Easy ways to measure your marketing ROI

11:31AM | Wednesday, 12 November

There are two critical questions you need to ask when embarking on a new marketing campaign: 1. What results are you expecting from marketing? 2. How will you measure marketing effectiveness?   When we’re going through this process with clients at Marketing Angels, we then break question one down into fundamentals:   What’s the total number of sales you need? What value do they need to be? To achieve that many sales based on your conversion rate, how many leads do you need to generate?   We then work out how marketing is measured and if we need to implement new measurement tools and reporting processes.   So often these two aspects of marketing have not been thought through previously or implemented in the businesses we work with.   There are some easy ways to measure your return on investment on marketing and subsequently enhance your marketing effectiveness. Tracking leads and sales   Leads and sales are usually in the short term what most businesses owners and marketers are measuring their marketing effectiveness on. These tools provide important data to help maximise ROI on any marketing campaigns.   Google Analytics   Implementing Google Analytics on your site is a must and then subsequently analysing your reports at least monthly. Makes sure your Google Analytics account is set up to measure not just where your traffic is coming from but also measuring which tracking converts through setting up goals and conversion tracking.   Google call tracking   Google has just made website call conversions available to Australian AdWords customers. So if you are buying pay per click advertising through Google, you can now identify and measure calls to your business up to 90 days after a visitor has clicked on a Google ad and arrived at your website.   Other call tracking and call recording services   If you are not using Google AdWords it is still possible to implement call tracking by acquiring unique phone numbers to be used on different marketing activity. You can also implement call recording so that you can judge how calls are handled and the quality of leads. The subsequent data that results can help you optimise your marketing activity, and also your conversion rates through better call handling. Many IP telephony systems have these functions built in or you can work with specific call tracking service companies.   Unique URLs   Use unique URLs wherever possible. Unique URLs work best as a specific call to action on online ads. If using them to measure offline activity (e.g. print, TV, radio or outdoor) advertising, you might be better off creating a micro-site relating to your specific campaign or promotion e.g. – so that it’s easy for any punters responding to your ad to remember. Engagement and awareness   Before you can create a sale or generate a lead, you need prospects to be aware of you and increasingly engaging with your brand in other ways. Brand awareness and engagement are important indicators of marketing effectiveness that leads to sales in both the short and the long term.   Email marketing measurement   Measure number of opens, reads, forwards or social shares to your email marketing. If you don’t use an email marketing platform that allows you to measure this activity then it’s important you review your email marketing platform. Personally I’m a big fan of MailChimp predominantly because of their excellent measurement tools.   Social media following   If you are using social media then you should also be measuring your follower growth. A growing following means growing brand awareness.   Stats available on age, sex, location and seniority of followers will show you who your brand is resonating most strongly with and subsequently help you create offers and content to suit or target your any ads to attract the followers you want.   Social media clicks, shares and comments   Tracking engagement with your content to help you devise content that is likely to grow your brand through social shares and interaction is critical.  Content is expensive and time consuming to create so you want to make sure it is working for you. Social media tools like Hootsuite and others can help you combine your engagement scores into a useful dashboard. The final piece of the puzzle   Often businesses have many of these measurement tools in place but no one is responsible for presenting the results in a meaningful way, suggesting changes to marketing and then enacting those changes.   Make sure you have someone internal or external who “owns” marketing and is accountable for results and you’ll have a marketing model that works and delivers real return for your investment.   Since starting her outsourced national marketing consultancy Marketing Angels in 2000, Michelle Gamble has helped hundreds of SMEs get smarter marketing. Michelle helps businesses find more effective ways to grow their brands and businesses.   This article was originally published on SmartCompany.

We need to put high-growth tech companies on the G20 agenda

11:49PM | Tuesday, 11 November

The world was a very different place in December 1999 when the first G20 met in Berlin. Steve Jobs had just taken back the reins at Apple, but Facebook, Google, Twitter and the dot-com bust were figments of imagination. When government and central banking leaders meet in Brisbane this week, they will have a very different set of concerns, as well as a different set of levers to achieve the goal of “stable and sustainable world growth that benefits all".   The path of least resistance is to make small adjustments in an effort to re-balance and re-ignite growth. Instead, they should be considering how to stimulate and harness the power of digital disruption to create companies that can grow fast and create jobs we can not even imagine.   The continued growth of the start-up culture and the “overnight” success of new businesses such as Uber, AirBnb and Dropbox demonstrate the economies of tomorrow are being shaped by companies which have became global players overnight. Rather than focusing on a few adjustments to re-stabilise the world’s economy, the G20 leaders need to understand the impact of digital disruptions on nations and industries. All will be impacted; none will be spared.   Deloitte Digital’s latest report, “Harnessing the bang”, identifies some of the impacts of this “digital disruption” to existing companies. It notes that 13 industries comprising 65% of the Australian economy are facing significant disruption by 2017. Google, for example, has revolutionised advertising, Amazon has re-invented the book publishing industry, streaming services like Netflix have changed the movie and entertainment sector, and internet banking has changed financial services.   It’s clear this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just one facing Australia. Digital disruption belongs on the G20 agenda.   Threat or opportunity?   As ancient Chinese wisdom says, every threat contains the seeds of opportunity. The democratisation of markets brought about by the rise of technology represents boundless opportunities for companies that are innovative.   Henry Ford heard people say they wanted to travel faster, but instead of breeding a faster horse, he used new technology to create a motorised vehicle – and a manufacturing industry no one had imagined. Automobiles disrupted traditional modes of transportation and required workers to have new manufacturing skills. New companies were born and new hard infrastructure required: roads, bridges.   The same is happening with digital technology. The digital products and services require new skills, will generate new companies and need a different kind of infrastructure to support them (broadband internet, global paths to market, venture funding etc.)   Australia has some great start-up success stories: Atlassian provides software to the software makers all over the world, and Canva is reaching 1,000,000 customers. Both are carving a global path to success in their particular industries.   The G20 Global Café in Brisbane will showcase several more companies that are digital disruptors of traditional industries, are already going global and have the potential to grow big.   Some are concerned that tech companies don’t create jobs – they underestimate the impact that tech start-ups have on wealth and job creation. The IPOs of Google, Facebook and Twitter together created nearly 4,000 millionaires.   As for job growth, high-tech companies create a disproportionate share of high-value jobs. Between 2002 and 2008, for example, 6% of UK businesses with the highest growth rates created 50% of the new jobs. Professor Enrico Moretti, an economics professor at UC Berkeley, notes that for every job a tech company creates, five new jobs are created in other sectors – a multiplier effect three times higher than for extractive or traditional manufacturing industries.   The focus should be start up, then grow up   So it’s pretty simple: entrepreneurs whose businesses use digital technology to develop or deliver products and services that customers need and want will grow the fastest, create the most jobs and have the highest probability of success. This in turn has numerous economic benefits for countries that encourage and foster an entrepreneurial mindset and a high-tech-friendly environment.   Smart governments that have already figured this out are beginning to provide resources and support their start-up ecosystems. From science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and entrepreneurial education, through to direct government funding at the venture capital stage, they are placing a premium on developing more high-growth technology companies, teaching CEOs how to start and grow companies, and removing the barriers to growth.   So what does Australia, in particular, need to do to create the environment in which our digital disruptors can quickly become high-growth, global players? It’s pretty simple:   Encourage more people to start companies and make jobs, not just take a job. Teach people the entrepreneurial mindset and support those who see opportunities and want to start and grow companies. Provide more funding for research and education, especially in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Revamp systems that support the commercialisation of research with the goal of developing more technology companies. Support the development of an ecosystem that provides entrepreneurs with what they need to grow companies: access to knowledge, talent, money and space. Have a workforce ready and able to work in companies that make widespread use of technology. Help existing businesses adapt to the world of digital disruption.   The Australian government is beginning to understand that the future must include high-growth technology companies, as well as mining, gas and agriculture. It is beginning to engage with bodies such as StartupAUS (of which I am a board member). We are hopeful that the Department of Industry’s Entrepreneurs Infrastructure Program and additional programs will spur the development of more venture capital and more disruptive technology companies in Australia.   The G20 countries need to understand the power of digital disruption and develop economic and financial policies that actually capitalise on that disruption. Creative destruction of old industries is the norm; the internet is an accelerant to the pace of disruption. Innovation, digital disruption and entrepreneurship are not passing fads – they are the solution to the economic problems we are experiencing. Countries that understand this and develop polices and programs to support it will benefit the whole world.   This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Photo: Peter Dasilva/EPA/AAP   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Despite Darknet drug market arrests and seizures, can they be stopped?

