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Are Small Businesses at the Mercy of Big Tech?

Short Answer: Yes.

We all experience the web in different ways, but what happens when the web outsmarts us?

Where there’s a problem, there’s someone out there with a solution, or an idea of some magnitude that requires nurturing, maybe they need access to the right resources before they can move to the development phase. Big Tech offers that, and more; yet “Do they really?” is the question on Congress’ floor.

Over the last decade, there has been growing concern surrounding large tech companies and their anti-competitive practices, like buying out the small guy with rivaling potential. Why would a company as big as Facebook, for instance, need Instagram? Did they have a good enough reason for the merge, and can they prove their intentions weren’t to stifle the opposition?

The U.S. government is shifting that burden off of themselves and onto these tech titans, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spearheading the effort.

“When you start deliberately buying up what we call nascent competitors for the purpose of dominating the market, then you stop that innovation that might develop,” said the newly appointed chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust Subcommittee. “No one has a chance of having a new product when they buy them all up and are the monopoly provider.”

Klobuchar’s bill seeks to revamp present antitrust laws that have been, in her perspective, ignoring the needs of the modern day consumer.

The Past

In truth, these laws were made decades and decades ago to combat the issue of corruption in business and politics. Big firms in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s would consolidate and form one giant entity called a “trust” company, an example of this being the oil industry that merged into Standard Oil Trust, or the tobacco industry coming together to represent the American Tobacco Company. As these enormous trusts banded together, so did their bank accounts.

The real problem wasn’t that they were rolling in dough, it was the threat that their partnership posed to entrepreneurship and competition, not to mention their growing influence over government affairs.

The Present

But where this concern once existed with retail, it has now permeated across a market that is digital, a territory that, to note, won’t be as easy to regulate, especially if Big Tech has also contributed to the success of many of those consumers.

Facebook makes for a good example as very recently the Federal Trade Commission and 48 attorneys general called for the tech giant to be broken up, alleging that the company was “suppressing, neutralizing, and deterring serious competitive threats” in order to establish more dominance online.

On the other hand and in their defense, Facebook has brought about much needed exposure to the smaller players, especially during the pandemic. If anything, the number of users soared as business owners everywhere were forced to get creative. There’s a whole hub of tools that the social network has made available, for free, from taking your store online to making consumer data work in your favor.

And studies from Pew Research Center report that roughly eight-in-ten adults go online daily, with three-in-ten of them being constantly plugged into the world of social media a reach that exists in plain, virtual view for anyone looking to capitalize on that. It gets more tedious when we factor in the role that artificial intelligence plays in accessing, storing, even selling consumer data.

As Big Tech continues to expand, so does their power and influence over the individual and the economy:

Consider the effects that a casual tweet from the “Technoking” Elon Musk had over the market back in February, to be able to make money with “One word: Doge.”

Or consider Amazon, and the convenience it brings for both buyers and sellers everywhere. For the consumer, there are more options and cheaper buys; for retailers, there are cuts to overhead costs and the hassle-free experience of delivery. It’s an empowering platform, until, as critics of the retail giant bring up, the math paints a different story.

According to a study done by ProPublica in 2016, Amazon’s search engine algorithm was set up to bury bargains from independent merchants and utilize sales data to decide which products to create their own versions of, ultimately competing with the very sellers that operated on the platform.

The Effects On SMBs

Scott Galloway, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and author of The Four, a book about digital monopolies, warns of this developing concentration of power that Big Tech has and how it’s the reason for “infanticide” in small firms. “If they’re not stopping (innovation), they’re the main cause behind the slowdown in American startup creation.”

While Congress has been more willing to have the conversation, the pace at which technology is taking over has only accelerated. Some would argue that this gap between inaction and action, respectively, is increasingly killing the economy. By the time any legislation is passed, statistics suggest there’ll be more casualties on the enterprise front.

Maybe another question to consider here is whether there needs to be any government intervention at all.

When these leading tech companies are offering immediate access to vast markets, ability to target ads, budget-friendly and reliable infrastructure, why would startups want to look anywhere else when the framework has already been laid out for them? Developers can reach hundreds of millions of customers overnight via Apple’s and Google’s app store; brands can rent out Amazon’s and Google’s cloud-computing power; Facebook and Instagram might be the smoothest, cost-effective marketing tool in the history of everdom.

That also explains why Congress has yet to come to a consensus over this matter; it’s no easy feat to go against Big Tech, and then there’s the problem of whether our legislators are intellectually equipped to be making those decisions for users of technology.

The Future

One thing is for certain: the small business owner can use more support.

Is the answer here to break companies up? Should they be prevented from buying out up-and-coming ventures, just because they have the capital to do so? Whatever comes of the resolution, Klobuchar’s antitrust bill may be a better place to start than any.

For a market to remain a breeding ground for exploration and innovation, it’s essential that there’s the room and the resources there to foster those ideas.

It might be safe to say that Big Tech is much like that room, a Pandora’s box that’s full of the bells and whistles that appeal to many of its clients, but a box is also just a box: it’s restrictive. And Klobucar’s proposal to put more resources toward smaller agencies could be the backbone that the entrepreneurial spirit of today needs.

As she puts it,

“You can’t take on trillion dollar companies with bandaids and duct tape.”

Work With A Reputable Web Agency

Agency Partner Interactive is a world-renowned web agency that empowers many of its users to lead with more autonomy in the field. To learn more about how we can help you, call us today at 214-295-5845 or contact Agency Partner for more information.

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CBS Radio: ‘Woke-opoly’: Will Hasbro Pass Go, Collect $200 for Latest Monopoly Update?

‘Woke-opoly’: Hasbro Updates Monopoly Game
Is This A Good Move To Sell Products, Or Is It Pandering To Make a Buck?

Hasbro, the maker of Monopoly, is the latest company to join brands like PepsiCo, P&G, and Johnson & Johnson in making changes to their logos, product names, or mascots over the past year.

In February, Hasbro dropped “Mr” from the “Potato Head” brand name and logo to make its toy line more gender-neutral. As companies work to address social issues including racism and gender identity, we have watched Aunt Jemima change a 130-year-old brand to “Pearl Milling Company,” Land O Lakes drop an iconic image of an indigenous woman from its packaging and many others.

