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Twitter explored buying India’s ShareChat and turning Moj into a global TikTok rival

February 22, 2021 No Comments

Twitter recently held talks to acquire Indian social media startup ShareChat as the company explored ways to expand its presence in the world’s second largest internet market and build a global rival to TikTok, three sources familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

The American firm, which is already an investor in Bangalore-based ShareChat, offered to buy the five-year-old Indian startup for $ 1.1 billion and had committed an additional investment of $ 900 million, two of the sources said. ShareChat, backed by Lightspeed Partners India, Elevation Capital, and India Quotient among others, has raised about $ 260 million to date.

The talks did not materialize into a deal, two sources said, requesting anonymity as the matter is private. TechCrunch could not determine the reason the two companies ended the talks.

Two sources said Twitter had expressed intention to take Moj, a short-form video app that ShareChat owns, to international markets and position it as a rival to Chinese app TikTok.

Twitter declined to comment and ShareChat did not respond to a request for comment.

India’s ban on TikTok last year prompted scores of local startups and international giants to try their hands at short-form video format.

Moj, with over 80 million users already, has emerged as one of the largest players in the category. Earlier this month, Snap inked a deal with ShareChat to integrate its Camera Kit into the Indian short video app. This is the first time Snap had formed a partnership of this kind with a firm in India.

With the buyout offer no longer being entertained, ShareChat has resumed talks with other investors for its new financing round. These investors include Google, Snap, the sources said.

TechCrunch reported in January that the Indian startup was talking to Google and Snap as well as some existing investors including Twitter to raise over $ 200 million. A potential acquisition by Twitter prolonged the investment talks.

ShareChat, which claims to have over 160 million users, offers its social network app in 15 Indian languages and has a large following in small Indian cities and towns, or what venture capitalist Sajith Pai of Blume Ventures refer as “India 2.” Very few players in the Indian startup ecosystem have a reach to this segment of this population, which thanks to users from even smaller towns and villages — called “India 3” — getting online has expanded in recent years.

In an interview with TechCrunch last year, Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and chief executive of ShareChat, said the startup’s marquee app was growing “exponentially” and that users were spending, on an average, more than 30 minutes a day on the service.

Twitter, itself, has struggled to make inroads outside of bigger cities and towns in India. Its app reached about 75 million users in the country in the month of January, according to mobile insight firm AppAnnie, data of which an industry executive shared with TechCrunch. It inked a deal with news and social app Dailyhunt to bring Moments — curated tweets pertaining to news and other local events — to the Google-backed Indian app.

The American social network has broadened its product offering in the past year amid pressure from activist investors to accelerate growth.


Social – TechCrunch


Hasselblad X1D II 50C: out of the studio and into the streets

February 17, 2021 No Comments

We crawled into an abandoned school bus, trespassed through dilapidated hallways, dodged fleeting thunderstorms, and wandered the empty streets of Chinatown late into the evening. For two summery weeks, I couldn’t have been happier.

New York City was in lockdown. I’d been quarantined in my dinky apartment, disheartened and restless. I was anxious to do something creative. Thankfully, the Hasselblad X1D II 50C arrived for review, along with approval from the studio heads for socially-distanced, outdoor shoots.

Taking pictures of the mundane (flowers, buildings, and such) would’ve been a disservice to a $ 10,000 camera kit, so instead, my friends and I collaborated on a fun, little project: we shot portraits inspired by our favorite films.

Hasselblad X1D II shotlist

Image Credits: Veanne Cao

Equipped with masks and a bottle of hand sanitizer, we put the X1D II 50C and 80mm F/1.9 lens (ideal for close-ups without actually having to be close up) through its paces in some of NYC’s less familiar backdrops.

Before I get into any trouble for the last photo – Alex and Jason are professional stuntmen and that’s a rubber prop gun. They were reenacting the penultimate scene from Infernal Affairs – a brilliant piece of Hong Kong cinema (much better than the Scorsese remake).

While the camera is slightly more approachable in terms of cost and ease of use with a few upgrades (larger, more responsive rear screen, a cleaned-up menu, tethering capabilities, faster startup time and shutter release), the X1D II is essentially the same as its predecessor. So I skipped the standard review. Hasselblad X1D II 50C Hasselblad X1D II 50C

Image Credits: Veanne Cao

What it is, what it isn’t

The most common complaint about the X1D was its slow autofocus, slow shutter release and short battery life. The X1D II improved on these features, though not by much. Rather than seeing the lag as a hindrance, I was forced to slow down and re-wire my brain for a more thoughtful shooting style (a pleasant side effect).

As I mentioned in my X1D review, Apple and other smartphone manufacturers have made shooting great pictures effortless. As such, the accessibility has created a culture of excessively capturing everyday banalities. You shoot far more than you’ll ever need. It’s something I’m guilty of. Pretty sure 90% of the images on my iPhone camera roll are throwaways. (The other 10% are of my dog and he’s spectacularly photogenic.)

