Hey BERT, You’re Not In Sesame Street Anymore!

Hey BERT, You’re Not In Sesame Street Anymore!

Well, Google did something big leaving Bert saying, “You’re not in Sesame Street anymore! But more about BERT in a minute. Let’s get back to how your SEO and website ranking is about to change dramatically, and better for those who adapt … and win!

We get it. Google’s search engine algorithm is a complex and highly secretive system that no one outside the company’s confines can genuinely claim to understand.

But the secrecy behind the algorithm doesn’t mean changes go unnoticed.

The evolution of Google’s search algorithm means it is now unrecognizable from its rookie version decades ago. Its approach to making changes is also different: Google updates used to be a big event, but now, thousands of changes occur every single year.

To understand what it means for your business today, it’s helpful to explore how we got to this point.

A SHORT HISTORY OF THE EVOLUTION OF GOOGLE SEARCH

Google’s updates began slowly and then started to happen all at once. To get a feel for the journey of the algorithm updates, let’s look at the first three significant updates that shaped both business and user experience.

The FLORIDA Update

Let’s hop in the DeLorean and go back to a not so simpler time: 2003.

Google titled its first big update “Florida,” and it was the first time the giant recognized that although it deals in software, the people on the other side of the screen are humans. Florida brought about the predecessor of our current SEO. When the update arrived, it erased the rankings for websites that earned their top score via keyword stuffing, hidden links, and invisible text.

Search engine marketers hated Florida. Retailers despised Florida with a passion since Florida knocked them out of top search places right before the lucrative holiday season. It nearly caused a riot of epic proportion, well, digitally that is.

Then The JAGGER Updates 1, 2, & 3 Happened

Blast forward two years to 2005, and the Jagger update arrived across three phases. The Jagger updates introduced a new focus on backlinks that targeted anyone attempting to use black hat methods and spam to get ahead. The Big Daddy update that hit at the end of the year further punished unnatural linking and kept some websites out of the new data centers.

By now, you can see where this is going. Google’s updates recognized quality rather than shortcut SEO efforts to help searchers find what they were actually looking for – not what SEO-savvy early adopters wanted them to see.

Because Google is more interested is providing it’s users with quality options, finding ways to keep the attention pirates and spammers at bay is becoming more crucial by the minute.

Look Out, VINCE Was Next

The same thing happened with the Vince update in 2009. Vince targeted keywords, and all of a sudden, the previously ranked sites (typically those who achieved their status through hardcore SEO efforts) moved down the rankings in favor of big brand domains. This was the year when if you sold soap, you’d never again outrank Unilever because Google assumes that if a searcher wants soap, then they want one of the big brands.

The year also ended up being a watershed moment for Google because updates became swifter. Several huge updates came out from 2009 and on including:

  • Caffeine (2009) (new indexing system)
  • MayDay (2010) (long-tail queries)
  • Panda, Panda 2.0, Panda 2.1, Panda 2.2, Panda 2.3, Panda 2.4, Panda 2.5, Panda 3.0 (2011) (ended content farms)
  • Freshness (2011) (updated search for ‘fresher results’)
  • Panda Update 3.1 and Panda Update 3.2 (2011 and 2012)

The stream of updates continued until the long-anticipated Penguin update arrived. Panda, in particular, continued to receive updates for years.

SEO AS WE KNOW IT STARTED WITH PENGUIN AND TOOK OFF WITH HUMMINGBIRD

A brief understanding of the earliest Google updates demonstrates that Google began to focus on genuine search intent and prioritize it over the SEO game.

Penguin is perhaps the epitome of this sentiment.

The Penguin algorithm finally introduced a chance to “downrank” the websites that disregarded Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in favor of spammy tactics. It was a punishment of sorts, but Google didn’t intend it to be permanent. If you lost your rankings during the first update, you had a chance to clear out the spam and recover.

In 2013, Google launched Penguin 2.0. Again, it was a chance for sites to improve. The first Panda looked at surface-level link spam, but the new version dove deeper to find less apparent examples and ferret out those who took their tactics underground.

Things really changed with the launch of Hummingbird in August 2013. Hummingbird perhaps represented the most advanced version of the Google algorithm to date. It focused on working through complex queries and returning the most relevant and freshest results. And unlike other updates, it impacted almost everyone: it hit 90 percent of searches globally.

THEN WE WENT LOCAL AND MOBILE

By 2014, we were all fully addicted to our phones, and our data was better than ever. There were 257 million 4G LTE mobile phones, and mobile search was more significant than ever.

Naturally, along came Pigeon.

Pigeon tied in the local algorithm and Google’s core algorithm to help provide local results. It focused heavily on both on and off-page SEO – and you needed to get listed to find yourself in the results.

The Mobile algorithm arrived a year later. It prioritized mobile-friendly sites and pages on mobile searches. Websites that still hadn’t adopted a mobile format were either severely-down ranked or filtered out entirely.

