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Monthly Archives: November 2020

FireEye acquires Respond Software for $186M, announces $400M investment

November 22, 2020 No Comments

The security sector is ever frothy and acquisitive. Just last week Palo Alto Networks grabbed Expanse for $ 800 million. Today it was FireEye’s turn, snagging Respond Software, a company that helps customers investigate and understand security incidents, while reducing the need for highly trained (and scarce) security analysts. The deal has closed, according to the company.

FireEye had its eye on Respond’s Analyst product, which it plans to fold into its Mandiant Solutions platform. Like many companies today, FireEye is focused on using machine learning to help bolster its solutions and bring a level of automation to sorting through the data, finding real issues and weeding out false positives. The acquisition gives them a quick influx of machine learning-fueled software.

FireEye sees a product that can help add speed to its existing tooling. “With Mandiant’s position on the front lines, we know what to look for in an attack, and Respond’s cloud-based machine learning productizes our expertise to deliver faster outcomes and protect more customers,” Kevin Mandia, FireEye CEO said in a statement announcing the deal.

Mike Armistead, CEO at Respond, wrote in a company blog post that today’s acquisition marks the end of a four-year journey for the startup, but it believes it has landed in a good home with FireEye. “We are proud to announce that after many months of discussion, we are becoming part of the Mandiant Solutions portfolio, a solution organization inside FireEye,” Armistead wrote.

While FireEye was at it, it also announced a $ 400 million investment from Blackstone Tactical Opportunities fund and ClearSky (an investor in Respond), giving the public company a new influx of cash to make additional moves like the acquisition it made today.

It didn’t come cheap. “Under the terms of its investment, Blackstone and ClearSky will purchase $ 400 million in shares of a newly designated 4.5% Series A Convertible Preferred Stock of FireEye (the ‘Series A Preferred’), with a purchase price of $ 1,000 per share. The Series A Preferred will be convertible into shares of FireEye’s common stock at a conversion price of $ 18.00 per share,” the company explained in a statement. The stock closed at $ 14.24 today.

Respond, which was founded in 2016, raised $ 32 million, including a $ 12 million Series A in 2017 led by CRV and Foundation Capital and a $ 20 million Series B led by ClearSky last year, according to Crunchbase data.

Enterprise – TechCrunch

Top six reasons you should caption your social media video content

November 22, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Video marketing is more than a trend; it’s a must. But most companies are leaving out a key ingredient to ensure customers engage with their videos: captions and subtitles.
  • Captioning videos in English or subtitling them in other languages has been proven to greatly boost the success and accessibility of online video content.
  • Adding captions, subtitles or a transcript to videos allows Google to index the entirety of video content, rather than just indexing the video title.
  • Captions and subtitles ensure videos are accessible by all: those who don’t have their volume on and the 37.5 million Americans who are deaf or hearing impaired.

No matter what industry you’re in, video content is likely part of your marketing strategy. And if it’s not, it should be. According to a report by Cisco, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic by 2022. And 72% of customers would rather learn about a product or service by video. Even still, videos aren’t some magic token that’ll get you to the next realm of marketing success and customer engagement. The online landscape is crowded, competitive, and moving at lightning speed. You don’t just need users to slow their scroll, you need them to engage. And when it comes to video content, the solution is quite simple, but often overlooked: closed captions.

Captioning your videos in English or subtitling them in other languages will greatly boost the success of your online video content. As a professional captioner and subtitler, I’m here to help you understand why:

1. Google can’t watch videos, but it can crawl captions

If you’re looking to improve your video’s SEO, adding captions is a quick and easy way to do it. Search engines like Google can’t watch your video content, but they can crawl your captions or transcripts and rank your video based on the keywords they find. Although your video will also be indexed for SEO by its title, description, and tags, captions will increase your keyword density and diversity even further. 

Google can't watch videos but can read captions

Next time you’ve got video content creation on the horizon, make sure you incorporate keywords into the script with this tip in mind, as it will pay off when it comes to video performance and SEO results in the long run.

2. Video captions drive more social engagement 

Adding captions to your videos is almost guaranteed to boost engagement, interaction, and conversion. According to a case study by Instapage, call-to-action clicks increased by 25% after they added captions to their Facebook videos. Another study found that captions increase the time viewers spend watching a video by almost 40% and make viewers 80 percent more likely to watch a video through the end. Simply adding captions to video content drives up clicks, overall view time, and view longevity.

3. A lot of people don’t (or can’t) turn on video sound

Have you ever insomnia-scrolled through Facebook for some entertainment while your partner slept soundly next to you? Or decided to take a peek at your feed during a boring class lecture? Or what about when you’re riding the public bus, having a cup of joe at your favorite coffee shop, or dining out solo? In all cases, playing a video aloud is not ideal… or socially acceptable.

Example of how captions support video experience without audio

As much as 85% of Facebook videos are played without sound. That means, if you don’t have captions on your video, it’ll be skipped by anyone watching with the mute button on, which could be a sizable chunk of your target audience. If you want to ensure your followers can view your content no matter where they are when they watch it, then do your part by adding captions. 

4. Captions boost comprehension, memory, and attention

Hundreds of studies have proven that captions improve comprehension of, attention to, and memory of video content. I’m a native English speaker, but my husband is Spanish. To improve his comprehension while watching TV shows and movies in English, we always watch content with the captions on. I was surprised to find that this also improved my comprehension and understanding of the content, and I now watch all video content with subtitles, whether or not my husband is sitting next to me on the couch. Including captions is the best way to ensure your takeaway hits home and leaves its mark on your viewers.  

5. Captions make videos more inclusive and accessible

Over 37.5 million Americans are deaf or have trouble hearing, so video audio serves little to no purpose to this group. And, only 36% of organizations caption all their video content. So why not get on the right side of that number? Without captions, you’re missing out on connecting with a huge audience. But remember, it’s not all about business and money, ensuring your video content is inclusive of all viewers is simply the right thing to do.

6. Most of your viewers likely live outside of your country of origin 

Making your content available worldwide is another way to grow your reach and the impact of your video content. According to YouTube, approximately “two-thirds of a channel’s views come from outside the creator’s home country.” Think about that: a huge portion of your audience might not fully understand your message or recognize your call to action. That’s a deep pool of potential customers you are missing out on.

Look at your analytics, figure out where your viewers live and consider creating subtitles in other languages to reach new markets. Make this a very strategic decision. Quality translation and subtitling are an investment, so you’ll want to make sure you choose the right language(s) to reach the target markets you’re able to serve. 

A word of caution: Resist the urge to DIY your captions and subtitles

While there are free machine translation, transcription, and captioning tools available on the market, take it from me: you don’t want to DIY your video captions. Leave this task to the experts. 

Captioning and subtitling are skills unto themselves, and without training and experience, can be time-consuming and delicate tasks. Captions and subtitles must follow strict rules, including character limits, reading speed, and cue-in and -out times (when the text appears on-screen and when it’s taken off the screen). Poorly timed captions and subtitles are difficult or impossible to read, which defeats the purpose of captioning or subtitling in the first place. 

word of caution on DIY captioning

Use resources such as the American Translators Association Directory (go to “Translation Service(s)” and choose “Dubbing/Subtitling” from the dropdown list) or visit GoSub’s job board to find a professional subtitler or captioner.

Don’t spend tons of time, money, and effort on creating the perfect video and leave out the key ingredient to ensuring your message reaches as many people as possible. Well-captioned and -subtitled content will increase your views, boost engagement and comprehension, and improve the overall success of your social media video content. Plus, for once, this is a quick and easy marketing fix that can make a big impact!

Molly Yurick is a Spanish to English translator, professional captioner, and subtitler. She is also Deputy Chair of Public Relations for the American Translators Association (ATA), which represents more than 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries. 

