Drone Deliveries Grounded by FAA For The Time Being

delivery drones grounded for now
Since Jeff Bezos, CEO at Amazon, announced a plan for delivering goods via drone in 2013, a dream has taken hold. Large and small businesses alike imagine a time when drones deliver everything from merchandise to pizza.

But a recent report by the National Retail Federation sees drone deliveries grounded for the foreseeable future.  And the main stumbling block seems to be the Federal Aviation Administration.

Delivery Drones Grounded For Now

Since the announcement by Amazon’s CEO, everyone from DHL and Google to Walmart have explored the possibilities by applying with the FAA requesting permissions to test drones, as well as actually using drones to deliver packages.

But the fact of the matter is, there are many hurdles to overcome before drone delivery becomes a reality in the U.S.

In the NRF report published on the federation’s official website, author Craig Guillot, highlights the challenges facing drone delivery.

“A reading of the FAA’s public statements and actions over the past few years leads to the conclusion that wide-scale drone deliveries aren’t going to be authorized soon,” Guillot explains.

He writes:

“Drones lack ‘sense and avoidance’ technology that would allow them to ‘see’ one another like radar technology for manned aircraft. Regulators say it’s a necessary element to have in place before tens of thousands of drones can make long-distance flights out of operators’ sight.”

Big players like Amazon have suggested some solutions for delivery-by-drone, Guillot admits:

“At a NASA convention in California last summer, Amazon proposed a special air zone for its delivery drones, an area between 200 feet and 400 feet from the ground that would be reserved for flying drones at speeds of 70 miles per hour or more.”

Of course, no one is sure where that leaves smaller businesses seeking to use drone delivery — or Amazon’s other larger competitors, for that matter.

And there’s another barrier, according to Mary Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.

In the NRF report, Cummings explains the simple interactive problems involved in drone delivery. How will businesses using drones address the dangers posed by and to cars or other vehicles, children, birds or other animals. These dangers would most likely be encountered in the last leg of a drone’s journey as it approaches its destination.

In fact, drone run-ins with eagles, chimps and even a swarm of bees have been known to happen.

But what of possible damage to property or injury to children and other innocent bystanders?

The FAA has, of course, granted limited commercial use of drones in recent years. For instance, Australian start-up Flirtey was the first company granted permission for a commercial drone delivery in U.S. airspace. The company used a drone to deliver supplies to a medical clinic in rural Virginia in July of 2015.

Still many barriers to drone operation remain.

For example, currently no one is permitted to use a drone for commercial flights without a “special exemption” from the FAA. And so far, most have been for things like photography, agricultural use, construction and real estate. Drone delivery is definitely not the list.

But why?

Well, probably because other thorny requirements by the FAA make logistics difficult or impossible. So if you’re waiting for a ring of the doorbell heralding delivery of your Chinese food via drone, better not hold your breath.

Commercial drone operation thus far requires that the drone in line of site with the operator at all times. It also requires that an operator possess a pilot’s license. But perhaps the biggest hurtle of all is the agency’s current injunction against carrying a payload, the NRF explains.

Will there be a time when you pack a customers order aboard a drone and send it on its way? Who knows. But certainly some regulations will need to be addressed first to make it happen.

Drone delivering pizza photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Drone Deliveries Grounded by FAA For The Time Being” was first published on Small Business Trends

Square Sees 49 Percent Revenue Boost, Quarterly Report Says

square register

Payment processing company Square, which allows merchants to easily accept credit cards through a simple card reader, has reported (PDF) major revenue growth in its fourth-quarter earnings.

The mobile payment service company reported it saw a total net sales increase of 49 percent year over year to a total net revenue of $374 million.

This is Square’s first earnings report as a publicly traded company, and the numbers clearly indicate that the firm is still a major payment option for small businesses even with many other players in the market. Square reported gross payment volume rose to $10.2 billion, up 47 percent from the previous year.

The company said it is seeing strong growth in its core payments business as well as across its software and data products. In the fourth quarter, Square revenue from these products rose to $22 million, up by 52 percent from $15 million reported in the third quarter of 2015.

Square’s new technologies such as EMV (chip cards) and NFC (contactless payments) are continuing to gain momentum in the market. The company has said that it has already received over 350,000 pre-orders for its new contactless and chip card reader.

Launched last year, Square Reader allows merchants to accept payments from contactless payment systems like Apple Pay as well as EMV (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) chip cards.

The company says it’s developing new products and services to expand its reach and deepen relationships with sellers. An example is Square Capital, a “financial services product that delivers capital to sellers in a fast, fair and intelligent manner.”

It’s worth noting that competition in the credit card reader business is getting fierce with several new players entering the market. Some of the big players that have made forays into this domain are PayPal and Intuit.

