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Bridget Miller

Bridget Miller

Facebook plans to be more than a place for socializing and aims to magnetize news stories and public debates that are usually associated with Twitter.

Thanks to the continuous work on its natural language Graph Search, Facebook now registers 2 billion searches per day, filtering through its 2.5 trillion posts.

The increase in searches over the social media platform is significant, seeing how in July 2015 Facebook counted 1.5 billion searches per day. For comparison, in September 2012, the platform had 1 billion searches per day. A 33 percent surge in searches over nine months is something all social media can learn from.

Full post search seems to have given Facebook an edge over Twitter. Facebook recruited 60 million users during the last quarter, which makes Twitter's 3 million unimpressive by comparison. Facebook has the power of big numbers, with a total number of 1.71 billion global users. It simply has more voices, despite many of them being not as responsive or opinionated as Twitter users.


But it looks like the trend is already shifting.

At the recent earnings call, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, pointed out that users no longer use the search function merely to find high school acquaintances, but to get in touch with people's opinions on various topics.

What is more, a growing number of users rely on the search function to scoop up businesses and various interests, which moves the focus of the search from just people to a wider array of topics.

What Facebook discretely suggests is that its users now talk more about things that matter to them on the platform, as their words can find their way to those interested. The powerful search engine and huge user base also make it a good idea for businesses to be more active in the social media environment. Traditionally, Twitter has been the master of talking space, but Facebook is coming up from behind since it launched its public post search in 2015.

At the earnings call, Facebook's CEO was asked about his strategy for turning searches into revenue.

Zuckerberg says that there are three stages to the strategy: first, a "consumer user case" is required. Second, Facebook will tweak things so that clients naturally interact with the businesses. Third, providing tools for businesses to reach more people should boost Facebook's profits.

The company's helm underlined that paid search ads are not in the books for now, but he acknowledges that "a reasonable amount of behavior [...] could be monetizable." Facebook is also looking into banking on its WhatsApp and Messenger apps, and insiders familiar with the matter point out that various ideas are still being tested.

Another way the company plans to increase its revenue is by tapping into the potential of Live Video. Facebook wants to make the feature interesting and even signed deals with celebrities to create their own videos. However, the feature is not yet bringing in revenue, as the company is currently focusing on delivering high quality content.

According to the recent earnings report, Facebook's revenue in the quarter was of $6.44 billion, with $2.05 billion profit, most of which comes directly from mobile advertising.


Academic researchers study many aspects of business, but business practitioners rarely make use of that research. A multi-university research team reports that researchers and practitioners share more interests than either group realizes and outlines ways that the two groups can collaborate more effectively to address shared challenges.

"There's a big gap between science and practice, and our goal with this study was to look at both why that gap exists and how we can eliminate it," says Jeff Pollack, co-author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of management, innovation and entrepreneurship at North Carolina State University.

Fundamentally, the researchers found that there are two key issues that contribute to the gap between researchers and practitioners -- and those two issues are essentially two sides of the same coin. First, there is a perception that there is little overlap in the interests of researchers and practitioners, which acts as a disincentive for them to work together. Second, generally speaking, the two groups know very little about each other -- meaning that neither group has a clear understanding of what the other group thinks is important.

To address these issues in detail, a team of researchers from NC State, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Iowa conducted surveys of 929 business practitioners and 828 active researchers in business disciplines. The researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 16 academics in the business field and 22 practitioners, ranging from "C-suite" executives and managers to government officials and legal advisors. The surveys and interviews focused on the needs and goals of the study participants.

The interview and survey data were consistent with each other, and identified clear areas of overlap.

"There are many more areas of common interest than either researchers or practitioners were aware of," says George Banks, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor of management at UNC-Charlotte. Specifically, both groups expressed significant interest in eight particular business challenges:

  • Reducing or eliminating pay inequality.
  • Reducing or eliminating workplace discrimination.
  • Reducing or eliminating unethical business practices.
  • Expanding opportunities for continuing education.
  • Leveraging technological innovation to improve job availability and quality.
  • Improving employee morale.
  • Reducing the carbon footprint of businesses and products.
  • And enhancing the quality of customer service.

"To be clear, we didn't give people a list of topics to choose from," says Brad Kirkman, co-author of the paper, General (Ret.) H. Hugh Shelton Distinguished Professor of Leadership and head of the Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in NC State's Poole College of Management.

"These shared interests are subjects that researchers and practitioners brought up independently again and again when asked what they felt were the biggest challenges facing their fields."

"Interestingly, many of these challenges aren't focused on gaining a competitive advantage, but rather on addressing fundamental business practices that apply to multiple stakeholders in the domain of management," Pollack says.

The researchers also outlined four steps that could be taken by business schools to improve collaboration on these shared areas of interest.

First, the researchers urge the academic community to promote research findings. For example, faculty can work with university media offices to disseminate findings to reporters and the public.

Second, the researchers call for the creation of a new journal that is specifically focused on providing management professionals with practical advice they can actually use.

"We argue that peer-reviewed research can be both academically rigorous and relevant to practitioners - and we need a new journal that appreciates this," Pollack says.

Third, the researchers call on members of the business research community to use social media and other online platforms to reach out directly to business professionals.

Finally, the researchers suggest that business schools change the way they evaluate their faculty.

"Currently, evaluations of professors look at research, teaching and service," Kirkman says. "We propose that faculty also be evaluated based on 'practical impact.' That term may be defined differently in different places, but we think of it broadly as encompassing actions that researchers have made to reach business audiences -- whether that is by publishing books for a popular audience or working with businesses to help them craft business plans."

The researchers have already identified more than 160 businesses that are interested in working with the research community. "And that number is growing all the time," Pollack says. More information about these potential business/research partners is available from the authors.

"We are in the early stages of using these findings to implement change," Pollack says. "But we have every reason to believe that this change is inevitable, and that it will benefit both researchers and the business community."

