Tag Archive | "Using"

Thinking About Using AI to Recruit New Staff? Amazon’s Failed Experiment Might Have You Thinking Twice

Companies that are planning to use artificial intelligence for recruitment should think twice before doing that. A new report revealed that Amazon’s AI machine learned gender bias and weeded out women as potential job candidates. The machine even downgraded applicants based on the school they attended.

A growing number of employers are using AI to boost the efficiency of their hiring process. The machine can be utilized to evaluate resumes, narrow down a list of applicants, and recommend candidates for the right post within a company. It can then pass on its findings to its live counterpart for human assessment. While AI is an effective tool for screening resumes, it has been shown to develop bias, as proven by Amazon’s experiment.

Reuters reported that the retail giant spent several years developing an AI that would vet job applicants. The machine was trained to look at the resumes that the company received for the past ten years. But as most of these applications were from male applicants, the patterns the AI identified were strongly oriented to that sex. In short, Amazon’s AI learned gender bias.

For instance, the AI developed a preference for terms like “captured” or “executed,” which were words commonly used by male engineers. The machine also began to penalize applications that included the word “women” or “women’s.” So describing yourself as the head of the “women’s physics club” was a strike against you.

A source familiar with Amazon’s AI program also admitted that the machine even downgraded applicants who graduated from two all-women’s universities. The names of the universities were not specified in the report.

The bias shown by the AI’s algorithm became noticeable a year after the project started, and Amazon admittedly tried to correct its AI. The company’s engineers initially edited the system to make it neutral to these specific words. However, there was no way of proving that the machine would not learn another way to sort candidates in a discriminatory manner.

The project was eventually shelved in 2017 because company executives lost confidence in it. The AI also reportedly failed at providing choices for strong and effective job candidates.

Fortunately for Amazon, the AI hiring experiment was just a trial run. The machine was never utilized by a larger group and was never used as the main recruiting agent. Nevertheless, the possibility is high that a qualified applicant was weeded out simply because she was a woman and did not think to use a masculine term like “capture.”

[Featured image via Pexels]

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5 Social Media Tactics You Need to STOP Using (And What You Should Do Instead)

These days, it seems like everybody is using social media. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a Facebook or Instagram account. Statistics have shown that there are now 2.2 billion social media users around the world, and the numbers are expected to reach 3 billion by 2020. With such a massive reach, it’s no wonder that every year more companies use social media as part of their marketing strategy.

However, it’s not enough to have a social media account; you also need to use effective strategies to make them work. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are still behind the times and are using outdated tactics that may actually be doing them more harm than good.

Are you guilty of any of these social media faux pas?

1. Engaging Only When You Need Something

Social media is a communication tool and the interaction goes two ways. Some brands look at social media strictly as a promotional tool and only post when they need something. But today’s consumers are pretty savvy and know when they’re being used so don’t expect this strategy to be well-received.

Better Tactic:

Engage your audience regularly. Ask questions. Join conversations and make sure you actually have something worthwhile to say. Don’t just show up, post a link, and then disappear. Personalizing your interactions with customers is time-consuming, but it’s a great way of engaging them and build a rapport.

2. Using Too Many Hashtags

Hashtags are great! They make your post easy to find on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Plus, it’s fun trying to come up with witty hashtags. What’s not fun is when hashtags are used excessively so stop if you’re guilty of this. An avalanche of hashtags makes you look desperate and spammy, especially if you’re hashtagging every adjective that comes to your mind even if they’re not relevant to your product (ex. #blue, #cool, #nice, #small).

Better Tactic:

Take the time to come up with an appropriate hashtag. Be deliberate in your description and ensure they’re relevant to your product. More importantly, make sure your post has more words than hashtags. This will ensure that your audience is focusing on your message and not on the #.

3. Jumping on the Social Media Bandwagon

Reacting to every trending topic is one social media trick that you need to let go. Some brands jump on a popular topic or meme simply to start a conversation or to appear relevant. If it doesn’t fit your demographic or brand then your audience doesn’t need to hear your thoughts about it. For instance, your post congratulating Prince Harry about becoming a father will fall flat when your main audience is in Southeast Asia.

Better Tactic:

If you are going to say something about a particular topic, make sure your post will bring something to the table. Ask yourself if what you’ll be sharing is relevant to the discussion, your brand and market. If not, then there’s no need to post that meme.

4. Inappropriate Tagging of People or Companies

Tagging is a great way of calling attention to your posts. But it doesn’t make sense to tag people or brands in promos or images when they’re not in it or have no clear connection to the post. This move is reminiscent to a mass email campaign. It’s obviously generic, sloppy, and just as irritating. It’s also quite rude to tag someone without making an effort to personalize the request or post.

Better Tactic:

You’ll have a higher chance of getting a brand to help you if you send a direct message or tag them in a separate post first. If the company or influencer is someone you have worked with in the past, then include their links in your post. For instance, you can thank the influencer for their article on your company and include the link. Then segue to your promo and call-to-action.

5. Limiting Posts to the “Best Time”

Studies have shown that there are best times to post on social media. However, these are calculated based on averages; on the times that the majority of users are active and engaged. But every demographic is different. What if your specific followers are not active during those reported “best times?”

Better Tactic:

Instead of relying on the aforementioned study, you should also conduct your own research. Utilize your social media tools and check when your audiences are really online. FB Insights will display this for your Page. There are also tools that will tell you when your Twitter followers are active. Experiment and post at different times and days. This will help you come up with your own unique pattern of engagement.

Social media is a great marketing tool. However, a strategy that works for one brand might not work for another. So make sure that the tactics you use are relevant to your company and your market.

