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10 Top Advertising Campaigns & Why They Work

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10 Top Advertising Campaigns & Why They Work


Keeping up to date with advertising trends keeps you informed of the current ‘mood’ and feeds ideas for your own advertising and marketing.

Just like memes on social media, it’s common to see threads and trends develop and it’s important to keep track to influence your own marketing and digital marketing efforts.

Here, you’ll find some of the top advertising campaigns from the last 12 months and reviewing how and why they worked.

First, what makes an ad effective?

Brand Messaging In 2022

Post pandemic, there has been a real shift in marketing messages, and most brands are embracing sustainability and authenticity.

Real stories, strong moral stance, and contribution are all essential values for brands to project.

However, be wary of jumping on tropes and trends just to be part of a movement.

Unless you are genuinely authentic, this can backfire and social media does not hold back to call out anyone who seeks to profiteer from a movement.

Retailer John Lewis in the U.K. faced considerable backlash for their 2021 Christmas campaign of “Let Life Happen,” featuring a young boy in a dress and makeup rampaging through the house.

It failed to hit the message of being inclusive about gender fluidity, and instead was derided for their off-brand middle-class efforts.

In contrast, a brand that managed to positively confront the perception of sexism in its historic advertisements was Budweiser.

By recreating their 60s ads from a current gender equality perspective, Budweiser sent a clear message that they were tackling cultural changes in attitude head-on by embracing their past – a more authentic way for a brand to suddenly change lanes.

How To Create An Effective Ad In 2022

Connecting with an audience in 2022 is all about being credible, unique, and memorable. And, brands need to position themselves carefully, with consideration to nuanced shifts in culture.

To create effective adverts that will resonate with an audience in a post-pandemic world, follow these rules:

A Simple Message

Basic rules of advertising dictate that your message should be understood quickly and easily.

In the ’80s, we had a trend of cinematically beautiful adverts that bordered on the surreal and often left you wondering what it was all about.

Today, make sure your advert has a strong central message.

Emotive

As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said but not how you made them feel.”

Emotion creates stronger brand recall and will make someone feel connected to a brand.

Aligned With Your Audience

Put your audiences’ needs front and center of your messaging. Address what they want and what they need. Not what you need.

Aligned With Brand Values

In today’s culture, having strong values is essential for brands that want to build long-term connections with an audience.

Making a stand for your values shows that you care, and this is essential to connect with younger audiences who are the future.

Aligned With Your Brand Positioning

More than anything, be clear and consistent with who your brand is.

If you do want to tackle current trends and any societal issues, then make sure that you do it aligned with who you are and not trying to suddenly pivot in a forced and obvious manner.

Authentic

Switched-on audiences can detect a brand trying to take advantage of a cultural issue. It’s a brutal takedown on social media for a brand that gets it wrong and is considered inauthentic.

Memorable

The fundamental law of all advertising. Brands use shock, comedy, twists and sometimes distaste to stand out and be remembered. The Burger King Moldy Whopper is a visual you will not forget.

Check Out These 10 Effective Ads From 2021

1. Draw Ketchup, Heinz

Heinz Ketchup in Canada ran a campaign that perfectly illustrates the power of brand recall.

In an inspired meta approach, they used brand recall to show their brand dominance to affirm more brand recall.

Heinz achieved this by conducting a social experiment. Without revealing who the experiment was for, they asked random people around the world to illustrate the word ‘ketchup’.

Of course, all the results show Heinz ketchup bottles (except one guy who drew mustard!).

The naivety of the illustrations connects to a sentiment of nostalgia and encourages the viewer of the advert to mentally picture what ketchup means to them.

A brilliant example of user-generated content, offline. This is a memorable campaign that taps emotion.

2. The Return, Jif® Peanut Butter

“The Return” hits several metrics of what makes a good advert.

First of all, the team at Publicis who conducted the campaign defined the Jif audience as Millennials, and that rap music is a top music genre for this generation.

Partnering with a rapper like Ludacris creates a brand association with an influencer that resonates with rap-loving Millennials.

The Publicis team conducted social listening research and found that the new styles of rap sounded like the rappers had a mouthful of peanut butter. This led to the perfect connection of how to develop a narrative for their ad.

