The three challenges keeping cars from being fully autonomous

Understanding where we are in the pursuit of self-driving cars can be as confusing as understanding where we are in the pursuit of AI. Over the past few years, the flood of companies entering the space and the constant news updates have made it seem as if fully autonomous vehicles are just barely out of reach. The past couple weeks have been no different: Uber announced a new CEO and $1 billion investment for its self-driving unit, Waymo launched a ride-hailing app to open up its service to more riders in Phoenix, and Tesla unveiled a new custom AI chip that promises to unlock full autonomy.

But driverless vehicles have stayed in beta, and carmakers have wildly differing estimates of how many years we still have to go. In early April, Ford CEO Jim Hackett expressed a conservative stance, admitting that the company had initially “overestimated the arrival of autonomous vehicles.” It still plans to launch its first self-driving fleet in 2021, but with significantly dialed-back capabilities. In contrast, Tesla’s chief, Elon Musk, bullishly claimed that self-driving technology will likely be safer than human intervention in cars by 2020. “I’d be shocked if it’s not next year at the latest,” he said.

I’m not in the business of prediction. But I recently sat down with Amnon Shashua, the CEO of Mobileye, to understand the challenges of reaching full autonomy. Acquired by Intel in 2017, the Israeli-based maker of self-driving tech has partnerships with more than two dozen carmakers and become one of the leading players in the space.

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Shashua presented challenges in technology, regulation, and business.

Building a safe car. From a technical perspective, Shashua splits driverless technology into two parts: its perception and its decision-making capabilities. The first challenge, he says, is to build a self-driving system that can perceivethe road better than the best human driver. In the US, the current car fatality rate is about one death per 1 million hours of driving. Without drunk driving or texting, the rate probably decreases by a factor of 10. Effectively that means a self-driving car’s perception system should fail, at an absolute maximum, once in every 10 million hours of driving.

But currently the best driving assistance systems incorrectly perceive something in their environment once every tens of thousands of hours, Shashua says. “We’re talking about a three-orders-of-magnitude gap.” In addition to improving computer vision, he sees two other necessary components to closing that gap. The first is to create redundancies in the perception system using cameras, radar, and lidar. The second is to build highly detailed maps of the environment to make it even easier for a car to process its surroundings.

Building a useful car. The second challenge is to build a system that can make reasonable decisions, such as how fast to drive and when to change lanes. But defining what constitutes “reasonable” is less a technical challenge than a regulatory one, says Shashua. Anytime a driverless car makes a decision, it has to make a trade-off between safety and usefulness. “I can be completely safe if I don’t drive or if I drive very slowly,” he says, “but then I’m not useful, and society will not want those vehicles on the road.” Regulators must therefore formalize the bounds of reasonable decision-making so that automakers can program their cars to act only within those bounds. This also creates a legal framework for evaluating blame when a driverless car gets into an accident: if the decision-making system did in fact fail to stay within those bounds, then it would be liable.

Building an affordable car. The last challenge is to create a cost-effective car, so consumers are willing to switch to driverless. In the near term, with the technology still at tens of thousands of dollars, only a ride-hailing business will be financially sustainable. In that context, “you are removing the driver from the equation, and the driver costs more than tens of thousands of dollars,” Shashua explains. But individual consumers would probably not pay a premium over a few thousand dollars for the technology. In the long term, that means if automakers intend to sell driverless passenger cars, they need to figure out how to create much more precise systems than exist today at a fraction of the cost. “So the robo-taxi—we’re talking about the 2021, 2022 time frame,” he says. “Passenger cars will come a few years later.”

Mobileye is now working to overcome these challenges on all fronts. It has been refining its perception system, creating detailed road maps, and working with regulators in China, the US, Europe, and Israel to standardize the rules of autonomous driving behavior. (And it’s certainly not alone: TeslaUber, and Waymo are all engaging in similar strategies.) The company plans to launch a driverless robo-taxi service with Volkswagen in Tel Aviv by 2022.

This story originally appeared in our Webby-nominated AI newsletter The Algorithm. To have it directly delivered to your inbox, sign up here for free.

Why You Need AI for SEO Success in 2019 by @Atomic_Reach

This is a sponsored post written by Atomic Reach. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest trends in digital marketing today.

A decade ago, AI was associated with robots, machinery, and complex sciences. It felt abstract and somewhat alien. It was a term that would more likely be associated with sci-fi movies, and a distant future.

Fast forward 10 years and AI has become a more familiar idea.

From using a self-check-out line at the grocery store to depending on item recommendations from Amazon, AI has evolved to become a staple in our everyday lives.

Today nowhere is this truer than digital marketing and SEO.

AtomicReach

AtomicReach

The Impact of AI on SEO

AI – specifically machine learning – has become a crucial component in how search engines rank pages. This means it’s important to understand AI when optimizing for search.

As search engines have become better at identifying keyword stuffing, irrelevant backlinks, and quality content for users, marketers have had to use AI to meet the requirements of search engines.

However, while playing by the SEO rules is necessary, using AI for SEO success not only gives you a greater opportunity to enhance your page rankings, but it also allows you to develop more cohesive strategies and better content.

So, why else do you need AI for SEO success in 2019 and beyond?

Read on for our takeaways to understand why AI is a worthwhile investment for your SEO strategies.

AI’s Impact on Content Strategy

AI can have a remarkable impact on your overall content marketing strategy.

The technology creates more opportunities to reach audiences, and it requires you to think of how to string together these opportunities into an effective strategy.

Also, many times, when it comes to creating cohesive content strategies that can lead to SEO wins, the solutions lie in the data.