[Featured image via Pixabay]

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How Adobe is Using AI to Transform the Customer Experience

Adobe has now integrated their artificial intelligence platform Adobe Sensei into Photoshop and most of their creative products. “Adobe Sensei is an AI and machine learning platform that deeply understands how our users work and delivers a lot of simple workflow that makes that magical moment happens in any of our applications,” noted Abhay Parasnis, CTO & EVP at Adobe. “What makes Sensei so unique is that Adobe is the only company in the industry that can marry art of content and creative expression and science of delight on a massive scale.”

“The key areas we focus on are content intelligence, computational creativity, and the experience which is related to understanding events related to how content is delivered,” commented Scott Prevost, VP Engineering of Adobe Sensei and Search in an Adobe explanation of the product.

“If I can go all the way from how I create content in the creative tool and then have the ability to personalize it at scale to Adobe Experience Cloud, then have the ability to measure it through analytics and feed the measurement back into the creative workflow, saying these designs work better, that actually is the holy grail in what customers tell us they want,” says Parasnis.

Shantanu Narayen, Adobe CEO, recently commented on CNBC about how this is helping to improve the Adobe customer experience:

On the creativity side, everybody fears the blank page, so if AI can start to infer what people want to do in terms of using either Photoshop or one of our creative products and when you can speak to the computer and it understands and infers what you want to do and makes our products and tools more accessible, that’s a huge win. Then you can attract a tremendous amount of customers.

At the other end of the spectrum, when you have millions of customers hitting your website, the AI that we have on the Digital Experience Cloud being able to infer intelligence from the trillions of transactions and ensure that you get the right offer that was meant for you in real time, that’s something that humans cannot do.

Those are two really good examples at different ends of the spectrum of how AI enables our customers to do more with our technology.

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5 Simple Steps for Using Facebook Groups to Grow Your Business

In January 2018, a lot of marketers expressed frustration with Facebook—some even gave up on the platform altogether—after noticing a sharp decline in the organic reach of their posts. Facebook’s Head of News Feed Adam Mosseri said that the company decided to “shift ranking to make News Feed more about connecting with people and less about consuming media in isolation.” 

As it stands, the platform’s current news feed algorithm has basically ensured that brands won’t be able to grow organically through their Facebook Pages. But, this is not a problem with Groups.

A Facebook Group is basically a community that revolves around an idea, cause, or theme. There’s a group for anything and everything on Facebook. From doomsday preppers to Wiccans to those looking to learn more about SEO, you can find what you need in Groups. Since it’s more about ideas than hawking a product, a lot of brands underestimate the power of Facebook Groups and its capacity to build customers and yield high conversion rates. Don’t make that mistake.

Why It’s Better to Use a Facebook Group

You don’t need a strong social media following or a long email list for your Facebook Group to thrive and grow. For one, FB groups are more focused on collaboration. It might not allow for Facebook ads but brands will be able to engage and talk directly to their market, so you will know exactly what your buyers want or need.

This is also a great place to announce an offer to a highly targeted group. This same group can also give you immediate and extremely valuable feedback. You can create a poll or conduct a survey about product concepts or customer experiences. Facebook Groups also gives companies an advantage in terms of notifications. While new posts will appear on the news feed, members also receive a separate notification.

5 Steps to Use Facebook Groups to Grow Your Business

1. Be Consistent in Posting Content

Make sure that every piece of content you post in your Facebook Group page brings value. This will help boost engagement among members. Look for interesting content to share with members on Google news. You can also check out podcasts that are of interest to your members or utilize sites like Buzzsumo to see what topics are trending in your group’s category.

2. Get Members Interacting

Facebook Groups are famous for its members’ high level of engagement. Keep the ball rolling continuously by posting things that will encourage interaction. For instance, introduce daily theme prompts that will allow members to post photos or share their opinions. You can also create a poll and ask your group for advice. A live Q&A, a weekly challenge, or a tutorial are other exciting options to consider.

However, keeping up with active members is challenging and time-consuming. Consider hiring a community manager who can help you in monitoring posts, comments, and questions. This will give you more time to focus on content and on your group’s objectives.

3. Leave No Social Media Platform Behind

Put all your social media accounts to good use by using them to announce your group. You can even do a little cross-promotion if you want. Design an attractive post that shows your group’s logo and post it on your Instagram or Twitter accounts. Include a link to your Facebook group so people can simply tap on it and be taken to your profile.

4. Use Giveaways to Drum Up Interest

People love getting free stuff, so drum up interest or build up engagement by giving away gifts, points, or freebies. Companies have been using this strategy for years and it still remains relevant. Use this ruse and announce a giveaway on your group page. Utilize your other social media accounts to promote the giveaway. You can then choose a date and organize a Facebook event for this promotion.

5. Ask Loyal Members to Invite Their Friends

One of the best ways to grow your group and business is to ask loyal members to invite their friends along for the ride. Make things easier by giving them clear instructions on how to do this. Inform them to go to the right side of the group’s page. They’ll see “Add Members” and “Suggested Members.” Beneath that are the names of their friends and an “Add Member” button. They can simply click on the button beside the name of the friend they want to invite.

It’s a good idea to ask your members to be selective about who they choose to invite to the group. You want to make sure that only those who are really interested or who will have something to contribute will join.

Never underestimate people’s passion for a cause or their desire to be part of a community. Tap into this power by creating your own Facebook group. You’ll be able to build a solid consumer base composed of like-minded individuals.

[Featured image via Facebook]

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Visualizing Time: A Project Management How-To Using Google Sheets

Posted by R0bin_L0rd

The short version of this post: Project management is a vital part of our job as marketers, but planning and visualizing projects over time is hard, so I’ve created a set of Google Sheets to make that work easier for you.