The post Top six reasons you should caption your social media video content appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch

Five SEO tips to dominate local search this holiday season

November 22, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • 60% of consumers have been shopping online more often since COVID-19.
  • Making your local SEO strategy a top priority for small retailers and those with multiple locations.
  • Shoppers are browsing more frequently and making more purchases, although they are smaller in value.
  • Local retailers should focus on creating in-store experiences online and pick up.
  • Understanding your local audience and optimizing at the hyper-local level is key.
  • Jim Yu, Founder and CEO of BrightEdge highlights five great ways your business can use local SEO to dominate search and translate it into sales this holiday season.

A shorter than usual shopping season, last-mile shipping uncertainty, and ongoing health and safety concerns are just a few of the factors driving wild shifts in consumer behavior in the lead-up to holiday season 2020. Given how wide-reaching and long-lasting the coronavirus pandemic is proving to be, we couldn’t possibly have predicted or envisioned the circumstances we now find ourselves in. Local businesses already pushed near the brink may find this shopping season more competitive than usual, making your local SEO strategy a top priority.

This holiday season more than ever, marketers need to keep a hand firmly on the pulse of their market and opportunities. Activating as much relevant, real-time consumer data as possible is going to be key.

1. Offer payment options, COVID precautions, and other key conversion information front and center

We know what the important issues are for shoppers this season:

Consumers are browsing, researching, and shopping across online channels. They are more value-conscious than before and are looking for reassurance that their privacy and data are protected when making purchases online.

Get ahead of frequently asked questions by updating your website, social profiles, local listings, and landing pages with answers. These are critically important optimizations—so much so that Google, Yelp, and other listings platforms are highlighting this information for consumers on business profiles. If consumers can’t find what they’re looking for on your listing, they’ll simply move on to the next.

2. Really get to know your audience this holiday season

Planning campaigns based on historic data simply won’t cut it this year. Agile marketers and smart automation will come together to power the messaging and experiences it takes to convert in upended markets.

Nielsen released consumer profiles late in October based on research and surveys undertaken in different periods throughout the COVID pandemic. It’s impossible to predict just who you’ll find at your door (or in your online shopping cart) this holiday season, but expect to see each of these consumer types in the mix:

local search this holiday season - consumer expectations

You can see the very different motivations and types of shopping happening this year. Those who’ve escaped a direct impact from COVID may be compensating for luxuries they’ve forgone this year—trips that were canceled, or large purchases put on hold due to the initial uncertainty. At the other end of the spectrum, you see consumers who are affected both financially and physically, having less money to spend and also constrained by lockdown measures.

Understanding both your macro market and micro opportunities, at the individual web visitor level, is key to capitalizing on your opportunities to convert this holiday season.

3. Feed browsing behavior with high quality, engaging content that complements holiday season search

In our recent research, BrightEdge mentioned that 60% of consumers have been shopping online more often since COVID-19. It’s a behavior that 73% of those plans to continue after the pandemic. Shoppers are browsing more frequently and making more purchases, although they are smaller in value.

Feed browser behavior with engaging, quality content to rule holiday season with SEO

This holiday season, it’s critical that the content on offer is personalized and engaging; that it is an accurate reflection of their needs, intent, interests, and behavior in the moment. Activate your search insights with dynamic content optimizations to keep in step with changing consumer behaviors.

Think like your COVID-weary customer—what is giftable this year? As Nielsen points out in their recent article on the consumer types retailers can expect this year, “From a necessity that can no longer fit the budget, to a product that has been harder to get in stores this year, the definition of a ‘gift’ will look very different this year.” Help shoppers understand how your product/service delivers comfort, entertainment, security, or is otherwise a necessity for that special someone in their life.

  • Use all of the tools available to expand and add interest to your search results.
  • Upload new photos and videos often.
  • Use Google Posts to highlight promotions, in-store and virtual events, products and services, etc.
  • Make sure your on-page SEO is on point and that pages have proper schema markup.
  • Work closely with your paid search team to ensure your organic and paid strategies complement, not cannibalize, one another.
  • Keep it interesting and get more traction across channels by switching up your content types.

4. Focus on creating experiences

Consumers have been spending significantly more time watching and reading the news, participating in hobbies, and engaging with TV, movies, and games at home. They are hungry for experiences to fill at least some of the void left by closed restaurants, shuttered concert venues, canceled events, and the inability to travel.

Even outside of the influence of the pandemic, the customer experience was expected to surpass product and price as the key brand differentiator. Regardless of how much thought or planning you put into it, customers are having an experience with your business. It’s a worthwhile place to focus your efforts on the eve of this holiday shopping season.

July 2020 survey insights from YouGov show that consumers have been engaging with product demonstrations, pop-up shops, and installations. Some of these experiences translate naturally online—product demonstration videos, for example. Events you used to hold in-store could work as Facebook Lives or omnichannel promotions.

Focus on creating smooth omnichannel experiences to rule holiday season with SEO

Give traditionally local shoppers ways to engage, such as QR codes in the window to drive them to an online experience when in-store shopping is not possible (perhaps preferable for them).

Whatever the format and channel, think about the experience you are curating for your audience. How do you show them you are invested in their satisfaction and happiness? How do you facilitate their moving from one piece of content or channel to the next? How do you capture and keep their interest?

Think of your customer interactions not as touchpoints but within the context of their overall shopping journey. Grow My Store is a tool from Google that assesses any retail site, whether for an online or a physical store and brings back recommendations to help improve the customer experience.

5. Highlight your local relevance

Recent Yahoo! Small Business Research found that the vast majority of shoppers (75% of those surveyed) want to shop at and support small businesses. Another survey, this one by Alignable, found that 32% of respondents said they would be spending more money at locally owned businesses in Q4 2020.

How do you make your local relevance clear to shoppers and the search engines you rely on to get you in front of them?

  • Make sure all locations are claimed, verified, and optimized.
  • Localize your content. Engage audiences with on-location photos and video. Refer to local landmarks, get involved in local events and organizations, and build links from within the local community.
  • Do local keyword research and optimize your listings, landing pages, and website.
  • Make clear the fulfillment options you offer local customers: BOPIS, curbside pickup, and contactless delivery.
  • Make the most of your local reviews with close monitoring, rapid response, and highlighting positive reviews across other channels.

Use Google’s Local Opportunity Finder to quickly assess your local presence and get tips and hints for optimizing your GMB.

If you want to keep nearby shoppers off Amazon and away from major box stores this year, focus on meeting customers where they’re looking for products and services like yours: in local search. Keep them reading and browsing out of entertainment, not in an effort to find information that should be readily available. Proactively head off concerns about payment methods, COVID precautions, special hours, and more by keeping your site and local listings up to date.

This promises to be an unusual shopping season for many. Local essential is for small retailers and local SEO for multiple locations is vital for enterprises and Now that you can’t count on previous experience, it’s critical to tap into your search insights.

Customers are telling you what it’s going to take to win their business. Are you listening?

Jim Yu is the founder and CEO of BrightEdge, the leading enterprise SEO and content performance platform.

The post Five SEO tips to dominate local search this holiday season appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch

How the pandemic drove the IPO wave we see today

November 22, 2020 No Comments

This is The TechCrunch Exchange, a newsletter that goes out on Saturdays, based on the column of the same name. You can sign up for the email here.

I had a neat look into the world of mental health startup fundraising planned for this week, but after being slow-motion carpet-bombed by S-1s, that is now shoved off to Monday and we have to pause and talk about COVID-19.

The pandemic has been the most animating force for startups and venture capital in 2020, discounting the slow movement of global business into the digital realm. But COVID did more than that, as we all know. It crashed some companies as assuredly as it gave others a boost. For every Peloton there is probably a Toast, in other words.