11:47AM | Tuesday, 11 November

In an operation involving 17 countries, law enforcement agencies arrested 17 people believed to be involved with Darknet markets. The operation, code named “Onymous”, first came to light with the announcement by the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations of the arrest of Blake Benthall (also known as “Defcon”) the operator of Silk Road 2.0. This arrest was followed up with news that a number of other Darknet sites had been seized. These sites dealt with the sale of drugs, firearms, stolen credit cards and money laundering.   In addition to the arrests in the US and Europe, US $1 million of Bitcoin was recovered, along with 180,000 Euro, gold, silver and drugs. The FBI also claimed that 27 sites with 400+ addresses pointing to those sites, have been siezed. Is Tor all you need? The actions of these law enforcement agencies mark a turning point in the battle against Darknet markets, which up until last week, seemed to be stacked in favour of the Darknet merchants. Using the anonymising and encrypting software Tor , Darknet users had become complacent about their ability to operate without threat of discovery or arrest. Even now,many in that community still hold that the law enforcement organisations succeeded not because of any particular sophistication in their detection, but because those arrested slipped up, and became lax with their “operations security” , or “opsec”. The Darknet law enforcer’s investigative toolkit Although this may be a factor in how certain people were arrested, it underestimates the range of approaches that law enforcement, especially with collaboration amongst different countries, have to bring to bear against criminals in the Darknet.   In their arsenal, law enforcement in the US and elsewhere may have found a way to break the anonymity of Tor and through this trace people’s use of sites back to their computers. There is of course no evidence that this is the case but it is theoretically possible, and attacks on the Tor network have previously been discovered.   More likely however is that law enforcement agencies used a more traditional approaches to track down the administrators of the Darknet markets. Darknet system administrators talk too much Infiltration of sites by undercover agents has been a tried-and-tested technique used by law enforcement for some time. Then, once arrests are made, it seems that most cyber-criminals are only too happy to inform on others in exchange for leniency in sentencing. Finally, there is the simple technique of participating in discussion forums and waiting for people to reveal too much information about themselves, something that a great deal of those arrested seemed to have been only too willing to do.   This last point is probably one of the more surprising ways of getting information about the “kingpins”behind the sites. One commenter on the discussion site Reddit, made the observation “I can’t believe how much information he gave about himself online” in referrence to Ross Ulbricht, the administrator of the original Silk Road who was arrested in 2013. It seems that Benthall, or Defcon, administrator of Silk Road 2.0 was little different. When Darknet criminals come up for air A significant weakness that criminals on the Darknet face in protecting their anonymity comes when they have to actually deal with the “real world”. This happens when they have to buy services like server hosting, deal with their Internet service provider and exchange Bitcoin for a currency they can actually use elsewhere. For drug vendors, there is the actual task of buying and shipping physical objects around the world which again presents a time when they reveal themselves.   It is at these points that Darknet criminals are at their most vulnerable and most likely to make an error giving law enforcement a chance of catching up with them. The Darknet market drivers Despite the success of operation Onymous, Darknet markets are still around and will continue to grow to meet an obvious and growing demand. Despite these services being on the so-called Dark Web, finding them is as simple as using Google and downloading the software package Tor. Darknet markets have driven easier access to cheaper and more reliable delivery of drugs to a global audience. The demand for these services is likely to be unaffected by the arrests because for every market that is taken down, someone will see the opportunity to take their place.   Already, markets like Evolution will have taken the clients and sellers from Silk Road 2.0 and other seized sites. Evolution in particular has become much more security conscious, implementing a range of techniques to frustrate law enforcement agencies' attempts to shut them down.   The drivers for these markets is the enormous amounts of money behind what is a simple business proposition. Silk Road 2.0 drove US $8 million in monthly sales. Assuming other sites were comparable, this represented an annual turnover of US $3 billion for all of the sites that were in operation before the bust. Coincidentally, this is roughly the same amount as annual trading volume of Bitcoin in US dollars, showing how much of Bitcoin’s current use is tied to the drug trade.   Europol chief, Troels Oerting has claimed that sites like Evolution are next in line for closure. Saying that it was only a matter of time before they got to them. Only time will tell if this turns out to be the case.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.   This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

THE NEWS WRAP: Payments provider BlueSnap raises $US50 million in latest funding round

11:23PM | Wednesday, 5 November

Global payment services provider BlueSnap has raised $US50 million ($A58 million) in growth financing, TechCrunch reports.   BlueSnap’s technology helps online companies maximise customer acquisition and retention through its global payment gateway and checkout pages.   The startup has been growing rapidly on the back of new technologies for buying and new types of shopping, which is driving the adoption of processing technologies. Stainless steel Apple Watch reportedly priced at $500, Gold version $4000+ French website is reporting that pricing for the stainless steel Apple Watch may start at $US500, while Gold Apple Watches will be available for between $US4000 and $US5000.   As MacRumors points out, the website has been a reliable source of information in the past, most recently reporting the dimensions of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus pre-launch. Google Maps revamped Google Maps for iOS and Android has been revamped with new features including Material Design, restaurant booking through OpenTable, and Uber ride estimates. Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 100.57 to 17,484.41. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US86 cents.

Meet the startup that could help promote your app

11:10PM | Wednesday, 5 November

When entrepreneur Stuart Hall wanted a way to track reviews for his app Discovr, he went and built one himself.   When he finished up at Discovr late last year, the track reviewing project became his new startup, Appbot.   Over 40,000 apps are using Appbot to track Google Play and Appstore reviews, rankings and keywords for all countries, with a daily email. AppbotX is the premium version of the app, which allows developers to communicate with their users, sending push notifications when problems arise, increasing user satisfaction, and in turn, the amount of positive reviews.   Eighteen months ago, Appbot co-founder Hall wanted to test some of the lessons he’d learned from developing Discovr, so he built a test app, 7 Minute Workout, in the fitness industry, a sector he knew nothing about. That app has grown to over 2.2 million downloads, and Hall says once he integrated Appbot revenue grew by 200%.   Earlier this year, Claire McGregor joined Appbot as co-founder and helped develop the startup’s monetization plan, which launched three months ago.   “The key challenge was identifying the specific features or elements of the product that our users attach a lot of value,” she says.   “It’s really a stats game to work out which users get value from which parts.”   After some consideration they settled on a freemium model, offering Appbot’s basic review tracking service for free, while Appbot X’s communication system is offered as part of a tiered subscription. It’s free for apps with less than five thousand API requests per month, and after that it’s $8 per month plus an additional $1 per month for every additional 100,000 requests.   McGregor says those subscriptions are tailored to cater for the different levels of enterprise, and while she won’t disclose how many of the 40,000 apps using Appbot are using the subscription feature, they’re happy with the results so far.   “From my point of view we’re going extremely well,” she says.   “We’ve got a very low touch point with paying customers, despite that, we’ve got a very strong early conversion rate and had no churn so far.   “So that’s really awesome, and despite introducing a paid element to the service, the sign-up rates aren’t slowing up at all.   “Often you find after charging people, the level of interest has dropped, but we haven’t really found that at all. “   The startup has been bootstrapped up until recently, when Hall says it received a small seed investment.   “All our growth so far has been organic, so we’re just starting to try out some advertising and some paid means of engaging users,” he says.   Stuart Hall's 5 things to think about when developing an app   1. The hard work starts after you've made the app.   2. Like any business, consider the market for your app really carefully.   3. Great reviews are really important.   4. Communicate with your users.   5. Just do it! Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Google now accepting third-party apps for Android TV via Google Play

