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25 Best SEO-Friendly Alternatives To WordPress Websites

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25 Best SEO-Friendly Alternatives To WordPress Websites

There’s a reason why WordPress is so popular: it’s relatively easy to use, offers a lot of functionality, and gives you many customization options. And it can be great for SEO, too.

If you know what you’re doing, you can use it for structuring, managing, and publishing content in a way that generates traffic.

It’s a sort of a one-stop shop for blogging, content management, ecommerce, and website building. And maybe best of all – it’s free.

But, running your own WordPress site isn’t without its drawbacks.

For one thing, you’re responsible for your own updates, security, and backups. Click the wrong box in the settings section, and you could be vulnerable to hackers.

And you will be dealing with frequent updates because it relies so heavily on plugins to provide the functionality you want.

It can also be problematic for web developers. If you have a high degree of skill in creating websites, you may find WordPress’ templated approach restricting.

On the other end of the spectrum, you may struggle without drag and drop functionality if you don’t know how to code.

Finally, WordPress is a jack-of-all-trades type of platform. It does many things well but is not exceptional in any area. This means you may want more functionality in an area that’s important to you.

In this piece, we’ll look at 25 SEO-friendly WordPress alternatives separated by primary functionality and give you a quick rundown of each, so you can make the best choice for your needs.

Ready to get started?

Web Design Platforms

1. Wix

If you’re looking for an easy, all-in-one, fully customizable platform that doesn’t require third-party sites and plugins, look no further than Wix.

This option houses everything you need within the Wix platform, from hosting to handling structured data. Their step-by-step guide helps beginners create a beautiful website without any prior experience.

Key Features:

  • Full hosting solution.
  • No software to self-install.
  • Drag-and-drop visual builder.
  • Extensions are available.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • All-in-one website builder and platform.
  • Free version available.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Free subdomain available for all plans.
  • Free custom domain available with paid plans.
  • Customer support.

Cons:

  • No option to retain full control of your site as you can with WordPress.
  • No access to source code.

2. Squarespace

This all-in-one option allows you to easily create a website on Squarespace’s fully hosted platform. You do not need prior experience to use this intuitive site builder.

Squarespace hosts all its features in-house, meaning you can’t install third-party extensions or use custom coding.

It’s a great solution for hobbyists and small businesses to build a professional site themselves, although it can be an expensive solution if all you’re doing is running a basic website.

Key Features:

  • Full hosting solution (including video).
  • No software to self-install.
  • Drag-and-drop visual builder.
  • Extensions are available.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • All-in-one website builder and platform.
  • Free version available.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Free subdomain available for all plans.
  • Free custom domain available with an annual subscription.
  • Customer support.

Cons:

  • No option to retain full control of your site as you can with WordPress.
  • No custom coding.
  • No access to source code.
  • No third-party extensions.

3. Weebly

If you’re looking for simple and affordable, Weebly might be up your alley.

This site builder takes an all-in-one approach to make website creation accessible for everyone, not just programmers and web developers.

Weebly is revered for being user and SEO-friendly, but if you’re on the free plan, your website will be limited to only five pages.

Key Features:

  • Full hosting solution.
  • No software to self-install.
  • Drag-and-drop visual builder.
  • Extensions are available.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • All-in-one website builder and platform.
  • Free version available.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Free subdomain available.
  • Inexpensive premium plans are as low as $6.00 per month.
  • Free custom domain available with premium plans.
  • Customer support.

Cons:

  • No option to retain full control of your site as you can with WordPress.
  • No access to source code.
  • The free version restricts you to a maximum of five pages.

4. Google Sites

Google’s webpage and wiki creation tool, Google Sites is a free and easy way to build a website.

Because it was developed by the search engine giant, it integrates smoothly with all other Google products, including Gmail, YouTube, and Fitbit.

It is free to build, host, and maintain with a Google account, with no web hosting fees.

However, if you want to link your site with Google Apps, it costs $50 per user per year.

Key Features:

  • Creator has full control over page access and permissions.
  • Tools can be accessed anywhere.
  • It can be used as a basic project management program.
  • Plenty of web development and deployment options.
  • Real-time editing.
  • Uses website speed optimization tools to minimize loading times.

Pros:

  • Fast to get started and easy to use.
  • Free to use.
  • Integrated with other Google products.

Cons:

  • Limited functionality compared to other website builders.
  • It may not work with non-Google apps.
  • Limited customization options.
  • No SEO tools and you can’t edit metadata.
  • It cannot integrate Facebook pixels.

