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6 Strategic Marketing Goals and How to Measure Them

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6 Strategic Marketing Goals and How to Measure Them


Marketing goals can be defined as broad, long-term outcomes that a company wants to achieve via marketing efforts.

Setting clear marketing goals is important, as this can effectively focus your team on a shared vision. But the thing is, you need to choose your goals carefully. Otherwise, you may waste a lot of time on things that bring poor results or even undermine your past efforts.

In this article, we’ve curated a short list of strategic goals that are worth considering in any marketing strategy, along with some ideas on how you can measure them:

  1. Improve product satisfaction
  2. Grow organic traffic
  3. Generate leads
  4. Establish thought leadership
  5. Increase brand awareness
  6. Increase revenue

1. Improve product satisfaction

Any successful marketing needs to be founded on a good product that satisfies existing market demand. Otherwise, none of your marketing efforts will “stick.” Meaning, no matter how you promote the product, you will fail to convince your audience and build sustainable growth.

Conversely, a product that users are willing to use, buy, and recommend to others will reinforce all marketing activities. In fact, a lot of successful companies have grown solely or mainly via word-of-mouth recommendations sparked by the remarkable value of their products (e.g., Whatsapp, Tesla).

To set yourself on the right path of improving product satisfaction, you need to achieve product-market fit.

Once you know you’re in the right market with the right kind of product, you can start delighting your users with useful features and a great user experience. Keep in mind that even seemingly simple product improvements can go a long way.

How to measure

You can measure product satisfaction in two ways: ask your users what they think or gather relevant data from product usage.

Surveys

In surveys, you should ask all kinds of questions that help you understand how well your product satisfies users’ needs. You can also use tried and tested methods like the popular and uncomplicated Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey.

This survey comprises just one question: “How likely are you to recommend [product] to a friend or colleague?” The answers are given on a 10-point scale.

Scale from 1 to 10. Less than 6 are detractors. 7 and 8 are passives. 9 and 10 are promoters

You can find multiple tools online that will help you distribute the survey and calculate your NPS (e.g., Hotjar, Survicate).

Product engagement

If you’re running an online service, consider measuring product satisfaction with product analysis tools (also called product intelligence tools) like Mixpanel or Amplitude. They work by gathering data from your users’ in-app behavior and allowing you to analyze the data to gain insights from it.

For example, by measuring how often your users reach out for particular features inside your product, you can see whether those features bring value or not. Then, you can discard unused features based on real data or conduct experiments (e.g., tweaking your features or making them more visible).

User retention

User retention (or cohort retention) is a metric used for measuring the ability to keep customers over a specified period of time.

If your customers go as quickly as they come, this is usually a huge red flag (with some exceptions, e.g., e‑commerce). If you’re not operating in a niche where a short usage period is natural, low user retention is a sign that:

  1. Users don’t find what you’ve promised in your marketing communication.
  2. Your product delivers the promise, but your competitors do a better job.

In these scenarios, it’s likely you’re wasting money and brand equity by providing something people are not willing to stay with. So you need to improve your product fast.

That said, even if you have the best product on the market, the so-called customer churn (i.e., when customers stop using your product) is a natural phenomenon to some extent. The key here is to determine whether you have a healthy retention rate.

Organic traffic, also called organic search traffic, refers to the visitors who come to your website via the non-paid search results from a search engine (e.g., Google, DuckDuckGo).

To take advantage of the organic traffic potential from search engines, you need to publish content based on search demand and the business value of a particular topic (the so-called SEO content).

That way, whenever someone searches for a solution via a search engine, they will find your content and, consequently, your brand and product.

Here are the top reasons why you should join the majority of marketers who invest in creating SEO content to grow organic traffic:

  • SEO content can influence and even drive the entire marketing funnel.
  • Such content brings almost free, continuous traffic.
  • Compounding effects. A blog post written years ago can get you traffic now and into the future as long as you rank high.
  • How much your organic traffic grows depends more on content quality and creativity rather than budget.
  • The flywheel effect: Content marketing done right can be a self-reinforcing mechanism that helps you get results more easily as you go along.

