Rank Theory #6

Irregardlessly good SEO advice


It’s Friday again and here we are:

You, dreaming of the weekend and all the things you’ll do to squeeze every bit of color and flavor from life to help you ignore the reality that at the end of it all, it’s just darkness, we’ll be asleep forever without even dreams to push back against the pure suffocating existential dread of not existing for an eternity. But then the weekend arrives and there you are on the couch, refreshing Twitter again even though you just refreshed it, letting the bounty of the years on Earth you were given get burnt up by the developers designing stupid apps to pull your dopamine levers like a gambling addict at the gas station slot machine while your mind goes numb and your five senses atrophy—it’s Monday again, rinse and repeat until the inevitable end.

Me, chained to the desk for yet another day of writing shit like that ^

At least we have each other…

You’ll notice that I’m writing to you from Substack instead of Revue—still thinking about switching, but I didn’t really get to test things like I wanted to during the week, so it will be another little while until I switch.

I know that matters 0% to you, just keeping things transparent, keeping expectations low.

In other, completely unrelated news, the new Chvrches album finally dropped and it’s an absolute jam. Highly recommend listening.

In This Week’s Newsletter:

Two reader questions (about whether to build out part of an existing site vs. building on an expired domain, and then about getting negative SEO spammed).

The truth about doing SEO and the correlation with changes in the rankings.

Two things you should specifically look for when buying/acquiring domains for SEO.

A crypto site for sale that ranks for crypto KWs.

Reader Questions:

Question 1:

I’m in the <specific event> niche and I’ve been considering 2 options for a while.

  1. Register a new domain name to offer event listings (slow), or buy an existing 2-3 year old related site. (medium)

  2. Or, create a section on my existing website that already ranks for related terms. (faster?)

Typically event listing sites have press release/duplicate content, so would have to do a little rewriting.

Typically event listing websites gain a good amount of natural links over a year or two.

I rank 1 or 2 for ‘<local keyword’ searched within <location>. […] all our bookings have been cancelled until 2022 I’m afraid.

So, as a geek improving both 'event' + ‘<keyword>’ topical authority including strengthening 'event <keyword>' and it's sub categories is a goal to stay ahead for when events return.

I should mention we have only focused on <specific> events so broadening the ‘event type’ may help me get higher in the 2 word head term instead of a 3 word term.

Broadening keywords on a site I've heard can be great for lifting all pages? Broadening from ‘<specific> type events’ to all the other types which is 10x bigger by adding a listings section just may help in doing that?

Creating a section on the existing site has advantages, building a new site has others but will take much longer.

Answer 1:

So this question really boils down to:

Should I use this pandemic-fueled downtime to build out my website to target these broader head terms, or should I invest in doing it with an expired domain or another domain that I acquire?

I think the key to deciding which is a better choice lies in your comment about the press release/duplicate content issue.

My suggestion would be this:

Keep your main business site pure and super focused on your specific niche and your keywords.

If you have the budget and the bandwidth for is, find a more general site with some serious authority (DR 50+ maybe?) to build out. Be aggressive, make good use of the site’s authority. Publish press releases/slightly rewritten press releases and rank for all the event names.

Or even… make hub pages (.com/event-name) and just aggregate all the press releases there on sub pages, post quick news updates etc. and link up the silo to the hub page from all the sub pages. If it’s a recurring festival, you’re already in good shape for ranking the next year, just change the year in the H1.

Build aggressive links. Do press releases of your own for this site. Rank for every damn thing.

I think that’s what I’d do. And then keep your own site in good shape so you’ll always have it if the other site implodes on a future update. Just try and rank for as much shit as possible with a secondary site.

Don’t build out a newly registered domain. :)

Hope that helps!

Question 2:

I have a website, <redacted>. The domain just had its 1st birthday. The site itself, with 300+ articles, the majority of which haven't aged to 9+ months, is about to get high five figures in views/month and hit high three figures/mo in earnings (mostly Ezoic and Amazon Associates).

By all means, unexpectedly fast growth.

I've been slow and steady—but serious—with link building. I have Wikipedia links, as well as a few high-DR links from <big, sexy authority sites>.

Also, it looks like I've stepped on someone's feet really badly. They've been trying to hit the website with a negative SEO attack for months. The backlink profile in Ahrefs is self-explanatory. I have 260+ domains in my Search Console's disavow list.

1) Other than to keep up building good backlinks, even if the velocity of good/spammy is low, what can I do to keep this site afloat and growing?

2) The site just hit breakeven (I wrote most of the content myself, so I'm not counting my man-hours). If you were in my shoes, would you keep reinvesting the earnings back to it, or would you divert to another site (I have a few equally as promising, albeit younger).

Answer 2:

To help me answer this, I brought a guest who has more experience in negative SEO/disavowing links than me, to give you a better answer than me pulling shit out of thin air (which I will still do—see my answer at the end).

Stephen Sumner (see bio at the end of this answer) says:

Firstly, well done on the growth you have achieved in such a short time. If you were coming to me with this problem a few years back, I’d have my concerns about things but here in 2021, I do feel that Google has got quite a good grip on handling backlinks and for the most part knows when to discount a given link/domain. There is so much automated crap on the internet, you can spin up a new website on any subject and get it indexed and before you know it, low-quality links will start to occupy your backlink profile.

