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Marketing is constantly evolving. So if you want to create a marketing plan for the coming year, you need all the most updated tools and strategies. Members of our small business community shared some of their top tips in posts this week. Check out ten of the best ways to update your marketing strategy in the list below.

 

Use These 20 Essential Marketing Tools

 

If you want to take your marketing to the next level, you need the right tools. That means you likely need a lot of different marketing services that focus on different purposes. There are 20 different marketing tools that can be essential to your business listed in this zaneguide post by Zane J. Heil.

 

Factor the Effects of Decision Fatigue into Your Marketing

 

Decision fatigue is a theory that can potentially keep your customers from making purchases. But if you factor that theory into your marketing, as this Two Feet Marketing post by David Lowbridge suggests, you can give your business a better chance. You can also see what BizSugar members had to say about the post here.

 

Write Winning Content for Short Attention Span Readers

 

Today’s consumers aren’t likely to spend a lot of time reading your content if it doesn’t grab their attention right away. That means you need to know how to write for readers with short attention spans, as this post by Lisa Froelings on The Sociable details.

 

Get More Local Website Traffic

 

For local businesses, online marketing is still essential. Local search tips like the ones in this Search Engine Journal post by Mandy Wodnick can help you get more local website traffic and reach more customers who are looking for businesses in your area.

 

Achieve Marketing ROI With These Tips

 

If you want your marketing efforts to be successful, you need a real plan and the ability to actually measure results, as detailed in this post by Rachel Strella of Strella Social Media. You can also see discussion about the post by BizSugar members here.

 

Use A/B Testing to Build Buyer Personas

 

If you want to effectively market your business, you need to create accurate buyer personas to give you an idea about who you’re marketing to. And you can use A/B testing to achieve that thanks to the information in this Kissmetrics post by Aaron Agius.

 

Make Your Blog Visually Appealing

 

Blogs can be great marketing tools for businesses. But you need your blog to visually appeal to readers and potential customers if you want it to have any impact. These tips from Neil Patel offer some ways for you to make your blog more visually appealing.

 

Get Influencers to Read Your Blog Posts

 

In addition, influencers can have a big impact on the effectiveness of your blog posts. This post by Tony Paull of Tony Paull Consulting features some ways you can get influencers to read your blog posts. And members of the BizSugar community also comment on the post here.

 

Consider These Small Business Conferences for 2017

 

Conferences can be a great way to network and improve your business’s reach. And there are many different small business conferences throughout the year for you to consider. Here are some for 2017 shared by Nicholas Milewski on the Plousio blog.

 

Dial in Your Visual Ads

 

When it comes to visual advertising, there are many different online tools and platforms you can use to create your strategy. This Marketing Land post by Brad O’Brien includes some tips for using platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat to dial in your visual ads.

 

 

Source:  smallbiztrends.com

Mark Zuckerberg’s drive to “put video first” is also putting money in Facebook’s pockets. The more organic videos Facebook users watch, the more high-priced video ads Facebook can slip into the feed. Now Facebook’s strategy around auto-play video, paying Live content producers and offering more creative tools is helping to propel its massive revenue growth.

Facebook revealed yesterday during its strong quarterly earnings call that in the last year, Facebook’s average revenue per user grew 49.1 percent in the U.S. and Canada — Facebook’s home market where advertiser concentration, buying power and fast mobile networks make video and video ads popular. That’s compared to 35 percent growth worldwide. The U.S. and Canada’s ARPU grew 9.1 percent this quarter, faster than any other market.

In terms of viewership, Facebook has declined to share a stat since it announced 8 billion daily 3-second-plus views a year ago. But viewership has likely been growing dramatically, because as Mark Zuckerberg said on the earnings call:

“What is enabling video to become huge right now is that fundamentally the mobile networks are getting to a point where a large enough number of people around the world can have a good experience watching a video. If you go back a few years and you tried to load a video in News Feed it might have to buffer for 30 seconds before you watched it, which wasn’t a good enough experience for that to be the primary way that people shared. But now you can — it loads instantly. You can take a video and upload it without having to take five minutes to do that.”

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The rise in video viewership also comes thanks to sharper cameras, bigger screens to watch on, better video creation tools and professional and amateur creators getting the hang of the mobile format.

Facebook’s begun adding Live video filters and effects, augmented reality selfie masks, overlaid graphics and more, built off of its acquisition of AR lens startup MSQRD. These are closing the feature gap between Facebook and its competitor, Snapchat.

While many believed Snapchat would steal Facebook’s users, the percentage of Facebook’s monthly visitors who come back daily has actually increased slightly since the rise of Snapchat in 2014. Holding steady at two-thirds of its user base, this stickiness stat is impressive for a 12.5-year-old utility.

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Continued user count growth, engagement and the ability to earn more per user via video ads has contributed to Facebook’s $7.01 billion in revenues this quarter, up 59 percent year-over-year, and its $2.35 billion in profit. Essentially, Facebook’s soft pivot to video worked.

Normalizing the video feed

Back in 2013, seeing video in the News Feed was rare. Uploading to Facebook was clumsy, and whether the clips were native or from YouTube, they took a click and some load time to start watching.

That’s why people were downright angry about the whole idea of Facebook planning auto-play video ads. The Wall Street Journal trumpeted “Facebook Moves Cautiously on Video Ads,” delaying their roll-out. And rightfully so. Without much organic video content, video ads would have stuck out like sore thumbs.


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Yet suddenly over the course of 2014, with the roll-out of auto-play and the rise of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge video meme, organic videos became more and more prevalent in the feed. Meanwhile, advertisers started to get the hang of the format. They cut the intros and went straight to the action, adopting eye-catching visuals and subtitles to make up for the fact that they played silently unless tapped.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said yesterday that “P&G is creating mobile video ads designed to grab attention in the first few seconds. He shared the example of Tide. In a typical TV ad, they start with a clean dress or shirt, then show it getting stained, and then cleaned with Tide. On mobile, they need to communicate the product value quickly, so they start by showing Tide cleaning a stained garment.”

Masked by the surrounding organic content and designed for Facebook instead of TV, video ads became a normal part of the News Feed. That gave Facebook the freedom to show more of them, both in the feed and as suggested videos after you watched another, without people getting too pissed off.

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Now Facebook is putting its connections with 4 million advertisers behind video. That includes big brands. As Sandberg said yesterday, “GM’s subsidiary Holden used Carousel Ads with video to maximize its sponsorship of Australia’s premier rugby tournament. Holden created a video series about their support of youth rugby. The ads generated an 8-point lift in brand favorability for the overall audience — and a 15-point lift amongst their target audience of women over 35.”

Facebook is also bringing small businesses to the video format. Sandberg explained that “For many small businesses, the shift to mobile means leveraging video for the very first time. Rather than needing a camera crew and production budget, anyone with a smartphone can shoot a video and share it on Facebook. In the past month alone over 3 million small businesses have posted a video on Facebook, including organic posts and ads.”

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Compared to less vivid text and photo posts, Facebook can charge more for video ads without using up more space. CFO David Wehner said yesterday that “The average price per ad increased 6 percent in Q3.” Adtech firm AdRoll’s CMO Adam Berke agrees that video is pushing that increase. He tells TechCrunch, “Video ads garner a higher CPM than other ad formats, so that will certainly help drive revenue growth…We’re seeing interest in these types of video ad formats from our install base of over 25,000 businesses that never would’ve bought TV ads.”

Snapchat, Twitter and other services are also trying to cash in on video, where YouTube and Facebook have become dominant.

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Snapchat’s vertical layout allows for full-screen ads that can feel more impactful and convenient than Facebook’s typically landscape videos. People also typically watch Snapchat with the sound turned on so videos automatically play with audio, unlike on Facebook. People purposefully visit YouTube to watch a specific video, so they’re willing to sit through pre-roll ads. And Twitter is becoming a home for premium video streams like the NFL and presidential debates, which draw advertisers.

But Facebook has several advantages of its own. Its 1.79 billion user reach is appealing to TV advertisers seeking scale. Meanwhile, its success the last five years has financed a leading artificial intelligence research team that Facebook is applying to make sure videos and video ads reach the right people.

Zuckerberg noted yesterday that “There’s a whole thread of work that we’re doing on visual understanding. Right, so understanding photos, what’s in photos, what’s in videos, what people are doing. There’s some deeper AI research that we’re doing…that can apply to things like ranking for News Feed and Search and ads and all of our systems more broadly.”

Facebook gets paid when its video ads work, and AI will help them target the people they’re most likely to work on.

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When Facebook popularized the feed-based social network people browse to discover content, it became a home to colorful brand ads. As users first shifted to mobile, it attracted app install ads from developers desperate to rise out of the crowded app stores. Now as mobile data networks strengthen to support high-bandwidth content, Facebook has built a powerful distribution network that video advertisers want to join.

As Sandberg concluded yesterday, “When we think about video ads and what platform they run on, we really believe that over time the dollars will shift with eyeballs and our goal is to be the best dollar and the best minute people spend measured across channels.” The numbers say those dollars have arrived.

Source: techcrunch.com

Categorized in Market Research

When it comes to website optimization, speed makes a huge difference. It doesn’t matter what performance metric you’re looking at – on-page engagement, social shares, revenues, search rankings – you name it. If your site is slow, you’ll have an extremely hard time achieving it.

