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9 Aspects That Might Surprise You

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9 Aspects That Might Surprise You

Building links to English content has been covered a million times. But what do we know about link building in non-English markets? A lot of that knowledge is often kept locally.

There could be significant differences from what you’re used to. Success in one market doesn’t guarantee the same in another. Moreover, you’ll often run into link opportunities that violate Google’s guidelines, enticing you to overlook ethical link building practices to deliver results.

In this article, we’ll go through nine aspects of international link building with the help of four SEO and link building experts who collectively share insights from more than 20 global markets:

  1. Anna Podruczna – Link building team lead at eVisions International, with insights across Europe
  2. Andrew Prasatya – Head of content marketing at RevoU, with insights from Southeast Asia focusing on Indonesia
  3. Aditya Mishra – SEO and link building consultant, with insights from India
  4. Sebastian Galanternik – SEO manager at Crehana, with insights from South America focusing on Argentina

Huge thanks to everyone involved.

And we can start with the most controversial tactics right away…

1. Buying links is very common

Let’s be honest—link buying is in the arsenal of many link builders. Aira’s annual survey reports that 31% of SEOs buy links. This number can jump to a whopping 74% for link builders, as shown in a recent survey by Authority Hacker.

That’s a huge number for English websites, but I’m convinced that this number is even higher for non-English content. Let me explain.

The fewer link prospecting opportunities there are, the less creative you can be when building links. You’ll waste resources trying to create fantastic link bait or launch ambitious PR campaigns in most niches in many smaller markets. Link buying often becomes an attractive (yet risky) tactic when your options get limited.

We gathered multiple insights on the topic of link buying across different markets:

Most bought links aren’t tagged as “sponsored” or “nofollow”

A compulsory reminder first:

Google considers buying or selling links for ranking purposes a link spam technique. In other words, the only acceptable form of link buying in the eyes of Google is when the link is clearly disclosed with a “nofollow” or “sponsored” link attribute.

But that’s different from what most link builders do. All contributors share this experience, and some of that goes against Google’s guidelines even more.

For example, Anna shared that if you’re negotiating link buying in Poland, you sometimes have to pay more for a “followed” link (i.e., without link attributes). I’ve heard similar stories from others, but it’s unclear how widespread the practice is. 

That said, it makes sense, as passing link equity is one of the main reasons we build links. On the other hand, it’s quite a paradox that you have to pay extra to get a link you could get punished for by Google.

The average price per link is over €100 across all monitored countries in Europe

eVisions International, the agency where Anna works, is focused on expansion across many European markets. It keeps track of all the link offers and deals, so we were able to extract the average price per link in comparable niches for each country where it has a solid sample size (100+ links): 

Average price of links with comparable quality across Europe

What surprised me is that there isn’t a single country with an average price below €100, considering the large economic disparity across European countries. For comparison, Authority Hacker reports an average price of $83, and our survey from a few years back resulted in a much higher $361 average cost.

Sidenote.

Different methodologies could play a huge role in the cost disparity. Neither of the cited surveys above segmented link cost by country. Mark Webster from Authority Hacker said he didn’t collect country/market data but that most of his respondents likely operate in English-speaking markets. Our study was focused on links in English only.

Regarding specific countries, Austria in second place stood out the most to me, as it’s not very expensive. Anna explained that it’s due mainly to the limited number of suitable Austrian websites you can build links from. So German websites will likely be cheaper if you only care about links from German content.

Reselling links can be a common business practice

Aditya said that reselling links is popular in India. You have networks of link sellers with access to different websites for potential link placements. The same links can cost you more or less based on the reseller.

This overlaps with the everlasting use of PBNs, which are still popular in India.

Needless to say, websites involved in such unsophisticated link schemes can easily be the first target of link spam updates and SpamBrain.

Negotiating prices can make or break the deal 

Some cultures thrive on negotiating prices in all aspects of their lives. Others are on the completely opposite side with one definitive fixed price.

Some of this is also reflected in the process of buying links. According to Anna, negotiations are expected in some regions, such as Poland and the Balkans. Still, more often than not, the price is the price, and there is little flexibility. You can make or break the deal with the same response in different countries.

2. Guest posting is often about buying the placement

Guest posting is one of the most popular link building tactics worldwide.

Most popular link building tactics
Data from Authority Hacker’s survey.

What makes this different in smaller markets is the popularity of paid guest posting opportunities. Aditya said that running an outreach campaign with “paid post” in the subject line in India can easily achieve a 20%+ conversion rate, including from established high-authority websites.

I’m also regularly seeing such opportunities in Czech/Slovak SEO groups, and other contributors reported that it’s common in their markets, too.

As expected, these paid article insertions aren’t usually tagged as sponsored, allowing link equity to pass (which is against Google’s guidelines).