5. Jekyll

Jekyll was designed to be a lightweight alternative to other website creation platforms, including only necessary components so you can run your website without database access or other additional software.

It’s an open-source platform that allows you to quickly create and launch a website.

Key Features:

  • No programming involved.
  • SEO is built-in.
  • GitHub manages redirects.
  • Easy setup of custom domains.

Pros:

  • No server maintenance.
  • Very fast.
  • Secure.
  • Free hosting.
  • Free SSL certificate.
  • Works with GitHub as CMS.

Cons:

  • It can’t create contact forms.
  • No dynamic content options.
  • Posts cannot be scheduled.
  • Does not include image manipulation functionality.

6. Hugo

Billing itself as “the world’s fastest framework for building websites,” Hugo is an open-source platform for creating static sites.

It can generate most webpages in under one millisecond, with new pages built every time you create or update content.

Its goal is to provide an optimal viewing experience for users and authors.

Key Features:

  • Can build most websites in seconds.
  • Cross-platform with easy installation.
  • Allows you to host your site anywhere.
  • Customizable URLs.
  • “Minutes to Read” and “WordCount” functionality.
  • Integrated Google Analytics and Disqus comment support.

Pros:

  • It easily integrates with Google Calendar and other apps.
  • Easy to use with responsive customer service.
  • Multilingual capabilities built-in.
  • Extendable as needed.

Cons:

  • It can’t create one-off tasks.
  • It can be confusing upon initial use, particularly in templating syntax.
  • No plugins are available.
  • Limited text formatting features.

7. Webflow

Webflow is a responsive tool for web design that lets you create websites without the required coding knowledge.

It includes a visual designer, which lets you see the changes you’re making in real-time and includes significant versatility.

You can create nearly any website you need, including ecommerce, blogs, and business sites.

Key Features:

  • More than 100 templates to choose from.
  • Design is prioritized, with animation, interaction, and parallax scrolling options.
  • Offers automatically generated sitemaps and customizable 301 redirects.
  • Multiple payment options for ecommerce sites and automatic tax calculation.

Pros:

  • Affordable, with plans ranging from free to $235 for top-tier ecommerce plans.
  • Free starter plan.
  • Numerous learning and help resources.
  • Good range of templates.
  • Good security.

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Integration with social media can be frustrating.
  • Advanced capabilities aren’t built-in and require integration.

Content Management Systems (CMS)

8. Joomla

Like WordPress, Joomla is an open-source content management system (CMS).

Joomla is free, but you have to pay for your web hosting.

Joomla’s appeal is its broad range of functionality that allows you to run any type of website – blogs, ecommerce, portfolios, informational websites, and more.

The downside to Joomla is that it isn’t ideal for beginners, so it’s best if you have some experience.

Key Features:

  • Almost 6,000 extensions are available.
  • Traditional content editing (no drag-and-drop visual editor).
  • Optimized for mobile (depending on the template).
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • Free, open-source software.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Access to source code.

Cons:

  • No free subdomains or custom domains are available.
  • No customer support.
  • Requires a PHP-enable server to run.
  • Fewer templates and extensions than WordPress.

9. Drupal

Like WordPress and Joomla, Drupal is a CMS platform. The software is free, although you’ll have web hosting fees.

Drupal is one of the most technical and powerful CMS options on the market, but it requires more skills to tap into Drupal’s full potential.

This site-building option is best suited for advanced users.

Key Features:

  • Content Management System (CMS).
  • Over 47,000 modules are available.
  • Traditional content editing (no drag-and-drop visual editor).
  • Optimized for mobile (depending on the theme you choose).
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • Free, open-source software.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Access to source code.
  • Strong security and data encryption.

Cons:

  • No free subdomains.
  • No customer support.
  • Requires a PHP-enabled server to run.

10. DataLife Engine

DataLife Engine, often referred to as DLE, is a multifunctional CMS. Primarily designed for mass media websites and blogs, it allows you to manage news, articles, and users. 

Flexible and customizable, it can be used to create websites that can handle high levels of visitors with minimal load on your servers.

DLE emphasizes SEO and security, which has led to its adoption by more than 100,000 organizations.

Key Features:

  • Content Management System (CMS).
  • Designed for multiple users.
  • SEO-focused.
  • Tracks statistics.
  • Automatically filters words in comments.
  • It supports an unlimited number of categories.
  • Low server load.
  • Allows plugins.

