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Benefits of Blockchain in the Public Sector

Benefits of Blockchain in the Public Sector


While blockchain is most notably used in the financial sector,

I have been studying the application of blockchain technology in various industries.   According to an article on the Oracle website titled The Benefits of Blockchain Across Industries. (n.d.). there are benefits to be derived in the public sector by the use of this technology.

The blockchain is an encrypted, distributed database shared across multiple computers or nodes that are part of a community or system. Transactions and data that use blockchain technology do not allow changes to data once it is written unless all or a majority of participating computers agree to the change. Blockchain has the ability to make the secure transfer of data simpler and easier between entities. This article notes the potential uses of blockchain technology in the defense, legal and energy industries.

It also discusses that the ability of blockchain to link data between government departments that typically work is silos. This can benefit citizens because the exchange of information between departments is in real time, after the agency and the citizen agree to share data. Information would no longer be delayed, resulting in greater efficiency and better service to citizens. It could also increase transparency and reduce fraud and abuse.  It is clear that blockchain holds much promise in the ability to provide secure and transparent transactions. We will continue to study the evolution of this technology.

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

The World’s Top Energy Companies Look to Blockchain to ‘Fuse the Physical With the Virtual’

The World’s Top Energy Companies Look to Blockchain to
‘Fuse the Physical With the Virtual’


A new coalition links up energy companies with leading blockchain experts.

Earlier this month Shell, Statoil, Tepco, Centrica and a half-dozen other energy companies the Energy Web Foundation, an alliance devoted to bringing blockchain to the grid. The companies donated $2.5 million to the organization. The foundation was set up in February this year as a collaboration between Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Austrian blockchain developer Grid Singularity to “accelerate the commercial deployment of blockchain technology in the energy sector.”

The companies and organizations involved think blockchain will be a game-changer for energy, and e working together to provide the frameworks and standards to help ensure that outcome. Jesse Morris, principal for electricity and transportation practices at RMI and co-founder of the Energy Web Foundation (EWF), said the foundation's immediate aim is to garner more affiliates and funding, while developing an open-source blockchain application for use in the energy sector. Initially, partner organizations will evaluate the software, and potentially release it to the public in 2019 or 2020, if all goes well. Blockchain is best known as the platform for Bitcoin. It is an encrypted, distributed database that allows all users to track every transaction — thus eliminating the need for an intermediary.

Blockchain enthusiasts believe the technology can also be used to seamlessly transact electrons between consumers on the grid, while keeping an accurate, incorruptible tally of where they came from and where they went. It could encourage greater peer-to-peer sales on the grid and lay the foundation for microgrids and distributed renewables. “We have a strong hypothesis that blockchain will solve a lot of long-running problems in the energy sector,” said Morris. “Overcoming these challenges could make small, incremental changes to energy infrastructure and markets in the ar term, while others would be more far-reaching and disruptive."

Certificates (also known as guarantees) of origin would assure the user that a particular megawatt-hour of electricity was produced from renewables. According to Morris, the U.S. alone has 10 different tracking systems, Asia-Pacific has several more, and each European country has its own system of certification. Blockchain could be used to transparently guarantee the origin of the electrons. Longer-term, and more radically, RMI sees the future of electricity networks being driven by the billions of energy storage and HVAC units, EVs, solar roof panels and other devices and appliances at the grid edge.

Blockchains can allow any of them to set their own level of participation on the grid, without the need for an intermediary. And crucially, they can be configured so that if a grid operator needs guaranteeing capacity, the grid-edge unit can communicate back to the grid whether or not it’s up to the task. This is an example of what Morris described as blockchain’s ability to “fuse the physical with the virtual” via machine-to-machine communication. However, these are still early days. Foundation members have a lot of work to do in order to ensure its credibility, prove the technology works for energy applications and lay down the foundation for widespread adoption.

“Think of it like the App Store,” remarked David Peters, director of strategy and innovation at grid owner-operator Stedin B.V. “We at the EWF are building a shared infrastructure where we can build on top the developed code.” Stedin joined EWF because it believes in blockchain’s potential. “It gives us access to the best blockchain people in the world,” Peters said.   He hopes the widespread adoption of the technology will “lower the barriers of participation” for the grid. Engie, the French multinational electric utility, had already conducted its own blockchain research projects before joining EWF. Among them was a program to track smart meters in Burgundy, keeping detailed tabs on solar panel electricity production, and facilitating transactions of a small peer-to-peer community energy trading project in Belgium.

Engie's Director of Research and Technologies Raphael Schoentgen explained that blockchain is a promising technology to track smart meter data. “It contributes to better management of electrons over the grid,” he remarked. The technology’s ability to automate transactions for peer-to-peer trading is of key interest to Dr. Hans-Heinrich Kleuker, the CEO of Technische Werke Ludwigshafen, whose company is now also part of EWF. “We’ll see many more consumers with either an energy deficit or a surplus in the near future, and the desire to trade that energy,” he said. “Machine-to-machine communication, such as that offered via blockchain, will be essential to manage the vast number of transactions needed.”

Such trades would certainly be beyond the capabilities of a small, local utility such as TWL, said Kleuker.  “We are looking at the convergence of different electricity markets, which are very different right now, but longer-term will be facing similar challenges,” Kleuker concluded, convinced that the application of blockchain can meet those challenges. EWF will meet at the end of May to decide which use-case scenarios from around the world it will employ to take the project forward. In the coming years, the foundation will decide on norms and standards that may allow blockchain to be used in a truly universal way and “move beyond the hype.”

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Blockchain and the airline industry: ready for take-off?

Blockchain and the airline industry:
ready for take-off?


Let’s first look at where the airline industry is now

For every traveller’s ticket, airlines conduct various business-to-business (B2B) transactions that touch other business and government entities. From booking to arrival, players include online travel platforms, government agencies, airlines, card providers, airports, car rental agencies, immigration hotels and more.