The X1D II, however, is not an easy camera. It’s frustrating at times. If you’re a beginner, you may have to learn the fundamentals (ISO, f-stops, when to click the shutter), but the payoff is worth it. There’s an overwhelming sense of gratification when you get that one shot. And at 50 megapixels, it’s packed with details and worthy of hanging on your wall. Shelling out a ton of money for the X1D II won’t instantly make you a better photographer, but it ought to encourage you to become one.

Without the contrived studio lights and set design, our outdoor shoots became an exercise in improvisation:  we wandered through the boroughs finding practicals (street lights, neon lights… the sun), discovering locations, and switching spots when things didn’t pan out.

We explored, we had purpose.

My takeaway from the two weeks with this camera:  pause and be meaningful in your actions.

Reviewed kit runs $ 10,595, pre-taxed:
Hasselblad X1D II 50C Mirrorless Camera – $ 5,750
Hasselblad 80mm F/1.9 XCD Lens – $ 4,845

Gadgets – TechCrunch


Podz turns podcasts into a personalized audio newsfeed

February 10, 2021 No Comments

Podz is the latest startup trying to solve the problem of podcast discovery, with backing from investors like M13, Katie Couric and Paris Hilton.

“Even though podcasts have gained a lot of momentum — there are 100 million folks in the U.S. who listen to podcasts — we still haven’t seen that crossover behavior, where audio becomes a part of everyday lives,” CEO Doug Imbruce argued. “We think that’s because the experience of discovering and consuming podcasts is ancient. It literally feels like browsing the web in 1997.”

Imbruce’s name may be familiar to longtime TechCrunch readers, as he was previously the chief executive at Qwiki, which won the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2010 (Cloudflare was one of the runners up), then acquired by Yahoo a few years later.

By Imbruce’s own admission, Qwiki never quite lived up to his hopes for remaking online media consumption, but he said that its vision of “machine-created media” offered “a taste of the future” — a future that he’s hoping to help usher in with Podz.

The problem that the startup aims to solve is pretty straightforward. Since podcasts often consist of 30 or 60 minutes or more of spoken-word audio, they’re difficult to browse, and when you discover new ones, it’s usually through word-of-mouth recommendations or clunky search tools.

While tools like Headliner makes it easier for podcasters to promote their content with short clips on social media, Podz automates that creation process and makes those clips the centerpiece of the listening experience.

Podz demo

Image Credits: Podz

In the Podz mobile app, users browse what the startup calls an “the first audio newsfeed,” consisting of 60-second podcast clips. These clips are designed to highlight the best moment from each podcast, making it easier to sample a much wider array of titles than the ones you currently subscribe to. Each clip should stand on its own, but if you want to dive deeper, you can save the full episode for listening later.

These clips are created automatically, and Imbruce said “the beating heart of the Podz platform” is a machine learning model that “identifies the most engaging parts of podcasts.” The model was trained on more than 100,000 hours of audio, in consultation with journalists and audio editors.

For example, here are the clips chosen from the three most recent episodes of the Original Content podcast — our reviews of “Soul,” “The White Tiger” and “Bridgerton.” Each clip seems reasonably self-contained, and although I was a little dismayed to discover that they all focused on me (rather than my more eloquent co-hosts), a Podz spokesperson explained that’s because the app focuses on “the highest density speakers.”

The Podz newsfeed is personalized to your interests (and, if you choose, it can also draw on the podcasts you follow in Apple Podcasts and the accounts you follow on Twitter). Imbruce said it should become smarter over time as it observes listener behavior.

He added that the team is hoping to introduce more creative and monetization tools for podcasters over time: “We are really hopeful that we can both increase amount of audio being created by 10x and increase the monetization of audio by 100x.”

In addition to Imbruce, the Podz founding team includes CTO Seye Ojumu, Head of Design Rasmus Zwickson and iOS lead Greg Page. The startup has raised $ 2.5 million in pre-seed funding from M13, Canaan Partners, Charge Ventures and Humbition, as well as notable angel investors like Couric, Hilton (who’s launching her own podcast) and Mara Schiavocampo (The Trend Reporter).

“We are living in a golden age of audio, but only 1% of podcasts reach an audience of 5,000+,” M13 General Partner Latif Peracha told me via email. “Podz plans to grow the audience for existing audio but the real focus will be on growing new audio by leveraging their creator tools. Already, the average podcast listener subscribes to seven podcasts but follows almost 30 on Podz. Early signals make us optimistic the team can build a transformative product in the category.”

Mobile – TechCrunch


Among Us Taps Into Our Obsession With Betrayal

February 3, 2021 No Comments

The massively popular game gives players the freedom and autonomy to backstab one another—but also build connections.
Feed: All Latest


How Atlanta’s Calendly turned a scheduling nightmare into a $3B startup

January 26, 2021 No Comments

One big theme in tech right now is the rise of services to help us keep working through lockdowns, office closures, and other Covid-19 restrictions. The “future of work” — cloud services, communications, productivity apps — has become “the way we work now.” And companies that have identified ways to help with this are seeing a boom.

Today comes news from a startup that has been a part of that trend: Calendly, a popular cloud-based service that people use to set up and confirm meeting times with others, has closed an investment of $ 350 million from OpenView Venture Partners and Iconiq.

