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Spring Clean Your Website

Spring is often associated with a fresh, new, clean start and a renewed sense of life. For many, this getting rid of the old and in with the new takes on the form of spring cleaning.  While you may be thinking about the house, why not think of refreshing and reviving your business’ website?  After all, your website is your business’ presence online and is the first interaction customers have with your company.

Does your website accurately display your company’s character, personality and culture? Is it current and up to date?

Like your home, you may acquire a different taste in décor and choose to go beyond cleaning to overhauling a room’s look. Spring is a great time to do the same for your business website.

There are some things to consider when spring cleaning your website:

 

Update Content and Information

 

Does the content of your website still embody your company’s personality and mission? Is your last blog post or “news” item from a year or two ago? Is the company contact information and personnel biographies current?

Nothing is more boring or unprofessional looking as a website that is full of outdated, incorrect information. Additionally, consider adding regular blog posts so your site. This can give your site a constant stream of fresh content that piques the interest of customers and catches the attention of search engines.

For e-commerce websites with online ordering and a catalogue of products, make sure the description for each product is correct and updated. Be sure to display current inventory, not discontinued items.

Test Out the Website’s Usability

 

Is your website easy to navigate and do all the internal links work? If not, site visitors will be quick to leave. It is also a good idea to check if your website is compatible on different devices such as phones and tablets. Also, look through all the content for grammar, spelling, punctuation errors and industry jargon. The tone and style of the content should be consistent on each webpage and should reflect the image and personality of the brand.

A website that looks nice and is easy to use increases the time visitors spend on the website, whereby increasing their chance of converting.

Give it a Fresh Look

 

Like your personal home décor preferences, your business will undergo a brand refresh to update and freshen its look to match its evolving personality. The frequency of this change can also be attributed to the preferences of a business’ targeted customers and the industry a business is in.

When undergoing a brand or website redesign, it’s a good idea to work with a professional website designer as they  know their way around the colors and font styles and sizes and their emotional and psychological effects. He or she will know which complimentary colors should be incorporated as well as the appropriate website design and layout for the look and feel of one’s brand and the personality it wants its website visitors to experience.

In addition to changing up the layout, typography and color scheme, also consider adding new photos (that are optimized) along with fresh content. Adding an events calendar and current news can also revive the appearance of a bland website.

Make Sure the Links Work

 

Outdated or broken links can can lower your business’ credible, trustworthy, professional appearance. If the internal and external links point to pages that are either outdated or no longer exist, your page’s SEO and online visibility can suffer. One should check out each link on their website frequently and regularly.

Make Sure Third Party Website Apps and Extensions Work

 

Are your company’s social media and RSS feeds properly linked and connected to your website? Are third party on-page analytics trackers up and running? Is the spam filter on your blog post comments turned on or should you disallow all commenting on old blog posts to avoid spam? If your business has an app, does it work properly? If the third party apps and extensions installed on your website  fail to work properly, you miss out on  taking the biggest online advantage you have, making your content shareable, and valuable analytics information about your website users and their behavior and interaction with your website. Without these analytics data, it is hard to assess the areas of improvement.

Evaluate and Clarify Your Site’s Call-to-Actions

 

Are the calls to action (CTA) of each page of your website obvious and clear? If it isn’t noticeable or clear, website visitors won’t know what action to take which can lead to missed conversions, purchases and e-newsletter subscriptions. When people come to your site, they not only want to quickly find the information they are looking for, but they also want to be told what to do with the information you provide.

Renew or Re-evaluate the Domain Name and Web Hosting Plan

 

It’s always a good idea to look at your website hosting plan each year as many plans require annual renewal. Did the hosting provider take care of any or all the glitches of your website? Did they provide adequate website protection? Were they responsive and easy to work with? Did prices go up or do you feel like you’re overpaying for service? Your website can’t function without a hosting provider. You need to be sure the one you choose is skilled, experienced, trustworthy, responsive and are comfortable to work with.

Similarly, yearly evaluation of your website’s domain is also a good idea. Does it clearly communicate the company’s name and targeted keywords? Is it catchy, concise and memorable? If you’re overhauling a company re-brand, will the current domain name fit the new brand identity and personality?

Spring is a great time to clean up your website and bring new life into your business. This entails ensuring that your website functions correctly, that it is easy to navigate and that the content is accurate and current. Besides being easy to use and fun to interact with, one’s website may be in need of redesign and a new look.

Whether you’re undergoing a major re-branding or simply want to make a few minor tweaks and improvements, the professionals at SEO.com can help. We are a full-service digital marketing company with professional developers, website designers, content and SEO specialists and PPC professionals. Contact us today to learn more about we can help you in your website spring cleaning.

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Miti SEO da sfatare, un ex Googler fa chiarezza sulla ricerca

10 miti seo da sfatare

Le polemiche dei giorni passati provocate dall’articolo del Wall Street Journal contro Google forse non ci hanno fornito prove convincenti di interferenze e manipolazioni attuate sul motore di ricerca, ma di sicuro ci hanno convinto di una cosa: non tutti sanno come funziona la Ricerca e per molti questo topic è oscuro. Torna quindi molto utile e quanto mai tempestivo il contributo di Kaspar Szymanski su Search Engine Land per sfatare 10 miti della SEO.

I miti da sfatare sulla SEO

Noto per esser stato parte del Search Quality Team di Google e per aver collaborato anche il team anti-spam di Mountain View, Szymanski ha redatto una lista delle idee comuni più sbagliate che ci siano sugli argomenti dell’ottimizzazione e del funzionamento di Google, veri e propri miti che spesso sono ripetuti e accettati come “fatti” ma che, come dimostra l’esperto, non hanno alcuna attinenza con la realtà.

