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PPC pros who underestimate the impact automation will have on their professional lives risk missing out on a great transformation.

I’ve been writing about the ways automation is transforming PPC for a few years now.

Through that time, it’s become abundantly clear that managing PPC is rapidly moving away from requiring PPC tacticians.

We used to operate in the details, such as focusing on exact keywords or specific bids.

Google’s machine learning is the automated box that keeps swallowing up more of the tasks we used to do.

And every time it gobbles up another lever, we have to shift our own work to that of the PPC teacher by changing a setting or input at the edges of where our control ends and the world of machine learning starts.

There are three key factors at work in expediting this transformation of the PPC manager’s role.

Factor 1: More Automation

We all see the frequent updates from Google about new forms of PPC automation that are supposed to make our lives easier and deliver better results.

What’s driving the onslaught of more automation are the improvements in machine learning that are themselves driven by two key factors:

More data.

Faster processors to find signals within this data.

I’m always fascinated when looking beyond big announcements and I hear about the incremental changes enabled by better machine learning.

Small changes that, when aggregated, eventually turn even skeptics into fans.

For example, Google recently announced that Smart Shopping campaigns can now be started even without the addition of a conversion tracking tag or remarketing tag.

They specifically noted the following:

“Finally, to make it easier for new retailers to get started, we’re reducing the eligibility requirements for Smart Shopping campaigns. Though a remarketing and conversion tag are still needed for optimal performance, you’ll be able to create your first Smart Shopping campaign now and take care of these tags later.”

Considering that this campaign type works only with automated bidding, specifically “Maximize Conversion Value” with an optional target ROAS, it’s fascinating to see that conversion tracking is no longer needed.

Advertisers have benefited from machine learning’s ability to predict similarities between users.

What We Can Do

Google itself says that for Smart Shopping campaigns, conversion tags are still needed for optimal performance.

They’re basically saying that one way to optimize performance is to stop treating the entire product catalog as a portfolio optimization problem.

Instead, group products that are similar in profitability and then manage each of those subsets as a portfolio by grouping them into their own campaign.

Factor 2: Less Data

We’re constantly asked by Google to change the way we optimize our accounts when they take away a piece of data we’ve come to rely on.

Just in the past 18 months, we’ve seen the removal of “average position”, and more recently the reduction of the amount of data included in search terms reports.

Most PPC managers I know consider managing search terms a key way to optimize accounts.

Both to reduce wasted spend from weird close variants and to build volume by capitalizing on trending new searches before everyone else does.

What We Can Do

While we may not like it, the reality is that every time we lose some data, it’s the experts who figure out and implement workarounds to continue having an edge over less savvy competitors.

For example, while we can still look at search terms the same way we did before, we may just get fewer ideas for optimizations now that the data has been curtailed.

But we can also make some assumptions about the statistical distribution of the data and use different techniques like n-gram analysis to find optimization ideas.

This technique was proposed at my recent PPC Town Hall with Martin Rottgerding and Brady Cramm.

The idea is that the same combinations of one, two, or three words (unigrams, bigrams, and trigrams) that we no longer see as individually reported search terms might still surface during an n-gram analysis and can hence be the basis for a decision about a new negative keyword to add.

This is a less direct way of managing the account, but another example of how Google is forcing us to manage PPC accounts in a more indirect manner.

Factor 3: Fewer Controls

This factor really goes hand-in-hand with the other two.

Having fewer controls is almost the inevitable result of less data and more automation.

However, they don’t report this level of detail about where the ad was shown and how it performed there.

As a result, having the control to manage this would make little sense.

While we could make gut-based decisions, we couldn’t truly optimize what we haven’t been able to measure.

The newest automated campaign type, Performance Max, is similar in how it works.

Bidding is automated and likely won’t be something that we can control.

The only thing we may have control over is the message.

Or at the very least, the components that should constitute the message, like what we have with Responsive Search Ads (RSAs).

What We Can Do

Connecting with our prospects through a really compelling message is often left to the team that does CRO.

