Even though marketing has changed quite a bit over the past decade as new channels and strategies have opened up, there is one method that remains just as effective as ever – email marketing.
Email marketing averages a 3800% ROI for both B2C and B2B companies, and 80% of businesses find that it directly correlates to higher business retention, too. However, email marketing has not stayed completely the same over the past few years and companies will need to adjust to stay relevant in 2020.
For example, in 2020, the vast majority of emails will be opened on mobile devices as opposed to desktops or webmail apps.
But, there are other changes and trends that marketers need to be aware of to keep their email marketing engaging and fresh as we enter a new decade.
Let’s break down the best practices that businesses should be using as they transition their marketing strategies for the new year.
1. Embrace the concept of smart permission-based advertising
Email marketing used to be sort of a wide net that was cast to a large audience with the intent of catching whatever it could. These days, technology allows companies to be far more strategic and hyper-target their receivers based on data, such as demographics or behavior.
However, customers do not always love this idea of intense targeting or generalized marketing. 77% of consumers prefer permission-based advertising, specifically through email – as opposed to direct mail, text, or social ads.
This means that to grow open rates, businesses must understand the importance of consent for targeting through opt-in email marketing. This means providing customers with the option to choose what types of marketing messages they receive from you – as well as the frequency of these emails.
For example, West Elm allows their email subscribers to choose when they want to receive emails, such as when the store is running a promotion or there are new arrivals in stock. Customers can also choose the frequency.
The majority of people will unsubscribe if they feel like businesses are constantly trying to sell them something. So it is important for companies to find the sweet spot by giving customers options that put them in control of the content they receive.
2. Remember: We live in a post-GDPR world
Modern businesses are extremely reliant on data for just about everything these days. But after all of the data leaks and breaches that occurred over the past years, as well as scandals coming to light of giant companies illegally gathering and selling customer data, consumers are warier than ever of sharing personal information.
Although the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is only in place in Europe currently, it has implications that affect businesses around the globe. For example, if your business services customers within the EU, your data collection processes must be GDPR compliant. Furthermore, these regulations have opened the eyes of many consumers to the importance of data protection.
Email marketing is heavily scrutinized when it comes to data collection so it’s important to incorporate elements into your email marketing that build trust with your audience.
One way to encourage data sharing is through transparency. Let your customers know how data sharing benefits them with personalized offers or better experiences. See how Teva does with their email opt-ins for data sharing.
3. Don’t overdo the email designs
Flashy designs, animated graphics, and multiple CTAs within an email no longer work the magic they used to. Many people find them simply annoying or even spammy, especially if they are checking the message on their mobile device.
Instead, keep the focus on what your brand has to offer and not solely on how “cool” the email looks. Get to the point quickly. If you are promoting a sale, display some good deals and incorporate CTAs that drive customers directly to those product pages.
Also, be sure to stick to the elements that influence customer behavior – like reviews. Not only do reviews help to improve your SEO, but they can also increase click-through rates.
For example, The Pearl Source used Trustpilot to automatically embed reviews into their marketing content – including email marketing, on their website, and on product pages. This helped consumers see overall ratings and comments before buying.
By displaying their total number of over 6,500 verified reviews, the brand also established social proof and cultivated trust with new consumers off the bat.
In the world of email marketing and marketing as a whole, authenticity trumps flashy designs. This is a reality that has solidified itself over the past decade and will almost certainly continue into the 20s.
4. Automate your hyper-personalized campaigns
Automation in email marketing offers a lot of great benefits. It can do wonders to impact sales by lowering cart abandonment and boosting customer retention rates. The more relevant your emails are, the more revenue you stand to generate and the best way to ensure this is through personalized automation.
This goes beyond just including the customer’s name in the subject heading. Instead, every element of the messaging needs to be catered to a customer based on key data points, such as:
- Their product viewing history
- Past purchases
- Recent behavior
One great example is this automated email from Tarte Cosmetics, which sends out personally curated product suggestions based on the customer’s purchases and product views.
In 2020, it will be crucial for companies to use trigger-based automation to perfect the timing of their messages. For instance, say that a customer views a product and adds it to their cart, but ends up abandoning it. If an email is sent 24 hours later alerting them that stock is running low or the price has dropped, it could result in a conversion.
In 2020, it is quite apparent that consumers want more control over their experiences and interactions with brands. So, it is important that marketers understand how to accommodate consumers’ preferences when it comes to email marketing – while still being able to increase sales.
By opting for permission-based marketing and including more elements that matter to consumers like personalization, reviews, and data sharing options, you can expect to see impressive returns from your email marketing in 2020.
Manish Dudharejia is the President and Founder of E2M Solutions Inc.
The post Four key email marketing practices to lead your business into 2020 appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
French startup Qonto has raised a $ 115 million Series C funding round led by Tencent and DST Global. Today’s news comes a few days after another French fintech startup Lydia raised some money from Tencent.
Existing investors Valar and Alven are also participating in today’s funding round. TransferWise co-founder Taavet Hinrikus and Adyen CFO Ingo Uytdehaage are also joining the round. Qonto says that it represents the largest funding round for a French fintech company.
