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How to Make Money With SEO

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How to Make Money With SEO

SEO isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme—it often takes years of hard work to make a living from it. The great thing, though, is its versatility. There are many ways to monetize SEO skills, which all suit different people.

Want to know some of the best ways to monetize your SEO skills?

Let me show you how.

1. Selling productized SEO services

Selling productized SEO services or, in other words, creating standardized versions of services sold as products is a great way to make money with SEO. 

The advantage of this method over providing full-service SEO is that it is faster to deliver, which means you’ll generally get paid more regularly.

Productized SEO services can include but are not limited to:

  • SEO audits
  • Keyword research
  • Link building

So who is making money doing this?

Glen Allsopp has blogged extensively about how he made six figures from providing SEO audits, which shows how lucrative this particular method can be. 

Gaps' Glen Allsopp making six figures with video audits

Another advantage of productized SEO services is that they can be sold on freelancer websites, where buyers search for specific SEO tasks rather than a fully managed SEO service. 

Here’s an example of a productized service for Google My Business I found on a popular freelancing site.

Productized service GMB example via People Per Hour

As we can see from the description below, everyone gets the same format of audit, which means it should be relatively easy to scale.

Same audit for everyone; productized service details via People Per Hour

So what are the most popular forms of productized SEO services you can sell? 

SEO audits

It might not look like much, but this seller below has 1,000+ sales and charges £125 (~$155) per audit. This means that he has sold ~$155,000 worth of SEO audits. 

Detailed SEO audit example, via People Per hour

SEOs have different methods for completing audits, but if you want to start providing them as a productized service, you should check out our SEO audit post first. 

In that post, you can see that the core elements of an SEO audit have been broken down into different checks, which you can use as a basis for your audit.

They are:

  • Check for manual actions
  • Check organic traffic
  • Check for HTTPS-related issues
  • Check that you can only browse one version of your website
  • Check for indexability issues
  • Check for mobile-friendliness
  • Check page speed
  • Check Core Web Vitals
  • Check for broken pages
  • Check for sitemap issues
  • Check basic on-page elements
  • Check for declining content
  • Check for content gaps
  • Check for other technical issues

You may want to add further checks yourself, but this gives you a framework to start providing SEO audits as a productized service and start making money.

Keyword research

Another productized SEO service you can sell is keyword research. The basic process for creating a keyword research document is simple: You research the relevant metrics for a given keyword and then report them back to the client.

There is no shortage of SEOs on freelance sites who have made decent money by providing keyword research as a productized service.

We can see from the example below that if we multiply the sales by the product cost, the seller has made ~£12,000 from selling keyword research in this particular gig.

Keyword research productized service, via People Per Hour

To start making money with keyword research as a productized service, you must focus on what website owners want. 

They will most likely want to know the best keywords to target. You can provide this to them by identifying low-competition keywords.

Using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, you can easily find 20 low-competition keywords and charge $XX for this.

Recommendation

If you want to brush up on your keyword research skills, start by watching our Sam Oh’s video:

Let’s look at how we can identify low-competition keywords related to “macbook air.”

First, go to Keywords Explorer and plug in the keyword “macbook air.” The overview will show the keyword’s difficulty, search volume, traffic potential, global volume, and even popular questions around the topic.

Overview for the keyword "macbook air," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This information can help clients determine whether or not to target a particular keyword as part of their overall SEO strategy.

To identify low-competition keywords in this topic, we need to click on the Matching terms report and filter by KD from 0 to 25. 

Matching terms report for "macbook air," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Once we have done this, we can see that the demand for used MacBook Air models is high—this alone may be an interesting insight you can share with your client.

Now we have a list of the lowest competition keywords to target for this keyword. To download this report, click the Export button in the top right-hand corner. Then review and format the data in your template before sending it to your client.

Link building

Links are still considered one of the most important Google ranking factors. If you can help acquire them for a client’s website through outreach or by creating content that attracts links naturally, this can be a valuable skill.

Returning to our freelance site, some charge £750 (~$927) for five DR 40 guest blogs via blogger outreach.

Guest post example, via People Per Hour

If we multiply the product price by the sales, we can see that this person has had 67 sales, meaning they have made ~$62,000.

When it comes to link building, it is not the most straightforward service to productize, but you can take the following approach: 

  • Create a service along the lines of: “I will land 10 guest post placements for $1,000 for your website.” 
  • Assuming you get a ~20% hit rate, it will mean that you will have to find and pitch 50 sites for this to work—quite achievable.

If you want to know the exact process of how to build links, the best way to do this is to check out our updated link building guide.

Sidenote.

