Free is a dirty word that gets us hot and bothered. Some Digital PR agencies would say that free data sources are shit submitted by self-serving scammers, saboteurs and screw-ups set to sink your SEO strategy. If that's you, then we just want to let you know that there are other letters in the alphabet and we disagree.
When talking about data, 'free' is not a dirty word. Free is just as good as any premium dataset, with the added bonus of not wasting your money. With just an internet connection and this list of data sources, you will be able to find and recognise reputable, relevant and reliable data. Storing these links in a repository is a must for any Digital PR agency as facilitating access to a greater range of resources will streamline your Digital PR campaigns.
Searching through every top 10 list of free data sources will invariably have Digital PR agencies reminding you Google Trends and Google data search are a thing. They are a thing and take up the first two spots on this list - thank you trillion-dollar company.
Use Reddit as your free Digital PR minion
So moving away from a trillion-dollar company we arrive at one that's only worth a few billion. Reddit is by far the best source for constantly updated datasets, and the best part is that you have millions of users doing your job for free. The best subreddits for any Digital PR campaign would be r/datasets and r/dataisbeautiful.
Simply 'a place to share, find and discuss Datasets' and with over 150,000 users there is a constant stream of datasets being shared every day. If for some reason you cannot find what you are looking for, then create a Reddit account and post a request for the kind of data you are looking for.
With just that minimal amount of effort, you will have thousands of users scouring the internet on your behalf. Unlike your paid employees, they will get back to you before the day is out.
With over 16 million users, It is an enormous source for visualisations that effectively convey information. Whilst the visualisations themselves might only be useful in inspiring similar designs, the data itself can be tracked down in the comments. Every post involving data of any kind must have a link to the source, meaning it is an easy task for someone to use it for their own Digital PR campaigns.
Free international data sources
Contrary to popular belief, there are lands beyond the Dorset coast and those lands have their own free data sources that can give a Digital PR campaign an international focus. There are probably lots to choose from but I picked two that I guess are reputable. All these intergovernmental data portals are collected by reputable agencies and are used to aid in policy-making decisions. So I'm sure it'll be more than enough for your 10th iteration of 'Best countries to move to in 2022.'
UN data catalog
You can find no better source for this kind of data than from the United Nations itself. From their main portal, you can view worldwide agriculture, environmental and aviation statistics, along with a whole host of other divisional data from all 193 member states.
For some sticklers, the idea of missing out on North Korea, Kosovo and Western Sahara might be too much for them, which is understandable, we all need to draw the line somewhere. However, what you're left with is data from one of the largest intergovernmental organisations in the world, and by far one of the most reputable.
European data portal
Although the United Kingdom has lifted anchor and sailed off into the Atlantic, there is still a free movement of data between the UK and the European Union. This is to the boon of every Digital PR agency that wants to use the European Union Open Data Portal to compare random metrics between the nations. You still might not find all the Kosovo data you want and any you do find will have a very large asterisk attached, but you won't find more comprehensive data on Europe than through that portal.
National free data sources
Moving closer to home, we have found that there is no better source of data than from the UK government's open data website. Data from different departments, bodies, agencies and authorities within the UK government are published here regularly. The data goes back decades, and for the data illiterate among us, they even condense the data and explain it with their reports and data visualisations. You'll never have to use any kind of critical thinking when everything is handed to you on a platter.
Being a Manchester-based Digital PR agency means that we have Manchester-based clients, and you can't get much more targeted than the Manchester Open Data Catalogue. However, unless you are in the local area, this won't do anything to help you. Rather than clicking through the mess that is bureaucratic designed websites in the hope of finding data, use this Open Data Soft link. Here you can find governmental and council data for cities across the UK and the world. You can even go through the effort of comparing the data of different councils, but we would not recommend wasting your life on such a frustrating endeavour.
Regardless of political affiliation, the data and statistics that the government provides are second to none. They are published regularly and they have a calendar of when each annual report will be published so that you can stay ahead of the curve.
Free non-statistical data
A lot of the previous data has focused heavily on numbers and statistics, but data is far more than that. As long as there is a significant source to draw from, anything can be used as the basis of a campaign.
Political transcripts and resources
For a Digital PR agency that is looking to focus more on corpus studies, then there is no better source than UKPOL.CO.UK. This site contains thousands of transcripts of speeches by British politicians. You can find out who is talking about a topic, when they talk about it and how often they do so. It's perfect for comparing politicians or seeing how politicians and politics change over time.
Pop culture and media sources
If media is more your speed, then Simply Scripts is worth checking out. It contains one of the most comprehensive databases of movie scripts on the internet. It's by no means perfect, but the alternative is either scouring the internet for hours for a specific script or sitting down, watching every film and writing down everything yourself. I guess you could do that, but I haven't found a convincing enough argument to get my boss on board with me watching films for 'work'.
Surveys and polls
Conducting a good survey or poll for your Digital PR campaign is a time-consuming endeavour. Sure, you can shoot an email around the company and attach the dozen (maybe) replies you eventually receive with a meaningless phrase like 'surveys suggest' but what's the point.
Why not let a site like YouGov do the heavy lifting for you? Thousands of people answer their surveys and the site is helpful enough to divide the results by age and gender. Better comparisons with a larger pool of users will make for a better Digital PR campaign.
Kick some Digital PR campaign ass
This list doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what is out there. For most campaigns, there will be a readily available source of data, the only thing to do is find it. It's not just governments or governmental organisations that have large amounts of free data. Private companies like Uber and Yelp will often have open data readily available for use.
Spend enough time on the internet and you will find obscure websites dedicated to a particular niche, such as Where's The Jump?, a website dedicated to counting jump scares in horror movies and the Paranormal Database, which finds paranormal and cryptozoological locations in the UK.
All I can recommend is to go out in search of these datasets and stick them in a repository for all the other members of the Digital PR team to see. And if you want Digital PR for your business but without having to do the leg work, give our Dark Horse Digital PR team a shout and we'll see how we can make data work for your SEO campaigns. Unsure about what SEO means and does? Contact us and we'll talk you through why Dark Horse might be the answer to increasing your sales, conversions and gold in the chest.