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‘Slow dating’ app Once is acquired by Dating Group for $18M as it seeks to expand its portfolio

January 22, 2021 No Comments

Five-year-old “slow dating” app Once has been acquired by the Dating Group, one of the largest companies in the dating world, for $ 18 million in cash and stock. Dating Group has 73 million registered users across a range of portfolio apps, including Dating.com.

Clémentine Lalande, co-founder and CEO of Once, will continue leading the company under a two-year agreement. Fellow co-founder Jean Meyer retained a stake in the company after departing two years ago.

Once has 9 million users on its platform, while the startup also garnered a further 1 million from a spin-out app it later launched called Pickable.

Once is a dating app that uses matching algorithms to deliver just one match per day to each user. It pitched itself as an alternative to the frenetically paced apps such as Tinder and Bumble. Indeed, Bumble revealed last week that two in five people of those it surveyed are taking longer to get to know someone as a result of pandemic lockdowns. And 38% Bumble users admit that it had made them want something more serious. So Once had a ready market.

Each pair on the Once app has 24 hours of each other’s attention and can continue chatting if they “like” each other. The AI looks at the account’s info, dating preferences and previous history in order to find the best possible match. Users can also rate each particular profile to let the AI better understand their taste.

In a statement, Lalande said: “I am thrilled to join the Dating Group today, both because of their proven focus on post-swiping dating alternatives, and to leverage the huge synergies between Once and Dating Group. In such a concentrated and competitive market having a large partner will allow us to augment our reach and accelerate geographical expansion”.

Bill Alena, chief investment officer at Dating Group said: “We strongly believe in the concept of AI and making quality matches. We see a huge potential in integrating Once into our portfolio. We’re excited to have Clémentine join Dating Group, she and her team have built a fascinating product and with this acquisition, Dating Group expands deeper into the Western European market.”

Dating Group has offices in seven countries and a team of more than 500 professionals, with more than 73 million registered users across the entire portfolio. Its brands include Dating.com, DateMyAge, Dil Mil, Cherish, Tubit, AnastasiaDate and ChinaLove.


Social – TechCrunch


2021 Search marketing: The year of automation

January 21, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • The search engine results page (SERP) is a battleground for user attention riddled with colorful paid and organic content including shopping ads, Quick Answers, popular products, and videos.
  • Today’s search users would rather see to believe than read.
  • Let’s explore what marketers must master in 2021 to stay ahead of the curve for search marketing.

Pull up your phone and search for any good or service, what do you see? In today’s Google and Microsoft search experiences, you will see loads of images and other visual content staring back at you. The search engine results page (SERP) is a battleground for user attention. It is riddled with colorful paid and organic content including shopping ads, Quick Answers, popular products, and videos. The traditional “blue links” are now just one mere navigational aid. Today’s search users would rather see to believe than read. Let’s explore what marketers must master in 2021 to stay ahead of the curve with search marketing:

1. The customer journey must be known

For years, search, while connected to other media channels, largely felt isolated as a “pull” marketing medium. Its purpose was clear: capture demand and connect products and services to the user’s intent.

Today, however, search excellence requires new connectivity to speak more personally to the customer at different stages of their journey. Doing this well requires leveraging first-party customer data, but also, and equally important, leveraging the platform’s view of the customer, be it Google, Facebook, or Amazon. Modern marketers must leverage first-party data, third-party data, and platform data to create greater experiences and ROI. It is pivotal that marketers get this step of the process right as the third-party cookie deteriorates in 2022, causing a new horizon in marketing. Increased focus and investment must be placed on aligning and connecting data and identities across environments, with a privacy-first mindset. To enable this infrastructure, advertisers must enlist developers to automate datastreams that fuel machine learning algorithms in near real-time. Without this investment, both the knowledge of and intelligence behind the customer’s journey is lost.

2. The machine must run

Automation is a requirement to compete in search, but there has always been a complementary relationship between human and machine. The right approach is “both/and” instead of “either/or”.

Still, modern marketers must stay current and regularly question how much to favor machines over humans and for which elements. Further, within the aspects we may turn over to automation, we have what the advertiser, agency, and platform each uniquely know about the customer on the other end of the query. As such, today’s marketers must capitalize on knowing who is better equipped to inform a particular action we take with our ad program.

For example, the advertiser does not know the three most recent websites the user has visited, but platform A does. Platform A does not know which ads the user has interacted with on platform B, but the agency does. However, the agency is unaware of the offline conversion data for the user in a digital marketing target list. Data assets held by the platforms, the agency and the advertiser need to work together in guiding the machine.

Brands should employ just a handful of the real-world search marketing capabilities that use automation based on information the advertiser wouldn’t have themselves. Here are some tips:

1. Real-time automated bidding

Leverage platform-only signals such as previous queries and device/browser combination such as an iPhone 11 running the Google app for search.

2. Automated customer segmentation

This runs the gamut from basic remarketing tags, to platform “smart” audiences, to advanced cluster models. All levels of customer segmentation should be used and layered into your search programs.

3. Dynamic Search Ads

Augmenting most successful paid search programs, this “keywordless” automation step will find newly productive query volume to complement traditional keyword campaign activity. It cannot replace traditional keyword generation but should be used to augment those efforts.

4. Responsive Search Ads

Particularly important to highly-specialized, dynamic, and nuanced businesses, automating ad copy, with distinct, feed-driven customizers is a no-brainer for advanced paid search marketers. Gone are the days of specifying quantities, price points, or geo-targeted locations in tens of thousands of ad groups. Allowing for dynamic keyword inclusion and rotating ad copy narratives is just the beginning of fully automated contextual success.

Business automation accelerates growth

Modern search is mature and as comfortable as a well-worn tee-shirt. To the consumer, it is familiar, yet with fresh subtleties. To the marketer, it is ever more necessary to understand and balance the efforts of the human and machine.

The modern search marketer must have a complete line of sight to the visual battleground of paid and organic listings, understand the customer journey at a session-based level, and guide platform automation with intelligent business inputs as we move into 2021 and beyond. The quaint days of endless negative keyword list management have given way to projects that include near real-time activation of customer segments, based on modeled first-party data and competitive intelligence.

Do you spot any search marketing trends brewing? Feel free to share your observations in the comments.

The post 2021 Search marketing: The year of automation appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Eight great ways to audit your ecommerce site’s SEO

January 19, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Optimizing your ecommerce site’s SEO is essential to maximizing your ecommerce site’s traffic and revenue potential.
  • Improve your SEO by structuring your website and page in a way that is easy for Google to understand.
  • Pagespeed optimization is a necessity, not an option, with the upcoming algorithm change.
  • Writing a relevant, informative blog on your ecommerce site will help increase organic traffic.

A recent statistic shows that 33% of global ecommerce traffic comes from organic searches. In other words, you will be missing out on a significant portion of potential traffic if your ecommerce site is not optimized for SEO. Although some SEO components are not entirely within your control, you can still do many things to improve ecommerce site’s SEO.