Now in an attempt to boost revenue and update its product to be more “socially conscious,” Hasbro is allowing the public to vote on 16 new cards that will completely replace the Community Chest game cards.

 

Monopoly Is Part of a Revenue Growth Strategy

Monopoly is incredibly important to Hasbro. In 2021, the company is seeking double-digit revenue growth and this game has earned the company $3 trillion since 1935. Hasbro typically sells 275 million copies of the game every year and to keep things fresh, they have introduced over 1100 versions of the game.

This year, Rich Uncle Pennybags will introduce three new versions of the game: Monopoly Builder, Monopoly Crooked Cash, and this new “Socially Aware” version of Monopoly.

Leading up to the Fall release of this new “Woke-monopoly,” Hasbro is allowing the public to vote on the Community Chest replacement cards. From what we have observed, the newly proposed Community Chest cards will strive to penalize selfishness, as well as failures to recycle and shop locally.

Hasbro Hit With Mockery On Social Media

As a company, it is always important to measure the temperature in the room. Gap, Inc. failed to do this with its “unity” sweatshirt Tweet that was published after the 2020 US presidential election.

So far feedback from users on social media has been very mixed with support from users that are happy to see the change countered by others who say that the company’s attempt to connect with recent events falls way short.

Here Is Some of the Feedback

  • “Don’t tamper with a classic. I still want to win the beauty contest.”
  • “Monopoly was antiquated when I first play it several decades ago. Even as a kid, I always thought it added to the charm of the game.”
  • “What makes the game awesome is the dated quality…”
  • “Add a ‘You’ve Been Canceled’ card that prevents players from collecting any income, even when passing Go.”
  • “Is there a ‘Peaceful Protest’ card that burns down competitors’ houses, hotels, and businesses?”
  • “Base it on Portland – more expensive properties are burned to the ground and you get cash for landing on someone else’s property.”

What To Expect

While the mixed feedback is real, Hasbro’s Monopoly brand is not going away anytime soon. Whether the brand is hoping to make a buck by simply pandering to social justice warriors or it is genuine in its efforts to introduce a more updated, “socially aware” version of the game, the publicity gained around this story alone is good for the company’s product sales. Hasbro leveraged this campaign to create headlines and to get the public talking about their products. This heightened awareness may turn into new revenue.

While the staying power of this new game version is untested and has a mixed response, the classic version is already time-tested and it may never truly go away.

Are You Struggling With Your Own Product & Branding Decisions?

Agency Partner’s award-winning team works to align business needs with the market. We utilize the power of digital marketing to measure consumer behavior, test advertising concepts, and optimize a marketing budget around a specific set of business goals.

If your business is looking to utilize a digital marketing strategy to acquire new customers, learn about your existing customers, and more, then make the team at Agency Partner your next call.


Author: S. Adam Rizzieri
Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer // Agency Partner Interactive

 

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ABC News: Trumpbook? Donald Trump To Launch Social Media Network By Summer 2021

No Surprise To Marketers or Free Speech Advocates

Prior to being banned from mainstream social media platforms, President Trump maintained one of the largest social media followings in the world.

As of January 2021, @realDonaldTrump had 128% more Twitter followers than the total number of monthly active users in the United States. While there are just 69.3 million Twitter users in the United States, Donald Trump counted 88.9 million followers in total. This compares to then President-Elect Joe Biden’s 7.9 million Twitter followers.

Across all of the mainstream social media platforms, Trump’s pre-ban social following totaled around 151.42 million followers.

President Trump’s Social Media Following As Of Jan 2021

Platform Trump’s Followers Total US Users (Monthly Active) Trump’s Following Compared to % of Monthly Active Users in US Trump’s Following Compared to % of Monthly Active Users in World
Twitter 88.9 million 69.3 million 128.28% 26.9%
Facebook 35.25 million 190 million 18.55% 1.31%
Instagram 24.5 million 112 million 31.47% 3.28%
YouTube 2.77 million 126 million 2.2% 0.15%

Not counted in this measure are followers and/or subscribers from Spotify, Snapchat, Reddit, and Twitch. The aggregate of those is a big number as well!

By the first week of January 2021 and immediately following the tragic breach at the US Capitol building, rampant media bias and general public hysteria resulted in a direct attack on the First Amendment, leading to Trump and notable others being banned from social media.

Many social media users and news commentators referred to this as the #TwitterPurge but the general attack on diverse thoughts and ideas stretched far beyond Twitter.

List of Major Tech Companies Banning Donald Trump

Company Comment
Reddit “Reddit’s site-wide policies prohibit content that promotes hate, or encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence against groups of people or individuals. In accordance with this, we have been proactively reaching out to moderators to remind them of our policies and to offer support or resources as needed.”
Twitch “In light of yesterday’s shocking attack on the Capitol, we have disabled President Trump’s Twitch channel. Given the current extraordinary circumstances and the President’s incendiary rhetoric, we believe this is a necessary step to protect our community and prevent Twitch from being used to incite further violence.”
Shopify “Shopify does not tolerate actions that incite violence. Based on recent events, we have determined that the actions by President Donald J. Trump violate our Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits promotion or support of organizations, platforms or people that threaten or condone violence to further a cause. As a result, we have terminated stores affiliated with President Trump.”
Twitter “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.”
Google “In order to protect user safety on Google Play, our longstanding policies require that apps displaying user-generated content have moderation policies and enforcement that removes egregious content like posts that incite violence.”
YouTube “Due to the extraordinary events that transpired yesterday, and given that the election results have been certified, any channel posting new videos with these false claims in violation of our policies will now receive a strike, a penalty which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming. Channels that receive three strikes in the same 90-day period will be permanently removed from YouTube.” – Alex Joseph
Facebook “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Instagram “We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great.” – Mark Zuckerberg
Snapchat “We can confirm that earlier today we locked President Trump’s Snapchat account.” – Rachel Racusen
Stripe No official comment.

 

The fact is that cancellation activity stretched far beyond that of the former president. Accounts such as the whistleblower group Project Veritas were impacted after exposing a video of Facebook executive Guy Rosen discussing a “system” of being able to “freeze commenting” on threads that were flagged as undesirable.