The advert was also promoted with a TikTok campaign challenge using the hashtag #JifRapChallenge.

“The Return” uses a nuanced blend of humor with an audience-relevant influencer in a memorable way.

3. Introducing The Icelandverse, Visit Iceland

“Icelandverse” by the tourism board for Iceland is the perfect example of how to jack a current trend.

Following Facebook’s “Introducing Meta” infomercial, “Icelandverse” was a fast-response spoof video that perfectly captured the incredulous sentiment to the ‘Meta’ brand announcement.

Within just five days of the Facebook ad, “Icelandverse” was launched and has achieved over 1.8million views on YouTube.

The narrative for the video is “a revolutionary approach on how to connect with our world without being super weird.”

It trades a comparison between the features of Iceland and the Metaverse. You can connect with humans (you are human, right?); skies you can see with your eyeballs; caress volcanic rocks.

The slightly “odd” main character and the awkwardness of the film offer a brilliant satirization of Zuckerberg to hit the overall sentiment online in response to the Facebook leader. The subtle humor is perfectly timed and is an example of just what can be achieved in only five days.

“Icelandverse” is certainly memorable and offers an example of how jacking current trends is a strategy that even small brands can use to get significant viral exposure.

4. End Plastic Waste, Stan Smith For Adidas Original

“It’s not easy being green,” famously said Kermit the Frog, who narrates the voiceover to this Adidas commercial.

As climate change and a theme of sustainability are now essential brand values for fashion brands that want to reach the younger demographics, Adidas has responded with an update on their iconic Stan Smith trainers.

The advert featuring Kermit and Stan Smith taps into the current focus on environmental issues combined with the history of the brand. Combining the nostalgic with the modern is always a strong hook for advertising.

It might not be easy being green, but it is even harder to produce an advert that can trade on serious issues without appearing condescending or inauthentic.

Adidas has tapped authenticity perfectly whilst at the same time managing to get on a level with Gen Z. They have ticked alignment with brand values and their audience, combined with an emotive and inspiring short film.

5. ScissorHandsFree, Cadillac

Who is the target audience for Cadillac? The grown-up Gen Xs who fondly remember the surreal beauty of 1991 “Edward Scissorhands.”

In advertising, the nostalgia for things from your teens and early years is always a hook for connection, especially for the middle-aged and older.

In “ScissorHandsFree,” the main character can enjoy the thrill of driving on the open road, even though he has scissors for hands. What a way to sell the benefits of hands-free driving!

The advert which is a follow-on from the original film also manages to interweave current themes of diversity and inclusivity.

Cadillac has managed to align itself with current social themes, tap into nostalgia, align with their demographic, and create a stunning memorable experience all in one advert.

Take note, those with budgets that can hire Winona Ryder and Timothée Chalamet, this is how it’s done.

6. Fumble, iPhone 12

Yet another advert from Apple that has great timing, great editing, and leaves you a little breathless.

Apple is the master of minimalism which they extend to all their campaigns with simple messaging.

Trading on the phone’s selling feature of the ceramic shield, the ad puts the durability of the phone at the center of the message in a clear and memorable way.

The music by Nitin Sawhney contributes to the panic and urgency of trying not to drop a phone.

So simple and perfectly aligned with Apple brand values.

7. Last Year’s Lemons, Bud Light Seltzer Lemonade

When the pandemic happened, at first, brands were paralyzed and unsure of how to proceed.

We then had a burst of ads with a homemade feel that drew on the total shock and emotion of what the world was experiencing.

Two years down the line, the pandemic is now so seamlessly part of life, we are so over it.

Just when we thought we couldn’t take any more pandemic-related advertising, Bud Light steps in with the perfect cultural reference of “when you get lemons, you make lemonade.”

In a brilliant narrative of an apocalyptic event where it starts raining lemons, Bud Light manages to tap into the total chaos of the last two years in a wonderfully bittersweet sentiment.

The last throwaway line also perfectly echoes how we are now so burnt out with the pandemic.

Perfectly aligned with social sentiment, audience, and brand positioning.