The industry is powered by data sharing among multiple actors and touchpoints. Information both on the traveller and overall operations is continually collected, stored and “disseminated” by each of the actors involved at some point. They will need to go through complex data reconciliation processes between a multitude of systems to ensure operations and security and facilitate the successful departure of the traveller.

Airlines alone house data in numerous siloed systems from passenger service to crew management Each airline system is characterized by a mix of data that it stores to facilitate a travel. It may vary from crew departments to passenger services. With multiple systems in play and massive data stored in multiple single systems makes the exchange at times difficult. For airlines, not only operational integrity and revenue generation may be endangered when something goes wrong, but also safety and security.

Accenture: Why blockchain for the airline industry

According to Accenture in its report “Beyond the Buzz: The potential of Blockchain Technology for Airlines”, there is a very strong similarity between the airline industry operations and what blockchain technology has to offer. Therefore “it is fair to say that blockchain and other distributed ledger technology has the ability to improve transactional flows, improve trust and provide immutable record retention”.

With the complexity of information and the delicate state of affairs in the airline Industry, blockchain technology incorporation for comprehensive data sharing and reconciliation may prove to be very beneficial. One of the advantages is cutting down complexities associated with cross-enterprise business processes. Use of blockchain techniques can help enhance reconciliation and data sharing.  Using blockchain technology for enhanced reconciliation and data sharing is a compelling value proposition for this industry. The most creative and disruptive possibilities go beyond pure financial transactions,” Accenture 

Blockchain technology can also create new efficiencies and services models for airlines.

 “On a basic level, interoperability between programs and partners that use the same dataset to record and transfer value will result in enhanced efficiencies in transaction processing and invoice reconciliation” “For travellers, this will result in quicker availability and better usability of their points and miles”, Robert Moerland, EVP – Global Business Development, Loyyal Another attraction of blockchain technology for the airline industry is that it allows “privacy by design” so that passenger data can be secure, encrypted, tamper-proof and unusable for any other purpose. Once information has been entered, it cannot be changed. At the same time, it eliminates the need for a single authority to own, process or to store the data.

Capco –IATA Research

Capco, the global business and technology consultancy for the financial services industry, has conducted a report on behalf of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), to determine how blockchain will impact the airline industry and how this technology can be used to benefit them. Key findings include blockchain’s potential to make the industry faster and more cost efficient and enhance customer experience, as well as a number of uses of blockchain and its value. One area IATA is currently exploring refers to how this technology can help optimize the money flows between partners in the travel industry value chain. 

“Blockchain is a disruptive technology and represents a great opportunity for digital innovation. Every single industry, from the financial sector to aviation, is trying to understand where this technology will best fit and where to start the innovation journey. Distributed ledger technology – including blockchain – is already proven to reduce transaction fees when transferring money across borders and currencies,” “That represents a great promise, particularly for global businesses and industries.” Assad Mahmood, senior consultant, Capco. “The value of having a single ’source of truth’ that all business partners trust can dramatically simplify reconciliation, invoicing and settlement in our industry,” Juan Iván Martín, IATA head of Innovation, Financial and Distribution Services. 

Lufthansa introduces Blockchain for Airlines Initiative (BC4A)

German airline company Lufthansa has introduced the BC4A or Blockchain for Airlines initiative. The Main goal is to bring together all areas in the industry and collectively investigate the potential of the blockchain. Potential participants are software developers, aircraft builders, MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) service providers, logistics, leasing companies or regulators. Our Aim is to collect use cases of blockchain in the airline industry and come to common standards for its use.


Where can blockchain be used in the airline industry?
There are a  large number of promising cases where blockchain technology could be used in the airline industry. The most creative and disruptive possibilities go beyond pure financial transactions.” “They may include use cases in ticketing, loyalty schemes, security, and identity, as well as maintenance”, Accenture

Identity Management

Blockchain technology could solve the problems related to identity management. It could even revolutionize identity management in combination with biometrics technology. Once validated on the blockchain, it would make it harder to “impersonate” or commit fraud. Companies such as uPort4 are designing systems to allow users to create digital verification of individuals on the blockchain. This would drastically reduce the current friction and burden of processing paper passports and relying on human checks to validate passenger identification.


The security and privacy of information in all Industries are vital, in particular for the airline industry. Data privacy is a critical issue for passenger records, flight manifests, and crew information. There are also security implications if this data is not properly protected. Security and privacy can be significantly enhanced by using blockchain technology. Blockchain technology with a security wrapper (that requires security authorization to access and even disseminate information) creates a very different and safer way to manage and share this information through authorized access requirements.


The blockchain can tokenize the present e-ticket and further dematerializing these tickets. Through the use of smart contracts associated with the tokenized tickets, airlines can add business logic and their terms and conditions for how the ticket will be sold and used by different partners across the value chain, and in real time, from any location in the world in a secure and efficient manner. This opens the possibility of one purchasing airline tickets from a host of partners from any part of the world.


By tokenizing loyalty points on a blockchain, travellers get immediate value as they can redeem and use the points instantly on the spot. They can also use them more broadly through a user community of partners (marketplace or exchange model). With points accepted as sort of “currency” among more providers, travellers have a faster-to-use, easier and more extended spending program that is better suited to their personal preferences.

 “One example is the possibility of multi-branded points that have a special value or benefit associated with them, potentially for a limited period of time. This means for travellers that more relevant targeted offers with an increased value will become available in a higher frequency,” Robert Moerland.

Luggage custody-change tracking

Luggage change custody through their journey between airlines, airport, and ground handlers. When something goes wrong with a passenger’s luggage it is important to have a log of custody changes to be able to determine who is responsible. A (semi-private) blockchain can cater for this as a neutral ground for reporting custody changes throughout the value chain. A blockchain-based solution for tracking luggage would smooth the hand-off points where different teams take over responsibility for passenger items. All airlines could track luggage handling on a single blockchain which is readable by the passenger. The traveller could even be able to see if their luggage is on the plane.