Such is the case with this week’s crop of unicorn IPO candidates, though they are unsurprisingly weighted far more toward the COVID-accelerated cohort of startups instead of the group of startups that the pandemic cut off at the knees. 

More simply, COVID-19 gave most of our recent IPOs a polite shove in the back, helping them jog a bit faster toward the public-offering finish line. Let’s talk about it.

Roblox, the gaming company that targets kids, has been a beneficiary during the COVID-19 pandemic, as folks stayed home and, it appears, gave their kids money to buy in-game currency so that their parents could have some peace. Great business, even if Roblox warned that growth could slow sharply next year, when compared to its epic 2020 gains.

But Roblox is hardly the only company taking advantage of COVID-19’s impacts on the market to get public while their numbers are stellar. We saw DoorDash file last week, crowing from atop a mountain of revenue growth that came in part from you and I trying to stay home since March. As it turns out you order more delivery when you can’t leave your house.

Affirm got a COVID-19 boost as well, with not only e-commerce spend growing — Affirm provides point-of-sale loans to consumers during online shopping — but also because Peloton took off, and lots of folks chose to finance their new exercise bike with the payment service. Call it a double-boost.

The IPO is well-timed. Wish falls into the same bucket, though it did hit some supply-chain and delivery issues due to the pandemic, so you could argue it either way.

Regardless, as we have seen from global numbers, COVID-19 is very much not done wreaking havoc on our health, happiness, and ability to go about normal life. So the trends that this week’s S-1s have shown us still have some room to run.

Which is irksome for Airbnb, a unicorn that was supposed to have debuted already via a direct listing, but instead had to hit pause, borrow money, lay off staff, and now jog to the startup finish line with less revenue in this Q3 than the last. In time, Airbnb will get back to full-speed, but among our new IPO candidates it’s the only company net-harmed by COVID-19. That makes it special.

There are other trends to keep tabs on, regarding the pandemic. Not every software company that you might expect to be thriving at the moment actually is; Workday shares are off 8% today as I write to you, because the company said that COVID-19 is harming its ability to land new customers. Here’s its CFO Robynne Sisco from its earnings call

Keep in mind, however, that while we have seen some recent stability in the underlying environment, headwinds due to COVID remains particularly to net new bookings. And given our subscription model, these headwinds that have impacted us all year will be more fully evident in next year’s subscription revenue weighing on our growth in the near-term.

Yeesh. So don’t look at recent IPOs and think that all things are good for all companies, or even all software companies. (To be clear, the pandemic is a human crisis, but my job is to talk about its business impacts so here we are. Hugs, and please stay as safe as you can.)

Market Notes

There was so much news this week that we have to be annoyingly summary. 

I caught up with Brex CEO Henrique Dubugras the other day, giving The Exchange a chance to parse what happened to the company during the early COVID days when the company decided to cut staff. The short answer from the CEO is that the company went from growing 10% to 15% each month, to seeing negative growth — not a sin, Airbnb saw negative gross bookings for a few months earlier this year — and as the company had hired for a big year, it had to make cuts. Dubugras talked about how hard of a choice that was to make.

Brex’s business rebounded faster than the company expected, however, driven in part by strong new business formation — some data here — and companies rapidly moving into the digital realm and moving to finance systems like Brex’s. 

Looking forward, Dubugras wants to expand the pool of companies that Brex can underwrite, which makes sense as that would open up its market size quite a lot. And the company is as remote as companies are now, with its CEO opening up during our chat about the pros and cons of the move. Happily for the business fintech unicorn, Dubugras said that some of the negatives of companies working more remotely haven’t been as tough as expected. 

Next up: Growth metric. Verbit, a startup that uses AI to transcribe and caption videos, raised a $ 60 million Series C this week led by Sapphire Ventures. I couldn’t get to the round, but the company did note in its release that it has seen 400% year-over-year revenue growth, and that its “revenue run-rate [has] grown five-fold since 2019.” Nice.

Jai Das led the round for Verbit, and, in a quirk of good timing, I’m hosting an Extra Crunch Live with him in a few weeks. (Extra Crunch sub required for that, head here if you need one. The discount code ‘EQUITY’ should still be working if it helps.)

Telos, a Virginia-based cybersecurity and identity company went public this week. It fell under our radar because there is more news than we have hands to type it up. Such is the rapid-fire news cycle of late 2020. But, to catch us both up, Telos priced midrange but with an upsized offering, valuing it around $ 1 billion, according to MarketWatch.

After going public, Telos shares have performed well. Cybersecurity is having one hell of a year.

Turning back to our favorite topic in the world, SaaS, ProfitWell’s Patrick Campbell dropped a grip of data on the impact of COVID-19 on the B2B SaaS market. Mostly it’s positive. There was a hit early on, but then growth seems to have accelerated. Just keep in mind the Workday example from earlier; not everyone is in software growth paradise as 2020 comes to a close.

And, finally, after Affirm released its S-1 filing, competing service Klarna decided it was a good time to drop some performance data of its own. First of all, Klarna — thanks. We like data. Second of all, just go public. Klarna said that it grew from 10 million customers in the United States to 11 million in three weeks, and that the second statistic was up 106% compared to its year-ago tally. 

Affirm, you are now required by honor to update your S-1 with even more data as an arch-nerd clapback. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

Various and Sundry

Alright, that’s enough of all that. Chat to you soon, and I hope that you are safe and well and good.


Startups – TechCrunch

How social media influence 71% consumer buying decisions

November 21, 2020 No Comments

30-second summary:

  • Due to the rise of online shopping and the amount of time people spend on social media, social media impacts consumer buying decisions.
  • Consumers who are influenced by social media are four times more likely to spend more on purchases.
  • There are four ways in which social media has a direct influence on purchase decisions.
  • Social media and online shopping shortened the customer journey.
  • Social media amplified the impact of social proof or word-of-mouth.
  • Social media influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience.
  • Stories and ephemeral content are a new way to connect to your audience.
  • Every social media platform is different and can be useful for different goals.

A large share of purchases are made online nowadays and in 2020 this number has grown significantly thanks to the lockdown. As the number of internet users increases and tech companies develop more ways to integrate the online world into shopping, online retail is expected to grow exponentially. Logically, many consumer buying decisions are made online as well, and where do people spend most of their online time — on social media.

According to GlobalWebIndex, 54% of social media users use social media to research products and 71% are more likely to purchase products and services based on social media referrals. I bet you yourself made a purchase decision based on what you saw in your feed at least once, be it a post from a friend or an ad that convinced you.

It’s hard to say exactly how much social media influences customers, not just what they buy, but their consumer habits in general. Social networks changed the way we promote products and even gave us new ways to advertise. Let’s talk about some factors that impact customers nowadays.

How social media influences consumer buying decisions

1. The shortened customer journey

The first thing that you notice when it comes to customers on social media is the shortened customer journey. It used to be that people found out about a product, saw an ad on TV multiple times, and next week they may have gone shopping and finally bought the product. Now, this process can take minutes.

Modern customer journey

According to the Deloitte report, 29% of social media users are more likely to make a purchase on the same day of using social media. That means that once they see a product, they simply click on the link and buy it: there’s no need to wait before they go shopping. Moreover, the same report states that consumers who are influenced by social media are four times more likely to spend more on purchases.

The customer journey is not just shorter but it’s also more complicated now. Social media has made product research more accessible to users. For example, if your customer sees a product on Instagram, they can immediately search the hashtag to look up other reviews and decide whether they should buy it or not. As a result, customers spend more time on research and check more sources for reviews.

62% of customers say they share bad customer experiences with other people. Thus it’s extremely important to keep an eye on your online reputation and seek out reviews on social media. Remember that every review on social media is important — and that fits nicely with my next point.

2. The influence of social proof

Admittedly, social proof is not a new concept: man is a social animal, and we’ve been giving each other recommendations for centuries. The thing is, these recommendations and anti-recommendations can now be heard by hundreds of people.

