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By Abner Li

Google’s latest Search improvement is a “new system of generating titles for web pages” that better describes what a result is about.

One of the primary ways people determine which search results might be relevant to their query is by reviewing the titles of listed web pages. That’s why Google Search works hard to provide the best titles for documents in our results…

Google wants the main part of a search result — in between the domain/URL and summary — to be “more readable and accessible.” Introduced last week, the company says testing has shown that this new system is “preferred by searchers.”

The previous approach saw page titles possibly change based on the search query entered by users. This new system produces “titles that work better for documents overall.” As such, different page names will “generally” no longer occur.

Another aspect of this updated page title system sees Google place emphasis on text that “humans can visually see when they arrive at a web page.” Other page text and “text within links that point at pages” might also be factored.

We consider the main visual title or headline shown on a page, content that site owners often place within <H1> tags, within other header tags, or which is made large and prominent through the use of style treatments.

When Search encounters an “extremely long title,” Google will just use the “most relevant portion” and truncate the “more useful parts.” The company might also show site names alongside page titles when helpful.

For website owners, Google will soon release updated guidance:

However, our main advice on that page to site owners remains the same. Focus on creating great HTML title tags. Of all the ways we generate titles, content from HTML title tags is still by far the most likely used, more than 80% of the time.

By Abner Li

Sourced from 9 TO 5 Google

 

Miracle Inameti-Archibong, head of SEO at search agency Erudite, is chair of the jury at The Drum Awards for Search this year. Here she explains how brands can help customers find what they’re looking for, and the importance of long-term thinking in the pandemic.

The Drum: SEO marketing has faced its own set of unique challenges this year. How have you helped Erudite overcome the biggest hurdles?

Miracle Inameti-Archibong: It has been an interesting year because we’re all in the same river, but every client is on a different boat. It has helped that we’re a boutique agency. We’re a small team, we’re really agile, and we can respond quickly – adapting to our clients’ needs, being able to shift budgets to different channels where the need arises.

We’ve had to step in for some clients because they couldn’t get online in time, some had to pause entirely due to government guidelines. We’ve been understanding with them, not thinking about profit right now but rather about how we can build relationships for the future and our long-term goals.

TD: And for your staff?

MI-A: We’ve always had flexible working hours, but we can’t always operate a nine to five anymore. We’re focusing on delivering our work – it doesn’t matter what time of day we are delivering.

We provide mental health support that everyone can access privately, and we find ways to socialise when everyone’s so cut off. We’ve tried working with cameras on, lunch chats, things to make sure that we are still in contact with each other.

TD: What do you think the biggest challenge has been for the industry as a whole?

MI-A: Client flexibility – some clients wanted to pause their services – and education. There are clients that have benefited from lockdown, because everyone’s ordering online now, so demand has skyrocketed. One of the questions that we were asked constantly is, how do we sustain this growth?

We had to take our clients through an educational process, explaining that SEO can’t happen in a silo. You have to engage your email marketing, your reward system. Understanding how to convert customers into returning customers and building loyalty. That’s what we’ve been trying to teach our clients.

TD: A lot of people have fallen into that trap of short-termism. Have you seen a change in the way clients think about their long-term investments versus short term returns?

MI-A: Yes, especially clients that have both online stores and brick-and-mortars. They used to prioritise the latter, because it was easy – people went out to shops every day. When those companies were established, traditional marketing was at its peak. So you have top stakeholders who don’t understand SEO. I guess we are in part to blame because traditionally we haven’t reported on metrics that chief executives and stakeholders find interesting. But with the current trend of people shopping online, they have seen the value of that digital asset, not just as a traffic value, but as a brand value.

TD: There’s been a focus on two things for search marketers. One is content, updating things in real time for customers. But another has been a focus on the local. People aren’t permitted to travel very far so they’ve turned to local businesses. Do you think this will continue, and how does that affect search?

MI-A: It’s difficult to predict user behaviour. With local search, it’s all about making sure your GMB is set up and your customers have that information so they don’t drive or walk a long way on their one trip out to find they can’t get what they want. Google has made it easy with so many labels, just set up your GMB and make sure that you’re setting up all of those things.

TD: It’s hard for smaller, local businesses to manage this sort of thing.