Questo è il decalogo elencato dall’ex Googler, i cui punti andremo ora ad analizzare in modo più dettagliato.

  1. La SEO assicura condizioni di parità ai siti
  2. La SEO è un progetto una tantum
  3. La SEO è solo backlink
  4. La SEO sono solo i segnali degli utenti
  5. Google odia il mio sito!
  6. Google AdWords ha un impatto sul posizionamento
  7. Le keyword sono la chiave di volta
  8. La SEO è freschezza
  9. I segnali social sono un fattore SEO
  10. La SEO è magia

Nella SEO non si parte da parte da posizioni paritarie

Il primo punto su cui si concentra l’esperto è piuttosto sorprendente, ma anche utile: per lui bisogna uscire dall’idea che “ogni sito web abbia le stesse possibilità di competere per query”, perché anche con la SEO non c’è una condizione di parità tra i siti né può esserci. Così come in ogni tipo di mercato in cui le aziende sono in competizione, nessuna situazione è esattamente la stessa di un’altra e ci sono tanti parametri che influenzano il successo.

Siti diversi inviano segnali diversi a Google

Ad esempio, nel caso della SEO, “diversi siti web mostrano segnali SEO onpage e offpage diversi”, quindi si posizionano in modo differente; questi segnali SEO includono, a titolo esemplificativo, prestazioni della pagina, configurazione tecnica e profilo backlink per citarne alcuni che possono essere misurati e migliorati.

Esiste un periodo di grazia che va sfruttato

Secondo Szymanski, ci sarebbe comunque un periodo di “luna di miele” che Google concede ai nuovi domini che, pur non avendo ancora accumulato sufficienti segnali SEO, inizia a posizionarsi: se questo sito nuovo sfrutta il “periodo di grazia” potrà avere maggiori opportunità di eccellere costantemente per query rilevanti e competitive. In realtà, finita la luna di miele la maggior parte dei siti “crolla” quando he Google ha raccolto dati sufficienti per “confermare” il vero posizionamento meritato, stando all’esperienza del nostro autore.

La SEO non è un investimento una-tantum

Un altro tema su cui si sofferma l’articolo è la considerazione delle attività di ottimizzazione all’interno della strategia aziendale: per essere davvero efficace e per stare al passo con la concorrenza, soprattutto nelle nicchie più redditizie, la SEO deve essere considerata uno sforzo continuo con momenti di maggiore attività pianificati in anticipo.

Inoltre, è necessario aggiornarsi con costanza perché anche le best practices invecchiano, e ciò che funzionava prima potrebbe essere divenuto nel frattempo obsoleto. Ci sono alcuni elementi che devono essere costantemente monitorati e migliorati, come tutto ciò che incide direttamente sulla user experience o le prestazioni della pagina, mentre altri fattori – come l’analisi dei backlink – possono richiedere solo controlli a campione e rientrare in un più generale SEO audit on e off-page.

La SEO non è solo ottenere backlink

Abbiamo detto tante volte che i link sono fondamentali per la natura stessa del Web e che, senza collegamenti, la maggior parte dei motori di ricerca non sarebbe in grado di trovare e sottoporre a scansione nuovi contenuti; sappiamo anche che la link building può dare una spinta decisiva alla visibilità organica di un sito, ma la SEO non si deve limitare solo a ottenere PageRank trasmesso da questi backlink.

Innanzitutto, c’è la possibilità di incappare in penalizzazioni Google se la strategia non è eseguita in modo accorto e professionale, e più in generale le linee guida del motore di ricerca sottolineano che i collegamenti devono essere basati sul merito, piuttosto che su schemi a pagamento o lavori di “costruzione”. Comunque, ricorda Szymanski, Google lascia una porta aperta anche ai siti che hanno compiuto violazioni alle policies, ad esempio con il Disavow Tool, che permette di dissociarsi da un backlink proveniente da fonte indesiderata.

I segnali degli utenti sono importanti, ma non sono tutto

I cosiddetti user signals sono un fattore SEO rilevante e Google stesso basa il suo modello di business sulla soddisfazione degli utenti, cercando di usare i dati dei feedback raccolti per migliorare i suoi prodotti e rispondere meglio alle esigenze emerse.

Per la SEO, la presenza in Google Search Console di indicatori su impression e percentuale di clic ci aiuta a comprendere (parte) della percezione del sito da parte degli utenti e del loro comportamento, e ad esempio la combinazione di alti volumi di impressioni e bassi CTR può indicare che i segnali dell’utente possono essere migliorati. Questa è però solo una parte di un quadro SEO molto più grande perché, come dicevamo anche a proposito del bounce rate, le possibilità di migliorare e di intercettare il gradimento delle persone dipende principalmente dalla proposta di vendita di base del sito web.

Google non colpisce siti specifici

È irrazionale pensare che Google abbia una sorta di “animosità personale” o “odio” verso un sito specifico, dice l’ex componente di Mountain View; al massimo, l’algoritmo dimostra infatti indifferenza verso i siti Web, al punto di poter colpire con penalizzazioni anche proprietà di Big G che trasgredivano le regole (ad esempio, lo storico caso di AdWords).

Per confutare la teoria che Google voglia volutamente punire un sito e non farlo classificare, basta in genere eseguire un audit per scoprire che ci sono carenze tecniche o di contenuti e problemi on page e off page.

