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Twitter plans to expand its misinformation labels — but will they apply to Trump?

May 26, 2020 No Comments

President Trump is again testing Twitter’s stomach for misinformation flowing from its most prominent users.

In a flurry of recent tweets, Trump floated conspiracy theories about the death of Lori Klausutis, an intern for former Congressman Joe Scarborough who was found dead in his Florida office in 2001 — a freak accident a medical examiner reported that resulted from a fall stemming from an undiagnosed heart condition. Scarborough, a political commentator and host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, is a prominent Trump critic and a frequent target for the president’s political ire.

The medical evaluation and lack of any evidence suggesting something nefarious in the former intern’s death has not been enough to discourage Trump from revisiting the topic frequently in recent days.

“When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder?” Trump tweeted in mid-May. A week later, Trump encouraged his followers to “Keep digging, use forensic geniuses!” on the long-closed case.

In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Twitter expressed that the company is “deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family.”

“We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

When asked for clarity about what product and policy changes the company was referring to, Twitter pointed us to its blog post on the labels the company introduced to flag “synthetic and manipulated media” and more recently COVID-19 misinformation. The company indicated that it plans to expand the use of misinformation labels outside of those existing categories.

Update: On Tuesday afternoon, Twitter quietly added a fact-checking link to two tweets from the president containing false claims about mail-in voting. 

Twitter will not apply a label or warning to Trump’s recent wave of Scarborough conspiracy tweets, but the suggestion here is that future labels could be used to mitigate harm in situations like this one. Whether that means labeling unfounded accusations of criminality or labeling that kind of claim when made by the president of the United States remains to be seen.

In March, Twitter gave a video shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino and retweeted by Trump its “manipulated content” label — a rare action against the president’s account. The misleadingly edited video showed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden calling to re-elect Trump.

According to the blog post Twitter pointed us to, the company previously said it will add new labels to “provide context around different types of unverified claims and rumors as needed.”

Even within existing categories — COVID-19 misinformation and manipulated media — Twitter has so far been reluctant to apply labels to high-profile accounts like that of the president, a frequent purveyor of online misinformation.

Twitter also recently introduced a system of warnings that hide a tweet, requiring the user to click through to view it. The tweets that are hidden behind warnings “[depend] on the propensity for harm and type of misleading information” they contain.

Trump’s renewed interest in promoting the baseless conspiracy theory prompted the young woman’s widower T.J. Klausutis to write a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey requesting that the president’s tweets be removed.

In the letter, Klausutis told Dorsey he views protecting his late wife’s memory as part of his marital obligation, even in her death. “My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,” Klausutis wrote.

“An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.”


Social – TechCrunch


What are PBNs and should you use them?

May 25, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are a huge part of the SEO industry and whilst getting backlinks is still a key driver in the Google search algorithm, PBNs will always be the source of debate and interest amongst SEO practitioners. 
  • PBNs have different uses and interpretations but can be used to point links to your site, sell links, or just simply add your home page links on them.
  • Will you get penalized if you use PBNs? Should you consider using it? Read on to find out what experts and Tudor Lodge Consultants say.

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are a huge part of the SEO industry and whilst getting backlinks is still a key driver in the Google search algorithm, PBNs will always be the source of debate and interest amongst SEO practitioners. 

If you have ever bought a domain or run a website that ranks on Google, you are probably accustomed to getting emails from PBNs on a daily basis and they will tend to offer you a list of links that you can buy. The emails you receive will typically be called:

  • “High Quality Guest Posting”
  • “Guest Posting Service”
  • “High DA Quality Sites” 

But should you be paying to add these links to your website? And what is the damage?

Content created in collaboration with Tudor Lodge Consultants.

What Are PBNs?

PBNs are very simply blogs or old websites with domains that have expired, but still, have a lot of value due to gaining thousands of historical backlinks.  

Anyone can buy these domains once they expire or sometimes they are bought via an online auction.

But it is the ability to use this expired site, maybe re-design it, add some fresh content, and then start adding or selling links from this site to boost your SEO rankings or for commercial gain.  

Example

XYZ.com suddenly expires but has generated thousands of backlinks over the years. Now the site is available to buy, I will redesign it, add some new content, and start pointing links to my own sites and then start selling the links to other people too. 

PBNs

Source: Growtraffic.com  

People will sell links on PBNs anywhere from $ 10 to $ 1,000 per link and when you are looking to justify or scale your SEO spend, it is easily measurable to know what you get for $ 1,000, $ 5,000 or $ 10,000.

Equally, a PBN can just be a news site or blog that purposely sells links for income. 

Prior to 2014, buying links from PBNs was a quick and highly successful way to rank any website, in any industry across finance, money, fashion, insurance – you name it. 

However, over the last few years, Google has started to penalize any PBN site and who they link to, considering this a quick gaming of the system and anti-Google guidelines. Get on the wrong side of Google and you are looking at a serious penalty in your rankings or total blacklisting altogether. Wake up one morning with a penalty and your business model changes overnight. 

Different uses of PBNs

PBNs have different uses and interpretations, but can be used in the following ways: 

1. Point links to your site

Take an expired domain, set up a new website and start writing articles and include links to your own websites.  

2. Sell links

You can sell links to other SEO companies or practitioners – however, this is considered malpractice and anti-Google guidelines. 

3. Just add them to your homepage

You can purchase multiple PBN sites, re-design them and just add your links on every homepage (which is considered the highest trust flow). 

Will my website improve if I use PBNs?

In the world of grey hat or black hat SEO, using PBNs can theoretically improve your website’s search results.  

Certainly in the short-term, an influx of links from websites with high DAs will give you an instant boost. 

For many SEO businesses and online companies, PBNs is the way they conduct an SEO strategy and essentially do business.

If they can stay clear of penalties, PBNs are attributed to ranking some of the top search positions on Google – certainly for industries that attract shady techniques such as loans, web hosting, casinos and pornography. 

Will I get penalized if I use PBNs?