MI-A: It is, but there are many free resources on Google. I would say to local businesses, there are so many snake oil SEO agencies out there. If you start with Google My Business, they’ve made it easy to integrate analytics. So you can monitor things on your site – find out when it’s busiest, what’s converting better – so you can offer deals.

Because if you want people to keep shopping local, you need to incentivise them. It’s the same tactics as big business. You’ve seen a surge in local. Now you have to keep them committed. You find out what they buy often, then you give them discounts. It’s so easy to set up a website. You continue to provide an excellent service and keep them informed.

TD: I personally find I’m speaking to Alexa a lot more these days. How do you think voice and AI will evolve this year, will Covid-19 hold back progress there, and how will technology affect marketers?

MI-A: I don’t think it’s going to hold back progress, because the search industry just responds to what Google is doing. It’s not slowing down in this aspect, so neither will marketers.

On voice search, I think we still have maybe two or three years before it’s the thing that everyone’s doing. I see it integrated to a lot of systems now, and it’s the way my children search, so I know it is the future. When it hits, everyone will be optimizing for it with featured snippets because that’s what gets pulled into voice search.

If you’re offering instant value, then you’re futureproof. Nobody wants to read a long blog post to find out if your shop is open. Think about your user, how they use your site. People want to reduce the time to task completion.

TD: So is that trade-off then between driving traffic to your own site and ease of use?

MI-A: Whether you drive the traffic to your site or not, it’s a brand exercise. Customers see your brand and know it’s there.

It’s about getting as much of that digital landscape as you can, because the search landscape is so crowded: there’s paid search, then there’s Google shopping. Whichever way you can make a name for your website, take the opportunity.

TD: Coming on to the awards, what are you looking for in the submissions this year?

I’m looking for a team or a submission that has considered the overall goal of the client. Often we see people going after tactics like they’re using a checklist. We did this, implemented this, and we got this result. I want to see a compelling story of the client’s objective and how SEO was used to aid that, and this is the impact it had.

SEO can no longer afford to work in a silo. We want to see how it’s integrating, and how people are using data insight. With the growth of AI and machine learning, we have so much data at our fingertips. I want to see it used to inform strategy. I’m interested in the innovative things people are using and how they are tying them into the overall company goals.

TD: If there were one piece of SEO or search advice you could give our readers, what would it be?

MI-A: Focus on your user. It’s not rocket science. Sometimes we veer towards what Google wants and forget about the user. If you look at recent algorithm updates they’re all about relevancy and authority. Google is trying to combat misinformation, so they are trying to rank the most authoritative site for every query. And if you focus on your user, focus on your USP, then you’re naturally going to be an authority on the thing that you’re selling.

So focus on providing them the best service and answering questions about your product before you start venturing out into things like broad keyword searches. How do they use your product? How can they benefit from your product? If you focus on optimizing all of these things, making sure you have a clear journey, you can’t go wrong.

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Sourced from The Drum

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Google will now highlight what you have been seeking

People use search engines in a variety of ways, and if you’re just looking for general information about a subject, it’s a simple matter of clicking search results. But if you’re looking for references to a particular snippet of text, finding where it has been mentioned on a page can be problematic.

Google has always been able to surface pages which contain the text you search for, but now an important change is being made that will make it easier to locate the text. It means you’ll no longer have to press Ctrl and F to perform a secondary search for a phrase once you have visited a page.

When you experience the change, you will wonder why on Earth Google didn’t do this earlier. So what’s the change? It’s actually something that the company has been doing with AMP pages (Accelerated Mobile Pages) for around a year and a half. When you click on a snippet of text in search results, you’ll be transported to that exact piece of text on a page.

More than this, Google will also highlight the text in question helping to dramatically speed things up. It’s great if you’re looking to find the full text of what was said next in a speech, but don’t want to have to read through a lengthy transcript to track it down – Google does the hard work for you, and take you straight there. While this is great for searchers, it might not be so great for websites as it means that visitors could jump past ads straight to content.

Seek and ye shall find

The great news about the feature from the point of view of anyone with a website is that no action needs to be taken by the site owner. There are no changes to code needed, as Google takes care of the whole process entirely automatically. Just as it has done with AMP pages, it is now doing with HTML pages too.