The paper, "Management's Science-Practice Gap: A Grand Challenge for All Stakeholders," is published online in the Academy of Management Journal. Co-authors include Jaime Bochantin of UNC-Charlotte, Christopher Whelpley of VCU, and Ernest O'Boyle of the University of Iowa. The work was done with support from the Department of Management, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in NC State's Poole College of Management.

Source : http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-07/ncsu-siw072116.php 

Monday, 25 July 2016 03:41

The Keyword Research Rabbit Hole

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how to use your first meeting with a client to understand their business and collect information that could later inform your keyword research. Now, you’re back at your desk and wondering what to do with all that information.

To begin with, you should have three lists of keyword-types (I call them seeds):

Types of Keyword Seeds or Categories
  1. Seeds most important to your clients (note that these may include jargon and industry-specific terms that need further research)
  2. Seeds that accurately describe the business (these would be your own layman’s terms for what this client does)
  3. Seeds that are not relevant or core to your client’s business

I like to refer to these as seeds because they are a seed of an idea that could grow into giant “trees” of information and possibilities.

There’s no need at this point to distinguish between “deck” and “decking” for example, and this is a mistake SEOs often make; trying to narrow the field too much too early.

Let’s dive into each of these a little more deeply using an example of a client I did work for: Artisan Contruction Services.

Note that all of these lists have far more than 2-3 keywords on them, but for purposes of example, I’ve simplified them. This client is a local (to Raleigh, NC) remodeling company that specializes in building decks and screened porches and remodeling kitchens and bathrooms. (Those are my own words for List Two).

The owner of the company, when asked to describe the product in his own words, said:

“We provide decking, siding and window replacement, and interior remodeling.”

Seeds most important to the client (based on the above description and the keywords he mentioned) are decking, siding, windows and interior remodeling. This would be List One above.

Seeds that aren’t relevant (List Three above) are things the client prefers not to do or sub-contracts out, such as roofing (says he can never do it as cheaply as professional roofers), plumbing (he hates it) and highly specialized design work like tile inlays. He’s also not a licensed electrician. So these are keyword seeds to avoid.

Initial Lists of Keyword Seeds

Example of Keyword Seed Lists

List One

List One is based on jargon, and requires further research. The first thing I do with keywords like this is to look at competitors’ websites. I’ve gotten a list of competitors from the client that I’ll research, and I’ll also put these terms into Google or Bing and look at the sites that come up in the results (I’ll localize to Raleigh, NC so that I’m getting the most accurate set of competitors).

Reviewing these sites will give me more seeds to research based on that jargon. In this case, I found specific types of decking, such as composite and pressure-treated, and I found that many competitors also refer to screened porches as sunrooms or patios (which are slightly different, but may cover more potential customers).

One additional thing the client told me is that customers often aren’t sure of what they want until they call him in for an estimate, so I’m keeping this in mind. Also during my research, I found another competitor in search that wasn’t mentioned as a major competitor. I’ll put this on a list of things to ask the client about in our next meeting.

List One Keyword Seeds

Example of List One Expansion based on Competitors research

Next, I’ll look at how customers are actually referring to the different products and services.

I’ll use theGoogle Search Bar “related searches” area at the bottom of Google’s SERPs, Google Insights to look at trends, and the “Discussions” search option (click “More” under “Search” on the left side of a Google SERP page).



Based on what I found here, I’ve learned that many people are asking what the differences are between screened porches and sunrooms, as well as that they’re sometimes referred to as lanais or three-season porches. I’ll add these seeds to my research.

I also learned that many people are interested in enclosing an existing deck into a screened porch, or “winterizing” a screened porch. More seeds for my research.

To review, I’ve taken the keyword seeds [screened porch], [patio], and [sunroom] and added:

  • enclosing deck
  • winterizing porch
  • lanai
  • three-season porch

These are all things that my client’s customers are looking for that his competitors aren’t servicing. They should be easy wins.

Keyword Seeds List Two

Example of List Two expansion based on Google "Discussions"

List Two

I can research List Two in much the same way I did List One. I’ll add these seeds to the research as well.

List Three

List Three is a little different from the others. I won’t add these as seeds to my research, but I will save them for the elimination and refinement process later.

This is where instinct and experience becomes particularly useful, as it’s likely that I can take any list of keywords to avoid and expand it on instinct.

For example, based on what I know of this client, he already wants to avoid roofing, plumbing, tile, and electrical. But here are a few more statements I jotted down at our meeting that give me more clues:

  • “I’m not the best priced contractor out there, because I don’t hire any undocumented workers and I pay my taxes. But I am very experienced and my clients are always happy with my work.”

Now I know I need to avoid [cheap], [free], [low-cost], [best priced], and other keywords like that. [Quality], [experience] and [ethical] are possible modifiers that are allowed.

  • “I prefer to work with composite materials rather than pressure-treated lumber for decks. It’s much higher quality and creates a nicer finished product.”

So it’s a good idea to focus on any searches asking for the differences between those materials. Also I’ll probably weight the research more heavily to different types and brands of composite materials.

Another note I’m jotting down from this statement is to suggest the client create a page that discusses the pros and cons of composite vs. pressure-treated materials.

  • “A lot of customers get a quote from a company like SEARS home improvement when they’re thinking about doing a remodeling project. This makes it tough for me because the materials that SEARS uses are limited to less-expensive ones. It helps me a lot if I can get a sense of a client’s budget beforehand; a single project can vary by thousands of dollars depending on the materials used. But of course, nicer materials create a nicer finished project.”

I’m not exactly sure what I could take from this, but there are likely to be a lot of keywords related to home improvement and/or SEARS.

I’ll be careful of those keywords and use something like Google Insights to determine if those trend higher at a certain time of year. I might even put them into a tool like ComScore to see if I can determine if people who search for [home improvement] related terms are in a lower income bracket. Of course, I also know I’ll have to avoid any keywords having to do with the television program of the same name.

