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Motorola Droid X PDA Review

August 20, 2019 No Comments

Smart phones just cannot stop getting better. The Droid X is the
latest super-phone to hit the…
Cheap Phones


Twitter leads $100M round in top Indian regional social media platform ShareChat

August 20, 2019 No Comments

Is there room for another social media platform? ShareChat, a four-year-old social network in India that serves tens of million of people in regional languages, just answered that question with a $ 100 million financing round led by global giant Twitter .

Other than Twitter, TrustBridge Partners, and existing investors Shunwei Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, SAIF Capital, India Quotient and Morningside Venture Capital also participated in the Series D round of ShareChat.

The new round, which pushes ShareChat’s all-time raise to $ 224 million, valued the firm at about $ 650 million, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch. ShareChat declined to comment on the valuation.

Screen Shot 2019 08 16 at 8.38.38 AM

“Twitter and ShareChat are aligned on the broader purpose of serving the public conversation, helping the world learn faster and solve common challenges. This investment will help ShareChat grow and provide the company’s management team access to Twitter’s executives as thought partners,” said Manish Maheshwari, managing director of Twitter India, in a prepared statement.

Twitter, like many other Silicon Valley firms, counts India as one of its key markets. And like Twitter, other Silicon Valley firms are also increasingly investing in Indian startups.

ShareChat serves 60 million users each month in 15 regional languages, Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and CEO of the firm, told TechCrunch in an interview. The platform currently does not support English, and has no plans to change that, Sachdeva said.

That choice is what has driven users to ShareChat, he explained. The early incarnation of the social media platform supported English language. It saw most of its users choose English as their preferred language, but this also led to another interesting development: Their engagement with the app significantly reduced.

The origin story

“For some reason, everyone wanted to converse in English. There was an inherent bias to pick English even when they did not know it.” (Only about 10% of India’s 1.3 billion people speak English. Hindi, a regional language, on the other hand, is spoken by about half a billion people, according to official government figures.)

So ShareChat pulled support for English. Today, an average user spends 22 minutes on the app each day, Sachdeva said. The learning in the early days to remove English is just one of the many things that has shaped ShareChat to what it is today and led to its growth.

In 2014, Sachdeva and two of his friends — Bhanu Singh and Farid Ahsan, all of whom met at the prestigious institute IIT Kanpur — got the idea of building a debate platform by looking at the kind of discussions people were having on Facebook groups.

They identified that cricket and movie stars were popular conversation topics, so they created WhatsApp groups and aggressively posted links to those groups on Facebook to attract users.

It was then when they built chatbots to allow users to discover different genres of jokes, recommendations for phones and food recipes, among other things. But they soon realized that users weren’t interested in most of such offerings.

“Nobody cared about our smartphone recommendations. All they wanted was to download wallpapers, ringtones, copy jokes and move on. They just wanted content.”

sharechat team

So in 2015, Sachdeva and company moved on from chatbots and created an app where users can easily produce, discover and share content in the languages they understand. (Today, user generated content is one of the key attractions of the platform, with about 15% of its user base actively producing content.)

A year later, ShareChat, like tens of thousands of other businesses, was in for a pleasant surprise. India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, launched his new telecom network Reliance Jio, which offered users access to the bulk of data at little to no charge for an extended period of time.

This immediately changed the way millions of people in the country, who once cared about each megabyte they consumed online, interacted with the internet. On ShareChat people quickly started to move from sharing jokes and other messages in text format to images and then videos.

Path ahead and monetization

That momentum continues to today. ShareChat now plans to give users more incentive — including money — and tools to produce content on the platform to drive engagement. “There remains a huge hunger for content in vernacular languages,” Sachdeva said.

Speaking of money, ShareChat has experimented with ads on the app and its site, but revenue generation isn’t currently its primary focus, Sachdeva said. “We’re in the Series D now so there is obviously an obligation we have to our investors to make money. But we all believe that we need to focus on growth at this stage,” he said.

ShareChat, which is headquartered in Bangalore, also has many users in Bangladesh, Nepal and the Middle East, where many users speak Indian regional languages. But the startup currently plans to focus largely on expanding its user base in India, hopefully doubling it in the next one year, he said.

It will use the new capital to strengthen the technology infrastructure and hire more tech talent. Sachdeva said ShareChat is looking to open an office in San Francisco to hire local engineers there.

A handful of local and global giants have emerged in India in recent years to cater to people in small cities and villages, who are just getting online. Pratilipi, a storytelling platform has amassed more than 5 million users, for instance. It recently raised $ 15 million to expand its user base and help users strike deals with content studios.

Perhaps no other app poses a bigger challenge to ShareChat than TikTok, an app where users share short-form videos. TikTok, owned by one of the world’s most valued startups, has over 120 million users in India and sees content in many Indian languages.

