Rank Theory #8

The world wide web's most SEO newsletter

Hello!

Welcome to another edition of the world wide web’s most SEO newsletter.

How’s things?

I’m good. I tried to get this thing finished before I had to leave for an appointment midday. As this is now going out after 5pm, that clearly didn’t happen.

I’ll try not to schedule any more appointments for midday Friday, as I need hour upon hour to write this DIGITAL GOLD for your smiling faces and hungry eyes.

At least it pays well…

This Week’s Newsletter

Affiliate sites are dead, long live affiliate sites

The Philosophy of “Paying for Potential”

The NYTimes puts Baby in the Corner

Affiliate Sites Are Dead. Long Live Affiliate Sites

Okay, this one is a little out there. I was digging into Telehealth.org, which announced a rebrand from TBHI to Telehealth.org.

However… they have always been located on Telehealth.org, they just used to be known as the Telebehavioral Health Institute, or TBHI.

But they redesigned the site and made a new logo, according to this press release. Aside from what I’m about to talk about, this seems like a really confusing rebrand “We’re going to call ourselves Telehealth.org, which is the URL our business has always been on. But we don’t want to confuse people, so we should interchangeably also refer to ourselves as TBHI on the homepage of the site.”

It’s kind of a mess.

When I first read the press release I was like “oh, this site is moving from their old TBHI domain to this slick new .org” but no! They are just calling themselves something different than used to. Sometimes. On their website… if they feel like it.

Okay, so why am I telling you about this?

I was going to throw this story right out of the newsletter, because it’s not actually a study in a big company rebranding from one domain to another, which I thought would be interesting and informative.

Instead, I found something else when looking at the keywords this site ranks for.

So, Telehealth.org, according to their homepage, focuses on evidence-based telehealth training, credentialing, consulting, and staffing.

They’ve got a bunch of products in their course catalog. They don’t have enough traffic to show up on similar web (Ahrefs shows about 2k visits/mo, so probably 50%-100% above that is their actual organic traffic).

CLEARLY they’re main business is selling these telehealth courses, and they’ve earned hella links (DR 64) by specializing in this niche.

But they’ve also published a “review blog” onto their site for products that relate to “telehealth conferences” and it isn’t doing that bad! Despite how it really feels just stapled on to the site. They are ranking in the top 10 for terms like:

  • best pulse oximeter

  • best microphone for zoom

  • bluetooth speaker with microphone

  • conferencing speaker phone

  • best light therapy lamps

Alongside terms like:

  • telemedicine cpt codes

  • hipaa password policy

  • hipaa security risk assessment template

I’m not trying to throw shade--opposite! I love how they have a relevant-to-their-niche affiliate blog alongside their main product offering.

They for sure could benefit from an expert affiliate marketer punching up their content, and would definitely benefit from some deep SEO work, but it’s working for them!

Here’s how the content looks--typical AMZ review copy:

It’s not the 2,000 word behemoth you typically see on purely affiliate sites.

I don’t know, it was just surprising, like, god damn, everything is an affiliate site now we’ve jumped the shark for real.

But also, this feels like a rare “natural use-case for affiliate recommendations.”

Weird.

So what can you take away from this? Lots, but here’s a few. I’LL JUST DO THE WORK FOR YOU, YOU’RE WELCOME.

  1. About page has just one person listed (a doctor, though), and you can talk about E-A-T on-page all day, but it was never just about that. Look at their link profile. THAT is the E-A-T Google cares about. Always has been.

  2. The site is a DR 64 with a ton of health-related authority, but they are not getting much organic traffic because the site is a bit unfocused. It’s a telehealth course site with a blog that talks about HIPAA compliance and also recommends telehealth conference equipment. Just amazing to see the potential of a site like this just begging for some SEO work.

  3. Your bluetooth speaker affiliate site or your standing desk review site doesn’t stand a chance, over the long term. Build yourself a brand.

  4. Multiple revenue streams FTW

The Philosophy of Paying for Potential

I should make this a blog post so Matt Diggity or Ahrefs can put me in a future SEO round-up--that’s definitely the only thing holding me back from being featured...

You see a lot of sites for sale on places like Flippa talking about “this turnkey site in an amazing 60 billion dollar a year industry, tons of potential!” And that is clearly bullshit. I don’t have to tell you the difference between buying a “dropshipping CBD site” for $299 is so far away owning a profitable site in the CBD space that if it was a physical distance Voyager 1 wouldn’t reach it for another fucking thousand years.

But there is a specific case to be made for buying sites on “future potential” rather some multiple of earnings. It’s one I’ve done several times now, and that is acquiring sites for the future SEO potential.