Crafting a compelling message that connects with our prospects and tells them why ours is the business worth considering to solve their needs is something that we will need to focus on more.

They just point us in the direction that needs work.

And then we have to do that work of being good marketers.

Conclusion

I continue to believe that machines alone won’t deliver the best PPC campaigns.

But the best campaigns can only happen when PPC experts tap the power of the machines while adding a human element of strategy and insight.

How we harness the power of the machines is shifting due to the three factors I covered here.

As a result, we’ll need to be ready for a world where we manage fewer of the details and act more as the teachers to the machine.

More Resources:

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Filmora Meme Maker Is A Totally Free Online Meme Maker

Memes are all over the internet these days. Whether you’re browsing Facebook, going through Reddit, heck even in WhatsApp chats, memes are almost omnipresent now. So, if you’ve been thinking of getting into the meme game and of making your own memes to share online, you should definitely check out Filmora Meme Maker (website).

What Is Filmora Meme Maker

What’s even better, is that the Filmora Meme Maker is a completely free online meme maker and it doesn’t put any sort of watermarks on your images, which is awesome, so you can just create your meme and share it without a watermark ruining it.

Making Memes Online with Filmora Meme Maker Is a Breeze

Personally, I never thought I’d find myself making (or at least trying to make) memes. However, using the Filmora Meme Maker is easy enough that even if you’ve never made a meme in your life.

The Meme Maker has some nifty options for creating memes out of videos as well. For one, the tool automatically converts videos smaller than 5 seconds into GIFs. For other videos, you get the option to trim the video to your liking, thanks to the built in video trimmer.

Once you’re done uploading your meme-worthy image to Meme Maker, you’re taken straight to the editing page. This is where the real magic happens, as far as meme making can be considered a magical experience. Anyway, the Filmora Meme Maker gives you a bunch of options for creating the perfect meme.

Obviously, there’s the option to add text, however, Meme Maker gives you the choice to add text inside the image, outside the image, or both inside and outside the image. That’s pretty cool because it opens up a bunch of possibilities to play around with the placement of text.

Anyway, once you’re done adding the text, Filmora Meme Maker also lets you add some flair to it. First off, there are a bunch of fonts that you can choose from. Personally, my favorite fonts out of these are ‘Oswald’ and ‘Source Sans Pro.’ However, other options might suit your fancy so make sure you check those out as well.

A Bunch of Exporting Options!

Once you’re done setting up the perfect meme, Filmora Meme Maker also gives you the option to export your meme in a variety of commonly used file formats including JPG, PNG, GIF, and even MP4. Keep in mind that these formats show up depending on the type of meme you’re making. So if you’re making a meme with an image that has transparency in it, Meme Maker will only show you the PNG option and so on.

Use the Filmora Meme Maker to Create Your Own Memes

The Filmora Meme Maker is a pretty cool tool to create your own memes with ease, completely free and without having to download any photo editing tools. It offers support for images, videos, and GIFs, which is definitely cool. However, I did notice that importing videos from YouTube or Vimeo URLs wasn’t working, so that’s something to know. Anyway, the Filmora Meme Maker is definitely a handy tool to make memes. I liked creating some (very lame) memes to share inside our office WhatsApp group, and I’m sure you’ll like using it as well.

Check out Filmora Meme Maker from the website

Is War Really In Decline?

Just over a century ago, Europe embarked on the first of two ugly, horrendous, horribly violent world wars. Since 1945, despite half of a century of nuclear standoff, multiple smaller conflicts, and the birth of dozens of new nations out of the dying bodies of empires, big wars don’t seem to happen any more. Author Steve Pinker, in The Better Angels Of Our Nature, argues that war is declining, killing fewer people, and no longer how nations choose to resolve conflicts. Bear Braumoeller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, disagrees, seeing the recent trend as more statistical anomaly than historical fact. On August 29, he presented a paper arguing this at the American Political Science Association conference in Chicago. Nations, the paper says, are just as likely to go to war as they have always been. We caught up with Braumoeller to learn more:

Popular Science: How long has this debate [about whether war is in decline] been going on in political science?

