Tuesday, May 23, 2017 by Amelia Willson
Announcing Our 2nd Annual Website ScholarshipHostGator's annual scholarship program aims to help aspiring entrepreneurs pay for their education, while sharing their thoughts and visions for a world shaped by the internet. HostGator itself was founded in a college dorm room back in 2002 (shout out to Florida Atlantic University!), so we’re happy to announce this year's Website Scholarship program for college students! Having been in the web hosting industry for over 15 years, we know firsthand how the internet has impacted the business world. Now we want to hear from you how it's impacted the world of education. Three individual students will be selected to receive $1,500 in scholarship funds based on their winning essay responses to the question, “How has the internet impacted your education?” A $1,500 scholarship will be awarded to three individual students who write the most compelling essays as judged by HostGator staff. Scholarship funds must be used to pay for qualified expenses, including tuition, fees, books and on-campus room and board for the 2017-2018 academic year.
How To Enter:Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following:
- Your completed 500-word essay response to the question "How has the internet impacted your education?" (Copied and pasted in the body of the email, or attached as a Word or Google doc)
- Your name
- Your college or university
- Your expected year of graduation
- Your intended major or area of study
- Applicants must be enrolled in an associate's degree, bachelor's degree or graduate level program at an accredited 2-year college or 4-year university during the 2017-2018 academic year. Students of all majors are encouraged to apply.
- Employees of or immediate family members of employees of HostGator or Endurance International Group are ineligible for this award.
- View Scholarship Program Official Rules.
Friday, May 5, 2017 by Casey Kelly-Barton
How Digital Advertising Works, or Why Your Ad Still Might Appear on BreitbartDigital advertising is an inexpensive and convenient way to reach the target audience for your business—as long as it's not also undermining your brand image. Some major companies have learned the hard way recently that digital advertising's drawbacks include the possibility of exposure on sites they don't want associated with their brands. For example, Kellogg's, Warby Parker and other high-profile companies faced consumer complaints and bad publicity after the presidential election, when their ads were found on far-right-wing site Breitbart. Verizon, Walmart and other brands pulled their ads off YouTube earlier this year after they learned that the platform's automated ad serving tools were placing their ads on videos advocating violence and hate. If you're wondering (a) why ad networks would place their clients' ads next to controversial or offensive content and (b) whether your business should avoid digital advertising, it helps to understand how these brand missteps happened and what ad networks are doing to resolve the problem.
How does digital advertising work?It's easier to understand digital ads if you compare them to old-fashioned pre-internet advertising. Back then, advertisers spent money to place their ads in specific magazines and newspapers or to air during particular radio and TV shows. These outlets had limited reach, but advertisers knew exactly what content they were supporting and which audiences they were reaching. Now, of course, there are millions of sites where businesses can display ads, and it's simply impossible to know them all. Digital advertising networks like Google AdSense, which includes YouTube, allow sites to join if they meet the network's criteria for appropriate content, audience, location, and more. Then the networks use machine learning, keyword algorithms, and consumer data to run “programmatic” ad placements on their network of sites. For example, a snowshoe company's ads might run on sites with content on alpine trekking and winter sports – but maybe also on sites dedicated to yeti sightings. Machine learning isn't perfect so it sometimes includes sites that aren't a good fit (yetis) or which cause brand damage by association (offensive content). Another digital advertising practice, ad retargeting, means that your prospects and customers may see your ads on many sites they visit, not because your brand has bought ad space on each of those sites in particular, but because those customers' browser cookies are set to display your ads on other sites they visit. If those cookies cause your company's ads to appear on sites with offensive content, the customer may think your company chose to place them there, and the brand damage is done.
