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'Net Features

Discover recent digital developments and practical expert guidance in the Website Magazine Net Features weblog.


Affiliate Window Looks for Bigger Share of Sales in U.S.

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 21:55:00 GMT

Affiliate Window has announced the acquisition of ShareASale, a privately owned affiliate network based in Chicago, to strengthen its U.S. presence.

ShareASale currently serves 4,500 advertisers and more than 100,000 active publishers generating more upward of 12 million transactions a year, making it the third largest affiliate marketing network in the U.S., according to Affiliate Network. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

“Affiliate Window mirrors our commitment to value-driven customer solutions, strong ethics, industry compliance and unparalleled company culture," said Brian Littleton, founder and CEO of ShareASale. "The acquisition promises to provide both a premier mix of innovative technology as well as a committed and congruent team to service our combined global base of customers. On a personal note, the strong commitment to ethics and company culture were critical in choosing this partner to go forward with and provide the opportunity and growth to our long-time customers, and loyal employees.”

Affiliate Window has spent the last several years establishing its presence in North America with teams based in Baltimore, Denver and San Francisco.

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Entrepreneurs Share Q1 Advice for Startups

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 21:25:00 GMT

:: By Corey Bray, LegalNature :: Congrats! Your company made it through another year despite a lot of odds stacked against it, or maybe your business has not yet launched, and you are hoping to make 2017 your year. Wherever you're starting or continuing from, let the following advice from several successful entrepreneurs help you begin the first quarter right.   “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” –Alexis Robin, Co-founder, pLink Coaching Center It is tempting to roll into the new year and dive right into your old habits and the overwhelm of the post-holiday emails that have collected while you’ve been celebrating. If you want to kick off the year with a bang you will want to channel your “fresh start” energy into a proper plan.  At pLink we love the saying, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast,” and that’s an approach you can take to lay the foundation for a kick-ass year.  Spend your first days back in the office defining the answers to these questions: ● What are my intentions for this year?   ● What do I want to have accomplished by the end of 2017?  ● What will have the biggest impact on my success this year?  Got it? Good. Now ask yourself: ● What do I need to do today to set myself on the right path?   ● How am I going to go after these intentions? (Note, this may change throughout the year and that’s great. You’ve got to be nimble and adjust to ensure you stay on track.) The key is to be crystal clear on where you are going this year and then stay honest. Every choice will get you closer to or further from your goal.     “These are the four guiding principles that have been key to running a successful startup for us” – Adrian Ridner, Co-founder, ● Get Things Done (GTD) – You need to move fast to make the most of your money before it runs out. Pick a few things to focus on and diligently go after them, don’t get distracted. You will never know less about the problem you are working on than you do at the beginning. Do not let perfect be the enemy of good. Just get something live and then learn and iterate on it. ● Decide with Data - You have limited resources and budget, so you need to make smart decisions. When in doubt, test it out, and then decide with data. Double down on what works, and quickly iterate or drop things that don’t. ● Simplify – Don’t make solutions more complex than they have to be. Break problems down so that you don’t get overwhelmed and can make incremental progress forward. Keep your end goals in mind and don’t get lost in the details. ● Be exceptional – It is important to team up with great people. Recognize what you are good at, where you are weak, and then surround yourself with great talent. When you have a smart and passionate team, everyone pushes each other to be better. “Work on achieving the bigger picture” – Frank DeGeoege, Co-founder, YouStake After spending quality time with family and friends during the holidays, it is time to get back to work, and what better way to do this than jump in head first. There are key areas I like to focus on as a business leader to ensure another year of success, with emphasis today on Q1. The first is to review accomplishments and challenges from the prior year and then truly understand the drivers behind each one. Next is to determine stretch goals and major milestones with my team. This gives us a roadmap and ensures everyone is on the same page. Lastly, work on achieving the bigger picture, but make sure to keep the smaller tasks on track and in mind. At YouStake, every day we face exciting new opportunities, and we know that with the right amount of planning and proper execution, we will have another prosperous year! “Take the time to evaluate your risk profile and coverages” – Rashimi Melgiri, COO and Co-founder, CoverWallet This is a great time to evaluate your company'[...]