If you are using PBNs to acquire links, you are walking on a constant tightrope and risk of getting penalized by Google. You may not be automatically downgraded – but all it takes is one Google update or algorithm shift for this to change overnight. 

Presumably, if you did nothing but by links from PBNs for years and years, at some point, you will face a penalty and then need to look at removing them to restore your rankings. 

In some respect, more experienced SEOs are able to balance PBNs with a clean approach – and this might include creating natural content, a strong user experience, generating clean and natural links and also doing regular link disavows. 

PBNs run a risk of a Google penalty

Source: DP TECH Group

What the experts say

Seb Atkinson, Head of SEO at Know Your Money explains,

“PBNs are seen as a quickfire way to buy links and boost your rankings – but this is very much an old technique and today is likely to attract penalization. Your best approach is to create unique, interesting content that provides real insight into a topic, making it genuinely link-worthy so people can naturally link back to it.”

Ian Sims, Director of Badger Loans commented,

Working in the payday and short term loan space, I am inundated daily by emails with people offering me links from PBNs. I tend to stay clear of this because although it might give me a quick boost in rankings, a potential penalty could be very costly for our business. I get annoyed when I see other sites ranking on page 1 and they have clearly used this approach – but I know that their success may be short-lived.”

Andrew Speer, Consultant for Fund Ourselves explains,

I have worked in SEO for almost a decade and originally PBNs were a proven source of link-building and the status quo. It wasn’t until algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin that started to reward clean content and link-building and with this PBNs have gone out of favour with Google, despite still being used by tonnes of people across the US and the world. But if you were to start learning about SEO today, this is something that you would stay clear of for sure.”

Conclusion?

There is an argument that using PBNs as part of your link building strategy could be successful for more experienced SEOs. 

But in reality, Google is known to changing their goalposts and revelling in such a high-risk strategy is unlikely to go down well with investors, clients and business partners. 

It may not be if you get a Google penalty, but when.  

Our conclusion? Stay away from PBNs.

 The “will I get penalized” section suggests PBNs could be used by experienced SEOs but the conclusion doesn’t really support this. 

Maybe the main downside of PBNs could be highlighted more, for example, you will always have a risk of a penalty on your site as Google is known to move the goalposts over time. This could be a risk that your investors/clients/business partners are not comfortable with.

The post What are PBNs and should you use them? appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Facebook’s Workplace, now with 5M paying users, adds drop-in video Rooms and more

May 23, 2020 No Comments

One of the biggest technology takeaways of the last couple of months has been that organizations need confident, wide-ranging digital strategies to stay afloat, and Facebook — in its wider bid to build products to serve businesses — is taking note. In the same week that the social network doubled down on business tools for small and medium enterprises with Shops, it is also sharpening its focus on larger enterprises and how they might use its platform.

Today, Facebook announced a number of new products coming to Workplace, its enterprise-focused chat and video platform, including Workplace versions of Rooms (its Houseparty video drop-in clone), Work Groups (a feature it launched on Facebook itself last October to create informal Groups for co-workers), more tools to make video conversations more interactive and enhanced tools for its Portal video hardware.

Alongside all that, Facebook also announced the general availability of Oculus for Business, an enterprise-focused version of its virtual reality headset and platform that plays on how spatial computing is starting to get adopted in a business setting, particularly in training and collaboration projects. It said that there are now more than 400 independent software vendors contributing products to the effort.

The new products are coming at a time when Facebook is focusing how its platform can be a natural tool for consumers who are already using it, to migrate to use it more for work purposes too.

This is something that Mark Zuckerberg has also been teasing out, with his own announcements and discussion today about moving more of Facebook’s staff to remote work. “This is all about a feeling of presence,” he said during his Live video, aimed at staff but broadcast publicly. “As we use these tools for work as well and eat our own dog food, we’ll advance the technology.”

Facebook is also responding to what is going on in the wider working world. Video conferencing and other communications services for remote teams are booming, a direct result of people having to work from home to fall in line with current COVID-19 social distancing measures.

That shift has led to a huge surge of usage and interest in communications tools like Zoom, Teams and Skype (from Microsoft) and Hangouts and Meet (Google’s video offerings).

Facebook itself has been no stranger to that trend: Workplace now has 5 million paying users (and millions more using it for free) — up by 2 million to the end of March. (For some, but not direct, comparison, Slack says it has 12 million daily users and more than 119,000 paying customers, which include many more individual users; Microsoft’s Teams most recent numbers from March are 44 million daily users, but it doesn’t break out which of those are paying.)

Interestingly, that number doesn’t include April or the first part of May, arguably the peak of measures for people to shelter in place in countries outside of Asia (where many put in measures earlier).

“We will see the impact of COVID-19 a few weeks from now,” Julien Codorniou, VP for Workplace, said in an interview. He added that he doesn’t think that the softened economy, and subsequent layoffs for some large employers, will have had an impact on growth, despite Facebook’s customer list including big players from the hospitality and retail sectors (Walmart, Virgin Atlantic and Booking.com are among its many customers in those sectors).

“Usage has stayed the same,” he said. “They know they will have to go back to work at some point and they have to keep their [employee] community engaged. Workplace became mission-critical overnight.”

The new features getting launched today are interesting in part because they are not necessarily so much about expanding the Workplace ecosystem with more links to outside apps — that was one strategy that Workplace has chased in previous iterations to keep up with Slack and enhance its toolset — as it is about enhancing the Facebook-native set of features that it would like people to use. It might speak to Facebook accepting that its strongest play is to accentuate its social features rather than try to position itself as an all-in-one productivity platform (which might come naturally as a result; or might not).

Work Groups — basically smaller groups you could create on Facebook to chat directly to your colleagues outside of your wider circle of friends — was an odd one to launch outside of Workplace, but Codorniou said it was very intentional: the idea was to give a wider set of Facebook users a taste of how they might use Facebook in a work context, and to hopefully drive more usage of Facebook as a result.

