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Google’s Anthos multicloud platform gets improved logging, Windows container support and more

April 24, 2021 No Comments

Google today announced a sizable update to its Anthos multicloud platform that lets you build, deploy and manage containerized applications anywhere, including on Amazon’s AWS and (in preview) on Microsoft Azure.

Version 1.7 includes new features like improved metrics and logging for Anthos on AWS, a new Connect gateway to interact with any cluster right from Google Cloud and a preview of Google’s managed control plane for Anthos Service Mesh. Other new features include Windows container support for environments that use VMware’s vSphere platform and new tools for developers to make it easier for them to deploy their applications to any Anthos cluster.

Today’s update comes almost exactly two years after Google CEO Sundar Pichai originally announced Anthos at its Cloud Next event in 2019 (before that, Google called this project the “Google Cloud Services Platform,” which launched three years ago). Hybrid and multicloud, it’s fair to say, takes a key role in the Google Cloud roadmap — and maybe more so for Google than for any of its competitors. Recently, Google brought on industry veteran Jeff Reed to become the VP of Product Management in charge of Anthos.

Reed told me that he believes that there are a lot of factors right now that are putting Anthos in a good position. “The wind is at our back. We bet on Kubernetes, bet on containers — those were good decisions,” he said. Increasingly, customers are also now scaling out their use of Kubernetes and have to figure out how to best scale out their clusters and deploy them in different environments — and to do so, they need a consistent platform across these environments. He also noted that when it comes to bringing on new Anthos customers, it’s really those factors that determine whether a company will look into Anthos or not.

He acknowledged that there are other players in this market, but he argues that Google Cloud’s take on this is also quite different. “I think we’re pretty unique in the sense that we’re from the cloud, cloud-native is our core approach,” he said. “A lot of what we talk about in [Anthos] 1.7 is about how we leverage the power of the cloud and use what we call “an anchor in the cloud” to make your life much easier. We’re more like a cloud vendor there, but because we support on-prem, we see some of those other folks.” Those other folks being IBM/Red Hat’s OpenShift and VMware’s Tanzu, for example. 

The addition of support for Windows containers in vSphere environments also points to the fact that a lot of Anthos customers are classical enterprises that are trying to modernize their infrastructure, yet still rely on a lot of legacy applications that they are now trying to bring to the cloud.

Looking ahead, one thing we’ll likely see is more integrations with a wider range of Google Cloud products into Anthos. And indeed, as Reed noted, inside of Google Cloud, more teams are now building their products on top of Anthos themselves. In turn, that then makes it easier to bring those services to an Anthos-managed environment anywhere. One of the first of these internal services that run on top of Anthos is Apigee. “Your Apigee deployment essentially has Anthos underneath the covers. So Apigee gets all the benefits of a container environment, scalability and all those pieces — and we’ve made it really simple for that whole environment to run kind of as a stack,” he said.

I guess we can expect to hear more about this in the near future — or at Google Cloud Next 2021.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Core Web Vitals & Preparing for Google’s Page Experience Update

April 17, 2021 No Comments

Google will make a major change to its search algorithm in May 2021. Here’s what you need to know about Core Web Vitals and how to prepare your site.

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The search dilemma: looking beyond Google’s third-party cookie death

April 17, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • In 2020, majority of the 181.7 billion U.S. dollar revenues came from advertising through Google Sites or its network sites
  • Even though they will be removing the third-party cookie from 2022, the search giant still has a wealth of first-party data from its 270+ products, services, and platforms
  • The Trade Desk’s 20 percent stock price drop is proof of Google’s monopoly and why it shouldn’t enjoy it anymore
  • Google expert, Susan Dolan draws from her rich experience and details the current search scape, insights and predicts future key themes that will arise out of the 3p cookie death

Imagine search as a jungle gym, you automatically imagine Google as the kingpin player on this ground. This has been a reality for decades now and we all know the downside of autonomy which is why the industry now acknowledges a need for regulation. Google announced that it would remove the third-party cookie from 2022. But a lot can happen in a year, 2020 is proof of that! Does this mean that cookies will completely bite the dust? Think again. I dive deep into years of my experience with the web to share some thoughts, observations, and insights on what this really means.

For once, Google is a laggard

Given the monopoly that Google has enjoyed and the list of lawsuits (like the anti-trust one and more) this move is a regulatory step to create a “net-vironment” that feels less like a net and is driven towards transparency and search scape equality.

But Firefox and Safari had already beaten Google to the punch in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Safari had launched the Safari Intelligent Tracking Prevention (ITP) update on March 23, 2020. Firefox had launched its Enhanced Tracking Protection feature in September 2019 to empower and protect users from third-party tracking cookies and crypto miners.

Google’s solution to respect user privacy

Google recently announced that it won’t be using identifiers. Google is developing a ‘Privacy Sandbox’ to ensure that publishers, advertisers, and consumers find a fair middle ground in terms of data control, access, and tracking. The idea is to protect anonymity while still delivering results for advertisers and publishers. The Privacy Sandbox will don the FLoC API that can help with interest-based advertising. Google will not be using fingerprints, PII graphs based on people’s email addresses that other browsers use. Google will move towards a Facebook-like “Lookalike audience” model that will group users for profiling.

Did that raise eyebrows? There’s more.

Don’t be fooled – They still have a lavish spread of first-party data

Google is already rich with clusters of historical, individual unique data that they’ve stored, analyzed, predicted, and mastered over the years and across their platforms and services. These statistics give you a clear sense of the gravity of the situation:

  • Google has 270+ products and services (Source)
  • Among the leading search engines, the worldwide market share of Google in January 2021 was almost 86 percent (Source)
  • In 2020, majority of the 181.7 billion U.S. dollar revenues came from advertising through Google Sites or Google Network Sites (Source)
  • There are 246 million unique Google users in the US (Source)
  • Google Photos has over one billion active users (Source)
  • YouTube has over 1.9 billion active users each month (Source)
  • According to Google statistics, Gmail has more than 1.5 billion active users (Source)
  • A less-known fact, there are more than two million accounts on Google Ads (Source)
  • There are more than 2.9 million companies that use one or more of Google’s marketing services (Source)
  • As of Jan 2021, Google’s branch out into the Android system has won it a whopping 72 percent of the global smartphone operating system market (Source)
  • Google sees 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide (Source)

Google has an almost-never ending spectrum of products, services, and platforms –

Here’s the complete, exhaustive list of Google’s gigantic umbrella.

Google's 270+ products, services, and platforms

Source: Matrics360

Google already has access to your:

  • Location
  • Search history
  • Credit/debit card details shared on Google Pay
  • Data from businesses (more than 2.9 million!) that use Google services
  • Your device microphone
  • Mobile keyboard (G-board)
  • Apps you download from the Google Playstore and grant access to
  • Device camera, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg

Google’s decision to eliminate the third-party cookie dropped The Trade Desk’s stock by 20 percent

Nobody should have monopoly and this incident serves as noteworthy proof. Google’s decision to drop 3p cookies shocked The Trade Desk’s stock prices causing a 20 percent slump in their stock value. The Trade Desk is the largest demand-side platform (DSP) and Google’s decision kills the demand for The Trade Desk’s proprietary Unified ID 1.0 (UID 1.0) – a unique asset that chopped out the need for cookie-syncing process and delivered match rate accuracy up to 99 percent.

Google’s statement on not using PII also jeopardizes the fate of The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0. which already has more than 50 million users.

Here’s what Dave Pickles, The Trade Desk’s Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer had to say,

“Unified ID 2.0 is a broad industry collaboration that includes publishers, advertisers and all players in the ad tech ecosystem.”

“UID provides an opportunity to have conversations with consumers and provide them with the sort of transparency we as an industry have been trying to provide for a really long time.”