You must know at least the SEO basics before attempting to sell productized SEO services. If you are knowledgeable about SEO and provide genuine value to your customers, you will stand a better chance of growing your business.

If you enjoy writing, creating content for websites may be one of the fastest ways to make money. There has always been a constant demand for high-quality content writers in SEO, and that trend looks set to continue based on the search volume trend below for the phrase “content creator.”

Keyword overview of "content creator," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Out of all of the methods here, this one has the lowest barrier to entry. So long as you are a reasonably good writer, you can make six figures writing content.

Six figures may sound like a lot, but it is achievable. For example, Elise Dopson, a freelance content creator, managed to build a six-figure writing business from scratch, all by the age of 21.

So how can you find a content writing job and start making money?

To find content work, you have several different options: 

You can search popular freelance sites, join a content agency, or even just check out popular Reddit threads such as /r/hireawriter, /r/forhire, and /r/freelance—where you can share your content writing services.

Recommendation

Always read the subreddit rules before sharing your content services. Otherwise, the mods may delete your post if you fall foul of the rules. For example, in /r/hireawriter, they have the following rules.

To show you how easy it can be, I set up a basic advert on a popular freelance site to “write an engaging 500-word article on any topic.” I didn’t include any information about qualifications or include a portfolio of my work.

Content writing service, via People Per Hour

After 177 views of my advert, I got an offer of work:

Offer of work for writing content, via People Per Hour

And then another…

Offer of work for writing content, via People Per Hour

Hopefully, this shows how straightforward it can be to start making money by writing content.

If you are new to SEO, you may wonder what a “niche site” is. This phrase is SEO jargon for “a blog about a particular topic.” 

Here are two examples of niche sites that focus on a particular topic:

So how do you make money with a niche site?

The first thing is to build traffic to your site. Once you have some traffic, you can start to monetize it. One of the easiest ways to do this is using Amazon Associates, but it’s worth noting that the commissions have been fairly low in recent years.

The amount of money that you make with a niche site can vary from month to month. But it is clear that if you stick to it, the income can be significant in the long term.

Here are two examples from Flippa of sites making decent money from their respective niches.

Example of data on niche sites, via Flippa

Let’s take a look at a few niche site examples in more depth:

1. Coffee Detective

Coffee Detective screenshot, via coffeedetective.com
  • The website offers common-sense tips, guides, and reviews to help you make coffee at home.
  • If you can’t live without coffee, then you may find this an easy topic to write about.
  • In terms of monetization, Coffee Detective is monetized by Mediavine and Amazon Associates.

Let’s use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to get an idea of how much organic traffic it is getting and the value of that traffic.

Overview for coffeedetective.com, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
  • In the overview, coffeedetective.com is getting an estimated 17,700 organic monthly traffic and has an organic monthly traffic value of ~$11,100. 

If we go to the Top pages report, we can see that ~18% of the traffic comes from just two articles. 

Top pages report for coffeedetective.com, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Using Ahrefs’ SEO Toolbar, we can see that the top page has fewer than 1,000 words of content—showing that you don’t always need thousands of words of content to rank well on Google and get traffic.

Word count for coffeedetective.com page, via Ahrefs' SEO Toolbar

Let’s take a look at another example.

2. Get Busy Gardening

Get Busy Gardening screenshot, via getbusygardening.com
  • This site has a variety of posts on a wide range of topics related to gardening, such as growing food, garden care, and gardening techniques.
  • If you know a bit about gardening, this can be an excellent topic to write about.
  • In terms of monetization, Get Busy Gardening is monetized with Mediavine and Amazon Associates.

In Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, let’s take a closer look at the estimated organic traffic and its value.

Overview for getbusygardening.com, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
  • We can see that getbusygardening.com is getting ~438,000 organic monthly traffic and has a value of ~$105,000.

Let’s go to the Top pages report. We can see that 5.1% of the site’s traffic comes from a single article.

Top pages report for getbusygardening.com, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

These examples show that even a simple idea, such as making coffee at home or gardening tips, can provide a life-changing income. 

However, if we look closer at both sites, they started being active around 2016. So it has taken them at least six years to build up to these organic traffic levels. 

So while creating a niche site can be financially rewarding in the long term, it’s not the quickest way to make money with SEO.

4. Create an e-commerce or dropshipping site

Both e-commerce and dropshipping are well known for their six-figure case studies. A quick browse of Flippa shows us that many sites are changing hands for six figures or more.

List of sites already sold for six figures, via Flippa

Here’s an example of an e-commerce website, Code and Quill. According to Flippa, it has a monthly profit of $2,576/mo.