Keyword Seeds List Three

Example of expansion of List Three based on notes from the client meeting

This is just the tip of the iceberg for keyword research. The proverbial “rabbit hole” can get very deep sometimes, so it’s important to make good decisions about which keywords to expand and which to keep at surface level.

I’m sure at this point, you’re wondering why I haven’t mentioned Googles's keyword Frequency Tool. Researching search frequency can be very useful, especially in determining how far to expand a certain keyword seed. For example, I found almost immediately that [lanai] has very low search frequency. So I didn’t spend a lot of time on it.

Conversely, I found that [enclosing deck] is actually quite large, especially when viewed through Google Insights in the spring and summer months, localized to North Carolina.

Ultimately, I’ll put all of these keyword seeds into the Google Keyword Tool to find the most highly searched combinations of keywords and an overall estimate of the search frequency of one service (decks) over another (window replacement). This will help me guide the client on what content should be created for the website.

I prefer to do most of the research in the manner discussed above, and then use search frequency to refine, categorize and prioritize it. I have certain tools and formulas that I use to do that. Next time, I’ll give you these tools and explain how to refine what you’ve found and present it to your client.



Startups are usually in a rush, and they often forget about data security as they try to get an MVP out.With new businesses, a data breach can result in the company closing down. To address the mistakes most commonly made, I asked ten YEC entrepreneurs the following:

What’s the one crucial mistake that tech startups seem to make when it comes to data security nowadays and why?

1. Personal and professional borders

Bring your own device (BYOD) has become increasingly popular during the past years, even more so in the startup scene. People don’t like carrying several smartphones and having to get proficient in different operating systems for tasks as checking their email or updating their calendars. However, convenience often compromises security. Workers’ personal devices can access and store sensitive corporate information locally. When the person leaves the company, the information leaves with them, forever stored on his or her device. Security-wise, this is a crucial mistake.


2. Ignoring two-step authentication

Two-step authentication – the system that sends your mobile phone a code via SMS, to enter when logging in a new web page – is an easy, but often ignored, initial step. It is now offered in all the key business platforms, including Salesforce and Google Apps for Work. You can even enable this security system in social networks at will. Since password breaching is becoming more and more common, the wise thing to do is to enhance your online-stored sensitive information with an added protection layer.

3. Security issues

Racing to get a sustainable product on the market and getting those all important sales is a top startup priority, which may cause security mishaps early on. Ensuring that your systems are secure is a meticulous process which can rob resources from product development. However, when startups “cheat” during security setup, it is almost certain that they’ll come across the same problem in the future. Privacy and safety should be top priorities from the beginning.

4. Insufficient exit protocols.

Data lapses and security breaches are more common with companies that depend mostly on freelancers or part-time staff unless they incorporate a predetermined exit procedure. Data loss, in the form of confidential information sharing, account access and other, is not hard to take place when sensitive corporate data remains stored on the devices of these people; they are not so security-conscious on their personal devices, or they even forget about having the information stored in the first place. You ought to protect your company’s and your client’s information by planning ahead with your legal team.

5. Forgoing SSL from the beginning

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is easily implementable from day one. It should be enabled by default in every website. It reassures your users, while upgrading the security level of your communications.


6. Failing to prioritize security

Startups often think they can leave security for later when they will have grown larger. The problem with this approach is that the company fails to incorporate security in its core values, which makes it harder to deal with when the time comes.

7. Having no policies for cloud storage

Cloud Storage services like Dropbox, Box and Google Drive, are an amazing way to keep your team up to speed and handle documents. However, failing to lock them down properly renders them vulnerable to ransomware, viruses, and unauthorized access. The main vulnerability is the convenience of file sharing itself, which means that backups, anti-virus, password, email attachment and access policies must be set up before a single user is allowed to cause trouble for a whole company.

8. Disregarding security best-practice

Change in security practices follows the pace of technological evolution. This means that security standards from a decade ago are now obsolete. Many startups fail to keep up with the most up-to-date security developments and as a result, they use outdated encryption protocols or old techniques that can be breached by hackers and crackers.

9. No internal policies and infrastructure

Tech startups are in a prime position regarding data security because they have the ability to apply best industry practices from the start, without being kept behind by outdated systems. This has resulted in unprecedented product security. However, despite the increased security, internal protocols and practices at tech startups have not evolved accordingly. Limited use of single log-in, sharing of credentials and insecure password policies are all aspects of the failure of technology startups to invest adequate resources in their internal systems and infrastructure or their influence on data security.


10. No suspicious activity notifications

About half-a-year ago, I suffered a data breach that brought me close to a significant financial setback. For starters, I used a single (weak) password across many organizations, as well as for personal use. Someone figured out the password, and I suffered breaches in multiple points at the same time. I could have easily avoided this catastrophe with a simple policy regarding password strength. What’s more, I found out that sophisticated data security tools exist in many systems for mitigating data breaches. On Google Apps for Business, for example, I set up a notification alert to be sent whenever weird activity takes place.

Source:  https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/277086





Rebecca here, filling in for Christopher this week – and yes, these are some nice, roomy shoes I’m standing in, thanks for asking.I don’t have any witty comments to make about the current state of UK politics, so let’s dive straight into the search-related news you might have missed while you were outside cloud-gazing, collecting butterflies, or (if you’re British) making the most of the fact that we can still travel freely between other EU countries…

As usual, Google is where it’s at this week, with news that HTTPS websites account for a third of search results on page one, an increase in the number of search results that receive a Quick Answer Box, and does Google’s newest acquisition mean it’s finding new ways to watch us all creepily?

Google is increasing the number of queries that receive a Quick Answer box

Jim Yu reported for Search Engine Watch this week on the fact that the portion of Google search results which received a Quick Answer box has increased from just over 20% in December 2014 to more than 30% in May 2016.