This happened just weeks after Project Veritas leaked an internal video of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey suggesting that the Trump ban would stretch far beyond just the one account. He was not lying about that. Over 70,000 Twitter accounts were booted from the platform.

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Now, more than two months since Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th and current president of the United States, President Trump still has not resumed his usual social media activities.

“…if you’re asking me, do I feel particularly comfortable that the President, the then-President of the United States could not express his views on Twitter? I don’t feel comfortable about that.”

-Bernie Sanders

But life is about grabbing the bull by the horns, right? Things seem to be heading that way now for the former president.

In a statement by long-time Trump aide Jason Miller, Fox News was notified that the 45th president would soon launch his own social media service in “two to three months.” So with that in mind, what are we to expect?

Trump’s Social Media Communication Style Preference

The president’s adversarial relationship with mainstream news outlets and a general lack of faith in receiving fair and balanced coverage from organizations like CNN and MSNBC drove him toward sharing his unedited truths in the form of tweets.

Twitter, being as it is a microblogging service, has been known as the SMS of the internet. It is a short messaging service that allows users to easily comment on trending topics and President Trump was exceptionally active on this social platform compared to the rest.

He had access to over a quarter of all Twitter users across the world and with 88.9 million followers, he had more followers than the total of all US Twitter users. The former president’s following consisted of friends, foes, and journalists that looked to his social media activity as an indicator of what was to come.

Also, tweets are limited to 280 characters so they force you to be succinct and don’t require a major investment of time to get your point across. This is a perfect social outlet for an extremely busy person like the former president.

Market Validation At Parler’s Expense?

Market validation is a process of introducing a product concept, such as a microblog, to a target market to learn whether or not the idea would be acceptable.

The Parler app proved that a competing microblog could attract a healthy and stable user base, having topped the App Store and Google Play, gaining millions of new users between October and December of 2020. Had Apple, Google, and Amazon not teamed up to strongly handicap Parler’s future success, the new app would have continued its strong growth trajectory.

If the concept here is to introduce a Twitter competitor, knowing that it was Trump’s preferred outlet, then the Parler startup team basically already did that!

If there is any substance to this story at all, we anticipate some sort of newer, freer Twitter varietal. You might go so far as to call it a stronger, more connected Parler.

The Tactical Steps That Could Launch a Platform By Summer 2021

The timeline of “2 to 3 months” is an extremely aggressive timeline. To make that sort of schedule a reality, that rules out 1 of 3 of the more common ways to develop a social media app. The ways to go about this are:

  1. Custom Application Development – build it from scratch!
  2. Customize and White Label a Pre-existing Template – quick but limiting.
  3. Buy An Existing Application – then make it yours!

Because of the accelerated timeline, for the sake of argument let’s rule out “Custom Application Development” as a path forward for the former president. Because we know that the former president is going to want to customize and have control over the features and functionalities of the new social platform, it is probably a safe assumption that we can rule out option two as well.

So what does that leave us with?

Donald Trump is a businessman that prides himself on the “art of the deal.” To meet that timeline and mitigate the risk that goes into starting a business concept from scratch, a partnership or acquisition of an already existing platform makes a lot of sense!

We don’t think there will be any sort of relationship with Gab.com, as previous reports have indicated that Jared Kushner encouraged President Trump to stay off that platform. The Parler app does sort of exist today, despite being blacklisted by Amazon, Apple, and Google, though previous partnership negotiations between Trump and the app’s former CEO John Matze went nowhere back in 2020. While there are other platforms out there, Axios has been sharing reports of a seemingly more obscure partnership potential with the FreeSpace app. Will Trump negotiate a controlling interest in FreeSpace? Only time will tell!

How Will Trump’s New Social Platform Impact the Market

Pew Research points out that 53% of Americans look to social media for their daily news. Scholars emphasize that a free and diverse press is critical to a healthy democracy and the public opinion is that it should not be up to mainstream tech leaders to define who is and is not a news source.

That’s why we expect that the most successful, new social media concepts will be those that enjoy Section 230 immunities and respect their role in facilitating, not moderating a healthy conversation — one that offers the same freedom as any public sidewalk.

The fact is that no one elected the leaders of Facebook or Twitter to dictate who can and cannot enjoy the freedom of speech and the Supreme Court recognizes no “fake news” or “disinformation” exception to the First Amendment.

If Trump’s new social media platform is able to function like a truly fair, digital town square, this new business may be well received by the market.

To explore the issue in greater detail, Agency Partner CMO Adam Rizzieri joins former Iowa State Senator Jeff Angelo, host of WHO News Radio in Des Moine to discuss the possibility of a new social platform. Click play (below) and listen in to their conversation.

 

Are Your Customers On Social Media?

It’s safe to assume that your future customers are on social media — big tech companies control the attention of over 3 billion people. The world of social is all about engagement and we can help you tie social into a great marketing strategy. Agency Partner watches the online landscape every day and can help you put together the right marketing mix to support the utilization of your business website.

As a digital agency, our marketing experts will help you come up with a competitive budget for your SEO needs, use social media marketing for lead generation, reduce the cost of your pay-per-click advertising, boost ROI from email marketing, and so much more.

If your business is looking to create new value by competing online, the digital marketing team at Agency Partner should be your next call.

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Cumulus Media: Google and Facebook Must Pay For News

New Law Sets Disastrous Precedent: Big Tech Must Pay for News Content in Australia
How This May Impact Online Marketing In The United States

In an effort to curb the dominance of big tech, Australia is the first mover in passing a law that will make Google Search and the Facebook News Feed pay for news content that is featured on their platforms. The Australian Parliament recently passed a law called the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. That’s a long name so… let’s just call it the “News Media Bargaining Code” for purposes of this blog.

Like legislators and small businesses in the United States, Australia has been at odds with Big Tech since last year and beyond. From discussions of online censorship and how these companies compete under century-old antitrust laws, there is wide acceptance of the fact that Big Tech has become too powerful. However, to date, little has been done by regulators and in the courts to make things more competitive for small businesses.

In July of 2020, after a year of investigation, the US House Judiciary Committee called Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple to a salvo of antitrust hearings that teed up lawsuits filed by the DOJ and FTC. Concurrently, Australian lawmakers had been fielding several years’ worth of complaints from news publishers about Facebook and Google’s roles to decimate their abilities to do business effectively.

