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Use Cases & Opportunities You Need To Know

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What’s the hype with chatbots?

We’ve all been there at some point as customers where we have a burning question we need an answer to, and we check, and the store hours are closed, so we can’t call.

We search but can’t find info in their FAQ section or on the website.

Hello! A chatbot pops up to ask if you need any help. Finally, you can get your simple question answered and move on about your day.

Chatbots help transform the frustrating experience of not finding the information you need into a positive interaction with a brand.

The customer gets the information they need in a cost-effective, low-resource way for the brand.

But these chatbots are improving communication and meeting business needs and objectives in more ways than one with their deep learning capabilities.

Over the last couple of years, more companies have been integrating chatbots into their communications process to engage with customers.

As chatbots evolve to better communicate with customers, there’s been more helpful interactions. A recent study showed that 80% of customers had a positive experience with chatbots.

With consumers’ needs increasing for around-the-clock communication, companies are adapting to find ways to meet customers’ needs through automated response systems.

But knowing when and how to use chatbots is key to successful integration into your business strategy.

Since 36% of consumers think that chatbot’s accuracy could make efforts to improve, it’s essential to figure out where to incorporate chatbots and where human interaction is still necessary.

So, let’s break down different ways to use chatbots so you can learn how to incorporate them to better support your brand and alleviate some tasks off your employee’s plates.

Innovations & Benefits

As we discussed, businesses have traditionally used chatbots to communicate simple responses to their customers.

This has been incredibly impactful for ecommerce businesses during the pandemic, but this shift is becoming a normal standard of communication with brands for several reasons.

Businesses are incorporating better artificial intelligence capabilities for their chatbots to handle the specific issues customers bring to them and understand more complex questions.

In addition, they are evolving from generic and general messaging, which could end up backfiring and frustrating their customer, to more intuitive personal responses.

Chatbots have also become an omnichannel response system not just for brand websites but for their app and social media channels, especially for Facebook.

Now, businesses can meet consumers’ demand for 24/7 communication opportunities with their favorite brands.

Not only can companies interact more with their customers, but chatbot integration has easy scalability to meet high volume needs.

Chatbots also offer the opportunity for customer behavioral prediction, which can help predict customers’ intent to either provide them with more options such as purchasing or providing information on their order, or better gather information for an agent to answer their questions.

Additionally, they help collect information and offer solutions faster, creating a streamlined experience.

For businesses with heavy call flow, chatbots provide another mode of communication to alleviate high call volume.

But, chatbots are becoming more valuable than just communicating with customers.

Common Business Uses Of Chatbots

Sales & Marketing

According to studies, customers are open to purchasing items through bots.

Insider Intelligence states that by 2024 retail consumers will spend $140 billion worldwide through chatbots. Chatbots can help by suggesting products and assisting with the purchasing process.

By using chatbots, you’ll get to connect with customers efficiently and effectively, which means increased customer satisfaction which can lead to higher revenue.

When businesses use chatbots to send messages for abandoned carts can help increase sales by up to 25% for ecommerce brands.

In addition, brands can connect with two to five times more customers through chatbots than they would connect with via email interactions.

Content Marketing

So, how can chatbots help with content marketing? First, chatbots can help collect valuable information from people interested in your brand.

Chatbots can organize, store this information, and segment consumers for future marketing campaigns. This can be incredibly useful for creating more accurate target marketing.

Based on the information from dialogue with chatbots, marketers can use this info to help with personalizing brand content.

However, while chatbots are excellent for informing content marketing, brands shouldn’t necessarily use AI to create the content itself.

Creating content is more complex, and AI isn’t as reliable in creating authentic content that will truly connect with your target audience.

Customer Support

We’ve talked about how great chatbots can be in providing 24/7 customer support and immediately responding to customer inquiries, but do customers actually want to talk to a chatbot?

Reports show that 40% of customers prefer messaging chatbots over a virtual agent. Chatbots can do more than answer simple questions.

For example, they can provide updates on any order, help customers select and buy a product, give a tracking update, and process returns or exchange products.

Additionally, Chatbots Magazine states that chatbots can cut customer service costs by 30%, with a potential in the U.S. to save overall brands $23 billion.

As we mentioned, companies can incorporate chatbots on many platforms, such as their website, app, and social media.

Even if companies initially implement simple chatbots, they can at least provide customers with simple responses and a wait time for when they can speak to a representative or let them know when customer support will reach out to them.

Instead of customers emailing and waiting for days for a response just to not get their questions fully answered, they can receive immediate responses.

In addition, this type of simple chatbot support will let customers know they are a valued part of your brand’s community.

Social Media & Lead Generation

As we know, chatbots can help brands gather information and help marketers better understand customer behavior and preferences, but they also have better customer interaction rates on social media.

Facebook messenger chatbot interactions increase consumer confidence in a brand or business.

Interestingly enough, Facebook messenger is powered by a computer program over AI with easy implementation. Chatbots are also great for tracking analytics such as your open rates.