I’ve found this system helpful in a number of ways, so I’m sharing my templates here in case it’ll make your day a bit shorter. I’ll start off with a brief overview of what the sheets do, but in the latter section of this post I’ll also go into greater depth about how they work so you can change them to suit your own needs.

If you’d like to skip this post and get straight to the templates, you can access them here (but I’d recommend reading a bit about how they work first):

It’s worth mentioning: I don’t consider these sheets to be the only solution. They are a free solution that I’ve found pretty useful, but I have colleagues who swear by the likes of Smartsheet and Teamwork.

It’s also worth noting that different tools work better or worse with different styles. My aim with these sheets is to have a fairly concrete plan for the next three or four months, then a looser set of ideas for further down the line. When I’m filling out these sheets, I also focus on outcomes rather than processes – that helps cut down the time I spend updating sheets, and makes everything clearer for people to read.

The long version of this post is a lot like the short version above, but I talk more about some principles I try to stick to and how this setup fulfills them (shocker, eh?). As promised, the final section will describe how the sheets work, for anyone who runs into problems or wants to make something of their own.

Contents (for if you just want to jump to a specific section):

The 3 principles (which are about people as much as using the sheets)
An early conclusion
Appendices & instructions
How to add tasks to the list
Splitting tasks across multiple time periods
Working with the Month View tab (Planner and Stakeholder Versions)
How to make the Gantt charts work (and add categories)
How to make the Category-Filterable Forward-Facing Gantt Charts work
How to create the Stakeholder View
How to update the God’s-I Version


The principles (which are about people as much as using the sheets)

Principle 1: We shouldn’t need to store all our information in our heads.

This is a simple one — if we have to regularly understand something complex, particularly if it changes over time, that information has to be on the page. For example, if I’m trying to plan a marketing strategy and I have to constantly look at the information on the screen and then shuffle it around in my head to work out what we have time for month to month, I’m going to lose the thread and, eventually, my mind.

The Planner Version sheet aims to solve this in a few ways. First, you write all the tasks down in the Task View tab, the time period you’re completing them in is on the far left (in my example, it’s the month the task is planned for), and there are other columns like status and category — but initially, it can just be a brain dump of what needs to happen. The idea here is that when you’re first writing everything out, you don’t have to think too much about it — you can easily change the dates and add other information later.

The Month View tab takes the information in the Task List tab and reorders it by the months listed in column A of the Task View (it could be other time periods, as long as it’s consistent).

This way you can look at a time period, see how much resource is left, and read everything you currently have planned (the remaining resource calculation will also take into account recurring tasks you don’t always want to write out, like meetings).

While the Month View tab can help you focus on specific time periods, it doesn’t give you a long-term view of the plan or task dependencies, so we have the two Gantt views. The Gantt View tab contains everything from sixty days ago and into the future, as long as you haven’t just marked the task as “Later.” The Category-Filterable Gantt only focuses on things that are planned for the next six months.

As the name suggests, you can filter this second Gantt to only show specific categories (you label tasks with categories in the Task View tab). This filter is to help with broader trends that are harder to notice — for instance, if the most important part of the project is a social campaign or a site change and you don’t get to it for six months, you may need to make sure everyone is aware of that and agrees. Likewise, if you need to be showing impact but spend most of your time reporting, you may want to change your plan or make sure everyone understands why things are planned that way.

Principle 2: No one knows everything (and they shouldn’t).

If you’re working on a project where you have all the information, then one of two things is likely happening:

  1. You’ve really doubled down on that neuroticism we share
  2. You’re carrying this thing — you should just quit and start your own company selling beads* or something.

We can trust that our clients/bosses have more context than we do about wider plans and pressures. They may know more about wider strategies, that their boss tenses up every time a certain project is mentioned, or that a colleague hasn’t yet announced their resignation. While a Google Sheet is never an acceptable substitute for actual communication, our clients or bosses may also have an idea of where they want the project to go which they haven’t communicated, or which we haven’t understood.

We can also trust that people working on individual tasks have a good idea of whether things are going to be a problem — for instance, if we’re allowing far too little time for a task. We can try to be as informed as possible, but they’re still likely to know something we don’t.

Even if we disagree that certain things should be priorities or issues, having a transparent, shared plan helps us kick off difficult conversations with a shared understanding of what the plan currently is. The less everyone has to reprocess information to understand it (see Principle 1), the more likely we are to weed out problems early.

This is all well and good, but expecting someone to absorb everything about a project is likely to have the opposite effect. We need a source of data that everyone can refer to, without crowding their thoughts or our conversations with things that only we as project managers have to worry about.

That’s why we have the Stakeholder Version of our sheets. When we write everything in the Planner Version, the Planned tab is populated with just the things that are relevant for people who aren’t us (i.e, all the tasks where the status isn’t “unpitched,” “cancelled,” “forgotten,” or blank) with none of the resource or project identifier information.

We never have to fill out the Stakeholder Version sheet — it just grabs that information from the Planned tab using importrange() and creates all the same Gantt charts and monthly views — so we don’t have to worry about different plans showing different information.

*Bees?

Principle 3: I’m going to miss stuff (less is more).

I’ll be honest: I’ve spent a bunch of time in the past putting together tracking systems that I don’t check enough. I keep filling them out but I don’t spend enough time figuring out what’s needed where. If we have a Stakeholder Version which takes out the stuff that is irrelevant to other people, we need the same for us. After all, this isn’t the only thing we’re thinking about, either.

The What-in-God’s-name-have-I-missed Version (God’s-I from now on) pulls in data from all of your individual project management sheets and gives you one place to go to be reminded about all the things you’ve forgotten and messed up. It’s like dinner with your parents in a Google Sheet. You’re welcome.

