The Better Mousetrap

Join Anne Ahola Ward, Founder and CEO of CircleClick Media, at the Samsung Developer Conference

Conferences and Events
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In the last decade, Virtual Reality (VR) has made major leaps and bounds, jumping out of the pages of science fiction and into the living rooms of today. Over the last few months, major companies like Sony and Google have announced VR headsets to compete with Facebook’s Oculus Rift. Now Samsung and Microsoft have teamed up to make Samsung Odyssey Headset, a Mixed Reality (MR) headset that uses Windows 10 to create a unique social experience in a virtual space.

This announcement comes right in time for the Samsung Developer Conference (SDC), a two-day event taking place October 18–19, 2017. Thousands of “developers, technologists, business leaders, innovators, designers, and content creators” will converge in San Francisco at the Moscone West Center to learn about the latest technology, get hands-on experience, and listen to some of the greatest innovators predict the future of Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality.

This year’s theme is Connected Thinking.  “At Samsung, the concept of connected thinking is at the heart of everything we do,” said DJ Koh, president of the Mobile Communication Business at Samsung Electronics and one of this year’s keynote speakers, in a press release. “Developers and partners are the backbones of Samsung experience and their work continues to enable us to drive innovation. That is why I am thrilled to be a part of this event and unveil some exciting news with this community at SDC 2017.” Koh will provide insight into how Samsung plans to connect all devices, through the use of technology like the cloud, to create a seamless experience.

Joining the impressive list of keynote speakers is Stan Lee, former editor-in-chief of Marvel Comics, whose talk titled “Marvel, Movies, and Music” will discuss how connected thinking can improve motivation in creativity. Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and Marc Mathieu, Chief of Marketing at Samsung Electronics America, join to discuss their companies’ shared quest to create social good through the use of technology.

Our very own Anne Ahola Ward, CEO and Founder of CircleClick Media, and Carlos Rodriguez, Chief Marketing Officer of Bubbly, will be attending SDC and holding an Ask-Us-Anything session for startups looking to improve their business.

Each day is jam-packed with something for everyone. A track that has captured attendees’ attentions is stream.Code101, an educational program designed for anyone, at any skill level, wanting to learn how to develop applications using the Samsung’s mobile software development kit (SDK). Aspiring developers will learn how to create immersive 360-degree experiences using the Gear VR, before delving into developing VR Web apps and then learning to build their own virtual instruments to make some sweet beats.

SDC isn’t just about Samsung’s latest tech, it’s about creating forward-thinkers and equipping innovators with the tools they need to bring their dreams into reality. It’s about bringing the greatest minds in the world together to open discussion on how to create a brighter future.

What to Expect at OC4

Conferences and Events
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The virtual reality (VR) marketplace is booming with new developments and exciting possibilities. To present the newest advancements, Facebook will be holding the Oculus Connect 4 (OC4) event in San Jose, California, on October 11–12, 2017. Engineers, developers, designers, and creatives will come together from around the world to see the latest from Oculus and explore the newest technology. Industry leaders will share ideas and best practices around the new applications and technology.

For many, VR is all about gaming, and there will certainly be a wide array of gaming-related advancements on display. Last year’s Oculus Connect event featured the launch of new games that helped make the Oculus Rift the leader in gaming VR platforms. This year promises to bring more of the same, as updates are revealed for existing games, trailers are unveiled for upcoming games, and other games that have been in development will finally announce release dates. OC4 will set the stage for VR gaming conversations for the better part of the next year.

With the $2 billion purchase of Oculus by Facebook in March 2014, venture capital available for VR companies skyrocketed and so did the number of gaming applications developed since then. With Facebook’s dominance in the social media marketplace, one would expect a dramatic rise in new social VR capabilities and integrations. This includes the release of software development kits (SDKs) and social interaction tools to make it easier for developers to incorporate VR and Oculus Avatars into the platforms. According to VR Head’s Everything we expect to see at Oculus Connect 4, “It wouldn’t be shocking to see Facebook Spaces come to the Gear VR [Samsung’s mobile VR headset] in some capacity, but Oculus has also made it clear the goal is to make sure every app has access to the Oculus Social Tools.”

An exciting development from Oculus is their support for mixed reality (MR), where users can stream themselves inside their VR experience for others to enjoy. At OC4, Oculus will demo “how to use the Rift SDK’s new mixed reality capture support, which includes a tracked camera, in-game lighting, and more.” The demo will also include a tutorial for “how to add mixed reality capture to your Unity, UE4 [Unreal Engine 4], or native app.” With this ability to easily set up a camera in-game and show your audience what you’re seeing in VR, streaming becomes much less complicated, and other avenues open up, such as being able to stream directly to Facebook and other sites. The interactivity and immersive nature of VR can thus expand even more to reach a viewing audience, and VR eSports will be a growing field to keep an eye on. VR Head speculates that it’s “likely we’ll see a short tournament streamed directly from Oculus Connect 4.”

