Learn From a Google Rater: The Impact of Intents and Results Diversity in Content Strategy

For about 10 years now, Google has relied on an army of human evaluators to provide feedback and critical insights on countless experiments run by the search engine. The core of the job is to rate the relevance of search results based on a user’s search query and, to assign a rating, Google raters must strictly follow the instructions provided in a document known as General Guidelines.

Since 2015, Google has released to the public the full version of its search quality rater’s guidelines whenever an update is available. As expected, many marketers and SEO strategists have tried to use that document as a reference for their optimization strategies. However, those guidelines were not created for that purpose — they’re too broad and not actionable for marketers.Click here to get everything you need to get your website ranking in search.

I’ve been doing search quality rating for Google for over three years. Being ranked in the top 5% of raters for most of this time has given me some confidence that I know what Google is looking for in terms of relevance. So I decided to transform this expertise into actionable pieces of advice to the SEO and content marketing community.

My objective with this series, “Learn From a Google Rater�, is to teach you how to approach search through the lens of a seasoned evaluator, so that you can use this knowledge to the benefit of your own content marketing strategy. The concepts and techniques you will learn here are the same that I put together in the SEA Model, a search evaluator course that I created to be used as a supplementary resource to Google’s guidelines.

Let’s begin.

Understanding User Intent

Every search occurs because of a need from the user that must be fulfilled. We will call this either user intent or query intent. These terms can be used interchangeably.

Sometimes, it’s very easy to infer what the user intent is, based on the query they used. For example, “I want to order pizza”. What’s the user intent? To order pizza, most likely from nearby restaurants.

“Pizza delivery”. What’s the user intent? To order pizza to be delivered, most likely from nearby restaurants.

In these examples, the user intent is very clear. Whenever the user intent is very clear, we call this intent the correct intent.

What about this query: “pizza”. What is the user intent?

This query is not as clear as the previous examples. It is possible that the user is looking for pizzerias nearby, pizza recipes, images of pizza, etc.

In these cases, we say that the query intent is somewhat clear. Although it’s hard to tell what exactly the user is looking for, we are still able to think of several different results that could be relevant or useful to them.

Classifying Intents by Likelihood

When the user intent is just somewhat clear, it means that there are several possible things they could be looking for – several possible intents. Some of them are more likely, some are less likely, and some very unlikely.

Approaching possible intents through these three basic levels of likelihood helps you get an idea as to whether your content stands a chance of ranking well in the SERP for certain queries.

Let’s illustrate with an example.

Assume that you own a travel blog. You like to produce content that is original and of high quality — after all, your blog is known for providing interesting and in-depth information on travel topics.

Recently, you decided to launch a section about dishes that are popular for representing specific regions of the world. Your objective is to provide detailed information about the history of the dish along with the real, ‘original’ recipe.

Although you include a recipe in these articles, you are not looking to just rank for recipes. You are targeting curious individuals who like to increase their cultural knowledge by reading your posts, and you want to provide the most interesting information available on the web regarding that specific dish you are writing about (its origins, history, variations, etc.).

You are currently looking for a representative of the Italian cuisine and you realize there are two dishes you’d have a lot of interesting things to write about: pizza and tiramisu (an Italian dessert).

As a matter of habit, you go to Keyword Planner to check the expected search volume in English for the keywords “pizza” and “tiramisu”. 7.5M for pizza and 1.5M for tiramisu.

One common mistake many people make in these cases is assuming the topic pizza would attract more viewers simply because the keyword pizza is more popular. You don’t want to be that person!

First and foremost, instead of just looking for the search volume of the keyword pizza, you should try to find information about more specific, intent-driven keywords, like “pizza recipe� (165K monthly searches), “pizza dough recipe� (246K monthly searches) “history of pizza� (10K monthly searches), etc. These are the keywords that represent the exact type of content you are looking to create.

Then, for the broader keyword pizza, a helpful technique is to convert keyword into query and assume those 7.5M people are issuing the query “pizza” to Google. Based on that information, you need to try to figure out possible types of content they would be looking for with this query, and this is when classifying intents by likelihood comes in handy.

More likely intents for the query pizza:

  • Find pizzerias nearby,
  • Order pizza,
  • Etc.

Less likely intents for the query pizza:

  • Look for info about pizza (history, types, etc.)*,
  • Look for pizza recipes*,
  • Look for images of pizza,
  • Etc.

(*) intents addressed by the content we are looking to create

Very unlikely intents for the query pizza:

  • Look for info about, or watch any of the films titled “pizzaâ€�
  • Etc.

I like to include ‘etc.’ because there could be countless possible intents associated with a query, and we shouldn’t bother trying to figure out all those possible intents. What is most important here is to list those intents that come up to us naturally and try to classify the intent(s) that are going to be addressed by the content we are looking to create.

Now, let’s do the same thing for the keyword “tiramisu”. We will approach it as if it were a query and classify possible intents.

‘More likely’ intents for the query tiramisu:

  • Look for tiramisu recipes*
  • Look for info about tiramisu (origin, history, etc.)*
  • Look for images of tiramisu
  • Find restaurants that serve tiramisu**
  • Order tiramisu**
  • Etc.

(*) intents addressed by the content we are looking to create

(**) intents that would occur on larger cities with a good variety of Italian restaurants

Please note that I classified all the intents as ‘more likely’ intents. The reason is that none of these intents seem to really stand out from the others. They are all similarly likely.

Why Understanding Intent is Crucial

Google exists to provide results that are relevant to the user. In other words, the search engine’s purpose is to satisfy the user intent. When the query is just somewhat clear — meaning, it has many possible intents — it’s reasonable to expect that Google will try to prioritize results that address intents which are ‘more likely’.

In light of this, a smart strategy is to aim to rank for queries for which your content addresses the correct intent, if there is one, or any of the more likely intents, if there is more than one more likely intent.

Introducing Diversity

If result relevance is intrinsically connected to the likelihood of the intent they are addressing, the relevance of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) is also affected by the diversity of intents addressed by the results displayed. In other words, a helpful SERP not only prioritizes results that address most likely intents, but it also includes results that would satisfy other intents, as well. However, this depends on the amount of different results for the most likely intents.

For instance, if there are many different results to satisfy ‘more likely’ intents, a helpful, diversified SERP would probably only prioritize results addressing ‘more likely’ intents. In such cases, results addressing intents that are ‘less likely’ would possibly be relegated to much lower positions, maybe on the second page or beyond.

On the other hand, if there are few different results to address more likely intents, a helpful, diversified SERP would also display results that address less likely intents in prominent positions.

So … Write About Pizza or Tiramisu?

From the perspective of a content strategist, I think writing about tiramisu would be a better idea. Even though the keyword pizza is much more popular, most people searching for pizza have other intents in mind and the results that are prioritized by Google will most certainly try to reflect the likelihood of those intents. There are pizzerias everywhere, and people are much more interested in eating pizza than looking for historical or more general information about it.

With tiramisu, it’s a bit different. Since this dish is not as popular as pizza, many people looking for results about the Italian dessert would likely be interested in more detailed information about it, which is exactly the kind of content you are looking to provide. As I mentioned previously, “a smart strategy is to aim to rank for queries, and keywords, for which your content addresses the correct intent, if there is one, or any of the more likely intents, if there is more than one most likely intent�.

