Algorithms Are the New Content Gatekeepers Part Three: Reputation Management and Online Rabbit Holes

Alice and the RabbitIf you are concerned about how online communications affect your business, it is important to remember that businesses are made up of people.

As people, we hopefully care about other people just as much or more than we care about making a profit.

After all, if we don’t look out for our customers, we might end up not having any.

It is therefore important that we identify how the world around us is influencing the lives of our current and potential customers so that we change our communications strategy or even modify the type of product that we currently offer to them. We might even identify new products that can help fix the problems that they face.

For example, we should be watching how algorithms are having an effect on the content that users see. These algorithms often lead users down rabbit holes that expose them to very radical ideas.

Unless you are in a leadership position at one of the major search engines or social networking sites, the algorithms that these search engines and social networking sites use to help users discover new content are beyond our control. However, knowing how they can influence society, and in some cases cause harm, can and probably should change the way that we do business.

At the very least, it is important to know what is going on so that we can make informed decisions in our personal and professional lives.

Search Engines and Reputation Management

As pointed out in the last post, search engines use many different signals when determining what will show up on the first page of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP.)

While the factors that influence what shows up on page one of a SERP are constantly changing, it is safe to say that if there is a lot of negative content about you or your business online, there is a good chance that Google will find it.

If a person with a grudge against you or your business is adept at manipulating the search engine algorithms, you can be in for some pain.

As I pointed out in a post in 2015, experts have identified cases where the same tactics used by businesses to get found on a SERP were used to help sully the reputation of political figures. In one case, these tactics were used to spread a malicious and racist campaign that targeted Michelle Obama. While the leadership at Google made the choice to clean the search results for Michelle Obama and end the smear campaign against her, this doesn’t always happen.

It is therefore important to keep in mind that sometimes even the results found on page one of a SERP might not contain the best information about a topic. In fact, in some cases, the information found might not be accurate at all.

In other words, “User beware.”

From a business standpoint, it makes sense to monitor what is being said about your company and see what shows up when people do both branded and nonbranded keyword searches related to your company.

It is also important to monitor what is being said about you and your business on social networking sites, because these posts can and often do show up in a Google SERP.

That said, there are even more issues that you need to be aware of when we look at social media and algorithms. Some of these issues will be covered in the paragraphs that follow.

Social Media Is Business

Before we begin here, it needs to be pointed out that social networking sites are businesses.

In an article on The Guardian website, Natasha Schull, the author of Addition by Design, is quoted as saying, “In the online economy, revenue is a function of continuous consumer attention – which is measured in clicks and time spent.”

“Whether it’s Snapchat streaks, Facebook photo-scrolling, or playing CandyCrush, Schull explained, you get drawn into ‘ludic loops’ or repeated cycles of uncertainty, anticipation and feedback – and the rewards are just enough to keep you going,” the author of the article continues.

This is what helps the business sell itself to advertisers. If the site can deliver users who click on content and stay there, then it is assumed that it would be a good place for businesses to advertise their products.

That’s the way it currently is, clicks and time spent on the site get rewarded. I don’t think this is necessarily good or bad. It just is.

However, if social networking sites continue to deliver content primarily based on these criteria, the best content might not surface.

In fact, it appears that at least on YouTube, it is often outrageous or radical videos that get recommended to users. This often guides them down an online rabbit hole that can, if it goes unchecked, lead to them to even more outrageous or radical videos. If people start to believe these videos they will surely start to share them. This means they will often will be spreading of a lot of misinformation and “fake news.”

Down the Rabbit Hole

In case you are not familiar what we mean when we talk about rabbit holes, The Free Dictionary defines “go down the rabbit hole,” as “To enter into a situation or begin a process or journey that is particularly strange, problematic, difficult, complex, or chaotic, especially one that becomes increasingly so as it develops or unfolds. (An allusion to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.)”

To get an idea of how algorithms on social networking sites can lead you down an online rabbit hole, you might want to read an article published in the New York Times in 2018 that was written by Zeynep Tufekci, Ph.D.

“It seems as if you are never ‘hard core’ enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm,” writes Dr. Tufekci. “It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.”

Dr. Tufekci again points out that it is Google’s current business model that is to blame. As she points out, “The longer people stay on YouTube, the more money Google makes.”

