Raven’s CEO on Ahrefs and choosing to end use of scraped data

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Raven’s CEO on Ahrefs and choosing to end use of scraped data

SEO tool providers used to operate in a gray world with both authorized and scraped data. That opportunity no longer exists.

Everybody using and building SEO software will have to choose what’s most important – because no one provider can have it all.

Following our announcement on Friday, Ahrefs announced that it will also end the use of scraped rankings in January. I commend them for making what I know is a difficult decision.

Raven Tools and Ahrefs will not be the last software providers to make this decision. Other well-known SEO software companies have reached out to me for counsel and to commend Raven for making what they deem a brave choice.

I see three camps forming:

  • Those with authorized data, like Raven and Ahrefs.
  • Those who provide scraped data.
  • And those trying to straddle the line and say they have both authorized data and scraped data.

I can understand why companies choose to offer scraped data. But the undeniable current demand for rankings carries some undeniable future risk for those companies. As Raven’s CEO, I’ve lived through more rankings nightmares than I care to explain.

The companies still trying to operate in the middle are going to get hit on both sides. I don’t understand that business model.

This means customers will have to vet their software providers more carefully; evaluate the accuracy and reliability of data closely; and possibly rethink their investments. Eventually, no provider will have both authorized and scraped data.

If Google would sell this rankings data, I would bring back the SERP Tracker tomorrow. I don’t expect that to happen. So, Raven and our talented team moves on to what’s next.

We’ve been listening as the industry reacts to Raven’s decision, and we’ve posted much of the feedback on our website. Here are a few pieces that I recommend for their overall focus on where the industry is headed.

  • Majestic SEO: “The Importance of Trusted Data
    Majestic SEO is a valuable data partner in Raven. The perspective here – on who to trust with the data you use to run your business – is an important one.
  • Webpresence: “Google Clips Wings of Raven Tools
    Despite its title, this post is thoughtful about Google’s potential rationale and impact on SEO.
  • Scott Offord: “What is the Future of SERP Tracking?
    I appreciate that Scott pulled in perspective from both sides of the debate.

You can see more headlines at raventools.com/scraped-data.

I appreciate all the feedback we’ve gotten. Knowing what I know today, I would still make the same decision. I believe Raven will be a better company in the long-term – and a better value for all of our customers.

Still, I wanted to further address two big questions we’ve heard more often than the rest.

Why is Raven abandoning SEO?

We’re not.

We’re exiting the scraped rankings business. It is a calculated risk that we have considered from almost every angle.

Raven will not be of value to anyone whose business depends exclusively on scraped rankings. It’s understandable if those customers need to seek an alternative. We recommend Authority Labs and Advanced Web Rankings.

We also accept the challenge to create new metrics for SEO campaigns. It’s not enough to authorize Google Analytics in Raven. When we exit the scraped rankings business on Jan. 2, we will face a measurement void in our product.

Two immediate projects are already in the works:

  • Accessing more Webmaster Tools data through Raven
  • A new SEO Report module focused on organic traffic

The rest of Raven’s SEO tools remain and will continue to be an integral part of our value proposition, including:

  • The powerful and soon-to-be-improved Research Central
  • CRM, for managing link outreach and relationships
  • Keyword Manager
  • Keyword competition and volume data from AdWords
  • Link Manager
  • Link Monitor
  • Backlink Explorer

We’re also putting final touches on a Website Auditor for on-site SEO. It will be released in January.

Why did Raven choose AdWords data over SERPs?

It was not a choice of AdWords versus SERPs.

Raven had to decide between keeping scraped data or dropping it from our platform. Our decision factored in the short-term risks, the long-term risk and commitment to our vision.

Short-term risks

The short-term risks of keeping scraped data were minimal. We would have to add significant costs to get scraped AdWords keyword data for research, but the SERP Tracker would still function with scraped rankings. And many of our customers would remain happy.

Long-term risks

The long-term risks of keeping scraped data could be devastating. For reasons unknown, Google is strictly enforcing the AdWords API ToS. And we don’t know what might be next.

What if Google sends cease and desist letters to every company selling or reselling scraped rankings? Where would we — or any SEO, for that matter — get the data then?

What if Google goes after companies who are scraping AdWords data and selling it as authentic? Google charges customers like Raven for access to its AdWords API. Third-parties scraping AdWords data and reselling it, in effect, cost Google money by taking away potential business. Will they go nuclear when they find out?

What if Google added “no scraped data” to the Google Analytics API ToS? Given the recent AdWords enforcement, this scenario is plausible. And scraping for analytics data isn’t feasible.

These scenarios were speculative.

But if we chose scraped data in the short-term, we might have to give it all up — Google rankings, Google AdWords and Google Analytics — in the long-term, anyway.

Long-term vision

The final consideration was our long-term vision.

From 2008 to 2010, Raven was almost exclusively an SEO tool. So much so that our domain was raven-seo-tools.com.

In 2010, after we changed our name to Raven Internet Marketing Tools and domain to raventools.com, we began to diversify our offerings because we predicted a change in the industry – a consolidation of Internet marketing practices coming together under one roof.

This meant adding social media tools, PPC tools, better data partners and more. We continued to build SEO tools, like Research Central, a better Link Manager and the new CRM. We switched our social media data provider to uberVU and added content analysis from Scribe by Copyblogger. Here’s a timeline of Raven’s product evolution. And we built a reporting engine on top of all of it.

Continuing with scraped data was not possible and would put much of that in jeopardy.

In the end, I made the difficult decision with the full support of co-founders Jon Henshaw and Scott Holdren.

Patrick E. Keeble
Co-founder, President and CEO

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