The fact that the Rooms feature is now coming to Workplace itself will be one way to entice more of those users — there are now 20 million (yes, that’s right: the power of Facebook scale) — to migrate their usage to Workplace to take up other tools on offer there. For those on Workplace already, it’s another way to boost engagement on the platform.

Rooms are also an import from the consumer side of the business. Rooms was Facebook’s informal attempt to bring in a bit of the spontaneity of other apps like Houseparty (which is a part of Epic Games), but tapping into the social graph that you already have on Facebook. It’s a relatively new feature, only getting launched at the end of April, so it’s interesting to see it making such a quick appearance on Workplace. (Live took significantly longer to get imported.)

The key element of Rooms that will stand out for Workplace users is that those who are on Workplace already can use it to create links that others can use to drop in, even if they’re not a part of the user’s Workplace group or on Facebook itself. Like Zoom or the others, essentially it’s a URL link that will let anyone with a camera, a microphone, a browser and a connection link in.

The tools that Facebook is adding to enhance how Workplace users are able to work with video, meanwhile, will also potentially improve engagement on the platform, but also more simply, give it needed parity with the other tools that have proven popular — necessary if Facebook hopes to get more traction with its native tools, even as it continues to offer integrations with the likes of Zoom.

Live Producer lets the host of a video live event start polls, share their screens and see “health” metrics to gauge responses to what they are saying. Q&A follows the same idea, a Slide-like system to queue, triage and select questions without the questions being necessarily visible to everyone watching. Lastly, the addition of captions will be especially welcome in international teams when you might not always be speaking to people fluent in whatever language you’re using. It’s starting first with live captions in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and German.


Social – TechCrunch


Facebook makes big remote work moves with plan for new hubs in Dallas, Denver and Atlanta

May 21, 2020 No Comments

In a live-streamed town hall, Mark Zuckerberg gave an overview for what he expects in the near future as Facebook pursues accommodations to keep workers productive and safe during the COVID-19 crisis. The move comes as large tech companies reassess the viability of their iconic Silicon Valley campuses, now empty as the pandemic keeps most employees at home.

Part of Zuckerberg’s vision, announced Thursday, includes the surprise announcement that Facebook will be setting up new company hubs in Denver, Dallas and Atlanta. Zuckerberg also noted that Facebook will focus on finding new hires in areas near its existing offices, looking to cities like San Diego, Portland, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Facebook CEO estimated that over the course of the next decade, half of the company could be working fully remotely.

Zuckerberg also elaborated on what kinds of roles would and would not be eligible for all-remote work, noting that positions in divisions like hardware development, data centers, recruiting, policy and partnerships would not be able to shift away from a physical office due to their need for proximity.

“When you limit hiring to people who live in a small number of big cities, or are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, have different backgrounds, have different perspectives,” Zuckerberg said.

For Menlo Park employees looking for greener pastures, there’s one sizable catch. Starting on January 1 of next year, the company will localize all salaries, scaling compensation to the cost of living in the enclaves Facebook employees may soon find themselves scattered to.


Social – TechCrunch


Maximizing local SEO: Five tactics to enhance visibility without breaking the bank

May 20, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • With Google frequently changing its search engine algorithm in recent times in a bid to reduce the organic reach of most businesses so they can invest more in Ads, what are the options left for your small business in this period?
  • According to GoGulf, 46% of all Google searches are of people searching for local information, and 86% of people look up the location of a business on Google Maps.
  • If Local SEO is that effective, what is it, and why should your business rely on it?
  • In this article, I will examine basic things that still work like adding your business to online directories, building backlinks, developing local content targeted at your local audience, incorporating titles and meta description tags, and the use of targeted keywords.

SEO changes all the time. That’s why you need to update your SEO strategies regularly to remain visible. 

According to this article, 72% of consumers visit a store within 5 miles after doing a local search. This shows how powerful local SEO can be. If you can make your business visible such that your business appears in the search results when a potential customer searches for a product and service, there is a 72% chance they’ll drop by your business.

But what is local SEO? Local SEO involves the optimization of your online presence in order to improve your chances of being discovered by people who make local searches. Think of it as your traditional SEO, but with the inclusion of geography in it. In other words, it’s you trying to attract more business from local searches.

In this article, you’ll learn five local SEO tactics that will help you skyrocket your visibility without breaking the bank. 

1. Be strategic about your title and meta description tags

When you search for something on Google’s search engine, you’ll see millions of results competing for your attention. The only way you can tell if the search result has what you’re looking for is the title and the description you see immediately after the title.

Many business owners take the title of their blog posts and meta descriptions for granted. You need to start seeing the title and the description as a way you can “sell” your page to a potential visitor of your page. 

A useful tool that will help you optimize your title and description is Yoast SEO. It’ll be able to test how good your title and description are. 

Deliberately include the location of your business in your blog post titles. For example, let’s assume you sell wine and your potential client is looking for the best New York wine, you’d be doing yourself a great service by including the words “New York” in the title and the description.

Local SEO example New York wine

Source: Google Search

2. Optimize your Google My Business account

You know how you’ll search for a pizza place on your phone and Google will show you a list of pizza places near you? That’s made possible by using Google My Business. Google My Business (GMB) is a tool used to manage your online presence across Google, including Google Search and Google Maps.

You’ll find it shocking that 56% of local businesses haven’t claimed their Google My Business listings. So don’t sleep on this tip.

If you haven’t claimed your GMB listing then make sure you do so. But don’t just claim your GMB listing and forget all about it. Optimize your GMB by filling in your Google My Business Profile, choosing the relevant category, and including images. This will not only help your potential customer find you, but it will also give them some information about your business and thus influence their decision to stop by your business.

3. Create local content

According to GoGulf, 46% of all Google searches are of people searching for local information. So how do you harness that attention so as to get your target audience to know about your business?

Creating local content that will be of interest to your target audience makes you the local authority for your industry. By local content, I mean the creation of content that is targeted to your local audience. This will require you to be strategic with keywords.