“What keeps people glued to YouTube?” Dr. Tufekci continues. “Its algorithm seems to have concluded that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with – or to incendiary content in general.”

The conclusion that Dr. Tufekci makes is that one of the unintended consequences of YouTube’s recommendation algorithms is that after being exposed to these extreme videos, people get used to them and start to search out even more extreme videos.

Again, if this goes unchecked, we could end up with a lot of people believing a lot of extreme ideas that often are not based on verifiable facts.

“This situation is especially dangerous given how many people – especially young people – turn to YouTube for information,” writes Dr. Tufekci.

What You Can Do About It

It is unclear if there is a way to fix the problem.

As pointed out earlier, most of us don’t have any control over these algorithms.

Sure, government could step in. However, is government intervention the best answer? And, would they have the expertise to create laws that would fix the problem?

I’m not sure.

However, it is important that we teach people what is going on so that they can make educated decisions for themselves.

By spreading the word about what is going on you can help accomplish this goal.

From a business standpoint, it is also probably worth your time to research what is being said about your company on sites like YouTube. It is possible that YouTube users could be directed to false claims about your company that you thought were well in the rear-view mirror.

Photo credit: Matt Brown on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC By 2.0)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Algorithms Are the New Content Gatekeepers Part Two: Organizing the Web

Man closing a gate.It was not long after the World Wide Web was created that people began looking for ways to help users find content online.

In fact, the first website was created by Tim Berners-Lee on August 6, 1991. The first search engine, W3Catalog, was created only two years later. This was followed by Aliweb, JumpStation, Infoseek, WebCrawler, Yahoo!, Lycos, and many more.

Then in 1998 Google was founded and the way search engines found and prioritized content changed dramatically.

According to Wikipedia, “While conventional search engines ranked results by counting how many times the search terms appeared on the page, they theorized about a better system that analyzed the relationships among websites. They called this algorithm PageRank; it determined a website’ relevance by the number of pages, and the importance of those pages that linked back to the original site.”

Today, there are many different factors used by Google to rank content and determine what gets the coveted positions on page one on a Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

However, that is not really the point that of this post. The real point being is that maybe even before the old gatekeepers lost a great deal of their power, new gatekeepers were being created.

Once again, we are almost right back to the same place where we started.

A Way to Get Found Online—Search Engine Optimization

In an effort to circumvent the new gatekeeper, or maybe earn favor with it, businesses started to use tactics that we now refer to as search engine optimization (SEO).

As a post on Search Engine Journal (SEJ) points out, “Although it could be argued that SEO and all things search engine marketing began with the launch of the first website published in 1991, or perhaps when the first web search engine launched, the story of SEO “officially” begins a bit later, around 1997.”

“Ranking high on search engines in 1997 was still a pretty new concept,” the author writes. “It was also very directory driven.”

That was, until Google changed everything.

“Although links were only one component of Google’s overall ranking algorithm, SEO practitioners latched onto links as being the most important factor – and an entire sub-industry of link building was created,” the SEJ post continues. “Over the next decade, it became a race to acquire as many links as possible in the hopes of ranking higher and links became a heavily abused tactic that Google would have to address in coming years.”

As anyone involved with SEO knows, the tactics needed to achieve a high ranking on a Google SERP are constantly changing.

In fact, recent developments in technology have dramatically changed SEO once again.

When Google announced the use of machine learning (ML) with Google RankBrain in October of 2015, a new era of search was being ushered in.

“Since that time, Google has expanded RankBrain to run on every search,” the author of the SEJ post writes. “While RankBrain impacts ranking, it isn’t a ranking factor in the traditional sense, where you get rewarded with better rankings for doing x, y, and z.”

While it is an exciting time for SEO practitioners, it is becoming harder to tell what the search engine gatekeeper will reward.

As the SEJ post points out, there still are things that can be done to get found in Google.

However, with the use of machine learning, it appears that the way to get ranked in organic search is going to be less formulaic.

Given that it is machine learning helping make the rules, will we end up with issues that we are finding in social media today? This is something that I will explore in a future post.

But first, let’s look at getting found on social media from a purely business perspective.