Adweek’s March town hall saw advertisers and publishers haunted by the mystery that surrounds Google as Google denied to participate in the event. The industry is growing precarious that Google will use this as a new way to establish market dominance that feeds its own interests.

We love cookies (only when they’re on a plate)

Cookies are annoying because they leave crumbs everywhere… on the internet! Did you know, this is how people feel about being tracked on the web:

  • 72 percent of people feel that almost everything they do online is being tracked by advertisers, technology firms or other companies
  • 81 percent say that the potential risks of data collection outweigh the benefits for them

These stats were originally sourced from Pew Research Center, but the irony, I found these stats on one of Google’s blogs.

On a hunt to escape these cookies or to understand the world’s largest “cookie jar” I checked out YouTube which seemed like a good place to start since it has over 1.9 billion monthly active users. You could visit this link to see how ads are personalized for you – the list is long!

My YouTube curiosity further landed me on this page to see how my cookies are shared (you can opt out of these). Even my least used account had 129 websites on this list, imagine how many sites are accessing your data right now.

Back in 2011 when I was the first to crack the Page rank algorithm, I could already sense the power Google held and where this giant was headed – the playground just wasn’t big enough.

Key themes that will emerge

Bottom line is, the cookie death is opening up conversations for advertising transparency and a web-verse that is user-first, and privacy compliant. Here’s what I foresee happening in search and the digital sphere:

  • Ethical consumer targeting
  • Adtech companies collaborating to find ways that respect their audience’s privacy
  • A more private, personalized web
  • More conversations around how much and what data collection is ethical
  • More user-led choices
  • Rise in the usage of alternative browsers
  • Incentivizing users to voluntarily share their data
  • Better use of technology for good

What do you think about the current climate on the internet? Join the conversation with me on @GoogleExpertUK.

Susan Dolan is a Search Engine Optimization Consultant first to crack the Google PageRank algorithm as confirmed by Eric Schmidt’s office in 2014. Susan is also the CEO of The Peoples Hub which has been built to help people and to love the planet.

The post The search dilemma: looking beyond Google’s third-party cookie death appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


What five news-SEO experts make of Google’s new, “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search results

March 24, 2021 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google recently rolled out the “Full Coverage” feature for mobile SERPs
  • Will this impact SEO traffic for news sites, SEO best practices, and content strategies?
  • Here’s what in-house SEOs from The LA Times, New York Times, Conde Nast, Wall Street Journal, and prominent agency-side SEOs foresee

Google’s “Full Coverage” update rolled out earlier this month – but what does it really mean for news-SEOs? In-house SEOs from The LA Times, New York Times, Conde Nast, Wall Street Journal, and prominent agency-side SEOs weigh in.

As a news-SEO person myself, I was eager to get my peers’ opinions on: 

  • If this feature will result in greater SEO traffic for news sites?
  • If editorial SEO best practices and content strategies will evolve because of it?
  • If it will result in closer working relationships between SEO and editorial teams?
  • Or, will everything remain “business as usual”?

ICYMI: Google’s new, “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search

Google added the “full coverage”  feature to its mobile search functionality earlier this month – with the aim of making it easier for users to explore content related to developing news stories from a diverse set of publishers, perspectives, and media slants.  

Just below the “Top Stories” carousel, users will now begin seeing the option to tap into “Full Coverage”/“More news on…” for developing news stories. The news stories on this page will be organized in a variety of sub-news topics (versus one running list of stories like we’re used to seeing), such as:

  • Top news
  • Local news
  • Beyond the headlines, and more

Take a look at  in-action, here:

Google's "Full Coverage" feature

Source: Google

While the concept of Google “Full Coverage” was developed back in 2018,  it pertained strictly to the Google News site and app. The technology, temporal co-locality, works by mapping the relationships between entities – and understanding the people, places, and things in a story right as it evolves. And then, organizes it around storylines all in real-time to provide “full coverage” on the topic searched for.

The launch of Google’s new “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search, specifically, is exciting because it takes its technology a step further; able to detect long-running news stories that span many days, like the Super Bowl, to many weeks or months like the pandemic to serve to users.  The feature is currently available to English speakers in the U.S. and will be rolled out to additional languages and locations over the next few months. 

What five news-SEO experts think about “Full Coverage” in mobile search

Lily Ray, Senior Director, SEO & Head of Organic Research at Path Interactive on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: Linkedin

1. Lily Ray, Senior Director, SEO & Head of Organic Research at Path Interactive

Lily Ray is a Senior SEO Director at Path Interactive in New York. She’s a prominent voice within the SEO community (with +15K followers on Twitter), and has been nominated for multiple search marketing awards throughout her career. She is well known for her E-A-T expertise.  Here’s what she had to say:

 

“Full Coverage appears to be another new tool in Google’s arsenal for displaying a diversity of perspectives and viewpoints on recent news and events. It’s a good thing for publisher sites because it represents another opportunity to have news content surfaced organically. It may also serve as a way for niche or local publishers to gain more visibility in organic search, since Google is specifically aiming to show a broader range of viewpoints that may not always come across with the major publications.

Hopefully, Google will allow us to be able to monitor the performance of Full Coverage via either Search Console or Google Analytics, so we can segment out how our articles do in this area compared to in other areas of search.”

Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at The LA Times on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: LinkedIn

2. Louisa Frahm, SEO Editor at The LA Times

Louisa Frahm currently serves as the SEO Editor at the Los Angeles Times and is also pursuing a master’s degree in communication management at the University of Southern California. Prior to the LA Times, Frahm was an SEO strategist at other high-profile digital publications including Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, TMZ, Yahoo!, and E! Online. Here’s her take:

“I’ve always liked that element of Google News. It taps into readers (like me!) who are consistently hungry for more information. 

Working in the journalism field, I’m always in favor of readers utilizing a diverse array of news sources. I’m glad that this new update will tap into that. I’m interested to see which stories will fall into the “develop over a period of time” criteria. I could see it working well for extended themes like COVID-19, but big breakout themes like Harry and Meghan could also potentially fit that bill. 

A wide variety of story topics have resulted from that Oprah interview, and fresh angles keep flowing in! As we’re in the thick of 2021 awards season, I could also see the Golden Globes, Grammys, and Oscars playing into this with their respective news cycles before, during, and after the events. 

The long-term aspect of this update inspires me to request more updates from writers on recurring themes, so we can connect with the types of topics this particular feature likes. Though pure breaking news stories with short traffic life cycles will always be important for news SEO, this feature reinforces the additional importance of more evergreen long-term content within a publisher’s content strategy. 

I could see this update providing a traffic boost, since it provides one more way for stories to get in front of readers. We always want as many eyeballs as possible on our content. Happy to add one more element to my news SEO tool kit. Google always keeps us on our toes!”

Barry Adams, Founder of Polemic Digital on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: Linkedin

3. Barry Adams, Founder of Polemic Digital

Barry Adams is the founder of SEO consultancy, Polemic Digital. He has earned numerous search marketing awards throughout his career and has also spoken at several industry conferences. His company has helped news and publishing companies such as – The Guardian, The Sun, FOX News, and Tech Radar to name a few. This is his opinion:

“The introduction of Full Coverage directly into search results will theoretically mean there’s one less click for users to make when trying to find the full breadth of reporting on a news topic. 

Whether this actually results in significantly more traffic for publishers is doubtful. The users who are interested in reading a broad range of sources on a news story will already have adopted such click behaviour via the news tab or directly through Google News. 

This removal of one layer of friction between the SERP and a larger number of news stories seems more intended as a way for Google to emphasize its commitment to showing news from all kinds of publishers – the fact remains that the initial Top Stories box is where the vast majority of clicks happen. This Full Coverage option won’t change that.”