So as a florist, instead of creating content on the best flowers to give your wife, think of the best flowers your customer can give their wife in Florida. That way you’re specifically addressing those in Florida and those who come across your article see you as the go-to florist in Florida. 

4. Get inbound links to raise the domain authority

As beneficial as it is to create local content for your own website, Moz revealed that link signals are an important local search ranking factor that will help enhance your visibility as shown in the diagram below. 

Link signals include inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, and linking domain quantity. All this helps to raise the domain authority as this helps increase your local search rankings.  

To improve your link signals you should also guest post local content on other websites as well. Create valuable local resources that your target audience will love.

As you guest post and refer people to the blog on your business website, you’re acquiring inbound links to raise your domain authority. Those will help you with your SEO and increase your chances of being visible on Google when the people within your geographical location search for things related to your business. 

5. Add your business to online directories

Why stop at just adding your business on only one directory when there are so many directories out there. Adding your business to as many online directories (especially local ones) as you can possibly find will increase your chances of being found online. It will be time-consuming but it’s worth it. 

Online business directories like Binge Places for Business, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, and Trip Advisor will make you more visible to those who need your services locally. And to add to that, getting listed on these sites will make you earn backlinks from them which will help build your domain authority and increase your ranking on Google’s Search Engine Result Pages (SERP), therefore increasing your organic reach.

What you need to take note of is that the information on your business on other directories is the same as that on your GMB. This consistency will help with your rankings. 

Ready to maximize local SEO?

Over time Google has tweaked its search engine algorithm to reduce the organic reach of businesses so as to direct their attention to investing in ads. As a small business that has limited resources, investing in ads may seem like a long shot.

If Google’s reducing your ability to organically reach your target audience, then what’s the next available option for you? Local SEO can give you the needed exposure to your target audience organically and at little or no cost.

The good news is that applying the steps above will put you ahead of other local businesses scrambling for their customers’ attention on the most coveted first page of Google search.

Now that you’ve got the tips how did you would you say you’ve fared with your local SEO?

The post Maximizing local SEO: Five tactics to enhance visibility without breaking the bank appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


How search giants are helping spread COVID-19 awareness

May 14, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Misinformation can be even more harmful that the danger itself, Michael McManus highlights the initiatives search and social giants have and are promoting COVID-19 awareness.
  • Google has made some of the biggest changes, modifying the SERPS for COVID-19 related search queries to provide all the needful information people could need.
  • Google also made changes to Google My Business to help companies navigate through this difficult time.
  • Facebook created a coronavirus information centre that has been added to the top of everyone’s Facebook feed.
  • Bing has added a quick link below the search bar on the homepage which on clicking opens the COVID-19 tracker page that has all the information you could ask for about the Coronavirus.  
  • Pinterest is making sure they display pins with the right information from internationally-recognized health organizations.
  • More details on the initiatives Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram have taken.

There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected everyone in one way or another and that we all know that this virus that has shut down most of the world at one point or another isn’t going to go away anytime soon. 

As you can imagine, with such a huge worldwide pandemic happening, there’s a large number of people that are searching for different kinds of information related to the coronavirus. 

coronavirus search trends

For all the searches that are being done on a daily basis and all the news and people talking about the virus, there’s the potential for lots of misinformation about COVID-19 to appear in SERPs and across social media.  

To help combat the sharing of misinformation, some of the major players in both search and social have been able to provide us with the right information at the right time, so that we are not being led to believe the wrong information, that can cause us to panic and worry even more than we already are. 

Search giants and COVID-19 awareness

1. Google

Google has made lots of changes to both their search results and their tools to help with getting people the right information about the coronavirus as well as to help make things easy for people working from home and for businesses to be able to update their clients on a company’s status during this unprecedented time. 

One of the biggest changes that Google has made to help spread awareness about the COVID-19 situation is how they have changed the SERPS when you do a search related to the coronavirus, Google will display all the information you need about the virus, from the number of cases for your given country and the world as well maps, headlines and a very well labelled “ COVID-19 alert” in red on the left-hand side that has links that open up a “zero-click” search box with the relevant information from the CDC. This also changes the SERP to correspond with the link that was clicked. 

Google COVID-19 awareness

Google also made changes to Google My Business to help companies navigate through this difficult time. You are now able to set your business to “temporarily closed” without it having an effect on your site’s local rankings. Google is also letting businesses know that they should update their business hours as well as to post your COVID-19 updates.

GMB COVID-19 updates GMB COVID-19 updates

Just keep in mind that your Google My Business account may not be functioning as expected under the COVID-19 strain and that many of your updates might take considerably longer than normal. 

Google has been working really hard at making sure that the right COVID-19 information is being found and to help with this, the Google Search team is helping official health organizations get more visibility in search with a new best practices guide as well as through a private support group. 

As if that wasn’t enough, Google is also publishing coronavirus mobility reports that allow you to see how your community is moving around differently due to COVID-19 and how the pandemic has affected your area. These reports get their data from Google’s different products, such as Youtube, as well as from users’ location history. 

Google mentions the following – “These Community Mobility Reports aim to provide insights into what has changed in response to policies aimed at combating COVID-19. The reports chart movement trends over time by geography, across different categories of places such as retail and recreation, groceries and pharmacies, parks, transit stations, workplaces, and residential.”

So head on over to the site and download the coronavirus mobility reports to see insights on your city. 

2. Facebook

Facebook is doing its part to help with providing COVID-19 information and awareness by launching its coronavirus information centre. The new information centre has been added to the top of everyone’s Facebook feed.

Facebook COVID-19 awareness hub

Along with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) information centre, Facebook has also created a Coronavirus (COVID-19) information hub for media that has a wealth of information.

Other initiatives that Facebook have done and are doing to help spread COVID-19 awareness: 

3. Bing

With almost seven percent of the search engine market share, Bing has a big platform to help spread COVID-19 awareness and they have done exactly that. They have added a quick link below the search bar on the homepage. 