11:44AM | Tuesday, 4 November

Google has opened up its Android TV streaming video platform to third-party app developers through its Google Play app store, as it begins shipping its Nexus Player device to selected markets.   Android TV apps, as with other Google Play apps, are submitted through the Developer Console.   However, in a post on its official Android developer blog, Google’s Android TV developer advocates Tarjei Vassbotn and Dan Galpin warn the tech giant will maintain high standards for apps on the platform.   “Even if you have already uploaded your app to the Google Play Developer Console, you will need to add TV graphics and screenshots, and opt-in to distribution on TV on the Pricing & Distribution page,” Vassbotn and Galpin say.   Google has also published detailed guidelines for app developers on creating TV quality apps, including details such as navigation, controller layout, advertising, web content, games and media playback for Android TV apps.   For example, the company insists TV apps are to be primarily accessed through the use a remote control, five-way direction pad or game controller rather than a touch interface, and developers need to include this information in their app manifest.   This story originally appeared on SmartCompany.

Five steps for a killer presentation

11:14AM | Tuesday, 4 November

So you’ve been asked to make a presentation and the thought alone is nearly enough to get your blood pressure soaring. We’ve all been there. Presentations can be daunting and nerve wracking.   Whenever it comes to public speaking, we tend to focus in on the negatives. What if I lose my way and forget what I’m saying? What if I embarrass myself? What if people find my presentation boring?!   These thoughts plague even the most experienced presenters. But if you set enough time aside for preparation and planning, and really get to know your material, you’ll be well on your way to turning this around and producing a killer presentation. With enough practice, you’ll never fear the podium again. Here’s five simple steps to get you started.   1. Purpose   One of the hardest things about giving a presentation can be just figuring out where to start. It’s easy to spend hours tossing up which image to open with or waste hours procrastinating. A simple step to figure out where to start is to first define the purpose behind your presentation. Make sure that your first point of call is setting out the reason for presenting that topic and the outcome you aim to achieve. If the purpose seems unclear or you’re unable to narrow down one key motive, ask yourself what would or wouldn’t happen if you didn’t give the presentation. Once you have the purpose down pat, you will find it a lot easier to structure your main ideas, and the final product will flow better. Think deep, reflect and spend as much time as you need to get really clear on this.   2. Planning   Unstructured and poorly prepared presentations are confusing and do nothing more than cause audiences to quickly zone out. Grab a blank piece of paper and a pen and start to map out your ideas. Using a mind map, start to break down your presentation into 3-5 key groups and then order your content in these groups.   This will ensure that your content flows and makes sense at the big picture level. Rather than skipping forward to create your visual aid, spend time planning in this way. It will also help you generate ideas to create powerful content and ensure that you haven’t forgotten to include any important points.   Preparing proof points that substantiate your ideas will add credibility and grab your audience’s attention. People hold onto genuine, bold facts and figures and are likely to remember them in the future. Regardless of how interesting or impressive your ideas are, if you don’t provide material to support them, they are likely to get lost along the way – especially if your presentation is anything longer than about half an hour. Consider integrating various types of proof points, whether these are statistics, infographics or case studies that illustrate your point.   3. Engagement   The opening of a presentation is the opportunity to capture your audience’s attention and give them a reason to engage with your ideas. All too often, presenters take the easy way out and open with an agenda and then an ‘about us’ slide. This approach is not only boring, it’s also a little rude. It’s the equivalent of meeting someone for the first time and spending the first five minutes entirely talking about yourself. Instead, try opening your presentation by defining the problem your product or service solves, provide examples of where it has been successful, and then quantify the outcome it delivers – all in 60 seconds. Test out this approach in your next presentation and watch the difference it makes on your audience. Most presenters struggle to keep an audience engaged for longer than half an hour. Don’t wait for a question slide at the end of this. Take time out to prepare regular, engaging interactions and discussions points to capture your audience's attention.   4. Visuals   Incorporating visual aids into your presentation is the most effective way to make your message memorable. According to developmental molecular biologist Dr John Medina in his book Brain Rules, we are incredible at remembering images. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll only remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%. But make sure to use your visuals wisely – they should be used to create a stronger presentation, not be the presentation.   Only use relevant images that support your ideas and act as proof points. Using too many visuals or unrelated ones will only distract your audience and deter their attention from your ideas. Remember, the aim of including visual aids is to have tools on hand that support you as a presenter, rather than being the focal point of your presentation. So make sure your visuals on the screen or board behind you are in sync with your verbal ideas – not the actual speaking notes you’re talking from.   Be creative in your choice of visuals and move away from the stale stock Google images. Sources I recommend include:   Create awesome layouts and designs on: Beautiful free high res images from: Custom icon creation from: Create PDF documents from website with:   5. Practice   Many people spend too much time writing their presentation and don’t save any time for practice and refinement. Practising a presentation may seem unnecessary but it’s a crucial element of a strong delivery. Many errors or improvements are only picked up once a presentation is spoken out loud. And you will feel far more confident and natural during your presentation if you have already run through it.   When practising, it’s important to deliver the presentation exactly the way you would on the day. People often do a last minute run through by reading off the computer screen or off a piece of paper. But when it comes to the actual presentation, they aren’t prepared to speak in front of a large group of people and don’t project their voice or use their body language properly. When practising, stand on the other side of the room from your computer and deliver your speech as though there is an audience in front of you. Use a wireless clicker to practice referring to your presentation whilst addressing your audience.   Whether in the office, in the classroom, or otherwise, people are giving you their time. So pay them respect and put in the appropriate time and planning to make sure your presentation effectively conveys your message, and does so in the most engaging way possible. Put in the effort to follow these five simple rules and in no time you’ll be presenting like a pro.   Kris Flegg an Official Accredited Prezi expert and with his team has spent the last four years helping individuals and corporations such deliver visually pleasing and highly effective presentations.

THE NEWS WRAP: Apple executive signals US spring for Watch launch

11:39PM | Monday, 3 November

The Apple Watch launch is scheduled to arrive later than originally anticipated, according to Apple’s senior vice president of retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts.   Ahrendts told retail employees in a video message the launch is scheduled for the US spring, according to 9to5mac.   “We’re going into the holidays, we’ll go into Chinese New Year, and then we’ve got a new watch launch coming in the spring,” she says in the video.   Spring begins on March 20 in the US and lasts until June. Apple has consistently said the Apple Watch will ship in early 2015.   Publicis buys Sapient for $3.7 billion Publicis Groupe SA has agreed to purchase Sapient Corp for $US3.7 billion ($A4.26 billion), pushing the world’s third-largest advertising company deeper into digital offerings and the United States, Bloomberg reports.   The French company is moving on from a failed $35 billion merger with Omnicom, which was abandoned after executives clashed about how to run the combined entity.   Google updates Calendar app   Google has updated Google Calendar app, features include automatic event creation from emails, and a new Schedule View that includes photos and maps of the places its users are going.   The new Google Calendar works on all Android 4.1+ devices.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 24.28 to 17,366.24. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US87 cents.