Getting Found on Social Media

In the early days of social media, most of the social networking sites displayed posts in reverse-chronological order.

That worked okay at first.

However, as more people joined, the social networking sites needed to find ways for people to find new content that they might not otherwise find. Again, this was accomplished by creating algorithms that reward specific behaviors.

From a business perspective, your company wants to get its message out there to sell more stuff or accomplish some other business goal.

This is great! You just need to please the new gatekeeper and optimize your content to meet the ever-changing requirements of each social networking site.

If that is the intent, sproutsocial has a post that offers some great suggestions.

However, as even the sproutsocial post points out, the algorithms are not perfect.

“There are plenty of instances of algorithms seemingly “hiding” content on Facebook at random despite being optimized to a T,” the author of the post writes. “On the flip side, there’s a well-documented phenomenon on YouTube of videos surging to millions of views out of nowhere after being recommended to seemingly random viewers.”

“Oh, and algorithms are constantly evolving, attempting to work out the kinks and provide the best user experience possible,” the post continues. “As a result, marketers have to constantly adapt to ‘em. This means consistently experimenting with content and changing up marketing strategies.”

Paying for Access

Whether optimizing content for search engines or social networking sites, it takes a lot of work and knowhow.

Many businesses don’t have the time or expertise to be able to optimize their content to reach the right users online.

Luckily, many of the search engines and social networking sites offer you the option to pay to get your content in front of users.

In the end, whether you pay someone to optimize your content to be found organically or you pay the site directly to get your content shown to users, you are still having to pay someone to help you get past the gatekeeper.

Indeed, we are right back to the place where we started.

Photo credit: Luca Sartoni on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic — CC By-SA 2.0)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Algorithms Are the New Content Gatekeepers: An Introduction

Palace GuardPrior to the Internet, if you had a movie you wanted to make, a book that you wanted to write, a song that you wanted people to hear, or you wanted to take part in just about any other creative endeavor, you had to find the right person or company to help you get your work in front of the right audience.

Even people with everyday products would have to find someone to help spread the word about their products so that people would purchase them.

In other words, whether you wanted to distribute your content or market a product or service, you had to get the attention of the right gatekeeper who would grant you access to the media channels needed to reach the people you wanted reach.

Then the Internet was created and the game changed. Or did it?

The Death of the Gatekeeper

In the early days, people were praising the Internet for the way it helped content creators who might never have been discovered make a living doing what they love because they could now connect with their fans and customers directly, thus bypassing the gatekeeper.

And, these people were and still are correct.

As a 2017 post on the strategy& website points out, “The amount of digital content created, exchanged, and consumed is growing by the day across the world, and because the Internet has democratized access to creation and distribution tools, boundaries between professional and amateur content are blurring across all parts of the creative sector.”

The post introduces a report released by strategy&, part of the PwC network.

According to the report, “Increasingly, the power is shifting to the consumers, who decide what they want to make, what they want to consume, and how and when they want to consume.”

Keep in mind, the old gatekeepers still have a role to play, they just have more competition.

As the study points, “Traditional media players must now compete with purely digital brands and platforms for the time and attention of the consumer.”

In other words, content creators can now avoid the traditional gatekeepers if they want to and still reach the right audience.

Long Live the Gatekeeper

While traditional gatekeepers have lost some of their power, thought leaders are beginning to warn us of a new gatekeeper that might have even more influence over what we consume.

While content creation and distribution tools are now becoming less expensive and are open to nearly everyone, some of these same tools are making it increasing difficult for some content to reach its intended target audience.

The reason for this is due to the fact that discovery of new content on many online platforms is controlled by algorithms that tend to reward certain behaviors and therefore don’t always highlight the most important or best content.

Part two and three in this series of posts will provide further explanation about how algorithms control what gets seen by consumers and how it can have an impact on society, as well as some additional business implications for your brand.

Additional posts will highlight some specific case studies and give possible suggestions about what we can do about it, both as content creators and content consumers.

Photo credit: Brian Teutsch on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC By 2.0)

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Think About What You’re Sharing Online Part 2: Words Have Power

Social Sharing AppsAs you already know, there is a lot of information being shared on the Internet.

As you also hopefully know, just because it is on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s true.