Bing home page

When clicked, you are taken to their newly created COVID-19 tracker page that has all the information you could ask for about the Coronavirus.  

Bing COVID-19 awareness

This new page allows you to see the total confirmed cases globally and a breakdown of the active cases, recovered cases, and sadly fatal cases. You can then choose a country and you will be able to see how the virus is spreading in all the cities and or states of that respective country. You will also get up to date news related to that country as well.

The page is continuously being updated with data that is collected from CDC, WHO, ECDC, Wikipedia, 24/7 Wall St., and BNO News.

Other initiatives that Bing have done and are doing to help spread COVID-19 awareness include:

  • hub dedicated to explaining the Bing Places features and attributes businesses can use during COVID-19. 
  • Partnered with GoFundMe to integrate it into Bing Places. 
  • Added a CDC coronavirus self-checker chatbot to search results pages.

4. Snapchat

Snapchat has worked with the World Health Organization to create filters that display facts on how to stay safe and social distance during the pandemic. Snapchat has also created new lenses in a bid to encourage social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. 

They have also created a COVID-19 business resource centre to share resources to help their partners navigate this uncertain time in light of COVID-19. 

5. Twitter

Twitter has also created a COVID-19 hub with the goal of helping people find reliable information, connect with others, and follow what’s happening in real-time. You can head over to to the hub to get comprehensive information on how Twitter is helping spread COVID-19 awareness and how they are providing guidance to help businesses.  

Along with their COVID-19 hub, they’ve also created a great resource on crisis communication for brands on Twitter.  

6. Instagram

Instagram is doing its part to help spread COVID-19 awareness and have taken steps to help people access accurate information, stay safe, and stay connected. These new features were designed to help encourage users to stay home, stay connected, and for people to be able to access accurate information during the Coronavirus pandemic.  These new features are the “Stay Home” sticker to help promote social distancing and the new video feature “Co-Watching” that allows you to view Instagram posts together with your friends over video chat. 

Instagram's "Stay home" for COVID-19 awareness

To help people get relevant and up-to-date information and resources, Instagram intends to show more information from @WHO and local health ministries at the top of Instagram’s Feed. You may have already noticed the message that says, “Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus: See the latest information from the World Health Organization so you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. — Go to who.int

Other initiatives that Instagram have done and are doing to help spread COVID-19 awareness:

  • More educational resources in Instagram search results. 
  • Adding stickers to promote accurate information.
  • Removing COVID-19 accounts from recommendations, unless posted by a credible health organization. 
  • Rolling out the donation sticker in more countries and helping people find relevant nonprofits to support. 

7. Pinterest

Pinterest is also doing their part to help spread COIVD-19 awareness and making sure that they are displaying pins with the right information. In order to make sure that they are only showing pins with the right information, they are only displaying search results to Pins from internationally-recognized health organizations.

Pinterest COVID-19 awareness

They have also created a one-pager guide for brands with suggestions for creating content that helps Pinners cope with this extraordinary time.

Other initiatives that Pinterest have done and are doing to help spread COVID-19 awareness: 

  • custom search experience featuring results from experts 
  • Prohibiting ads that claim to offer cures or treatments or that are looking to exploit the crisis 
  • A banner across the site that directs to WHO facts 
  • An easy way to report health misinformation through the “health misinformation” option on Pins. We’re removing any misinformation we find about COVID-19 because it violates our health misinformation policy (which has been in place since 2017) 
  • Stay safe, stay inspired board for even more ideas. 
  • Collection of emotional wellbeing activities to help relax and feel better with content from emotional health experts 

Free tools 

It’s great to see companies big and small come through in a big way to help businesses out during this difficult time. There are lots of companies that are offering a wide range of services, products, consulting services, charitable donations, etc.. We have put together a small list of companies in the search and marketing industry who are  

Unbounce

When it comes to designing beautiful landing pages that convert more, Unbounce is the company to go to. Not only are they the giants in landing page conversions, but they have also really come through during this global pandemic, by offering their essential plan for free to anyone in healthcare, education, nonprofit, or government as well as offering free coaching and strategy sessions with their success managers and so much more. 

Google

Along with all that they provide via GMB, Google is helping remote workers as well as students by providing their video conferencing service for free. Google Meet, is Google’s premium video conferencing product that you had access to if you had a paid G Suite account.

Google is opening up access to Meet to free users gradually, so keep on checking their site to see when it will be available in your area. 

In addition to all the efforts, products, and services that Google’s doing, they are also providing $ 340 million in Google Ads credits to all SMBs. You do not have to do anything to get the credits, you just simply have to have an active account over the past year. The credits will then appear in your Ads account. 

Facebook

Facebook has created a Small Business Grants program that offers $ 100 million in cash grants and advertising credits for up to 30,000 small businesses in over 30 countries. 

Hubspot

HubSpot is a great company that provides a wide range of marketing, sales, and customer service tools and software as well as completely free CRM. HubSpot is doing its part in responding to COVID-19 and its economic impact by reducing the cost of its Starter Growth Suite from $ 112 USD to $ 50 USD per month.  

They are also making their paid Meetings functionality, Quotes, E-Sign, and 1:1 Video tools available for free for 90 days from activation. 

Moz

Moz is a great site that offers lots of insights from industry experts as well as providing great SEO tools. Moz is providing its Academy Courses for Free till May 31st. If you haven’t done so already, you should head over to Moz and sign up for their academy courses. There’s something there for everyone. 

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is another great example of a company stepping up to help businesses in a time of need, by offering up to three months free service for businesses with 25 employees or less in the restaurant, travel, brick-and-mortar retail, healthcare, and more industries.

Mailchimp is also generously giving away custom domains free for five years along with their free website builder. This will help small businesses by giving them two fewer things to worry about during the COVID-19 crisis and help them get up and running online quickly.

You can find out all about theses offers and more that Mailchimp is doing to help out by heading over to Mailchimp’s Statement on COVID‑19.