According to a recent report from Google DoubleClick, the average mobile site loads in about 19 seconds on a 3G connection. And yet, according to the same report, if your content page doesn’t load within three seconds, roughly 53% of your potential site visitors will bounce out.

The difference between a five-second load time and the average of 19 seconds can be dramatic. DoubleClick compared the performance of average sites with extra-fast ones and found that the leaders earn up to two times the ad revenue, enjoy 70% longer average sessions and have 35% lower bounce rates.

Why Speed Thrills

When your content loads slowly, visitors lose patience and will move on to another site. This translates into high bounce rates and missed opportunities to engage with visitors – before they have even been exposed to your content or even looked at the products they might have otherwise bought from you.

The Complete Guide to Speeding Up Your Content

Faster loading is better UX. It’s that simple. As our internet connections become faster, especially on mobile, we expect speed in everything we do. Our devices are speedier and smarter, and we expect the sites we visit to be available instantaneously. Fast site load times are, therefore, increasingly central to providing a good user experience, which, in turn, is a critical prerequisite for a visitor to remain engaged.

This was true even when people used computers instead of smartphones to access the web. Data compiled by Forrester on behalf of Akamai back in 2009 found that one-third of shopping cart abandoners did so out of dissatisfaction with website performance, while 23% of displeased shoppers cited slow load times specifically. More than half of online shoppers said that quick page loading is important to their site loyalty.

Chartbeat’s data indicates that more than half of us spend 15 seconds or less looking at the average web page. If a quarter of that time involves a blank screen, who wouldn’t bounce?

As a result of increased focus on the UX bottleneck of page load delays, both Google and Facebook, the web’s top two referrers of audience members, have been cautioning site owners to pay careful attention to site load times for several years now. As long ago as 2010, Google announced that site speed was being used as a ranking signal, and experiments have proven that slow load times correlate with lower search rankings. (Facebook’s Instant Articles platform and Google’s AMP solution represent just part of these web giants’ initiatives to help site owners speed things up – more on these below.)

Being average just isn’t good enough. If your site is running at average speeds, then it actually costs you business opportunities and potential revenue. And in the mobile age, more than ever, speed is crucial.

Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to speed up your site and its various content elements. Let’s drill down into a few different types of solutions, including infrastructure optimizations that you can do yourself and third-party tools and services you can use to shave off those precious seconds.

DIY Site Optimizations

Structurally, there are several aspects of your site that you can focus on to improve load times. Some may require help from a developer to set up, but nothing here is above the typical contemporary marketer’s paygrade to use on an ongoing basis.

1. Use the Right Image File Type and Load Protocol

Visuals are often the heaviest files on your site, and optimizing them can make a significant difference to your site’s load times. Ilya Grigorik, a senior web performance engineer at Google, recently published an in-depth guideto optimizing images to ensure greater content efficiency on the Google Developers site. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • When you can, choose vector-format image files, as they scale better and will give you better resolution on various devices, while requiring less bandwidth and storage.
  • Minify and compress your SVG assets using technologies like GZIP.
  • Choose a raster image format based on your specific requirements. In some cases, JPG files will be smallest, while in others, PNG files will be even smaller. These file types also approach compression differently, so keep your image clarity needs in mind.
  • Experiment with quality settings for raster images. Oftentimes the high quality won’t deliver the best experience – just slow load times and a poor user experience.
  • Strip out superfluous image metadata such as geolocation coordinates, camera information, and color correction profiles (unless you need this metadata, specifically).
  • Resize your images before uploading them to your server, to ensure that the “display” size of the images corresponds to the “natural” size of the image. Forcing your host to constantly resize large images for smaller display requirements adds to your performance overhead.
  • Automate as many of your image optimization processes as you can.

Lazy image loading is another way to speed up your pages. As a default, web browsers flow in all images at once before a page is considered to have loaded, a protocol which can add considerably to content sluggishness. When you set up lazy loading, your audience’s browsers will only pull in the visuals that ought to be in view at any given moment. Of course, this needs to be implemented carefully, because you run the risk of trading slow page loads for slow image loads (any solution that has the word “lazy” in its name is likely to have a catch), but there are clear benefits to going this route.

Sitepoint has a great lazy-load tutorial that is worth referencing. This resource also explains the main reasons you should consider lazy loading from a technology protocol perspective:

One important reason is that it should considerably decrease page load time. Often scripts require the DOM to load completely before they can run. If those scripts are needed to provide some information to the user or to provide an important function then waiting for 8 to 10 seconds is going to frustrate the users. Most users are not going to wait for that long and will abandon your site for faster ones.

2. Minify Your CSS and Javascript

Unless you have a habit of digging around under the hood of your site, you may not have considered the importance of “minifying” your site’s CSS (custom stylesheets) and bits of Javascript code.

“Minification” is the process of removing all superfluous characters from your code without compromising how your code functions. Seeing to it is essential for speeding up your site. If you use Google’s PageSpeed Insights analysis tool (more on this below), it will give you recommendations on how to optimize your site for faster load times, including your site’s CSS and Javascript.

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There are a number of tools available to help you minify your site’s code (Microsoft Web Platform specialist Scott Hanselman offers a comprehensive collection of tools that can help with this).

If you are a WordPress user, you will probably find these plugins especially useful:

3. Use a Content Delivery Network

As you may already know, a CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a decentralized group of data centers that use smart caching systems to distribute content around the world for faster access.

To understand why CDNs are so widely used, though, you’ll first need to recognize the issue they’re designed to solve. Known as latency, it’s the annoying delay that occurs from the moment you request to load a web page to the moment its content actually appears onscreen.

That delay interval can rise or fall depending on a number of factors, many of which are specific to the web page at hand. In all cases, however, the latency duration is also impacted by the physical distance between your audience member and your website’s hosting server. A CDN’s mission is to shorten that physical distance, the goal being to improve site rendering speed and performance.

CDNs have become almost indispensable to today’s content-rich sites, particularly with the massive increase of visual content on the modern web. The best ones use sophisticated caching rules to capture copies of your site and distribute them multiple nodes on the network.

Beyond improving page load speeds, CDNs offer additional benefits:

  • Better handling in high-traffic situations, both legitimate and in the case of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack
  • Blocking spammers, bots, and other bad agents
  • Reducing bandwidth consumption
  • Balancing traffic loads between different servers

Incapsula, for example, has found that websites using its CDN load up to 50% faster and use up to 70% less bandwidth. That sort of performance boost is enormously beneficial for both site owners facing large bandwidth bills and site visitors expecting faster site load times.

4. Be Stingy with Redirects

Something to consider if you’re migrating your site is to try to avoid 301 redirects wherever possible. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect from one URL to another.

For example, the blog section of your site may have launched at http://blog.examplelink.com, but you may eventually want to move it to http://examplelink.com/blog for SEO reasons. In this case, you will need to configure 301 redirects for all of the pages originally located on the subdomain to the subfolder URL structure, so as to ensure you don’t lose all the traffic and link juice you’ve built up to the original blog.

The downside is, too many 301 redirects can also slow your site’s load speeds, as the servers that direct traffic to your site will have an additional step to take to make sure your traffic is delivered to the updated page addresses. So while 301s can be a necessary evil, it’s best to use them only when truly needed.

Editor Note: Learn more about SEO in our complete SEO guide.

Monitoring Your Site’s Performance

You can’t optimize something until you know that it needs optimization, so using effective monitoring tools is critical to any content speed improvement effort. Fortunately, there are a number of great tools available, both free and paid.

1. Track Opportunities via Google Page Speed Insights

I mentioned the Google Page Speed Insights tool earlier. This is a killer service you can use to gauge your site’s efficiency from a variety of perspectives and across both desktop and mobile devices.

All you need to do to get started is copy and paste your site’s URL and run the tool. It will analyze your site and give you both an overview of site performance as well as a detailed report on a variety of important factors, pointing out what you can do to speed up your site.

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Google also offers links to a number of “PageSpeed Modules,” which you can run on your Apache or Nginx server to “automatically rewrite and optimize resources.” If you are not accustomed to working on your server configuration, you may want to seek professional expertise to implement these tools effectively.

2. Replicate Geo-Specific Lags via Pingdom

Another option is the Pingdom Tools Website Speed Test. The benefit of this service is that it enables you to test your site’s performance from pre-selected locations in the USA, Australia, and Sweden for a better sense of your site’s regional performance.

Pingdom Tools is a freemium service. You can run a basic test for free. That said, the test results are also fairly detailed, so the free service may be more than sufficient for you.

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You can also opt for Pingdom’s automated testing solution for roughly $5 per month. The benefit of this subscription is that you can be kept appraised of your site’s performance on an ongoing basis and pick up on emerging challenges as they begin to affect your site.

3. Choose Hosting Providers Carefully

To make sure your content loads as quickly as possible, it’s also important to choose your site’s host carefully. Bear in mind that the traffic and bandwidth demands on your site could change dramatically over time, so consider whether the hosting providers you are considering will adapt to your site’s changing needs with acceptable terms.

Many site hosting companies offer their own proprietary monitoring tools, but these are often used more for the purpose of demonstrating a service’s high uptime percentages than actually tracking the speed performance of your own site.