The three places to check in this version are:

  1. Alerts Dashboard tab, which shows you the numbers of deadlines upcoming or missed, the work you need to budget for or brief, and how much unplanned budget you have per project, per month (where budget could just be internal people-hours, as that is still finite).
  2. Task Issues tab, which gives a filterable view of everything over the next three months (so you can dig in to the alerts you see in step one).
  3. Deadlines This Week tab so you have a quick reminder of what you need to complete soon.


An early conclusion:

Often, when I’m making a point, people tell me they hope I’ll wrap up early. This section is mainly proof of personal growth.

It’s also because everything after this is specific to using, changing, or understanding the project management sheets I’ve shared, so you need only read what follows if you’re interested in how to use the sheets or how I made them (I really do recommend dabbling with some uses of filter() and query(), particularly in conjunction with RegEx formulas).

Aside from that, I hope you find these resources useful. I’ve been getting a lot of value from them as a way to plan with people collaboratively and separate the concept of “project manager” from “person who needs to know all the things,” but I would be really interested in any thoughts you have about how to improve them or anything you think I’ve missed. Feel free to comment below!

Access the template sheets here:


Appendices & instructions

Some general notes

Quick notes on avoiding problems:

  1. Make sure that when you copy the sheets, the sharing permissions for the Planner View is email- or at least organization-based (anyone with access to the Stakeholder View will see the Planner View URL). It’s a good idea to keep the God’s-I Version permissions email-based, too.
  2. Try to follow the existing format of words and numbers as closely as possible when creating new information.
  3. If you want a new row, I’d insert a row, select the one above, copy it down into the new row, then change the information — that way, the formulas in the hidden columns should still work for you.
  4. If you want a new column, it might break one of the query() functions; once you’ve added it, have a quick look for formulas using =query() and consider changing the columns they reference that will have been affected by your change.

Quick notes on fixing problems:

Here’s a list of things to check for if you’ve changed something and it isn’t being reflected in the sheet:

  1. Go through all the tabs in the stakeholder view and unhide any hidden columns
    1. They usually just contain a formula that reformats text so our lookups work. See if any of those are missing or broken.
  2. Try copying the formulas from the row above or next to the cell that isn’t working.
  3. Try removing the =iferror portion of formulas.
    1. A lot of the cells are set up to be blank if they break. It makes it easier to read the sheet, but can make it harder to know whether something is actually empty or just looks empty.
  4. If one sheet isn’t properly pulling through data from another, look for the =importrange() formulas and make sure there is one that matches the URL of the sheet you’re trying to reference and that you’ve given permission for the formula to work — you’ll need to click a button.
    1. Check the Task View tab in the Stakeholder Version and Project URLs tab in the God’s-I Version
  5. Have you just called a task “Part 4” or similar? There is a RegEx formula which will strip that out.
  6. Have you forgotten to give a task a type? If so, the Gantt view will warn you in the Status column.

The query function

The =query() function in Google Sheets is awesome — it makes tons of things tons easier, particularly in terms of automating data manipulation. Most of what these sheets do could be achieved with =query, but I’ve often used =filter (which is also very powerful) because =filter is apparently quicker in Google Sheets and at times these sheets have a lot to process.

RegEx

You shouldn’t need to know any RegEx for this sheet, but it is useful in general. Here the RegEx is mainly used to remove the “Part #” in multi-part tasks (see below) and look for anything that matches multiple options — for instance, when selecting multiple categories in the Category-specific forward-facing Gantt tab (see below). RegEx is only used here in RegExmatch(), RegExextract(), RegExreplace(), or as part of the query function where we say “matches.”

Query/filter and isblank

A lot of the formulas in these sheets are either filter() or query() or are wrapped in =if(isblank() — that’s basically because filter and query functions can fill more cells than just the one you put the formula in. For example, they can fill a whole row, column, or sheet. That means that other cells are calculating or looking up against cells which may or may not be empty, so I’ve added the isblank() check so that the cells don’t break when there isn’t information somewhere, but as you add information you don’t have to do as much copying and pasting of formulas.

Tick boxes

The tick boxes are relatively new in Google Sheets. If you need another one, just copy it from an existing cell or select from the “Insert” menu. Where I’ve used tick boxes, I often have another formula in the sheet which filters rows based on what boxes are ticked, then creates a RegEx based on the values that have a tick next to them.

You don’t need to understand this to use the sheets, but you can see it in the rows I’ve unhidden in the Category-specific forward-facing Gantt tab of the Stakeholder Version sheet.

Quick tip — if you want to change all the boxes to ticked/unticked and don’t want to have to do so one by one, you can copy a ticked or unticked checkbox across all the other cells.

How to add tasks to the list

In the task view, the most important things to include are the task name, time period it’s planned for, cost, and type.

For ease, when creating a new task I recommend inserting a row, copying the row above into it, and then changing the information, that way you know you’re not missing any hidden formulas.

Again, don’t bother changing the Stakeholder Version. Once you’ve added the URL of the Planner Version to the =importrange() function, it will pull automatically from the Planner Version.

Splitting tasks across multiple time periods

You can put more than one thing in the time period for a task, just by separating it with “, “ (comma space). That’s because when we get the full list of months, we join all the individual cells together with “, “ then split them apart by “, “ and then dedupe the list — so multiple months in one cell are treated the same as all the other months.

=unique(transpose(split(JOIN(", ",'Task view'!A:A),", ",0)))

The cost-per-month formula in the Task List tab counts how many commas are present in the month column for that row, then divides the planned cost by that number — meaning the cost is split equally across all of the months listed.