Seven keys to success in SEO in 2014

10:21AM | Thursday, 30 October

SEO may seem like a complex concept, but it’s actually pretty simple. Just think of Google as a concierge whose job is to connect its users with what they are looking for. It has to assess the user’s intent and list the results it feels will be most helpful.   SEO is the process of making your website the most helpful to the user and sending Google these signals. So how do you send Google the signals? The first step is to make your website the most helpful in your niche! This is a critical step that is often overlooked. Often businesses want to ‘do’ SEO without changing their online strategy or considering the user experience. Or in other words, take an ordinary website and make it miraculously rank well in Google.   But there is more to it than that. Along with improving the website and user experience, you need to communicate that to Google and this comes in the form of relevant links to the website, quality site architecture and fresh content.   What does this mean for SEO in 2014 and beyond? Well, with Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update at the start of this year the trend is now towards natural language search. These keys will help your site to rank well in search results.   1. Natural language – diversify keywords Figure 1: image source from   Google removed exact-match searches in its Keyword Planner in its recent update for the tool, and it is a big problem for us SEOs because it is more difficult to calculate the performance of a certain keyword, making it harder to identify which keywords we need to focus on.   Google is trying to drive us towards using keyword themes rather than exact-matched keywords. Google doesn’t want us to put the stress on exact-match keywords too much as it also leads to irrelevance when you target a certain keyword even if the relevance is unclear, just because it has a significant volume of searches.   A survey conducted by Kelton Research shows that 65.4% of adult Americans spend more than two hours online searching for information on specific topics, with 72.3% experiencing search engine fatigue when searching websites. However, when the study was conducted SEO focused on exact keyword searches.   Google is trying to take its keyword searching to the next level, by improving it to better understand natural language queries. This is also likely to solve the “search engine fatigue” problem caused by the implementation of the Hummingbird update.   According to Danny Sullivan in his post, “FAQ: All About the New Google ‘Hummingbird’ Algorithm”, Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query – the whole sentence or conversation or meaning – is taken into account, rather than particular words. This means that pages that match the meaning do better, rather than pages with matching keywords.   Key takeaways:   Use natural language in keyword targeting Target keyword themes, not just specific keywords Use Google’s suggestions for what people are searching for Avoid slapping exact match keywords together, if they don’t read well Try predicting the intent of the searcher when judging a keyword’s importance 2. Use links more cautiously – but still use them Figure 2   A few years ago, building links for the sake of it worked very well – I tried it too, but moved on from that practice out of necessity. In years past even a low-quality website could outrank better ones through building links using the targeted keywords and spam link building tactics.   Now more than ever Google is guarding its search results, trying to ensure the most relevant and high-quality results possible.   With that being said, Google has implemented the Penguin algorithm to help it fight spam by penalising websites that were over-optimised for certain keywords, and websites who practice buying links that passed link juice.   Key points to optimise your website better for Penguin:   Avoid using link building software that creates content for you and posts it everywhere Avoid participating in link networks Diversify link sources Build links from trusted websites Aim to build links (relationships) to website owners/webmasters (it may result in higher quality links in the future) Aim to create value. Otherwise, don’t do it. 3. Quality content is king Figure 3: Image sourced from    Quality content has always been king, and writing content just for the sake of it is futile. If you use your valuable time to create content without having a goal or knowing your audience, chances are it will get you nowhere.   When creating content, you have to consider your audience, what matters to them, and if the content is good enough for them to share with people they know.   Writing content for SEO is tied to content marketing, as it needs to perform well, by giving valuable and relevant information. As the Content Marketing Institute says: Figure 4: Source from Content Marketing Institute   When you don’t think about your audience when creating an article, it’s likely that it won’t matter to them and they won’t share it. This just wastes your time without giving back something in return.   How do you know when your content matters to your audience?   It gains editorial links It gets shared Visitors are likely to stay on page to read the entire content and post their comments Increase in newsletter subscriptions   You can track the performance of your pages/contents through tracking software, with Google Analytics the tool most commonly used. Always remember to track, analyse, reassess, and tweak if necessary.   Writing content without prioritising quality will backfire and cause Google Panda to kick in and devalue your website.   Key takeaways:   Write content that will matter to your audience Write content that educates and sells your services to a normal degree It’s OK to publish content on a regular basis (weekly or even monthly) as long as it’s useful Creating content for the sake of it is a waste of time Always track the performance of your content and tweak if necessary.   4. Leverage local search Start using local optimisation as one of your strategies, if you aren’t already. According to Bright Local Consumer Review Survey, 57% of users search online for a local business more than six times a year, 39% search online for local businesses at least once per month, and 15% search online for a local business almost every day. Figure 5: Source of image and information from    Benefits of local SEO:   Visits from local searches are more likely to convert More targeted audience Fewer competitors (depending on the niche) Attract more people in your area   If you have done local SEO properly, the visits you get are more likely to convert into customers. If you have served those customers right, they are also going to become returning customers.   The customers who loved your business will share their experience and impressions with their colleagues, family, and friends in neighbouring places, thus giving you free advertising. Just imagine if those colleagues, and friends of theirs, do the same thing. Doing local SEO is like killing two birds with one stone. If you are a starter business, ranking in top organic searches is hard so stay in your local, but don’t limit yourself to it.   Having little competition is another advantage, as opposed to targeting global audiences. This is going to save you a lot of money in your investment to SEO.   Story continues on page 2. Please click below. 5. Value proposition – what is your website worth? Figure 6   SEO is a very challenging investment to put your money into. If the SEO campaign you invested in returned a negative ROI, then it is considered a failure. What’s the purpose of initiating SEO if you are not getting a positive ROI?   Before blaming SEO, however, make sure your website is adding value for your customers. Consider SEO as just part of your overall sales pitch.   Improving your website’s value is hard. Especially when you have to come up with great headlines that visitors will notice and get them enticed. Some guidelines to creating website copy that will increase the value of your website for your visitors include:   Stating the problem you will help them to solve Educating them in what you do Showing them what your other customers have to say about your services.   Be relevant   Relevance is one factor that increases website value and depends on if the visitors to your site find what they are looking for. They won’t find your website valuable if you don’t provide what they’re trying to find.   Highlight benefits, not features   One of the things that matters to consumers are the benefits they will get from you, so state them. As opposed to the traditional method of stating the features of your services, stating the benefits is effective marketing. Save the features for later.   State the problem you will help them solve   Is there a problem that your business will help your customers solve? Write it in your website copy. The users that reach your website are probably looking for a solution to the problem they need help solving.   Key takeaways:   Don’t assume your website visitors understand your website copy. Test and refine. Feature the benefits your customers will receive Remember to tell them what you do Provide customer reviews 6. Conversion optimisation – leveraging current success Figure 7: Image source from    Conversion optimisation and search engine optimisation are different concepts. In order to see the fruitful efforts of your SEO campaign, you need to optimise your website for conversion. There’s a very thin line that separates SEO and CRO. One will optimise your website to drive more traffic to it, and the other one optimises your website to convert those visitors into customers.   As industry expert Kate Morris said in her post, “CRO and SEO: SEM Civil War”: “Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is simply focusing on the conversion as the core metric when optimizing any particular page.”   A search engine optimiser will usually know how to optimise your website for conversion if they are truly experienced. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to judge the effectiveness of your SEO campaign without optimising your website for conversion.   Failing to do so leads to false judgement as to whether or not your SEO is effective as some faults may lie with how the website treats its visitors.   Key takeaways:   SEO (search engine optimiser) is different from CRO (conversion rate optimiser) You need a CRO to boost your SEO campaign and to help you get more out of your investment. 7. Traffic strategy, opposed to just rankings Figure 8: Data source from    According to online advertising network Chitika, having the top position in search results will give you 33% of search traffic.   This research proves the value of SEO for online businesses. Just imagine your website ranking with a keyword that is highly searched, resulting in say, 18,000 searches per month and your website receives 33% of that traffic every month.   While this provides great value to online businesses, ranking in top search results is not guaranteed.   As an SEO, traffic is one of my main goals as it opens the floodgates for conversions – assuming that your customers are satisfied with your services and you have great reviews, along with several other factors.   With that said; our main goal is to generate more traffic and then achieve rankings. It might sound in reverse but it’s true, and that is what makes our career more challenging.   The only way to do this is by adding value with each link we create. Remember that value is also quality, and in today’s SEO, quality is better than quantity.   Getting 12 links per month that drives traffic is more important than getting more links that only aim to improve rankings. Again, no one can guarantee you top rankings because of unpredictable algorithmic changes, but increase of traffic is always possible.   Key takeaways:   SEO is important to online businesses Ranking is not the only means of traffic When building links, think of the traffic you will get from each link you build Adding value to the places you build links from, as they are more likely to drive traffic to your site A balance of quality and quantity is important No one can guarantee rankings SEO – keeping you on top 2014 has been an exciting time for SEO and it is now much more about quality than ever. Apply these tips and make the most of your online presence.   What are your thoughts about SEO in 2014? Add a comment below.   Scott Donald runs CreativSEO and has worked with successful start-ups and established businesses alike, helping them succeed online.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Ad-free subscriptions on the agenda for YouTube

