India Unveils the World’s Largest Solar Power Plant

Kamuthi in Tamil Nadu, India is now home to the world’s largest simpler solar plant that adds 648 MW to the country’s generating capacity.

Previously, the Topaz Solar Farm in California, which was completed two years ago and has a capacity of 550 MW, held the title. Aljazeera reports:

the latest solar news


Germany Facing Mass Blackouts Because The Wind And Solar Won’t Cooperate

Germany’s energy network nearly broken down in January because of poor execution from wind turbines and sun based boards, as indicated by information from a noteworthy exchange union.

Wind and sunlight based power plants failed to meet expectations in January, 2017, as a result of shady climate with almost no wind, setting the phase for monstrous power outages.

A noteworthy power outage nearly happened Jan. 24 and was just avoided when German vitality providers “also took the last reserve power plant,” Michael Vassiliadis, leader of the union which speaks to power plants IG Bergbauchemie Energie, told columnists. The nation’s energy matrix was strained to as far as possible and could have gone disconnected altogether, setting off a national power outage, if only one power plant had gone disconnected, as per Vassiliadis.

“he renewables could not even offer five percent [of total power demand.] Coal, gas and nuclear power kept the country almost in the first place under the electric current,” Vassiliadis said.


Social Media Marketing Trends in 2018

Social Media Marketing Trends 2018

As we all gear into the new year, its important to reflect on the new possibilities and technologies that can impact your website in 2018. My friends at Digital Vidya have blogged about key social media marketing trends in 2018 that will make a difference to your marketing ROI, these trends are a Social Media Marketing Trends in 2018 part of the interview series done by three experts from the digital and social media marketing functions.

I am honored and privileged to be a part of the expert panel on the interview series on social media alongwith my two other expert panelists.

While the questions are only three, the depth of the answers will give you an overall perspective on what’s going to work in 2018.

And Yes …in the interview I’ve spilled the beans on where your marketing dollar and efforts should be focused 🙂

Check out my interview on Social Media Marketing Trends in 2018


How Important is IT Support for your Online Business?

IT support has been growing in importance for companies as they continue to embrace technology solutions and their customers come to expect better from them. Regardless of whether their business directly operates within the IT/software realm, online companies have websites that provide support for IT issues, whether that’s via a mobile app, a live chat system or a support phone line.

Along with the services provided by the company, they will usually have established a service level agreement which covers what they expect to provide in terms of the level of service. Administering that to ensure standards are being met – or achieved – isn’t easy, but putting proper systems in place helps to address this issue succinctly.

 

IT Support: Where Rubber Meets the Road

While customer support gets the greater attention with most companies, when existing customers have a problem using the products, the software, the mobile apps or the website, they call technical support. Therefore, while customer services may deal both with existing customers and people calling up to get help and advice before becoming customers, IT support deals with people already on the books.

Pause for a second to take in that fact. They’re already paying customers or people using products of the company in one form or another. This should put to bed the idea that IT support is secondary in any way to customer service teams.

 

What Are the Expectations of Your Customers with IT Support?

When dealing as an online business, customers expect the support to be top notch. Better than a regular company that only pays lip service to online deals. An online company that makes most if not all its money from online activities has no excuses when it comes to IT support. People naturally expect if they’re a pure-play online entity or close to it, they should have all their ducks in a row.

Not keeping up with the stream of incoming messages or being disorganized about getting back to customers won’t be tolerated. People dealing with online companies are quick to complain publicly on social media, consumer forums and anywhere else where they can feel heard. This applies whether their IT problem is small or large.

A limited understanding of IT topics makes people feel vulnerable and upset at their lack of comprehension, which often spills over into annoyance at the company. Companies need to be aware of that reality.

 

Service Level Agreements: What Are They & Why Do They Matter?

For the company to achieve and maintain high service standards, service level agreements are a must. They spell out what the company is expected to achieve in terms of managing new tickets, dealing effectively with complaints and other important matters, on behalf of customers.

Using software such as SysAid’s service level management tool helps guide companies on what service levels they should be setting and monitoring their performance from thereon. Without using these tools, it’s easy for a company to run aimlessly or let standards inexorably slip.

Spend up to provide excellent support for online customers. The loyal ones will stick with you, but bad IT support is unforgivable, and the dissenters will be vocal about it. Therefore, brand reputation is at stake too.


Hilbert’s list

In 1900, David Hilbert published a list of 23 problems that he proposed would be the important ones for mathematicians to solve in the upcoming century. That list led to a focused effort that lasted a century, and the vast majority of the problems have been fully or partially solved. Ignoramus et ignorabimus is a foolish statement. We can know, and one day, we will.