=H2/(len(REGEXREPLACE(A2,"[^\,]*",""))+1)

If you don’t want the task to be completely equally split between different time periods, you can write “Part 1” or “Part 2” next to a task. As long as you write just “Part” and then numbers at the end of the name, that’ll be stripped out in column O of the task list tab so the different parts of a task will be combined into one record in things like the Gantt chart.

=REGEXREPLACE(B2,"Part \d+$  ","")

Working with the Month View tab (Planner and Stakeholder version)

A few key things are going on in the Month View tab. First, we’re getting all of the time periods we have listed in the Task View.

Because the months don’t always show up in the right format (meaning later filters don’t work), we then use a =text() formula in the hidden column B to make sure the months stay in the format we need.

Then, in the “deliverables” section of this tab, we use the below formula:

=if(not(isblank(A12)), iferror(TRANSPOSE(FILTER('Task view'!B:B,RegExmatch('Task view'!A:A,B12))),""),"")

What we’re doing above is checking if the “month” cell of this row is has anything in it. If there is a month there, we filter the tasks in the Task View to only those that contain that month in the text month column. Then we use the transpose() function to change our filtered tasks from a vertical list to the horizontal list we see in the sheet.

Finally, we use the below formula to filter the costs we’ve listed in the Task View tab, the same way we filtered the task names above. Then we add together all the costs for the month (plus the standing monthly costs) and subtract them from the total amount of time/hours we have to spend. That way we calculate how much we have left to play with, or if we’re running over.

=if(isblank(A12),"",((D12-SUM(FILTER('Task view'!I:I,RegExmatch('Task view'!A:A,B12))))-sum($  D$  6:$  F$  8)))

We also pull this value through to our God’s-I Version to see at a glance if we’ve over/under-planned.

How to make the Gantt charts work (and add categories)

Column C in the Task View tab is the category; you also need to fill this out for the Gantt charts to work. I haven’t forced the kind of categories you have to use because each project is different, but it’s worth using consistent categories (down to the capital letter) because we deduplicate the task categories, and that relies on all of the names being consistent.

What’s happening in the Gantt chart is each cell is a combination of a filter and vlookup (the below looks more complicated than it is).

=iferror(if(not(or(isblank($  D6),ISBLANK(F$  1))),vlookup(filter('Task view'!$  C:$  C,'Task view'!$  O:$  O=$  D5,REGEXMATCH('Task view'!$  A:$  A,F$  2)),'Status and colour code'!$  C:$  E,3,0),""),"")

The formula first checks if the task or month cells are blank. If not, it looks in the month cell in its column and cross-references with the task cell in its row. Where the intersection of a month and task matches a task in our Task View (as in the task in that row is taking place during the month in that column), the filter formula will return the category. For those interested, this might also have been achieved with index-match, but filter lets us match with RegEx so we can give multiple matching options and they don’t have to match exactly. Because we split tasks across multiple months, we need to be flexible in our matching.

The reason we check whether the task or month cells are empty, as mentioned above is so we can paste the above formula in all the cells of the Gantt chart and have them fill out as we add more months and tasks, rather than having to copy and paste the formula each time.

When our filter formula returns the specific category of our task, we take that value and run a vlookup in the Status and color code tab. (That’s only necessary so I could set up the conditional formatting for you so it won’t break when you change the specific category names.)

At the moment, the Gantt charts are set up to color-code the first 7 categories, plus a Deadline category if needed. If you want to add more, they’ll show up initially in the Gantt chart as a black block and you’ll need to set up conditional formatting to color-code them.

To add automatic color formatting for more categories, repeat the below process for each of the Gantt chart views in the Planner and Stakeholder sheets:

  1. Select all the cells in the tab
  2. Select “Conditional Formatting” from the Format menu
  3. Find the rule with the black box next to it and make a note of what number it’s currently targeting from
  4. Create a new rule for anything which equals the number in step 3, then set the same color for both the background and text of that rule
  5. Change the rule that’s got a black block next to it to target one number higher

How to make the Category-Filterable Gantt Charts work

This tab uses our old friends, the =filter() and =query() functions. First we use filter to grab the full list of categories from the Status and color code tab we mentioned before:

=FILTER('Gantt view'!A6:B,RegExmatch('Gantt view'!A6:A,".*[a-zA-Z].*"))

Then we put Google Sheets’ shiny new checkboxes next to them (that’ll help us filter our data easily).

Normally we’ll hide row one, but it’s visible to show you a formula that looks at all of the categories and filters them to just those where the tick-box next to them is ticked. If there are none, it returns “(\d|Deadline)” meaning “either a number, or the word Deadline” in RegEx-speak (so anything in our list), because the vertical pipe “|” means “or” and “\d” means “number.”

If there is a tick next to one or more of the categories, the formula will return those things, separated with the “|” that, again, means “or” in RegEx.

=if(countif(C3:C,True)>0,CONCATENATE("(",JOIN("|",FILTER(B3:B,C3:C=True,not(isblank(B3:B)))),")"),"(\d|Deadline)")

Then in cell E3 we have a query formula. The reason we’re using =query and not =filter here is that we need to look for things in more than one column; filter can only really handle one column at a time.

The query function then checks the first six columns of our original Gantt chart, each time looking for any of the category numbers we’ve ticked (what the conditional formatting hides is that the category numbers are in that original Gantt, they’re just the same color as the cell shading). When no tick-boxes are checked, it returns anything that has falls in to any category over the next six planned months. Once we start ticking checkboxes, this will return only the things over the next six planned months that are in one of the categories we’ve selected.