Qonto is a challenger bank, or a neobank, but for B2B use cases. Instead of attracting millions of customers like N26 or Monzo, Qonto is serving small and medium companies as well as freelancers in Europe.
According to the startup, business banking in Europe is broken. The company thinks it can provide a much better user experience with an online- and mobile-first product.
The company has managed to attract 65,000 companies over the past two years and a half. The product is currently live in France, Italy, Spain and Germany. In 2019 alone, Qonto has managed €10 billion in transaction volume.
With today’s funding round, the company plans to double down on its existing markets, develop new features that make the platform works better in each country based on local needs and hire more people. The team should grow from 200 to 300 employees within a year.
Qonto obtained a payment institution license in June 2018 and has developed its own core banking infrastructure. Around 50% of the company’s user base is currently using Qonto’s own core banking system. Others are still relying on a third-party partner.
Moving from one back end to another requires some input from customers, which explains why there are still some customers using the legacy infrastructure. Over the coming months, Qonto plans to launch new payment features that should convince more users to switch to Qonto’s back end.
Even more important, Qonto plans to obtain a credit institution license, which could open up a ton of possibilities when it comes to features and revenue streams. The company says that it should have its new license by the end of the year.
For instance, you could imagine being able to get a credit card, apply for an overdraft and get a small loan with Qonto.
Compared to traditional banks, Qonto lets you open a bank account more easily. After signing up, Qonto offers a modern interface with your activity. You can export your transactions in no time, manage your expenses and get real-time notifications. Qonto also integrates with popular accounting tools.
When it comes to payment methods, Qonto gives you a French IBAN as well as debit cards. You can order physical or virtual cards whenever you want, customize limits and freeze a card. Qonto also supports direct debit and checks. Like many software-as-a-service products, you can also manage multiple user accounts and customize permission levels.
Belgium-based all-in-one business software maker Odoo, which offers an open source version as well as subscription-based enterprise software and SaaS, has taken in $ 90 million led by a new investor: Global growth equity investor Summit Partners.
The funds have been raised via a secondary share sale. Odoo’s executive management team and existing investor SRIW and its affiliate Noshaq also participated in the share sale by buying stock — with VC firms Sofinnova and XAnge selling part of their shares to Summit Partners and others.
“Odoo is largely profitable and grows at 60% per year with an 83% gross margin product; so, we don’t need to raise money,” a spokeswoman told us. “Our bottleneck is not the cash but the recruitment of new developers, and the development of the partner network.
“What’s unusual in the deal is that existing managers, instead of cashing out, purchased part of the shares using a loan with banks.”
The 2005-founded company — which used to go by the name of OpenERP before transitioning to its current open core model in 2015 — last took in a $ 10M Series B back in 2014, per Crunchbase.
Odoo offers some 30 applications via its Enterprise platform — including ERP, accounting, stock, manufacturing, CRM, project management, marketing, human resources, website, eCommerce and point-of-sale apps — while a community of ~20,000 active members has contributed 16,000+ apps to the open source version of its software, addressing a broader swathe of business needs.
It focuses on the SME business apps segment, competing with the likes of Oracle, SAP and Zoho, to name a few. Odoo says it has in excess of 4.5 million users worldwide at this point, and touts revenue growth “consistently above 50% over the last ten years”.
Summit Partners told us funds from the secondary sale will be used to accelerate product development — and for continued global expansion.
“In our experience, traditional ERP is expensive and frequently fails to adapt to the unique needs of dynamic businesses. With its flexible suite of applications and a relentless focus on product, we believe Odoo is ideally positioned to capture this large and compelling market opportunity,” said Antony Clavel, a Summit Partners principal who has joined the Odoo board, in a supporting statement.
Odoo’s spokeswoman added that part of the expansion plan includes opening an office in Mexico in January, and another in Antwerpen, Belgium, in Q3.
This report was updated with additional comment
A network of scammers used a ring of established right-wing Facebook pages to stoke Islamophobia and make a quick buck in the process, a new report from the Guardian reveals. But it’s less a vast international conspiracy and more simply that Facebook is unable to police its platform to prevent even the most elementary scams — with serious consequences.
The Guardian’s multi-part report depicts the events like a scheme of grand proportions executed for the express purpose of harassing Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-MI), Rashida Tlaib (D-MN) and other prominent Muslims. But the facts it uncovered point towards this being a run-of-the-mill money-making operation that used tawdry, hateful clickbait and evaded Facebook’s apparently negligible protections against this kind of thing.
The scam basically went like this: an administrator of a popular right-wing Facebook page would get a message from a person claiming to share their values that asked if they could be made an editor. Once granted access, this person would publish clickbait stories — frequently targeting Muslims, and often Rep. Omar, since they reliably led to high engagement. The stories appeared on a handful of ad-saturated websites that were presumably owned by the scammers.
That appears to be the extent of the vast conspiracy, or at least its operations — duping credulous conservatives into clicking through to an ad farm.
Its human cost, however, whether incidental or deliberate, is something else entirely. Rep. Omar is already the target of many coordinated attacks, some from self-proclaimed patriots within this country; just last month, an Islamophobic Trump supporter pleaded guilty in federal court to making death threats against her.