10:19PM | Tuesday, 28 October

YouTube is considering offering paid ad-free subscriptions, according to chief executive officer Susan Wojcicki.   The company is in the early stages of exploring new subscription services, Wojcicki told Re/code at the Code/Mobile conference overnight.   “YouTube right now is ad-supported, which is great because it has enabled us to scale to a billion users; but there are going to be cases where people are going to say, ‘I don’t want to see the ads, or I want to have a different experience’,” she says.   Google X is developing an early disease detection system Google’s research arm, famous for taking ‘moon shots’ and running some of the most ambitious projects in the technology industry, is creating a system for early detection of disease, Wired reports.   The system involves ingesting specially “painted” nanoparticles that target various molecular signs of disorder. When they detect such signs of disease they send out signals that will be picked up by wristbands. The early alerts mean potentially deadly ailments could be caught and treated sooner.   Facebook beats earning projections, user growth slows Social media giant Facebook released its financial results and for the ninth quarter straight it beat earning projections.   Facebook earned $US3.203 billion ($A3.62 billion) in revenue with earnings per share of $US0.43. Total user count grew 2.27% to 1.35 billion monthly users, slower than its 3.125% user growth in the previous quarter.   Mobile advertising revenue accounted for 66% of advertising revenue, up from 49% year-on-year.   Overnight The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 187.81 to 17,005.75. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US89 cents.

Four ways to manage your business reputation

10:26AM | Tuesday, 28 October

With your business reputation directly linked to your bottom line it is important to do everything you can to build and maintain it.   While your business will inevitably take knocks from unhappy customers, mistakes you make and decisions you wish you could do-over, by following these four ways to safeguard your reputation you can still preserve your standing in the business world. 1. Be personable, not personal A lot of people get this concept confused, especially in the online world. Keep your personal life out of your business life as much as possible. Know what you will and won’t disclose and discuss with your customers, and be mindful of who is on – and who can see, your personal social media profiles. 2. Assume that nothing is private As a publicist I can’t tell you how many times I see private information become public. Be careful what you put out in the public sphere and who you trust with information. You can only protect your content so much.   What you write or say can be taken out of context, forwarded on to others or downloaded before you have deleted it, and programs or website changes to rules and settings can leave your information vulnerable.   The best way to protect yourself and your business is to assume that nothing online or on your devices is private. If you aren’t happy for everyone to see it, don’t send or upload it. 3. Don’t run from adversity or negative feedback You don’t need to be a saint to maintain a good reputation. We all make mistakes; it’s what we do after that makes the difference to our reputation.   Your character is proven in how you handle adversity, conflict and negative feedback. By taking responsibility for mistakes and handling adversity and negative criticism well (whether right or wrong) not only protects your reputation, it also wins you respect, and can result in more people coming to your aid and wanting to work with you simply because of the attitude you have. 4. Monitor your reputation As your profile builds it is important to monitor what is being said or published about you. Monitor social media, do regular searches and set Google Alerts for your name, key staff and business name. Being proactive will not only allow you to stay on top of any negative feedback, you will also be able to thank those who are referring and promoting you.   If you do find negative feedback (depending on what has been said), don’t rush to delete it or complain, it can be an opportunity to turn the situation completely around. Many businesses gain likes and customers from social media simply by acknowledging, apologising and offering a solution to an unhappy customer.   How do you manage your business reputation?

Microsoft launches Azure cloud platform data centres in Australia

10:36PM | Monday, 27 October

Microsoft officially launched two Australian data centres today as part of its Azure cloud computing platform at the start of the tech giant’s 21st TechEd Conference in Sydney.   The launch comes after Azure cloud platform became the first public cloud service in Australia to pass an Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) Industry Security Registered Assessors Program (IRAP) compliance assessment.   The announcement was delivered at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion by Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow. It marks part of a major push into the Australian government, businesses, independent software vendors (or ISVs) and startup market by the company.   The launch sees two data centres or "Azure Geos" go live in Australia, with one each located in Melbourne and Sydney, which are now available to all Australian Azure customers.   The local cloud computing regions mean local Azure accounts will be hosted in a data centre within Australia, in turn allowing businesses to be able to assure customers their key data will never leave Australia.   Each data centre building is roughly the same size as a rugby field and can hold two jumbo jets or 600,000 servers. In turn, both locations are large enough to allow 16 data centres to be built next to each other.   In addition to local data centres, Microsoft announced it would allow businesses to get a dedicated fibre-optic link to an Azure data centre through either Equinix and Telstra through its ExpressRoute service.   "Today is a historic day, a monumental day, because it's the first day Australian customers can log on and choose the Azure Australian Geo," Marlow said.   "The data centre is up and running in Australia for the first time."   "The time and the tools are here and now to concentrate on what it is you do everyday."   Globally, Azure is signing up 10,000 new customers per week. It currently hosts 1.2 million SQLdatabases, 30 trillion objects, 350 million users, 18 billion authentications per week, over 2 million registered developers and 60% of customers are using higher level services.   Executive vice president of Microsoft's cloud and services group, Scott Guthrie, predicted the cloud computing marketplace will eventually shrink to three key players in Amazon AWS, Google and Microsoft Azure.   Guthrie said a key differentiating feature of Azure compared to other services is its large size (or "hyper-scale") including the ability to scale-up services based on demand. It also includes enterprise grade support, as well as hybrid cloud support, meaning on-premises servers can connect any on-premises server to the cloud.   "We plan to differentiate from the other two based on our level of enterprise support," Guthrie says.   "Going forward, we believe all our customers will need to take advantage of this hyper-scale activity and that elastic capability to save costs."   Guthrie also highlighted the recently launched Azure Marketplace, similar to a smartphone app store, allows a range of both Linux and Windows server images to be installed on virtual machines at the click of a mouse button, along with higher-level cloud-based services.   "It's a strategy where you can take the best of the Windows ecosystem and the best of the Linux ecosystem," Guthrie says.   Microsoft revealed 19 regions will get local datacentres by the end of 2014, which is twice the number offered by Amazon AWS and six times the number offered by the Google Cloud. Amazon currently has one region in Australia.   One company mentioned during the keynote speech was event management software developer Centium Software, a Brisbane-based company with 70 staff that helped organise the London Olympic Games.   Centium chief executive Trevor Gardiner told StartupSmart it will help his Brisbane-based company of less than 70 staff to scale up for major events.   "Our customers range from small event organisers right through to significant world events," Gardiner says.   "Historically, the world event space has been difficult for us because of the infrastructure involved with that, and customers being unwilling to pay for that scale in the early days.   "What Azure is doing for us is that it's allowing us to say to our customers that you don't need to pay for a lot of expensive infrastructure in the early days, you can scale up and have that data locally."   Andrew Sadauskas attended TechEd as a guest of Microsoft. Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Hackett investment has shifted Australian aviation app into full throttle

