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Facebook launches Portal auto-zooming video chat screens for $199/$349

October 8, 2018 No Comments

Facebook’s first hardware product combines Alexa (and eventually Google Assistant) with a countertop video chat screen that zooms to always keep you in frame. Yet the fancy gadget’s success depends not on functionality, but whether people are willing to put a Facebook camera and microphone in their home even with a physical clip-on privacy shield.

Today Facebook launches pre-sales of the $ 199 10-inch screen Portal, and $ 349 15.6-inch swiveling screen with hi-fi audio Portal+, minus $ 100 if you buy any two. They’ve got “Hey Portal” voice navigation, Facebook Messenger for video calls with family, Spotify and Pandora for Bluetooth and voice-activated music, Facebook Watch and soon more video content providers, augmented reality Story Time for kids, a third-party app platform, and it becomes a smart photo/video frame when idle.

Knowing buyers might be creeped out, Facebook’s VP of Portal Rafa Camargo tells me “We had to build all the stacks — hardware, software, and AI from scratch — and it allowed us to build privacy into each one of these layers”. There’s no facial recognition and instead just a technology called 2D pose that runs locally on the device to track your position so the camera can follow you if you move around. A separate chip for local detection only activates Portal when it hears its wake word, it doesn’t save recordings, and the data connection is encrypted. And with a tap you can electronically disable the camera and mic, or slide the plastic privacy shield over the lens to blind it while keeping voice controls active.

As you can see from our hands-on video demo here, Facebook packs features into high-quality hardware, especially in the beautiful Portal+ which has a screen you can pull from landscape to portrait orientation and impressive-sounding 4-inch woofer. The standard Portal looks and sounds a bit stumpy by comparison. The Smart Camera smoothly zooms in and out for hands-free use, though their are plenty of times that video chatting from your mobile phone will be easier. The lack of YouTube and Netflix is annoying, but Facebook promises there are more video partners to come.

The $ 199 Portal comes in $ 20 cheaper than the less functional Amazon Echo Show (read our gadget reviewer Brian Heater’s take on Portal below), and will also have to compete with Lenovo and Google’s upcoming version that might have the benefit of YouTube. Portal and the $ 349 Portal+ go on sale today in the US on Portal.Facebook.com, Amazon, and Best Buy in both black and white base colors. They ship in November when they’ll also appear in physical Amazon Books and Best Buy stores.

 

Hands-On With Portal

Deep inside Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, the secretive Building 8 lab began work on Portal 18 months ago. The goal was to reimagine video chat not as a utilitarian communication tool, but for “the feeling of being in the same room even if you’re thousands of miles apart” Facebook Portal’s marketing lead Dave Kaufman tells me. Clearly drinking the social network’s kool-aid, he says that “it’s clear that Facebook has done a good job when you’re talking about the breadth of human connection, but we’re focusing on the depth of connection.”

The saddening motive? 93% of the face-to-face time we spend with our parents is done by the time we finish high-school, writes Wait but Why’s Tim Urban. “It felt like punch in the gut to people working at Facebook” says Kaufman. So the team built Portal to be simple enough for young children and grandparents to use, even if they’re too young or old to spend much time on smartphones.

Before you even wake up Portal, it runs a slideshow of your favorite Facebook photos and videos, plus shows birthday reminders and notifications. From the homescreen you’ll get suggested and favorite Messenger contacts you can tap to call, or you can just say “Hey Portal, call Josh.” Built atop the Android Open Source framework, Facebook designed a whole new UI for Portal for both touch and voice. Alex is integrated already. “We definitely have been talking to Google as well” Camargo tells me. “We view the future of these home devices . . . as where you will have multiple assistants and you will use them for whatever they do best . . . We’d like to expand and integrate with them.”

Portal uses your existing social graph instead of needing to import phone numbers or re-establish connections with friends. You can group video chat with up to seven friends, use augmented reality effects to hide your face or keep children entertained, and transfer calls to and from your phone. 400 million Facebookers use Messenger video chat monthly, racking up 17 billion calls in 2017, inspiring Facebook to build Portal around the feature. Kaufman says the ability to call phone numbers is in the roadmap, which could make Portal more tolerant of people who don’t live on Messenger.

Once a video call starts, the 140-degree, 12-megapixel Smart Lens snaps into action, automatically zooming and recentering so your face stays on camera even if you’re bustling around the kitchen or playing with the kids. A four-microphone array follows you too to keep the audio crisp from a distance. If a second person comes into view, Portal will widen the frame so you’re both visible. Tap on a person’s face, and Portal Spotlight crops in tight around just them. Facebook worked with an Oscar award-winning cinematographer to make Smart Lens feel natural. Unfortunately it can’t track pets, but that got so many requests from testers that Facebook wants to add it in. I suggested Portal should let you call businesses so you could move around or be entertained while on hold, though the team says it hasn’t discussed that.