A Quick Answer, also known as a featured snippet, is when Google pulls content from a trusted, high-ranking website that will directly answer a user’s query and places it at the top of the SERP so that they can find the information they need without having to click through to another site. It can be an awesome way to dominate the SERP without having to fight for the top position.

A featured snippet for the search query, "Why is my internet so slow", featuring an answer from Lifehacker at the top of search results.

Jim looked at the impact that Google Quick Answers have on brands, and broke down the three-step framework for getting your content into a quick answer box. So now you can win the game without even playing it, too!

30% of Google search results are HTTPS websites

A new study from Moz has revealed that more than 30% of websites on page one of Google search use the HTTPS protocol. We know that HTTPS has been a “lightweight ranking signal” for Google since 2014, and the data that Moz has been tracking bears that information out.

Christopher Ratcliff looked at how the share of Google search results on page one that use HTTPS has climbed from an initially tiny fraction in August 2014 to a significant share of the results.

A graph by Moz showing the percentage of HTTPS results on page 1 of Google between January 2014 and June 2016. The graph line begins at around 7% and climbs gradually, with a sudden jump upwards between June and July 2015, then continues to climb gradually to reach 32.5% in June 2016.

As Christopher put it,

“The results are definitely enough to give SEOs pause for thought when it comes to considering whether to switch their sites to a secure protocol.”
Mobile searches on Google have now exceeded desktop – how has the landscape of search changed?

Jason Tabeling looked at how the landscape of search has changed now that, for the first time ever, mobile searches on Google have exceeded desktop. “To account for this massive shift, Google has made some of the most drastic changes to search results in years,” including removing right-hand side ads and adding a fourth paid listing above organic search results, causing mobile results to be filled with ads.

A screenshot of Google mobile search results for "car insurance", showing two paid ads which together take up the entire screen.

Jason broke down the data on the number of times paid ads, shopping results or local listings appear in search results and evaluated how the information should affect your search strategy.

Google acquires image recognition startup Moodstocks

Google announced yesterday that it has acquired Moodstocks, a French startup specialising in machine-learning-based image recognition technology for smartphones.

As the International Business Times reported,

“Following the acquisition, which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks, the Moodstocks team will join Google’s R&D team in Paris where they will continue to “build great image recognition tools within Google”.”

Between the Twitter acquisition of Magic Pony two weeks ago and Amazon’s acquisition of AI startup Orbeus in April, it seems that visual processing and machine learning is where it’s at for major tech companies.

The Sun gave a particularly hysterical take on this development by announcing that Google had revealed plans to put “eyes in machines” and that “campaigners” had urged Britons to “cover up cameras on smartphones and computers”. Er… that sounds a little impractical.

A photograph of a poster (said to be from one of the Google cafeterias) reading "GOOGLE IS WATCHING YOU" with "Google" being the Google logo. The logo also has two eyes in the Os.

But in all seriousness, this latest addition to Google’s R&D department could be the first step towards giving Google the capability to identify and run a search for objects in the physical world, à la CamFind.

And if Google really is watching me, well, maybe it’ll finally be able to tell me where I left my keys.

Google is experimenting with another use for Google Posts

The SEM Post reported this week that Google has been spotted expanding its use of Google Posts, a new(ish) feature combining elements of social publishing and rich cards, into more ‘ordinary’ search results.

Moz marketing scientist Dr. Pete Meyers originally noticed the posts appearing in search results for a charter school in New York, KIPP NYC. Google debuted the feature, which I believe still lacks an official name (but has been dubbed “Google Posts” by the search commentariat), back in March as a platform for US presidential candidates to put across their policies.


It was later seen expanding the feature to include a select handful of local businesses, and then using it to cover the I/O developer conference in May. None of these past uses of Posts show up in search results any more – and at the time of writing, KIPP’s appears to have disappeared too – making them a bit like a pop-up soapbox for select entities (and keeping us all guessing about what Google’s eventual plan is for Posts).

What’s interesting is that although the KIPP NYC posts were only just spotted in search, a scroll down their Google Posts page shows that the school has been using Google’s new feature since April. In other words, there could be any number of other lucky users or groups quietly using the platform and waiting for the hallowed spotlight of Google to finally, finally shine on them. And we wouldn’t know.

If you want a shot at joining their ranks, the waiting list is still open.

Source:  https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/07/08/five-most-interesting-search-marketing-news-stories-of-the-week-4/

Google is now using its RankBrain machine learning system to process every query that the search engine handles, and the system is changing the rankings of lots of queries.

The news emerged this week as part of Steven Levy’s Backchannel story about machine learning efforts at Google. From the story, in regard to RankBrain:

Google is characteristically fuzzy on exactly how it improves search (something to do with the long tail? Better interpretation of ambiguous requests?) but Dean says that RankBrain is “involved in every query,” and affects the actual rankings “probably not in every query but in a lot of queries.”

What’s more, it’s hugely effective. Of the hundreds of “signals” Google search uses when it calculates its rankings (a signal might be the user’s geographical location, or whether the headline on a page matches the text in the query), RankBrain is now rated as the third most useful.

We’ve already heard before that RankBrain is considered the most useful search ranking signal, behind content and links. But prior to this, Google had only said publicly last October that RankBrain was used to process a “large fraction” of 15 percent of the searches it had never seen before.

In short: Google’s clearly become so confident in RankBrain’s mysterious capabilities that it’s now used to help with every query that the search engine handles, more than two trillion per year.

What RankBrain may be doing

What’s not happening is that RankBrain actually changes the rankings of search results for all those queries, but rather for “a lot” of them, as stated. How can that be?

That fits in with what we’ve understood about RankBrain: it seems largely used as a query refinement tool. Google seems to be using it now for every search to better understand what that search is about. After that, another aspect of RankBrain might influence what results actually appear and in what order, but not always.