The funding round includes both primary and secondary money (slightly more of the latter than the former, from what I understand) and values the Atlanta-based startup at over $ 3 billion.

Not bad for a company that before now had raised just $ 550,000, including the life savings of the founder and CEO, Tope Awotona, to initially get off the ground.

Calendly is a freemium software-as-a-service, built around what is essentially a very simple piece of functionality.

It’s a platform that provides a quick way to manage open spaces in your calendar for people to book appointments with you in those spaces, which then also books out the time in calendars like Google’s or Microsoft Outlook — with a growing number of tools to enhance that experience, including the ability to pay for a service in the event that your appointment is not a business meeting but, say, a yoga class. Pricing ranges from free (one calendar/one user/one event) to premium ($ 8/month) and pro ($ 12/month) for more calendars, events, integrations and features, with bigger packages for enterprises also available.

Its growth, meanwhile, has to date been based mostly around a very organic strategy: Calendly invites become links to Calendly itself, so people who use it and like it can (and do) start to use it, too.

The wide range of its use cases, and the virality of that growth strategy, have been winners. Calendly is already profitable, and it has been for years. And more recently, it has seen a boost, specifically in the last twelve months, as new Calendly users have emerged, as a result of how we are living.

We may not be doing more traditional “business meetings” per week, but the number of meetings we now need to set up, has gone up.

All of the serendipitous and impromptu encounters we used to have around an office, or a neighborhood coffee shop, or the park? Those are now scheduled. Teachers and students meeting for a remote lesson? Those also need invitations for online meetings.

And so do sessions with therapists, virtual dinner parties, and even (where they can still happen) in-person meetings, which are often now happening with more timed precision and more record-keeping, to keep social distancing and potential contact tracing in better order.

Currently, some 10 million of us are using Calendly for all of this on a monthly basis, with that number growing 1,180% last year. The army of business users from companies like Twilio, Zoom, and UCSF has been joined by teachers, contractors, entrepreneurs, and freelancers, the company says.

The company last year made about $ 70 million annually in subscription revenues from its SaaS-based business model and seems confident that its aggregated revenues will not long from now get to $ 1 billion.

So while the secondary funding is going towards giving liquidity to existing investors and early employees, Awotona said the plan will be to use the primary capital to invest in the company’s business.

That will include building out its platform with more tools and integrations — it started with and still has a substantial R&D operation in Kiev, Ukraine — expanding its operations with more talent (it currently has around 200 employees and plans to double headcount), further business development and more.

Two notable moves on that front are also being announced with the funding: Jeff Diana is coming on as chief people officer with a mission to double the company’s employee base. And Patrick Moran — formerly of Quip and New Relic — is joing as Calendly’s first chief revenue officer. Notably, both are based in San Francisco — not Atlanta.

That focus for building in San Francisco is already a big change for Calendly. The startup, which is going on eight years old, has been somewhat off the radar for years.

That is in part due to the fact that it raised very little money up to now (just $ 550,000 from a handful of investors that include OpenView, Atlanta Ventures, IncWell and Greenspring Associates).

It’s also based in Atlanta, an increasingly notable city for technology startups and other companies but more often than not short on being credited for its heft in that department (SalesLoft, Amex-acquired Kabbage, OneTrust, Bakkt, and many others are based there, with others like Mailchimp also not too far away).

And perhaps most of all, proactively courting publicity did not appear to be part of Calendly’s growth playbook.

In fact, Calendly might have closed this big round quietly and continued to get on with business, were it not for a short Tweet last autumn that signaled the company raising money and shaping up to be a quiet giant.

“The company’s capital efficiency and what @TopeAwotona has built deserve way more credit than they get,” it read. “Perhaps this will start to change that recognition.”

After that short note on Twitter — flagged on TechCrunch’s internal message board — I made a guess at Awotona’s email, sent a note introducing myself, and waited to see if I would get a reply.

I eventually did get a response, in the form of a short note agreeing to chat, with a Calendly link (naturally) to choose a time.

(Thanks, unnamed TC writer, for never writing about Calendly when Tope originally pitched you years ago: you may have whet his appetite to respond to me.)

In that first chat over Zoom, Awotona was nothing short of wary.

After years of little or no attention, he was getting cold-contacted by me and it seems others, all of us suddenly interested in him and his company.

“It’s been the bane of my life,” he said to me with a laugh about the calls he’s been getting.

Part of me thinks it’s because it can be hard and distracting to balance responding to people, but it’s also because he works hard, and has always worked hard, so doesn’t understand what the new fuss is about.

A lot of those calls have been from would-be investors.

“It’s been exorbitant, the amount of interest Calendly has been getting, from backers of all shapes and sizes,” Blake Bartlett, a partner at OpenView, said to me in an interview.

From what I understand, it’s had inbound interest from a number of strategic tech companies, as well as a long list of financial investors. That process eventually whittled down to just two backers, OpenView and Iconiq.