Another case study would be aircraft parts as they change custody between manufactures, traders, maintenance service providers, and airlines. Blockchain technology can move maintenance logs out of existing “bulky” cumbersome databases and paper binders. This may enable airlines to safeguard the validity of procured parts. It can ensure that parts procured are legitimate and can provide a “virtual copy” immutable record of the provenance of each part on the plane, every time it has been handled and by whom, from the beginning of the aircraft existence. This would mean that the provenance of every part of the aircraft is instantly available and would speed up due diligence around future lifecycle events. Maintenance events could be set in advance and non-conformity would appear within the aircraft maintenance record. This visibility can firmly improve maintenance, safety, and security.

Air cargo

The air cargo industry could benefit from Blockchain both as a tool for saving money and offering monetary protection and could transform, how cargo is nowadays managed. Blockchain technology could increase efficiency, cut down on costs, and reduce fraud.

In addition to reducing costs and time, blockchain would allow for complete consolidation of air cargo records, with verification. Blockchain would remove the need for costly and inefficient paper work and for the various and multitude time-consuming verification steps. In order to verify the origins and legitimacy of the products taking on board, blockchain could be used to track every step of the process: from origin through shipping, all the way to the arrival at the airport. Blockchain also could protect against any alterations, additions, or subtractions to the products in the meantime, cutting down on smuggling and theft. This transparency and validation will allow for faster processing and a reduction in paperwork. It might be possible to speed customs clearing with any import duty paid via the blockchain.

Other use cases

Apart from these applications blockchain technology can also be used for other cases. These may include Airport Collaborative Decision Making (ACDM),  In-flight entertainment, traveler compensation, flight planning etc.

SITA Project

Travel technology provider SITA is exploring the potential of blockchain technology as part of its single token efforts. This technology provides the opportunity to allow secure biometric authentication of passengers throughout the journey across borders, which could help eliminate the need for multiple travel documents without passengers having to share their personal data. “Now blockchain technology offers us the potential to provide a new way of using biometrics. It could enable biometrics to be used across borders, and at all airports, without the passenger’s details being stored by the various authorities.” Jim Peters, SITA’s Chief Technology Officer

SITA Lab, along with blockchain start-up ShoCard, is now researching how using virtual or digital passports in the form of a single secure token on mobile and wearable devices could reduce complexity, cost, and liability around document checks during the passenger journey. What the SITA Lab team is looking at is how the air travel industry – airlines, airports and government agencies – can take advantage of blockchain technology where the underlying blockchain provide trust so that individuals or authorities don’t have to. “If this new approach to identity management and passenger processing gains the support of the wider air transport industry and government agencies, it would make sense for the technology to be trialed as a next step” SITA

 Blockchain may revolutionize airline industry

Blockchain technology may become a disruptive force that may revolutionize the airline industry. Blockchain has the potential to play a leading role in disrupting many facets of the way they nowadays do business. Airlines – a data intensive industry with complex procedures and requirements – will certainly benefit from paying attention to the new potentials available and therefore have to reckon with this new technology. “Blockchain technology will continue to take flight in airlines over the next decade. Use cases not even conceived of today will become every day, reducing complexity and costs while improving the travel journey with real-time travel experiences,” Accenture Accenture sees an opportunity for major expansion. But it will still take a number of years before a real take off will be seen in the airline industry!

Chuck Reynolds
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Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Why Investing in SEO Makes Good Business Sense

Why Investing in SEO Makes Good Business Sense

As Google continues to unhinge marketing models everywhere, companies are increasing spending on digital marketing services. If you are considering investing in search engine optimization (SEO), it may be hard to decide where to spend money, especially when marketing budgets are always tight. Still, SEO firms can potentially bring a lot of value to your business, and many marketers are taking the plunge. According to media analysts at Borrell, SEO spending will reach $80 billion annually by 2020.


Why Investing in SEO Makes Good Business Sense

If you are considering hiring an SEO agency for your company, it’s important to understand what you’re buying. In general, SEO work falls into three main buckets:

Keyword research and optimization

This is what most people think of when they think of SEO. “Keyword research and optimization is about defining the audiences you want to reach online, then communicating to Google where you want to meet those people,” explains Andy Kerns, Content Strategist with Digital Third Coast, a Chicago-based digital marketing agency. Kerns continues, “The where in this equation is represented by specific keyword phrases, like “’running shoes’ or ‘payroll software. People search a specific term, and your company shows up in the search results. Then the searchers click on your link — and you meet a new prospect!”

Technical work on websites

This is work you might not associate with SEO, but it is often essential. “The algorithm Google uses to assess and rate all websites is very sophisticated and very picky,” Kerns says. “It has to work extremely fast, in nanoseconds. If you want to meet folks searching for keywords relevant to your offerings, your website needs to be a well-oiled machine that communicates quickly and clearly with Google, at all times. This is not as simple as it sounds. There are literally hundreds of technical considerations when optimizing a website for SEO purposes.”

Link building campaigns

This is an aspect of SEO that might surprise you if you are new to the game — and it’s a game changer. “Consider the hundreds of technical tweaks that need to be made when optimizing a website.There’s a single consideration for Google’s algorithm that rises above all others — we call it links.” Kerns says. “Links from other websites to your website, are what Google counts, and cares about more than anything else. If your website is associated with other important and popular websites, Google will automatically like you more — and display your company much higher (closer to the top of Page 1) in search results.”

The hard part is getting those links in a legitimate way using keywords you care about – and that is where an SEO firm can be invaluable. “If you develop first-class content that is educational, entertaining or both, and you make a concerted effort to share that content with the world, the world will link back to you. We promise. We do this every single day for our clients.,” Kerns notes. While often at least some of the work can be done yourself or with in-house staff, the truth is that letting experts do it for you more than pays for itself, and here are several reasons why: 

True SEO work is systemic.
“If you don’t address everything—technical issues, keyword optimization, link building—it’s highly unlikely you’ll get the results you want,” Kerns warns. “This work is systemic, it’s on-going, and it requires a broad range of skills that would be very tough and costly to add to your existing team.” Hiring an expert or, better yet, a firm of experts, can streamline the process and maximize the ROI —Return on Investment. 