Bear Braumoeller: About 10 years ago John Mueller wrote a book about war in decline. For a long time his was a minority position until Pinker’s book popularized it.

Popular Science: The catchiest line from your paper is that it will take 150 years to know if the trend is holding. What’s some more background on that?

Braumoeller: Some of this literature points to “the long peace” of post-World War II. Obviously we haven’t stopped fighting wars entirely, so what they’re referring to is the absence of really really big wars like World War I and World War II. Those wars would have to be absent for like 70 to 75 more years for us to have confidence that there’s been a change in the baseline rate of really really big wars.

We need a big enough sample to rule out the historical average, which is about one or two big wars per century.

That’s sort of a separate question from how we know whether there are trends in warfare in general. We need to understand that war and peace are both stochastic processes. We need a big enough sample to rule out the historical average, which is about one or two big wars per century. We just haven’t had enough time since World War I and World War II to rule out the possibility that nothing’s changed.

Popular Science: So it seems to me like big wars are a relatively rare event, so a slightly longer time between them is well within the statistical norm, rather than evidence of a trend away from them. Are human events that subject to chance? Is it entirely fair to be treating it as a matter of probability?

Braumoeller: Think of it like a coke machine that gives you your coke sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t give you your coke. The output looks like random chance, to the people who are pushing things and trying to get drinks out. Inside the machine, everything is mechanical. But as observers, we can’t see that internal detail, so it just looks like probability, even though it isn’t.

An example I use is that we didn’t go to war in the Cuban Missile Crisis. That came down to one person’s decision not to use nuclear weapons on a Russian submarine. That person’s decision probably wasn’t a matter of probability, but everything else was in place.

There are structural factors that predispose a system or a collection of states to start fighting each other, and those causes are deeper than the actual territorial dispute that’s the spark, say.

Popular Science: You have this measure called “warlikeness” that you use.

Braumoeller: Here’s the trick. I’m taking a look at the number of uses of force. When you use force, you’re rolling the dice; no idea how long or involved the war is going to be. So what I’m looking at is uses of force over time. And that’s a problem, because the number of opportunities to use force over time has changed. For one thing, we have more countries than we used to have. For another, not all those countries are relevant to one another. In pairs like Bolivia & Botswana, what happens in Bolivia is pretty irrelevant to what happens in Botswana, and vice versa.

I’m trying to control for the opportunity to go to war, so I can capture a pure measure of the willingness to go to war.

Popular Science: There are models that eliminate pairs based on distance. How do you narrow the pairs?

Braumoeller: In the paper there are two methods. The most conservative is continuity–the country has be adjacent to, or have a sea border of no more than 150 miles, another in order for the pairing to be considered politically relevant. That’s a really strict rule–the U.S. is politically relevant to far more countries than that.

The other end of the spectrum, the measure that I came up with, uses a statistical measure to create a continuous spectrum of political relevance, based on distance and the capabilities of the strongest country. Lots of countries are highly politically relevant to the U.S., the U.K. is more of a regional player with some potential for farther-flung interests, Egypt is very much a regional player, and Chile, hardly any countries are politically relevant to it.

Political Relevant Spectrum

The United States, with great power and great reach, finds a lot of countries politically relevant. Chile? Not so much.

Popular Science: It seems like this data, starting in the 1500s, covers a time when there were fewer countries but they were bigger ones. How much does country size factor into this?

Braumoeller: When you’ve got a small number of big states facing off against each other, for one thing they’re stronger, and once those empires and big states break up into smaller countries, those smaller parts are weaker, and many of them are further apart. The fact that we’ve gone from a small number of large countries to a big number of smaller, weaker countries means that the opportunity for countries to fight each other has declined.

Popular Science: Why the focus on the major wars? There’s clearly been wars fought since World War II, so why talk about the big wars?

