How to handle out-of-stock products for ecommerce SEO • Yoast

As an online store, you want to sell as many units of your products as possible. But, every online store will eventually reach a point where products run out of stock. Then comes the big question: how should you handle these out-of-stock products properly for ecommerce SEO in your WooCommerce or Shopify store? As in so many things when it comes to SEO: it depends.

How does Google handle out-of-stock products?

Google can handle out-of-stock products on online stores just fine. Whether Google will continue to show your products in the search results when it’s out of stock is a different matter. Sometimes, Google prefers stores that have the product in stock as that offers potential customers the best experience — they are not looking for stores without stock, right?

Of course, here’s another it depends. If you have a high-quality product page with relevant content for searchers, your product pages might/will still rank depending on the query and competition.

Google might treat product pages with out-of-stock products as soft 404s, which might lead them to drop them from the search results. Here’s how John Mueller from Google put it:

And when it comes to the regular search results, it can happen that when we see that something is out of stock, we will assume it’s more like a soft 404 error, where we will drop that URL from the search results as well.

Of course, having out-of-stock products treated as soft 404s doesn’t harm the ranking power of your entire store, merely the products themselves.

Out-of-stock products: it depends

What to do with out-of-stock products on your WooCommerce or Shopify store depends on many things. For instance, it depends on whether you need to do something about the product pages for stuff out of stock on your online store. Is the product coming back in stock quickly? Or is it sold out forever? Is it unknown when or if it will return?

With the current stock issues worldwide, it’s getting harder and harder to get products in and keep them in stock. Hopefully, the situation will improve soon, but it might become even worse. Do you need to have all those products listed when you are not sure when getting a new shipment?

Besides, online stores come in all shapes and sizes with intricacies and complexities. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to help all stores improve their ecommerce SEO or Shopify SEO.

Ecommerce SEO and international SEO expert Aleyda Solis made an invaluable cheat sheet flowchart that helps make the proper decision easier.

Manage the user experience on your product pages

When people want to buy your product, your product pages are the primary way to communicate about said product. Whether your product is in stock, on backorder, or unavailable, you should always manage the user’s expectations. If you can get them to buy by making the process as quick and painless as possible, great. But if your products are — temporarily — unavailable, you still need to try and keep the visitor. Turn them into returning customers.

You can manage expectations by showing when an out-of-stock product will return in stock. Offer ways to keep a potential customer in the loop with an email me when the product is back in stock feature. Or make a wishlist feature in your online store where customers can save their favorite product and keep updated on the availability — or sales offers. Plus, you can add a list of products that other people find interesting to see if they might buy a different item.

Dwindling stock for a product can also trigger people to buy it now rather than later. Urgency is real! But keep it accurate and don’t make up stock shortages — people will see through that.

Dutch online grocer Albert Heijn informs customers about the shortage of sunflower oil

Influence internal search and category listings

You can also influence your internal search engine and filter options to keep these from giving out-of-stock products as an option to buy for customers. It’s better to have these products at the bottom of the results pages than at the top. You could also visually style or display out-of-stock products differently on category or listing pages. For instance, you could grey out the image or place a banner over it. This way, it’s immediately clear that you usually offer the product in your store but just right now.

Also worth noting that those categories, tags and the like might need some love and attention if most or all of the products are permanently out of stock. At some point, it might be worth merging, redirecting, and deleting at a category level.

What happens next to the product?

Most decisions you make around handling product statuses can be answered by thinking about what happens next to the product. Is it out of stock forever? Will it return? Is it unsure when? Does your product content have relevance even if the product itself doesn’t appear to come back anytime soon? Answering these will help you take the right action for ecommerce SEO and Shopify SEO.

The product is sold out, but it will be back in a new version

When the product is sold out, with no chance of returning, you have to check if there is a relevant substitution. It might be that the manufacturer launched a slightly updated version of the product with a new barcode. This, of course, will live on a unique URL, which means you need to fix all the old links to the previous version of the product and delete them from the XML sitemap. With a 301 redirect, you can send visitors from the old product page to the new one. Also, don’t forget to delete the products from the product feed not to confuse Google Shopping and the like.

The product is temporarily unavailable and will return

A temporarily unavailable product should live on like it was, except you should manage the user experience. You want to keep them in your store, buying your product.

Of course, it’s hard to compete with stores that do have the products in stock, but still. If there are broad stock shortages like we are experiencing now, you want to tell your customer when they can expect it. Offer a way to keep them up to date! Or show other products that other people have bought after searching for this specific product.

Clicking on a greyed-out size for this particular shoe opens up this modal that asks customers to keep up to date

The product is unavailable but will return (seasonal and sale products)

There’s a variation on the previous theme, especially for seasonal products and products you offer as part of a special sale. Here, again, it’s all about managing the user experience. If you offer the same products later in the year, keep the page up and provide customers with a good ‘coming soon’ experience. Don’t promote the page on your site just yet and remove internal links to it, but keep it up and hope customers will return to buy your seasonal stuff in the future.

The product is sold out and will never return

If an out-of-stock product is sold out and never to return, you have to see how much value the product page itself has. Sometimes, product pages also rank for specific terms around a product, and you want to keep those rankings. Also, it could be that the product page has a ton of valuable links pointing to it. You can check all of this with your SEO tool of choice.

If your page has a lot of value, redirect it with a 301 to the most relevant product category page. Here, you should also notify the customer that the specific product they are looking for no longer exists. If the page doesn’t have any SEO value, you can delete it and have it serve a 410. Don’t forget to clean up the internal links pointing to this product, update the sitemap and fix the product feed.

Product structured data is essential

We’ve mentioned it countless times, but Schema structured data is essential in this day and age. For ecommerce sites, that might be even more important than that. With product Schema, you can directly communicate with search engines to describe your products in detail — including various statuses on the availability.

Structured data helps you manage your product listings in the search results

When managing stock availability, it’s essential to keep the structured data up to date. Please use the various product Schema options to keep Google and other search engines in the loop about the status of a product. There are several options to describe the availability of your product by adding ItemAvailability. You can use the following values to describe the status of your products:

  • BackOrder: Tells search engines you have the product on backorder with the manufacturer.
  • Discontinued: Tells search engines the product has been discontinued.
  • InStock: This tells search engines you have the product in stock.
  • InStoreOnly: Tells search engines you only offer the product for sale in-store.
  • LimitedAvailability: Tells search engines that you have a limited number available of the product.
  • OnlineOnly: It tells search engines that the product is only available online, not in store.
  • OutOfStock: Tells search engines the product is out of stock at the moment.
  • PreOrder: Tells search engines this product is now available for pre-order.
  • PreSale: This tells search engines this product is available in a special pre-sale happening before the product goes on sale for the general audience.
  • SoldOut: Tells search engines that the product is sold out.

Our ecommerce SEO solutions for WooCommerce and Shopify handle the most important ones for you. Whenever you set a product to out of stock, it adds the OutOfStock value to your product Schema. If a product is on backorder, we’ll let search engines know that the product still is available for PreOrder. Our Schema solution is extendable, so if you need to scale your wishes, you can easily use our Schema API to extend it to your needs.

What to do with out-of-stock products for SEO

In this post, we’ve explained a bit more about how to work with out-of-stock products to make sure that it won’t hurt your SEO. However, many of the options you can use depend on your specific situation, what your goals are and how your product pages are currently ranking. Of course, it also depends on the products themselves. It’s annoying, but in this case, no one solution answers all questions!




Source link

Updating the first-time experience • Yoast

We’re launching an updated first-time experience for new Yoast SEO users. In Yoast SEO 18.9, we’re making it easier for users to set up the essentials that search engines need to make sense of your site. The first-time configuration takes you by the hand and guides you in properly setting everything up.

A new first-time experience to help you get started

It can be daunting to install a new WordPress plugin. Some plugins work out of the box without any configuration, but some need a little help to make the most of it. For Yoast SEO, we always try to improve the first experience users have with the plugin. In today’s release, we’ve improved that first-time experience and moved to a spot where it makes more sense.