  • Fresh perspective is your friend.
    A common challenge we have is helping clients understand when their keyword strategy needs to shift to meet prospects where they are. We also need to clarify the kinds of link building content that will attract attention from journalists without seeming promotional.” Kerns says. “It’s extremely difficult for most people to see beyond the boundaries of their business, to understand where they need to fit in to the larger picture, We can do that for them.”
  • There are no guarantees.
    You can spend a great deal of time getting educated about SEO and setting yourself up to give it a go on your own, using internal resources. And you may well be successful. But it’s a long shot. SEO is relatively new and it’s a delicate, esoteric trade. Finding a dedicated team with a proven track record and good recommendations is the smarter play here.
  • Get access to the coolest toolbox.
    Think of someone trying to build a house with an old school toolbox versus the tools professional contractors bring to the job. A great SEO team comes with a remarkable array of software tools,” Kerns notes. “These are the essential tools of the SEO trade. Even if you knew just what to source, they’d cost you tens of thousands of dollars to purchase, much less use.”

So, if you have a product or service that’s ready to go to the next level – especially one that has national appeal – strongly consider hiring an SEO firm as part of your growth plan. It’s a smart move for those who are ready for the big leap!

Chuck Reynolds
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Stop overloading your Local SEO content!

Stop overloading your Local SEO content!

Developing content for your local business website is clearly important for search engine optimization, but that doesn't mean that more content is always better. Columnist Greg Gifford explains and suggests an alternative strategy.


I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road,

speaking at conferences and talking to marketers and business owners, and I’ve been having the “content” talk far too often lately. You know, the one that’s almost as awkward as sitting down with your kids to talk about the birds and the bees, but where you’re talking to a business owner and telling them that their last SEO agency duped them. For some reason, more than ever before, it seems like most business owners (and many marketers) are equating content with SEO. It’s like suddenly, the only thing that matters is content, content, CONTENT. If multiple pages aren’t added to the site every month, then obviously, no SEO has been performed.

Hopefully, everyone reading this knows that the “content, content, CONTENT” play is way off-base. The problem is that most business owners don’t know, and many of us aren’t doing a sufficient job of educating business owners to show them why. If there’s a huge disconnect between what marketers know and business owners believe, we’re all going to have problems keeping clients. So this month’s edition of Greg’s Soapbox is calling out the “content, content, CONTENT” play and showing why overloading on content is a bad strategy.

Lazy local content pages are usually doorway pages

In most cases, the local content play involves the monthly addition of “location” targeted pages to a website. Yes, this is a legitimate strategy when done correctly, but, in practice, most of the time the pages created are simply doorway pages. They’re thin pages without any useful content with the sole purpose of ranking in local searches. Google calls those doorway pages and actually penalizes sites for using them. Yep, this is old news — the penalty rolled out in 2015 — but I’m seeing a resurgence of doorway pages in local SEO over the past few months. If your site or your potential client’s site has a ton of pages that aren’t included in any menu, and they’re all basically the same page with different cities listed on each iteration, you’ve got doorway pages.

Let’s look at the official Google support docs that talk about doorway pages:

Doorways are sites or pages created to rank highly for specific search queries. They are bad for users because they can lead to multiple similar pages in user search results, where each result ends up taking the user to essentially the same destination. They can also lead users to intermediate pages that are not as useful as the final destination.

Here are some examples of doorways:

  • Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
  • Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
  • Substantially similar pages that are closer to search results than a clearly defined, browsable hierarchy

Google’s early 2015 announcement about the Doorway Page Penalty is even more specific:

  • Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?
  • Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?
  • Do these pages exist as an “island?” Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?

Since most of the low-quality local content pages clearly fail these questions, alerting business owners to these pages — and the possible penalty for having them — can go a long way toward helping them understand why continuing to push content pages out every month can be harmful.

It’s simple: are the pages there for humans?

If you’re a car dealer, and you’ve got 25 pages on your site about the 2017 Ford F-150, with each one targeting a different city, then you’re probably in bad shape. It’s likely that none of the pages are on your main menu, or even within one click of the main menu page. The pages probably all have the same photo of a truck and only a few sentences about how you sell that truck in that particular city. Do these pages provide any value at all for an actual human? Absolutely not.

Even if you rewrite the content 25 times, they’re still useless. Sure, they’re not “duplicate” pages, but they’re repetitive pages. They all say exactly the same thing, only with a different city mentioned. There’s zero value there. When you’re writing content for your site, or when your SEO agency is writing the content, you have to ask yourself if the content is being added to make your site better for users — or just to show up in search engines. If the thought process is “This will help me show up in searches in that city,” then your thought process is wrong. You’re not going to gain more visibility in searches in other cities simply by adding a few lazy pages to your site. Period.

How many pages do you really need?

Many business owners I talk to ask the question, “How many pages do I need?” and the answer is simple. You need however many you need to answer your customers’ questions. Simply adding 10 pages (or 15 pages, or 20 pages) of content a month won’t make your site any better than adding only a few poorly designed location or product pages.

In fact, your site will be infinitely better if you only add one or two quality pages every month. Once you’ve got your site where you need it, you don’t even need to keep adding pages! If you’ve decided to add 15 pages a month to your site, ask yourself where that number came from. Why 15? Why 20? What’s the strategy there, and what questions will you be answering? Local SEO is not only content. Many of the factors that affect your local SEO success don’t even live on your website. If you want to target other cities, it takes much more than creating a few repetitive location pages. For a detailed plan of a better way (involving content pages, blog posts, social media, and link building), check out my post from the summer of 2015 about Local Content Silos. Let’s all work together to educate business owners (and wayward agencies) and stop the local content vomiting once and for all!

Chuck Reynolds
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Stop oversimplifying everything!

