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SaaS Ventures takes the investment road less traveled

September 19, 2020 No Comments

Most venture capital firms are based in hubs like Silicon Valley, New York City and Boston. These firms nurture those ecosystems and they’ve done well, but SaaS Ventures decided to go a different route: it went to cities like Chicago, Green Bay, Wisconsin and Lincoln, Nebraska.

The firm looks for enterprise-focused entrepreneurs who are trying to solve a different set of problems than you might find in these other centers of capital, issues that require digital solutions but might fall outside a typical computer science graduate’s experience.

Saas Ventures looks at four main investment areas: trucking and logistics, manufacturing, e-commerce enablement for industries that have not typically gone online and cybersecurity, the latter being the most mainstream of the areas SaaS Ventures covers.

The company’s first fund, which launched in 2017, was worth $ 20 million, but SaaS Ventures launched a second fund of equal amount earlier this month. It tends to stick to small-dollar-amount investments, while partnering with larger firms when it contributes funds to a deal.

We talked to Collin Gutman, founder and managing partner at SaaS Ventures, to learn about his investment philosophy, and why he decided to take the road less traveled for his investment thesis.

A different investment approach

Gutman’s journey to find enterprise startups in out of the way places began in 2012 when he worked at an early enterprise startup accelerator called Acceleprise. “We were really the first ones who said enterprise tech companies are wired differently, and need a different set of early-stage resources,” Gutman told TechCrunch.

Through that experience, he decided to launch SaaS Ventures in 2017, with several key ideas underpinning the firm’s investment thesis: after his experience at Acceleprise, he decided to concentrate on the enterprise from a slightly different angle than most early-stage VC establishments.

Collin Gutman from SaaS Ventures

Collin Gutman, founder and managing partner at SaaS Ventures (Image Credits: SaaS Ventures)

The second part of his thesis was to concentrate on secondary markets, which meant looking beyond the popular startup ecosystem centers and investing in areas that didn’t typically get much attention. To date, SaaS Ventures has made investments in 23 states and Toronto, seeking startups that others might have overlooked.

“We have really phenomenal coverage in terms of not just geography, but in terms of what’s happening with the underlying businesses, as well as their customers,” Gutman said. He believes that broad second-tier market data gives his firm an upper hand when selecting startups to invest in. More on that later.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Tips (based on data!) to Manage Amazon Campaigns During Turbulent Times

September 19, 2020 No Comments

During turbulent times, retailers should follow these tips to plan and manage advertising budgets on Amazon in a more targeted and successful manner.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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How to drive digital innovation necessary during the pandemic

September 19, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • COVID-19 has kept consumers in their homes, which has led to significant spikes in internet use and companies scrambling to digitize in order to meet customers where they are.
  • The ability to quickly develop digital capabilities will continue to be critical for meeting customer needs and ensuring organizations’ survival.
  • To remain competitive, companies must enhance the digital customer experiences they offer through upgraded social media, optimized conversion, strategies, better marketing research, an effective internal website search, and fresh customer touchpoints.

Emerging digital technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing enticed leaders with their agility and efficiency. Many companies planned to make digitization a goal for the new decade.

In hindsight, they probably wish they hadn’t waited.

The novel coronavirus upended every aspect of our lives. As businesses and governments around the world try to combat the pandemic, millions of consumers sit inside their homes. And where do people go during a government-mandated lockdown? Online.

The unprecedented shift to remote work and online learning, combined with a dramatic increase in movie streaming, videoconferencing, and social media traffic, has led to significant spikes in internet use. In this same time frame, big tech companies — the businesses at the forefront of digital innovation — have flourished, as have brands that capitalized on the power of social media engagement.

The biggest trick to digitization right now is meeting customers where they are. For example, my company, Teknicks, is working with an online K-12 speech and occupational therapy provider. When schools began transitioning to remote learning, students’ needs changed, too. We helped the provider pivot its value proposition and messaging to accommodate school districts’ new realities. By focusing on teletherapy tools and reassuring parents, we’ve seen substantial growth and brand recognition during the pandemic.

Until we find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, your customers will likely engage with you through online channels. The ability to develop digital capabilities quickly will continue to be critical for meeting customer needs and ensuring survival for your organization. With that in mind, here’s how you can enhance your digital customers’ experiences:

1. Upgrade your social media

It’s not hard to be good at social media marketing — it’s hard to be great. As you build your audience on websites like Facebook and Instagram, be sure to engage with followers consistently. Create a content calendar mapping out your posts and sharing strategies and stick to it. These platforms are also a great channel for customer service, allowing you to provide personalized support and become instantaneously useful (something that customer support tickets and chatbots never seem to be).