Free guest posting then falls into two categories:

  • You must show that you’re credible and authoritative enough in the niche to get the opportunity (well, that’s best practice anywhere in the world).
  • You post content on websites that allow UGC. Andrew mentioned this is popular in Indonesia, especially on bigger media websites where it’s otherwise difficult to land coverage. The links are usually nofollowed, but the exposure and potential SEO benefits (think E-A-T, “nofollow” being a hint, etc.) are worth it.
Guest posting example
A UGC example from one of the biggest Indonesian media sites, Kumparan, translated in Chrome. Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar shows all the outgoing links.

3. Large websites are often selling “media packages”

Continuing on the topic of link and guest post buying, you may also come across “media packages.” It’s something large websites offer to close bigger deals and properly process selling their website space to other publishers.

Anna shared that this is common practice across most European countries. Aditya also reported a similar experience with India and explained that most of these packages come with strict terms and conditions, such as:

  • The link will be live for one year only.
  • The post will be clearly tagged as sponsored.
  • The link will be “nofollow.”
  • The article won’t be displayed on the homepage or the blog category page.
  • Payment must be made in advance.
  • Turnaround time will be more than a month.

As you can see, this is now perfectly “white hat.” Most links and articles you’d get this way would be tagged, according to Google’s guidelines.

4. Building relationships in your niche is a big leverage

Your success in link building largely depends on your communication and networking skills. Getting links and coverage gets much easier if you’ve built relationships with publishers and journalists in your niche and beyond.

This is often overlooked in the world of English content. Where do you even begin when there are so many websites, bloggers, and journalists? This is where the limited number of link prospects in smaller markets becomes an advantage.

Let’s take a look at a few implications.

You can easily engage in more sophisticated link exchanges

Reciprocal linking is an outdated tactic that’s easy to spot for both link builders and search engines. But link exchanges are far from dead, and they can be highly effective if done well.

Three-way link exchanges (also known as ABC link exchanges) are thriving in many places across the world.

Three-way link exchange

For example, Sebastian shared that many website owners in Argentina have multiple websites and that this type of link exchange is common practice. Aditya claimed that webmasters in India often have a second website for this purpose as well.

But there are still some markets where this is relatively unheard of. Anna listed the example of Balkan countries.

Keep in mind that this tactic is considered a link scheme and violates Google’s guidelines.

Building personal relationships is your best bet to land top-tier links

Andrew has experienced massive success by building relationships with journalists and editors in Indonesia. He claimed that knowing senior people from top-tier media websites helped him pitch stories that got the required attention to land the coverage and links.

You can attend industry events these people go to, but Andrew suggested that doing media visits is the most straightforward way to get the results.

Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
Referring domains to RevoU where Andrew works. He landed “followed” links from the biggest media outlets in Indonesia. Data from the Referring domains report in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.

Hiring local link building experts is highly recommended

Even though Anna achieved link building success while venturing into new markets, she recommended hiring local experts with valuable connections. This value proposition alone likely beats any skill you have as a link builder. She even tested this in the Balkans and had significantly lower success rates than the locals.

5. It’s a miracle to get a “followed” link in some countries

We’ve likely passed the period of some big media houses exclusively using the “nofollow” attribute for all external links. I believe the increasing use of “nofollow” for the sake of being on the safe side pushed Google to expand on the link attributes with “sponsored” and “ugc” and proclaim them all as hints rather than directives.

However, avoiding the risk of passing link equity where you shouldn’t is on a whole different level in some countries, namely Germany and Austria, in our sample.

Many German websites were hit by a link penalty in 2014, which profoundly affected the local (and Austrian) market. Anna reported, still, that too many websites in these two markets only link with “nofollow” links up to this day. 

6. TLDs can play a big role in your link building success

Your TLD choice can impact how your target audience perceives your website and brand. But Sebastian mentioned that this also affects how well your outreach is received.

In South America, having a gTLD instead of ccTLD is important when building links beyond your home country. Many large Spanish sites in Argentina are on a .com domain, making their link building efforts easier.

For example, a Peruvian website will be likelier to link to content on example.com than on example.ar. Argentinian links may still be more important in some cases, but the gTLD opens up many more opportunities.

Referring domains report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
A sneak peek into the link profile of infobae.com, which attracts links across Latin America. It was originally an Argentinian online newspaper that now operates internationally.

If you add to that the benefits of PageRank consolidation and easier management and scalability, you have a pretty strong argument for using gTLDs for international SEO.

7. Take language and cultural specifics into account

Doing localized outreach should have a higher success rate than sending people emails in foreign languages. That much is obvious. English should be only used when:

  • It’s a common language in that country. Aditya mostly writes outreach emails to Indian websites in English because there are many local languages that aren’t mutually intelligible.
  • You’re making a deal with media houses or agencies.
  • You know that the other side is OK with using English.