From Lagos to fixing cash registers

Yet even putting the rumors of the funding to one side, Calendly and Awotona himself have been a remarkable story up to now, one that champions immigrants as well as startup grit.

Tope comes from Lagos, Nigeria, part of a large, middle class household. His mother had been the chief pharmacist for the Nigerian Central Bank, his father worked for Unilever.

The family may have been comfortable, but growing up in Lagos, a city riven by economic disparity and crime, brought its share of tragedies. When he was 12, Awotona’s father was murdered in front of him during a carjacking. The family moved to the U.S. some time after that, and since then his mother has also passed away.

A bright student who actually finished high school at 15, Awotona cut his teeth in the world of business first by studying it — his major at the University of Georgia was management information systems — and then working in it, with jobs after college including periods at IBM and EMC.

But it seems Awotona was also an entrepreneur at heart — if one that initially was not prepared for the steps he needed to take to get something off the ground.

He told me a story about what he describes as his “first foray into business” at age 18, which involved devising and patenting a new feature for cash registers, so that they could use optical character recognition recognize which bills and change were being used for, and dispense the right amount a customer might need in return after paying.

At the time, he was working at a pharmacy while studying and saw how often the change in the cash registers didn’t add up correctly, and his was his idea for how to fix it.

He cold-contacted the leading cash register company at the time, NCR, with his idea. NCR was interested, offering to send him up to Ohio, where it was headquartered then, to pitch the idea to the company directly, and maybe sell the patent in the process. Awotona, however, froze.

“I was blown away,” he said, but also too surprised at how quickly things escalated. He turned down the offer, and ultimately let his patent application lapse. (Computer-vision-based scanning systems and automatic dispensers are, of course, a basic part nowadays of self-checkout systems, for those times when people pay in cash.)

There were several other entrepreneurial attempts, none particularly successful and at times quite frustrating because of the grunt work involved just to speak to people, before his businesses themselves could even be considered.

Eventually, it was the grunt work that then started to catch Awotona’s attention.

“What led me to create a scheduling product” — Awotona said, clear not to describe it as a calendaring service — “was my personal need. At the time wasn’t looking to start a business. I just was trying to schedule a meeting, but it took way too many emails to get it done, and I became frustrated.

“I decided that I was going to look for scheduling products that existed on the market that I could sign up for,” he continued, “but the problem I was facing at the time was I was trying to arrange a meeting with, you know, 10 or 20 people. I was just looking for an easy way for us to easily share our availability and, you know, easily find a time that works for everybody.”

He said he couldn’t really see anything that worked the way he wanted — the products either needed you to commit to a subscription right away (Calendly is freemium) or were geared at specific verticals such as beauty salons. All that eventually led to a recognition, he said, “that there was a big opportunity to solve that problem.”

The building of the startup was partly done with engineers in Kiev — a drama in itself that pivoted at times on the political situation at times in Ukraine (you can read a great unfolding of that story here).

Awotona says that he admired the new guard of cloud-based services like Dropbox and decided that he wanted Calendly to be built using “the Dropbox approach” — something that could be adopted and adapted by different kinds of users and usages.

Simplicity in the frontend, strategy at the backend

On the surface, there is a simplicity to the company’s product: it’s basically about finding a time for two parties to meet. Awotona notes that behind the scenes the scheduling help Calendly provides is the key to what it might develop next.

For example, there are now tools to help people prepare for meetings — specifically features like being able to, say, pay for something that’s been scheduled on Calendly in order to register. A future focus could well be more tools for following up on those meetings, and more ways to help people plan recurring individual or group events.

One area where it seems Calendly does not want to dabble are those meetings themselves — that is, hosting meetings and videoconferencing itself.

“What you don’t want is to start a world war three with Zoom,” Awotona joked. (In addition to becoming the very verb-ified definition of video conferencing, Zoom is also a customer of Calendly’s.)

“We really see ourselves as a leading orchestration platform. What that means is that we really want to remain extensible and flexible. We want our users to bring their own best in class products,” he said. “We think about this in an agnostic way.”

But in a technology world that usually defaults back to the power of platforms, that position is not without its challenges.

“Calendly has a vision increasingly to be a central part of the meeting life cycle. What happens before, during and after the meeting. Historically, the obvious was before the meeting, but now it’s looking at integrations, automations and other things, so that it all magically happens. But moving into the rest of the lifecycle is a lot of opportunity but also many players,” admitted Bartlett, with others including older startups like X.ai and Doodle (owned by Swiss-based Tamedia) or newer entrants like Undock but also biggies like Google and Microsoft.

“It will be an interesting task to see where there are opportunities to partner or build or buy to build out its competitive position.”

You’ll notice that throughout this story I didn’t refer to Awotona’s position as a black founder — still very much a rarity among startups, and especially those valued at over $ 1 billion.

That is partly because in my conversations with him, it emerged that he saw it as just another detail. Still, it is one that is brought up a lot, he said, and so he understands it is important for others.

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about being black or not black,” he said. “It doesn’t change how I approach or built Calendly. I’m not incredibly conscious of my race or color, except for the last few years through he growth of Calendly. I find that more people approach me as a black tech founder, and that there is young black people who are inspired by the story.”

