Introducing: Rank Theory

A new weekly SEO email from that guy on that one podcast you listened to...


Super exciting stuff. I’m doing a bit of an experiment with the “free” version of my newsletter. The TL;DR (or write, for that matter) is this:

Usually I just send a small, teaser version of my paid, premium newsletter to “the free list” to try and provide a bit of value and also to try and convert to paid subscribers. #Marketing

But now, I will send a weekly SEO-focused email to ALL subscribers, to try and provide A LOT of value and also to try and convert people to my extremely awesome paid newsletter.

Note to paid subscribers: this email will not replace the paid newsletter that goes out on Wednesdays. That will still be an exclusive, paid, and amazing newsletter. ‘Rank Theory’ is a new, separate thing that goes to everyone on the list on Fridays.

What to Expect From This Newsletter

SEO news. Updates of what I’m up to. Terrible jokes and amazing memes.

I’m committing to at least four of these “Rank Theory” newsletters, to see how it goes, how well received, etc. If it goes well, I’ll continue! If not, whatever!

So please, if you have any feedback, please hit “reply” or hit me up at and let me know!

What I’m Up To Currently

Toooo much. What?

🎧 I’ve recently been on the Niche Pursuits podcast and the Doug Show talking about expired domains, and building/flipping websites (on expired domains, mostly).

🎧 I have also published episode #2 of the JUICEBOX podcast, a super casual chat between Travis Jamison and I about SEO, Juice Market, crypto probably? and other stuff!

🧪 I put the word out on Twitter that I was looking to buy a few sites that got obliterated in a recent update or two. Why? I’m going to try and do some recovery magic, see if I can make the site come back to life with a few tweaks. I will definitely be sharing the details (but not the URL) in the paid newsletter, along with some brief updates here. So far I have bought one of the sites I’ve been offered.

Got a site that got murdered by Google recently? Hit me back! I want to buy it (maybe) and do experiments to it.

✍️ I’m also working on a course on expired domain names: how to find and how to use. Will for sure announce it here when it’s ready to go.

SEO Thing I’m Currently Studying

How the SERPs were increasingly being eaten alive by a few select big media news site/magazines, sites like:

  • Observer

  • Discovery Magazine

And how over the last week or two (since the most recent Google product update???) these sites seem to be losing ground to small-but-super-niche-relevant sites, and… sponsored newspaper articles, like:

  • Riverfront Times

  • SF Weekly

Seriously, I’m seeing a lot of newspaper articles starting to overtake both the big magazines and the small niche relevant sites.

Are y’all seeing similar things in your niche(s)?

The Big Question to Ask: How can you make this work for you?

The obvious answer here is to try and buy a sponsored ad in these (online) newspapers.

For instance, this sponsored post in the Miami Herald has a nice spot on page 1 of the SERPs for “Best CBD Oil,” an impossible keyword:

It’s nestled cozily in between the 2nd and 3rd organic result as a “Top Stories” featured, and again at organic position #5. This article is one day old. It has 9 referring domains and it’s crushing.

This is still a pretty early observation, that, at least for the few keywords I follow closely, newspapers are looking super good, and the big magazines are looking okay, but not QUITE as good as they looked two months ago.

You know what looks like absolute dog shit, though?

Building your own website and trying to outrank all these DR 90 newspapers and shit for any of the keywords worth ranking in your niche. Ew, yuck, who needs that?

Let me tell you, as someone who is all in on domain names, it breaks my fricken heart.

I think long term, these won’t be around forever or ranking like they do. It may take a while, and these smart SEOs make make hundred of thousands of dollars, but eventually, a strong brand that’s NOT a sponsored post will win out. I firmly believe (or maybe I just NEED to believe that).

Also, in the mean time... buy some newspaper articles and rank that shit.

No big magazines or newspapers ranking in your niche yet? GOOD. Do it. You can be the first one.

I’m about to do this for a very low volume, high value niche. Gonna throw a big magazine sponsored article into a SERP with ONLY small niche-relevant sites ranking to see how it does.

Want to follow along? Will totally post updates here.

There’s currently no sponsor for this newsletter, so…. the next part pays the bills :)

What You Missed in the Paid Newsletter This Week (if you’re not a subscriber)

(If you ARE a subscriber, wow, what a cool, generous person you are).

In addition giving you the best domains @ auction for this week, I talked about:

  • How I would build out a super niche-relevant expiring domain from the list to explode the authority and traffic of my money site.

  • An expired domain build-out method called "Delayed Silo" that I totally invented.

  • How I would build out the opposite of super niche-relevant expiring domain to crush it with my money site.

  • Another tactic I use to help grow sites quickly called a "relevancy bomb." (If you subscribe and you're wondering, since I didn't call it that, this is for the 2nd name in the "domains at auction" list). :)

Sad you missed out? Don’t be. Subscribe now and get access to all 46 emails I’ve published over the last year or so.

In the next month or so, I’ll be sharing some cool-ass stuff in the paid newsletter, like:

  • An update on the recovery experiment I’m doing for sites that were affected by recent algo updates.

  • Some 301 shenanigans for a domain affected by the December update (and is the domain coming back? It might be!) — super excited for this one.

  • A Slack where all the expired domain/site building nerds like me can hang out and chat, so we don’t feel so alone in this cold, ruthless world.


That’s it for this week!

Wow, that didn’t QUITE go as planned. I should have started this newsletter the day before, cuz my Kickstarter blew up today and that took most of my attention today. I meant to release this morning, MDT, lol. Oops.

So, what’d you think? Interesting or not?

My idea is to cover some updates on me, some cool shit I’m working on, some interesting SEO observations worth sharing, any noteworthy news (didn’t have time to read any this week), etc.

Thanks for reading! Two asks of you, if you made it this far:

  1. Hit reply (or write to and let me know what you think.

  2. Sign up for the paid newsletter here.

That’s it. That’s the newsletter.

Sean Markey

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