But using the correct language is just a start for proper outreach localization. You should also adjust to local communication styles and some cultural specifics. This mainly translates to how formal the email is.

In Europe, Slavic cultures tend to use the most formal communication, but even that has its differences. Anna highlighted the Balkans as an area where you have to be formal. In contrast, you can get away with being a bit more casual in the Czech Republic or Slovakia.

This can get even more complicated in countries like Japan or South Korea, where you have complex honorific systems. A sentence said to a friend could be entirely different from the one you’d say to an older journalist you weren’t yet acquainted with—even if it had the same meaning.

On the other hand, there are also a lot of countries where informal and casual conversations win. This can be generally applied to Roman languages. Anna shared her experience of having friendly and casual conversations—especially with Italian webmasters and editors.

Recommendation

Even if you know a language well, you should familiarize yourself with local terms to achieve the desired effect. Different spellings and choices of words make even English distinctive across different English-speaking countries. And it can get even more complicated than that with other languages (like Spanish, Portuguese, or Chinese).

8. SEO knowledge can vastly differ depending on the country

Being on the same page as the outreach recipient is another key to success. Try to offer a “40+ DR 3W exchange” to the average Joe on the internet, and they’ll likely label it spam immediately.

Based on my conversations with contributors, there are some advanced markets where many webmasters are well-versed in link building, such as Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. 

Many other markets seem to fall into the “somewhat knowledgeable” bracket. We can name Italy, India, and Argentina here. You should still be fine using SEO terms here and there from the start.

And lastly, there’s the “lack of link building” knowledge bracket where Anna will generally put the Balkans and Germany. Here, you shouldn’t assume that the person receiving your outreach email has any solid knowledge of SEO.

9. Email isn’t necessarily the best medium

Almost every guide about outreach is focused on writing emails. There’s nothing wrong with this; it’s many people’s preferred communication style. But that doesn’t apply everywhere in the world.

Andrew shared that while email is still good for first-time introductions in Indonesia, it’s much more effective to use apps and platforms like WhatsApp later on.

In other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand or Vietnam, Andrew added that email isn’t really working at all. He recommended using social media like LinkedIn or, even better, Facebook Messenger to pitch your content.

I have a similar experience in the Chinese market. Most people I got in touch with preferred to communicate over WeChat. That often involved exchanging voice messages, bringing me to the last point.

Calling someone as a part of your outreach process could get you far ahead of the competition. Anna said that leaving your phone contact so the other side can get in touch with you on a more personal level works well in Germany. She also reported success doing all aspects of her outreach over the phone in Poland. I know Czech link builders who also got links this way.

Final thoughts

As you can see, the path to link building success and what success even means locally can vastly differ from country to country.

There are also a lot of similarities to the best link building practices you already know, naturally.

Great link bait still makes a fantastic asset that can land you links in top-tier media and websites. But getting the buy-in for carrying this out can be difficult in many niches, as the number of link prospects tends to be quite limited. Another tactic that seems to work well everywhere is ego baiting.

On the other hand, there are still a lot of people using outdated bad tactics. These include mass outreach to buy links with specific anchor texts, spamming UGC links, doing unsophisticated link exchanges, etc.

Got any questions or insights to share? Let me know on Twitter.



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Sustaining A SaaS Brand & Organic Channel During A Recession

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Sustaining A SaaS Brand & Organic Channel During A Recession

During an economic recession, marketing budgets and ROAS typically comes under much more scrutiny.

You should read this article for reasons you should not cut your SEO spending during a recession.

The next question will be about ROI and what you can do to mitigate the oncoming issues.

During an economic downturn, the objectives of reducing churn are amplified. Your sales pipelines may see less activity, and the C-suite may focus more on MRR (monthly recurring revenue) and ARR (annual recurring revenue).

In this article, I will look at subscription-model-based businesses and some methods and strategies that can pivot their SEO efforts toward maintaining performance and SEO ROI (return on investment).

Understanding Why Accounts Cancel

Customers cancel their subscriptions for myriad reasons, but during an economic downturn, reasons tend to gravitate toward costs and perceived value.

Other reasons include not receiving enough value from the subscription, difficulty canceling their subscription, or feeling that customer support is unresponsive or unhelpful.

You can identify these issues before customers provide feedback on an exit survey. Create opportunities for conversations and feedback loops with the sales and customer service teams. This lets customers address concerns before they cancel.

Targeting Disengagement & Value Shortfalls

To show this value, we can pivot our content and messaging to demonstrate opportunity costs and how the upfront cost prevents a more significant shortfall in the long run.

Encountering usage friction with the software is an identifiable problem.

Within the organization, teams should be able to provide you access to DAU (daily active user) and MAU (monthly active user) data.

Companies often boast about having high numbers of each, but the data can also be used to identify accounts with below-average or spare login frequency, and these can then be collated and reached out to.