Gaming and social VR applications attract widespread attention, but educational and commercial applications will play a major role in the technology becoming ubiquitous. Practical applications for training and commercial use are leading the growth in a related technology, Augmented Reality (AR), which puts the real world into a virtual application. Both VR and AR allow for interactive experiences that can be employed for various purposes, such as highly efficient job training (similar to flight simulators for pilots), enhancing in-school learning, customer exploration of products (such as virtually decorating their own home through AR), and even charitable applications. The possibilities of VR and AR technology are endless, limited only by imagination — and this year’s Oculus Connect 4 event is sure to offer something for everyone.

How to Win on the SEO Battlefield

Content Marketing
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Written by: Tish Donkersley. Originally posted on on March 20, 2017

Startups constantly wonder how they can get their company noticed by customers online. Sure, buying ads on social media, creating content, and amplifying their message via Hootsuite is a start, but it’s hard to move the needle if you don’t understand the full scope of the SEO landscape.

Anne Ward, SEO expert, futurist and author of the new book The SEO Battlefield, said that to win at SEO, it’s more of a technical game than one might think.

“SEO started out the marketers game and now it’s the developer’s game. It’s definitely become more technical with machine learning and the algorithms are more complex,” Anne said.

Anne has some advice for the small businesses owners who aren’t sure how to get started with an SEO marketing plan.

“I see a lot of entrepreneurs struggle with intimidation and I think that’s normal, but it’s something you need to get past. It’s ok if putting your business on Facebook and running some ads is your marketing [plan], that’s fine, [SEO is] about what you need and where your customers [are located],” Anne said.

At SXSW, I had the opportunity to talk with Anne about her new book, SEO strategies for startups, and digital advertising for small businesses.

VR: The Next Chapter

Business Not-So Usual, Mobile Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized
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June of 2017 I finally finished my duties as a student for Christopher High school and will be beginning the next chapter of my life in pursuit of earning a higher education at San Jose State University where I will major in business with a concentration in marketing. After an extremely successful internship at CircleClick the summer of 2016 learning about digital media and search engine optimization, I was lucky to be welcomed back by the amazing Anne Ahola Ward, CEO of CircleClick and COO of UploadVR, to intern for a second time at a new office, working for both companies.

UploadVR is a “multi-faceted company focused on accelerating the growth of both the augmented and virtual reality industry.” My first day working at UploadVR’s San Francisco location, I immediately felt welcomed by both teams. The office space can be described as simple with pops of color brought by the eclectic paintings adorning every blank wall space, a well cultured space where everyone seems passionate about the next era of both augmented and virtual reality.

Upon my first hour in Circle Click’s new office, Avi Horowitz, the expansion manager of UploadVR’s San Francisco location took me on a tour of the office. Noticing my lack of experience in the world of VR, he offered me a demonstration of Oculus Rift. I played a couple of games, from archery to virtually swimming underwater with what seemed like a life sized sperm whale. Among all of the games I was privileged enough to play, my favorite was the most simple application: Tilt Brush. What set apart Tilt Brush from the other platforms is how it can take art to a level it has not reached before. Instead of an artist surrounding their art as they draw on a flat canvas, an artist is surrounded by their art; they are able to both expand and minimize, as well as walk right through what they have created. I am not an artist by any means, but after getting familiar with the application, I realized how therapeutic it can be. I was astounded by the powerful ability VR has to essentially “con” my brain into thinking I am somewhere I am actually not. In the Tilt Brush application you are set in a galaxy-like environment. With the Oculus goggles on, there is no visible platform underneath your feet. It feels as if you are walking on air. While I was aware I was not actually in such an environment, I still found myself scared to walk in fear of falling.




Feeling completely mind-blown having experienced some type of VR other than Google Cardboard, I decided to do some research of my own, specifically in regards to the connection between mental health and virtual reality.



Tweets I found interesting include:

Men’s Journal states that in 2014, the Canadian Government spent $34,000 on two Bravemind applications. Bravemind is more than a therapeutic reminder of past traumatic events soldiers have suffered. The technology is nothing less extraordinary. Integrated in the application is a scent machine that can emit strong smells of gunpowder or diesel fuel at certain times to strengthen the experience.