We keep working on this because we notice that not everyone fills in the basic information about themselves and their sites. This is important as we use these settings to correctly output structured data for Google and other search engines to understand, among other things. Failing to fill this in makes it harder for search engines to figure out who you are and what your site does.

So, don’t forget to run that first-time configuration and fill in everything correctly! You can also do this if you’ve already been running your site for a while.

After installing Yoast SEO, we’re inviting you to run the first-time configuration wizard

Bug fixes and enhancements

Of course, we do fixes and enhancements for every release. This release is no different, with several more minor bug fixes that help improve the stability of the SEO plugin. In addition, we’ve improved compatibility with the upcoming release of WordPress 6.0 You can find the complete list on the changelog page for Yoast SEO.

Update to Yoast SEO 18.9 now

In Yoast SEO 18.9 and Yoast SEO Premium 18.5, we’ve enhanced the first-time experience for users. In addition, we fixed several bugs and added a couple of enhancements.

That’s it for today, see you in two weeks!


Source link

Pay with an implant: The future, or a cyberpunk pipe dream?

There are approximately 17 billion bank cards in current circulation, helping shuttle unthinkable quantities of capital around the world on a daily basis, with little more effort required from customers than a simple swipe or the tap of a payment terminal.

For a much smaller number of users, however, the idea of tapping a bank card or phone to pay for a product sounds hopelessly outdated and arduous.

For these people – currently numbering some 600 and counting – payments are as quick and easy as waving their hand, Jedi mind-trick style. And all it takes is a willingness to have a subdermal payment implant, around 28mm in length, implanted into their bodies.

Welcome to the (possible) future of payments – created by a Polish startup called Walletmor.

“We’ve designed and created the world’s first payment implants that are globally accepted,” Wojtek Paprota, founder and chief executive of Walletmor, told Digital Trends. “It’s an open payment implant that can be used to purchase a drink in New York, a haircut in Paris, or a Pad Thai in Bangkok. It’s an amazing device.”

Payments, cyborg-style

Walletmor

Paprota, a startup entrepreneur with a background in wealth management and finance, came up with the concept for Walletmor a couple of years ago. Reading a Polish science fiction novel, Internet ludzi: Organizacja jutra (Internet of People: Organization of Tomorrow), he was struck by an innocuous scene in which a character opened a door using an embedded smart chip.

“I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s amazing,’” he said. “There are already things like that on the market, but I’d never seen it done with payments.”

As Paprota notes, the idea of having a device, not much larger than a grain of rice, implanted into the body is not totally without precedent. In 1998, Kevin Warwick, a professor in the Department of Cybernetics at the U.K.’s University of Reading, made headlines when he elected to have a silicon chip, encased in a glass tube, implanted under the skin in his left arm.

The implant connected to a central computer, which allowed Warwick to open doors and switch on lights simply by walking through his lab. At the time, Warwick reported that he quickly began to feel “like the implant was one with my body.”

Walletmor’s chip is different, Paprota explained, because it focuses not on a “closed loop,” but rather connects to an open standard: In this case, a payments platform. The fact that his company is selling the chips is also, while not wholly unique, a bit different to lab-based proof-of-concept demos.

Building a prototype

The Walletmor chip arm implant that is used to make payments.
Walletmor

Not that there wasn’t a fair degree of experimentation in the path to reach this point. Once Paprota had his initial idea, he turned to Amal Graafstra, a person who had carried out some work in this field, to help him realize the dream. Walletmor’s website describes Graafstra, now the company’s Chief Technology Officer, as the “most respectable person in the smart implants space.” But Paprota nonetheless had his concerns.

“[Amal] said, ‘I cannot guarantee that it’s going to succeed because I’ve never done something like this before,’” Paprota recalled. “I kept asking all these questions: ‘What’s the risk of getting an infection?’ ‘What’s the chance of success?’ ‘What’s the risk of failure?’ What about a zillion other [questions]?’ Every answer that I got was, ‘I don’t know, because I have never done this before.’”

Eventually, the prototype was ready and the company began marketing its Walletmor implant to customers. (Currently, it’s available only in Europe, although it’s hoped this will eventually expand to the U.S. as well.)

In order to use the device, customers must first order the 199 euro (approximately $213) implant through the company’s website. They next need to open a corresponding iCard or, in the U.K., MuchBetter.com account in order to create a digital wallet linkable with the implant. After that, they link the implant to the account with an easy activation code, add money to the account to begin spending, and – finally – pay a visit to their friendly neighborhood “medical aesthetics clinic” to get the chip installed beneath their skin.

The device works using near-field communication (NFC) technology, the same contactless payment system that’s used in smartphones for the likes of Apple Pay.

“Walletmor is only responsible for the hardware for the implants themselves; we build implants, and we deliver them to the customers,” Paprota said. “When it comes to the software and cybersecurity [side of the coin], it’s up to the companies we work with and the systems we use.”

The future of payments?

Woman using the Walletmor app.
Walletmor

So is this the next step of payments as we know it? Paprota certainly seems confident about his vision of a cyborgic future for consumer payments. For now, though, he admits there are some bottlenecks. One is the fact that the device is still “relatively expensive” compared to freely available bank cards, which come with the additional benefit of not needing to be physically inserted into the body.

The implants also don’t do a whole lot that other payment options aren’t capable of delivering. There’s no major pain point that it solves – with the possible exception that you’re unlikely to accidentally leave your subdermal chip at home, and it’s probably less likely to be snatched by thieves on a night out.

Medium-term, Paprota makes an interesting point about why banks might be genuinely interested in adopting this, though. “When you have an implant installed in your hand, it becomes your default first choice payment method,” he explained. “That’s a great advantage for banks because when you have, say, 10 [payment] cards in your wallet, the banks are competing for your choice. The one that gets chosen wins – and let’s not forget that banks make money on the transactions when we use their cards.”

Realistically, however, it’s going to take more than saving spenders seconds on a payment for the majority of people to willingly undergo elective surgery – no matter how minor – in order to become one with their bank. That’s where the future bit comes in.

“We are planning to introduce multiple applications to our implant to create an ecosystem,” said Paprota. “Then it’s not only a payment implant, but a way of managing our digital and physical identity. Apart from paying, you could use this … at the airport for your passport or to provide medical certification, such as a COVID pass. If you have an accident, this could be installed in your body to make sure that the first responder gets the most crucial data to provide you with the appropriate first aid. The more applications and features you get within one implant, the more attractive it will get to customers. Think of it as an aggregator of our identity.”

Global acceptance

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Paprota may talk about the world’s first payment implants as “globally accepted,” but your mileage for “accepted” might vary. Paprota is under no illusions, though. He knows, in the words of organizational theorist Geoffrey Moore, that this kind of tech has a whole lot of chasm-crossing to do before it’s universally accepted. He just happens to have faith in the general public’s proverbial chasm-leaping abilities.

“I believe that the most important challenge that we are facing at the moment is the social acceptance of this device,” he said. “The social acceptance and the wave of skepticism come from older generations that are not that keen on any sort of changes. But if you look at the [history of] personal computers and the internet, it was also developed and heavily supported by the younger generations. It took not one year or two years, but at least 10 years to fully commercialize it – [and you still] see some older people not having the personal computers, and not using it. I believe it’s going to be the same for implants. But I’m fully committed to that, and I’m ready to work for the next 30 years on this project.”

Coming soon(ish) to an arm near you.

Editors’ Recommendations







Source link

6 reasons why the Yoast SEO Shopify solution will boost your rankings! • Yoast

Our mission at Yoast is ‘SEO for everyone’ and we believe that Shopify users can benefit a lot from SEO. That’s why we recently launched an app that helps you attract more people to your online store on Shopify: The Yoast SEO for Shopify app. What makes this app stand out is that it’s been created by a team with over 10 years of experience in SEO. But how does it attract more people to your store? And what can you actually do with it? In this blog post, we’ll give you 6 reasons why we believe that Yoast SEO for Shopify is the best solution for your online store!