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Hosts come in many flavors. Here are some speed-impacting parameters to emphasize when performing due diligence on a given company:

  • Are you being offered a shared or dedicated hosting plan? The former is dramatically cheaper – and slower.
  • What kind of uptime guarantees do they provide? Aim for 99.9% or higher.
  • Do they use SSD or HDD drives? The latter are more reliable and fast.
  • What do the Terms of Service really say? These contracts contain important information about issues that directly affect your site’s availability, including restrictions on server resources.

Third-Party Options for Speedier Content

Both Facebook and Google have released services that enable publishers to optimize their content for top load speeds on their respective services. Apple and Medium also have options for publishers, which serve similar purposes.

While all of these solutions are extremely effective for speeding up content delivery, they also all involve major compromises regarding versatility when compared to standard hosted content. We’re talking about less control over the interface, fewer options for creating a brand experience, less rich media capabilities, and sparse options for tracking and monetizing.

1. Rent Land on Facebook Instant Articles

Instant Articles is, essentially, a means whereby Facebook hosts your content on your behalf, in a format that’s made for faster display in the Facebook mobile app.

Instant Articles can be identified in your feed by a lightning bolt icon in the top-right corner of the post’s “card.” When you tap on through, the articles load remarkably rapidly.

The difference between content rendered through Instant Articles and a conventional link can be dramatic. According to data published by Facebook based on Instant Articles early adoption tests, Facebook users are 70% less likely to abandon these articles than those hosted in the wild, simply because the experience is so fast. Users also tended to click on Instant Article links 20% more often than conventional website links.

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Sure, these statistics are impressive, but before you dive in and stop hosting your own content, handing it all over to Facebook instead, keep in mind:

  • The Instant Articles platform is limited to Facebook’s ecosystem. People can only see Instant Articles when using Facebook’s mobile app. If a significant proportion of your audience is not at all loyal to Facebook, then Instant Articles will be of limited value to you.
  • If you take steps to optimize your site load speeds effectively using the DIY methods described above, the sharp differences between Instant Articles performance and your native site performance could be markedly reduced.
  • This isn’t a magic fix. Adapting your content for Instant Articles requires a fair amount of configuration and know-how, and it does have limits.
  • Facebook has been known to make major changes to its algorithms and interfaces often, many of which have left content marketers and publishers disillusioned. You might be better off building your house on owned land.

2. Strip It Way Down for Google AMP

The Accelerated Mobile Pages Project is Google’s answer to Instant Articles. Like Instant Articles, AMP is a service which reformats your content for faster display on mobile devices. Whereas Instant Articles are available only through Facebook’s ecosystem, AMP articles are available – for now, in any case – exclusively through Google search results.

The philosophies behind AMP and Instant Articles are similar. The underlying idea is to take the content on your site and change how the content renders on mobile devices to be lighter on bandwidth. The performance improvement on AMP is noticeably faster, and this produces a superior user experience when compared to content that is not optimized for faster page loads.

As with Instant Articles, implementing AMP can require you to dedicate resources to configure your CMS to deliver reformatted content to Google’s servers. With AMP, you’ll technically continue to host your own content assets, but these will be cached by Google so they can rapidly pre-load before searchers tap on them.

While AMP continues to evolve, its features may be too limiting for many sites. AMP only supports article and recipe pages at time of press (product pages, anyone?), and plugin solutions for advertising, analytics, conversion optimization and the like are extremely thin. “Features such as contact forms, eCommerce elements, and custom HTML embeds are not able to be added to AMP enabled pages,” notes a recent blog post by mobile-first website building platform Duda. “Also, the analytics capabilities… do not meet the demands that growth-focused websites demand.”

3. Get iOS-Ready with Apple News

Apple saw an opportunity to take a similarly stripped-down, mobile-friendly approach to extra-fast content with its Apple News product. This platform leverages the company’s substantial market share of iPhones and iPads to offer publishers the opportunity to reach its customers with beautifully formatted content, optimized for their Apple devices.

Apple has earned a stellar reputation for emphasizing user experience in all its products, and Apple News is no exception. The fundamental limitation of Apple News as a content delivery platform is that it is confined to Apple devices.

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With the majority of smart device users using Android as opposed to iOS, investing too much in Apple News may not be worthwhile. Focusing on optimizing your content at its source, your site, means making your content more widely available to everyone using the web itself as your platform.

4. Opt for a Host-CMS Hybrid with Medium for Publishers

Unlike Instant Articles, AMP and Apple News, Medium’s publishing solutiondoesn’t seek to reformat your content for display on its siloed network. Instead, Medium is a publishing platform with a clean design that even offers integrations with Instant Articles and AMP.

The key benefit associated with Medium for Publishers is the ability to effectively outsource the management of your site’s hosting infrastructure, mobile optimization, onsite search optimization, interface design and community engagement solutions to Medium, so you can spend your time focusing on creating great content.

In addition, content on Medium loads quickly, adapts to different device form factors and offers a beautiful user experience for both writers and readers. You can use your own domain name, and you can customize some aspects of the branding.

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The question is whether you are willing to accept the relatively limited options Medium gives publishers to administer and maintain their own sites. With many publishers relying heavily on advertising and site customizations to attract, retain and convert audiences, Medium may be too restrictive. You can apply to join their monetization program’s beta testing group, but you can’t sell ads or products via the platform on your own.

Focus on Speed

As you can see, there are a number of options for addressing a fundamental challenge. Slow site load speed erodes traffic as it costs you opportunities to convert more visitors and earn more revenue.

The effects of slow load times are tangible, and few site owners can afford to ignore the need for optimization. Faster sites deliver improved user experiences, enable sites to rank higher in Google search results and are more likely to lead to conversions and sales. It’s time to get started with auditing your content’s speed performance and methodically addressing your site’s deficiencies.

Source : searchenginejournal

Categorized in Market Research

Our favorite iPhone and Android apps of the year

We’re increasingly reliant on the smartphones in our pockets to keep in touch with friends, watch movies and TV shows, and get work done. But the phones themselves would be meaningless without the software that, almost like magic, imbues them with new powers even their creators never thought possible.

In that spirit, these are TIME’s 50 best iPhone and Android apps of the year. These are apps that were either released, had a notable redesign, or took off in popularity this year. The list is unranked, as the different functionality of each app makes them impossible to fairly compare. What did we miss?

Venmo

iPhone and Android, Free

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It’s rare that a company or an app gets “verbified” the way Google did. That’s exactly what’s happening with money-sending app Venmo, especially among cash-allergic millennials. “Just Venmo me” is an increasingly common refrain at brunch or the bar when it’s time to split the check.

Messages

iPhone, Free

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Why include Apple’s default messaging service in this list? Because Messages got a major overhaul in iOS 10, the company’s new iPhone software update. Messages is now a feature-rich messaging platform, complete with third-party apps, stickers, and fun graphic effects like confetti and laser beams. All the new functionality puts it leagues ahead of regular old SMS texting.

Signal

iPhone and Android, Free

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Which messaging app should you use when you really want to make sure your chats stay secret? Try Signal, an encrypted chat app used by politicians, businesspeople and whistleblowers worldwide. Signal offers complete end-to-end encryption, meaning the company behind the app can’t see what you’re sending and receiving. And it works with your existing contact book, so long as both parties have Signal installed.

Snapchat

iPhone and Android, Free

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Sure, Snapchat first came out in 2011, but it certainly came into its own this year — especially with the app’s “Chat 2.0” revision in March 2016. With that update, the free disappearing video messaging app laid the groundwork for all sorts of killer features, from geofilters to facial lenses. As a result, Snapchat has not only become one of the most fun apps of the year, but it’s turning into a real business, too.

Pokémon Go

iPhone and Android, Free

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The super-powered creatures that triggered a worldwide craze in the 90’s have finally reached the smartphone era. Immediately upon launching in July, Pokémon Go became a massive sensation among seemingly anyone who owned a smartphone. The game tasks players with physically exploring the real world to capture new Pokémon creatures, engaging in battles to claim gyms, and collecting items. It also uses your phone’s camera to make it seem like critters from the game are appearing in your actual surroundings. By cleverly using the technology in our smartphones and tapping into a wildly beloved franchise, game developer Niantic created a smash hit.

WhatsApp

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In the seven years that WhatsApp has existed, it’s become one of the most widely used communication tools in the world. The Facebook-owned app initially gained popularity because it works on most smartphones and provides a cheaper alternative to SMS for sending messages around the globe. After conducting a survey this April that included 187 countries, research firm SimilarWeb found that WhatsApp was the messaging app of choice in 55% of the world. Earlier this year, the company announced that it surpassed the one billion user milestone, meaning one in every seven people in the world now use WhatsApp.

NPR One

iPhone and Android, Free

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Unless you drive often, you probably don’t have easy access to an AM/FM radio. Which means it’s hard to find public radio, a great source of news, knowledge and new music. NPR’s new NPR One app can help — it’s basically a customizable public radio station that learns what shows you like and what topics you’re interested in, building a more personal feed over time. You can also use it to listen to NPR podcasts on demand, like Planet Money and the NPR Politics Podcast.

NYT Cooking

iPhone, Free (web version for Android)

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Need an easy weekday meal for two? What should you do with all those apples you just picked? How about a slow-cooker recipe? NYT Cooking, from The New York Times, can answer all these questions and more. It offers lots of great recipes searchable by type of meal, prep time and more, often along with beautiful photos. A big bonus: You can save recipes from around the web to this app, making it a clearing house for the meals you’d like to cook.