In a nutshell, the ad platforms that support Facebook and Google and how these companies control clicks and impressions to specific content were crippling to news publishers.

Investigations into the online dominance of these tech firms have been ongoing.

Leading up to the passing of this new law, in Australia, an investigation found that in 2018, for every $100 Australian Dollars (about $78 USD) invested by Australian advertisers, about A$49 of those dollars went to Google and A$24 to Facebook. That’s a huge cut of the overall ad budget — and that’s just data coming in from Australia!

While the passing of this new law is designed to be a remedy to this, the world will now look to Australia as a test case for how similar regulations may be mandated in the United States and beyond.

What is Australia’s News Media Bargaining Code?

This new law, or “code,” fundamentally changes the relationships between news publishers and big tech outlets by ensuring that news companies earn money for use of their content.

This means that big tech outlets must pre-negotiate and agree on payment terms for content that will be featured in Google search results and Facebook shares, among other uses. News content that is not already coming from an approved publisher will not be allowed on the platforms.

In respect of heated debates surrounding Section 230 in the United States, digital marketers have discussed how Facebook and Google adjust their search algorithms to increase or decrease the engagement and visibility that specific publishers enjoy from one day to the next.

It is important to note that big tech companies own the rights to their proprietary search algorithms, and it is within their rights, as private companies, to make unilateral decisions to adjust these algorithms.

At issue is that many of these adjustments have been made in ways that publishers claim are unfair or anti-competitive. With this new law in effect, any major algorithm changes must also include a 28 days notice before the adjustment.

How News Sites Make Money Elsewhere

In most countries, such as in the United States, news publishers earn revenue by displaying ads within their news content, from sponsorships and subscriptions, and from clicks to their website where banner ads are shown.

A high volume of clicks and organic traffic originates from Google and Facebook. This happens when users share links, make comments on original posts, and when advertising dollars are invested into boosting the number of impressions that a particular story can gain.

Publishers with greater visibility attract more site traffic, which equates to greater advertising revenue. In practice, this means that Facebook and Google can unilaterally make decisions that strongly impact the ability of publishers, such as news organizations, to maintain a feasible business model centered around ad revenue.

Claims of bias as to which sites are given preference and which are not is fuel to the fire that Australia is working to extinguish.

What Facebook Has To Say About This

At first, Facebook fought against the imposition of this law by blocking all news content from its platform across all Australian users.

You (publisher) need us more than we (Facebook) need you.

Facebook measures that news content equates to just about 4% of the total content that users are exposed to within its News Feeds.

In large, this is because Facebook’s algorithm deemphasized the importance of news posts and added favor to activity from friends and family. For early Facebook users, this probably felt a bit like a throwback to the mid-2000s when the platform was truly designed to amplify conversations between friends and not 3rd-degree connections.

Facebook argued that social media allows publishers to gain the attention of users that are on their platforms for a purpose other than a news update. In 2020, publishers gained over 5 billion free referral clicks to their websites.

Because of this, there is an argument that Facebook, as is, helps small news publishers more than it hurts them. After significant negotiations with Australian regulators, the company ultimately agreed to work according to the new law.

How This Impacts Small Businesses and News Publishers

Did we mention that this new law requires big tech outlets to pre-negotiate payment terms with their news publishers? News Corp already has a multi-year agreement in place with Google and they’re extremely happy about it. We should be asking ourselves: “why are they so happy about it?”

…the new law will shrink the market by reducing the number of publishers that are able to compete for user engagement.

There is a chance that other big media companies will be strongly in favor of this because the new law will shrink the market by reducing the number of publishers that are able to compete for user engagement.

A law like the News Media Bargaining Code means that big tech can now pick and choose who to do business with.

Prior to the law’s passing, complaints were that big tech was already making decisions about which publishers to censor and boost via changes to their algorithm.

With this new law in effect, this takes control over publishers a step further and requires that news companies jump through additional hurdles to gain visibility. Leadership at big tech companies is now able to decide who is and is not on the “approved publisher” list and the public should be extremely wary of this.

The Presumed Impact On Free Press and Potential Impacts In The US

On one hand, action by Australian regulators validates a strong, global desire to curb big tech’s power. On the other, it points to a lack of understanding of how lawmakers should remedy concerns related to online censorship and competition.

As well-intended as this new mandate may be, the implications of a less diverse, less numerous source of news content may equate to a less free press and diminished free speech. A 2019 Pew survey found that 43% of Americans get their news from Facebook. Considering that Facebook has over 223 million US users, this issue is critical to the future of public access to a free press.

Business and political leaders in the US have to recognize that a shortcoming to this law is that it does not provide clear guidance on the definition of news content. So in practice, who will make that decision before approaching the negotiating table? Big tech has already indicated that it will take a broad definition to respect the law as drafted, but how will this actually play out? As is, un-elected leaders within big tech companies and/or politically motivated decision-makers will be tasked with oversight. This is not a pathway toward a free and vibrant press.

The Remedy Is In The Future of Section 230 and Antitrust Reform

Today, there is bipartisan support for antitrust reform from politicians such as Senators Klobuchar and Hawley, elected leaders who typically disagree with one another.

instead of testing Australia’s attempt to curb giants like Google and Facebook, the US should look to the Aussies as a test case while furthering the discussions related to Section 230 reform and updates to outdated antitrust regulations. The world will observe Australia as the first mover.

However, the expectation is that this new law will inevitably harm small publishers, and it will shrink the market, reducing competition and limiting the diversity of news sources that online users were able to access in 2020.

Agency Partner watches Google’s algorithm and the online market every day. As a digital agency, we know how much value these companies offer the market, but we also respect that with great power comes greater responsibility. If your business is looking to utilize the powers of big tech in an ethical, aggressive way, then the digital marketing team at Agency Partner should be your next call.


Author: S. Adam Rizzieri
Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer // Agency Partner Interactive

 

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Agency Partner Ranks No. 71 on the 2021 Inc. 5000 Series: Texas

Inc. Magazine Unveils 2021’s Fastest-Growing Companies in Texas

DALLAS, March 16, 2021 – Today Inc. magazine announced that Agency Partner Interactive is No. 71 on its Inc. 5000 Regionals: Texas list, the most prestigious ranking of the fastest-growing Texas-based private companies. This is Agency Partner’s second year in a row being named to this list. Born of the annual Inc. 5000 franchise, this regional list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the Texas economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses.

