Walter Thompson (@YourProtagonist) January 12, 2021
Rapid growth in 2020 reveals OKR software market’s untapped potential
After spending much of the week covering 2021’s frothy IPO market, Alex Wilhelm devoted this morning’s column to studying the OKR-focused software sector.
Measuring objectives and key results are core to every enterprise, perhaps more so these days since knowledge workers began working remotely in greater numbers last year.
A sign of the times: This week, enterprise orchestration SaaS platform Gtmhub announced that it raised a $ 30 million Series B.
To get a sense of how large the TAM is for OKR, Alex reached out to several companies and asked them to share new and historical growth metrics:
“Some OKR-focused startups didn’t get back to us, and some leaders wanted to share the best stuff off the record, which we grant at times for candor amongst startup executives,” he wrote.
5 consumer hardware VCs share their 2021 investment strategies
For our latest investor survey, Matt Burns interviewed five VCs who actively fund consumer electronics startups:
- Hans Tung, managing partner, GGV Capital
- Dayna Grayson, co-founder and general partner, Construct Capital
- Cyril Ebersweiler, general partner, SOSV
- Bilal Zuberi, partner, Lux Capital
- Rob Coneybeer, managing director, Shasta Ventures
“Consumer hardware has always been a tough market to crack, but the COVID-19 crisis made it even harder,” says Matt, noting that the pandemic fueled wide interest in fitness startups like Mirror, Peloton and Tonal.
Bonus: Many VCs listed the founders, investors and companies that are taking the lead in consumer hardware innovation.
A theory about the current IPO market
If you’re looking for insight into “why everything feels so damn silly this year” in the public markets, a post Alex wrote Thursday afternoon might offer some perspective.
As someone who pays close attention to late-stage venture markets, he’s identified eight factors that are pushing debuts for unicorns like Affirm and Poshmark into the stratosphere.
TL;DR? “Lots of demand, little supply, boom goes the price.”
Poshmark prices IPO above range as public markets continue to YOLO startups
Clothing resale marketplace Poshmark closed up more than 140% on its first trading day yesterday.
In Thursday’s edition of The Exchange, Alex noted that Poshmark boosted its valuation by selling 6.6 million shares at its IPO price, scooping up $ 277.2 million in the process.
Poshmark’s surge in trading is good news for its employees and stockholders, but it reflects poorly on “the venture-focused money people who we suppose know what they are talking about when it comes to equity in private companies,” he says.
Will startup valuations change given rising antitrust concerns?
This week, Visa announced it would drop its planned acquisition of Plaid after the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit to block it last fall.
Last week, Procter & Gamble called off its purchase of Billie, a women’s beauty products startup — in December, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission sued to block that deal, too.
Once upon a time, the U.S. government took an arm’s-length approach to enforcing antitrust laws, but the tide has turned, says Managing Editor Danny Crichton.
Going forward, “antitrust won’t kill acquisitions in general, but it could prevent the buyers with the highest reserve prices from entering the fray.”
Dear Sophie: What’s the new minimum salary required for H-1B visa applicants?
I’m a grad student currently working on F-1 STEM OPT. The company I work for has indicated it will sponsor me for an H-1B visa this year.
I hear the random H-1B lottery will be replaced with a new system that selects H-1B candidates based on their salaries.
How will this new process work?
— Positive in Palo Alto
Venture capitalists react to Visa-Plaid deal meltdown
After news broke that Visa’s $ 5.3 billion purchase of API startup Plaid fell apart, Alex Wilhelm and Ron Miller interviewed several investors to get their reactions:
- Anshu Sharma, co-founder and CEO, SkyflowAPI
- Amy Cheetham, principal, Costanoa Ventures
- Sheel Mohnot, co-founder, Better Tomorrow Ventures
- Lucas Timberlake, partner, Fintech Ventures
- Nico Berardi, founder and general partner, ANIMO Ventures
- Allen Miller, VC, Oak HC/FT
- Sri Muppidi, VC, Sierra Ventures
- Christian Lassonde, VC, Impression Ventures
Plaid CEO touts new ‘clarity’ after failed Visa acquisition
Alex Wilhelm interviewed Plaid CEO Zach Perret after the Visa acquisition was called off to learn more about his mindset and the company’s short-term plans.