Tiramisu would allow you to rank well for more specific, intent-driven keywords like “what is tiramisu� and also for the generic term “tiramisu�, something that wouldn’t be nearly as easy with pizza. Furthermore, since your article would also include a recipe, it would be addressing a ‘more likely’ “look for recipe� intent with tiramisu, but only a ‘less likely’ “look for recipe� intent with pizza.

marketing

 
Click here to get everything you need to get your website ranking in search.


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Unriddled: More Controversy for Facebook, Fines for Google, and More Tech News You Need

UPDATE: Wednesday, July 25, 11:22 AM — According to the New York Times, Facebook’s registration to open a subsidiary in Zhejiang has disappeared from a Chinese government database and “the approval has been withdrawn.”

Welcome, one and all, to another Wednesday: the day that marks the halfway point — almost — to the weekend.

Here in our Cambridge HQ, the days are slowly starting to get shorter. So as we hold onto to these summer days and nights — and know that, perhaps, you are, too — we’ll try to unriddle this week’s tech news in double-time.

It’s our Wednesday tech news roundup, and we’re breaking it down.

Unriddled: The Tech News You Need

1. A Busy Week for Facebook

Facebook’s name has been in the news quite a bit over the past few days, from controversial interviews from its CEO, to new controversies around its content moderation practices.

Facebook in China

Facebook — particularly its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg — has made no secret of its wishes to have a presence in China. And while the site and most of its related apps are still prohibited there, the company created a Chinese subsidiary, Facebook Technology (Hang Zhou) Ltd., earlier in July.

A spokesperson for Facebook said the company’s presence in China will be an “innovation hubâ€� in Zhejiang, where “efforts would be focused on training and workshops that help these developers and entrepreneurs to innovate and grow.” Gerrit De Vynck of Bloomberg has more. Read full story >>

Zuckerberg Speaks — Then Backpedals

Last week, Zuckerberg sat down with Kara Swisher for an interview on Recode Decode. And while 90 minutes wasn’t enough to cover everything, Swisher did ask about topics ranging from the spread of disinformation on the platform to content moderation policies (e.g., why some Pages still haven’t been removed).

After the interview was made public, Zuckerberg went on to say that some of his comments about those who “get things wrong, even multiple times” — such as the “set of people who deny that the Holocaust happened” — were misinterpreted as being made in defense of that very set of people. Read full interview >>

Speaking of Content Moderation

During last week’s Congressional testimony on the “filtering practices” of social media networks, Facebook VP of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert seemed to struggle to define what the platform constitutes as “fake news” — and address questions on how content is moderated on the site. 

While Bickert did allude to the company’s fact-checking practices and the “threshold” used to determine how Pages and Groups are penalized, answers to certain questions on why certain “repeat offender” publishers were still allowed to post on the network led mostly to more confusion.

That was followed by a Channel 4 undercover report that content moderators are sometimes instructed to take a “hands-off” approach to “flagged and reported content like graphic violence, hate speech, and racist and other bigoted rhetoric from far-right groups.”

Since then, however, Motherboard obtained leaked internal documents on when to ban Pages or Groups for content in violation of Facebook’s community standards, like hate speech. The problem: There is no unified view of what constitutes hate speech. Read full story >>

What Facebook Says It’s Working On

Meanwhile, Facebook says it will continue its efforts to stop the spread of misinformation on its site and its many portfolio apps — including WhatsApp, where the company says it will limit the ability to forward messages in hopes of spreading such false news as that which prompted serious violence in India and Myanmar. Read full story >>

Similar policies and practices are coming to the core Facebook platform itself, where The New York Times reports the company will start removing what product manager Tessa Lyons says is a specific “type of misinformation that is shared in certain countries that can incite underlying tensions and lead to physical harm offline.” Read full story >>

2. Fines for Google

The European Union will fine Google €4.3B — roughly $5 billion — in an antitrust case that the European Commission has based on alleged abuses by the company for “Android market dominance.” These include the Google’s forced inclusion (e.g., for phone manufacturers) of its own search engine and apps like the Chrome browser into the Android operating system — which Google has 90 days to stop doing.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai later released a statement defending the company’s practices around its operating system, saying that it “has expanded the choice of phones available around the world.” Read full story >>

3. Scooters Are Absent From the Streets of San Francisco

Following the passage of San Francisco city laws (effective June 4) that bars scooter companies from operating without a permit, applications from 12 companies seeking to provide these services (including Uber, Lime, and Bird) are still under review by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA).

While the goal was originally to approve five companies by July, Megan Rose Dickey of TechCrunch says that this prolonged review process indicates that scooter operations may not resume before August. Read full story >>

4. Lyft Steps Up Its Background Checks

Last week, we reported that Uber is reinforcing its efforts around safety, and Axios stated that it will conduct ongoing background checks on drivers, rather than performing them on a one-time occasion.

Now, it appears that one the company’s chief rivals, Lyft, is following in its footsteps, and exploring how to strengthen its background checks after revelations that a driver with a serial violent criminal record managed to bypass the system. The news comes among revelations of a St. Louis Uber driver publishing videos of passengers online — who had no idea they were being filmed. Carolyn Said of the San Francisco Chronicle has more. Read full story >>

5. Presenting: the Data Transfer Project

Late last week, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter announced a joint effort on the Data Transfer Project: a new “standards initiative” that’s meant to make it easier for users to move their personal data between platforms. 

The ability for users to seamlessly take their personal data from, for instance, Facebook — which calls the project a “commit[ment] to building a common way for people to transfer data into and out of online services”– has been scrutinized by many, including those who point out that the company owns most of the companies its own CEO identifies as competitors. Russell Brandom of The Verge has more. Read full story >>

6. 47% of Social Media Users Report Seeing More Spam in Their Feeds

Even as networks fight the spread of spam and misinformation, our research shows that nearly half of social media users report seeing more of it. The findings raise the question: While social networks have made no secret of their efforts to fight the spread of spam on their sites, how have these efforts been paying off — and are users noticing them? Read full story >>

That’s all for today. Until next week, feel free to weigh in on Twitter to ask us your tech news questions, or to let us know what kind of events and topics you’d like us to cover.


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7 Ways IoT Is Changing Retail in 2018

You walk into a store in search of new sunglasses.

As you enter, your smartphone pings, and you open it to find a map, showing you where the sunglasses you looked at online are on display in-store. You walk over to them, try them on, and put them in your bag. A robot rolls up to you and intercepts, asking if you need help finding anything else. The robot takes you to a jeans display, as you’ve requested, and finds your size.Ecommerce businesses can retain more customers by following this free guide.

When you’re done shopping, you leave the store immediately. Your items are scanned by sensors as you leave and added up — the final price is then deduced from your mobile payment app. Since you’ve shopped there recently, you receive an automatic discount.

The shelf where you picked up the jeans, meanwhile, takes note of the purchase and sends that information to a back-end inventory system, so the retail store’s manager knows to re-stock.

Sound a little too much like Smart House? Maybe, but this experience is closer than you think, thanks to the rise of IoT, or Internet of Things, which creates a network between internet-connected physical devices. In the next few years, physical devices capable of being connected to the internet will continue to rise — in fact, by 2020, it’s estimated there will be over 30 billion IoT devices.

The scenario above is explained from a customer’s perspective, but it’s important to take note of just how deeply IoT can affect retail store owners and employees. McKinsey estimates that the potential economic impact of IoT in retail environments will range from $410 billion to $1.2 trillion per year by 2025.