“We survived the pandemic by focusing on our customers and enabling their businesses to creatively aquire new revenue through expert digital marketing services and impactful online experiences,” said Muhammad Younus, founder and CEO.

The companies on this list show stunning rates of growth across all industries in Texas. Between 2017 and 2019, these 250 private companies had an average growth rate of 210 percent, and, in 2019 alone, they employed 44,000 people and added $9 billion to the Texas economy.

Relative to the 2020 list, those companies added $11 billion to the economy, so even though this list is down by $2 billion, it does represent a collection of businesses that are battle-tested and resilient. Companies based in the largest metro areas—Dallas, Houston, and Austin—brought in the highest revenue overall.

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Complete results of the Inc. 5000 Series: Texas, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, metro area, and other criteria, can be found at inc. 5000  starting March 16, 2021.

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“This list proves the power of companies in Texas no matter the industry,” says Inc. editor-in-chief Scott Omelianuk. “Their impressive revenues and growth rates prove the insight and diligence of CEOs and that these businesses are here to stay.”

CONTACT:

Adam Rizzieri, Chief Marketing Officer

adam@agencypartner.com

More about Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Regional Series

Methodology

The 2021 Inc. 5000 Regional Series is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2017 and 2019. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2017. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for-profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2019.

(Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2017 is $100,000; the minimum for 2019 is $1 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons.

About Inc. Media

The world’s most trusted business-media brand, Inc. offers entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, connections, and community to build great companies. Its award-winning multiplatform content reaches more than 50 million people each month across a variety of channels including websites, newsletters, social media, podcasts, and print.

Its prestigious Inc. 5000 list, produced every year since 1982, analyzes company data to recognize the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States. The global recognition that comes with inclusion in the 5000 gives the founders of the best businesses an opportunity to engage with an exclusive community of their peers, and the credibility that helps them drive sales and recruit talent.

The associated Inc. 5000 Conference is part of a highly acclaimed portfolio of bespoke events produced by Inc. For more information, visit www.inc.com.

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Google Ads Decreases Search Terms Report Visibility

Expert Tips For Google Ads Pay Per Click Marketing


Leverage is the sweetest word in the language of business. With a 92% share of search engine traffic worldwide, Google certainly has traffic. And leverage.

Google’s primary source of income is advertising. And most of that advertising is based on pay-per-click or PPC ads based on keywords that advertiser bids on to secure traffic to their website.

If you search a term on Google, you get both organic results and paid results. The paid results are at the top of the page with “Ad” preceding the search result. The organic results follow based on SEO and Google rankings.

This discussion will focus on PPC ads on Google and a recent change by Google that has impacted the cost and effectiveness of PPC ads on Google.

On September 1, 2020, Google announced that the search terms report within Google Ads would show only search terms that reach a volume threshold. This reduced visibility into ad campaigns has caused immediate concern among advertisers and agencies, who rely on the report’s insights to optimize their Google Ads performance.

In simpler words, advertisers will have reduced visibility into which search queries trigger their ads, even if they incur a click or conversion. What gives?

Per Search Engine Land, Google is citing that this change is related to privacy, stating that with this update they are trying to, “maintain our standards of privacy & strengthen protections around user data.”

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But what does “significant” mean? This measure is subjective and Google’s definition of “significant” may vary greatly from how an advertiser may measure that word. This ambiguity is one of those Google rules that advertisers have to live by and try to figure out. This change to Google search trends and Google keywords could mean a lot to marketers that depend on Google ads.

The search terms report is a feature within your Google Ads account that allows you to see precisely which search terms triggered your ads to appear, as well as how closely those terms relate to the keywords your ad is targeting.

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This means you will no longer be able to use this report to see all of the search terms triggering your ads. In particular, you will not see the search terms that have lower volume. So, what’s the big deal about not being able to see lower volume Google search keywords? What it means is that your Google Ads can be significantly less targeted based on Google keywords!

Here’s how that seemingly small change has impacted Google search trends for PPC ads.

Before the update:

  • For every $100K you spent on Google search, you got search term data for $98,700 of it.
  • You got on your ads for every 100K clicks; you saw search term data for 98,300 of those clicks.

After the update:

  • For every $100K you spend on Google search, you get search term data for $71,000 of it.
  • For every 100K clicks you get to your ads, and you see search term data for 77,900 of those clicks.

Less visibility for advertisers means that Google can create a new market for lower volume search terms. Advertisers must re-evaluate their keyword strategy for PPC ads on Google. If they can’t find a way around the new rule, they may need to spend more to attain the same click volume before the change.

The resulting reduced visibility into search queries has many advertisers disconcerted, as this report was paramount to Google Ads optimization.

  • It inhibits small, proactive tweaks that can be made to plug what will amount to big leaks in spending.
  • It makes keyword mining more difficult and renders broad matches unusable.
  • It leads to lower bidding and reduced conversion rates.
  • It hinders the ability to create single keyword ad groups.

What does this mean for websites that depend on Google Ads for traffic?

Here are the keys to success that Agency Partner recommends to its clients.

  • Continue optimizing
  • Don’t lose sight of the value that all of your work to date has produced. Stay on strategy for the highest volume keywords.
  • Use the Bing search query report.
  • Even though Bing is a fraction of the size of Google in terms of the search share, Google and Bing use very similar technology. Test and explore Bing search trends and see if there is anything you can learn to improve Google results.
  • Launch Dynamic Search Ads to find new keywords
  • Dynamic Search Ads on Google could maximize your current landing pages and help consumers find you even if your original PPC keywords didn’t cover the keywords that helped your consumer find your site.
  • Use Smart Bidding to optimize for “hidden” search terms.
  • This is what Google wants, and it’s a way around this new policy.
  • Dynamic search ads are great at targeting your ads based on your landing pages’ context and can ultimately help reach audiences for search terms that you didn’t cover with your keywords.