It is possible, however, for site administrators to opt out of the “featured snippets” feature, as Google explains in a support document. The company explained on Twitter how the feature makes use of the Scroll to text function to take searchers directly to text snippets:

While, in theory, the feature should work in all browsers, there may be issues from time to time. Chrome is likely to yield the best results but, as ever, it’s worth ensuring you have all of the latest updates installed for your browser of choice.

Feature Image Credit: Future

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Sourced from techradar 

Sourced from Search Engine Watch.

As brands and their marketing departments deploy strategies to capitalize on record ecommerce spending — which soared to $586.92 billion in 2019 — new research from leading provider of brand protection solutions, BrandVerity, has brought to light important findings and hidden risks pertaining to the journeys consumers are taking online.

In order to give brands a better understanding of the search experiences their customers are having and how they are impacting brand perception and customer experience, BrandVerity commissioned the “BrandVerity’s Online Consumer Search Trends 2020” research study in Q4 of 2019 to over 1,000 US consumers, balanced against the US population for age, gender, region, and income.

Amongst the many findings, three main themes stood out:

Consumers confused by how search engine results work

Only 37% of consumers understand that search engine results are categorized by a combination of relevance and advertising spend.

The other 63% of consumers believe that Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are categorized by either relevance or spend, or they simply “don’t know.”

Additionally, nearly 1-in-3 consumers (31%) say they don’t believe search engines (e.g. Google) do a good job of labeling which links are ads.

Consumers more inclined to click on the result that appears first

Without a clear understanding of how search results are served up, consumers are more inclined to click on the result that appears first, believing it to be the most relevant option.

With 54% of consumers saying they trust websites more that appear at the top of the SERP, this isn’t just an assumption.

Consumers feel misled by the websites they find in the search engine results

51% of consumers say that when searching for information on a product, they sometimes feel misled by one of the websites in the search results.

An additional 1-in-4 report feeling misled “often” or “always.”

Even further, 25% also say they often end up somewhere unexpected that does not provide them with what they were looking for when clicking on a search result.

“Against a backdrop where consumers have increasingly high expectations of the brands they do business with, and are holding them to equally high standards, companies must ensure that the entirety of the experiences they provide meet customer expectations,” said Dave Naffziger CEO of Brandverity.

“As these findings show, a general uncertainty of how search engines work, combined with the significant occurrence of poor online experiences, mean oversight of paid search programs is more important than ever for brands today.”

Sourced from Search Engine Watch.

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Facebook made an interesting decision to build ecommerce capabilities into Instagram, which has been known as a photo-sharing app.

Burberry, Michael Kors, Nike, Warby Parker, and Zara are among the 20 companies that participated in the initial rollout of Checkout. The move, which allows consumers to buy products from participating brands without leaving the app, aims to bridge the gap between the ability to discover the products and make purchases.

Search engines have strength in what’s known as discovery shopping, but completing the transaction has never been a strong point, mainly because brands decline to give up the ownership of the data. When making a purchase on Instagram, consumers need to enter their name, email, billing information and shipping address the first time they check out. After that the information is saved to the site, which may cause alarm to most users considering on Thursday its parent company, Facebook, said millions of users’ passwords were improperly stored in a readable file accessible to employees.

Perhaps the industry should re-categorize Instagram as a discovery or search engine, or a marketplace — a cross between Amazon and Google or Bing.

With the growth of visual search across Google and Microsoft Bing, I can eventually see a similar service becoming available directly from search results. Perhaps that’s what meant when experts say search engines have become the website for brands.

Google did launch Shopping Actions in beta last year to allow brands to serve up their products across numerous Google properties, but mostly connected to the Google Express platform. The products serve up in the search results, but the transactions occur in Google Express. Still, it’s not quite the same as Instagram.

I’m still waiting for Bing to enter this market. It’s evident in several examples of how the Bing team integrates machine learning and artificial intelligence into the search experience. Most recently Microsoft’s engine rolled out improvements to its visual search capabilities, which let people find and discover information using an image.

Using a photo of a table, for example, Bing can serve up visually similar images, along with purchase options at different prices if the item is available online. The feature also automatically detects and places clickable hotspots above important objects.

The visual search capabilities such as object detection are quick and automatic using NVIDIA GPUs for inferencing, which yield higher processing efficiency compared with CPU-powered inference, according to the post.