IoT can reduce inventory error, optimize your supply chain management, and decrease labor costs. Ultimately, IoT can help your traditional brick-and-mortar shop compete with today’s online-first shopping world, by exponentially improving customer experience and decreasing unnecessary expenses.

There are numerous IoT-related benefits to the retail industry, but here, we’ll hone in on the seven most important ways we think IoT will change retail in 2018.

IoT Applications in Retail

1. Automated Checkout

You’ve probably seen how long lines deter your customers from purchasing products. And, as a manager, it can feel unprofitable to pay multiple employees to work during busier shopping times. With IoT, you can set up a system to read tags on each item when a customer leaves the store. A checkout system would then tally the items up and automatically deduce that cost from the customers’ mobile payment app.

Creating an automated checkout system using IoT devices would make your customers happier and more willing to enter your store, especially if they are on a time crunch. It can also save you a ton of money — McKinsey estimates automated checkout can reduce cashier staff requirements by up to 75%, resulting in savings of $150 billion to $380 billion a year in 2025.

automatic-checkoutImage courtesy of The Guardian

2. Personalized Discounts

If you have frequently returning customers, I bet you’d like to reward them for their loyalty. With IoT, you can set up sensors around the store that send loyalty discounts to certain customers when they stand near products with their smartphones, if those customers sign up for a loyalty program in advance.

Additionally, you can use IoT to track items a customer has been looking at online, and send that customer a personalized discount when she’s in-store. Imagine if your customer perused your purses online, and then, in-store, received a discount on her favorite purse? Rather than offering general discounts on a wide variety of products, you can tailor each discount using IoT to maximize your conversion rates.

Ultimately, finding ways to incorporate IoT devices into your day-to-day business requires creativity and foresight, but the benefits of IoT in retail — as outlined above — can help your business discover innovative solutions to attract more valuable and loyal long-term customers.

3. Beacons

Beacons, first introduced by Apple in 2013, are small Bluetooth devices that send alerts to smartphones based on location proximity. In the retail industry, this means customers can receive discounts, special events, or other reminders when they’re near a shop and have previously downloaded the store’s app.

Macy’s has been using beacons nationwide since 2014. After opening the Macy’s app in-store, shoppers are alerted to promotions and discounts. The app also recognizes which area of the store you’re in — so if you’ve entered the makeup section, the app will remind you of the makeup brands you liked online.

Along with helping customers in-store, beacons also send alerts to passersby. This can be used to effectively advertise promotions or in-store events. Swirl Networks Inc. found over 70% of shoppers say beacon-triggered content and offers increased their likelihood to purchase in-store.

Besides Macy’s, stores including Urban Outfitters, CVS, Lord & Taylor, and Timberland already use beacon technology.

beacon-technologyImage courtesy of Beaconstac

4. Smart Shelves

A lot of your employees’ time and energy is focused on keeping track of items to ensure they’re never out-of-stock, and checking that items aren’t misplaced on various shelves. You can use Smart Shelves to automate both of those tasks, while simultaneously detecting potential theft.

Smart shelves are fitted with weight sensors and use RFID tags and readers to scan the products on both display and stock shelves. Smart Shelves inform you when items are running low or when items are incorrectly placed on a shelf, which makes your inventory process cost-effective and more precise. Additionally, each RFID tag is connected to a reader, so Smart Shelves are able to detect in-store theft — saving you money on security personnel and cameras.


Image courtesy of
 Crowdstartr

5. In-store Layout Optimization

You might be surprised to find your retail space isn’t optimized for your customers’ behavior — maybe your least popular products are in the front, or your customers’ would prefer more space around the couches in the back. By employing aisle-analytics software with infrared sensors, you can use IoT technology to improve your retail layout.

Perhaps you find most of your customers spend the majority of their time checking out your TV’s — but those TV’s are placed in the back of the store, behind rarely-touched DVD players. This information arms you with important customer behavior knowledge, so you can place items they care about most, like TV’s, in the front of your store.

6. Robot Employees

While it’s a little frightening to trust a robot to be your customer service representative, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to cut down on menial tasks burdening your workforce.

OSHbot, Lowe’s newest robot employee, helps customers find specific products and provides information on promotions and inventory — plus, he’s (she’s?) bilingual and can answer both English and Spanish questions.

Other retail stores, such as Target, use robots to roam the store and take note of misplaced items, or products running out of stock. By taking over simple inventory tasks, Target’s robot frees up Target’s human employees to focus on providing top-notch customer assistance.


Image courtesy of
STLToday.com

7. Optimizing Supply Chain Management

While retail stores can already track products without the help of IoT, that tracking information is pretty limited. With RFID and GPS sensors, you can use IoT to obtain more precise data, like the temperature at which an item is being stored, or how long it spent in transit. You can use that data to improve the quality of transportation moving forward — and, better yet, you can also act in real-time if a product is being kept at temperatures too low or too high, avoiding a substantial loss.

According to a TATA Consultancy Survey and Business Insider, manufacturers utilizing IoT solutions in 2014 saw an average 28.5% increase in revenues between 2013 and 2014. If you’ve got a long line of suppliers, truck drivers, and vendors handling your products, it’s imperative for you to accurately keep track of how your product is handled and where it’s located in the supply chain. This information helps you ensure your process is running as efficiently as possible, and can helpyou get your product into your customers’ hands faster.

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Free Flowchart Templates for Word, PowerPoint, Google Doc, and Excel

There are plenty of reasons you might need a flowchart — for work, or your personal life.

Perhaps you want to find out which fictional boss you are, or decide where you should spend your next vacation. Or, maybe you need to create a flowchart to make hiring decisions, troubleshoot a new product, or outline the best strategy for your next marketing campaign. Free training lesson: Understanding Content MarketingWhatever the reason, a flowchart will help you identify different steps you need to take to reach your objective, and outline pros and cons of each potential avenue. On the flip side, a flowchart can also help you recognize your root problem, by outlining the cause-and-effect of each step in a process.

Here, we’ve created basic flowchart templates for Word, Powerpoint, Google Docs, and Excel. While these templates can provide a foundation for your flowchart’s structure, you’ll need to tailor the text, arrows, and shapes to outline your own specific problem and possible solutions.

Flowchart Template for Word

Word Flowchart Template

Flowchart Template for Powerpoint

Powerpoint Flowchart

Flowchart Template for Google Docs

*Please clone the Google Doc template before using it.

Google Doc Flowchart Template

Flowchart Template for Excel

Excel Flowchart

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The Secret History of the Google Logo

How many times have you seen the Google logo today? If it’s first thing in the morning, maybe only once or twice. If it’s later in the day, you’re probably up to 15, 20, maybe even 30-plus times.

The design is misleadingly simple. There’s a fascinating backstory to the most well-known logo on the internet, and it starts in 1996.Learn how to run effective marketing campaigns using Google.

Google Logo History

1996: First Google Logo

The search engine’s very first logo actually predates the name “Google.� Larry Page and Sergey Brin originally called their web crawler “BackRub.� Luckily for all of us, by 1997 they’d changed to the much less creepy “Google� (a misspelling of googol, or 10100. )

image11

 

1998: First (real) Google logo

Some sources credit Page with the creation of the first Google logo, while others give the dubious honor to Brin. Whomever it was, their design wasn’t exactly the most polished. An exclamation mark was added to look like Yahoo!’s logo.