8. Meet The King, Jimmy John’s

Aligning with celebrities and fictional classics translates to trading off the success forged by these real and fictional characters.

You could call it success-jacking or value-jacking. It’s why celebrities charge so much for endorsements.

Of course, not everyone can afford to make a Goodfellas-style short film. But, it is possible to leverage this technique by understanding your audience and using cultural references they respect.

In this case, Jimmy John’s did have the budget for a short film aired in the coveted Super Bowl slot.

With a hint of humor and a lot of Goodfellas-style direction, this ad provides a brand positioning and alignment with a certain audience.

Creating the narrative around the product makes sure the brand and product are at the forefront.

9. The Ad Where Nothing Happens, Progressive Insurance

In another post-pandemic reference, Progressive Insurance chooses not to make a flashy advert to give people a break from the events of the last few years. “People have been through a lot.”

Well-written and perfectly hits the current sentiment of burnout.

Progressive Insurance clearly knows their demographic as they also throw in the brilliant cultural reference to an aged NSYNC that only someone who grew up in the 90s would get.

A simple message delivered dressed up as a basic advert that is nuanced with subtle humor.

10. Jessica Long’s Story, Toyota

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Saving the tear-jerker for last. The power of the inspiring story.

This advert taps into current themes of diversity and inclusivity combined with the hero’s journey.

Toyota shows the real-life story of an athlete that represents how anyone can overcome, even if their “life is not always easy.” The perfect antidote to shake us out of any lingering post-pandemic self-pity. It hits social sentiment perfectly.

The advert does feel like something Nike would make, but Toyota is a sponsor for the Olympic team.

Rather than selling a product, Toyota is using the alignment of positioning with those who work hard to overcome difficulties to succeed in life.

A memorable advert that defies anyone to not cry and affirms the Toyota brand values.

Takeaway For 10 Best Advertising Campaigns

What these 10 examples of top advertising campaigns show is that there are several ways to approach a memorable ad:

  • Use humor or strong emotion.
  • Use cultural references.
  • Use current social sentiment.
  • Trend-jack other brands and adverts.

And sometimes, it’s just reaffirming the established dominance of the brand in a way that respects its audience and shows authenticity.

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Featured Image: LuckyN/Shutterstock





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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

There is concern about the lack of an easy way to opt out of having one’s content used to train large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT. There is a way to do it, but it’s neither straightforward nor guaranteed to work.

How AIs Learn From Your Content

Large Language Models (LLMs) are trained on data that originates from multiple sources. Many of these datasets are open source and are freely used for training AIs.

Some of the sources used are:

  • Wikipedia
  • Government court records
  • Books
  • Emails
  • Crawled websites

There are actually portals and websites offering datasets that are giving away vast amounts of information.

One of the portals is hosted by Amazon, offering thousands of datasets at the Registry of Open Data on AWS.

Screenshot from Amazon, January 2023

The Amazon portal with thousands of datasets is just one portal out of many others that contain more datasets.

Wikipedia lists 28 portals for downloading datasets, including the Google Dataset and the Hugging Face portals for finding thousands of datasets.

Datasets of Web Content

OpenWebText

A popular dataset of web content is called OpenWebText. OpenWebText consists of URLs found on Reddit posts that had at least three upvotes.

The idea is that these URLs are trustworthy and will contain quality content. I couldn’t find information about a user agent for their crawler, maybe it’s just identified as Python, I’m not sure.

Nevertheless, we do know that if your site is linked from Reddit with at least three upvotes then there’s a good chance that your site is in the OpenWebText dataset.

More information about OpenWebText is here.

Common Crawl

One of the most commonly used datasets for Internet content is offered by a non-profit organization called Common Crawl.

Common Crawl data comes from a bot that crawls the entire Internet.

The data is downloaded by organizations wishing to use the data and then cleaned of spammy sites, etc.

The name of the Common Crawl bot is, CCBot.

CCBot obeys the robots.txt protocol so it is possible to block Common Crawl with Robots.txt and prevent your website data from making it into another dataset.

However, if your site has already been crawled then it’s likely already included in multiple datasets.