Social media is asymmetric warfare in that a single person can be the focal point for the firepower — figurative but often with the threat of literal — of thousands or millions. That a Member of Congress can be the target of such continuous abuse makes one question the utility of the platform on which that abuse is enabled.
In a searing statement offered to the Guardian, Rep. Omar took Facebook to task:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Facebook’s complacency is a threat to our democracy. It has become clear that they do not take seriously the degree to which they provide a platform for white nationalist hate and dangerous misinformation in this country and around the world. And there is a clear reason for this: they profit off it. I believe their inaction is a grave threat to people’s lives, to our democracy and to democracy around the world.
Despite the scale of its effect on Rep. Omar and other targets, it’s possible and even likely that this entire thing was carried out by a handful of people. The operation was based in Israel, the report repeatedly mentions, but it isn’t a room of state-sponsored hackers feverishly tapping their keyboards — the guy they tracked down is a jewelry retailer and amateur SEO hustler living in a suburb of Tel Aviv who answered the door in sweatpants and nonchalantly denied all involvement.
The funny thing is that, in a way, this does amount to a vast international conspiracy. On one hand, it’s a guy in sweatpants worming his way into some trashy Facebook pages and mass-posting links to his bunk news sites. But on the other, it’s a coordinated effort to promote Islamophobic, right-wing content that produced millions of interactions and doubtless further fanned the flames of hatred.
Why not both? After all, they represent different ways that Facebook fails as a platform to protect its users. “We don’t allow people to misrepresent themselves on Facebook,” the company wrote in a statement to the Guardian. Obviously, that isn’t true. Or rather, perhaps it’s true in the way that running at the pool isn’t allowed. People just do it anyway, because the lifeguards and Facebook don’t do their job.
A day after India’s largest wallet app Paytm entered the credit cards business, local ride-hailing giant is following suit. Ola has inked a deal with state-run SBI bank and Visa to issue as many as 10 million credit cards in next three and a half years, it said today.
The move will help Visa and SBI bank acquire more customers in India, where most transactions are still bandied out over cash. For Ola, which rivals Uber in India, foray into cards business represents a new avenue to monetize its customers, as TechCrunch previously reported.
With about 150 million users availing more than 2 million rides on its platform each day, Ola is sitting on a mountain of data about its users’ financial power and spends. With the card, dubbed Ola Money-SBI Credit Card, the mobility firm is also offering several discounts and savings to retain its loyal customer base.
Ola, which is nearing $ 6 billion in valuation and counts SoftBank and Naspers among its investors, said it will offer its credit card holders “highest cashback and rewards” in form of Ola Money that could be redeemed for Ola rides, and flight and hotel bookings. There will be seven percent cashback on cab spends, five percent on flight bookings, 20 percent on domestic hotel bookings (six percent on international hotel bookings), 20 percent on over 6,000 restaurants, and one percent on all other spends.
“Mobility spends form a significant wallet share for users and we see a huge opportunity to transform their payments experience with this solution. With over 150 million digital-first consumers on our platform, Ola will be a catalyst in driving India’s digital economy with cutting edge payment solutions,” Bhavish Aggarwal, cofounder and CEO of Ola, said in a statement.
Why credit cards?
Ola appears to be following the playbook of Grab and Go-Jek, two ride-hailing services in Southeast Asian markets that have ventured into a number of businesses in recent years. Both Grab and Go-Jek offer loans, remittance and insurance to their riders, while the former also maintains its own virtual credit card. Interestingly, Uber, which also offers a credit card in some markets, has no such play in India.
The move will allow Ola to look beyond ride-hailing and food delivery, two businesses that appear to have hit a saturation point in India, said Satish Meena, an analyst with research firm Forrester.
In recent years, Ola has started to explore financial services. It offers riders “micro-insurance” that covers a range of risks including loss of baggage and medical expenses. The company said earlier this year, it has sold over 20 million insurances to customers. Using Ola Money to facilitate cashbacks also underscores Ola’s push to increase the adoption of its mobile wallet, which according to estimates, lags Paytm and several other wallet and UPI payment apps.
The company has also made major push in electric vehicles business, which it spun off as a separate company earlier this year. In March, its EV business raised $ 300 million from Hyundai and Kia. The company has said that it plans to offer one million EVs by 2022. Its other EV programs include a pledge to add 10,000 rickshaws for use in cities.
Whether you are a business owner, marketing manager or simply just interested in the world of ecommerce, you may be familiar with how a business can approach SEO.
To every person involved, the perception of SEO and its success can vary from a sophisticated technical grasp to a knowledge of the essentials.
At all levels, measurement and understanding of search data are crucial and different metrics will stand out; from rankings to the finer details of goals and page speed.
As you may know, you can’t rely solely on ranks as a method to track your progress. But there are other, simple ways to measure the impact of SEO on a business.
In a recent AMA on Reddit, Google’s own Gary Illyes recently urged SEO professionals to stick to the basics and this way of thinking can be applied to the measurement of organic search performance.