Stop oversimplifying everything!

The old days of gaming Google's ranking algorithm are over, but columnist Eric Enge notes that many SEO professionals haven't moved on yet.



Once upon a time, our world was simple.

There was a thesis — “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine” by Sergey Brin and Larry Page — that told us how Google worked. And while Google evolved rapidly from the concepts in that document, it still told us what we needed to know to rank highly in search. As a community, we abused it — and many made large sums of money simply by buying links to their site. How could you expect any other result? Offer people a way to spend $2 and make $10, and guess what? Lots of people are going to sign up for that program.

But our friends at Google knew that providing the best search results would increase their market share and revenue, so they made changes continually to improve search quality and protect against attacks by spammers. A big part of what made this effort successful was obscuring the details of their ranking algorithm. When reading the PageRank thesis was all you needed to do to learn how to formulate your SEO strategy, the world was simple. But Google has since been issued hundreds of patents, most of which have probably not been implemented and never will be. There may even be trade secret concepts for ranking factors for which patent applications have never been filed.

Yet, as search marketers, we still want to make things very simple. Let’s optimize our site for this one characteristic and we’ll get rich! In today’s world, this is no longer realistic. There is so much money to be had in a search that any single factor has been thoroughly tested by many people. If there were one single factor that could be exploited for guaranteed SEO success, you would already have seen someone go public with it.

‘Lots of different signals’ contribute to rankings

Despite the fact that there is no silver bullet for obtaining high rankings, SEO professionals often look for quick fixes and easy solutions when a site’s rankings take a hit. In a recent Webmaster Central Office Hours Hangout, a participant asked Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller about improving his site content to reverse a drop in traffic that he believed to be the results of the Panda update from May of 2014. The webmaster told Mueller that he and his team are going through the site category by category to improve the content; he wanted to know if rankings will improve category by category as well, or if there is a blanket score applied to the whole site.

Here is what Mueller said in response (emphases mine):

“For the most part, we’ve moved more and more towards understanding sections of the site better and understanding what the quality of those sections is. So if you’re … going through your site step by step, then I would expect to see … a gradual change in the way that we view your site. But, I also assume that if … you’ve had a low quality site since 2014, that’s a long time to … maintain a low quality site, and that’s something where I suspect there are lots of different signals that are … telling us that this is probably not such a great site.

(Hat tip to Glenn Gabe for surfacing this.)

I want to draw your attention to the bolded part of the above comment. Doesn’t it make you wonder, what are the “lots of different signals?” While it’s important not to over-analyze every statement by Googlers, this certainly does sound like the related signals would involve some form of cumulative user engagement metrics. However, if it were as simple as improving user engagement, it likely would not take a long time for someone impacted by a Panda penalty to recover — as soon as users started reacting to the site better, the issue would presumably fix itself quickly.

What about CTR?

Larry Kim is passionate about the possibility that Google directly uses CTR as an SEO ranking factor. By the way, do read that article. It’s a great read, as it gives you tons of tips on how to improve your CTR — which is very clearly a good thing regardless of SEO ranking impact. That said, I don’t think Google’s algorithm is as simple as measuring CTR on a search result and moving higher CTR items higher in the SERPs. For one thing, it would be far too easy a signal to the game, and many industries that are well-known for aggressive SEO testing would have pegged this as a ranking factor and already made millions of dollars on this by now. Second, of all, high CTR does not speak to the quality of the page that you’ll land on. It speaks to your approach to title and meta description writing and branding.

We also have the statements by Paul Haahr, a ranking engineer at Google, on how Google works. He gave the linked presentation at SMX West in March 2015. In it, he discusses how Google does use a variety of user engagement metrics in ranking. The upshot of it is that he said they are NOT used as a direct ranking factor, but instead, they are used in periodic quality control checks of other ranking factors that they use.

Here is a summary of what his statements imply:

  1. CTR, and signals like it, are NOT a direct ranking factor.
  2. Signals like content quality and links, and algorithms like Panda, Penguin, and probably hundreds of others are what they use instead (the “Core Signal Set”).
  3. Google runs a number of quality control tests on search quality. These include CTR and other direct measurements of user engagement.
  4. Based on the results of these tests, Google will adjust the Core Signal Set to improve test results.

The reason for this process is that it allows Google to run their quality control tests in a controlled environment where they are not easily subject to gaming of the algorithm, and it makes it far harder for black-hat SEOs to manipulate. So is Larry Kim right? Or Paul Haahr? I don’t know.

Back to John Mueller’s comments for a moment

Looking back on the John Mueller statement I shared above, it strongly implies that there is some cumulative impact over time of generating “lots of different signals that are telling us that this is probably not such a great site.” In other words, I’m guessing that if your site generates a lot of negative signals for a long time, it’s harder to recover, as you need to generate new positive signals for a sustained period of time to make up for the history that you’ve accumulated. Mueller also makes it seem like a graduated scale of some sort, where turning a site around will be “a long-term project where you’ll probably see gradual changes over time.” However, let’s consider for a moment that the signal we are talking about might be linked. Shortly after the aforementioned Office Hours Hangout, on May 11, John Mueller also tweeted out that you can get an unnatural link from a good site and a natural link from a spammy site. Of course, when you think about it, this makes complete sense.

How does this relate to the Office Hours Hangout discussion? I don’t know that it does (well, directly, that is). However, it’s entirely possible that the signals John Mueller speaks about in Office Hours are links on the web. In which case, going through and disavowing your unnatural links would likely dramatically speed up the process of recovery. But is that the case? Then why wouldn’t he have just said that? I don’t know. But we have this seeming genuine comment from Mueller on what to expect in terms of recovery with no easily determined explanation of what signals could be driving it.