John Shehata, Global VP of Audience Development Strategy at Conde Nast on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: Linkedin

4. John Shehata, Global VP of Audience Development Strategy at Conde Nast, Founder of NewzDash News SEO

John Shehata is the Global VP of Audience Development Strategy at Conde Nast, the media company known for brands such as – Architectural Digest, Allure, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. He’s also the founder of NewzDash News SEO – a News & Editorial SEO tool that helps publishers and news sites boost their visibility and traffic in Google Search. This is his opinion:

“Google has been surfacing more news stories on their SERPs over the past few years, first Top Stories were two-three links then it became a 10-link carousel. Google then started grouping related stories together expanding Top Stories carousel from one to three featuring up 30 news stories. They also introduced local news carousels for some local queries, [and now, this new feature]. It is obvious that Google keeps testing with different formats when it comes to news. One of our top news trends and prediction for 2021 is Google will continue to introduce multiple and different formats in the SERPs beyond Top Stories article formats.

As of the impact on traffic back to publishers, it is a bit early to predict but I do not expect much boost in traffic. Do not get more wrong, this feature provides more chances for more publishers to be seen, the question is how many search users will click. And if users click, Google surfaces over 50 news links plus tweets which makes it even more competitive for publishers to get clicks back to their stories.

I did some quick analysis back in July of last year When Google Search Console started providing News tab data. I found that News Impressions are less than five percent of total web impressions. Not quite sure how is the new “Full Coverage” feature CTR will be and how many users will click! The “full coverage” link placement is better than the tabs, so we might see higher CTR.”

Claudio Cabrera, Deputy Audience Director, News SEO at The New York Times on Google's "Full Coverage" feature
Source: LinkedIn

5. Claudio Cabrera, Deputy Audience Director, News SEO at The New York Times

Claudio Cabrera serves as the Deputy Audience Director of News SEO at the New York Times. He is an award-winning audience development expert, journalist, and educator. Prior to working at The New York Times, he was Director of Social and Search strategy at CBS Local. Here are his thoughts:

“It can be looked at in so many ways. Some brands will look at it as an opportunity to gain more visibility while some will feel their strong foothold may be lost. I think it just encourages better journalism and even better SEO because it forces us to think outside of our playbooks and adjust on some level to what we’re seeing Google provide users. 

From a site traffic perspective, I can’t really comment on whether this has affected us or not but I do know there are so many other areas where sites have done serious research and testing into like Discover where audiences can grow and be picked up if you do see a drop-off. I don’t think the best practices of SEO change too much but I think the relationship between search experts and editors deepens and becomes even closer due to the changes in the algo.”

Conclusion

Google’s new “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search rolled out earlier this month and is an extension of the full coverage function developed for Google News back in 2018. The aim of this new feature is to help users gain a holistic understanding of complex news stories as they develop – by organizing editorial content in such a way that it goes beyond the top headlines and media outlets. In essence, giving users the “full coverage” of the event. 

News-SEO experts seem to be in agreement that this new feature will make it simpler for users to explore – and gain a holistic understanding of – trending news stories. As far as what this new feature means for SEO traffic and strategy, experts can only speculate until more developing news stories emerge and we can analyze impact. 

Elizabeth Lefelstein is an SEO consultant based in Los Angeles, California. She’s worked with a variety of high-profile brands throughout her career and is passionate about technical SEO, editorial SEO, and blogging. She can be found on LinkedIn and Twitter @lefelstein.

The post What five news-SEO experts make of Google’s new, “Full Coverage” feature in mobile search results appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


Google’s Family Link updates reflect the pandemic’s impact on how parents view screen time

March 16, 2021 No Comments

Google is making changes to its parental control system, Family Link, that aims to better reflect parents’ changing views on children’s screen time. In the pre-pandemic world, parents were more likely to see screen time as something in need of restriction — they’d rather their kids get offline or go outside to play with friends, perhaps. But the challenges of a locked-down world and the push towards virtual learning have impacted parents’ views. Google says today’s parents are more concerned about how kids are spending time on their devices, not how much time is being spent.

It’s a concession to a world where devices have become a savior of sorts to families who’ve stayed at home to avoid Covid — where they’ve been restricted from seeing extended family and friends, and where schools are closed and playdates and parties were cancelled. Parents came to realize that screen time in and of itself isn’t necessarily something to be avoided; they just wanted more control over how it’s used.

With the Family Link update, parents can now choose to make remote learning apps “always allowed,” so they don’t count toward overall screen time daily limits. This could include not only those apps that are used to attend school or communicate with teachers, but others that have popped up to help kids learn and be entertained, like the supplemental resources the school suggests — or the apps parents allow during break times from virtual class.

Parents will also now have access to more detailed daily, weekly and monthly activity reports that provide both an overview of how the child is spending their time in apps, as well as how screen time usage has changed over a week or month, and what portion of time was spent in the “always allowed” apps. This gives parents a better idea of what screen time was used for education versus play.

On Android, Family Link users will also be able to browse through a selection of teacher-recommended apps from the Google Play catalog for kids under 13 in the U.S. And parents can also now set screen time limits directly from the child’s device on Android.

Image Credits: Google

Though these updates will remain useful in a post-pandemic world where parents hold a more nuanced view of screen time, it’s unfortunate that Google waited until so late in the pandemic to roll these changes out. As more people in the U.S. are being vaccinated, restrictions are lifting — including the re-opening of schools in many places. That means parents’ stress over kids’ increased screen time usage will soon become a moot point. The devices will be replaced with in-person learning, and screen time may become villainized yet again.

Related to today’s news, Google has launched a new website for families whose kids are beginning to use technology at families.google. The company also launched a new content series with meditation app Headspace that will help families with kids practice mindfulness together. Again, that’s a resource that was desperately needed in 2020 during the pandemic’s heights, more so than it is today as the world begins reopening.

Still, the pandemic has forced families to think more about screen time and what sort of on-device experiences they want their children to have. As a result of this increased scrutiny, social apps like TikTok and Instagramthe latter just today, in fact — have rolled out more family-friendly safety features, aimed at encouraging parents to see their apps in a better light, rather than being the first to go when screen time gets locked down. It has also encouraged new hybrid learning and education startups to launch, hoping to build out a new category of edutainment apps that can avoid screen time lockdowns.

It’s worth noting, too, that the update to Family Link follows the addition of an App Store privacy label on iOS, which confirms the data Google collects on users. The app, until recently, had been one of the many Google iOS apps that had seen updates stalled due to the lack of labeling.

Mobile – TechCrunch


This Week in Apps: Bumble’s IPO, Google’s missing privacy labels, a developer crusades against scams

February 15, 2021 No Comments

Welcome back to This Week in Apps, the weekly TechCrunch series that recaps the latest in mobile OS news, mobile applications and the overall app economy.

The app industry is as hot as ever, with a record 218 billion downloads and $ 143 billion in global consumer spend in 2020.

Consumers last year also spent 3.5 trillion minutes using apps on Android devices alone. And in the U.S., app usage surged ahead of the time spent watching live TV. Currently, the average American watches 3.7 hours of live TV per day, but now spends four hours per day on their mobile devices.

Apps aren’t just a way to pass idle hours — they’re also a big business. In 2019, mobile-first companies had a combined $ 544 billion valuation, 6.5x higher than those without a mobile focus. In 2020, investors poured $ 73 billion in capital into mobile companies — a figure that’s up 27% year-over-year.

This week, we’re taking a look at the Bumble IPO, app store subscription revenue and talk to a developer on a crusade against the fake ratings plaguing the App Store. We’re also checking in on the missing Google privacy labels…with a spreadsheet of all 100 apps.

This Week in Apps will soon be a newsletter! Sign up here: techcrunch.com/newsletters.

Top Stories

Bumble IPO

Bumble, the dating app positioned as one of Tinder’s biggest rivals, began trading on public markets on Thursday. The company priced its shares at $ 43, above its earlier target range of $ 37 to $ 39. But once live, BMBL began trading up nearly 77% at $ 76 per share on Nasdaq, closing the day with a market cap of $ 7.7 billion and the stock at $ 70.55.