For many companies, using AI to collect valuable data and customer insights can lead to overall SEO success.

One company that expertly employed this approach was Kia Motors.

The car company partnered with Influential, an influencer marketplace that uses AI to suggest relevant influencers to companies.

Through the use of audience demographic data, Influential can match brands with influencers that can help them reach their target audience groups.

In 2016, Kia joined forces with Influential for its 2016 Super Bowl commercial. The company connected Kia with influencers that posted branded content to attract relevant consumer groups.

The move helped Kia get out the word about their new Kia Optima model through the #AddPizzazz campaign.

Through the insights Kia received through Influential’s data gathering, the company was able to create an effective content strategy with the help of relevant influencers.

Takeaway: When it comes to collecting the right insights, AI can help you find the data you need to create a strategy around the best channels for your messaging.

AI & the World of Hyperpersonalization

Nothing captivates a customer more than knowing that a brand put thought into personalizing their messaging.

Today’s consumers want to feel as if companies care enough to produce content that zeros in on their individual needs and concerns.

So, personalization is crucial not only for SEO but also for customer success.

Data shows that 79 percent of organizations that exceeded revenue goals have a documented personalization strategy.

Also, smart personalization engines used to recognize customer intent will enable digital businesses to increase their profits by up to 15 percent.

In short, personalization is becoming crucial to customer success.

AtomicReach

AtomicReach

One of the best ways to add personalization to your SEO and content marketing strategy is to implement AI and automation-based marketing methods.

Starbucks is one company that has truly capitalized on this trend. Through loyalty cards and mobile app data, Starbucks can collect customer data to provide personalized menu recommendations on smartphones as customers approach stores.

The company uses over 90 million transactions per week to inform their decisions regarding product recommendations, the locations of new stores, and new products that they should offer to customers.

Another example, Alibaba, the online marketplace giant, uses customer data to make product recommendations and create attractive digital-storefronts.

Consumers want companies to pay attention to what they do online, and add convenience to the online shopping process. AI allows you to create personalized dynamic experiences that appeal to these individuals.

Specifically, regarding content, AI can allow you to provide:

  • Special landing pages.
  • Dynamic content.
  • Unique user experiences based on consumer data and behaviors.

These three things that can also lead to SEO success.

Takeaway: Personalization is continuing to take center stage. Search engines are recognizing this and are rewarding those who figure it out.

Search Engines & the Role of Machine Learning

One of the most crucial components of SEO is the role of search engines.

Over the years, search engines have become smarter and more influential in the process of page rankings.

SEO specialists have had to meet the requirements of relevancy by using keyword, acquiring links, metadata optimization, and frequently adding website content.

However, SEO is moving beyond these basic – yet necessary – components of page rankings.

The leader in the search engine pack, Google, is always improving their search algorithms to adjust to how consumers are searching.

For example, by 2020, it is estimated that 50 percent of searches will be voice-based. Google has understood the rise of voice search and has outfitted the Google Assistant to better understand natural conversation.

AtomicReach

AtomicReach

Also, over the past four to five years, Google has become more adept at adding more context to their engine, so that they can successfully pre-empt search inquiries. The same is also true for Google maps location searches.

Algorithms have also become more adept at offering up images in search as Google images see 1 billion visitors in daily page views.

In many ways, search engines like Google are taking more advantage of machine learning and AI to provide sharper results. They are offering a variety of channels for consumers to search for what they need.

To successfully satisfy algorithms and bots, marketers have to employ the same tools and tactics as search engines, namely AI.

Many tools (e.g., Yoast, Moz) can help you capitalize on keyword usage, optimize sentence formation, better organize content, and even monitor the maneuverability of a page to be sure your page is meeting basic optimizations.

These tools can also remind you to use images, and even organize your content in a way that can appeal to audio search.

Takeaway: Search engines are becoming smarter, and they are getting a better feel for what customers are looking for. Using tools that help you satisfy consumer needs within your content is necessary.

The Emergence of Smarter Content Tools

The evolution of the combination of SEO and AI has required an emergence of more intelligent content tools.

Many of today’s content tools use AI technology to help marketers improve SEO performance.

For example, instead of having to consistently check social media to see if and when your company is mentioned, tools like BuzzSumo and HubSpot can automatically notify you of a company reference.

Tools like Atomic Reach allow you to see the content that is working through the tracking of analytics, while also allowing you to create a more comprehensive strategy around AI and machine learning.

Artificial intelligence is now a substantial component of digital marketing.

From data collection to content writing and everything in between, AI is becoming necessary for SEO and content strategies.

As a result, technology companies have realized this fact and have created a variety of tools to help you better reach audiences.

Takeaway: As Google’s requirements for page rankings become more advanced and sophisticated, many tech companies are rising to the challenge to create tools to address them.

What the Future Holds

Search engines will continue to evolve. As consumer tastes change, and customers begin to depend even more on the power of search, search engines will have to become more adaptable and adept at meeting consumer needs.

As a result, the expectations for marketers, writers, and content strategists will continue to rise. You can no longer fill a blog post with keywords that do not adhere to a well-thought-out strategy.

Search engines are using AI to better match consumer needs. This means marketers should look at the power of AI to meet these requirements.

The technical nature of AI makes it a prime candidate for usage in the world of SEO.

Fortunately, many of the challenges that came with trying to predict how content will perform in search can be taken care of with the use of AI-based tools.

From using the right keywords to triggering emails, and everything in between, AI’s influence on SEO causes marketers to think about the bigger picture, and how all components of digital marketing fit together.