In a post last year, I warned readers to fact-check the statistics that they are sharing online, because there are a lot of ways that numbers can be manipulated or misquoted to support ideas that are completely and totally false.

But the statistics are only part of the equation.

In fact, it might be the words that we choose to use in our social media posts or online articles that can have the most power.

While I have covered many of these topics in the past, I think now is a good time to point them out again given the fact that people, including our leaders in government, are using online tools to reach other people directly, thus bypassing the old gatekeepers who also served as fact-checkers.

This would be okay if the people sharing the information always posted verifiable facts. However, what they are often sharing is misinformation and half-truths designed to help them achieve their underlying goals.

While this might help the person in the short-term, spreading information that is not factually correct can have a negative effect on the brand, particularly if the person spreading the information is the brand.

Furthermore, given the nature of social media and the desire to be the first to post about a topic, we need to remember that typos do happen. Therefore, even people posting information online with the purest intent can end up sharing erroneous information that can eventually go viral if the typo is not found and corrected. Even then, the erroneous information could continue to spread after it is corrected—more on that later.

The rest of this post is intended to point out some of the things that people should think about before sharing content online.

Again, many of the topics below were covered in previous posts. When possible, links to the previous posts will be included within the short summary of the topic.

Note: This post is written with the consumer of the information in mind. However, these concepts can also help businesses make sure that they are not sharing information online that might eventually do much more harm than good to their reputation.

The Importance of Reliable Sources

As I pointed out last year, maybe the most important thing that you can do when evaluating the information posted online is to ask yourself whether or not the source providing the information is credible.

If you are not familiar with the source, be skeptical.

If the source of post is a reliable news outlet, more than likely the information was fact-checked. However, even experts make mistakes. Whenever possible go to the original source to verify the validity of the post.

Checking with snopes.com can often uncover erroneous information that is being spread online.

The Words That We Choose to Use Matter

In the English language, there are many ways to say the same thing.

Many academic studies have been done to prove that the words used and the way that the messages are phrased can influence the way that people respond to what is being said.

In fact, changing just one word can have a huge impact.

The words that we use often say a lot about the intent of the post and reveal things about the person posting it as well. Furthermore, if you share someone else’s post, it could also influence the way that you are seen by other people.

To make things even more complicated, the words that we use can have different meanings in other cultures, thus influencing how the post is being interpreted by different readers.

If you are looking for a place to start to learn more about how the words and phrases we choose to use influence the way others interpret what is being said, I’d suggest reading “Words that Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear” by Dr. Frank Luntz.

Typos and Omitted Words Can Change the Meaning

Unless we are dealing with bots, and there are a lot of them, the posts that we read online are being written by a human.

And, humans make mistakes. Even people at respected media outlets like the Huffington Post.

Whether it is in an article or a post on Twitter, a typo or an omitted word can change how people interpret what you are trying to say.

It is therefore important to take the time to proof what you post online. And, again, if possible fact-check posts from others before sharing them.

Not Everyone Sees the Correction or Retraction

Here’s where social media complicates matters.

By the very nature of social media, people often share things quickly without thinking about it and move on to something else.

Therefore, when there is a correction or retraction to something posted online, many of the people who saw and shared the original post won’t see the correction.

To make matters worse, unless the correction is made to the original source, people often will continue to the share erroneous information after it has been corrected.

Things Get Changed When They’re Shared

When reading posts online, I often remember “The Telephone Game.”

In the Telephone Game, a message is given to the first person in a line of people and then he or she is told to pass the message on to next person in line by whispering it in their ear. This continues from person to person until it gets to the end of the line. At that point, the last person announces the message to the group.

In most cases, what is announced at the end is significantly different from the message given to the first person in line.

Even though social media posts are often written communications, people often paraphrase what is said when they share it online, while others add their own commentary.

In some cases, changes need to be made in order to fit the character restrictions on the specific social media platform.

In many ways, social media is just like the Telephone Game.

Given the fact that changing even just one word can make a huge difference, it is generally a good idea to be skeptical about what you read on social media.

People See What They Want to See

While this might not influence what is being shared, it is important to remember that everyone brings with them their own thoughts, feelings, biases, and life experiences.

When we read a post online, we tend to see what we want to see.