But the app — with its ever growing ambitions — also tends to land itself in hot water in India every few weeks. In all sensitive corners of the country. On that front, ShareChat has an advantage. Over the years, it has emerged as an outlier in the country that has strongly supported proposed laws by the Indian government that seek to make social apps more accountable for content that circulates on their platforms. Though it is grappling with some of this issue, too.


Social – TechCrunch


IAC acquires nursing marketplace NurseFly for $15M

August 20, 2019 No Comments

NurseFly, a startup that’s created a job marketplace for short-term nursing positions, is announcing its acquisition by holding company IAC.

While the companies aren’t disclosing the deal terms, a source with knowledge of the acquisition said the price was $ 15 million.

Co-founder and CEO Parth Bhakta told me that hospitals often hire travel nurses (signed for contracts of 13 weeks or a few months) when there’s a staffing shortage, or just because of seasonal needs. He said job sites aren’t really designed to fill these positions, while the existing, offline hiring process is “opaque,” where a nurse’s application “kind of goes into a black hole.”

On NurseFly, on the other hand, nurses can compare multiple offers, chat with employers and research the cost-of-living in different locations. The startup works directly with staffing agencies, charging them a subscription fee (the nurses use the site for free) for access to a pool of qualified candidates who have already provided the necessary documentation.

The startup was founded in 2017 and says it currently has more than 30,000 active job listings, with revenue growing 6x year-over-year. It’s headquartered in San Francisco and recently opened an additional office in Denver.

Bhakta described IAC as the “perfect partner” to help NurseFly “really go after the opportunity with additional resources, really go after it more aggressively with a larger team and organization, to create the best place for healthcare job seekers.”

Bhakta and his co-founder/CTO Eric Conner will continue to lead NurseFly post-acquisition. The company will become part of IAC’s Emerging & Other segment, which already includes staffing platform Bluecrew, and Bluecrew CEO Adam Roston will become NurseFly’s chairman.


Startups – TechCrunch


New brand, new home: Where to find Google Marketing Platform online

August 20, 2019 No Comments

When we brought together DoubleClick and the Google Analytics 360 Suite under Google Marketing Platform, we knew we had to make some changes to our websites, blogs and social media channels too. Now, the resources you’ve been reading and visiting over the years have been updated to reflect our new brand, so you can find the latest news, tips and more on our advertising and analytics solutions in one spot.

First, you should know that we’ve moved our content and product information to marketingplatform.google.com. You’ll also find product sign-in links there. (Those bookmarks you have for the old DoubleClick and Google Analytics websites should automatically redirect you.)

We’ve also launched new and improved blogs, with information for our product users and enterprise customers. We’ll be regularly updating them with product news and digital marketing insights. Bookmark us.

Of course, you can also connect with Google Marketing Platform on social:

Twitter: Follow @GMktgPlatform

LinkedIn: Follow Google Marketing Platform for updates

YouTube: Subscribe for new videos

You’ll find customer stories, major product announcements, research, reports and other advertising and analytics content intended for large enterprises.

And don’t worry: We haven’t changed the Google Analytics social channels. We will continue to bring you product news and tips on Google+, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook.

We hope you like our new home. Thanks for visiting, and come back soon!


Google Analytics Blog


The five technical challenges Cerebras overcame in building the first trillion transistor chip

August 20, 2019 No Comments

Superlatives abound at Cerebras, the until-today stealthy next-generation silicon chip company looking to make training a deep learning model as quick as buying toothpaste from Amazon. Launching after almost three years of quiet development, Cerebras introduced its new chip today — and it is a doozy. The “Wafer Scale Engine” is 1.2 trillion transistors (the most ever), 46,225 square millimeters (the largest ever), and includes 18 gigabytes of on-chip memory (the most of any chip on the market today) and 400,000 processing cores (guess the superlative).

CS Wafer Keyboard Comparison

Cerebras’ Wafer Scale Engine is larger than a typical Mac keyboard (via Cerebras Systems)

It’s made a big splash here at Stanford University at the Hot Chips conference, one of the silicon industry’s big confabs for product introductions and roadmaps, with various levels of oohs and aahs among attendees. You can read more about the chip from Tiernan Ray at Fortune and read the white paper from Cerebras itself.

Superlatives aside though, the technical challenges that Cerebras had to overcome to reach this milestone I think is the more interesting story here. I sat down with founder and CEO Andrew Feldman this afternoon to discuss what his 173 engineers have been building quietly just down the street here these past few years with $ 112 million in venture capital funding from Benchmark and others.

Going big means nothing but challenges

First, a quick background on how the chips that power your phones and computers get made. Fabs like TSMC take standard-sized silicon wafers and divide them into individual chips by using light to etch the transistors into the chip. Wafers are circles and chips are squares, and so there is some basic geometry involved in subdividing that circle into a clear array of individual chips.

One big challenge in this lithography process is that errors can creep into the manufacturing process, requiring extensive testing to verify quality and forcing fabs to throw away poorly performing chips. The smaller and more compact the chip, the less likely any individual chip will be inoperative, and the higher the yield for the fab. Higher yield equals higher profits.