Imagine that RankBrain sees a search for “best flower shop in Los Angeles.” It might understand that this is similar to another search that’s perhaps more popular, such as “best LA flower shops.” If so, it might then simply translate the first search behind the scenes into the second one. It would do that because for a more popular search, Google has much more user data that helps it feel more confident about the quality of the results.

In the end, RankBrain did change the ranking of those results. But it did that simply because it triggered a different search, not because it used some special ranking factor to influence which exact listing appeared in what order.

Having said that, Google has said that RankBrain also is used as an actual ranking signal, repeating that yesterday at our SMX Advanced show.

For the SEO and search marketers worried about what they should do now that RankBrain has ramped up, the answer remains the same: nothing, but focus on great content. Even people at Google don’t quite understand how RankBrain does what it does, we’ve been told. Honest. But it’s ultimately designed to reward great content. So focus on that, which has always been the case with SEO, and you’re on the right track.

Source:  http://searchengineland.com/google-loves-rankbrain-uses-for-every-search-252526

Today, more people live in cities than in rural areas. This is of course a change from the 1800s and even the early part of the 20th century, when more people lived in the country. There are no signs of a slow-down in urbanization; in fact it's only speeding up. By 2050 total urban population is expected to reach a whopping 70 percent.

Humans are becoming increasingly connected wherever they live. CISCO claims explosive growth rates for IoT devices, saying that 25 billion of them are now connected to the Internet, with this figure rising to 50 billion in just 5 years. This is an ongoing trend that isn't all that surprising given our increasingly interconnected society.

How interconnected? Well, it starts with a pressing need. Experts say that in order to sustainably prosper while taking into account population growth and competing resources, cities will have to become smarter. This means that they will be increasingly reliant on IoT and digital systems to effectively meet citizen demand, reduce energy and other resource costs, as well as bridge the gap between citizens and governments.

A Snapshot of the IoT Ecosystem

There are hundreds of firms worldwide developing technologies and solutions to meet the needs of smart cities. For instance, dozens of companies are working to provide more efficient lighting and traffic planning to help pedestrians and drivers by computerizing those systems.

Enevo is an interesting IoT solution that is looking to turn waste collection into an internet and data-based process. It optimizes the logistics of collecting waste from trash containers.

Urban homes can directly benefit from IoT solutions that improve the connectivity of physical devices, making the whole more efficient than the sum of its parts. For instance, there are products that activate security alarms from a distance. Nest is a famous example of a home heating system that turns itself off at certain times in order to use less energy.

Singaporean-Australian IoT company Xped has introduced a smartphone-enabled IoT solution called ARDC that can be applied to physical home devices. Using an app on their smartphone, consumers can tap a chosen device and immediately control and operate it. The phone automatically discovers connected devices, finds a wireless network, and displays it on the user's interface. The company is currently in the process of listing on the Australian Securities Exchange.

Other IoT startups and established household names also work to provide solutions for cities both on macro and micro-level. Phillips, for instance, launched Lumimotion, a sensor-based lighting systems that is activated based on data collected from street activity.

The Path to IoT Success

Based on my research into IoT companies, if founders want to achieve success in the realm of smart cities, they will will need to keep a few things in mind. It all comes down to ease of use.

1. Seamless Onboarding Experience:

Devices will need to speak to each other so simply that connection must be an afterthought. Finding a new connected device should theoretically be as easy as tapping on a device that appears on a smartphone interface. Keeping such integrations as simple as possible will ease new users into the experience.

2. Support for Multiple Devices:

IoT solutions should be optimized to function across different devices. Since people will have an array of them, it's important for solutions to work across different types of items for simplicity sake.

3. User-friendly Systems:

Although we're talking about complex systems here, effective IoT tech should probably be managed by just one user-friendly control center.

Despite the hype, both established companies and emerging IoT startups must take into account security measures when looking to market their products in urban communities. Some experts are still skeptical of IoT because of this issue, saying a system so complex may be more trouble than it's worth. It will be up to IoT providers to convince users, both citizens and city governments, that their solutions are not only exciting, but also safe enough to satisfy user concerns about data privacy.

Disruptive IoT technologies have the power to be applied to seemingly unlimited devices and appliances. This will also have a huge impact on cities, especially given the presence of outdated systems that are in need of a major makeover.

Moreover, to truly meet the demands of a growing urban population competing for limited city resources, IoT has a huge role to play in transforming the way people experience urban living, from their homes, to the office, to everywhere in between. It will be interesting to see how this technology evolves to provide sustainable answers to pressing urban issues.

Source:  http://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/how-entrepreneurs-can-ride-the-internet-of-things-to-success.html

The success of Amazon's Echo, the voice-activated speaker that can control many internet-of-things devices, has spurred many people to dip into the world of the connected home. Using Belkin WeMo switches, users can automate every power and light switch in their home by speaking, check to see if their doors are locked with the right lock, and lower the temperature setting on their thermostat. However, to fully recognize the scale of IoT, one must think of its history, recognizing that while there wasn't always such an easy-to-use interface as we are used to today, there were still centralized points at which multiple devices were controlled. The scale of IoT at the infrastructural level is hard to imagine, with one data center alone having hundreds of potential "points" to talk to.

This, among many other challenges in IoT, is why Apple's former head of infrastructure strategy, design and development, Scott Noteboom, founded Litbit, a company that created the open-source RhythmOS to talk to the many different "dialects" of new and legacy machines. One core issue of many IoT devices, which include industrial devices that can have a 20-year lifespan, is that they all use different operating systems, which may be un-upgradeable or replaceable. Amazon Echo mastered this on a much smaller scale, learning to "speak" to different points in the home, such as Nest thermostats or Philips Hue light bulbs. By making RhythmOS open source (meaning that anyone could potentially code a dialect for the operating system), Noteboom is doing this at a scale of millions of points. It creates an attractive operating environment for humans and machines to interact with each other, and adds a layer of security to the internet of everything, as Litbit calls it, that is necessary.