Clickable hotspots could support the financial transaction, but also put the search engines in a precarious position. Not only with monetary gains, but also data. It does seem a likely move.

By

Sourced from MediaPost

By John Moore Williams

Search can be a powerful tool for improving UX. And it only gets more powerful when you follow these best practices.

Given the centrality of search in today’s digital world, it’s vital that we design search experiences that are not only usable, but also highly useful. And that means:

  1. Diligently fulfilling user expectations about the search experience itself
  2. Carefully crafting the rest of your site — and its edge cases — to improve the search experience

And since we just released site search in beta, we thought you’d find these tips particularly handy.

Let’s start by digging into the specifics of building a great search experience, starting with the humble search form itself.

Designing your search form

Designing a world-class search experience starts with the form itself.

Standard search form design
‍A pretty standard search form design.

Put search where people expect it

The first step towards building a great search experience is ensuring people can find it. According to Neilsen-Norman studies, people tend to look for search in the upper right of a web page — right where your main navigational elements typically go.

MailChimp places search in the upper right of their site
MailChimp puts search right where you expect it.

For the vast majority of sites, sticking with this rule of thumb should do the trick. If you’re building a site geared more toward problem solving — such as a help center, wiki, glossary, or knowledge base — an even more prominent placement will do you even better.

Search goes front and center on Help Centers

If you’re having any trouble deciding which way to go with your search bar, consider the following rule of thumb:

Search is for people who know what they’re looking for.

If your site’s geared more toward discovery and exploration, or has a more focused goal like driving signups, upper right will do just fine. Otherwise, put it front and center to support focused, task-based problem-solving.

Pair a magnifying glass icon and a textual prompt

As we discussed in “The pros and cons of icons in web design,” it’s generally best to not rely on icons to communicate meaning to users. And studies of search use tend to back this up — while the magnifying glass icon has become a near-universal signifier of search capability, icon-only search designs still tend to slow down task completion.

The handy bonus of adding a little text to your search affordances is that you can use text to guide visitors about what they can search for on your site.

IMDB's search bar
‍IMDb’s search form pairs an icon-only button with placeholder text that guides your search, simultaneously affirming that yes, this is in fact a search bar, and telling you what to look for.

Given the prominent suggested placement of search, this placeholder copy serves an almost tagline-like function. It not only tells you what you can find on IMDb, but indeed, what the whole site is about.

Pick a reasonable size for the input box

Generally speaking, you’ll want your search box to be big enough to contain the average query against your content. After all, it gets tough to type what you can’t see.

If you’re short on space or want to minimize the size of the box’s default state, you can set up an interaction to expand the box when visitors click into it.

Trigger search on click and return/enter

While most of us Google-trained folks will just hit return/enter when we’re done typing, it rarely hurts to provide a highly visible affordance like a button that submits the search on click. As is usually the case in digital design, it’s best to support both novice and “pro” users with every feature!

Put search front and center on mobile

Shopify's search bar on mobile
Shopify’s Help Center gives search prime real estate on mobile.

Search is really at its most powerful when the thought of navigating a site’s information architecture sounds gruelling at best. Which is often the case on mobile!

So rather than asking visitors to traverse your hidden menu and risk thumbing the wrong links over and over again, help people get where they’re going faster by more prominently featuring your search form on mobile views.

Never rely on search alone

Despite its power and ease, having search on your site doesn’t excuse you from having a rational, immediately visible site structure.

As mentioned above, search works best for people who know what they’re looking for. A clear, and clearly exposed, navigation supports those who are just exploring and if well-designed, can often help people get where they want to be even faster than search can.

Designing your search engine results page (SERP)

Of course, a beautiful search experience doesn’t mean much if the results experience isn’t helpful and clear to the searcher. Thankfully, these tips will help you round out your site’s search UX.

Include a search bar on your results page

Search often doesn’t end after the first attempt. Whether the results presented don’t meet the searcher’s needs, or the searcher just decides to look for something else, it just makes sense to not force them to backtrack.

By placing a search bar on your results page — which Webflow does by default — you make it easy (and less frustrating) for searchers to give it another go. And if they’re looking for information on multiple subjects, they can easily open result after result in a new tab, without ever leaving the SERP.