10:13AM | Friday, 24 October

Aviation app developer Avsoft is gaining altitude across Australia, New Zealand and the US following an investment from entrepreneur Simon Hackett, with the company recently releasing an entry-level version of its CASA-approved app for Android devices.   Avsoft chief executive Bevan Anderson says before the company’s AvPlan EFB iPad app, pilots used to carry bags filled with flight and gadget manuals.   “Traditionally, pilots did all their flight planning using rulers on maps. They used rulers and protractors to measure distances and headings to fly. They then needed to manually take into account winds and other factors when flight planning,” Anderson says.   “All this information, maps, airport diagrams and others then needed to be carried into the cockpit. Depending on the flight to be undertaken, this could be kilos of paper.”   Following the release of the Apple iPad in April 2010, Anderson started thinking about how a flight book could be compressed into next to no weight in the form of an electronic flight bag app, or EFB, for the new device.   “I imagined an app on the device which replaced my pilot’s kneeboard. On my kneeboard I clipped my flight plan on one side and the maps, charts and airport information used for the flight on the other. AvPlan EFB was to be an electronic replacement for this, and that is what it has become (and a whole lot more),” Anderson says.   “These days, AvPlan EFB replaces all this, plus more calculations and other performance optimisation functionality in a small device weighing 100s of grams. We can then take it everywhere with us, so no matter where a pilot is, we have all the tools at our disposal. Over the past few years we gained approval from CASA for pilots to use AvPlan EFB instead of carrying all this bulky paper.”   The app came to the attention of Australian entrepreneur Simon Hackett soon after he purchased his Pilatus PC-12 aeroplane. In November last year, Hackett invested in a 40% stake in the company, allowing it to expand overseas.   “As he got familiar with it and saw what we had achieved, he reached out to us and offered us some investment to assist us to add capability and to grow the product into new markets. Since Simon came on board we have expanded into the United States and New Zealand, and begun the process of bringing AvPlan EFB to a new platform, in Android,” Anderson says.   Hackett explains that a key distinction between AvPlan and its rivals is that it began life as a flight planning and flight management application for high end/professional/commercial pilots.   “It offers functions that are extremely sophisticated, and that are hugely valuable to this type of pilot. It also works wonderfully well right down to a 'weekend warrior' flying his two-seat sports aircraft to the next airfield for a Saturday BBQ,” Hackett says.   “The latter usage model is a perfect fit to our 'Lite' (entry level) version, and the software then lets you unlock more and more features via additional/optional subscription packs, to turn on all the professional pilot tools if you need them.   “Because we started life at the high end, AvPlan does these sophisticated things really well (by design, and by intent). Some of our competitors started out as a cheerful tool for the weekend warrior and have grown more sophisticated features later, and in a far more haphazard manner – and we think the result is far less effective than our 'designed-in' sophistication.   “In effect, we started at the high end of the industry and we're reaching down toward simpler mission support, where our competitors started simple and have bolted stuff on over time to climb 'upward' to the harder stuff. We think the way around we did it creates a better outcome.”   The new Android version, dubbed AvPlan Lite 1.0, is an entry-level version of the app available as a free one-month trial from the Google Play store, with a full subscription costing $69 per year in Australia.   “We only exist today as the companies who produced flight planning software for the PC never adapted their businesses when mobile devices began to appear,” Anderson says.   “This example is a lesson to us to never rest on your accomplishments, and never bet your business on what is currently the big thing. Always look for new opportunities and respond to market demands, and in our case, the market demands multiple platform support.”   “We certainly feel that we have only just begun. With what we are doing, and with the assistance of our fantastic industry partners we expect to see mobile devices bringing more efficiency to aviation: A future where aviation is more accessible to existing and new pilots.”   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

THE NEWS WRAP: Developers say new Gmail app will expand upon regular email capabilities

10:30PM | Wednesday, 22 October

The new Gmail app, Inbox, is not just an email app, according to its developers.   Inbox is being released as an invite-only system that works on the Chrome browser, Android phones, and iPhones.   It’s still a Gmail app, but instead of giving its users the traditional lists of emails, it tries to intelligently give you more information so you don’t even have to open them.   Google Now-style information cards appear in line with the message list and include things like flight times, package tracking and photos. It also tries to bundle emails into groups that you can quickly dismiss.   Former EA CEO takes over at Unity   Unity founder and chief executive officer David Helgason is stepping aside to let former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello take over the job, VentureBeat reports.   Unity is a company that makes game-creation tools for developers. Helgason says not much will change at Unity and he believes Riccitiello is the right person for the job.   “I will be heavily involved in the company’s direction,” Helgason says.   “(Riccitiello) is the right person to help guide the company to the mission that we set ourselves over a decade ago: democratize game development.   “John completely agrees with our vision and our strategy. If anything it means that we’ll be more focused than ever about making sure everyone has access to the best technology and services.”   Twitter releases new developer toolkit   Twitter has unveiled Fabric, a new developer toolkit with software products to help build better third-party apps.   Fabric was showcased by Twitter executives in San Francisco at the social media giant’s first mobile developers conference, Flight.   Overnight   The Dow Jones Industrial Average down 153.49 to 16,461.32. The Australian dollar is currently trading at US88 cents.

Aussie social network to spring onto ASX with reverse listing

10:52AM | Tuesday, 21 October, an Australian question-and-answer-based social networking site with five million regular monthly visitors, is looking to raise up to $5 million and hopes to list on the Australian Securities Exchange by November.   The company is the latest in a string of Aussie businesses to list via a reverse takeover, a method which involves a privately held company purchasing a company that is already listed on the stock exchange.’s reverse takeover will see its parent company Helpa taken over by listed diversified financials firm GRP Corporation Limited, with the full listing expected to be completed by December.   The new listed entity will be renamed Spring Networks Limited.   Co-founder and chairman Colin Fabig told SmartCompany the company had found a new niche in the social media world through the simple idea of ‘making friends’.   “It took a year after launching to realise the question and answer format was a way of meeting new people and most people were coming to the site to meet people,” says Fabig.   Functioning much like a message board which allows users to post Q&A’s, photos, opinion polls and utilise ‘friend matchmaking’ technology, Fabig says the site acts as an “interest matching forum” bringing people together with interests as broad as volleyball to wine making.   “People don’t do community activities anymore; they are online or watching TV. So why not make new friends while you are online or watching TV?”   Fabig says the company did a pre-IPO round earlier this year, which saw it raise $1.8 million, and was advised by stockbroking firm DJ Carmichael its quickest route to market would be the reverse takeover method.   He says the capital raised will go towards general operations of the website and believes should not be too concerned with revenue at this stage.   Fabig says internet companies shouldn’t be worried about revenue in their first years, instead needing to focus on their customer proposition.   “You need to make sure people love what you’re doing and they come back. It took Google seven years to get revenue,” he says.   “If you want to be a global player, that’s what you have to do.”   Fabig says once, which is currently free for users, reaches critical mass it will start to introduce advertising or paid premium subscription models.   The South African-born entrepreneur, who started the company with partner Ari Klinger, has previously founded and successfully sold several startups, including deals website Jumponit, which was snapped up by Living Social for $30 million in 2012.   But he says he’s in for the long run.   “This will be our company… This is our baby.”