"Our software operates as a control layer that enables functionality across any network capable machine/device/thing--ranging from a new IoT light bulb, to a 20-year-old utility generator. ... The purpose of our control layer is to disaggregate hardware defined dependencies away from embedded machines, and place them onto a highly elastic/scalable software layer that runs on commodity computers. This enables interoperability between everything, using a "software defined" approach that enables the continuous advancement of technology feature-sets and functions--with applications from both Litbit, as well as any third-party developer," said Noteboom.

His approach to the IoT reflects many people's worries about its rapid growth. Matt Larson of Network World recently remarked that there were six key problems, which can be summarized as communication and security issues. While we may worry that a hacker could take control of a SmartThings hub and turn up a thermostat, at a larger scale the HVAC system of a data center could be used to destroy entire companies. On that same level, Noteboom remarks that the IoT industry also has a big data problem that could have the same issue. He equates machines to users on Twitter, except that while the average active Twitter user sends two 200-byte messages a day, a fully realized world of IoT would include 50 billion active machine "users." These machines, unlike humans, can talk constantly, all day long, and may be saying the same thing repeatedly (a thermostat could say, "It is 62 degrees in this room," for example). If each active machine point is sending a message every second, even if it's mostly the same message, that is 86,400 100-byte messages. This means that, unlike Twitter's roughly 500-million-tweet, 100-gigabyte daily data chunk, the IoT could deal with multiple exabytes of data, across multiple operating systems, potentially meaning crucial machine messages (e.g., "This server is overheating") could be lost in the shuffle. Worse still, as an industry, we really don't have experience digesting, analyzing, orchestrating, and disposing of data at a level that could be 43 million times that of Twitter. Our perception of big data is grossly underestimated. To quote Noteboom, "Big data today is tiny data tomorrow."

That scale is why over 25 companies, led by Dell, have joined a consortium to plan future strategy for the IoT. Companies like GE and SAP have joined, showing that even the largest industrial and enterprise companies are, in addition to being interested in the future of IoT, potentially daunted by the prospect of the many operating systems and devices that have been made totally separate.

It's a daunting task to fix; as the IoT has grown, there have been few sticky standards that everyone can adhere to while building a device. Each IoT device, from a connected alarm clock to a connected fridge, may be one "thing" with multiple "points" (sensors, control points, and so on). While IoT is a huge opportunity for technology to grow and change our lives for the better, it also has serious consumer, enterprise, and infrastructure issues we should all be aware of.

Source:  http://www.inc.com/drew-hendricks/as-the-internet-of-things-grows-don-t-underestimate-its-scale.html

Saturday, 04 September 2021 05:18

Conducting Online Market Research: Tips and Tools

How to use online market research tools, including search techniques, tips, and tools for using the Internet for researching your competition and market.

Your may already be conducting online market research for your business—but you may not know it. Some of the easiest to use and most common tools are located right at your fingertips. Web searches, online questionnaires, customer feedback forms—they all help you gather information about your market, your customers, and your future business prospects.

The advent of the Internet has presented small businesses with a wealth of additional resources to use in conducting free or low-cost market research. The following pages will describe the different types of tools to conduct online market research, go over the general categories of market research, and advise you how to create the best online questionnaires.

Online Market Research Tools

The following techniques can be used to gather market information with the help of a few mouse clicks and keystrokes:

  • Keyword Search. You know how to do a simple Web search using search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Take that a step farther by searching for "keywords" that people would use to find your type of products or services on the Internet. See how much interest there is in these keywords -- and how many competitors you have in this market. Keyword searches can also help remind you of product niches that you might not have considered. There are other reasons to conduct keyword searches. 'First, you're going to be reminded of product niches that you might not of thought of.' says Jennifer Laycock, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Guide, an online guide to search engines, portals and directories. 'Second, these services will also give you a guesstimate of how many existing sites already use that phrase,' Laycock continues. 'How many existing sites already offer that product.'WordTracker and Trellian's Keyword Discovery are popular keyword search engines.
  • Competitor Links. A traditional search engine can also help you check out your competitors, their prices, and their offerings. Try typing 'link:www.[competitor's name].com' into Google to find out how many other sites link to your competitor's website. 'It is a great way to see a competitor's link development and PR campaigns,' says Shari Thurow, Web expert and author of the upcoming book Search Engine Visibility. 'Is the competitor promoting a product or service similar to your own? Maybe you can get publicity because you have a new or better product.'
  • Read Blogs. Blogs are updated much more regularly than traditional websites and, therefore, they can be another gauge of public opinion. Search blogs by using blog-specific search engines, such as Technorati or Nielsen BuzzMetrics' Blogpulse. 'Blogs tend to move at a faster pace and be more informal in tone, so you're more likely to pick up conversation about a new product type or need on a blog than on a standard web site,' Laycock says.
  • Conduct Online Surveys. Another way to gauge public opinion is through online surveys. While not as scientific as in-person or phone surveys that use a random sampling of the population, online surveys are a low-cost way to do market research about whether an idea or a product will be appealing to consumers. Now many companies offer to conduct online research for you or give your company the tools to carry out your own surveying. Some online survey companies include EZquestionnaireKeySurvey, and WebSurveyor.

Research Tools and Techniques

There are a variety of types of market research tools -- both offline and online -- that are used by many large businesses and can be available to small and mid-sized businesses. When these techniques involve people, researchers use questionnaires administered in written form or person-to-person, either by personal or telephone interview, or increasingly online. Questionnaires may be closed-end or open-ended. The first type provides users choices to a question ("excellent," "good," "fair") whereas open-ended surveys solicit spontaneous reactions and capture these as given. Focus groups are a kind of opinion-solicitation but without a questionnaire; people interact with products, messages, or images and discuss them. Observers evaluate what they hear.