At this point, email, PPC, blogging, data tracking, and social media marketing can be seen through the SEO lens.

As a result, comprehensive strategies involving automation, machine learning, and AI can be employed to ensure that each component of digital marketing helps to improve page rankings.

BookADemo

BookADemo


Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Atomic Reach. Used with permission.
In-Post Photos: Images by Atomic Reach. Used with permission.

Our commitments to the environment, today and every dayOur commitments to the environment, today and every day

Talking about the environment shouldn’t be limited to one day (or week) of the year, but this week Mother Earth deserves some extra recognition. Here’s a bit more about how we’re putting sustainability at the center of everything we build—and how our technology can help make businesses, communities, and our everyday lives more sustainable, too.

Steps toward a more sustainable futureSteps toward a more sustainable future

People perform trillions of searches on Google each year, upload hundreds of hours of videos to YouTube each minute, and receive more than 120 billion emails every week. Making all of these Google services work for everyone requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work, like operating a global network of data centers around the clock and manufacturing products for people around the world.

It’s not only our responsibility to build products and services that are fast and reliable for everyone, but also to make sure we do so with minimal impact to our planet. So this Earth Day, we’re taking inventory of the progress we’ve made when it comes to sustainability and where we plan to do more.

We’ve scaled up our use of renewable energy.  

  • In 2017, we hit a goal that we set five years earlier and matched 100 percent of the electricity consumption of our operations with purchases of renewable energy. This means that for each unit of energy we used that year, we purchased an equivalent unit of energy from a renewable source, such as wind or solar.

  • When we buy renewable energy, we only do so from projects that are constructed for Google. This helps us bring on new clean energy supply to the grids where we operate our facilities.

  • Today, a Google data center uses 50 percent less energy than a typical data center, while delivering seven times more computing power than we did five years ago.

  • We use AI to help safely run our data center cooling systems—already this has resulted in 30 percent energy savings.

  • We’re weaving circularity into our operations.  In our data centers, we use components from old servers to upgrade machines and build remanufactured machines with refurbished parts.

Being a mom is hard work. Becoming one is, too.Being a mom is hard work. Becoming one is, too.

For seven years, Mother’s Day was the worst day of the year for me. It was an observance that felt completely out of reach, yet commercially and socially it was a reminder that I couldn’t escape. I wanted to be a mom, but I was having trouble becoming one. For my husband and I, the inner walls of our bedroom became clinical, timed and invaded by fertility specialists. The outside world didn’t understand what we were going through—they saw us as a couple who decided to “take their time” to start a family. I began doing my own research and found out that 1 in 8 women in America are struggling, too. There are over 7 million of us who want a child but have a disease or other barrier that stands in our way.

Using Google and YouTube, I found support groups, blogs and resources. I wasn’t as alone as I thought—like many, I had been silent about my struggles with infertility. It’s a less-than-tasty casserole of heartache, injections and surgeries, failed adoption placements and financial devastation.

So I learned how to be my own advocate. I’ve spoken out, written articles and—most recently—lent my voice to the video above to raise awareness about the barriers to building a family. I want to better educate people on how to support their friends and family who are struggling with infertility.

As today marks the start of National Infertility Awareness Week, I—along with the other brave women in this video—am dedicated to sparking a bigger conversation, and overcoming the stigmas and barriers that surround infertility. I’m excited Google is using its platform to help put this message out into the world ahead of Mother’s Day. I hope that this year, even one more person out there will realize they’re not alone.

Top advanced YouTube SEO tips to boost your video performance

YouTube is not just a social media platform. It’s a powerful search engine for video content. Here’s how to make the most of its SEO potential.

There are more than 1.9 billion users who use YouTube every month. People are spending over a billion hours watching videos every day on YouTube. This means that there is a big opportunity for brands, publishers and video creators to expand their reach.

Search optimization is not just for your site’s content. YouTube can have its own best practices around SEO and it’s good to keep up with the most important ones that can improve your ranking.

How can you improve your SEO on YouTube? We’ve organized our advanced YouTube SEO tactics into three key areas:

  • Keyword research
  • Content optimization
  • Engagement

Advanced YouTube SEO tips to drive more traffic and improved rankings

Keyword research

It’s not enough to create the right content if you don’t get new viewers to actually watch it. Keywords can actually help you understand how to link your video with the best words to describe it.

They can make it easier for viewers to discover your content and they also help search engines match the content with the search queries and their relevance.

A video keyword research can help you discover new content opportunities while you can also improve your SEO.

A quick way to find popular keywords for the content you have in mind is to start searching on YouTube’s search bar. The auto-complete feature will highlight the most popular keywords around your topic. You can also perform a similar search in Google to come up with more suggestions for the best keywords.

Example of using YouTube's auto-fill feature to find the best keywords

If you’re serious about keyword research and need to find new ideas, you can use additional online tools that will provide with a list of keywords to consider.

When it comes to picking the best keywords, you don’t need to aim for the most obvious choice. You can start with the keywords that are low in competition and aim to rank for them.

Moreover, it’s good to keep in mind that YouTube is transcribing all your videos. If you want to establish your focus keywords you can include them in your actual video by mentioning throughout your talking. This way you’re helping YouTube understand the contextual relevance of your content along with your keywords.

Recap

  • Use the auto-complete search function to find popular keywords
  • Perform a Google search for more keyword ideas
  • You can even use SEO tools for additional keyword ideas
  • Say your keywords as part of your videos

Content optimization

There are many ways to improve the optimization of your content and here are some key tips to keep in mind:

1. Description

Example of using video descriptions to rank on YouTube

Your description should facilitate the search for relevant content. A long description helps you provide additional context to your video. It can also serve as an introduction to what you’re going to talk about. As with blog posts, a longer description can grant you the space to expand your thoughts. Start treating your videos as the starting point and add further details about them in the description. If your viewers are genuinely interested in your videos then they will actually search for additional details in your description.