Despite growing competition, Square has maintained its popularity among small businesses. Everett Burbridge, owner of Soul Fuel BBQ catering service explains why. “For someone starting a business, once you establish your integrity with Square, your loyalty with the company is rewarded,” he told Forbes. “When I needed them the most they were there.”

Square has cautioned that it expects 2016 to start on a slow note as the company comes off the holiday season. Moreover, the company says it will have shipped all remaining units in its pre-order backlog for the contactless and chip reader. Over half of the pre-ordered readers included a promotional processing credit. This may have an impact on its transaction revenue.

Headquartered in San Francisco, Square was launched in 2010. The company’s CEO is Jack Dorsey also serves as CEO at Twitter.

Image: Square

This article, “Square Sees 49 Percent Revenue Boost, Quarterly Report Says” was first published on Small Business Trends

Explaining the Obvious

right hand man toady business cartoon

This cartoon is popular on my site. Like really popular. Seriously — it’s really super crazy popular.

I have my theories (Phil is a funny name, toady is a funny word, and the comedy rule of 3’s). But I suspect the real reason is that this is an all too familiar hierarchy in the workplace.

Sometimes just drawing and explaining the familiar is all a cartoonist needs to do.

This article, “Explaining the Obvious” was first published on Small Business Trends

With Right Side Ads Gone on Google, Was it Disaster as Predicted?

google search

It’s been about a month since Google confirmed the death of right sidebar ads for desktop search results. Immediately following the change resulting in right side ads gone from Google search results, a hot topic of rampant speculation throughout the search industry was how much CPCs would skyrocket.

adpocalypse-end-is-near

Here’s just a sampling of comments on the change with right side ads gone, from Search Engine Land’s Facebook page:

  • “One thing’s for sure: Google wouldn’t have rolled this out if they weren’t sure they would make more money this way. Less ad-space, more earnings … you figure out what this means for CPC.”
  • “This will raise costs for advertisers, squeeze-out advertisers who a) can’t afford the higher competition and/or b) can’t figger [sic] out how to raise their Quality Scores, and send many advertisers to Bing/Yahoo, FB and other social-media platforms.”
  • “Going to raise cpc costs across the board.”

Even Perry Marshall cried “DANGER,” calling it the biggest Google AdWords shakeup in more than 10 years and warned: “Your strategy for Google AdWords is going to totally change.”

Well, now it’s nearly a month later, and the data actually shows a very different story — and by different, I mean the same. Very little has changed.

What HAS and HAS NOT Changed With Right Side Ads Gone

We’ve updated our proprietary data on the effects of the SERP shake-up (see full details on our data sources at the end of this post).

Click-Through Rates (CTRs) are Up

click-through rates with right side ads gone

As the data from thousands of WordStream accounts spanning all industries shows, click-through rates (CTRs) are up. No real surprise here.

It was expected that having a fourth spot above the organic results would mean more ad clicks. The surprise, as I discussed last month, was that the ad in the third spot, not the fourth, got the biggest boost from the new desktop SERP layout.

Costs Per Click (CPCs) are Static

Here’s one dire prediction I saw on Twitter: “No right side ads = hello 3x increase in CPCs.” Many marketers feared less ad space would result in CPCs going through the roof.

Well, this is why smart marketers don’t base their strategies on predictions. Because the data tells the actual story:

CPCs down with right side ads gone

CPCs haven’t jumped, let alone by 3x.

If anything, costs per click have gone down some with the right side ads gone, as shown in the chart above.

Traffic is Steady

More good news for PPC marketers: click volume, for the most part, has been steady. There have also been some modest wins:

Click volume steady with right side ads gone

So we’re looking pretty good, right? CTRs are up, and clicks are mostly constant. Does that mean impressions are down?

Impressions are Down

Before the change, it was possible for searchers to see up to 11 ads per search results page. Now, with right-side ads gone on desktop, Google users will see no more than seven text ads.

So yes, this change has resulted in a decline of ad impressions. The loss of desktop impression share mostly affects those who appeared in the eighth position and lower:

adpocalypse-impression-share

Although this chart may look kind of catastrophic for those below position 7, it really isn’t a huge change. Why? Because positions 8 to 11 made up a mere 0.2 percent of all desktop impressions:

share-of-all-desktop-ad-impressions

A Quick Note on Averages

There has been some noise lately about how averages don’t tell us anything useful for strategy in PPC because every advertiser is different. I disagree. As long as you’re using proper math — checking the sample variance and standard deviation for your data set to make sure the variance isn’t too high — averages can tell you a lot, because the vast majority of advertisers will fall into the standard distribution. More on this here.

Anatomy of a “Loser”

Every change to the Google SERP has winners and losers. If a win in this case means higher CTRs, lower/steady CPCs and steady/more traffic, what does a “loser” look like?

In an effort to provide a thorough analysis, we set out to find examples of accounts that truly suffered as a result of Google’s removal of right ads from the desktop SERP.

