Rank Theory #15
a smart SEO newsletter disguised as a very stupid SEO newsletter
How are things?
However they are now, they might be about to get a lot worse. Or better. Another possibly big update coming in the next several days.
But we’ll get to that in a minute.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone that helped support this stupid newsletter (and supported your own future self) by buying an early copy of my course. I was extremely happy with the number of sign-ups, and the very cool people I’ve met in our little Slack group. I’ll be posting the first videos soon—had a really rough week with the unexpected death of a very beloved pet, and I’m only now starting to move past it and becoming productive again. So keep an eye out for THAT.
The course is currently closed to sign-ups. It will open again when the content is all recorded and posted. If you’re interested in knowing immediately when it’s ready to go, don’t even sweat it. I will definitely not shut up about it here or on Twitter (where you should definitely follow me).
In This Newsletter
A possible follow-up to the absolute piece of shit that was the December 2020 algo update
For better or worse, all the shit I bought or sold (or sold and then re-bought) this year
The Rank Theory Index™ of sites
Looking into the face and mind of the abyss, one year on
An algo update on the 3rd. My sites—several affiliate sites earning a combined $25k or so a month very consistently—took a hit. Traffic down 20% ish on December 3rd.
It’s okay… some hard work and I can recover from that. Rankings down but not out.
Talk to the team at the start of the following week with a plan of how we’ll recover.
Then December 9th—a 50% drop from pre-December.
December 10th: +90% drop from pre-December.
Result: 99.99% revenue drop across the board.
That’s how my 2020 ended.
It looks like November’s algo update didn’t do much of anything, based on the entire lack of chatter I’ve seen in regards to it.
But Google just announced a “product review” update for Dec 2021.
Wondering what Google means by “product reviews?”
It’s your dopey affiliate site.
So this could be nothing or it could be a career-ending 50 megaton nuclear bomb equivalent that sees you firing your team and trying to fire-sale your mop site LOL what is the meaning of life anywaaaaaaay…
Guess we’ll find out soon enough. You can be sure I will cover the update, if there is one, especially if it affects me personally, which it probably won’t, because I am 0/100 on affiliate sites (meaning I don’t really own any of significance, and I would absolutely not buy one unless I had a plan to immediately turn it into an authority or ecom site), I think they’re super risky and have no moat and if you have affiliate sites what are you even DOING turn that shit into an authority site like YESTERDAY, damn…
***Topical Sponsorship Message***
Didn’t see you there.
It’s a wonderful time of year, isn’t it? A time for reflection on the days that’ve passed us by, a time for gathering with the ones you love the most to drink hot chocolate and…oops! Haha, you’ve got some whipped cream in your mustache.
As you take into account the year you’ve just had, and look with hope and possibly, is that some fear?? to the future…. just how safe *IS* your portfolio of affiliate sites?
A product review update, you say?
Fuuuuck, dude, what are you gonna do!??
All that terrible, terrible affiliate content you’ve had written… you for sure need to change it up, make it better, become an authority.
But how?! How will you ever do this thing on your own!!!?!!?
Whenever I get hit with the crippling existential dread of a random Google core algo update completely wiping out my livelihood and the livelihood of my employees, I reach for a nice, warm mug of Clearscope.
Clearscope helps me turn my shitty affiliate comparison articles into thought-provoking, in-depth content that really engages my audience, and gives Google’s algorithm exactly the keywords it wants to see.
Help your portfolio of sites give Google’s endlessly monstrous hungry hungry hippo algorithm the content it wants, and become the authority site you want to see in the world.
Thanks Clearscope for sponsoring this SEO newsletter that is driving change in the hearts and minds of millions, and inspiring all to come together in peace this December.
Check out Clearscope’s amazing content tool here. I use it. You should use it too. Not JUST because they’re sponsoring my dumb newsletter, but because it’s a genuinely useful tool.
Obviously Clearscope has no editorial control over these ad spots, and I think that’s really brave.
***End Sponsorship Message***
What terrible and amazing decisions did I make this year?
I’m going to go through all the major purchases and sales I made this year.
Why am I doing this to myself?
Because you all love to be voyeurs and look at my really terrible mistakes, possibly to learn from them, but mostly because it’s entertaining.
Pass the popcorn, please…
But also, because as I’m posting here every week, expecting you to trust me at my word and my experience, maybe showing you a bit of my cards will help you at least see where I’m coming from when I rant about this or that thing.
Here, for better or worse, are the sites I bought and sold this year, minus the domain, and in some cases, OTHER details to protect my own ass, because I did sign some NDAs and shit.
