google

Harrelson Agency and Google’s New Responsive Search Ads

At Harrelson Agency, we manage a number of Google Ads campaigns (formerly AdWords as of July 24, 2018) for clients. Simply put, there’s really no better way to drive web traffic to a site or a landing page regardless of your budget, size, or goal. Whether you’re selling stuff, raising awareness, or trying to get more people into the door of your business or church, there’s a clear return on investment for a well-run Google Ads campaign.

We’ve been writing, tweaking, and managing these ads for years. I often tell clients its part science and part art to make everything work correctly. That may change a little after today…

Consumers today are more curious, more demanding, and they expect to get things done faster because of mobile. As a result, they expect your ads to be helpful and personalized. Doing this isn’t easy, especially at scale. That’s why we’re introducing responsive search ads. Responsive search ads combine your creativity with the power of Google’s machine learning to help you deliver relevant, valuable ads.

Simply provide up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines, and Google will do the rest. By testing different combinations, Google learns which ad creative performs best for any search query. So people searching for the same thing might see different ads based on context.

Via Google Ads Blog

Google is rolling out its new “responsive search ads” from beta today, and it does have the potential to reshape a number of processes that marketers like us use for ad campaigns. I doubt that we’ll give up on the fun whiteboard sessions where we throw ideas into the open that produce the basis for most of our managed campaigns, and I’m sure I’ll still have those “shower moment” epiphanies where the perfect headline text pops into my mind as I’m applying shampoo, but I am excited about what this could mean for our clients.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a great deal of the processes we use to build websites or manage Ads campaigns on Google and Facebook or to create memorable billboard taglines or to even write strategic plan documents will be automated and “responsive” as Google says in the coming decade. That’s why I’m betting Harrelson Agency’s future on the future and making sure that I’m staying on top of everything AI and blockchain and machine learning and augmented reality that I can.

We’ve already seen the decimation of the website development industry at the hands of democratizing creative tools like Squarespace and Weebly and Wix (as much as I dislike their pedestrian designs…). We’ll continue to see the same in other areas of marketing and advertising.

It’s worth my time to think ahead both for my clients’ bottom lines as well as Harrelson Agency’s future.

Overwriting Monuments with AR

I do think augmented reality and voice-first computing (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant etc) will get us out behind computer screens and keyboards and into the “real” world. What “real” means is subjective, and that will only intensify in the coming decades as computing comes full circle to being something that we naturally do with our voices and thoughts and without the need for a keyboard and mouse.

Now we just need a good pair of AR glasses from Apple or Google or some startup we haven’t heard of yet that’s working hard in a garage to change the world…

Last year, Movers and Shakers assembled a team of coders, artists and designers who use augmented reality technology to do their work. Their goal was circumvent the city’s decision by replacing the statue and similar monuments with digital ones of other historical figures — namely, people of color and women. “I think we have an opportunity to harness the storytelling capabilities of this technology,” said Glenn Cantave, founder and lead organizer, when explaining the group’s motivations. “Who’s going to own our narrative?”

— Read on theoutline.com/post/5123/movers-and-shakers-digital-sculptures-new-york-city

Google To Start Marking Sites Without HTTPS as Not Secure in July

If your nonprofit, church, or business website isn’t https:// with a reputable SSL certificate, Google’s Chrome browser update will start showing a warning message when visitors arrive. This will affect your site’s trustworthiness.

Get in touch if you need help or what to know more. You can also read a great take (and much needed insight) on this from blogging and podcasting visionary Dave Winer here.

For the past several years, we’ve moved toward a more secure web by strongly advocating that sites adopt HTTPS encryption. And within the last year, we’ve also helped users understand that HTTP sites are not secure by gradually marking a larger subset of HTTP pages as “not secure”. Beginning in July 2018 with the release of Chrome 68, Chrome will mark all HTTP sites as “not secure”.

— Read on security.googleblog.com/2018/02/a-secure-web-is-here-to-stay.html

Your Domain and Your Home Address

I often shock potential small business or nonprofit clients by knowing their home address or cell phone number during our first or second call. It’s easy if they have already purchased a domain. I don’t do it as a scare tactic, but as an educational moment about the need to plan ahead and think through security issues.

By the time someone or a business or group has come to me with an idea for a new website or marketing strategy needs, they’ve purchased or at least thought about a domain name. There are copious services out there that will sell you a domain for a range of prices. GoDaddy is perhaps the most popular due to its marketing over the years. Unfortunately, GoDaddy has a reputation in the tech world of being the Monarch of UpSells. You can go there to buy a domain but you have to wade through the other options of website hosting, email addresses, security services, and a fee to protect your domain name privacy.

That last one is something that has irked me for a while about GoDaddy and similar domain name sellers (including Google) that don’t offer free domain privacy and private registration. Again, many of my clients are shocked when they find out their home addresses are now public records tied to their great idea for a domain or their business’ domain.