Where, exactly, do your ads show up?The short answer to the question of where your ads display is, it's hard to know. Huge digital ad networks, programmatic ad placement, and ad retargeting give companies with even small ad budgets the ability to reach lots of prospective customers across a wide geographic area. That's something that simply wasn't possible in the days before the digital transformation, when print, radio and television ads reached fewer consumers at a higher cost. This change has made it possible for small businesses and startups to build customer bases quickly and reach new customers inexpensively. Even better, from an audience-reach perspective, most digital advertising networks add new sites continuously, and sites like YouTube are inundated with fresh content to advertise on every day. The downside of a far-reaching, constantly expanding network that can display your ads anywhere is that your ads can turn up just about anywhere, and you may never know which sites your ads display on unless someone notifies you. Even when ad networks are vigilant about blacklisting known problem sites, new ones may fly under their radar until someone complains. If that someone is an angry customer or offended prospect, you have to respond quickly and appropriately to control the damage to your brand.
What are ad networks doing to fix the problem?Some industry veterans say the real solution is for advertisers to demand more transparency about ad placement and better screening of participating sites by ad networks. This sort of pressure can work quickly. For example, Google gets 90% of its revenue from ads, so losing companies like Walmart and Verizon was a major motivator to improve their ad serving tools. As of this writing, the company's AdSense network is broadening its rules barring content that incites hate, promotes violence or advocates discrimination. AdSense could previously block an entire site for violating its rules, but now the network can block individual pages, which makes it easier to keep ads off hateful user-generated content in—for example—comments sections. About a month after several major brands pulled their ads off YouTube, the video platform announced new audit tools. Companies can use these tools to see exactly where their ads have been placed on the site. Ad networks can also supplement their machine-learning algorithms with human reviews of content, as YouTube is doing. Human input can make ad-serving algorithms less error-prone over time, but it's grueling work that requires screening a constant stream of new sites and videos quickly.
How can you protect your brand and still reach your target audience?Because the number of sites in most ad networks is always changing, and because machine learning will always need human input to keep up with new sites and new controversies, it's up to you to protect your brand's image. Here are some best practices for your business's online ad program.
- Talk to prospective ad networks about your concerns before you sign up and find out what their requirements are for publishers to participate in their networks.
- Know your “lines in the sand” before you launch your digital ad campaigns. This can save response time if there are complaints later on.
- Use your ad network's opt-out lists to pinpoint specific sites or categories you don't want to associate with your brand. For example, YouTube advertisers can opt out of up to 5 categories, including hot-button social issues, tragedies, profanity, sexually suggestive content, and “sensational and shocking” videos.
- Respond quickly to any ad complaints from customers and ad-advocacy groups, and follow up to let them know how you've resolved their complaints. Thoughtful, timely responses can mitigate the damage to your company's reputation.
- Immediately report any consumer complaints about your ads to your ad network and have your ads blocked from sites your customers have complained about.
- Consider using an ad auditing service to evaluate the quality of impressions your ads earn on the networks you participate in. Startups like DoubleVerify offer audits across multiple ad networks.
With digital advertising, the positive still outweighs the negative for brandsUltimately, you shouldn't let the prospect of misplaced ads discourage you from using digital advertising to promote your business. In most cases, digital ads appear where they're supposed to, and the tools that ad networks use to screen sites are increasingly effective. The problem of inappropriate content will probably never go away entirely, but ad networks know their business model depends on helping advertisers protect their brands. As a consumer, remember that brands care most about giving you what you want. If you don't want ads of brands you love to appear on sites you hate, the fix could be as simple as not visiting those sites. HostGator joined our sister company Constant Contact in removing our ads from sites like Breitbart. If you see us our ads on those sites, it is likely a result of retargeting, although we encourage you to let us know in the comments below or by contacting our support team. Learn more about advertising on Facebook and Instagram from the HostGator blog.
Thursday, May 4, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
May's Top Tech NewsA new month inevitably brings a whole new batch of tech news stories. It can be hard to keep up. To help you stay on top of the main tech trends and updates you should know, we continue our series on top tech trends to watch this month.