Cerebras throws out the idea of etching a bunch of individual chips onto a single wafer in lieu of just using the whole wafer itself as one gigantic chip. That allows all of those individual cores to connect with one another directly — vastly speeding up the critical feedback loops used in deep learning algorithms — but comes at the cost of huge manufacturing and design challenges to create and manage these chips.

CS Wafer Sean

Cerebras’ technical architecture and design was led by co-founder Sean Lie. Feldman and Lie worked together on a previous startup called SeaMicro, which sold to AMD in 2012 for $ 334 million. (Via Cerebras Systems)

The first challenge the team ran into according to Feldman was handling communication across the “scribe lines.” While Cerebras chip encompasses a full wafer, today’s lithography equipment still has to act like there are individual chips being etched into the silicon wafer. So the company had to invent new techniques to allow each of those individual chips to communicate with each other across the whole wafer. Working with TSMC, they not only invented new channels for communication, but also had to write new software to handle chips with trillion plus transistors.

The second challenge was yield. With a chip covering an entire silicon wafer, a single imperfection in the etching of that wafer could render the entire chip inoperative. This has been the block for decades on whole wafer technology: due to the laws of physics, it is essentially impossible to etch a trillion transistors with perfect accuracy repeatedly.

Cerebras approached the problem using redundancy by adding extra cores throughout the chip that would be used as backup in the event that an error appeared in that core’s neighborhood on the wafer. “You have to hold only 1%, 1.5% of these guys aside,” Feldman explained to me. Leaving extra cores allows the chip to essentially self-heal, routing around the lithography error and making a whole wafer silicon chip viable.

Entering uncharted territory in chip design

Those first two challenges — communicating across the scribe lines between chips and handling yield — have flummoxed chip designers studying whole wafer chips for decades. But they were known problems, and Feldman said that they were actually easier to solve that expected by re-approaching them using modern tools.

He likens the challenge though to climbing Mount Everest. “It’s like the first set of guys failed to climb Mount Everest, they said, ‘Shit, that first part is really hard.’ And then the next set came along and said ‘That shit was nothing. That last hundred yards, that’s a problem.’”

And indeed, the toughest challenges according to Feldman for Cerebras were the next three, since no other chip designer had gotten past the scribe line communication and yield challenges to actually find what happened next.

The third challenge Cerebras confronted was handling thermal expansion. Chips get extremely hot in operation, but different materials expand at different rates. That means the connectors tethering a chip to its motherboard also need to thermally expand at precisely the same rate lest cracks develop between the two.

Feldman said that “How do you get a connector that can withstand [that]? Nobody had ever done that before, [and so] we had to invent a material. So we have PhDs in material science, [and] we had to invent a material that could absorb some of that difference.”

Once a chip is manufactured, it needs to be tested and packaged for shipment to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who add the chips into the products used by end customers (whether data centers or consumer laptops). There is a challenge though: absolutely nothing on the market is designed to handle a whole-wafer chip.

CS Wafer Inspection

Cerebras designed its own testing and packaging system to handle its chip (Via Cerebras Systems)

“How on earth do you package it? Well, the answer is you invent a lot of shit. That is the truth. Nobody had a printed circuit board this size. Nobody had connectors. Nobody had a cold plate. Nobody had tools. Nobody had tools to align them. Nobody had tools to handle them. Nobody had any software to test,” Feldman explained. “And so we have designed this whole manufacturing flow, because nobody has ever done it.” Cerebras’ technology is much more than just the chip it sells — it also includes all of the associated machinery required to actually manufacture and package those chips.

Finally, all that processing power in one chip requires immense power and cooling. Cerebras’ chip uses 15 kilowatts of power to operate — a prodigious amount of power for an individual chip, although relatively comparable to a modern-sized AI cluster. All that power also needs to be cooled, and Cerebras had to design a new way to deliver both for such a large chip.

It essentially approached the problem by turning the chip on its side, in what Feldman called “using the Z-dimension.” The idea was that rather than trying to move power and cooling horizontally across the chip as is traditional, power and cooling are delivered vertically at all points across the chip, ensuring even and consistent access to both.

And so, those were the next three challenges — thermal expansion, packaging, and power/cooling — that the company has worked around-the-clock to deliver these past few years.

From theory to reality

Cerebras has a demo chip (I saw one, and yes, it is roughly the size of my head), and it has started to deliver prototypes to customers according to reports. The big challenge though as with all new chips is scaling production to meet customer demand.

For Cerebras, the situation is a bit unusual. Since it places so much computing power on one wafer, customers don’t necessarily need to buy dozens or hundreds of chips and stitch them together to create a compute cluster. Instead, they may only need a handful of Cerebras chips for their deep-learning needs. The company’s next major phase is to reach scale and ensure a steady delivery of its chips, which it packages as a whole system “appliance” that also includes its proprietary cooling technology.