Recommendations - How social media influences consumer buying decisions

Every time you tweet or post about this amazing cafe or the shampoo that did wonders to your hair, your social media followers see it and might be moved to try it as well. The same goes for negative opinions and rants. As per Forbes, 81% of consumers’ purchasing choices are influenced by their friends’ posts on social media.

Moreover, people proactively ask for recommendations on social media (and brands unfortunately often ignore them). According to this study by Awario, only 9% of brand conversations are answers to customer questions, however, depending on the industry, there can be more than 100 people asking for recommendations on social media in one month.

As I mentioned above, social proof mostly impacts your friends and the people you know. But more and more people on social media don’t just follow their friends — they also follow influencers. That’s where influencer marketing comes into play.

3. The power of influencers on consumer buying decisions

Influencers are the social media users that have a robust loyal audience that often shares the same interests. Their opinions are naturally seen by a bigger number of people, people that trust them.

According to a study by the Influencer Marketing Hub, almost 50% of Twitter users have made purchases as a direct result of a Tweet from an influencer.

Influencer marketing - How social media influences consumer buying decisions

Micro-Influencers are especially effective in persuading their audience since they are usually experts in some niche and specific topic, which makes them a natural source of recommendations for this topic. If you’re selling a niche product, finding social media influencers in your niche — Instagram bloggers, vloggers, TikTokers, or Facebook group admins — is a great way to reach your audience.

Gen Z and Millenials are more likely to be influenced, with 84% of millennials saying user-generated content from strangers has at least some influence on how they spend their money.

The influence of Stories on consumer buying decisions

Ephemeral content is a relatively recent trend but it’s already winning over social media users and brands alike. Snapchat was the first to use Stories as a format, but it’s Instagram that popularized it and now boasts more than 500 million daily active users.

Instagram Stories - How social media influences consumer buying decisions

The content shared via Instagram Stories is typically more raw and unfiltered, which allows brands to create a more genuine image. It enables companies to take people behind the scenes and show how they operate, their work culture, and the team behind the products. All this helps to foster an authentic connection to a brand.

So these are the features exclusive to social media that shape customer behavior today. But as you probably know, every social media platform is a little different. Oftentimes, brands wonder which social media platform they should focus on. Let’s go through a list of most popular platforms and see what differentiates them from one another.

Most popular social media platforms

1. Facebook

Facebook remains the biggest social media platform in the world (with almost 1.7 billion users), even though it had its fair share of scandals and controversies in recent years.

The sheer size of the network means that you’ll be able to reach more people on there but be careful — Facebook is not as popular as it used to be. Edison Research’s Infinite Dial study from early 2019 showed that 62% of U.S. 12–34 year-olds are Facebook users, down from 67% in 2018 and 79% in 2017. This decrease is particularly notable as 35–54 and 55+ age group usage has been constant or even increased.

Still, Facebook accounts for 50% of total social referrals and a further 64% of overall social revenue, shows Business Insider.

In 2015, Facebook was responsible for influencing more than half, 52% of consumers’ online and offline purchases, shows DigitasLBi Commerce.

Lately, the company has been trying to fix its reputation by introducing more control over advertising and data management.

2. Instagram

Instagram is an amazing platform for brands since it gives you so many opportunities to show off your product: photos, videos, Stories, galleries, filters, and more. It now boasts more than one billion monthly active users.

What’s great about the platform is that it’s popular among all generations in all countries. 80% of Instagram users follow a business account. 73% of U.S. teens say Instagram is the best way for brands to reach them with new products or promotions.

Moreover, the platform itself facilitates shopping by adding shopping tags and checkout options to the posts. 130 million Instagram accounts tap on a shopping post to learn more about products every month.

3. TikTok

Although TikTok is a relatively new platform, its rapid growth made it an important source of brand awareness for social media users, especially Gen Z.

TikTok now has 800 million active users worldwide, and 41 percent of these users are aged between 16 and 24. So, if you want to reach a younger audience, TikTok is the place to be.

TikTok’s algorithm is also amazing for niche and specific products since it curates your feed based on your interests. It makes your job of finding new followers easier — the algorithm will push your content into the feeds of your potential audience.

Moreover, TikTok recently launched new ways to advertise on the app, giving brands more opportunities to attract customers.

4. Twitter

According to Hubspot, Twitter is a source of product discoveries for many people.

Twitter's Recommendations impact on consumer buying decisions

Because of its quick nature and ability to connect to basically anyone, it’s a perfect place to ask for recommendations. SproutSocial shows that 53% of consumers recommend businesses or products in tweets while a further 48% follow through to purchase those products or services.

5. YouTube

There’s a debate on whether YouTube is actually a social media platform or more of a streaming platform or content platform. Nevertheless, it’s one of the most popular platforms out there.

YouTube stats on consumption

More and more people are looking up product reviews on the platform. Keep in mind that 80% of people who said that they watched a YouTube video related to a product they want to buy said that they did so at the beginning of their buying process.

If you’re ready to invest your time in creating content for YouTube, it can be a highly rewarding task. Just look at the BonAppetit channel that belongs to the magazine of the same name. It has almost 6 million subscribers and more than 1,3 billion views when the total circulation for the magazine doesn’t exceed 1,600,000 copies in a year.


As you see, the data and our daily experience on the Internet show that it’s hard to argue that social media influence purchase decisions. The impact of social media on customer purchase decisions can be explained by many factors: social proof, the penetration of social media, and the availability of online retail.

However, it’s getting more and more difficult to make your brand stand out on social media. Focusing on the right platform, building creative social media marketing campaigns, and using up-to-date technologies will help you with that.

The post How social media influence 71% consumer buying decisions appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch

Onit acquires legal startup McCarthyFinch to inject AI into legal workflows

November 21, 2020 No Comments

Onit, a workflow software company based in Houston, announced this week that it has acquired 2018 TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield alum McCarthyFinch. Onit intends to use the startup’s AI skills to beef up its legal workflow software offerings.

The companies did not share the purchase price.

After evaluating a number of companies in the space, Onit focused on McCarthyFinch, which gives it an artificial intelligence component the company’s legal workflow software had been lacking. “We evaluated about a dozen companies in the AI space and dug in deep on six of them. McCarthyFinch stood out from the pack. They had the strongest technology and the strongest team,” Eric M. Elfman, CEO and co-founder of Onit told TechCrunch.

The company intends to inject that AI into its existing Aptitude workflow platform. “Part of what really got me excited about McCarthyFinch was the very first conversation I had with their CEO, Nick Whitehouse. They considered themselves an AI platform, which complemented our approach and our workflow automation platform, Aptitude,” Elfman said.

McCarthyFinch CEO and co-founder Whitehouse says the startup was considering whether to raise more money or look at being acquired earlier this year when Onit made its interest known. At first, he wasn’t really interested in being acquired and was hoping to go the partner route, but over time that changed.

“I was very much on the partner track, and was probably quite dismissive to begin with because I was quite focused on that partner strategy. But as we talked, all egos aside, it just made sense [to move to acquisition talks],” Whitehouse said.

The talks heated up in May and the deal officially closed last week. With Onit headquartered in Houston and McCarthyFinch in New Zealand the negotiations and meetings all happened on Zoom. The two companies’ principals have never met in person. The plan is for McCarthyFinch to stay in place, even after the pandemic ends. Whitehouse expects to make a trip to Houston whenever it is safe to do so.

Whitehouse says his experience with Battlefield has had a huge influence on him. “Just the insights that we got through Battlefield, the coaching that we got, those things have stuck with me and they’ll stick with me for the rest of my life,” he said.

The company had 45 customers and 17 employees at the time of the acquisition. It raised US$ 5 million along the way. Now it becomes part of Onit as the journey continues.