Data mining the new black box of self-driving cars

10:36AM | Tuesday, 21 October

Autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, are likely to be seen more widely on roads in 2015.   Already, legislation authorising the use of autonomous vehicles has been introduced in the US states of Nevada, Florida, California and Michigan, with similar legislation being planned for the UK. To date, these laws have focused on legalising the use of autonomous vehicles and dealing, to an extent, with some of the complex issues relating to liability for accidents.   But as with other emerging disruptive technologies, such as drones and wearables, it is essential that issues relating to user privacy and data security are properly addressed prior to the technologies being generally deployed.   Understanding autonomous vehicles   There is no single, uniform design for autonomous vehicles. Rather, it is best to understand an autonomous vehicle as a particular configuration of a combination of applications, some of which – such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, collision avoidance and parking assistance – are already part of current car design.   The most well-known prototype, Google’s self-driving car, uses a variety of technologies, including: a laser range finder (LIDAR) that generates a detailed 3D map of the environment; radars; cameras for detecting traffic lights; and a GPS. Other projects, including prototypes being developed by Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Toyota and Oxford University, use different combinations of technologies.   This means that the privacy and data security problems arising from autonomous vehicles depend upon the precise technologies applied in any particular design. Some generalisations are, however, possible.   The relationship between the virtual and the real   The rules (or “code”) governing the online world have been different to those that apply offline. For example, online activities invariably generate digital traces, including metadata, which can be used to build profiles of users.   With emerging technologies, such as drones, wearables and autonomous vehicles, we are increasingly seeing the transposition of virtual models onto the real. One consequence of the range of sensors and data collection devices being deployed (and interconnected) is that our offline activities can leave traces at least as extensive as those generated online.   One way to understand types of autonomous vehicles is by reference to the kind of data collected and the ways in which that data is processed. For instance, autonomous vehicles often incorporate event recorders, or “black boxes”, to provide essential information in the event of an accident. This raises questions about who has rights to this data and about who can have access to the data.   Anonymising data   There is an overlap here with questions of liability, as insurance companies have clear incentives to collect as much data about user behaviour as possible. The potential for intrusive surveillance of personal activities is particularly jarring, as the car has been an archetypal space of personal privacy and freedom.   A fundamental distinction must be drawn between self-contained autonomous vehicles, in which the data collected from sensor devices installed in the car are stored and processed in the vehicle itself, and interconnected vehicles, in which data is shared with a centralised server and, potentially, with other vehicles.   Regardless of whether a vehicle is self-contained or interconnected, design decisions have to be made about whether or not the data collected is anonymised or linked to individual users. If the data is not anonymised, especially with interconnected vehicles, this poses serious surveillance threats. After all, once the data exists, and especially if it is connected to a server, it is vulnerable to access by third parties.   It is possible to envisage implementations of autonomous vehicles where data about a particular user is linked to other data sources, such as an online profile, for purposes such as tracking or marketing. This might take the form of personalised advertising displayed in the car, or even adjusting a vehicle’s route so that it passes retail outlets which match a user’s imputed preferences.   What else is at stake: human autonomy and hacking   We are now familiar with technologies, such as predictive search, which in the online context, attempt to predict what we want to do and make more or less persuasive suggestions.   It is likely that some versions of autonomous vehicles will implement predictive technologies. In any case, the progressive delegation of human decisions to machines raises system-wide questions about the cumulative impact on human autonomy: the more people are habituated to decisions being made for them, the less likely they may be to make their own decisions.   We are also now depressingly familiar with the vulnerability of computer systems to malicious third parties. Just as effective data security is essential to online safety, autonomous vehicles must be designed with a high level of data security, especially given the potentially calamitous consequences of hacked vehicles. As interconnected data processing systems are progressively rolled out in applications such as wearables and autonomous vehicles, we seem likely to see an offline version of the same sort of perpetual guerrilla warfare played out online between information security and hackers.   Protecting privacy at the design stage   Autonomous vehicles promise significant social and economic benefits, especially in potential improvements to road safety. There are, nevertheless, considerable legal and regulatory challenges. As with other emerging disruptive technologies, it is vital that privacy and anonymity be properly protected at the design stage.   To date, in the face of significant challenges relating to the legality of autonomous vehicles and liability issues, the privacy rights of users have been relatively neglected. But unless the era of artificial intelligence is to be accompanied by us sleepwalking into ubiquitous surveillance, we must recognise that safety and security needs to be balanced against the legitimate rights of people to control their own data and to retain their fundamental rights to privacy.   David Lindsay is a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Digital death and the digital afterlife: How to have one and how to avoid it

10:16AM | Monday, 20 October

In 2012, the UK’s Sunday Times reported that actor Bruce Willis was going to sue Apple because he was not legally allowed to bequeath his iTunes collection of music to his children. The story turned out to be false (and shockingly bad journalism) but it did start a conversation about what we can, and can’t, do with our digital possessions.   It turns out that “possessions” is actually a misnomer. We actually don’t own the music, books and movies we “buy” from Apple and Amazon. As Amazon puts it in its license terms, “Kindle Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider”. In other words, we are allowed to read the content but we are not allowed to pass it on.   It comes as no surprise then that 93% of Americans surveyed were unaware or misinformed when asked about what digital assets they were able to pass on in the event of their death.   But the problems don’t stop there. Relatives of the recently deceased are frequently left with a range of decisions and challenges when it comes to dealing with their online accounts, especially social media. This is not made easier by the fact that every company implements different strategies in dealing with accounts belonging to a deceased user, coupled with the fact that in the UK in 2012 at least, the average user had 26 accounts. In most cases, getting an account shut down requires close family to produce a range of documentation to prove that they have the right to request that the account is terminated. This doesn’t allow for those relatives to get access to the content of the accounts however.   Taking a lead in making the process of handling accounts of the deceased simpler, Google has implemented their Inactive Account Manager. This allows anyone to specify what should happen in the event that an account has not been accessed for at least 3 months. Up to 10 people can be notified and the contents of the accounts, including services such as YouTube and Google+, shared with them. Alternatively, the accounts can simply be automatically deleted.   Facebook will, on request, “memorialise” a person’s Facebook page. This freezes the page with the same permissions as it had when it was last accessed by the user but will stop the page from being discovered in a search and will not actively promote the page to others.   The role of social media in the bereavement process has been the focus of an increasing amount of research. Generally, it is thought that social media can help in the bereavement process, although the persistence of a person’s profile online may make final acceptance of the passing more difficult. An interesting finding has been that when people post on a memorial page, they frequently do so in the present tense as if the person was still alive.   In the UK, a survey has found that 36% of people would like their profiles to continue being available online after they die, with a larger proportion of 18-24 year olds preferring this option than over 55s.   It doesn’t have to stop there. There are now services which allow you to continue Tweeting after you die using a bot that has studied your tweeting style. Other services allow users to send final messages via Facebook and LinkedIn.   Digital estate planning is starting to become more of the norm and people are being prompted to think about what they want done with their digital assets and accounts after they die. This is going to be a significant issue for social media companies in the future. Since Facebook started, about 10-20 million users will have died. This number will increase and eventually overtake the number of living users on the site, by one estimate, in 2060.   In one humorous envisioning of the future, Tom Scott has produced a disturbing possibility in his video “Welcome To Life: the singularity, ruined by lawyers”. In it, he describes a corporate sponsored network as a resting place for the digital version of your consciousness, that is, of course, ad sponsored. In this case as with the question today, it is perhaps best for all if your online social presence ends when you do.   David Glance does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is anything ‘private’ anymore? How social media and tech companies sniff out your data

10:49AM | Thursday, 16 October

With all the new mobile devices come the potential new methods for advertisers to keep track of you across all your devices. They are given access through deals done by the large platforms and gatekeepers of your information.   Here are a few of the ways the big social media and tech companies are accessing your data and using it for profit.   Facebook: It has access to enormous amounts of very personal metadata collected from all of its users, including everything from employment, family, hair colour, friends, travel, home location and many other details. Mined from its users, this information is considered very valuable for advertisers and marketers.   Another way Facebook tracks your movements is when you use your Facebook sign-in for other websites. This is also tracked by Facebook.   And Facebook owns a number of apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, that collect your information through your usage of the app. Facebook is large and looking to expand both its platform and ability to track your movements. It will keep purchasing and creating new ways to find and sell your information as this is its greatest income source.   Apple: Its main tracking is through your email address and iTunes account, which tracks your credit card data and usage. When you purchase anything through an Apple device or using any Apple system, this information is used so the ads you see are normally reflecting your past activities.   Google: When you log in to any Google account, you are then tied into the massive Google network. It also uses an Android mobile operating system which assigns each user a Google Ad ID. Google has many ad products and services such as AdSense, which access your ad identifier and compile the information with all the other YouTube, Gmail, Search and other personal digital history information, irrespective of what device you may be using. So why don’t they have to notify you of the use of your personal information? Because when you sign up to their services, you agree to their terms which include using your personal data as they please for advertising purposes. However, Google is still involved in class-action suits in various states in the US regarding its right to analyse message content and sell byproducts to advertisers. It is argued as beyond the scope of what is intended by the use of personal information.   Google maintains it has the right to collect even your most sensitive data as long as it flows across an open Wi-Fi network. Google has been doing a lot more than its lobbyists and executives are disclosing when they are defending their initiatives.   They could easily make collection of information for advertising more privacy-friendly if they wanted or were forced to, but at the moment we are at the mercy of the dominant operating system vendors who are not required to do so. Be aware: deals are being struck selling your information As you may have seen in the news recently, Facebook has struck a deal to sell access to your data to MasterCard. It claims it is not your ‘personal data’ but it includes your location, spending, connections and much more. This may not be personal data to some but it still seems very ‘personal’.   This is likely the first of many deals to help monetise the ‘free’ Facebook model and seems to be the model for many large platform service providers on the internet. It is likely not to be the last.   One thing that is important to remember about all this: it does not matter whether you are using an Android or an iOS device; you can still turn off many of the tracking mechanisms in the menu settings.   Yet it still makes one wonder what is left under the ‘personal data’ legal definition anymore.

