Rank Theory #5

Tonight, on a very special episode of Rank Theory...

Good morning good afternoon.

It’s time for part five in an endless series of SEO rants. What did you do to deserve this? That’s the thing, they never tell you. It’s the not knowing that’s the hardest part of this purgatory, but you just have to ENDURE.

This Week’s Newsletter Contains:

I’ve got two reader questions to go over. (If you have questions, holla at your boy, I’ll answer them—minus the niche/website details—in a future edition of the newsletter).

Also, there’s an SEO community I’m only telling you about because I want that sweet sweet affiliate income (oh and I guess also I’ve been a member since they launched in October 2017. Oh God, that was so long ago…)

OMFG he did WHAT with that domain name??? You’ll never believe this one weird trick to throw away your SEO money.

What to look forward to next week…


Are you following me on twitter?

It’s @seanmarkey if you’re not.

Here’s the kind of amazing content you’re missing out on:

Reader Questions

Niche and website and specific details removed to protect the askers cuz you’re a bunch of predators and you know it.

First Question:

My niche [redacted] is very difficult to find a good expired domain for. And like you, I don’t want to have the-best-bike-service-phoenix.info as my brand just so I can pick up a DR3 site with 30 links.

There are a number of good domains which come up in the [somewhat related]  niches which has a reasonable amount of crossover in terms of keywords so I’ve considered using one of those and then doing a carefully executed 301 to the fresh domain of my choice in the future.

Have you seen success with that?

I’m trying to weigh up the difference between a $5000 domain to redirect, or $5000 spent on links on the new domain once it’s been online for a while.

First Answer:

Ah, the ole “which money pit should I sink my $5k budget into” conundrum…

So, yes, I have seen success with this… I’ve seen success with a super carefully executed 301 and I’ve seen success with a sloppy, lazy 301. Obviously one is better than the other, but both can work. If you have the time and mental bandwidth, definitely go for the careful 301.

As for the difference between $5k redirect OR $5k on links, a few things to consider:

  1. If you spend $5k on link building, what do you think the end result will look like, and how does it compare with the link profile of the domain you’re looking to acquire?

  2. You’re basically balancing a KNOW FACTOR against an UNKNOWN QUANTITY. I’m not saying one is better than the other, but… one is better than the other.

  3. Be real with yourself, and ask how much it would cost to replicate the link profile of the expired domain.

So, it’s not exactly straightforward, is it?

The other side of the “hey the expired domain backlink profile is looking some kind of sexy” is this:

Is the domain well-represented in the Google’s index with NICHE RELEVANT content (even if those pages no longer resolve). You’re looking to see that Google’s index understands this site is about <your niche>.

If there’s only one or two pages indexed, or there’s a bunch of pages indexed but they’re about baseball shoes and your niche is popcorn makers, you’re NGMI.

Be sure to see the section after the next question/answer of this newsletter called OMFG He Did WHAT With That Domain Name?! for more the most important tip when rebuilding sites from the GoDaddy Graveyard.

Second Question:

I've had a [niche] site I've been publishing the odd article to every now and then. The idea was to keep it ticking over until I wanted to spend more time on it.

It's over at <redacted, you animals>.

I spotted this expired domain: <also redacted>.

It's got some good backlinks to it. I am lazy though (at least with regards affiliate/content sites at the moment) so if this was one to get I would prefer to 301 redirect the domain to <my website>. Or would you suggest something else (like restoring and standing the site back up?)

Second Answer:

Team Lazy, assemble! …eventually.

I feel you.

This is actually something I’ve talked about previously, but is worth mentioning specifically in regards to this question.

When it comes to expired domains with niche relevant backlinks + indexed pages, I’m a hoarder. My name is Sean, and I cannot stop buying these things. They fall out of my pocket when I pull out bus fare. I have to step over them in the kitchen and on the porch.

Here’s the thing: the one thing you can’t easily fake is age. And I’m not talking about “this domain was registered in 1999!” because, it doesn’t matter, dude. A site that has been live, with some kind of fresh content, for a length of time, is a valuable thing to have.

