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Don’t panic! Google has released a new core algorithm

(TECH NEWS) Google rolled out a new core SEO algorithm update this month, but here’s why you shouldn’t freak out just yet.

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Google search open on laptop with SEO algorithm in place

Don’t freak out, but Google has rolled out an updated core algorithm, meaning the rules of this wild SEO ride may be changing yet again. Google officially launched the new algorithm rollout on Dec. 3, 2020, with the expectation that it would take a couple of weeks to settle fully in place.

Why should you care?

Google’s algorithms are super important to entrepreneurs or any business with a website or blog. If nobody sees the blog you’re writing or finds your website, how will you ever attract new customers or advertisers? Entire books have been written and companies formed over the concept of helping others find the key to unlocking the Search Engine Optimization secrets.

Oh no, what are they up to now?

Because Google is the most frequently used browser, ranking on the first page is a highly coveted feat. Everyone wants their business or blog to rank on the first page (or two). Being able to move up in the search rankings means more people find you, and your pageviews increase. If you are selling something, that means you have a better chance of making a sale. If you are selling ad space or looking to be sponsored otherwise, pageviews are crucial to proving your value to those sponsors and advertisers.

This means, of course, that every time Google rolls out a new core algorithm, there is much clutching of pearls and slapping of foreheads among SEO experts, marketers, publishers, bloggers, and really anyone who works in e-commerce. The truth is, the rollout could very well be a good thing. Especially if the last core algorithm change reduced your pageviews. If you have been working on optimizing your website and improving SEO, this could attract a higher ranking.

Trends we are seeing with the new core algorithm

Google doesn’t merely change the algorithm to toy with or annoy us, although it can feel that way. Their constant tweaking of the algorithm has a purpose–to weed out phishers, lurkers, spammers, and the rest of the bad agents, in order to place your desired results in front of you.

Expect to see changes, though. Good or bad, Google changes their algorithms with intention, and that means you will surely see a change in rankings and, therefore, pageviews. As Search Engine Journal in a pre-launch story puts it, “Broad core updates are designed to produce widely noticeable effects across search results in all countries in all languages.”

Remember, though, “different” doesn’t mean “bad.” Matching search engine users with the content most relevant to them should bring you that much closer to your target audience. SEO Roundtable, for example, has seen an increase in traffic since the core algorithm rollout.

Rank fluctuations so far have been significant, according to early data. SEMRush for Search Engine Land determined that “Desktop search changes were most felt in the health, real estate, travel, finance, law and government and on mobile search health, law and government, jobs and education, pets & animals, real estate.”This is likely good news for sites with e-commerce, who have been worried how the core algorithm update would impact holiday shopping sales.

The holidays themselves, not to mention the overall weirdness of the pandemic causing changes in 2020, may make it more difficult to discern whether the ranking and pageview changes are directly related to the core algorithm update or to a handful of other factors. The update may not be entirely rolled out, either.

What should you do now?

What is clear from this core algorithm update is that most sites will notice a difference. The best way to stay ahead is to continue to follow Google’s guidelines for websites. In a nutshell, continue to keep your users in mind when creating content, not search engines. Use keywords, but don’t try to game the system; relevance is key.

Your home page should provide users with all the information they need to see what the site is about and how to interact for the intended purpose (e.g., for shopping or reading an article). The website should be maintained from the back end, making sure it’s functional and safe for users. It’s still a really good thing to have other sites link back to your content. As always, providing relevant, clearly defined, and high quality content is super important.

If you notice a big negative impact, reevaluate what you are doing. If your website appears to be tanking, consider how to improve the relevance and quality of your web content and/or the functionality. Website rankings are a moving target, and Google likes movement. Keep creating and publishing. Continue considering the wants, needs, and online habits of your target users. Remember that Google updates their core algorithm updates, which are global, a few times a year.

Tech News

Microsoft to become 3rd largest gaming company after Blizzard acquisition

(TECHNOLOGY) Microsoft will not be left behind in the Metaverse. The tech giant plans to fully acquire Activision Blizzard by 2023 for $68.7 billion cash.