Portal’s most adorable feature is called Story Time. It turns public domain children’s books into augmented reality experiences that illustrate the action and turn you into the characters. You’ll see the three little pigs pop up on your screen, and an AR mask lets you become the big bad wolf when you might impersonate his voice. Kids and grandparents won’t always have much to talk about, and toddlers aren’t great conversation partners, so this could extend Portal calls beyond a quick hello.

Facebook Portal Story Time

Beyond chat, Facebook has built a grip of third-party experiences into Portal. You can use any Alexa to summon Spotify, Pandora, or IHeartRadio, and even opt to have songs play simultaneously on you and someone else’s Portal for a decentralized dance party. Portal also acts as a Bluetooth speaker, and Spotify Connect lets it power multi-room audio. Portal+ in portrait mode makes a great playlist display with artwork and easy song skipping. The Food Network and Newsy apps let you watch short videos so you follow recipes or catch up on the world as you do your housework. And while you can’t actually browse the News Feed, Facebook Watch pulls in original premium video as well as some viral pap to keep you occupied.

My biggest gripe with Portal is that there’s no voice controlled text messaging feature. Perhaps we’ll see that down the line, though, as Facebook Messenger is now internally testing speech transcription and voice navigation. You can’t use WhatsApp, Instagram Direct, pop open a web browser either. Even with the Smart Lens subject tracking, Portal is stuck on a table and lacks the convenience of video chatting from a phone in your portable, stabilized gimble commonly known as your hand. Other shortcomings could be shored up with the gadget’s app platform that is currently invite-only, but Facebook will have to prove there are enough Portal buyers out there to lure developers.

So how will Facebook make money on Portal? “we definitely don’t have ads on the devices, and we don’t see that coming” says Camargo. Facebook wouldn’t reveal the margin it will earn selling the device, but when asked if it’s a loss leader for driving ad views on its social network, Camargo tells me “I wouldn’t say that’s the case”, though boosting engagement is surely an incentive. Portal could earn money from enterprise clients, though, as Facebook is already internally testing a version of its Workplace team collaboration’s video chat feature on Portal. The team laughs that Facebook employees are starting to prefer Portal to their office’s expensive and complex video conference hardware.

Privacy vs Utility

After Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s recent 50 million user breach, it’s understandable that some people would be scared to own Portal’s all-seeing eye. Privacy makes Portal a non-starter to many even as they seem comfortable with Google or Amazon having access to their dwelling. In hopes of assuaging fears, Facebook put a dedicated button atop Portal that electronically disconnects the camera and microphone so they can’t record, let alone transmit. Portal isn’t allowed to save video, and Facebook says it won’t store your voice commands (though Alexa does). Oh, and just to kill this pervasive rumor, Camargo definitively confirmed that Facebook’s smartphone apps don’t secretly record you either.

Facebook Portal’s physical camera privacy shield

For added protection, snap on the plastic privacy shield and you’ll blind the lens while still being able to voice-activate music and other features. If you use these, especially when you’re not video chatting, the privacy threat drops significantly. The fact that the shield isn’t attached on a hinge to swing on the place makes it feel like a last-minute scramble after a year of privacy scandals, even though Camargo claims all hardware decisions were locked in before this year.

Doing his part on the PR offensive to combat the privacy narrative, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared a photo of his young daughters playing with Portal, and wrote “Our girls don’t use a lot of screens yet, but we’re happy for them to do video calls to see their grandparents or so I can see them when I’m traveling.”

You could see Zuckerberg’s willingness to ship Portal amidst a storm of negative press as either infuriatingly negligent as Facebook’s privacy troubles remain, or a show of impressive conviction that the smart home is a future people want that the company must be part of. Maybe Portal is an improbable hail mary, but maybe it’s a calculated bet that the cynical and vocal minority don’t represent the average person who cares more about convenience than privacy. Camargo admits that “If no one wants it ever, we will reassess. But we also don’t think we’ll come and get it all right so we will continue to evolve, we’re already investing in expanding the product line with more products we want to launch next year.”

Mark Zuckerberg’s daughters play with a Facebook Portal

Overall, Portal could replace your favorite Alexa device and add seamless video chatting through Messenger if you’re willing to pay the price. That’s both in terms of the higher cost, but also the ‘brand tax’ of welcoming the data-gobbler with a history of privacy stumbles into your home. But Facebook also benefits as a neutral party to Amazon Alexa and Google. If it can integrate both assistant into one device alongside Portal’s own, it could offer the best of all worlds.