Enterprise – TechCrunch

Google, Facebook and Twitter threaten to leave Pakistan over censorship law

November 21, 2020 No Comments

Global internet companies Facebook, Google and Twitter and others have banded together and threatened to leave Pakistan after the South Asian nation granted blanket powers to local regulators to censor digital content.

Earlier this week, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan granted the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority the power to remove and block digital content that pose “harms, intimidates or excites disaffection” toward the government or in other ways hurt the “integrity, security, and defence of Pakistan.”

Through a group called the Asia Internet Coalition (AIC), the tech firms said that they were “alarmed” by the scope of Pakistan’s new law targeting internet firms.” In addition to Facebook, Google and Twitter, AIC represents Apple, Amazon, LinkedIn, SAP, Expedia Group, Yahoo, Airbnb, Grab, Rakuten,, Line and Cloudflare.

If the message sounds familiar, it’s because this is not the first time these tech giants have publicly expressed their concerns over the new law, which was proposed by Khan’s ministry in February this year.

After the Pakistani government made the proposal earlier this year, the group had threatened to leave, a move that made the nation retreat and promise an extensive and broad-based consultation process with civil society and tech companies.

That consultation never happened, AIC said in a statement on Thursday, reiterating that its members will be unable to operate in the country with this law in place.

“The draconian data localization requirements will damage the ability of people to access a free and open internet and shut Pakistan’s digital economy off from the rest of the world. It’s chilling to see the PTA’s powers expanded, allowing them to force social media companies to violate established human rights norms on privacy and freedom of expression,” the group said in a statement.

“The Rules would make it extremely difficult for AIC Members to make their services available to Pakistani users and businesses. If Pakistan wants to be an attractive destination for technology investment and realise its goal of digital transformation, we urge the Government to work with industry on practical, clear rules that protect the benefits of the internet and keep people safe from harm.”

Under the new law, tech companies that fail to remove or block the unlawful content from their platforms within 24 hours of notice from Pakistan authorities also face a fine of up to $ 3.14 million. And like its neighboring nation, India — which has also proposed a similar regulation with little to no backlash — Pakistan now also requires these companies to have local offices in the country.

The new rules comes as Pakistan has cracked down on what it deems to be inappropriate content on the internet in recent months. Earlier this year, it banned popular mobile game PUBG Mobile and last month it temporarily blocked TikTok.

Countries like Pakistan and India contribute little to the bottom line for tech companies. But India, which has proposed several protectionist laws in recent years, has largely escaped any major protest from global tech companies because of its size. Pakistan has about 75 million internet users.

By contrast, India is the biggest market for Google and Facebook by users. “Silicon Valley companies love to come to India because it’s an MAU (monthly active users) farm,” Kunal Shah, a veteran entrepreneur, said in a conference in 2018.

Social – TechCrunch

Adjusting Featured Snippet Answers by Context

November 21, 2020 No Comments

How Are Featured Snippet Answers Decided Upon?

I recently wrote about Featured Snippet Answer Scores Ranking Signals. In that post, I described how Google was likely using query dependent and query independent ranking signals to create answer scores for queries that were looking like they wanted answers.

One of the inventors of that patent from that post was Steven Baker. I looked at other patents that he had written, and noticed that one of those was about context as part of query independent ranking signals for answers.

Remembering that patent about question-answering and context, I felt it was worth reviewing that patent and writing about it.

This patent is about processing question queries that want textual answers and how those answers may be decided upon.

it is a complicated patent, and at one point the description behind it seems to get a bit murky, but I wrote about when that happened in the patent, and I think the other details provide a lot of insight into how Google is scoring featured snippet answers. There is an additional related patent that I will be following up with after this post, and I will link to it from here as well.

This patent starts by telling us that a search system can identify resources in response to queries submitted by users and provide information about the resources in a manner that is useful to the users.

How Context Scoring Adjustments for Featured Snippet Answers Works

Users of search systems are often searching for an answer to a specific question, rather than a listing of resources, like in this drawing from the patent, showing featured snippet answers:

featured snippet answers

For example, users may want to know what the weather is in a particular location, a current quote for a stock, the capital of a state, etc.

When queries that are in the form of a question are received, some search engines may perform specialized search operations in response to the question format of the query.

For example, some search engines may provide information responsive to such queries in the form of an “answer,” such as information provided in the form of a “one box” to a question, which is often a featured snippet answer.

Some question queries are better served by explanatory answers, which are also referred to as “long answers” or “answer passages.”

For example, for the question query [why is the sky blue], an answer explaining light as waves is helpful.

featured snippet answers - why is the sky blue

Such answer passages can be selected from resources that include text, such as paragraphs, that are relevant to the question and the answer.

Sections of the text are scored, and the section with the best score is selected as an answer.

In general, the patent tells us about one aspect of what it covers in the following process:

  • Receiving a query that is a question query seeking an answer response
  • Receiving candidate answer passages, each passage made of text selected from a text section subordinate to a heading on a resource, with a corresponding answer score
  • Determining a hierarchy of headings on a page, with two or more heading levels hierarchically arranged in parent-child relationships, where each heading level has one or more headings, a subheading of a respective heading is a child heading in a parent-child relationship and the respective heading is a parent heading in that relationship, and the heading hierarchy includes a root level corresponding to a root heading (for each candidate answer passage)
  • Determining a heading vector describing a path in the hierarchy of headings from the root heading to the respective heading to which the candidate answer passage is subordinate, determining a context score based, at least in part, on the heading vector, adjusting the answer score of the candidate answer passage at least in part by the context score to form an adjusted answer score
  • Selecting an answer passage from the candidate answer passages based on the adjusted answer scores

Advantages of the process in the patent

  1. Long query answers can be selected, based partially on context signals indicating answers relevant to a question
  2. The context signals may be, in part, query-independent (i.e., scored independently of their relatedness to terms of the query
  3. This part of the scoring process considers the context of the document (“resource”) in which the answer text is located, accounting for relevancy signals that may not otherwise be accounted for during query-dependent scoring
  4. Following this approach, long answers that are more likely to satisfy a searcher’s informational need are more likely to appear as answers

This patent can be found at:

Context scoring adjustments for answer passages
Inventors: Nitin Gupta, Srinivasan Venkatachary , Lingkun Chu, and Steven D. Baker
US Patent: 9,959,315
Granted: May 1, 2018
Appl. No.: 14/169,960
Filed: January 31, 2014


Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs encoded on a computer storage medium, for context scoring adjustments for candidate answer passages.

In one aspect, a method includes scoring candidate answer passages. For each candidate answer passage, the system determines a heading vector that describes a path in the heading hierarchy from the root heading to the respective heading to which the candidate answer passage is subordinate; determines a context score based, at least in part, on the heading vector; and adjusts answer score of the candidate answer passage at least in part by the context score to form an adjusted answer score.

The system then selects an answer passage from the candidate answer passages based on the adjusted answer scores.

Using Context Scores to Adjust Answer Scores for Featured Snippets

A drawing from the patent shows different hierarchical headings that may be used to determine the context of answer passages that may be used to adjust answer scores for featured snippets:

Hierarchical headings for featured snippets

I discuss these headings and their hierarchy below. Note that the headings include the Page title as a heading (About the Moon), and the headings within heading elements on the page as well. And those headings give those answers context.

This context scoring process starts with receiving candidate answer passages and a score for each of the passages.

Those candidate answer passages and their respective scores are provided to a search engine that receives a query determined to be a question.

Each of those candidate answer passages is text selected from a text section under a particular heading from a specific resource (page) that has a certain answer score.

For each resource where a candidate answer passage has been selected, a context scoring process determines a heading hierarchy in the resource.

A heading is text or other data corresponding to a particular passage in the resource.

