“Love your family. Spend time, be kind and serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised and today is short.” -unknown
AKvertise, Inc. is an advertising agency that has recently launched a non-traditional service offering parental coverage for freelance advertisers and small agencies that need temporary coverage while spending time with their newborns.
In this article, you will find our interview with AKvertise founder, Akvile DeFazio, on the details of her company’s new parental leave service.
What prompted the launch of AKvertise’s parental coverage service?
As President of our small social media advertising agency, I was expecting my first child this year and needed to determine a plan for coverage so I could take time to recover and bond with my daughter. I asked a few long time industry friends that I trusted, were experienced with running their own agencies and/or were seasoned ad account managers, often referred business to, and some that I’ve partnered with in the past to see if they could help take over for the course of my leave. I am incredibly grateful they agreed as I would not have been able to completely step out for my 2.5 month maternity leave. I owe it to Pamela Lund, Joe Martinez, and Michelle Morgan.
Through my own experience, learning that some other industry friends were expecting, and seeing Twitter conversations from men and women about some people not knowing what to do if they had to step away from parental leave or if they had an accident, I saw a need that should be addressed. I wanted to help others feel at ease, not lose revenue and clients, and keep campaigns running without interruption while enjoying time with their newborn.
For someone considering this service, how much time should be planned for the transition period to get the new manager or team up to speed?
I began planning eight months prior to going on maternity leave, but now that I learned from my own experience, for the client and our team to make a smooth transition, at minimum one month is all we would need to get everyone up to speed. The number of necessary meetings during that month would depend on a number of variables, such as quantity of clients and channels and whether they are account management or consulting clients.
How far in advance of the transition period should the soon-to-be new parent contact AKvertise?
We require at least a three month notice so that we can plan ahead and make room for the soon-to-be new parent and their clients. If you learn about our service closer to your due date, please don’t hesitate to reach out as we may still be able to find a way to accommodate you and your clients.
Do you offer a non-compete agreement where AKvertise team members can not take on a client they are temporarily managing for paternal services?
We do. Our team is only offering the coverage as a temporary service and we hand back the clients, their accounts and assets to you once you return to work.
How does the fee aspect work? Do freelancers get any portion of the income during their parental period?
Simply put, you invoice your clients and we invoice you. We charge an hourly rate and discuss all monetary components prior to your leave to make sure that it’s mutually fair given client monthly budgets and their client’s fees. The client (freelancer or ad agency owner) does collect income while on leave and are still responsible for invoicing their clients. We do not invoice the clients of the person we cover, only them, for total monthly hours spent across their accounts.
Do you have a structured onboarding process for new accounts?
We do, though it is fluid as each client presents a unique scenario. It depends on if they need coverage for their advertising account management and/or consulting clients. For onboarding, we have an initial discussion to learn about clients, which ad channels we will be covering, where they are in the account set up process, what your processes are so that we don’t skew much from your client management style, expectations, goals, budgets, and other necessary variables. If we proceed, then clients will be informed of the temporary transition and we will all meet prior to your leave.
Do you have service level agreements (SLAs) for client communication, client response time, maintaining the initial agreed-upon budgets, and expectations for hitting KPIs and performance goals?
For our direct clients, outside of this service, we do, however, since we are temporarily taking over your clients while you go on leave, we will follow the SLAs you have preset with your client(s) so that it is a seamless transition between you working on your accounts, to us taking over for the duration of your leave, and then handing it all back to you when you return to work.
What are some of the hesitations you think might prevent an advertising professional from utilizing parental service coverage? How does AKvertise address these concerns?
Advertisers may be hesitant about sharing their clients, even temporarily with another agency, especially if they don’t know us personally. We can certainly understand the concern about handing over your work and clients to someone else, but we have established ourselves as skilled and trustworthy members of the online marketing and advertising community. We would encourage anyone potentially interested in our service to vet us and have a conversation with us (in person depending on location, by phone, or through video) to see if we are right for them. If the concern is us taking their clients, we have contracts in place that would prevent us from doing so, plus, it’s not in our nature to do so.
Is there a limit on the size of client your team can take on?