We all try to oversimplify how the Google algorithm works

As an industry, we grew up in a world where we could go read one paper, the original PageRank thesis by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, and kind of get the Google algorithm. While the initial launch of Google had already deviated significantly from this paper, we knew that links were a big thing. This made it easy for us to be successful ionGoogle, so much so that you could take a really crappy site and get it to rank high with little effort. Just get tons of links (in the early days, you could simply buy them), and you were all set. But in today’s world, while links still matter a great deal, there are many other factors in play. Google has a vested interest in keeping the algorithms they use vague and unclear, as this is a primary way to fight against spam.

As an industry, we need to change how we think about Google. Yet we seem to remain desperate to make the algorithms simple. “Oh, it’s this one factor that really drives things,” we want to say, but that world is gone forever. This is not a PageRank situation, where we’ll be given a single patent or paper that lays it all out, know that it’s the fundamental basis of Google’s algorithm, and then know quite simply what to do.

The second-largest market cap company on planet Earth has spent nearly two decades improving its ranking algorithm to ensure high-quality search results — and maintaining the algorithm’s integrity requires, in part, that it be too complex for spammers to easily game. That means that there aren’t going to be one or two dominating ranking factors anymore. This is why I keep encouraging marketers to understand Google’s objectives — and to learn to thrive in an environment where the search giant keeps getting closer and closer to meeting those objectives.

We’re also approaching a highly volatile market situation, with the rise of voice search, new devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Homecoming to market, and the impending rise of the personal assistants. This is a disruptive market event, and Google’s position as the number one player in search as we know it may be secure, but search as we know it may no longer be that important an activity. People are going to shift to using voice commands and a centralized personal assistant, and a traditional search will be a minor feature in that world.

What this means is that Google needs its results to be as high-quality as they possibly can make them. Yet they need to keep fighting off spammers at the same time. The result? A dynamic and changing algorithm that continues to improve overall search quality as much as they can. To maintain a stranglehold on that market share, and establish a lead, if at all possible, in the world of voice search and personal assistants.

What does it mean for us?

The simple days of gaming the algorithm are gone. Instead, we have to work on a few core agenda items:

  1. Make our content and site experience as outstanding as we possibly can.
  2. Get ready for the world of voice search and personal assistants.
  3. Plug into new technologies and channel opportunities as they become available.
  4. Promote our products and services in a highly effective manner.

In short, make sure that your products and services are in high demand. The best defense in a rapidly changing marketplace is to make sure that consumers want to buy from you. That way, if some future platform does not provide access to you, your prospective customers will let them know. Notice, though, how this recipe has nothing to do with the algorithms of Google (or any other platform provider). Our world is just no longer that simple anymore.

Chuck Reynolds
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Artificial Intelligence Is Changing SEO: Get Ahead Or Fall Behind

Artificial Intelligence Is Changing SEO: Get Ahead Or Fall Behind


The AI revolution is upon us, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

It seemed like yesterday when things like automated social media posts, blog content, and chatbots were something laughable, not fully able to compete with human intelligence. However, these algorithms have accelerated almost to the point of reaching human logic, making marketers both excited and scared.

On one end, the idea of having our content and customer data be delivered to us in a way that’s way more efficient than ever before is incredibly enticing to content distributors. On the flip side, this is making content providers/writers nervous about whether their jobs are going to become obsolete. In spite of the ongoing debate, certain innovations are going to be here to stay, with SEO being one of the focus on the forefront. As quick as AI has been shifting the world of marketing in general, SEO has been following suit in a big way. Not only are things like keywords, metrics, and targeted ads going to become increasingly automated, but the possibilities of real-time data aggregation solutions are going to change the game for good. And luckily for you, below we’ve listed a few key points on how this will happen.

With AI, Marketing is Already Shifting Directions

Marketers have been salivating over the potential AI could have for years. As we’ve noted before, the opportunities are endless, ranging from programmatic systems for PPC and SEO to streamlining our sales pipeline more efficiently. Yes, AI and marketing are going to be inseparable in the near future, with many CMOs already taking notice. However, even with all these innovations, there’s plenty more on the way regarding how AI will impact SEO.

Automated Content Means Improved Keywords

It’s been predicted that AI will one day take over the content industry. In fact, a lot of this development is already underway, with the Associated Press reportedly deploying algorithms to write over 3,000 articles every quarter. These algorithms have now expanded into the realms of social media as well, with content marketing heavily in the targets.To some businesses, this is a pipedream, as suddenly they’re going to be able to hire a content generator that can spit out articles and posts much quicker than human capabilities. Moreover, algorithmic developments will be able to handle numerous types of articles spanning a variety of industries. When you factor in the potential breadth of these systems, including the obsolete cost of hiring actual writers, and the increased accuracy of keyword inclusion and optimization, the new industry of SEO and AI will be immensely powerful.

While some folks are still going to want a human voice powering or refining their content, these algorithms are going to be able to point out the best keywords to use in real time. Even though this technological development sacrifices human perspective and insight, the return is going to provide content providers with articles that could potentially lead to the top of search results almost every time. The jury is still out on the actual details as to how this type of content will be handled from the first draft all the way through publication, but it is expected that the impact of improved keyword strategy will make a significant difference.

Real Time Data is Going to Be Huge

One of the biggest impacts that AI will have on SEO is the speed that it offers to universal marketing efforts. As we mentioned above, not only will AI be able to aggregate and organize keywords and search terms, but it will additionally be able to pinpoint how to use these terms as well. Imagine being able to run tests on what terms will work best based on location, service, or even timing. Additionally, marketers will also be able to use these algorithms to use predictive models on how the response will turn out. This means that updating automated responses and search terms will occur instantaneously — cycling through which ones will achieve the highest ROI in a matter of seconds. The results of this fast-paced development will likely alter search term strategy and analysis for years to come.

Chuck Reynolds
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

J.P. Morgan Chase invests $2.5 million in 4 Detroit small business development groups

J.P. Morgan Chase invests $2.5 million in 4 Detroit small business development groups

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is committing more than $2.5 million

to four Detroit-based small business development organizations, the New York-based global financial services firm announced Monday morning. The new grants, part of the $150 million commitment J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) has made to the city's economic recovery, will support TechTown, Southwest Detroit Business Association, Detroit Economic Growth Corp, and Eastern Market Corp.