Pros:

  • Stores data using MySQL.
  • Excellent user experience
  • Websites load quickly, even on low-end servers.
  • Excellent for publishing news and blog posts.

Cons:

  • No free version licenses vary from $79 for basic to $199 for unlimited.
  • English users are a secondary focus.
  • A limited number of plugins and themes.
  • The lowest license doesn’t include customer support.

11. Sitefinity

Progress’ Sitefinity is a CMS and digital experience platform that allows you to create multi-channel marketing experiences.

Sitefinity allows you to create, store, manage, and publish content on your website. It lets you operate across departments, units, locations, and brands from one platform.

Key Features:

  • Manage multiple sites from one location.
  • Sync assets across pages and sites.
  • It makes personalization simpler.
  • Integrated analytics and optimization.
  • Four versions include basic, marketing-focused, PaaS, and ecommerce.
  • Multilingual capabilities.

Pros:

  • Low-cost license compared to other CMS.
  • No setup fee.
  • Minimal coding is required for integration.
  • Flexible deployment time shortens time to market.
  • Options for marketing automation.

Cons:

  • Free trial, but no free version.
  • Setup and administration can be challenging.
  • No mobile interface.

12. Hubspot CMS

Hubspot is one of the biggest names in marketing software, so it should be no surprise that they also have a CMS tool.

Combining website creation with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool lets you cover the entire buying journey from one place.

And because it was built for cross-departmental use, it doesn’t require extensive development knowledge.

Key Features:

  • Cloud-based.
  • Includes SEO recommendations.
  • Includes numerous themes and responsive templates.
  • Fully integrated CRM.
  • Drag-and-drop webpage editor.
  • Built-in security.

Pros:

  • Adaptive A/B testing helps you identify the best page layout.
  • All-in-one publishing tools.
  • Built-in SEO tools.
  • Supports smart content with personalized rules.
  • Mobile pages supported with Google AMP.

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Does not support ecommerce.
  • No automatic backup and recovery.

13. Contentful

Contentful is a backend-only CMS. Intended to allow users to create content at scale, it integrates various tools, giving you the freedom to publish across channels.

A cloud-native platform, it has a clean interface and was designed to be API-first, which provides serious flexibility.

Features:

  • RESTful API gives you full control over assets, translations, and versions.
  • Customizable interface and framework that works across third-party component providers.
  • It provides regional autonomy, so pieces in multiple languages and time zones can be published globally.
  • Content modeling allows you to structure content by channel.
  • Single sign-on and secure access.

Pros:

  • Focus on integration simplifies the technology stack.
  • User-friendly with a clean interface.
  • Free version for up to five users.
  • Good scalability.

Cons:

  • Expensive for an upgraded version ($489/month).
  • Poor internal search tools.
  • Modeling content can be tricky.

14. Adobe Experience Manager

Combining the functionality of a CMS with a digital asset management (DAM) platform, Adobe Experience Manager is intended to be an all-in-one platform for building websites, managing marketing content, and overseeing media libraries.

It offers cloud integration and plays well with other programs, including its own flagship creative suite.

Key Features:

  • Comprehensive marketing platform.
  • End-to-end digital document solution.
  • Enterprise-level security.
  • Analytics included.
  • Intelligent search.
  • Scalable to your needs.

Pros:

  • Streamlines workflows by keeping everything on one platform.
  • Authoring and publishing can be handled by individual marketers.
  • Easy authorization of workflow.
  • Can handle massive content loads.
  • Can manage multiple sites at once.

Cons:

  • Steep learning curve.
  • Requires different sign-ins to access different areas.
  • Doesn’t integrate well with external DAMs.
  • Not ideal for communities and forums.

Ecommerce Platforms

15. BigCommerce

If you’re looking for scalability in an SEO-friendly WordPress alternative, BigCommerce might be the right option for you.

It features strong SEO support and smooth multi-channel integration, and there are no platform fees or commissions.

However, customer reviews weren’t overly favorable regarding setup, and this ecommerce-targeted platform isn’t the best for small businesses or stores with tight margins.

Key Features:

  • Full hosting solution.
  • No software to self-install.
  • Drag-and-drop visual builder.
  • Extensions are available.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • High level of customization options.
  • Over 100 themes to choose from (including some free).
  • No platform commission fees.
  • Free subdomain available.
  • Customer support.

Cons:

  • No free version is available.
  • No access to source code.
  • Pricing is based on revenue, which isn’t great if you have tight margins.