If you already have a sizable engaged audience, it’s time to work on your content strategy. Don’t build your content strategy around keywords. Instead, focus on your audiences’ needs. A truly effective content strategy will be customized for the platform you’re on and will account for the user behavior most characteristic of that platform. Naturally, you will use keywords and phrases that are optimized for discoverability while maintaining authenticity.

One key strategy is to conduct marketing research using a survey. This tactic goes well beyond traditional keyword research and generates content ideas directly from your targeted audience, not a keyword tool. Surveying your prospective customers allows them to tell you what type of content they want to consume, significantly increasing the likelihood of engagement. Often, this strategy is the key to successful marketing strategy. I’ll go into more detail below.

2. Focus on and prioritize conversion optimization

Ideally, your website looks good and loads quickly, but those qualities alone don’t make a website great. The user experience that your website offers is ultimately what determines whether customers bounce in droves or actually stick around. Attempting to boost your initial traffic will exponentially increase customer acquisition costs, so improving your conversion rates via website optimization is a more affordable (and profitable) solution.

We often see double-digit increases in conversion rates on our first test. We typically focus on the most trafficked pages to increase the likelihood of big, impactful wins. There is an entire science behind conversion optimization, but the core fundamentals have remained the same for years.

To make sure your website’s architecture is seamless and intuitive, develop a conversion rate optimization strategy that works for you. This will require you to ask visitors for feedback, experiment with different messaging options, and regularly review your analytics, among other things. The idea is to get to know your visitors well. It takes work, but it will pay off over time as the incremental conversion rate increases impact top-line revenue.

3. Conduct marketing research surveys

With the right insights, you can turn every engagement into a memorable and valuable experience for both you and your customers. The best way to get customer insights is to ask. Design a survey of up to 10 questions in a variety of formats along with some screening questions to make sure the feedback you get is actually useful.

When designing, consider your potential customers’ preferences and pain points. For example, if you know your audience is mostly on Instagram, asking “What do you like about social media?” won’t be as effective as “What makes Instagram posts better than Facebook posts?” Once the survey’s drafted, post it to your social channels and send it out to your mailing list. You want to understand which messages resonate with your audience before you spend a cent on marketing. Learning how to conduct marketing research is one of the most important marketing skills you can attain.

Asking individual customers how they feel about various messaging options can give you a goldmine of useful data to help inform the language and design choices you make. Not every customer will choose to participate in a survey, but some will. Show them you appreciate their input by offering a small discount or another incentive once the survey is completed. You’ll be surprised by how many responses you get and how beneficial the precursory information is.

4. Review your internal website search

As much as you’d love for every visitor to spend hours exploring every nook and cranny of your website, most will want to get on with their lives after they’ve found what they came for. To make the process faster, you should offer some sort of internal website search functionality. If you don’t already have one, add a search box to your navigation menu.

Not every website has one, and even the ones that do have very surface-level functions. However, search bars are a valuable asset that can increase internal sessions and conversion. Internal website searchers are 216% likelier to convert, according to WebLinc. Search bars assist your visitors and expand your understanding of user behavior, providing you with the information you need in order to adjust your website accordingly.

Evaluate the effectiveness of your internal search, taking notice of how it finds and organizes the content after a search. Most native search functionality is very basic and just looks for the presence of “search term,” but you may want to test out more advanced filters that help users more effectively find the information they are looking for.

I recommend looking at the search data monthly to see what users have been looking for. Be sure to review what searches yielded zero results and which searches brought up irrelevant content. Identify areas that can be approved and understand your content gaps that need additional content to support the demand.

5. Identify new customer touchpoints

Innovation is all about using new technology to improve old processes. While your typical customer journey might depend on your industry and business, chances are good that you can find ways to enhance it with emerging technologies.

Evaluating whether an emerging technology is a fit for your business and whether you should invest in testing it out, starts with (drumroll …) a survey. As we discussed earlier, surveys can answer just about anything you want to know about your target audience. Go ahead and ask your audience if they own or use the emerging tech and validate its place in the customer journey.

Take the new home buying process, for example. David Weekley Homes, the largest privately-held home builder in the U.S., wanted to better understand whether voice-enabled devices can play a role in the customer journey. The company also wanted to propose a voice app idea to the audience and understand how they felt about the emerging technology concept. By conducting a survey, we uncovered that 81% of the respondents would consider the voice app idea to be somewhat to extremely valuable and 70% would possibly to definitely use the voice app if it existed.