1. Modifying Shopify themes is tricky; we make it easier

When you install an SEO app, there will probably be some changes to your website and theme. Don’t worry, this is quite normal. In fact, there will already have been some other modifications to your theme files. Depending on the other apps that you’re running. Unfortunately, many of the new apps that you install, will apply their changes on top of what’s already there. That’s why sites often end up with mismatched, malformed, and missing bits of SEO stuff. Especially if you’ve historically used multiple apps. The Yoast SEO for Shopify app is really smart; it conditionally removes a whole bunch of potentially conflicting stuff and outputs its own in a clean way. Rather than forcing it in on top of what’s already there.

2. Our structured data is comprehensive and robust

Structured data helps Google and other search engines better understand your pages, which can benefit your rankings. Our structured data approach does a great job of connecting and describing products and pages. We don’t output ‘bits and pieces’ of structured data. We connect the structured data together in one graph and output it in a way that minimizes conflict and overlap.

Structured data also makes it possible to have your customers’ ratings show up in the search results. And this is definitely a recommendation when you have an online store. It shows other (potential) customers that you are trustworthy and will increase the chances of them visiting your website. That’s why we’ve created an integration with four popular review apps on Shopify. This integration helps handle the structured data around your ratings to make those ratings show up in the search results. The apps that we integrate with right now are Judge.me, Loox, Ali Reviews and Opinew. Read more about this integration in our post on showing Shopify ratings in the search results.

3. We are SEO experts!

For over 10 years, Yoast has been building products that help people with a WordPress website with their SEO. And with millions of downloads so far, we’re not afraid to call ourselves the #1 SEO plugin for WordPress. You might be wondering what this has to do with you and your Shopify website? Well, we’ve built our Shopify app with all of the learnings and SEO expertise we’ve acquired over the last decade. Which is a lot!

All of this experience has resulted in an app that handles a lot of the technical SEO stuff for you. For example, the latest best practice for meta robots directives, correctly setting indexing controls on paginated states, and all of the nuances of how various open graph and SEO settings work together. Not sure what all of this means? The takeaway is that these settings play an important role in how high you end up in the search results. We also have close contact with Google and collaborate with them regularly. All of this makes it easy for us to stay up to date on the latest SEO news. This helps us constantly improve our app to make sure you stay on top of the latest changes in SEO.

4. Yoast SEO offers control on an individual level

With Yoast SEO for Shopify, you decide how your titles and meta descriptions are set up per content type. This allows you to set a consistent way of showing your titles and meta descriptions in the search results. We integrate directly into Shopify to give you control per post, page, or product on an individual level. Our app gives you this page-level control, allowing you to make these changes per page or product you’re working on.

5. Our app helps you create quality content that search engines love

Content is a key element in SEO. Google uses any chance they get to remind the SEO world of the importance of high-quality content. To start and keep ranking, you need to keep producing great content. Content that’s easy to understand for site visitors and search engines. That’s why readability is so important when it comes to creating content for your product pages and blog posts. Writing high-quality blog posts and creating great product descriptions should always be a priority.

It’s important to conduct keyword research for your online store and keep up that flow of fresh content. The right content helps search engines like Google understand what your website is about. Which helps them direct the right audience to your pages. Perhaps even more important, it strengthens the relationship with your audience when you provide them with high-quality content. Yoast SEO for Shopify is the SEO solution that gives you direct feedback on the content you’re writing, to help you improve it for site visitors and search engines.

6. We understand content written in 20 different languages

Yoast SEO is the best app out there for understanding content written in your language and giving you direct feedback on it. At the moment, it’s able to do this in 20 different languages: English, Dutch, German, French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, Hebrew, Hungarian, Norwegian, Turkish, Czech, Japanese, Greek, Slovak and Indonesian.

There are a lot of SEO apps out there that are focused on the English language. Thanks to our team of linguists we can offer feedback on your content in any of the languages above! Of course, you can use an app that is focused on just your language, but don’t forget about all the other features that our app offers when it comes to SEO! With Yoast SEO, you have one SEO app that helps you write great content (in the language of your choice) and fixes a lot of the technical SEO for you.

Yoast SEO helps rank your online store!

Unlock powerful features and much more for your Shopify site with the Yoast SEO app!

To conclude

There are loads of SEO apps out there for your Shopify store. And it’s up to you which one is the best fit for your specific needs. We hope this article gives you some more insight into the features of our SEO app and how it can help you climb those search results! If you want to read more about our app, go to the Yoast SEO for Shopify page to read all about it.

Want to receive great tips on how to grow your online store and stay on top of the latest news in ecommerce? Sign up for our free ecommerce newsletter right now:


Source link

Lion steak, anyone? Get ready for lab-grown wild animal meat

“Lion is one of the most — no, not one of the most — the most popular wild, exotic animal in the world,” said Yilmaz Bora. “I mean, everybody watches The Lion King. I think everyone’s enthusiastic about trying cultivated lion meat.”

As If This Then That statements go, this doesn’t totally track. Sure, The Lion King is one of Disney’s best-loved, most widely watched movies. However, by the time you’ve watched heroic big cat Simba (spoilers) introduced as a cute cub, taught about the Circle of Life, sing a handful of big Broadway numbers, lose his dad, befriend a lovable warthog and meerkat duo, fall in love, battle his villainous uncle Scar, restore peace to the Pride Lands, and continue the line with a baby of his own, your biggest takeaway probably isn’t: “Yes, but how would he taste with the right marinade?” At least, not in this household.

But Bora, the co-founder of a food tech company called Primeval Foods, thinks different. He thinks that even if you might balk at chowing down on Simba, there are plenty of others who wouldn’t. In fact, he thinks they’d be more than willing to throw down their hard-earned money for the opportunity. And in an age of lab-grown meat possibilities, he wants to let them.

Yilmaz Bora, Primeval Foods co-founder. Primeval Foods

“We’re focused on [all the popular wild animals],” Bora told Digital Trends. “Like big cats, elephants, giraffes, and zebras – but the main purpose right now is to focus on the big cats. They are the sexy ones.”

From zoo to table (with a stop-off at the lab)

Primeval Foods, established in 2022, is one of a growing (no pun intended) number of food tech startups seeking to engineer cellular meats in labs. Not to be confused with the plant-based meat substitutes created by companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, cellular meat companies are working hard to create and, ultimately, sell vast quantities of lab-grown flesh that’s indistinguishable from the real thing. That means the same appearance, texture, and taste profile, only without the animal suffering and death we associate with present-day meat manufacturing, as well as the negative environmental impacts that accompany it.

Primeval Foods' lion burgers.
Primeval Foods

The idea of growing meat the way you’d grow yogurt or beer in a giant tank sounds crazy. However, it’s not all that different in concept from the way you grow new plants from cuttings in a greenhouse: Take a small initial sample of the subject you want to replicate, then provide it with the right artificial conditions needed to cultivate new cell growth.

Big players such as Memphis Meats and Mosa Meat have already been at their mission for the best part of a decade, and attracted tens of millions of dollars in funding in the process. Primeval, which is currently bootstrapping its edible safari, doesn’t (yet) have those same Scrooge McDuck-style vaults of venture cash driving it forward.

What it has is its unique selling point – hence Bora’s description of “sexy” meat, by which he means the kind of provocative messaging that makes headline writers drool. The fact that lab-grown meat companies already have to resort to niches and gimmicks is proof positive of the gap between the bleeding edge (again, no pun intended) of technology and where the rest of us are. It doesn’t matter that very few of us have sampled lab-grown meat just yet; if you’re going to make your arrival in this space mean something, you’d better have a way of standing out from the crowd — whether it’s artificial big cats or lab-grown foie gras.

Beyond domestication

“Our elevator pitch is based on the [premise] that the reason we consume traditional species is not because they are the tastiest, healthiest, or most nutritious, but because they were the easiest to domesticate,” Bora explained. “Since now we can cultivate any species in the world, why do we keep going back to traditional species? Why do we not explore beyond domestication?”

But it’s not just about grabbing headlines. While there will certainly be people attracted to lab-grown lion steaks because they’re lab-grown lion steaks, Bora genuinely believes lesser-known meats like this have something genuine to offer. Even if, previously, they’ve been largely viewed as socially unacceptable to eat.