Image result for google first logo

 

1999: Ruth Kedar’s logo designs

A mutual friend introduced Brin and Page to Stanford assistant professor Ruth Kedar. Because they weren’t in love with their logo, they asked Kedar if she’d design a few prototypes.

She started with a mostly black logo using the Adobe Garamond typeface. Page and Brin like this logo because the mark in the middle looked like a Chinese finger trap, Kedar says.

image6-2

The graphic designer’s next attempt used the Catull typeface (which should look familiar). The logo was meant to evoke accuracy, like a target.

Then Kedar got a bit more playful, experimenting with color and interlocking Os. Those Os ended up becoming the basis for the Os at the bottom of every search engine results page.

Between the cross-hairs and the magnifying glass, Brin and Page thought this design was a little visually overwhelming.

The next few iterations appear more like the Google logo we know and love today.

These designs feel younger and less serious than their precedents.

image9-2

Kedar makes the letters pop off the page with shadowing and thicker lines.

The eighth design was the simplest yet. Ultimately, Kedar wanted to show Google’s potential to become more than just a search engine (hence the removal of the magnifying glass). She also changed the traditional order of the primary colors to reemphasize how untraditional Google was.

This version’s colors and the slanted angling make it feel youthful and energetic.

image2

The final design is one of the most minimal. It was Google’s official logo from 1999 to 2010.

On May 6, 2010, Google updated its logo, changing the “o� from yellow to orange and removing the drop shadowing.

2015: A new logo for Google

Google’s logo changed dramatically in 2015. The company preserved its distinctive blue-red-orange-blue-green-red pattern, but changed the typeface from Catull to the custom schoolbook-inspired Product Sans.

At the same time, Google also rolled out several variations on its logo, including the rainbow “G� that represents the smartphone app and the favicon for Google websites, and a microphone for voice search.

image8-2

The new logo might look simple, but the transformation was significant. Catull — the former typeface — has serifs, the small lines that embellish the main vertical and horizontal strokes of some letters. Serif typefaces are less versatile than their sans-serif typefaces, since letters vary in weight.

Product Sans is a sans-serif typeface. That means it’s easy for Google’s designers to manipulate and adapt the logo for different sizes — say, the face of an Android watch or the screen of your desktop computer. As Google’s product line becomes more and more diverse, an adaptable design becomes essential.

The logo is also meant to look young, fun, and unthreatening (read: “I’m not like other massive tech corporations, I’m a cool massive tech corporation.â€�) This was a prescient move — since Google unveiled this design in 2015, concerns about data privacy have reached a fever pitch.

A Dynamic Logo

Google’s logo is also now dynamic. When you begin a voice search on your phone or tablet, you’ll see the Google dots bouncing in anticipation of your query.

As you speak, those dots transform into an equalizer that responds to your voice. And once you’ve finished talking, the equalizer morphs back into dots that ripple as Google finds your results.

“A full range of expressions were developed including listening, thinking, replying, incomprehension, and confirmation,� explained While their movements might seem spontaneous, their motion is rooted in consistent paths and timing, with the dots moving along geometric arcs and following a standard set of snappy easing curves.

What’s a Google Doodle?

A Google Doodle is a short-term modification of the traditional Google logo. They’re usually used to commemorate holidays, special occasions, and birthdays of scientists, thinkers, artists, and other important people.

The first Google Doodle originated in 1998 — before the company was technically even a company. Page and Sergey were attending the Burning Man festival. As a kind of “out of officeâ€� message, they put a stick figure drawing behind the logo’s second O.

Image result for google doodles burning man

In 2000, Brin and Sergey asked then-intern Dennis Hwang to come up with a doodle for Bastille Day. Users loved it so much that they appointed Dennis “chief doodler.�

The first Doodles tended to mark well-known holidays, like Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Indian Holi (in India). But as time has gone on, they’ve become more and more global and creative. For example, on September 1 2017 this Doodle celebrated the first day of school (or mourned it, depending on who you ask.)

Google has created more than 2,000 doodles for various homepages around the world.

To decide which events get doodles, a team gets together periodically to brainstorm. Doodle ideas come from other Googlers as well as users. The actual doodles are designed by illustrators and engineers.

To submit an idea for a doodle, email proposals@google.com.

There’s more that meets the eye to Google’s logo. As people and technology evolve, the design has too. At the rate things are changing, we’ll probably see a new version in a few years.

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11 Virtual Reality Apps That You Won’t Be Able to Put Down

A few weeks ago, I experienced virtual reality for the first time. One of my colleagues brought her Oculus into the office and let our whole team try it out. I picked the VR mini golf experience, which I wasn’t initially excited for — I’ve never really liked mini golf. But when I slid on the Oculus, I was pleasantly surprised.

Entering the realm of VR mini golf was refreshing. Instead of playing on a grimy, green mat in a dingy amusement park, I was enjoying a round of putt-putt on a clean, sleek golf course floating in the clouds.

Even though the environment and obstacles on the VR golf course were obviously not realistic, I still felt like I was there. After my first putt, I tried walking toward the ball. I ended up slamming into a pillar in the office. When I dangled my foot over the platform, I freaked out. I thought I was going to fall for a split second.

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After too many double bogeys in a row, I slid off the Oculus and returned to reality. I felt like I was just transported to a different world. I couldn’t believe how well VR played to my senses and tricked my brain into thinking I was on a mini golf course in the sky, even though I knew I was in an office.

The experience made me want to try to it again. Heck, I even thought about buying an Oculus.

But before you drop $400 on a VR headset like I almost did, you should know you can have nearly as much fun playing VR mini golf as you can interacting with VR apps that you can download on your iPhone or Android.

Below, we’ll list 11 of them, most of which are free and work with affordable headsets like Google Cardboard.

1. VirtualSpeech

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgfROqQqKkc]

Practicing a speech without an audience can be helpful, but the experience doesn’t emulate the pressure of an evaluating crowd. You can nail a dry run ten times in a row on your own, but when you actually step on stage and see your audience, the nerves can debilitate your abilities.

Fortunately, VirtualSpeech can help you hone your public speaking skills — the app places you on a virtual stage with a virtual crowd, where you can practice your speech or presentation in front of an audience that imitates the mannerisms and sounds of real people. Their movements and sounds are fully customizable, so you can ramp up the distractions and virtual judgement as much as possible. And at the end of your virtual speeches, the app will analyze and score your verbal and nonverbal communication.

You can also add your own slides into your virtual presentation, practice for job interviews, learn how to network, and sell in a wide range of sales situations.

So far, people mostly use virtual reality to entertain themselves. But VirtualSpeech stands out as one of the first VR apps that can actually train you to become a better professional.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

2. Jaunt VR

Jaunt VR wants to make immersive storytelling the future of entertainment. The app offers hundreds of 360-degree films, shows, documentaries, tours and concerts, all in virtual reality.

When you put your headset on, you’ll transport to a virtual room where you can choose from a massive collection of immersive experiences, segmented by 20 different channels. At the touch of a button, you can tour the awe-inspiring Redwood National Park, go through the San Francisco Giants pre-game routine and take the field with them during opening day, or sit back and enjoy Emmy winning documentaries.

Jaunt’s content is already engaging on its own, but in virtual reality, you’ll actually feel like you’re experiencing the events they’ve documented.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

3. NYT VR

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYP95WJmW3o]

For years, journalists have written articles and created videos about events that most of the world could never experience on their own. Their job is to be a surrogate for the general public. And in 2015, the New York Times wanted to truly take on that role by making journalism more immersive.