The increasing usage of voice search and voice-enabled devices also offers an opportunity for consumer brands to make it easier than ever for customers to find their products. Tide, for example, has capitalized on marketing on Amazon’s Alexa Skills platform to remove a step from the purchasing process. Customers can use the company’s skill to order Tide products without having to pull up the Amazon app or go to the Tide website. In that way, new tech makes an old process (purchasing detergent) more frictionless than ever.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made digital innovation a business imperative. Regardless of your industry, you should look for ways to anticipate and meet customer needs. Your customers expect a seamless digital experience. If you can’t provide it, they won’t have to leave their homes to find someone else that can.

Nick Chasinov is the founder and CEO of Teknicks, a research-based internet marketing agency certified by Google in Analytics, Tag Manager, and a Google Premier AdWords partner.

The post How to drive digital innovation necessary during the pandemic appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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What you must know about TikTok for business

September 18, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • The majority of TikTok users are under the age of 29. So, TikTok is the perfect place if you want to reach Millenials and Gen Zers.
  • TikTok allows users to create short videos with filters, voiceovers, soundtracks, and other additional features.
  • If you want to promote your business, there are multiple paid advertising options. You can run branded hashtag challenges, brand takeovers, and infeed content ads.
  • Influencers are a big deal on TikTok. By partnering with influencers, you can expand your reach and grow your TikTok audience.
  • Countries across the world are raising concerns over TikTok’s data and security policies. Therefore, before you start creating a marketing strategy for TikTok, it’s worth checking the local regulations.
  • Find out how you can take advantage of TikTok for business.

Early adopters of Instagram demonstrated that if you can find the right strategy to leverage the platform during its initial days, you can easily become the top influencer and monetize your success. So, if you’re looking to stay ahead of the competition, the game of signing up for new social media platforms is worth the candle. Are you thinking of TikTok for business?

If you haven’t already, now is the best time to create a TikTok account for your business. Being the fastest growing social media of the decade, TikTok has around 800 million active monthly users globally. This makes TikTok the seventh most popular social media platform in the world. Given the numbers, it should not come as a surprise that so many businesses are moving their marketing efforts to TikTok. 

So, where do you start your business’ journey on TikTok? This article is a great start! We’ve gathered all the important aspects your business should know about this trendy platform. 

Audience

The first important thing you should know about Tiktok is that it has a very specific audience. The platform is extremely popular among Gen Zers. In fact, 41% of TikTok users are aged between 16 and 24. When it comes to gender demographics, 55.4% of TikTok users are male compared to 44.4% of female users. When asked why they like TikTok, platform users say they enjoy watching someone else’s videos, liking content, and following other users. 

User consumption to help TikTok for business

Source: Global Web Index 

So, TikTok is a perfect platform for targeting Gen Zers. Keep in mind that Gen Z is a tech-savvy audience that’s unlike other generations. They are not interested in hard sales and are immune to typical marketing campaigns. When marketing to Gen Zers, it’s important to focus on the experiences rather than the benefits of the product. That’s why if you’re primarily targeting Gen Z, your business can’t afford to ignore TikTok.  

Content

TikTok for business - Content

Source: TikTok for business 

Another important thing you should consider about TikTok is its unique content format. Often compared to Vine, TikTok is a short-form video platform. It’s not the place for your traditional perfectly polished advertisement campaign. As stated on the official website, TikTok is made for real people to create real videos. 

Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok is a creative and entertainment space rather than a social space for communication. So, a smart way for brands to maximize their influence on TikTok is to understand the content popular within the platform and have their creative teams brainstorm content ideas. 

So, what are the most popular content types on TikTok? Studies show that entertainment, dance, prank, and fitness videos are the most popular within the platform. DIY videos, skincare reviews, makeup tutorials, and fashion videos are beloved by TikTok users as well.  

TikTok for business - Content types

Source: Statista 

Advertisement options

There are multiple ways you can use TikTok to promote your business. Firstly, you should create a channel to share relevant videos. Yet, if you want to maximize your reach, it’s helpful to use in-app advertising. Let’s take a look at three popular ad types, so you can better understand how to market on TikTok. 

1. Infeed content ads 

Similarly to Snapchat and Instagram story ads, infeed content ads are short videos displayed in the user’s feed in between other content. Infeed ads take the full screen, but users have an option to skip them. So, if you choose to create native ads, they must be engaging enough to grab users’ attention within the first two seconds of the video. 

Here’s an example of an infeed ad on TikTok. 