Nevertheless, by blocking Common Crawl it’s possible to opt out your website content from being included in new datasets sourced from newer Common Crawl data.

The CCBot User-Agent string is:

CCBot/2.0

Add the following to your robots.txt file to block the Common Crawl bot:

User-agent: CCBot
Disallow: /

An additional way to confirm if a CCBot user agent is legit is that it crawls from Amazon AWS IP addresses.

CCBot also obeys the nofollow robots meta tag directives.

Use this in your robots meta tag:

<meta name="robots" content="nofollow">

Blocking AI From Using Your Content

Search engines allow websites to opt out of being crawled. Common Crawl also allows opting out. But there is currently no way to remove one’s website content from existing datasets.

Furthermore, research scientists don’t seem to offer website publishers a way to opt out of being crawled.

The article, Is ChatGPT Use Of Web Content Fair? explores the topic of whether it’s even ethical to use website data without permission or a way to opt out.

Many publishers may appreciate it if in the near future, they are given more say on how their content is used, especially by AI products like ChatGPT.

Whether that will happen is unknown at this time.

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Featured image by Shutterstock/ViDI Studio



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Google’s Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

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Google's Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

John Mueller recently made strong statements against SEO companies that provide negative SEO and other agencies that provide link disavow services outside of the tool’s intended purpose, saying that they are “cashing in” on clients who don’t know better.

While many frequently say that Mueller and other Googlers are ambiguous, even on the topic of link disavows.

The fact however is that Mueller and other Googlers have consistently recommended against using the link disavow tool.

This may be the first time Mueller actually portrayed SEOs who liberally recommend link disavows in a negative light.

What Led to John Mueller’s Rebuke

The context of Mueller’s comments about negative SEO and link disavow companies started with a tweet by Ryan Jones (@RyanJones)

Ryan tweeted that he was shocked at how many SEOs regularly offer disavowing links.

He tweeted:

“I’m still shocked at how many seos regularly disavow links. Why? Unless you spammed them or have a manual action you’re probably doing more harm than good.”

The reason why Ryan is shocked is because Google has consistently recommended the tool for disavowing paid/spammy links that the sites (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

And yet, here we are, eleven years later, and SEOs are still misusing the tool for removing other kinds of tools.

Here’s the background information about that.

Link Disavow Tool

In the mid 2000’s there was a thriving open market for paid links prior to the Penguin Update in April 2012. The commerce in paid links was staggering.

I knew of one publisher with around fifty websites who received a $30,000 check every month for hosting paid links on his site.

Even though I advised my clients against it, some of them still purchased links because they saw everyone else was buying them and getting away with it.

The Penguin Update caused the link selling boom collapsed.

Thousands of websites lost rankings.

SEOs and affected websites strained under the burden of having to contact all the sites from which they purchased paid links to ask to have them removed.

So some in the SEO community asked Google for a more convenient way to disavow the links.

Months went by and after resisting the requests, Google relented and released a disavow tool.

Google cautioned from the very beginning to only use the tool for disavowing links that the site publishers (or their SEOs) are responsible for.

The first paragraph of Google’s October 2012 announcement of the link disavow tool leaves no doubt on when to use the tool:

“Today we’re introducing a tool that enables you to disavow links to your site.

If you’ve been notified of a manual spam action based on ‘unnatural links’ pointing to your site, this tool can help you address the issue.

If you haven’t gotten this notification, this tool generally isn’t something you need to worry about.”

The message couldn’t be clearer.

But at some point in time, link disavowing became a service applied to random and “spammy looking” links, which is not what the tool is for.

Link Disavow Takes Months To Work

There are many anecdotes about link disavows that helped sites regain rankings.

They aren’t lying, I know credible and honest people who have made this claim.

But here’s the thing, John Mueller has confirmed that the link disavow process takes months to work its way through Google’s algorithm.

Sometimes things happen that are not related, no correlation. It just looks that way.

John shared how long it takes for a link disavow to work in a Webmaster Hangout:

“With regards to this particular case, where you’re saying you submitted a disavow file and then the ranking dropped or the visibility dropped, especially a few days later, I would assume that that is not related.

So in particular with the disavow file, what happens is we take that file into account when we reprocess the links kind of pointing to your website.