When the ATM runs Windows, how safe is your money?

10:50AM | Wednesday, 15 October

How safe is Microsoft Windows? After all, the list of malware that has caused major headaches worldwide over the last 15 years is long – viruses, worms and Trojans have forced computers to shut down, knocked South Korea offline and even overloaded Google’s servers.   Now, how safe do you feel knowing that cash machines across the world run Microsoft Windows?   An exploit has been discovered, apparently spread across Russia, India, and China, whereby cash machines can be turned into a free money vending machine.   The hack requires re-starting the cash machine – essentially a Windows terminal – from a prepared CD that injects malware into the system to circumvent the security. At set times of the week, a unique code is generated and given to a “mule” who would approach the machine, enter the code, and withdraw up to 40 notes, anonymously and without trace.   From skimming to hacking   Attacks on ATMs (those more sophisticated than removing the cash machine and cutting into its safe) started around 10 years ago with card reader devices containing a tiny integrated camera and card reader. As a user withdraws cash, the device reads the account details from the card’s magnetic stripe and videos the pin number entered into the keypad.   Earlier generations of ATM machines were often built around computer terminals running IBM’s OS/2 operating system (which started life as a joint IBM-Microsoft venture, and which somewhat ironically spawned Microsoft’s Windows NT, the grandparent of modern Windows, and IBM’s OS/2 when that project collapsed). Due to its more esoteric and rare nature there are far fewer attacks for OS/2, but now it is standard builds of Windows, potentially vulnerable to all the usual malware and exploits, that run modern ATMs.   So it is not surprising that intruders have started to find ways inside the ATM’s card processing and cash dispensing systems. Malware that can offer external control to an ATM have been reported for some years, allowing attackers to dispense cash, record and print out card details and PIN numbers. Under the hood   This latest malware is Backdoor.MSIL.Tyupkin, which while running continuously will only listen for commands on a Sunday and Monday night. The criminal gangs operating the malware generate a random, unique, six-digit keycode that activates the program, which is given to the “mule” who is withdrawing the money.     Like previous efforts to crack into ATMs, the malware requires physical access to the ATM, typically by booting the ATM from a CD prepared to install the malware. At present the malware has been active on at least 50 ATMs in Russia and Eastern Europe, but also in the US, China and India.   The malware is the file ulssm.exe, which is copied into the c:\windows\system32 directory and which is protected and maintained on the system between reboots by modifying the Windows registry (a database of configuration settings) so that Windows automatically runs the program at startup. The program then interacts with the ATM through the Extension for Financial Services (XFS) library, MSXFS.dll. To avoid detection it will only allow access controller commands on Sunday and Monday evenings.   This shows an example of malware installing itself onto a system, updating the Windows registry to autorun when started (at 25:20), and then going into hiding.     Playing catch up   The threat of re-booting machines from CDs or bootable USB sticks in order to install malware and abusing Windows autorun feature to sustain the program in memory, is an exploit that has been common for over a decade. It seems few lessons have been learned in terms of securing physical access to the device, and also in the privileged rights that malware can gain. Even as companies focus on improving and securing the user interface, often the debugging and diagnostic side can provide further routes into a system.   Versions of Windows used in embedded control systems are now sufficiently secure, but as ATM manufacturers use standard installations of Windows they are opening themselves up to further problems – not least because it allows hackers the opportunity to simulate and craft their malware on well-known versions of the operating system.   However, at the core of this attack – as with those before it – is the need for physical access to the device, which implies an insider working in the bank. That means with monitoring of who has access to the cash machine, this can be prevented. The key lesson is that the ATM operating system is a weak link in the chain which needs to be closed.   *This article originally appeared on The Conversation.

Four health tech startup competition finalists take home a $10,000 prize, as local sector gains critical mass

10:09AM | Tuesday, 14 October

The four finalists for the inaugural Janssen Health and Technology Challenge (HaTCH) have been named, with one of the judges saying Melbourne, in particular, is close to developing “a critical mass of ideas”.   Each of the four finalists receives $10,000 to go towards the further development of their concepts. They will further workshop their ideas with the judges in a full-day session on October 30, before pitching their ideas to the independent judging panel on December 2 for a chance to win $100,000 to commercialise their idea.   The judging panel includes World Medical Association council chair Mukesh Haikerwal and former General Practice Registrar Australia chief executive Amit Vohra. They are joined by Strativity Group Australia and New Zealand partner Cyrus Allen, Janssen Australia/New Zealand managing director Chris Hourigan and Muru-D’s Mick Liubinskas.   Vohra told Private Media health tech and biotech sectors have the potential to create a long-term home in Australia, but warned it’s still early days for the sector.   “For the first time, Australia is creating an ecosystem around health startups. A lot of innovative stuff comes out of Silicon Valley because you have a lot of startups in a small area,” Vohra says.   “As with most entrepreneurial activity, it needs a critical mass of ideas and Melbourne for the first time is starting to experience this.”   Vohra explains Australia has never been a natural hub for robotics because it never had a strong local robotics industry, and that much of the early use of devices such as Google Glass for therapeutic purposes has been in Silicon Valley.   Instead, he says the key strengths of the local health tech and biotechnology sector centre around data systems, data analysis, information sharing, wearables and nanotechnology.   “There’s a whole space around consumer wearables that kicked off in the past two years. Before that, there was the app revolution, and now we’re in the next phase of that, with wearables that log that information,” Vohra says.   “The next phase gets more sophisticated, where the information gets sent back to your medical practitioner, rather than just collected for lifestyle purposes.”   Vohra says another area Australian health tech startups are strong in is information sharing systems, which allow a patient’s electronics records to be stored in a single repository.   “Another area, and not just in Australia, is around information exchange. There’s a huge amount of fragmentation in information sharing across the health system,” he says.   “Your local general practitioner has a raft of information. But if you go somewhere else for a procedure, that information is sitting in a different silo.”   Storing information in a single repository allows for better quality of care at a lower cost, according to Vohra. This is because each intervention, whether it is delivered through a general practitioner, a hospital or a nursing home, will be logged in a single system, allowing medical professionals access to more accurate and complete data about a patient’s health.   The four 2014 HaTCH finalists, chosen from 40 entrants, are as follows:   1. Footprints: Falls in the elderly are often result to a deterioration of gait. The Footprint sensor will improve monitoring of gait levels and thereby allow intervening before a fall happens.   2. Life Picture: Chronic diseases involve changes to the molecular pathways of individuals. The Life Picture health monitoring system uses biomarkers and smartphone technology to improve early disease detection.   3. Respiro Flu Test: Seasonal influenza kills more Australians than car accidents. The Respiro Flu Test is the first non-invasive ultra-sensitive test for influenza infection in children and adults. It takes less than 20 minutes and detects all strains of human influenza including H1N1 and bird flu.   4. Track Active: Exercise is considered to be the single most important treatment modality for addressing chronic health and musculoskeletal problems. Track Active is a cloud based platform for health and medical professionals to efficiently prescribe customized, evidence-based exercise programs to assist patients in recovery.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.