=query('Gantt view'!D1:1056,"Select D, E, F, G, H, I, J where D <> '' and (E matches '"&B1&"' or F matches '"&B1&"' or G matches '"&B1&"' or H matches '"&B1&"' or I matches '"&B1&"' or J matches '"&B1&"')",1)

How to create the Stakeholder View

The Planner Version sheet has a tab called Planned. You don’t need to fill out this tab — it has a query which extracts information from the Task View tab using a =query() function:

=QUERY({'Task view'!A1:F,'Task view'!O1:P},"Select * where not (Col6 contains 'pitched' or Col6 contains 'cancelled' or Col6 = '' or Col6 = 'Forgotten')")

All the formula above is doing is taking the Month, Task, Description, Blocker, Status, Category, and Full task columns, then showing every record where the status isn’t “unpitched,” “cancelled,” “forgotten,” or empty. That gives us a tab with the information we’re ready to share. We could also achieve this with =filter() if we reordered the data in the Task View tab, but this ordering of data is easier to work with, so we just use =query() and select only the columns we want here, combining the ranges horizontally by listing them between {} at the start of this formula.

Then, the Task View tab in our Stakeholder Version sheet file uses =importrange() to target that cleaned list we’ve created. To make sure the Stakeholder Version keeps functioning when you create copies of both of these files, all you need to do is go to the new Planner Version sheet and copy the URL of the page, then go to the Stakeholder Version, find the Task View tab, and update the importrange() formula in cell A1 to have the new URL of your Planner Version sheet. The cell will recalculate, you’ll need to grant permission, then it should work as normal.

How to update the God’s-I Version

This view gives you the following:

A quick look at the total number of tasks in any project which:

  1. Have a deadline within 10 days of now
  2. Have passed a deadline (with the task not completed)
  3. Don’t have a deadline set
  4. Aren’t briefed or aren’t budgeted for the next three months

It’ll also give you a quick look at the amount of unplanned budget per project, per month, to make sure you haven’t forgotten to plan a month and haven’t overplanned a month.

The God’s-I Version works in a similar way to the Stakeholder Version in that it pulls in information using =importrange(), but a key difference is that we want to pull from multiple sheets. Rewriting the formula could get to be a pain, so instead we can generate the formula we need in the Project URLs tab.

The only things you need to do are:

  1. Add the URL of the new Planner View sheet you want to include in the Project URLs tab of the God’s-I Version
  2. Grant permission for this sheet to access that sheet (you can click on the alert that appears in column A)
  3. Copy the value in Cell B1, go to the All Imported Task Views tab and select cell A2, then paste the value into the top bar. It’s important that we don’t paste straight into the cell or the sheet will run the concatenate formula rather than the query formula we’re making.

It’s worth noting that this sheet will have all the information about every project you’re managing. Once it’s set up, you shouldn’t share access to anyone unless you’re happy with them seeing all the budgeting details for each of the sheets.


A late conclusion:

Why are you looking for a conclusion down here? It’s in the middle of the post under the title of An early conclusion,” of course. Have a nice day!

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Using the Flowchart Method for Diagnosing Ranking Drops – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

Being able to pinpoint the reason for a ranking drop is one of our most perennial and potentially frustrating tasks as SEOs. There are an unknowable number of factors that go into ranking these days, but luckily the methodology for diagnosing those fluctuations is readily at hand. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome the wonderful Kameron Jenkins to show us a structured way to diagnose ranking drops using a flowchart method and critical thinking.

Flowchart method for diagnosing ranking drops

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!


Video Transcription

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins. I am the new SEO Wordsmith here at Moz, and I’m so excited to be here. Before this, I worked at an agency for about six and a half years. I worked in the SEO department, and really a common thing we encountered was a client’s rankings dropped. What do we do?

This flowchart was kind of built out of that mentality of we need a logical workflow to be able to diagnose exactly what happened so we can make really pointed recommendations for how to fix it, how to get our client’s rankings back. So let’s dive right in. It’s going to be a flowchart, so it’s a little nonlinear, but hopefully this makes sense and helps you work smarter rather than harder.

Was it a major ranking drop?: No

The first question I’d want to ask is: Was their rankings drop major? By major, I would say that’s something like page 1 to page 5 overnight. Minor would be something like it just fell a couple positions, like position 3 to position 5.

We’re going to take this path first. It was minor.

Has there been a pattern of decline lasting about a month or greater?

That’s not a magic number. A month is something that you can use as a benchmark. But if there’s been a steady decline and it’s been one week it’s position 3 and then it’s position 5 and then position 7, and it just keeps dropping over time, I would consider that a pattern of decline.

So if no, I would actually say wait.

  • Volatility is normal, especially if you’re at the bottom of page 1, maybe page 2 plus. There’s going to be a lot more shifting of the search results in those positions. So volatility is normal.
  • Keep your eyes on it, though. It’s really good to just take note of it like, “Hey, we dropped. Okay, I’m going to check that again next week and see if it continues to drop, then maybe we’ll take action.”
  • Wait it out. At this point, I would just caution against making big website updates if it hasn’t really been warranted yet. So volatility is normal. Expect that. Keep your finger on the pulse, but just wait it out at this point.

If there has been a pattern of decline though, I’m going to have you jump to the algorithm update section. We’re going to get there in a second. But for now, we’re going to go take the major rankings drop path.

Was it a major ranking drop?: Yes

The first question on this path that I’d want to ask is:

Was there a rank tracking issue?

Now, some of these are going seem pretty basic, like how would that ever happen, but believe me it happens every once in a while. So just before we make major updates to the website, I’d want to check the rank tracking.

I. The wrong domain or URL.

That can be something that happens a lot. A site maybe you change domains or maybe you move a page and that old page of that old domain is still listed in your ranking tracker. If that’s the case, then the rank tracking tool doesn’t know which URL to judge the rankings off of. So it’s going to look like maybe you dropped to position 10 overnight from position 1, and that’s like, whoa, that’s a huge update. But it’s actually just that you have the wrong URL in there. So just check that. If there’s been a page update, a domain update, check to make sure that you’ve updated your rank tracker.