Agency Partner has technologists that deal everyday with Google and its algorithms, rules, and policies. Our job is to help clients find ways to spend their advertising dollars most efficiently to maximize Google search visibility. Whether it is SEO on Google or Google Ads, we pride ourselves on knowing the latest trends on Google.

There will be more subtle Google changes in the future. They are rarely announced. The key is to be aware of the changes as soon as possible and respond to Google search trends as quickly as possible.

Agency Partner watches Google trends every day. It’s our reason for being. If we can’t bring value to our clients in “playing the game” with Google, we have no reason to be.

Not big on reading? That’s okay. Watch “Google Ads Decreases Search Terms Visibilityinstead. Using the power of Artificial Intelligence, we turned this blog into a video for you. Check it out below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

successful-ecommerce-website

12 Steps to Building a Successful eCommerce Site in 12 Months

Expert Tips For 12 Steps to Building a Successful eCommerce Site in 12 Months

If you have some entrepreneurial spirit in you, you might be thinking of launching an eCommerce website to launch your new idea.

Before we get to the steps of building a successful eCommerce site, there are some fundamental business issues you need to think through.

You are launching a business. And, the business of business is money. You have to have money for inventory, logo and design, legal advice, accounting and tax advice, business insurance, marketing, warehouse, and logistics. It isn’t free to start a new business. But, with expert eCommerce development processes, you can be efficient and spend your money wisely.

You are launching a brand of product or service. Who is the market for your brand? What is the competition for your brand? What is your brand positioning? Where geographically is the audience for your brand? What is your pricing strategy? How much sales volume do you need to generate to be profitable? What is your overhead cost going to be? What is your true gross profit?

About 90% of new eCommerce websites fail by the 10th year. 22% fail in the first year. 50% fail by the fifth year. So, why do online stores fail at such a high rate? The simple answer is the sheer amount of competition. There are over one billion live websites, but even narrowing it down to eCommerce sites, there are still between 12 and 24 million currently operating. Of those, only around 650,000 (or 2 to 5 percent) are selling at least $1,000 each year. What’s different about your idea?

At Agency Partner, we pride ourselves on honesty, practicality, and providing the best eCommerce services in Dallas. We will tell you what we think your costs will be and what your chance of success is.

So, if all of this preceding info isn’t daunting to you, here’s how to get started on creating your successful eCommerce website in 12 months.

1. SEO strategy:

SEO means search engine optimization. You want your website to be found when consumers are looking for your type of brand. Getting on the front page of Google is your goal. Google has a 92% share of the search engine market.

If Google can’t find you, doesn’t recognize you, or you don’t play by their rules, you are going to fail. If SEO is not something you are an expert in, find an expert. Agency Partner would love to help you with SEO strategy, especially if you start building your website. In that way, we can help you with a maximized eCommerce development process building the key strategies from your SEO strategy into your eCommerce website development.

2. Select a domain name for your eCommerce website:

This isn’t expensive. You can use a service like GoDaddy to pick a URL. Often it costs less than $10 to buy your domain name. Ideally, your domain name will be the same as your brand name. And the URL will be short. Five to seven letters or less is ideal. And something catchy and memorable. Google, Amazon, eBay, TikTok, Etsy, Apple are all great examples. Your domain name will be a key aspect of your SEO strategy.

3. Select your eCommerce website developer:

Is this going to be you? It may seem cheaper, and you might know a lot about the digital world. But, can you keep up with all of the constant changes? The new technologies? You need an expert web developer and an expert in an SEO strategy to increase your chances of success.

Agency Partner offers the best eCommerce development services in Dallas and beyond. We have completed over 1200 successful projects for clients in Texas, the US, and internationally.

4. Select your eCommerce and website hosting platform:

There are thousands of options. Shopify is extremely popular because it is quick to set up, offers the easy setup for taking credit card payments online, has a rich library of themes and plugins to add functionality, and is currently hosting over 1 million eCommerce websites. If you plan to get big in a hurry, BigCommerce might be for you. As the name suggests, it is a platform for a large volume of transactions and is very popular among large online retailers.

Their clients include Kohler, Hush Puppies, Ben & Jerry’s, and PayPal. WooCommerce is another widely popular platform because it works on WordPress. It also offers lots of customization, extensive themes and plugins, card processing, and clients such as Weber Grills, Fuji, Dr. Scholl’s, and Burning Man.

5. Select a theme and graphic design stylebook that matches your brand:

Your brand is unique and has its own story. Visually, you want your eCommerce website to match your brand’s look, tone, and feel. The type of photography, the type fonts, the colors you choose for your eCommerce website will reflect your brand and how your consumer feels about your site.

You might not only want an expert eCommerce website developer but a graphic design expert as well to guide you in your selections. At Agency Partner, we can do both. We have brand design experts as well as a state-of-the-art eCommerce development process to guide you along your way.

6. Publish a pre-launch page on your URL:

This will start your website to gain traction in SEO. Create some great content for the page proving your site is an expert in your product or service area. This will get you followers and SEO links before you even launch your site.

7. Generate press interest before you launch:

The news industry is always hungry for new content. Use services like HARO (Help a Reporter Out) and PitchBox to get your story and product or service before a reporter.

8. Select your payment gateway

Select your payment gateway and integrate with your accounting, inventory, tax, and finance software: Before you launch, the business must be ready to function. Talk to your bank, your accountant, your inventory/warehouse/logistics team to gain input. Then, ask your eCommerce web developer to help you select the best payment solution.

9. Create an email list:

Of all of the marketing tools that will be available to you, nothing will come close to the return on investment on a high-quality mailing list. Give consumers a chance to register for emails on your pre-launch page. Add key personal contacts to the list, including your business partners in banking, real estate, logistics, etc.

Once you launch, the customers who buy from you first will be your most profitable customers. Use social media to generate emails by offering great content in exchange for a consumer’s email address.

10. Get listed on Google Shopping and Facebook Product Catalog:

Google and Facebook will be your two primary funnels for potential customers. Get your product listed before you launch, and then activate and begin advertising on these two giant platforms targeting your core consumer. An expert in eCommerce development and marketing can help guide you. Trustpilot, BazaarVoice, and Yelp are but three of hundreds of services out there. It would be best if you got this set up before you launch your eCommerce website.

