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The holidays are almost upon us. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are less than two weeks away. For retailers, it’s the most wonderful time of year—revenue goes up as shoppers scramble to snag the best deals and finish their Christmas shopping early (like they always say they’re going to do, but somehow never succeed in doing).
Unfortunately, this time of year is also a favorite of scammers. When there is a great deal and a finite number of products, consumers might not look too closely at whether a website is the real deal or not.
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The best defense against scams and phishing attempts this holiday season is to know the signs. Knowledge will be your strongest weapon. Here’s what to look for as you begin your Christmas shopping so that you come out the other side with your identity, bank account, and sanity intact.Check The URL & Sender
It’s dead simple to make a website that looks just like a real one. It’s not unusual to encounter a website or receive an email asking you to confirm some information or to log into your account to investigate suspicious activity.
The email might look like it comes from a trusted source. You can read it a half-dozen times and find nothing out of place. However, there are two things to remember.
First of all, the URL they provide isn’t necessarily the one it sends you to. Here’s an example. Open the link below in a new window.
Surprise! The URL might be written out, but it takes only a few seconds to direct a hyperlink somewhere else. Phishing attempts use this to direct customers to a fake sign-in page that steals their user IDs and passwords for retail sites, banks, and more.
Another trick is a domain name that has a valid domain name attached along with a fake part, making the domain completely fake. Below is an example. It may look like it’s super easy to spot, but on a mobile device, the address bar normally only shows the first 10 to 15 characters in the domain name, meaning the last part will be hidden.
The second thing to remember is that any site (that you should use, anyway) will log you in through a secure protocol. Look at your URL bar. See the “HTTP” at the very start of the URL? That’s an acronym for hypertext transfer protocol. When you log into a website, make sure it says HTTPS. The added letter stands for secure. This means data sent through the website is encrypted.
Hover your mouse over the hyperlink and look at the destination. As a rule of thumb, no legitimate website or bank will ever email you and request your username and password. This is almost always a sign of a phishing attempt. If something seems suspicious, contact the organization directly and ask before you submit.Search The Text
Most phishing emails are variants of one another. An easy way to check whether something is legitimate is to search the sender and a few sentences. Just copy and paste the text into Google with the word “scam” and see what results it returns. The chances that you’re the only one to be targeted by a scam is minimal; most of these attempts originate out of farms and are sent to thousands of users at once.
Many phishing emails will warn you that your account is about to expire or that you need to log back in or enter billing details, often with an apology for the inconvenience. The majority of institutions will not request these details via email, but will instead ask you to check your account.Channel Your Inner English Teacher & Look For Spelling & Grammar Mistakes
You might stumble across a website with some amazing deals, but you’ll notice something seems off—namely, the spelling and grammar are atrocious. Many fake websites and scam emails share this trait in common.
Proper spelling and grammar is a key aspect of presentation, and proper presentation is a key aspect of professionalism. Websites go to great lengths to ensure readers can understand their message.
If you find a website with awful spelling and grammar that requests any personal information from you, it is almost guaranteed to be a fake website scam. One exception to this rule would be some amateur blogs which share deals they find that direct you to Amazon.
These blogs might use affiliate links which will earn them a commission if you buy the product at no extra cost to you. Amateur sites might not always have the best spelling or grammar, but as long as they are not asking you to enter credit card or other personal info, they should be safe.Look For Too-Good-To-Be-True Deals
Online retailers exist to make money. If the deals seem like they would lose money on them, they probably would—which means the deal is likely fake. Sometimes you might still receive a product, just something lower-quality than you thought. The website Wish is a great example of this.
While popular, Wish products are often counterfeit or significantly lower in quality. The website is not a scam or a phishing attempt, but it isn’t entirely honest, either.
Pay close attention to the deals on any website you visit. As a general rule, you should only shop online at certified, known retailers. Websites like Amazon, Website, Best Buy, and others like those are usually safe. Brand-specific sites are often a good bet, too. But if you find a site that you’ve never heard of offering an iPad Pro for $100, stay far away.