Amazon Releases Echo LookThe smart home technology market continues to grow this month with Amazon’s release of the Echo Look, a new device that combines the abilities of Amazon’s Alexa with camera technology. The company is positioning the product as a way to get fashion advice from a digital assistant. The device will snap pictures of you wearing your different clothing options and provide feedback, along with suggestions for possible items to buy. However, what may have sounded like a great idea in the boardroom is getting criticism from various sources for crossing uncomfortable privacy lines. Amazon has assured critics that the Echo Look’s technology will only focus on outfits – not, say, the other items that can be seen in a room in the background of a picture. For consumers unconcerned about privacy aspects though, the device can be useful for video chatting and clothes shopping, so it may still have its supporters.
Google and Facebook Take On Fake NewsBoth Google and Facebook have received criticism for the roles their platforms played in disseminating fake news stories. In response to the criticism, both companies are taking steps to help reduce the reach of news stories that aren’t authoritative or accurate. Facebook has announced plans to target and weed out accounts that share fake news on the platform, in the hopes of stopping misinformation campaigns by governments or other political players. Google, for its part, is working to limit how often inaccurate or offensive articles show up in its search results. They’ve updated their quality guidelines to help their human evaluators better gauge the accuracy of search results, and have provided users with a way to report inaccurate autocomplete suggestions and snippets.
Tech Companies Take a Stand for Net NeutralityBusinesses don’t always branch into politics, but on the particular issue of net neutrality, many tech companies have been quick to take a stand. Over 800 startups recently came together to submit a letter to the FCC showing their support for net neutrality rules that are at risk under the new administration. Popular brands like Etsy, Warby Parker, Foursquare and Reddit are amongst the companies publicly backing the cause.
Collision Conference Meets in New OrleansThis week, “America’s fastest growing tech conference,” the Collision Conference takes over New Orleans with thousands of guests from tech companies throughout the country (and a few coming in from abroad). The conference sessions will cover topics ranging from using tech to improve the environment to marketing technology to internet security.
NextWeb Meets in the NetherlandsBilled as Europe’s leading tech festival, the NextWeb conference is scheduled to meet in the Netherlands on May 18-19. The conference will bring together thousands of entrepreneurs, developers, and investors and will have representatives from many of the best-known tech brands in the world, including Amazon, AirBnB, and Reddit.
New Tech IPOs: Cloudera and CarvanaThe two big tech IPOs of the month are both valued at around the same price: $15 per share. Carvana offers an online car dealership and is overall valued at about $2.08 billion. Cloudera’s enterprise data company is similarly valued at just around $2 billion.
About.com RebrandsOver time, the About.com brand has lost a lot of its influence and familiarity as other web brands little by little took over their market share. In response, the brand has decided to say goodbye to the once familiar name and become Dotdash. In addition to the change in their overall brand name, they’ve also branched out into several different content properties that each have a particular focus: Verywell for health, Lifewire for tech, The Balance for personal finance, and The Spruce for home and food.
The Nation’s Biggest Tech Companies Have a Strong QuarterIt’s a good time to be one of the top tech companies in the nation (or an investor in them). Google, Amazon, and Microsoft all report rising profits in the first quarter of 2017. Google and Microsoft are both up by 28%, and Amazon’s profits have increased by 40%. Most of us won’t be surprised to hear that the incredibly popular companies are still doing well, but seeing the continued growth they’ve managed can potentially tell us something about the overall health of the tech sector at this time. As we move into summer, we’ll continue to keep our eyes on what’s happening in the tech world. Check back next month to see what tech trends to look out for in June.
Thursday, April 6, 2017 by Kristen HicksEntrepreneurs have so much on their plate that staying on top of tech news is hard to fit in. But tech influences business, which means falling behind could have an adverse affect on your ability to run your business effectively. To help you stay on top of the fast-moving tech world, here’s April’s entry in our series on top tech trends to watch each month.