Perret, who noted that the last few years have been a “roller coaster,” said the Visa deal was the right decision at the time, but going it alone is “once again” Plaid’s best way forward.
2021: A SPAC odyssey
In Tuesday’s edition of The Exchange, Alex Wilhelm took a closer look at blank-check offerings for digital asset marketplace Bakkt and personal finance platform SoFi.
To create a detailed analysis of the investor presentations for both offerings, he tried to answer two questions:
- Are special purpose acquisition companies a path to public markets for “potentially promising companies that lacked obvious, near-term growth stories?”
- Given the number of unicorns and the limited number of companies that can IPO at any given time, “maybe SPACS would help close the liquidity gap?”
Flexible VC: A new model for startups targeting profitability
12 ‘flexible VCs’ who operate where equity meets revenue share
Growth-stage startups in search of funding have a new option: “flexible VC” investors.
An amalgam of revenue-based investment and traditional VC, investors who fall into this category let entrepreneurs “access immediate risk capital while preserving exit, growth trajectory and ownership optionality.”
In a comprehensive explainer, fund managers David Teten and Jamie Finney present different investment structures so founders can get a clear sense of how flexible VC compares to other venture capital models. In a follow-up post, they share a list of a dozen active investors who offer funding via these nontraditional routes.
These 5 VCs have high hopes for cannabis in 2021
For some consumers, “cannabis has always been essential,” writes Matt Burns, but once local governments allowed dispensaries to remain open during the pandemic, it signaled a shift in the regulatory environment and investors took notice.
Matt asked five VCs about where they think the industry is heading in 2021 and what advice they’re offering their portfolio companies:
- Morgan Paxhia, managing director, Poseidon Investment Management
- Emily Paxhia, managing partner, Poseidon Investment Management
- Anthony Coniglio, CEO, NewLake Capital
- Matt Shalhoub, managing partner, Green Acre Capital
- Jerel Registre, managing director, Curio WMBE Fund
- Google plans to roll out the new Core Web Vitals update in early 2021.
- The overall size, dimensions, load order, and format of your images will drastically affect your PageSpeed score.
- Loading critical CSS and JS inline can improve the perceived load time of your site.
- Above-the-fold videos and large background images can be particularly damaging to your Largest Contentful Paint time.
- A server upgrade and a CDN can improve your server response time and your contentful paint score.
- Founder of Content Powered, James Parsons, shares an exhaustive list of 28 elements that will supercharge your site for Google’s Core Web Vitals update and Google PageSpeed Insights.
Announced in early 2020, the Core Web Vitals are a set of metrics Google is developing and plans to roll into their overall search algorithm in May of 2021. Given that it’s almost 2021 now, anyone who wants to get ahead on optimizing their site for this new algorithm update can get to work now. Thankfully, Google has been very good about publicly disclosing what these new metrics are and how they work.
Armed with that information, it’s possible to build a checklist of action items to check and optimize on your site to ready yourself for the inevitable rollout of these new ranking factors. Here are 28 such items for that checklist.
A. Image optimization
Images are one of the largest influencing factors in the core web vitals. All of the web vitals measure the time until some initial rendering, and loading images is the largest source of delay before a page is initially fully loaded. Thus, optimizing images tends to be the most powerful tool for improving core web vitals.
1. Reduce the Dimensions of Background Images
Background images are rarely fully necessary to a site design and can be a large source of delay in loading a page for the first time.
If you use a background image, reduce how large that image is and optimize it so it loads as close to instantaneously as possible.