Before private individuals started buying domains and GoDaddy / Squarespace / Wix / Weebly (all who will sell you a domain) started marketing how “easy” it is to build a website, it made sense that domain information would and should be public. Most domains were bought by agencies or companies tied to specific interests. However, that has all changed and domains should include domain privacy when purchased in 2018.

People are more and more becoming interested in privacy and security matters, and this only makes sense for everyone. Stop upselling it.

Good move from Namecheap.

When you register a domain, ICANN requires registrars to provide them with your contact information (such as name, email, address, and phone number). This is then added to the Whois database. This database lists the owners of every domain name online, and it can be searched by anyone on the Internet.

— Read on www.namecheap.com/security/whoisguard.aspx

Faster horses

I don’t know… this feels a little like Henry Ford’s “if I had asked what people wanted, they would have said a faster horse” approach to utilizing tech to save humans time…

Like Google, we envision a future that’s based on collaboration between humans and machines. Where we seem to differ is that we believe a human handoff is essential when initiating a conversation between an AI assistant and a human. This human acknowledgement of AI preserves the human to human relationships and makes resuming the non transactional parts of the conversation much more natural. With their policy reversal, it sounds like Google has realized that you need to at least let people know they’re interacting with AI.

SEO for beginners free course

Here’s a free and good course on SEO basics. Whether you’re a business, church or nonprofit, you should have some basic understandings of what SEO means to your website and how just a few tweaks can really make a big difference.

I went through most of the course and there’s some good info here, especially for beginners:

– Get quick wins to make your site rank higher in Google, Bing or Yahoo
– Have a solid basic understanding of search engine optimization and how search engines work

— Read on yoast.com/academy/course/free-seo-course-seo-for-beginners/

Most People Don’t Want Privacy

The broader question is the tradeoff between privacy and advertising. While a tempting noun, most people don’t really *want* privacy, let alone understand what that means. It’s definitely not an unattainable goal, but it does require work… which is something many of our fellow citizens are reluctant to pursue when it comes to such technological conditions.

Third, Google and Facebook’s advertising advantage, already massive, is going to become overwhelming. Both companies generate the majority of their user data on their own platforms, which is to say their data collection and advertising business are integrated. Most of their competitors for digital advertising, on the other hand, are modular: some companies collect data, and other collect ads; such a model, in a society demanding ever more privacy, will be increasingly untenable.

Source: Open, Closed, and Privacy – Stratechery by Ben Thompson

10 most downloaded iPhone apps in the world

It might be surprising to Americans, but neither Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube is the most downloaded app on the iPhone anymore. As we continue to move into the 21st Century, we’re seeing the rise of Chinese apps and companies. This will only escalate in the coming years, especially as the US seems more preoccupied with tribalistic policies.

“Known as Douyin in China, Tik Tok is a music video and social media app. The app lets you shoot and edit short clips, then add music and special effects to them. Tik Tok is owned by the same parent company that bought social video app Musical.ly for $1 billion last year”

Facebook-owned apps dominated the App Store charts during the first three months of the year, but a Chinese-made music video app called Tik Tok took first place – Business Insider

One Step Closer to Quantum Computing

20 qubits have been entangled together and put into one network. Huge… computing is about to get “spooky” as Einstein would have said.

In high school physics, electrons bounce between two layers, like a car changing lanes. But in reality, electrons don’t exist in one place or one layer — they exist in many at the same time, a phenomenon known as quantum superposition. This odd quantum behavior offers a chance for devising a new computer language — one that uses infinite possibilities. Whereas classic computing uses bits, these calcium ions in superposition become quantum bits, or qubits. While past work had created such qubits before, the trick to making a computer is to get these qubits to talk to one another.

Via Space.com

Computational Explosion

Sergey Brin, President of Alphabet (Google’s parent company), on the computational explosion over the last few years and near-future possibilities of quantum computing in the annual Founders Letter:

The power and potential of computation to tackle important problems has never been greater. In the last few years, the cost of computation has continued to plummet. The Pentium IIs we used in the first year of Google performed about 100 million floating point operations per second. The GPUs we use today perform about 20 trillion such operations — a factor of about 200,000 difference — and our very own TPUs are now capable of 180 trillion (180,000,000,000,000) floating point operations per second.

Even these startling gains may look small if the promise of quantum computing comes to fruition. For a specialized class of problems, quantum computers can solve them exponentially faster. For instance, if we are successful with our 72 qubit prototype, it would take millions of conventional computers to be able to emulate it. A 333 qubit error-corrected quantum computer would live up to our name, offering a 10,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000x speedup.

TPUs refers to Google’s “Tensor Processing Units” as discussed here last year.

The common notion that computers, phones, tablets etc have peaked and now we have tech that is “good enough” and has reached a nice plateau is a false lull in the upward trajectory of computing power. We’ll see tech innovations that “trickle down” to the general global population in the next decade that will cause disruption and rapid change in all parts of our lives from medicine to education to finance to government to interacting with our daily environments (and other people there).

What is Local SEO?