The grants aim to help strengthen entrepreneurship in city neighborhoods and boost economic growth across Detroit, the company said. "Over the past three years, the firm's investment in Detroit has helped 1,800 small businesses receive technical assistance and provided loan and grant capital directly to 100 small businesses, including 44 entrepreneurs of color who could not get access to traditional financing," J.P. Morgan said in a news release. "Seven hundred jobs were also created or maintained as a result of this commitment."

The J.P. Morgan Chase Institute showed that 58 percent of consumer spending took place at small businesses within Detroit. Additionally, there are approximately 32,000 minority-owned small businesses in Detroit, according to the U.S. Census, which ranks Detroit as the fourth largest U.S. city for the number of minority-owned businesses. "Detroit's flourishing small business community is one of the most important drivers of an inclusive economy for the city," Janis Bowdler, head of Small Business Initiatives, J.P. Morgan Chase, said in the release. "… The success of the city's small businesses is driving neighborhood renaissance and creating vibrant urban corridors and local jobs."

The new small business investments are:

  • TechTown ($1.2 million):
    The grant is to support Retail Boot Camp, an eight-week program that prepares entrepreneurs to open brick-and-mortar retail locations in key Detroit commercial corridors, and SWOT City, a small business support program to help brick-and-mortar enterprises in six of Detroit's target neighborhoods for redevelopment launch, stabilize and grow.
  • Detroit Economic Growth Corp. ($725,000):
    To support economic development programs addressing three areas of need: foreign direct investment attraction, the Motor City Match program and the formation of an African-American business leadership council.
  • Eastern Market Corp. ($500,000):
    The investment will focus on expanding food entrepreneurship programs, enhancing expansion opportunities for Detroit food businesses, supporting equitable community development of the Eastern Market District and helping to provide EMC with sufficient organizational capacity to execute these programs.
  • Southwest Detroit Business Association ($110,000):
    This program aims to train and mentor small business owners to strengthen and establish their presence in Southwest Detroit. It offers bilingual 1-on-1 mentorship and food safety/business training/certifications, small business technical assistance and marketing support as well as direct assistance with site plan reviews, permitting and zoning and location challenges, among other things.

Earlier this month, J.P. Morgan Chase announced a $50 million increase in the $100 million investment it committed to economic development and neighborhood stabilization in Detroit during the depths of the city's historic bankruptcy three years ago. Half of the $150 million will be grants and the other half is going to toward a variety of loan funds for small business growth, mixed-use real estate development and residential housing projects, said Peter Scher, head of corporate responsibility for J.P. Morgan Chase.

Chuck Reynolds
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.


Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Indiana Small Business Development Center helps launch novice entrepreneurs

Indiana Small Business Development Center helps launch novice entrepreneurs

Indiana Small Business Development Center helps launch novice entrepreneurs

INDIANAPOLIS (Statehouse File) —
Growing up in a family of business owners from Seattle, it was inevitable that Adam Perry would go on to do the same.Around 2010, Perry decided to get into the food truck industry. Taco Lassi, which specialized in IndianIndian-inspired, was one of 12 food trucks that were running when the city hosted the Super Bowl. Taco Lassi isn’t in business anymore but that introduction into the food industry inspired Perry to continue in the business.Now, he owns a quaint doughnut shop called General American Donut Co., which opened its doors in July 2014 just south of downtown across from Eli Lilly.

“We were going up to Chicago quite a bit, and we became a fan of the doughnut scene up there,” Perry said. “I always remembered lines around the block and people really into the craft doughnut thing, and Indiana didn't have a craft doughnut shop.” Like many entrepreneurs, starting out was a challenge. Perry didn't know how much went into making doughnuts from scratch or the management side of running a business. “We literally just jumped into it not knowing how to make doughnuts,” Perry said. After roughly six months of developing the right doughnut recipe and then another year and a half learning how to be consistent, Perry finally felt comfortable with the baking process.

“If you want to do it and you’re passionate about something, no matter what time it is, you just do it,” Perry said. “Because there’s never going to be a perfect time, and there’s always going to be a risk.”As Adam Perry was developing his doughnut business, he later realized that he would run into some learning curves. He and his wife have now learned to overcome the challenges of developing their product. (TheStatehouseFile.com Photo/Nicole Hernandez) As Perry was developing his doughnut business, he later realized that he had a learning curve. He and his wife worked hard to overcome the challenges they faced, such as developing their product, making it from scratch, hiring and managing their employees, and keeping a handle on their finances.

This is where the Indiana Small Business Development Center comes in. Founded in 1985, the center is a resource for small business owners as well as future small business owners who may be hesitant to take that first step because of the risk. They help new business owners create a business plan, secure funding, understand their business demographics, match with banks, and develop a strategic plan – the kind of resources that would have helped Perry had he known of the organization. In addition, the center offers other specific resources to help minorities and veterans. All services are free.

The Indiana Small Business Development Center’s goal is to have businesses return to them for help and engage with long-term clients as well as finding new businesses to help. The development center is also partnered with other consulting organizations in the state to help business owners connect with the people and resources to meet their individual needs. In 2016 alone, 248 businesses got their start in Indiana and created 949 new jobs, which added almost $81 million to the economy, according to the development center. Troy Phelps, associate state director for the Indiana Small Business Development Center, said the number of annual business startups has remained consistent over the last five years.

"The fact that Indiana is able to keep that fairly consistent, I think, speaks to the things that Indiana has in place," Phelps said. "You look at the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative, and we’ve got the $1 billion Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative that is specifically designed to make more of these programs available to small businesses. And that’s spread over the next 10 years." The Regional Cities Initiative, led by then-Gov. Mike Pence in 2015, was created to help communities across the state with strategic regional development plans. Currently, Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to invest $1 billion in innovation and entrepreneurship in Indiana will focus on collaboration and strategic partnerships.

