Rank Theory #11

in which I finally weigh in with my position on cannibalism

Hello old friends and new subscribers!

Prepare for another week of disappointing SEO content that says a lot but, at the end of the day, doesn’t fill that empty space you carry in your heart always.

What’s new? Not much much, I guess?

Here’s a picture of some pigeons on my barn in the heavy early morning fog.

Sorry there was no newsletter last week.

I’ve got a few big projects I’m now working on and the newsletter just wasn’t happening. PS if you need SEO help in the canna/cbd industry, holler at me. I’ve got a whole agency thing going.

In This Week’s Newsletter:

  • What I learned from the previous newsletter

  • Google really really hates your small, niche-specific site in an area you are super passionate about

  • Search Intent Snapsssssssssshot

  • Two sites for sale

Reader Questions:

This first question is from my friend Mushfiq, who runs a site called TheWebsiteFlip.com. He is the real deal, y’all. If you follow me but aren’t subscribed to his newsletter—highly recommend you sign up. If I was a normal person without a broken brain and an inability to follow a straight path to success, I’d have a site like his, full of helpful guides and case studies and shit. But instead, all you have from me is this fucked up newsletter. Oh well.

Check out The Website Flip here.

Question 1:

  • I bought a site built on an aged domain. This site has about 30 articles and is bringing in some good traffic. It also has another redirect in place pointing to a press release type page. Chugging along nicely.

  • I now want to build a bigger brand out of this. I plan to buy a branded domain with no backlinks.

  • I want to move the content and redirects from the aged domain site to the fresh branded domain. Of course, will do proper 301s, and also site move in GSC.

My question for you: any major issue rebranding like this assuming everything technical is done right?(Note: I’ve done site build outs and redirects with aged domains in the past. Not new to this. New to just moving everything to a fresh domain for branding reasons).

Answer 1:


I’m a sucker for a good brand, so moving aged authority sites to a fresh, fantastic brand is close to my heart.

I’ve done this a few times. Once or twice it was disastrous! Like, traffic dropped by 90% on the new brand for weeks. Scary! But I rolled back the redirect and traffic went back as before.

YMMV, but I usually skip the GSC part (the only time I’ve used it is when I lost 90% of traffic, as referenced above.). I just put in the 301s and let God sort them out (aka Google’s algorithm).

The way I’ve done this:

Move all the content/pages/site structure over to the Good Brand and 301 everything URL by URL.

Keep the current 301s from site 2 going to site 1 in place. It just forwards along to the old URL, through to the new URL.

Maybe there is a reduction in the authority it passes? But probably not enough to matter—at least in my experience. It’s the easiest AND most natural way to play it, so it is what I advise based on my experiments with this.

But yes, this is a good move, and though it could take a little bit for the traffic and everything to catch up to where it was, it probably will (and if your brand is really awesome and performs well in the SERPs, looks more trustworthy etc., it’ll exceed the previous site’s performance soon enough.

Question 2:

Affiliate site to a brand is something I've been thinking about for a few months. I own <Redacted Site> which is an affiliate site and a brand in the same space, <Other Redacted Site>. 

Been debating rolling the affiliate site into the brand although they are different audiences and I'm not the most technical SEO person. 

Curious what you would do? 

Answer 2:

These sites are in the same niche, which is a good thing.

It looks like the content of the “affiliate” site would be at home on the blog of the product site.

This is some good synergy! I’d suggest moving all the content from the affiliate site over to the product site, 301 each post URL by URL, 301 the home page, blog, about, etc. the the /blog of the product site.

That’s what I would do if I had these two sites and thought that combining them would maybe be a 1+1=3 kind of situation.

You don’t need to be technical, just redirect each URL by each URL using a redirect plugin (if Wordpress) or something something technical in HTACCESS or something, IDK, I’m not very technical either. :)

What I Learned From the Previous Newsletter

Is this:

If I could come up with a productized service that turns affiliate sites into brands, I’d be able to retire to Denmark and, I dunno, eat 24K gold leaf Danishes for the rest of my life (the pastry, not the citizens of Denmark, which I know are called Danes, but I’m just being super clear about any cannibalistic tendencies you might think I have because of your poor understanding of either pastries or demonyms GOOGLE IT THAT’S WHAT THAT IS CALLED).