TikTok for business - In feed ads

GIF Source

2. Branded hashtag challenges

Launching a branded hashtag challenge is another way to promote your business on TikTok. In fact, it’s one of the most popular ways to advertise products and business on the platform.

So, what exactly is a branded hashtag challenge? A hashtag challenge is a unique TikTok’s content format where brands ask users to post a certain task using a specific hashtag. When TikTok users see your hashtag challenge, they will be redirected to the main challenge page which includes instructions on how they can participate along with other important details. The most popular branded hashtag challenges make their way to TikTok’s trending page where millions of users can see them. 

Here’s an example of a branded hashtag challenge on TikTok. 

TikTok for business - Brand hashtag challenges

GIF Source

3. Brand takeovers 

A brand takeover is a full-screen ad that appears on users’ devices when they open TikTok for the first time a day. Brand takeovers typically run for three to five seconds and are either videos or images. One great thing about brand takeovers is that you can link them to your TikTok profile, website, or a hashtag challenge page. TikTok allows only one brand to take over a category each day, meaning that your ad will play on a single day only. 

Here’s an example of a brand takeover. 

TikTok for business - Vans - Brand takeover

GIF Source

4. Influencers

Partnering with influencers is another way to promote your business on the platform. Influencers are a big deal on TikTok and businesses are increasingly putting the pedal to the metal and invest in TikTok marketing campaigns. 

If you want to use influencers to promote your business on TikTok, consider starting with micro-influencers. Unlike macro-influencer, micro-influencers have a smaller reach in the range of 1,000-10,000 followers. Even though they have a smaller audience, micro-influencers usually have higher engagement and are, therefore, more likely to help you with conversions.

Potential challenges

Even though TikTok gained enormous popularity over the last few years, governments have raised security concerns about the app. India banned TikTok over security concerns despite the 200 million users in the country. 

The talks around the TikTok ban have escalated fast into reality as countries continue to investigate the potential security threat and the platform’s data and security policies. In the meantime, Tiktok users found a way around the ban using NordVPN and other virtual private networks. Even though the destiny of TikTok in the United States is still up in the air, companies nonetheless continue marketing within the platform. 

The bottom line

TikTok keeps millions of users glued to their screens, and offers unique opportunities for brands to promote their products and go viral by using TikTok for business. By understanding these aspects, you can create relevant marketing content that will resonate with your audience on the platform. Hopefully, now you have a better idea about the addictive scrolling app that Gen Zers are so obsessed with.

The post What you must know about TikTok for business appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Ride-hailing was hit hard by COVID-19. Grab’s Russell Cohen on how the company adapted.

September 18, 2020 No Comments

A contactless delivery performed by a Grab delivery driver

A contactless Grab delivery

Ride-hailing services around the world have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Grab was no exception. The company is one of the most highly-valued tech startups in Southeast Asia, where it operates in eight countries. Its transport business suffered a sharp decline in March and April, as movement restriction orders were implemented.

But the company had the advantage of already operating several on-demand logistics services. During Disrupt, Russell Cohen, Grab’s group managing director of operations, talked about how the company adapted its technology for an unprecedented crisis (the video is embedded below).

“We sat down as a leadership group at the start of the crisis and we could see, particularly in Southeast Asia, that the scale of the challenge was so immense,” said Cohen.

Grab’s driver app already allowed them to toggle between ride-hailing and on-demand delivery requests. As a result of COVID-19, over 149,000 drivers began performing on-demand deliveries for the first time, with Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand seeing the most conversions. That number included tens of thousands of new drivers who joined the platform to make up for lost earnings during the pandemic.

The challenge was scaling up its delivery services to meet the dramatic increase in demand by consumers, and also merchants who needed a new way to reach customers. In March and April, Cohen said just under 80,000 small businesses joined its platform. Many had never sold online before, so Grab expedited the release of a self-service feature, making it easier for merchants to on-board themselves.

“This is a massive sector of the Southeast Asian economy that effectively digitized within a matter of weeks,” said Cohen.

A lot of the new merchants had previously taken only cash payments, so Grab had to set them up for digital payments, a process made simpler because the company’s financial unit, Grab Financial, already offers services like Grab Pay for cashless payments, mobile wallets and remittance services.

Grab also released a new package of tools called Grab Merchant, which enabled merchants to set-up online businesses by submitting licenses and certification online, and includes features like data analytics.

Modeling for uncertainty in the “new normal”

Part of Grab’s COVID-19 strategy involved collaborating with local municipalities and governments in different countries to make deliveries more efficient. For example, it worked with the Singaporean government to expand a pilot program, called GrabExpress Car, originally launched in September, that enabled more of Grab’s ride-hailing vehicles to be used for food and grocery deliveries. Previously, many of those deliveries were handled only by motorbikes.