That is something he hopes to build on in the near future, including in his home country.

Pending pandemic chaos, he has plans to try to visit Nigeria later this year and to get more involved in the ecosystem in that country, I’m guessing as a mentor if not more.

“I just know the country that produced me,” he said. “There are a million Topes in Nigeria. The difference for me was my parents. But I’m not a diamond in the rough, and I want to get involved in some way to help with that full potential.”


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Twitter taps AWS for its latest foray into the public cloud

December 15, 2020 No Comments

Twitter has a lot going on, and it’s not always easy to manage that kind of scale on your own. Today, Amazon announced that Twitter has signed a multi-year agreement with AWS to run its real-time timelines. It’s a major win for Amazon’s cloud arm.

While the companies have worked together in some capacity for over a decade, this marks the first time that Twitter is tapping AWS to help run its core timelines.

“This expansion onto AWS marks the first time that Twitter is leveraging the public cloud to scale their real-time service. Twitter will rely on the breadth and depth of AWS, including capabilities in compute, containers, storage, and security, to reliably deliver the real-time service with the lowest latency, while continuing to develop and deploy new features to improve how people use Twitter,” the company explained in the announcement.

Parag Agrawal, Chief Technology Officer at Twitter sees this as a way to expand and improve the company’s real-time offerings by taking advantage of AWS’s network of data centers to deliver content closer to the user. “The collaboration with AWS will improve performance for people who use Twitter by enabling us to serve Tweets from data centers closer to our customers at the same time as we leverage the Arm-based architecture of AWS Graviton2 instances. In addition to helping us scale our infrastructure, this work with AWS enables us to ship features faster as we apply AWS’s diverse and growing portfolio of services,” Agrawal said in a statement.

It’s worth noting that Twitter also has a relationship with Google Cloud. In 2018, it announced it was moving its Hadoop clusters to GCP.

This announcement could be considered a case of the rich getting richer as AWS is the leader in the cloud infrastructure market by far with around 33% market share. Microsoft is in second with around 18% and Google is in third with 9%, according to Synergy Research. In its most recent earnings report, Amazon reported that $ 11.6 billion in AWS revenue putting it on a run rate of over $ 46 billion.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


SEO and cybersecurity: Incorporating cybersecurity into your SEO strategy

December 15, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Website security directly impacts the SEO performance of the website, as the non-compliance with the security requirements can cause low rankings or Google penalties.
  • Blacklisting, malicious bots interfering with the crawling process, and spam attacks are among the main consequences of low website security.
  • The “site not available” warning, the presence of strange JavaScript code, not working login credentials and frequent error messages can be the warning signs of a cyberattack on your website.
  • Making security checks a part of your SEO strategy would help you create a website that is resistant to cybersecurity attacks.

Every site needs to be secure and there are no “too small” or “too unnecessary” sites for malicious attacks. Online businesses are fully centered on high search rankings for online reputation and profits. For this purpose, they often implement the most effective SEO tactics, from link building to great content marketing, to land up on the front page of Google search. Nevertheless, apart from delivering the best content to the users, Google is also aimed at making the internet a safe environment, hence placing importance on websites’ cybersecurity practices.

In fact, hacks may not only be destructive for your reputation but also for your site’s organic search performance. Hence, cybersecurity and SEO go hand in hand towards building a firm’s online reputation. If the website doesn’t mean the latest security compliance it can be blacklisted by Google, suffer from spam attacks or activities of malicious bots. 

So we want to share effective advice on how to recognize the security vulnerabilities in time, how to integrate the security checks into your development strategy, why you should regularly scan your website, and how to protect your local networks. 

Four main steps to improve website security

Security or the absence of security may seriously affect your SEO. We all know that the HTTP certificate is no longer a reliable way to secure the site and the HTTPS has, for the most part, become the poster boy of the security standard. In 2014, Google started to prioritize the sites with HTTPS in the search results. 

Focusing on SEO and security will help your business to step on the steer of success. The struggle to improve the website’s ranking and keeping it cybersecurity is common for many companies so here what we suggest:

#1: Learn to recognize the earliest warning signs

Cyber attacks can cause malicious bots activity. Bots will always represent a part of your traffic but not all bots are harmless to the site’s security. Cybercriminals, however, launch bots to crawl sites in the search for vulnerable parts, data theft, or content crapping. Malicious bots use the same bandwidth as the “good” bots and normal visitors do. If your server is a subject of repetitive tasks by malicious bots, it may lead to the server to stop serving pages. 

Cybercriminals always rely on the website’s weak sides to hack it. Thus, it’s essential to stay ahead and pay attention to the following warning signs of cyberattacks that are supposed to make your inner radar shout. Cybercriminals can cause malicious bots activity. 

Google Alerts and notifications

In case you received a Google alert notification or see a “Site not available” warning in search results, we have bad news. This is a sign that your website has been hacked. To confirm this fact, go to the Google Search Console, the Security Issues section, and look for the hacked URLs that Google has detected.