For a first-time hardware maker, Facebook did a remarkable job of building polished devices that add new value instead of reinventing the smart home wheel. Teaming up with Amazon and eventually Google instead of directly competing with their voice assistants shows a measure of humility most tech giants eschew. Yet a history of “move fast and break things” in search of growth has come back to haunt Facebook. Video chat is about spending time with people you love and trust, and Facebook hasn’t earned those feelings from us.


Social – TechCrunch


Intel’s 2018 Core i9 CPU Offers High-End Performance for the Masses

October 8, 2018 No Comments

The 9th generation of Intel’s Core series helps firm up the foundation of the PC resurgence.
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What Spotify can learn from Tencent Music

October 7, 2018 No Comments

On Tuesday, Tencent Music Entertainment filed for an IPO in the US that is expected to value it in the $ 25-30 billion range, on par with Spotify’s IPO in April. The filing highlights just how different its social interaction and digital goods business is from the subscription models of leading music streaming services in Western countries.

That divergence suggests an opportunity for Spotify or one of its rivals to gain a competitive advantage.

Tencent Music is no small player: As the music arm of Chinese digital media giant Tencent, its four apps have several hundred million monthly active users, $ 1.3 billion in revenue for the first half of 2018, and roughly 75 percent market share in China’s rapidly growing music streaming market. Unlike Spotify and Apple Music, however, almost none of its users pay for the service, and those who do are mostly not paying in the form of a streaming subscription.

Its SEC filing shows that 70 percent of revenue is from the 4.2 percent of its overall users who pay to give virtual gifts to other users (and music stars) who sing karaoke or live stream a concert and/or who paid for access to premium tools for karaoke; the other 30 percent is the combination of streaming subscriptions, music downloads, and ad revenue.

At its heart, Tencent Music is an interactive media company. Its business isn’t merely providing music, it’s getting people to engage around music. Given its parent company Tencent has become the leading force in global gaming—with control of League of Legends maker Riot Games and Clash of Clans maker Supercell, plus a 40 percent stake in Fortnite creator Epic Games, and role as the top mobile games publisher in China—its team is well-versed in the dynamics of in-game purchasing.

At first glance, the fact that Tencent Music has a lower subscriber rate than its Western rivals (3.6 percent of users paying for a subscription or digital downloads vs. 46 percent paying for a premium subscription on Spotify) is shocking given it has the key ingredient they each crave: exclusive content. Whereas subscription video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video have anchored themselves in exclusive ownership of must-see shows in order to attract subscribers, the music streaming platforms suffer from commodity content. Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, YouTube Music, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Deezer… they all have the same core library of music licensed from the major labels. There’s no reason for any consumer to pay for more than one music streaming subscription in the way they do for video streaming services.

In China, however, Tencent Music has exclusive rights to the most popular Western music from the major labels. The natural strategy to leverage this asset would be to charge a subscription to access it. But the reality is that piracy is still enough of a challenge in China that access to that music isn’t truly “exclusive.” Plus while incomes are rising, there’s extraordinary variance in what price point the population can afford for a music subscription. As a result, Tencent Music can’t rely on a subscription for exclusive content; it sublicenses that content to other Chinese music services as an additional revenue stream instead.

“Online music services in China have experienced intense competition with limited ability to differentiate by content due to the widespread piracy.” Tencent Music, SEC Form F-1

This puts it in a position like that of the Western music streaming services—fighting to differentiate and build a moat against competitors—but unlike them it has successfully done so. By integrating live streams and social functionality as core to the user experience, it’s gaining exclusive content in another form (user-generated content) and the network effects of a social media platform.

Some elements of this are distinct to Tencent’s core market—the broader popularity of karaoke, for instance—but the strategy of gaining competitive advantage through interactive and live content is one Spotify and its rivals would be wise to pursue more aggressively. It is unlikely that the major record labels will agree to any meaningful degree of exclusivity for one of the big streaming services here, and so these platforms need to make unique experiences core to their offering.

Online social activities like singing with friends or singing a karaoke duet with a favorite musician do in fact have a solid base of participants around the world: San Francisco-based startup Smule (backed by Shasta Ventures and Tencent itself) has 50 million monthly active users on its apps for that very purpose. There is a large minority of people who care a lot about singing songs as a social experience, both with friends and strangers.

Spotify and Apple Music have experimented with video, messaging, and social streams (of what friends are listening to). But these have been bonus features and none of them were so integrated into the core product offering as to create serious switching costs that would stop a user from jumping to the other.

The ability to give tips or buy digital goods makes it easier to monetize a platform’s most engaged and enthusiastic users. This is the business model of the mobile gaming sector: A minority percentage of users get emotionally invested enough to pay real money for digital goods that enhance their experience, currency to tip other members of the community, or access to additional gameplay.