2. Timestamp

Example of using time stamps to rank videos on YouTube

More videos are adding timestamps in their description. This is a great way to improve user experience and engagement. You are helping your viewers to find exactly what they are looking for, which increases the chances of keeping them coming back.

3. Title and keywords

Keywords are now clickable in titles. This means that you are increasing the chances of boosting your SEO by being more creative with your titles. Be careful not to create content just for search engines though, always start by creating content that your viewers would enjoy.

4. Location

If you want to tap into local SEO then it’s a good idea to include your location in your video’s copy. If you want to create videos that are targeting local viewers then it’s a great starting point for your SEO strategy.

5. Video transcripts

Video transcripts make your videos more accessible. They also make it easier for search engines to understand what the video is about. Think of the transcript as the process that makes the crawling of your content easier. There are many online options to create your video transcripts so it shouldn’t be a complicated process to add them to your videos.

Engagement

Engagement keeps gaining ground when it comes to YouTube SEO. It’s not enough to count the number of views if your viewers are not engaging with your content. User behavior helps search engines understand whether your content is useful or interesting for your viewers to rank it accordingly.

Thus, it’s important to pay attention to these metrics:

  • Watch time: The time that your viewers are spending on your video is a good indicator of its appeal and relevance to them.
  • Likes, comments, and shares: The starting point of measuring engagement is to track the number of likes, comments, and shares in your videos. They don’t make the only engagement metric anymore but they can still serve as a good indication of what counts as popular content. Likes may be easier to achieve but comments and most importantly shares can skyrocket the engagement and views of your videos. It’s not a bad idea to encourage your viewers to support your work. It is actually a common tactic. However, make sure that you’re not trying too hard as this is not appreciated. Every call-to-action needs to feel natural in your videos.
  • Subscribers after watching a video: The number of subscribers serves as an indication of your channel’s popularity. People who actually subscribe to your channel after watching a video make a very good indication of your content’s engagement.
  • CTR: The click-through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks your video is receiving based on the impressions, the number of times that it’s shown. For example, if you optimize your content to show up high in rankings but it still doesn’t get too many clicks, then it means that your viewers don’t find it appealing enough to click on it. This may not be related to the quality of your content but on the first impression that it gets. You can improve the CTR by paying attention to your title and your thumbnail. Bear in mind that YouTube is not encouraging you to clickbait your viewers, so you shouldn’t create misleading titles or thumbnails if you want to aim for higher rankings in the longer term.

Learning from the best

A good tip to understand YouTube SEO is to learn from the best by looking at the current most popular videos. You can also search for topics that are relevant to your channel to spot how your competitors are optimizing their titles, their keywords, and how thumbnails and descriptions can make it easier to click on one video over another.

Examples of using thumbnails and optimizing titles and descriptions to improve CTR

Have any queries or tips to add to these? Share them in the comments.

Related reading

How to perfectly balance affiliate marketing and SEO
international insight from google analytics
how to make SEO-friendly Javascript websites
Complete guide to Google Search Console

Go green with your Google AssistantGo green with your Google Assistant

It can be hard to know how to chip in and make a difference to protect the environment. You can recycle, take shorter showers, or carpool to work—and now you can lower your carbon footprint just by asking your Google Assistant.

With new advancements in smart home technology, it’s actually pretty easy to incorporate energy and water-saving actions into your daily routine (and save some money while you’re at it). This Earth Day, we’re sharing a few ways the Assistant can help make your home more environmentally-friendly.

Simple ways to save energy and automate

  1. Switch to LEDs. Swapping out just five incandescent bulbs with LED lights can save you up to $75 per year—plus, LEDs also last up to 50 times longer than incandescents, with a total life of at least 35,000 hours. Even better, pairing ENERGY STAR-certified smart bulbs like Philips Hue with the Assistant can help you control the lights with just your voice, or set lighting schedules to use electricity only when you need it.

  2. Choose ENERGY STAR certified appliances. Did you know that appliances contribute to a quarter of your home’s energy use? To optimize how that energy is used, choose an ENERGY STAR-certified brand like LG, GE Appliances, Samsung or Whirlpool, and connect it with Google Assistant to easily control appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens and air purifiers. Certain window air conditioning units and ceiling fans also work with the Google Assistant: Just say, “Hey Google, turn off the fan” to a Haiku fan as you leave a room or schedule your LG, Midea or Toshiba AC to turn off at the same time each day.

  3. Upgrade your thermostat. Many utilities offer rebates on smart thermostats because they make saving energy easy. Smart thermostats like the Nest Learning Thermostat can save an average of $131 to $145 a year (of course, individual savings are not guaranteed). That’s because Nest thermostats make smart, automatic temperature adjustments to save energy based on your habits. And you can even say “Hey Google, set the thermostat to eco mode” to make your home even more efficient.

  4. Monitor and protect from leaks. According to the EPA, the average family can lose 9,400 gallons of water annually from household leaks alone. To curb this waste, you can use leak detectors like LeakSmart, or install Flo by Moen to immediately get notifications if pipes leak, and use the Assistant to shut off the water.