Short answer, no. We have experience working with clients of all sizes. We have worked with small to medium businesses, celebrities, and enterprise level clients. As an example, earlier this year, we joined a large Silicon Valley company as an extension of their team to consult and help manage their social media advertising accounts through their IPO process. The only limitation we can foresee is bandwidth if the quantity of clients we take over at a given time are all of large caliber.
Is your service limited to the United States or can you work with international account managers and clients?
At this time, we are sticking to North American clients. Over time, as we see how this new service performs, we may expand to international clients. While that is the case, we do service international advertising accounts, so if you reside in North America and are looking for parental leave coverage but have international clients, we can assist.
Are there any industries that AKvertise doesn’t serve?
We specialize and are passionate about ecommerce, events, mobile apps, and lead generation. While we work more often with B2C brands, we do also have experience and take on select B2B clients. While we have some experience with the medical, legal, and real estate industries, we typically don’t serve those, but are open to the discussion if there are a few within your client roster.
What happens if a client decides to terminate the relationship while the freelancer is on leave?
Prior to your leave, we will discuss this possible but unlikely scenario. If it were to occur, it would be one of the very few reasons we would contact you during your leave. We would immediately reach out to inform you and it would depend on your contract with your client and the procedure you would implement if they had a breach of contract. If your client prefers to work with another account manager or consultant, we can introduce them to another one on our team to see if it is a better match.
Is there a plan for the future for how this might expand? Such as, eventually covering more than 2.5 months? Taking on bigger accounts as the team grows?
We are already working on some other ways we can expand this service to help even more people. One way, thanks to our friend Jenny Halasz that runs SEO agency, JLH Marketing, she recommended we also offer military leave coverage as she does for her clients.
As for duration, we can certainly cover longer than 2.5 months. That was the amount of time that I took for my maternity leave, however, others may take more or less and we can be flexible with the time that they decide they want to spend with their newborn and away from work. We also have experience with larger clients and can take those on. Our only limiting factor now is bandwidth in case we get a large number of people on parental leave at the same time, though, the probability of that is low at this time.
Could this model work within an agency, like Hanapin? We typically spread responsibilities internally, but if that wasn’t possible could we hire AKvertise and how would that work?
I believe it could. And yes, we could service a larger agency like Hanapin if a few employees needed coverage and depending on the coverage period. Even prior to launching this parental coverage service, our agency has partnered with other marketing agencies that focus on paid search and/or paid social or provide complimentary marketing services such as SEO. We act as an extension of their team or provide the services their clients need that they may not provide.
If your team has enough members within to cover the day-to-day for someone on parental leave but may not yet have higher level account management or consulting experience, we do also offer consulting services to assist your team members with managing your accounts. If you don’t have enough bandwidth on your team, we could then provide account management services.
Are there any other big plans for AKvertise in the pipeline?
We do have some exciting things on the forefront, however, we will share once we’re fully ready in the new year – stay tuned! In the meantime, we will continue building out this new leave coverage service. While we are keeping it to a small coverage team of people we know personally and have direct experience working with, if you are interested in joining the parental coverage team, please let us know by visiting akvertise.com/contact. We live for connecting and helping people. We want to be able to provide this service to more advertisers and their clients while also maintaining our reputation as providing conversion oriented and tailored solutions to our clients with integrity.
For more information on AKvertise’s parental leave program or any of their other services visit akvertise.com.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
On December 1, 2021, Google announced on Twitter that a Product Review update would be rolling out that would focus on English language web pages.
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
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Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
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But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
Google Blog Post About Product Reviews Update
Google’s New Product Reviews Guidelines
John Mueller Discusses If Product Reviews Update Is Global
Watch Mueller answer the question at the 14:00 Minute Mark
Survey says: Amazon, Google more trusted with your personal data than Apple is
MacRumors reveals that more people feel better with their personal data in the hands of Amazon and Google than Apple’s. Companies that the public really doesn’t trust when it comes to their personal data include Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.
The survey asked over 1,000 internet users in the U.S. how much they trusted certain companies such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon to handle their user data and browsing activity responsibly.
Amazon and Google are considered by survey respondents to be more trustworthy than Apple
Those surveyed were asked whether they trusted these firms with their personal data “a great deal,” “a good amount,” “not much,” or “not at all.” Respondents could also answer that they had no opinion about a particular company. 18% of those polled said that they trust Apple “a great deal” which topped the 14% received by Google and Amazon.