Code and Quill's profile on Flippa

Here’s another example of a dropshipping site, Barbell Standard, which according to Flippa, has a monthly profit of $20,496/mo. This site is only two years old.

Barbell Standard's profile on Flippa

If you want to make money with e-commerce or dropshipping, you will first need to identify at least one product you can be reasonably sure will sell online. 

In my opinion, the simplest way to do this is to:

  • Find a site selling products in the category you are interested in.
  • Plug it into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer.
  • Check the Top pages report.

Check out the example below of me doing this.

Top pages report for thetoyshop.com, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Once I plugged a website into Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, the keyword “fidget toys” caught my attention.

Let’s click on “fidget toys” and go to the overview to take a closer look at this keyword.

Overview for "fidget toys," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

A quick five-second check shows that this sharp peak occurred in April 2017 and again in May 2021. It’s clear from the trend graph that this is not a great product to create a store around at the moment. 

Recommendation

It’s vital to sense-check your keywords because, sometimes, your perception of a keyword’s popularity may differ from the data.

In a different example, let’s say you wanted to set up an e-commerce site selling popular variations of hoodies. You can easily find all the variations of the most searched for hoodies using Ahrefs.

To do this, enter “hoodies” in the search bar of Keywords Explorer and click on the Matching terms report in the sidebar. 

We can now see the most popular hoodie variations, allowing us to position our e-commerce store effectively.

Matching terms report for "hoodies," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

The keyword “anime hoodies” sounds interesting—let’s take a closer look at this keyword by clicking on the link. 

Overview for "anime hoodies," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Once you have clicked the keyword, you should see the overview screen again. We can see that this keyword’s trend varies quite a lot, but it has been relatively positive over the last few years.

If you want to maximize your profits in e-commerce and dropshipping, you will need to consider the current trend of the product, its Keyword Difficulty, and Traffic Potential.

So what exactly is “website flipping?”

In simple terms, website flipping is the process of buying a website, improving it, and selling it for more money. 

Website flipping can be particularly lucrative if you have a few years of experience working in SEO already.

For example, here’s a case study where a website was flipped for $136,000 in just 16 months. 

Website flipping case study, via Empire Flippers

Here are some key points to remember when flipping websites for money:

  • When purchasing a website, you want to look for one with good links but where the content can be improved. You can use Ahrefs’ Site Explorer to help you decide on this.
  • According to Flippa, returns for flipping websites can be more than 50X its average monthly earnings. In other words, if a website has average earnings over the last 12 months of $1,000 per month, it can be worth ~$50,000.
  • Once you have a rough idea of how much the site is worth, you will need to choose a broker. Empire Flippers provides such a service and is one of the most trusted platforms where you can buy and sell websites.

Website flipping can be lucrative, but you must understand what to look for when purchasing a website. It also helps to have at least a basic knowledge of SEO

Once you have gained several years of experience in SEO, you may feel that your skills are better used to help others learn the skills you have acquired. 

Authority Hacker did just that to build a six-figure business. 

Premium SEO training landing page, via Authority Hacker

You can do this as well by creating high-quality SEO courses for in-person or online coaching. You can sell these courses and training materials through your website, Gumroad, Udemy, Teachable, or any other platform.

To get set up selling your course, you will first need to decide what format it will be in. 

Here are a few examples of ways you can sell your course in different formats:

  • Provide free video lessons on YouTube and monetize with ads
  • Provide premium video lessons on a paid platform (Udemy, Teachable)
  • Create templates or instructions for specific tasks and sell on Gumroad, e.g., site speed optimization for WordPress
  • Set up an expert online community and charge a monthly subscription fee
  • Create a documented course and provide one-to-one training in person or remotely

If you have a background in teaching, this method could be an excellent way for you to make money.

It may not be the most exciting method to make money with SEO, but providing SEO consulting services is one of the most tried and tested approaches for making money—it’s how many SEOs make their living.

It’s challenging to verify the amount SEOs are making from consultation, but our survey suggests over 25% of respondents charged ~$101–150 per hour, with some charging ~$750 per hour. 

How much do SEOs charge per hour

If you want to get started with SEO consulting, check out our how to get a job in SEO post. It will give you a good overview of what to expect when looking for SEO jobs and following a more traditional SEO career path. If you are determined, you can get to a senior role in just a few years. 

Final thoughts 

SEO can be extremely lucrative—but it does take time, effort, and a bucketload of determination to make the big bucks.

It’s worth remembering that the people making the most money in SEO are not always the most well-versed technical SEOs. Crucially, however, they know how to leverage their skills to make money. 

Maybe you can too? 

Got questions? Ping me 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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