Let me just add that this is not some hypothesis. At Ahrefs, we’ve been systematically developing search engine optimized articles and videos, and the articles alone bring us approximately 384K organic visits every month.

Overview data of Ahrefs blog

How to measure

We can recommend two types of tools here.

Firstly, measuring organic traffic is best done via Google Search Console (GSC). This is a free tool that gives the most accurate organic traffic data. GSC will show you the number of clicks coming from Google Search, Discover, or News. It’ll also show you the number of times your content has been displayed by Google (i.e., impressions):

GSC search results data of Ahrefs blog

While GSC does a great job of providing these simple metrics, it lacks features and data for comprehensive organic traffic analysis.

This brings us to other types of tools: SEO tools that fill the gaps of GSC, such as the free Ahrefs Webmaster Tools.

For example, while GSC will show you up to 1K keywords and up to 1K backlinks, Ahrefs Webmaster Tools will show you that and many more data points without any limits.

AWT shows dropdown list of no. of keywords grouped by countries

To sum up, you can use GSC for measuring organic traffic and other more advanced SEO tools for SEO analysis and finding growth opportunities.

To put things simply, the more leads you generate, the more revenue you make. This is because every lead is a potential customer. However, not every lead will become a customer, so you need a lot more leads to get your desired number of customers.

A lead is anyone who has expressed interest in a product or service by sharing their contact information (e.g., email address) with a company in exchange for some kind of value (e.g., free ebook, free tool, weekly email newsletter with educational materials).

More often than not, potential customers are not instantly ready to buy. This is especially when they have little or no acquaintance with your brand.

When there is a lot of competition in the market, your potential customers are likely to do some research and compare you to others before they make a purchase. Moreover, if your product is complex and/or expensive, people need to make sure the product will solve their problem or will be worth their money and effort.

This is where lead generation comes in. When a person gives you their contact information, you gain an opportunity to contact them directly in the future. You can use that opportunity to nurture your relationship with them to a point where they are ready to buy.

To generate leads, you will need three things:

  1. Traffic – In other words, visitors coming through your marketing channels.
  2. Offer – The value you are going to provide in exchange for contact information (e.g., free ebook).
  3. Lead capture – A form where people can submit their contact information (e.g., name, phone number, email address).
Infographic of lead generation process: traffic, offer, lead capture

How to measure

How you measure your lead generation depends on your offer. This can be the number of newsletter subscribers, trial sign-ups, app downloads, or whatever else you are planning to provide.

The simplest way to measure incoming leads is via the same tool you use to capture your leads. For example, our email capture form uses Mailchimp’s functionality. It’s the same app we use to monitor the number of leads and send a weekly newsletter to people who signed up.

Email lead capture form

You can also aggregate your data in a business intelligence software like Google Data Studio or Klipfolio. Then view the data next to other important metrics for quick insights, such as the conversion rate from leads to customers.

4. Establish thought leadership

In marketing, thought leadership is demonstrating your brand has expertise in its area of business. Effective thought leadership creates a belief among your target audience that your solutions are the best.

Through effective thought leadership, you become an authority in your industry—that status reinforces every message you send out. And so, in the classic conundrum of whether the messenger is more important than the message, you can actually have both.

The more sophisticated and technically oriented the market, the more thought leadership counts. A good example of this is the electric car market. Tesla is an undisputed thought leader in this area. That’s why it surpasses sales of other established car brands with larger advertising budgets. In fact, Tesla is famous for its anti-advertising attitude.

How to measure

Measuring your progress in becoming a thought leader depends on where you share your ideas. Here, we’ll show examples of two effective channels and their respective metrics.

Quality backlinks

A backlink is a link on one website that links to another website. Backlinks act as votes. Even Google thinks so, treating backlinks as one of the most important ranking factors.

And so if you publish content that gets this kind of vote, you’re on the right track of becoming an authority in your industry. This is because people are digitally voting for what you say, resulting in direct traffic from those pages and higher search engine rankings.