In this article, we’ll go over eight ways you can audit and improve on your ecommerce site’s SEO health.

Additionally, we will discuss why it’s now more important than ever to optimize your page speed for the algorithm update in the coming months.

Let’s get started.

1. Canonical tags for filtered pageviews

In most ecommerce sites, you can filter product types based on different categories, such as color, fit, and size.

If your ecommerce site has many filtered pages, you want to use canonical tags in your filtered pages to avoid duplicate content.

Having duplicate content on your site can make it difficult for Google to rank your page since your duplicate page will compete for the top spots in search results.

The image below shows filters on the Underarmour website. You can also see that the URL comes with the “/shoes” text at the end when you filter based on shoes.

Ecommerce site's SEO tips - filters-on-underarmour-site

By placing the canonical tags on your filtered pages, you tell a Google crawler which page is the main page you want to rank.

In this case, the canonical tag on “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens/shoes” points to the “underarmour.ca/en-ca/d/mens” URL.

Ecommerce site's SEO tips - Use canonical tags

This lets Google know that the latter URL is the primary URL you want to rank. You will also prevent your site from potentially receiving a duplicate penalty from Google.

2. Optimize a meta description for each page

Does each one of your pages have a unique meta description?

Ecommerce site SEO tips - Optimize your meta descriptions based on your keywords

Writing a relevant and unique meta description for each page increases the likelihood of people clicking your link. 

Since click-through-rate (CTR) is an important ranking factor in Google search results, you will be jeopardizing your search ranking if you fail to optimize a meta description for your page.

That said, you may find it difficult to implement this in practice if you have hundreds and thousands of pages on your ecommerce site.

In such a case, I recommend you start optimizing meta descriptions for pages currently making you the most revenue and moving down in the order.

3. Keyword placement

While you certainly want to avoid stuffing your page with your target keywords, it’s a good idea to strategically include them throughout your page to let Google know what keywords you are targeting. 

You will want to include a few keywords in your URL, title, description, and alt image text to ensure your page is relevant for your target keywords.

Here is an example.

Ecommerce site's SEO tips - Place your keywords

And an example of keywords in the description.

Ecommerce site SEO tips - Place your keywords in the product title and description

4. Breadcrumb trails

Breadcrumb trails help website visitors navigate through your website and help organize your site in a well-structured manner.

Tips to audit and improve your ecommerce site's SEO - Use breadcrumbs to improve site navigation and improve CTR

Additionally, breadcrumbs make it easy for Google crawlers to understand your page better, which, in turn, may help your page rank better.

Moreover, search results will show breadcrumbs instead of your page’s permalink, which is another clue that Google emphasizes breadcrumbs for SEO.

Breadcrumbs in search results

You don’t need to overcomplicate things when implementing breadcrumb navigation. Just make sure to follow the standards of good practice, such as using breadcrumbs only when it makes sense and progressing from highest to lowest level.

5. Optimize your ecommerce site for sitelinks

Here is an example of sitelinks that appear in search results for a well-optimized site.

Tips to audit and improve your ecommerce site's SEO- Use sitelinks wisely

Google states that they only show sitelinks for structured websites that allow their algorithms to find good sitelinks.

Sitelinks improve click-through-rates and help searchers quickly see pages that are relevant to their interests. 

Furthermore, they add credibility to your sites. Google doesn’t show sitelinks for websites that aren’t well optimized and not trustworthy. 

If Google trusts your website enough to give a large space on search results, you can sort of view that as a seal of approval from Google. 

At the very least, you can assume Google doesn’t see your website as untrustworthy and scammy.

While you can’t fully control whether your ecommerce site shows sitelinks in search results, there are a few things you can do to increase your chance.

  • Enable breadcrumbs and a sitelink search box
  • Structure your website clearly
  • Use anchor text for your internal links

6. Do you have reviews on your product page?

Reviews on your product page serve several purposes.

First, they give useful information to people who visit your website and help them make better purchasing decisions.

Add review snippets and ratings to improve your ecommerce site's SEO

Furthermore, your page can show a star rating in search results, which will help your search result stand out and improve your CTR.

As a matter of fact, a study done by CXL found that review stars can improve CTR by as much as 35%.

You can check out documentation from Google to learn how best to structure your page so you can maximize your site’s chance to display review snippets in search results.

7. Optimize your site speed

You’ve probably heard about the importance of website speed optimization.

But with Google confirming that page loading speed will become a ranking signal in the coming months, it’s now more important than ever to optimize page speed on your website.

According to Moovweb, 87% of ecommerce sites do not meet the page experience standards set out by Google.

You can also see this as an opportunity for your site to gain a competitive edge over others.

There are many things you can do to improve your page speed, such as:

  • Get a better hosting service
  • Use lazy loading, so your image only loads as users scroll down
  • Remove large elements on your page

You can use PageSpeed Insights from Google to determine what elements on your page are slowing down speed.

Google Page Speed Insights

Here is an article with more good advice on optimizing your page speed for the upcoming algorithm changes. 

8. Does your website have informational content?

Finally, it’s always a good idea to write blog posts around keywords that your target audience is searching for.

Add informational content that can answer your consumers' key concerns to optimize your ecommerce site

A study shows that 61% of online shoppers in the US are more confident about purchasing from recommendations that they read in blogs.

Blogging for your ecommerce site can help your business in several different ways.

  1. Build trust with your audience by providing helpful content
  2. Establish your brand as an expert in the field
  3. Improved search engine ranking with relevant, high-quality content on your blog

A blog post you publish today isn’t going to bring an impressive result by tomorrow. But it’s a long-term investment that will help your ecommerce site generate more traffic and build trust and authority with the audience in your niche in the long haul.

Conclusion

Improving SEO for your ecommerce site is rarely ever a quick, easy process.

This is especially true if your site has hundreds of pages that need to be optimized.

In such a case, it would be wise to start with pages that are generating the most amount of traffic and revenues.

Start optimizing from the best-performing pages and move down in the order as your time and effort allows.

Your results with SEO won’t be instantaneous, but you will be glad you put extra effort into optimizing your site’s SEO down the road.

Jin Choi is a writer at the MoneyNam blog.

The post Eight great ways to audit your ecommerce site’s SEO appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Four expert digital marketing strategies to convert bottom-funnel prospects

January 15, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • To convert bottom-funnel prospects, must combine data-backed remarketing with product experience demonstrations, exclusive offers, and relevant upsell opportunities. The first one determines who you should target while the rest three explain how to target them.
  • Dynamic remarketing on (Facebook and Google) allow you to target prospects who have previously visited your website or app with a call-to-action to make an immediate purchase.
  • Product demos, customer reviews, testimonials, etc. work best when they are personalized, showing how your product can help a prospect overcome similar problems that they may be facing.
  • Use special offers and discounts as last-minute nudges to convert prospects.
  • Pre-purchase cross-selling/upselling can work well if you apply non-aggressive strategies.