Leverage Data Science and Machine Learning to Optimize the Marketing Mix

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 19:45:00 GMT

Digital marketing software Cake announced several enhancements focused on tracking, algorithmic attribution and marketing campaign optimization, providing users with better tools to measure the impact and return each media channel and campaign has on their advertising spend. 

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Users of the SaaS-based platform will be able to understand the impact of digital marketing campaigns across multiple touchpoints and channels (including search, social, display, affiliate, video and more) and target prospects and users based on channel and traffic source, as well as geography, device, operating systems, language and other custom rules.

Those using the system will also seem some enhancements to the platform's attribution (including the addition of rules-driven models including first- and last-touch, linear, time decay and custom modes) and optimization features (such as the ability to identify top performers with data comparison and visualization across marketing channels). 

"CAKE strives to empower marketers with a deep understanding about the performance of their advertising choices and the ability to immediately act upon these insights," said Dave Stewart, Chief Technology Officer of CAKE by Accelerize. "We've built an industry-leading technology that not only gathers granular information about the customer path to conversion, but also leverages data science and machine learning to optimize the marketing mix and automatically understand how to shift spend to maximize ROAS."


Edit Photos with Voice Commands? Yes, Please!

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 19:35:00 GMT

Adobe’s research team has shared a new video showing off a working version of Lightroom Mobile that has an integrated voice assistant, similar to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, that’s used to edit photos via voice commands.

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During the brief video, the user can be seen cropping, rotating, and then sharing an image.  It will not be hard for designers to imagine the possibilities. In the future, for example, designers may be able to tell Lightroom to “adjust the contrast lower” or “set the color temperature to daylight.”  

Adobe also indicated that the voice assistant is already capable of using either on-device computing or cloud-based services for voice recognition and parsing, which would ensure the assistant would work regardless of whether or not a user is connected to the Web.  

The company said that it’s a first step toward a robust multimodal voice-based interface which allows its creative customers to "search and edit images in an easy and engaging way using Adobe mobile applications” but it looks pretty impressive already.



GoDaddy Revokes SSL Certifications

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 19:25:00 GMT

There's been a big push for enterprises to implement SSL on their Web properties but it appears that at least one company may have been a little hasty in their processes. 

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GoDaddy has reportedly removed, but started re-issuing, new SSL certifications for more than 6,000 customers after a bug was discovered in the registrar's domain validation process back in late July of 2016. Just two percent of the certifications GoDaddy issued from that date to this week were impacted. 

According to GoDaddy's vice president and general manager of security products Wayne Thayer the bug caused the domain validation process to fail in certain circumstances. The company says it inadvertently introduced the bug during a routine code change that was intended to improve its certificate issuance process.

GoDaddy revealed that it was not aware of any compromises related to the bug but the issue did expose sites running SSL certificates from GoDaddy to spoofing where a bad actor (hacker) could gain access to certificates and pose as a legitimate site in order to spread malware or steal personal information such as banking credentials. 

Customers that were impacted will need to log in to their accounts and initiate the certificate process in the SSL Panel.


AMP It Up! Speeding Up the Mobile Web with the Cloudflare CDN

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 19:15:00 GMT

Internet performance and security company Cloudflare has released a solution that it suggests will make the experienced of browsing the mobile Web as fast as using a native application. 

The new Accelerated Mobile Links product identifies links to content supporting the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) format and renders it within milliseconds of that link being clicked. 

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"The mobile Web has traditionally been at a performance disadvantage to native mobile applications," said Matthew Prince, co-founder and CEO of Cloudflare. "Accelerated Mobile Links closes this gap by ensuring AMP content is served almost instantly on any Cloudflare customer's site."