As an example, a heading can be text summarizing a section of text that immediately follows the heading (the heading describes what the text is about that follows it, or is contained within it.)

Headings may be indicated, for example, by specific formatting data, such as heading elements using HTML.

This next section from the patent reminded me of an observation that Cindy Krum of Mobile Moxie has about named anchors on a page, and how Google might index those to answer a question, to lead to an answer or a featured snippet. She wrote about those in What the Heck are Fraggles?

A heading could also be anchor text for an internal link (within the same page) that links to an anchor and corresponding text at some other position on the page.

A heading hierarchy could have two or more heading levels that are hierarchically arranged in parent-child relationships.

The first level, or the root heading, could be the title of the resource.

Each of the heading levels may have one or more headings, and a subheading of a respective heading is a child heading and the respective heading is a parent heading in the parent-child relationship.

For each candidate passage, a context scoring process may determine a context score based, at least in part, on the relationship between the root heading and the respective heading to which the candidate answer passage is subordinate.

The context scoring process could be used to determine the context score and determines a heading vector that describes a path in the heading hierarchy from the root heading to the respective heading.

The context score could be based, at least in part, on the heading vector.

The context scoring process can then adjust the answer score of the candidate answer passage at least in part by the context score to form an adjusted answer score.

The context scoring process can then select an answer passage from the candidate answer passages based on adjusted answer scores.

This flowchart from the patent shows the context scoring adjustment process:

context scoring adjustment flowchart

Identifying Question Queries And Answer Passages

I’ve written about understanding the context of answer passages. The patent tells us more about question queries and answer passages worth going over in more detail.

Some queries are in the form of a question or an implicit question.

For example, the query [distance of the earth from the moon] is in the form of an implicit question “What is the distance of the earth from the moon?”

An implicit question - the distance from the earth to the moon

Likewise, a question may be specific, as in the query [How far away is the moon].

The search engine includes a query question processor that uses processes that determine if a query is a query question (implicit or specific) and if it is, whether there are answers that are responsive to the question.

The query question processor can use several different algorithms to determine whether a query is a question and whether there are particular answers responsive to the question.

For example, it may use to determine question queries and answers:

  • Language models
  • Machine learned processes
  • Knowledge graphs
  • Grammars
  • Combinations of those

The query question processor may choose candidate answer passages in addition to or instead of answer facts. For example, for the query [how far away is the moon], an answer fact is 238,900 miles. And the search engine may just show that factual information since that is the average distance of the Earth from the moon.

But, the query question processor may choose to identify passages that are to be very relevant to the question query.

These passages are called candidate answer passages.

The answer passages are scored, and one passage is selected based on these scores and provided in response to the query.

An answer passage may be scored, and that score may be adjusted based on a context, which is the point behind this patent.

Often Google will identify several candidate answer passages that could be used as featured snippet answers.

Google may look at the information on the pages where those answers come from to better understand the context of the answers such as the title of the page, and the headings about the content that the answer was found within.

Contextual Scoring Adjustments for Featured Snippet Answers

The query question processor sends to a context scoring processor some candidate answer passages, information about the resources from which each answer passages was from, and a score for each of the featured snippet answers.

The scores of the candidate answer passages could be based on the following considerations:

  • Matching a query term to the text of the candidate answer passage
  • Matching answer terms to the text of the candidate answer passages
  • The quality of the underlying resource from which the candidate answer passage was selected

I recently wrote about featured snippet answer scores, and how a combination of query dependent and query independent scoring signals might be used to generate answer scores for answer passages.

The patent tells us that the query question processor may also take into account other factors when scoring candidate answer passages.

Candidate answer passages can be selected from the text of a particular section of the resource. And the query question processor could choose more than one candidate answer passage from a text section.

We are given the following examples of different answer passages from the same page

(These example answer passages are referred to in a few places in the remainder of the post.)

  • (1) It takes about 27 days (27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes, and 11.6 seconds) for the Moon to orbit the Earth at its orbital distance
  • (2) Why is the distance changing? The moon’s distance from Earth varies because the moon travels in a slightly elliptical orbit. Thus, the moon’s distance from the Earth varies from 225,700 miles to 252,000 miles
  • (3) The moon’s distance from Earth varies because the moon travels in a slightly elliptical orbit. Thus, the moon’s distance from the Earth varies from 225,700 miles to 252,000 miles

Each of those answers could be good ones for Google to use. We are told that:

More than three candidate answers can be selected from the resource, and more than one resource can be processed for candidate answers.

How would Google choose between those three possible answers?

Google might decide based on the number of sentences and a selection of up to a maximum number of characters.

The patent tells us this about choosing between those answers:

Each candidate answer has a corresponding score. For this example, assume that candidate answer passage (2) has the highest score, followed by candidate answer passage (3), and then by candidate answer passage (1). Thus, without the context scoring processor, candidate answer passage (2) would have been provided in the answer box of FIG. 2. However, the context scoring processor takes into account the context of the answer passages and adjusts the scores provided by the query question processor.

So, we see that what might be chosen based on featured snippet answer scores could be adjusted based on the context of that answer from the page that it appears on.

Contextually Scoring Featured Snippet Answers

This process starts which begins with a query determined to be a question query seeking an answer response.

This process next receives candidate answer passages, each candidate answer passage chosen from the text of a resource.

Each of the candidate answer passages are text chosen from a text section that is subordinate to a respective heading (under a heading) in the resource and has a corresponding answer score.

For example, the query question processor provides the candidate answer passages, and their corresponding scores, to the context scoring processor.

A Heading Hierarchy to Determine Context

This process then determines a heading hierarchy from the resource.

The heading hierarchy would have two or more heading levels hierarchically arranged in parent-child relationships (Such as a page title, and an HTML heading element.)

Each heading level has one or more headings.

A subheading of a respective heading is a child heading (an (h2) heading might be a subheading of a (title)) in the parent-child relationship and the respective heading is a parent heading in the relationship.

The heading hierarchy includes a root level corresponding to a root heading.

The context scoring processor can process heading tags in a DOM tree to determine a heading hierarchy.

hierarchical headings for featured snippets

For example, concerning the drawing about the distance to the moon just above, the heading hierarchy for the resource may be:

The ROOT Heading (title) is: About The Moon (310)

The main heading (H1) on the page

H1: The Moon’s Orbit (330)

A secondary heading (h2) on the page:

H2: How long does it take for the Moon to orbit Earth? (334)

Another secondary heading (h2) on the page is:

H2: The distance from the Earth to the Moon (338)

Another Main heading (h1) on the page

H1: The Moon (360)

Another secondary Heading (h2) on the page:

H2: Age of the Moon (364)

Another secondary heading (h2) on the page:

H2: Life on the Moon (368)

Here is how the patent describes this heading hierarchy:

In this heading hierarchy, The title is the root heading at the root level; headings 330 and 360 are child headings of the heading, and are at a first level below the root level; headings 334 and 338 are child headings of the heading 330, and are at a second level that is one level below the first level, and two levels below the root level; and headings 364 and 368 are child headings of the heading 360 and are at a second level that is one level below the first level, and two levels below the root level.

The process from the patent determines a context score based, at least in part, on the relationship between the root heading and the respective heading to which the candidate answer passage is subordinate.

This score may be is based on a heading vector.

The patent says that the process, for each of the candidate answer passages, determines a heading vector that describes a path in the heading hierarchy from the root heading to the respective heading.

The heading vector would include the text of the headings for the candidate answer passage.