As the leading music platform, it is surprising that Spotify hasn’t created a pathway for superfans of music to engage deeper with artists or each other. Spotify makes referrals to buy concert tickets or merchandise —a very traditional sense of what the music fan wants—but hasn’t deepened the online music experience for the segment of its user base that would happily pay more for music-related experiences online (whether in the form of tipping, digital goods, special digital access to live shows, etc.) or for deeper exposure to the process (and people) behind their favorite songs.

Tencent Music has an advantage in creating social music experiences because it is part of the same company that owns the country’s leading social apps and is integrated into them. It has been able to build off the social graph of WeChat and QQ rather than building a siloed social network for music. Even Spotify’s main corporate rivals, Apple Music and Amazon Music, aren’t attached to leading social platforms. (Another competitor, YouTube Music, is tied to YouTube but the video service’s social features are secondary aspects of the product compared to the primary role of social interaction on Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp).

Spotify could build out more interactive products itself or could buy social-music startups like Smule, but Tencent Music’s success also suggests the benefits of a deal that’s sometimes speculated about by VCs and music industry observers: a Facebook acquisition of Spotify. As one, the leading social media company and the leading music streaming company could build out more valuable video live streaming, group music sharing, karaoke, and other social interactions around music that tap Facebook’s 2 billion users to use Spotify as their default streaming service and lock existing Spotify subscribers into the service that integrates with their go-to social apps.

Deeper social functionality doesn’t seem to be the path Spotify is prioritizing, though. It has removed several social features over the years and is anchoring itself in professional content distribution (rather than user-generated content creation), becoming the new pipes for professional musicians to put their songs out to the world (and likely aiming to disrupt the role of labels and publishers more than they will publicly admit). To that point, the company’s acquisitions—of startups like Loudr, Mediachain, and Soundtrap—have focused on content analytics, content recommendation, royalty tracking, and tools for professional creators.

This is the same race its more deep-pocketed competitors are running, however, and it doesn’t lock consumers into the platform like the network effects of a social app or the exclusivity of a mobile game do. It recently began opening its platform for musicians to add their songs directly—something Tencent Music has allowed for years—but this seems less like a move to a YouTube or SoundCloud-style user-generated content platform and more like a chess move in the game of eventually displacing labels. Ultimately, though, building out more social interaction around music will be critical to it in escaping the race with Apple Music and the rest by achieving more defensibility.


Social – TechCrunch


Recent departures hint at turmoil at Quartet Health, a mental health startup backed by GV

October 7, 2018 No Comments

Backed with nearly $ 87 million in venture capital funding from GV, Oak HC/FT and F-Prime Capital, Quartet Health was founded in 2014 by Arun Gupta, Steve Shulman and David Wennberg to improve access to behavioral healthcare. Its mission: “enable every person in our society to thrive by building a collaborative behavioral and physical health ecosystem.”

Recent shakeups within the New York-based company’s c-suite and a perusal of its Glassdoor profile suggest Quartet’s culture is not fully in line with its own philosophy.  

In the last few weeks, chief product officer Rajesh Midha has left the company and president and chief operating officer David Liu is on his way out, TechCrunch has learned and confirmed with Quartet. Founding chief executive officer Arun Gupta, meanwhile, has stepped into the executive chairman role, relinquishing responsibility of the company’s day-to-day operations to former chief science officer David Wennberg, who’s taken over as CEO.

“I’m focusing on our external growth,” Gupta told TechCrunch on Friday. “David has really stepped up as CEO.”

Gupta and Wennberg said Liu’s role was no longer needed because Wennberg had assumed his responsibilities. Liu will formally exit the company at the end of the month. As for its product chief, the pair say Midha had “transitioned out” of the role and that an unnamed internal candidate was tapped to replace him.

When asked whether other employees had left in recent weeks,  Wennberg provided the following indeterminate statement: “We are always having people coming in. I don’t think we’ve had any unusual turnover. We’re hiring and people’s roles change and that’s just part of growth.”

Quartet, which provides a platform that allows providers to collaborate on treatment plans, currently has 150 employees, according to its executives.

In a LinkedIn status update published this week — after TechCrunch’s initial inquiries — Gupta announced his transition to executive chairman:

“Still full-time, though focused largely on our opportunity to further evangelize our mission, [I will] drive the change we want to see in this world, and expand our reach … I have tremendous confidence in David’s ability to lead our many talented Quartetians to deliver this next phase.”

Several former employees seemed less than pleased with Gupta’s performance, writing in a number of Glassdoor reviews that he was “abominable,” “kind of a monster” and “by far the worst executive.”