As if that wasn’t enough, Mailchimp is also providing free standard Mailchimp accounts for eligible public service organizations.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is another great example of a company stepping up to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are giving away their Professional plan to small businesses and nonprofit organizations until July 1, 2020, to help them stay connected with their customers and communities.

Hootsuite is also launching a series of free online workshops designed to show how brands can build better processes for crisis management. They are also working on a brand new virtual conference. 

Similarweb

Similarweb is well known for all the data that they have across all markets and industries, that allow you to gather market intelligence to help you understand different trends, track and grow your digital market share. They have used their data and insights and have created a ‘Coronavirus Data and Insights Hub’ that offers great insights on how COVID-19 is impacting business as well as to help you understand how customers’ needs are changing due to the pandemic. 

Conclusion 

It’s great to see all these companies both big and small all come together during these unprecedented times, by creating COVID-19 awareness so that we can get the information that we are looking for right away and not have to search over and over only to give up and not find what we are looking for or to end up getting the wrong information, offering their services and their time for free to help those in need. 

We are all in this together, stay healthy, and stay safe.  

Michael McManus is Earned Media (SEO) Practice Lead at iProspect.

The post How search giants are helping spread COVID-19 awareness appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Facebook to pay $52 million to content moderators suffering from PTSD

May 13, 2020 No Comments

Facebook has agreed in principle to pay $ 52 million to compensate current and former content moderators who developed mental health issues on the job.

The Verge reported Tuesday that the settlement will cover more than 11,000 content moderators who developed depression, addictions and other mental health issues while they worked moderating content on the social media platform.

In fact, it was The Verge that sparked the inquiry to begin with. Silicon Valley editor Casey Newton reported that Facebook content moderators, hired through outsourcing giant Cognizant in Phoenix and Tampa, were subject to hate speech, murders, suicides and other graphic content.

Facebook employs thousands of content moderators to sift through the vast number of posts, images and other content posted to the site. If a potentially rule-breaking post is flagged by other users, it’s often reviewed by a content moderator who makes the final call on whether it stays or is deleted.

One former content moderator, Selena Scola, said she developed post-traumatic stress disorder — or PTSD — and sued Facebook to start a fund to create a testing and treatment program for current and former moderators.

Cognizant later pulled out of the content moderation market altogether following The Verge’s investigations.

The preliminary settlement will cover moderators in Arizona, California, Florida and Texas from 2015, and each moderator will receive at least $ 1,000. Others could receive up to $ 50,000 in damages.

The California court overseeing the case will make the final call, expected later this year.

A Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch: “We are grateful to the people who do this important work to make Facebook a safe environment for everyone. We’re committed to providing them additional support through this settlement and in the future.”

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.


Social – TechCrunch


This Week in Apps: WWDC goes online, Android 11 delays, Facebook SDK turns into app kill switch

May 11, 2020 No Comments

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the Extra Crunch series that recaps the latest OS news, the applications they support and the money that flows through it all.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 204 billion downloads and $ 120 billion in consumer spending in 2019. People are now spending 3 hours and 40 minutes per day using apps, rivaling TV. Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus.

In this Extra Crunch series, we help you keep up with the latest news from the world of apps, delivered on a weekly basis.

This week we’re continuing to look at how the coronavirus outbreak is impacting the world of mobile applications, including the latest on countries’ various contact-tracing apps, the pandemic’s impact on gaming and fintech and more. We’re also looking at that big app crash caused by Facebook, plus new app releases from Facebook and Google, Android 11’s new timeline and Apple’s plans to move WWDC online, among other things.

Headlines

WWDC goes virtual June 22

Apple announced this week its plans for a virtual version of its Worldwide Developer Conference. The company will host its WWDC 2020 event beginning on June 22 in the Apple Developer app and on the Apple Developer website for free for all developers.

It will be interesting to see how successfully Apple is able to take its developer conference online. After all, developers could already access the sessions and keynotes through videos — but the real power of the event was in the networking and being able to talk to Apple engineers, ask questions, get hands-on help and see how other developers are using Apple technologies to innovate. Unless Apple is planning a big revamp of its developer site and app that would enable those connections, it seems this year’s event will lack some of WWDC’s magic.

The company also announced the Swift Student Challenge, an opportunity for student developers to showcase their coding by creating their own Swift playground.


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Platforms scramble as ‘Plandemic’ conspiracy video spreads misinformation like wildfire

May 8, 2020 No Comments

A coronavirus conspiracy video featuring a well-known vaccine conspiracist is spreading like wildfire on social media this week, even as platforms talk tough about misinformation in the midst of the pandemic.

In the professionally-produced video, a solemn interviewer named Mikki Willis interviews Judy Mikovits, a figure best known for her anti-vaccine activism in recent years. The video touches on a number of topics favored among online conspiracists at the moment, filtering most of them through the lens that vaccines are a money-making enterprise that causes medical harm.

The video took off mid-week after first being posted to Vimeo and YouTube on May 4. From those sites, it traveled to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where it circulated much more widely, racking up millions of views. Finding the video is currently trivial across social platforms, where it’s been reposted widely, sometimes with its title removed or reworded to make it more difficult to detect by AI moderation.

According to Twitter, tweets by Mikovits apparently don’t violate the platform’s rules around COVID-19 misinformation, but it has marked the video’s URL as “unsafe” and blocked the related hashtags “#PlagueOfCorruption and #Plandemicmovie. The company also hasn’t found evidence that her account is being amplified as part of a coordinated campaign.

Over on Facebook, the video indeed runs afoul of the platform’s coronavirus and health misinformation rules—but it’s still very easy to find. For this story, I was able to locate a copy of the full video within seconds and at the time of writing Instagram’s #plandemic hashtag was well-populated with long clips from the video and even suggestions for related hashtags like #coronahoax. Facebook is currently working to stem the video’s spread, but it’s already collected millions of views in a short time.