Therefore, even if two people read the same post, the way that they interpret it might be completely different.

People Are Sharing Ideas in Unseen Ways

One of the final things that I want to point out is that people often find out about something on one social networking site and share it on another.

For example, they might see a post on Facebook and share it on Twitter, or vice versa. Or they might email it to a friend or just call a coworker over to their desk to have them read it from their screen.

As Dr. Jonah Berger, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania pointed out in his book, titled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” most word of mouth happens offline.

In fact, only about seven percent of word of mouth happens online.

If a person shares online content with another person offline, we have another opportunity for the Telephone Game to take place. If the person receiving the message offline then posts something online, it is again possible that erroneous information will be spread.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t believe anything being shared online. It’s just that there are a lot of things that can happen when things get shared, both online and offline.

All of these things can potentially change the meaning of the message entirely.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, the words that we use often say a lot about the intent of the post and reveal things about the person posting it as well.

Furthermore, if you share someone else’s post, it could also influence the way that you are seen by other people.

Photo credit: ijclark on Flickr. (Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic — CC By 2.0)

 

 

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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New Research Reveals How Many U.S. Adults Currently Own Smart Speakers

Two smart speakers on a tableAccording to the Smart Audio Report Spring 2019 that was conducted by NPR and Edison Research, only 21 percent of Americans age 18 or older own a smart speaker. This translates to roughly 53 million people.

Interestingly, about half of American adults who own smart speakers report that they own more than one, with 30% reporting that they own three or more.

According to the report there was a 78% increase in the number of smart speakers in U.S. households, increasing from 66.7 million in December 2017 to 118.5 million in December 2018.

The fact that many people own more than one smart speaker partially explains how we can have such a dramatic increase in the number of smart speakers in U.S. households and still find that only about one in five American adults own them.

Interest in Smart Speakers Among Those Who Don’t Own One

When the researchers asked people who don’t own a smart speaker whether or not they are interested in owning one, 11% said that that they were very interested and another 9% show some interest. In contrast, 43% said that they were not at all interested in smart speakers.

The report also points out that adults age 18 to 54 show more interest in smart speakers than their older counterparts.

Reasons Why Interested U.S. Adults Who Don’t Own Smart Speakers Haven’t Purchased One Yet

The report also asked U.S. adults who said that they are interested in owning a smart speaker but haven’t purchased one yet the reason for not owning one.

The most common response was that they worry hackers could use the smart speakers to get access to their home or personal information. In total 63% gave this response in 2019 compared to 41% in 2017.

Other common responses included the fact that it bothered them that smart speakers are always listening (55%), voice-enabled speakers are too expensive (53%), and that they worry that smart speakers could allow the government to listen to their private conversations (40%).

As the report points out, people who currently own smart speakers share some of these same concerns, but choose to use the technology anyway.

The Smart Audio Report 2019 Webinar

What follows is a webinar that was created by Edison Research and NPR and was posted on YouTube in June of 2019.

In the webinar, they summarize the report and provide a lot of other interesting information about the ways people use smart speakers.

Additional Resources

I plan to write more about this topic in future blog posts. When I do, I will update this post and include links below.

 

Photo credit: BestAI Assistant on Flickr.

Video credit: edisonsurvey on YouTube.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Ignoring Your Potential Customers With Disabilities Will Affect Your Bottom Line

Handicap sign outside a buildingAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “61 million adults in the United States live with a disability.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

About one in four adults in the United States have some form of disability. Many of these people are your customers or potential customers.

Given the fact that more people develop disabilities as they get older, some people who currently don’t have a disability will develop one in the future.

Now, think about how you created your latest marketing campaign.

Did you take into account these people and their needs when developing this campaign? How about when you designed your website or mobile app?

If the answer to these questions is no, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.

If your business does not cater to the needs of disabled customers, those customers might go to a competitor that does.

Ignoring Customers With Disabilities Could Result In Legal Battles

Need more incentive to cater to people with disabilities? In September of 2010, the Department of Justice published the 2010 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Standards for Accessible Design. These standards generally cover accessibility to your business in the offline world.

However, while the DOJ has yet to finish setting the rules for website accessibility, companies are already finding out that not having a website or mobile app that is accessible to all customers could be a huge oversight with painful consequences. In other words, if your website or mobile apps are not accessible to disabled customers, your business could be sued.