16. Shopify

One of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market, Shopify, is designed to help you sell products.

That gives this option a major edge in the post-COVID digital shopping era, especially if your Shopify site is optimized for SEO.

Although Shopify can handle blogging and other niches, it isn’t the best solution for anything outside of ecommerce needs.

Key Features:

  • Full hosting solution.
  • No software to self-install.
  • Drag-and-drop visual builder.
  • Extensions are available.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • All-in-one website builder and platform.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Free subdomain available.
  • Customer support.

Cons:

  • No free version is available.
  • No access to source code.
  • Platform commission fees.

17. Magento

Magento is an ecommerce-based platform with more bells and whistles than Shopify.

And while it offers a ton of business features especially suited to large-scale enterprises, it’s not the easiest platform to use.

Magento specializes in ecommerce and not much else. If you want a website that capitalizes on different features, your investment in Magento probably isn’t worth your time.

Key Features:

  • Option to pay for Magento Commerce for a full hosting platform or download the free, open-source software to install on your own web server.
  • Drag-and-drop visual builder.
  • Extensions are available.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Ecommerce store.
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • All-in-one ecommerce platform or open-source ecommerce software package.
  • Free version available.
  • Designed for large-scale ecommerce.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Free subdomain available (mainly for setup and testing purposes).
  • Customer support (paid version only).
  • Access to source code with the downloadable version.

Cons:

  • No blog module, although you can add it as an extension.
  • Not optimized for web projects or website purposes outside of ecommerce.
  • The steep learning curve for inexperienced users.
  • A large investment for small-scale ecommerce.

18. Prestashop

Prestashop is a freemium open-source ecommerce platform that allows you to set up stores on your host or via the cloud. 

Available in 65 languages, it offers a powerful interface that is responsive to mobile users.

Prestashop has a variety of add-on features and provides a reliable online shopping solution.

Key Features:

  • Customizable to your needs, including themes and features.
  • Includes backend tools like payments, shipping and data.
  • Community of translators for multilanguage digital stores.
  • Secure payment modules.
  • Scalable.
  • Includes demographic assistance.

Pros:

  • Free version available.
  • Open source, so you can customize your site to your needs.
  • 5,000+ themes, modules, and services are available with the premium plan.
  • Excellent user experience.

Cons:

  • Limited scalability.
  • No support team.
  • Initial setup requires some programming knowledge.

19. OpenCart

A PHP-based ecommerce solution, OpenCart is free to use. Flexible and customizable, it comes with access to a dedicated community to help you troubleshoot.

Because it’s open source, there are extensive add-ons and modules for just about anything.

Features:

  • The administrator dashboard gives you information at a glance.
  • User management allows you to assign permissions and separate access.
  • Allows you to run multiple stores from one dashboard.
  • Customizable variables let you include options for sizes, colors, or anything else.

Pros:

  • The platform is completely free, as are many add-ons.
  • Extensive metrics and reports provided.
  • Works with your current payment gateway.
  • Comes with dedicated technical support.
  • Flexible.

Cons:

  • Often creates duplicate pages, which can cause SEO problems.
  • Not all extensions, modules, plug-ins, and add-ons work well together.
  • Checkout can be slow, particularly if you have numerous plug-ins.
  • Can be difficult to import a list of inventory.
  • Requires some degree of technical ability for optimal use.

Blogging Platforms

20. Medium

Rather than joining the others on this list as a site builder or web software, Medium stands alone as a publishing platform with its own community and user base.

This is a great solution if you’re a blogger looking for an inexpensive way to publish content.

But remember that you don’t have customization options, meaning you can’t brand your own website.

If you need a unique website with design control, Medium isn’t going to suit your requirements.

Key Features:

  • Full hosting solution.
  • No software to self-install.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Blog module.
  • Limited social media tools.

Pros:

  • A community site for blogs.
  • Free version available.
  • Medium Partner Program to earn revenue.
  • Customer support.

Cons:

  • No extensions.
  • No ecommerce stores.
  • No premade designs or themes.
  • No free subdomains.
  • No third-party extensions.
  • No access to source code.

21. Ghost

This platform is a WordPress contender for blogging, but Ghost’s capabilities are limited for anything more.

Ghost is a simple and straightforward platform to suit your needs if you’re in the right niche.

But if you know your website might grow, remember that Ghost isn’t designed to scale a blog up into a business website or complex project.