Possum launched in 2016, and it again refocused the search location efforts. This was the first time that search results were narrowly targeted to a physical location.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR GOOGLE’S UPDATES?

There are two significant updates that we skipped out before. The first is RankBrain, which Google added to Hummingbird.  It was the first time that Google attempted to learn the meaning behind queries, which allowed the algorithm to serve them better. It was the first time that content needed to be hyper-relevant and comprehensive.

The latest of the confirmed updates is Fred, which went live in March of 2017.

Fred differs from RankBrain, but it complements it. The update targeted webmaster violations, but mostly, it chewed up and spit out sites that used low-quality posts designed for affiliate use and slow load speed.

In other words, Google started reading – really reading – your content and deciding whether you were trying to be helpful or trying to sell and how fast. It didn’t knock out affiliate sites completely (obviously), but it did set a higher standard. Thus began the demand for quality content that was relevant and on websites that were beyond mobile-friendly, but Mobile First and loaded fast, 3 seconds or less, fast.

Fred also brings us to the next update that’s not yet out in 2019: BERT.

SO WTH IS BERT?

BERT is the most sweeping change since RankBrain, and Google says it impacts 1 in 10 queries.

Like RankBrain, it uses machine learning and AI to understand the searcher’s terms and intent better. It wants to understand the nuances of natural language to provide a better result.

It ties in well to Google’s past efforts to improve both mobile search and voice search, whose dominance only continues to grow. Remember that 27 percent of internet users already use voice search. Because we’re more likely to use natural language when speaking our queries, this update is vital to the health of Google’s algorithm.

Here’s a helpful example.

The word “pool” has several meanings that all depend on context. BERT will help the algorithm deal with this by learning more about speech patterns.

For example, if a searcher says “in the pool,” they could mean a swimming pool or a sports league. Location can then help narrow the search meaning down. Focusing on nuances like prepositions (in, on, to, etc.) is the program’s raison d’etre.

As AI becomes more sophisticated and the consumer market focuses more on the natural integrations of search into everyday life (through products like Alexa), you can expect more search updates to reflect the need to translate the human experience into code. What that means for websites, however, remains to be seen.

THE KEY TAKEAWAY FOR EVERY GOOGLE UPDATE

The evolution of Google search algorithms includes a wide range of updates that tackle different issues in both mobile and desktop-based search.

But two things bind all these updates together:

  1. Stop pretending you are above Google’s webmaster guidelines
  2. Create a website (and SEO) for humans

At the end of the day, Google only succeeds as long as its search results are relevant & provide quality answers for users. But to provide relevant results, it needs to use human-friendly websites.

It’s easy to get hung up on the technical details of SEO and Google algorithms. And these details are essential for stellar execution. However, what matters most is that your site is both useful and unique for your user base.

If you can put your customers at the center of your website, you are already halfway towards meeting your SEO goals for both the current algorithm and future updates.

GOOGLE Rewards QUALITY & Load Speed

The evolution of Google’s algorithms have followed a pretty compelling strategy: as much as Google shapes the internet, it is equally reactive to the human experience of search. Let’s be honest, without humans using Google to search for anything 5.6 billion times a day, we wouldn’t even be writing this.

Google focuses on quality and the person-centered experience above all else. That’s why it punishes sites that attempt to thwart its algorithms by buying or spamming their way to the top of the rankings or load slow. Not only do those sites not help Google’s core algorithm do its job, but they offer little-to-no value to humans.

It’s a cycle of internet doom and gloom that Google wants to remove. To know the 6 critical factors Google is using to determine quality websites over the crappy one’s!

The constant flux of Google’s algorithm presents a challenge, but it’s one your business can meet. Get in touch to learn how we can transform your SEO and help future-proof your site in preparation for the next Google update. Who knows, maybe it will be called Ernie!

Website ADA Compliance – How To Avoid A Lawsuit

Website ADA Compliance – How To Avoid A Lawsuit

If this is the first time you’ve heard of ADA website compliance, your business, large or small, could be facing big trouble. Even for e-commerce brands that are solely online.

Since 2017, more than 10,000 lawsuits regarding ADA compliance were filed against website owners. A majority of the lawsuits relate to websites that aren’t accessible to the legally blind or visually impaired.

color cartoon of man screaming at computer screen

Due to 19 percent of Americans (56.7 million people) having disabilities, the threat for a lawsuit is real for any business whose website is not compliant. Not to mention the loss of business opportunity to nearly 20 percent of the population.

Though big companies like Target, Etrade, NetFlix.com, Hulu.com, Amazon.com, the MLB & NBA, Bank of America, Home Depot, Reebok, Bed Bath & Beyond, JCPenney, Panera Bread, AMC Theaters and Carnival Cruises have been sued, fined heavily and required to become compliant as a result, small, local businesses and non-profit organizations are the growing target and being held liable as well.