In this article, we will look to understand the best metrics for your business when it comes to understanding the impact of SEO, and how they can be viewed from a technical and commercial perspective. Before we start, it’s worth mentioning that this article has used Google’s own demo analytics account for screenshots. If you need further info to get to grips, check out this article, or access the demo version of Google Analytics.
Each of these are commercial SEO metrics — data that means something to everyone in a business.
This is undoubtedly a simple, if not the most simple way of understanding the return of any SEO efforts. The day-to-day traffic from search engines is the key measure for many marketers and any increase can often be tied to an improved level of search visibility (excluding seasonal variation).
In a world where data drives decisions, these figures are pretty important and represent a key part of any internet user’s session, whether that is to get an answer, make a purchase or something else.
In Google Analytics, simply head follow this path: Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels to see the organic traffic received within your chosen time period
You might be asking, “how can I know more?”
Google might have restricted access to keyword data back in 2011, but you can still dig down into your traffic from organic search to look at landing pages and locations.
Organic traffic data – Filtered by landing page
Not all traffic from search hits your homepage, some users head to your blog or to specific landing pages, depending on their needs. For some searches, however, like those for your company name, your homepage will be the most likely option.
To understand the split of traffic across your site, use the “Landing Page” primary dimension and explore the new data, split by specific page URL.
Organic traffic data – Filtered by location
Within the same section, the organic search data can be split by location, such as city, to give even further detail on the makeup of your search traffic. Depending on how your business operates, the locations shown may be within the same country or across international locations. If you have spent time optimizing for audiences in specific areas, this view will be key to monitor overall performance.
Revenue, conversions, and goals
In most cases, your website is likely to be set up to draw conversions, whether that is product sales, document downloads, or leads.
Part of understanding the success of SEO, is the contribution to the goal of a business, whether that is monetary or lead-based.
For revenue based data, head to the conversions section within Google analytics, then select the product performance. Within that section, filter the secondary dimension by source/medium to show just sales that originate from search engine traffic.
If your aim isn’t totally revenue based, perhaps a signup form or some downloadable content, then custom analytics goals are your way of fully understanding the actions of visitors that originate from search engines.
Within the conversions section, the source of your goal completions can be split by source, allowing you to focus on solely visits from organic search.
If a visitor finds your site from a search and then buys something or registers their details, it really suggests you are visible to the right audience.
However, if you are getting consistent organic search visits with no further actions taken, that suggests the key terms you rank for, aren’t totally relevant to your website.
SEO efforts should focus on reaching the relevant audiences, you might rank #1 for a search query like “cat food” but if you only sell dog products, your optimization hasn’t quite worked.
Search and local visibility
In the case that your business has web and/or physical store presences, you can use the tools within Google My Business to look further into and beyond the performance of the traditional blue links.
Specifically, you can understand the following:
- How customers search for your business
- How someone sees your business
- What specific actions they take
The better your optimization, the more of these actions you will see, check these out!
Average search rankings
Rankings for your key terms on search engines have traditionally been an easy way to quickly get a view of overall performance. However, a “quick Google” can be hard to draw conclusions from. Personalized search from your history and location essentially skews average rank to a point where its use has been diminished.
A variety of tools can be used to get a handle on average rankings for specific terms. The free way to do this is through Google Search Console with freemium tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs, which also offer an ability to understand average rank distribution.
With search rankings becoming harder to accurately track, the measure of averages is the best way to understand how search ranking relates to and impacts the wider business.
Technical metrics – Important but not everyone pays attention to these
When it comes to the more technical side of measuring SEO, you have to peel back the layers and look beyond clicks and traffic. They help complete the wider picture of SEO performance, plus they can help uncover additional opportunities for progress.
Search index – Through search consoles and other tools
Ensuring that an accurate index of your website exists is one thing that you need to do with SEO. Because if only a part of your site or the wrong pages are indexed, then your overall performance will suffer.
Although a small part of overall SEO work, its arguably one of the most crucial.
One quick way is to enter the command “site:” followed by the URL of your site’s homepage, to see the total number of pages that exist in a search engine’s index.
To inspect the status of a specific page on Google, the Google Search Console is your best option. The newest version of the search console provides a quick way to bring up results.
Search crawl errors
As well as looking at what has been indexed, any website owner needs to keep an eye out for what may be missing, or if there have been any crawl errors reported by Google. These often occur because a page has been blocked, or the format isn’t crawlable by Google.
Head to the “Coverage” tab within Google Search Console to understand the nature of any errors and what page the error relates to. If there’s a big zero, then you and your business naturally have nothing to worry about.
Click-through rate (CTR) and bounce rate
In addition to where and how your website ranks for searches, a metric to consider is how often your site listing is clicked in the SERPs. Essentially, this shows the percentage of impressions that result in a site visit.
This percentage indicates how relevant your listing is to the original query and how well your result ranks compared to your competitors.
If people like what they see and can easily find your website, then you’ll likely get a new site visit.
The Google Search Console is the best go-to resource again for the most accurate data. Just select the performance tab and toggle the CTR tab to browse data by query, landing page, country of origin, and device.
If someone does venture onto your site, you will want to ensure the page they see, is relevant to their search, after all, search algorithms love to reward relevance! If the page doesn’t contain the information required or isn’t user-friendly, then it is likely the user will leave to find a better resource, without taking any action, known as a bounce.