Businesses can also use social media chatbots for updates and send mass messages. Keep your customers informed with daily or weekly announcements about deals, events, and promotions.

Or you can prompt customers to book a service, make an appointment, take orders, or share new content through social media chatbots.

Another fun and valuable way to interact with customers is to create quizzes, surveys, or polls to help you gather vital information to generate better leads.

Chatbot Challenges

Even with all their advancements, chatbots still have some challenges to overcome.

For example, chatbots can have issues creating proper sentence structure across different languages, as well as understanding slang or colloquialism.

AI and chatbots are helpful in assisting brand teams, but they cannot replace a writer or editor to create compelling content.

Another problem with simplistic chatbots is that if your chatbot cannot answer more complex questions, they can misinterpret customer requests or execute inaccurate commands.

As chatbots attempt to keep pace with customer expectations, the industry is building more human-like chatbots with the help of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing.

In time, they will become a more efficient way to assist brands’ teams than they are already proving to be.

Trends For Chatbots

According to Juniper Research, by 2023, chatbots will help retail, banking, and healthcare industries save $11 billion solely on customer service inquiries, with over 2.5 billion hours saved.

Additionally, out of these sectors, the retail industry will be able to maximize the use of chatbots by 70% to assist with customer inquiries.

Not only will chatbots help with customer interactions on brand’s websites, but there will be more use within brand’s apps, with 50% of the chatbot usage through apps.

They can assist the IT help desk and customer service employees by learning to answer the repetitive questions customers ask and improve response time.

Internally, they can collect and organize information to help with human resource duties such as onboarding and gathering valuable updates on employees.

When discussing chatbots on the SEJ Today podcast, Dr. Michelle Zhou, co-founder and CEO of Juji, Inc. and the inventor of IBM Watson Personality Insights, said chatbots are improving and can help give personalized information based on conversation.

She shared the following example:

“Let’s say if you go to a book website and then after the person chats with the chatbot for a certain amount of time, let’s say five or 10 minutes, the chatbot can really recommend books which are tailored to the person’s interests, passion, and even personality interests.”

Chatbots are moving to more intuitive conversations versus simple run-of-the-mill responses.

In addition, chatbots are transforming to use NLP to better understand and send accurate answers to users.

She continues discussing chatbot improvements, focusing on their importance for small businesses.

For example, since it’s not possible to hire numerous people for all the functions and customer service components needed to scale a business, chatbots can become virtual assistants to help with mundane or repetitive processes so employees can focus on other areas throughout the company.

Takeaway: Is There A Future For Chatbots?

Yes, there is a future for chatbots. Fortunately, it seems that chatbots are here to stay for the foreseeable future.

Chatbots are changing the way businesses communicate and understand their customers.

With AI, chatbots will have the ability to deliver a more personalized customer experience.

It’s also saving companies money through customer service, internal processes, and marketing efforts. There is so much potential to incorporate chatbots throughout a company’s website, app, and social media platforms.

Ecommerce brands are already capitalizing on chatbot capabilities, and there are opportunities for brands to start taking advantage of all the ways chatbots can help grow brands.

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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

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How to Block ChatGPT From Using Your Website Content

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

How AIs Learn From Your Content

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

Some of the sources used are:

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

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

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

Screenshot from Amazon, January 2023

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

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

Datasets of Web Content

OpenWebText

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

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

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

More information about OpenWebText is here.

Common Crawl

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

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

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

The name of the Common Crawl bot is, CCBot.

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

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

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

The CCBot User-Agent string is:

CCBot/2.0

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

User-agent: CCBot
Disallow: /

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

CCBot also obeys the nofollow robots meta tag directives.

Use this in your robots meta tag:

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

Blocking AI From Using Your Content

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

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

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

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

Whether that will happen is unknown at this time.

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Google’s Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

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Google's Mueller Criticizes Negative SEO & Link Disavow Companies

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

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

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

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

What Led to John Mueller’s Rebuke

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

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

He tweeted:

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

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

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

Here’s the background information about that.

Link Disavow Tool

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

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

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

The Penguin Update caused the link selling boom collapsed.

Thousands of websites lost rankings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The message couldn’t be clearer.

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

Link Disavow Takes Months To Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Context is important to understand what was said.

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

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

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

The SEO (SEOGuruJaipur) tweeted:

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

SEOGuruJaipur next began tweeting about negative SEO companies.

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

SEOGuruJaipur tweeted:

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

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

He tweeted:

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

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

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

John Mueller tweeted his response to the above tweets:

“That’s all made up & irrelevant.

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

Then someone else joined the discussion:

Mueller tweeted a response:

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

Unambiguous Statement on Negative SEO and Link Disavow Services

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

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

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

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

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Source Code Leak Shows New Ranking Factors to Consider

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

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

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

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

Yandex vs Google

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

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

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

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

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

An early analysis of ranking factors

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

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

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

These are all things that we already know.

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

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

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

The possible negative ranking factors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The possible positive ranking factors:

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

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

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

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

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

CTR ranking factors from Yandex

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

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

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

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

Key Takeaway

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

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

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

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