Major categories are as follows:

  1. Audience Research. Audience research is aimed at discovering who is listening, watching, or reading radio, TV, and print media respectively. Such studies in part profile the audience and in part determine the popularity of the medium or portions of it.
  2. Product Research. Product tests, of course, directly relate to use of the product. Good examples are tasting tests used to pick the most popular flavors—and consumer tests of vehicle or device prototypes to uncover problematical features or designs.
  3. Brand Analysis. Brand research has similar profiling features ("Who uses this brand?") and also aims at identifying the reasons for brand loyalty or fickleness.
  4. Psychological Profiling. Psychological profiling aims at construction profiles of customers by temperament, lifestyle, income, and other factors and tying such types to consumption patterns and media patronage.
  5. Scanner Research. Scanner research uses checkout counter scans of transactions to develop patterns for all manner of end uses, including stocking, of course. From a marketing point of view, scans can also help users track the success of coupons and to establish linkages between products.
  6. Database Research. Also known as database "mining," this form of research attempts to exploit all kinds of data on hand on customers—which frequently have other revealing aspects. Purchase records, for example, can reveal the buying habits of different income groups—the income classification of accounts taking place by census tract matching. Data on average income by census tract can be obtained from the Bureau of the Census.
  7. Post-sale or Consumer Satisfaction Research. Post-consumer surveys are familiar to many consumers from telephone calls that follow having a car serviced or calling help-lines for computer- or Internet-related problems. In part such surveys are intended to determine if the customer was satisfied. In part this additional attention is intended also to build good will and word-of-mouth advertising for the service provider.

Writing Online Questionnaires

When it comes to using Web-based surveys, small businesses should stick to a few simple but important rules:

  • The Shorter the Better. Don't alienate survey takers with long questionnaires. Limit yourself to 25 questions, which should take people five to seven minutes to finish, says Mary Malaszek, owner of Market Directions, a Boston market-research firm that works with businesses of all sizes. If surveys are much longer, people will abandon them 'and then you can't use them, and the next time you send them a survey they won't even open it,' she says. Other methods for keeping surveys short, according to a SensorPro white paper on online survey guidelines: make the first page simple, present answer options in multiple columns or a drop-down box, and put a status bar at the top of each question page so respondents know how close they are to being finished.
  • Avoid Open-Ended Questions. Since people want to zip through a survey, don't include a lot of open-ended questions where they have to type out the answers. Close-ended questions they can click on a button to answer—Yes, No, Maybe, Never, Often—work much better, Malaszek says. Companies can use close-ended questions to get the same kind of in-depth analysis open-ended questions provide by using rankings scales, which ask a respondent to rate something on some type of scale, 1 to 5, or 1 to 10, she says.
  • Be Persistent. If you're asking customers or vendors to take a survey, it's okay to send more than one invitation, especially to people who've previously indicated they would be willing to participate. Just make sure you've got people's permission, so they don't think you're spamming them, the survey experts say.
  • Be Patient. Businesses decide they want to do a survey then get impatient when they can't get the results right away, Malaszek says. Even though online surveys reduce some of the work, they take time to design and administer, and when the results are in, more time to interpret. It's a good idea to pick one person to shepherd the process, she says.

Source : http://www.inc.com/guides/biz_online/online-market-research.html

Search engines are an intrinsic part of the array of commonly used “open source” research tools. Together with social media, domain name look-ups, and more traditional solutions such as newspapers and telephone directories, effective web searching will help you find vital information to support your investigation.

Many people find that search engines often bring up disappointing results from dubious sources. A few tricks, however, can ensure that you corner the pages you are looking for, from sites you can trust. The same goes for searching social networks and other sources to locate people: A bit of strategy and an understanding of how to extract what you need will improve results.

This chapter focuses on three areas of online investigation:

1-Effective web searching 

2-Finding people online

3-Identifying domain ownership

1. Effective web searching

Search engines like Google don’t actually know what web pages are about. They do, however, know the words that are on the pages. So to get a search engine to behave itself, you need to work out which words are on your target pages.

First off, choose your search terms wisely. Each word you add to the search focuses the results by eliminating results that don’t include your chosen keywords.

Some words are on every page you are after. Other words might or might not be on the target page. Try to avoid those subjective keywords, as they can eliminate useful pages from the results.

Use advanced search syntax.

Most search engines have useful so-called hidden features that are essential to helping focus your search and improve results.

Optional keywords

If you don’t have definite keywords, you can still build in other possible keywords without damaging the results. For example, pages discussing heroin use in Texas might not include the word “Texas”; they may just mention the names of different cities. You can build these into your search as optional keywords by separating them with the word OR (in capital letters).

You can use the same technique to search for different spellings of the name of an individual, company or organization.

Search by domain

You can focus your search on a particular site by using the search syntax “site:” followed by the domain name.

For example, to restrict your search to results from Twitter:

To add Facebook to the search, simply use “OR” again:

You can use this technique to focus on a particular company’s website, for example. Google will then return results only from that site.

You can also use it to focus your search on municipal and academic sources, too. This is particularly effective when researching countries that use unique domain types for government and university sites.

Note: When searching academic websites, be sure to check whether the page you find is written or maintained by the university, one of its professors or one of the students. As always, the specific source matters.

Searching for file types

Some information comes in certain types of file formats. For instance, statistics, figures and data often appear in Excel spreadsheets. Professionally produced reports can often be found in PDF documents. You can specify a format in your search by using “filetype:” followed by the desired data file extension (xls for spreadsheet, docx for Word documents, etc.).

2. Finding people

Groups can be easy to find online, but it’s often trickier to find an individual person. Start by building a dossier on the person you’re trying to locate or learn more about. This can include the following:

The person’s name, bearing in mind:

Different variations (does James call himself “James,” “Jim,” “Jimmy” or “Jamie”?).