Joseph Heller said “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”. Cybercrime has steadily increased year after year and it’s impossible to keep track of every new scam. Between 2013 and 2023, the FBI reports that businesses lost $12.5 billion to scams online. Almost 91% of all phishing attempts start with an email; unfortunately, many people receive notifications of sales through their email.
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In March of 2023 a group of MIT data scientists published a study which found that that humans and bots share fake news on Twitter at about the same rate, but the robots aren’t necessarily outsmarting us – we’re just playing along. The study, among other findings, showed that false news spread up to six times more quickly than real news and that it spread to more people: the top 1% of fake news reached 1,000 to 100,000 people, while real news rarely went above 1,000.
If you want to keep your social media profile credible, though, there are some steps you can take to double-check your news.What is fake news?
So what can you use to detect it?1. Your lizard-brain
Fake news is designed to trip the switches that control your instinctual “fight-or-flight” responses. If you read a headline or article that is clearly trying to elicit a strong reaction from you, especially if it’s slanted heavily towards one side of a debate, it’s probably fake. For example:
Fake: Social media is destroying truth: MIT scientists find evidence of humans and robots sharing so many lies that you can’t believe anything you read on Twitter! Lizard-people are now the only safe source of news.2. Practice your fake news identification skills
Your brain is your first line of defense, so if you can get some practice identifying fake news, you’ll be better able to identify it on your own. The best way to learn is to do, and short of starting your own fake news site, these games are the closest you’ll get.
Factitious: a game that presents you with articles that are either real or fake and asks you to choose. It doesn’t take long and gives you good insights into what to look for.
Bad News: a game that puts you in charge of a fake news publication. You will learn about what goes into successful bad news and how people manipulate it for their benefit. It takes ten or fifteen minutes and might leave you wanting to play it again.
Fake It to Make It: This game takes significantly longer than the games above (1+ hours), but it puts you right into the mindset of someone who is manipulating social media purely for profit.3. BS Detector
This browser extension works on Chrome, Opera, Firefox, Safari, and Edge, and gives you warnings when you are on a page that contains possible fake news. It analyzes the links to check for unreliable sources, then tells you why a particular site was flagged.4. MediaBiasFactCheck
This Chrome extension is powered by the MediaBiasFactCheck database, and it not only alerts you when you are browsing a fake news site but will clue you into the political biases of legitimate sites as well. Accurate facts do not guarantee truth, after all; different presentations can leave you with very different ideas.5. Fake News Detector AI
This Chrome extension is actually built on a neural network, using machine learning to predict whether the website you are visiting is spreading fake news or not. It only runs when you ask it to, which some users may appreciate. Not a Chrome user? You can visit the AI’s portal website and manually enter the web address you want to check. It’s last on the list because it’s not all that accurate, though: in my testing it reported RealClearPolitics and The Intercept as fake news — both sites that definitely have some bias, but are not at all fake.Conclusion: Big tech and truth on the Internet
While ultimately it is up to the user to assess the news they read and make choices about it, some of the larger companies that control your news diet are making efforts to clean things up as well. Facebook, Google, and other tech/media companies are experimenting with ways to de-prioritize or flag possibly untrue content, though none of them has yet implemented such a system.
Algorithm tweaks and other solutions may have had some success, but no matter what the big tech companies do, fake news can never really go away without severely limiting the ability of users to freely express themselves. For the foreseeable future, then, the best strategy is just to rely on your own assessments and research. You don’t need to be a journalist to recognize falsehood – just make sure you look for overly-dramatic language, fact-check articles you aren’t sure about, and if you’re still not sure, just “be sweet, don’t retweet.”
Image credit: Thomas Schultz via Wikimedia
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This article features the top five technology stocks to buy this holiday season
2023 is about to end, and there is no better time to invest in tech stocks than this holiday season. Any company that sells a product or service heavily infused with technology likely belongs to the tech sector. Technology stocks are often a leading indicator for the economy and the stock market. Here are the five best tech stocks to buy on December 28, 2023. Analytics Insight provides a list of the 5 best technology stocks, according toMicron Technology, Inc.