In some cases, one visit may be all that is needed, therefore a bounce isn’t an issue. Make sure to view this metric in the wider context of what your business offers.
Widely reported in 2015, was the unveiling of mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor. This is crucial to the evolution of browser behavior, with mobile traffic, often greater in volume than desktop for some sites.
Another report in the ever useful Google Search Console gives a clear low-down of how mobile-friendly a site is, showing warnings for any issues. It’s worth saying, this measure isn’t an indication of how likely a conversion is, but more the quality of your site on a mobile device.
Follow your metrics and listen to the data
As mentioned at the start of this article, data drives decisions. In all areas of business, certain numbers will stand out. With SEO, a full understanding comes from multiple data points, with positives and negatives to be taken at every point of the journey.
Ultimately, it often comes down to traffic, ranks, and conversions, the numbers that definitely drive business are made up of the metrics that don’t often see the light of day but are just as important.
As a digital marketer, it is always a learning experience to know how data drives the evolution of a business and ultimately, how successes and opportunities are reported and understood.
Matthew Ramsay is Digital Marketing Manager at Digitaloft.
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- Complete guide to Google Search Console
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The post The SEO metrics that really matter for your business appeared first on Search Engine Watch.
Oracle was founded in 1977. While it’s not exactly IBM or GE, which date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries respectively, it is old enough to be experiencing a fair bit of disruption in its own right. For a good part of its existence, it sold databases to some of the biggest companies in the world. But today, as the market changes and shifts from on-prem data centers to the cloud, how does a company like Oracle make that transition?
Of course, Oracle has been making the shift to the cloud for the last several years, but it would be fair to say that it came late. Plus, it takes more than building some data centers and pushing out some products to change a company the size of Oracle. The company leadership recognizes this, and has been thinking at the highest levels of the organization about how to, from a cultural and business perspective, successfully transform into a cloud company.
To that end, Oracle has opened five innovation hubs over the last several years, with locations in Austin, Texas; Reston, Va.; Burlington, Mass.; Bangalore, India and Santa Monica, Calif. What are these centers hoping to achieve, and how will it extend to the rest of the company the lessons learned? Those are big questions Oracle must answer to make some headway in the cloud market.
Understanding the problem
Oracle seems to understand it has to do something different to change market perception and its flagging market position. Synergy Research, a firm that tracks cloud market share, reports that the company is struggling.
“For cloud infrastructure services (IaaS, PaaS, hosted private cloud services) — Oracle has a 2 percent share,” John Dinsdale, chief analyst and managing director at Synergy told TechCrunch. He added, “It is a top-10 player, but it is nowhere near the scale of the leading cloud providers; and its market share has been steadily eroding.”
The news is a bit better when it comes SaaS. “Along with SAP, Oracle is one of the leaders in the ERP segment. But enterprise SaaS is much broader than ERP and across all of enterprise SaaS it is the No. 4-ranked provider behind Microsoft, Salesforce and Adobe. Oracle worldwide market share in Q4 was 6 percent,” Dinsdale said.
The company knows that it will take a vast shift to change from an organization that mostly sold software licenses and maintenance agreements. It pushed those hard, sometimes so hard that it left IT pros with a sour taste in their mouths. Today, with the cloud, the selling landscape has changed dramatically to a partnership model. The company knows that it must change, too. The question is, how?
That will take an entirely new approach to product development, sales and marketing; and the innovation hubs have become a kind of laboratory where engineers can experiment with more focused projects, and learn to present their ideas with goal of showing instead of telling customers what they can do.
And the young shall lead
One way to change the culture is to infuse it with fresh-thinking, smart young people, and that’s what Oracle is attempting to do with these centers, where they are hiring youthful engineers, many right out of college, to lead the change with the help of more seasoned Oracle executives.
They are looking for ways to rethink Oracle’s cloud products, to pull the services together into packages of useful tools that helped solve specific business problems, from prescription opioid abuse to predicting avocado yields. The idea isn’t just to have some section of the company where people work on dream projects. They want them to relate to real business problems that results, eventually, in actual sales and measurable results.
Hamza Jahangir, group vice president for the cloud solution hubs at Oracle, says they look for people who want to dig into new solutions, but they want a practical streak in their innovation hub hires. “We don’t want just tinkerers. If the only problem you’re solving is that of your own boredom, that’s not the type of person we are looking for,” he said.
The idea of the innovation center actually began with co-CEO Mark Hurd, according to Jahangir. He had been working for several years to change the nature of the sales force, the one that had a reputation of strong-arming IT pros, with a new generation, by hiring people right out of college with a fresh approach.
Hurd didn’t want to stop with sales, though. He began looking at taking that same idea of hiring younger employees to drive that cultural shift in engineering, too. “About two years ago, Mark challenged us to think about how can we change the customer-facing tech workforce as the business model was moving to the cloud,” Jahangir said.
Hurd gave him some budget to open the first two centers in Austin and Reston and he began experimenting, trying to find the right kinds of employees and projects to work on. The funding came without of a lot of strings or conditions associated with it. Hurd wanted to see what could happen if they unleashed a new generation of workers and gave them a certain amount of freedom to work differently than the traditional way of working at Oracle.