The toughest prospects lie at the bottom of the marketing funnel. The lowest rung is the stage where prospects take the action of conversion. That makes it a hot battleground. At that stage, the prospect is already aware of all their options. Marketing to them is a matter of conviction, giving the last nudge that leads them to make a purchase decision in your favor. There are no sales if you can’t convert bottom-funnel prospects.

Conversion funnel diagram

Source: Pixabay

The further down the funnel a customer goes, the more you should position your product as the utmost solution that they need. For this, you must combine remarketing with product experience demonstrations, exclusive offers, and relevant upsell opportunities. The first one determines who you should target while the rest three explain how to target them. 

1. Remarketing/Retargeting ads 

The entire idea behind remarketing is to recapture the interest of brand-aware sales prospects and convert them the next time around. It’s the perfect BOFU strategy, and it works best for ecommerce stores. It’s not as easy as it seems, though. BOFU remarketing should aim at straightforward conversion and not just to make the prospects learn more

For instance, if you have an ecommerce site, your retargeting strategy could include a call-to-action with a direct link to check out (if the prospect already has products in their cart) or to quickly add products to their cart (if they had previously only browsed your store). Those are called dynamic ads by Facebook (or dynamic remarketing by Google) and used by many ecommerce stores to display ads that include products that people have viewed on their website or app. 

Digital marketing strategies to convert bottom-funnel prospects - Retarget ads Facebook model

Source: Facebook Dynamic Ads formats

When setting up remarketing ads with Google Display Network or Facebook Ads Manager, you can set goals based on actions you want customers to take, such as buying on your website or calling your business directly (customers may require support to complete a purchase, particularly in B2B marketing). 

2. Demonstrate implementation

The BOFU is your ultimate chance to argue your case for your product and show, not just why it’s better than its competitors, but primarily how it can help the prospect. 

In displaying testimonials and video demos, personalization remains sacrosanct. Show each prospect a review or a demo that matches their particular needs. This works best if you have previously collected some information about the prospect (at the TOFU and MOFU stages). 

If your product addresses customers across multiple industries, for instance, display industry-specific use cases, demos, customer stories, and reviews. A prospect will be more encouraged to convert when they see how your product has helped other people who had similar needs to theirs. You must show them. 

Digital marketing strategies to convert bottom-funnel prospects - Demonstrate implementation

Source: A Hubstaff demo video runs on its landing page

Mind you, demonstrating implementation for B2B products is not limited to content. It can also come as an offer for consultation. Consultations allow you to collect valuable data and understand your prospective customer while also giving you a direct chance to break down how your product helps them solve their specific problems in a way that online ads can’t.

3. Offer a discount or special offer

BOFU marketing aims to make a prospect at the decision stage one irresistible offer that tilts the balance of their conviction towards your product. Special offers can help you achieve this. For instance, offering free delivery or free installation when your competitors charge for the same service may win you many more customers/clients than otherwise.

Customers love discounts. According to the 2020 Valassis Consumer Intel Report, 60% of customers claim that coupons lead them to try new products while 53% admit that coupons can make them choose a brand they would typically not patronize. More so, 72% prioritize saving money by using coupons/discounts. 

Digital marketing strategies to convert bottom-funnel prospects - Offer discounts and special offers - Example Valassis

Source: Valassis

While incentivizing prospects to make a purchase is perhaps the most common strategy, it’s not always effective. Especially during times like the holiday season when there is no shortage of discounts. You need a distinct plan to get ahead and convert bottom-funnel prospects. 

Discount pricing is not just about throwing offers around indiscriminately. It requires careful strategizing. To make discounting successful, you need to know the kind of special offers that work for your audience best. A/B testing comes in handy here. It can help you determine if free shipping works better than, say, a 10 percent discount or a freebie for your audience. 

4. Pre-purchase cross-selling or upselling

It seems counterintuitive to offer a prospect an additional (even more expensive) item when they are not yet convinced to purchase the main product. Marketers usually wait until a lead is converted before upselling to them. Pre-purchase cross-sells/upsells are tricky, which is why many marketers avoid them, you don’t want to scare off an already convinced customer by asking them to shell out more money for an expensive addition. On ecommerce websites, pre-purchase cross-sells/upsells are usually displayed on the product page, cart page, or checkout page. 

Doing it right requires tact. Pre-purchase cross-sell/upsell opportunities must be:

  • Relevant – They work best with complementary products.
  • Easy to turn down – You want to appear as non-aggressive as possible to avoid turning your prospects off.
  • Easy to accept – When a prospect is only one click away from conversion, extending the process may make you lose the prospect. Ecommerce companies are now opting for one-click upsells that add no extra step to the purchase journey.

See the examples below. Both are cross-selling/upselling offers for relevant products. While the first one elongates the purchase process but makes declining very easy, the second one is more optimized with its one-click checkout options either way.

Digital marketing strategies to convert bottom-funnel prospects - Custom pop ups on check out

Source: DigiSmoothie

Source: Zipify

Conclusion

Creativity matters more than intensity when you aim to convert bottom-funnel prospects. It’s all about the nudge. That’s the time to make use of all the information you have gathered about the prospect throughout their customer journey to determine what moves them. Perhaps a 5% discount would work for a certain class of your audience, while another demographic must be convinced via video demos. It all boils down to the type of product you are offering and the type of audience you are trying to convert.

Guy Sheetrit is the CEO of Over The Top SEO, an award-winning marketing agency that provides customized SEO marketing solutions for ecommerce, local, and Fortune 500 companies. He can be found on Twitter @guysheetrit.

The post Four expert digital marketing strategies to convert bottom-funnel prospects appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Trump circumvents Twitter ban to decry ‘unprecedented assault on free speech’

January 14, 2021 No Comments

Following a comprehensive ban from Twitter and a number of other online services following last week’s assault on the Capitol by his followers, President Trump managed to put out a tweet in the form of a video address touching on the “calamity at the Capitol”… and, of course, his deplatforming.

In the video, Trump instructs his followers to shun violence, calling it un-American. “No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence,” he said, days after calling rioters “great patriots” and telling them “we love you, you’re very special” as they despoiled the House and Senate.

He pivoted after a few minutes to the topic that, after his historic second impeachment, is almost certainly foremost on his mind: being banned from his chief instrument of governance, Twitter.

“I also want to say a few words about the unprecedented assault on free speech we have seen in recent days,” he said, although the bans and other actions are all due to documented breaches of the platforms’ rules. “The efforts to censor, cancel and blacklist our fellow citizens are wrong, and they are dangerous. What is needed now is for us to listen to one another, not to silence one another.”

After having his @realdonaldtrump handle suspended by Twitter, Trump attempted to sockpuppet a few other prominent accounts of allies, but was swiftly shut down. What everyone assumed must be plans to join Parler were scuttled along with the social network itself, which has warned it may be permanently taken offline after Amazon and other internet infrastructure companies refused to host it.