They started experimenting with virtual reality as a news format, and since then, they’ve created over 300 VR news reports. The NYT VR app tells some of the publication’s most captivating stories — virtual reality has a knack for evoking empathy and interest in audiences. By placing the public into a life they might never experience but definitely need to see for themselves, like the lives of three refugee children from Ukraine, Sudan, and Syria, audiences will be more willing to help people who are truly in need

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

4. Orbulus

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8bt5zH25YY]

Teleporting to a destination at the press of a button is probably a long way from becoming a reality, but, in virtual reality, it’s, well, a reality. If you want to visit a location before you pay for an expensive vacation, or if you just want to see more of the world but don’t have the funds, check out Orbulus. You can experience the sights and sounds of various cityscapes and landscapes — ranging from Paris at night to the northern lights in Scotland.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

5. Discovery VR

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ3vkZEYoAg]

Have you ever wanted to swim with sharks? Or play with pandas? Well with the Discovery VR app, you still can’t really do those things … but you can get pretty close. When you put on your headset, the app immerses you in the habitat of different animals, landscapes, and cityscapes. This is the most fun you’ll have learning about science since watching Bill Nye the Science Guy in middle school.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

6. Google Arts & Culture

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p86gh2HEsp0]

Google Arts & Culture partnered with more than 1,200 international museums, galleries, and institutions from 70 countries to create the most accessible and immersive art and history experience in the world. By offering guided virtual tours of the world’s most famous museums and curated exhibits, you can learn about the artwork, artifacts, and stories that have molded the many unique cultures of our world.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

7. Inside Abbey Road

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGztmJrf748]

Legendary artists — like The Beatles, Queen, and Oasis, among many others — have all recorded their best hits at Abbey Road, and the music created in the famous studio will continue to impact our culture for many years to come.

Google and Abbey Road decided to create Inside Abbey Road to guide the public through a virtual tour of the studio, allowing you to explore the origin place of some of the most popular songs in the world.

The tour starts with a nine-part series of the studio’s history from the 1930s until now. After that, you can explore different recording rooms that famous musicians have used, and even enter a mixing studio to try your hand at producing music.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

8. InCell VR

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxhhxnpoXJ0]

Most of us probably vowed to never touch a book about the human cell after suffering through high school biology class. But would you be willing to learn about it again if you could shrink down to microscopic size and explore an actual cell? Better yet, would you do it if you could race a virus in it?

InCell VR let’s you do just that. When you play the game, you’ll speed through a human cell with a robot assistant who helps you protect it from malicious viruses.

InCell VR is a traditional racing game and an educational lesson blended into one experience. You have to gain points and dodge obstacles to save the cell before the virus can destroy it, and you’ll learn little tidbits about biology along the way.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

9. Minos Starfighter

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmURojx12RA]

Minos Starfighter is like the modern, first-person version of the arcade game Galactica. By just tilting your head, you can maneuver a spaceship and blast your enemies in space battles, leveling up to face more challenging enemies as you destroy each wave. The game has never-ending play, so you can upgrade your ship and weapons to fend off your enemies as they become stronger.

Available on: IOS and Android for $0.99

10. Romans from Mars 360

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGCVHcreuV8]

Playing Romans from Mars 360 might be the perfect training session for combating an alien invasion. Endless waves of martians bent on world domination are attacking your castle, and since you’re a roman soldier, you can only defend your castle with a crossbow. As you earn more points, you can upgrade your crossbow to shoot flaming arrows and summon earth’s elements like fire, earth, ice, and lightning to squash your enemies.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

11. VR Street Jump

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Zj2zGmCa4o]

Remember Frogger? Well, VR Street Jump is the modern, first-person version of the classic game that almost feels too realistic — you’ll think you’re actually dodging traffic. Remember to look both ways, though. Or else a car might just send you soaring across the road.

Available on: IOS and Android for Free

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The 7 Most Useful Google Sheets Formulas

The 7 Most Useful Google Sheets Formulas

Lately, the best part of my day has been figuring out the cool new things I can do in Google Sheets — which, yes, definitely means I need to get out more, but also means I can share my favorite formulas with you.

Learn how to run effective marketing campaigns using Google.

How to Use Formulas for Google Sheets

  1. Double-click on the cell you want to enter the formula in. (If you want the formula for the entire row, this will probably be the first or second row in a column.)
  2. Type the equal (=) sign.
  3. Enter your formula. Depending on the data, Google Sheets might suggest a formula and/or range for you.

V-LOOKUP Google Sheets Formula

V-lookups, are by far, the most useful formula in your tool-kit when you’re working with large amounts of data. The V-lookup formula looks for a data point — like, say, a blog post title or URL — in one sheet, and returns a relevant piece of information for that data point — like monthly views or conversion rate in another sheet.

For example, if I want to see how much traffic a specific set of blog posts got, I’ll export a list from Google Analytics, then put that list in another tab and use the V-LOOKUP function to pull views by URL into the first tab.

The only caveat: The data point must exist in both cells, and it must in the first column of the second sheet.

Formula:

=VLOOKUP(search_criterion, array, index, sort_order)

Let’s walk through an example, which should make this a bit easier to understand.

In the first sheet, I have a list of blog posts, including their titles, URLs and monthly traffic. In the second sheet, I have a report from Google Analytics with average page load time by URL. I want to see if there’s any correlation between page speed and performance.

An example:

=VLOOKUP(A2,’GA Avg. Load Time’’!$1:$1000,2,FALSE)

IFERROR Google Sheets Formula

Any time you’re using a formula where more than 10% of the return values lead to errors, your spreadsheet starts to look really messy (see the above screenshot!).

To give you an idea, maybe you have two columns: one for page views and another for CTA clicks. You want to see the highest-converting pages, so you create a third column for page views divided by CTA clicks (or =B2/C2).

About one-third of your pages, however, don’t have any CTAs — so they haven’t gotten any clicks. This will show up as #VALUE! on your sheet, since you can’t divide by zero.

Using the IFERROR formula lets you replace the VALUE! Status with another value. I typically use a space (“ “) so the sheet is as clean as possible.

Here’s the formula:

=IFERROR(original_formula, value_if_error)

So for the above situation, my formula would be:

=IFERROR((B2/C2, “ “)

COUNTIF Google Sheets Formula

The COUNTIF formula tells you how many how many cells in a given range meet the criteria you’ve specified. With this up your sleeve, you’ll never have to manually count cells again.

Formula:

=COUNTIF(range, criterion)

Let’s say I’m curious how many blog posts received more than 1,000 views for this time period — I’d enter:

=COUNTIF(C2:C500,“>1000�)

Or maybe I want to see how many blog posts were written by Caroline Forsey. If the author was in Column D, my formula would be:

=COUNTIF(D2:D500, “Caroline Forsey�)

LEN Google Sheets Function

Have you noticed Google Analytics cuts off the “http://â€� or “https://â€� from every URL? This posed a major issue for me when I wanted to combine data from HubSpot and GA — the V-Lookup function wouldn’t work because the URLs weren’t identical (“https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing versus “blog.hubspot.com/marketing).

Luckily, there’s no need to manually change every URL. The LEN function lets you adapt the length of any string.

=LEFT(text,LEN(text)-n)

=RIGHT(text,LEN(text)-n)

So, let’s say the full URL is in column I. To remove the “https://� string and make it identical to the URL in the Google Analytics tab, I’d use:

=RIGHT(I2, LEN(I2)-8)

If you wanted to remove the last characters in a cell, you’d simply change RIGHT to LEFT.