Jahangir was very frank when it came to assessing customer’s expectations around Oracle moving to the cloud. There has been a lot of skepticism, and part of the reason for the innovation centers was to find practical solutions that could show customers that they actually had modern approaches to computing, given a chance.
The general customer stance has been, “We don’t believe you have anything real, and we need to see true value realized by us before we pay you any money,” he said. That took a fundamental shift to focusing on actual solutions. It started with the premise that the customers shouldn’t believe any of the marketing stuff. Instead, it would show them.
“Don’t bother watching a PowerPoint presentation. Ask us to show you real solutions and use cases where we have solved real material problems — and then we can have a discussion.”
Even chairman and company founder Larry Ellison recognizes the relationship and selling model needed to change as the company moves to the cloud. Jahangir relayed something he said in a recent internal meeting, “In the cloud we are now no longer selling giant monolithic software. Instead we are selling small bites of the apple. The relationship between the vendor and the buyer is becoming more like a consumer model.” That in turn requires a new way of selling and delivering solutions, precisely what they are trying to figure out at the innovation hubs.
Putting the idea to work
Once you have a new way of thinking, you have to put it to work, and as the company has created these various hubs, that has been the approach. As an example, one that isn’t necessarily original, but that puts Oracle features together in a practical way, is the connected patient. The patient wears a Fitbit-like monitor and uses a smart blood pressure cuff and a smart pill box.
The patient can then monitor his or her own health with these tools in a consolidated mobile application that pulls this data together for them using the Internet of Things cloud service, Oracle Mobile Cloud and Oracle Integration Cloud. What’s more, that information gets shared with the patient’s pharmacy and doctor, who can monitor the patient’s health and get warnings when there is a serious issue, such as dangerously high blood pressure.
Another project involved a partnership with Waypoint Robotics, where they demonstrated a robot that worked alongside human workers. The humans interacted with the robots, but the robot moved the goods from workstation to workstation, acting as a quality control agent along the way. If it found defects or problems, it communicated that to the worker via a screen on the side of the unit, and to the cloud. Every interaction between the humans, goods and robot was updated in the Oracle cloud.
One other project worked with farmers and distributors to help stores stay stocked with avocados, surely as good a Gen Z project as you are likely to find. The tool looks at weather data, historical sales and information coming from sensors at the farm, and it combines all of that data to make predictions about avocado yields, making use of Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse, Oracle Analytics Cloud and other services from the Oracle cloud stack.
Moving beyond the hubs
This type of innovation hub has become popular in recent years as a way to help stave off disruption, and Oracle’s approach is actually in line with this trend. While companies sometimes isolate these innovation hubs to protect them from negativity and naysayers in an organization, leaving them isolated often prevents the lessons learned from being applied to the broader organization at large, essentially defeating the very purpose of creating them in the first place.
Jahangir says that they are attempting to avoid that problem by meeting with others in the company and sharing their learnings and the kinds of metrics that they use in the innovation center to measure success, which might be different from the rest of the company.
He says to put Oracle on the customer agenda, they have to move the conversation from religious battles, as he calls how people support or condemn tech from certain companies. “We have to overcome religious battles and perceptions. I don’t like to fight religion with more religion. We need to step out of that conversation. The best way we have seen for engaging developer community is to show them how to build really cool things, then we can hire developers to do that, and showcase that to the community to show that it’s not just lip service.”
The trick will be doing that, and perhaps the innovation centers will help. As of today, the company is not sharing its cloud revenue, so it’s hard to measure just how well this is helping contribute to the overall success of the company. But Oracle clearly has a lot of work to do to change the perception of the enterprise buyer about its cloud products and services, and to increase its share of the growing cloud pie. It hopes these innovations hubs will lead the way to doing that.
Jahangir recognizes that he has to constantly keep adjusting the approach. “The hub model is still maturing. We are finding and solving new problems where we need new tooling and engagement models in the organization. We are still learning and evolving,” he said.
Business customers continue to be a huge target for the travel industry, and today a startup has raised a tidy sum to help it double down on the $ 1.7 trillion opportunity. Lola.com — a platform for business users to book and manage trips — has raised $ 37 million to continue building out its technology and hire more talent as it takes on incumbents like SAP targeting the corporate sector.
The Series C is led by General Catalyst and Accel, with participation from CRV, Tenaya Capital and GV. All are previous investors. We are asking about the valuation but it looks like prior to this, the company had raised just under $ 65 million, and its last post-money valuation, in 2017, was $ 100 million, according to PitchBook.
There are signs that the valuation will have had a bump in this round. The company said in 2018, its bookings have gone up by 423 percent, with revenues up 786 percent, although it’s not disclosing what the actual figures are for either.
“As business travelers have become increasingly mobile, Lola.com’s mission is to completely transform the landscape of corporate travel management,” said Mike Volpe, CEO of Lola.com, who took the top role at the company last year. “The continued support of our investors underscores the market potential, which is leading us to expand our partner ecosystem and double our headcount across engineering, sales and marketing. At the core, we continue to invest in building the best, simplest corporate travel management platform in the industry.”