II. Glitches.

So it’s software, it can break. There are things that could cause it to be off for whatever reason. I don’t know how common that is. It probably is totally dependent on which kind of software you use. But glitches do happen, so I would manually check your rankings.

III. Manually check rankings.

One way I would do that is…

  • Go to incognito in Google and make sure you’re logged out so it’s not personalized. I would search the term that you’re wanting to rank for and see where you’re actually ranking.
  • Google’s Ad Preview tool. That one is really good too if you want to search where you’re ranking locally so you can set your geolocation. You could do mobile versus desktop rankings. So it could be really good for things like that.
  • Crosscheck with another tool, like Moz’s tool for rank tracking. You can pop in your URLs, see where you’re ranking, and cross-check that with your own tool.

So back to this. Rank tracking issues. Yes, you found your problem. If it was just a rank tracking tool issue, that’s actually great, because it means you don’t have to make a lot of changes. Your rankings actually haven’t dropped. But if that’s not the issue, if there is no rank tracking issue that you can pinpoint, then I would move on to Google Search Console.

Problems in Google Search Console?

So Google Search Console is really helpful for checking site health matters. One of the main things I would want to check in there, if you experience a major drop especially, is…

I. Manual actions.

If you navigate to Manual Actions, you could see notes in there like unnatural links pointing to your site. Or maybe you have thin or low-quality content on your site. If those things are present in your Manual Actions, then you have a reference point. You have something to go off of. There’s a lot of work involved in lifting a manual penalty that we can’t get into here unfortunately. Some things that you can do to focus on manual penalty lifting…

  • Moz’s Link Explorer. You can check your inbound links and see their spam score. You could look at things like anchor text to see if maybe the links pointing to your site are keyword stuffed. So you can use tools like that.
  • There are a lot of good articles too, in the industry, just on getting penalties lifted. Marie Haynes especially has some really good ones. So I would check that out.

But you have found your problem if there’s a manual action in there. So focus on getting that penalty lifted.

II. Indexation issues.

Before you move out of Search Console, though, I would check indexation issues as well. Maybe you don’t have a manual penalty. But go to your index coverage report and you can see if anything you submitted in your sitemap is maybe experiencing issues. Maybe it’s blocked by robots.txt, or maybe you accidentally no indexed it. You could probably see that in the index coverage report. Search Console, okay. So yes, you found your problem. No, you’re going to move on to algorithm updates.

Algorithm updates

Algorithm updates happen all the time. Google says that maybe one to two happen per day. Not all of those are going to be major. The major ones, though, are listed. They’re documented in multiple different places. Moz has a really good list of algorithm updates over time. You can for sure reference that. There are going to be a lot of good ones. You can navigate to the exact year and month that your site experienced a rankings drop and see if it maybe correlates with any algorithm update.

For example, say your site lost rankings in about January 2017. That’s about the time that Google released its Intrusive Interstitials Update, and so I would look on my site, if that was the issue, and say, “Do I have intrusive interstitials? Is this something that’s affecting my website?”

If you can match up an algorithm update with the time that your rankings started to drop, you have direction. You found an issue. If you can’t match it up to any algorithm updates, it’s finally time to move on to site updates.

Site updates

What changes happened to your website recently? There are a lot of different things that could have happened to your website. Just keep in mind too that maybe you’re not the only one who has access to your website. You’re the SEO, but maybe tech support has access. Maybe even your paid ad manager has access. There are a lot of different people who could be making changes to the website. So just keep that in mind when you’re looking into it. It’s not just the changes that you made, but changes that anyone made could affect the website’s ranking. Just look into all possible factors.

Other factors that can impact rankings

A lot of different things, like I said, can influence your site’s rankings. A lot of things can inadvertently happen that you can pinpoint and say, “Oh, that’s definitely the cause.”

Some examples of things that I’ve personally experienced on my clients’ websites…

I. Renaming pages and letting them 404 without updating with a 301 redirect.

There was one situation where a client had a blog. They had hundreds of really good blog posts. They were all ranking for nice, long tail terms. A client emailed into tech support to change the name of the blog. Unfortunately, all of the posts lived under the blog, and when he did that, he didn’t update it with a 301 redirect, so all of those pages, that were ranking really nicely, they started to fall out of the index. The rankings went with it. There’s your problem. It was unfortunate, but at least we were able to diagnose what happened.

II. Content cutting.

Maybe you’re working with a UX team, a design team, someone who is looking at the website from a visual, a user experience perspective. A lot of times in these situations they might take a page that’s full of really good, valuable content and they might say, “Oh, this is too clunky. It’s too bulky. It has too many words. So we’re going to replace it with an image, or we’re going to take some of the content out.”

When this happens, if the content was the thing that was making your page rank and you cut that, that’s probably something that’s going to affect your rankings negatively. By the way, if that’s happening to you, Rand has a really good Whiteboard Friday on kind of how to marry user experience and SEO. You should definitely check that out if that’s an issue for you.

III. Valuable backlinks lost.

Another situation I was diagnosing a client and one of their backlinks dropped. It just so happened to be like the only thing that changed over this course of time. It was a really valuable backlink, and we found out that they just dropped it for whatever reason, and the client’s rankings started to decline after that time. Things like Moz’s tools, Link Explorer, you can go in there and see gained and lost backlinks over time. So I would check that out if maybe that might be an issue for you.