Array Formula for Google Sheets

Rarely do you need to apply a formula to a single cell — you’re usually using it across a row or column. If you copy and paste a formula into a new cell, Google Sheets will automatically change it o reference the right cells; for example, if I enter =A2+B2 in cell C2, then drag the formula down to C3, the formula will become =A3+B3.

But there are a few drawbacks to this. First, if you’re working with a lot of data, having hundreds or thousands of formulas can make Google Sheets a lot slower. Second, if you change the formula — maybe now you want to see =A2*B2 instead — you have to make that change across every formula. Again, that’s time-consuming and requires a lot of processing power. And finally, the formula doesn’t automatically apply to new rows or columns.

An array formula solves these issues. It’s one formula, with one calculation, but the results are sorted into multiple rows or columns. Not only is this more efficient, but any changes will automatically apply to all your data.

ARRAYFORMULA(array_formula)

Let’s suppose I want to see how much non-paid traffic we’d gotten in March and April. That requires subtracting paid traffic from total (column D from column C) and then adding the totals together. Two separate formulas.

Or, I could use an array formula:

=ARRAYFORMULA(SUM(C2:C5-D2:D5)

The second part, SUM(C2:C5-D2:D5), should look somewhat familiar. It’s a traditional addition formula — but it’s applied to a range (cells C2 through C5 and D2 through D5) instead of individual cells.

The first part, =ARRAYFORMULA, tells Google Sheets we’re applying this formula to a range.

I could also use an array formula to look at the non-paid traffic specifically from updates (not new content) in March and April.

Here’s what that would look like:

=ARRAYFORMULA(SUM(C2,C4-D2,D4))

IMPORTRANGE Google Sheets Formula

I use to spend a ton of time (and processing power) manually copying huge amounts of data from one spreadsheet to another. Then I learned about this handy formula, which imports data from a separate Google Sheets spreadsheet.

Suppose our resident historical optimization expert Braden Becker sent me a spreadsheet of the content he updated last month. I want to add that data to a master spreadsheet of all the content (both new and historically optimized) we published. I’d use this formula:

IMPORTRANGE(spreadsheet_url, range_string)

Which would look like:

IMPORTRANGE(“https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/abcd123abcd123”, “Update Performance!A2:D100”)

How to Split Text in Google Sheets

Splitting text can be incredibly useful when you’re dealing with different versions of the same URLs.

To give you an idea, let’s suppose I’ve created a spreadsheet with every URL that received at least 300 views in January and February. I want to compare the two months to see which blog posts got more views over time, fewer, or around the same.

The problem is, if I do a V-LOOKUP between the two tabs, Google Sheets won’t recognize these as the same URLs:

https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/songs-for-maximum-motivation (regular URL)

https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/songs-for-maximum-motivation?utm_medium=paid_EN&utm_content=songs-for-maximum-motivation&utm_source=getpocket.com&utm_campaign=PocketPromotion (tracking URL)

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates (regular URL)

https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates?utm_medium=paid_EN&utm_content=create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates&utm_source=getpocket.com&utm_campaign=PocketPromotion (tracking URL)

It would be awesome if I could get delete everything after the question mark in the tracking URLs so they matched the original ones.

That’s where the split text formula comes in.

=SPLIT(text, delimiter, [split_by_each], [remove_empty_text])

Text: The text you want to divide (can be a string of characters, such as https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates?utm_medium=paid_EN&utm_content=create-infographics-with-free-powerpoint-templates&utm_source=getpocket.com&utm_campaign=PocketPromotion, or a cell, like A2)

Delimiter: The characters you want to split the text around.

Split_by_each: Google Sheets considers each character in the delimiter to be separate. That means if you split your text by “utm�, it will split everything around the characters “u�,�t�, and “m�. Include FALSE in your formula to turn this setting off.

In the example above, here’s the formula I’d use to split the first part of the URL from the UTM code:

=SPLIT(A2,“?�)

The first part is now in Column B, and the UTM code is in Column C. I can simply delete everything in Column C, and run the V-LOOKUP on the URLs in Column B.

Alternatively, you can use Google Sheet’s “Split text to columns� feature. Highlight the range of data you want to split, then select “Data� > “Split text to columns.�

Now choose the character you want to delimit by: a colon, semicolon, period, space, or custom character. You can also opt for Google Sheets to figure out which character you want to split by (which it’s smart enough to do if your data is entered uniformly, e.g. every cell follows the same format) by choosing the first option, “detect automatically.�

I hope these Google Sheets formulas are helpful. If you have any other favorites, let me know on Twitter: @ajavuu.

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How to Buy Bitcoin Stock

Bitcoin and similar cryptocurrencies behave like the stock market. The more people who buy shares of Bitcoin, the higher the currency’s price. The fewer people who buy Bitcoin, the lower its price.

However, the source of Bitcoin’s value — and how you buy into it — is very different than an investment in the shares of a public company.

Click here to download our free guide to digital marketing fundamentals.

What Is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin (often denoted “â‚¿”) is a digital currency that allows you to conduct business and exchange resources securely, but without going through a bank or central payment entity to perform the transaction. Bitcoin can be sold, traded for a product, or bought into like a stock (which this article will teach you how to do).

Think of Bitcoin like a bartering token, only there’s a limited supply of these digital tokens worldwide. Banks and national economies don’t generate Bitcoin — software mines it using a technology called blockchain. Learn more about this concept in the video below.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dr4WAMAxqu0?ecver=1]

With Bitcoin being a limited resource, you’d think its value would always be off the charts, but this cryptocurrency is extremely volatile. People can adopt Bitcoin as a means of exchange for many reasons, and as Bitcoin’s usage evolves, so will the reasons people choose to buy into it. Just this week, Bitcoin’s price increased by more than $1000, reaching $7,450 per â‚¿1 at the time of writing this article (yikes).

How to Buy Bitcoin Stock

Whether you’re looking to invest in Bitcoin for a big sell later, or spend it on various items and assets, there’s a universal process you’ll have to go through to buy stock in it. Let’s dive into that process.

1. Download a Wallet

By “wallet,” we don’t mean the leather one in your pocket, or even credit card reader apps like Google Wallet. A Bitcoin wallet is an online storage place for all your digital currency. It doesn’t just hold your Bitcoin, though. Bitcoin wallets also store your personal “key” — a unique identifier assigned to every Bitcoin owner, consisting of a long string of letters and numbers that keeps your Bitcoin secure. This is essentially your Bitcoin password.

Your first step in buying Bitcoin is to download a Bitcoin wallet and connect your credit or debit card to it. There are more than a dozen Bitcoin wallets you can download, both to your desktop and as an app on your mobile device. Here are the wallets that work with the most devices and operating systems:

Coinbase, the first wallet app on the above list, also offers a “Bitcoin exchange” where you’ll register to buy your first share of Bitcoin. We’ll talk more about exchanges in the second step below.

2. Register With a Bitcoin Exchange

If there are national stock exchanges like NASDAQ, does that mean there’s also a Bitcoin exchange? Yep. Bitcoin trades on a variety of online exchanges around the world, and to start buying and selling Bitcoin, you’ll have to register with one of them. Have your email address and credit or debit card information ready.