The app itself was founded in 2014 by early Tinder exec Whitney Wolfe Herd, who now, at 31, is the youngest woman founder to take a U.S. company public and, thanks to the IPO, the world’s youngest self-made woman billionaire, as well, said Fortune.

Wolfe Herd successfully leveraged her knowledge of the online dating market, then combined that with an understanding of how to position a dating app to make it more appealing to women.

On Bumble, women message first, for example, and the company often touts features and updates designed to protect women from bad actors. A lot of what Bumble does is just marketing and spin overlaid on the Tinder model. Like other dating apps, Bumble uses a similar format to connect potential matches: a swipeable “people catalog,” where users look at photos, primarily, to determine interest. Bumble, like others, also makes money by charging for extra features that give users a better shot or more efficient experience.

But all this works because users believe Bumble to be different. They believe Bumble is also capable of delivering higher-quality matches than Tinder, which has increasingly re-embraced its persona as a hook-up app.

The IPO’s success also sends a signal that investors are expecting in-person dating to rebound post-pandemic, and getting in early on the next big mass market dating app is an easy win.

Developer crusades against scammy subscription apps

Developer Kosta Eleftheriou, a Fleskly co-founder, has been on a crusade against the scammy and spammy apps overrunning the App Store, as well as Apple’s failure to do much about it.

Earlier this month, Kosta complained that copycat apps were undermining his current business, as the developer of an Apple Watch keyboard app, FlickType. Shady clones boosted by fake ratings and reviews promised the same features as his legit app, but then locked their customers into exorbitant subscriptions, earning the scammers hundreds of thousands per month.

In his eyes, the problem wasn’t just that clones existed, but that Apple’s lack of attention to fake reviews made those apps appear to be the better choice.

Although Apple finally removed most of his fraudulent competitors after his rants gained press attention, he’s frustrated that the system was so broken in the first place.

This week, Kosta returned with another Twitter thread detailing the multimillion-dollar scams that pretend to be the best Roku remote control app. One app, “Roku Remote Control – Roki,” for example, had a 4.5 stars across 15K+ ratings. The app was a free download, but immediately tries to lock users into a $ 4.99/week subscription or a lifetime payment of $ 19.99. However, the app offers a “buggy, ad-infested, poorly designed” experience, Kosta says.

He then used AppFigures to see only those reviews of the Roki app that also had text. When displayed like this, it was revealed that “Roki” was really just a 1.7-star app, based on consumers who took the time to write a review.

What’s worse, Kosta has also argued, that even when Apple reacts by removing a bad actor’s app, it will sometimes allow the developer to continue to run other, even more profitable scams.

Kosta says he decided to spearhead a campaign about App Store scams to “get the word out about how all these scams manage to sustain themselves through a singular common flaw in the App Store — one that has been broken for years.”

He also notes that although Apple responded to him, he believes the company is hoping for the story to blow over.

“The way Apple tried to communicate with me also didn’t help ease my concern — they either don’t get it, or are actively trying to let the story fizzle out through some token gestures. But what they need to do first and foremost, is acknowledge the issue and protect their customers,” Kosta told TechCrunch.

One potential argument here is that because Apple financially benefits from successful subscription app scams, it’s not motivated to prioritize work that focuses on cleaning up the App Store or fake ratings and reviews. But Kosta believes Apple isn’t being intentionally malicious in an effort to grow the subscription business, it’s just that fake App Store reviews have become “a can that’s been perpetually kicked down the road.” Plus, since Apple touts the App Store as a place users can trust, it’s hard for them to admit fault on this front, he says.

Since the crusade began, Kosta has heard from others developers who have sent him examples “dozens and dozens of scams.”

“I will just keep exposing them until Apple acknowledges the problem,” he says.

Top subscription apps grew 34% to $ 13B in 2020

Apps saw record downloads and consumer spending in 2020, globally reaching somewhere around $ 111 billion to $ 112 billion, according to various estimates. But a growing part of that spend was subscription payments, a report from Sensor Tower indicates. Last year, global subscription app revenue from the top 100 subscription apps (excluding games), climbed 34% year-over-year to $ 13 billion, up from $ 9.7 billion in 2019.

The App Store, not surprisingly, accounted for a sizable chunk of this subscription revenue, given it has historically outpaced the Play Store on consumer spending. In 2020, the top 100 subscription apps worldwide generated $ 10.3 billion on the App Store, up 32% over 2019, compared with $ 2.7 billion on Google Play, which grew 42% from $ 1.9 billion in 2019. (Read more here.)

Google-Apple Privacy Label war drags on

Google said it would update its iOS apps with privacy labels weeks ago. While it did roll out some, it has yet to update top apps with Apple’s new labels, including key apps like the Google search app, Google Pay, Google Assistant, Google One, Google Meet, Google Photos, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google News, Google Drive, Gmail and others. (Keep track of this with me here. Want to help? Email me.)

Overall, the majority of Google’s apps don’t have labels. While Google probably needed some time (and a lot of lawyers) to look this over, it’s now super late to put its labels out there. At this point, its iOS apps are out of date — which Google accidentally alerted users to earlier this week. This is awful optics for a company users already don’t trust, and a win for Apple as a result. (Which, of course, means we need to know for sure that Apple isn’t delaying Google’s submissions here…)

Still, Google had time to get this done. Its December code freeze is long over, and everyone else, for the most part, has gotten on board with the new labels. Why can’t Google?

Weekly News

Platforms: Apple

Apple may soon allow users to set a different default music service. The company already opened up the ability to choose a different default browser and email app, but now a new feature in the iOS 14.5 beta indicates it may allow users to set another service, like Spotify, as the default option when asking Siri to play tunes. This, however, could be an integration with HomePod and Siri voice control support in mind, rather than something as universal as switching from Mail app to Gmail.

Apple Maps to gain Waze-like features for reporting accidents, hazards and speed traps. Another new feature in the iOS 14.5 beta will allow drivers to report road issues and incidents by using Siri on their iPhone or through Apple’s CarPlay. For example, during navigation, they’ll be able to tell Siri things like “there’s a crash up head,” “there’s something on the road,” or “there’s a speed trap here.”

Apple tests a new advertising slot on the App Store. Users of Apple’s new iOS 14.5 beta have reported seeing a new sponsored ad slot that appears on the Search tab of the App Store, under the “Suggested” heading (the screen that shows before you do a search). The ad slot is also labeled “Ad” and is a slightly color to differentiate it from the search results. It’s unclear at this time if Apple is planning to launch the ad slot or is just testing it.

The App Store announces price changes for Cameroon, Zimbabwe, Germany and the Republic of Korea.

Apple alerts developers to Push Notification service server certificate update, taking place on March 29, 2021.

Platforms: Google

Image Credits: XDA Developers

Alleged Android 12 screenshots snagged from an early draft document by XDA Developers show Google could be borrowing some ideas from Apple’s iOS for its next update. One feature may put colored dots in the status bar to indicate when the camera or microphone are being accessing, for example. Users may also be able to toggle off their camera, microphone or location access entirely. Google may also add a “conversations” widget to show recent messages, calls and activity statuses, among other things.

Google bans data broker Predicio that was selling user data collected from a Muslim prayer app to Venntel, a government contractor that sells location data from smartphones to ICE, CBP and the FBI, following a Motherboard investigation. Google alerted developers they had a week to remove the SDK from their apps or they’d be removed from Google Play.

Google updated its instructor-led curriculum for Android Development with Kotlin, a major update for the course materials that were first released in 2018. The new materials are designed for either in-person or virtual learning, where educators combine lectures and codelabs.