When asked for comment on those reviews, Gupta and Wennberg shrugged it off: “Glassdoor is Glassdoor.” They agreed its important to pay attention to but impossible to vet.

Gupta began his career as a management consultant at McKinsey and served as a consultant to The World Bank before joining Palantir, Peter Thiel’s data-mining company, as an advisor in 2014. Wennberg, for his part, was the CEO of The High Value Healthcare Collaborative, a consortium of 15 healthcare delivery systems, before co-founding Quartet.

In January, Quartet raised a $ 40 million Series C to expand throughout the U.S. F-Prime Capital and Polaris Partners led the round, with participation from GV and Oak HC/FT. The financing valued the company at $ 300 million, according to PitchBook.

As part of the funding, Quartet announced it was adding three new directors to its board: F-Prime’s executive partner Carl Byers; Ken Goulet, an executive vice president at health insurance provider Anthem; and former Rackspace CEO and BuildGroup co-founder Lanham Napier. Other outside board members include Oak HC/FT’s managing partner Annie Lamont, GV partner Krishna Yeshwant, Polaris managing partner Brian Chee and former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy.

Quartet previously raised a $ 40 million Series B in April 2016 led by GV. The investment marked the venture capital investment arm of Google’s first in a mental health startup. Before that, the startup brought in a $ 7 million Series A led by Oak HC/FT’s managing partner Annie Lamont.

For now, Quartet remains committed to growth.

“We learn from what we are doing and we continue to learn,” Wennberg said. “That is part of growth. It’s hard and you just keep working and growing because we have a huge mission.”


Startups – TechCrunch


Former Formation 8 GP Shirish Sathaye joins Cervin Ventures

October 6, 2018 No Comments

Longtime venture capitalist Shirish Sathaye has quietly joined early-stage investor Cervin Ventures as a general partner.

Most recently, Sathaye was a general partner at Formation 8, the embattled venture firm co-founded by Palantir’s Joe Lonsdale, Brian Koo (a scion of the Koo family, owners of the electronics giant LG) and former Khosla GP Jim Kim. Formation 8 announced in 2015 that it would not raise a third fund and would begin winding down operations.

Sathaye, who’s been in the VC business since 2001 as a GP at Matrix Partners, then at Khosla Ventures, remains a partner in Formation 8’s sophomore fund. His previous investments include Nutanix, Samsung-acquired Grandis, McAfee-acquired Solidcore Systems, cybersecurity startup Vectra Networks and data storage provider Panzura.

He’d only been at Formation 8 for one year when the firm began to crumble. As we now know, conflict between the firm’s founding partners led to its demise. Lonsdale quickly raised $ 425 million for a spin-off fund called 8VC; Koo, in a similar fashion, brought in $ 357 million for Formation Group and Kim followed up with a $ 200 million fund called Builders.

Sathaye, for his part, had grown tired of the “bigger is better” mentality and opted to leave the business of big VC for good.

He began making angel investments and advising startups at Cervin Ventures, a pre-Series A VC fund focused on the enterprise. It closed a $ 56 million fund in 2017, its largest vehicle to date.

“Smaller funds, in general, make better decisions,” Sathaye told TechCrunch. “At a larger fund, there are more people around the table to make decisions. I think returns are better when there are fewer people making those decisions.”

Watching funds swell past the billion-dollar mark and investors deploy the “spray and pray” strategy was a turn-off, Sathaye said. Startups have more access to capital than ever before, yet most companies can get off the ground with very little funding, thanks to recent innovations like Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services.

“With AWS, companies can bring products to market quickly and they can reach their customers with much less money,” Sathaye said. “If you look at it just from a returns profile, the smaller funds will get better cash-on-cash returns simply because companies don’t need that much money to be successful.”

Palo Alto-based Cervin is led by two other GPs, Preetish Nijhawan and Neeraj Gupta. It invests $ 1 million to $ 2 million in early-stage startups. Sathaye says he’ll be focused specifically on the security, mobile, cloud and data verticals.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


Survey: Are you still worried your ads will show up in the wrong places?

October 6, 2018 No Comments

This past Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that brand ads were still showing up on polarizing and misleading sites, despite recent efforts to stop it. The article in particular pointed out how cheerful green ads for the Girl Scouts showed up next to content about Muslim invaders and faked mass shootings. Not good. The Survey Takes […]

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


How to drive clicks through effective meta descriptions

October 6, 2018 No Comments

When it comes to optimizing website content, there’s typically a lot of talk about the importance of choosing the right keywords and drafting compelling headlines – but the impact of meta descriptions on a website’s on-page SEO too often goes overlooked.