Primeval Foods' tiger steak.
Primeval Foods

“Big cats are carnivores with a distinct mobility pattern, and this is the reason behind their unique amino acid and protein profile,” Primeval’s website states. Meanwhile, “elephants are colossal herbivores who travel long distances, and the fattiness in their muscle tissue exposes an exceptional umami experience.”

This is something that Primeval’s tech should allow it to tweak. Lion steak not tender enough? Elephant not sufficiently umami? No problem: Make the appropriate changes and you’ll be able to create something recognizably, err, lionesque or elephantine, only reconfigured to provide a better taste and nutrition experience. The Wagyu beef of the safari set, if you will.

Until we reach that point, Bora said, many exotic animals available to eat around the world (and, despite the social stigma, items like lion tacos do occasionally pop up on menus) will otherwise provide a disappointing eating experience. “If you … just hunt a wild animal [or] an exotic animal and consume that, I can guarantee that it will be the worst meat experience from a culinary perspective,” he said.

It’s enough to turn you vegan. Which, incidentally, Bora is.

The ethics of vegan lion steaks

Five years ago, Bora bought a puppy, a cute little French Bulldog with a square head, dark expressive eyes, and bat-like ears that stuck up from its head. He bought him from a pet shop, and named him Ace. The little dog was Bora’s best friend. He even called his investment company Ace Ventures after the little French Bulldog.

Yilmaz Bora's French Bulldog, Ace.
Yilmaz Bora’s dog, Ace.

“He was a wild soul,” Bora said. “One time, he had a two-hour surgery for his eye. [He] woke up from anesthesia at the vet, and immediately tried to mate with a female dog, barked and showed his teeth to another male dog, and then brought me a tennis ball to play fetch. And he did all those with [a] patched … eye and a funnel on his head.”

Ace triggered a change in self-described “alpha male” Bora. “After spending time with him, I started to think, like, why do I treat him differently to other animals?” he said. “Why is this one a friend, and why is [this other animal] ending up on my plate? I started questioning things. After a few weeks, I started to watch the videos from PETA.”

Soon, Bora began to invest in meat substitute companies like Meatless Farm, AKUA, Moku Foods, and others. When Ace prematurely passed away from lymphoma, Bora took to having an empty seat present at Ace Ventures, borrowing a page from Amazon’s playbook where board meetings have a vacant chair to represent the all-important customer – but in this case reminding Bora that every decision must be made to positively contribute to animals’ lives.

Discovering that the man who wants to bring the zoo to your dinner table is a vegan is, admittedly, a bit of a swerve. The Venn diagram of “men who dream about making lions a food group” and “guys who will get into long conversations about the top 10 dishes to include lentils” would seem to be two entirely non-touching circles, like a pair of headlights.

But, to Bora, cellular meat is a critical part of weaning the planet off its animal-slaughtering ways. While he’s full of admiration for plant-based alternatives, he also thinks that the majority of people are going to want the real thing, rather than the equivalent of an Impossible Burger. Even if the real thing is grown in a lab rather than running free on the African plains.

On one level, lab-grown meat does exist as a fascinating loophole in the vegetarian or vegan ethical code because, as Bora notes, no animal has to suffer to bring us nourishment.

Not everyone’s necessarily in full agreement, though. In a 2019 paper published in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, New York City College of Technology professor and vegan moral philosopher Carlo Alvaro argues that this debate has, so far, only been argued with regard to the environment, animals, and humans – not deontic logic.

Alvaro points out that while it’s true that animals don’t have to die for lab-grown meat, they must still be exploited by being reared for the taking of cellular samples. Furthermore, there is an “unvirtuous motivation” to a vegan denying themselves animal flesh, only to hop on the first opportunity to eat it with impunity. Why, Alvaro asks, “are we humans even contemplating eating food that is produced synthetically in laboratories, given the abundance of naturally grown plant-based food? By framing the question of lab-grown meat in terms of virtue, creating meat in a laboratory just seems obstinate and evinces lack of temperance and a misunderstanding of the role of food in human flourishing.”

What’s the answer? That, as with many of the ethical questions prompted by new technologies, is far from decided. But they’re questions that, chances are, humankind is going to get to grapple with sooner rather than later.

Lion burger or nothingburger?

Primeval Foods' zebra sushi rolls.
Primeval Foods

It’s tough to gauge exactly how far along Primeval is with its mission. Currently, Bora said, the company has successfully cultivated meat samples weighing around 1 to 2 grams: an amount so tiny it wouldn’t even qualify for haute cuisine portions. While he wouldn’t specify which animal they were modeled on, he said that, “I can tell you they are considered wild in every culture or geography.” (The company plans to make more announcements about these proof-of-concept samples soon, and Bora said that he will be visiting Africa “from the middle of this month” to source samples from wild animals.)

However, Bora acknowledges that this is still very early days. “Proof of concepts should be different for cultivated meat startups, especially for Primeval,” he said. “We focused on ‘making something people want’ as a proof of concept, and we are pretty successful about it up to the present.”

As to what “something people want” looks like, Bora explained that his company aims to combine the fresh and the recognizable for its first product: Good old, new-fashioned lion burgers. “We will first start with burger patties to balance novelty and familiarity,” he said. “Burgers are the most-consumed food in the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans eat an average of 2.4 hamburgers a day. We know what makes meat good — tenderness, superior flavor, melt-in-your-mouth texture — and to achieve this, we’re working to have a product that has evenly distributed fat in every bite.”

Is Primeval simply a publicity stunt looking to drum up headlines? Bora assures me that it’s not. Does the company have a shot at becoming a unicorn (an even more revered –and tasty?– animal than the lion) in the cellular foodie space? This remains to be seen. Will the ethical questions it ponders be increasingly important ones in the years to come? Absolutely they will.

And, finally, would Bora eat a lab-grown French Bulldog? “Instinctively, no,” he said, sounding faintly horrified. “I didn’t think about it before. I’ve [thought about the question of] cultivated human meat. But as for the Ace, the French bulldog? My initial response is no. Just no. I don’t want it.”

But someone probably would. All’s fair in love, war, and lab-grown meats.

Editors’ Recommendations







Source link

How to prepare yourself for Google Analytics 4 • Yoast

There’s a new Google Analytics coming to town and it’s time to get ready! This new Analytics will eventually replace the good old Universal Analytics as we know it. Although you can use your current Analytics for another year, we strongly recommend getting started with Google Analytics 4 right away. In this post, we’ll tell you a bit more about why you should get started now, what you can expect from Google Analytics 4 and how to get ready for it.

Over two and a half years ago, Google made its first mention of Google Analytics 4. The reasons for creating this new type of analytics are the changes and complexities that now come with collecting and analyzing data. People’s online journeys are becoming more complex (and spread out over several platforms or devices). In addition, privacy is becoming increasingly important in how you collect data. That’s why they’re introducing this new version of Google Analytics.

Why should you start up your Google Analytics 4 now?

You will be able to use Universal Analytics until July 1, 2023. From that day on, it will no longer process any data. But that doesn’t mean that you should wait until that date to create your new Google Analytics 4 property. We strongly advise you to create it now as this will allow you to start collecting data on your new property. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on that all-important historic data when you need to make the switch in July 2023.

It’s good to know that this new property can happily coexist with your current Analytics property. Getting started with Google Analytics 4 doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to use your Universal Analytics anymore. This property will continue to function and collect data until the data we mentioned above. But you will eventually have to make the switch, so let’s dive into what this new version of Analytics, formerly known as “App + Web” entails.

What to expect from Google Analytics 4

“Meet the next generation of Google Analytics”, that’s what Google says about this newest version. On their help center page they name a few advantages over Universal Analytics:

  • It’s durable for the future and privacy-focused
  • It uses machine learning to get you insights into customer journeys across platforms and devices
  • It has enhanced integrations with Google’s advertising platform to optimize campaign performance

Insight into a more complete customer journey

Get a grasp on the customer journey from A to Z, even when customers use multiple platforms and devices. This is especially interesting when you have both a website and an app. The customer journey will no longer be broken up by different platforms used or organized in different sessions. This gives you a better understanding of how the customer interacts with and moves through your website and/or app.