In case you’re wondering how Trump was able to slip this one past Twitter’s pretty decisive ban to begin with, we were curious too.

Twitter tells TechCrunch:

This Tweet is not in violation of the Twitter Rules. As we previously made clear, other official administration accounts, including @WhiteHouse, are permitted to Tweet as long as they do not demonstrably engage in ban evasion or share content that otherwise violates the Twitter Rules.

In other words, while Trump the person was banned, Trump the head of the Executive branch may still have some right, in the remaining week he holds the office, to utilize Twitter as a way of communicating matters of importance to the American people.

This gives a somewhat unfortunate impression of a power move, as Twitter has put itself in the position of determining what is a worthwhile transmission and what is a rabble-rousing incitement to violence. I’ve asked the company to clarify how it is determined whether what Trump does on this account is considered ban evasion.

Meanwhile, almost simultaneous with Trump’s surprise tweet, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey unloaded 13 tweets’ worth of thoughts about the situation:

I believe this was the right decision for Twitter. We faced an extraordinary and untenable circumstance, forcing us to focus all of our actions on public safety. Offline harm as a result of online speech is demonstrably real, and what drives our policy and enforcement above all.

That said, having to ban an account has real and significant ramifications. While there are clear and obvious exceptions, I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.

Jack neither reaches any real conclusions nor illuminates any new plans, but it’s clear he is thinking real hard about this. As he notes, however, it’ll take a lot of work to establish the “one humanity working together” he envisions as a sort of stretch goal for Twitter and the internet in general.

 


Social – TechCrunch


Five reasons why clients are leaving your agency

January 12, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • If you’re focusing solely on growth, you may not be seeing the huge impact that customer churn has on your agency.
  • Acquiring a new client costs 5X more than retaining an existing one.
  • Service Provider Pro uses their expertise of helping over a thousand agencies with their systems and processes to share five crucial reasons for why your clients are jumping ship.

There’s an age-old saying that acquiring a new client costs 5X more than retaining an existing one. If you’re focusing solely on growth, you may not be seeing the huge impact that customer churn has on your agency. Having helped over a thousand agencies with their systems and processes, we’ve seen this first hand. Here’s what you might want to keep an eye out for in case you see your clients jumping ship:

Content created in partnership with Service Provider Pro.

1. You’re reinventing the wheel with each client

Handling a project that involves other people’s time and work is not easy, and doing it with an unclear workflow, just hoping for the best each time, makes it that much harder. 

If your workflow is inefficient, some tasks might be eating up your workday, inching you closer to your deadlines and taking away the focus from where it should be: building your client relationships. 

For you, your team, and your clients to be on the same page, you need a set of repeatable processes that don’t vary greatly from client to client. 

That’s where productized services come in: simplifying access and workflow for everyone involved. Get acquainted with the main benefits here.

Productized services = selling services as products. And yes, productized services do work.

Clients like to sign up for a known service at an agreed-upon price. It’s clear for everyone what the deliverables are, what inputs are needed from their side, and what your team will do for them.

Productized services aren’t always results-based. In fact, most of the time they’re based around specific deliverables. In order to get these deliverables out to your clients in the smoothest (and fastest) way, it’s key that each decision-maker can locate the resources needed for the project’s goals, track its progress, and communicate it. Not only does this set a clear path and accountability for your team, but lets your clients know what to expect. There’s no place for doubt as to what is going on with their website.

2. You’re not demonstrating value effectively

And it’s not because it’s not there.

Your clients are investing in your services to see measurable results and a positive return on investment. If they don’t see ROI they’ll want to look for it someplace else. The results of your strategy may be there but if you fail to communicate them in an objective, meaningful way to your client, they might as well not exist.

A good way to help yourself with this is by creating consistent metrics that your clients can keep track of and look back on overtime. Data-driven dashboards are an easy way to put these metrics into focus without too much extra work on your end.

You really want to keep it clean and not overwhelm your reports and clients with too much data, keep it to the relevant metrics to your client’s goal. Loads of data that don’t necessarily resonate with the project can backfire and make it seem like you didn’t get what your client’s objective was, to begin with.

3. Your communication is not the best

Clients do business with people they trust. This sense of trust needs to be maintained, not just during the sales process, but throughout the project delivery as well.

If your clients cannot reach you or see the status or their project live, you’re leaving them to suspect the worst.

Vital information gets lost in messy email threads, scattered messaging across the team, and can get tricky to keep a neat channel of communication open.

Centralizing your communication and providing the means for your clients to access their project’s progress at any time can keep them in the loop and confident that you’re both moving in the same direction.

4. You make it easy to leave after the test run

Keeping your clients after their first project can be tricky. Some people are adamant that an SEO project is a one-time thing and they can work on their own after. If you want your clients to keep coming back to you, you have to ensure that not only are the results there but that getting them was a breeze.

If your payments and invoicing are in one place, your client communication in another, project management in another, and so on, not only does this make it hard to keep track of your progress to you and your team, but it’s a nuisance to your clients. 

With so many competitors out there, you should be using every tool in your arsenal to make the journey, from audit to implementation, a seamless process that will differentiate your agency.

5. You’re not clamping down on involuntary churn

You’ve taken all the steps to make sure your services are top-notch and keep your clients coming back and they stay with you until the unspoken enemy of your bottom line shows up: payment failure. 

Your client’s payment method fails and, since the ball is in their court, it’s easy to think that they should notice and correct it. But it doesn’t always happen. That’s leaving money on the table that most businesses can’t afford to pass up. You wouldn’t want to lose clients just because their card expired. 

Preventing this can be as easy as sending renewal reminders and following up when their payment fails. Do make sure to keep your emails inbox-friendly to avoid your notifications ending in the spam folder.

Ensure that updating information is as easy as possible for your clients. Your subscription recovery page shouldn’t be locked behind a login process or having your clients jump through hoops to the point where it’s easier to just ditch. 

If you can notify clients when their payment fails and give them a simple one-click link where they can update their billing info it’s gonna be a game-changer. Better yet, it should show right away whether the new payment method has failed or succeeded.

Keeping your clients happy doesn’t have to be hard

There are so many pieces to the puzzle that it definitely can seem daunting. Using all the tools in your arsenal, letting software pick up the slack for you, and giving your clients some self-service options can really be a game-changer for your client’s retention and their happiness. That’s what makes it all worth it, right?

The post Five reasons why clients are leaving your agency appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


The deplatforming of President Trump

January 10, 2021 No Comments

After years of placid admonishments, the tech world came out in force against President Trump this past week following the violent assault of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington D.C. on Wednesday. From Twitter to PayPal, more than a dozen companies have placed unprecedented restrictions or outright banned the current occupant of the White House from using their services, and in some cases, some of his associates and supporters as well.

The news was voluminous and continuous for the past few days, so here’s a recap of who took action when, and what might happen next.