  5. Curb your outdoor water use: You can still keep your lush lawn looking beautiful while using less water. Smart sprinkler systems like the Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller reduce water usage and now work with the Assistant, so you can easily control and monitor these systems with simple voice commands. As part of your Routine, you can also set the sprinklers for early morning or at night to prevent evaporation. We’re also adding support for Rain Bird’s family of Irrigation Controllers in the coming weeks.

How to set up everything with the Assistant

Download the Google Assistant or Google Home app and then click “Add device.” You can get started right away with commands like “Hey Google, turn down the temperature” with your Nest Thermostat. Or set up quick Routines that can help you automate energy savings by controlling multiple devices with a single command.

Our commitment to supporting families and the environment  

There are lots of changes we can make as individuals to combat climate change, but we’re taking steps as a company to reduce energy in U.S. households, too. The Power Project is our pledge to bring one million Nest thermostats to low income families by 2023. Along with a coalition of partners—nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and the National Housing Trust and energy companies like Georgia Power— we’ve installed Nest thermostats in homes over the last year to help families reduce their energy costs. This year, the Power Project is expanding to include partners Philips Hue and Whirlpool. Along with Nest, they’ll donate thousands of energy-saving technology products to Habitat for Humanity in the coming year. You can join us in providing energy-saving technology to those who need it most in your community by donating to nonprofits at nest.com/powerproject.

Making consistent changes to reduce energy consumption in our day-to-day lives is the key to long-term conservation; even the smallest changes add up to measurable impact. With Google Assistant and the right energy-saving technology, these changes are easier to make than ever.

How to Integrate Influencer and Emotional Marketing to Improve Your Content Program

As marketers in the Age of Digital, we are moving at the speed of digital without the chance to assess patterns and think deeply about our work. Meanwhile, consumers’ devices are constantly bombarded with marketing clutter and meaningless ads that don’t take the time to understand consumers’ needs or preferences.

As it always has, our success as marketers stems from using emotional marketing to focus on consumers’ needs and preferences in order to capitalize in our markets. However, although emotional marketing is a powerful approach, it cannot stand alone; it needs to be integrated within marketing channels and tactics.

With the emergence of influencer marketing as an important trend, part of our job as marketers in 2019 is to pair emotional marketing with influencer marketing so that we can better target and reach our desired audiences.

Let’s review how you can integrate emotional and influencer marketing into your content marketing program this year and beyond.

What is emotional marketing?

Emotional marketing is an method that’s driven by your target audiences’ feelings and values. It involves connecting with your audience through a captivating story that aligns with their beliefs. Those connections are critical, considering that emotional responses influence intention to buy much more than the ad’s content itself, research shows.

But what does emotional marketing entail?

It starts with defining values that your brand was established upon and using those principles to make connections with your customers.

Whether you’re looking to play up industry trends, target a specific demographic, or mention the latest social or political movements in your messaging, find something that resonates with the people you’d like to reach.

Don’t get too personal, but do understand how they feel.

Across the customer journey, each stage reflects a different stage of emotion. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  • Evaluation of your product/service. Emotionally, they’re still not sold on your brand quite yet. How can you get them emotionally involved at this stage of consideration? Here are three tips:

    1. Employee advocacy. Getting customers on board starts internally: Nobody knows your brand better than the people who live and breathe it every day. Let your employees be part of the potential customer’s evaluation process.

    2. Demos. The proof is in the pudding. Nothing speaks to the quality of your product or service better than a demonstration, and this is the perfect time to respond any questions or concerns.

    3. Influencers. Hearing validation from someone with influence has a powerful psychological effect. We’ll dive deeper into influencers later on.

  • Purchase. In this stage, customers are feeling good about their choice—but not great (yet). They might have some anxiety about the commitment or feel that risk is associated with the product. Make them feel confident that they made the right decision and ensure you’re their trusted brand for life.
  • Decided not to purchase. In this stage, they either delayed or went another route. Emotionally, they may be on the fence or have another vendor on a short list. Stay connected, remain positive, and outline your brand’s unique selling proposition.
  • Loyalty/advocacy. Keep them active and excited about the brand. Building loyal advocates who rave about your brand will produce a positive return on investment: 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising, research from Nielsen finds.

Emotional marketing helps you become their friend, their confidant, their go-to brand. Most important, your efforts should be geared toward being memorable.

Leverage influencers

But how can you make sure your brand is the one everyone’s talking about in today’s competitive environment? Here’s where influencer marketing comes into play.

According to influencer marketing expert Linqia, 86% of marketers reported using influencer marketing in 2017, and 92% of those respondents said it was effective.

Using influencers to represent your brand allows you to take a more personal approach to engaging with your customers—especially if your personas line up with the influencer’s intent and interests.

For example, what industry events are you planning to attend in 2019? Have you considered investigating which influencers will be there, or what they’ll be discussing? Events are the perfect opportunity to make connections with influencers. To get your foot in the door, find a way to relate your brand’s current services or initiatives with those influencers’ passions.

Once you’ve successfully connected with those influencers and they’ve endorsed your product or service, your brand is positioned to build emotional connections with customers. Your next step is to humanize your brand through interactions with those influencers across channels.

Content is a wonderful asset for ensuring your influencer relationships are influencing the behavior of your audience: Q&As, blog posts, roundtables, webinars—whether demand gen activities or earned media efforts—these valuable connections should be leveraged across channels that drive intent.

Incorporate emotional and influencer marketing into your content program

Creating emotional connections involves aligning your influencer marketing efforts with your content marketing program. Nothing will hit home for your customers more than a piece of content that brings your brand down to earth. That process can start at a basic level: having a conversation. Initiating conversations with your influencers will automatically familiarize their followers with your brand—increasing your reach and expanding awareness in a seemingly natural fashion.