Technology (the technology of connection, of devices and of knowledge) can create a surplus. The cost of light, of transport and of food has dropped by orders of magnitude in just a few lifetimes. Most of us waste electricity, water and other essentials in ways that would have been astonishing just a generation ago. Privileged populations go to the doctor for illnesses that wouldn’t even be a topic for discussion among those with less access to the surplus that we’ve created in access to healthcare.

Surely, we can build a better future with technology instead of focusing on autonomous drone delivery of a latte 9 blocks away in San Francisco.

As we enter a new year, one in which technology promises to move faster than ever, it’s worth considering what our 23 problems might be. (Hilbert left one off his list, and others have created very different lists–there’s no right answer).

A personal list is a great place to start (because, after all, you’ve solved much of what confronted you a decade ago). Technology doesn’t have to be high-tech. It can simply be the hard work of finding generous solutions to important problems, big or small.

Our next steps might be far more effective than simple resolutions, which are easily ignored or pushed aside. We can work toward dignity, toward access, toward seeing the world as it is…

As citizens, creators and consumers, each of us can also propose a more global list. To get you started, here are some that come to mind for the next decades. Feel free to publish your own list, which is likely to be better informed and more nuanced, but here you go…

[This list seems ridiculous until you realize that in the last few generations, we created vaccines, antibiotics, smartphones, GPS and the Furby].

1. High efficiency, sustainable method for growing sufficient food, including market-shifting replacements for animals as food

2. High efficiency, renewable energy sources and useful batteries (cost, weight, efficiency)

3. Effective approaches to human trafficking

4. Carbon sequestration at scale

5. Breakthrough form for democracy in a digital age

6. Scalable, profitable, sustainable methods for small-scale creators of intellectual property

7. Replacement for the University

8. Useful methods for enhancing, scaling or replacing primary education, particularly literacy

9. Beneficial man/machine interface (post Xerox Parc)

10. Cost efficient housing at scale

11. Useful response to urban congestion

12. Gene therapies for obesity, cancer and chronic degenerative diseases

13. Dramatic leaps of AI interactions with humans

14. Alternatives to paid labor for most humans

15. Successful interactions with intelligent species off Earth

16. Self-cloning of organs for replacement

17. Cultural and nation-state conflict resolution and de-escalation

18. Dramatically new artistic methods for expression

19. Useful enhancements to intellect and mind for individuals

20. Shift in approach to end-of-life suffering and solutions for pain

21. Enhanced peer-to-peer communication technologies approaching the feeling of telepathy

22. Transmutation of matter to different elements and structures

23. Off-planet outposts

It’s going to get interesting. Especially if we can imagine it.

       


Virtual Reality: The Very Real World of Virtual Currency

Video game currency doesn’t simply exist in the virtual world. Debts racked up virtually are a very real problem according to UK finance-broker Solution Loans.

In fact, the company has seen a 15% yearly increase in individuals seeking financial assistance because of debts racked up spending in the virtual world. Specifically, the broker dealt with 25 cases in the last two months. But nationwide this volume is likely to be the tip of a much, much larger iceberg.

For many parents, monitoring how many hours their kids spend in virtual worlds is a difficult problem to track, and that’s without the phenomenon of in-game spending or microtransactions.

And it truly is a phenomenon, with £58,850,752.79 spent globally every single day by video game enthusiasts during their game time. In the first half of 2018 $19.5 billion was spent on video games in the US alone. That’s a 40% increase on 2017 with most of the revenue coming from mobile games, though spending on video game hardware has also increased to a seven-year high. Video games industry experts are anticipating spending on and in games to continue to be strong and one game, Red Dead Redemption 2, has been so hotly anticipated and so quickly embraced by enthusiastic gamers that its expected to significantly increase spending on gaming all by itself.

According to information provided by the Intelligent Economist, gaming companies make 50% of their revenue for mobile games from just 0.15% of users. Also termed, “whales”, each of these users would need to spend £11 every single day for Fortnite to make its current daily revenue.

Amanda Gillam from Solution Loans said: “This is a very real problem, and one that simply shouldn’t be ignored.

“Parents need to understand how in-game spending works and the games where users are most tempted to part with their cash. For many users it may not feel real as the transaction is quick and simple, but it is very real. And so is the potential impact it can have.

“Some of the cases we’ve seen recently have been very serious, with it often being likened to gambling addiction. We felt it necessary to highlight to parents the ongoing issue and detail steps they should take and things they should look out for with their kids at home.”