The situation in each of Grab’s markets–Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam—is still evolving. Some markets have lifted lockdown orders, while others continue to cope with new outbreaks.

Cohen said ride-hailing is gradually recovering in many of Grab’s markets. But the company is preparing for an uncertain future by modeling different scenarios, taking into account potential re-closings, and long-lasting changes in both consumer and merchant behavior.

“Unpredictability is something we think a lot about,” Cohen said. Its models include ones where deliveries are a significantly larger part of its business, because even in countries where movement restrictions have been lifted, customers still prefer to shop online.

COVID-19 has also accelerated the adoption of digital payments in several of Grab’s markets. For example, Grab launched its GrabPay Card in the Philippines three months ago, because more people are beginning to use contactless payments in response to COVID-19 concerns.

In terms of on-demand deliveries, the company is expanding GrabExpress, its same-day courier service, and adapting technology originally created for ride-pooling to help drivers plan pickups and deliveries more efficiently. This will help decrease the cost of delivery services as consumers remain price-conscious because of the pandemic’s economic impact.

“Purchasing behaviors have changed, so for us, when we think about the supply side, the drivers’ side, that means we’ve got to make sure our fleet is flexible,” he said.


Startups – TechCrunch


Beginner PPC Optimization Tips for Ecommerce Brands

September 17, 2020 No Comments

Learn 10 easy optimization tips and tests for eCommerce brands just launching their first search campaigns.

Read more at PPCHero.com
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Google ranking factors to change search in 2021: Core Web Vitals, E-A-T, or AMP?

September 17, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • The biggest Google update of the year is called the Page Experience update.
  • Core Web Vitals are part of that update, and they are definitely ranking factors to keep in mind, especially when optimizing images.
  • AMP is no longer the only way to get a “Top Stories” feature on mobile. Starting in 2021, any news webpage can become a “Top Story”.
  • Combining AMP’s privacy concerns and cost of operation might mean that AMP will disappear within a couple of years.
  • E-A-T is not a ranking factor right now, and we don’t know if it will become one in the future.

2020. What a year. History is happening around us, and Google? Well, Google keeps on revamping their search algorithms. Over the years, there have been many many major algorithm updates, as Google worked to keep us on our toes. 2020 was no different: in one fell swoop, we got the news about a Page Experience update and AMP news. All the while the debate about whether or not you need E-A-T for ranking rages on. How do the Core Web Vitals stand in changing the search game in 2021?

Let’s go over each of these innovations and see which will change the way we do SEO, and which will fade into obscurity sooner rather than later.

1. Importance of core web vitals for SEO

Core Web Vitals were part of Page Experience update, and, by far, caused the biggest ruckus.

There’s a lot to learn about Core Web Vitals, but they boil down to the three biggest issues on our webpages:

  1. LCP — Largest Contentful Paint, which deals with the loading speed of the largest single object on the page.
  2. FID — First Input Delay, which means the reaction time of the page to the first user input after (whether they click, tap, or press any keys).
  3. CLS — Cumulative Layout Shift — this is the measure of how much the content of the page jumps while loading content, mostly visual content, after opening.

How core web vitals influences rankings

Of course, some SEO experts think that the entire Page Experience update is nothing special, and could even: “[…] distract, […] from the core mission of communication and storytelling,”.

And, sure, most of Page experience update is simply an assembly of things we’ve known for a while: use HTTPS, be mobile-friendly, control your page speed, and so on.

But Core Web Vitals are a bit different and can influence the SEO practice in unexpected ways. Key factor that’s already changing rankings is Cumulative Layout Shift.

As most SEO experts know, for a while an important part of image optimization was using the <decoding=async> attribute in the <img> tag to avoid losing page speed while rendering the page.

Using <decoding=async> could lead to some seriously janky pages if coders didn’t specify the height and width of every single image to be rendered. Some websites did it anyway, for example, Wikipedia on most of its pages has a predefined space for images created ahead of time.

Core Web Vitals and other ranking factors for 2021 - Wikipedia

But as SEO experts we didn’t have to worry about pages being jumpy all too much, as that didn’t influence the rankings. Now with CLS being formally announced as a ranking factor, things will change for a whole slew of websites and SEO experts.

We’ll need to make sure that every webpage is coded with CLS in mind, with the needed space for every image defined ahead of time, to avoid the layout shifts.