Spotify

iPhone, Android (Free With Ads)

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Even with Apple, Amazon and Google all taking aim, Spotify is still king of the music streaming apps. A big redesign this year brought a more modern interface that’s still dead simple to use, and gorgeous to boot. One of our favorite features is the mood-based playlists, great when you need something for a rainy day or a morning workout.

A Good Snowman Is Hard to Build

iPhone and Android, $4.99

a-good-snowman-knows-how-to-build.jpg

A puzzle game about crafting people made of snow, rolled into being by a blobby black creature surrounded by tiny gardens of white. Players fashion snowballs from strips of snow by swiping to roll, then stacking them in threes, large-medium-small. Only each garden has constraints, from ornamental bird baths and birdhouses to rows of potted plants. Beautifully visualized and scored, A Good Snowman Is Hard to Build is one of the sweetest, smartest puzzlers to grace 2016.

Prisma

iPhone and Android, Free

prisma.jpg

Photo editing apps are generally a dime a dozen, all offering slight variations on the same basic features: Film-style filters, crop and resize tools, red eye reduction and so on. Prisma stands out from the pack by using complex algorithms to transform your images into vibrant and unique works of art. A recent update means it can now do the same for video, too. It takes some practice to know which filters will work the best with which photos, but once you nail it, the payoff is sweet.

White Noise

iPhone, Android (Free With Ads)

white-noise.jpg

Getting a newborn to sleep, or even just break out of a crying fit, is no easy feat. White Noise helps by flooding baby with soothing sounds, from “Heavy Rain Pouring” and “Ocean Waves Crashing” to “Extreme Rain Pouring” and “Stream Water Flowing.” It’s easy to switch between sounds and adjust the volume to find the mix that works best for baby. Only one downside: The app doesn’t work in the background if you exit it to work on other things. Best to download it onto one of the old disconnected iPhones sitting in a drawer and make that baby’s iPhone.

bitmoji

iPhone and Android, Free

bitmoji.jpg

Why say it with words when you can say it with stickers? Bitmoji lets you create custom emoji-like stickers complete with an avatar that looks just like you. Stickers have been around for years, but they’re really taking off this year — so much so that Snapchat acquired the company behind Bitmoji for about $100 million in March.

Google Translate

iPhone and Android, Free

google-translate.jpg

One of the coolest pieces of fictional Star Trek tech is the Universal Translator, which lets the Enterprise’s crew understand alien languages. The next best thing is Google Translate, which can take typed phrases, spoken words and even real-world text (like street signs) and transform them into other languages. This year’s big update brought more useful features, like tap-to-translate on Android and offline language packs for the iPhone version, helpful when you’re traveling abroad without a data plan

Breathe

Apple Watch, Free

breathe-app.jpg

Apple’s Breathe app, for the Apple Watch, walks users through a short set of deep breathing exercises. That might sound silly, but spending a few minutes every day to take some deep breaths can have remarkable benefits for your mental health. Our advice: Disable the daily breathe reminders, stressful in their own right, and open the app only when you need it.

Burly Men At Sea

iPhone and Android, $4.99

burly-men-at-sea.jpg

Brain&Brain’s folklorish adventure is a whimsical romp starring three bearded adventurers that speaks in plaintive accordion tunes and whispers, airy sighs and polyphonic hoots–one that marries quirky activities with starlit encounters and aquamarine serpents plucked from Norwegian myth. It’s a little bit The Old Man and the Sea, a little bit O Brother, Where Art Thou? And a reminder that every journey is a circle, filled with both farce and delight.

Amazon Alexa

iPhone and Android, Free

amazon-alexa.jpg

Amazon’s Alexa app turns your smartphone into a remote for your Echo Internet-connected speaker, handy for setup and when you’re too far from your Echo for it to pick up your requests. If you’re an Echo fan, this app is a can’t-miss companion.

Quik

iPhone and Android, Free

quik.jpg

Modern smartphones can record very high-quality video, but what to do with all that footage? Try Quik, an automatic video editing app that action camera maker GoPro acquired and rebranded this year. Quik takes a bunch of your video footage, identifies the best moments automatically, and sets the whole thing to mood-appropriate music. It’s a great way to add a professional-looking touch to your recordings before putting them on Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.

Mint

iPhone and Android, Free

 mint.jpg

Mint’s an older app, but it’s still the king of budget management software. Mint connects with your various bank accounts, pulling in your spending and income and organizing it into categories that make it easy to track and stick to a budget. It’s great in those situations when you’re contemplating a big purchase and want to see if you can really afford it or not.

Gboard

iPhone, Free

gboard1.jpg

Google’s Gboard app pulls Google’s powerful search engine into text conversations, making it possible to find answers to questions or seek restaurant suggestions without leaving a chat. Google’s search bar is built right into the keyboard, which pulls up results across sites on the Web, locations in Google Maps, and more. The app launched in May, months before Apple released its dramatic overhaul of iMessage in September that added the ability to interact with outside apps within a text thread.

Day One

iPhone, $4.99

day-one.jpg

Keeping and looking back on a journal can be deeply rewarding, but it’s a tough habit to build. Instead try Day One, a journaling app that makes it easy to quickly record a few thoughts, along with a photo, every day. Unlike paper journals, Day One automatically backs up your notes to the cloud, helping preserve your reflections forever.

Crashlands

iPhone and Android, $4.99

crashlands.jpg

Old school roleplaying games dole out abstract rewards like “experience points” so you can make your superpowers a trifle more super. New school ones like Crashlands let you scoop those rewards up off the battlefield, drag them back to your base, then turn them into cool, usable objects. Killer aliens meets goofball storytelling and characters meets a weighty crafting system brimming with hundreds of recipes, Crashlands is everything predictable RPGs aren’t.

Boomerang

iPhone and Android, Free

boomerang.jpg

Boomerang takes a burst of still photos, then stitches them together in a short, looping video. The end result is somewhere between a GIF and a stop-motion movie. Tons of fun to play around with, Boomerang is Instagram’s best spinoff app.

Google Trips

iPhone and Android, Free

google-trips.jpg
With its new travel app, Google wants to be the only resource you need when planning your next getaway. Trips scans your Gmail inbox for flight and hotel information, pulling it into a one-stop-shop. It also packs itineraries for a handful of cities, including attractions, restaurants and more. These simple travel guides can be downloaded for offline use, great when you’re abroad without a data plan.

Untappd

iPhone and Android, Free

untapped.jpg

Remember how much fun Foursquare was in its glory days? Well, Untappd is basically Foursquare specifically for beer. It’s great as a sort of “beer journal:” Scanning a bottle or can’s barcode with your smartphone saves it for later, meaning you’ll always be able to remember the name of that new brew you tried last night.

Vevo

iPhone and Android, Free

vevo.jpg

If you love music videos, you probably know Vevo, which is basically the MTV of the smartphone era. Vevo dropped a big redesign this year featuring a gorgeous interface with your favorite music videos, as well as a discovery feature to help you find rising artists. The app learns your preferences over time, helping to customize your feed.

Alto Mail

iPhone and Android, Free

alto-mail.jpg

AOL’s take on gussying up your email service has been around for a few years, but the app’s 2.0 version, launched in September 2016, makes an already smart take on email even smarter. The free app’s new dashboard scrapes all the important information from your emails — shopping receipts, tracking numbers, reservation information, and more — and puts it on virtual cards, for easy gleaning. The app can be used to put a more manageable face on almost any other email service, from IMAP to Gmail, and can also pile up your digital information in “stacks” of photos, files, bills, and other categories.

Houseparty

iPhone and Android, Free

house-party.jpg

With a user-friendly way to stream video from a mobile phone to everyone in the world, Meerkat turned the Internet on its ear. But that app is so last year (to the point that it’s no longer operational) and in its place Meerkat’s developers have released Houseparty,  which is mainstreaming group video chats in almost the same way. Creating what it calls a “synchronous social network,” Houseparty basically lets people video chat with each other, up to eight people at a time. Open the free Android or iOS app, and you’re broadcasting in your own private video chat room.

Netflix’s Fast.com

Web app, Free

netflixs-fast-com1.jpg

With millions of users sucking down data at home, on mobile and over Wi-Fi, the Internet can be a very slow place. There are dozens of iOS and Android apps to measure your speeds, but they all seem to have an air of unreliability. Fast.com, a web app put out by Netflix, loads quicker than a Craigslist directory on whatever device, whichever operating system, and wherever you are. So from the boardroom, to the bathroom, to the backyard, you’ll always know if you’re down to download.

Nuzzel

iPhone and Android, Free

nuzzel.jpg

Launched at the tail end of 2015, this free Android and iOS app is a vital app for keeping pace with Twitter’s endless stream of information. Syncing up with your social networks, Nuzzel keeps track of the most tweeted links by the accounts you follow and provides a roundup of all the associated tweets. Ideal for news hounds or anyone who closely follows trends on the Twitterverse, it’s become a must-use over the past 12 months.

Reddit

iPhone and Android, Free

reddit.jpg

Unofficial Reddit apps existed before this year, but the official take makes the front page of the Internet even easier to use and browse than it is on a computer. Longtime Redditors may disagree (they’re never short on opinions), but the app’s intuitive interface is good for new users, making it easier to dive into topics and communities. The communications tab pulls messages, comments, replies and mentions into one place for quick access, and the main tab puts the web’s hottest content just taps away.

