sem #1

seo & marketing news | interesting things | domains at auction:,, and more!


Welcome to the new incarnation of my newsletter. If you’re getting this email, you either signed up previously for my newsletter and you haven’t heard from me since I switched to a paid newsletter when you didn’t sign up (no hard feelings, bro), or you were subscribed to my paid newsletter (because you’re an OG) and haven’t heard from me in a week or two since I pulled the plug on it.

Either way, thanks for being a subscriber. If you’ve changed your mind, it’s easy to unsubscribe at the bottom.

Quick word about what to expect with this newsletter (and why I cancelled my paid newsletter):

The paid newsletter was cool, but never got the traction needed to justify the amount of work and time it took to produce. As it was paid, I always tried to go above and beyond, delivering as much value as possible. That was fun, but not sustainable, as it left no time for growing the subscriber list of that side project.

With this not-paid version I don’t feel that pressure. I’ll produce these when I have the time, and when there’s interesting things to share. Shooting for once a week, but who knows!

This newsletter will feature the best names at auction each week(ish), along with some of my thoughts about the names. I will do less research and due diligence (that’s on you now). I’ll also include some occasional SEO news and branding thoughts, because that’s why I spend all my time thinking and reading about.

So if that sounds good, cool. Welcome! If not, no worries.

Hit reply with any questions/thoughts.

In This Issue:

  • SEO/Marketing News

  • Interesting Things

  • Domains at Auction

SEO/Marketing News

There were actually several big pieces of news from Google in the last week:

January 20th Algorithm Update.

The biggest news is the 1/20/20 algorithm update, which Google announced via its @searchliason Twitter account. The impact and specific targets of this particular update are not yet known, and take a few weeks to analyze. That said, several SEOs are seeing some big early movement:

I’ll share any in-depth analysis and takeaways in the future when I read about them.

Google Rolls-out Favicons in the SERPs and then Promptly Rolls Them Back

Here’s how it looked:

The main criticism was how having the favicons beside the URL introduced a kind of blindness to the “ad” label, making the search engine ads look like legitimate results, increasing the CTR, and making ads more profitable.

Of the roll back Google says:

We’re dedicated to improving the desktop experience for Search, and as part of our efforts around this we rolled out a new design last week, mirroring the design that we’ve had for many months on mobile. The design has been well received by users on mobile screens, as it helps people more quickly see where information is coming from and they can see a prominent bolded ad label at the top. Web publishers have also told us they like having their brand iconography on the search results page. While early tests for desktop were positive, we are always incorporating feedback from our users. We are experimenting with a change to the current desktop favicons, and will continue to iterate on the design over time.

Uh huh.

The cynic in me says:

Expect to see favicons permanently in the (desktop) SERPs eventually. They’ll keep iterating on it until they take a stock hit because profits didn’t grow enough or whatever stock lingo (advertising makes up 85% of Google’s revenue) and then they’ll just make it permanent, as that’s what will have ads performing better.

Huge Update to the Featured Snippet SERPs:

I agree this change makes the SERPs a bit less cluttered, but as someone trying to take up as much SERP real estate as possible with one site, it’s kind of a bummer. Basically, if you “win” the featured snippet (FS) your organic result gets move OFF of page one, usually to the top of page two (a.k.a. #11) but that isn’t guaranteed. All that’s guaranteed is that if you get the FS, your site isn’t on the first page twice.

It was a really alarming time looking at the rank trackers before I heard about this change:

I’ve seen a lot of back and forth on Twitter about whether it’s better to be in the #1 spot or to have the FS, but that’s a topic for another day (or whenever I write about it)

Interesting Things:

Top Level Domain Name Bias in the SERPs -

This was an interesting experiment where the author used a made up word to rank a bunch of different TLDs to see how Google treated them. Highly recommend the entire post, but here’s a few interesting takeaways:

  • Despite no hreflang tags or language declaration, Google assumed the .co website was Spanish and the .de site was German.

  • .XYZ was crawled most aggressively by Google.

  • .Org had the lowest number of pages indexed.