Twitter: a permanent ban and a real-time attempt to shut down all possible account alternatives

Twitter has played a paramount role over the debate about how to moderate President Trump’s communications, given the president’s penchant for the platform and the nearly 90 million followers on his @realDonaldTrump account. In the past, Twitter has repeatedly warned the president, added labels related to election integrity and misinformation, and outright blocked the occasional tweet.

This week, however, Twitter’s patience seemed to have been exhausted. Shortly after the riots at the Capitol on Wednesday, Twitter put in place a large banner warning its users about the president’s related tweet on the matter, blocking retweets of that specific message. A few hours later, the company instituted a 12-hour ban on the president’s personal account.

At first, it looked like the situation would return to normal, with Twitter offering Thursday morning that it would reinstate the president’s account after he removed tweets the company considered against its policies around inciting violence. The president posted a tweet later on Thursday with a video attachment that seemed to be relatively calmer than his recent fiery rhetoric, a video in which he also accepted the country’s election results for the first time.

Enormous pressure externally on its own platform as well as internal demands from employees kept the policy rapidly changing though. Late Friday night, the company announced that it decided to permanently ban the president from its platform, shutting down @realDonaldTrump. The company then played a game of whack-a-mole as it blocked the president’s access to affiliated Twitter handles like @TeamTrump (his official campaign account) as well as the official presidential account @POTUS and deleted individual tweets from the president. The company’s policies state that a blocked user may not attempt to use a different account to evade its ban.

Twitter has also taken other actions against some of the president’s affiliates and broader audience, blocking Michael Flynn, a bunch of other Trump supporters, and a variety of QAnon figures.

With a new president on the horizon, the official @POTUS account will be handed to the new Biden administration, although Twitter has reportedly been intending to reset the account’s followers to zero, unlike its transition of the account in 2016 from Obama to Trump.

As for Trump himself, a permanent ban from his most prominent platform begs the question: where will he take his braggadocio and invective next? So far, we haven’t seen the president move his activities to any social network alternatives, but after the past few years (and on Twitter, the last decade), it seems hard to believe the president will merely return to his golf course and quietly ride out to the horizon.

Snap: a quick lock after dampening the president’s audience for months

Snap locked the president’s account late Wednesday following the events on Capitol Hill, and seemed to be one of the most poised tech companies to rapidly react to the events taking place in DC. Snap’s lock prevents the president from posting new snaps to his followers on the platform, which currently number approximately two million. As far as TechCrunch knows, that lock remains in place, although the president’s official profile is still available to users.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the concomitant Black Lives Matter protests, the company had announced back in June that it would remove the president’s account from its curated “Discover” tab, limiting its distribution and discoverability.

The president has never really effectively used the Snap platform, and with an indefinite ban in place, it looks unlikely he will find a home there in the future.

Facebook / Instagram: A short-to-medium ban with open questions on how long “indefinite” means

Facebook, like Twitter, is one of the president’s most popular destinations for his supporters, and the platform is also a locus for many of the political right’s most popular personalities. It’s moderation actions have been heavily scrutinized by the press over the past few years, but the company has mostly avoided taking direct action against the president — until this week.

On Wednesday as rioters walked out of the halls of Congress, Facebook pulled down a video from President Trump that it considered was promoting violence. Later Wednesday evening, that policy eventually extended into a 24-hour ban of the president’s account, which currently has 33 million likes, or followers. The company argued that the president had violated its policies multiple times, automatically triggering the one-day suspension. At the same time, Facebook (and Instagram) took action to block a popular trending hashtag related to the Capitol riots.

On Thursday morning, Mark Zuckerberg, in a personal post on his own platform, announced an “indefinite” suspension for the president, with a minimum duration of two weeks. That timing would neatly extend the suspension through the inauguration of president-elect Biden, who is to assume the presidency at noon on January 20th.

What will happen after the inauguration? Right now, we don’t know. The president’s account is suspended but not deactivated, which means that the president cannot post new material to his page, but that the page remains visible to Facebook users. The company could remove the suspension once the transition of power is complete, or it may continue the ban longer-term. Given the president’s prominence on the platform and the heavy popularity of the social network among his supporters, Facebook is in a much more intense bind between banning content it deems offensive, and retaining users important to its bottom line.

Shopify / PayPal: Ecommerce platforms won’t sell Trump official merchandise for the time being

It’s not just social networks that are blocking the president’s audience — ecommerce giants are also getting into moderating their platforms against the president. On Thursday, Shopify announced that it was removing the storefronts for both the Trump campaign and Trump’s personal brand.

That’s an evolution on policy for the company, which years ago said that it would not moderate its platform, but in recent years has removed some controversial stores, such as some right-wing shops in 2018.

PayPal meanwhile has been deactivating the accounts of some groups of Trump supporters this week, who were using the money-transfer fintech to coordinate payments to underwrite the rioters’ actions on Capitol Hill. PayPal has been increasingly banning some political accounts, banning a far-right activist in 2019 and also banning a spate of far-right organizations in the wake of violent protests in Charlottesville in 2017. These bans have so far not extended directly to the president himself from what TechCrunch can glean.

Given the president’s well-known personal brand and penchant for product tie-ins before becoming president, it’s a major open question about how these two platforms and others in ecommerce will respond to Trump once he leaves office in two weeks. Will the president go back to shilling steaks, water and cologne? And will he need an ecommerce venue to sell his wares online? Much will depend on Trump’s next goals and whether he stays focused on politics, or heads back to his more commercial pursuits.

Google removes Parler from the Google Play Store, while Apple mulls a removal as well

For supporters of Trump and others concerned about the moderation actions of Facebook and other platforms, Parler has taken the lead as an alternative social network for this audience. Right now, the app is number one in the App Store in the United States, ahead of encrypted and secure messaging app Signal, which is at number four and got a massive endorsement from Elon Musk this week.

Parler’s opportunism for growth around the riots on Capitol Hill though has run into a very real barrier: the two tech companies which run the two stores for mobile applications in the United States.

Google announced Friday evening that it would be removing the Parler app from its store, citing the social network’s lack of moderation and content filtering capabilities. The app’s page remains down as this article was going to press. That ban means that new users won’t be able to install the app from the Play Store, however, existing users who already have Parler installed will be able to continue using it.

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed reports that Apple has reportedly sent a 24-hour takedown notice to Parler’s developers, saying that it would mirror Google’s actions if the app didn’t immediately filter content that endangers safety. As of now, Parler remains available in the App Store, but if the timing is to be believed, the app could be taken down later this Saturday.

Given the complexities of content moderation, including the need to hire content moderators en masse, it seems highly unlikely that Parler could respond to these requests in any short period of time. What happens to the app and the president’s supporters long-term next is, right now, anyone’s guess.

Discord / Twitch / YouTube / Reddit / TikTok: All the socials don’t want to be social anymore with President Trump

Finally, let’s head over to the rest of the social networking world, where Trump is just as unpopular as he is at Facebook and Twitter HQ these days. Companies widely blocked the president from accessing their sites, and they also took action against affiliated groups.