So, you can keep being lazy. But be smart! If a site comes along that’s perfect and you have the budget to grab it, but don’t have an immediate use for it… assuming you are ALL IN on the niche, just get it.

There’ve been SO MANY times when I was like “damn, I wish I had a site about <my niche> that I could use for OH WAIT I TOTALLY DO BECAUSE I’M A HOARDER.

Boom. It’s been live for two years publishing niche relevant content once or twice a month, it’s ready for the fire hose of energy and budget I’m about to throw at it.

There you go. Buy it, build something half-assed (at LEAST Half-Assed. If you build something quarter-assed it might not be worth the initial investment).

Hope that helps!

OMFG He Did WHAT With That Domain Name?!

I’m trying to get BuzzFeed to acquire my newsletter by serving them the Clickbait Special.

Do you think it’ll work? I’m just tryinna sell all the way out…

Okay, but for real this important.

If you buy a name with juice, don’t just 301 it to another domain.

You’re gonna have a bad time.

If you do that, it won’t pass much juice, it won’t help your main site AT ALL, and it could actively hurt you (I’ve heard of this second hand, but who knows, there’s so much going on with an algorithm).

  1. Host it somewhere that’s not total garbage (like a garbage shared hosting account. You’re better than that)

  2. Put WP on it and build any pages that have a lot of link juice running to them

  3. 301 any others that have link juice but aren’t relevant to your shit

  4. Put some GOOD (or at least decent, c’mon…) content up

  5. Publish a content or two every month

  6. Build the occasional link if you’re feeling frisky.

  7. Do some parkour if you’re feeling risky.

That’s the gist of it, don’t over-complicate things!

(And never just 301 the domain right away. Get that shit indexed and ranking for some content).

A Community of SEOs That Are Smart And I Am One of Them

The other day on twitter I was talking about how great the Slack community Traffic Think Tank is.

Actually, here’s the tweet:

That thread enforcement is no joke, it’s the best.

But I’m for real about the other benefits as well.

I've acquired several really great sites/domains from the dealflow, and I've sold a few of my own to other people there.

The job channel has a ton of amazing opportunities, and the three people that run it, Nick Eubanks, Matthew Howells-Barby, and Ian Howells (no relation… I think) are super smart SEOs that are getting their hands dirty every day and have been for several years.

I could tell you that those three plus a bunch of other smart people are very active there and spend a lot of time helping people that have questions. I could describe the really lucrative partnerships I’ve formed on there in the DMs. I could tell you that there’s a channel where you can say “hey, I need a few links to X industry” and you’ll probably get several replies from people that can help you out with off-market opportunities.

But mostly I want you to sign up through my affiliate link because I’m saving up for a Playstation 5 and I gotta buy it on eBay cuz that shit ain’t in stock ANYwhere. It’s a scalper’s market, y’all.

Okay, seriously, it’s a really good, really valuable place to hang out if you’re an SEO (or SEO adjacent) and if you can’t find a way to get value from the $119/mo price tag,

a) that’s on you, or

b) maybe you’re just not ready to be playing at this level, and that’s OK too! (Although… you should be able to level up much faster as a member. Hmm…)

Affiliate Button. Boop

Next Week

Tune in next week to hear me ranting about search intent, the Wise Man’s ranking factor.

See if BuzzFeed bought me out for $2m.

Also, possibly, I might be switching from Substack >> Revue. I’m not sure what kind of shenanigans that will cause, but I bet it’s not none! Apologies in advance.


Thanks for reading and if you’re a subscriber, you are so cool and smart, how do you do it?! (By subscribing, of course).

I’m looking to answer more reader questions—not just about domains/301s and stuff, but SEO in general…if I’m not up to the task, I’ll find someone who is. Please send questions my way!

Good luck out there in the SERPs! This has been Sean Markey reminding you: help control the pet population, have your pet spayed or neutered.

Until next week


PS - did you get the reference from the email’s sub-heading. Tell me if you got the reference 👀