The verdict

Overall, of course, it’s too early to tell, and more work by SEO’s around the web needs to be done here. However, it seems that if you aren’t used to focusing on technical SEO, Core Web Vitals becoming ranking signals might not influence your day-to-day work at all.

However, if you are conducting complicated technical SEO, then Core Web Vitals will definitely change the way you work in as-yet unexpected ways.

2. Importance of AMP for SEO

The AMP’s relevance today is kind of an open question. While it’s always been great as a quick-and-easy way to increase page speed, the privacy concerns have been voiced over and over again since the technology’s very inception.

But in 2020, significant changes are afoot, since, within the same Page Experience update, Google announced that there’s finally no requirement for us to create AMP pages to occupy the “Top Stories” SERP feature.

That’s a pretty huge step for anybody trying to accrue as many SERP features as they can, and, in particular, for news websites.

Core Web Vitals and other search ranking factors for 2021 - Top Stories

How AMP influences rankings

If we believe John Muellers’ words, then AMP is not a ranking factor. Seems plain and simple enough. But of course, things aren’t so simple, because AMP comes with pretty significant gains in page speed, and speed is an important ranking factor.

Thanks to AMP’s pre-rendering combined with some severe design limitations, AMP webpages often really do win in page speed, even if not in ranking as is.

The “Top Stories” SERP feature, however, was a huge benefit to using an AMP for any news agency with a website, and it’s easy to understand why. Just look at how much of the page is occupied by the “Top Stories” results.

Not only do “Top Stories” automatically get top 1 ranking on the SERP, but they also sport a logo of the website posting them, standing out even more from the boring old blue-link SERP.

This means that for a few years now news websites were essentially forced into using AMP to get into a “Top Stories” SERP feature on mobile since it absorbs a whole lot of clicks.

On the other hand, it takes quite a lot of resources to support AMP versions of the webpages, because you are basically maintaining a whole additional version of your website.

Added to which, a page that’s been properly optimized for speed might not need AMP for those speed gains, as well.

The verdict

While it’s tough to imagine that AMP will fade away completely within the next couple of years, AMP’s privacy issues combined with the cost of maintaining it might spell the end of it being a widely used practice.

Now, with the “Top Stories” becoming available to non-AMP pages, there’s virtually no reason to jeopardize the users’ security for speed gains you could get by proper optimization.

3. Importance of E-A-T for SEO

Expertise. Authority. Trust. All perfectly positive words and something we should all strive for in our professional lives. But what about search optimization?

Coming straight from Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines, E-A-T has been the talk of the town for a good moment now. Let’s dive in and see how they might change the way we optimize for search.

How E-A-T influences rankings

For most of us, they don’t really.

Sure, Quality Rater Guidelines provide valuable insights into Google’s ranking process. However, E-A-T is one of the lesser-important factors we should be focusing on, partly because these are nebulous, abstract concepts, and partly because Google doesn’t exactly want us to.

As Google’s official representatives informed us, E-A-T is not in itself a ranking factor.

Receiving follow-up questions, Google’s John Mueller then reiterated that point, and Ben Gomes, Google’s VP of search engineering confirmed that quality raters don’t influence any page’s rankings directly.

However, in practice, we often see that the so-called YMYL websites already can’t rank without having some expertise and authority established. A very popular example is that it’s virtually impossible to rank a website providing medical advice without an actual doctor writing the articles.

The problem here is that expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are not easily interpreted by the search algorithms, which only understand code.

And, at the moment, there seems to be no surefire way for Google to transform these signals into rankings, except to read the feedback of their quality raters before each algorithm update.

The verdict

While using E-A-T to rank websites might sound like an inarguable benefit for the searcher, there is a couple of concerns that aren’t easily solved, namely:

  1. Who exactly will be determining the E-A-T signals, and according to which standard?
  2. The introduction of such factors creates a system where the smaller and newer websites are punished in rankings for not having the trustworthiness that they couldn’t realistically acquire.

Responding to both of these concerns requires time and effort on the search engine’s side.

As things stand right now, E-A-T is not something to keep in mind while doing day-to-day SEO operations.

Let’s imagine a fantastical scenario where a webmaster/SEO expert has some free time. Then they might want to work on E-A-T, to try and stay ahead of the curve.

On the other hand, there simply isn’t any proof that Google will actually use E-A-T. Or that, even if used, these signals will become major ranking factors. For this reason, E-A-T shouldn’t be your priority ahead of traditional SEO tasks like link building and technical optimization.