Google-owned YouTube announced Thursday that it would start handing out “strikes” against channels — including President Trump’s — that post election misinformation. In the past, videos with election misinformation would have a warning label attached, but the channel itself didn’t face any consequences. In December, the company changed that policy to include the outright removal of videos purveying election misinformation.

This week’s latest policy change is an escalation from the company’s previous approach, and would result in lengthier and lengthier temporary suspensions for each additional strike that a channel receives. Those strikes could eventual result in a permanent ban for a YouTube channel if they happen within a set period of time. That’s precisely what happened with Steve Bannon’s channel, which was permanently banned Friday late afternoon for repeated violations of YouTube’s policies. Meanwhile, President Trump’s official channel has less than 3 million followers, and is currently still available for viewing on the platform.

Outside YouTube, Twitch followed a similar policy to Facebook, announcing Thursday morning that it would ban the president “indefinitely” and at least through the inauguration on January 20th. The president has a limited audience of just about 151,000 followers on the popular streaming platform, making it among the least important of the president’s social media accounts.

In terms of the president’s supporters, their groups are also being removed from popular tech platforms. On Friday, Reddit announced that it would ban the subreddit r/DonaldTrump, which had become one of a number of unofficial communities on the platform where the president’s most ardent supporters hung out. The social network had previously removed the controversial subreddit r/The_Donald back in June. Discord on Friday shut down a server related to that banned subreddit, citing the server’s “overt connection to an online forum used to incite violence.”

Lastly, TikTok announced on Thursday that it was limiting the spread of some information related to the Capitol riots, including redirecting hashtags and removing violent content as well as the president’s own video message to supporters. The president does not have a TikTok account, and therefore, most of the company’s actions are focused on his supporters and broader content surrounding the situation on Capitol Hill this week.

 


Social – TechCrunch


SEO takeaways from 2020: A review of the most unusual year for search

January 9, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google launched over 4,000 search improvements and new features throughout 2020.
  • Baidu continued to crack down on poor quality sites with its 2020 updates its StrongWind algorithm was introduced to control aggregator content from malicious sites.
  • Bing attempted to build on its approximately 2.8% global search engine market share by adding a Bing app to Xbox.
  • Throughout the year, DuckDuckGo added a number of new features and made updates designed to improve the user experience while protecting privacy.
  • GIPHY now serves more than 7 billion GIFs per day and is seen by more than 500 million daily optimizing GIFs is a great way for SEO to drive awareness and keep people engaged with your website page(s).
  • Throughout 2020 Yandex continued to add more human elements into its search engine.
  • 2020 was a year where search took central stage in digital marketing.
  • Consumer behavior is still set to continue to be volatile in 2021.
  • A list of key SEO trends to watch in 2021 – new channels for visual and image search opportunities, international SEO will rise once again, combining PPC and SEO, utilizing Marketing technology, and more.

Many an SEO will be huddled around the television or computer screen this year for New Year celebrations, muttering, “Don’t let the door hit you,” as we bid 2020 goodbye. Despite the release of several vaccinations worldwide, we still find ourselves firmly in the grip of a global pandemic with no definitive end in sight.

In this post, we’ll take a look back at how top search engines changed the game this past year, and where marketers should be looking as we head into 2021 with continuing uncertainty about the year ahead.

Key search engine updates in 2020

The latest figures from Oberlo show that Google reigns as the dominant search engine both in the US and worldwide with 88.1% and 92.3% market share, respectively. Even so, there’s a lot of traffic left on the table if you aren’t optimizing for all of the top search engines.

Here are some of the most impactful and notable updates across Google, Bing (which also powers Yahoo! Search), DuckDuckGo in 2020.

1. Google

According to Emily Moxley, Google’s Product Management for Search, Google launched over 4,000 search improvements and new features throughout 2020. Among them:

  • Google added the Removals report to Search Console in January, enabling site owners and SEOs to temporarily hide a page from Google Search results. In February, they made it easier to export more data from almost all reports.
  • March saw the launch of the com/covid19 website with country or state-based information, safety and prevention tips, and search trends related to COVID-19. Other pandemic-related features rolled out in 2020 include the Exposure Notifications API, an SOS Alerts system, and a slate of new GMB features to help businesses better communicate special hours, temporary closures, and other COVID-19 information to searchers.
  • In August, Google confirmed it had made a number of improvements designed to be “as invisible as possible” to the Search Console API.
  • In October, the Justice Department sued Google and claimed the search engine is an illegal monopoly. Antitrust accusations are not new to Google, and this case could drag on for years.
  • Google announced in October that BERT language understanding systems first introduced in 2019 are now being used in nearly every English-language query.
  • The improved Crawl Stats Report came out in November with new features including detailed information on host status and URL examples showing where on-site requests occurred.
  • Also in November, Google announced that voice search had become smarter. New language capabilities and the carrying over of context from one voice search to another meant Google could gradually “learn” more about the searcher’s true intent.
  • Google announced late in the year that it is “refocusing the Structured Data Testing Tool and migrating it to a new domain serving the schema.org community by April 2021.” Notably, once this transition is complete the tool will no longer check for Google Search rich result types.

Notably, the timeframe for mobile-first indexing was extended from September 2020 to the end of March 2021.

2. Microsoft Bing

Bing attempted to build on its approximately 2.8% global search engine market share by adding a Bing app to Xbox, adding nearby product search to local results, and introducing image-based product search.

Microsoft’s search engine also evolved quickly to provide COVID-19 information and updates to consumers with a tally of local and global cases appearing in search results for any Coronavirus-related query.

In May, Bing gave us a look under the hood at its AI capabilities and experiences, stating that:

“Over the past few years, Bing and Microsoft Research have been developing and deploying large neural network models such as MT-DNN, Unicoder, and UniLM to maximize the search experience for our customers. The best of those learnings are open-sourced into the Microsoft Turing language models. The large-scale, multilingual Natural Language Representation (NLR) model serves as the foundation for several fine-tuned models, each powering a different part of the search experience.”

Examples of AI at scale in Bing include Yes or No summaries to straightforward questions in search, the expansion of intelligent answers to more languages, and a new NLR-based model for understanding complex or ambiguous queries.

3. DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo’s intense focus on privacy makes it more difficult to optimize for, as user data is not tracked. Even so, 0.5% of the global search market share (and 1.7% in the US) still makes it one of the world’s top search engines.

Throughout the year, DuckDuckGo added a number of new features and made updates designed to improve the user experience while protecting privacy. In October, DuckDuckGo launched private walking and driving directions powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework

In October, we saw the punchy small search engine take a direct shot at Google in regards to its antitrust lawsuit. In an open letter, DuckDuckGo pointedly asked,

“So, Google, given that you’ve often said competition is one click away, and you’re aware a complicated process suppresses competition, why does it take fifteen+ clicks to make DuckDuckGo Search or any other alternative the default on Android devices?”