Tech Crunch provides several examples of the types of mental disorders and phobias VR can treat, such as fears of flying, heights, public speaking, public places and blood. Applications that are being and have been developing for these issues include: CleVR, Psious, and Virtual Ret.

Real Clear Life states that a small study conducted in 2014 concluded that Bravemind System, a VR platforma that helps combat veterans overcome their PTSD by re-living their traumatic experiences from Iraq and Afghanistan, helped 7/10 patients showed improvement in their PTSD symptoms by 30% or more.

Through reading these articles, I was able to correctly prove my theory that there is a very real connection between the use of VR in aiding mental health. There are many rehabilitative and meditative applications that can prove to help tremendously when it comes to mental health disorders and phobias. Unfortunately these applications are not yet available for mainstream use, due to the obviously high prices of such a groundbreaking technology. However, as long as the medical field begins to embrace such a way of curing, VR will undoubtedly be in the very foreseeable future.

8 is Great!

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Hey internet,

Great news! Last week we turned 8 years old. For an agency started in the heat of the great recession, we’re doing pretty awesome. 🙂 The team has expanded to 9 of us!

It’s a wonderful thing to be busy with amazing clients. WE LOVE YOU!


Don’t get April Fooled: 7 Ways to Spot a Con Online or IRL

Business Not-So Usual
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Happy April Fool’s Day! Today is the one day where we get to pull a senseless prank or two, but there are some folks who do it year round. I spend countless hours every week helping companies navigate the uncharted waters of online trust. I also talk a lot about trust in my book, The SEO Battlefield. With the dramatic surge of fake news our confidence in the web is at an all time low, it feels like boondoggling is almost always afoot. 🙁

Con artists live amongst us in all walks of life in every shape and size. They aren’t just men, they are women, they aren’t just older, they’re young. They’re not all mean or intimidating, they are so, so nice (at first). Silicon Valley is full of dreamers and sometimes dreams don’t materialize, coupled with a failure to accept it. This is where deception comes in. The term con artist is actually short for ‘confidence’ artist, because these people reel you in by making you believe what they want from you by gaining your trust…

Here are a few things I’ve noticed with online deception over the years that seems to mirror real life con artists:

1. Actions don’t match words

It can be somewhat simple things that won’t line up. The con artist can retell a story you’ve heard before in a different way that has slight details changed. Maybe they embellish a little too much, but do so more so over time. When you are spinning deception, you have to have the memory to match. With the example of a company, they’ll offer you something free in exchange for your info and simply never deliver it once they get it or they will resell your information to others.

2. Their confidence is way too high

It takes a lot of nerve to use deception as a tool, so bad actors often exhibit an overabundance of self esteem. To pump up his or her mark for a con they have to first believe it, right? We’ve all seen this type of con online, some offers are simply too good to be true. Promises of loss of belly fat or getting rid of all your credit card debt. If only! In online marketing we call this ‘the scent’ that users follow to find what they’re looking for.

3. Unable to keep basic financial agreements

They agree to pay you that $20 they owe, but then somehow always find a reason to not pay it back, whether it’s through avoidance or other methods. With regard to a company online, maybe they offer you a portion of their service for a nominal fee, but all that fee does is get you in the (trap) door. The nickel and diming in the form of upselling starts immediately thereafter. A true financial agreement cannot be negotiated after it starts, only before. If everything is cool as they say it is when they take your money, they’ll deliver before changing things on you.

5. Fear of putting things in writing

If everything is so cool, what’s the harm in writing it down? When you’re making agreements with anyone, whether personal or business, it never hurts to document it. If circumstances later seem to change, it’s good to be able to rely on a written record. This is especially important when working with new people. If the other party doesn’t want to write down what has been agreed to, they are waving the reddest of flags! Trust your gut and heed the call.

6. They manipulate

Whether they’re pushing you around or blanketing you with senseless flattery, con artists like to paint their own versions of reality onto you. Beware of those who are too quick with compliments or insults or attempts to isolate you from others. Making things too personal too quickly is how cons draw you in. There are far too many examples in the advertising world of this to mention! A little concerted direction of your path online is called marketing, too much handling to the point of deception is called fraud.

7. Credentials get spoofed

Name dropping is one of the con artist’s best and most convenient tools. Maybe you met someone casually who has a number of mutual friends, but none of them have introduced you… It is OK to ask specific questions of those you trust if you’re considering a deeper relationship with someone they introduced you to. So many companies do this form of spoofing on their websites by using logos from major news outlets or other companies they want associations with. This is dangerous territory. Unless there is a genuine relationship… It’s a con! The easiest way to proof yourself from this type of spoofing is to take the company or person’s name in “” and search aginst the company they claim association with. No results? Whoopsie.