  • Put accounts on low and mid-tier subscriptions into an email gauntlet and reach out. Offer a consultation with an accounts person. You could also ask them to fill out a feedback form to identify pain points to help build a content strategy.
  • Reach out to accounts on high-tier subscriptions with existing account managers.

Addressing customer issues could be as simple as rewording elements of commercial product pages, adding additional sections, or reinforcing the value proposition with case studies.

You can also address these issues with traditional blog content. Add more support articles to your support center and build out existing ones with media such as video to address common friction points.

Developing Content Against Competitor Value Pitfalls

Price is likely the most challenging reason for leaving to predict and manage. Price is informed and dictated by other business needs and costs. While it might make sense to offer deals to high-value accounts, reducing the price on a wide scale likely isn’t an option.

Price and cost are subjective to the value your solution provides. So Demonstrating your benefits can help customers justify the expenditure.

Any solution’s cost must, at minimum, balance out the problem or provide additional value.

This is known as a cost-benefit analysis. A vital part of a cost-benefit analysis is comparing the costs of the solution versus the benefits and determining a net present value.

During this assessment, your messaging can leverage and demonstrate additional benefits, or benefit enhancements, against your competitors.

In SaaS, you could break this down as comparisons between both product elements and overall “package” elements:

  • Direct product features and performance of those features.
  • Indirect product features and “add ons” that supplement the core product.
  • The bandwidth of the solution on a monthly or annual basis.
  • The number of user seats/sub-accounts per main account.
  • Speed of customer support response (and level of customer support).

A typical approach to highlighting competitor pitfalls is with comparison tables and our-brand-v-competitor-brand URLs and blogs.

These pages will then compete with your competitors’ versions and independent websites, affiliates, and other reviews for clicks and to sway consumer opinion.

You must also explain these benefits and competitive advantages on the product pages themselves.

Bullet listing the product features is commonplace. But make sure the benefits are explained directly against your competitors. This can help these competitive advantages better resonate with your target audience.

Reinforcing Brand Solution Compounds

A brand compound search term is a term made up of two or more words and refers to a specific brand.

For example, the brand compound search term “Decathlon waterproofs” would highlight users wanting to find waterproofs specifically from the brand Decathlon.

Users performing searches like this also reaffirms the connection between topics and brands, helping Google further understand relationships and relevancy.

To optimize brand compound search terms, you need to understand the concept of semantic marketing. This means knowing how different words, phrases, and ideas relate in terms of meaning.

You should research how your target audience searches for information related to your product or service and use those search terms in your content.

Another strategy you can use is to add modifiers to your search terms.

These can be words like “best,” “how,” or any other qualifier that will make the search more specific. This will help you get more targeted traffic that will likely convert better than generic search terms.

Summary

While these are uncertain times and competition for users and recurring revenue becoming more fierce, pivoting your SEO and content strategy to focus on value propositions and addressing consumer friction points can help better qualify leads and provide objection questions that consumers will take to competitors.

In this strategy, the keyword search volumes and other values might not be high. When you’re addressing user friction points and concerns, the value is qualitative, not quantitative.

More resources:


Featured Image: VectorMine/Shutterstock



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Where Are The Advertisers Leaving Twitter Going For The Super Bowl?

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Where Are The Advertisers Leaving Twitter Going For The Super Bowl?

Since Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter last October 27, 2022, things at the social media company have gone from bad to worse.

You probably saw this coming from a mile away – especially if you had read about a study by Media Matters that was published on November 22, 2022, entitled, “In less than a month, Elon Musk has driven away half of Twitter’s top 100 advertisers.”

If you missed that, then you’ve probably read Matt G. Southern’s article in Search Engine Journal, which was entitled, “Twitter’s Revenue Down 40% As 500 Top Advertisers Pull Out.”

This mass exodus creates a challenge for digital advertising executives and their agencies. Where should they go long term?

And what should they do in the short term – with Super Bowl LVII coming up on Sunday, February 12, 2023?

Ideally, these advertisers would follow their audience. If they knew where Twitter users were going, their ad budgets could follow them.

But it isn’t clear where Twitter users are going – or if they’ve even left yet.

Fake Followers On Twitter And Brand Safety

According to the latest data from Similarweb, a digital intelligence platform, there were 6.9 billion monthly visits to Twitter worldwide during December 2022 – up slightly from 6.8 billion in November, and down slightly from 7.0 billion in October.

So, if a high-profile user like Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has taken a step back from the frequent posts on her Twitter account, @wutrain, which has more than 152,000 followers, then it appears that other users have stepped up their monthly visits.

This includes several accounts that had been banned previously for spreading disinformation, which Musk unbanned.

(Disinformation is defined as “deliberately misleading or biased information,” while misinformation may be spread without the sender having harmful intentions.)

It’s also worth noting that SparkToro, which provides audience research software, also has a free tool called Fake Follower Audit, which analyzes Twitter accounts.