IV. Accidental no index.

Depending on what type of CMS you work with, it might be really, really easy to accidentally check No Index on this page. If you no index a really important page, Google takes it out of its index. That could happen. Your rankings could drop.So those are just some examples of things that can happen. Like I said, hundreds and hundreds of things could have been changed on your site, but it’s just really important to try to pinpoint exactly what those changes were and if they coincided with when your rankings started to drop.

SERP landscape

So we got all the way to the bottom. If you’re at the point where you’ve looked at all of the site updates and you still haven’t found anything that would have caused a rankings drop, I would say finally look at the SERP landscape.

What I mean by that is just Google your keyword that you want to rank for or your group of keywords that you want to rank for and see which websites are ranking on page 1. I would get a lay of the land and just see:

  • What are these pages doing?
  • How many backlinks do they have?
  • How much content do they have?
  • Do they load fast?
  • What’s the experience?

Then make content better than that. To rank, so many people just think avoid being spammy and avoid having things broken on your site. But that’s not SEO. That’s really just helping you be able to compete. You have to have content that’s the best answer to searchers’ questions, and that’s going to get you ranking.

I hope that was helpful. This is a really good way to just kind of work through a ranking drop diagnosis. If you have methods, by the way, that work for you, I’d love to hear from you and see what worked for you in the past. Let me know, drop it in the comments below.

Thanks, everyone. Come back next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Tracking Your Link Prospecting Using Lists in Link Explorer

Posted by Dr-Pete

I’m a lazy marketer some days — I’ll admit it. I don’t do a lot of manual link prospecting, because it’s a ton of work, outreach, and follow-up. There are plenty of times, though, where I’ve got a good piece of content (well, at least I hope it’s good) and I want to know if it’s getting attention from specific sites, whether they’re in the search industry or the broader marketing or PR world. Luckily, we’ve made that question a lot easier to answer in Link Explorer, so today’s post is for all of you curious but occasionally lazy marketers. Hop into the tool if you want to follow along:

Open Link Explorer

(1) Track your content the lazy way

When you first visit Link Explorer, you’ll see that it defaults to “root domain”:

Some days, you don’t want to wade through your entire domain, but just want to target a single piece of content. Just enter or paste that URL, and select “exact page” (once you start typing a full path, we’ll even auto-select that option for you):

Now I can see just the link data for that page (note: screenshots have been edited for size):

Good news — my Whiteboard Friday already has a decent link profile. That’s already a fair amount to sort through, and as the link profile grows, it’s only going to get tougher. So, how can I pinpoint just the sites I’m interested in and track those sites over time?

(2) Make a list of link prospects

This is the one part we can’t automate for you. Make a list of prospects in whatever tool you please. Here’s an imaginary list I created in Excel:

Obviously, this list is on the short side, but let’s say I decide to pull a few of the usual suspects from the search marketing world, plus one from the broader marketing world, and a couple of aspirational sites (I’m probably not going to get that New York Times link, but let’s dream big).

(3) Create a tracking list in Link Explorer

Obviously, I could individually search for these domains in my full list of inbound links, but even with six prospects, that’s going to take some time. So, let’s do this the lazy way. Back in Link Explorer, look at the very bottom of the left-hand navigation and you’ll see “Link Targeting Lists”:

Keep scrolling — I promise it’s down there. Click on it, and you’ll see something like this:

On the far-right, under the main header, click on “[+] Create new list.” You’ll get an overlay with a three-step form like the one below. Just give your list a name, provide a target URL (the page you want to track links to), and copy-and-paste in your list of prospects. Here’s an example:

Click “Save,” and you should immediately get back some data.

Alas, no link from the New York Times. The blue icons show me that the prospects are currently linking to Moz.com, but not to my target page. The green icon shows me that I’ve already got a head-start — Search Engine Land is apparently linking to this post (thanks, Barry!).

Click on any arrow in the “Notes” column, and you can add a note to that entry, like so:

Don’t forget to hit “Save.” Congratulations, you’ve created your first list! Well, I’ve created your first list for you. Geez, you really are lazy.

(4) Check in to track your progress

Of course, the real magic is that the list just keeps working for you. At any time, you can return to “Link Tracking Lists” on the Link Explorer menu, and now you’ll see a master list of all your lists:

Just click on the list name you’re interested in, and you can see your latest-and-greatest data. We can’t build the links for you, but we can at least make keeping track of them a lot easier.

Bonus video: Now in electrifying Link-o-Vision!

Ok, it’s just a regular video, although it does require electricity. If you’re too lazy to read (in which case, let’s be honest, you probably didn’t get this far), I’ve put this whole workflow into an enchanting collection of words and sounds for you:

I hope you’ll put your newfound powers to good. Let us know how you’re using Tracking Lists (or how you plan to use them) in the comments, and where you’d like to see us take them next!

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Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube

[ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] I met Antonio Centeno at the first ever Youpreneur conference in London, hosted by Chris Ducker. Antonio was seated next to me, one of the only men dressed in a suit, and we immediately struck up a…

The post Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $ 1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube appeared first on Yaro.blog.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube

[ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] I met Antonio Centeno at the first ever Youpreneur conference in London, hosted by Chris Ducker. Antonio was seated next to me, one of the only men dressed in a suit, and we immediately struck up a…

The post Antonio Centeno: How This US Marine Turned Entrepreneur Earns Over $ 1 Million Teaching Men How To Dress Better Using YouTube appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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The Problem With Only Using Social Media To Grow Your Business

In recent year’s a new crop of entrepreneur/freelancer/coaches have risen off the back of social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. These people use the tools to distribute their knowledge and thus attract clients. You share some pictures, write short updates, do live videos, and eventually, a few people…

The post The Problem With Only Using Social Media To Grow Your Business appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

Entrepreneurs-Journey.com by Yaro Starak

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