Non c’è collegamento tra AdWords e SEO

Uno dei miti SEO più comuni è l’idea che Google AdWords abbia un impatto positivo sul posizionamento dei siti Web: in realtà, la ricerca organica e naturale è fortemente indipendente dalla ricerca a pagamento e, conferma ancora una volta Szymanski, Google AdWords non dà un segnale SEO indipendentemente dal budget impegnato per le campagne. 

Le keyword da sole non solo rilevanti

Bisogna uscire dall’idea obsoleta che “keyword are key”, che le parole chiave siano tutto per la SEO: è vero che alle origini i motori di ricerca si basavano fortemente sulla densità delle parole chiave nelle landing page per correlare la loro rilevanza alle query, ma parliamo di storia di 20 anni fa!

L’esperto ex Googler ci dice che “Google ha sempre ignorato le meta keywords, non usa le parole chiave negli URL a fini di classificazione ed è improbabile che le keyword abbiano alcun impatto desiderabile sul CTR, soprattutto rispetto ai rich snippet breadcrumb che aiutano davvero gli utenti a navigare”. Insomma, “sono finiti i tempi del conteggio delle parole chiave sulle pagine e del tentativo di identificare un rapporto ideale”, e d’altra parte anche con SEOZoom, sin dalle origini, abbiamo superato questa concezione per fornire analisi di pagine e contenuti.

La SEO non è solo freschezza

Si ripete spesso anche quest’altro mito, ovvero che Google premia la freshness: ciò è vero solo in parte, quando cioè la freschezza risponde al search intent. L’autore del pezzo su SEL ritiene che “per i siti come giornali, riviste o portali che operano con notizie frequenti e veloci, la freschezza verticale può tradursi in un vantaggio competitivo”, ma “per la stragrande maggioranza dei siti Web, la freschezza non è importante come fattore SEO e nessuna modifica delle date di pubblicazione di vecchi articoli convincerà Google che quello è un nuovo contenuto”.

I segnali dei social non sono un fattore SEO

Commenti, like, voti e social media engagement di qualsiasi tipo – compresi i link provenienti da canali di social media come Facebook o Twitter – non aiutano la SEO come fattore di ranking, contrariamente alle teorie popolari. Google non prende in considerazione i social signals per varie ragioni, soprattutto perché i dati disponibili sono frammentati e inaffidabili, ma ciò non significa che siano irrilevanti per il marketing online e per la brand awareness.

Sintetizzando, possiamo dire che la presenza social contribuisce a costruire l’identità del marchio e rafforzare (o migliorare) la percezione di affidabilità da parte degli utenti: ciò si potrebbe tradurre in una preferenza da parte delle persone e, quindi, in una maggiore propensione al clic e all’acquisto sui siti di riferimento. Fattori che sono utili per la SEO, dice ancora Szymanski, perché in fin dei conti “Google, pur non ammettendolo pubblicamente, mostra ancora una preferenza per i siti Web che sono popolari tra gli utenti”.

Nella SEO non ci sono trucchi o magie

L’ultimo punto su cui si sofferma questa lunga analisi riguarda un modo comune (e ingenuo) di guardare alla SEO, considerata un mix di “arte e scienza” difficile da comprendere. In realtà, la SEO è semplice o comunque si può semplificare: è data-driven e spesso la quantità di dati richiesti per risolvere un problema può essere immensa, ci sono tantissimi segnali sia dentro che fuori pagina che possono essere in conflitto tra loro, ma tutto può essere suddiviso in “blocchi” più piccoli da gestire e analizzare in modo più efficace.

L’articolo Miti SEO da sfatare, un ex Googler fa chiarezza sulla ricerca proviene da SEOZoom.

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SEO Basics: How to start with SEO?

You’ve had this great idea. You’ve built this amazing website. And then, you want that website to attract visitors! You want to be found! What to do? How do you get started with SEO? How do you start with SEO on a brand new site? In this blog post, I’ll talk you through the 7 steps you need to take in order to get your SEO strategy up and running. 

So, you’ve started your first site and you want it to be found, so you can share your thoughts and views with the world. What to do? Let’s go through the steps of starting with SEO!

  1. Install Yoast SEO

    Provided that your website is on WordPress, installing Yoast SEO should be the first step in your SEO strategy. Our Yoast SEO plugin will help you to make sure your website is crawlable and findable. Yoast SEO will immediately take care of some technical SEO issues, just by being installed on your website. Besides that, our plugin will help you to construct your website in such a way that Google will understand and rank it. We offer a free and a premium plugin. If you’re just starting out, you’ll probably won’t need our premium version yet, although it can already save you some valuable time.

  2. Get that first link

    Google needs to know your website exists. And, in order for Google to know about your awesome new site, you need at least one external link towards your site. The reason for this: Google crawls the web. It follows links and saves all the webpages it finds in a very large database called the index. So, if you want to get into that index, you need (at least) one external link. So make sure to get that link from an external website!

  3. What do you want to rank for?

    Make sure to attract the right audience to your website. Who are your customers? For whom did you build this website? What terms do your customers use when searching on Google? Find out as much as you can about your audience.

    SEOs refer to this stage as doing your keyword research. This is a hard and important phase. There are a lot of helpful tools that make doing keyword research easier. Some of these tools are free, others are rather expensive. While these tools will make the difficult phase of keyword research easier, you should remember that you can’t outsource your keyword research to a tool. You really need to think about your audience and about the search terms they are using. Take your time for this phase. It is crucial. If you do your keyword research correctly, you’ll come up with a long list of keywords you want to rank for.