From there, learn to fully integrate those influencers into your content program. The following four tactics will help you do that:

  1. Events and webinars. Use influencers to bring brand awareness via demand gen activities. This type of content is rich with potential and can help you target your ideal prospects.
  2. Twitter chat. This is the most direct way to have a conversation with your influencers and showcase your thought leadership on a topic. It is also a great way to engage members of your audience who may be listening in. And, who knows, you may pick up a batch of new followers along the way.
  3. Guest blog series. (Emphasis on “series.”) The more your influencers are associated with your brand, the more their followers will become emotionally invested. To prove consistency and authenticity, challenge your influencers to commit to a blog series rather than a one-off piece of content. (Bonus: A paid influencer strategy is much cheaper when you pay by the “bundle”—in case you weren’t already sold on the series idea.)
  4. Live video/podcast. Nothing says “I believe in your brand” more than publishing live conversations with your influencers on your social channels. Plus, according to research, social videos generate 1,200% more shares than text and images combined. Sounds like a no-brainer.

Learning how to seamlessly combine emotional and influencer marketing will be challenging, but the rewards will be invaluable. Both techniques will become incredible resources for starting conversations with your customers and create a sense of brand validation that can’t be found anywhere else.

Figuring out the pattern of your customers and emotionally connecting with them at specific stages of the journey will be the most difficult task to conquer. It comes with a commitment to truly understanding your buyers, personalizing the experience, and taking the time to nurture the relationship every step of the way. Advocacy doesn’t happen overnight—it takes years to establish.

So, are you ready to emotionally invest in your marketing efforts?

Empathy Mapping for Marketing Content: What It Is and How to Do It Well

Have you noticed that the best books and movies are so totally immersive you feel as if you’ve actually entered the world they depict? Which is why I’d argue that the people most skilled in content aren’t necessarily the best writers; rather, they’re the ones who are able to empathize with characters so well that their creations seem real.

When writing for marketing, you need to connect with your audience. But first you have to understand who they are and what they care about. That’s where empathy mapping comes in.

What Is an Empathy Map?

An empathy map is a tool that brings to light to your most likely customers. It teaches you how to connect with the people who will consume your content, products, or services.

Typically divided into quadrants of say, think, do, and feel, the empathy map is intended to get into the head—and heart—of the customer. It helps you to visualize that what someone says doesn’t always align with what they do. That’s why it’s also important to understand what they think and feel.

For example, someone might say they love the service you provide, yet still shun your products. Could it be that the cost is too high, and in their social circles that may not be something they’re willing to say? Or maybe they feel passionately about your products but think the purchase isn’t practical.

Unfortunately, those conflicting “boxes” in the empathy map are the norm: Human life is rife with examples of cognitive dissonance that make little sense if you think purchase decisions follow the 19th century buyer funnel of attention-interest-desire-action. They don’t.

Which is all the more reason to really understand what might motivate your users.

Interestingly, empathy maps are already common in the design industry. Tech experts in user experience and agile design use empathy maps to help them enhance user satisfaction. Whether they design new products, software, or websites, they want to come as close to what the user wants as possible—so they try to empathize with them.

If the tech experts get it, why don’t the rest of us?

Because digital allows us to measure the success of every piece of content we create and disseminate, even the most naturally empathetic writers among us may have shifted away from our instincts. We want our videos, pages, and posts to rank. We want to please the Google gods and all their algorithmic updates.

But, the thing is, Google’s goal has always been to act more human. Every algorithm is another effort to provide users with the best experience possible.

It’s time to get back to human. And empathy mapping can help.

How to Get Started

Set some goals

But not just your own goals.

Sure, you need to know that this empathy mapping exercise has a purpose. And like every business class ever taught you, your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Now consider the single user or the group of users you will target with your map, the action you want them to take, and how you might best get there. But if the goal of empathy mapping is to empathize (and it is), then the goals you should really consider are those of your audience:

  • What about your content will appeal to users?
  • What is it about your product that is uniquely suited to accomplish their goals?
  • What do they care about?
  • Who are they?

There’s so much you can do with content to give users a better experience, and it’s not just about the actual content. How you produce it matters, as well.

For example, did you know that up to 43 million Americans are dyslexic? Create blog posts that are visually easy to read, and you make them more accessible to those readers. Include easy headers, bold font, and simple-to-digest paragraphs. It helps millions of people get your content. Bonus: it’s sound SEO practice.

Gather data

Ah, data is involved! No wonder techies use empathy maps.

Pull data from multiple sources:

  • Start with Google Analytics to learn the demographics and psychographics of people who come to your website and consume your content.
  • To infer user intent, use Google Search Console to see the keywords that get you clicks. And be cognizant about where in the buyer journey those users are.
  • Do you advertise on Facebook? The platform’s Audience Insights offers a trove of data.
  • And tools that help you measure SEO success (like SEMrush) help you see what your competitors are doing for their SEO.
  • Get granular and pull actual customer data from your own CRM.
  • Then move onto broader insights: Look at national consumer trends for your products. Google’s Consumer Barometer tool is an easy place to start, but don’t neglect economic trends and the info you can find in trade magazines and industry publications.

The more data you have, the more you can understand your consumer and where they fit—in the empathy map and in the larger world.

Build from your current personas

If you’re selling anything to anyone, you’ve probably already built out a way to market to them. And that usually involves creating buyers personas. There’s no need to trash good work. Take a critical look at what you already know about your ideal consumer and how they interact with your content and build upon it.