Sorcery! 4

iPhone and Android, $4.99

sorcery-4.jpg

The fourth and final installment in studio Inkle’s grand game-book series based on Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! adventures is an easy recommend for admirers of plain brilliant storytelling. No, you needn’t have played the first three, though the delights are that much brighter if you have. Want to see what a choose-your-own-adventure meets immaculate illustrations and artistry meets the opposite of tin-eared writing looks like? Start here.

Streaks

iPhone (with Apple Watch app), $3.99

streaks1.jpg

Bad habits may be hard to break, but good habits can be even harder to make. This app helps by giving users a gentle reminder ever day — whether its on your phone or your wrist — to develop up to six healthy routines. Pre-loaded with all sorts of activities from drinking more water to walking the dog (and with Apple Health integrations), it’ll help you do all the little things consistently and right. Streaks was launched in 2015, but the app was given a slick 2.0 makeover this year that was so good it garnered the app an Apple Design Award.

Tribe

iPhone and Android, Free

tribe.jpg

There are a slew of Snapchat-like free video messaging apps on the market. And while they all jockey for position, Tribe does so with a new killer feature: Magic Words. Basically, when a user says a term in his or her video (like a band name, for example) that word — through some back-end Google speech recognition magic — appears on the screen, overlaid on the video as a clickable keyword. Is this enough to put it ahead of the camera-toting pack? It’s early to say for sure, but this one’s worth watching.

Google Allo

iPhone and Android, Free

google-allo.jpg
A new messaging app from Google, Allo is one of the first products to incorporate the firm’s new artificially intelligent aide, the Google Assistant. Allo has a few limitations — there aren’t any third-party apps and there’s no desktop companion, for instance. But Allo earns a spot on our list because of the potential of the Google Assistant. Right now, it’s pretty good at handling basic questions and surfacing recommendations within chats. But when and if it gets smarter, it could be truly brilliant.

Microsoft Pix

iPhone, Free

microsoft-pix.jpg

Microsoft is pitching Pix as a replacement for the iPhone’s standard Camera app. Pix, which launched in July, uses artificial intelligence to recognize the subject of an image and adjust camera settings in real time. If you’re snapping a photo in well-lit conditions, it’ll create a GIF-like video loop when it detects motion. Unlike many other photo apps, Pix offers helpful enhancements rather than gimmicky features, all with little effort on the user’s part.

Picniic

iPhone, Free

picniic.jpg
Picniic is a sort of Swiss Army Knife for keeping your family organized: it’s a shared to-do list, calendar, and event manager all in one. Within the app, users can assign tasks on the to-do list to specific family members and take note of the last time a certain family member was heard from. It’s a bit similar to another app called Cozi, but Picniic offers a few extras, including a newsfeed-style stream of updates and an encrypted storage locker for keeping personal family information.

Swift Playgrounds

iPhone, Free

swift-playgrounds.jpg
There are dozens of apps, games, and toys designed to help kids learn the building blocks of computer programming. But few of these apps do so by having players write lines of actual code, as Apple’s Swift Playgrounds does. The iPad app challenges participants to input strings of characters written in Apple’s Swift language to complete puzzles. Aspiring developers can also write their own code in a blank document and export it into Xcode, Apple’s software for creating apps. “We’re not hiding code, or running away from the fact that it is code,” Wiley Hodges, director of tools and technologies product marketing for Apple, previously told TIME about the app.



Pocket

iPhone and Android, Free

pocket.jpg
When you see an article you want to read but don’t have time at the moment, you can save it to Pocket and savor it later. It downloads articles in a clean, readable format so you can read anything without an Internet connection. Add-ons for desktop browsers mean you can save stories from your work computer and read them on your way home.

Waze

iPhone and Android, Free

android-waze.jpg

Google Maps and Apple Maps are fine, but neither will make you the master of defeating traffic like Waze. Acquired by Google in 2013 for a reported $1.3 billion, Waze collects data about traffic jams, construction and other issues and displays them to other drivers in a given area. It’s also great at finding little-known shortcuts to save you precious minutes, mileage and gas money.

Reigns

iPhone and Android, $2.99

reigns1.jpg

Swipe left or right, that’s all there is to Reigns, an ingenious, dichotomous Tinder-like, only about ruling a kingdom instead of speed-dating. There are no roads less traveled, only left or right turns, yes or no answers to questions of medieval monarch-dom, as you attempt to balance your kingdom’s needs along idiosyncratic, ever-forking roads. If your idea of choose-your-own nirvana involves minimalist, binary survivalism (your goal is to stay alive), Reigns is one of the coolest stripped-down, rapid-play angles on the genre in years.

Super Stickman Golf 3

iPhone and Android, Free

super-stickman-golf-3.jpg

Golf and stickmen? Really? Unqualifiedly. It’s the adventurist allure of putt-putt, the ballistic physics of Angry Birds and the zany level design of 2D platformers like Super Mario Bros. rolled into one. After two forays to hone their ingenious little mashup, this is the iteration of Noodlecake Studios’ series to own, the one that brings it all together while adding the option to put English on the ball. Even if like me the thought of playing real golf makes you recoil, this is the stick-and-ball-swatting game for you.

Bandsintown

iPhone and Android, Free

bandsintown.jpg

Ah, the time-old question: “Any good bands in town tonight?” Get your answer with Bandsintown, which analyzes your music listening habits and alerts you when your favorite performers are in your area.There’s also a calendar display that lets you check out who’s playing on a given date in case you’d prefer to check out something new for a change.

Insight Timer

iPhone and Android, Free

insight-timmer.jpg
Do away with the the stressful blare of your built-in phone buzzer. Insight Timer is really nothing more than a peaceful chime when time’s up, but we find ourselves using it for everything from signaling the end of a meditation session to the completion of roast chicken. Anything’s better than hearing Marimba for the millionth time.



Calorie Counter

iPhone and Android, Free

android-myfitness_1.jpg
It’s never easy to count calories, but MyFitnessPal’s Calorie Counter can be a handy helper. Just tell it what you’ve eaten in a given day, and it’ll let you know how many calories you’ve consumed. Tracking that data is an important part of losing weight, which, when it comes down to it, is about burning more calories than you’ve taken in.

Warbits

iPhone, $3.99

warbits.jpg

Okay, sure, Warbits clearly cribs from classic turn-based strategy game Advance Wars (for Nintendo’s ancient Game Boy Advance, no less). But I can think of no higher praise to lavish on a game that fills a void over a decade wide and generations of overlooked platforms deep. Much more than a clone, Warbits takes the idea that teams of infantry, armor and aerial vehicles are squaring off over moderately sized squarish maps, then adds an online mode that’s pretty much the definition of how to do turn-based, 1v1 or 2v2 strategy on a phone.

Hitlist

iPhone, Free

hitlist.jpg
There are incredible airfare deals available and dozens of places we’d love to visit. But finding a reasonable deal takes far more time and effort than it should. Hitlist can help. It combines travel photography with airfare deals, letting you add appealing destinations to your watch list. Then you’ll get alerts when there’s an incredible price on flights.

Beam

iPhone and Android, Free

beam.jpg
Video game streaming apps like the Amazon-owned Twitch are getting extremely popular — Twitch users watched more than 241 billion minutes of content last year. So it’s not surprising to see younger companies getting in on the action. One of the newbies is Beam, which offers the unique twist of letting viewers impact the game. Audiences on Beam can suggest moves for players, give them challenges, and more. Microsoft acquired the company behind beam in August; it’s now integrating it directly into the Xbox platform.

PRISM

iPhone and Android, $2.99

prism.jpg

Prism has one of those un-self-aware taglines about “sacred geometry” converging with “the ethereal soul” you can just ignore, then get right to the heart of the matter: It’s a stirring, smart little shape-puzzler set to groovy, hypnotic tunes. Lines and dots you manipulate with your finger adorn shapes that unfurl like polyhedral flowers as you advance, uncloaking incandescent cores. The puzzles are diverting but accessible, ensuring you’ll hang around long enough to appreciate the experience’s gorgeous, trippy ambience.

Meditation Studio

iPhone, $3.99


meditation-studio.jpg
A well-designed gateway app to a serious daily meditation practice. Great for beginners, the app has more than 200 guided meditations of varying lengths organized around whatever you need—sleep, confidence, stress and anxiety relief—and it gives you a perfect little zen break wherever you are.

Source : time

Categorized in Science & Tech

Want to reach search engine users in their moments of need? Columnist Thomas Stern explains his process for mapping keywords and content to the customer's path to purchase.

Google introduced the concept of micro-moments over a year ago, and since then, the company has consistently published supporting information as it relates to specific industries and user behavior across content platforms. 

If you’re unfamiliar with micro-moments, they’re essentially a way of framing a user’s path to purchase or to conversion, with specific focus on mobile and the needs or questions users search on Google along with way. The concept of micro-moments is easily digestible and provides a great way of conducting and organizing keyword research, something search marketing practitioners and decision-makers alike can certainly appreciate.

At our agency, ZOG Digital, we’ve been developing ways to comprehensively identify micro-moment opportunities for clients while mapping and optimizing to the consumer’s conversion path. The following is a high-level look at our approach and a few of the resources we use. 