But seriously, I got a ton of mail about that particular thing.

I’m going to share a few thoughts from some of the people that wrote to me—and who I got permission from to do so from:

Scott Finney Says:

I agree with your advice to transition a website into a brand. I'll add to it and say we all need to go above and beyond a website. We must use local seo to build confidence in Google that we do exist in the world and our customers will find what they are looking for with us because we are a "legit" business.

My theory is Google is flushing out affiliates, lead generation sites, and businesses that only exist online.

The  affiliate sites and lead generation sites are to better position Google to take paid spend directly from mom & pop brick and mortar businesses(Look at the GMB updates over the past year).

The businesses that only exist online are getting hurt because they look too much like the affiliate/lead gen sites Google wants to squash.

Google will continue to keep the local businesses in the game. Google can monitor the stuff a business that exists in the world would do. Have job listings, mentioned in local media/events. Have a physical address. Get brand search in certain regions and see random brand search pops.

The more Google filters out affiliates and businesses that only exist online. The more marketing spend they can take from brick and mortar "exist in the real world" businesses. These businesses might SUCK at digital marketing, but they do have existing cashflow for paying Google for more customers.

Matt Oney shared this with me and I love it:

Typewolf (a font website) has this on what is essentially their footer, so every page:

Building that branded search traffic like a boss.

Not sure how well that works—but I love that outside-the-box thinking.

Google Hates You So Bad (if you’re not owned by IAC or Red Ventures or a Newspaper that accepts sponsored posts or Something) Part 374

Here’s me, talking about this topic again:

Not gonna lie, that it probably the greatest gif I’ve ever seen, except for this one:

I was doing some keyword research in the last two weeks and wanted to share some of the SERPs with you.

Here’s one for “Desktop Aquarium”

  • amazon

  • amazon

  • chonky video feature

  • people also ask

  • chonky product feature

  • local pack

  • image carousel

  • brand carousel

  • petco

  • petco

  • walmart

  • walmart

  • ecommerce site

  • "best of" affiliate site

Google sez Amazon, Petco, and Walmart can have some traffic. No one else though.

Here’s one I found when researching some niches for an upcoming guest post (do you want me to guest post on your dumb SEO site? Holler at me if it has traffic) about parasite SEO.

This KW is very lucrative and competitive:

  • newspaper

  • newspaper

  • newspaper

  • newspaper

  • newspaper

  • expired domain rebuild

  • niche site

  • newspaper

  • small affiliate site

  • newspaper


What is Google’s algorithm doing??? Haha.

IDK, but it fucking hates your thoughtful affiliate site, like:

Good talk, Google’s algorithm.

I guess the question to ask is this:

What niche are YOU in that’s not filled with slightly rewritten versions of the same newspaper sponsored post?

Time to fill those SERPs with slightly rewritten versions of the same newspaper sponsored posts.


Search Intent Snapshot

Just an interesting thing I was thinking about.

If you really want to see a keyword’s search intent change over time, keep an eye on the SERPs for “psilocybin therapy.” Should be some really drastic changes in the next 2-5 years.

(Side note, I just want to brag, but I own the domain PsilocybinTherapy.com and this fact makes me quite happy. Wasn’t cheap tho…)

Sites For Sale

A friend is selling two sites. If you’re interested in these hit reply and let me know.


^ home improvement niche.


^ RV niche, obviously

Look at This Tweet

I feel like this tweet was overlooked on Twitter, so I wanted to put it here as well.

Are you following me on Twitter yet? @seanmarkey


That’s it for this week!

Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Rank Theory newsletter.

If you did, please forward this to someone and tell them to sign up or you won’t give them the antidote. Try to have as threatening an aura as possible. Will also accept tweets about it.




Thank you,


Loading more posts…