According to Solution Loans parents should make sure they do the following:

  • Monitor how much time your kids spend gaming
  • Find out from them which specific games they are playing
  • Learn as much as you can about the games your kids are playing and if they include in-game purchases
  • Limit their time playing these games & check for how they react when you try do this – a clear sign of addiction is an inability to let something go
  • Look for specific signs including if they are hiding their gaming use, specifically doing it at night
  • Check how much they talk about the game and how much their life begins to revolve around it – a sign of addiction is an obsessional attachment to the game

For further information about the real world of virtual currency visit: https://www.solution-loans.co.uk/blog/real-world-virtual-currency/


Tanzania turns to solar power to increase electricity connectivity

As many as 60 percent of the Kenyan population now has access to electricity according to official data. But in neighbouring Tanzania, the penetration rate is less than half of that and sparsely populated rural communities are especially neglected.

 


What You Must Do to Get the Best Out of an Online Marketing Agency

If you read through the experiences businesses have with search engine marketing services you would find them spread across the spectrum of satisfaction. While some would sing praises about how a digital marketing company has added to their brand equity, others merely complain about campaigns gone haywire.

Keeping skills, expertise, and professionalism of the service providers aside from one of the major contributors to bad experiences is clients’ involvement in a project or rather the lack of it. If you expect an online marketing agency to add wings to your digital marketing campaign you will also need to get involved with the project actively. Here are some of the ways in which you can get the best out of an agency and cement a strong relationship with them. 
Also Read
  • They won’t read your mind, have no such expectations
What is at stake for the search engine marketing agency you have just hired? At most, they would lose a project, a client and perhaps few hundred dollars. What is at stake for you? Well, just about everything you can think of – your business’ reputation, sales and perhaps your existence in the digital ecosystem. This is where you need to take a proactive approach while the project is being executed. Offer the team as much information about your products, competition, target market and everything you consider being relevant to your project. Keep yourself communicable and always respond to their doubts and queries. If your business’ goals have changed make sure you inform them about it. 
  • It’s your project and being proactive would pay you
What is at stake for the search engine marketing agency you have just hired? At most, they would lose a project, a client and perhaps few hundred dollars. What is at stake for you? Well, just about everything you can think of – your business’ reputation, sales and perhaps your existence in the digital ecosystem. This is where you need to take a proactive approach while the project is being executed. Offer the team as much information about your products, competition, target market and everything you consider being relevant to your project. Keep yourself communicable and always respond to their doubts and queries. If your business’ goals have changed make sure you inform them about it. 
  • Show respect, they’ll return the favors
Your time is precious so is that of the search engine marketing company you have hired for the job.  If you expect to be treated fairly and respectfully you also need to treat your agency the same way. During the course of association with the agency and its agents, there may come moments where there is serious disagreement or you feel the agency isn’t adhering to the scope of the project discussed earlier. You should handle such situations professionally. Never show disrespect to anyone individually or hurt the morale of the team. This helps you in no way and can jeopardize your project. 
Keep these things in mind while working with an online marketing agency and you will be able to get the best out of them.


Amazon Advertising Features You Already Know and Love

Amazon advertising features compared to Google Ads - Chalkboard with the basics of pay-per-click advertising
Amazon-Advertising-Features-Similar-to-Google-PPC—Portent

Everybody got that??

As Amazon continues its steady ascent towards world domination, Amazon Advertising (the newly unified name of Amazon’s ad offerings) is playing an increasingly significant role in that growth. Recently, Amazon overtook Bing to become the 3rd largest digital ads platform by market share. So, if you’re a digital marketer anywhere near ecommerce, Amazon Advertising is a critical part of your mix. And if it’s not, you’d better have a really good reason for abstaining from their marketplace that starts and ends with “we’re better off sacrificing huge volume in exchange for the direct-to-customer relationship.”

But the front-line reality is that we see most businesses sell themselves short on Amazon not for some noble protest, but because they think they don’t know how to use Amazon’s advertising products well (yet).

Spoiler – If you know PPC you know Amazon Advertising so dive in

Look, I get it: you’re probably already spreading your digital efforts and money across a bunch of platforms, and focusing on the winners. How are you supposed to learn an entirely new platform, using advertiser tools that are far less sophisticated than Google Ads (for now), AND build a presence on Amazon Advertising that’s profitable, without taking your eye off of the incumbent channels?

Shameless: The cheat-code answer, of course, is that you can hire someone like Portent to do it for you!

That said, if you’ve got the bandwidth and drive to make Amazon Advertising a core competency for your marketing team, there’s increasingly good news for seasoned search marketers.