Co-founded by Paul English and Bill O’Donnell — respectively, the former CTO/co-founder and chief architect of the wildly successful consumer travel booking platform Kayak — Lola originally tried to fix the very thing that Kayak and others like it had disrupted: it was designed as a platform for people to connect to live agents to help them organise their travel. That larger cruise ship might have already said, however (so to speak), and so the company later made a pivot to cater to a more specific demographic in the market that often needs and expects the human touch when arranging logistics: the business user.
Its unique selling point has not been just to provide a pain-free “agile” platform to make bookings, but for the platform’s human agents to be proactively pinging business users when there are modifications to a booking (for example because of flight delays), and offering help when needed to sort out the many aspects of modern travel that can be painful and time consuming for busy working people, such as technical issues around a frequent flyer program.
Lola.com is not the only one to spot the opportunity there. To further diversify its business and to move into higher-margin, bigger-ticket offerings, Airbnb has also been slowly building out its own travel platform targeting business customers by adding in hotels and room bookings.
There are others that are either hoping to bypass or complement existing services with their own takes on how to improve business travel such as TravelPerk (most recent raise: $ 44 million), Travelstop (an Asia-focused spin), and TripActions (most recently valued at $ 1 billion), to name a few. That speaks to an increasingly crowded market of players that are competing against incumbents like SAP, which owns Concur, Hipmunk and a plethora of other older services.
Lola.com has made some interesting headway in its own approach to the market, by partnering with one of the names most synonymous with corporate spending, American Express, and specifically a JV it is involved in called American Express Global Business Travel.
“Lola.com offers an incredibly simple solution to corporate travel management, which enables American Express Global Business Travel to take our value proposition to even more companies across the middle market,” said Evan Konwiser, VP of Product Strategy and Marketing for American Express GBT, in a statement.
Going through the hiring process is hard enough for traditional advertising fields. Getting the right candidate is crucial and can make or break entire departments. The process is even more difficult for a rapidly evolving and growing field like paid media, a field that demands specific skills and abilities that aren’t often easily reflected in […]
Read more at PPCHero.com
Voice search is growing, a statement appearing time and time again throughout the web. It has fundamentally changed the way people search and it’s here to stay.
With a simple command, users can conduct searches for information, products, services and local businesses.
It’s such a hot topic that our Head of Search and Strategy Stuart Shaw spoke at one of the UK’s largest SEO conferences a few weeks ago to talk about the details of voice search and why it’s important for brands.
While voice isn’t likely to surpass traditional search any time soon, it has spurred us to explore how local businesses can optimize, adjust their marketing strategies and understand the potential voice search could have on their bottom lines.
The opportunity for local businesses
To get information about a local service near to us, we pull out our phones and we search for it:
- ‘Plumbing services near me’
- ‘Local pizza delivery’
- ‘What are the opening times for…’
- ‘Is so and so open today?’ etc.
In fact, a recent study by Brightlocal highlighted that 53% of people owning smart speakers such as Amazon’s Alexa & Google Home are performing searches like these for local businesses every day in the US:
Putting that in context for the UK
A recent YouGov study showed that people in the UK owning a smart speaker had doubled between Q3 2017 and Q1 2018 to 10% of the total population.
A study by radiocentre predicted that this growth could reach as high as 40% by the end of 2018.
Looking a little deeper, we could say that per household there is more than one occupant. In fact on average there’s actually 2.3 people per household, according to the most recent UK gov statistics:
Source: Office of national statistics
So, if the 40% of UK households prediction is correct, that is potentially 11 million households exposing voice search content to 25 million people in the UK.
Who’s leading the smart speaker market?
Three-quarters of the market share in the UK in Q1 2018 was taken up by Amazon’s Alexa. This, of course, will change but right now this is where the biggest opportunity lies for local businesses optimizing for smart speakers in the UK:
Source: Office of national statistics
Although voice search is still in a stage of infancy, and we have only talked about smart speakers, it’s clear to see just how relevant this technology is to brick and mortar businesses.
And, it’s constantly evolving…
Here’s a timeline from Stuart’s presentation, highlighting significant changes in voice search, and it’s becoming increasingly accessible for more and more people to conduct a voice search every day:
3 Biggest steps to optimize your local business for voice search
1. Take ownership of your digital footprint
Although voice assistants seem all-knowing, they rely heavily on information they can find around the web about your business.
A big part of optimizing for local SEO is ‘citations’ which are online references to your business name, address and phone number (NAP).
Voice assistants use these citations from trusted sources to provide information to users that are conducting local search queries.
So, where should I cite my business?
Each voice assistant relies on different and sometimes multiple data aggregators for answers to local search queries:
- Search: Google
- Business listings: Apple maps
- Reviews: Yelp
- Search: Bing
- Business listings: Yelp and more recently Yext
- Reviews: Yelp
- Google Assistant
- Search: Google
- Business listings: Google my Business
- Reviews: Google my Business
- Search: Bing
- Business listings: Bing
- Reviews: Yelp
So, these data sources are the most important places to make sure your business is correctly cited, up-to-date and optimised:
- Google My Business – Create a listing
- Apple Maps – Create a listing
- Bing – Create a listing
- Yelp – Create a listing
2. Utilize schema markup
Schema is a type of on-page data markup that allows webmasters to provide search engines with data about their business in a more structured way.