4. Yandex

Yandex, Russia’s largest search engine announced early in 2020 “Vega” as its new algorithm. This included 1,500 enhancements to Yandex Search. Throughout 2020 Yandex continued to add more human elements into its search engine.

Andrey Styskin, head of Yandex Search, stated, “At Yandex, it’s our goal to help consumers and businesses better navigate the online and offline world.  With this new search update, users across the RuNet are helping us do just that”.

According to research from Mikhail Volovich and Olga Yudina of Ashmanov & Partners and reported by Dan Taylor differences in ranking factors between Yandex and Google include;

  • Lesser effects of links within Yandex compared to Google
  • “On mobile, site speed appears to be more important to Google than Yandex, but in Yandex, the number of Turbo pages has increased greatly (outside of the top 3 results).”
  • The research also predicted mobile search will see an increase in both AMP and Turbo pages.

5. Baidu

The leading search engine in China, controls over 74% of searches, and ever since the 2017 release of the ‘Hurricane’ algorithm continues to focus on content quality.

As it continues to crack down on poor quality sites with its 2020 updates its StrongWind algorithm was introduced to control aggregator content from malicious sites.

Baidu SEO 2020 update, the content has become king in the Baidu algorithm. The Baidu spider focuses on enhancing the user experience. 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.

SEO trends to watch in 2021

SEOs take heart! Google launched a new blog series in 2020 designed to showcase the value of SEO to businesses. The first post was an overview of how a Korean company used SEO to double its web traffic. While Google has historically shied away from association with the optimization of sites for its search algorithms, it seems SEO is no longer a dirty phrase. Let’s hope this trend continues.

Here are some other areas to watch in 2021 and beyond:

1. Brands adapt to rapidly shifting consumer behavior

The first pandemic experience of our lifetimes has changed the way people search, shop, communicate, and work. Just how long these changes will hold or how consumer behavior will evolve over this next year is a giant question mark on business and marketing plans the world over.

Here’s what we do know: anxiety, stress, and public health concerns drove massive changes in consumer behavior in 2020. We saw dramatic shifts in search interest and conversions, with very different impacts across verticals. And in the absence of historic data to guide marketers through such an event, insights from search data became our closest approximation of real-time voice of the customer.

While we don’t know what 2021 has in store for us, it’s clear that the best place to track consumer behavior changes as they happen is in your search data. Business leaders will be looking to SEOs to bring them these insights in relatable, understandable ways that can be put to work immediately driving intelligent business decisions.

2. Core Web Vitals gain importance

As Google explained its April 2020 Web Vitals explanation, “Core Web Vitals are the subset of Web Vitals that apply to all web pages, should be measured by all site owners, and will be surfaced across all Google tools. Each of the Core Web Vitals represents a distinct facet of the user experience, is measurable in the field, and reflects the real-world experience of a critical user-centric outcome.”

On its face, Google’s CWV update is a reinforcement of what we already know to be best practices for user experience. If you want to take a deeper dive into the research and methodology driving this update, Defining the Core Web Vitals metrics thresholds by Google software engineer Bryan McQuade is a good read.

Google also promises that the definitions and thresholds of Core Web Vitals will be stable and that marketers will have prior notice of updates, which will have a predictable, annual cadence.

3. Image and visual search

As brands compete for consumers’ attention and as image and visual content optimization continue to gain SERP real estate, new channels are opening up beyond just YouTube. Brands, looking to stand out in 2021 should be utilizing combinations of images and videos to inform and educate customers as they spend more and more time online. Beyond Google niche (non-traditional) vertical optimization opportunities may just be opening up.

Below are two brief examples.

Vimeo

According to Cisco, video will make up 82 percent of all internet traffic in 2021. While YouTube still dominates more and more platforms are opening up, presenting more opportunities to optimize content.

Vimeo, the video-sharing platform originally created by filmmakers is building a large community of creative marketers producing content. Although opportunities to rank are less there are still opportunities for marketers in this niche.

“In the last seven months we’ve welcomed over 30 million new members, seen over 60 million new videos created and uploaded, and powered millions of live events that went digital for the first time — more than the prior 3 years combined,”

Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud.

No doubt COVID-19 has fuelled the growth in demand for more creativity in video production and as IAC (its owner) looks to spin it off as a standalone public company in 2021 time will tell where and if this fits and sits for SEO.

GIPHY

Everyone likes a good image, especially if animated. Facebook (Instagram) owned Giphy is allowing more and more marketers opportunities to make their content engaging. This is especially true with younger generations. A search engine in its own right, optimizing for Giphy presents new opportunities to optimize for intent and rank on their own site.

Now serving more than 7 billion GIFs per day and seen by more than 500 million daily optimizing GIFs on Giphy (and in general) is a great way for SEO to drive awareness and keep people engaged with your website page(s).

For SEOs, standard image optimization best practices can work well on Giphy, but the competition is intense, and optimization nuances exist. For brand marketers (in particular) Giphy and GIFs can be an awareness channel in itself.

4. PPC and SEO converge

In increasingly rich and diverse search results, it is imperative that marketers have a solid grasp on how their paid and organic search strategies work in tandem to achieve the best business results. As the lines between paid and organic continue to blur, it makes less and less sense to have these two channels as distinct departments or teams competing over budget.

Successful search teams will work together more seamlessly in 2021 to monitor both paid and organic results, determining from a more holistic point of view where the brand’s greatest opportunities lie—and which tactic is key to achieving the greatest visibility and conversion from search. Together, paid and organic teams will strategize how to use tools like Dynamic Search Ads and Discovery Campaigns, bidding automation, and AI-driven content optimizations to drive brand awareness and content promotion in both types of results.

5. Brands demand ROI and mastery of martech solutions

2020 provided us “The Great Pause”, literally stopping the world in its tracks. It gave us a chance to slow down, take a breath, and take a critical look at what’s working—and what is not. Even before the pandemic struck, it was clear that stacks cobbled together of point solutions not designed to integrate were problematic, but the full extent of their shortcomings became clear this year.

Consumer behavior changed so rapidly, and completely that real-time insights were elevated from “nice to have” to life or death. Brands that only knew how to rely on the performance of previous months or years found themselves lacking a sense of direction and unable to pivot. Going forward, brands are looking for platform solutions that not only automate but do so intelligently with AI and machine learning. Moreover, they are looking for agile marketers capable of getting the best possible output from these martech solutions.

What does 2021 have in store for the business world? Only time will tell. However, SEOs are among those best-positioned to lead in the face of uncertainty and should expect stakeholders across the organization to look to them this coming year for guidance. This is true both regionally and internally as interest in International SEO rises once again.

Now is the time to ensure you’re set up with the right tools and skills to deliver.

The post SEO takeaways from 2020: A review of the most unusual year for search appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Facebook and Instagram block #StormTheCapitol, lock Trump out of posting for 24 hours

January 7, 2021 No Comments

After removing a video in which President Trump praised a violent group of his supporters who broke into the U.S. Capitol building, Facebook is rolling out a new set of rules in response to the day’s shocking events.