Add Anecdotal Evidence

Understanding the story behind your users is the whole point of empathy mapping, so speak to your actual customers. Perform interviews, enlist researchers, conduct surveys. Ask questions about who they are, where they’re from, and, most importantly, why they do the things they do, especially when it comes to what they choose to read, view, and buy. And make sure to talk to the people who talk to your customers. What do your salespeople say? What about customer service reps? Listen to their stories and add them to your empathy mapping.

Fill in Your Map

Or maps. Much like you don’t have a single buyer persona, you may produce multiple maps over time. Take all that data and put the information in the appropriate boxes/quadrants. Here’s how the Interaction Design Foundation outlines that process:

  • What do they say? Write down important quotes and keywords potential customers used.
  • What do they do? Describe their actions and behaviors.
  • What do they think? What might they be thinking? What are their motivations, goals, needs, desires? What does all that say about their values and beliefs?
  • How do they feel? What emotions might they be feeling? Consider their body language, their choice of words, their tone of voice.

When filling out the map, don’t get mucked up in the details. If you’re not sure if a data point is a “think” or a “feel,” just pick one. This exercise is more art than science. What you’re trying to do is immerse yourself in the user’s world—much like you’re able to do in those great movies and books.

Here’s an example of a completed empathy map from the Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g):

Draw Some Conclusions

Actually, you’re not looking for conclusions so much as hypotheses about your users.

Take the retrospective information you gathered from your mapping exercise, and build out prospective mapping. You’re in their world now, so imagine what-if scenarios that connect your users to your content.

What story can you tell that will appeal to them? What kind of content can you produce to engage, educate, and entertain?

Those Discover credit card commercials have the right idea with their “We treat you like you’d treat you” tagline. Genius! And how empathy works.

Share Your Mapping

Empathy maps are great tools for creating great content. But they’re also important for those people in Sales and Customer Service. Oh, and Product Development!

Don’t hoard all the valuable information you’ve discovered about your customers. Spread the news companywide.

Iterate and Improve

You’re not done. Empathy maps should continually evolve as you gather more information and insight. Review your maps on a quarterly basis. Tweak, add, improve.

5 Easy SEO Wins with Powerful Results by @jeremyknauff

Search engine optimization, when done correctly, can take a lot of work. This is why so many people are so eager to take shortcuts.

Fortunately, there are some tasks that don’t require as much effort, compared to tasks like link building, yet still yield significant gains.

I’m a big fan of efficiency, so I love tactics that deliver a greater return on my investment of time and/or money.

In this article, I’m going to explain five of these tactics which are easy to execute successfully but can deliver powerful results.

These easy SEO wins will help you get more out of your efforts and sprint past your competitors. They will also help to leverage better results out of your other SEO efforts like link building and content development.

1. Prune Outdated /Low-Quality Content

You probably created all of the content on your website with the best of intentions, but still, it’s almost a certainty that some of it is garbage.

There are a variety of reasons for this, and it happens to the best of us. The solution in many cases is to prune this content. In fact, Danny Goodwin and Loren Baker recently hosted a webinar on exactly this topic.

Some people are hesitant to get rid of any content, no matter the reason. The thinking is generally that it can’t do any harm to leave it there. And Google has reinforced this thinking time and time again.

But the reality is that despite what Google’s representatives say, outdated and/or low-quality content can negatively impact your ranking and traffic.

It probably should impact your credit score too, but apparently, I don’t have the clout necessary to make that happen.

Identifying Content to Prune

Once you’ve worked up the courage to start pruning, the first step is to identify the content that should be deleted.

The easiest and most complete way to do this is to use software like Screaming Frog to crawl your website and generate a list of URLs. This helps to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Next, you’ll need to begin the tedious task of reviewing this list, URL by URL, to determine which content is outdated or low quality. This means you actually need to manually visit each page and review the content.

It may help to prioritize this list. Google Search Console gives you the ability to export a CSV file of the URLs Google has indexed for your website, which you can then sort by traffic.

From here, you’ll want to start evaluating the URLs with no traffic, working your way up.

sorted URLs

sorted URLs

It’s important to point out that a lot of this content you’re deleting can and should be redirected to a stronger, high-quality page.

But don’t fall into the misguided approach of redirecting them to your homepage. If there is a legitimately relevant page on your website, redirect it there, otherwise, just let it 404.

But what about the content that’s not a complete dumpster fire, and is still relevant?

2. Improve Quality Content

If you’ve been doing things right, a lot, if not most of your content should survive the executioner’s blade.

This content should be improved based on your visitors’ needs.

The advantage here is that this content already exists, the URL has a history in Google, and it may even have some inbound links. Because of these factors, it makes a lot more sense to improve that content rather than starting over from scratch.

Depending on circumstances, this might include:

  • Editing your content to improve readability, increase engagement, and to make it more comprehensive.
  • Adding relevant and useful media, including images, video, and PDFs.
  • Including original data, research, statistics, and case studies.

We’ll want to prioritize the content to improve based on quick and easy wins. This means we won’t be targeting topics we don’t already rank for, but we also won’t be focused on improving positions we already rank highly for.

So let’s go back to our Google Search Console export and sort the data based on URLs that rank anywhere from Position 5 to 30 in the search results.

sort URLs by position

sort URLs by position

We’ll then further sort this data by relevance and potential search volume. From here, we will compare these URLs to our competitors who outrank us to identify opportunities to improve.

Some of the things we’re looking for could include:

Word Count

Despite what you may have been told, size does matter.

While not a worthwhile metric on its own, it can help to determine how comprehensive several URLs are in comparison to each other.