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The front of the Microsoft office with large Microsoft logo.

Microsoft announced plans to acquire the video game publisher, Activision Blizzard, on January 18, 2022, in an all-cash transaction reported to be valued at $68.7 billion.

The deal gives the tech giant popular game franchises, such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and many more to add to its arsenal. This acquisition sets Microsoft up to be the third-largest gaming company by revenue.  Microsoft expects the deal to close in the 2023 fiscal year (which begins in July of this calendar year) once the customary closing conditions have been completed along with the regulatory review and Activision Blizzard’s shareholder approval. Both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard’s board of directors have already approved the deal.

This deal comes in hot on the heels of an avalanche of issues surrounding sexual harassment where 37 employees have reportedly left Activision Blizzard according to this article on The Verge. Microsoft states that Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.

Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, posted both Activision and Microsoft Gaming will continue to operate independently until the deal is complete with Activision Blizzard then all business will be reported to Spencer.

“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community, and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive, and accessible to all.”

Maybe you noticed the not-so-subtle hint regarding the Metaverse by Microsoft’s chairman and CEO Satya Nadella, but it seems everyone is quick to mention to the public and or other companies listening that they are gearing up to bring their A-game to the Metaverse. Whatever that ends up being.

In the meantime, we can predict some of the possible changes to come from this buyout. Microsoft currently has Game Pass, their subscription-based model for Xbox, which recently hit 25 million subscribers. Now’s the time to sign up for the Game Pass subscription before prices go up to match the revamped gaming inventory. Microsoft could potentially lock down new releases and not deliver them on other platforms, i.e., PlayStation, giving them exclusivity and driving subscription sign-ups.

Whatever ends up happening, Microsoft is making big moves to not be left behind in the gaming world or the Metaverse.

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Tech News

Want to save snippets of a Zoom meeting? Listener makes it possible!

(TECHNOLOGY) Listener lets you screenshot or bookmark important sections of live meetings, as well as curate a playlist of snippets, to share or playback.

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Listener for Zoom tool landing page on laptop.

We live in a very computer-mediated world where the bulk of communication is done virtually. Many of us spend a great deal of time – whether for work or pleasure – on video calls connecting with people that we’re unable to meet with in person.

Zoom became the unofficial mascot for the pandemic and has shown no signs of going anywhere. So naturally, people are looking for ways to put this to even more of an advantage – like by creating messaging extensions to utilize in lieu of live meetings.

Now the folks behind Listener are getting in on the action by creating Listener for Zoom.

The new tool allows users to bookmark important moments of Zoom calls in real-time and easily turn long recordings into bite-sized video clips.

As founder Nishith Shah puts it, “Zoom meetings just got more productive!”

Listener allows users to do a myriad of things, including live bookmarking to create short video clips; ability to transcribe your entire meeting; edit video clips by using transcripts instead of struggling with video editing tools; share video highlights with your team; create playlists from video highlights across different Zoom meetings to tell powerful stories; use projects to organize your meetings and playlists.

Founders say that Listener is designed for pretty much anyone who uses Zoom. In early testing, the founders found that it is especially helpful for product managers and UX researchers who do customer interviews.

They also reported that early-stage founders have been using Listener to add powerful customer videos to their investor pitch decks. It is also helpful for recruiters and hiring managers who search transcripts across hundreds of hiring interviews to remember who said what and to pass on important clips to other people in the interview process.

The tool is also beneficial for teams and hiring, as customer success and sales teams create a knowledge base with Listener to train and onboard new employees. They also use it to pass on customer feedback to the product teams.

This could also be great for clipping video elements that are appropriate for social media use.

On January 11, 2022, Listener was awarded #3 Product of the Day on Product Hunt.

Listener for Zoom is free while in Beta. The tool works only with licensed (paid) Zoom accounts.

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Opinion Editorials

Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?

(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?

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UX writing

The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.

A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.

Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”

Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.

Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.

Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.

UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?

I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.

Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.

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