Don’t worry, all of your exchange options recognize the same Bitcoin trading price. Each exchange just caters to a different country or continent, and therefore offers an exchange rate that corresponds with the currency you’ll use to buy Bitcoin. For example, while Korean exchanges sell Bitcoin for won (Korea’s main currency), U.K.-based exchanges sell Bitcoin for pounds.

Here are some international Bitcoin exchanges you can register with (these exchanges trade Bitcoin for most currencies across the globe):

Although there are Bitcoin exchanges that specialize in just one country, you might find it easiest to register with an exchange that also supplies you with a Bitcoin wallet so you’re not submitting your bank information to two separate services. Coinbase is one of those options. After downloading the Coinbase wallet, you can move right over to its exchange to buy your Bitcoin stock and fill your wallet.

Now, let’s talk about how to make your first crypto-purchase.

3. Select a Buy-In Amount

Once you’ve selected the exchange where you want to buy your Bitcoin, navigate to the exchange’s “Buy” section and select your buy-in amount. You’ll tether your Bitcoin wallet to this purchase a “bit” differently (pun intended) depending on the exchange you use to buy your Bitcoin.

Nervous? Don’t be — you can buy less than â‚¿1 if you want to. Bitcoin exchanges sell cryptocurrencies down to several decimal places, so if Bitcoin is trading at $7,450 per â‚¿1, you can invest $1 and receive .00013 Bitcoin. Then, as Bitcoin’s trading price increases, so does the value of the Bitcoin you bought.

4. Browse a Crypto Marketplace

With your Bitcoin in hand (or rather, in wallet), you can do one of two things with your purchase:

Spend Bitcoin in a Marketplace

Bitcoin has its very own ecommerce marketplaces where you can trade Bitcoin for products. Products include those that are shippable to your door — such as jewelry — and those you can download to your computer, such as Microsoft Office. Remember, no banks are involved in these transactions. The market simply verifies your Bitcoin’s individual blockchain and completes the purchase.

Common Bitcoin marketplaces where you can spend Bitcoin include Bitify, Glyde, and even a Reddit community called BitMarket. Keep in mind you can also sell your own products for Bitcoin, making these marketplaces an easy way to build up your Bitcoin investment.

Buy and Wait

Of course, like any good investor, the key to making money on Bitcoin is to buy in and leave it alone. Cryptocurrencies’ trading prices can fluctuate hundreds of dollars in a single morning, and watching Bitcoin’s value peak and dip every day can drive you nuts.

Bitcoin investors often say that the money you put into Bitcoin should be money you’re willing to lose. With that in mind, the best way to enjoy your investment is to let it sit, try selling personal items that could grow your Bitcoin account, and check the Bitcoin price once in a (long) while.

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47% of Social Media Users Report Seeing More Spam in Their Feeds, Even as Networks Fight to Stop It

Over the past two years, social media networks have made no secret of their efforts to fight the spread of spam on their sites. 

It largely began when it was revealed that foreign actors had weaponized Facebook to spread misinformation and divisive content in hopes of influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

It was then revealed that Facebook was not alone in that phenomenon — and that some of its fellow Big Tech peers, like Twitter and Google, were also being leveraged by the same or similar foreign actors to influence the election. 

That’s prompted these companies to take action — publicly.

Facebook has released a number of statements since this revelation about its efforts to emphasize news from “trusted sources” and change its algorithm to focus on friends and family. Twitter released an request for proposals to study the “health” of its network and began sweeping account removals. YouTube, which is owned by Google, made its own efforts to add more context to videos on its platform.

So, how have these efforts been paying off — and are users noticing them?

According to our data, the survey largely says: No. Here’s what we found.

47% of Social Media Users Report Seeing More Spam in Their Feeds

Seeing Spam

The controversy surrounding social media networks and the way they manage, distribute, or suppress content shows no signs of slowing down. Just this week, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a hearing — the second one this year — on the “filtering practices” of social media networks, where representatives from Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter testified.

But for all the publicity around these tech giants fixing the aforementioned flaws (and answering to lawmakers in the process), many users aren’t reporting any improvement.

In our survey of 542 internet users across the U.S., UK, and Canada, only 20% reported seeing less spam in their social media feeds over the past month. Nearly half, meanwhile, reported seeing more.

In the past month, have you noticed more or less spam on your social media feeds_

Data collected using Lucid

That figure could indicate a number of things. First, it’s important to note that what constitutes spam is somewhat subjective. Facebook, for its part, defines spam as “contacting people with unwanted content or requests [like] sending bulk messages, excessively posting links or images to people’s timelines and sending friend requests to people you don’t know personally.”

Something like fake news, for instance, does not seem to fall under that definition — but according to our research, about 79% of people seem to think that it generally counts as spam.

Do you think _spam_ content on social media includes fake news_

Data collected using Lucid. Survey sample = 375 internet users from the U.S. and Canada.

Facebook has struggled to define “fake news,” despite CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s best efforts in his congressional hearings and a recent interview with Kara Swisher on Recode Decode

Recent reports have also emerged that Facebook content moderators are sometimes instructed to take a “hands-off” approach to content that some might consider spam, according to The Verge — such as “flagged and reported content like graphic violence, hate speech, and racist and other bigoted rhetoric from far-right groups.”

That contrasts some testimony from Facebook’s VP of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert at this week’s hearing, as well as much of what Zuckerberg recounted in his interview with Swisher.

The company has previously spoken to the subjectivity challenges of moderating hate speech, and released a statement how it plans to address these reports.

However, the recent findings that content moderators are instructed not to remove content that leans in a particular political direction — even if it violates Facebook’s terms or policies — contradicts the greater emphasis the company has said it’s placing on a positive (and safe) user experience over ad revenue.

The Fight Against Election Meddling

We also ran a second survey — of of 579 internet users across the U.S., UK, and Canada — to measure the public perception of Facebook’s specific efforts to fight election meddling.

Here, respondents indicated a bit more confidence, with about 28% reporting that they think the company’s battle against the use of its platform to interfere with elections will work.

Do you think the actions Facebook has taken to prevent election meddling will work_

Data collected using Lucid

But almost as many people who believe the efforts are futile also seem to be uncertain — which could indicate a widespread confusion over what, exactly, the company is doing to prevent the same weaponization of its platform that previously took place.

It’s an area where Facebook fell short, Zuckerberg told Swisher, because it was “too slow to identify this new kind of attack, which was a coordinated online information operation.” To be more proactive, he — and many of his big tech peers — have identified artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can identify and flag this type of behavior quicker than human intervention can.

But AI is also widely misunderstood, with some reports of people fearing it without knowing just how frequently they use it day-to-day. That lends itself to a degree of indecision over whether — and if — Facebook and its social media counterparts will be successful in its heavily AI-dependent efforts to curb this type of activity.

One item to consider when it comes to both surveys and their corresponding results is the aspect of salience. Right now, the potential misuse of social media is top-of-mind for many, likely due to the prevalence of hearings like the one that took place this week and its presence in the news cycle. 

That could sway the public perception of spam — and how much of it they’re seeing — as well as the efficacy of social media’s fight against election interference.

When HubSpot VP Meghan Anderson saw the data, “my first reaction was that people just have a heightened awareness of it at this moment.”

“It’s part of our global dialogue,” she explains. “There are apology ads running on TV. The impact of misinformation and spam is still setting in.”

But with the issue of prevalence and clarity also comes the topic of trust.