“But I’m Just A Small Business. Does It Really Matter?”

Yes. In a HUGE way! Ben Tundis, owner of Island Comfort Footwear in Clearwater, Florida said, “The attorneys are telling us, ‘you can’t fight this. There’s nothing you can do, just write them a check,”.

store owner ben tundis

Photo by Colleen Seitz

Tundis, like the growing thousands of private business owners, is the target of a visually-impaired activist. Countless activist groups are actively searching for and holding businesses accountable if their websites are not ADA compliant and lack the proper coding. These lawsuits are being filed by the stackful against small, privately owned businesses and costing owners $20,000 or even more if the case goes to court.

Businesses who agree to settlements to avoid expensive litigation or lose their cases, must not only pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees, but agree to become ADA compliant within a set amount of time anyway.

One thing is clear, the courts have ruled that most websites must be accessible under the ADA guidelines, and if not, will be held accountable.

Good News – ADA Compliance is Tax Deductible!

tax deduction drawn with fountain pen in white ink on black paper

In the U.S. you can take advantage of IRS deductions for making your website ADA compliant. We encourage you to check with your tax professional on specifics, but in general, you can claim a one-time tax credit up to 50% of the costs between $250 and $10,250.

That’s great news as it will be an investment in your business to not only become more inclusive of serving more customers, but peace of mind knowing you’re ADA compliant.

As a digital marketing and strategy firm here at TechCrewMedia, we feel it’s our obligation to help business owners and entrepreneurs like yourself be properly informed. You’re able to make better decisions about your business that way, and in our opinion, that’s just good business.

If you would like to speak with us now about getting your website ADA compliant, contact us today at Hello@Techcrewmedia.com

Okay, What Is ADA Compliance Exactly?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires businesses to ensure that all their customers have access to the same services, regardless of their physical limitations, even digitally. You may have installed a ramp, increased the width of your door frames, or made other accommodations to ensure that your physical location are accessible to all, but in 2019, it doesn’t stop there. Section 508 was passed in 1998, an amendment to the Workforce Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to included electronic information and technology be accessible to those with disabilities.

The Big Question You’re Asking – “Does My Website Need to be ADA Compliant?”

Let’s find out real quick:

  1. Are you a business that benefits the public?
  2. Are you a local, state, or government agency?
  3. Are you a private employer with 15 or more employees?

If you answered “yes” to any one of the following questions, YES – your website is required to be ADA Compliant!

But if you want to maximize your online opportunities generated by your website, PPC, SEO, and social media marketing efforts, your website should provide a struggle-free online experience for all users anyway.

ADA Website Compliance 101

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has specifically stated in rulings that websites should be designed so they are accessible to individuals who have vision, hearing, and physical disabilities.

It makes sense that everyone should have equal access to websites and online properties.  The Internet has become an integral part of our lives, where we go to shop, learn, do our banking, and socialize.

As the DOJ hasn’t determined what the final set of regulations for ADA compliant websites will be yet, there are established ADA guidelines and standards of accessibility that can be viewed here in their entirety WCAG 2.1 Guidelines , but here are the basics:

  1. Content must be coded for audio translation by screen-reader software
  2. There must be on-screen captions in videos for screen-reader software to read to the blind and descriptions for the deaf.
  3. Sites must include accessible drop-down menus for those who use a keyboard to navigate instead of a mouse.

two computer programmers looking at their monitors with one clasping hands on top of their head

“My Business Is Online Only. Do I Have to Comply?”

Yes. The requirement for equal access used to only apply to physical locations and storefronts, BUT now the government is actively ensuring that the requirements for ADA accessibility include websites and mobile apps.

Any business that is considered a “place of public accommodation” is required to provide equal access to services under the nondiscrimination requirements of Title III of ADA. When you look at the guidelines closely, this includes hotels, entertainment venues, legal and accounting firms, retail stores, and virtually every business that is not a private club, including businesses that exist solely on the web.

“Does This Include Apps Also?”

graphic illustration of hand holding phone circled by various app icons

Yes. ADA compliance isn’t limited to websites. A recent ruling against an online grocery delivery company established the need for mobile apps to meet similar accessibility standards. Businesses need to consider every aspect of their web presence to ensure they are providing an exceptional user experience with access for all. While there are legal considerations that make having an ADA compliant website a solid business decision, it’s also just a matter of good customer relations.

How Does the Need for ADA Website Compliance Affect My Business?

Aside from the negative legal, financial & PR impact not meeting ADA compliance, your website makes a statement about your business.

Having a website indicates you are wanting to share your information, products and services to others without bias. We encourage you that no matter if you own a gym, restaurant, school, non-profit, law firm, barbershop, automotive dealer, boutique, mechanic, bike shop, bar, hotel, online e-commerce store etc., your business doesn’t exclude anyone being able to convert to a loyal customer due to technological bias that could be avoided.