Depth

Generally speaking, the top ranking pages across all industries tend to be more comprehensive than those that they outrank. This doesn’t mean that longer content will always win, but it can be a powerful factor.

Does your content effectively and completely answer not only the original query, but also any related questions that may come up as a result?

You need to think about not only the immediate topic, but everything related to the customer journey. This might include:

  • Related definitions
  • Frequently asked questions
  • A summary of relevant laws and regulations
  • Explanation of a process
  • Technical specifications
  • Statistical data
  • Case studies

Readability

How well-written is your content?

This is not something you want to evaluate by gut feel – you need an objective measurement.

  • Yoast gives you a readability score while editing content right in WordPress.
  • SEMrush enables you to test readability both within their platform and with a Chrome add-on that integrates with Google Docs.
  • There are countless other tools as standalone websites, apps, and addons/plugins, available.

Your immediate goal is to make your content easier to read than the content that’s outranking you, but that’s just a starting point.

If your competitors content reads like someone spilled a bowl of alphabet soup, don’t set out to simply be a little better than them. Your goal should be to blow them away.

Media

Are original and useful images included within your content? How about video and/or audio files?

Images can provide additional context that helps search engines understand what your content is about. So can video, provided that schema is properly used.

But both serve another more important role, and that is to improve the user experience.

Look for opportunities to use media to provide additional information that’s not included in the text.

Both images and video are great at making complex topics easier to understand, but video is particularly effective at keeping visitors on your website longer, which is always a good thing.

It’s always a wise idea to include a watermark on your images to prevent competitors from stealing them.

Sure, you could file a DMCA complaint after the fact, but it’s always easier to avoid the problem in the first place.

3. Update Internal Links

Internal links can be a powerful tactic in your SEO toolbox, but it’s important to review them from time.

Your internal links should point to any pages that you want to rank well, and they should be placed on any pages with content relevant to the link destination. Equally important, these links should be direct.

redirects

redirects

This is a pretty common problem in websites where content is frequently published, moved, or deleted. The solution is to use a tool like Screaming Frog or SEMrush to crawl your site and identify any redirect chains.

As for managing these internal links, I’m a big fan of automating this task, and this is easy for WordPress websites.

There are several plugins available that enable you to specify certain words/phrases to automatically link to specific URLs.

This allows you to instantly create, edit, and delete links across your entire website, whether you have a few pages or a few million pages.

4. Improve Page Load Speed

The longer a webpage takes to load, the fewer leads and sales you’ll generate. To compound this problem, slower websites also tend not to rank as well compared to faster websites.

This makes page speed monumentality important.

Most websites are painfully slow, but the good news is that it’s relatively easy to improve.

While improving page speed requires a moderate level of technical expertise, I still consider this to be an easy win because the improvements you make will have an immediate and sitewide effect.

I’ll briefly share a few tactics here, but I encourage you to check out another article I wrote, explaining how to improve page speed, in great detail.

Dump the Budget Web Hosting

The cheaper web hosts tend to oversell their services, so your website is crammed onto a server with hundreds or even thousands of other websites.

Because these servers often lack the horsepower necessary, the websites they host often suffer in terms of page speed.

Reduce HTTP Calls

Every part of your website – each HTML, CSS, JavaScript, image, video, and any other type of file — requires a separate HTTP request.

Fewer HTTP requests typically means a faster website.

So how do we get there?

The first step is to remove any unnecessary plugins. Then, you’ll merge multiple CSS and JavaScript files into a single CSS and JavaScript file.

You should also minimize the number of image files by using CSS to create the desired design effect and/or using sprites to merge multiple frequently used images.

Optimize Media Files

Images and videos on many websites tend to be larger than they need to be.

The first step is to to make sure your media files are in the ideal format. For example, JPG is best for photographic images, while GIF or PNG are better for images with large areas of solid color.

Then, you’ll need to ensure your media files are properly sized. Images and video should be no larger than they will be displayed.

For example, if a particular image on your website will be never displayed at more than 800px wide, the image file should be 800px wide.

Finally, you’ll need to compress your media files. There are a number of free tools available online for compressing various file types. There are also WordPress plugins that can compress all of the images already on your website.

These three steps are a good start, but as I mentioned earlier, I highly encourage you to check out my previous article on improving page speed for more tactics and greater detail.

4. Implement Schema Markup

There is no definitive evidence that schema markup has any direct impact on ranking, however, it’s still critical to SEO.

That’s because it has the potential to increase your website’s visibility in the search results, which results in higher click-through rates.

Since most websites today still don’t use schema, this creates a tremendous opportunity for those that do. Take a look at this example and tell me which result caught your eye first?

schema in SERPs

schema in SERPs

Fortunately, implementing schema is relatively simple. There are three types, and they are used in different scenarios.

  • Standard schema microdata, which is marked up directly in HTML.
  • JSON-LD, which is marked up in JavaScript and is the most recommended format.
  • RDFa, which is used in a variety of different document types including XML, HTML 4, SVG, and many others.

In some cases, you’ll use JSON and add it to your website just like you would any other script. In some cases, you’ll add markup to specific elements on your website, and in others, you might add RDFa to a different document type.

Roger Montti wrote a great, in-depth post on schema, so rather than reinventing the wheel here, I’ll just direct you to his article.

But schema goes a lot deeper than where it is today and I anticipate that it will play a much larger and more direct role in the search algorithm. Especially as voice search begins to gain traction.

Montti explains in another article how Google is currently using speakable markup, which I believe will become a more prominent factor in search in the coming years.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, April 2019
All screenshots taken by author, April 2019