To illustrate, one of the widely discussed subjects in the SEO community is building links through outreach. Our CMO, Tim Soulo, has joined the conversation with an article called I Just Deleted Your Outreach Email. And NO, I Don’t Feel Sorry, which explains how to do effective outreach that doesn’t feel like spam.

That article alone got over 2K backlinks (aka digital votes).

Backlinks report of Tim's "outreach" blog post

And just a quick reminder—sharing ideas through such articles brings customers:

Registration form reply from customer who said they found Ahrefs via Tim's content

Speaking engagements

Speaking engagements come in different shapes and sizes. These can be either big industry events like BrightonSEO (with some 4K attendees) or more cozy settings with smaller audiences like podcast interviews.

What they all have in common is getting attention from industry professionals and even industry authorities. So the more you speak at those events, the more likely you are to reach people with your ideas (and your name) and become an authority in your niche.

With speaking engagements, you can put your name on the map, attract followers to your social media channels, and communicate with these followers directly later on.

Once you have more budget, you can even up the ante by creating your own conference, especially if you want to popularize an original concept. That’s what Hubspot has done with the term “inbound marketing” and its INBOUND event.

Speaker on stage at Hubspot's INBOUND event

5. Increase brand awareness

A brand is a central concept in marketing, and it’s been this way for decades. This is because brands have powerful effects on consumers:

  • A brand makes recognizing the product as easy as remembering the word or the shape of a logo.
  • A brand evokes associations with positive experiences.
  • A brand allows for rationalizing the cost of the product.

Building brand awareness increases the odds of consumers associating your brand or product with a specific need.

Just think about it. Starbucks is one of the most valuable brands in the world. For millions of people, Starbucks is the synonym of coffee. So essentially, it isn’t an exaggeration to say its business relies on a mental association between a logo and a need for coffee. That’s how powerful brand awareness is.

And the amazing part is, however absurd this may sound, the Starbucks logo has nothing to do with coffee. Starbucks has even dropped the word “coffee” from the logo.

Pics of Starbucks logos from 1971 to 2011

How to measure

Measuring brand awareness is the domain of specialized research companies. A common method for measuring it is through surveys. However, this option has its flaws: It’s expensive and time-consuming.

Alternatively, you can gauge the overall trend of your brand awareness yourself using online tools. The only caveat is this method will give more accurate estimations for online businesses than the predominantly offline ones.

You can also use a keyword research tool to discover the search volume of your brand name. The reason is this: If your brand awareness increases, more people will want to buy from you and look up your brand on the web.

For example, if you use Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, you can just plug in your brand name and instantly get:

  • The number of estimated monthly searches for a specific country (and globally).
  • A graph of monthly searches plotted in time that offers quick insights into trends.
Keywords Explorer overview of they keyword "Twilio"

You can also easily measure your performance against your competitors’ (technically, this kind of comparison is called measuring the share of voice).

List of keywords and other data for Twilio and its competitors

If you’re not an Ahrefs user or just need a point of reference without the search volume data, you can use Google Trends to gauge interest in branded queries.

So far, we’ve discussed rather indirect ways to increase revenue. Now, we’ll discuss three ideas for increasing revenue directly.

The first way is revising your pricing. If you have solid reasons for thinking you’re not charging enough for the value you provide, you can try to increase prices. Even a price increase of a few percent can result in significant returns if multiplied by hundreds or even thousands of new customers. Word of advice: A good practice here is to keep the original price for any existing customers.

A seemingly counterintuitive way (also quite risky) to increase your profits is through lowering prices (e.g., penetration pricing, loss leader strategy). This can lower the barrier enough for the arrival of new customers (you can even win your competitors’ customers this way).

Recommended reading: How to Increase SaaS Prices the Right (and Profitable) Way

The second way is adding new services and/or products. For instance, a dog food brand decides to expand its assortment by offering dog accessories like toys, dog care products, or beddings. It can even create special product bundles and call it “new dog owner essentials.”