Expect to hear more details of Cerebras technology in the coming months, particularly as the fight over the future of deep learning processing workflows continues to heat up.


Enterprise – TechCrunch


How to use PPC data to drive more SEO traffic

August 20, 2019 No Comments

It’s no surprise that PPC campaigns are great for driving quick results. However, it’s not the only way paid campaigns can bring profit to digital marketers. Integrating your PPC data in your SEO strategy will help you improve your overall performance.

Your SEO strategy should be flexible to trends, algorithms, and user behavior. While it takes much time to evaluate SEO results, the PPC data allows you to predict what works and what doesn’t work. Using this information for SEO, you’ll boost your search rankings significantly. In this article, I’ll tell you how to analyze your paid campaigns to determine which keywords resulted in the most significant number of conversions and focus on these phrases to improve your SEO.

The differences between SEO and PPC keywords

Pay-per-click advertising is an easily controlled digital marketing channel that provides an opportunity to target specific audiences, countries, and the time you want your ads to show up. Due to this fact, you can use PPC reports to get useful data for improving your keyword list.

These are the major differences between collecting keywords for SEO and PPC:

  • The main aim of the PPC campaign is to drive conversions. That’s why the keywords used for paid ads have high commercial intent.
  • The landing page of each ad should be highly relevant to the query. Otherwise, the ads will be marked as low-quality ones, and the search engines will display them less frequently.
  • You can configure your PPC campaign in the way to avoid non-target visits, for example, you can select negative keywords, exclude irrelevant audiences, and more.
  • You should mind that Google Keyword Planner usually provides you with high-cost and competition keywords. It rarely suggests users high-volume but low-priced phrases.

How PPC helps your SEO

There are four major reasons you should make your PPC campaigns work together with SEO efforts:

  1. Analyzing your PPC campaigns, you can identify which keywords result in conversions the most. This step will let you focus on the web pages that generate the highest revenue.
  2. Paid advertising is the best way to attract your target audience. The fact people click through the highly relevant ad and find what they’re looking for on your website result in better user behavior metrics. As these visits will result in lower bounce rates and longer session durations, they’ll serve as positive signals for search robots. That’s why paid targeted traffic often has a positive impact on organic search rankings.
  3. If your website is showing up both in paid and organic searches, the chances a user will click through one of the results increase. Moreover, most of the search results provide lots of special elements, including ads, featured snippets, “People also ask” box and others. If all of these elements are displayed on one page, it’s not likely someone will scroll down to your page ranking the third in organic search.
  4. Some brands bid on their competitors’ branded keywords. In the result, the official website is shifting in search results. If you don’t want to lose your prospects to competition, it’s worth bidding on your branded keywords as well.

Improve your SEO keyword list analyzing your PPC campaigns

Step one: Use high-CTR keywords for SEO

In your Google Adwords reportsyou can find lots of useful data for organic search optimization. First of all, it may happen that you are spending large sums on PPC to get little conversions. It usually happens when you select high CPC keywords that are searched for by people who aren’t ready to convert (have you ever heard about a sales funnel?).  Instead, you could optimize your top-of-funnel content for these high-cost keywords and eventually lead the prospects to conversions.

To identify these keywords, go to “Reports” > “Search terms”

using high-CTR keywords for SEO

You’ll see the list of search terms that people have used, and the ones that resulted in your ad being shown and clicked. To collect keywords that result in the highest click-through rates, under “Clicks”, select “High to Low”. The list will automatically portray keywords sorted by the number of clicks.

using the "High to Low" filter in Google Ads Reporting

Now let’s look at the conversion rate of the terms that drive a number of clicks. If the clicks drive no results, it means people using these specific search terms aren’t ready to buy. But if you optimize your blog posts for these keywords, your visitors might come back soon to convert.

Step two: Analyze your competitors’ PPC campaigns

To enlarge your SEO keyword list, you can also analyze your competitors’ ads and keywords they are bidding on. Content creation isn’t only about driving traffic to your website. To be worth something to your business, your website content should attract actual leads that are likely to convert. That’s why it’s important to check the keywords your competitors’ ads are showing up for. If a competitor is spending large sums to appear in Google for a keyword, it’s definitely worth your consideration.

At this stage, you’ll need one of the all-in-one SEO tools, such as Ahrefs, Serpstat, or Moz. To illustrate the process, I’ll go with Serpstat.

There are two reports you can use for this purpose:

1. Keywords report

In the “Keyword Research > PPC Research > Keywords” section, enter your target keyword, select your country, and click on “Search”. In the report, you’ll see the list of similar keywords your top-100 competitors are bidding on along with ads showing up for these keywords. Collect the most relevant ones and add them to your SEO keyword list.

creating a keyword list by monitoring the top-100 that competitors are bidding on keywords

2. Ad examples report

Clicking through the “Ad examples” section, you’ll also see the keywords used in your competitors’ paid campaigns, but this time they are grouped under the specific ads. It allows you to get ready-to-use clusters of keywords relevant to different landing pages.

using the "Ad examples" section to see keywords used in your competitors’ paid campaigns based on different landing pages

Keep tracking

Analyzing your PPC results to improve your SEO performance is an unconventional but very effective method. Make your PPC and SEO work together for your brand promotion and you’ll not only witness higher conversions but also get more statistical data to outrank your competitors.