Braumoeller: Only because “The Long Peace” after World War II is something that’s occasionally cited by people as evidence that major war is going away. I think the real heart of the evidence is in the trends and uses of force, controlling for distance and political relevant. It’s more of a brush burning exercise. The argument is out there that, after 70 years of peace, we don’t have to worry about war any more. Both war and peace can be treated as stochastic processes. We don’t really have enough evidence yet to claim that.

It’s easy to say that 70 years of peace is not an unusual stretch of peace between world wars. The harder question is “how long will we have to wait before we can say this with reasonable certainty?” and I think the answer “150 years” is going to surprise a lot of people.

I think the answer “150 years” is going to surprise a lot of people

Popular Science: Where would you like to see research on this go from here?

Braumoeller: I am turning it into a book. The main motivation for this is that we study wars and conflict using data to the best of our ability. And, obviously, I think this is worth doing, because this is what I do for a living, but we ought to be able to come up with a concrete answer about whether or not war is on the increase or decrease or if the frequency of warfare is even changing. That ought to be something that we as a discipline should be able to do. If we can’t even do that, we should probably hang up our hats and go do something else.

Vickers Machine Gun, World War I

4G: What Does This Really Mean?

4G: What does this really mean?

Texas resident, Keith Geissler, contacted the Better Business Bureau when he found that his ATRIX 4G was only pushing around 300kbps up the tube instead of the expected 5.5mbps.

The ATRIX is a HSUPA-capable device, and we currently are performing the testing and preparations necessary to ensure that, when we turn this feature on, you will continue to have a world class experience.

AT&T hasn’t quite gotten their act together as quick as they had hoped with this one. Sometimes the real answer is that these systems are technically the bleeding edge, and it’s not some conspiracy to keep you from achieving your top speeds on the wireless internet. Here’s a little help discerning the technical specs from behind the marketing malarkey surrounding the wireless broadband available on the market.3G, 4G, LTE, HSPA, WiMax

I could go into a Wikipedia-esque discussion of all of the various mobile data standards since the dawn of mobile data standards, but I’d rather not. I’m going to focus on disambiguation of a few of these key terms and let you know what you really need to know. If you haven’t heard of LTE, HSPA, or WiMax before, don’t be alarmed. They’re just protocols to govern wireless and mobile data transmission. They set standards so that your device can talk to any similarly equipped cellular tower

It makes it easier that these technologies are already cleanly divided along service provider lines. LTE has been deployed in the US by Verizon and MetroPCS. WiMax is the realm of Clearwire and Sprint. AT&TMo are known to use HSPA to provide their broadband. Of course these lines are shifting with the shakeups going on in the market, but that’s how things are currently arrayed.

HSUPA

What is HSUPA? Does it make sense that it was turned off? Should we clamor for AT&T’s summary execution? HSUPA is a part of the HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) wireless telecommunications protocol. It’s the part that lets you upload quickly. The HSUPA (The U stands for Uplink) works along side HSDPA (Downlink) to provide the whole protocol, HSPA. Get it? Really, the fact that this portion of the system was delayed is not really a surprise to anyone who has ever imagined the amount of real infrastructure that goes into producing the end-user-experience we expect. Honestly, whenever a telcom rolls out an upgrade project of this magnitude, it’s hilarious if anyone doesn’t expect delays in something. HSUPA was where the slack had to be this time, no big deal. Hey, AT&T, just let us know what the deal is before we have to go to the Better Business Bureau.

What’s up with all of these G’s? How many G’s do I need again?

The G designation on all of these various technologies is a generational marker by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Most smartphone users are more than happy with their current 3G connection. It allows for mobile e-mail browsing, web-surfing, and some amount of streaming video. I’ve enjoyed Netflix on my iPhone with no hiccups. With all that the 3G is able to deliver, it’s still all about the 4G. Or if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, the 4th Generation of Mobile Telephony Standards. None of the technologies available on the market can currently hang with the ITU’s 4G requirements. The ITU set “peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 Megabits per second for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 Gbps for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).”