The spelling of foreign names in Roman letters (is Yusef spelled “Yousef” or “Yusuf”?).

Did the names change when a person married?

Do you know a middle name or initial?

The town the person lives in and or was born in.

The person’s job and company.

Their friends and family members’ names, as these may appear in friends and follower lists.

The person’s phone number, which is now searchable in Facebook and may appear on web pages found in Google searches.

Any of the person’s usernames, as these are often constant across various social networks.

The person’s email address, as these may be entered into Facebook to reveal linked accounts. If you don’t know an email address, but have an idea of the domain the person uses, sites such as email-format can help you guess it.

A photograph, as this can help you find the right person, if the name is common.

Advanced social media searches: Facebook

Facebook’s newly launched search tool is amazing. Unlike previous Facebook searches, it will let you find people by different criteria including, for the first time, the pages someone has Liked. It also enables you to perform keyword searches on Facebook pages.

This keyword search, the most recent feature, sadly does not incorporate any advanced search filters (yet). It also seems to restrict its search to posts from your social circle, their favorite pages and from some high-profile accounts.

Aside from keywords in posts, the search can be directed at people, pages, photos, events, places, groups and apps. The search results for each are available in clickable tabs.

For example, a simple search for Chelsea will find bring up related pages and posts in the Posts tab:

The People tab brings up people named Chelsea. As with the other tabs, the order of results is weighted in favor of connections to your friends and favorite pages.

The Photos tab will bring up photos posted publicly, or posted by friends that are related to the word Chelsea (such as Chelsea Clinton, Chelsea Football Club or your friends on a night out in the Chelsea district of London).

The real investigative value of Facebook’s search becomes apparent when you start focusing a search on what you really want.

For example, if you are investigating links between extremist groups and football, you might want to search for people who like The English Defence League and Chelsea Football Club. To reveal the results, remember to click on the “People” tab.

This search tool is new and Facebook are still ironing out the creases, so you may need a few attempts at wording your search. That said, it is worth your patience.

Facebook also allows you to add all sorts of modifiers and filters to your search. For example, you can specify marital status, sexuality, religion, political views, pages people like, groups they have joined and areas they live or grew up in. You can specify where they studied, what job they do and which company they work for. You can even find the comments that someone has added to uploaded photos. You can find someone by name or find photos someone has been tagged in. You can list people who have participated in events and visited named locations. Moreover, you can combine all these factors into elaborate, imaginative, sophisticated searches and find results you never knew possible. That said, you may find still better results searching the site via search engines like Google (add “site:facebook.com” to the search box).

Advanced social media searches: Twitter

Many of the other social networks allow advanced searches that often go far beyond the simple “keyword on page” search offered by sites such as Google. Twitter’s advanced search, for example, allows you to trace conversations between users and add a date range to your search.

Twitter allows third-party sites to use its data and create their own exciting searches.
Followerwonk, for example, lets you search Twitter bios and compare different users. Topsy has a great archive of tweets, along with other unique functionality.

Advanced social media searches: LinkedIn

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company or seniority.

You have to log in to LinkedIn in order to use the advanced search, so remember to check your privacy settings. You wouldn’t want to leave traceable footprints on the profile of someone you are investigating!

You can get into LinkedIn’s advanced search by clicking on the link next to the search box. Be sure, also, to select “3rd + Everyone Else” under relationship. Otherwise , your search will include your friends and colleagues and their friends.

LinkedIn was primarily designed for business networking. Its advanced search seems to have been designed primarily for recruiters, but it is still very useful for investigators and journalists. Personal data exists in clearly defined subject fields, so it is easy to specify each element of your search.

You can enter normal keywords, first and last names, locations, current and previous employers, universities and other factors. Subscribers to their premium service can specify company size and job role.

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company and seniority.

Other options

Sites like Geofeedia and Echosec allow you to find tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Flickr and Instagram photos that were sent from defined locations. Draw a box over a region or a building and reveal the social media activity. Geosocialfootprint.com will plot a Twitter user’s activity onto a map (all assuming the users have enabled location for their accounts).

Additionally, specialist “people research” tools like Pipl and Spokeo can do a lot of the hard legwork for your investigation by searching for the subject on multiple databases, social networks and even dating websites. Just enter a name, email address or username and let the search do the rest. Another option is to use the multisearch tool from Storyful. It’s a browser plugin for Chrome that enables you to enter a single search term, such as a username, and get results from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Spokeo. Each site opens in a new browser tab with the relevant results.

Searching by profile pic

People often use the same photo as a profile picture for different social networks. This being the case, a reverse image search on sites like TinEye and Google Images, will help you identify linked accounts.

3. Identifying domain ownership

Many journalists have been fooled by malicious websites. Since it’s easy for anyone to buy an unclaimed .com, .net or .org site, we should not go on face value. A site that looks well produced and has authentic-sounding domain name may still be a political hoax, false company or satirical prank.

Some degree of quality control can be achieved by examining the domain name itself. Google it and see what other people are saying about the site. A “whois” search is also essential. DomainTools.com is one of many sites that offers the ability to perform a whois search. It will bring up the registration details given by the site owner the domain name was purchased.

For example, the World Trade Organization was preceded by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT). There are, apparently, two sites representing the WTO. There’s wto.org (genuine) and gatt.org (a hoax). A mere look at the site hosted at gatt.org should tell most researchers that something is wrong, but journalists have been fooled before.

A whois search dispels any doubt by revealing the domain name registration information. Wto.org is registered to the International Computing Centre of the United Nations. Gatt.org, however, is registered to “Andy Bichlbaum” from the notorious pranksters the Yes Men.

Whois is not a panacea for verification. People can often get away with lying on a domain registration form. Some people will use an anonymizing service like Domains by Proxy, but combining a whois search with other domain name and IP address tools forms a valuable weapon in the battle to provide useful material from authentic sources.



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