Presence of strange JavaScript code

The presence of a weird Java code in the source code of your website is a reliable alert sign. Javascript codes are often used by hackers to steal precious personal data like credit card details or passwords from your site. If you see any trace of strange-looking code, get rid of it immediately. 

Your login credentials don’t work

Not hard to guess that something goes wrong when you enter the valid login info and get the “wrong password” notification. Your login credentials have been altered by cybercriminals. 

You get frequent random popups or error messages

More than half of malicious attacks on websites are performed by “black” SEO’s who are aimed at improving their own site’s ranking. They target the sites with prominent search rankings and insert links or use Javascript to redirect users to their own malicious websites. SEO spamming allows scammers to use high-ranking websites in order to promote low-quality content to low masses and, consequently, push their rankings. SEO spam has several negative impacts:

  1. The site will get blacklisted by the search engine.
  2. The site’s spam ranking may reduce the site’s ranking
  3. The business reputation will get dramatically spoiled as visitors will see lots of spamming content.

Very often hackers use cross-site scripting or insert their own code into the source code of your website to bypass its security system. So if you get any kind of these notifications, don’t ignore them. It’s time to run a serious scan in order to discover the malicious software.

#2: Make security check a part of your developing strategy

If you ever become the subject of a cyber attack, financial losses are not the only concerning consequence. The compromised website may face a range of penalties by Google and distort the search results. When potential customers will look for your website, they will most probably first meet a warning page that will dissuade them from visiting your site. Consequently, it is essential to make cybersecurity a part of your SEO strategy.

Trusting Google alerts is a good piece of advice there’s more than that to be done. Learn to predict the possible threats and control the cybersecurity level. In addition to involving your team of IT-specialists, hire one more cybersecurity professional. Only a qualified specialist will help you discover the site’s vulnerabilities and elaborate on the cyber protection strategy for your eCommerce business.

#3: Use effective scanning tools

One more way to get rid of malicious intervention is by using a file malware scanner. The system looks at the website code to check web pages for malware or strange PHP or HTML files on your server. The examples of scanners that can prevent your site from being penalized, blacklisted, and maintain your search engine rankings are Sucuri SiteCheck or Web Inspector. 

In addition, open-source web analytics tools like AWStats can scan your log files for suspicious activity. This tool offers data on every bot that crawled your site, bandwidth consumed, last crawled date, and total hits, allowing you to detect malicious activity.

For example, a bot’s throughput does not exceed a few megabytes per month. If you face thousands of page hits from a single IP address within a short time period the available bandwidth will be limited.

Finally, use tools like Ahrefs and Majestic to check your backlink profile. They will not only improve your site’s SEO but also track down unnecessary backlinks from SEO spammers.

#4: Protect your security and privacy with VPN

No matter where you are in a remote area, at home, or office, local network security should be tightened under any circumstances. A large network is highly susceptible to human error, and the risks cannot be underestimated compared to a small network. All users need to ensure that they’re compliant with all standard security measures. Despite the time and place of their work, they must ensure that the traffic is controlled with the Web Application Firewall and the connections are encrypted with a stable VPN.  

There are three main ways in which a VPN significantly increases the security of your website. First, it encrypts all the sensitive data, so hackers can’t access it. Second, VPN intercepts any malicious software or phishing attempts stopping them from infiltrating your system. And third, VPNs are a must-have for companies having remote employees who might be accessing companies’ systems using public hotspots as doing that without a VPN can lead to security vulnerabilities. 

Today’s market does not experience any shortage of quality VPN suppliers. So do your research and choose the VPN that would meet all of your business needs. 

Conclusion

Internet security matters and it matters a lot. The security breach in your website’s operation may cause dramatic damage to the eCommerce web site’s reputation and income. Cybersecurity needs to become a part of your SEO strategy for all eCommerce companies that want to take the leading position on the market of online sales. Now when you know that safety is crucial within the web, it’s time for the SEO and IT team to unite the forces and make up a reliable strategy that will raise the website’s ranking and maintain the security of your site.

Connie Benton is a chief content writer, guest contributor, and enthusiastic blogger who helps B2B companies reach their audiences more effectively. You can find her on Twitter at @ConnieB34412379.

The post SEO and cybersecurity: Incorporating cybersecurity into your SEO strategy appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Social media techniques to integrate into your digital PR strategy

December 4, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Social media can provide a personable avenue for starting a connection.
  • Keeping connections on social media and emails consistent allows for a solid flow through the construction of a relationship.
  • Compliments and details are valuable if used in the correct context in conjunction with a relevant pitch.
  • Media Relations Lead Nicole Franco shares personalization tips and tricks on sending both professional and personalized media pitches.

Marketers who strive to build backlinks and brand awareness often engage in digital PR. 

But creating amazing content and then pitching that content to writers is not an easy earned media strategy. The outreach alone can cause many marketers to struggle and eventually give up on the tactic.

However, although easier said than done, appealing to the writer away from a regular pitch email can set any market apart from the wave of emails a journalist receives daily

Read on to discover several ways to not only compose an exceptional media relations email but also how-to create organic, personalized relationships with writers by utilizing social media.

