Rank Theory #10

Back to your regularly scheduled SEO bullshit...


Welcome to issue #10 of the Rank Theory newsletter.

That’s right, I’m playing the newsletter game on hard mode alienating subscribers by leaning into my bullshit.

How’s YOUR week going?

In This Weeks Newsletter

A reader question

The holy grail of affiliate sites

An important PSA

Reader Question


Question for you regarding <website that I picked up from auction that is redacted>. I’m looking at 2 options currently.

1)  It still ranks for 150+ keywords, I’m tempted to simply do a wayback restore and then redirect it to my site in a few weeks (possibly annoying the good people of the real <organization it used to be>).

2)  Build out a <related niche> site with fresh content, cherry pick some low difficulty keywords around these topics and get it to rank for that - then redirect a bit further down the line.

Which should I do, or is there a third option I haven’t thought of?


So I actually got two questions similar to this. It’s a popular topic! Basically,

I bought this expensive-ass expired domain, now wtf do I do with it?


I’ve talked about this before. My most direct experience with this (though I have quite a few) is that I bought a domain with a ton of relevant links ranking for many keywords.

I spent many and many of dollars upon this domain name.

The people asking this question have as well, I assure you.

As such, I never risk losing a domain name over stolen content.

Content is easy. It’s so cheap and plentiful, like the ocean. Full of plastic micro beads and toxic, killing millions of fish per year…

No wait, lost the thread.

Just put some new content up, it doesn’t have to be magical.

However, you just paid out the ass for this asset, and now you want to be super stingy with the budget on content, literally the thing that will give this new domain all of its future value?

(I’m not accusing you, dear question asker(s) of this, for the record. Just framing a way of thinking that you work against).

I am super hesitant, personally, to put old content on valuable expired domains.

In this situation what I would do is:

Put up 10 new blog posts, soon as I can. Some of them would target keywords I’d like to rank for eventually, some would just be relevant filler that wasn’t bad but doesn’t have to be 3,000 word killers. Others would target the pages still ranking for keywords that I would like to prop up with a live page.

I’d look at the top 5 pages by links in Ahrefs (Ahrefs, sponsor me!) and find the ones with the MOST INCOMING LINKS and then publish something on that URL. Specifically something that I could internal link the other pages to. Pass that link juice along, awww yiss.

Finally, I’d take a handful of the next-most powerful pages by links (specifically those that makes ZERO sense to rebuild, like if it was a page for a conference from 2017) and just redirect that to the blog, passing out link juice to the site like

Whether you 301 it to your main site in the future or not will probably be a function of how good the brand/domain itself is, and how well the site ranks for old and new content alike.

For me, the brand has to be A+ tier, and the site has to start ranking on the first three pages for some longtail keywords.

That site’s a keeper.

The Affiliate Site Holy Grail

…is to not be an affiliate site.

You know something sucks when you just want the better version of it.

Caterpillars? Sucks

Butterflies? Amazing

Or the reverse—

Chickens? Sucks

Dinosaurs? Amazing

So it is with affiliate sites.

Now look, I’m skipping over a lot of nuance here. I found a ton of success myself by building a selling affiliate sites. It is absolutely a legit business model, and I don’t disparage or look down on anyone doing affiliate site stuff (which, for the record, I still do as well).

The point of this is that you have to think beyond the affiliate site model.


Because when your site is …ring-ring


Hang on. Let me just take this call real quick.



It’s for you. It’s Google’s algorithm and it’s calling from INSIDE THE HOUSE.

Google’s algorithm is wearing a scream mask and hiding behind the couch with a very long knife while you eat popcorn and get high, watching Rick and Morty.

It’s going to murder the shit out of your affiliate site, eventually.

The solution?

Turn it into a brand.

Before they inexplicably put it behind a paywall, how many of you have ever searched for a product review like “best vacuum Wirecutter?”

That’s money in the bank.

Or like “<literally any keyword> + reddit.”

sure, ok, I’ll just turn my affiliate site into Reddit, real quick…

That’s not the point.

The point is: what can you do to turn something that’s a commodity into a unique brand?

Here’s the answer: I don’t know. But it’s something I’m gonna be thinking a lot about over the next few months. I’m sure I’ll write about it again. Do you have thoughts about this? Email me. I’ll repackage them and share them with the newsletter as my own and take all the sweet sweet credit (unless you want it, happy to give you a shout out).

A Sexy Example:

This is something I stumbled across this morning. Now, it’s not the exact same thing—this is not an affiliate site that transitioned to a brand, but it’s mind blowing.

Teachers Pay Teachers is a lesson plan site where teachers create lesson plans and sell them to other teachers.

Look at the top Keywords they rank for in Ahrefs (Ahrefs, sponsor this newsletter!):

Over a million brand name (version) searches.

That’s impressive as hell. That’s being able to do the moonwalk in middle school (there was always that one kid who could).

Anyway, I think that’s the biggest single metric (besides dollar bills in yo pocket) to measure the success of your efforts. How many people are searching for your BRAND each month (assuming you didn’t name your site the exact match KW)?

Let’s take this journey together in future editions…

Remember Kids

Say PIZZA to drugs.

Say NO to yes.


That’s it for this week.

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