Additionally, consider this. The entire Quality Rater Guidelines is 168 pages long. However, a comprehensive explanation of what E-A-T is and why it might be calculated a certain way will take many more pages than that.

Conclusion

As of the time of this writing, the Core Web Vitals seems to be the most important ranking news to come out in 2020 in practical terms. However, search is an extremely volatile field: what worked two weeks ago may not work today, and what works today might not work for most of us.

The matters are further complicated because we’re fighting an uneven battle: it’s simply not in search engines’ best interest to give us a full and detailed picture of how ranking works, lest we abuse it.

This is why it’s crucial to keep our hand on the pulse of optimization news and changes occurring every single day. With constant efforts from our SEO community to work out the best way to top rankings, it’s possible for us to close that gap and know for sure which trends are paramount, and which we can allow ourselves to overlook.

Aleh Barysevich is Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario.

The post Google ranking factors to change search in 2021: Core Web Vitals, E-A-T, or AMP? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How to get the most branding bang out of your B2B IPO

September 16, 2020 No Comments

There’s definitely a lot of talk about SPACs these days. But the tried-and-true IPO is still the long-term liquidity goal for most tech startups. CEOs dream of ringing the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, or seeing their face splashed across Nasdaq’s giant video screen in Times Square. Late last month, five high-profile tech companies filed on the same day to go public through traditional IPOs, presumably gunning to get out before the November election.

There is obviously a ton of operational, financial and regulatory preparation that goes into a successful initial public offering. But one aspect of IPO planning that often gets short shrift, particularly at B2B-focused companies chasing relatively niche buyer audiences, is branding and communications. As the head of marketing and communications for a big investment firm, I see this all the time. I believe companies who skimp here are throwing away significant equity value.

Simply put, a highly public financing event like an IPO is an enormous branding opportunity for most companies. It’s a free pass for companies to tell their stories to a huge, global audience and rack up high-level press coverage — both at the time of the IPO and in the future, since many publications (like my former employer, the Wall Street Journal) often focus on coverage of larger, publicly traded companies.

Why do so many companies fall down in this area? I think a lot of it has to do with the broader shift toward data-driven, online marketing and away from branding at many companies. Because highly technical companies in areas like hybrid-cloud computing or DevSecOps (yes, that’s a thing) often struggle in their early days to get journalists interested in their stories, they never make communications a priority inside the company. This comes back to haunt them when, all of the sudden, they’ve filed an S-1 and their exec team has zero experience explaining the company’s story in clear, persuasive terms to a general audience.

But smart companies can avoid this trap. Here are five ways you can get the most branding bang out of your tech IPO, no matter how arcane your company’s business is.

Don’t procrastinate

This is honestly the most important point to take away here. Successful PR and communications around an IPO are a result of long-term planning that starts at least 12 to 18 months before you file your offering document with the SEC. Once you think an IPO is in the offing, take a hard look at both your (1) marketing/communications staffing and (2) your existing digital footprint.


Startups – TechCrunch


Eliminating Conflict to Maximize CRO and SEO Efforts

September 16, 2020 No Comments

Learn how conversion rate optimization (CRO) and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies can work together by eliminating conflicting tactics.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Are search engines dead in China?

September 15, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • WeChat, a widely-used Chinese app, provides users with a variety of features including messaging, shopping, and more, inevitably affecting the search landscape with the abundance of data and content it provides to users.
  • Chinese users are stepping away from using traditional search engines, and instead, are leaning on searching within one-stop apps that are more tailored to their search queries.
  • Many companies like Bytedance and Alipay are increasingly trying to make their mark in search by creating large ecosystems that effectively tend to users’ needs.
  • Many of these challenger platforms are aiming to gain more dominance in the search market to capitalize on rising search demands.

 Are search engines dead in China?

You can’t imagine the internet without the search engine. It started out as a way of finding stuff on the various websites that were popping up, but ended up shaping the very medium it was indexing. Nobody would build a website without making sure it was molded around the demands of the biggest search engines in its customers’ region.

But that doesn’t mean search itself isn’t changing. As we’re seeing in China, the days of the search engine website that you visit to start your exploration could be numbered.

WeChat, therefore WeSearch

The largest search engine in China has always been (and remains) Baidu, which has a billion regular users, making it the second most popular search resource in the world.

But there’s a new player in town. WeChat has 1.2 billion users globally, mainly in China. It’s a one-stop app with a multitude of uses, not limited to messaging, consuming content, shopping, accessing services, and mobile payments. It’s ubiquitous in the nation, so it’s easy to see how it could become a hugely disruptive element in the search landscape. Because of its huge user base and multiple functions, there are billions of different user actions recorded and thousands of items of content being created and consumed on a daily basis. 