This tool defines “fake followers” as ones that are unreachable and will not see the account’s tweets either because they’re spam, bots, and propaganda, or because they’re no longer active on Twitter.

On Jan. 24, 2023, I used this tool and found that 70.2% of the 126.5 million followers of the @elonmusk account were fake.

According to the tool, accounts with a similar-sized following to @elonmusk have a median of 41% fake followers. So, Elon Musk’s account has more fake followers than most.

Screenshot from SparkToro, January 2023

By comparison, 20.6% of the followers of the @wutreain account were fake. So, Michelle Wu’s account has fewer fake followers than accounts with a similar-sized following.

Sparktoro results for fake followersScreenshot from SparkToro, January 2023

In fact, most Twitter accounts have significant numbers of fake followers.

This underlines the brand safety concerns that many advertisers and media buyers have, but it doesn’t give them any guidance on where they should move their ad dollars.

Who Are Twitter’s Top Competitors And What Are Their Monthly Visits?

So, I asked Similarweb if they had more data that might help. And they sent me the monthly visits from desktop and mobile devices worldwide for Twitter and its top competitors:

  • YouTube.com: 34.6 billion in December 2022, down 2.8% from 35.6 billion in December 2021.
  • Facebook.com: 18.1 billion in December 2022, down 14.2% from 21.1 billion in December 2021.
  • Twitter.com: 6.9 billion in December 2022, up 1.5% from 6.8 billion in December 2021.
  • Instagram.com: 6.3 billion in December 2022, down 3.1% from 6.5 billion in December 2021.
  • TikTok.com: 1.9 billion in December 2022, up 26.7% from 1.5 billion in December 2021.
  • Reddit.com: 1.8 billion in December 2022, down 5.3% from 1.9 billion in December 2021.
  • LinkedIn.com: 1.5 billion in December 2022, up 7.1% from 1.4 billion in December 2021.
  • Pinterest.com: 1.0 billion in December 2022, up 11.1% from 0.9 billion in December 2021.

The most significant trends worth noting are monthly visits to TikTok are up 26.7% year over year from a smaller base, while monthly visits to Facebook are down 14.2% from a bigger base.

So, the short-term events at Twitter over the past 90 days may have taken the spotlight off the long-term trends at TikTok and Facebook over the past year for some industry observers.

But based on Southern’s article in Search Engine Journal, “Facebook Shifts Focus To Short-Form Video After Stock Plunge,” which was published on February 6, 2022, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is focused on these trends.

In a call with investors, Zuckerberg said back then:

“People have a lot of choices for how they want to spend their time, and apps like TikTok are growing very quickly. And this is why our focus on Reels is so important over the long term.”

Meanwhile, there were 91% more monthly visits to YouTube in December 2022 than there were to Facebook. And that only counts the visits that Similarweb tracks from mobile and desktop devices.

Similarweb doesn’t track visits from connected TVs (CTVs).

Measuring Data From Connected TVs (CTVs) And Co-Viewing

Why would I wish to draw your attention to CTVs?

First, global viewers watched a daily average of over 700 million hours of YouTube content on TV devices, according to YouTube internal data from January 2022.

And Insider Intelligence reported in 2022 that 36.4% of the U.S. share of average time spent per day with YouTube came from connected devices, including Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, and Xfinity Flex, while 49.3% came from mobile devices, and 14.3% came from desktops or laptops.

Second, when people watch YouTube on a connected TV, they often watch it together with their friends, family, and colleagues – just like they did at Super Bowl parties before the pandemic.

There’s even a term for this behavior: Co-viewing.

And advertisers can now measure their total YouTube CTV audience using real-time and census-level surveys in over 100 countries and 70 languages.

This means Heineken and Marvel Studios can measure the co-viewing of their Super Bowl ad in more than 100 markets around the globe where Heineken 0.0 non-alcoholic beer is sold, and/or 26 countries where “Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania” is scheduled to be released three to five days after the Big Game.

It also enables Apple Music to measure the co-viewing of their Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show during Big Game parties worldwide (except Mainland China, Iran, North Korea, and Turkmenistan, where access to YouTube is currently blocked).

And, if FanDuel has already migrated to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), then the innovative sports-tech entertainment company can not only measure the co-viewing of their Big Game teasers on YouTube AdBlitz in 16 states where sports betting is legal, but also measure engaged-view conversions (EVCs) from YouTube within 3 days of viewing Rob Gronkowski’s attempt to kick a live field goal.

 

Advertisers couldn’t do that in 2022. But they could in a couple of weeks.

If advertisers want to follow their audience, then they should be moving some of their ad budgets out of Facebook, testing new tactics, and experimenting with new initiatives on YouTube in 2023.

Where should the advertisers leaving Twitter shift their budgets long term? And how will that change their Super Bowl strategies in the short term?