The third way is cross-selling and upselling. Cross-selling means suggesting other products in addition to the chosen product. Upselling suggests a more expensive version of the chosen product.

Let’s learn from the best here. When you’re shopping for a new iMac, you will first see a standard price for the product:

Standard price and other details for iMac

Then you will be offered an array of upsell options:

Pic of iMac with upgrade options for memory and storage next to it

Followed by an even wider array of cross-selling suggestions:

Other add-ons for the iMac, e.g., AppleCare

How to measure

The easiest way to measure revenue is to measure the number and the value of sales. But a lot of companies also need to measure recurring revenue from subscriptions, the revenue growth rate, and the value of each new customer.

Recurring revenue

Monthly recurring revenue (MRR) measures how much you’re earning each month through recurring contracts (i.e., subscriptions).

MRR = number of subscribers on a monthly plan * average revenue per user

For annual plans, you have to divide the plan price by 12 and then multiply by the number of customers on that plan.

For example: If you have 700 customers on a $9 per month plan and 100 customers on a $97 yearly plan, your MRR will be:

(700 x $9) + ($97/12 x 100) = $7,108 MRR

If you want to track annual recurring revenue (ARR) as well, all you need to do is multiply MRR by 12.

In our example, that is:

$7,108*12 = $85,296 ARR

Revenue growth rate

Revenue growth rate measures the month-over-month percentage increase in revenue. This metric is an indicator of how quickly your company is growing.

You can measure the revenue growth rate for any period you need: weeks, months, or years.

Let’s say you want to measure the annual growth rate compared to the previous year. The formula for that will be:

(revenue year 2 — revenue year 1) / revenue year 1 x 100 = revenue growth rate (%)

In our example, that is:

($170,592 — $85,296) / $85,296 x 100 = 100% revenue growth rate

Customer lifetime value

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the total worth of a customer to a business over the whole period of their relationship. CLV can also be used as a predictive metric of how much revenue each new customer will bring on average.

There are multiple models of calculating CLV. Without going into too much detail about each alternative, here’s a fairly simple formula to calculate CLV:

customer lifetime value = average order value x purchase frequency rate x average customer lifetime

Where:

  • Average order value is your total revenue divided by the number of purchases.
  • Purchase frequency rate is the total number of purchases divided by the number of customers.
  • Average customer lifetime is the number of days between the first and last purchase date, divided by 365.

Final thoughts

Marketing goals, by nature, are usually grand and ambitious. Hence, they can be quite intimidating.

But no worries. You can overcome that problem by setting achievable goals and breaking your overarching goal into smaller bits. You can see how it’s done in practice using SEO goals as an example in the below article:

Got questions? Ping me on Twitter.





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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

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Top 5 Essential SEO Reporting Tools For Agencies

Your clients trust you to create real results and hit KPIs that drive their businesses forward.

Understanding the intricacies of how that works can be difficult, so it’s essential to demonstrate your progress and efforts.

SEO reporting software showcases important metrics in a digestible and visually represented way. They save guesswork and manual referencing, highlighting achievements over a specified time.

A great tool can also help you formulate action items, gauge the performance of campaigns, and see real results that can help you create new and innovative evaluations.

The latest and allegedly greatest tools hit the market all the time, promising to transform how you conduct reports.

Certainly, you have to weigh a few factors when deciding which software to implement. Price, features, and ease of use are the most important to consider.

A cost-effective tool with a steep learning curve might not be worth it for the features. Similarly, an expensive tool might be more appealing if it is user-friendly but could quickly run up costs.

Just like any transformational business decision, you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons carefully to determine the right one for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Cost, accessibility, and features are the common thread of comparison for SEO reporting tools.
  • To truly get the best use out of an SEO reporting tool for your agency, you’ll need to weigh several details, including scalability, customization, integrations, and access to support.
  • What might be considered a subpar tool could be a game-changer for an agency. Due diligence and research are the keys to knowing what will work for your team.