11. Identify and build a relationship with key influencers:

You’ve no doubt read about Instagram influencers and the money they make. You likely don’t need that type of influencer. It would help if you had people that are knowledgeable of and respected by others for their expertise in your product or service category. They should have a following on social media.

Many times, simply sending them a free product is enough to get them interested and generate mentions for you on their posts. Be wary of paid influencers. Hire an expert in eCommerce website marketing expert before you get involved in an expensive and hard-to-manage contract.

12. Launch with as big a bang as you can:

You are only new once. If you have done your homework, you have identified your core audience, your key influencers, built an email list, and have reporters ready to announce that you are living and up and running. .

It takes time and money to develop an audience for a new eCommerce website. Spend wisely, and we highly recommend hiring an eCommerce website development expert to guide you along the way.

Agency Partner offers best-in-class eCommerce website and marketing services for Dallas, Texas, the United States, and internationally. We’d love to help you achieve your deserved success.

Not big on reading? That’s okay. Watch “12 Steps to Building a Successful eCommerce Site in 12 Monthsinstead. Using the power of Artificial Intelligence, we turned this blog into a video for you. Check it out below!

BE-UandAgencyPartner

Digital.com Names Agency Partner as Top Web Design Firm in Dallas

Agency Partner Joins the Top of the list

Digital.com, a leading independent review website for small business online tools, products, and services, has announced the best web design firms in Dallas. The top companies were selected based on multiple services, size of the firm, and industry focus.

Experts at Digital.com examined companies with additional branding or marketing services that would enable businesses to scale up. Each firm was expected to demonstrate industry expertise in specific areas like manufacturing, retail, hospitality, and healthcare. The guide also features large and small firms to meet a variety of budgets and service needs.

top-web-design-agency-dallas

“Our experts spent hours reviewing many web design companies in Dallas that can offer a broad range of services and industry expertise,” says Josephine Miller, PR Manager of Digital.com. “This guide will help businesses narrow their search for top-rated firms.”

Researchers at Digital.com conducted a 40-hour assessment of over 49 companies across the city.

15 Best Web Design Companies in Dallas

  • Agency Entourage
  • Agency Partner Interactive LLC
  • Big D Creative
  • CSTMR Fintech Marketing & Design
  • Idea Grove
  • JSL Marketing
  • Legnd
  • Local Leap Marketing
  • OurStudio
  • RUNNER Agency
  • Social Xccess
  • Studio Fox Design
  • Thrive Internet Marketing Agency
  • Today’s Local Media
  • Web Loft Designs

ABOUT DIGITAL.COM
Digital.com reviews and compares the best products, services, and software for running or growing a small business website or online shop. The platform collects twitter comments and uses sentiment analysis to score companies and their products. Digital.com was founded in 2015 and formerly known as Review Squirrel.

To learn more, contact the team at Agency Partner today. Click Here.

 

wordpress-admin-dashboard

Top 9 WordPress Admin Dashboard Themes and Plugins 2021

Expert Tips For Top 9 WordPress Admin Dashboard Themes and Plugins 2021

If you are reading this, you likely use WordPress. After all, over 40% of the websites on the internet are powered by WordPress.

As open-source software, developers always create new WordPress themes and WordPress plugins to help website developers improve their communications and capabilities.

With over 80,000 available WordPress themes and 12,000 WordPress plugins, it can be overwhelming to sift them all and decide which would be most useful for doing WordPress updates in 2021.

At Agency Partner, we live with WordPress every day. Whether for our clients or ourselves, we are continually learning about new WordPress development to provide best practices for WordPress roadmaps for the sites we manage. Constant change and refinement are key to success in the digital world.

As a service to our clients, we have sifted through thousands of WordPress updates for 2021 and narrowed them to the top 15 that we think will have the most impact. Of course, your situation might be unique and benefit from other WordPress theme updates or plugin updates. We can help you find those WordPress updates that are best for your particular objectives and strategies.

Here are Agency Partner’s top 9 WordPress themes and plugin updates for 2021.

1. Divi:

Divi is the most popular WordPress theme provider in the world. It offers over 800 premade website layouts and 100 full website packages. Brand new layouts are added weekly, along with royalty-free photos, icons, and illustrations. Divi offers a wide array of WordPress themes that cover almost any need, eCommerce, business information, events, and health.

2. WordFence Security:

WordFence is one of the most popular WordPress plugins. It is built from the ground-up for WordPress security. Wordfence includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner that was built from the ground up to protect WordPress. As part of your WordPress roadmap to success, Threat Defense Feed arms Wordfence with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your website safe. Rounded out by a suite of additional features, Wordfence is the most comprehensive security option available. If you deal in the digital world, you know the importance of cybersecurity. Every site needs protection from hacking and other kinds of security issues. WordFence is a comprehensive security plugin for self-hosted WordPress sites that helps with malware scanning. The plugin includes a firewall with multiple security features, as well as protection from viruses and malware. WordFence also does real-time traffic monitoring and sends email alerts about critical security concerns.

3. Astra:

Astra is a modern WordPress theme designed to create any website. It works with all the popular drag and drops page builders seamlessly. The theme comes with several starter sites that you can use to launch your website quickly. These ready-made websites are perfect for small businesses, startups, blogs, and WooCommerce stores. Astra has tons of unique features, including page headers, mega menu, multiple layout choices, Google Fonts, unlimited color customization options, separate blog page layouts, and custom widgets. Plus, Astra offers powerful integration with the WooCommerce plugin to create an online store. Their WooCommerce theme includes infinite scrolling, quick product view, shop page, product gallery, and cart options.

It also integrates with popular learning management systems like LearnDash. Astra has built-in SEO optimization to help your website rank well in Google and other search engines.

4. WooCommerce:

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin and a customizable, open-source eCommerce platform built on WordPress. WooCommerce is one of the fastest-growing eCommerce communities. If eCommerce is a distribution channel you plan to enter, WooCommerce can be an excellent tool for your WordPress roadmap and development. It is scalable and fully customizable. WooCommerce has its mobile app so that you can manage your business from your smart device anytime and anywhere.