Current Price: US$94.43 Market Capital: US$105.778 billion Micron Technology, Inc. designs, manufactures and sells memory and storage products worldwide. The company operates through four segments: Compute and Networking Business Unit, Mobile Business Unit, Storage Business Unit, and Embedded Business Unit. It provides memory and storage technologies comprised DRAM products, which are dynamic random access memory semiconductor devices with low latency that provide high-speed data retrieval.ON Semiconductor Corporation
Current Price: US$69.78 Market Capital: US$30.064 billion ON Semiconductor Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells semiconductor components for various electronic devices worldwide. The company operates in three segments: Power Solutions Group (PSG), Advanced Solutions Group (ASG), and Intelligent Sensing Group (ISG). The PSG segment offers analog, discrete, module, and integrated semiconductor products for various applications, such as power switching, power conversion, and more.Applied Materials, Inc.
Current Price: US$162.72 Market Capital: US$144.579 billion Applied Materials, Inc. provides manufacturing equipment, services, and software to the semiconductor, display, and related industries. It operates through three segments: Semiconductor Systems, Applied Global Services, and Display and Adjacent Markets. The Semiconductor Systems segment develops, manufactures, and sells various manufacturing equipment that is used to fabricate semiconductor chips or integrated circuits.Block, Inc.
Current Price: US$168.48 Market Capital: US$77.716 billion Block, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, creates tools that enable sellers to accept card payments and provides reporting and analytics, and next-day settlement. It provides hardware products, including Magstripe reader, which enables swiped transactions of magnetic stripe cards; Contactless and chip reader that accepts Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) chip cards and Near Field Communication payments; Square Stand, which enables an iPad to be used as a payment terminal or full point of sale solution.Datadog, Inc.
Current Price: US$183.47 Market Capital: US$57.246 billion
2023 is about to end, and there is no better time to invest in tech stocks than this holiday season. Any company that sells a product or service heavily infused with technology likely belongs to the tech sector. Technology stocks are often a leading indicator for the economy and the stock market. Here are the five best tech stocks to buy on December 28, 2023. Analytics Insight provides a list of the 5 best technology stocks, according to Yahoo Finance Current Price: US$94.43 Market Capital: US$105.778 billion Micron Technology, Inc. designs, manufactures and sells memory and storage products worldwide. The company operates through four segments: Compute and Networking Business Unit, Mobile Business Unit, Storage Business Unit, and Embedded Business Unit. It provides memory and storage technologies comprised DRAM products, which are dynamic random access memory semiconductor devices with low latency that provide high-speed data retrieval.Current Price: US$69.78 Market Capital: US$30.064 billion ON Semiconductor Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells semiconductor components for various electronic devices worldwide. The company operates in three segments: Power Solutions Group (PSG), Advanced Solutions Group (ASG), and Intelligent Sensing Group (ISG). The PSG segment offers analog, discrete, module, and integrated semiconductor products for various applications, such as power switching, power conversion, and more.Current Price: US$162.72 Market Capital: US$144.579 billion Applied Materials, Inc. provides manufacturing equipment, services, and software to the semiconductor, display, and related industries. It operates through three segments: Semiconductor Systems, Applied Global Services, and Display and Adjacent Markets. The Semiconductor Systems segment develops, manufactures, and sells various manufacturing equipment that is used to fabricate semiconductor chips or integrated circuits.Current Price: US$168.48 Market Capital: US$77.716 billion Block, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, creates tools that enable sellers to accept card payments and provides reporting and analytics, and next-day settlement. It provides hardware products, including Magstripe reader, which enables swiped transactions of magnetic stripe cards; Contactless and chip reader that accepts Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMV) chip cards and Near Field Communication payments; Square Stand, which enables an iPad to be used as a payment terminal or full point of sale solution.Current Price: US$183.47 Market Capital: US$57.246 billion Datadog, Inc. provides a monitoring and analytics platform for developers, information technology operations teams, and business users in the cloud in North America and internationally. The company’s SaaS platform integrates and automates infrastructure monitoring, application performance monitoring, log management, and security monitoring to provide real-time observability of customers’ technology stack.