For the example candidate answer passages (1)-(3) above about how long it takes the moon to orbit the earch, the respectively corresponding heading vectors V1, V2 and V3 are:

  • V1=<[Root: About The Moon], [H1: The Moon's Orbit], [H2: How long does it take for the Moon to orbit the Earth?]>
  • V2=<[Root: About The Moon], [H1: The Moon's Orbit], [H2: The distance from the Earth to the Moon]>
  • V3=<[Root: About The Moon], [H1: The Moon's Orbit], [H2: The distance from the Earth to the Moon]>

We are also told that because candidate answer passages (2) and (3) are selected from the same text section 340, their respective heading vectors V2 and V3 are the same (they are both in the content under the same (H2) heading.)

The process of adjusting a score, for each answer passage, uses a context score based, at least in part, on the heading vector (410).

That context score can be a single score used to scale the candidate answer passage score or can be a series of discrete scores/boosts that can be used to adjust the score of the candidate answer passage.

Where things Get Murky in This Patent

There do seem to be several related patents involving featured snippet answers, and this one which targets learning more about answers from their context based on where they fit in a heading hierarchy makes sense.

But, I’m confused by how the patent tells us that one answer based on the context would be adjusted over another one.

The first issue I have is that the answers they are comparing in the same contextual area have some overlap. Here those two are:

  • (2) Why is the distance changing? The moon’s distance from Earth varies because the moon travels in a slightly elliptical orbit. Thus, the moon’s distance from the Earth varies from 225,700 miles to 252,000 miles
  • (3) The moon’s distance from Earth varies because the moon travels in a slightly elliptical orbit. Thus, the moon’s distance from the Earth varies from 225,700 miles to 252,000 miles

Note that the second answer and the third answer both include the same line: “Thus, the moon’s distance from the Earth varies from 225,700 miles to 252,000 miles.” I find myself a little surprised that the second answer includes a couple of sentences that aren’t in the third answer, and skips a couple of lines from the third answer, and then includes the last sentence, which answers the question.

Since they both appear in the same heading and subheading section of the page they are from, it is difficult to imagine that there is a different adjustment based on context. But, the patent tells us differently:

The candidate answer score with the highest adjusted answer score (based on context from the headings) is selected, and the answer passage.

Recall that in the example above, the candidate answer passage (2) had the highest score, followed by candidate answer passage (3), and then by candidate answer passage (1).

However, after adjustments, candidate answer passage (3) has the highest score, followed by candidate answer passage (2), and then-candidate answer passage (1).

Accordingly, candidate answer passage (3) is selected and provided as the answer passage of FIG. 2.

Boosting Scores Based on Passage Coverage Ratio

A query question processor may limit the candidate answers to a maximum length.

The context scoring processor determines a coverage ratio which is a measure indicative of the coverage of the candidate answer passage from the text from which it was selected.

The patent describes alternative question answers:

Alternatively, the text block may include text sections subordinate to respective headings that include a first heading for which the text section from which the candidate answer passage was selected is subordinate, and sibling headings that have an immediate parent heading in common with the first heading. For example, for the candidate answer passage, the text block may include all the text in the portion 380 of the hierarchy; or may include only the text of the sections, of some other portion of text within the portion of the hierarchy. A similar block may be used for the portion of the hierarchy for candidate answer passages selected from that portion.

A small coverage ratio may indicate a candidate answer passage is incomplete. A high coverage ratio may indicate the candidate answer passage captures more of the content of the text passage from which it was selected. A candidate answer passage may receive a context adjustment, depending on this coverage ratio.

A passage coverage ratio is a ratio of the total number of characters in the candidate answer passage to the ratio of the total number of characters in the passage from which the candidate answer passage was selected.

The passage cover ratio could also be a ratio of the total number of sentences (or words) in the candidate answer passage to the ratio of the total number of sentences (or words) in the passage from which the candidate answer passage was selected.

We are told that other ratios can also be used.

From the three example candidate answer passages about the distance to the moon above (1)-(3) above, passage (1) has the highest ratio, passage (2) has the second-highest, and passage (3) has the lowest.

This process determines whether the coverage ratio is less than a threshold value. That threshold value can be, for example, 0.3, 0.35 or 0.4, or some other fraction. In our “distance to the moon” example, each coverage passage ratio meets or exceeds the threshold value.

If the coverage ratio is less than a threshold value, then the process would select a first answer boost factor. The first answer boost factor might be proportional to the coverage ratio according to a first relation, or maybe a fixed value, or maybe a non-boosting value (e.g., 1.0.)

But if the coverage ratio is not less than the threshold value, the process may select a second answer boost factor. The second answer boost factor may be proportional to the coverage ratio according to a second relation, or maybe fixed value, or maybe a value greater than the non-boosting value (e.g., 1.1.)

Scoring Based on Other Features

The context scoring process can also check for the presence of features in addition to those described above.

Three example features for contextually scoring an answer passage can be based on the additional features of the distinctive text, a preceding question, and a list format.

Distinctive text

Distinctive text is the text that may stand out because it is formatted differently than other text, like using bolding.

A Preceeding Question

A preceding question is a question in the text that precedes the candidate answer question.

The search engine may process various amounts of text to detect for the question.

Only the passage from which the candidate answer passage is extracted is detected.

A text window that can include header text and other text from other sections may be checked.

A boost score that is inversely proportional to the text distance from a question to the candidate answer passage is calculated, and the check is terminated at the occurrence of a first question.

That text distance may be measured in characters, words, or sentences, or by some other metric.

If the question is anchor text for a section of text and there is intervening text, such as in the case of a navigation list, then the question is determined to only precede the text passage to which it links, not precede intervening text.

In the drawing above about the moon, there are two questions in the resource: “How long does it take for the Moon to orbit Earth?” and “Why is the distance changing?”

The first question–“How long does it take for the Moon to orbit Earth?”– precedes the first candidate answer passage by a text distance of zero sentences, and it precedes the second candidate answer passage by a text distance of five sentences.

And the second question–“Why is the distance changing?”– precedes the third candidate answer by zero sentences.

If a preceding question is detected, then the process selects a question boost factor.

This boost factor may be proportional to the text distance, whether the text is in a text passage subordinate to a header or whether the question is a header, and, if the question is in a header, whether the candidate answer passage is subordinate to the header.

Considering these factors, the third candidate answer passage receives the highest boost factor, the first candidate answer receives the second-highest boost factor, and the second candidate answer receives the smallest boost factor.

Conversely, if the preceding text is not detected, or after the question boost factor is detected, then the process detects for the presence of a list.

The Presence of a List

A list is an indication of several steps usually instructive or informative. The detection of a list may be subject to the query question being a step modal query.

A step modal query is a query where a list-based answer is likely to a good answer. Examples of step model queries are queries like:

  • [How to . . . ]
  • [How do I . . . ]
  • [How to install a door knob]
  • [How do I change a tire]

The context scoring process may detect lists formed with:

  • HTML tags
  • Micro formats
  • Semantic meaning
  • Consecutive headings at the same level with the same or similar phrases (e.g., Step 1, Step 2; or First; Second; Third; etc.)

The context scoring process may also score a list for quality.

It would look at things such as:

  • A list in the center of a page, which does not include multiple links to other pages (indicative of reference lists)
  • HREF link text that does not occupy a large portion of the text of the list will be of higher quality than a list at the side of a page, and which does include multiple links to other pages (which are indicative of reference lists), and/are has HREF link text that does occupy a large portion of the text of the list

If a list is detected, then the process selects a list boost factor.

That list boost factor may be fixed or may be proportional to the quality score of the list.

If a list is not detected, or after the list boost factor is selected, the process ends.

In some implementations, the list boost factor may also be dependent on other feature scores.

If other features, such as coverage ratio, distinctive text, etc., have relatively high scores, then the list boot factor may be increased.

The patent tells us that this is because “the combination of these scores in the presence of a list is a strong signal of a high-quality answer passage.”

Adjustment of Featured Snippet Answers Scores

Answer scores for candidate answer passages are adjusted by scoring components based on heading vectors, passage coverage ratio, and other features described above.