Google briefly notified users that their Google iOS apps were “out of date”an embarrassing mistake that was later corrected server-side. The bug arrived at a time when Google has yet to have updated its privacy labels for many of its largest apps, including Google, Gmail, Assistant, Maps, Photos and others.

Augmented Reality

Apple released a new iOS app, For All Mankind: Time Capsule, to promote its Apple TV+ series, “For All Mankind.” The app was built using Apple’s ARKit framework, offering a new narrative experience told in AR format featuring the show’s star. In the app, users join Danny as he examines keepsakes that connect to stories about impacting events in the lives of his parents, Gordo and Tracy Stevens, in the alternative world of the TV show.

E-commerce

✨ TikTok is expanding its e-commerce efforts. The company told marketers it’s planning a push into livestreamed e-commerce, and will also allow creators to share affiliate links to products, giving them a way to earn commissions from their videos. The company also recently announced a partnership with global ad agency WPP that will give WPP agencies and clients early access to TikTok ad products. It will also connect top creators with WPP for brand deals.

The Single Day Shopping festival drove high mobile usage. Consumers spent 2.3 billion hours in Android shopping apps during week of November 8-15, 2020, reports App Annie.

Social

CULVER CITY, CA - OCTOBER 13: General view of the TikTok headquarters on October 13, 2020 in Culver City, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Image Credits: AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

✨ TikTok’s sale of its U.S. operations to Oracle and Walmart is shelved. The Biden administration undertook a review of Trump’s efforts to address security risks from Chinese tech firms, including the forced sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations. The Trump administration claimed TikTok was a national security threat, and ordered TikTok owner ByteDance to divest its U.S. operations if it wanted to continue to operate in the country. Several large tech companies stepped up to the plate to take on the potential windfall. But Biden’s review of the agency action puts Trump’s plan on an indefinite pause. As a result, the U.S. government will delay its appeal of of federal district court judge’s December 2020 injunction against the TikTok ban. Discussions between U.S. national security officials and ByteDance are continuing, however.

✨ Facebook is said to be building its own Clubhouse rival. Mark Zuckerberg made a brief appearance on Clubhouse earlier this month, which now seems more like a reconnaissance mission, if The NYT’s report is true. Facebook will have to tread lightly, given its still under regulatory scrutiny for anticompetitive practices, which included cloning and acquiring its competition.

✨ Microsoft reportedly approached Pinterest about an acquisition of the $ 51 billion social media platform, but those talks are no longer active.

TikTok partnered with recipe app Whisk to add a way for users to save recipes featured in TikTok videos. The feature is currently in pilot testing with select creators.

Mark Cuban is co-founding a new podcast app, Fireside. The Shark Tank star and investor has teamed up with Falon Fatemi, who sold customer intelligence startup Node to SugarCRM last year. Fireside, which arrives at a time when people are asking Clubhouse to offer an export feature, is a next-gen podcast app with the ability to export live conversations as podcasts.

TikTok expands its Universal Music Group deal just days after UMG pulled its song catalog from Triller, saying the app was withholding artist payments.

Indian firm ShareChat will integrate Snapchat’s Camera Kit technology into its Moj app to enable AR features. The move will give Snap a foothold in a key emerging market.

Instagram said it will impose stricter penalties against those who send abusive messages, including account bans, and develop new controls to reduce the abuse people see in their DMs. The announcement followed a recent bout of racist abuse targeted at footballers in the U.K. A joint statement from Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City condemned the abuse, saying “there is no room for racism, hate or any form of discrimination in our beautiful game.”

Instagram tells creators that it won’t promote their recycled TikToks. The company announced via its @creators account a set of best practices for Reels, noting that those featuring a watermark or logo (which TikTok smartly attaches to its content), won’t be recommended frequently on Instagram’s platform. Of course, TikTok creators are already circulating videos with tips about how to cut out the logo from TikTok videos by first exporting the video as a Live Photo, then going to their iOS Photos app, clicking on the Live Photo and choosing “Save as Video.” Problem solved.

Photos

Image Credits: Google

Google Photos for Android adds previously Pixel-only features — but only if users subscribe to Google One. The paywalled features include machine learning-powered editing tools like Portrait Blur, Portrait Light and Color Pop. There’s also a new video editor on iOS with an Android update planned. The editor now lets you crop, change perspective, add filters, apply granular edits (including brightness, contrast, saturation and warmth) and more.

Adobe adds collaboration and asynchronous editing to Photoshop, Illustrator and Fresco. The update will be supported across platforms, including desktop, iPad and iPhone.

Streaming and Entertainment

Waze adds Audible to its list of in-app audio players. The integration allows you to easily play your audiobooks while driving. Waze already supported in-app music integrations, like YouTube Music and Spotify, thanks to developer integrations with the Waze Audio Kit.

HBO Max is going international. The app will be expanded to 39 Latin American and Caribbean territories in June, replacing the existing HBO GO app.

Picture-in-picture mode returned to YouTube on iOS with the launch of the iOS 14.5 beta.

Messaging

Facebook Messenger added a new feature that makes it easier to block and mass-delete Message Requests from people you don’t know. It also said it’s working on new ways to report abuse and providing better feedback on the status of those reports.

The Biden administration pauses the Trump ban on WeChat. The administration asked a federal appeals court to place a hold on proceedings over the WeChat a day after it asked for a similar delay over the TikTok case, saying it needed time to review the previous administration’s efforts, which are now in the appeals stage.

Health & Fitness

NHS Covid-tracing app has prevented 600,000 infections in England and Wales, researchers estimated in one of the first studies of smartphone-based tracing. The app used the tracing system built by Apple and Google.

Fintech

The Robinhood backlash hasn’t stopped the downloads. Many users downrated the app after it halted meme stock trading earlier this month — a move that’s now under Congressional investigation and has prompted multiple lawsuits. But the app continues to receive downloads. The day after it halted trades was its second-largest by downloads ever, and downloads remained high in the days that followed. In January 2021, the app was installed 3.7 million times in the U.S., or 4x the installs of January 2020.

Government & Policy

Image credits: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

The Chinese government blocked Clubhouse, which had been rapidly gaining attention in the country. The app itself had only briefly been made available in Apple’s China App Store last fall, but those had it installed could access its audio chat rooms without a VPN. Prior to the ban, a group discussing the 1989 pro-democracy Tiananmen protest reached 5,000 participants — the max number of participants Clubhouse supports.

A new North Dakota Senate bill proposes to ban app stores like Apple and Google from requiring developers to exclusively use their store and payment mechanisms to distribute apps, and would prevent them from retaliating, at the risk of fines. Apple’s Chief Privacy Engineer Erik Neuenschwander said the bill “threatens to destroy the iPhone as you know it,” and that Apple succeeds because it “works hard to keep the bad apps out of the App Store.”

The Coalition for App Fairness (CAF) announced that Meghan DiMuzio has now joined as its first executive director. The advocacy group fighting against app store anticompetitive behavior is made up of over 50 members, including Spotify, Tile, Basecamp, Epic Games and others.

Security & Privacy

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce has asked Apple to improve the credibility of App Store privacy labels, so consumers aren’t harmed. The request was made after an investigation by The Washington Post revealed that many labels were false, leading to questions as to whether the labels could be trusted at all.

Apple will begin to proxy Google’s “Safe Browsing” service used by Safari through its own servers starting with iOS 14.5. Safari on iPhone and iPad includes a “Fraudulent Website Warning” feature that warns users if they’re visiting a possible phishing site. The feature leverages Google’s “Safe Browsing” database and blocklist. Before, Google may have collected user’s IP address during its interaction with Safari, when the browser would check the website URL against Google’s list. Now, Apple will proxy the feature through Apple’s own servers to limit the risk of information leaks. The change was reported by The 8-bit, MacRumors and others, after a Reddit sighting, and confirmed by Apple’s head of Engineering for WebKit.