When we had the infrequent Penguin updates this used to make matters even worse as we didn’t have disavow files in the beginning and you had to wait for an update and this could sometimes take months, if not years before Google re-ran their algorithm, but today things are much more frequent. Not only that but Google has got far better at making things granular, so if a specific page looks like it has a spammy link profile, Google is far less likely to tank the whole site.

If you were running into major issues, I think a Manual Action from Google would be the proper warning sign, you also have solid growth so it feels things are progressing in the right way. 

I don’t think you should give up, you have achieved some great growth in your first year so I’d be inclined to double down on this site, build out more of the content that has been working well for you recently, keep up the link acquisition (in a diverse way), keep disavowing the really crappy stuff and work to build-up the brand signals.

About the author: Stephen has been working in and around SEO since 1999, originally from the UK and now based on the West Coast of Sweden. He has worked in several award-winning agencies in senior SEO roles, leading UK brands and at Scandinavias largest start-up as SEO lead, today Stephen runs Optimise a semi-remote SEM consultancy that has clients in Sweden, UK and as far away as Australia. 


My thoughts: not having much experience with this directly (that’s why I brought in Stephen) I still have some thoughts on what I’d do given this situation and Stephen’s advice.

Double down on legitimacy. What are all the positive brand signals you can send? Keep doing those. Good content, smart interlinking, high quality link building. People say Google have gotten good at recognizing when a site is being neg. SEO’d. Whether or not that’s true, it does feel like the algo, at the very least, just discounts the stupid-obvious SPAM links. It feels like it’s in Google’s best interest to do that. They are so widespread, so ubiquitous, just messing around with the guts of the algo to ignore them feels like the 80/20 of dealing with them.

I wouldn’t start a new site—if you 301 it to another site, the anchor text and link profile will follow. Unless you get penalized. Then I’d try a 301 (have heard of good results from that). Or, if a page gets penalized/loses a ton of rankings but the rest of the site is OK, try just creating a new page and 301’ing that specific page.

That’s what I’d try.

PSA to everyone: don’t be a shithead. Don’t negative SEO people.

The Truth About Ranking Things in Google

Results: going from top of page 2/bottom of page 1 to top 5-ish

Technique: Lazy SEO

Step by step process: literally do nothing.

I published a super in-depth article on a big magazine/newspaper site (sponsored post) and hit it with some links and then… that’s it. It popped into the SERPs in 10/11 spot, and then slowly fell back to the middle of page 2.

Then, about six or seven days ago, it popped up to the middle of page 5.

For no reason.

Now that it’s doing a bit better I will probably give it some more attention, but I just thought it was an interesting thing to bring up… two things:

  1. Sometimes you can do all the shit in the world and your site will not move in the SERPs at all—sometimes you can literally do nothing for two months and then all of a sudden it pops up.

  2. SEO takes a long fucking time. It’s not just an SEO cop-out. It really really can take a long time for the work done to start producing results. I did a bunch of stuff to the site in June-ish and it just needed to age a bit and build up some trust before things started to happen.

Avoid These Signals When Researching Domains to Acquire

In my weekly domain name acquisition obsession, I look at A LOT of really shitty names that I’d never in a million years acquire—and you shouldn’t either!

I’ve seen a lot of reasons to not buy a name when looking at the existing link profile, but two keep coming up, so I thought I’d share.

The first: an amazing exact match anchor text profile.

Just kidding. That shit is toxic. Looks something like this:

Wow, what are the odds that all the sites that linked to this site did so using the EXACT anchor text they want to rank for?


If you don’t see any really dumb, long, brand-focused, URL-focused anchor text (or if you see any dumb, long, brand-focused, URL focused anchor text in a very specific arrangement like 15%, 15%, 30%, 40% etc) then AVOID. It’s bad. It’s a toxic link profile.

The second: most of the good links are redirected

Just what it sounds like. Instead of the “referring page” being something like www.domain.com/post-name/ it looks like:




(where “sitename.com” is the name you’re researching.

Avoid that—it won’t pass on any value to any work you do building upon it.

Here’s a quick interview with the SEO building those links to that site:


A Crypto Site For Sale That Ranks for Crypto KWs

This is a live site, so you wouldn’t be acquiring anything expired and rebuilding.

Take a look at the metrics below (no, I am not sharing the URL publicly) and let me know if you want further info.

Looking for low/mid 4 figure offers.

Email: sem@hey.com for more info, if you have the budget and need some Crypto juice.

Some Keywords:

Some links:

Get in touch if you wanna


That’s it for this week!

Hope you found something useful here.

If you have any questions about SEO that you’d like me to answer in a future newsletter (always hiding your site/niche), please hit reply and ask!

If you really want to help support me/this newsletter, I’d appreciate it if you forwarded this to someone and told them to subscribe, or gave me a shout on twitter and tell people to subscribe.

If you don’t want to help, that’s OK too, you absolute monster.

Have a good weekend either way.