A necessary focus on user privacy

Sharing a lot of personal information online has become more and more normal through the years. To protect people’s data and help them understand how their data is being used, countries around the world have set up data protection laws. For the EU countries, for example, this is the GDPR. This new Analytics property comes with country-level privacy controls, to help you collect valuable data while making sure you comply with these privacy regulations.

In addition, Google Analytics 4 allows you to further customize who has access to what data. This ensures that different teams or external partners can access the data that they need. Without you having to give any access that isn’t in line with your company’s policy.

Predictive capabilities when it comes to user behavior

Thanks to its machine learning models, Google can use your data to predict future actions that your audience may take. Google Analytics 4 comes with two predictive metrics that make this possible. The first one is purchase probability, which predicts the likelihood that users who have visited your app or site will purchase something in the next seven days. The second one is churn probability, which predicts how likely it is that recently active users will not visit your app or site in the next seven days. These predictive metrics can help you reach the right people with the right message and through the right channel.

Improved interaction with other Google services

This new property comes with improved integrations with other Google services. Services like Google Ads, Search Ads 360 and Display & Video 360. You might be wondering what you can do with this. Well, it actually makes it way easier to use your Analytics data to optimize your advertising campaigns. This improved interaction allows you to make informed decisions that can boost your traffic and sales, based on real insights.

Improve your marketing efforts with data-driven attribution

This new property uses data-driven attribution to give you an idea of the impact of individual marketing activities. Data-driven attribution comes down to what contribution each interaction brings to conversion outcomes. So, this model calculates the effect of your marketing activities and helps you figure out which paths you can improve. It actually determines which touchpoints are most likely to drive conversions. You can also export this data to Google Ads to optimize your ad campaigns.

How to prepare yourself…

There’s no way around it, eventually, Universal Analytics will be replaced by Google Analytics 4. Google actually encourages people to set up this new property (alongside your current one) as soon as they can. So how can you prepare yourself? We’ll discuss how to set it up when you’re already using Analytics. But also how to set it up when you’re not using Analytics yet.

When you’re already using Analytics

The very first step is to create a Google Analytics 4 property for your website. This can be done from your Google Analytics account. Setting up this new property doesn’t mean that you’ll lose access to your current analytics setup. This setup will remain the same and functional. The new property will collect its data next to your existing property and you’ll be able to access them both.

To help you set up your new property, Google has actually introduced a GA4 Setup Assistant wizard. To use this wizard, you will need to have an editor role on your Google Analytics account. The steps on how to get to this wizard, are thoroughly described on Google’s page on how to add a Google Analytics 4 property (to a site that already has Analytics).

When you’ve created your new property, there are a few more things you can do to make sure that you’re getting the most out of it. As we said, this new version is focused on giving you more insight into the complex customer journey and improving your marketing efforts. Google’s page on how to make the switch to Google Analytics 4 gives a great overview of what you can do to properly set up Google Analytics 4. If you want to learn even more, you can take their Skillshop Course to discover what’s new with Google Analytics.

When you’re new to Analytics

If you aren’t using Analytics yet, and this feels like a good moment to get started, you will have to start with setting up an account. You can do this by going to google.com/analytics and clicking ‘Get started today’. When you’ve logged in, you can go to Admin (the cogwheel in the bottom left corner) and click the blue button ‘Create Account’ in the top left corner. You will need to set an account name and decide on what data you will want to share with other Google services.

After that, you click ‘Next’ and add a property to your new account. Google explains how to do this on their page on setting up Analytics for a website and/or app. After you’ve set up your new account and property, you can start getting familiar with Analytics and dive into the data to get more insights into your site visitors and their behavior. Of course, it can be overwhelming at first. But you can find loads of information and training in Google’s training and support section. Or check out our blog posts on Google Analytics to learn more and get started.

To summarize

Although you can still use your Universal Analytics property until the 1st of July, 2023, it pays off to already add a GA4 property to your account. This helps you get used to this new way of analyzing your data and it comes with new features that give you more insight into your audience and the performance of your marketing campaigns. Adding this new Analytics property won’t change anything in your current Analytics set up, you’ll be able to use and view both properties until July 2023. After that, your old property won’t process any new data and you will have to make the switch to Google Analytics 4. So start right away and get the most out of this new version of Google Analytics!


Source link

How scientists are giving robots humanlike tactile senses

There’s a nightmarish scene in Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 movie Pan’s Labyrinth in which we are confronted by a sinister humanoid creature called the Pale Man. With no eyes in his monstrous, hairless head, the Pale Man, who resembles an eyeless Voldemort, sees with the aid of eyeballs embedded in the palms of his hands. Using these ocular-augmented appendages, which he holds up in front of his eyeless face like glasses, the Pale Man is able to visualize and move through his surroundings.

This to a degree describes work being carried out by researchers at the U.K’.s Bristol Robotics Laboratory — albeit without the whole terrifying body horror aspect. Only in their case, the Pale Man substitute doesn’t simply have one eyeball in the palm of each hand; he’s got one on each finger.

“In the last sort of four or five years, there’s been a change that has happened in the field of tactile sensing and robotics [in the form of] a move towards using cameras for sensors,” professor Nathan Lepora, who leads the 15-member Tactile Robotics Research Group for the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, told Digital Trends. “It’s called optical- and vision-based tactile sensing. The reason that’s caught on is because there’s an understanding that the high-resolution information content from the fingertips is crucial for the artificial intelligence [needed] to control these systems.”

Digital Trends first covered Lepora’s work in 2017, describing an early version of his team’s project as being “made up of a webcam that is mounted in a 3D-printed soft fingertip which tracks internal pins, designed to act like the touch receptors in human fingertips.

Since then, the work has steadily advanced. To that end, the team recently published new research revealing the latest steps in the project: Creating 3D-printed tactile skin that may one day give prosthetic hands or autonomous robots a sense of touch far more in keeping with flesh-and-blood human hands.

The 3D-printed mesh consists of pin-like papillae which mimic similar dermal structure that are found between the outer epidermal and inner dermal layers on human skin. These can produce artificial nerve signals, which, when measured, resemble the recordings of real neurons that enable the body’s mechanoreceptors to identify the shape and pressure of items or surfaces when touched.

“When we did this comparison of the signals coming off our artificial fingertips with the real data, we found a very similar match between the two datasets, with the same kind of hills and valleys [found on both],” Lepora explained.

Combining this 3D-printed skin receptor information with data taken from tiny embedded cameras might, the team hopes, be the key to unlocking a long-term dream in artificial intelligence and robotics: An artificial sense of touch.

All five senses

While not every researcher would necessarily agree, perhaps the broadest fundamental aim of AI is to replicate human intelligence (or, at least, the ability to carry out all the tasks that humans are capable of) inside a computer. That means figuring out ways to recreate the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch — in software form. Only then can potential tests of Artificial General Intelligence, such as the proposed “Coffee Test” (a truly intelligent robot should be capable of walking into a house, and sourcing the necessary ingredients and components needed to make a cup of coffee), be achieved.

To date, plenty of attention and progress has been made when it comes to image and audio recognition. Less attention, but still some, has been paid to smell and taste. AI-equipped smart sensors can identify hundreds of different smells in a database through the development of a “digital nose.” Digital taste testers, able to give objective measures with regards to flavor, are also the subject of investigation. But touch remains tantalizingly out of reach.

Human touch is extremely nuanced.

“We’re more consciously aware of areas like vision,” said Lepora, explaining why focus has frequently been elsewhere for researchers. “Because of that, we ascribe more importance to it in terms of what we do every day. But when it comes to touch, most of the time we’re not even aware we’re using it. And certainly not that it’s as important as it is. However, if you take away your sense of touch, your hands would be totally useless. You couldn’t do anything with them.”

This isn’t to say that robots have steered clear of interacting with real-world objects. For more than half a century, industrial robots with limited axes of movements and simple actions such as grab and rotate have been employed on factory assembly lines. In Amazon fulfilment centers, robots play a crucial part in ensuring the one-day delivery process is made possible. Thanks to a 2012 acquisition of robotics company Kiva, Amazon warehouses feature armies of boxy robots similar to large Roombas that shuffle around shelves of product, bringing them to the human “pickers” to select the right items from.