While you may think you have ticked all the boxes to boost visibility of your ecommerce site, the absence of an accurate meta description might just be costing you traffic and sales.

So, what are meta descriptions? They are short, unique snippets that describe a webpage. Think of what you would write if you had to advertise the webpage – that is exactly what meta descriptions need to include.

Many people tend to leave meta descriptions blank without realizing the effect it has on search results. A powerful meta description leads to a rise in click-through-rates which boosts the SEO ranking of your page. Simply put, they form the first impression of your website, so you rather make it a good one.

Here are 6 ways you can optimize meta descriptions to ensure clicks.

Answer questions

Whether it’s seeking the nearest plumbing services or discovering the best hotels in Maldives – everyone on Google has come looking for answers to a problem.

Put yourself in a customer’s shoes and think about what they could possibly ask to which your business can pose a solution. Your meta description needs to answer their question and impart value to entice them to click on your website.

While the meta description length has been extended up to 300 characters in order to make them more “descriptive”, it is always safe to stick to 160 characters so that the description does not appear abrupt and incomplete which can be rather frustrating for readers.

Evoke emotion

Let’s face it – emotion sells. Whether it is arousing urgency, anger, joy, trust, curiosity – any piece of content that evokes emotion is likely to be more effective in persuading readers to act. The same needs to be applied while drafting meta descriptions too.

You need to identify the emotional benefits a customer will attain by considering your brand and leverage it to drive traffic. Use words such as ‘attractive’, ‘enormous’, ‘powerful’, ‘unparalleled’ among others to strike a chord with your readers in just those two to three lines.

Use calls to action

Calls to action (CTAs) are powerful words that one must incorporate in the meta description because they communicate a clear purpose and urge readers to take a step forward.

However, this is not the place to use obvious calls to action such as ‘read more’ or ‘shop now’. Instead, you should use words like ‘save more’, state an offer or a tangible benefit such as free delivery or a free 30-day trial in the meta description to make better use of this space.

Incorporate keywords

Choosing relevant keywords is one of the most critical steps for SEO optimization. That said, stuffing your content with these keywords won’t fetch you results. What’s important is strategically placing them in sections that can make a difference such as the meta description.

When Google displays search results, the search words are displayed in bold and it helps to have them highlighted in your website’s meta description tag which indicates relevancy and catches the reader’s attention too.

You are likely to have many keyword suggestions from research. In such cases, prioritize the keyword that has maximum impact for the particular webpage and use it in the meta description instead of fitting them all in 160 characters.

Avoid duplication

Each of the pages of your website are unique so why must they have the same description? If more than one page of your website shares the same description, then they are competing with each other because it means that they are talking about the same thing. This results in Google pushing your website lower down the rank.

So, don’t get lazy here and duplicate meta description content because that just gives the wrong signals to Google, deeming them to be spammy or repeated content which can hurt your search results.

Use rich snippets

Have you noticed some meta descriptions contain links, reviews, ratings and video images among others? Those are referred to as rich snippets. Contrary to normal snippets, rich snippets include structured data to give more detailed information to the search engine, helping people make a better decision before clicking websites.

Rich snippets give users quicker access to information through their visually appealing formats, images and relevant information that ultimate enhance click-through-rates. So, whether it is adding a contact number, product reviews and ratings or direct links – consider incorporating rich snippets in your meta description for it to stand out and attract clicks.

 

Hence, even though meta descriptions don’t directly affect page rankings, it is recommended to optimize them to drive clicks and generate traffic. If you are unsure how you meta description will appear, you can use this free tool to do a quick test before going live.

Adela Belin is the Head of Digital Marketing at Writers Per Hour. She creates content surrounding marketing with a focus on social media and digital marketing. 

Search Engine Watch


9 highlights from Snapchat CEO’s 6000-word leaked memo on survival

October 5, 2018 No Comments

Adults, not teens. Messaging, not Stories. Developing markets, not the US. These are how Snapchat will make a comeback, according to CEO Evan Spiegel . In a 6,000-word internal memo from late September leaked to Cheddar’s Alex Heath, Spiegel attempts to revive employee morale with philosophy, tactics, and contrition as Snap’s share price sinks to an all-time low of around $ 8 — half its IPO price and a third of its peak.

“The biggest mistake we made with our redesign was compromising our core product value of being the fastest way to communicate” Spiegel stresses throughout the memo regarding ‘Project Cheetah’. It’s the chat that made Snapchat special, and burying it within a combined feed with Stories and failing to build a quick-loading Android app have had disastrous consequences.