A generically named app “Barcode Scanner” on the Google Play Store had been operating as a legit app for years before turning into malware. Users of the app, which had over 10 million installs, began to experience ads that would open their browser out of nowhere. The malware was traced to the app and Google removed it from the Play Store. Unfortunately, users review-bombed a different, innocent app as a result, leaving it 1-star reviews and accusing it of being malware.

Google Chrome’s iOS app is testing a feature that would lock your Incognito tabs with either Touch ID or Face ID to add more security to the browser app.

Google Fi VPN for Android exits beta and expands to iPhone. The VPN app, designed for Google Fi users, is meant to encrypt connections when on public Wi-Fi networks or when using sites that don’t encrypt data. Users, however, question the privacy offered by VPN from Google.

Twitter said the iOS 14 privacy update will have a “modest impact” on its revenue. The companies joins others, including Facebook and Snap, in saying that Apple is impacting their business’s monetization.

Funding and M&A

💰 Quilt, a “Clubhouse” focused self-care, raised $ 3.5 million seed round led by Mayfield Fund. The app has a similar format to audio social network, Clubhouse, but rooms are dedicated less to hustle culture and more to wellness, personal development, spirituality, meditation, astrology and more.

🤝  Match Group, owner of dating apps like Match and Tinder, will buy Korean social media company Hyperconnect for $ 1.73 billion. The company runs two apps, Azar and Hakuna Live, both which focus on video, including video chats and live broadcasts.

🤝 Electronic Arts buys Glu Mobile, maker of the “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” mobile game in a $ 2.4 billion deal. The all-cash deal will also bring other games, like “Diner Dash” and “MLB Tap Sports Baseball” to EA, which said it made the acquisition because mobile is the “fastest-growing platform on the planet.”

💰 French startup Powder raised $ 12 million for its social app for sharing clips from your favorite games, and follow others with the same interests. The app can capture video content from both desktop and mobile games.

💰 Reddit’s valuation doubled to $ 6 billion after raising $ 250 million in a late-stage funding round led by Vy Capital, following the r/WallStreetBets and GameStop frenzy. The company was previously valued at $ 3 billion, and is also backed by Andreessen Horowitz and Tencent Holdings Ltd.

💰 SplashLearn raised $ 18 million for its game-based edtech platform. The startup offers math and reading courses for Pre-K through 5th grade, and over 4,000 games and interactive activities.

💰 Goody raised $ 4 million for its mobile app that lets you send gifts to friends, family and other loved ones over a text message. The other user can then personalize the gift and share their address, if you don’t have that information.

💰 VerSe Innovation, the Bangalore-based parent firm of news and entertainment app Dailyhunt and short video app Josh, a TikTok rival, raised over $ 100 million in Series H round led by Qatar Investment Authority and Glade Brook Capital Partners. The round turns the company into a unicorn.

💰 Tickr, an app that lets U.K. consumers make financial investments based on their impact to society and the environment, raised $ 3.4 million in a round led by Ada Ventures, a VC firm focused on impact startups.

📈 Huuuge Inc., a developer of free-to-play mobile casino games, raised $ 445 million in its IPO in Warsaw, becoming Poland’s largest-ever gaming industry listing.

💰 Uptime, an educational app that offers 5-minute bits of insight from top books and courses, raised a $ 16 million “seed” round led by Tesco CEO Sir Terry Leahy; entrepreneur and chairman of N Brown, David Alliance; and members of private equity firm Thomas H Lee.

💰 Modern Health, a mental health services provider for businesses to offer to their employees, raised $ 74 million, valuing its business at $ 1.17 billion. The Modern Health mobile app assesses each employee’s need and then provide care options.

💰 Scalarr raised $ 7.5 million to fight mobile ad fraud. The company offers products to detect ad fraud before an advertiser bids and other tools used by ad exchanges, demand-side platforms, and supply-side platforms.

💰 Dublin-based food ordering app Flipdish, a Deliveroo rival, raised €40 million from global investment firm Tiger Global Management. The app offers a lower commission than other delivery rivals and is even testing drone delivery with startup Manna Aero.

💰 Jackpocket, an NYC-based lottery ticket app, raised $ 50 million Series C. The app allows users to play the lottery games in nine different states, including Arkansas, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Washington, D.C.

Downloads

Insight’s iOS web browser supports “extensions”

Image Credits: Insight

A new startup called Insight is bringing web browser extensions to the iPhone, with the goal of delivering a better web browsing experience by blocking ads and trackers, flagging fake reviews on Amazon, offering SEO-free search experiences or even calling out media bias and misinformation, among other things. These features are made available by way of the browser’s “extensions,” which work by way of a “sub-tab” workflow where you navigate using swiping gestures. For example, when online shopping, you could view the product you’re interested in, then swipe over to see the available coupons, the trusted product reviews or to comparison shop across other sites.

The app is a free download on iOS.

App Annie Pulse

Image Credits: App Annie

App Annie’s new app Pulse is aimed not at the more advanced analyst or marketer immersed in data, but rather at the executive who wants a “more elevated, top-down view” of the app ecosystem, TechCrunch reported. The app offers easy access to the app stores’ top charts, plus tools for tracking apps, and a news feed highlighting recent trends. Another feature, the App Annie Performance score, which aims to distill user acquisition, engagement, monetization and sentiment into a single benchmark.

The app is currently iOS-only.

Mobile – TechCrunch


Google’s featured snippets: How to get your YouTube video featured in Google

October 31, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • YouTube is one of the most featured domains in Google.
  • Unlike any other heavily featured sites, YouTube.com provides any brand an easy way to host a brand-owned asset for it to get featured.
  • To capture more video-driven featured snippet opportunities, create a video version for each keyword-driven content asset you create.
  • There are tools that make video creation quite scalable. Those include online video creators and Zoom.
  • Regardless of how you create those videos, make sure there’s a meaningful (even search-optimized) voiceover as Google is using that (and the video transcripts) to generate featured snippets.
  • Use traditional SEO practices to let Google discover and rank your videos. Like with regularly featured snippets, video featured snippets heavily depend on the organic rankings.

YouTube provides brands with all kinds of unique marketing opportunities, one of which is an ability to build extra organic visibility through both video carousels and featured snippets.

Why YouTube?

According to Ahrefs, YouTube.com ranks in the top five organic searches for 139,830,455 queries. Of those, it is being featured for 1,177,203 queries (as of September 2020). 

YouTube video featured snippets on Google

[Screenshot source: Ahrefs as of September 2020]

This makes YouTube one of the most featured domains out there.

For comparison, en.wikipedia.org is being featured for 2,644,918 search queries (again, according to Ahrefs data).

Unlike Wikipedia, YouTube videos can be owned by brands. Anyone can create a YouTube video and get featured with it. This means the video creator holds full control over the message of the featured asset.

This is gold.

It is not easy to determine why YouTube is being featured so heavily:

  • Are YouTube videos being featured because they tend to rank so high
  • Or are YouTube videos being featured because Google has found those search queries to be best satisfied with video content

Either way, one thing we know for sure: You should be providing videos if you want to build additional brand exposure in organic search.

How to get your brand feature more through creating video content?

1. Create more videos

This one is pretty obvious but this is the fundamental step that needs to be covered.

You are welcome to go fancy and capture all relevant search results in your niche that feature videos and try to capture all those opportunities with your own videos. This strategy has the right to exist but it does have some problems:

  • You are competing with existing assets that have by now accumulated all kinds of solid signals (views, backlinks, and other such factors). So don’t expect this to come easy.
  • You are limiting your strategy with existing opportunities that all your competitors may be aware of. You are doomed to always be behind.
  • Featured snippets are dynamic. By the time you finally have a solid asset to compete, that opportunity may no longer exist.

Instead of chasing each individual opportunity, create a more comprehensive strategy that would ensure you’ll create your own opportunities, and gradually capture all of the existing ones as well.