Overall, your website’s purpose is to build trust and help your visitors make an educated buying decision thus increasing your conversion opportunities. If your site is welcoming & accommodating to all, the opportunity for greater sales will be the result.

smiling young woman with arms crossed leaning against counter in a store

Our goal is to help business owners, entrepreneurs and side hustlers like you make a positive impact with their ideas, harnessing the power of the web and social media. Let’s work together and get your website ADA compliant today before you end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit that could have been avoided with our help.

You’ve put in so much blood, sweat and sleepless nights building your business. We want to make sure none of that is threatened with a lawsuit. Don’t you?

Contact us today at Hello@TechCrewMedia.com and let’s get started getting your website ADA compliant!

What It Takes To Rank On Page 1 of Google! Read more here 

TechCrewMedia is a digital and social media marketing agency in Houston, Texas focused on helping businesses dominate with practical strategies.

2019 Google Local Ranking Factors Made Simple

2019 Google Local Ranking Factors Made Simple

 

As we are nearing the end of 2019, we wanted to share critical insights into the 2019 / 2020 Google Local Ranking factors and explain them in a way that anyone can understand and know exactly what to do to get a leg up over your competition. 

3.5 Billion Searches A Day – Proves that all of us depend on Google more than ever to help find whatever it is we need. That’s why it’s SO important that your business is one of the top 5 organic results that is offered on page page one.

Because we recall few details, we depend on Google to help us complete our thought and connect the dots to what we are looking for. When we ask Google to help, it will respond with its best recommendations.

If You Are NOT In The Top 5 – your competitors are taking your customers!

When you take a step back and chew on that for a second – THAT JUST SUCKS! And I know you didn’t get into business to send customers to your competitor!

Below we are going to explain what Google is looking for NOW, and guide you how, with a little effort, to start ranking at the top where you deserve to be! Local, brick & mortar businesses are especially going to benefit from this breakdown without a doubt!

Ready to get this Google Ranking party started? Let’s go! 

Okay, So Why Is Google our Digital “Crack”?

When it comes to searching for something, anything … we “Google It!” Especially for something “near me”, which is the most searched term on Google. 

  1. 80% of all searches are through Google
  2. 84% of all Google searches are using a mobile device
  3. 72% of local searches are for a store within 5 miles of the consumer

Now how ’bout these apples:

  1. Paid Search Ads (PPC / AdWords) ONLY amount to 26% of the clicks.
  2. BUT . . . Organic Results 1-5 own 74% of the click-throughs! Yeah, that’s 3 out of 4 clicks!

That’s because in our minds, organic ranking has a subconscious credibility. Whereas an “Ad”, due to PPC / AdWords efforts, means they paid their way to jump to the front of the line! We kind of feel like they are cheating their way to our attention.

Google’s New Changes Means What Exactly?

Google wants to always be our Go-To for searching. To do that, it has to offer good directions that always deliver. 

Imagine if someone kept giving you wrong directions. You’ll eventually stop trusting them and not consider them as good source. 

So, the 2018 Google algorithm changes focused on rewarding websites that not only met the fundamental basics, but that also delivered positive user behavior.

So grab a pen and paper and let’s get ready to help you get ahead of the curve of your competitors!

Ranking Factor #1: (25%) Google My Business Listing / GMB

 

One of the biggest changes in local ranking factors is the emphasis on your Google business “signal”. In 2017, your GMB listing was only 19% of the factor, but due to new features added, its importance is now 25%!

Recent updates to the GMB listing:

  • Messaging
  • Services / Menu
  • Google Q&A
  • Google Video Posts  

 

BUT because your GMB settings are critical to how you are ranked, make sure you have the correct categories selected, updated address, hours of operation, photos of your business as well as Google Posts that help keep fresh content available for the algorithm to index and that encourage clicks from users.

It’s just as important that you continue to engage customers with the new Q&A feature.

This not only helps improve your ranking, but more importantly can greatly help prevent and or correct any misinformation about your business being spread around.

Ranking Factor #2: (15%) Reviews Reviews Reviews

Did You Know:

  • 92% of Consumers read online reviews first before making a purchase!
  • 8 out of 10 Consumers consider an online review equal to that of a friend!
  • 72% of Consumers  ay positive reviews make them trust a business more!

Why are reviews so important? One word … TRUST! Positive reviews about your business via Google and Facebook prove that other people find you trustworthy and a great experience.

Remember, people do business with those they trust.

And if someone is is in need, they need a way to close the “confidence gap” from stranger to trusted so they feel their hard-earned money isn’t wasted! 

Positive reviews do just that.

YOUR REVIEW REPLIES CAN Drive Sales Up! Up! UP!