Amazon Advertising shares some of the most useful, common features with platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads. If you have knowledge and experience on either the Google or Bing ad platforms, you already know how to leverage a few of the most useful features on Amazon.

Here are a few of the biggest and most important similarities to get you started.

Account Structure on Amazon Advertising

In Google and Bing (read, traditional PPC platforms), search campaign and ad group structure provide the basis for account organization and performance monitoring.

Campaigns that are built and organized well encompass the main theme (for example, “Seattle souvenirs”) with subordinate ad groups providing a break-out of sub-topics (think “Seattle souvenir mug” and “Seattle souvenir pencil” as separate ad groups).

The structure in Amazon is very similar. To get started with a new campaign, decide between highlighting individual products or focusing on promotion of your brand as a whole.

It’s imperative to understand the difference between the two options. Are you trying to focus on sales for single products? If so, the individual products option (Sponsored Products) should be selected. This ad type is the typical ad medium most advertisers envision when they think of placement on Amazon.

If you want to focus on promoting your WHOLE brand on Amazon, the “Sponsored Brands” option would be a better choice. This is a newer ad offering that’s more in-line with Amazon’s goal of letting businesses spend to drive greater brand awareness and brand presence on their platform. Both options are visible in the image below:

You’ll then fill out the campaign settings and create your first ad group(s), similar to what you’d do in Bing Ads or Google Ads with a new campaign. However, on Amazon you have far fewer options to choose from for targeting purposes. Options like location and language targeting simply don’t exist in the Amazon user interface (yet).

One additional nuance that’s unique to Amazon is the Manual vs. Automatic targeting feature although Google’s Smart Shopping campaigns overlap a bit. Automatic targeting campaigns are designed to have Amazon do all ad targeting via algorithm, sacrificing some control but offering better efficiency in time and potentially results. Amazon pulls primarily from your product pages and the behavioral data it keeps on shoppers, meaning you don’t select keywords or need to hassle with pesky things like your experience, intuition, or knowledge of your customer (not that we’re biased). With manual campaigns the keyword selection, including match types, is in your hands. More time required, but with the trade-off of tighter control.

 

Keyword Research on Amazon Advertising

The Google Ads and Bing Ads keyword planning features have become familiar and useful tools for many marketers. Simply add a few potential keywords or URLs and magical results filled with terms, competitive landscape, and even suggested bids on the keywords listed appear!

Well, guess what? Amazon has its own keyword tool. The catch, though, is that it’s not quite as front-and-center as the tools provided by Bing and Google.

To access the keyword-planning feature in Amazon you’ll need to navigate to the ad group level of a manual campaign. Automatic campaigns however don’t use keywords so it’s not even offered from those campaign screens.

In manual campaign planning and research, you’ll have the option to view and add suggested keywords based on your product details, manually enter your own keywords, or upload a file (XLSX, TSV, or CSV formats) to add new keywords to a specific ad group.

Like the Google and Bing platforms, Amazon also provides keyword bid suggestions for you to use as a basis for projecting cost. Unlike Google and Bing, Amazon doesn’t provide search volume estimates. For that, you will have to look to third-party ecommerce keyword research tools like Merchant Words.

 

Keyword Match Types on Amazon Advertising

Selecting the granularity of your keyword targeting is functionality that goes back ages (by digital standards…) on the Bing Ads and Google Ads platform. Match type usage provides specific instructions to the platform on how precisely or loosely to match an advertiser’s ads with keywords for relevant search queries.

And in what’s probably the most important parallel between Amazon Advertising and the entrenched PPC platforms:

You can absolutely use match types for targeting Amazon Sponsored Product ads, which is a huge step forward. The wonderfully familiar options of Exact, Phrase, and Broad match types are all ready and waiting for you.

 

Here’s a quick primer on each option for those who are new to PPC or a little rusty:

Exact: Triggered when someone types in the exact same search term or phrase you’ve targeted, or small variations thereof (think “Seattle souvenir(s)” if the term searched is “Seattle souvenir”).

Phrase: Phrase match requires the terms or phrase you select to be included within a search query for ads to appear. However, any other combination of keywords or phrases can be included in a given query.  Also, the order of your keyword must be identical to the search query (“finding Seattle souvenirs” will trigger for Phrase match if your phrase is “Seattle souvenirs” while “souvenir locations Seattle” will not).

Broad: Assume everything even semi-related to your keyword will be eligible to display. That means the term you select, and even similar search terms may trigger your ad (“souvenir in Seattle” and “Seattle-related gifts” could both trigger a result for a broad-match “Seattle souvenirs”)

Pro Tip: It’s worth noting that Modified Broad Match as a match type option (from Bing Ads and Google Ads) is NOT yet possible within Amazon’s platform.