Keep in mind, disabilities that have an effect on how easy it is for customers to use your website and mobile apps are not limited to those involving the ears and eyes.

As a post on the DYNO Mapper blog points out, cognitive issues, voice difficulties, seizure triggers, limited hand motor skills, involuntary motion, neurological disorders, repetitive motion disorders (RMD), inability to speak, sensitivity to color, or a combination of any of these can make it difficult for customers and prospects to interact with your business. And, this probably is not an all-inclusive list.

Also keep in mind, even people without a permanent disability have accidents or illnesses that can make it difficult to interact with your company online if the website is not designed correctly.

If your competitors make it easier to interact with them when your customers and prospects are temporarily disabled, I wonder who these people will do business with after they heal.

Additional Resources

As mentioned, it is important to serve customers with disabilities both online and offline. While both are of the utmost importance, I plan to focus most of my future disability-related blog posts on the online component only. When I do, I will update this post and include a link below for reference.

Photo credit: Marco Verch on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Voice Search Is Gaining Popularity, but Not as Quickly as Some People Think

Voice assistantThere are a lot of people still spreading the news that comScore predicted that by 2020, 50% of all searches will be done via voice search.

Marketers who have yet to consider voice in their marketing efforts might panic after hearing that statistic. After all, comScore is a reputable media measurement and analytics company. If they are predicting this, there must be some reason for it.

The problem is that it doesn’t look like comScore ever made that prediction. I searched several times and couldn’t find a comScore article reporting this stat.

It appears that as often happens, people are not checking with the original source. In their defense, people often link back to a trusted media website that focuses on marketing, advertising, and media when citing this statistic. However, while it is generally okay to cite a trusted source, often going back to the original source is advisable.

Furthermore, it looks like even after someone highlighted the error online, people either aren’t aware of it or ignore it and continue to share the erroneous statistic anyway. This happens a lot on social media and the Internet, in general.

Econsultancy Uncovers the Erroneous Statistic

In an article on the Econsultancy blog published in July of 2018, Rebecca Sentance wrote about several errors that she found regarding this statistic. The rest of the post that you are currently reading highlights some of the findings that she uncovered. If you get a chance, the whole series of articles that she wrote on voice search is worth reading.

The first thing that she found was that the statistic was actually based on something that Andrew Ng, then Chief Scientist at Baidu said in an interview with Fast Company. Again, in reality, it appears that comScore was not involved at all.

In the Fast Company article, Ng is cited as saying that “in five years time at least 50% of all searches are going to be either through images or speech.” The quote was then cited by Mary Meeker in her KPCB Internet Trends 2016 report and the “In five years time” got changed to “2020.”

As Sentance points out in the Econsultancy article, Ng’s estimate not only includes voice, but image search and voice search. This is the second error with the original statistic.

Sentance then goes on to make a back-of-the-envelope calculation that at the time her article was published only 13% of Google searches were made by voice queries.

That means that there is a wide gap to be filled in just a couple of years.

The Econsultancy article does give some insight into what Andrew Ng might have been thinking by highlighting a tweet that he wrote that stated, “As speech-recognition accuracy goes from 95% to 99%, we’ll go from barely using it to using all the time!”

“So, Andrew Ng believes that sheer accuracy of recognition is what will take voice search into the mainstream,” writes Sentance. “95% word recognition is actually the same threshold of accuracy as human speech (Google officially reached this threshold last year, to great excitement), so Ng is holding machines to a higher standard than humans—which is fair enough, since we tend to approach new technology and machine interfaces with a higher degree of skepticism, and are less forgiving of errors. In order to win us over, they have to really wow us.”

She then goes on to point out some other potential barriers to voice search adoption. However, that is something that I plan to take up in another post.

The Timeline Might Need to Be Adjusted

Voice search will be more important as time goes on. That is a bet that I’d be willing to make.

It’s just that 50% of all searches by 2020 is a prediction that probably won’t come to fruition. However, as we’ve learned, it doesn’t look like we can’t blame comScore for this one.

There is a prediction made by Gartner in 2016 that can be documented that says, “By 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen.”