5 Takeaways from SXSW 2017

Tags: Conferences and Events
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Founded in 1987 in Austin, Texas, South by Southwest has not missed a year in showing off the very best of interactive, film, and music industries. The conferences host thought-provoking sessions, share innovation, and allow creators to develop a network among their peers. This year SXSW, on March 10 – 19, 2017 once again gave a platform to show off new and exciting ideas.

Social Media

Social media plays a huge part in the everyday life of consumers. Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat have become huge avenues for businesses to reach a broad range of consumers, but knowing how to utilize these platforms correctly can make or break a marketing plan. At SXSW there were several talks on how to leverage the various social media outlets to spread brand awareness and promote customer loyalty. One tactic shared through several discussions is to create emotional narratives through digital content, like gifs. The other side of social media is data. Companies can collect data to predict trends in consumer behavior, and learn more about how a product is received.

Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t just making a comeback, its brought a friend named Augmented Reality (AR). VR and AR have evolved over the last several years and become more accessible to creators and users alike. Through headsets like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear, wearers can enter immersive landscapes and journey across the world from the safety of their home.  With the popularity of Pokémon Go, AR shot into the mainstream and showed new ways smartphones could be used. When VR and AR married, they had Mixed Reality (MR), which is the best of both worlds. MR uses the concept of a virtual world to project digital characters or object into a physical space just like AR. The evolution of VR, AR, and MR open up a huge realm of possibilities for creators to create interactive landscapes similar to our own.

Wearable Tech

Smart apparel could be the new fashion trend and might even partner with VR and AR. Stepping away from the bulky headpiece like the Samsung Gear, wearable tech can be even smaller by not just attaching to your clothes, but becoming part of your daily dress. Smart watches were just the tip of the iceberg for this emerging market. There are practical applications that can be made for Smart apparel too such as tracking runners during a race.

A.I. and Robots

Each year our world looks more and more like a science fiction movie with smartphones in nearly every pocket, an internet that connects the world, and autonomous self-thinking machines right on the horizon. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) has made significant leaps, and robotics aren’t far behind as more companies like Hanson Robotics unveil a nearly human looking android. The use of A.I. is becoming more prevalent and accessible through programs like IBM Watson. Using IBM Watson to create chatbots can help revolutionize a company’s customer service. Robots can take over manual and dangerous jobs, or become a companion for kids.

Diversity in the Tech World

There has been a lot of talk over the last several years about diversity in the workspace. The conversation has only grown larger as more businesses and entrepreneurs recognize the benefits of having a culturally diverse team. Instead of focusing on the perfect match, opening to differences will prevent innovation from becoming stagnant and will cultivate new ideas instead.

A Quick History of Google Algorithm Updates

Search Engines
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Google’s search algorithms are ever-changing to create a better user experience for casual Internet surfers. Google’s algorithms are improved at least 500 to 600 times a year, making it difficult for the SEO community and websites to stay at the top of Search engine results pages (SERPs). Below is a brief history on some of the major updates Google has done to their algorithm over the last six years.

2011 Panda: originally designed to filter out websites with low-quality content and de-rank them so that they would appear less often on SERPs. Panda was added to the core Google algorithm by 2016 with Panda 4.0.

2012 Penguin: improved on Panda’s de-ranking algorithm but focused more on de-ranking sites with spam content that resulted in manipulative clicks. Penguin would search a web page, and it’s associated linked content to confirm that the website is not buying or stuffing links to boost Google ranking.

2013 Humming Bird: improved search results by understanding users queries, instead of relying on keywords, and produced more relevant results. Before Humming Bird, Google’s algorithm relied on keywords, which websites could use to drive traffic by keyword stuffing their content.

2014 Pigeon: placed more importance on local search results and put high-quality links at the top of SERPs. The local algorithm better connected Google maps and the core search engine, which dramatically altered return queries on both platforms.

2015 Mobile Friendly Updates: displayed mobile-friendly sites at the top of mobile SERPs. This update gave a rank boost to websites that optimized their pages for mobile viewing.

2015 Rank Brain: delivered better search results based on relevance and machine learning. Rank Brain builds on Humming Bird’s algorithm, but the use of machine learning allows Google searches to gain a better understanding and decipher the meaning behind a user’s query.

2016 Unnamed algorithm: The SEO community refers to the newest Google update as Possum. The local algorithm prioritizes search results by user location. Businesses saw an increase to their website ranking after the implantation.