Here is the second aspect to why reviews are CRITICAL to the growth of your local business!

Now, have you ever given someone a compliment and they just stood there with no response? You immediately feel this sense of wanting some form of gratitude for speaking nicely of them.

I mean, hell, we’ve have been raised to at LEAST say “Thank you.” when someone gives us a compliment!

Well, Review Replies are essentially Manners 2.0!

So … don’t make it awkward! Show massive gratitude in ways that prove how much you appreciate your customer’s business!

Because if you do not reply to those reviews immediately, the algorithms of both Google & Facebook think that you don’t care about their users.

In return for your “rudeness”, they will not care about you and not reward you with higher ranking or greater content reach!

So, Google & Facebook reviews are critical for the functional aspect of ranking, BUT … there is also the sales benefit of how to convert those who left a review into a long-term brand advocate!

Once a customer has made their initial purchase, it’s now YOUR chance to show them just how much you appreciate them choosing to do business with you!

So here’s how you capitalize reviews:

  • #1 – Reply Immediately
  • #2 – Be personal (none of this robotic, copy / paste auto-response)! That gives off no touchy-feely warm and fuzzies. State their first name and be authentic with your response. They made the time and so should you.
  • #3 – Incentivize them to return as part of your gratitude strategy. Don’t just say “Thanks. Hope to see you again soon!”

Since they’ve done business with you, it is your obligation to compel them to do business with you AGAIN – but you have to give them a reason.

58% of consumers are more likely to do business a 2nd time IF they had an amazing first experience AND you give them an incentive / discount to return.

But also … give it a window of 30 days or so. That creates a sense of urgency and people will prioritize if given a reason like an expiration date / time-frame.

They in turn leave positive reviews, and your ranking continues to climb as well as your new business opportunities from strangers!

Now – How To Turn Them Into Brand Lovers

53% of 2nd Visit Customers have a great experience, they will make a 3rd purchase … if incentivized!

64% will make a 4th … if their 3rd visit was exceptional AND they were incentivized again! You now have a loyal customer with a growing Lifetime Value!

So yeah … Reviews matter a LOT!

Ranking Factor #3: (50%) Website Performance

Okay, the Website Performance Factor is made up of 4 parts and each carry serious weight to Google AND Facebook algorithms that determine who gets rewarded or penalized!

  1. Website Load Speed
  2. Security
  3. Mobile-First
  4. User Experience / UX

When was the last time you clicked on some link or image that got your attention and it took you to a site that didn’t load immediately?

Your reaction was to click back because it didn’t deliver.

1. Website Load Speed

Well, if your website takes longer than 3 seconds to load … you’re causing the same reaction to your prospective customers!

Because we are used to websites loading fast, if yours doesn’t, it’s immediately negated in our minds and we will look for another option.

FACTS:

  • 50% of your website visitors will leave if it takes 3-5 sec to load
  • 90% of your website visitors will leave if it takes 5-10 sec to load

Since it is now the norm, anything slower than 3 seconds is detrimental not only to your ranking, but the growth potential of your business!

Meaning, if you don’t load, you’re old, slow and driving business to your competitor who is fast and ready!

2. Website Security – SSL

If your website does not have an active SSL Certificate activated to your URL, Google considers your site unsafe for its users and will not reward you with higher ranking.

Same goes for Facebook / Instagram.

Not sure if your website has a SSL certificate? Simply go to your website and it will either show:

if it is NOT secure (above), and if it is secure with an active SSL Certificate … will show as ours is (below)

3. Mobile-First Website

So, you may have heard the term “mobile responsive”. Meaning, a code was built to let the website know to respond to the device a website was being visited and adapt to the screen size automatically.

Historically, in order to index web pages, Google used to evaluate their desktops’ versions first and foremost.

To put it simply, indexing is the process by which a search engine scans and saves the information from a website.

Based on this information, the algorithm can then decide what will be the ranking of the website for a specific keyword search.

But since 81% of all website visits are accessed from these tiny things called smartphones, the emphasis put on desktops for the indexing process didn’t really make sense anymore.

This is why Google announced in November 2016 a project to reverse the way pages were indexed:mobile-first indexing.

It means that the mobile version will be considered the primary version of your website when it comes to indexing. 

Bottom line – if your website is not Mobile-First – You’re Last in line to be indexed against your competitors who are!

4. User Experience / UX

The websites that offer a visitor an easy, intuitive and friction-free experience will win every time.

If people are forced to swipe in and out to zoom in order to read and/or click buttons, they will leave.

If that’s your website, like below-left, it is outdated and driving customer-confidence down, creating a pain-point AND sending business to your competition.

Don’t force people to think they need reading glasses just to navigate your website. Think like an app.

Mobile-First is now designing a website for the mobile device, though a separate, desktop version needs to be developed as well.