Technique #1: Complimenting via Instagram

One natural way to start a relationship with an editor or journalist is to start the connection via Instagram. 

First, add them and maybe like their most recent post. Read the situation, maybe leave a witty comment or compliment on a relevant post relating to the content of a potential pitch. 

After a minor connection has been made, send them a message or email regarding their Instagram post while mentioning your content and ideas for a collaboration. 

Below is an example of a potential way to reach out to an editor. Keep in mind the content you are pitching and if it’s a serious topic. Editors covering lifestyle topics would be keener on receiving these kinds of requests. 

1. Instagram DM

digital PR outreach using social media - 2 Twitter 1

Pitch email

digital PR outreach using social media - Instagram email pitch

Keeping in mind the kind of journalist you are reaching out to is important. In the example above, the writer had posted about Disney and had consistently covered witty travel content. 

Analyzing their coverage and writing style can provide valuable insight into how to properly reach out. Also, noting something that happens in everyday life or mentioning some seasonal holiday plans are great examples of how to personalize a pitch. In the example above, I chose to connect about Halloween costumes via Instagram. 

Technique #2: Asking for contact info via Twitter

Similar to Instagram, a great way to connect with journalists is by starting a conversation on Twitter. Instead of liking a photo or leaving a compliment, try retweeting or liking a relatable post. 

Twitter DMs are also a great way to ask a publisher for their preferred form of contact. Many publishers have open DMs and are willing to accept a news tip right in their Twitter inbox!

Twitter DM

digital PR outreach using social media - 2 Twitter

Pitch email

digital PR outreach using social media - 3 get acquainted on LinkedIn 1

Pitch Response

Twitter pitch response

One of the most important things to note when reaching out on social media is making sure the content you’re pitching is relevant. This connection worked because the marketer did their research and took the writer’s beat into consideration and referenced a recent article they had covered in the pitch email.

If your content is not relevant or doesn’t align with the writer’s coverage, don’t expect a response. 

Technique #3: Get acquainted on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is considered by some to be the most formal way to go. But in order to send a message via LinkedIn, you must be connected to the person, making this a longer connection process. 

When reaching out on LinkedIn, it’s important to note that witty or informal comments might not be taken well on this platform. Keep in mind LinkedIn is used in regards to making professional connections, so keep a PR message short, concise, and professional. 

LinkedIn DMs

digital PR outreach using social media - 3 get acquainted on LinkedIn 1

In both examples, the message was to mention their beat and simply ask for an email to best contact them at.  Although it seems simple, the writer will expect your email in their inbox and most likely remember your name. Additionally, as mentioned above, personalize your subject line so the writer knows exactly which email is yours. I’ve provided an example below. 

Pitch Email

digital PR outreach using social media - 3 get acquainted on LinkedIn - Email

Aside from just asking for an email, try and connect with them by starting a conversation about the college they went to or an experience they had. Any fellow Gator is always welcome in my inbox!

Technique #4: Reference social to get relatable

Although we are reaching out to journalists in hopes of creating a professional relationship, appealing to their personal likes can go a long way. One way to do so is by reading their bios on their social media or personal website. Some might be writing a book or might express something they really enjoy. 

Do those things relate to you as well? If so, let them know! Yes, the human on the other side of the email loves coffee or dogs just as much as you; who knew?

Pitch email

Pitch response

digital PR outreach using social media - 5 reference social

Some say people love dogs more than humans, and this pitch is no exception. Here I decided to take a leap and mention the journalists’ pup in their email. I included a picture of their own pup, mentioned their dog in my email subject line, and shared similar experiences. 

Although this may not always be successful, in this case, it was because of the marketer’s research and analysis. Again, always do your research. Most journalists already mention how they would like to be pitched in places like Muckrack, their personal website, and just by reading their articles (example included below). Marketers can get a feel about how to personalize an email.

digital PR outreach using social media - example

Final tips and tricks for your digital PR strategy

Some things to remember when starting a connection on social media: always do the research, don’t be too invasive and keep it simple. None of us need an elaborate summary of what we tweeted in the summer of 2016. Keep it short, sweet, and relevant.

Consequently, all journalists are different. Although some prefer basic intros, using some sort of external connection can increase a marketer’s chance of building a long-lasting connection. 

Whether it’s referencing dog pictures from Twitter or referencing a line from a recent article they wrote, paying attention to those minor details may be the difference between an email ignored and a new digital PR connection. 

So when in doubt, turn to social. Happy pitching!

Nicole Franco is a Media Relations Lead at Fractl. She’s an extrovert with a passion for building connections with entrepreneurs and working with aspiring businesses to tell their stories. Aside from loving content development; traveling, volunteering, and seeking adventure is what she lives for.

The post Social media techniques to integrate into your digital PR strategy appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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WordPress can now turn blog posts into tweetstorms automatically

October 14, 2020 No Comments

Earlier this year, WordPress.com introduced an easier way to post your Twitter threads, also known as tweetstorms, to your blog with the introduction of the “unroll” option for Twitter embeds. Today, the company is addressing the flip side of tweetstorm publication — it’s making it possible to turn your existing WordPress blog post into a tweetstorm with just a couple of clicks.