Put simply, turn all your text-based content into the video format.

This sounds intimidating but it is actually totally doable. I am using two tools that make the process unbelievably easy:

2. Zoom to record walkthrough and tutorials

You can record yourself explaining any process using the free version of Zoom. It may take you some time to get used to the process but going forward, you will find yourself more and more comfortable with it. After 2-3 video tutorials, a 3-minute video will take you 30 minutes to create, trust me.

YouTube video featured snippets on Google - Zoom to create videos[Screenshot created by the author: September 2020]

I am sure other virtual meeting solutions can work for that purpose as well:

The best thing about Zoom is that it is free and offers a nice HD export of recorded videos.

3. Renderforest to turn text into videos

While Zoom may take a bit of time to get adjusted to, Renderforest provides video creation tools that take no time to figure out. It is easy-to-use and can be used to turn any article into a video.

To get an easier feel of the tool, simply grab your article subheadings and use their text-to-video option to turn those into a video:

Text to video - Transcript[Screenshot source: Renderforest]

Renderforest provides templates to create whiteboard videos, explainer videos, step-by-step tutorials, and more. 

Overall, of all the online video creators I’ve tried over the years, this one seems to be the easiest to adjust to. And it saves a ton of time. It costs around $ 7 a month which is also quite affordable.

4. Use meaningful well-structured distinct voice-over for your YouTube video

Now I don’t have any serious study behind this claim, so take this with a grain of salt. Based on my own experience, unless your video has a meaningful voice-over, it will not be featured.

Look at one of the examples of featured videos: There’s a text instruction in the box:

YouTube video featured snippets on Google - Instruction box[Screenshot source: Google search as of September 2020]

This is generated from the video captions which are auto-created based on the video voice-over:

[Screenshot source: YouTube as of September 2020]

This seems to support my claim: Unless Google can find some text, it will not be so willing to feature a video.

So invest some time into creating a voice-over.

If you use Zoom, you can simply read instructions while recording your tutorial. If you are using Renderforest, you can sync your voiceover with your video. Both methods are pretty doable.

4. Optimize videos using traditional SEO

YouTube SEO is not much different from any SEO process. This article outlines the process pretty well here. Basically, all you need is:

  • A keyword-optimized name of the video (which is also going to be the page title)
  • A detailed video description (also use your keywords there as well). Feel free to create clickable timestamps to take viewers to particular sections of the video. These get indexed by Google as well.

More importantly, you need some links to your video. At the very least link to each video from your own site (both manually from your articles and also using some plugins which send sitewide links to your videos). This will help it rank.

Conclusion

This video strategy will hopefully get your brand featured more. But it will also help you create more content assets which you will be able to market on social media to boost engagement and create more traffic generating channels. Good luck!

Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

The post Google’s featured snippets: How to get your YouTube video featured in Google appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


‘People also ask’ (PAA) feature: Uncovering Google’s hidden gem

October 15, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Signaling rapid growth, PAA boxes are now present across half of all SERPs.
  • With 75% of PAA results appearing within the top three results in Google, the PAA block opens up visibility opportunities for sites that are struggling to make it to the first page of Google’s SERP.
  • The key to PAA success lies in producing PAA-friendly content that meets PAA best practices – from tackling longer search queries to focusing on brevity and including question words.

With the rise of voice assistants and Google’s mission to turn into a “knowledge engine”, we can spot the proliferation of Google’s SERP features that support these shifts. Embracing these trends, SEMrush decided to take an in-depth look at Google’s ‘People also ask’ (PAA) feature and analyze its ins and outs to help businesses get more visibility with PAA boxes.

Presenting the key highlights from a recent SEMrush 2020 ‘People Also Ask’ study that analyzed over one million keywords for the US, this post provides insights into building a PAA-centered SEO and content strategy.

The rise of the ‘People also ask’ feature

According to SEMrush Sensor, the number of SERPs containing a PAA box has grown by 40-42% since the feature was first introduced back in 2015.

PAA appears to be present within half of the search results pages, with a slight increase when looking at mobile search results. In fact, Google is now six times more likely to return a SERP with a PAA box than with a featured snippet result.

People also ask feature vs Google featured snippets

Note: The drop on the chart comes as a result of Google’s March 2020 adjustment

Although remarkable, this trend towards PAA expansion is not consistent across all industries. With the lowest presence of PAA within the Real Estate industry (9.5%), the highest number of PAAs was spotted within the Computer & Electronics category (64.2%).

The full industry breakdown can be found in the study.

The nature of PAA

On average, the initial PAA block includes four questions:

Number of questions in the people also ask (PAA) box

While in 58% of all cases analyzed the PAA box appears after the first organic result – be it a regular blue link or a featured snippet – in 75% of cases, it is featured within the top three results.

Hidden opportunities

Although 13% of sites making it into the PAA box have a top three ranking, 74% aren’t even present within the first page of the SERP. This implies that the PAA feature opens up opportunities for sites that cannot immediately boost their organic rankings to appear on the first page of search results.

To leverage this opportunity, though, they should understand the inherent features of PAA and meet some of the key requirements we managed to spot.

Unleashing the power of ‘People also ask’

To understand how to leverage the PAA feature for your site and overall business, we have to examine which features impact the occurrence of a PAA block and which ‘content factors’ effect Google’s decision to include this or that piece of content within the PAA box.

‘Outside’ factors, or PAA-centered keyword optimization

1. Search query length

PAAs normally get triggered by longer keywords or complex search queries. With a clear correlation between the length of a search query and a PAA, we can see that a 10-word keyword triggers a PAA 72% of the time, while search results for a two-word query only showcase a PAA in 28% of the cases:

Probability of triggering a Featured Snippet together with PAA

2. Search query type

Questions or question-type queries tend to produce SERPs with a PAA block. 86% of the time, search queries starting with question words like “what”, “why”, “when”, “where” and “who” trigger a PAA.

SEMrush PAA Blog Graphics 20200930_Types of Queries That Trigger the 'people also ask' (PAA)

‘Inside’ factors, or PAA-worthy content features

79% of PAA boxes are filled with paragraphs taken from website content, followed by lists (13.8%) and tables (4.3%).

People also ask (PAA) results format

1. Paragraph length

The average number of words within a paragraph featured in PAA stands at 41 words, implying that brevity is a valuable asset when crafting content for a site.

2. List length

Within our dataset, we found no lists that went over 8 items, with the minimum length standing at a mere two items.

3. Table length

A standard PAA box has space for 14 rows and three columns, although we saw tables that only showed one column and two rows. Since the tables are less popular, we couldn’t make any conclusions regarding best practices when it comes to creating tables specifically for PAA.

Action plan for businesses willing to optimize for PAA

If today optimizing for PAA is a matter of wants, tomorrow, it could be a matter of needs, as search is already moving towards providing users with instant answers at their first command, be it voice or text.

The best feature of PAA is that it’s often a quicker win strategy than a more long-term traditional “blue link” ranking optimization.

In a nutshell, PAA optimization comes down to the following key steps:

  • Reviewing existing SERP features, where it all starts with analyzing if your target keywords currently trigger any PAAs.
  • Discovering missing opportunities by exploring whether your or your competitors’ site ranks for the keywords that generate a PAA block within the SERP but do not appear within the PAA box.
  • Uncovering ideas for PAA-worthy content by integrating the keywords within the PAA box into your keyword strategy and using the PAA block as a goldmine for content ideas.
  • Ensuring your content is as SEO optimized as it gets.

Olga Andrienko is SEMrush’s Head of Global Marketing. Olga can be found on Twitter @Olgandrienko.