Advanced Link Reclamation Tactics -

Not just asking journalist or site owners to link to your god damned site if they mentioned it, but asking them to switch the link from the homepage to a money page/other landing page, as long as it’s relevant and should have been linked to in the first place.

Good tactic to keep in mind.

Why Medium Lost Half of its Search Visibility -

This could also be titled: Why You Should Hire a Few Good SEOs For Your Big-ass Company.

Some of the things on this list are def. cringeworthy:

  • homepage cloaking

  • low-relevance, indexable URLs

  • broken priority pages (a page referenced/linked to by hundreds of other pages but 404s

  • terrible sitemap logic

And a bunch of other things! A nice what-not-to-do article.

Domains at Auction:

These domains are going to auction this week and would make good brands/good domains to build an affiliate site on, etc. Just remember to do your OWN due diligence before buying. - ends 2/1
DR 43 | 1.1k RD, Links from: SierraClub, ThinkProgress, All Wikipedias, many .Edu sites

The old page title tells you a lot about what the site was about:

Earth Policy Institute – Building a Sustainable Future

Could be an affiliate play to push sustainable products with a solid .org brand. Here’s how I’d do it:

  • Create a bunch of non-promotional content to rank for all kinds of long tails, such as news-y posts, some evergreen education content about climate change, etc.

  • Create a few guides like “how to reduce your carbon footprint” (how to reduce your carbon footprint - 2.9k searches/mo with a bunch more long tails: keyword difficulty hard but you have some domain authority to flex at it). In these guides you can link to the following promotional pages.

  • Pick 3-4 categories of “Best X” product review. Just a few. Point links from your guides to these pages (make sure they are related!) and then build some links. - ends 1/31
DR 41 | 520 RD, Links from:, Moz, TheAtlantic, PCWorld, AdWeek

I think it used to redirect to, which is still live (but ugly and does not give a good user experience).

A good ad/marketing name with a lot of relevant referring domains. From the context around referring domains, looks like it was some sort of influencer type of site. I checked the trademarks for Adly and they’re all dead, so you may not run into any issues there (but Damnit Jim, I’m a sexy SEO not a sexy lawyer, so don’t take my advice).

If I picked up this site (currently at $3.3k, so I won’t), I’d build the best marketing resource on the net and then lead-gen the shit out of visitors.

My strategy would be to build some statistic-driven pages (like this, from Siege) around ads, marketing, etc. Aside from some on-going news or whatever content to keep the site fresh, I’d hammer these pages with links and get them ranking for phrases that people writing articles about this niche would search for to get those statistic-source links.

Then I’d have prominent forms on major pages and sidebars like:

“Hey! Need help with <marketing things>? Hit us with your name, email, quick summary of your biz, marketing budget, and one of our partners will get back with you soon.”

(or whatever the good version of that is, I have no actual experience building lead gen sites) - ends 1/29

DR 27, but nothing too impressive. Amazing home decor affiliate brand, though. - ends 1/31

Low price. Sports betting is obviously going to continue to grow in popularity, and this “<sports concept> + bet” name is probably as good as any others you’ll find. - ends 1/31

Finally you can build that hotel industry market research firm you’ve been dreaming about (but seriously, that’d be a solid play here, if you had the resources to get the data.—the global hospitality industry is a $500 billion industry and good market research is worth the big money that the players here would totally spend).

Either way, this is a super solid hospitality brand. Short, memorable, rhymes! - ends 1/29

I love this name. It’s out of my price range for a “nice to have,” but it’s an amazing brand for a broker, site sellers, web design agency, etc. - ends 1/31

What a knock-out brand. It works well for a .org, and is such a positive word, whether talking about money or just life in general. Not sure the best way to play this business-wise, but just buy it now and figure that out later. Solid.


That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!

Please like and vote or whatever Substack offers so I can get internet points that validate all my bad decisions.

Also, if you’re at Namescon hit me up! I, too, am at Namescon (Mon - Saturday). You can reach me sem AT (use your secret decoder ring to figure that email address out—this post is public)!

Finally, I will do a bonus edition probably in a day or two about the SEO value of the domains in the Namescon auction, so stay tuned for that!

~ Sean Markey