The new feature will allow you to tweet out every word of your post, as well as the accompanying images and videos, the company says. These will be automatically inserted into the thread where they belong alongside your text.

To use the tweetstorm feature, a WordPress user will first click on the Jetpack icon on the top right of the page, then connect their Twitter account to their WordPress site, if that hadn’t been done already.

Image Credits: WordPress.com

 

The option also supports multiple Twitter accounts, if you want to post your tweetstorms in several places.

Once Twitter is connected, you’ll select the account or accounts where you want to tweet, then choose the newly added option to share the post as a Twitter thread instead of a single post with a link.

Image Credits: WordPress.com

In the box provided, you’ll write an introductory message for your tweetstorm, so Twitter users will know what your Twitter thread will be discussing.

When you then click on the “publish” button, the blog post will be shared as a tweetstorm automatically.

Image Credits: WordPress.com

The feature was also designed with a few thoughtful touches to make the tweetstorm feel more natural, as if it had been written directly on Twitter.

For starters, WordPress says it will pay attention to the blog post’s formatting in order to determine where to separate the tweets. Instead of packing the first tweet with as many words as possible, it places the break at the end of the first sentence, for example. When a paragraph is too long for a single tweet, it’s automatically split out into as many tweets as needed, instead of being cut off. A list block, meanwhile, will be formatted as a list on Twitter.

To help writers craft a blog post that will work as a tweetstorm, you can choose to view where the tweets will be split in the social preview feature. This allows WordPress users to better shape the post to fit Twitter’s character limit as they write.

Image Credits: WordPress.com

At the end of the published tweetstorm, Twitter followers will be able to click a link to read the post on the WordPress site.

This addresses a common complaint with Twitter threads. While it’s useful to have longer thoughts posted to social media for attention, reading through paragraphs of content directly on Twitter can be difficult. But as tweetstroms grew in popularity, tools to solve this problem emerged. The most popular is a Twitter bot called @ThreadReaderApp, which lets users read a thread in a long-form format by mentioning the account by name within the thread along with the keyword “unroll.”

With the launch of the new WordPress feature, however, Twitter users won’t have to turn to third-party utilities — they can just click through on the link provided to read the content as a blog post. This, in turn, could help turn Twitter followers into blog subscribers, allowing the WordPress writer to increase their overall reach.

WordPress’ plans to introduce the tweetstorm feature had been announced last month as coming in the Jetpack 9.0 release, arriving in early October.

The feature is now publicly available, the company says.


Social – TechCrunch


Cooler Screens raises $80M to bring interactive screens into cooler aisles

October 5, 2020 No Comments

Cooler Screens, which replaces the glass doors in store cooler aisles with interactive digital displays, is announcing that it has raised more than $ 80 million in Series C funding.

The startup has now raised more than $ 100 million in funding. The latest round comes from Verizon Ventures (Verizon owns TechCrunch), Microsoft’s M12 venture fund, Great Point Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank and others.

Cooler Screens is led by co-founder and CEO Arsen Avakian, who was previously founder and CEO of Argo Tea. Avakian told me that before starting Argo, he worked at a number of technology companies, including i2 Technologies.

“The joke was, I went from IT to tea, and now I’m back to IT,” he said. He also suggested the startup draws on all of his past experience — while Cooler Screens is a tech company, it also requires an understanding of how to build a consumer brand.

The idea of replacing simple glass doors with electronic displays might seem unnecessary or even annoying, but Avakian said his first priority is “winning consumers’ hearts.”

After all, we’re used to doing as much research as we want before buying a product online, but very little of that information is available in the brick-and-mortar shopping and experience. Avakian said Cooler Screens is changing that: “You could ask the screens, ‘Show me all the vegan items’ or ‘How many calories are in this product?’”

And it’s already available in some stores. After installing screens in 50 Walgreens locations in the Chicago area (where Cooler Screens is based), the startup announced plans to expand to 2,500 Walgreens stores across the United States. Other partners include Kroger and GetGo.

Avakian said he pitches stores on a partnership for “sophisticated digital merchandising and contextual advertising technology.”

Cooler Screens

Image Credits: Cooler Screens

He added, “We can digitize your stores, and as we do that, we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is and show you that the consumers will love us: The NPS scores will be through the [roof]. If we prove all of that to you, we’d love to start bringing into this marketplace the CPG brands that are relevant to consumers in your stores, and now we become the last mile of advertising.”

Avakian said that unlike most forms of digital advertising, Cooler Screens doesn’t gather any personal information about the viewer. Instead, its appeal to advertisers is the fact that it gives them a way to reach consumers “in a safe environment, where they’re in the mindset for shopping.”

Avakian said that since March, the startup has grown from 40  brands advertising on the platform to nearly 150.

Noting that stores like Walgreens and Kroger have been essential for many shoppers during the pandemic, Avakian said, “It’s obvious to everyone that brick-and-mortar retail is here to stay. It just needs to reinvent itself.”


Startups – TechCrunch