For the unfamiliar, AMP is a way to build static mobile Web pages that render quickly.

When customers turn on Accelerated Mobile Links for their Web properties, Cloudflare identifies all links that have AMP content and makes them available, natively, via a viewer inside the original page. Cloudflare reportedly worked in conjunction with Google to build the first non-Google AMP cache, which will deliver AMP links instantly for an optimized user experience.

"Working with Cloudflare on its AMP caching solution was as seamless as open-source development can be," said Malte Ubl, the technical lead for the AMP Project at Google. "Cloudflare has become a regular contributor on the project and made the code base better for all users of AMP. It is always a big step for a software project to go from supporting specific caches to many, and it is awesome to see Cloudflare's elegant solution for this."

Accelerated Mobile Links is available for free, across all of Cloudflare’s plans. It can be enabled under the Speed Tab from within the Cloudflare Dashboard.


Why a Good Website Won’t Cut It Anymore… and What You Can Do About It

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 19:10:00 GMT

:: By John Surdakowski, Avex Designs :: Do you need to make some improvements to your business website, or is it good enough as it is? The answer to that question probably says a lot about the current and future state of your Internet marketing campaigns. That’s because complacency can be a dangerous handicap when it comes to promoting your company through the single most important communications channel in the history of mankind. Everyone has a good website now. Even guys with food trucks have sleek, responsive online storefronts they use to pump out information and social media awareness. A good website is the minimum expected standard you have to meet, but it doesn’t give you any advantage.  (Image Source) Good websites don’t stand out. Good websites can’t help customers differentiate your business from all the others in the same market or industry. Good websites don’t help you find customers, turn a profit or add anything to your bottom line. You probably realize this intuitively, if only because you visit and interact with so many websites on a daily basis yourself. At the same time, most businesspeople don’t know how to break out of the ordinary. They want better websites, and better results, but aren’t sure how to get them. In this article, we’re going to give you a template any small business owner can use to get above and beyond the ordinary and leave the competition behind... Do Some Comparison Shopping A valuable first step toward building a breakout website is understanding what you’re up against. That is, to do a bit of comparison-shopping and see what your competitors are working with. This is something you’ve probably done at least once or twice in the past anyway, but we would advise you to expand your search. Don’t just look at the websites that your direct competitors are using. Examine others in the industry (if possible) around the country and even overseas. Consider reviewing some award-winning Web designs from other fields, searching closely for innovations and concepts you could tweak to fit your own needs. As you look at various websites, consider everything you find from a customer’s point of view. What kinds of features and content stand out? Which websites do you enjoy interacting with, and which ones seem to come up short? Give it some thought, make a few notes, and see if you can figure out why. The answers you arrive at won’t just speak to Web design, layouts and visual features. They’ll get to a bigger concept that we call usability within the Internet marketing industry. That’s shorthand for the way a website "feels," and how easy it is to navigate the pages and find what you’re looking for. Once you develop an eye for it, it becomes easier to visualize a Web presence that will feel comfortable and intuitive to your own customers. Cover the Basics If you were to think of your website as a brick-and-mortar building, then it would be easy to conceptualize the kind of solid foundation you need to establish before you can add any finishing touches. In the same way that homes and office buildings rely on poured concrete and beams, a business website needs the right domain name, hosting package and content to work around. Because these are areas of Web development that most business owners consider to be mundane, we won’t spend a great deal of time with them in this article. However, like a structural foundation in the real world, they do have an outsized importance that’s easy to spot when things go wrong. So, allow us to share a few quick points we’d like you to consider… • Your website’s domain name is its online address. If it’s hard to spell, remember or understand, your Web traffic (and eventually, your business) is going to suffer as a result. • Hosting servers make yo[...]

Misleading Pricing Practices at Amazon Canada

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 18:45:00 GMT

Amazon Canada will pay a $1 million fine for what is described as "misleading pricing practices."