As with Google and Bing, there’s no right answer when choosing which match types to associate with your keywords. If you’re looking for tight targeting for which only identical or close queries match your keywords, Exact and Phrase match are the way to go. If casting a wider net via looser targeting parameters is your goal, Broad match is the ticket.

For more information on targeting strategy check out the post our resident Amazon expert, Tim Johnson, wrote onAmazon Sponsored Product campaigns.

 

So, what are the big differences on Amazon Advertising vs. Google and Bing?

There are obviously major differences in both audience mindset and overall platform, but the most obvious one is in the quality of the features for advertisers. Although Amazon is making constant improvements, both Google and Bing Ads have been around and competing for direct-response ad dollars for an eternity by digital standards. Amazon’s meteoric rise on the direct-response and programmatic advertising side are still relatively new, so it’s not surprising that the tools are still a little less sophisticated.

Pro-Tip and some very important examples: If you’re familiar with device targeting, ad scheduling, automated bidding, and location targeting, those features are NOT available via Amazon’s platform.

These features are known and loved by marketers and operating without them can leave you at a significant disadvantage as far as managing ROI or return on ad-spend (RoAS).

However, there are a number of 3rd party options such as Seller Labs or SellerApp that provide extensive research and performance toolsets that can be used in conjunction with Amazon’s built-in features. For our Amazon clients, Portent uses SellerLabs tools to manage a lot of the current shortcomings of Amazon’s on-platform controls, and to efficiently manage huge numbers of products and ads simultaneously.*

Another crucial difference with Amazon Advertising and overall presence is more subtle – Amazon Sales Rank can be improved via paid advertising efforts. The Amazon’s Sales Rank figure is a metric covering the number of sales for a product relative to the number of sales for competing products.

For Google Ads and Bing Ads, there is a clear separation between paid and organic listings. With Amazon, however, everything counts together.

This literally means that running paid advertising on Amazon will help increase your visibility for your organic listings as well because Sales Rank factors both listing types into the Amazon algorithm.

In Amazon’s case, you’re effectively double-dipping in that organic rank can be improved via paid campaigns. If you needed any more motivation to get started with Amazon Ads as a complement to your organic product listing optimization work, that should hopefully do it.

 

Recap

If you’re thinking about diving into Amazon Advertising you can absolutely leverage your existing experience in Google Ads and Bing Ads to get you started.

Specifically, there are similarities in account structure, keyword discovery, and keyword match types that can give you a running start. But again, we strongly recommend using 3rd party tools supplement your optimization efforts, and shy away from consultants or agencies who don’t do likewise.

Finally, if you’re looking for an added incentive to invest in Sponsored Product ads on Amazon, don’t forget that any sales increase will bolster your organic listings, as Amazon Sale Rank factors in sales across both channels.

Amazon is iterating like crazy to drive parity, so there are guaranteed to be more similarities that we’ve not touched on. What other pertinent advice or similarities between the 3 platforms would you highlight? Please chime in with your comments!

 

 

*Disclaimer – I have not been asked to write about either tool option here.

 

The post Amazon Advertising Features You Already Know and Love appeared first on Portent.


The Spiderman Paradox

On one hand, Uncle Ben’s rule makes great sense: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

The essence of the rule is that once you have great power, you need to take the responsibility that goes with it.

And yet, it’s backfiring.

It’s backfiring because so many walk away from their great power. They walk away because they don’t want the responsibility.

We have the power to vote, but decide to stay home and whine.

The power to publish, but click instead.

The power to lead, but follow meekly.

The power to innovate, but ask for rules of thumb instead.

The power to lend a hand, but walk away.

Most people watch videos, they don’t make them. Most people read tweets, they don’t write them. Most people walk away from the chance to lead online and off, in our virtual communities and with the people down the street.

In a democracy, we each have more power to speak up and to connect than we imagine. But most people don’t publish their best work or seek to organize people who care. Most of the time, it’s far easier to avert our eyes or blame the system or the tech or the dominant power structure.

There are millions who insist we’d be better of with a monarchy. The main reason: what happens after that is no longer their responsibility. Go work for the man, it saves you from having to be responsible.

When the local business disappears, it’s because we didn’t shop there. When the local arts program fades away, it’s because we watched Netflix instead. And when the local school persists in churning out barely competent cogs for the industrial system, it’s because we didn’t speak up.

Culture is what we build, and that’s powerful.