What To Look For In SEO Reporting Tools

It can be tough to make heads or tails of the available tools and choose which will benefit your agency the most.

Here are the 10 essential requirements of SEO reporting tools.

1. Accurate And Current Regional Data

SEO reporting is all about data. The software must have access to accurate and current data localized to your client’s targeted region.

Search data from the U.S. is meaningless if your client tries to rank for [London plumbing services], so localization matters.

The tool must update data regularly and with reliable accuracy so you can make informed decisions about where your client stands against the competition.

2. Integration With Third-Party Tools

Especially for full-scale digital marketing campaigns, the ability to report on all KPIs in one place is essential.

The more available integrations with third-party tools (e.g., Google Analytics, Google Business Profile, Majestic), the better.

Some tools even allow you to upload custom data sets.

3. Scalability

You don’t want to have to retrain or reinvest in new software every time your agency reaches a new tier.

The right SEO reporting tool should work well for your current business size and leave room for expansion as you onboard more clients.

4. Strong Suite Of Features

A great SEO reporting tool should include:

  • Position tracking.
  • Backlink monitoring.
  • Competitor data.
  • Analytics.

It is a bonus if the tool has reporting features for social media, email marketing, call tracking, and/or paid ads to make it a full-suite digital marketing software.

5. Continually Improving And Updating Features

SEO is constantly evolving, and so should SEO reporting tools.

As we continue the transition from website optimization to web presence optimization, a tool’s ability to integrate new features is essential.

6. Ability To Customize Reports

Each client will have different KPIs, objectives, and priorities.

Presenting the information that clients want to see is paramount to successful campaigns and retention.

Your reporting software of choice should be able to emphasize the correct data at the right times.

7. Client Integration

A good SEO reporting tool must have the client in mind.

It should have a simple bird’s eye overview of the basics but also be easy for clients to dig into the data at a deeper level.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

8. Ability To White Label Reports

While white labeling is not essential (no client will sniff at receiving a report with a Google logo in the top corner), it helps keep branding consistent and gives a professional sheen to everything you send a client’s way.

9. Access To Support Resources

Quality support resources can help you find a detour when you encounter a roadblock.

Whether it’s detailed support documentation, a chat feature/support desk, or responsive customer support on social media, finding the help you need to solve the issue is important.

10. Cost-To-Value Ratio

With a proper process, time investment, and leveraging support resources, it is possible to get better results from a free reporting tool than one that breaks the bank.

This can mean automated summary reports or 24/7 client access to the dashboard.

Top 5 SEO Reporting Tools

In evaluating five of the most popular SEO reporting tools, based on the above criteria, here is how they stack up:

1. AgencyAnalytics

My Overall Rating: 4.7/5

Image credit: AgencyAnalytics, December 2022

AgencyAnalytics is a quality introductory/intermediate reporting tool for agencies.

Among the tools on this list, it is one of the easiest to use for small to mid-sized agencies.

It starts at $12 per month, per client, with unlimited staff and client logins, a white-label dashboard, and automated branded reports. The minimum purchase requirements mean the first two tiers work out to $60 per month and $180 per month, respectively. But your ability to change the payment based on the number of clients could help keep costs lean.

AgencyAnalytics comes with 70+ supported third-party data integrations.

However, this reliance on third-party data means you may have incomplete reports when there is an interruption in the transmission.

Though new integrations are always being added, they can be glitchy at first, making them unreliable to share with clients until stabilized.

With the ability for clients to log in and view daily data updates, it provides real-time transparency.

Automated reports can be customized, and the drag-and-drop customized dashboard makes it easy to emphasize priority KPIs.

2. SE Ranking

My Overall Rating: 4.5/5

SE Ranking has plans starting at $39.20 per month, although the $87.20 per month plan is necessary if you need historical data or more than 10 projects.

Setup is a breeze, as the on-screen tutorial guides you through the process.

SE Ranking features a strong collection of SEO-related tools, including current and historical position tracking, competitor SEO research, keyword suggestion, a backlink explorer, and more.