1. Identifying micro-moments: The consumer journey

Before you can identify micro-moment opportunities, you must understand the structure or user path and adapt it to your particular business or vertical. For instance, we categorize micro-moments for hospitality clients into Dreaming, Exploring, Planning and Booking; these buckets support each step in the consumer journey to bookings, and keyword opportunities can logically be categorized within them.

identifying

identifying

Google uses a fairly ubiquitous micro-moment structure of “I want to know,” “I want to go,” “I want to do” and “I want to buy.” Unlike the categorization structure I noted above, Google’s classification maps micro-moments to different types of consumer journeys with additional research to support best practices for search content. 

Either of these examples can work, as long as consumer intent can be appropriately segmented. Keywords are the backbone of this phase and enable future content to be planned, developed and published by each opportunity category. 

2. Organizing micro-moments: Defining parameters and collecting data

With keyword categorization structure understood, the next step is to map out the keyword modifiers that users will use in their path to conversion. Our philosophy is to use all available modifiers, with an understanding that not all will apply to each client. This approach allows us to cast the widest net and effectively understand the micro-moment opportunity size. 

Here are some example modifiers grouped under questions and prepositions: 

Questions: (Keyword) + Where, Which, Who, Why, What, How and Are

Example hospitality-related searches using questions could be “Things to Do in San Francisco” or “Where to Stay in Miami.”

sfo-

sfo

Prepositions: (Keyword) + With, Without, Versus, Near, Like and For.

Example retail-based searches using prepositions could be “Tablet vs. Laptop” or “Ceiling Fan with Lights.”

tablet laptop-

tablet_laptop

At ZOG Digital, we predefine all keyword modifiers so we can map across keyword lists at scale. However, if you’re looking to define micro-moments across a small set of keywords, we recommend Answer the Public and Keyword.io as great starting points. Answer the Public predefines questions and prepositions automatically, while Keyword.io allows you to segment keyword results by questions once they’ve been retrieved.

It’s important to note that collecting micro-moment data doesn’t stop at the keyword level. To effectively understand opportunity size and prioritize tactics, consumer intent and demand needs to be identified and grouped within the aforementioned consumer journey stages. This research process provides a segue into our next step, which is building a plan for ROI.

3. Forecasting and prioritizing for ROI

The next step to moving forward with micro-moment opportunity analysis and planning is to forecast potential and prioritize for ROI. My agency developed our own tool, the Keyword Revenue Forecasting Tool, to automate this process with historical client performance data, but a basic one can be created through Excel and a few simple formulas.

First, you’ll need to determine a click-through rate by keyword position. There are numerous data sources for this — we like Advanced Web Ranking, as they regularly update their CTR data. The best option, if you have enough data, is to use Search Console and filter out branded keywords. This will then most closely resemble the CTR you can expect from each keyword position.

Keyword-Revenue-Forecast

keyword-revenue-forecast-1

Second, you need to forecast how your rankings can improve over time. This is a bit tricky without substantial historical data, so the next best option is to look at where similar websites rank for the keywords you’re targeting. Check the domain and PageRank of the websites that rank in the top positions for each keyword. If you are within range comparatively, chances are that you have a likelihood of competing, assuming you’re conducting comprehensive on- and off-page optimization.

The improvement over time is tricky here — if you have performed SEO in the past for the site, you should be conservative and make assumptions based on performance you have observed historically.

Keyword-Revenue-

keyword-revenue-forecast-2

Finally, you can now calculate potential return based on the metrics you have available:

(keyword position CTR) x (keyword search volume) x (organic conversion rate) x (organic average order value)

When possible, we like to make these calculations at a categorical level, applying unique conversion rate and average order volume (AOV) data to get the most accurate results.

4. Content analysis and selection

After assessing the value of keywords and micro-moments, one final step needs to occur before defining content topics and types. It’s important to examine and dissect the search results and content that currently exists for each keyword. Because Google takes into account the context of each search term and displays the most relevant results, the types of results revealed will give you an idea of the intent behind the query.

For example, a search term with modifiers like “best” or “top” may imply the user is seeking an article, blog post or list, while a search term that includes modifiers like “discount” or “buy” may suggest the user is looking for a product page.

Inspecting content types indexed in search results can inform future content that will succeed at each stage of the consumer journey. Particularly, deciphering content trends for each phase will inform the long-term content strategy for brands and agencies to begin building together.

With micro-moments inspired by Google, savvy marketers can see the consumer journey through a new lens and gain further insights from keyword categorization. Google has recently published an article, “Micro-Moments: 5 Questions to Ask Your Agency,” that concisely summarizes many of the aforementioned steps and recommendations. We highly encourage reviewing for assessing agency partners and internal teams alike.

Source : searchengineland

If you’re unfamiliar with micro-moments, they’re essentially a way of framing a user’s path to purchase or to conversion, with specific focus on mobile and the needs or questions users search on Google along with way. The concept of micro-moments is easily digestible and provides a great way of conducting and organizing keyword research, something search marketing practitioners and decision-makers alike can certainly appreciate.

At our agency, ZOG Digital, we’ve been developing ways to comprehensively identify micro-moment opportunities for clients while mapping and optimizing to the consumer’s conversion path. The following is a high-level look at our approach and a few of the resources we use.

1. Identifying micro-moments: The consumer journey

Before you can identify micro-moment opportunities, you must understand the structure or user path and adapt it to your particular business or vertical. For instance, we categorize micro-moments for hospitality clients into Dreaming, Exploring, Planning and Booking; these buckets support each step in the consumer journey to bookings, and keyword opportunities can logically be categorized within them.

identifying

Google uses a fairly ubiquitous micro-moment structure of “I want to know,” “I want to go,” “I want to do” and “I want to buy.” Unlike the categorization structure I noted above, Google’s classification maps micro-moments to different types of consumer journeys with additional research to support best practices for search content.

Either of these examples can work, as long as consumer intent can be appropriately segmented. Keywords are the backbone of this phase and enable future content to be planned, developed and published by each opportunity category.

2. Organizing micro-moments: Defining parameters and collecting data

With keyword categorization structure understood, the next step is to map out the keyword modifiers that users will use in their path to conversion. Our philosophy is to use all available modifiers, with an understanding that not all will apply to each client. This approach allows us to cast the widest net and effectively understand the micro-moment opportunity size.

Here are some example modifiers grouped under questions and prepositions:

Questions: (Keyword) + Where, Which, Who, Why, What, How and Are

Example hospitality-related searches using questions could be “Things to Do in San Francisco” or “Where to Stay in Miami.”

sfo

Prepositions: (Keyword) + With, Without, Versus, Near, Like and For.

Example retail-based searches using prepositions could be “Tablet vs. Laptop” or “Ceiling Fan with Lights.”

tablet_laptop

At ZOG Digital, we predefine all keyword modifiers so we can map across keyword lists at scale. However, if you’re looking to define micro-moments across a small set of keywords, we recommend Answer the Public and Keyword.io as great starting points. Answer the Public predefines questions and prepositions automatically, while Keyword.io allows you to segment keyword results by questions once they’ve been retrieved.

It’s important to note that collecting micro-moment data doesn’t stop at the keyword level. To effectively understand opportunity size and prioritize tactics, consumer intent and demand needs to be identified and grouped within the aforementioned consumer journey stages. This research process provides a segue into our next step, which is building a plan for ROI.

3. Forecasting and prioritizing for ROI

The next step to moving forward with micro-moment opportunity analysis and planning is to forecast potential and prioritize for ROI. My agency developed our own tool, the Keyword Revenue Forecasting Tool, to automate this process with historical client performance data, but a basic one can be created through Excel and a few simple formulas.

First, you’ll need to determine a click-through rate by keyword position. There are numerous data sources for this — we like Advanced Web Ranking, as they regularly update their CTR data. The best option, if you have enough data, is to use Search Console and filter out branded keywords. This will then most closely resemble the CTR you can expect from each keyword position.

keyword-revenue-forecast-1

Second, you need to forecast how your rankings can improve over time. This is a bit tricky without substantial historical data, so the next best option is to look at where similar websites rank for the keywords you’re targeting. Check the domain and PageRank of the websites that rank in the top positions for each keyword. If you are within range comparatively, chances are that you have a likelihood of competing, assuming you’re conducting comprehensive on- and off-page optimization.

The improvement over time is tricky here — if you have performed SEO in the past for the site, you should be conservative and make assumptions based on performance you have observed historically.

keyword-revenue-forecast-2

Finally, you can now calculate potential return based on the metrics you have available:

(keyword position CTR) x (keyword search volume) x (organic conversion rate) x (organic average order value)

When possible, we like to make these calculations at a categorical level, applying unique conversion rate and average order volume (AOV) data to get the most accurate results.

4. Content analysis and selection

After assessing the value of keywords and micro-moments, one final step needs to occur before defining content topics and types. It’s important to examine and dissect the search results and content that currently exists for each keyword. Because Google takes into account the context of each search term and displays the most relevant results, the types of results revealed will give you an idea of the intent behind the query.

For example, a search term with modifiers like “best” or “top” may imply the user is seeking an article, blog post or list, while a search term that includes modifiers like “discount” or “buy” may suggest the user is looking for a product page.

Inspecting content types indexed in search results can inform future content that will succeed at each stage of the consumer journey. Particularly, deciphering content trends for each phase will inform the long-term content strategy for brands and agencies to begin building together.