If Rebecca Sentance’s assumptions are correct, then even this number is a little optimistic.

However, only time will tell.

Photo credit: iphonedigital on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Marketers Should Still Bet on Mobile Devices #Mobilefirst

Iphone computer deskIn the quest to be the first to reach customers with the latest technology, some marketers are downplaying the importance of mobile devices or even predicting their demise and are moving on to other technologies (e.g., voice-activated technology, AR, VR, MR, etc.)

In some cases, they are using what Google is doing to justify adjusting their priorities. However, Google itself takes mobile friendliness into account in its ranking algorithm.

Furthermore, as the statistics that follow highlight, mobile devices are still extremely important.

This is not to say that the other technologies aren’t important.

The point is that it is way too early to abandon mobile devices.

In fact, there are still a lot of improvements that many businesses can make to enhance the user experience on mobile devices. This is generally what people are talking about when they mention mobile first design.

Some Statistics to Consider

According to the Pew Research Center, at the beginning of 2018 nearly all U.S. adults owned or used a cellphone.

However, the more interesting statistic is that 77% of U.S. adults owned or used a smartphone in 2018. This compares to 73% of U.S. adults who owned or used a desktop/laptop computer.

It is also interesting to point out that this gap widens among U.S. adults ages 18 to 49. When examined among this age group, 99% used or owned a cellphone and 91% used or owned a smartphone, while only 77% used or owned a desktop/laptop computer.

Pew Usage Stats Jan 2018

Although it varies by source of the data, it is clear that when we examine time spent on each type of device, people spend more time on their mobile devices than they do on a desktop/laptop computer.

In fact, according to the Q1 2018 Nielsen Total Audience Report, only live television takes up more of the average U.S. adult’s day than apps/web on a smartphone.

When looking at website traffic, Statista found that about 40 percent of website traffic in the U.S. originated from a mobile device. Moreover, nearly half of all website traffic worldwide is coming from mobile devices.

Furthermore, over half of organic searches on Google were conducted on a mobile device.

These stats all reinforce the fact that mobile devices are still very relevant today.

Keep an Eye on the Horizon

The numbers just cited mostly compare mobile devices to laptop/desktop computers.

Some people would argue that both of these technologies will be replaced in the near future.

However, as of yet, no solid competitor to the mobile device has emerged.

We also need to remember that many of the new technologies can be accessed using a mobile device.

In the near future, we will hear a lot about these new technologies. In fact, I plan to write about them on this blog.

These other technologies should be researched and experimented with.

However, we shouldn’t abandon mobile devices… yet.

Photo credit: John Beans on Flickr and myfriendscoffee.com.

Graph credit: Pew Research Center.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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ICYMI: Google Updated the Test My Site Tool to Help Businesses Provide a Faster Mobile Experience

For quite some time, we have known that Internet users want websites to load quickly. In fact, in many cases, if the website loads too slowly, users won’t stick around.

Since Google constantly strives to improve user experience, it is not surprising that website speed influences how Google ranks your site. This is now true when users access your site from a desktop computer or a mobile device.

In order to make improvements to meet Internet users’ expectations when they are using a mobile device, and therefore improve your mobile search rankings, you need to know how well your mobile website is performing.

To assist in this effort, Google has updated a tool that measures the performance of your mobile website and then recommends how to make improvements.

Speed as a Ranking Factor

Back in 2010, Google announced it would use site speed as a ranking factor.

At the time, Google stated, “Speeding up websites is important – not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users and we’ve seen in our internal studies that when a site responds slowly, visitors spend less time there.”

However, until July of 2018, Google did not include speed as a ranking factor on mobile searches.

With the Speed Update, businesses now need to ensure that their mobile websites are fast as well.

According to an article on Search Engine Journal, “Now the speed at which a piece of content loads is a consideration when ranking mobile pages. Obviously the faster the better.”

The article states that this is the most important thing for SEOs and site owners to know about the update. However, the article also points out that the update will only affect really slow websites (i.e., those that take several seconds to load on a mobile device.)

The article also points out, “Relevancy is key, as Google always says. So if a slow loading page happens to contain the most relevant content, according to a user’s query, then it may still rank favourably in search results.”