  4. Set realistic goals

    For a new site, it is rather hard to rank high in the beginning. Older sites already have a history, established their authority and a lot of links pointing towards them. That means that Google’s crawlers come by more often at older sites. For a new site to rank, you’ll always need to be a little patient. And remember: some search terms will be out of reach for a new site because there’s too much competition. Trying to rank for [WordPress SEO] will be rather hard for any new blog, because of some fierce competition on that term from Yoast.com.

    If you’re just starting with your site, try to aim at ranking for long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are keywords that are longer and more specific and have far less competition than the popular head keywords. After a while, when your site starts to rank for the long-tail keywords, you could try and go after the more head keywords.

  5. Internal linking

    As I already mentioned in step 2, Google follows links. Google also follows the links on your website, your internal linking structure. It crawls through your website following the internal linking structure of your site. That structure is like a guide to Google. Make sure your internal linking structure is flawless. That’ll help with your ranking. 

    If you start with a brand new website, you’ll probably don’t have much content yet. This is the perfect time to think about structure. Now it is relatively easy. It’s like having a new closet and you haven’t started buying clothes. Now is the time to think about the things you want to put on the top shelf and which items you want to hide in the back of your closet. So, decide which pages are most important to you. What are the pages you want to rank with? Make sure that these pages have the most internal links pointing towards them.

  6. Start writing

    In order to get ranked, you need to have content. A very important step in how to start with your SEO is to write amazing content for all these search terms you want to be found for. The content analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin will help you to write that content. Our analysis will help you to write a text that is both readable and SEO friendly.

    While you’re writing, make sure to use the words you want to be found for. Use them in headings and in the introduction and conclusion of your text. After writing your text, you should optimize your SEO title and your meta description. The Yoast SEO plugin will help you to do all these things.

  7. Get those links!

    External links are important to get your site in high positions in those search engines. But gathering those external links can be a hard process. Make sure to write content people want to share and link to. Original ideas and great, valuable content will make the chance that people would want to share that much bigger.

    Of course, reaching out to people and making them aware of your awesome website and product can be a good strategy to get those external links too. Read more about a successful link building strategy or find out what link building is first.

And then what?

The truth is that SEO is more than these 7 steps. This is only the very beginning, the steps you take to start with SEO. In order to get longterm high rankings in the search engines, you need to do hard work. Your content has to be amazing, your site structure has to remain flawless (and that’s challenging when your site is growing) and you’ll have to keep earning those external links. The only way to really do that, in the long run, is to make sure that your audience enjoys visiting your website. If you want to rank the highest, make sure your site is the very best. Good luck!

Read more: wordPress SEOL the definitive guide »

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The Fractured Web

Anyone can argue about the intent of a particular action & the outcome that is derived by it. But when the outcome is known, at some point the intent is inferred if the outcome is derived from a source of power & the outcome doesn’t change.

Or, put another way, if a powerful entity (government, corporation, other organization) disliked an outcome which appeared to benefit them in the short term at great lasting cost to others, they could spend resources to adjust the system.

If they don’t spend those resources (or, rather, spend them on lobbying rather than improving the ecosystem) then there is no desired change. The outcome is as desired. Change is unwanted.

News is a stock vs flow market where the flow of recent events drives most of the traffic to articles. News that is more than a couple days old is no longer news. A news site which stops publishing news stops becoming a habit & quickly loses relevancy. Algorithmically an abandoned archive of old news articles doesn’t look much different than eHow, in spite of having a much higher cost structure.

According to SEMrush’s traffic rank, ampproject.org gets more monthly visits than Yahoo.com.

Traffic Ranks.

That actually understates the prevalence of AMP because AMP is generally designed for mobile AND not all AMP-formatted content is displayed on ampproject.org.

Part of how AMP was able to get widespread adoption was because in the news vertical the organic search result set was displaced by an AMP block. If you were a news site either you were so differentiated that readers would scroll past the AMP block in the search results to look for you specifically, or you adopted AMP, or you were doomed.

Some news organizations like The Guardian have a team of about a dozen people reformatting their content to the duplicative & proprietary AMP format. That’s wasteful, but necessary “In theory, adoption of AMP is voluntary. In reality, publishers that don’t want to see their search traffic evaporate have little choice. New data from publisher analytics firm Chartbeat shows just how much leverage Google has over publishers thanks to its dominant search engine.”

It seems more than a bit backward that low margin publishers are doing duplicative work to distance themselves from their own readers while improving the profit margins of monopolies. But it is what it is. And that no doubt drew the ire of many publishers across the EU.

And now there are AMP Stories to eat up even more visual real estate.

If you spent a bunch of money to create a highly differentiated piece of content, why would you prefer that high spend flagship content appear on a third party website rather than your own?

Google & Facebook have done such a fantastic job of eating the entire pie that some are celebrating Amazon as a prospective savior to the publishing industry. That view – IMHO – is rather suspect.

Where any of the tech monopolies dominate they cram down on partners. The New York Times acquired The Wirecutter in Q4 of 2016. In Q1 of 2017 Amazon adjusted their affiliate fee schedule.

Amazon generally treats consumers well, but they have been much harder on business partners with tough pricing negotiations, counterfeit protections, forced ad buying to have a high enough product rank to be able to rank organically, ad displacement of their organic search results below the fold (even for branded search queries), learning suppliers & cutting out the partners, private label products patterned after top sellers, in some cases running pop over ads for the private label products on product level pages where brands already spent money to drive traffic to the page, etc.