2. Minimize or Replace Background Images with Patterns
If you’re not tied to a specific background image, either replace the image with flat colors, a gradient, or even a simple tiled pattern. Again, the goal is to minimize how many assets need to load before the initial load of the website is complete. Since background images don’t make a huge impact (and are even less necessary on mobile), minimize or remove them as much as possible.
3. Remove Images on Mobile Above the Fold
Speaking of mobile, the mobile browsing experience is often slower than desktop browsing due to the quality of cell and wireless signals. Mobile devices are especially susceptible to delays in the first input and on the content shift.
To help avoid that, strive to make as much of your above-the-fold content as possible based on text and other simple elements. Large images and slideshows above the fold are particularly rough on your score, so remove or move them as much as possible.
4. Implement Lazy Loading
Lazy loading is a common technique for speeding up the initial load of any given page. With Google’s new metrics on the horizon, it’s no surprise that support for it is quickly becoming a default feature. WordPress, for example, added native default lazy loading in version 5.5 earlier this year. Make use of lazy loading for any content, particularly images, that doesn’t need to load above the fold initially.
5. Use WebP Images
Another Google initiative, WebP is a new image format developed back in 2010. It’s a smaller image format with better compression algorithms than your traditional image formats like PNG.
While it hasn’t really picked up widespread traction until recently, it’s becoming more and more valuable as both users and search engines are increasingly concerned with speed and load times. Support is widespread, even if usage isn’t, so you can more-or-less safely use WebP images as your primary image files.
6. Optimize Image File Sizes
Using a tool to crunch or smush image files to be smaller in file size should be a default part of optimizing images for the web by this point.
If you don’t do it already, make sure you implement a way to process images as part of your blogging workflow moving forward. You’ll also want to make sure you’ve defined the height and width of images to prevent layout shift.
B. CSS optimization
CSS has become an increasingly critical part of many site designs, so much so that blocking it makes the web almost unrecognizable. With so much of a site reliant on CSS for everything from colors to positioning, making sure your code is optimized is more important than ever.
7. Inline Critical CSS
You don’t need to inline every bit of your CSS, though that works as well. In particular, you want to inline CSS that is critical to the overall design and layout of your theme.
This minimizes the number of individual files a browser needs to call from your server just to load the initial layout and paint the initial content on your site.
8. Minify CSS
CSS is by default a very minimalist language and can operate perfectly well without spaces, indentation, comments, and other text that makes it more user-friendly and easier to develop. Before uploading new code to your site, run it through a tool to minify it and remove all of that excess cruft that has a microscopic-yet-tangible effect on page loading.
9. Consolidate CSS Files and Code
It can be tempting to store CSS in a variety of files and scattered throughout your code, placing it where it seems like it should be rather than where it makes sense to put it. Remember; what is easiest as a developer is not necessarily the fastest for a user. Consolidate your CSS, whether it’s inline or in separate files, and only execute specific elements as necessary.
10. Optimize CSS Delivery
CSS is often a late-loading element of site code. Traditional site design loads the framework for the site, then the content, then the CSS to format it all. Particularly when CSS is stored in an external file, this delays loading significantly. Preloading your CSS is a strategy recommended by Google to force the browser to load the CSS and have it ready when it’s needed.
11. Minify JS Scripts
Run your scripts through a minifier before adding them to your site.
12. Consolidate Scripts and Minimize Usage
13. Defer or Async Scripts Whenever Possible
Scripts are roadblocks in rendering a website. When a browser has to render a JS script, it has to process through that script before it can continue loading the page. Since many developers put scripts in their headers, this delays page loading significantly. Using Defer allows the browser to continue loading the page before executing the script, while Async allows them to load simultaneously. Using these two features allows you to offset the delay inherent in using scripts and speed up your initial page loads.
14. Remove jQuery Migrate
A recent update to jQuery has led to a lot of old plugins and scripts no longer working. To buy time and allow webmasters to update their sites, the Migrate module was introduced. This is essentially a translation module that allows old jQuery to function on sites that utilize a newer version of jQuery.