Not sure of the difference? Think of Facebook and how the app is a streamlined version compared to the desktop UX (User Experience) below.

The goal of your website for a visitor is to keep them engaged, provide them with what is important to them in a FAST and EASY way and continually provide top quality content they like.

Now, here’s the kicker!

If you have attempted to do any social media marketing through Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, and your website isn’t meeting ALL of the above demands, not only is Google penalizing you, but so is Facebook / Instagram with poor content reach and ad delivery.

So now that you’re head is spinning from all of this information, you could be in a mild panic … as you should IF … you now see why your ranking and social media results are diminishing.

Start a checklist and work it until each element is up to par so that your efforts of being the best option to your prospects are not in vain.

In closing, IF you want to be rewarded by Google with higher ranking AND by Facebook / Instagram with better content reach & ad performance for 2019, make the following 6 Updates ASAP:

  • Update Your Google My Business Listing
  • Up Your Review Game ASAP
  • Mobile Site Load Speed – 3 seconds or less
  • Secure Server – Activate your SSL Certificate to your domain
  • Update your website to Mobile-First
  • Make the User Experience Fast, Intuitive and Friction-Free
Facebook Is Developing a Singing “Talent Show” Feature

Facebook Is Developing a Singing “Talent Show” Feature

Facebook Develops New Talent Show Feature

Facebook’s plan to take on Musical.ly may involve more than just its own take on a lip syncing feature.

They’re also working on “Talent Show,” which would allow users to compete by singing songs then submitting their audition.

The feature isn’t live, but was rather an uncover in the Facebook’s code by Jane Wong.

Wong has a history of uncovering yet-to-launch features or those still in testing through the use of reverse engineering tactics.

She’s spots things like Instagram’s first time-well-spent feature, Lyft’s bike program, and Instagram’s new ways of displaying IGTV videos.

In the case of “Talent Show,” Wong discovers an interface that allows users to pick songs, and then start recording themselves singing the track.

The app’s code also makes references to the feature as “Talent Show” and includes mentions of elements like “audition” and “stage.” The auditions load as videos, Wong notes.

How Is Facebook Benefiting From The Talent Show Feature?!

The development would offer Facebook another way to take advantage of its more recently acquired music licensing rights.

The company, starting last year, began forging deals with all the record labels – including the majors like Universal, Sony, and Warner, and several others, as well as the indies.

The deals mean Facebook won’t have to take down users’ videos with copyrighted music playing in the background, for starters. But the company also said it planned to leverage its rights to develop new “music-based” products going forward.

One of those is Lip Sync Live, an almost direct copy of the popular tween-and-teen lip syncing app Musical.ly, which today has 200+ million registered users and 60 million actives.

Like Musical.ly, Lip Sync Live – which is still in testing – a way to broadcast your lip sync recordings to friends.

Talent Show (assuming the code analysis is on point) seems to take a different angle.

Instead of lip syncing for fun, people are actually singing and competing. It’s similar to the newly launched app FameGame.

However, Wong notes that the feature may be restricted to Facebook Pages, similar to Facebook’s new trivia game show feature.

So, it may offer those partners who’re using Facebook to build out games on their own pages.

Also, Talent Show sources the music via the new Rights Manager, used by record labels to track copyrighted tracks’ usage on Facebook.

Over the years, Facebook has taken aim at any other social app that gathers a following and then reproduces its own version of the app’s key draw – as it did with Stories, Snapchat’s biggest differentiator.

It’s no surprise, then, that it now has Musical.ly in its sights, with regard to lip syncing.

And with the Talent Show feature, it may challenge YouTube as the place where new talent can be discovered, too.

Twitter Posts Record 100M Profit But Loses 1M Followers

Twitter Posts Record 100M Profit But Loses 1M Followers

The social media apocalypse is on us this week.

Just days after Facebook’s stock dropped $123 billion in value, Twitter’s shares are also down nearly 20 percent.

The microblogging service recorded a drop of 1M monthly users in Q2, with 335M overall and 68M in the U.S.. International users stayed consistent, with U.S. numbers down from 69 million in the previous quarter.

Bloomberg reported that Twitter’s share price dropped by 17 percent in early trading following the earnings announcement.

The market seems spooked that Twitter has failed to grow in the U.S.. Indeed, one year ago it recorded 68 million users on home turf, and while it has grown its international presence by a fairly modest 3.5 percent over that period, there are doubts as to whether Twitter can increase its audience.

The company itself said it expects to see its monthly active user count drop by “mid-single-digit millions.”

 

Twitter’s Monthly Active Users

“When we suspend accounts, many of the removed accounts have already been excluded from MAU or DAU, either because the accounts were already inactive for more than one month at the time of suspension, or because they were caught at signup and were never included in MAU or DAU,” Twitter further explained in its release.

The company did say, though, that its work with SMS carriers and reallocation of resources, are the reasons why it is forecasting more user number declines.