WeChat has a large volume of content and data within its ecosystem, including articles from WeChat official accounts (similar to Facebook business pages), mini-programs (mini-apps embedded within WeChat which don’t require installation on users’ mobile devices), news content from Tencent News, along with content from Tencent Music and WeChat Video channel. More importantly, WeChat has a partnership with Sogou, China’s second-largest search provider, to pump more information into WeChat’s ecosystem.

WeChat stats

Plugged into this huge index, WeChat search has become a powerful tool to find information. A survey by SocialBeta showed that 32% of WeChat users use it as their prime search engine of choice, and 46% use it as a general search tool. These are big numbers.

Now, Tencent, the owner of WeChat (and Sogou’s major shareholder), is moving to buy Sogou outright, potentially empowering its business model to take on more of the traditional search engines’ market share and to grab the benefits that come with it.

Search is moving away from pure search engines

The amount of searching going on in China is as strong as ever, but increasingly, people are turning away from the traditional search providers and searching within the enormous ecosystems Chinese tech giants build. 

A typical Chinese consumer can have various different sources to search for information depending on what they are looking for. To search for a product, they can go straight to dominant ecommerce platforms like Taobao and JD.com, then search in Xiaohongshu to look for inspiration and community reviews. If they are interested in a brand, a celebrity, or trending news, they will head to WeChat, Weibo, or Toutiao. To find a nearby store or a local service they will search in WeChat and Alipay without downloading any apps. A typical American would do most of that through Google, even when searching for products on Amazon, despite it having a perfectly good search engine of its own.

Search engine market in China

Search defragmenting

When it comes to search engine market share in China, only traditional search engines like Baidu and Sogou will be classified in the landscape by all the statistics providers. The movement of other players has been neglected for a long time. Toutiao, for example, is the top news and information aggregation app in the country, with 275 million monthly active users. Its owner is Bytedance, a company that’s currently in the Western news, as it’s the owner of TikTok, a video sharing app that President Trump wants to ban in America.

TikTok’s cousin in China, Douyin, has more than 400 million users. Similar to WeChat, millions of pieces of content and actions happen across Bytedance’s portfolio, ranging from news and articles to videos. With the data and information continuing to grow in the app, an increasing number of users are adapting to use search in the news app to look for information.

However, in March 2020, when Toutiao launched an independent search engine to rival Baidu, it failed to meet expectations and didn’t make much of a crater in Baidu’s landscape.

With 700 million users, Alipay is another rising star in the search landscape. It is a financial app that allows users to not only pay for things, but do a host of daily tasks like picking up parcels, ordering food, applying for credit cards, and buying and selling stocks and shares. Again, search within this ecosystem is a significant competitive thing, as it can guide users towards certain products and services over rivals.

According to third party research, half of the search queries happening in Alipay are finance related. In early 2020, Alipay even made an improvement to its in-app search algorithm so users can directly search for the name of a stock or finance product, instead of accessing them through the menu.

Alipay has not stopped there – this year, as the major sponsor of a trending reality show, “Street Dance of China Season 3″, Alipay has been actively placing branded search bars in the show to encourage more viewers to engage with its in-app search function.

Alipay sponsors major reality show in China

Why are they all eyeing the search market?

The answer is ad revenue. Many of the platforms mentioned above, including Weibo, Tencent, and Toutiao are already offering paid search ad positions to capitalize on the search demand.

Clearly, Chinese people regularly use all or most of these apps on a daily basis, so they don’t tend to stick to a single search engine, as is the case with Europe and the US, where Google dominates and permeates throughout the entire digital world. A rough parallel could be the search results given by Facebook and Twitter, but neither has the dominance or the captive audience that these Chinese giants can boast.

Should Baidu be worried? By far, Baidu provides the biggest index compared to all the other players. Also, like Google, Baidu has vigorously diversified, and provides dozens of services from maps to cloud storage – and its search engine backs up the whole ecosystem. The biggest long-term challenge for traditional search engines is that all the valuable data and content from super apps like WeChat, Toutiao, and Aliplay have not, and will not, open their indexes to service users outside their ecosystems.

In the short term, Google’s search dominance doesn’t look like it will be challenged in the same way Baidu has been. Through accidents of history and habitual use among consumers, it’s hard to knock big search engines off their perch. But nothing is predictable in digital, and analysts will certainly be keeping a close eye on the petri dish that is the Chinese search sector.

Ada Luo is Regional Account Director (APAC) at Croud.

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