On YouTube, a search for “Plandemic” mostly pulls up content debunking the video’s many false claims, but plenty of clips from the video itself still make the first wave of search results.

The video itself is a hodgepodge of popular false COVID-10 conspiracies already circulating online, scientifically unsound anti-vaccine talking points and claims of persecution.

Mikovits, who in the video states that she’s not opposed to vaccines, later goes on to make the claim that vaccines have killed millions of people. “The game is to prevent the therapies ‘til everyone is infected and push the vaccines, knowing that the flu vaccines increase the odds… of getting COVID-19,” Mikovits says, conspiratorially. At the same time, she suggests that doctors and health facilities are incentivized to overcount COVID-19 cases for the medicare payouts, an assertion that contradicts the expert consensus that coronavirus cases are likely still being meaningfully undercounted.

In the video, Mikovits accuses Dr. Anthony Fauci of suppressing treatments like hydroxychloroquine—falsely touted by President Trump as a likely cure for the virus. While her claims appear to have landed at the perfect opportunistic moment, her beef with Fauci is actually longstanding. As Buzzfeed reported, in a book she wrote six years ago, Mikovits accused Dr. Fauci of banning her from the NIH’s facilities—an event Fauci himself was not familiar with.

Mikovits also touches on a popular web of conspiracy theories fixated on the idea Bill Gates is somehow implicated in causing the pandemic to profit off the eventual vaccine and makes the unfounded claim that “it’s very clear this virus was manipulated and studied in the laboratory.”

In other interviews, Mikovits has suggested that face masks pose a danger because they can “activate” the virus in the wearer. In the “Plandemic” clip, Mikovits also makes the unscientific claim that beaches should not have been closed due to “healing microbes in the saltwater” and “sequences” in the sand that protect against the coronavirus.

To the uninformed viewer, Mikovits might appear to ably address scientific-sounding topics, but her own scientific credentials are extremely dubious. In 2009, Mikovits authored a study on chronic fatigue syndrome that was retracted by the journal Science two years later when an audit found “evidence of poor quality control” in the experiment and the results could not be replicated in subsequent studies. That event and her subsequent firing from a research institute appear to have kicked off her more recent turn as an anti-vaccine crusader, conspiracist and author.

With “Plandemic,” Mikovits seems to have positioned herself successfully for relevance in the pandemic’s information vacuum—her book sales have even soared on Amazon. Toward the end of the clip, her interviewer even cannily sets up a future outrage cycle at the inevitable crackdown from social media platforms, where the video flouts rules ostensibly banning harmful health conspiracies like the ones it contains.

“It’s other people shutting down other citizens and the big tech platforms follow suit and they shut everything down,” Willis says with steely concern. “There is no dissenting voices allowed any more in this free country.” 

As we’ve reported previously, the coronavirus crisis is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and potentially lethal misinformation— a fact that the “Plandemic” video’s apparent mainstream crossover success demonstrates. Widespread uncertainty and fear is a powerful thing, capable of breathing new life into debunked ideas that would have otherwise kept collecting dust in conspiracist backwaters, where they belong.


Social – TechCrunch


Eight HTML elements crucial for SEO

May 6, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • SEO’s love to write about HTML elements as a vital ranking signal, and as a part of any “perfectly” optimized page.
  • To avoid possible confusion, this is not an HTML guide.
  • Aleh Barysevich, Founder and CMO of SEO PowerSuite and Awario, takes a detailed look at the top eight HTML elements to better communicate with the search engines to achieve better SERP rankings.
  • Lots of pro tips to watch out for, read on!

Using HTML for SEO benefits isn’t new. SEO’s love to write about HTML elements as a vital ranking signal, and as a part of any “perfectly” optimized page

Why do we love them so much? Because the essence of SEO is communicating to the search engine what a webpage/website is all about, and using HTML tags and their attributes is one of the best ways to do so. 

To avoid possible confusion: this is not an HTML guide. Instead, I’ll look at how you can use HTML tags to better communicate with the search engines to achieve better rankings. 

1. Title tag

Title tag is your main anchor. Both on the SERP, as well as on social media like Facebook, <title> is used as an anchor to your page.

HTML elements for SEO - Title tag

So writing it isn’t only about SEO, it also needs to be laconic, informative, unique and eye-catching.

How to use it for SEO

First, don’t make your title tags longer than 60-70 characters. Long titles are shortened to about 600-700px on the SERP, so your longer title simply ends looking incomplete in the SERPs. Second, the keywords. A long time ago Google only understood exact keyword matches. Today, thanks to RankBrain, among other things, Google gets you. Plus, you get penalized for overstuffing your titles. 

Conclusion: use your keywords in your <title> tag, but only to help search engines parse out the meaning of your page and to help your users. 

Structure of the <title> tag

Pro tip 

A page’s title is not just visible on a SERP. It’s also shown in the web browser as a tab title. Some webmasters use that title tag to attract a user’s attention — if you switch tabs the text changes to something like “Come back, we miss you!”. 

It’s the exact approach used by Facebook/LinkedIn to show you you have notifications and can be used to pretty good effect.

2. Meta description tag

The meta description tag determines what’s going to be written about your page on the SERP.

HTML elements for SEO - Meta description tag

How to use it for SEO

First, before writing a meta description, it’s a great idea to check out the first SERP for your target keywords, get a feeling of how the top-ranking results compose their descriptions. Plus, avoid repeating other descriptions word for word Second, try and explain what your page is about in 70-200 characters, and be careful not to overoptimize. Instead, aim to match the search intent of a potential query. 

Structure of the meta description tag

Pro tip

Don’t use quotation marks in your description tag without using HTML entities “&quot;” to encase the word you want to be in quotation marks. If you simply use “ quotation marks around your content, the search engine is likely to cut off your description immediately.

3. Meta Robots txt tag

Among meta tags, the robots one occupies a special place. It’s used to instruct crawlers on how to crawl and index your page. Now, it should be noted that meta robots tag might be ignored at any point, but mostly crawlers respect the wishes of the webmasters.