Adelina Karpenkova is a Brand Specialist at Serpstat.

The post How to use PPC data to drive more SEO traffic appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

Search Engine Watch


PressReader aims to add more personalization to its digital news platform by acquiring News360

August 20, 2019 No Comments

A pair of digital news companies are teaming up, with PressReader acquiring News360.

PressReader was founded back in 1999 as Newspaper Direct. It now operates a platform that converts newspapers and magazines into digital formats, while offering a $ 29.99 monthly subscription that provides unlimited access to more than 7,000 of those titles.

News360, meanwhile, is relatively youthful, having been founded in 2010. It’s also created a news aggregation app, but the announcement makes it sound like PressReader was particularly interested in the company’s NativeAI technology for analytics and personalization.

In a statement, PressReader CEO Alex Kroogman suggested that News360’s technology will be used to improve PressReader’s consumer experience and publisher tools:

In a world where news fatigue is a real and growing problem, and media literacy a global concern, it’s more important than ever for people to have access to the trusted content they need in an engaging environment. By understanding each person’s interests, and building advanced data science systems around content analytics, we will be able to give our millions of readers the trusted media they want, how they want it, when they want it, and where they want it, while building more audience intelligence into the data that drives our publisher and brand partnerships.

The News360 team will be joining PressReader and working out of the acquiring company’s Vancouver headquarters.

News360 CEO Roman Karachinsky told me via email that the combined company will continue to support the News360 app and “develop it alongside the PressReader apps,” but he added, “In the short-term[,] the team will be focused on adding News360 tech into PressReader, so I wouldn’t expect big changes to the News360 app until we’re done with this.”

The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. According to Crunchbase, News360 has raised a total of $ 7.5 million from investors including Ordell Capital.


Startups – TechCrunch


Quick wins for Magento SEO

August 20, 2019 No Comments

Whether you’re migrating your existing online store or starting a new one, Magento is considered the ecommerce platform. In this post we are going to dive into SEO best practices to follow, looking at technical considerations and touching on content strategy. We will predominantly be concentrating on Magento Open Source.

What is Magento?

Magento is an open-source ecommerce platform developed by Varien. The first beta was launched in 2007. Since then it has had a number of owners (or maybe “custodians” would be a better term) including eBay, a private equity firm and, most recently, Adobe.

It’s a beast

In 2017, four years after its initial proposed launch date, Magento 2 was released. This may sound like a long delay, but with 1.84 million lines of PHP code and 239,000 lines of JavaScript – before you even consider HTML, CSS, XML, and other entities – you can appreciate the sheer scale of the task.

Given its size, it’s not the easiest ecommerce platform to get to grips with but, when it comes to sheer grunt, there isn’t much out there that can out-punch Magento.

Migrating?

Before we start, if you are migrating from another platform then you might find our post “The site migration tool for redirecting URLs like a boss” helpful.

Is Magento SEO-friendly?

Magento has many SEO-friendly features. However, first and foremost it is an enterprise ecommerce platform that can connect (via APIs and extensions) to a whole host of the world’s most popular payment gateway, order fulfillment, stock management, and CRM systems.

However, regardless of how SEO-friendly, it is out of the box, you’ll always want to be one step ahead of your competitors, right?

Let’s get optimizing. First, start with your theme.

The biggest consideration for any theme is how it handles the main navigation. A good test is to disable CSS and JavaScript (the Web Developer toolbar makes this easy), this then enables you to view the HTML structure. The out the box product Magento offers a pretty elegant solution that uses a semantically pleasing, nested unordered list. We would suggest using a theme that doesn’t deviate too far away from this convention if you aren’t 100% sure what you should be looking for.

Another area to check is to run the theme through Google’s mobile-friendly test. With Google’s mobile-first index nearly fully rolled out, making sure your site is fully mobile-friendly is a must.

Configuration setting

Considering the power of Magento, the backend isn’t too complicated and the options are split quite intuitively. All the following settings can all be found in the “Store – Configuration”.

General – Web – URL Options – Auto redirect to base URL

Selecting “Yes (301 Moved Permanently)” will mean non-www traffic is automatically redirected to www or vice versa.

General – Web – Search Engine Optimization – Use web server rewrites

Magento’s code is based upon a variation of the MVC framework. For non-devs, in simple terms, this means templates are called via the URL structure. This doesn’t always lend itself to human or SEO-friendly URLs. Ensuring this setting is set to “yes” means Magento will tidy up the structure. For example, “storename.com/index.html/page-name” will become “storename.com/page-name”.