Both Facebook and Instagram also announced that the president would be locked out of posting to his accounts for 24 hours, escalating the consequences for his role in sowing Wednesday’s violent chaos considerably.

Facebook says that the group of people who rushed into the Capitol Wednesday now fall under the company’s policies on “dangerous individuals and organizations” — a designation it uses to enforce rules against terrorists, mass murderers and violent hate groups. Last June, the company added the anti-government “boogaloo” movement, which encourages its adherents to take up arms and prepare for or incite a civil war, to the same list.

“The violent protests in the Capitol today are a disgrace,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Facebook and Instagram have both begun blocking content posted to the #StormTheCapitol hashtag. Facebook says that it is in the process of removing any content praising the Trump supporters who infiltrated the U.S. Capitol as well as any other “incitement or encouragement” of Wednesday’s events, including photos and videos from the individuals’ perspectives.

“At this point they represent promotion of criminal activity which violates our policies,” Facebook VP of Integrity Guy Rosen and VP of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert wrote in a blog post. Rosen and Bickert called Wednesday’s events an “emergency” for the platform:

“Let us speak for the leadership team in saying what so many of us are feeling. We are appalled by the violence at the Capitol today. We are treating these events as an emergency. Our Elections Operations Center has already been active in anticipation of the Georgia elections and the vote by Congress to certify the election, and we are monitoring activity on our platform in real time.”

The company will also crack down on anyone organizing any kind of protest that violates Washington D.C.’s newly implemented curfew, even peaceful gatherings. Any “attempts to restage violence” will also be removed.

Facebook says that it is also scouring the platform for any posts calling for people to bring weapons to a location “not just in Washington but anywhere in the US — including protests.”

Facebook also made a few tweaks to “emergency measures” it put in place for the U.S. election, including requiring additional admin review for group posts and auto-disabling comments on group posts that attract a “high rate” of hate speech or encouragement of violence.

Facebook’s blog post also mentions previous crackdowns on militias, the Proud Boys and the “violence-inducing” QAnon conspiracy. Each group connected and grew on Facebook before eventually eventually being booted from the platform and all three had a presence at Wednesday’s violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. election results.


Social – TechCrunch


8 investors discuss social gaming’s biggest opportunities

January 5, 2021 No Comments

The gaming industry has had plenty of watershed moments in 2020 as consumer entertainment habits have shifted in response to the pandemic. One trend has been the crystallization of MMOs as social entertainment hubs that serve more needs for users than ever before.

Following my survey of gaming-focused investors on trends in the AR/VR world several months ago, I pinged a handful of investors to tap their thoughts on the shifting trends and opportunities in social gaming.

One thing that most investors expressed excitement around was the widening entertainment ambitions of social platforms, as concerts and movie screenings find homes on gaming platforms like Fortnite.

While evolving free-to-play mechanics continue to elevate the experience of single-player titles into something more living and breathing, platforms like Roblox have found areas for growth that seem more unique, developing into destinations for users to communicate and share.

“It’s where culture is created,” Madrona’s Daniel Li told TechCrunch.

Not all of the respondents shared the belief that a gaming platform like Fortnite would grow to become the next Facebook. General Catalyst’s Niko Bonatsos pointed to adjacent platforms like Discord or Twitch as the constants that would remain as consumers cycled through different platform ecosystems. Other pointed to the the still-disjointed experience switching between mobile and desktop experiences as a yet-to-be-solved stumbling block.

Building the metaverse and building a popular casual mobile game are two different things. Most investors I talked with emphasized how much the pace of scaling has accelerated across categories though with breakout hits rising faster than ever while disasters seem to grow evident just as quickly.

“I think that you look at Among Us, and Cyberpunk on the other side, anything can happen much faster and more extreme than it used to be just because of distribution,” Rogue VC’s Alice Lloyd George told TechCrunch.

Read below for the full answers; some responses have been edited for length and clarity.


Hope Cochran and Daniel Li, Madrona Venture Group

The idea that the next big social network will be an MMO seems to be a trendy take in the VC world, what are the roadblocks to this actually happening?

Daniel Li: Hope and I were trading some notes and part of our thesis is that gaming is the future of social and for Gen Z, gaming is replacing not just old games, but it’s replacing TV and Netflix. So instead of going to watch music videos on YouTube, you’re going to a concert in Roblox and that’s a social experience with your friend … instead of going to the mall, now you’re in Roblox. It’s where kids are hanging out and it’s where culture is created.

Hope Cochran: And in COVID, it’s the only place where they can hang out and I think the gaming industry has done a really fabulous job creating another social engagement that we need right now. I don’t want to focus too much on kids, but parents are becoming more accepting of their kids in the games because there is this social engagement and, for instance, I can see that my child is upstairs connecting with his four best friends. They log in together and they play. They normally might be out on a soccer field but they can’t right now so I think parents are becoming a little more comfortable saying, “Oh, he’s playing with his friends.”

Gaming has seemingly become a more “mainstream” area for investment, as someone who has been in the space a bit, what’s different about investing in the gaming sector?

HC: It’s very hard to find that balance between creative or understanding what might become a hit and a real business mind. So my experience has been that when you look into a gaming company as an investor, it’s actually more driven by math, stats and analytics, and then you have a core team who has the creative juices, so I try to look for that kind of dynamic.

So, who is developing what the users will love and who is analyzing it and how are they responding to what the users are loving. I do think there’s a point where a team develops a game and it’s mostly a creative process but then you have to kind of toggle to the analytics. It’s where the mathematicians meet the magicians and there needs to be a combination of that within every game.

What’s different about how popular games and MMOs are scaling these days? Have you seen any interesting growth hacks or strategies that seem promising?

DL: I think there are more and more of these cultural memes that just seem to come out of nowhere, like Among Us kind of just sat there for two years and streamers started picking it up and now it’s super popular. I’d say for nearly all of those, they’re going to be a social category of games, you don’t see a game like Cyberpunk come out of nowhere without any marketing dollars behind it.

So I do think one of those new channels is getting influencers to talk about your games, and typically I think for those it’s not actually the big influencers picking it up, it’s a whole bunch of small influencers all starting to play a game and have it start to build up steam that way. It’s more likely the Call of Duty’s that can hire the big streamers and pay them millions of bucks to play a new game, but I don’t think there’s a new to go-to-market for smaller studios around that.

How can MMOs, which feel like fundamentally active experiences, provide a better passive experience for users that may be more interested in the community than playing a first-person shooter or battle royale? How do games become more approachable to a wider audience?

DL: A lot of people are saying these single-player games aren’t really fun games anymore, they’re just like cinematic experiences. Like playing Cyberpunk for 60 hours versus binge-watching three TV series, it’s definitely a different experience. The thing that’s actually more interesting here is the virtual events that are happening inside these games. Thinking about what the next Twitch looks like, it’s probably some kind of experience where you’re inside the game doing something more passive.

Niko Bonatsos, General Catalyst


Social – TechCrunch