Build a great empty state (aka, no results page)

Google's best match empty state for failed searches
‍Google’s Material guidelines suggest keeping the search bar on the results page — and displaying a “best match” when there aren’t any exact matches.

Any designer worth the name knows the value of a great empty state. The core idea is that if you can’t provide someone with exactly what they’re looking for, you can propose alternative actions that keep users moving forward, instead of leaving them clueless.

In many interfaces, an empty state is the natural one for suggesting a creative action. No Google Docs yet? Why not create one?! No projects in your Webflow site? Hmmm … that blue button must be important.

But in search, there’s no creative action to suggest. Instead:

  1. Clearly state that there are no results for the searched terms. This is vital — you don’t want anyone to miss the result of their search amidst your suggestions for next steps.
  2. Don’t blame the user. It’s not their fault your site doesn’t have any content on said topic, so don’t be throwing in flippant comments like “We don’t write about web design, silly.”
  3. Give the searcher a next step. What you do here may depend on your site and its purpose, but you might try: suggesting alternative search terms, highlighting popular content, and adding a link back to the homepage. This is exactly what Google does with its “best match” suggestion.

Exclude content wisely

When a search algorithm “crawls” a site to create an index of its content, it’s not exactly what you’d call smart by default. In other words: it crawls and indexes everything. Which means a whole lot of duplicate results, as well as a host of results that might not be particularly useful for the searcher.

Thankfully, Webflow’s site search feature helps creates smarter results by:

  • Automatically excluding Symbols, Collection Lists, utility pages, and password-protected pages
  • Allowing you to tick a checkbox to exclude anything else you want to

Excluding Symbols and Collections Lists helps because these elements tend to contain content that’s repeated in multiple places on your site, only a few of which might actually be helpful. For example, if you made your main navigation menu a Symbol and it included the word blog, then any query of the word blog would return … every single page of your website!

Those default exclusions will get you a long way toward a fairly clean result set, but you’ll want to consider excluding:

  1. Any purely “functional” Collections. Collections that you created for reference or filtering, but that have non-useful Collection Templates (i.e., blank or content-free) should probably be omitted.
    Example: In my spare time, I’m building a curation site to highlight awesome, content-driven websites. The site has a reference collection for “colors used.” I’ve designed pages for these colors, but at the moment, they’re just a full-page swatch of the color with its name and hex code. Not wildly useful, so I might want to exclude that from search for now.
  2. Displayed metadata elements. On the same project, every curated website’s detail page has a little table showing fonts, colors used, and a rating (expressed as an emoji). On previewing search results, I note that these elements display oddly — and worse, make little sense without context that the design provides. So I’ll probably omit the element containing those bits of metadata to clean up my results.
  3. Anything else that looks funky in results. It’s challenging to abstract all the potential problems with content exclusions, so just be sure to try lots of different queries on your site, and omit anything that doesn’t translate well from page to SERP.

Keep the slugs

By default, Webflow’s site search displays the page slug (the parts of the URL after the domain) for each result on a SERP.

Displaying the slug in search helps users better understand your site structure overall, and more importantly, helps them make decisions about which results are most appropriate for their needs.

For instance, if a person wants to find all your blog posts on content strategy, but isn’t interested in case studies that mention it, keeping the slug will help them home in on just the blog posts.

If your search solution doesn’t do this by default, consider turning it on. Or just, you know, use Webflow.

Highlight search terms in your results

Google shows page URLs and bolds terms from your search
Notice how matches on the terms I searched are bolded? And how the full URL appears below the page title? These little details do a lot to help me find the page that best answers my questions.

Another useful feature of search is highlighting search terms in results. In Webflow and Google, this means that any words you searched for will be bolded in your result list. Like slugs, highlighting helps users quickly home in on the results that are most appropriate for their needs.

The highlighted terms draw the searcher’s eye, affirming that this content does indeed align with their query and encouraging them to read the contextualizing language around the search term’s appearance.

For example, if someone queries “design” on your site, which discusses all forms of design, highlighted terms can help searchers differentiate between posts on fashion design and typographic design.

Display results rationally

Based on your own experience with search, you might be tempted to make your SERPs display results in a simple list — just like Google does, right?!

But hold on a sec. Switch over to Google Images and try again. See? Now you’ve got a grid.