The post ‘People also ask’ (PAA) feature: Uncovering Google’s hidden gem appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


How to get your YouTube videos appear in Google’s video carousel

September 11, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Google is giving a lot of visibility to video content through its interactive SERP section called a “video carousel”.
  • Getting your video ranked in Google’s “video carousels” can drive lots of views to your channel but it will also allow you to control more elements in your target SERPs.
  • Ranking in Google’s video carousel is quite doable and doesn’t require months of work or waiting. All you need is keyword research and video page optimization.

YouTube is one of the most popular social media networks out there allowing brands to get discovered by their customers. While creating a popular YouTube channel takes time and a lot of effort, it is well worth it. One piece of a puzzle many YouTube creators are missing is optimizing your videos for organic discoverability through Google’s video carousel.

Here’s a comprehensive guide that looks into all the elements that you can capture to win your spot in Google’s top SERP real estate.

What are YouTube video carousels?

Google offers a huge deal of organic visibility to YouTube videos through so-called video carousels, that is, interactive boxes featuring videos relating to the target search query:

What are Google's video carousels

Source: Google as of August 2020

There’s even more organic visibility for videos in mobile search results where videos carousels take almost the whole screen:

Mobile search results for Google's video carouselSource: Google as of August 2020

Whenever my video starts ranking in Google organic, it brings in lots of well-engaged views, especially as compared to other videos, even for very new/inactive channels:

video carouselSource: YouTube as of August 2020

But this strategy is not only helpful for driving views to your own channel. It is also a good way to better control your target Google SERPs. 

There’s no denying a fact that videos are highly engaging and convert well, and we are pretty sure that visuals (in this case video thumbnails) may be stealing a lot of attention from Google’s organic results (in fact, there’s a real science behind the visual impact on consumers’ behavior), so ranking your video there will help you drive more exposure for your brand.

The good news, YouTube SEO takes less time than traditional SEO does. I have seen my videos ranking in Google within a week after I upload them to YouTube! So this is a pretty fast way to boost your channel views by ranking your videos in Google’s video carousel. 

Craft a detailed and factual title

Your video page title is what you type in the “title” field when uploading your video:

Create a well informed title to rank your YouTube video in Google's video carousel

For SEO purposes (which implies organic search visibility), the title of the page is the most important on-page element, so treat it with care.

Optimizing a page title is always about maintaining a fine balance: You want it to be creative and original enough to get clicks while still being able to add some searchable keywords.

You can only make your title 100 characters long max which is not much!

Here are a few suggestions for you:

  • Always include a searchable keyword (here’s a quick guide on identifying one)
  • If your video includes entities (names, places, events, brands, products, etc), include those in the video title
  • Titles that include numbers generally get more clicks, so experiment with adding numbers to your video title
  • Titles that are worded as questions may spur curiosity and get more clicks
  • How-to titles always perform well for guides and instructions

Tip: Create videos around your target queries

You can go the other way around: Instead of trying to find a searchable keyword for your video idea, you can create videos around keywords you already know are popular with Google’s users.

You can easily do that with tools like Placeit that allows you to turn text content into the video format:

Placeit - using a tool to identify keywords for YouTube videosScreenshot source: Placeit as of August 2020

Placeit doesn’t require subscription payment, plus it offers free templates which makes it the most affordable video creation solution on the market.

The way it could work:

  • Grab any article from your site that received Google traffic
  • Use Google Search Console to find which search queries exactly drive clicks to your page
  • Create videos around those queries (using your existing article)

Another way to find opportunities to get your video visible on Google’s video carousel is by using Ahrefs:

  • Run your domain in Ahrefs and click to “Organic keywords”
  • Click the filter called “SERP features” and check “Videos”

Here you go. There are all keywords your site is ranking for in Google and those are also search queries showing video carousels. 

Ahrefs tool showing organic keywords for YouTube videosSource: Ahrefs as of August 2020

Ahrefs is my preferred SERP analytics tool due to its usability but of course, there are many more cool tools that can help you with this task.

Create a longer description

While for the video titles, we don’t have too many characters to work with, the video description field allows more characters than enough, so take the full advantage of those.

The video description field allows creators to put up to 5000 characters. It is important to create more detailed description for your video because search engines still rely on text content to index and rank your video.

Here are a few ideas on creating a more detailed and high-ranking video description:

1. Create your script

If you are uploading a video interview, a webinar, or conference coverage, chances are you have more than enough text spoken to create a detailed description.

Fiverr is full of gigs offering you to transcribe a video and turn it into text, so it is a pretty easy way to create the text version of any video:

Getting video transcribes with FivverSource: Fiverr as of August 2020

2. Use semantic analysis

I turn to semantic analysis at any time I am writing content. It always helps me discover more topics to cover and identify more questions to answer.

Text Optimizer is an easy and effective semantic research tool that analyzes Google’s search snippets to identify underlying concepts which will make your content more relevant to your target topic:

TextOptimizer brandedSource: Text Optimizer as of August 2020

I don’t think I know an alternative to Text Optimizer for creating an optimized context so easily, but here’s more on semantic analysis and why it is useful.

3. Create a time-stamped video outline

Don’t miss this step! YouTube allows you to add clickable timestamps that take viewers deeper into your video to where you discuss that subtopic.

Here’s a detailed tutorial on creating YouTube timestamps:

  1. Play your video up to the point where it starts discussing a new topic
  2. Pause your video at the point you want to timestamp
  3. Type the time exactly as you see in the video player into the video description field.

Copy time YouTube timestamp - Use it to get your video ranked in Google's video carouselSource: YouTube as of August 2020

This clickable video outline in the video description will drive people deep into the video, so you will see more engagements.

On top of that, your video may enjoy even more exposure in search, because Google sometimes grabs that outline to show right inside search results:

Video outline in Google's video carousel searchSource: Google as of August 2020. (Google giving extra visibility to a video by showing its clickable outline right inside search results)

Add more tags and a few hashtags

YouTube tagging is still a good way to categorize your video the right way. They help search engines to better understand what it is your video is about and rank it accordingly.

You can up to 500-character worth of tags for each of your videos, and there’s no reason saving on those characters. Feel free to use all of them.

Hashtags were introduced not so long ago, and creators still confuse the two, so to help you out, here’s a quick list of how they work and:

YouTube tags YouTube hashtags
Where to enter Separate the “Tags” field on the video edit page Anywhere in the video description
Has limits  Max 500 characters Max 15 hashtags
Have the hash/pound symbol # No Yes
Is visible on the public video pages No Yes
Helps make the video more findable Yes Yes

While tags are mostly for YouTube search rankings, hashtags appear as a visible part of the page, so they send some relevancy signals to search engines:

Tags and hashtags help find relevanceSource: YouTube as of August 2020. (Enter hashtags into the description area and tags in the separate “Tags” field)

If you need help brainstorming more tags for your video, try Rapidtags.io which generates tags:

Rapidtags.ioSource: Rapidtags.io as of August 2020

Create an eye-catching video thumbnail

A video thumbnail is what shows up in Google’s video carousel, so it will directly impact your click-through. This makes your video thumbnail one of the major assets for your video:

Create eye-catching video thumbnails to rank in Google's video carousel

Source: YouTube as of August 2020

Luckily creating an eye-catching and, more importantly, click-inviting video thumbnail is not difficult. There are tools to create one for free, as well as cool templates to come up with your own unique recognizable style:

Conclusion

YouTube video optimization strategy is very much like any SEO strategy: You need to create a lot of relevant context for search engines to be able to understand and correctly classify your video. To optimize your YouTube video page:

  • Craft an attention-grabbing title which would include your target keyword
  • Write a detailed, semantically optimized video description (and include clickable video outline for viewers and search engines to easily access the part they are most interested in)
  • Add tags and hashtags to make your video even more findable

Finally, links play a huge part in organic visibility, so make sure to link to your videos from your own site. This includes both embedding your videos and linking to them directly.

Ann Smarty is the Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

The post How to get your YouTube videos appear in Google’s video carousel appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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