Perform an audit of your site to see if anything you’re using – particularly old plugins and apps – uses jQuery Migrate. If so, consider updating or replace those plugins. Your goal is to remove usage of the Migrate module entirely because it’s rather bulky and can slow down websites dramatically.
15. Use Google Hosted JS Whenever Possible
Google offers a range of standard libraries hosted on their servers for use on your website. Rather than relying on a third party for those libraries or hosting them yourself, use Google’s versions for the fastest possible load times.
D. Video optimization
Videos are increasingly popular as part of the average website, from core elements of content to video-based advertising and everything in between. They’re also extremely large files, even with partial loading and modern video buffering. Optimize your use of video as much as possible.
16. Use Image Placeholders for Video Thumbnails
There are plenty of users who browse the web with no desire to watch videos, so forcing videos to load in the background for them is completely unnecessary. A good workaround is to use an image placeholder where the video would normally load.
The image loads faster and looks like the video player with a loaded thumbnail. When a user clicks it to start the video, it begins the video load but doesn’t require loading any of the video file or player until that point.
17. Minimize Videos Above the Fold
As with images, video files are extremely heavy, so loading them above the fold is a guaranteed delay on your first content paint. Push them below the fold; most people want to read a title and introduction before they get to the video anyway.
E. Font and icon optimization
Fonts and icon usage can be a lot heavier on a site’s load times than you might expect. Optimizing them might seem like minuscule detail work, but when you see the impact it can have, you’ll wonder why you never made these minor-yet-impactful optimizations before.
18. Preload Fonts
Similar to scripts, when your website calls for a font that it needs to load, loading that font takes precedence and stops the rest of the code from rendering.
Using a preload command to load the font earlier than necessary helps speed up page loading, as well as preventing the “flash of unstyled text” effect that happens for a brief instant between the text loading and the font styling appearing.
19. Only Use Fonts You Need
Many web fonts and font families load their entire character sets and stylesheets when called, even if your page doesn’t utilize 90% of that content. Often, you can limit how much you load, though you may need to pay for premium font access. It can be quite worthwhile if you’re using limited amounts of a given font, or a font that has a particularly large character set included.
20. Use SVG Whenever Possible
SVGs are Scalable Vector Graphics and are a way to create extremely small elements of a page that can nevertheless scale indefinitely, as well as be manipulated individually, to a much greater degree than traditional fonts and icons. If possible, switch to using SVGs instead of your usual icons.
F. Server optimization
No matter how many optimizations you make to the code of your website, to your images, or to other elements of your site, none of it matters if your server is slow. The proliferation of web hosting companies, the ongoing development of faster and stronger tech, all means that web hosting shows its age very quickly. Every few years, it can be worthwhile to change or upgrade hosting to faster infrastructure.
21. Upgrade to a Faster Server
You don’t necessarily need to upgrade from a shared host to a dedicated host, though this can help with some of the speed issues inherent in shared hosting. Even simply upgrading from a slower package to a faster one can be a good use of a budget.
22. Use a CDN
Modern content delivery networks can handle most of the elements of your site faster than your typical web host can in almost every circumstance. At a minimum, consider using a CDN for your images, videos, and other multimedia. You can also consider offloading stand-alone script files as well.
23. Preload DNS Queries
Preloading or prefetching DNS queries helps minimize the delay between an asset being requested by the visitor and the display of that asset.
This couples with using a CDN to store assets by loading and resolving the CDN’s domain before it’s called for the first time, further speeding up page load times.
24. Preload Your Cache
Often, a cache plugin or script used on a website triggers when the first visitor arrives to view the page. That first visitor has a slower experience, but their loads cache the page for future visitors until the cache expires. Unfortunately, the first visit is often a Google bot crawling your page from your XML sitemap or an internal link, and that means that Google is the first one to experience the slow version of your site. You can get around this by preloading the cache on your website so Google’s next visit is a guaranteed fast-loading web page.