Amazon and Google are more trusted than Apple is with consumer’s personal data according to a survey
However, 39% said that they trust Amazon by “a good amount” with Google picking up 34% of the votes in that same category. Only 26% of those answering said that they trust Apple by “a good amount.” The first two responses, “a great deal” and “a good amount,” are considered positive replies for a company. “Not much” and “not at all” are considered negative responses.
By adding up the scores in the positive categories,
Apple tallied a score of 44% (18% said it trusted Apple with its personal data “a great deal” while 26% said it trusted Apple “a good amount”). But that placed the tech giant third after Amazon’s 53% and Google’s 48%. After Apple, Microsoft finished fourth with 43%, YouTube (which is owned by Google) was fifth with 35%, and Facebook was sixth at 20%.
Rounding out the remainder of the nine firms in the survey, Instagram placed seventh with a positive score of 19%, WhatsApp was eighth with a score of 15%, and TikTok was last at 12%.
Looking at the scoring for the two negative responses (“not much,” or “not at all”), Facebook had a combined negative score of 72% making it the least trusted company in the survey. TikTok was next at 63% with Instagram following at 60%. WhatsApp and YouTube were both in the middle of the pact at 53% followed next by Google and Microsoft at 47% and 42% respectively. Apple and Amazon each had the lowest combined negative scores at 40% each.
74% of those surveyed called targeted online ads invasive
The survey also found that a whopping 82% of respondents found targeted online ads annoying and 74% called them invasive. Just 27% found such ads helpful. This response doesn’t exactly track the 62% of iOS users who have used Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to opt-out of being tracked while browsing websites and using apps. The tracking allows third-party firms to send users targeted ads online which is something that they cannot do to users who have opted out.
The 38% of iOS users who decided not to opt out of being tracked might have done so because they find it convenient to receive targeted ads about a certain product that they looked up online. But is ATT actually doing anything?
Marketing strategy consultant Eric Seufert said last summer, “Anyone opting out of tracking right now is basically having the same level of data collected as they were before. Apple hasn’t actually deterred the behavior that they have called out as being so reprehensible, so they are kind of complicit in it happening.”
The Financial Times says that iPhone users are being lumped together by certain behaviors instead of unique ID numbers in order to send targeted ads. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg says that the company is working to rebuild its ad infrastructure “using more aggregate or anonymized data.”
Aggregated data is a collection of individual data that is used to create high-level data. Anonymized data is data that removes any information that can be used to identify the people in a group.
When consumers were asked how often do they think that their phones or other tech devices are listening in to them in ways that they didn’t agree to, 72% answered “very often” or “somewhat often.” 28% responded by saying “rarely” or “never.”
Google’s John Mueller on Brand Mentions via @sejournal, @martinibuster
What’s A Brand Mention?
A brand mention is when one website mentions another website. There is an idea in the SEO community that when a website mentions another website’s domain name or URL that Google will see this and count it the same as a link.
Brand Mentions are also known as an implied link. Much was written about this ten years ago after a Google patent that mentions “implied links” surfaced.
There has never been a solid review of why the idea of “brand mentions” has nothing to do with this patent, but I’ll provide a shortened version later in this article.
John Mueller Discussing Brand Mentions
Do Brand Mentions Help With Rankings?
The person asking the question wanted to know about brand mentions for the purpose of ranking. The person asking the question has good reason to ask it because the idea of “brand mentions” has never been definitively reviewed.
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The person asked the question:
“Do brand mentions without a link help with SEO rankings?”
Google Does Not Use Brand Mentions
Google’s John Mueller answered that Google does not use the “brand mentions” for any link related purpose.
“From my point of view, I don’t think we use those at all for things like PageRank or understanding the link graph of a website.
And just a plain mention is sometimes kind of tricky to figure out anyway.”
That part about it being tricky is interesting.
He didn’t elaborate on why it’s tricky until later in the video where he says it’s hard to understand the subjective context of a website mentioning another website.
Brand Mentions Are Useful For Building Awareness
Mueller next says that brand mentions may be useful for helping to get the word out about a site, which is about building popularity.