We discuss this in a little more depth in “How — and why — to build content curation sites with Webflow CMS,” but the long and short of it is:

  • If an image can convey the bulk of required information, use an image-focused grid
  • If a bit of text can convey the bulk of required information, use a text-focused list (and add images if useful)

When in doubt: steal from Google

Every internet user’s expectations around search are set by Google. So don’t be afraid to do what they do. It may not be “innovative” or whatever, but it sure will work.

By John Moore Williams

Head of Content Strategy at Webflow. Nice to meet ya. Follow me @JohnAMWill.

Sourced from webflow Blog

By Gavin O’Malley.

Hoping to get consumers’ attention? Good luck. More or less, that’s the conclusion of some fresh findings from Google.

Among other challenges, consumers are increasingly splitting their focus between multiple screens.

In fact, about half of users now rely on more than one type of gadget in an average day, while a fifth report using another device while concurrently using a computer.

“Fluid movement between devices changes our approach to marketing,” according to the search giant’s new report. “Consumers now interact with your brand concurrently on more than one type of device, making it critical to provide the same great experience across screens.”

Of those who browse the Web in an average day, almost half do so on multiple devices, while more than seven in 10 users browse the Web on their phones or computers.

In addition, marketers can no longer count on consumers to make room in their busy lives for large screens.

Indeed, in an average day, more than a quarter of all users only use a smartphone, which is nearly two times as many as those who only use a computer.

What’s more, among those who search, nearly 4 in 10 search only on a smartphone in an average day.

As a result of this broader shift to mobile, Google is now seeing more searches happening on smartphones than on computers.

Among those categories experiencing the most growth in mobile searches, home and garden has seen increase of 45% year-over-year, while apparel and consumer electronics each experienced a 40% bounce.

The data in Google’s new report is based on findings from a behavioral measurement of a convenience sample of nearly 12,000 opt-in Google users. The data was then calibrated to reflect a U.S. demographic of 18- to 49-year-old cross-device users.

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Sourced from MediaPost

By Laurie Sullivan.

Rakuten Marketing engineers believe they have uncovered a measurement flaw in Omniture, Google Analytics, Coremetrics and other analytics packages that measure the click-through rates (CTRs) and cost per clicks (CPCs) for Facebook mobile campaigns.

In Rakuten’s Facebook Measurement Divide report released Wednesday, containing the analysis of client performance data, the company reveals discrepancies between Facebook conversion tracking and Web analytics costing advertisers insight into 192% more attributable revenue and higher return on ad spend.

The cross-device campaigns analyzed reveal that attributable revenue only comprised on average 5.6% of the total revenue generated across mobile-only, desktop-only and cross-device campaigns — and as little as 2.4% for one retailer in the study.

Bob Buch, SVP of social at Rakuten — which supports attribution, affiliate, search, mobile, lead generation and more — said when the company began digging into clients’ campaigns it found that the CTR metrics were significantly higher and the CPCs quite a bit lower. “Omniture was missing 80% of the revenue, which explains why marketers are not investing more in mobile,” he said. “I’m not saying there’s something inherently wrong with the platform, but I do know it is not measuring mobile accurately for nearly every client we work with.”

Buch believes the tracking is inconsistent with what advertisers see in their Web analytics for several reasons. For starters, there are technological challenges that prevent conversion tracking on Facebook from functioning correctly, he said. In other words, there are additional conversions happening that are simply not recorded anywhere.

The report goes into more detail, outlining how post-click conversions are tracked differently by Facebook conversion tracking than in Web analytics. It also suggests that Web analytics platforms that rely on cookies cannot accurately track cross-device conversions because of the inherent challenges with identifying consumers across devices, and that some discrepancies are attributable to certain mobile operating systems and Internet browser combinations blocking third-party cookies.

Buch sees some of Rakuten’s bigger clients apply what he calls a “mobile multiplier.” He also says that it will be interesting to see what Adobe, Google and other platforms do to correct this discrepancy. When asked whether Rakuten sees this discrepancy with other social sites, he says, “I suspect this type of discrepancy would happen on any walled garden where there’s a mobile app linking to a mobile Web site, but truthfully the other social sites are not advanced enough to see the data at scale. We just don’t have the data.”

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Sourced from MediaPost