They’ve made things tougher for their partners in a way that mirrors the impact Facebook & Google have had on online publishers:

“Boyce’s experience on Amazon largely echoed what happens in the offline world: competitors entered the market, pushing down prices and making it harder to make a profit. So Boyce adapted. He stopped selling basketball hoops and developed his own line of foosball tables, air hockey tables, bocce ball sets and exercise equipment. The best way to make a decent profit on Amazon was to sell something no one else had and create your own brand. … Amazon also started selling bocce ball sets that cost $15 less than Boyce’s. He says his products are higher quality, but Amazon gives prominent page space to its generic version and wins the cost-conscious shopper.”

Google claims they have no idea how content publishers are with the trade off between themselves & the search engine, but every quarter Alphabet publish the share of ad spend occurring on owned & operated sites versus the share spent across the broader publisher network. And in almost every quarter for over a decade straight that ratio has grown worse for publishers.

The aggregate numbers for news publishers are worse than shown above as Google is ramping up ads in video games quite hard. They’ve partnered with Unity & promptly took away the ability to block ads from appearing in video games using googleadsenseformobileapps.com exclusion (hello flat thumb misclicks, my name is budget & I am gone!)

They will also track video game player behavior & alter game play to maximize revenues based on machine learning tied to surveillance of the user’s account: “We’re bringing a new approach to monetization that combines ads and in-app purchases in one automated solution. Available today, new smart segmentation features in Google AdMob use machine learning to segment your players based on their likelihood to spend on in-app purchases. Ad units with smart segmentation will show ads only to users who are predicted not to spend on in-app purchases. Players who are predicted to spend will see no ads, and can simply continue playing.”

And how does the growth of ampproject.org square against the following wisdom?

Literally only yesterday did Google begin supporting instant loading of self-hosted AMP pages.

China has a different set of tech leaders than the United States. Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent (BAT) instead of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google (FANG). China tech companies may have won their domestic markets in part based on superior technology or better knowledge of the local culture, though those same companies have largely went nowhere fast in most foreign markets. A big part of winning was governmental assistance in putting a foot on the scales.

Part of the US-China trade war is about who controls the virtual “seas” upon which value flows:

it can easily be argued that the last 60 years were above all the era of the container-ship (with container-ships getting ever bigger). But will the coming decades still be the age of the container-ship? Possibly not, for the simple reason that things that have value increasingly no longer travel by ship, but instead by fiberoptic cables! … you could almost argue that ZTE and Huawei have been the “East India Company” of the current imperial cycle. Unsurprisingly, it is these very companies, charged with laying out the “new roads” along which “tomorrow’s value” will flow, that find themselves at the center of the US backlash. … if the symbol of British domination was the steamship, and the symbol of American strength was the Boeing 747, it seems increasingly clear that the question of the future will be whether tomorrow’s telecom switches and routers are produced by Huawei or Cisco. … US attempts to take down Huawei and ZTE can be seen as the existing empire’s attempt to prevent the ascent of a new imperial power. With this in mind, I could go a step further and suggest that perhaps the Huawei crisis is this century’s version of Suez crisis. No wonder markets have been falling ever since the arrest of the Huawei CFO. In time, the Suez Crisis was brought to a halt by US threats to destroy the value of sterling. Could we now witness the same for the US dollar?

China maintains Huawei is an employee-owned company. But that proposition is suspect. Broadly stealing technology is vital to the growth of the Chinese economy & they have no incentive to stop unless their leading companies pay a direct cost. Meanwhile, China is investigating Ericsson over licensing technology.

Amazon will soon discontinue selling physical retail products in China: “Amazon shoppers in China will no longer be able to buy goods from third-party merchants in the country, but they still will be able to order from the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan via the firm’s global store. Amazon expects to close fulfillment centers and wind down support for domestic-selling merchants in China in the next 90 days.”

India has taken notice of the success of Chinese tech companies & thus began to promote “national champion” company policies. That, in turn, has also meant some of the Chinese-styled laws requiring localized data, antitrust inquiries, foreign ownership restrictions, requirements for platforms to not sell their own goods, promoting limits on data encryption, etc.

The secretary of India’s Telecommunications Department, Aruna Sundararajan, last week told a gathering of Indian startups in a closed-door meeting in the tech hub of Bangalore that the government will introduce a “national champion” policy “very soon” to encourage the rise of Indian companies, according to a person familiar with the matter. She said Indian policy makers had noted the success of China’s internet giants, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. … Tensions began rising last year, when New Delhi decided to create a clearer set of rules for e-commerce and convened a group of local players to solicit suggestions. Amazon and Flipkart, even though they make up more than half the market, weren’t invited, according to people familiar with the matter.

Amazon vowed to invest $5 billion in India & they have done some remarkable work on logistics there. Walmart acquired Flipkart for $16 billion.

Other emerging markets also have many local ecommerce leaders like Jumia, MercadoLibre, OLX, Gumtree, Takealot, Konga, Kilimall, BidOrBuy, Tokopedia, Bukalapak, Shoppee, Lazada. If you live in the US you may have never heard of *any* of those companies. And if you live in an emerging market you may have never interacted with Amazon or eBay.

It makes sense that ecommerce leadership would be more localized since it requires moving things in the physical economy, dealing with local currencies, managing inventory, shipping goods, etc. whereas information flows are just bits floating on a fiber optic cable.