Spiegel shows great maturity here, admitting to impatient strategic moves and outlining a cohesive path forward. There’s no talk of Snapchat ruling the social app world here. He seems to understand that’s likely out of reach in the face of Instagram’s competitive onslaught. Instead, Snapchat is satisfied if it can help us express ourselves while finally reaching even meager profitability.

Snapchat may be too perceived as a toy to win enough adults, too late to win back international markets from the Facebook empire, and too copyable by good-enough alternatives to grow truly massive. But if Snap can follow the Spiegel game-plan, it could carve out a sustainable market through a small but loyal audience who want to communicate through imagery.

Here are the most interesting takeaways from the memo and why they’re important:

1. Apologizing For Rushing The Redesign

“There were, of course, some downsides to moving as quickly as a cheetah We rushed our redesign, solving one problem but creating many others . . . Unfortunately, we didn’t give ourselves enough time to continue iterating and testing the redesign with a smaller percentage of our community. As a result, we had to continue our iterations after we launched, causing a lot of frustration for our community.”

Spiegel always went on his gut rather than relying on user data like Facebook. Aging further and further away from his core audience, he misread what teens cared about. The appealing buzz phrase of “separating social from media” also meant merging messaging and Stories into a chaotic list that made both tougher to use. Spiegel seems to have learned a valuable lessen about the importance of A/B testing.

2. Chat Is King

“Our redesigned algorithmic Friend Feed made it harder to find the right people to talk to, and moving too quickly meant that we didn’t have time to optimize the Friend Feed for fast performance. We slowed down our product and eroded our core product value. . . . Regrettably, we didn’t understand at the time that the biggest problem with our redesign wasn’t the frustration from influencers – it was the frustration from members of our community who felt like it was harder to communicate . . . In our excitement to innovate and bring many new products into the world, we have lost the core of what made Snapchat the fastest way to communicate.”

When Snap first revealed the changes, we predicted that “Teen Snap addicts might complain that the redesign is confusing, jumbling all content from friends together.” That made it too annoying to dig out your friends to send them messages, and Snap’s growth rate imploded, with it losing 3 million users last quarter. Expect Snap to optimize its engineering to make messages quicker to send and receive, and it even sacrifice some of its bells and whistles to make chat faster in developing markets.

3. Snapchat Must Beat Facebook At Best Friends

“Your top friend in a given week contributes 25% of Snap send volume. By the time you get to 18 friends, each incremental friend contributes less than 1% of total Snap send volume each. Finding best friends is a different problem than finding more friends, so we need to think about new ways to help people find the friends they care most about.”

Facebook’s biggest structural disadvantage is its broad friend graph that’s bloated to include family, co-workers, bosses, and distant acquaintances.  That might be fine in a feed app, but not for Stories and messaging where you only care about your closest friends. With friend lists and more, Facebook has tried and failed for a decade to find better ways to communicate with your besties. This is the wedge through which Snapchat can attack Facebook. If it develops special features for luring your best friends onto the app and staying in touch with them for better reasons than just maintaining a Snap “Streak”, it could hit Facebook where it can’t defend itself.

4. Discover Soars As Facebook Watch And IGTV Stumble

“Our Shows continue to attract more and more viewers, with over 18 Shows reaching monthly audiences of over 10M unique viewers. 12 of which are Original productions. As a platform overall, we’ve grown the amount of total time spent engaging with our Shows product, almost tripling since the beginning of the year. Our audience for Publisher Stories has increased over 20% YoY, and we believe there is a significant opportunity to continue growing the number of people who engage with Discover content . . .We are also working to identify content that is performing well outside of Snapchat so that we can bring it into Discover. “

Discover remains Snapchat’s biggest differentiator, scoring with premium video content purposefully made for mobile. What it really needs, though, are a few must-see tentpole shows to drag in a wider audience that can get hooked on the reimagined digital magazine experience.

5. But Discover Is A Mess

“Our content team is working hard to experiment with new layouts and content types in the wake of our redesign to drive increased engagement.”

Snapchat Discover is an overcrowded pile of clickbait. News outlets, social media influencers, original video Shows, and aggregated user content collections all battle for attention in a design that feels overwhelming to the point of exhaustion. Thankfully Snapchat seems to recognize that more cohesive sorting with fewer images and headlines bombarding you might make Discover a more pleasant lean-back consumption experience.

6. Aging Up To Earn Money

“Most of the incremental growth in our core markets like the US, UK, and France will have to come from older users who generate higher average revenue per user . . . Growing in older demographics will require us to mature our application . . . Many older users today see Snapchat as frivolous or a waste of time because they think Snapchat is social media rather than a faster way to communicate. Changing the design language of our product and improving our marketing and communications around Snapchat will help users understand our value . . . aging-up our community in core markets will also help the media, advertisers, and Wall Street understand Snapchat.”