With micro-moments inspired by Google, savvy marketers can see the consumer journey through a new lens and gain further insights from keyword categorization. Google has recently published an article, “Micro-Moments: 5 Questions to Ask Your Agency,” that concisely summarizes many of the aforementioned steps and recommendations. We highly encourage reviewing for assessing agency partners and internal teams alike.

As an entrepreneur or solopreneur, you are well aware of the fact that without a solid marketing framework, the longevity, revenues, and profits of your organization might not stand a chance of ascendancy. As a small business owner, you can have a great team along with great products designed to resolve the present day issues of a market segment, but if you fail to create enough awareness to said segment in relation to your company’s existence, it could lead to the demise of your entrepreneurial venture.

As a result, most of us would agree that having a solid marketing framework for your business is essential. But what marketing mediums are best to utilize to promote your products?

Traditional Mediums Aren’t The Only Mediums

There are many traditional marketing mediums to use to promote your products and they include:

  • Bulk Mail
  • Television Ads
  • Radio Ads
  • Billboard Ads
  • Print/Magazine Ads
  • Telemarketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Door-To-Door Marketing
  • Referral Marketing/Word Of Mouth

But in addition to these traditional, well-known mediums, are many innovative and alternative mediums that are working for many entrepreneurs and solopreneurs already. Many of these innovative and alternative mediums are lower in cost than some of the above traditional mediums, as well as more impactful, profitable, and productive.

The following  innovative and alternative mediums could prove to be impactful, profitable, and productive for your small business.

Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing visitors and traffic to a website through  various strategies that help the website appear higher in rankings on search engines such as Google. There are a number of marketing strategies that could be used for this, many of which will be covered here in this very article.

Press Releases

Producing many press releases over short periods of time helps to build up backlinks in major search engines like Google and shows others that your company is innovating. There are many great press release services online that you could use, some of which allow you to buy packages to send out hundreds of press releases over a period of time, which helps to not just generate news, but build up links in various search engines as mentioned.

Video Marketing

With video marketing, you would incorporate online videos into your marketing campaigns to promote products and services, or you might establish online vlogs using sites such as YouTube to provide commentary on various topics. Both of these aspects work to improve your visibility. Also using video marketing could help provide better email open rates if you include video in the subject line of your email and link to video content in the body of your email, could allow you to reach a broader internet audience, could increase the effectiveness of your online landing pages, and more. You have the option of creating your own vlog, or marketing through another blog from another content creator, that’s currently catering to your target market segment.

If you’re focusing on SEO, you might want to invest in your own video hosting service like Wistia, but if your goal is to use a social platform to spread the word about your video the Youtube might be your best bet.

Blogging

A blog is an online journal that’s regularly updated with articles and postings to a hosted website. Some blogs are created for personal entertainment use only, while others are created for commercial reasons such as to promote a product, service, genre, or movement. Blogs are inexpensive to operate, and allow you to accomplish a number of things:

  1. Allows you to connect with your target market segment
  2. Helps establish you as a category authority
  3. Helps drive traffic to your website
  4. Helps build awareness for your products/services
  5. Helps with SEO rankings by showing search engines that you’re operating an active site.

You can even use your blog to generate additional revenue in a number of ways, such as selling affiliate products through the blog, selling your own products directly through the blog, and more. Also you can create revenue indirectly through the blog, such as generating traffic and converting a percentage of said traffic to buyers/clients of products and services that you sell outside of the blog.

You have the option of creating your own blog or marketing through another blog from another content creator that’s currently catering to your target market segment.

Podcasting

A podcast is an online radio show that’s available for download off the web. You could choose to host your own podcast or market through an established podcast of another host. Within the podcast, the host will usually do a live endorsement of a product by recommending it to their audience, so make sure to choose carefully a podcast that  targets the same market segment as your customers. Or, a marketer could create an commercial spot during the commercial section of the podcast to promote their products/services.

Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Pay-per-click advertising through popular services such as Google AdWords, allows businesses to display ads but only pay for them when people actually click on the ads. A business could use keywords and other aspects to set up their pay-per-click campaigns.

Remarketing

Remarketing incorporates aspects of pay-per-click, but functions a bit differently. Remarketing is where a business will set up an advertisement and if a person clicks on the ad but doesn’t make a particular purchase, the customer will notice that the ad (or a similar ad) seems to follow them around the internet to various websites. The purpose of the marketing strategy is to keep reminding the particular “clicker” about their interest in a product or service, to get them to eventually make a purchase.

Marketing Through Other Website/Social Media Ads

Website and social media ads (such as those on LinkedIn and Facebook) are posted ads to tailored audiences of a particular website or in the case of social media, to particular users of that platform. One can usually get a good breakdown of the website’s audience as well as the social media platform’s users, to make sure that the ads are going out to the target market segment in question.

Here’s more information about marketing your business on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Commenting

Comment marketing is where you would join as a user on a popular discussion forum or blog site, then merge into the conversation by posting quality and relevant commentary in relation to the topics at hand. After some time has passed with you posted relevant and quality commentary, you can begin to incorporate light promotion of your products and services within some of your tailored responses. Reddit and Quora could be good mediums for this depending on your target audience, you could do this on other popular blogs that your customers might read.

Big Data Marketing

Finally, big data marketing is basically using a variety of available data such as public data and data you’ve collected over time from your market segment, to use such data intelligence to create more targeted and efficient marketing campaigns. The data in this case, would be used to predict customer behavior and allows you to better utilize your marketing dollars in ways that are timely and profitable.

Source : nav.com

Apple has unveiled its own official measurements for iOS 10 adoption, which comes in at 54 percent. That means the majority of iOS device owners are running the new mobile operating system. What’s interesting, however, is how different Apple’s official figures are from the third-party estimates released earlier this week, which saw much higher adoption among their install base – as high as two-thirds, in fact.

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According to two different sources – Mixpanel and Fiksu – iOS 10 was installed on roughly 66 percent of devices, the firms found. Both data sets are based on apps that use the company’s SDK. In Fiksu’s case, the company reports data sampled hourly in batches of approximately 10 million events, filtered to count unique devices; Mixpanel, meanwhile, claims its reported is “generated from  300,083,243,931 records.” This equates to a sample size of hundreds of millions of unique users, Mixpanel tells us.

In Apple’s case, however, it calculates iOS adoption rates by App Store visits. That’s a more accurate means of making a determination, as it doesn’t require that users have an app installed on their device running a specific SDK from a third-party.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-10-15-28-am

According to Apple’s data, 54 percent are now on iOS 10, 38 percent remain on iOS 9, and only 8 percent are running an older version of the iOS mobile operating system.

Also of note, we’ve confirmed that Apple did not prompt users to upgrade their devices for the first two weeks the iOS update was available – a delay that was spotted in the charts from the third-party firms, as well. Adoption rates spiked sharply toward the end of September, which is when the alert notifications started hitting users’ devices.

The decision to delay the upgrade notifications was made to ease the strain on Apple’s infrastructure and its Apple Care support teams, we understand. This is the first time Apple has implemented a new policy of delaying the upgrade notifications in order to allow for a smoother, if slower, iOS rollout. After the initial rush of upgrade activity died down, only then did the company begin to alert users who had not yet updated that an upgrade was available to them.

Despite this delay to notify users, now more than half the active user base moved to iOS 10. For comparison’s sake, Android 7.0 “Nougat,” which arrived several weeks ahead of iOS 10, is only installed on 0.1 percent of devices. The prior release, Android 6.0 “Marshmallow,” is still present on 18.7 percent of devices, and other previous versions still have a good chunk of the overall pie as well.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-10-15-35-am

In part, this is because Android updates are handled by the manufacturers and carriers, not Google directly, in most cases. This has historically been a huge issue for Google, not only because of security reasons, but also because it fragments the ecosystem, and makes it difficult for Google to get its entire install base using the same features and tools. Even with its new flagship Pixel phones, Google is allowing Verizon to handle all system updates, except for security patches, the company says.

Source : https://techcrunch.com

Categorized in Market Research

New benchmark data on the state of Account-Based Marketing marketing today. 

A recent report shows that organizations adopting ABM have a 10 percent higher win rate. What are the other benefits of ABM, and how can it help your organization?

Download “BrightFunnel ABM Benchmark Insights — Q3 2016” for findings, analysis and five key recommendations to help guide your organization’s ABM strategy.

Visit Digital Marketing Depot to download the report and learn more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Digital Marketing Depot
Digital Marketing Depot is a resource center for digital marketing strategies and tactics. We feature hosted white papers and E-Books, original research, and webcasts on digital marketing topics -- from advertising to analytics, SEO and PPC campaign management tools to social media management software, e-commerce to e-mail marketing, and much more about internet marketing. Digital Marketing Depot is a division of Third Door Media, publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and producer of the conference series Search Marketing Expo and MarTech. Visit us at http://digitalmarketingdepot.com.
 
Source : searchengineland
 
 

SEO has come a long way from being all about on-page optimization, building backlinks and creating “relevant” content. When I read popular search engine blogs, I notice a definite trend: SEO is moving toward a more inclusive strategy that goes beyond new ways of link building or content marketing.

A huge part of present-day SEO practices is brand building and influencing search queries themselves, as opposed to starting with a truckload of keywords and creating content around them. Therefore, while links, keywords, content and site optimization remain the building blocks of SEO, the columns on which the edifice is being built are taking on a different appearance. Let’s see what these pillars are.