General – Web – Base URLs – Base URL

If you are running with an SSL certificate, which all e-commerce sites should be these days, then this should be set to the same as the Secure Base URL that is “https://sitename.com“. This will mean anyone attempting to access HTTP will be redirected to HTTPS.

General – Design – Search Engine Robots – Default Robots

This might seem like an obvious one, but we’ve seen development sites pushed live having a global meta robots tag with the “noindex, nofollow” value. So, ensue when going live this is changed to “index, follow”.

General – Design – Search Engine Robots – Edit custom instruction of the robots.txt file

This is where custom amends to the robots.txt file can be made. You can disallow any pages or directories you do not want search engines to index.

Catalog – Catalog –  Search Engine Optimization  – Use Categories Path for Product URLs

Let me use the much-coined SEO phrase – “it depends”. If this is set to “no” all products will appear in the root directory which is “storename.com/product-name”. This option is the most manageable and trouble-free setting to use, especially if your products appear in multiple categories.

When set to “yes” the URL will show the path of categories and subcategories, that is “storename.com/categry-name/product-name”.

If you are familiar with the concept of content silos and think it is a strategy you want to employ, then you will want to set this option to “yes”.

You should be aware of potential duplicate content issues though. If you are unsure then it’s really not worth the risk.

Catalog – XML sitemap

This section allows you to set frequency values and priority settings for categories, products, and CMS pages. For most applications the default values are sufficient.

In the “Generation Settings” section, you can also set the sitemap to auto-generate/update by setting “Enabled” to “Yes”. This is usually a good option with the frequency set, depending on how often you add new pages to your site.

Catalog – XML sitemap – Search Engine Submission settings –  Enable submission to Robots.txt

This will add a line to your robots.txt file informing the search engines where to find your XML sitemap. You can submit it via the Google Search Console, but a bit of automation is always good. So unless you have a specific reason not to then this should be set to “Yes”.

Site speed, the elephant in the room.

It’s no secret that Google likes a fast site, and it’s also no secret that due to the size of Magento’s code base it doesn’t have the world’s best reputation for speed. However, there are some quick wins you can make.

1. Host server

This will largely come down to your budget. Magento does run a basic shared server environment, but if you can stretch to a dedicated server then you will have so much more processing power at your fingertips

2. Caching

Magento has a sophisticated caching system that should be implemented. If you navigate to “System – Cache Management” you will want to make sure that all caches are set to “Enabled”. Often in the development stage, these can be switched off.

3. Flat catalog

By default, Magento uses the Entity-Attribute-Value (EAV) database system. This means that products and their attributes can be split over many tables. It’s a very flexible model but also slower when compared to a flat system. For this reason, Magento has the option to switch to using a flat catalog. The more categories, products, and attributes you have, the bigger the benefit you will see here. To enable this feature go to – “Configuration > Catalog > Storefront”. Here you will find two options, “Use Flat Catalog Category” and “Use Flat Catalog Product”, set both of these to “Yes”.

4. Image optimization

Ensure that all images are sized no larger than they will appear at their maximum size within your responsive theme. Images should also be saved in the correct format with SVGs used for logos and graphics where possible.

5. Browser caching

This isn’t something that is an option in the backend of Magento. You’ll have to get your hands dirty by manually updating the .htaccess file. There are plenty of resources on the net that can provide guidance on this… just remember to make a backup on the .htaccess before you amend it.

6. HTTP/2

If you know, then you know. If not, it’s best to pop a support ticket into your hosting provider on how to implement this. HTTP/2 allows browsers to perform multiple requests over a single connection. With a basic Magento home page requiring around 200 requests, this is a no-brainer.

7. Extensions

It’s good practice to test your site speed before and after the installation of an extension. You can also do this retrospectively by disabling existing extensions. If you do find an extension that is causing speed problems then you will need to weigh up the benefit vs site speed cost.

Layered navigation

What is generally referred to as faceted navigation is known as layered navigation in Magento. It lets users filter down products in a category by their predefined attributes. This is a feature that users have grown to expect when navigating ecommerce sites. It’s also a feature that has given search marketers more than a few headaches over the years.

If you take as an example a category page with 20 products, and within those products, there are five colors, five sizes, and four styles. When you consider you can filter by any combination of attributes, one category page has now turned into more than 100, all with their own URL. To compound this, you can then also order the products by name, price or number, and then select where you want them ascending or descending. As these options generally also update the URL, we are now up to 600 URLs. When you consider this is just one category you can appreciate it could cause problems with indexing.

Don’t get stuck in the spider web

We have seen ecommerce sites with millions of pages needlessly indexed, due to faceted parameters, on more than one occasion. Not only does this cause issues for Google being able to figure out what are the important pages on your site are, but they can also become spider traps.

This is where search engine bots will spend so much time crawling they essentially give up on your site and go somewhere else.

Managing this issue is where search marketers earn our keep. So, how can we accomplish this in Magento?