It’s that time of year again.
As Black Friday and the biggest retail quarter of the year approaches, digital marketers are scrambling to capitalize on the spoils of the coming season.
According to a recent report by eMarketer, paid search is the fastest growing digital channel amongst retailers. In the U.S. alone, they estimate that ad spend on retail search will jump to $13.12 billion in 2023 – a 22.5% increase year-on-year.
Despite increasing competition, however, Google’s offering still reigns supreme with Google Shopping, especially, on the up.
A recent Adthena report found that over 75% of the increasing U.S. retail search spend is being pooled into Shopping campaigns. In the U.K., they report a mammoth 82% share.
Now is not the time for retailers and agencies to be neglecting Google Shopping.
To make sure your accounts are up to scratch, here’s a list of tips, tricks, and best practices to consider when running Google Shopping.
With Black Friday and the holiday season looming, it’s more important than ever to make sure the foundations of your account are the best they can be.1. Use Google’s Automation… but Only If It’s Better!
Google introduced Smart Shopping last year. As with Smart Bidding in search, Smart Shopping uses a machine learning algorithm to optimize your campaigns.
This can save you hours required to analyze historical data, re-strategize, and manually change your bids.
Our results have varied, however. While Smart Shopping usually comes out on top, it’s not a guaranteed winner.
If you have the time for manual bidding and are torn between the two, I’d recommend duplicating your campaigns and running one set on Smart Shopping.
Then you can test the machine against your own optimisations to decide whether to implement automated bidding on your account.
If you’re erring towards Smart Shopping, get this testing done as soon as possible. When Black Friday comes around, it will be too late – the algorithm needs to train for at least a couple of weeks before it runs effectively.
Also, keep an eye out in the near future for Google likely releasing the seasonality adjustments feature for Smart Shopping campaigns.
As a result, it learns to respond to sharp changes, making Smart Shopping an even more attractive solution for managing sale periods.2. Structure Is Key
As the algorithm will optimize towards maximum conversion value when running Smart Shopping, structure is only important for reporting purposes.
If you’re optimizing manually, however, your shopping structure can make a considerable difference to overall performance.
What you need to do is split your campaigns out horizontally by whichever segmentation makes the most sense to your business – do you first split out the different brands you sell, or by product type? There is no right or wrong answer here.
We then build our accounts with ‘Single Product Ad Group’ structure: every product ID sits within its own product group, which sits within its own ad group.
This level of granularity gives the most precise and useful reporting possible, but can be difficult to accomplish without automated tech. You may find it easier to group products with similar attributes or historical performance.
Setting up a robust structure is also important for funneling your traffic. As Google Shopping lacks a keyword system to enable easy query-matching, it is much more difficult to funnel searches to the appropriate bid.
The way we mitigate this is by creating three copies of our campaigns comprised of identical products, and assigning them different priority settings.
In its most basic iteration:
Low-performing search terms get a low bid and sit in your high priority campaign.
Medium-performing terms are given a moderate bid and medium priority.
High-performing terms are low priority, high bid.
This system works only when you add negative keywords to your high- and medium-priority campaigns.
Negatives effectively funnel more valuable searches down towards your low priority campaign where you are willing to pay more for higher-intent searches.
You won’t over-bid for lower-value searches because priority takes precedence over bid.
This might sound confusing, but it’s great for increasing your efficiency of spend. Below is how it works in practice:
Note that the Brand Specific query ‘Nike roshe run pink trainers’ will be excluded from the top two campaigns due to their negative keywords.
This means the high-value search term will match with products in the campaign with the most competitive bid.3. Feed Optimization
Instead of positive keyword targeting, all query matching is done against your feed – the bumper list of products you sell along with their attributes.
So your next step to becoming a Shopping superhero is making sure your feed is accurate, up-to-date and optimized for performance.