Also, once this email goes out I’m deleting this section the public Substack site, so this is subscriber only content. Thank you for subscribing.
sold a Vape affiliate site for six figures via Motion Invest
bought a DR 74, super-amazing one-word brand for low/mid 5 figs to build something cool on
bought an amazing domain in installments for low 5 figs
bought a domain (great 5-letter brand) for low 4 figs @ GoDaddy auction
bought a content site/marketing site for low 5 figs to 301/rebrand a tangentially-related site that got crushed by the Dec 2020 update, that I wanted to build something new on. Acquiring this site helped me shift the site’s topical relevancy.
bought DNgeek for an undisclosed amount of money in installments (first installment happened in March)
sold the DR 74 domain I bought in Feb, things just didn’t work out like I thought/hoped—sold it for what I paid for it
sold an affiliate site for low 5 figs made up of content from a site that Dec 2020 algo update crushed—I 301’d all the affiliate content to an expired domain I’d previously rebuilt.
bought an amazing psychedelics name for mid-high four figures (shout out to Grit Brokerage!)
bought a super two-word domain for low four figs @ GoDaddy auction
bought a one-word amazing amazing .org for low four figs @ GoDaddy auction
nothing. Spent this month driving from Utah to Vermont and back again, and packing for a late-June move to Vermont
bought a DR 70+ .org for low 5 figs (on a 3-month or something payment plan)
sold a domain that I bought for low four figs for low 5 figs, in addition to an agreement to do several months of SEO work on the site they were gonna build, and several other non-money things that, several months later, never materialized. looking to buy this domain back for what I paid as soon as I have enough for it. (ಠ_ಠ)
nothing—settling in to the new house. moving is a lot of fucking work!
bought a cannabis marketing agency website (way overpaid) for high four figs, on a payment plan that runs through the end of the year)
bought a DR 28 domain for low 4 figs @ GoDaddy auction that I haven’t fucking done anything with, yet. Idiot
sold DNgeek for just sliiiightly more than I paid
bought back the affiliate site I sold in April for sliiiightly more than I sold it for
bought an ecommerce site that I truly believe in selling a product I am super passionate about for mid five-figures—the first time I have gotten a loan to buy a site. still don’t have ownership of the site due to payment processor bullshit, I’m so mad I can’t even… finish this entry
sold a domain with Juice on JuiceMarket for low 4 figs
sold a domain (just a good brand) on Dan.com for low 4 figs
finally, I bought an insta account that’s super engaged and related to the ecom site I just bought for high 3 figs—should be able to get some sales from the synergy.
Well, that’s it.
Some mediocre purchases that I could probably have done without.
But mostly I stand behind these purchases.
The one thing I DID learn this year: I’m no longer selling any of my assets in my main niche. Not a single one. One day I’ll make a spectacular exit like a star exploding, but until then, no short-sited sales.
What do you think?
That’s a lot right? I may have a problem…
The Rank Theory Index of sites that, what are they even doing, we should pay attention to them
I've wanted to do this for a long time, and today I was like “well I definitely don’t have enough stupid shit going on, so let’s add this into the mix!”
But also, I have someone who can help me keep track of this a bit.
Introducing, very half-assedly, the Rank Theory Index of Sites That, What Are They Even Doing, We Should Pay Attention to Them. The Rank Theory Index for short.
So there are some sites that are doing some weird stuff and we should pay attention to them…
a site doing millions and millions of visitors per month, in the span of just a few months, with shitty, AI-generated copy (and even worse links)
a site doing hundreds of thousands of visitors per month if a very lucrative (Delta-8 THC) niche
I’m going to set up some tools to monitor these sites doing interesting or risky things (that I don’t own and that I also will not reveal the URL of so no one can call me a narc) and give period updates here on how these tactics are going over time.
If you have a site that’s doing some crazy shit, or a site that you know of and you’d like to contribute to the RTI, please hit me up sem @ hey . com.
I will have a page on RankTheory.com that shows you a key to the site’s I’m talking about, like:
niche - delta 8 thc
why we’re tracking them: super aggressive link building on an expired domain
What do you think? Interested? Dumb idea? Hit me back, I want to hear from you on it.
I will publish the first of this series of updates next week (probably).
All right, that’s enough outta me. Time for lunch and some client work and then some course work. Excited to post the first few lessons this weekend.
Y’all keep it real.
And go check out what our sponsor has on offer at Clearscope.
Until next time…