The investigation reportedly focused on Amazon's practice of displaying its prices compared to higher "list prices" - suggested manufacturer prices (MSRPs) designed as a marketing gimmick to make users think they were getting a deal (even though buyers rarely ever actually pay that price). 

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"The Bureau's investigation concluded that these claims created the impression that prices for items offered on were lower than prevailing market prices," Canada's Competition Bureau said in a statement. "The Bureau determined that Amazon relied on its suppliers to provide list prices without verifying that those prices were accurate."

What's the potential impact here in the U.S.? With Amazon absolutely dominating the e-commerce landscape these days, expect regulators to turn their attention to the marketplace in short order.


Easy Videos for Your Business to Make

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 18:52:00 GMT

If your company is creating content in the form of blogs know that 55 percent of visitors only read your articles for less than 15 seconds (perhaps even less since that stat was reported). Also know that this small window of attention has led writers to use tactics such as listicles, headers, images, infographics, and other ways to present blocks of text in a more engaging way and one that is conducive to those who scan an article for key points related to them. What many marketers are finding is that video offers a different level of engagement for their target audience because they are often "watched" while multitasking or as a way to get information faster. This is especially true of busy executives who report a preference for video over text, which makes sense considering the multitasking element. What this should tell companies marketing to this group and others, is to start (now) creating videos from scratch or repackage existing content into videos.  Still here? Great. Let's explore some easy videos for your business to make (even today). The "Explainer" & "Whiteboard" Video Explainer videos (animated drawings with voiceovers that can be created on the cheap) and, very similarly, "whiteboard" videos (a person stands in front of a whiteboard and uses it to explain a concept) are a trendy way of presenting information in a minimalistic way. Explainer videos are often found in place of "hero" images on homepages as well as included in blogs. Moz Co-Founder Rand Fishkin, for example, hosts wildly popular "Whiteboard Friday" videos where he shares often complex information in an easy-to-follow yet comprehensive manner - all while drawing on a whiteboard. Like Fishkin, brands will want to include the transcript of lengthier videos so that there is a text version to be crawled by the search engines (to add to the SEO value that videos already provide).  For companies interested in creating explainer videos, check out the following resources: + Choosing the Right Explainer Video+ Create an Explainer Video with These Solutions The "Live" Video It can be nerve-wracking to go live on a brand's social media page (whether it's Instagram stories, Facebook Live or Periscope) but that's what makes it so appealing to viewers - that live videos are unfiltered. Live videos are universally accessible for brands thanks to mobile devices and have been known to increase organic reach on Facebook, in particular, as the social network reportedly prioritizes Live content in its algorithms with some Pages even enjoying a 34 percent organic reach on the videos they are posting. What are your options for going live? Anything, really. A company party, a conference, a presentation or any other gathering can make for an effective live video. Similarly, brands are creating and posting tutorials in real-time.  The "Hangouts on Air" Video If a company has people who create articles, infographics, social media posts, whitepapers or any other form of content, then they have people who can talk about that very same content on video. For those familiar with the process, people used to be able to host a Google Hangout within their gmail dashboard and record it from there. Now, once they set up YouTube Live streaming on (it requires verifying an account through a call or text), hosts can invite participants using Google Hangouts (see image), just like before but now just directly on YouTube (with a little fumbling around to figure it out). Inviting other participants often helps hosts relax a little more as the pressure is not all on them, and they can bounce ideas back and forth with people they know and respect. The video can be streamed live, saved and promoted wherever the person wishes. Vide[...]

Mobile OS in the U.S.: Android vs iOS

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:53:00 GMT

It's useful for digital designers and marketers to understand consumers' preferences when it comes to smartphone operating systems (OS). So, what's happening in the mobile device market? Which smartphone OS is leading from a pure sales perspective? Let's take a closer look.

The latest smartphone OS sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech shows Android sales declined in the U.S., Great Britain and France, as iOS continued to make gains across most regions in the three months ending Nov. 2016. That is the sixth consecutive period of decline in the U.S. for Android.