While Twitter can (just about argue) that its daily user number grew by 11 percent in the quarter — a little higher than 10 percent in Q1 — the company doesn’t actually disclose this number.

The stock drop will be frustrating for executives because, in its favor, Twitter had a record quarter of profit. GAAP net income came in at $100 million with revenue climbing 24 percent year-on-year to reach $711 million. Adjusted EBITDA came in at $265 million — Twitter is predicting it will decline to $215-$235 million in the next quarter.

That profit was above analyst forecasts of $70 million but, following Facebook’s epic crash this week, investors want to see growth potential… and that means more users. Unfortunately, that’s Twitter’s Achilles heel.

Facebook Has Officially Lost $123.4 Billion in Value

Facebook Has Officially Lost $123.4 Billion in Value

In what could be the biggest one-day drop of all time, Facebook shares opened at $174.89, down 19.6 percent compared to yesterday’s closing price of $217.50 according to NASDAQ:FB. 

Yesterday, Facebook was worth $629.6 billion. Today, it’s now worth $506.2 billion. In other words, Facebook lost $123.4 billion in value in ONE DAY. 

Now, today’s performance isn’t due to yet another data misuse or election interfering scandal.

The company has reported disappointing earnings. For the first time, Facebook’s growth is stalling.

There are barely more people checking Facebook every day compared to previous quarter.

Facebook is still growing, however, it’s clear that GDPR combined with a saturated market isn’t helping the company by any means. 

This is why Facebook is trying to change the narrative.

For example, for the first time ever, Facebook shared a new “family of apps audience” metric.

There are 2.5 billion people using at least one of the company’s app — Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.

So it’s clear that Facebook thinks Instagram and its stories represent the future of the company.

But this is going to be bring some questions to life in then next few months as it’s unclear if Instagram can generate as much money as Facebook’s main app.

 

Measuring Facebook’s Losses

$123,400,000,000 is a big number. It’s hard to wrap the mind around how much this kind of money represents given the scale of these massive companies. As TechCrunch’s Jon Russell pointed out, bitcoin’s entire market capitalization is currently $141 billion. So it’s like nearly all bitcoins disappeared overnight.

Who would have thought Facebook could be more of substance than bitcoin? 

Even if you compare it to significant tech companies, this is a huge loss.

For instance, Netflix is worth $158 billion right now. Twitter’s market cap is only $33 billion.

It’s like Facebook did away with nearly 4 Twitters in market cap overnight. And I’m not even talking about Snap, which is only worth $17 billion.

 

Innovating Facebook’s Business Model

Most people have been focused on Facebook’s losses for now. But now it’s time to look at Facebook’s business model and understand what’s causing this these losses to happen.

Facebook is one of those once-in-a-lifetime, incredible success stories.

It did become a massive business in just a few years, but it also has a dangerous business model.

Thousands of employees are looking for ways to collect more data. Business teams can then sell expensive ads because they’re perfectly targeted.

And the best way to optimize efficient ads is by making addictive products that consumers feel like they need.

If you spend more time looking at stories, you’re going to be exposed to more ads. Period.

That’s why Facebook optimizes for engagement. It gets us (users) outraged, we become sad, and we like and we share the post. This is how Facebook makes money.

2018 is a turning point for Facebook.

People will look back at this moment as an inflection point in the company’s trajectory. But it’s still unclear if Facebook has the answer to its structural issues.

Snapchat Is Ending Its Money Transfer Service, SnapCash

Snapchat Is Ending Its Money Transfer Service, SnapCash

Image result for snapcash

Tragedy has recently struck one particular company in the social media world. Confirmed by TechCrunch, Snapchat is ending its money transfer service, Snapcash, on August 30, 2018.

So what does this mean for Snapchat users? Well, it didn’t say what’d happen to users’ accounts, but it did promise that they’d be notified.

This may devastate those frequent Snapcash users, but this was bound to happen eventually with all the competition that Snapcash faces.

 

Snapchat Couldn’t Keep Up With The Competitors

Snapchat officially launched Snapcash in 2014 as a partnership with Square, another money transfer service.

This partnership gave both entities a boost: For Snapcash, they got a payment platform with little-to-no work. For Square, they were able to attach their service to a very familiar brand.

Snapcash provided Snapchat users with an easy way to send money, but it failed to attract interest outside of paying for adult content.

Now this most likely isn’t the main reason for the ending of Snapcash, but it’s definitely not good for the company’s image.

Now the real reason Snapcash is ending has not yet been revealed, but there’s a good chance it’s due to their inability to fight off the competition. 

One of the competitors that Snapcash wasn’t able to compete with is Venmo.

Venmo has really been the go-to apps when it comes to paying your friends.

Unfortunately, however, Venmo isn’t Snapcash’s only competitor.