And this is a process that happens incrementally over a period of time where I would expect it would have an effect over the course of… I don’t know… maybe three, four, five, six months …kind of step by step going in that direction.

So if you’re saying that you saw an effect within a couple of days and it was a really strong effect then I would assume that this effect is completely unrelated to the disavow file. …it sounds like you still haven’t figured out what might be causing this.”

John Mueller: Negative SEO and Link Disavow Companies are Making Stuff Up

Context is important to understand what was said.

So here’s the context for John Mueller’s remark.

An SEO responded to Ryan’s tweet about being shocked at how many SEOs regularly disavow links.

The person responding to Ryan tweeted that disavowing links was still important, that agencies provide negative SEO services to take down websites and that link disavow is a way to combat the negative links.

The SEO (SEOGuruJaipur) tweeted:

“Google still gives penalties for backlinks (for example, 14 Dec update, so disavowing links is still important.”

SEOGuruJaipur next began tweeting about negative SEO companies.

Negative SEO companies are those that will build spammy links to a client’s competitor in order to make the competitor’s rankings drop.

SEOGuruJaipur tweeted:

“There are so many agencies that provide services to down competitors; they create backlinks for competitors such as comments, bookmarking, directory, and article submission on low quality sites.”

SEOGuruJaipur continued discussing negative SEO link builders, saying that only high trust sites are immune to the negative SEO links.

He tweeted:

“Agencies know what kind of links hurt the website because they have been doing this for a long time.

It’s only hard to down for very trusted sites. Even some agencies provide a money back guarantee as well.

They will provide you examples as well with proper insights.”

John Mueller tweeted his response to the above tweets:

“That’s all made up & irrelevant.

These agencies (both those creating, and those disavowing) are just making stuff up, and cashing in from those who don’t know better.”

Then someone else joined the discussion:

Mueller tweeted a response:

“Don’t waste your time on it; do things that build up your site instead.”

Unambiguous Statement on Negative SEO and Link Disavow Services

A statement by John Mueller (or anyone) can appear to conflict with prior statements when taken out of context.

That’s why I not only placed his statements into their original context but also the history going back eleven years that is a part of that discussion.

It’s clear that John Mueller feels that those selling negative SEO services and those providing disavow services outside of the intended use are “making stuff up” and “cashing in” on clients who might not “know better.”

Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero



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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

January 25, 2023, the day that Yandex—Russia’s search engine—was hacked. 

Its complete source code was leaked online. And, it might not be the first time we’ve seen hacking happen in this industry, but it is one of the most intriguing, groundbreaking events in years.

But Yandex isn’t Google, so why should we care? Here’s why we do: these two search engines are very similar in how they process technical elements of a website, and this leak just showed us the 1,922 ranking factors Yandex uses in its algorithm. 

Simply put, this information is something that we can use to our advantage to get more traffic from Google.

Yandex vs Google

As I said, a lot of these ranking factors are possibly quite similar to the signals that Google uses for search.

Yandex’s algorithm shows a RankBrain analog: MatrixNext. It also seems that they are using PageRank (almost the same way as Google does), and a lot of their text algorithms are the same. Interestingly, there are also a lot of ex-Googlers working in Yandex. 

So, reviewing these factors and understanding how they play into search rankings and traffic will provide some very useful insights into how search engines like Google work. No doubt, this new trove of information will greatly influence the SEO market in the months to come. 

That said, Yandex isn’t Google. The chances of Google having the exact same list of ranking factors is low — and Google may not even give that signal the same amount of weight that Yandex does. 

Still, it’s information that potentially will be useful for driving traffic, so make sure to take a look at them here (before it’s scrubbed from the internet forever).

An early analysis of ranking factors

Many of their ranking factors are as expected. These include:

  • Many link-related factors (e.g., age, relevancy, etc.).
  • Content relevance, age, and freshness.
  • Host reliability
  • End-user behavior signals.

Some sites also get preference (such as Wikipedia). FI_VISITS_FROM_WIKI even shows that sites that are referenced by Wikipedia get plus points. 

These are all things that we already know.