It wasn’t easy. After poring through tons of accounts and data, however, we finally managed to find an interesting example from the financial industry. So let’s take a quick look at the “struggles” of one advertiser.

Prior to the change, they had an average position of 8.6 on desktop. After the new SERP rolled out, they got killed, losing 80 percent of their desktop impressions:

adpocalypse-loser-impression-share-killed

But here’s where it gets interesting. Their CTR more than doubled:

adpocalypse-loser-ctr-doubled

As a result, the advertiser only lost 15 percent of their desktop clicks, which fell from 26 to 22:

adpocalypse-desktop-clicks-loss

Also interesting is that this advertiser saw CPC increase from $0.53 to $0.69:

adpocalypse-cpc-increase-loser

But wait! It gets even more interesting, because their average position went from 7.5 to 4.3 after the change.

adpocalypse-average-position-up

So, overall, not a terrible deal for this “loser.” This advertiser is now paying $0.16 more per click, but it’s for vastly more valuable space on the SERP.

The fact that an advertiser with an average position of 8.6 didn’t get wiped out — especially considering Google eliminated ad positions 8 through 11 from the SERPs — is of major significance.

What does it mean? Well, it leads me to believe that Google is sharing the impressions a little bit, as opposed to using a “winner takes all” approach.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read on the Internet

Okay, so here’s what we now know about what was overhyped as the most dangerous change Google has ever thrown at us:

  • Most advertisers are responding well to the change resulting in right side ads gone.
  • Advertisers’ metrics seem to have mostly balanced out so far.
  • Traffic and CPCs have remained relatively flat.
  • The losers are those who were at the bottom (positions 8–11). But even then, it’s nearly impossible to find examples of advertisers that have been totally and utterly annihilated.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this change is exclusive to desktop. Regardless of how you spin the numbers, it’s clear that desktop is becoming less of a focal point for Google:

adpocalypse-mobile-focus

Remember, brave search marketers: The only thing we have to fear is uninformed speculation. Don’t panic whenever Google changes something. Be patient. Collect and analyze your data. React smartly.

This wasn’t the first huge change we PPC marketers have lived through. And it definitely won’t be the last!

Data Sources:

This report is based on a sample size of about 2000 client accounts representing small businesses and medium businesses (SMBs) in all verticals in English-speaking countries worldwide (including the United States, Canada, UK, Ireland, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand), advertising on the Google AdWords search network (desktop only) in the date ranges indicated on the charts.

Google Search Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “With Right Side Ads Gone on Google, Was it Disaster as Predicted?” was first published on Small Business Trends

The French privacy authority has taken an extreme and potentially dangerous position that unwittingly supports internet censorship:

French privacy regulator fines Google for not removing RTBF links outside of Europe

CNIL in France refuses to compromise on demand that Google remove all Right to Be Forgotten content from its entire index.

BIA/Kelsey & Vendasta have released an in-depth look at the do-it-with-me service model for marketing solutions geared to small and medium-sized businesses. Get your free copy here:

Optimize local marketing the same way big companies do

Together with BIA/Kelsey, Vendasta has released an in-depth look at the do-it-with-me (DIWM) service model for marketing solutions geared to small and medi

Lynda Video Training Beefs Up Note Taking Features

lynda

Lynda.com, the LinkedIn Company that offers thousands of video courses in software, creative, and business skills, has added new features including a new course page, new note taking features and a faster, slimmer player.

The new note taking feature allows Lynda users to read or take notes directly next to the Lynda video training they are watching. With this feature, business owners or professionals taking the Lynda posts are better able to record important points during the session allowing them to better retain information and ultimately be more successful. “Our goal is to give you the skills you need to achieve your goals — land a dream job, change careers, start a new business, or stay current in today’s changing world of technology,” Brian Coyle, Lynda’s product manager said in a post on the official LinkedIn blog.

Besides the note taking feature, Lynda.com has also added a faster and slimmer player. Coyle says that the new player is optimized for easier access to controls and faster playback. “We’ve combined the video controls and settings into one place below your video so they are easier to find. Now while you are watching you can monitor your progress through the lesson and jump backwards with one click if you missed something important.” You can also choose to view your Lynda video training in 360p, 540p or 720p HD quality.

Also, Lynda has added more keyboard shortcuts, giving you more control over your learning experience. You can now skip back ten seconds with the back arrow, go to the next Lynda video training with the ‘L” key, increase playback speed by pressing the forward arrow plus ‘Shift’ or  toggle the page layout using the ‘T’ key.

LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 300 million members worldwide, announced the acquisition of Lynda.com on April 9, 2015. Lynda is a leader in online training and among its courses and trainings are thousands of online marketing materials that small business owners can use to sharpen their online marketing skills.

Image: Lynda

This article, “Lynda Video Training Beefs Up Note Taking Features” was first published on Small Business Trends