1. RankBrain

Although RankBrain is the third most significant ranking factor in the Google algorithm, it is perhaps the most misunderstood one. The speculations and counter-speculations never seem to end.

Since RankBrain was one of the few algorithm updates that Google first revealed to a major news publication, it has caught and held onto the attention of the general tech-reading public, in addition to search engine marketers.

I personally believe Google’s admission that they fully don’t understand RankBrain. However, this doesn’t mask the fact that they’ve made great strides in using machine learning to entrust their prized search algorithm to it.

Additionally, we do have some idea about what RankBrain does not do. According to Gary Illyes and Andrey Lipattsev of Google, RankBrain does not act on your backlink profile, content quality or click-through rate. It only helps the algorithm interpret queries better and match them with relevant page content.

And since Google can do what it does best with less human intervention, industry leaders unanimously agreed that it will gain more significance. So it was no surprise when earlier this year, Jeff Dean revealed that RankBrain now processes every single Google search (that’s at least 63,000 a second) — up from barely 15 percent nine months before.

The future has already happened here.

But you cannot do anything about it: Gary Illyes said at SMX Advanced earlier this year that there isnothing one can do to optimize a website for RankBrain.

2. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

In February 2016, Google integrated results from its Accelerated Mobile Pages project into its search results in the form of a “Top Stories” carousel in mobile results. Six months later, Google started displaying links to AMP pages in the main organic search results.

Today, Google has 150 million indexed AMP documents in its index, and, encouraged by mainstream adoption outside the publishing industry (including eBay and Bing), has just announcedthat users searching from mobile devices will be directed to the relevant AMP pages even if an equivalent app page exists.

However, the average Google user hardly knows the significance of an AMP result yet. In aninformal survey conducted by Glenn Gabe, only three of 44 respondents could correctly identify what the AMP icon in the SERPs stood for. And they clearly prefer the “mobile-friendly” label over the cryptic “AMP” coupled with the lightning bolt.

 

AMP

This means Google’s decision is definitely in line with their aim of “bringing the mobile web on par with native apps and keeping Google relevant in the increasingly mobile-centric world we’re living in,” as we pointed out in an article on the E2M blog not long ago. AMP is here to stay (and become omnipresent), whether you like it or not.

3. The Knowledge Graph & rich answers

Google’s Knowledge Graph, which it launched in 2012, is its slow but sure attempt to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible,” in line with their mission. In a nutshell, it’s Google’s attempt at scraping — sorry, replicating — Wikipedia:

The Knowledge Graph is a knowledge base used by Google to enhance its search engine’s search results with semantic-search information gathered from a wide variety of sources.

The “wide variety of sources” includes Wikidata (to which Google moved its Freebase data and actively contributes), Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook.

Typically, knowledge graph elements are in the form of boxes of structured information with links to authoritative sources of further information (not always, though). Common formats include theknowledge panel displayed on the right of a SERP and answer box, displayed on top of other organic results.

The number of queries that show ready answers in these formats continues to grow unabated, asongoing studies from Stone Temple Consulting have shown. Currently, around 40 percent of Google queries display “rich answers,” which include featured snippets, but not knowledge panels:

KnowledgeGraph

Brand managers and marketers are increasingly looking to control the impression, conversation and queries that people have about them. Moving forward, one of the most effective ways to do that would be to try to influence what Google knows and has to say about you. Here are a couple of approaches from Propecta and Kapost that involve defining and connecting entities with markup, editing Wikipedia, and yes, not abandoning Google Plus.

4. Real-time, integrated penalty filters

Now you see it, now you don’t. There it is! Oh, it isn’t. Google announced that they have finally updated Penguin (after what seemed like a never-ending wait of almost two years), noting that it is for the last time.

That’s because Penguin is now a real-time signal processed within Google’s search algorithm — data on your pages is refreshed every time Google re-crawls and re-indexes them.

A few months earlier, Google also integrated Panda into their main algorithm (though unlike Penguin, it does not update in real time).

Notice a pattern here? Google wants to make spam fighting a central, automated function of serving search results.

This is a very positive sign for website owners — cleaning up spammy backlinks and getting rid of poor-quality content will bring quick results. Marketers struggling to justify extra efforts to improve the quality of their websites will now be able to put their money where their mouth is.

Conclusion

It is clear that Google will focus on machine learning, understanding of semantics, connections and patterns and user experience in the future.

SEO at the moment is very closely tied to content marketing. While Google can interpret content and derive its relevance to search queries with a very high degree of success, it is constantly focused on making refinements to improve how timely, contextual and useful this content is to the searcher. The Knowledge Graph, rich answers, RankBrain and AMP all serve this purpose, while integrated penalties maintain the quality of results.

I see bright days ahead for SEO. Discuss with me on Twitter how these factors will pan out in the next few months.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

Original source of this article is Search Engine Land

Categorized in Research Methods

Chinese search engine Baidu, which opened its India office in Delhi last year, wants to expand its services in India through an ad platform and a localised marketplace.


Josh Fenn of Baidu Inc’s Global Business Unit speaks to BrandWagon’s Ankita Rai on the company’s India strategy, its focus on app developers and building a digital ecosystem.


Baidu has so far launched only niche utility applications in India, while in other markets it is also present in online to offline (O2O) and search spaces. What is the India strategy?


In India, the focus is on mobile and mobile-related products because there is a global shift towards mobile. It was in 2008 that we started bringing our products outside China. India is our newest market.


Between 2008 and 2013, we launched some of our popular products here such as DU Battery Saver, DU Speed Booster, Baidu Browser, MoboMarket, ES File Explorer and input app Simeji.


The marketplace MoboMarket was first launched in Indonesia and shortly afterwards in India. MoboMarket has 4.5 million active monthly users each in India and Indonesia. In India, MoboMarket is available in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Bangla, Marathi and Urdu, with Telugu launching soon. Developers can launch their apps on this platform and get more eyeballs in the domestic market and monetise through our DU Ad Platform. There are eight million monthly active users for DU Battery Saver and Du Speed Booster in India, while ES File Explorer has 10 million monthly active users.


In India, we are focussed on building a strong foundation of internet services that will help to build the ecosystem.


The first phase of the India strategy was launched in 2013-2014 aimed at building a user base for our products here.
The second phase was to introduce more developer facing platforms and grow the ecosystem. That’s where MoboMarket comes into play. The marketplace aims to enable local developers find the right audience for their apps and get more downloads. The third phase is aimed at enabling developers make more money out of it. That’s where the DU Ad Platform comes into play.


As Baidu looks to capitalise on opportunities outside China, what kind of markets are you targeting?
If you look at all the countries that we have offices in apart from the US — Brazil, Egypt, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan — Japan stands out, being the most developed market. The rest are emerging countries and have similar characteristics such as lower smartphone and internet penetration, but are fast growing. We
observed a similar trend in China a few years ago.


Now China has 52 per cent internet penetration. It has over 700 million internet subscribers across PC and mobile. So yes, we are looking for countries similar to China that are in the early phases of mobile internet. Second, we have a localised strategy for each market instead of rolling out generic products.


We have been operating in China for 16 years. We have developed unique ways to bridge the technology gap. For example, we have made our search more humanised and help people who don’t know how to interact with technology.


For instance in hinterlands, people write long queries when searching something online. We understand how to bridge this gap between rural and urban population and we are planning to bring this expertise in India and other countries too.
A majority of Baidu’s revenues comes from search advertising. But the whole idea of search is changing. Users can now get news, weather updates or even search for flights on platforms like Facebook or even in the Chinese context, on WeChat. Is the market for search saturating with competition coming from non-traditional players?


The search market has evolved quite a bit since 2014. There are different entry ways for people to find information they are looking for, such as Facebook, WeChat, e-commerce portals or through O2O services. In China, we have a very strong position in search due to integration of machine learning technology.


In mobile search, our market share is over 75 per cent. We have 660 million monthly active users on our mobile search platform in China. The search market is not narrowing down but our focus is building foundational services for the internet ecosystem here in India.


Baidu launched a search engine in Brazil in 2014. As you expand globally, do you plan to launch search in other countries? Given Baidu’s experience in the O2O business model in China, do you plan to replicate similar offerings in other markets?
Baidu is present in information, search, app platforms, AI and machine learning technologies. We previously launched search in Brazil, Thailand, Egypt and Japan. But we are now more focussed on mobile products and services. Search is just one way of looking at things. We are integrating machine learning in O2O services. We are diversifying into other entry ways of search.


For example, you can integrate machine learning into group buying platforms. We have 1.6 billion users outside China. In terms of user numbers, the biggest markets are Indonesia, India and the US. In 2014, we acquired Brazil’s biggest deal platform, Peixe Urbano. The company has 70 per cent of the domestic market share. We take a localised approach in each market. In India, we don’t have any plans right now in the O2O space, but it is a possibility.


Baidu launched its ad platform for advertisers and publishers in India this year. How will it help small app developers?
In case of an app ecosystem, it is important to support the small developers. This is what we learnt in China and aim to implement it in other countries such as India.

 

The DU Ad Platform, launched in March, helps small app developers in monetisation. It provides advertisers with intelligent targeted ads and publishers with efficient monetisation solutions. We have 1.6 billion users for all of our apps outside China.

 

Source : http://www.financialexpress.com/industry/companies/face-off-baidu-takes-a-localised-approach-in-each-market-says-baidus-josh-fenn/348219/ 

Categorized in Search Engine
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