According to Similarweb, monthly visits to ads.twitter.com, the platform’s ad-buying portal dropped 15% worldwide from 2.5 million in December 2021 to 2.1 million in December 2022.

So, advertisers were heading for the exit weeks before they learned that 500 top advertisers had left the platform.

Where Did Their Ad Budgets Go?

Well, it’s hard to track YouTube advertising, which is buried in Google’s sprawling ad business.

And we can’t use business.facebook.com as a proxy for interest in advertising on that platform because it’s used by businesses for other purposes, such as managing organic content on their Facebook pages.

But monthly visits to ads.snapchat.com, that platform’s ad-buying portal, jumped 88.3% from 1.6 million in December 2021 to 3.0 million in December 2022.

Monthly visits to ads.tiktok.com are up 36.6% from 5.1 million in December 2021 to 7.0 million in December 2022.

Monthly visits to ads.pinterest.com are up 23.3% from 1.1 million in December 2021 to 1.4 million in December 2022.

And monthly visits to business.linkedin.com are up 14.6% from 5.7 million in December 2021 to 6.5 million in December 2022.

It appears that lots of advertisers are hedging their bets by spreading their money around.

Now, most of them should probably continue to move their ad budgets into Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest, and LinkedIn – unless the “Chief Twit” can find a way to keep his microblogging service from becoming “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!

How will advertisers leaving Twitter change their Super Bowl plan this year?

To double-check my analysis, I interviewed Joaquim Salguerio, who is the Paid Media Director at LINK Agency. He’s managed media budgets of over eight figures at multiple advertising agencies.

Below are my questions and his answers.

Greg Jarboe: “Which brands feel that Twitter has broken their trust since Musk bought the platform?”

Joaquim Salguerio: “I would say that several brands will have different reasonings for this break of trust.

First, if you’re an automaker, there’s suddenly a very tight relationship between Twitter and one of your competitors.

Second, advertisers that are quite averse to taking risks with their communications because of brand safety concerns might feel that they still need to be addressed.

Most of all, in a year where we’re seeing mass layoffs from several corporations, the Twitter troubles have given marketing teams a reason to re-evaluate its effectiveness during a time of budget cuts. That would be a more important factor than trust for most brands.

Obviously, there are some famous cases, such as the Lou Paskalis case, but it’s difficult to pinpoint a brand list that would have trust as their only concern.”

GJ: “Do you think it will be hard for Twitter to regain their trust before this year’s Super Bowl?”

JS: “It’s highly unlikely that any brand that has lost trust in Twitter will change its mind in the near future, and definitely not in time for the Super Bowl. Most marketing plans for the event will be finalized by now and recent communications by Twitter leadership haven’t signaled any change in direction.

If anything, from industry comments within my own network, I can say that comments from Musk recently (“Ads are too frequent on Twitter and too big. Taking steps to address both in coming weeks.”) were quite badly received. For any marketers that believe Twitter advertising isn’t sufficiently effective, this pushes them further away.

Brand communications should still occur on Twitter during Super Bowl though – it will have a peak in usage. And advertising verticals that should dominate the advertising space on Twitter are not the ones crossing the platform from their plans.”

GJ: “How do you think advertisers will change their Super Bowl plans around Twitter this year?”

JS: “The main change for advertising plans will likely be for brand comms amplification. As an example, the betting industry will likely be heavily present on Twitter during the game and I would expect little to no change in plans.”

In the FCMG category, though, time sensitivity won’t be as important, which means that social media teams will likely be making an attempt at virality without relying as much on paid dollars.

If budgets are to diverge, they will likely be moved within the social space and toward platforms that will have user discussion/engagement from the Super Bowl (TikTok, Reddit, etc.)”

GJ: “What trends will we see in advertising budget allocation for this year’s Super Bowl?”

Joaquim Salguerio: “We should see budget planning much in line with previous years in all honesty. TV is still the most important media channel on Super Bowl day.

Digital spend will likely go towards social platforms, we predict a growth in TikTok and Reddit advertising around the big day for most brands.

Twitter should still have a strong advertising budget allocated to the platform by the verticals aiming to get actions from users during the game (food delivery/betting/etc.).”

GJ: “Which platforms will benefit from this shift?”

JS: “Likely, we will see TikTok as the biggest winner from a shift in advertising dollars, as the growth numbers are making it harder to ignore the platform as a placement that needs to be in the plan.

Reddit can also capture some of this budget as it has the right characteristics marketers are looking for around the Super Bowl – it’s relevant to what’s happening at the moment and similar demographics.”

GJ: “Do you think advertisers that step away from Twitter for this year’s Big Game will stay away long term?”

JS: “That is impossible to know, as it’s completely dependent on how the platform evolves and the advertising solutions it will provide. Twitter’s proposition was always centered around brand marketing (their performance offering was always known to be sub-par).