Key Features:

  • Option to subscribe through Ghost’s hosting platform or download the free open source software to install on your own web server.
  • Basic drag-and-drop visual builder.
  • Extensions are available through integrations with other tools.
  • Optimized for mobile.
  • Blog module.
  • Ecommerce store (subscription only).
  • Social media tools.

Pros:

  • All-in-one website builder and platform.
  • Free version available.
  • Premade designs and templates.
  • Free subdomain available with the paid version.
  • Customer support.
  • Access to source code.

Cons:

  • Not compatible with all third-party web hosts.
  • Highly specialized with limited capabilities beyond blogging.
  • Not built to scale up into a business site or complex website.

22. Tumblr

Tumblr is a unique blend of social media and microblogging.

Like a traditional social media platform, it allows you to post status updates and share images, as well as re-blog posts your audience may find relevant.

Customizable to your needs, it has a unique tagging system that helps you accurately target an audience and build a community.

Key Features:

  • Features strong social media functionality.
  • Customizable.
  • Google Analytics Integration.
  • Unlimited storage.
  • Ad-free blog themes.
  • Free SSL certification.

Pros:

  • Free to use; no upgrades are required to access all features.
  • Free web hosting.
  • User-friendly and easy to set up.
  • No storage limits.
  • Can post audio, video, images, gifs, and more.

Cons:

  • Daily posting limit (250/day).
  • Files must be under 10 MB.
  • No plugins.
  • Safety and security leave something to be desired.
  • Unsuited to long-form content.

23. Bluehost

After Typepad stopped accepting new signups in 2020, EIG began directing people to Bluehost for their web hosting needs.

Bluehost supports over 80 open-source projects beyond WordPress, including Drupal, Joomla, and phpBB. It’s currently used by more than 2 million websites.

Key Features:

  • Domain names can be purchased through Bluehost.
  • Versatile hosting options let you choose what works best for you.
  • Dedicated servers and virtual private servers are available.
  • A variety of plans are available based on your needs.
  • Comes with customer service chat options.

Pros:

  • The first term is inexpensive.
  • Lots of storage and unlimited bandwidth.
  • Good uptime.
  • Free SSL certificates.

Cons:

  • Extra features come with added costs, which can get pricey.
  • High renewal rates.
  • Speed could be better.
  • All servers are U.S.-based.

24. Blogger

If you’re going to name your company “Blogger,” you better be good at blog hosting; it shouldn’t be surprising that Blogger delivers.

Acquired by Google in 2003, Blogger is more than just one of the oldest blogging platforms; it’s also a CMS.

Free to use, it lets you publish everything in your own personal space, whether it’s a business blog or a series of posts about your favorite Harry Potter characters.

Your site can be hosted at yourname.blogspot.com or your own domain.

Features:

  • Clear analytics.
  • Included layout/themes.
  • Monetization options, including Google Adsense integration.
  • Uses Google security.
  • Unlimited storage.

Pros:

  • Free to use.
  • Extremely user-friendly.
  • Free SSL security.
  • Good uptime.

Cons:

  • You don’t own your website.
  • Fewer options and control over design.
  • Limited support.
  • Hard to port to a different platform.

Community Management

25. vBulletin

If your site’s primary purpose is to create a community and host forums and message boards, vBulletin may be the right choice for you.

Easily installed on any web hosting service or run from vBulletin’s cloud, its primary focus is on community websites, though it does include tools for content discovery and site management.

It comes with various templates, graphics, and styles, so you can customize your forum to your brand.

Key Features:

  • Built-in SEO and security.
  • Includes a chat app.
  • Easy to get started.
  • Built-in applications.
  • Optimized for mobile users.
  • Blogging functionality.
  • Fully customizable.

Pros:

  • Frequent patches and bug fixes.
  • Customer support.
  • Easy to install and get started.
  • Designed to host forums.
  • Includes templates.

Cons:

  • No free option.
  • Limited features compared to some other platforms.
  • Requires some tech skills to take full advantage of the functionality.
  • It can’t customize code for the cloud-based version.

Which One Is Right For You?

Including WordPress, you have 26 options for building your website.

So, how do you know which one is right for you? It comes down to your needs and what you want your website to accomplish.

If you’re looking to create a website that is ecommerce-first, you’d be well served to pick from one of the options listed in that section.

On the other hand, if you’re primarily interested in blogging, you’ll want a platform that focuses on that.

And if you want one that does everything, well, there are a few on the list.

Hopefully, by reading this, you’ve gained a little insight into which platform will work best for you.

More Resources:


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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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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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