SE Ranking is hooked up with Zapier, which allows users to integrate thousands of apps and provide a high level of automation between apps like Klipfolio, Salesforce, HubSpot, and Google Apps.

SE Ranking is an effective SEO reporting tool at a beginner to intermediate level.

However, you may want to look in a different direction if your agency requires more technical implementations or advanced customization.

3. Semrush

My Overall Rating: 4.4/5

Semrush is one of the most SEO-focused reporting tools on the list, which is reflected in its features.

Starting at $229.95 per month for the agency package, it’s one of the more expensive tools on the list. But Semrush provides a full suite of tools that can be learned at an intermediate level.

A major downside of Semrush, especially for cost-conscious agencies, is that an account comes with only one user login.

Having to purchase individual licenses for each SEO analyst or account manager adds up quickly, and the users you can add are limited by the plan features. This makes scalability an issue.

Semrush has both branded and white-label reports, depending on your subscription level. It uses a proprietary data stream, tracking more than 800 million keywords.

The ever-expanding “projects” feature covers everything from position tracking to backlink monitoring and social media analysis.

Though it doesn’t fall specifically under the scope of SEO reporting, Semrush’s innovation makes it a one-stop shop for many agencies.

Project features include Ad Builder, which helps craft compelling ad text for Google Ads, and Social Media Poster, which allows agencies to schedule client social posts.

Combining such diverse features under the Semrush umbrella offsets its relatively high cost, especially if you can cancel other redundant software.

4. Looker Studio

My Overall Rating: 3.6/5

Looker StudioScreenshot from Looker Studio, December 2022

Formerly known as Google Data Studio, Looker Studio is a Google service that has grown considerably since its initial launch.

Though it is much more technical and requires more time investment to set up than most other tools on this list, it should be intuitive for staff familiar with Google Analytics.

If you’re on the fence, Looker Studio is completely free.

A major upside to this software is superior integration with other Google properties like Analytics, Search Console, Ads, and YouTube.

Like other reporting tools, it also allows third-party data integration, but the ability to query data from databases, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Google’s Cloud SQL, sets it apart.

You can customize reports with important KPIs with proper setup, pulling from lead and customer information. For eCommerce clients, you can even integrate sales data.

Though the initial setup will be much more technical, the ability to import templates saves time and effort.

You can also create your own templates that better reflect your processes and can be shared across clients. Google also has introductory video walk-throughs to help you get started.

5. Authority Labs

My Overall Rating: 3.2/5

Authority Labs Ranking ReportImage credit: Authority Labs, December 2022

Authority Labs does the job if you’re looking for a straightforward position-tracking tool.

Authority Labs is $49 per month for unlimited users, though you will need to upgrade to the $99 per month plan for white-label reporting.

You can track regional ranking data, get insights into “(not provided)” keywords, track competitor keywords, and schedule automated reporting.

However, lacking other essential features like backlink monitoring or analytic data means you will have to supplement this tool to provide a full SEO reporting picture for clients.

Conclusion

There are many quality SEO reporting tools on the market. What makes them valuable depends on their ability to work for your clients’ needs.

SE Ranking has a fantastic cost-to-value ratio, while Looker Studio has advanced reporting capabilities if you can withstand a higher barrier to entry.

Agency Analytics prioritizes client access, which is a big deal if transparency is a core value for your agency.

Authority Labs keeps it lean and clean, while Semrush always adds innovative features.

These five are simply a snapshot of what is available. There are new and emerging tools that might have some features more appealing to your current clients or fill gaps that other software creates despite being a great solution.

Ultimately, you need to consider what matters most to your agency. Is it:

  • Feature depth?
  • Scalability?
  • Cost-to-value ratio?

Once you weigh the factors that matter most for your agency, you can find the right SEO reporting tool. In the meantime, don’t shy away from testing out a few for a trial period.

If you don’t want to sign up for a full month’s usage, you can also explore walkthrough videos and reviews from current users. The most informed decision requires an understanding of the intricate details.


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal



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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.

More resources:

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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