5. Yoast SEO:

Yoast SEO is the number one WordPress plugin for SEO. Search Engine Optimization is key to your site being found. In your WordPress updates for 2021, you need to ensure you have the latest technology working for you in SEO. The rules from the search engines are continually changing. Yoast does the work for you to identify those changes and focus on what you need to do to improve and maintain a high ranking.

6. Google Analytics Dashboard by MonsterInsights:

Google Analytics by Monster Insights is the most popular WordPress plugin for using Google Analytics. It is a premier tool for tracking statistics on your website, and this WordPress plugin puts the full range of Google Analytics functions right on your WordPress dashboard. Without leaving your site, you can check traffic and clicks, get data on visitor behaviors, and more.

7. Akismet:

Akismet is the most popular WordPress plugin for protection against spam comments. Created by the team behind WordPress itself, Akismet filters all comments and allows users to block or approve commenters. Akismet is free for personal sites, with premium plans available for business and professional bloggers.

8. Twenty Twenty-One:

Twenty Twenty-One is the fastest-growing WordPress theme for bloggers and editorial websites. It presents a blank canvas for your ideas, and it makes the block editor your best brush. With new block patterns, which allow you to create a beautiful layout in a matter of seconds, this theme’s soft colors and eye-catching yet timeless design will connect with your audience and beautify your ideas.

9. WordPress AutoUpdates:

Created by the WordPress team, this WordPress plugin does what it says. It provides automatic updates to WordPress plugins and WordPress themes. It is in constant development to ensure WordPress updates for themes and plugins are correct, tested, and implemented in real-time.

Agency Partner works with these WordPress updates every day. We can help your business or organization use these WordPress updates in 2021 to improve your website’s visibility, functionality, and safety.

Not big on reading? That’s okay. Watch “Top 9 WordPress Admin Dashboard Themes and Plugins 2021instead. Using the power of Artificial Intelligence, we turned this blog into a video for you. Check it out below!

Calendar Note Schedule Memo Manage Event Concept

How to Create a Content Calendar

Expert Tips For How to Create a Content Calendar

If you’ve been made responsible for your company’s content marketing needs and you’re at square 1, you might feel a bit overwhelmed, especially if you are new to this process. Kicking off the effort that goes into content marketing calendar creation is a strong first step.

In reality, this is a fairly simple process once you understand what it is and why it is needed in your organization’s marketing calendar.

Let’s start with a simple example for creating and planning your calendar. Let’s say you wanted to create a plan around the concept of running, with your ultimate goal of running a marathon.

First, you need to understand what it takes to run a marathon. Exercise, running, nutrition, stretching, equipment, hydration, and other vital steps to attaining your goal. The same logic goes into the development of your content calendar.

So to begin, start with a blank calendar that is saved as a simple spreadsheet. You can use any calendar you are comfortable using but Google Sheets works really well. There is no one right way to develop planning calendars but it helps to use your columns for new topics and the rows to segment out the various instruction that each topic will include for your writer and SEO team. When it comes down to it, use what you know well and what others on your team are comfortable using.

Below you will find an image that includes a column named “Worksheet Item.” These are the inputs that we use in the rows of our content calendar. This drives the growth of each topic, noted in the corresponding columns of the spreadsheet.

content-calendar

Next, you start filling in the calendar with what needs to happen each day, each week, to get you to your goal each month. You’ll likely have more than one topic per day, so allow for that in creating your calendar. At a minimum, your content calendar should be designed to handle at least two topics per week.

Plan the work, work the plan, and results will follow.

In a marketing context, content marketing and calendar creation are one part of the overall marketing plan. It is critical that the person responsible for content marketing and calendar creation fully understands the comprehensive marketing plan. And, the senior marketing team must be fully aware of the topics within the content marketing calendar. It is customary to have them pre-approve each topic before a writer starts the assignment.

To come up with the best topics, the person in charge of calendar creation and content marketing creation must understand the brand or companies positioning strategy, target audience, distribution strategy, pricing strategy, new product launch schedules, promotional calendar, major advertising campaigns, major PR announcements, and anything that has to do with communicating with the target audience.

The content marketing calendar must integrate with the overall marketing calendar, meaning that it works in partnership with your social media calendar and others. The marketing content calendar must be available to the entire marketing team to be seamless and real-time communication.

Building a content calendar has three primary purposes:

  • Forces planning and strategic thinking on communications before execution
  • Assigns due dates and responsibilities so that the team is clear as to who is doing what
  • Provides a transparent calendar for the entire team to stay updated and the ability to make changes in real-time as things change (as they always do)

If you want the best content writing services in Dallas, Agency Partner is built to serve you. It’s our only reason for being.

Agency Partner is here to help your organization manage your communications using the latest and most proven content strategy services.

We manage content strategy for most of our clients. We can do calendar creation and integrate that calendar to plan. Meaning, we can be your partner in creating both the content calendar and the content to match up with your overall marketing planning calendar.

At Agency Partner, here’s how we can best serve clients. And, we have over 1200 examples of how we have done this.

Here’s our approach:

  1. Meet with the marketing team, including the most senior members.
  2. Gain an understanding of the long-term and short-term marketing strategies and issues.
  3. Develop a calendar to plan the needed content to support the marketing strategies.
  4. Create content for your website, social media, blogs, SEO, and keywords to help your brand stand out from the competition. You will have the ability to review and approve all of this before it’s put into action.
  5. Ensure that all of these strategies meet the best content marketing strategies as the channels frequently change their rules and algorithms.
  6. Weekly quick check meetings with the digital marketing team and monthly team meetings with the entire marketing team to evaluate each content’s response and progress.
  7. Provide quantitative reports at whatever interval the organization needs for senior management to report to the board, stakeholders, and the organization.

Agency Partner lives in the digital world. It changes by the minute. We are partners with Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. We get information to which your organization might not have access.

Using our proven content strategy services, Agency Partner can help any organization, large or small, improve the effectiveness of their communications with their various audiences: consumers, customers, distributors, investors, media influencers, and web-based ranking services.

If you have any questions about content marketing and want to learn more about our best content marketing services, please contact Agency Partner.

We’d love to help you achieve your goals.

Not big on reading? That’s okay. Watch “How to Create a Content Calendarinstead. Using the power of Artificial Intelligence, we turned this blog into a video for you. Check it out below!