Unfortunately, there is not a completely elegant solution that’s straight out of the box. There are extensions that you can install that do make the job a little easier or you could even write some custom code yourself with the help of user forums.

Ultimately what you are looking to achieve are any of the following solutions

  • Add a canonical tag that references the non-filtered page
  • Nofollow all links to filtered pages and add a “noindex” tag on the linked pages
  • “Disallow” the pages in your robots.txt file

Another solution is declaring the URL parameters within Google’s Search Console. At the time of writing, you still have to do this via the old interface.

Which solution you choose, can depend upon the site. For instance, the canonical tag might be a good solution if you have only a few filterable attributes in your layered navigation, but as it still requires Google to crawl the pages to find these tags, if you have 100s of attributes it could use a large proportion of your crawl budget (even though the pages aren’t being indexed).

We have a dedicated post on faceted navigation if you would like to read more on the subject.

What next?

So you’ve got the right products at the right price, you’ve got your technical SEO sorted but so has your competition. How do you set yourself apart so you stand out in the SERPs?

Content

A solid content strategy is what we do best here at Zazzle Media. We won’t dig too deep into this subject here, as we have numerous other posts we will point you in the direction of, and it’s not a topic exclusively related to Magento. What we will do is cover some of the areas you should be looking to cover:

Functional content

You can read up on the importance of having engaging functional content here.

Category content – In the admin area navigate to – Catalog – Categories – [Category] – Content – Description

Category pages will often drive a good proportion of traffic to your site. Categorizing your catalog to align with your keyword research will be worth the time and effort and help your site realize its full potential. When generating copy for the pages, a top tip is to look at the TF*IDF using a tool such as Ryte. This will highlight any words that are over or under-optimized for our page based upon the main topic.

Product descriptions – These descriptions can be added on your mass import CSV file or by navigating to – Catalog > Products > [Product] > Content > Description in the admin area.

Try to steer clear of using descriptions provided directly from the suppliers or manufacturers, as you can bet they’ve already been used on numerous other websites. This can be a big task with larger catalogs, but set a certain amount of resources aside every month and concentrate on your most popular items to start with.

Informational content

There are various ways of publishing news/blog content on Magento. A popular solution is to integrate WordPress using the Fishpig extension. This has been around for years and there are versions for Magento 1 and 2. It allows one-click login to both platforms and lets you associate posts with specific products which is a useful feature.

This is the area where a good strategy can pay dividends. Performing a gap analysis on your top competitors is an effective way to identify quick wins. Some comprehensive informational keyword research will also highlight questions and topics users are searching for. All this information can help you put together a content calendar that should align with business focuses and seasonal trends. Considering the different stages in your sales cycle, and the questions your users might have at these points will enable you to create a comprehensive resource of information.

In summary

Developing a site on the Magento platform isn’t always the cheapest solution to launch an ecommerce website, however, on the flip side, you’ll never want for a more powerful solution or be short of advice from the vast developer community. You also should have any issue in integrating it with the product information management (PIM) tool of your choice.

With a little bit of configuration, you should also have a site that is SEO-friendly. Regardless of the platform, the output is simply a mixture of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, images and other resources. So fundamentally the same rules apply. Also, remember SEO isn’t a one-hit solution, it’s a strategy that is constantly evolving. Stand still and your competitors will catch you up and take your customers.

Mark Chisholm is an SEO Executive working within the Search & Data Team at Zazzle Media.

The post Quick wins for Magento SEO appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Where paywall content stands with SEO: A focus on user experience

August 20, 2019 No Comments

Publishers are increasingly adopting the paywalled content approach as a monetization strategy. If there’s anything, paywalled content has helped publishers generate more revenue online. But user experience may have suffered as a result.

Paying for content may sound arcane on the Internet, but it’s not a new thing. Newspapers thrived on subscription plans. And high subscription numbers are how publishers justify their ad rates. But with the way the internet has democratized access to knowledge, hardly does anyone pay for content anymore. But that is changing.

Adopting the content subscription strategy is on the rise. And it is being endorsed by decision-makers at major media outlets. However, both from an SEO perspective and a user experience angle, paywalls may create concerns.

How do paywalls work and are they sustainable?

“Can publishers sustain their paywalls?”, this is the question to ask. It’s understandable that introducing sudden changes to a platform may cause user apathy. But is that the case with publishers who use paywalls? Or rather, should content marketers begin to adopt this approach?

Interestingly enough, some major publishers report seeing their ad revenues improve once they added a subscription service. Why this is the case is still not clear.