Snapchat can’t just be for cool kids anymore. Their lower buying power and lifestage make them less appealing to brands. The problem is that Snapchat risks turning off younger users by courting their older siblings or adults. If, like Facebook, users start to feel like Snapchat is a place for parents, they may defect in search of the next purposefully built to confuse adults to stay hip.

7. Finally Prioritizing Developing Markets

“We already have many projects underway to unlock our core product value in new markets. Mushroom allows our community to use Snapchat on lower-end devices. Arroyo, our new gateway architecture, will speed up messaging and many other services . . . It might require us to change our products for different markets where some of our value-add features detract from our core product value”

Sources tell me Snapchat’s future depends on the engineering overhaul of its Android app, a project codenamed ‘Mushroom’. Slow video load times and bugs have made Snapchat practically unusable on low-bandwidth connections and old Android phones in the developing world. The company concentrated on the US and other first-world markets, leaving the door open for copycats of Stories built by Instagram (400 million daily users) and WhatsApp (450 million daily users) to invade the developing world and dwarf Snap’s 188 million total daily users. In hopes of a smooth rollout, Snapchat is already testing Mushroom, but it will have to do a ton of marketing outreach to convince frustrated users who ditched the app to give it another try.

8. Fresh Ideas, Separate Apps

“We’re currently building software that takes the millions of Snaps submitted to Our Story and reconstructs parts of the world in 3D. We can then build augmented reality experiences on top of those models and distribute them as Lenses . . . If our innovation compromises our core product of being the fastest way to communicate, we should consider create [sic] separate applications or other ways of delivering our innovation.”

Snapchat has big plans for augmented reality. It doesn’t just want to stick animations over the top of anywhere, or create AR art installations in a few big cities. It wants to build site-specific AR experiences across the globe. And while everything the company has built to date has lived inside of Snapchat, it’s willing to spawn standalone apps if necessary so that it doesn’t bog down its messaging service. That could give Snapchat a lot more leeway to experiment.

9. The Freedom Of Profitability

“Our 2019 stretch output goal will be an acceleration in revenue growth and full year free cash flow and profitability. With profitability comes increased autonomy and freedom to operate our business in the long term best interest of our community without the pressure of needing to raise additional capital.”

Snapchat is still bleeding money, losing $ 353 million last quarter. Snapchat ended up selling 2.3 percent of its equity to a Saudi Arabian prince in exchange for $ 250 million to lengthen its rapidly shortening runway. And last year it took $ 2 billion from Chinese gaming giant Tencent. Deals like that could threaten Snapchat’s ability to prioritize its goals alone, not the moral imperatives or developer platforms that would benefit its benefactors. Once profitable, Snapchat won’t have to worry so much about struggling with short-term user growth and can instead focus on retention, societal impact, and its true purpose — creativity.

Mobile – TechCrunch


10 Tips To Fix Facebook Ads Under Delivery

October 4, 2018 No Comments

Follow these 10 tips to help you fix under delivery of your ads in Facebook Ads.

Read more at PPCHero.com
PPC Hero


Product Hunt Radio: The evolution of Y Combinator, and counter-intuitive advice for founders

October 3, 2018 No Comments

In this episode of Product Hunt Radio, I’m visiting Y Combinator’s San Francisco headquarters to talk to two of the people who are integral to Y Combinator — Kat Manalac and Michael Seibel.

Michael is CEO of Y Combinator’s accelerator program. He has been through YC himself a couple of times — first in 2007, as co-founder and CEO of Justin.tv — and again in 2012 as co-founder and CEO of Socialcam. Justin.tv later became Twitch and sold to Amazon, and Socialcam was sold to Autodesk.

Kat is a partner at Y Combinator and one of the people who convinced us to apply to join the program back in 2014. She has been at YC for five years, where she focuses on founder outreach, helping companies perfect their pitches, and much more. Prior to joining YC, she was chief of staff to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian and also worked on brand and strategy at WIRED.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The evolution of Y Combinator — it’s changed a ton since Product Hunt went through the program four years ago. They’ve been working on several programs for founders — things that Michael wishes existed when he went through the program.
  • Michael and Kat’s advice for founders, including counter-intuitive tips they’ve learned after working with literally thousands of startups.
  • A key mistake that trips up new founders when pitching their company, as well as advice for founders seeking a technical co-founder.
  • How YC has scaled the organization as a 50-person company with its 4,000 (and growing) alumni.

Of course, we also chat about some of their favorite products, including a virtual assistant that will do anything, a $ 1,500 smart mirror that will get you fit, and a beverage that will get you high.

We’ll be back next week so be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Overcast, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.


Startups – TechCrunch


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