If the Internet is primarily seen as a communications platform it is easy for people in some emerging markets to think Facebook is the Internet. Free communication with friends and family members is a compelling offer & as the cost of data drops web usage increases.

At the same time, the web is incredibly deflationary. Every free form of entertainment which consumes time is time that is not spent consuming something else.

Add the technological disruption to the wealth polarization that happened in the wake of the great recession, then combine that with algorithms that promote extremist views & it is clearly causing increasing conflict.

If you are a parent and you think you child has no shot at a brighter future than your own life it is easy to be full of rage.

Empathy can radicalize otherwise normal people by giving them a more polarized view of the world:

Starting around 2000, the line starts to slide. More students say it’s not their problem to help people in trouble, not their job to see the world from someone else’s perspective. By 2009, on all the standard measures, Konrath found, young people on average measure 40 percent less empathetic than my own generation … The new rule for empathy seems to be: reserve it, not for your “enemies,” but for the people you believe are hurt, or you have decided need it the most. Empathy, but just for your own team. And empathizing with the other team? That’s practically a taboo.

A complete lack of empathy could allow a psychopath to commit extreme crimes while feeling no guilt, shame or remorse. Extreme empathy can have the same sort of outcome:

“Sometimes we commit atrocities not out of a failure of empathy but rather as a direct consequence of successful, even overly successful, empathy. … They emphasized that students would learn both sides, and the atrocities committed by one side or the other were always put into context. Students learned this curriculum, but follow-up studies showed that this new generation was more polarized than the one before. … [Empathy] can be good when it leads to good action, but it can have downsides. For example, if you want the victims to say ‘thank you.’ You may even want to keep the people you help in that position of inferior victim because it can sustain your feeling of being a hero.” – Fritz Breithaupt

News feeds will be read. Villages will be razed. Lynch mobs will become commonplace.

Many people will end up murdered by algorithmically generated empathy.

As technology increases absentee ownership & financial leverage, a society led by morally agnostic algorithms is not going to become more egalitarian.

When politicians throw fuel on the fire it only gets worse:

It’s particularly odd that the government is demanding “accountability and responsibility” from a phone app when some ruling party politicians are busy spreading divisive fake news. How can the government ask WhatsApp to control mobs when those convicted of lynching Muslims have been greeted, garlanded and fed sweets by some of the most progressive and cosmopolitan members of Modi’s council of ministers?

Mark Zuckerburg won’t get caught downstream from platform blowback as he spends $20 million a year on his security.

The web is a mirror. Engagement-based algorithms reinforcing our perceptions & identities.

And every important story has at least 2 sides!

Some may “learn” vaccines don’t work. Others may learn the vaccines their own children took did not work, as it failed to protect them from the antivax content spread by Facebook & Google, absorbed by people spreading measles & Medieval diseases.

Passion drives engagement, which drives algorithmic distribution: “There’s an asymmetry of passion at work. Which is to say, there’s very little counter-content to surface because it simply doesn’t occur to regular people (or, in this case, actual medical experts) that there’s a need to produce counter-content.”

As the costs of “free” become harder to hide, social media companies which currently sell emerging markets as their next big growth area will end up having embedded regulatory compliance costs which will end up exceeding any sort of prospective revenue they could hope to generate.

The Pinterest S1 shows almost all their growth is in emerging markets, yet almost all their revenue is inside the United States.

As governments around the world see the real-world cost of the foreign tech companies & view some of them as piggy banks, eventually the likes of Facebook or Google will pull out of a variety of markets they no longer feel worth serving. It will be like Google did in mainland China with search after discovering pervasive hacking of activist Gmail accounts.

Lower friction & lower cost information markets will face more junk fees, hurdles & even some legitimate regulations. Information markets will start to behave more like physical goods markets.

The tech companies presume they will be able to use satellites, drones & balloons to beam in Internet while avoiding messy local issues tied to real world infrastructure, but when a local wealthy player is betting against them they’ll probably end up losing those markets: “One of the biggest cheerleaders for the new rules was Reliance Jio, a fast-growing mobile phone company controlled by Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest industrialist. Mr. Ambani, an ally of Mr. Modi, has made no secret of his plans to turn Reliance Jio into an all-purpose information service that offers streaming video and music, messaging, money transfer, online shopping, and home broadband services.”

Publishers do not have “their mojo back” because the tech companies have been so good to them, but rather because the tech companies have been so aggressive that they’ve earned so much blowback which will in turn lead publishers to opting out of future deals, which will eventually lead more people back to the trusted brands of yesterday.

Publishers feeling guilty about taking advertorial money from the tech companies to spread their propaganda will offset its publication with opinion pieces pointing in the other direction: “This is a lobbying campaign in which buying the good opinion of news brands is clearly important. If it was about reaching a target audience, there are plenty of metrics to suggest his words would reach further – at no cost – on Facebook. Similarly, Google is upping its presence in a less obvious manner via assorted media initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic. Its more direct approach to funding journalism seems to have the desired effect of making all media organisations (and indeed many academic institutions) touched by its money slightly less questioning and critical of its motives.”

When Facebook goes down direct visits to leading news brand sites go up.

When Google penalizes a no-name me-too site almost nobody realizes it is missing. But if a big publisher opts out of the ecosystem people will notice.

The reliance on the tech platforms is largely a mirage. If enough key players were to opt out at the same time people would quickly reorient their information consumption habits.

If the platforms can change their focus overnight then why can’t publishers band together & choose to dump them?