Your feed fields are weighted left to right, so make sure you are placing your most important information at the beginning of your title and descriptions. Take a look at your search queries for inspiration.
You can test these modifications – perhaps brand is the most important attribute for one product and for others, it might be color or material. You can also test images to see which drive better performance.
Another step is populating missing fields. Gaps are likely to lead to disapprovals.4. Think Carefully About Your KPIs (& Don’t Panic If CTR Looks Off)
When optimizing your account, and when testing your feed, in particular, you might be tempted to look at engagement metrics.
While that sounds sensible, be aware that one is likely to be misleading: CTR.
The good news is that it’ll probably look worse than it actually is.
In Shopping, however, it is possible to show more than one ad for a search, meaning that you receive multiple impressions.
This is especially true when you are bidding aggressively, as you are likely to be doing during times of high seasonality.
(Note: if you have a ‘Single Product Ad Group’ structure to your account, your granular ad group level CTR will be accurate in your reports.)
While this is a bonus in terms of increased reach, the display network is typically less effective for acquisition. Expect your conversion rates to be slightly lower.5. Budget Accordingly
In the next holiday season, you’re going to be spending significantly more as you bid up in response to competition and intent – remember to account for that.
Last November, our retail client portfolio pooled a mean average of 22.8% of their entire month’s budget into the four days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Make sure you don’t neglect the research phase that precedes the shopping spree. Customers will be browsing deals well ahead of time, and you need to be visible from the get-go.
If you don’t allocate enough budget for this awareness period, your performance across the season will suffer.
Bring spending back down as sales periods end. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people forget.
Along with your across-the-board upweighting, you’ve likely raised your RLSA modifiers hugely to bid especially high on recent visitors or basket abandoners.
As Cyber Monday passes or Christmas morning arrives, these should be adjusted way down – your site visitors either already bought what they wanted, or they weren’t interested in the first place.
Finally – all your decisions should be leveraging last year’s data. Comb through performance, decide whether you spent too much or not enough, and strategize accordingly.There’s No Such Thing as Overpreparation
That’s not the end of it.
You’ll definitely need to keep an eye on your account to manage budgets or keep your feed up to date as the quarter progresses. This is true even if you’re running Smart Shopping.
However, following the steps above now to set up a robust account will make things much much easier when the time comes.
Being ready to leverage as many historical insights as you can and remaining responsive to incoming data will put you well on your way to Shopping success this season!
Featured & In-Post Image: Created by author, September 2023
Everyone’s a little more lax during the holidays. For most of us, that just means gaining a little weight or slacking off a bit in the office. But it turns out being less regimented around Christmas and New Year’s might literally be deadly for some people.
This shouldn’t really come as a shock to any of us. It’s a well-documented fact that patients admitted to the hospital on a weekend have a higher mortality rate than those whose emergencies happen to fall on a weekday, which experts have attributed to understaffing and delayed test results. A group of doctors and researchers in Toronto wondered if a similar phenomenon might apply to the holiday season.
A brief editorial note that this particular study is in the annual British Medical Journal Christmas issue, a special volume dedicated to weird, funny, or seasonal studies. They’re all still peer-reviewed and held up to scrutiny, but they’re also supposed to be more like intriguing little experiments than serious papers. And now we continue…
There are lots of reasons that the holiday season might bring more death and havoc than usual. For starters, most of us don’t want to spend these special days sitting in doctors’ offices. People who are discharged from the hospital are often supposed to have a follow-up appointment both to ask about any issues and so the physician can ensure the patient is improving. If you’re let out on December 23 and you’re supposed to come back in a week, are you really going to schedule your appointment right before New Year’s Eve? You’ll probably delay it. Maybe the staffer who was supposed to call to schedule it won’t even get around to contacting you until later than normal. On an individual level, these little delays probably won’t matter—this study is not proof that someone who gets sick or hurt on Christmas will definitely fare worse than at other times of year. But as these researchers found out, these minute differences do add up across a population.