But something interesting: there were several factors that I and other SEOs found unusual, such as PageRank being the 17th highest weighted factor in Yandex, and the 19th highest weighted factor being query-document relevance (in other words, how close they match thematically). There’s also karma for likely spam hosts, based on Whois information.

Other interesting factors are the average domain ranking across queries, percent of organic traffic, and the number of unique visitors.

You can also use this Yandex Search Ranking Factor Explorer, created by Rob Ousbey, to search through the various ranking factors.

The possible negative ranking factors:

Here’s my thoughts on Yandex’s factors that I found interesting: 

FI_ADV: -0.2509284637 — this factor means having tons of adverts scattered around your page and buying PPC can affect rankings. 

FI_DATER_AGE: -0.2074373667 — this one evaluates content age, and whether your article is more than 10 years old, or if there’s no determinable date. Date metadata is important. 

FI_COMM_LINKS_SEO_HOSTS: -0.1809636391 — this can be a negative factor if you have too much commercial anchor text, particularly if the proportion of such links goes above 50%. Pay attention to anchor text distribution. I’ve written a guide on how to effectively use anchor texts if you need some help on this. 

FI_RANK_ARTROZ — outdated, poorly written text will bring your rankings down. Go through your site and give your content a refresh. FI_WORD_COUNT also shows that the number of words matter, so avoid having low-content pages.

FI_URL_HAS_NO_DIGITS, FI_NUM_SLASHES, FI_FULL_URL_FRACTION — urls shouldn’t have digits, too many slashes (too much hierarchy), and of course contain your targeted keyword.

FI_NUM_LINKS_FROM_MP — always interlink your main pages (such as your homepage or landing pages) to any other important content you want to rank. Otherwise, it can hurt your content.

FI_HOPS — reduce the crawl depth for any pages that matter to you. No important pages should be more than a few clicks away from your homepage. I recommend keeping it to two clicks, at most. 

FI_IS_UNREACHABLE — likewise, avoid making any important page an orphan page. If it’s unreachable from your homepage, it’s as good as dead in the eyes of the search engine.

The possible positive ranking factors:

FI_IS_COM: +0.2762504972 — .com domains get a boost in rankings.

FI_YABAR_HOST_VISITORS — the more traffic you get, the more ranking power your site has. The strategy of targeting smaller, easier keywords first to build up an audience before targeting harder keywords can help you build traffic.

FI_BEAST_HOST_MEAN_POS — the average position of the host for keywords affects your overall ranking. This factor and the previous one clearly show that being smart with your keyword and content planning matters. If you need help with that, check out these 5 ways to build a solid SEO strategy.

FI_YABAR_HOST_SEARCH_TRAFFIC — this might look bad but shows that having other traffic sources (such as social media, direct search, and PPC) is good for your site. Yandex uses this to determine if a real site is being run, not just some spammy SEO project.

This one includes a whole host of CTR-related factors. 

CTR ranking factors from Yandex

It’s clear that having searchable and interesting titles that drive users to check your content out is something that positively affects your rankings.

Google is rewarding sites that help end a user’s search journey (as we know from the latest mobile search updates and even the Helpful Content update). Do what you can to answer the query early on in your article. The factor “FI_VISITORS_RETURN_MONTH_SHARE“ also shows that it helps to encourage users to return to your site for more information on the topics they’re interested in. Email marketing is a handy tool here.

FI_GOOD_RATIO and FI_MANY_BAD — the percentage of “good” and “bad” backlinks on your site. Getting your backlinks from high-quality websites with traffic is important for your rankings. The factor FI_LINK_AGE also shows that adding a link-building strategy to your SEO as early as possible can help with your rankings.

FI_SOCIAL_URL_IS_VERIFIED — that little blue check has actual benefits now. Links from verified accounts have more weight.

Key Takeaway

Yandex and Google, being so similar to each other in theory, means that this data leak is something we must pay attention to. 

Several of these factors may already be common knowledge amongst SEOs, but having them confirmed by another search engine enforces how important they are for your strategy.

These initial findings, and understanding what it might mean for your website, can help you identify what to improve, what to scrap, and what to focus on when it comes to your SEO strategy. 

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