LTE vs WiMax vs HSPA

WiMax and LTE are standards that come from different organizational origins. WiMax comes from the side of the IEEE, known for bringing you the collection of standards we dub Wi-Fi. This standard Wi-Fi connection is governed by a set of protocols collectively known as 802.11. WiMax is governed by a set of protocols collectively known as 802.16. LTE is a product of the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), spawned from the international GSM standard. “Work on LTE has been going on since 2004, building on the GSM/UMTS family of standards that dates from 1990”

My friend, Robert Evans, recently sang of the death of WiMax. The standard has had a good run of it since they’ve had NTT DoCoMo of Japan coming after it since 2004. What? You don’t remember when NTT DoCoMo called for LTE or Long Term Evolution, to become the international standard for wireless communication? Neither did I. Even with six years in the making, the long term goals of LTE have not yet been made manifest, as the standard is still considered to be a third generation communication technology as it’s currently deployed. Full fourth generation wireless transmissions will be coming out this year with specifications like the LTE Advanced.

We will continue to see increased transmission speeds and decreased latency via wireless over the next few years, regardless of the protocol in which the packets are scribed.

Read more about what’s going on with your wireless at Android Community.

[via Gadget Lab]

Airplane Mode: What Does It Really Do?

To follow with technology, the industry created something called “Airplane Mode” that’s used when you’re onboard a flight, obviously. However, have you ever wondered what exactly does “airplane mode” mean? How can you have your phone in that safe mode, yet also get WiFi onboard a flight?

What Airplane Mode Really Do

Electronic devices then started coming equipped with something called “Airplane Mode”. Sometimes it’s called something else, such as “Offline Mode”, but it’s still the same thing. What it does is disable the device from transmitting signals, while still allowing it to be used in other ways. While you won’t be able to text or send emails, you will be able to listen to music, take photos and play games that are standalone and work without transmitting signals. You can also write emails and texts and save them to send later when the Airplane Mode is turned off.

Most devices will show you that you’re in Airplane Mode in some way. The Apple iOS shows a little airplane in the upper left corner and can be accessed in the Settings menu. If you try to use the Internet, it asks you to either take it out of Airplane Mode or get under WiFi. Different devices and different services treat Airplane Mode differently. Some allow GPS and Bluetooth, while others do not. It would be worth it to check out your device before you fly to find out what will still work under Airplane mode and what won’t.

Confusing all of this even more is that many airlines are now offering a WiFi service onboard. And that is used while you’re in the Airplane Mode, which doesn’t initially seem to make sense. However, the airlines are using the Gogo service which has cellular towers across the U.S. The devices connect to the antenna on the plane, instead of antennas on the ground, which means they don’t interfere with the cell towers. Additionally, devices using the Gogo service WiFi transmit on a lower power, preventing interference with the signals the planes are submitting.

Does phone signal really crash the plane?

Theoretically, electronic devices, including phones, computers, radio receivers will emit electromagnetic wave that could interfere with the plane navigational system, but in real life, there have not been any experiment or concrete proof that these electronic signals directly resulted in the crashing of the plane.

According to the Wikipedia, most, if not, all airlines still ban the use of cell phone on their planes simply because there are no conclusive safety tests to prove otherwise. There are no return in investment in conducting such tests, so for safety reasons, it is just best to disable the use of electronic devices. We are not discounting the fact that using of electronic devices could affect the plane, but is just that there is no concrete proof to say that using of mobile device is the sole culprit for crashing the plane. It is still best to switch your mobile phone to Airplane mode (or switch it off completely) since you can’t make any phone call with it at 30,000 feets above ground anyway.

There’s an additional reason to use the Airplane Mode as well, and it has nothing to do with air travel. Since Airplane Mode requires much less power to operate the device, it means it’s a good mode to switch to to save power if you’re running low on power and not needing to be using it for anything that would be transmitting signals.