Unless brand safety concerns are addressed by brands that decided to step away, it’s hard to foresee a change.

I would say that overall, Super Bowl ad spend on Twitter should not be as affected as it’s been portrayed – it makes sense to reach audiences where audiences are.

Especially if you know the mindset. The bigger issue is what happens when there isn’t a Super Bowl or a World Cup.”

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Is ChatGPT Use Of Web Content Fair?

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Is ChatGPT Use Of Web Content Fair?

Large Language Models (LLMs) like ChatGPT train using multiple sources of information, including web content. This data forms the basis of summaries of that content in the form of articles that are produced without attribution or benefit to those who published the original content used for training ChatGPT.

Search engines download website content (called crawling and indexing) to provide answers in the form of links to the websites.

Website publishers have the ability to opt-out of having their content crawled and indexed by search engines through the Robots Exclusion Protocol, commonly referred to as Robots.txt.

The Robots Exclusions Protocol is not an official Internet standard but it’s one that legitimate web crawlers obey.

Should web publishers be able to use the Robots.txt protocol to prevent large language models from using their website content?

Large Language Models Use Website Content Without Attribution

Some who are involved with search marketing are uncomfortable with how website data is used to train machines without giving anything back, like an acknowledgement or traffic.

Hans Petter Blindheim (LinkedIn profile), Senior Expert at Curamando shared his opinions with me.

Hans commented:

“When an author writes something after having learned something from an article on your site, they will more often than not link to your original work because it offers credibility and as a professional courtesy.

It’s called a citation.

But the scale at which ChatGPT assimilates content and does not grant anything back differentiates it from both Google and people.

A website is generally created with a business directive in mind.

Google helps people find the content, providing traffic, which has a mutual benefit to it.

But it’s not like large language models asked your permission to use your content, they just use it in a broader sense than what was expected when your content was published.

And if the AI language models do not offer value in return – why should publishers allow them to crawl and use the content?

Does their use of your content meet the standards of fair use?

When ChatGPT and Google’s own ML/AI models trains on your content without permission, spins what it learns there and uses that while keeping people away from your websites – shouldn’t the industry and also lawmakers try to take back control over the Internet by forcing them to transition to an “opt-in” model?”

The concerns that Hans expresses are reasonable.

In light of how fast technology is evolving, should laws concerning fair use be reconsidered and updated?

I asked John Rizvi, a Registered Patent Attorney (LinkedIn profile) who is board certified in Intellectual Property Law, if Internet copyright laws are outdated.

John answered:

“Yes, without a doubt.

One major bone of contention in cases like this is the fact that the law inevitably evolves far more slowly than technology does.

In the 1800s, this maybe didn’t matter so much because advances were relatively slow and so legal machinery was more or less tooled to match.

Today, however, runaway technological advances have far outstripped the ability of the law to keep up.

There are simply too many advances and too many moving parts for the law to keep up.

As it is currently constituted and administered, largely by people who are hardly experts in the areas of technology we’re discussing here, the law is poorly equipped or structured to keep pace with technology…and we must consider that this isn’t an entirely bad thing.

So, in one regard, yes, Intellectual Property law does need to evolve if it even purports, let alone hopes, to keep pace with technological advances.

The primary problem is striking a balance between keeping up with the ways various forms of tech can be used while holding back from blatant overreach or outright censorship for political gain cloaked in benevolent intentions.

The law also has to take care not to legislate against possible uses of tech so broadly as to strangle any potential benefit that may derive from them.

You could easily run afoul of the First Amendment and any number of settled cases that circumscribe how, why, and to what degree intellectual property can be used and by whom.

And attempting to envision every conceivable usage of technology years or decades before the framework exists to make it viable or even possible would be an exceedingly dangerous fool’s errand.

In situations like this, the law really cannot help but be reactive to how technology is used…not necessarily how it was intended.

That’s not likely to change anytime soon, unless we hit a massive and unanticipated tech plateau that allows the law time to catch up to current events.”

So it appears that the issue of copyright laws has many considerations to balance when it comes to how AI is trained, there is no simple answer.

OpenAI and Microsoft Sued

An interesting case that was recently filed is one in which OpenAI and Microsoft used open source code to create their CoPilot product.

The problem with using open source code is that the Creative Commons license requires attribution.

According to an article published in a scholarly journal:

“Plaintiffs allege that OpenAI and GitHub assembled and distributed a commercial product called Copilot to create generative code using publicly accessible code originally made available under various “open source”-style licenses, many of which include an attribution requirement.

As GitHub states, ‘…[t]rained on billions of lines of code, GitHub Copilot turns natural language prompts into coding suggestions across dozens of languages.’

The resulting product allegedly omitted any credit to the original creators.”

The author of that article, who is a legal expert on the subject of copyrights, wrote that many view open source Creative Commons licenses as a “free-for-all.”