They’re also going up against competition from the likes of Facebook, Zelle and even Apple Pay Cash and Google Pay.

That said, no matter how well Snapcash worked, it was just one platform that couldn’t continue swimming above the surface.

 

What’s Next For Snapchat?!
Image result for snapchat project eagle

According to TechCrunch, earlier this month, they revealed that Snapchat’s code mentioned a camera search feature codenamed “eagle.”

It’s designed to allow users to scan an object or barcode using their Snapchat camera and see product results in Amazon.

But since the report, mentions of Amazon have disappeared from the code.

It’s unclear what will happen in the future, but camera search could give Snapchat new utility and monetization options.

So it’ll be interesting to see how Snapchat executes its commerce strategy now that it’s discontinuing Snapcash.

Only time will tell!

Increasing E-Commerce Sales Using Instagram Shopping Tags!

Increasing E-Commerce Sales Using Instagram Shopping Tags!

Image result for instagram shopping

As Instagram continues to evolve, online retailers are REALLY beginning to evolve with it. Ever since Instagram started allowing users to link shopping tags to their posts, some brands have been able to dramatically increase their traffic and sales.

One brand in particular, Natori, has increased its traffic by 1,416% by using Instagram shopping. I’m sorry, WHAT?!

Also, Native Union has increased its traffic by 2,666% by using Instagram shopping. Again.. WHAT?!

So what exactly is Instagram Shopping and how do you use them to increase your brands traffic and sales?

What Instagram Shopping Tags Do For Brands!

With over 800 million monthly active users, Instagram is one of the fastest growing social apps, connecting hustling entrepreneurs, brands, and consumers.

The expansion Shopping Tags on Instagram, online retailers can tag their products in their posts.

Shoppable posts automatically provide links to corresponding product pages on your website so that customers can quickly add to cart and check out, or browse the remainder of your catalog.

With 9 shopping posts or more, businesses also get a persistent Shop tab on their Instagram business profile that allows customers to tap to view all products on a post.

5 Ways Your Brand Can Increase Sales Using Instagram Shopping Tags!

Step 1: Make sure your Instagram is set up correctly. This means:

  • Switch to a Business Profile
  • Update Any Business Info
  • Add an Email, Phone Number and Address
  • Connect Your Facebook Page / SHOP
  • Tag Products
  • Share Your Post

Step 2: Engagement is EVERYTHING!

 

To use the feature, brands need only to push their inventory to Facebook (you can make this visible or not to your Facebook audience).

Once your account is approved and you can post Instagram Shopping content, you’ll see an option to tag your products.

Once this is all setup and ready, your focus should be on engagement!

One question you need to ask yourself [or staff], is if your content is actually increasing engagement?

If you’re not seeing an increase in comments and likes, then it’s going to be difficult converting consumers to your website landing page.

It’s important to view IG engagement as a real way to boost your ROI and clicks to your brand’s website.

The bottom line is your engagement is about making real connections with your customers; connections that make them feel important to you and your brand.

A study was done with 30% of millennials who engage with brands on social media at least once a month. At the end, 71% of the participants said they’re more likely to buy from a brand after a positive social media experience.

So, when you get comments on your business profile, it’s VERY important to respond as quickly as possible.

It’s even MORE important that when you do reply, the responses are real and authentic. No copy / paste.

Step 3: Deploy Better Content Than Your Competitors

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You can increase your sales using Instagram Shopping by 10x by deploying content that none of your competitors are

The key is getting and staying ahead of the curve because you’re giving your followers something that your competitors aren’t. 

Step 4: Provide A Smooth, Enjoyable Customer Experience

emerica instagram shopping

Any highly successful sales funnel needs a solid end-to-end customer journey. It takes more than great content to get users to convert to your online store, so always put emphasis on your customer’s journey.

With Instagram Shopping, you’re allowing consumers to fluidly go from a random organic post in their feed, to learn more about the product, to then one simple click directly to the featured product in your online shop.

The skateboard company, Emerica, does an exceptional job of this by displaying their products and directing the customer to exactly what they are considering buying.

Step 5: Track Instagram Shopping Progress

Like any social marketing strategy, one final step should be tracking your progress and looking at how things can be improved.

The same goes for anyone using Instagram Shopping.

Luckily with SimilarWeb.com or Google Analytics, you can track your Instagram metrics.

It’ll also give you reports on how your posts are or ARE NOT helping drive your online sales.

Final Thoughts

As we become more connected to the brands we love, whether that be via a favorite influencer featuring a product or, from the brand itself, the winning benefit of this tool here is speed!

We can see an engaging post of a product we love, and within two clicks, buy it without ever leaving Instagram.

For any brand to find a winning tactic in a sea of competition and great content, reducing the steps a consumer has to make to go from interested to buying will come out on top.

And best of all, this tool is absolutely FREE! Now … go dominate!