Keep in mind that when flying, even though you put your device into Airplane Mode, when the flight attendants or captain announce that all electronic devices must be stored away, that means all of them whether they are in Airplane Mode or not. They will let you know when you can use them again, which is usually when they achieve a certain altitude or when they touch down again.

Image credit: Crashed Plane by Big Stock Photo.

Laura Tucker

Laura has spent nearly 20 years writing news, reviews, and op-eds, with more than 10 of those years as an editor as well. She has exclusively used Apple products for the past three decades. In addition to writing and editing at MTE, she also runs the site’s sponsored review program.

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Review: Dashlane Is A Robust Password Manager With A Gorgeous Interface

A password manager is a must. Unless you’re using the same password for everything (not recommended) or have a truly phenomenal memory, your productivity can benefit from a place to store all your passwords and easily use them whenever necessary. There are several strong players in this field, such as LastPass and KeePass. Dashlane (free for basic version, $20/year for Premium) aims to take on both.

Dashlane is a robust password manager with additional room for your various IDs, credit cards and other payment methods, receipts, and notes. It comes with an auto-fill feature for online forms to which you can add different addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information you’re tired of typing repeatedly. There are two features that make Dashlane stand out when compared to both LastPass and KeePass: Its beautiful and easy-to-use interface, and its optional cloud syncing. The Security Dashboard analyzes your database, alerting you of weak, recurring, or breached passwords

Setting up Dashlane is exceptionally easy. LastPass and KeePass are both fairly easy to use, but they have nothing on Dashlane. The installation process takes you step by step through setting up the program, with clear instructions and smooth guidance. After choosing your master password for Dashlane–unlike LastPass, there’s no “password reminder” here, so you must remember it or lose access to your database–Dashlane will install itself on your browsers (Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer are supported), and will lead you through trying out its different features and interface elements.

If you’re already using a different password manager, you can import your database into Dashlane pretty easily. The import tool supports databases from Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, LastPass, 1Password, RoboForm, PasswordWallet, KeePess, and custom CSV files, but the tool is a little finicky. For example, my KeePass CSV did not contain a filled-in URL field, as this is not mandatory in KeePass. Dashlane ignored every password that did not come with a URL, leaving me with no way to import my large password database into Dashlane. Fortunately, Dashlane can automatically add new credentials upon logging in to websites, so after using it for several days, most of my oft-used passwords were transferred to Dashlane without much effort on my part.

On every new login, Dashlane will offer to automatically save your credentials

Dashlane’s strong yet subtle browser integration makes logging in to websites a seamless operation, but doesn’t add unnecessary clutter to your browsing experience. Once a password is stored in Dashlane, it can log you in automatically every time the website is loaded, or auto-fill the credentials without logging you in. If you’re opening an account on a new website, Dashlane can generate a strong password for you right from your browser, and store it in your database in one fell swoop.

One of the most important aspects of a password manager is security, and with Dashlane, you can select your level of paranoia. Your database is encrypted with AES-256 encryption, only you know the master password to decrypt it, and you can enable Google Authenticator for extra security. Unlike LastPass, where everything is in the cloud, automatic cloud syncing and backup is a Premium feature in Dashlane, so free users don’t have to worry about it.

Even if you’re a paid customer, however, you can easily opt out of cloud syncs, meaning your password database is only stored locally, just like with KeePass. Unlike KeePass, though, Dashlane’s free mobile apps can be managed as separate databases, so you can access your passwords on the go without worrying about constant cloud syncs. When enabled, Dashlane syncs happen every 5 minutes, and there’s no way to control or reduce this frequency. The Premium version also includes Web access to your data from any browser, anywhere

Dashlane is an impressive password manager with some excellent features and a beautiful interface. It does require a certain amount of trust in the company, especially when using its syncing options, and for $20/year, its Premium version is expensive when compared to the alternatives. Nevertheless, it is the perfect password manager for the less tech-savvy, and even the experienced are sure to enjoy it, if only for the merits of its interface. It’s available in Android, iOS, and Mac editions, in addition to the PC edition I reviewed.

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