In Europe there is GDPR, which aimed to protect user privacy, but ultimately acted as a tax on innovation by local startups while being a subsidy to the big online ad networks. They also have Article 11 & Article 13, which passed in spite of Google’s best efforts on the scaremongering anti-SERP tests, lobbying & propaganda fronts: “Google has sparked criticism by encouraging news publishers participating in its Digital News Initiative to lobby against proposed changes to EU copyright law at a time when the beleaguered sector is increasingly turning to the search giant for help.”

Remember the Eric Schmidt comment about how brands are how you sort out (the non-YouTube portion of) the cesspool? As it turns out, he was allegedly wrong as Google claims they have been fighting for the little guy the whole time:

Article 11 could change that principle and require online services to strike commercial deals with publishers to show hyperlinks and short snippets of news. This means that search engines, news aggregators, apps, and platforms would have to put commercial licences in place, and make decisions about which content to include on the basis of those licensing agreements and which to leave out. Effectively, companies like Google will be put in the position of picking winners and losers. … Why are large influential companies constraining how new and small publishers operate? … The proposed rules will undoubtedly hurt diversity of voices, with large publishers setting business models for the whole industry. This will not benefit all equally. … We believe the information we show should be based on quality, not on payment.

Facebook claims there is a local news problem: “Facebook Inc. has been looking to boost its local-news offerings since a 2017 survey showed most of its users were clamoring for more. It has run into a problem: There simply isn’t enough local news in vast swaths of the country. … more than one in five newspapers have closed in the past decade and a half, leaving half the counties in the nation with just one newspaper, and 200 counties with no newspaper at all.”

Google is so for the little guy that for their local news experiments they’ve partnered with a private equity backed newspaper roll up firm & another newspaper chain which did overpriced acquisitions & is trying to act like a PE firm (trying to not get eaten by the PE firm).

Does the above stock chart look in any way healthy?

Does it give off the scent of a firm that understood the impact of digital & rode it to new heights?

If you want good market-based outcomes, why not partner with journalists directly versus operating through PE chop shops?

If Patch is profitable & Google were a neutral ranking system based on quality, couldn’t Google partner with journalists directly?

Throwing a few dollars at a PE firm in some nebulous partnership sure beats the sort of regulations coming out of the EU. And the EU’s regulations (and prior link tax attempts) are in addition to the three multi billion Euro fines the European Union has levied against Alphabet for shopping search, Android & AdSense.

Google was also fined in Russia over Android bundling. The fine was tiny, but after consumers gained a search engine choice screen (much like Google pushed for in Europe on Microsoft years ago) Yandex’s share of mobile search grew quickly.

The UK recently published a white paper on online harms. In some ways it is a regulation just like the tech companies might offer to participants in their ecosystems:

Companies will have to fulfil their new legal duties or face the consequences and “will still need to be compliant with the overarching duty of care even where a specific code does not exist, for example assessing and responding to the risk associated with emerging harms or technology”.

If web publishers should monitor inbound links to look for anything suspicious then the big platforms sure as hell have the resources & profit margins to monitor behavior on their own websites.

Australia passed the Sharing of Abhorrent Violent Material bill which requires platforms to expeditiously remove violent videos & notify the Australian police about them.

There are other layers of fracturing going on in the web as well.

Programmatic advertising shifted revenue from publishers to adtech companies & the largest ad sellers. Ad blockers further lower the ad revenues of many publishers. If you routinely use an ad blocker, try surfing the web for a while without one & you will notice layover welcome AdSense ads on sites as you browse the web – the very type of ad they were allegedly against when promoting AMP.

Tracking protection in browsers & ad blocking features built directly into browsers leave publishers more uncertain. And who even knows who visited an AMP page hosted on a third party server, particularly when things like GDPR are mixed in? Those who lack first party data may end up having to make large acquisitions to stay relevant.

Voice search & personal assistants are now ad channels.

App stores are removing VPNs in China, removing Tiktok in India, and keeping female tracking apps in Saudi Arabia. App stores are centralized chokepoints for governments. Every centralized service is at risk of censorship. Web browsers from key state-connected players can also censor messages spread by developers on platforms like GitHub.

Microsoft’s newest Edge web browser is based on Chromium, the source of Google Chrome. While Mozilla Firefox gets most of their revenue from a search deal with Google, Google has still went out of its way to use its services to both promote Chrome with pop overs AND break in competing web browsers:

“All of this is stuff you’re allowed to do to compete, of course. But we were still a search partner, so we’d say ‘hey what gives?’ And every time, they’d say, ‘oops. That was accidental. We’ll fix it in the next push in 2 weeks.’ Over and over. Oops. Another accident. We’ll fix it soon. We want the same things. We’re on the same team. There were dozens of oopses. Hundreds maybe?” – former Firefox VP Jonathan Nightingale

As phone sales fall & app downloads stall a hardware company like Apple is pushing hard into services while quietly raking in utterly fantastic ad revenues from search & ads in their app store.

Part of the reason people are downloading fewer apps is so many apps require registration as soon as they are opened, or only let a user engage with them for seconds before pushing aggressive upsells. And then many apps which were formerly one-off purchases are becoming subscription plays. As traffic acquisition costs have jumped, many apps must engage in sleight of hand behaviors (free but not really, we are collecting data totally unrelated to the purpose of our app & oops we sold your data, etc.) in order to get the numbers to back out. This in turn causes app stores to slow down app reviews.