Here’s a good read on the thinking behind “local SEO” and how to implement some of the strategies on your website. We do this for a number of clients when we build or revise their sites, particularly churches and nonprofits (and small businesses) who really depend on local search traffic in fundraising or awareness campaigns.

Local SEO is about how to optimize your website to rank better for a local audience. A website gives you the opportunity to target the entire (online) world. But if the target audience for your business is actually located in or near the city you have your office or shop, you’ll need to practice at least some local SEO as well. You need to optimize for your city name, optimize your address details. In short: you need to optimize so people know where you are located and are able to find you offline (if required). In this post, we will try to explain what local SEO is, so you can optimize your local site as well!

Source: What is local SEO? • SEO for beginners • Yoast

“How can I get on the first page of a Google Result?”

SEO still matters as a part of your marketing mix. This helps, though…

Google has introduced infinite scrolling to mobile search results pages.

Where there used to be page numbers at the bottom of SERPs there is now a “more results” button. Tapping on the button will trigger more search results to load within the same page.

Source: Google Switches to Infinite Scrolling Mobile Search Results – Search Engine Journal

Moving beyond links

I’ve long argued that “links are dead” (going on a decade now). Some of that was hyperbolic to discuss the need for a better mechanism to derive value or information from one site to the next or from a marketing campaign.

It looks like Google might be moving beyond links as well and towards more of an “entity database” where the connections and relationships between search terms are prioritized. I can get behind that.

The idea that we can push our rankings forward through entity associations, and not just links, is incredibly powerful and versatile. Links have tried to serve this function and have done a great job, but there are a LOT of advantages for Google to move toward the entity model for weighting as well as a variety of other internal needs.

Source: Google patent on related entities and what it means for SEO – Search Engine Land

The dangers of thinking “They’ll get it because they’re young”

So very true despite the stereotypes (spoken as a former college / high school / middle school teacher turned tech consultant). Parents have a big burden to bear in helping their young and old children make wise decisions about how and why to use the web. Just assuming “they’ll get it because they’re young” is very dangerous.

What is surprising about this data is that while education is a factor in online security literacy, age is less so. Users aged 65 and older were seemingly just as knowledgeable as users in the age range of 18-29; while online literacy bias in general is weighted toward younger users, the Pew survey suggests that overall there is a shared standard of what we know and what we don’t know.

Source: Why did we give our data to Facebook in the first place? – Scientific American Blog Network

Paying for everything you do

What about the users?

Advertising isn’t why Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook or, presumably, what gets him out of bed in the morning. Engineers and designers whose identities are invested in changing the world don’t want that work tarnished by association. But the decision to pay for everything Facebook does by selling advertising means–whether he likes it or not–Mark Zuckerberg is just as much the CEO of an advertising company as a social network. The sooner Facebook reconciles this for itself and its users, the less vulnerable it will be to stories like last week’s.

Source: Admit It, You Don’t Really Understand Facebook

1.1.1.1

DNS is an important and overlooked backbone structure of how we interact and communicate with the web. If you think that Facebook and Google knowing so much about you is weird, you definitely don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of probing what your Internet Service Provider knows about you based on all the traffic that flows through them and their DNS services that you subscribe to.

I’ve been using Google’s 8.8.8.8 DNS for many years, but excited to see another new player that promises complete encryption and privacy. Granted, Cloudflare is becoming a point-of-failure worry given how much heavy lifting they do as a content delivery network for many sites (including this one), but more competition is a good thing in this case (especially if they aren’t advertising companies).

Unfortunately, by default, DNS is usually slow and insecure. Your ISP, and anyone else listening in on the Internet, can see every site you visit and every app you use — even if their content is encrypted. Creepily, some DNS providers sell data about your Internet activity or use it target you with ads.

We think that’s gross. If you do too, now there’s an alternative: 1.1.1.1

Source: 1.1.1.1 — the Internet’s Fastest, Privacy-First DNS Resolver

Google is killing goo.gl and we’ll see more web rot

Google released goo.gl link shortening service back in 2009. URL shorteners were popular at the time (and since) for all sorts of purposes. Sites and services have relied on goo.gl and bit.ly etc for years to mask complex links and encourage sharing or easier verbal communication. But like all things having to do with the web, you should plan for the future and realize that services come and go (another reason I’ve kept my own blog here since 2006).

I know lots of sites and designers that use goo.gl links in production… it’s going to be a headache to switch all those out.

Google announced that it is shutting down its URL shortening service, goo.gl. The company says that new and anonymous users won’t be able to create links through the goo.gl console as of April 13th, but existing users will be able to use it for another year, after which it will be discontinued completely.

Source: Google is shuttering its URL shortening service, goo.gl  – The Verge

Surveillance Capitalism

Surveillance capitalism is deeply embedded in our increasingly computerized society, and if the extent of it came to light there would be broad demands for limits and regulation. But because this industry can largely operate in secret, only occasionally exposed after a data breach or investigative report, we remain mostly ignorant of its reach.

Bruce Schneier – Facebook and Cambridge Analytica