The scoring process can select the largest boost value from those determined above or can select a combination of the boost values.

Once the answer scores are adjusted, the candidate answer passage with the highest adjusted answer score is selected as the featured snippet answer and is displayed to a searcher.

More to Come

I will be reviewing the first patent in this series of patents about candidate answer scores because it does have some additional elements to it that haven’t been covered in this post, and the post about query dependent/independent ranking signals for answer scores. If you have been paying attention to how Google has been answering queries that appear to be seeking answers, you have likely seen those improving in many cases. Some answers have been really bad though. It will be nice to have as complete an idea as we can of how Google decides what might be a good answer to a query, based on information available to them on the Web.

Added October 14, 2020 – I have written about another Google patent on Answer Scores, and it’s worth reading about all of the patents on this topic. The new post is at Weighted Answer Terms for Scoring Answer Passages, and is about the patent Weighted answer terms for scoring answer passages.

It is about identifying questions in resources, and answers for those questions, and describes using term weights as a way to score answer passages (along with the scoring approaches identified in the other related patents, including this one.)

Added October 15, 2020 – I have written a few other posts about answer passages that are worth reading if you are interested in how Google finds questions on pages and answers to those, and scores answer passages to determine which ones to show as featured snippets. I’ve linked to some of those in the body of this post, but here is another one of those posts:

Added October 22, 2020, I have written up a description of details from about how structured and unstructured data has been selected for answer passages based on specific criteria in the patent on Scoring Answer passages in the post Selecting Candidate Answer Passages.

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How China’s Realme sold 50 million phones in just over 2 years

November 21, 2020 No Comments

Starting a new phone brand in 2018 might seem too late in an already crowded market, but Sky Li was convinced that consumers between 18-25 years old were largely underserved — they needed something that was both affordable and cool.

A few months after Li founded Realme in May that year, the smartphone company organized a product launch at a college campus in India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market. It brought its own production crew, built a makeshift stage and invited local rappers to grace the event.

“I was amazed. No one was sitting down and it felt like a carnival, a big disco party,” Chase Xu, Realme’s 31-year-old chief marketing officer, told me at the firm’s headquarters in Shenzhen.

“No foreign company had ever entered the campus. They didn’t think it was possible. Why would a university let you do a launch event there?” Xu, clad in a minimalist, chic black jacket from a domestic brand, recounted with enthusiasm and pride.

“Realme became widely known thanks to the event. People found it very interesting that it was mixing with students. It didn’t just launch a product. It was showing off a youthful, flamboyant attitude.”

Within nine quarters, Realme has shipped 50 million handsets around the world, with India as its biggest market, even larger than China. The target this year is to double last year’s target to 50 million units, a goal that’s “nearly complete” according to Xu. It’s now the world’s seventh biggest smartphone brand, trailing only after those that have been around for much longer — Samsung, Huawei, Xiaomi, Apple, Oppo and Vivo, according to a Q3 report from research firm Canalys.

Realme didn’t accomplish all that from scratch. It’s yet another smartphone brand rooted in BBK Group, the mystic electronics empire that owns and supports some of the world’s largest phone makers (Vivo, Oppo, OnePlus and now Realme).

Oppo family

In 2018, former Oppo vice president and head of overseas business Sky Li announced he was resigning from Oppo to start Realme as an independent brand, similar to how OnePlus started in 2013. Today, Realme, OnePlus and Oppo all belong to the same holding group. That entity, together with Vivo, sits under BBK, which started out in 1998 selling electronic dictionaries in south China and has been diversifying its portfolio ever since.

While Realme and OnePlus operate independently, they get access to Oppo’s supply chain, a model that has allowed them to have lighter assets and consequently fewer costs.

Realme’s pop-up store in India / Photo: Realme

“Realme has an advantage because we share a supply chain with Oppo. We are able to get very good resources from the supply end, stay ahead globally and obtain what we should have,” said Xu.

For instance, the nascent phone maker was among the first to get Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 865 chips and put four cameras into a handset. Priority isn’t always guaranteed, however, because “there is definitely competition between us and our peers to fight to be the first,” Xu admitted. “Of course, it also depends on the progress of each team’s research and development.”

The light-asset strategy also means Realme is able to offer competitive technologies at relatively low prices. In India, its 8GB RAM, 128GB phone cost less than 1,000 yuan ($ 152) and its notch screen model was less than 1,500 yuan ($ 228).

Realme isn’t concerned about increasing margin in the “growth stage,” Xu said, and the firm has “been profitable from the outset.” On the other hand, the phone maker is also introducing a slew of IoT gadgets like smart TVs and earphones, categories with higher markups.

The smartphone-plus-IoT strategy is certainly not unique, as its siblings in the BBK family, as well as Xiaomi and Huawei, have the same vision: smartphones and smart devices from the same brand will form a nicely interconnected ecosystem, driving sales and data collection for each other.

Another way to cut costs, according to Xu, is to avoid extravagant outdoor advertising. The company prefers more subtle, word-of-mouth promotion like working with influencers, throwing campus music festivals and fostering an online fan community. And the strategy seems to be clicking with the young generation who like to interact with the brand they like and even be part of its creative process.

The most enthusiastic users would sometimes message Xu with pencil sketching of what they envisioned Realme’s next products should look like. “They have very interesting and excellent ideas. This is a great generation,” the executive said.

Chinese brands go global

A Realme event during Diwali / Photo: Realme

Realme’s India chief executive Madhav Sheth is equally adored by the country’s young consumers. A former distribution partner of Realme, he made an impression on Realme founder Li, who “understands the Indian market very well despite not speaking fluent English,” according to Xu.

“Sheth is very charismatic and good at public speaking. He knows how to excite people.” Xu spoke highly of Sheth, who is an avid Twitter user and has garnered some 280,000 followers since he joined in the spring of 2018.

The Indian boss’s job is getting trickier as India becomes more wary of Chinese influence. In June, the Indian government banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps over potential national security risks, not long after it added more scrutiny on Chinese investments. Anti-China sentiment has also soared as border tensions heightened recently.

Against all odds, Realme is seeing robust growth in India. In Q3, it grew 4% from the previous quarter and currently ranks fourth in India with a 10% market share, according to research firm Counterpoint.

“During the start of the quarter, we witnessed some anti-China consumer sentiments impacting sales of brands originating from China. However, these sentiments have subsided as consumers are weighing in different parameters during the purchase as well,” the researcher wrote in the report.

“Of course the India-China conflict is not something we want to see. It’s a problem of international relationships. Realme doesn’t take part in politics,” Xu assured. “There will always be extremist users. What we can do is to expand our fan base, give them what they want, and leave the extremists alone.”

Next year, Realme is looking to ramp up expansion in Europe, Russia and its home market China. None will be a small feat as they are much-coveted markets for all major phone makers.

Realme’s onion-inspired model designed by prominent Japanese designer Naoto Fukasawa

Part of Realme’s effort to associate itself with what Gen Z around the world considers “cool” is to work with prominent designers. Xu’s eyes lit up, raising his hand in the air as if he was holding a ball. He was mirroring Naoto Fukasawa, the renowned Japanese industrial designer who came up with the onion-inspired color and pattern of the Realme X model.

“The afternoon sunlight slanted through the large windows. [Fukasawa] gave me a playful look, took an onion from beneath the table, and told me that was his inspiration,” Xu recalled. “He slowly turned the onion in the sun. I was dumbfounded. The veins, the pink, gold color, the texture. It was so beautiful. You wouldn’t think it was an onion. You’d think it was craftwork.”

Gadgets – TechCrunch

Upcoming LinkedIn Ads Products for B2B Marketers

November 20, 2020 No Comments

LinkedIn recently announced upcoming product initiatives that advertisers can expect to arrive starting in November through the end of 2021.

PPC Hero

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