“But it can be something that makes people aware of your brand, and from that point of view, could be something where indirectly you might have some kind of an effect from that in that they search for your brand and then …obviously, if they’re searching for your brand then hopefully they find you right away and then they can go to your website.
And if they like what they see there, then again, they can go off and recommend that to other people as well.”
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“Brand Mentions” Are Problematic
Later on at the 58 minute mark another person brings the topic back up and asks how Google could handle spam sites that are mentioning a brand in a negative way.
The person said that one can disavow links but one cannot disavow a “brand mention.”
Mueller agreed and said that’s one of things that makes brand mentions difficult to use for ranking purposes.
John Mueller explained:
“Kind of understanding the almost the subjective context of the mention is really hard.
Is it like a positive mention or a negative mention?
Is it a sarcastic positive mention or a sarcastic negative mention? How can you even tell?
And all of that, together with the fact that there are lots of spammy sites out there and sometimes they just spin content, sometimes they’re malicious with regards to the content that they create…
All of that, I think, makes it really hard to say we can just use that as the same as a link.
…It’s just, I think, too confusing to use as a clear signal.”
Where “Brand Mentions” Come From
The idea of “brand mentions” has bounced around for over ten years.
There were no research papers or patents to support it. “Brand mentions” is literally an idea that someone invented out of thin air.
However the “brand mention” idea took off in 2012 when a patent surfaced that seemed to confirm the idea of brand mentions.
There’s a whole long story to this so I’m just going to condense it.
There’s a patent from 2012 that was misinterpreted in several different ways because most people at the time, myself included, did not read the entire patent from beginning to end.
The patent itself is about ranking web pages.
The structure of most Google patents consist of introductory paragraphs that discuss what the patent is about and those paragraphs are followed by pages of in-depth description of the details.
The introductory paragraphs that explain what it’s about states:
“Methods, systems, and apparatus, including computer programs… for ranking search results.”
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Pretty much nobody read that beginning part of the patent.
Everyone focused on a single paragraph in the middle of the patent (page 9 out of 16 pages).
In that paragraph there is a mention of something called “implied links.”
The word “implied” is only mentioned four times in the entire patent and all four times are contained within that single paragraph.
So when this patent was discovered, the SEO industry focused on that single paragraph as proof that Google uses brand mentions.
In order to understand what an “implied link” is, you have to scroll all the way back up to the opening paragraphs where the Google patent authors describe something called a “reference query” that is not a link but is nevertheless used for ranking purposes just like a link.
What Is A Reference Query?
A reference query is a search query that contains a reference to a URL or a domain name.
The patent states:
“A reference query for a particular group of resources can be a previously submitted search query that has been categorized as referring to a resource in the particular group of resources.”
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Elsewhere the patent provides a more specific explanation:
“A query can be classified as referring to a particular resource if the query includes a term that is recognized by the system as referring to the particular resource.
…search queries including the term “example.com” can be classified as referring to that home page.”
The summary of the patent, which comes at the beginning of the document, states that it’s about establishing which links to a website are independent and also counting reference queries and with that information creating a “modification factor” which is used to rank web pages.
“…determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective count of reference queries; determining, for each of the plurality of groups of resources, a respective group-specific modification factor, wherein the group-specific modification factor for each group is based on the count of independent links and the count of reference queries for the group;”
The entire patent largely rests on those two very important factors, a count of independent inbound links and the count of reference queries. The phrases reference query and reference queries are used 39 times in the patent.
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As noted above, the reference query is used for ranking purposes like a link, but it’s not a link.
The patent states:
“An implied link is a reference to a target resource…”
It’s clear that in this patent, when it mentions the implied link, it’s talking about reference queries, which as explained above simply means when people search using keywords and the domain name of a website.
Idea of Brand Mentions Is False
The whole idea of “brand mentions” became a part of SEO belief systems because of how that patent was misinterpreted.
But now you have the facts and know why “brand mentions” is not real thing.
Plus John Mueller confirmed it.
“Brand mentions” is something completely random that someone in the SEO community invented out of thin air.
Watch John Mueller discuss “brand mentions” at 44:10 Minute Mark and the brand Mentions second part begins at the 58:12 minute mark
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