While Android decreased in the United States over the past year, the brand-new Pixel phone by Google made strong gains, rising to 1.3 percent of sales in the three months ending Nov. 2016, with more than half of that business done through Verizon, according to the report.

iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and iPhone 6s were the three most popular smartphones in the U.S. at the beginning of the holiday period, for a combined 31.3 percent share. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge were the fourth and fifth best-selling phones in the U.S., with Samsung capturing 28.9 percent of smartphone sales.

This data may influence how you design and market mobile experiences (be they apps or websites) and so it's important to remember from a strategic standpoint.

One of the more interesting data points in the report is that Japan is the only country where iOS leads Android.

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You're (Probably) Underpaid If You're in Tech

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:41:00 GMT

Turns out that if you are a tech worker, you're probably not getting paid what you should.

Paysa, a platform that uses artificial intelligence to deliver personalized career and hiring recommendations and salary insights, released a study that shows more than one-third of tech workers are underpaid by 10 percent or more and the pay gap appears to be significant.

With an average salary for a software engineer at $112,000 (U.S.), that translates into a minimum of $11,200, per person, per year in lost wages. The research also indicates that within six months, seven percent of all tech and engineering workers will be due for a promotion with a salary increase of $17,756 on average.

“In 2017, the shift in power from the employer to employee will accelerate, tipping the scales in favor of the employee - at least in the technology sector,” said Chris Bolte, CEO of Paysa. “Data transparency and awareness around salaries, career advancement, available jobs and other compensation and benefits will drive this shift. As we enter into the season of year-end reviews and salary raises, employees should be armed with the knowledge of what they are worth, so they can be empowered to go get what they deserve either at their present employer or at a new company.”


The State of Digital Marketing Analytics

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 15:08:00 GMT

If you want to be the best digital enterprise, you need to act like it - and that means using the software and solutions used by those leading the virtual pack.

A new report out from Cardinal Path reveals some interesting usage data on digital marketing analytics, tag management systems, testing, optimization and personalization tools by top online retailers in the United States.

Cardinal Path's "State of Digital Marketing Analytics in the Top 1000 Online Retailers" shows that while marketing analytics adoption is at an all-time high, many enterprises are still falling short of activating their data through testing and personalization.

Some of the more interesting findings in the study include:

+ Adobe Analytics has the largest market share within the top 50 online retailers, while Google Analytics adoption quickly outpaces Adobe Analytics outside the top 50. Coremetrics and Webtrends have a rather small market share compared to Google and Adobe.

+ Tag management systems (TMS) are nearly omnipresent within the Top 250 retailers, adoption begins to fall off with retailers ranked #501-1000, where total adoption of any TMS is just 42 percent. TMS mentioned in the report include Google Tag Manager, Tealium, Adobe, Ensighten and Qubit.

+ Adoption of testing, optimization and personalization tools is strong within the top 250 retailers, but usage appears to fall outside of that group as just 18 percent of retailers between 500 and 100 use these offerings. Solutions mentioned in the report include Optimizely, Adobe, Monetate, Maxymizer and Certona.


Wix Gets Omnichannel with Square

Wed, 11 Jan 2017 14:52:00 GMT

Web design solution Wix announced this week that it has partnered with Square, enabling enterprises and merchants using the offering to process credit card payments online and in-person through a mobile device based POS (point-of-sale).

The Square integration essentially provides Wix clients an additional POS option, managing the store and its catalog through the Wix app and accept payments with Square. Ultimately, that makes Wix somewhat of an omnichannel e-commerce solution.

"We are constantly enhancing our e-commerce experience for our subscribers and their shoppers. We know that for small businesses both e-commerce and mobile functionality are crucial," said David Schwartz, VP of e-commerce, at Wix. "Growth of our e-commerce and transaction-enabled subscriptions continues to exceed our overall subscriptions growth, highlighting our broad reach with small businesses. Today, Wix manages more than 305,000 e-commerce subscriptions globally. Now, by integrating the Wix App with the Square POS, users can accept payments in any location."