Amazon logistics robots move pallets around in the an Amazon fulfillment center.
Stefan Puchner/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

However, while both of these processes greatly cut down on the time it would take humans to complete these tasks unassisted, these robots perform only limited functionality – leaving humans to carry out much of the precision work.

There’s a good reason for this: Although dexterous handling is something most humans take for granted, it’s something that’s extraordinarily difficult for machines. Human touch is extremely nuanced. The skin has a highly complex mechanical structure, with thousands of nerve endings in the fingertips alone, allowing extremely high-resolution sensitivity to fine detail and pressure. With our hands we can feel vibrations, heat, shape, friction, and texture – down to submillimeter or even micron-level imperfections. (For a simple, low-resolution vision of how difficult life is with limited touch capabilities, see how smoothly you can get through a single day while wearing thick gloves. Chances are that you’re tearing them off long before midmorning!)

Sensory feedback

“The thing that gives humans that flexibility and dexterity is the sensory feedback that we get,” Lepora said. “As we’re doing a task, we get sensory feedback from the environment. For dexterity, when we’re using our hands, that dominant sensory feedback is our sense of touch. It gives us the high-resolution, high-information content, sensations, and information about our environment to guide our actions.”

Cracking this problem will take advances in both hardware and software: More flexible, dexterous robot grippers with superior abilities to recognize what they’re touching and behave accordingly. Smaller, cheaper components will help. For example, approaches to robot grippers that use cameras to perceive the world date back at least as far as the 1970s, with projects like the University of Edinburgh’s pioneering Freddy robot. However, it’s only very recently that cameras have gotten tiny enough that they can conceivably fit into a piece of hardware the size of a human fingertip. “Five years ago, the smallest camera you could buy was maybe a couple of centimeters across,” Lepora said. “Now you can buy cameras that are [just a couple of] millimeters.”

There’s still much work to be done before innovations like sensing soft fingertips can be incorporated into robots to give them tactile sensing abilities. But when this happens, it will be a game-changer – whether for building robots that are able to carry out a greater number of end-to-end tasks in the workplace (think an entirely automated Amazon warehouse) or even act in “high-touch” jobs like performing caregiving roles.

As robots become more tightly integrated with life as we know it, the ability to interact safely with those around them will become more important. Ever since 1979, when a Michigan factory worker named Robert Williams became the first person in history killed by a robot, robots have frequently been separated from humans as a safety precaution. By giving them the ability to safely touch, we could begin breaking down this barrier.

The power of touch

A woman's hand is held by a robot's hand.
Michele D’ottavio/EyeEm/Getty Images

There’s evidence to suggest that, by doing so, robots may enhance their acceptance by humans. Living creatures, both human and otherwise, touch each other as a means of social communication – and, no, not just in a sexual manner. Infant monkeys that are deprived of tactile contact with a mother figure can become stressed and ill-nourished. In humans, a pat on the back makes us feel good. Tickling makes us laugh. A brief hand-to-hand touch from a librarian can result in more favorable reviews of a library, and similar “simple” touches can make us tip more in a restaurant, spend more money in a restaurant, or rate a “toucher” as more attractive.

One study of the subject, a 2009 paper titled “The skin as a social organ,” notes that: “In general, social neuroscience research tends to focus on visual and auditory channels as routes for social information. However, because the skin is the site of events and processes crucial to the way we think about, feel about, and interact with one another, touch can mediate social perceptions in various ways.” Would touch from a robot elicit positive feelings from us, making us feel more fondly toward machines or otherwise reassureus? It’s entirely possible.

As robot interactions become more commonplace, touch is likely going to be an important aspect of their social acceptance.

One study of 56 people interacting with a robotic nurse found that participants reported a generally favorable subjective response to robot-initiated touch, whether this was for cleaning their skin or providing comfort. Another, more recent piece of research, titled “The Persuasive Power of Robot Touch,” explored this topic also.

“[Previous research has shown] that people treat computers politely, a behavior that at first glance seems unreasonable toward computers,” Laura Kunold, assistant professor in the faculty of Psychology in the Human-Centered Design of Socio-Digital Systems at Germany’s Ruhr University Bochum, told Digital Trends. “Since robots have physical bodies, I wondered if positive effects such as positive emotional states or compliance, which are known from interpersonal touch research, could also be elicited by touch from a robot.” She noted: “Humans — students in our work — are generally open to nonfunctional touch gestures from a robot. They were overall amused and described the gesture as pleasant and non-injurious.”

As robot interactions become more commonplace, touch is likely going to be an important aspect of their social acceptance. As George Elliot writes (not, it should be said, specifically about robots) in Middlemarch, “who shall measure the subtlety of those touches which convey the quality of soul as well as body?”

Robots are getting more capable all the time. Several years ago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology built a soft robot delicate enough to capture and then release a live fish as it swims in a tank. Fruit- and vegetable-picking robots can also identify and then pick delicate produce like tomatoes without squashing them into passata. Hopefully, they’ll soon be reliable enough to do the same thing with human hands.

Thanks to work like that being carried out by researchers at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, they’re getting closer all the time.

Editors’ Recommendations







Source link

How scientists are giving robots humanlike tactile senses

There’s a nightmarish scene in Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 movie Pan’s Labyrinth in which we are confronted by a sinister humanoid creature called the Pale Man. With no eyes in his monstrous, hairless head, the Pale Man, who resembles an eyeless Voldemort, sees with the aid of eyeballs embedded in the palms of his hands. Using these ocular-augmented appendages, which he holds up in front of his eyeless face like glasses, the Pale Man is able to visualize and move through his surroundings.

This to a degree describes work being carried out by researchers at the U.K’.s Bristol Robotics Laboratory — albeit without the whole terrifying body horror aspect. Only in their case, the Pale Man substitute doesn’t simply have one eyeball in the palm of each hand; he’s got one on each finger.

“In the last sort of four or five years, there’s been a change that has happened in the field of tactile sensing and robotics [in the form of] a move towards using cameras for sensors,” professor Nathan Lepora, who leads the 15-member Tactile Robotics Research Group for the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, told Digital Trends. “It’s called optical- and vision-based tactile sensing. The reason that’s caught on is because there’s an understanding that the high-resolution information content from the fingertips is crucial for the artificial intelligence [needed] to control these systems.”

Digital Trends first covered Lepora’s work in 2017, describing an early version of his team’s project as being “made up of a webcam that is mounted in a 3D-printed soft fingertip which tracks internal pins, designed to act like the touch receptors in human fingertips.

Since then, the work has steadily advanced. To that end, the team recently published new research revealing the latest steps in the project: Creating 3D-printed tactile skin that may one day give prosthetic hands or autonomous robots a sense of touch far more in keeping with flesh-and-blood human hands.

The 3D-printed mesh consists of pin-like papillae which mimic similar dermal structure that are found between the outer epidermal and inner dermal layers on human skin. These can produce artificial nerve signals, which, when measured, resemble the recordings of real neurons that enable the body’s mechanoreceptors to identify the shape and pressure of items or surfaces when touched.

“When we did this comparison of the signals coming off our artificial fingertips with the real data, we found a very similar match between the two datasets, with the same kind of hills and valleys [found on both],” Lepora explained.

Combining this 3D-printed skin receptor information with data taken from tiny embedded cameras might, the team hopes, be the key to unlocking a long-term dream in artificial intelligence and robotics: An artificial sense of touch.

All five senses

While not every researcher would necessarily agree, perhaps the broadest fundamental aim of AI is to replicate human intelligence (or, at least, the ability to carry out all the tasks that humans are capable of) inside a computer. That means figuring out ways to recreate the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch — in software form. Only then can potential tests of Artificial General Intelligence, such as the proposed “Coffee Test” (a truly intelligent robot should be capable of walking into a house, and sourcing the necessary ingredients and components needed to make a cup of coffee), be achieved.

To date, plenty of attention and progress has been made when it comes to image and audio recognition. Less attention, but still some, has been paid to smell and taste. AI-equipped smart sensors can identify hundreds of different smells in a database through the development of a “digital nose.” Digital taste testers, able to give objective measures with regards to flavor, are also the subject of investigation. But touch remains tantalizingly out of reach.