The structured format allows search engines to understand the contents and context of web pages much easier (less algorithmic interpretation) and, subsequently, the engines can better understand the relevance of pages to particular search queries and present richer results.
Schema is only going to play a bigger part in ranking for rich results and featured snippets which are heavily used in for voice search content.
What does schema markup do?
Search engines experiment with how they display rich results all the time and by having your site marked up, you have the opportunity to be featured in new rich results.
For example, Google experimented with a ‘prominent knowledge panel card’ shown on mobile devices which displays when users conduct a branded search for the business. In the knowledge card you can see ‘place actions’ such as ‘find a table’ or ‘book an appointment’ which would direct searchers into an appropriate webpage to conduct the action.
These rich results went on to influence the structure of Google My Business which is now heavily used by local businesses. The point here is that the business websites shown in the example image below were ‘future proofed’ and optimal which qualified them for this rich result.
In other words, as Gary Illyes – web trends analyst at Google puts it:
“If you want your sites to appear in search features, implement structured data.”
The biggest benefit and ‘thing it does’ is help Google understand relevance much more fluently. Another few quotes from Gary Illyes helps explain this:
“Add structured data to your pages because, during indexing, we will be able to better understand what your site is about.”
“And don’t just think about the structured data that we documented on developers.google.com. Think about any schema.org schema that you could use on your pages. It will help us understand your pages better, and indirectly… it leads to better ranks.”
Why it’s important for local businesses
Schema is a tool which search engines and subsequently voice assistants are using to paint a clearer picture of a business website’s central topic and the services the site can offer users.
With structured data present, it is much more likely that your business (if relevant) will be identified as a good candidate for answering local voice search queries.
Using local business schema will:
- Future-proof your website for richer search features (which voice search content is heavily influenced by)
- Reinforce your online digital footprint
- Bolster relevancy signals & geographic accuracy
- Help drive more conversions both online and offline
- Indirectly help your website rank better (important for voice)
So how do you take control?
There are hundreds of schema types which can be utilised for hundreds of business and content types.
There are also multiple ways of marking up schema in your page source code. By far the easiest is using JSON-LD. Using the example from above the marked up code looks something like this:
Types of local business data that can be marked up:
- Business name
- Phone number
- Main email address
- Business opening hours
- Geo-location information (latitude and longitude)
- Company logo
- Business description
- Social profile links
- Site name
Bear in mind there are guidelines for usage summarized below:
- ‘Data must not deceive or mislead experience for search users’
- ‘Use only the most specific types and property names defined by schema.org’
- ‘Marked-up content must be visible on the page where the script is added’
See Google’s policies for structured data for more information.
Once you’ve gone through SchemaApp, copy and paste the output code into relevant pages before your closing </head> tag or, if it’s content specific schema (such as the review rating above), paste the code before the closing </body> tag in the HTML of your page.
Finally, check your mark up with this structured data testing tool which will highlight any errors once implemented.
Note: Avoid using Google Tag Manager for this markup, apply the code natively where possible.
3. Produce content relevant to voice search needs
There are great ways of optimizing specifically for voice search using your on-site content.
The simplest is to explore the realm of user intent and uncover the types of questions people may want answering, when it comes to your business.
That doesn’t mean you need to create 1000s of pages that are optimized specifically for voice search terms. Instead, search engines such as Google pulls answers to voice queries directly from page content, even if it is a snippet that makes up a small section of the content.
Work long tail queries into long-form content
Conduct some long tail keyword research and look for questions people ask about your local business and work them into your content, where it is relevant to do so. I highly recommend Answer the Public to scale your efforts here.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
This is a query I searched recently that could be relevant to any local business:
‘Does tesco take american express?’
Here’s what was shown at the top in a featured snippet (the content that will be read out if conducting a voice search with Google Home):
And here’s the content that Google has pulled out from halfway down the page from choose.co.uk:
FAQ pages can be perfect for voice search
Written correctly, an FAQ page can serve voice search queries really effectively and if you struggle to work in your long tail optimisation into relevant pages, an FAQ page is a great way to get around it:
- People use voice search conversationally, which you can naturally replicate on an FAQ page without the content appearing out of place
- It appeals to long tail voice & traditional searches which widen your reach
- Voice search often seeks concise information, under 30 words, which an FAQ page can clearly communicate
- Creating a dedicated page specifically with this key information in mind could help with higher placement in SERPs for voice searches, which is vital for capturing that first click/interaction
However, you look at SEO, voice is the future and it’s growing exponentially and it’s being integrated into more and more of our everyday tech. Local business marketers should be making specific efforts to capitalize on voice search to maximize their online and offline conversion.
The caveat here is not to let your standard SEO practice fall behind. Having a fully mobile responsive website, fast site speed and good quality local backlinks, among many other optimizations, are still, and will remain, vital for ranking in local search and will greatly impact your voice search efforts.
The post How to optimize your local business for voice search appeared first on Search Engine Watch.