Let’s breakdown the different types of paywall strategies and how they function

  • Freemium: This approach is popular with media outlets with a fairly sizable audience. Here free content is separated from premium content, allowing the free content to be available to everyone while premium content such as in-depth analysis is reserved for subscribers.
  • Metered paywall: Metered paywall is the most adopted approach and is the type used by major outlets such as Medium and The Times. Users are allowed to access a limited amount of content in a given month until they are required to become subscribers to continue to enjoy more content.
  • Hard paywall: The hard paywall blocks the entire website’s content for non-subscribers. Typically, readers will only get to see the headline and nothing beyond the infamous “read more” link. Users can still use the search feature of the website but cannot access any of its content or comments unless they become subscribers.

example of paywall free content on BetterHelp Advice blog

Source: Betterhelp.com

Over at Betterhelp, where I oversee content creation we’ve only tried the “Freemium” approach and will continue to split-test between free content and putting back paywalls. So far, from professional experience, putting content behind paywalls has not helped our users, who rely heavily on our advice blog. While our experiment with a paywall is yet to be concluded, we can draw from other media outlets to see what works.

Why publishers adopt paywalls

Example of paywall content on WSJ

Source: The Wall Street Journal

If you’re on the homepage of The Wall Street Journal website, you’re immediately prompted to register to start reading an article. Of course, to register means to pay to gain access to the content. On a website like WSJ.com, it’s easy to justify paying to read an article. They employ professional journalists who must keep producing high-quality content round the clock to meet the standard the newspaper is known for. Readers that enjoy it will not budge at the idea of paying to keep their subscription to The Journal. However, to understand why mainstream publications put their content behind paywalls, we need to look at how their business model works.

Revenue driven decisions

It’s obvious, monetization is the chief factor in why publishers adopt paywalls.

In print, established outlets like The New York Times, WSJ, and The Post rely on advertisers and subscribers to keep their business running. On the internet, however, advertisement is not a sustainable revenue model for large publishers as users are trained to seek fast bloggy content that is difficult to monetize. Further crippled by the wave of Adblockers, digital advertising generates less than the revenue that similar ads will generate in print. With this, publishers are willing to throw UX under the bus for revenue.

Should content marketers also put up paywalls?

Defiance and reports of success after implementing paywalls may tempt marketers to adopt the approach. As in our case, we had to shelve the idea after a brief experiment with the freemium approach.

AdWeek on content paywall

Source: Twitter

Most publications have reported success after adopting the paywall program. The Wall Street Journal, for instance, has over 1,550,000 paying registered online subscribers that have opted to pay to read their content. In 2018, The New York Times also reported hitting 3,000,000 registered subscribers, with digital contributing the most to its revenue source.

Results may not be typical

Now, you need to understand that The Time and WSJ’s approach involves a lot of testing and engineering. WSJ, for instance, scores readers based on an average of 60 data points to judge their readers. This pool of data is then used to determine when the paywall is introduced. Data helps WSJ to determine whether to nudge a reader into subscribing, offer them a “Freemium”, or even put up a “Hard Paywall”.

For content marketers, especially those whose existence relies on educating their audience through content as we do at Betterhelp, putting valuable content behind a paywall may be risky. Paywalled content could become a hindrance in the decision maker’s ability to consider your brand for opportunities. Decision-makers may even think your brand is not serious when content that is meant to educate your customers is put behind a paywall.

How does paywall affect SEO and UX?

Google tried to rein in on paywalled content practice by forcing publishers to follow their “first-click-free” policy. Basically, readers coming from a Google search result must be allowed to get the first premium content for free, or you lose your rankings. Of course, this rule gave room for misuse by some users and placed publishers in a tight spot, forcing many to ignore the controversial policy at the risk of losing their search rankings. In 2017, Google dropped the first click free policy and allowed publishers to decide how their content is seen.

Poor user experience is the bane of paywalls

It’s important to note that the way search engine crawlers interact with content is not the same way humans interact with content. This means publishers must carefully consider user experience in making content strategy decisions. Should an article that is crucial to the free content you’re allowed to read from search be put behind a paywall? How does that affect the experience? Ultimately, user experience is critical to SEO performance.

Side doors may mitigate poor UX

Studying the pattern of the largest online newspapers that have prioritized subscription services, it’s noticeable that they understand the negative impact of this approach on UX. For instance, there is hardly any publisher that has employed the “Hard Paywall” approach without leaving room for numerous “side doors” for non-subscribers to still access their content.

The downside of poor user experience for an online brand is so significant, it goes beyond the website alone. It can as much as hurt the brand itself. This is where the impact could be felt in search rankings. Google predominantly favors higher organic click-through rates (CTRs) in ranking search results. And once users have been trained to ignore a brand’s links in the search result pages, it’s only a matter of time before Google starts dropping the website for others with higher CTRs.

Whether publishers are aware of the several “side doors” non-subscribers are actively taking advantage of, or perhaps are they intentionally leaving room for content leaks is not clear. The upside to this “loophole” is near parity with what Google expects from publishers versus what they get.

How do content creators factor in their users’ experience while still accounting for revenue generated from their content? The key is this – when deciding which content to put behind a paywall, think about its primary purpose first.

Marie Miguel has been a contributor and a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Some of her write-ups can be found on BetterHelp.com.

The post Where paywall content stands with SEO: A focus on user experience appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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