What also makes the center so beneficial to would-be business owners is that the organization has a very close relationship with the state government. General American Donut Co. was inspired by the craft doughnut scene in Chicago. (TheStatehouseFile.com Photo/Nicole Hernandez) “In a nutshell, we are taxpayer money at work,” Phelps said.  The organization gets half of its funding from the federal government’s Small Business Administration. The other half is funded by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and a local host match. These local host matches are typically universities or local chambers of commencing.

Freedom Healthworks, a business partner that helps physicians start their own practices, launched in 2014 and two years later connected with Indiana Small Business Development Center. By reaching out to the center, which also worked closely with Indiana Economic Development Corporation, Freedom Healthworks received performance incentives, grants for training programs and funding to expand beyond its team of six employees. It also received help with start-up strategies and processes to run the business. “Having these types of incentives out there definitely spurs us to go out there and hit those milestones,” Chris Habig, co-founder of Freedom Healthworks, said. “The training side of it opens up a lot of doors that we just didn't have the cash or resources to be able go pursue.”

Habig credits the Indiana Small Business Development Center with connecting him to successful business owners who want to help others launch their own companies. “It doesn't sound like much, but being able to pick up a phone and call somebody who has achieved in the business world is hugely valuable,” Habig said. “And that is one of the great things about being in Indianapolis –

People are very giving of their time to try to help you out.”

Although many local businesses around the city have their initial challenges, for Perry, owning his own business is just what he felt he was meant to do after growing up in a family of small business entrepreneurs, and his General American Donut Co. is holding its own. "We were lucky to grow up and see that it is possible, and normal people do it all the time,” Perry said. “We didn't question it; we just did it. We saw how hard they worked, and you realize that when you want something, it’s not going to be a nine-to-five job.”

Chuck Reynolds
Please click either Link to Learn more about – Inbound Marketing.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Coinbase Hopes For Cryptocurrency’s ‘Netscape Moment’ With New App, Token

Coinbase Hopes For Cryptocurrency's 'Netscape Moment' With New App, Token

“Digital currency right now is having its Netscape moment” declared Coinbase chief executive Brian Armstrong at the Ethereal Summit, in Brooklyn, in a presentation about the cryptocurrency company’s most recent product, Token, “a messaging app with money baked in.” Speaking at the Ethereum-focused day-long conference featuring players in the decentralized web, Armstrong said that the Ethereum-based Token, in developer preview and unveiled a month ago, has four main features that show off the potential for innovation in blockchain-based products. First, it enables payments “in every country in the world from day 1,” he said. Plus, the payments are international. The users themselves, as opposed to financial institutions, are in control of the money they put in it. And the platform has its own reputation system, which Armstrong compared to a FICO score, “so you know who and which applications and people you can trust.”

Finally, Token can be used to make payments to apps. For instance, a Mechanical Turk-type app could enable users to do discrete tasks for small payments, but the workers could then be paid in actual money instead of in Amazon gift cards, which is how non-U.S. workers on Mechanical Turk are paid. Armstrong also envisions that Token, which is based on Ethereum, will host apps ranging from currency exchanges to marketplaces, remittance services to lenders,

advice services to cell phone top up providers.

Armstrong’s bold comparison of Token to Netscape,

the first widely popular web browser indicates the company’s hope that Token gains widespread consumer adoption. To begin, Coinbase, which so far has offered its services in developed countries such as the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, and Singapore, plans to promote Token in the developing world. Later this year, Armstrong will travel to Nigeria to foster development on the platform.

The comparison to Netscape also suggests Armstrong’s hope that Token ushers in a new stage of evolution in the industry, to a phase in which more consumers interact with blockchains and cryptocurrency but are not necessarily aware that they are doing so. Coinbase’s timing has historically been right. The startup began attracting a following in 2012 in what was then the tiny bitcoin community for making it safe and simple to buy bitcoin with your bank account. In 2015, responding to growing institutional interest in cryptocurrency, it launched Coinbase Exchange since renamed Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX), for professional traders.

Now the company is trying to help the industry mature beyond these basic building blocks of a blockchain-based world to have more consumer-facing offerings. In its development of Token, the company created a new protocol called Simple Open Financial Application that makes it easier for developers to build apps for a platform such as Token. In the past, a well-known bitcoin developer who attempted to build a simple bitcoin app spent eight months to get it to work, whereas a developer using SOFA got an app up and running in eight hours. “If it’s that much easier to build these applications, we’re going to see several orders of magnitude more applications being created,” he said, comparing SOFA to the development of simple web programming languages like html and Javascript. He then invited developers to participate in a hackathon beginning June 3 to build applications for Token.

Because Token is more like a web browser than an app store, Armstrong says Coinbase will not be vetting apps that list on Token, though it will be choosing which ones to feature. When asked how the company would deal with apps that are, say, stealing people’s money, he compared it to how the web browser Google Chrome will warn a user if it thinks a site they’re trying to visit has malware or otherwise looks suspicious. “I’m not saying we have zero responsibility,” he told Forbes, adding that Token is not like an app store. “We want to educate users about what they’re using, and if they’re going to do something dangerous, make sure they really know what they’re doing.”

The company, which has raised $110 million from investors incumbents such as the New York Stock Exchange, USAA and BBVA, does not currently have plans to make money from Token though Armstrong said it could lend itself to some possible business models down the line, such as charging for pro features or for usage above a certain number of transactions a month. In his presentation, referring to a popular Chinese messaging app, he called Token “a WeChat for the other 180 countries in the world” and said that it would be like putting a bank in the pockets of every person in the world, which, according to McKinsey, said that financial services on mobile phones could add $3.7 trillion to the GDP of emerging economies within a decade. It's an ambitious goal, but a fitting one for a company whose mission is to "create an open financial system for the world."

Chuck Reynolds
Please click either Link to Learn more about TCC-Bitcoin.

Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member

Be As You Are ….