How to use it for SEO

You can use one or a combination of the following attributes within this tag:

  • noindex — stop search engines from indexing the page entirely.
  • nofollow — tells search engines to not follow the outgoing links on the page, and to not take these links into account when creating SERPs.
  • noimageindex — stop the image indexing on the page.
  • noarchive — SERP will present a cached version of this page.
  • nosnippet — don’t show any meta description on the SERP.
  • unavailable_after — after a certain date, the page won’t be indexed.

Structure of the meta robots tag

Pro tip

Use the nofollow attribute to optimize your crawl budget. Remember to balance your meta robots values and your robots.txt parameters. If you block a page in robots, then obviously a crawler won’t be able to access and heed its meta tags. On the other hand, a crawler might ignore the block in robots.txt, and then if your meta tags don’t specify that your page is noindex/nofollow, the crawler might index it anyway.

4. Headings tags

Heading tags, from h1 to h6, are arranged hierarchically. Use them to break your text up into chapters and as convenient headings for your contents table.

<h1> is the “main” text heading, and by far the most important for our purposes. 

How to use it for SEO

To answer this question, our colleagues ran an experiment not so long ago. I’d recommend you check out the entire findings, but in summary: <h1> tags considerably influence your rankings. Definitely fill them out, and definitely use some of your target keywords.

Structure of headings tags

Pro tip

While using keywords in your headings is important, overall your title tag is what the search engines will be looking at much more attentively. That said, Google recommends matching your title tag and h1 heading, so you can pretty much repeat the same thing, maybe a little more user-friendly.

5. Canonical tag

The rel=”canonical” is an attribute within the <link> tag. Use it to point towards the “main” version of the page among its duplicates. It’s used because a certain amount of duplication is inevitable, and massive duplication will actually harm your rankings in the long run. It’s generally a great idea to use an auditor tool to keep an eye on all of your duplicate pages and canonical tags in a single dashboard. 

How to use it for SEO

It should be correctly implemented within the <head> section of the page and should point to the version that you want to be rankingAlternatively, if you can configure your server, you can indicate the canonical URL using rel=”canonical” HTTP headers.

Structure of the canonical tag

Pro tip

rel=”canonical” tag may be used not just for duplicates, but also near-duplicates. Be careful though: if the two pages connected by a canonical tag differ too much in content, the search engine will simply disregard the tag. Use it for two nearly identical product pages in two different categories, for example, or for two products differing in one small attribute.

6. Nofollow attribute

We all know that links are super important for ranking. But a link’s weight will significantly change depending on how that link is covered by the rel attribute in the <a> tag. 

The rel=”nofollow” element is used in order to point out that you don’t want Google to associate this link with your webpage, and you don’t want to pass your Link Authority to them.

How to use it for SEO

The most obvious use for nofollow HTML element is to block out the spam and promotional links. Remember that by default all of the links on your pages are “follow”, but be careful not to make Google associate you with the wrong pages. When doing link building, you want to avoid nofollow links, and as a webmaster, the situation is reversed, and you should tag any link you don’t want the search engine to associate you with as nofollow.

Structure of the nofollow element

Pro tip

Please remember that internal PageRank sculpting using nofollow, which is sometimes promoted as solid advice, is actually uselessOn the other hand, use the rel values such as ugc to tag your user-generated content, and sponsored for the paid links — this will help Google make a sober assessment of your ranking.

7. Structured data markup

Data markup is an approach to the organization of the information on your page. It’s a win-win decision for a webmaster. Structured data is both good for the UX, and also carries huge SEO valueYou see, lists, along with data markup (schema.org in particular) are absolutely vital to get some additional SERP real estate in the form of rich snippets. From FAQ information, to your review ratings, and much more — to have that additional SERP space, you need to use data markup.

How to use it for SEO

It’s about much more than simply using <ul>/<ol> tags, although it’s still not very difficult. Simply go to schema.org, find the type of markup that suits your page, and implement it into your page’s code.

Additionally, in terms of SEO, data markup is absolutely necessary to get into a featured snippet. While there is no guarantee that the Featured snippet will be yours thanks to structured data, the rich snippets alone make it a worthy investment of your time.

Structure of data markup

Pro tip

Note that you can combine different markup schemas, and should do so when appropriate. When creating a page describing a person, a “person” schema is an obvious choice, but you can also easily add “address” and “organization” to the relevant page elements. That would net you the best SERP results.

8. Image alt text descriptions

Within the <img> tag, the key attribute for SEO is definitely alt. The thing about this tag is it’s indexed. Having your images show up for a certain search query is all about writing a good alt text.

How to use it for SEO

Alt text gives your page a relevance boost. Plus, an additional opportunity to be displayed for relevant search queries. What you need to do is describe the image in about 125 characters or less. It’s definitely the case that you shouldn’t use the words “picture of” or “image of” — just jump straight to the point, and explain specifically and in some detail what’s on the page.

Structure of image alt text description

Pro tip

In a situation where you’ve mapped certain keywords to a page with multiple images, the overoptimization threshold is different. You might get penalized for using your target keywords too consistently over a number of alt tags. A good idea would be to choose an image that best reflects what you’re trying to rank for, and put a keyword in its description. Describe the rest of the pictures as naturally and specifically as you can.

Conclusion

SEO is not an isolated practice, it influences every part of a website’s life, webpage creation included. 

Sure, there is no golden rule to writing HTML tags, no “trick” that would guarantee you a top ranking — what’s important is the accumulation of the best SEO practices. 

The next step after implementing the advice described here would be to switch to HTML5 semantic tags wholesale. These elements help the search engines sort through which element occupies which semantic place on the webpage

By carefully optimizing your tags you get an opportunity to communicate with browsers and search engines directly, and this is something you need to be proactive about.

Aleh is the Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario. He can be found on Twitter at @ab80.

The post Eight HTML elements crucial for SEO appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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