Types of Content Google is Taking from You

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 18:10:00 GMT

Google Knowledge Graph has existed for quite a while but if you're an everyday user of the search engines, you've probably noticed an increasing number of complete answers to questions without ever leaving the result pages - and if you're an SEO professional, you've likely wondered how to mark up your pages for this offering, or turn it off if you feel Google is scraping your content with no benefit to your enterprise.  The biggest threat to a company's website traffic is the featured snippet block, which is when, according to Google, a user asks a question in Google Search, and it shows a search result in a special "featured snippet block" at the top of the search results page. "This featured snippet block includes a summary of the answer, extracted from a Web page, plus a link to the page, the page title and URL," writes Google. A featured snippet might look something like this on the page: In other words, Google is using your content to make their user experience topnotch, as a person never has to leave the search engine result pages (SERPs) to gather the quick information they sought. If all a person wanted to know was the cost of a hamster, they have no reason to visit the site that developed and hosts the content. For argument's sake, the benefits of featured snippets is that users come in contact with a website they might not have otherwise but to what benefit if they don't click through? Webmasters will want to take advantage of simple ways to lure searchers off the results pages, like these.  Editor's Recommended Reading: 5 Strategies to Take Advantage of Google's Knowledge Graph and Rich Answers While featured snippets certainly have the potential to keep people off your site if they are satisfied with the answer they received, there are other types of content that Google is "taking" from a site, and to the actual benefit of brands. Thanks to structured data, companies can include their schedules, for instance, within the SERPs. This is the type of content that businesses should be OK with Google showing in the SERPs since it's voluntarily marked up so that it appears in the search results, people can click through, and purchase tickets or sign up for the event in another way. Schedules in the SERPs (or other forms of schema markup like reviews) can help increase conversions whereas other content types (more on that in a bit) included in the SERPs can decrease traffic and the chance of conversions. When clicking through to "tickets" within the listing, users are taken to the NBA's "single game ticket" page for the Lakers. To test any page for its structured data (or lack thereof), you can use Google's Structured Data Testing Tool (as seen below).  There are many other types of rich data that can be included in the search result pages that can help with traffic and conversions, but brands have to be aware of the content that is just being taken and what can serve them well. Brands can opt out of featured snippets, for instance, by "preventing snippets on your page using the tag on your page. This will remove all snippets on your page, including those in regular search results." Instead of opting out, however, companies should consider better ways to present their content like including cliffhangers to answers to simple questions or playing the game even further by taking advantage of "rich cards" that can help click-through rates for movies and recipes (currently the only two categories being offered). Without a rich card, here's how a search for "[...]

The Day That Mobile Popups Died

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 16:20:00 GMT

Today is the day, the day that popups and interstitials on mobile devices will start resulting in Google penalties for the websites that continue to use them.

The search engine initially announced it would begin to devalue Web pages in the mobile search index with intrusive interstitials back in Aug. 2016. With that day finally here, what is the optimal course of action if you haven't stripped your mobile experience of interstitials? Simple - remove them and concentrate your acquisition and sales efforts elsewhere.


While Google gave everyone fair warning of the impending penalty there seems to still be a great deal of confusion however surrounding what constitutes whether an interstitial takes up a "reasonable amount of screen space" as the company suggested. If you're confused, rest assured that everyone else is as well.

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The best course of action is to make sure the pages that are indexed in mobile search are immediately available when a user clicks through to the page from Google. That's a rather simple "Yes/No" test but ultimately will mean staying away from overlays that gray out content beneath them (or force users to manually "X" out the popup/interstitial).

There are some other need to knows about this development:

+ Some popups are still OK according to Google such as those required by law (e.g., age verification).

+ Interstitials triggered by exit intent are still allowed as are "page-to-page" interstitials.

+ Desktop popups (or those appearing on larger screens) are still allowed and will not incur any penalties.