“What I think the data does show,” Anderson says, “is that when you lose someone’s trust, that distrust lingers for long after you’ve made changes to remedy it.”


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9 Best Practices for Creating a High Converting Pricing Page (With Examples)

9 Best Practices for Creating a High Converting Pricing Page (With Examples)

Your pricing page is one of the most important parts of your website. It’s where all your effort in building a relationship with your customer finally leads to a sale.

But I’ve seen enough badly designed pricing pages to know that some businesses simply don’t know how to sell their offer. They either get confused on how much to charge, especially if they offer services, or don’t know how to demonstrate value on the price page.

Build and promote landing pages that generate more leads with the help of this  free optimization guide.

Knowing the fundamentals of a good pricing page is important because simply copying the pricing page of another business without understanding why it’s designed the way it is, will only lead to a poorly optimized page.

Businesses too often forget the human element. Even though we buy all the time, when it comes to selling we forget the internal processes we go through before making a purchase.

In this post, I’ll share nine best practices to ensure your pricing page does what it’s supposed to do, make sales happen.

9 Pricing Page Best Practices

1. Keep your language simple and straightforward.

Buyers don’t like confusion. They’re about to give you their hard earned money and they want the entire process to be as clear as possible. In essence, they want to know what exactly they’re paying for and what it’s going to do for them. Your pricing page should clearly convey what your product or service will do for the buyer. Your pricing page is not the place to get witty or show expertise with hard to grasp grammar.

Making your pricing page as simple as possible should be at the core of your entire design.

The SaaS DNA project found that ease of understanding is crucial for visitors, so the best pricing pages for companies are often the simplest. The study recommends that pricing pages should stick to simplicity.

Dollar Shave Club is a brand synonymous with humor and eccentricity. Yet even they know that clear, easy to understand language beats being witty when it comes to talking price.

2. Limit your pricing plans to a few options.

The theme of simplicity extends beyond language. Even your price plans should be easy to understand. While this can be difficult if you serve multiple customer segments, complex price plans do limit sales. The less your buyer has to think before choosing a plan the better your conversion rate will be.

Take a page from Groove, they initially had a complicated pricing page that had a conversion rate of 1.17%.

Image source

And their conversion rate increased by 350% when they simplified their pricing page.

Due to the nature of what you offer, having one price plan isn’t always an option. You can fix the issue of complex pricing by offering a customizable plan instead.

You can do this by offering: A ‘contact us’ option for enterprise: Where people can get in touch for a tailored plan.

Sliding scale plan: Where buyers can view price and features with a simple interactive element.

Campaign Monitor captures the essence of a customizable plan with both a sliding scale and an option for more demanding businesses. They save their customers from going through an otherwise complicated buying process.

Image source

3. Reduce friction points.

Friction points, also known as FUDs (fear, uncertainties and doubts), are factors that keep people from buying — and you’ve probably experienced them yourself as a buyer.

There are several ways to reduce friction points:

Add FAQs to your pricing page

Have a chat with your customer service team and create a list of the most common questions potential buyers ask and answer them on your pricing page.

Include live chat

Something that’s becoming more popular by the day, is presenting buyers with an option to speak with a sales rep. Especially if you sell expensive products, buyers can get questions unique to them answered in a personalized way.

Offer a free trial or money-back guarantee

Before purchasing most people wonder if a service or product will meet their particular need, this objection might be strong enough to make them cancel a purchase. Businesses avoid this by offering a free trial for services or a money back guarantee for physical products.

Include testimonials

What other people can say about your business matters more than anything you can say about it. When people see others like them achieving success with your product they feel more confident about buying.

Adespresso deals with friction points on their pricing page by offering testimonials, answering FAQs and displaying the logos of companies already using their service.

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4. Utilize price anchoring.

Imagine you’re in a store for a watch and the store clerk shows you a $20,000 watch, your pulse quickens, then she displays the $12,000 variety and then finally a $2,000 watch. Psychology tells us that you’d probably see the $2,000 watch as cheap even though on it’s own you would’ve judged its price as too high.

A study conducted by the University of Arizona revealed that participants were more likely to judge a house as a bargain when it was placed next to an identical building with an artificially inflated price. Regardless of whether they were inexperienced undergrad students or real estate experts. This is because we tend to judge things based on what we were exposed to prior.

Price anchoring is applied in pricing pages by displaying the most expensive plans first. To test the effect of this on pricing pages, Conversionxl conducted a study and used task scenarios, eye-tracking and survey tools to gather feedback.

The result of the study revealed that participants chose more expensive packages more often when they were listed first, or furthest left in left-right order.

They found that why people generally took in the information at the same, listing the expensive plans first on the left resulted in longer ‘dwell times’ on the page. Overall the first two positions received the most attention.

Here’s a bar graph of the results when participants were asked to choose a plan.

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The participants chose the Pro plan more when it was offered first.

Here’s how Unbounce, a company that knows a thing or two about optimization, designs their pricing page.

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5. Highlight a recommended plan.

You know better than anyone what option would fit the needs of the majority of your customers. Reduce the confusion faced by buyers by highlighting a plan you think will be a good fit for the majority of visitors.

It shouldn’t just be your most expensive plan though — it has to be a price plan that based on evidence, most of your customers will derive value from. And there’s proof that highlighting a plan works to reduce pricing page friction and buyer confusion.

Another study conducted by ConversionXL examined how highlighting a recommended plan impacted results.

Here’s a table showing the results of the study.

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The major takeaway from the study is that participants chose the PRO plan more often when it was highlighted, especially if it was placed in the expensive first order.

6. Add the number nine to prices.

Also known as psychological or charm pricing. It’s based on the theory that certain prices have a psychological impact. And you’ve probably seen this effect used in grocery stores and car slots.

Though not supported by everyone, some studies do show that charm prices work, for example, an experiment conducted by MIT and the University of Chicago found that clothing items at a women store sold more when it was priced at $39 than when it only cost $34 and even $44.

In another study, Gumroad shows how the number nine improves conversion rates.

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7. Make the CTA prominent.

The CTA is crucial to the success of your pricing page. Your CTA has to stand out and clearly convey what you want your readers to do. It shouldn’t be blocked by features and price.

Also, the wording in you CTA matter, for example, research done by HubSpot found that the word ‘submit’ negatively affects conversion rates.

Your CTA has to be in essence: Prominent, actionable, and specific. The best CTAs start with a verb and tell the reader what they’ll get by taking action.

Here’s how Sprout Social does it.

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8. Improve information and action

The SaaS DNA project, which I cited earlier, also revealed that pricing pages that had the most information and were action-oriented resulted in more confident users who in turn converted better. The study showed that pages that lacked either information or action resulted in lower conversions.

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The study advised that for a pricing page to be both informative and actionable people should be able to connect the dots between what each plan offered, and how they would actually apply the offerings in their own lives. An indicator that you’re on the right track, is if a new user can understand your pricing page.

Here’s an example from Box, a company that ranks highly in the SaaS DNA high information and action category.

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Easy to understand and actionable.

Box not only segments pricing by customer base so as not to overwhelm buyers, but each section clearly tells you what you get and how to get it.

9. Never stop testing.

As with anything in optimization, you have to keep testing. What works for one company might not work for yours and the only way to make sure that the features you implement are the best they can be is to test continuously. But these best practices provide you with guidelines to help you decide on what features to implement in your pricing page for better conversions.

how to design landing pages that convert

 
how to design landing pages for conversion


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