Apple acquired the news subscription service Texture & turned it into Apple News Plus. Not only is Apple keeping half the subscription revenues, but soon the service will only work for people using Apple devices, leaving nearly 100,000 other subscribers out in the cold: “if you’re part of the 30% who used Texture to get your favorite magazines digitally on Android or Windows devices, you will soon be out of luck. Only Apple iOS devices will be able to access the 300 magazines available from publishers. At the time of the sale in March 2018 to Apple, Texture had about 240,000 subscribers.”

Apple is also going to spend over a half-billion Dollars exclusively licensing independently developed games:

Several people involved in the project’s development say Apple is spending several million dollars each on most of the more than 100 games that have been selected to launch on Arcade, with its total budget likely to exceed $500m. The games service is expected to launch later this year. … Apple is offering developers an extra incentive if they agree for their game to only be available on Arcade, withholding their release on Google’s Play app store for Android smartphones or other subscription gaming bundles such as Microsoft’s Xbox game pass.

Verizon wants to launch a video game streaming service. It will probably be almost as successful as their Go90 OTT service was. Microsoft is pushing to make Xbox games work on Android devices. Amazon is developing a game streaming service to compliment Twitch.

The hosts on Twitch, some of whom sign up exclusively with the platform in order to gain access to its moneymaking tools, are rewarded for their ability to make a connection with viewers as much as they are for their gaming prowess. Viewers who pay $4.99 a month for a basic subscription — the money is split evenly between the streamers and Twitch — are looking for immediacy and intimacy. While some hosts at YouTube Gaming offer a similar experience, they have struggled to build audiences as large, and as dedicated, as those on Twitch. … While YouTube has made millionaires out of the creators of popular videos through its advertising program, Twitch’s hosts make money primarily from subscribers and one-off donations or tips. YouTube Gaming has made it possible for viewers to support hosts this way, but paying audiences haven’t materialized at the scale they have on Twitch.

Google, having a bit of Twitch envy, is also launching a video game streaming service which will be deeply integrated into YouTube: “With Stadia, YouTube watchers can press “Play now” at the end of a video, and be brought into the game within 5 seconds. The service provides “instant access” via button or link, just like any other piece of content on the web.”

Google will also launch their own game studio making exclusive games for their platform.

When consoles don’t use discs or cartridges so they can sell a subscription access to their software library it is hard to be a game retailer! GameStop’s stock has been performing like an ICO. And these sorts of announcements from the tech companies have been hitting stock prices for companies like Nintendo & Sony: “There is no doubt this service makes life even more difficult for established platforms,” Amir Anvarzadeh, a market strategist at Asymmetric Advisors Pte, said in a note to clients. “Google will help further fragment the gaming market which is already coming under pressure by big games which have adopted the mobile gaming business model of giving the titles away for free in hope of generating in-game content sales.”

The big tech companies which promoted everything in adjacent markets being free are now erecting paywalls for themselves, balkanizing the web by paying for exclusives to drive their bundled subscriptions.

How many paid movie streaming services will the web have by the end of next year? 20? 50? Does anybody know?

Disney alone with operate Disney+, ESPN+ as well as Hulu.

And then the tech companies are not only licensing exclusives to drive their subscription-based services, but we’re going to see more exclusionary policies like YouTube not working on Amazon Echo, Netflix dumping support for Apple’s Airplay, or Amazon refusing to sell devices like Chromecast or Apple TV.

The good news in a fractured web is a broader publishing industry that contains many micro markets will have many opportunities embedded in it. A Facebook pivot away from games toward news, or a pivot away from news toward video won’t kill third party publishers who have a more diverse traffic profile and more direct revenues. And a regional law blocking porn or gambling websites might lead to an increase in demand for VPNs or free to play points-based games with paid upgrades. Even the rise of metered paywalls will lead to people using more web browsers & more VPNs. Each fracture (good or bad) will create more market edges & ultimately more opportunities. Chinese enforcement of their gambling laws created a real estate boom in Manila.

So long as there are 4 or 5 game stores, 4 or 5 movie streaming sites, etc. … they have to compete on merit or use money to try to buy exclusives. Either way is better than the old monopoly strategy of take it or leave it ultimatums.

The publisher wins because there is a competitive bid. There won’t be an arbitrary 30% tax on everything. So long as there is competition from the open web there will be means to bypass the junk fees & the most successful companies that do so might create their own stores with a lower rate: “Mr. Schachter estimates that Apple and Google could see a hit of about 14% to pretax earnings if they reduced their own app commissions to match Epic’s take.”

As the big media companies & big tech companies race to create subscription products they’ll spend many billions on exclusives. And they will be training consumers that there’s nothing wrong with paying for content. This will eventually lead to hundreds of thousands or even millions of successful niche publications which have incentives better aligned than all the issues the ad supported web has faced.

Added: Facebook pushing privacy & groups is both an attempt to thwart regulation risk while also making their services more relevant to a web that fractures away from a monolithic thing into more niche communities.

One way of looking at Facebook in this moment is as an unstoppable behemoth that bends reality to its will, no matter the consequences. (This is how many journalists tend to see it.) Another way of looking at the company is from the perspective of its fundamental weakness — as a slave to ever-shifting consumer behavior. (This is how employees are more likely to look at it.) … Zuckerberg’s vision for a new Facebook is perhaps best represented by a coming redesign of the flagship app and desktop site that will emphasize events and groups, at the expense of the News Feed. Collectively, the design changes will push people toward smaller group conversations and real-world meetups — and away from public posts.

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