Human touch is extremely nuanced.

“We’re more consciously aware of areas like vision,” said Lepora, explaining why focus has frequently been elsewhere for researchers. “Because of that, we ascribe more importance to it in terms of what we do every day. But when it comes to touch, most of the time we’re not even aware we’re using it. And certainly not that it’s as important as it is. However, if you take away your sense of touch, your hands would be totally useless. You couldn’t do anything with them.”

This isn’t to say that robots have steered clear of interacting with real-world objects. For more than half a century, industrial robots with limited axes of movements and simple actions such as grab and rotate have been employed on factory assembly lines. In Amazon fulfilment centers, robots play a crucial part in ensuring the one-day delivery process is made possible. Thanks to a 2012 acquisition of robotics company Kiva, Amazon warehouses feature armies of boxy robots similar to large Roombas that shuffle around shelves of product, bringing them to the human “pickers” to select the right items from.

Amazon logistics robots move pallets around in the an Amazon fulfillment center.
Stefan Puchner/Picture Alliance/Getty Images

However, while both of these processes greatly cut down on the time it would take humans to complete these tasks unassisted, these robots perform only limited functionality – leaving humans to carry out much of the precision work.

There’s a good reason for this: Although dexterous handling is something most humans take for granted, it’s something that’s extraordinarily difficult for machines. Human touch is extremely nuanced. The skin has a highly complex mechanical structure, with thousands of nerve endings in the fingertips alone, allowing extremely high-resolution sensitivity to fine detail and pressure. With our hands we can feel vibrations, heat, shape, friction, and texture – down to submillimeter or even micron-level imperfections. (For a simple, low-resolution vision of how difficult life is with limited touch capabilities, see how smoothly you can get through a single day while wearing thick gloves. Chances are that you’re tearing them off long before midmorning!)

Sensory feedback

“The thing that gives humans that flexibility and dexterity is the sensory feedback that we get,” Lepora said. “As we’re doing a task, we get sensory feedback from the environment. For dexterity, when we’re using our hands, that dominant sensory feedback is our sense of touch. It gives us the high-resolution, high-information content, sensations, and information about our environment to guide our actions.”

Cracking this problem will take advances in both hardware and software: More flexible, dexterous robot grippers with superior abilities to recognize what they’re touching and behave accordingly. Smaller, cheaper components will help. For example, approaches to robot grippers that use cameras to perceive the world date back at least as far as the 1970s, with projects like the University of Edinburgh’s pioneering Freddy robot. However, it’s only very recently that cameras have gotten tiny enough that they can conceivably fit into a piece of hardware the size of a human fingertip. “Five years ago, the smallest camera you could buy was maybe a couple of centimeters across,” Lepora said. “Now you can buy cameras that are [just a couple of] millimeters.”

There’s still much work to be done before innovations like sensing soft fingertips can be incorporated into robots to give them tactile sensing abilities. But when this happens, it will be a game-changer – whether for building robots that are able to carry out a greater number of end-to-end tasks in the workplace (think an entirely automated Amazon warehouse) or even act in “high-touch” jobs like performing caregiving roles.

As robots become more tightly integrated with life as we know it, the ability to interact safely with those around them will become more important. Ever since 1979, when a Michigan factory worker named Robert Williams became the first person in history killed by a robot, robots have frequently been separated from humans as a safety precaution. By giving them the ability to safely touch, we could begin breaking down this barrier.

The power of touch

A woman's hand is held by a robot's hand.
Michele D’ottavio/EyeEm/Getty Images

There’s evidence to suggest that, by doing so, robots may enhance their acceptance by humans. Living creatures, both human and otherwise, touch each other as a means of social communication – and, no, not just in a sexual manner. Infant monkeys that are deprived of tactile contact with a mother figure can become stressed and ill-nourished. In humans, a pat on the back makes us feel good. Tickling makes us laugh. A brief hand-to-hand touch from a librarian can result in more favorable reviews of a library, and similar “simple” touches can make us tip more in a restaurant, spend more money in a restaurant, or rate a “toucher” as more attractive.

One study of the subject, a 2009 paper titled “The skin as a social organ,” notes that: “In general, social neuroscience research tends to focus on visual and auditory channels as routes for social information. However, because the skin is the site of events and processes crucial to the way we think about, feel about, and interact with one another, touch can mediate social perceptions in various ways.” Would touch from a robot elicit positive feelings from us, making us feel more fondly toward machines or otherwise reassureus? It’s entirely possible.

As robot interactions become more commonplace, touch is likely going to be an important aspect of their social acceptance.

One study of 56 people interacting with a robotic nurse found that participants reported a generally favorable subjective response to robot-initiated touch, whether this was for cleaning their skin or providing comfort. Another, more recent piece of research, titled “The Persuasive Power of Robot Touch,” explored this topic also.

“[Previous research has shown] that people treat computers politely, a behavior that at first glance seems unreasonable toward computers,” Laura Kunold, assistant professor in the faculty of Psychology in the Human-Centered Design of Socio-Digital Systems at Germany’s Ruhr University Bochum, told Digital Trends. “Since robots have physical bodies, I wondered if positive effects such as positive emotional states or compliance, which are known from interpersonal touch research, could also be elicited by touch from a robot.” She noted: “Humans — students in our work — are generally open to nonfunctional touch gestures from a robot. They were overall amused and described the gesture as pleasant and non-injurious.”

As robot interactions become more commonplace, touch is likely going to be an important aspect of their social acceptance. As George Elliot writes (not, it should be said, specifically about robots) in Middlemarch, “who shall measure the subtlety of those touches which convey the quality of soul as well as body?”

Robots are getting more capable all the time. Several years ago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology built a soft robot delicate enough to capture and then release a live fish as it swims in a tank. Fruit- and vegetable-picking robots can also identify and then pick delicate produce like tomatoes without squashing them into passata. Hopefully, they’ll soon be reliable enough to do the same thing with human hands.

Thanks to work like that being carried out by researchers at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, they’re getting closer all the time.

Editors’ Recommendations







Source link

Link building from a holistic SEO perspective • Yoast

Link building isn’t easy. That doesn’t mean it’s rocket science. It means it takes a lot of work if you do it right. Link building done the wrong way can backfire, resulting in a ban from Google altogether. In this post, I’ll discuss our ideas about getting more backlinks: link building from a holistic SEO perspective.

Before we dive in, if you want to learn more about link building strategies and other essential SEO skills, you should check out our SEO training! It doesn’t just tell you about SEO: it makes sure you know how to put these skills into actual practice!

First, let’s discuss why link building is important for SEO. A link to your site helps its ranking in four ways:

  • It adds value to the receiving page, allowing it to improve its visibility in the search engines.
  • It adds value to the entire receiving domain, allowing each page on that domain to improve its rank ever so slightly.
  • The anchor text of the link and the surrounding copy indicates the website’s topic to the search engine and more specifically the receiving page.
  • And obviously, people click on links, resulting in so-called direct traffic.

The value of a link for the receiving page is determined in part by the topic of the page the link is on. A link from a page with the same topic as the receiving page is of more value than a link from a page about an entirely different topic. Also, a link from an article is worth way more than a link from a sidebar or a footer. In general, the more links there are on a page, the less each individual link is worth.

Link building has got a somewhat bad reputation. Once people noticed that backlinks from other sites resulted in higher rankings, they began to abuse this. They got links from sites that didn’t have any topical relation with their own site. In other cases, people bought links from other sites.

These shady links polluted the search engines. That is why Google started giving penalties to companies that bought links or used links from non-related websites (Google Penguin update was all about this). If you got a penalty from Google, it was serious: your site would disappear from the search results.

This bad reputation of link building comes from companies who were a bit too enthusiastic about shady link building techniques and got penalties from Google. Does this mean you shouldn’t do any link building at all? Of course not! Link building in itself is not a bad thing. If you do it the right way, you’ll reap all the benefits it offers.