Some may also consider the phrase free-for-all a fair description of the datasets comprised of Internet content are scraped and used to generate AI products like ChatGPT.

Background on LLMs and Datasets

Large language models train on multiple data sets of content. Datasets can consist of emails, books, government data, Wikipedia articles, and even datasets created of websites linked from posts on Reddit that have at least three upvotes.

Many of the datasets related to the content of the Internet have their origins in the crawl created by a non-profit organization called Common Crawl.

Their dataset, the Common Crawl dataset, is available free for download and use.

The Common Crawl dataset is the starting point for many other datasets that created from it.

For example, GPT-3 used a filtered version of Common Crawl (Language Models are Few-Shot Learners PDF).

This is how  GPT-3 researchers used the website data contained within the Common Crawl dataset:

“Datasets for language models have rapidly expanded, culminating in the Common Crawl dataset… constituting nearly a trillion words.

This size of dataset is sufficient to train our largest models without ever updating on the same sequence twice.

However, we have found that unfiltered or lightly filtered versions of Common Crawl tend to have lower quality than more curated datasets.

Therefore, we took 3 steps to improve the average quality of our datasets:

(1) we downloaded and filtered a version of CommonCrawl based on similarity to a range of high-quality reference corpora,

(2) we performed fuzzy deduplication at the document level, within and across datasets, to prevent redundancy and preserve the integrity of our held-out validation set as an accurate measure of overfitting, and

(3) we also added known high-quality reference corpora to the training mix to augment CommonCrawl and increase its diversity.”

Google’s C4 dataset (Colossal, Cleaned Crawl Corpus), which was used to create the Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer (T5), has its roots in the Common Crawl dataset, too.

Their research paper (Exploring the Limits of Transfer Learning with a Unified Text-to-Text Transformer PDF) explains:

“Before presenting the results from our large-scale empirical study, we review the necessary background topics required to understand our results, including the Transformer model architecture and the downstream tasks we evaluate on.

We also introduce our approach for treating every problem as a text-to-text task and describe our “Colossal Clean Crawled Corpus” (C4), the Common Crawl-based data set we created as a source of unlabeled text data.

We refer to our model and framework as the ‘Text-to-Text Transfer Transformer’ (T5).”

Google published an article on their AI blog that further explains how Common Crawl data (which contains content scraped from the Internet) was used to create C4.

They wrote:

“An important ingredient for transfer learning is the unlabeled dataset used for pre-training.

To accurately measure the effect of scaling up the amount of pre-training, one needs a dataset that is not only high quality and diverse, but also massive.

Existing pre-training datasets don’t meet all three of these criteria — for example, text from Wikipedia is high quality, but uniform in style and relatively small for our purposes, while the Common Crawl web scrapes are enormous and highly diverse, but fairly low quality.

To satisfy these requirements, we developed the Colossal Clean Crawled Corpus (C4), a cleaned version of Common Crawl that is two orders of magnitude larger than Wikipedia.

Our cleaning process involved deduplication, discarding incomplete sentences, and removing offensive or noisy content.

This filtering led to better results on downstream tasks, while the additional size allowed the model size to increase without overfitting during pre-training.”

Google, OpenAI, even Oracle’s Open Data are using Internet content, your content, to create datasets that are then used to create AI applications like ChatGPT.

Common Crawl Can Be Blocked

It is possible to block Common Crawl and subsequently opt-out of all the datasets that are based on Common Crawl.

But if the site has already been crawled then the website data is already in datasets. There is no way to remove your content from the Common Crawl dataset and any of the other derivative datasets like C4 and .

Using the Robots.txt protocol will only block future crawls by Common Crawl, it won’t stop researchers from using content already in the dataset.

How to Block Common Crawl From Your Data

Blocking Common Crawl is possible through the use of the Robots.txt protocol, within the above discussed limitations.

The Common Crawl bot is called, CCBot.

It is identified using the most up to date CCBot User-Agent string: CCBot/2.0

Blocking CCBot with Robots.txt is accomplished the same as with any other bot.

Here is the code for blocking CCBot with Robots.txt.

User-agent: CCBot
Disallow: /

CCBot crawls from Amazon AWS IP addresses.

CCBot also follows the nofollow Robots meta tag:

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

What If You’re Not Blocking Common Crawl?

Web content can be downloaded without permission, which is how browsers work, they download content.

Google or anybody else does not need permission to download and use content that is published publicly.

Website Publishers Have Limited Options

The consideration of whether it is ethical to train AI on web content doesn’t seem to be a part of any conversation about the ethics of how AI technology is developed.

It seems to be taken for granted that Internet content can be downloaded, summarized and transformed into a product called ChatGPT.

Does that seem fair? The answer is complicated.

Featured image by Shutterstock/Krakenimages.com



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