For example:

Earlier this year I paid low/mid five figures for a site that was making zero monies.

The brand/domain wasn’t super special.

The content was a bit of a mess.

On paper, not worth the money.

But as an acquisition for a big project I was working on, it was an authority and relevancy BOMB, and had been active and publishing fresh content for 5-7 years, which in the niche I was working in, represented an actual long time.

So, because I had a plan, and a very specific use case, it made it a worthwhile acquisition, even though it is not the kind of acquisition you bring back to your Mastermind Group like “look at what an amazing genius I am.”

I did the same thing a month ago, bought a site for high four figures that was making $0, but had the relevancy and age I wanted--plus a bunch of content.

So, no, your investors wouldn’t be happy with a purchase like this (probably? I’ve never had investors, I just assume they are unreasonable and strict). But if you know what you’re doing, and you absolutely need a site with authority, relevancy, age, and maybe some content to roll into a project you’re working on, buying a site for “potential” is one way to go--and something that has worked super well for me several times now.

What do I look for when buying a site based on “potential” only?

What KIND of keywords is it ranking for (info, buying, both?) and how many long tail keywords does it rank for?

What is the general KD (ahrefs) of these keywords, and how have the rankings moved (looking at the individual historical rankings of a KW in ahrefs, like this):

^ that’s a good sign

Just like buying an expired domain, what’s the backlink profile like? Looking for a good mix of general high authority + super niche relevant links.

How long has this site been live?

That last one is a big one. You can’t fake age, but you can rip its head off suck the juices out (metaphorically speaking… your site can, by 301’ing it). I love to 301 an old af site if it ticks all the other boxes.

Anyway, that’s what I tell myself when I’m lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling like fuck, did I really spend $25k on a site that makes zero dollars? What’s wrong with me? Do I feel, deep down, that I’m not WORTHY of success? Is this some perverse self-sabotage to make sure I’m always struggling because I identify as someone who struggles and I’m terrified of the therapeutic work involved to embrace this part of myself like a child, unconditionally loved and say it’s okay it’s all right you deserve success and then we go out for ice cream, me and my inner self and I’m like HEY MONEY BAGS, SPENDING $25K ON A GODDAMNED SITE THAT MAKES $0 YOU’RE PAYING FOR THIS ICE CREAM STOP WASTING MONEY.

And then we ride the shame spiral into restorative, peaceful sleep.

NYTimes Puts Baby in the Corner

News came out the other day that the New York Times was going to limit access to The Wirecutter to 10 articles per month for non-subscribers.

Immediately, everyone wants to know WTF ARE THEY DOING and WHAT ARE THE SEO IMPLICATIONS OF THIS? You can picture every affiliate marketer like “I hope Google flushes their rankings down the toilet like yesterday’s taco salad,” even though that probably won’t happen.

I’m going to share with you three opinions of three people smarter than me, and their reaction to this news. The first two are really smart SEOs, and the third is someone that writes a B2B media-focused newsletter and covers stories in this space all the time.

Matthew Howells-Barby, Co-founder of Traffic Think Tank:

I find this a crazy decision. There’s only two reasons I can think of as to why they did this:

  1. The revenue they’re generating from affiliate has diminished to a point where subscription revenue would yield a better return (I’m skeptical of this).

  2. It was an internal decision focused on brand alignment and delivering more value to existing users to drive retention.

Easy to criticize from the outside, but … I just can’t see how this makes sense in my head?

Ian Howells, Co-founder of Traffic Think Tank:

They may also be ‘running out’ of high value stuff… they published ‘the best instant noodles’ recently… feels like scraping the bottom of the barrel now.

Jacob Donnelly, A Media Operator:

To entice people to remain subscribers, the Times might be looking for various add ons that appear to be valuable, but are actually a rather low risk for the company. Again, if only 60 people out of 1,000 are hitting the paywall, it's more than monetizing Wirecutter from an affiliate perspective. Any lost revenue because that 6% bounce can be thought of as a marketing cost.

If we look at it, it's a very simple strategy. Wirecutter is not giving up its affiliate business. The vast majority of people are likely never going to hit 10 articles a month. Therefore, the paywall doesn't exist for them. Bring on those sweet, sweet Amazon affiliate checks.

(BTW, A Media Operator is one of the few newsletters I read every edition of. Recommend subscribing if you are interested in similar topics. Like with Traffic Think Tank, I’ve been a paying subscriber of A Media Operator since it launched).

~

All right, kids.

That’s it for these week’s newsletter.

Reader questions return next time.

Have a good one, and be sure to ride this positive energy into the weekend like

✌️

Sean
sem@hey.com