Read more: Link building: what not to do? »

Link building is – or should be – an outreaching activity. That means you have to contact people and ask them to write about and link to your website. Usually, you will get better results if you contact people personally. This means writing emails and press releases, making phone calls, and talking about your product. And don’t forget about social media. Platforms such as Twitter have made it easier to reach out to specific people and businesses. If your products and content are good, there will be people who are interested to write about them. Most bloggers and journalists need content, so presenting your products to them could very well make them happy too!

As mentioned above, backlinks can add value to your website and help your content to rank better. But not all links are the same. There are dofollow and nofollow links. To website users, they look the same. Actually, links are dofollow by default. But you can make a nofollow link by inserting a small piece of code, called an attribute, that tells search engine bots not to follow that link.

According to Google, nofollow links don’t pass any value to the website being linked. So to get the full benefits of link building, you should aim to get dofollow links. This is called ‘link juice’ by many people in the SEO field. Also, it’s a common practice nowadays to nofollow all external links. If you’re asking someone to link to your website from theirs, it’s good to ask them to remove the ‘nofollow’ attribute so both of you can get values from the link. If they don’t want to, that’s also fine. You might not get the ‘link juice’, but your site still gets mentioned on their site. It’s good for branding, and you’ll receive some traffic to your site. There are still some (indirect) benefits regardless.

Holistic SEO means you’ll do everything to make your website the best: you should show high-quality information, provide an excellent user experience, have the fastest website and so on. Link building will get easier if your website offers a great experience, just like your products and/or services. Because it’s far more likely that people are willing to write about and link to a great site.

Link building should feel like a normal marketing activity and not like a trick. Do remember that link building should generate links that get your target audience to your site. After all, they are the people that will read your posts, subscribe to your newsletter or buy your products. Your target audience will make your business thrive.

Keep reading: 6 steps to a successful link building strategy »


Source link

What is quality content and how do you create it? • Yoast

Writing quality content should be a key aspect of every SEO strategy. But when is your content considered high-quality? And does high-quality mean the same for your users as it does for Google? In this article, I’ll discuss what quality content is and how you can make sure your content hits the mark. It will require some creative writing skills. But don’t worry, you don’t have to become the next Hemingway. By focusing on the right things, you can create high ranking quality content that your users will happily read.

What is quality content?

That is the million-dollar question. Knowing how to write quality content helps you get more visitors, lower bounce rates, and higher conversions. But who determines the quality of your content? The easy answer is: your users. However, this also makes creating the right content more difficult. Because every user is different and has a different search intent. They have one thing in common, though. Every user knows what they want. Meanwhile, you’re still figuring out what your audience wants to read about!

That’s not how you would expect an article about writing quality content to start, is it? Don’t worry, we’re definitely not done yet! Although the quality of your content is eventually determined by your users, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you end up with well-thought-out, readable, and attractive content. In other words: content that’s eligible to be considered as high-quality by your users and search engines. And yes, this will take some time. But it’s time well spent, trust me. Just remember what I said earlier about what you can attain by writing quality content.

How to create quality content

1. Write for your readers, not yourself

If you have an ecommerce site, you want readers to know about the products or services you offer. If you’re a blogger, you want readers to get to know you and the topics that interest you. However, it is also important to take into consideration what your users actually want to read about. What interests do they have? What events or news do they follow, that you can relate to your business?  And what ‘problems’ are they trying to fix that have led them to your site?

The first step in creating high-quality content is to make sure that it contains the information your audience is looking for. To find out what information your users are looking for, you have to conduct proper keyword research. This will help you determine what subjects to write about and what words your audience uses. Keyword research also helps your rankings, as more visitors and lower bounce rates tell Google that your page is a good result to show in their search results.

2. Make your content readable and engaging

If you want to get your message across and make sure that people read your entire blog post or page, make your content easy to read. What does this mean? It means thinking about the structure of your text and the words you use. Too much text without any headings or paragraphs tends to scare people off, so make sure you use them. They give your readers some air while reading. Additionally, try to limit the use of difficult words and be cautious of the length of your sentences. These can make your content harder to understand, which in turn will slow down your reader. And lastly, it’s good to use variation in your text to make it engaging. Use synonyms, and alternate longer sentences with shorter ones.

Another important thing to focus on: Have fun while writing! And be personal in your writing. This helps you write quality content that’s different from your competitor’s, and it helps users get to know you and your brand. Want to know more? In this article, we dive deeper into these tips for writing readable blog posts.

3. Think about search intent and your goal

Let’s start with the basics. What does search intent mean? Search intent is the reason why someone conducts a specific search. It’s the term used to describe their purpose. For example, do they have a question they need answered? Or do they want to buy something online? Someone’s search intent makes a difference in how they consider the quality of your content. If it fits their need at that moment, then they will stay on your page longer. But if they need an answer to a question and the page they land on only tries to sell them products, they’ll be gone before you know it.

It’s important to take search intent into consideration while you’re creating the content for a specific page. That’s why I would advise you to match your goals to the different search intents users might have. Is one of your goals to get more subscriptions to your newsletter? Then you should add that subscription button to pages where users with an informational intent land.

Does a visitor have a transactional intent (meaning: they want to buy something)? Make sure they land on the right page. If someone searches for the term “Product x”, you don’t want them to land on a blog post discussing a topic related to that product. Ideally, you want them to land on a page dedicated to “Product x”. However, a category page when you have multiple variations of “Product x” works too.

Of course, experience tells us it’s not always that black and white. Still, it’s good to consider the search intent your users might have. It will help you determine the focus of your content and what call-to-actions you want to add to a specific page or post. A great way to get started, is by adopting a content design mindset. This mindset helps you produce user-centered content based on real needs. Also, for some input, I would recommend having a look at the search results to create great content.

4. Be trustworthy

When people land on your page, it’s also important to build trust. Especially when they’re not familiar with your site yet. You have to show your audience that you’re trustworthy. How? First, by writing in a clear and user-oriented way. Second, try to stay away from stock photos, as genuine photos create more trust and give your site a personal feel. The same is true for your ‘About us’ page. Try to use actual photos of your team. 

Third, add ratings to Google, testimonials to the right pages, and set up HTTPS. This will help your users and Google to understand that your site belongs to an actual business or person, which allows them to happily and safely browse your site. Do you own an ecommerce site? Then have a look at these 7 ways to increase sales by creating trust.

5. Keep your content up to date

Another key element of writing quality content is making sure it’s up to date and relevant. This means you have to update your content from time to time to make sure people are able to find the right information. But why is this so important? Because it shows your users that you’re on top of recent developments and can always provide them with accurate information. In other words: it builds trust and keeps your audience coming back to your site. Keeping your website and blog posts up to date is also important for SEO, as this shows Google that your site is ‘alive’ and relevant. So, make sure you schedule in a time to update your content regularly.

Bonus: Invest time in site structure

The five steps we’ve discussed so far will help you write content that is easy to read and user-centered. Next, I would like to highlight an extra step that is equally important: working on your site structure. This is important because it will help users and search engines find your quality content.

Site structure refers to the way you organize your site’s content. It is a vital part of any solid SEO strategy. When you structure your site well, search engines will be able to index your URLs better. It helps Google determine the importance of your individual pages and which pages are related to each other. Additionally, a good site structure will allow users to find their way around your site more easily. It will help them find your quality content in the search results and on your website. That’s why there’s quite a lot to gain from perfecting your site structure. Read more on how to work on your site structure and the importance of doing so.

A quick recap on quality content

Although well structured and readable content might not instantly take you to the top position in Google, it will definitely have a positive effect on your SEO in the long run. So, before you start publishing post after post (or page after page), it’s worth it to consider a few steps.

Make sure to write for your readers, make your content readable, match search intent with your goals, be trustworthy, keep your content up to date and work on your site structure. The end result: attractive content that your readers will appreciate. This will have a positive effect on your number of visitors, bounce rates and conversions. If you want to find out if there are still areas of content SEO you can improve, you can take this short test. Or take a look at our guide to SEO copywriting for more tips and tricks!

Go Premium and unlock these features!

Unlock these features and get free access to all of our SEO courses with Yoast SEO Premium:

Only $99 USD / per year (ex VAT) for 1 site

Read more: SEO copywriting: the ultimate guide »


Source link