In their study, they found that for every 100,000 people treated during the two-week holiday season that spans Christmas and New Years, there are approximately 23 deaths, 188 re-hospitalizations, and 483 ER visits that can be chalked up to what they call the “Christmas effect.” They figured this out by analyzing data collected from Ontario hospitals between 2002 and 2023, comparing the holiday season to other two-week periods in November and January that weren’t plagued by Christmas cheer. The people released at the end of December were more likely to die or to be readmitted to the hospital in the month following their discharge. Their increased risk was only about 14 percent—but again, that small percentage adds up.
The researchers speculate about a number of reasons that holiday festivities might interfere with health. Patients might have less access to non-emergency care, for one, or they might have trouble actually booking an appointment with the necessary physician—they take time off too, you know. And if the meeting is inconvenient for the doctor or the patient (or both), that appointment is likely to get pushed back, perhaps long enough for a problem to arise. On top of all this, patients might not get the best care as they leave the hospital in the first place. Nurses in charge of giving instructions on how and when to take medication or teaching a patient how to dress a wound may slip up when they’re short-staffed and pressed for time.
As much as we’d like to believe that the people in charge of our care—ourselves included—will always do their absolute best job, we’re all human. Every healthcare worker has made a mistake, just like every one of us has failed to get to the dentist early or been late with our annual physical. Life happens. And when circumstances stack up to affect thousands or millions of patients, like during the holidays or on the day when new doctors begin their jobs, there’s probably going to be a slight downturn in care. Heck, we even see a health effect from entire countries missing an hour of sleep during daylight savings.
None of it is a reason to freak out. It’s just a timely reminder to be vigilant about your health. No one is going to care more about your body and its well-being than you are—so make sure it’s taken care of.
Do you want to create a membership website using WordPress? Perhaps you already have a wordpress website, but now you want to create one with membership of different levels? This course shows you how to create a wordpress website using wordpress right from the very start – buying the domain, to the end membership site.
We cover how to set different membership levels – so you can have some members who are free and some who pay for their subscription. You can set it to have a free trial period, and membership can be weekly, monthly, annually – you decide! You can choos the currency. We cover how to link paypal, to take subscriptions, how to customise the site to add a menu and a log in and registration button and how to add social media buttons and much much more!
You don’t need to have any previous experience of using wordpress to take this course. You may even have a wordpress website already, and you just want to add a membership option to it, or you may want to create a membership website from scratch. Either way – this course can help. We show you where and how to buy a domain, how to customise the theme for your website, how to add posts and how to add pages.
Some content can be for paying members only. Some content can be visible to all. Some content can be partially visible to all, but they need to register before gaining access to the free bits. It’s completely up to you! Membership websites are becoming increasingly popular as ‘gurus’ find a way to monetise their knowledge by bringing their private facebook groups off, into their own membership paid-for content website.
The huge benefit of the wordpress membership website that we build – is that the moment a subscriber fails to pay their ‘monthly’ or ‘annual’ subscription – then access to the parts of the website that were previously available to them immediately shuts down. So, even if they subscribe for one day and then cancel – the website ‘knows’ and will immediately shut them out, so there’s no extra vigilence needed on your part to monitor subscribers and to kick out non-paying members. It is all automated!
The course will take approx 1.5 hours to complete. It’s one of the most useful wordpress skills you can learn today. Note – the theme is free, so is the plug in. The only additional cost (if you wish to implement a membership site for yourself) will be the cost of the domain and the cost of hosting. Annually, this could be “$20” but there is no ongoing ‘cost’ to managing your membership website, so there are no hidden additional / extra costs!
Your course tutor has multiple wordpress websites and has 2 membership websites which she has built herself so none of this is theoretical but a real, practical course. One of the sites in operation today is what was made on the course. Take the course and watch how a real membership website is made in less than 2 hours from start to finish!Goals
Build a WordPress membership website using WordPress
Understand some extremely useful plug ins and widgets for wordpress websitesPrerequisites
Have an idea of a membership site that they’d like to create
Students do not need any previous experience of using wordpress as we cover everything from scratch
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