The New and Improved Test My Site

In February of 2019, Jerry Dischler, Google’s VP of Product Development, announced the update to Test My Site on one of Google’s blogs.

“Because mobile is where most people turn when they want to know, go, do or buy, it’s important to deliver the kind of mobile experience that people expect today: one that’s fast, engaging and doesn’t get in the way of what they want to accomplish,” writes Dischler. “And because Google is deeply invested in the success of marketers and brands, we never stop looking for ways to develop and support new tools and innovations than can move the industry forward.”

“One of the mobile era’s clearest lessons has been that the foundation for any great mobile experience is a fast mobile experience,” Dischler continues.

To help businesses deliver a better and faster mobile experience, Google updated Test My Site to report the speed of both the entire site and individual pages, whether their site speed ranks Fast, Average, or Slow, and the potential impact of site speed on revenue.

Other key updates include a detailed list of recommendations to increase speed on up to five pages and a sharable report.

While Test My Site isn’t the only product out there to help businesses improve their mobile website speed, it is one that businesses should consider looking into.

After all, if you want to reach customers by ranking higher when they search for relevant topics on Google via their mobile devices, doing what Google suggests is a pretty good place to start.

Test My Site TWG

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Ways to Use Podcasts to Reach Your Target Market

Podcast setupPodcast consumption is on the rise.

With this in mind, now might be the time to start using podcasts to market your products or services.

This doesn’t always mean that you need to dedicate your time and resources to creating your own podcast. There are great ways to use podcasting to reach your target market without starting one.

That said, it’s worth noting the benefits of starting a podcast so that you can weigh all the options.

Podcasting to Market Your Products and Services

Some businesses have added podcasting to their content marketing efforts in order to become known as the go-to business for information about a particular topic that is relevant to the business’s customers and prospects.

However, the benefits of starting a podcast don’t stop there.

A recent post by Seth Resler points out some of the ways to make money by podcasting.

According to Resler, “The vast majority of money revenue generated in the podcasting space right now is made through advertisements.”

If the business has created its own podcast, the costs associated with advertising on the show should be minimal, if any.

Resler also suggests that some podcasters are using their podcasts to get movie, television, or book deals, while others are generating revenue by selling tickets to watch the podcast be recorded live or by selling merchandise to fans. If this becomes an option, your business will definitely have other opportunities beyond the podcast to reach potential customers.

Podcast Marketing Without Starting a Podcast

Don’t have enough time or staff start your own podcast? No problem.

As Seth Resler already noted, one of the most common ways for podcasters to make money is through advertisements.

In fact, the amount of money that is spent on advertising on podcasts has increased dramatically in recent years.

This makes sense, since advertising on a podcast can be an effective way for a business to reach its target audience.

In a post written by Kate Harrison on Forbes.com, Seth Greene, author of five best-selling marketing books including Market Domination for Podcasting, points out that, “Podcasts offer advertisers the ability to hyper target.”

Greene goes on to point out that, “Research can pinpoint the podcasts that are just right for your message.”

Podcasts can also give the business a chance to reach customers on a more personal level.

If a certain podcast is of particular interest to a business’s customers and prospects, establishing a relationship with the show’s host can be a great way to connect with them. In fact, a personal recommendation from the show’s host that is woven into the show might be better than a traditional interruptive ad.

However, no matter how it is done, advertising on a podcast can help keep the show going. This is something that the business’s customers and prospects might appreciate, particularly if it is a niche show that is only of interest to a specific audience.

If the company has experts on staff who have useful information to share, getting them invited as guests on several podcasts is also a great way to get in front of the right audience. Beyond the exposure that being featured on a podcast brings, being a guest on a podcast can also provide SEO benefits.

“iTunes is a Page Rank One website, and every episode usually links back to both the show’s website and the guest’s website,” says Seth Greene in the Forbes article mentioned earlier. “Get booked on a handful of shows, with links back to your website for the right keywords, and watch what happens.”

Getting influencers to mention the business’s products or services on podcasts can also be a way to reach potential customers.

These are just some of the ways that your business can use podcasts to market its products or services and possibly make additional income in the process.

And given the increase in the number of podcast listeners, this emerging medium should only become more lucrative in the future.

Photo credit: Sergey Galyonkin on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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