25. Consider a Server-Side Cache
Software such as Varnish Cache acts as a server-side cache to further speed up the generation and serving of a cached version of your page, making it as fast as possible with as few server calls as possible.
G. Additional optimization
Anything that didn’t fit in another category has been added here. These additional optimizations might not apply to your site design, but if they do, taking care of them can be a great boon.
26. Minimize Third-Party Scripts
Webmasters in 2021 will need to strike a balance between site speed optimizations and user engagement tools.
Many plugins, such as social sharing buttons, third-party comment systems, and media embeds all need to execute third-party scripts in order to work, but those scripts slow down the site. Minimize them as much as possible, and try to find the fastest versions of each.
27. Avoid Pre-Load Filler
A common technique for sites with slower load times is to add a spinner, a loading icon, an animation, or another form of content that loads and displays to indicate to a user that the site is, in fact, loading. While this can help minimize bounces, it’s a huge hit to the initial loads measured by the core web vitals. Remove these and work to speed up your site such that you don’t need them.
28. Consider a Site Redesign
When all is said and done, sometimes you need to make so many changes to so many foundational elements of your site that it’s easier to simply scrap your current design and engineer a new one with speed in mind. Consider it a possibility, and analyze the benefits you’ll get from optimized core web vitals. No one knows yet how influential those metrics will be on the overall algorithm, but it certainly can’t hurt to optimize for them.
James Parsons is the founder of Content Powered, a blog management & content marketing company. He’s worked as a senior-level content marketer for over a decade and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and Business Insider.
The post Core Web Vitals report: 28 Ways to supercharge your site appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Block Party, an anti-harassment startup that aims to help folks feel safer on social media founded by Tracy Chou, launched today. Currently only available for Twitter, Block Party helps people filter out the content they don’t want to see and into what Block Party calls the Lockout Folder. That’s where all of the filtered-out content lives in the event you want to review it later.
“We think it’s important to still acknowledge that these people exist,” Chou told me.
If you pretend like it doesn’t exist, you might miss out on useful information or genuine connections.
“There’s a lot of good stuff that would get lost there,” she said. “There is a reason we use public platforms like Twitter.”
On the more negative side, she said, you still may need to check periodically to see if there’s someone threatening your physical safety.
Helpers play a big part of the Block Party experience. You can grant a trusted helper access to your Lockout Folder to let you know if there’s anything useful in there, or to simply block the trolls.
“It’s a lot easier for someone else to help you process it and flag something that is a concern,” she said. “It’s nice to be able to share that burden. The current design of most of these platforms is to put the burden of dealing with it solely on the person who’s being abused.”
The Lockout Folder also serves as a record-keeping tool in the event you need to present evidence of your harassment to a company, a lawyer or someone else.
“It’s really about trying to make people’s lives easier,” Chou said. “It’s just so painful to have to see the abuse again when you’re filing the report.”
Block Party emerged from Chou’s own experiences working at platform companies like Facebook and Quora, as well as her experience as an outspoken advocate for diversity and inclusion in tech. At Quora, the block button was one of the first things she built after being harassed on the platform, Chou told me.
“There’s that perspective of having been on the inside and seeing how product and engineering teams work,” Chou said. “But also being a DEI activist and seeing how lack of representation on teams has impacted product decisions for the worst.”
Although Block Party is only available for Twitter users, the goal is to add other platforms and help folks address harassers that target them across multiple platforms. Block Party is currently free but plans to introduce subscription tiers. Still, Chou said she envisions the free version always existing.
To date, Block Party has raised a little less than $ 1.5 million in funding. Its lead pre-seed round was led by Charles Hudson of Precursor Ventures. Other investors include Alexia Bonatsos, Ellen Pao, Alex Stamos and others.
One Sr. Strategist outlines 2 strategies to help B2B marketers dive deeper into assigning value to different stages of the funnel and different conversions.
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