1. Consumers Express Concern About Loss of Internet PrivacyThis is quite possibly the most talked about tech issue in the country right now. The Congressional vote at the end of March reversing an FCC privacy law that prohibited internet providers from selling customer data has left many US citizens feeling shaken. The move makes it possible for companies like Time Warner and AT&T to sell data on their customers’ browsing habits to the highest bidder and has unleashed a backlash of concerned citizens who aren’t comfortable with the idea of their private internet use becoming a product for corporations.
2. Windows 10 Creators Update LaunchesThe next update for the Windows operating system goes beyond your typical OS update, rolling out whole new features and programs designed to change how people think about the Windows operating system. The Windows 10 Creators update will launch April 11 and provide users with an app for 3D painting, new gaming features, and intuitive browsing features. Based on early reviews, this is an update Windows users can look forward to.
3. Twitter Says Goodbye to Egg IconsThe Twitter egg avatar has become iconic, but not in a good way. Twitter eggs have increasingly become associated with online trolls and harassers who critics accuse of hiding behind the generic avatar rather than showing who they are. In an attempt to alleviate the issue, Twitter has changed the default avatar from an egg to a nondescript figure on a gray background with a generic floating head and shoulders. The goal is to make the icon explicitly less interesting in the hopes that people treat it more as a placeholder than an avatar for long-term use. Of course, critics aren’t all that confident the change will get at the root of the larger problem of anonymous harassment on the platform.
4. Twitter Increases Reply LengthsThe Twitter character limit is part of the service’s appeal, but also oftentimes a limiting frustration for users. It becomes an inconvenience when replying to threads that include multiple people, since each username takes up some of the available character count. Twitter decided to tackle that issue by removing usernames from reply Tweets themselves, and instead letting users know with a little note above the tweet who it’s in reply to.
5. Facebook Adds Personal Fundraising FeatureTaking a cue from the popular website GoFundMe, which people use to help raise money for needs like health procedures or educational expenses, Facebook now provides a personal fundraising option within the social media platform itself. Users can raise funds for projects that fall within any one of six categories: education, medical, pet medical, crisis relief, personal emergencies, and loss. This is one of many functionalities Facebook has been building into the platform, giving users more reason to turn to Facebook for an ever growing number of uses.
6. Reviewers and Consumers Explore the Galaxy S8One of last month’s big tech stories was the release of Samsung’s Galaxy S8. This month, we can expect to see a preponderance of articles from consumers and tech journalists that examine the smartphone’s features. Journalists have already written pieces on the weaknesses of the product’s facial scanning technology, its display size, and its wireless speed. More opinions are sure to come.
7. Google Home Launches in the UKLittle by little, smart home technology is making its way into the bedrooms and living rooms of people around the world. This month, Google announced that their smart assistant, Google Home, will now be available to people in the UK as well as the US. The product helps connect the different smart devices a customer has in their home and provides Siri-style answers to voice commands. This is one more step in the move toward smart homes becoming more of a norm for people around the world.
8. Tesla’s Solar Roof Tiles Become AvailableElon Musk announced via Twitter that Tesla’s solar roof tiles will become available for sale this month. The technology resembles regular roof shingles and Musk has suggested they’ll cost a comparable amount as well. The availability of this technology could pave the path to solar power becoming mainstream in homes throughout the US.
@HolsMichael Start taking orders in April— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 24, 2017
9. Cloudera, Yext, and Okta IPOsA new month means new IPO offerings and this month we can expect to see three big tech companies go public. The enterprise data company Cloudera already announced their IPO filing and early estimates put the IPO at about $200 million. Yext should be joining the stock market this month as well, probably at around $100 million. And the identity management company Okta has filed as well for a value of $100 million. Tech investors have a few new and promising options to consider for their portfolio this month.
10. NAB Show Meets in Las VegasMedia, entertainment, and technology will converge from April 22-27 in Las Vegas at the NAB show. Exhibitors include a number of key tech players, particularly those in the fields of online video, mobile media, audio, and radio. Sessions will cover subjects like the future of broadcasting and the influence of new technologies on the media. Like most months, April is a busy one for the tech world. Check back next month to see what tech trends to look forward to in May.