Google is continuously updating their algorithm to create the best user experience. Each of their updates targets and eliminates spam sites, low-quality content and more, to bring the best out of the web.

Growth Science: A Call to Arms

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The path from SEO to SSO

By Anne Ahola Ward

For more than a decade I’ve been a practitioner of search, an SEO. Before that, I was a web developer. In the last few years my title has extended to the new fangled Growth Hacker… which never felt quite right. Don’t get me wrong; I love growth marketing and it’s what I’ve dedicated my career to- but it never felt like it fit me as a label. In development the term ‘hacking’ is negative for two reasons; it means you’re either doing something bad to someone else or you’re doing something half assed, i.e. hacking things apart to cobble them back together. As such, can we finally throw the cobbled “growth hacker” term aside? I like to think of my work as more than tinkering.

Data science is where the top 2% of us friskers live, so the fancy data title doesn’t fit majority of SEOs. Data Scientists come from many backgrounds, but what they share is a broad knowledge of statistics and data modelling. As a former DBA I had the data modeling experience, but had to add the statistics part later. SEOs enhance and maintain growth, which is applied science: a continuous round-robin of investigation, experimentation, and information gathering. Just like any scientist, I follow the scientific method out in the field as researchers would in their respective disciplines.

SEO is certainly more scientific and technical today than it was in the mid 2000s when I started. It’s 2017 we’re knee-deep in data, so we get to question almost everything around us. Marketing keeps evolving to towards the technical so it’s time we coin a new term: Growth Science.

Growth Science is an emerging field, and as such, some specialization is needed. In terms of SEO, ASO, and general search engine efficacy, the commonality of all these ideas is that they all seek to measure and/or create Growth. This is the niche of us who are emerging as Growth Scientists. She (or he) strives above all to seek new methods, not magic, to bring new insights into the data. What does a Growth Scientist do, exactly? Is it SEO? No, it’s SSO- Scientific Search Optimization (SSO), which has some well-defined parameters:

  • Hypothesis — study data and form conclusions. Take guesses for what you think might be happening and posit a theory.
  • Methodical — the process to determine the results was determined beforehand, and built around a hypothesis. (I.E., “Adding additional schema to the pictures on my homepage will draw more organic search traffic.).
  • Provable — the hypothesis is validated or disproven given through the resulting inputs.
  • Reproducible — if the test was re-run on a separate but similar project, the conclusions should be the same.

Growth Scientists should also embrace open standards. As data sets become larger and toolsets become more integrated, open standards and open source software are important to maintain transparency. Freedom for independent toolset integrations can help prevent vendor lock-in.

This all suggests a future path for the discipline of SEO… SSO. Just as with science in any other field of expertise, only public experiments contribute to a collective body of knowledge, and improvement to the growth discipline. To truly earn the title of growth scientists, we must also grow into a community of fellow practitioners who share our results, discuss our latest experiments, and peer review our results.

Are you in?

Shameless plug: buy my O’Reilly book, The SEO Battlefield: Winning Strategies for Search Engine Marketing Programs. Due out March 2017!

SEO Factors to Watch for Mobile Search

Search Engines
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Long gone are the days of being able to easily rank in Google. The market has radically shifted towards mobile search and local search, and each have their own factors that influence optimization of results.

While the market has changed, both mobile and local present great opportunities for those who understand how they both differ from traditional search. There are some simple factors that can assist you in targeting both.

SEO Factors in Mobile

In April 2015 Google implemented what was dubbed “Mobilegeddon,” a process that shifted the goal post by ranking results based on the mobile-friendliness of the site. Sites that are more mobile friendly are ranked higher than sites that may be superior in other more traditional ways but don’t look so great on a mobile device.

Technical factors feature heavily in how Google assesses the mobile friendliness of a site.

Site speed tops the list. Mobile devices usually download content across mobile networks that are not always super quick- hence the need for making sure a site is super quick to load.

Google itself warns that sites that feature unplayable videos (avoid Flash at all costs), and offer a poor search experience can be demoted in rankings, or even displayed with a warning in mobile search results.

SEO Factors in Local

For local search every business should have a Google My Business page, those are the results that appear at the top of Google for any search and also include a link back to your site.

That listing should include all the relevant details for your business (address, contact number, opening hours), as well photos of your business.

For your website the same rules apply with mobile-  it should be quick and user-friendly.

Links in 2016 may be disregarded by some, but studies have shown they do play a strong role with sites targeting a local audience, as does one other more traditional consideration: content. Local sites with rich, in-depth content do better on Google, as particularly small businesses targeting a local audience tend to have content-lite sites.