[rank theory] SEO Newsletter

do follow or do not do follow; there is no try follow -- SEYoda

Published 5 months agoΒ β€’Β 5 min read

hi. hello

welcome to Rank Theory, the SEO newsletter voted "least likely to be written by an AI" in its high school class.

be sure to enable images and please drag this shit into your MAIN SQUEEZE email folder so it doesn't end up in The Wasteland--I talk about some spammy niches and use a lot of images, so it's a constant battle to stay out of inbox trouble...

I'll never stop though, never stop going against email newsletter best practices...


News and Updates

ConvertKit says I have 400 subscribers that are deadbeats not engaged. Remember to click this link each week to view some maximally dank memes and not be bothered by my impending "ARE YOU EVEN SUBSCRIBED" email I have to send to keep my shit clean. That email is imminent, for the love of god check out these memes.

Just one update this week. Use this bonus time I've given you wisely!

Featured Snippets

πŸ§€ I wrote about a piece of "Digital PR" that I saw in the wild and investigated. Here is the thing I wrote go and read it and then share it with your favorite SEO influencer so I can get on Matt Diggity's monthly SEO round-up. Or whatever... I'm chill

β€‹πŸš¨Someone stole this dude's ENTIRE SITE, copying it and putting it on their own domain--his site got kicked out of the index. Must-read story.

πŸ“ A pretty interesting and methodical approach to keyword research using Reddit.

Sites For Sale

So, I tried TWO DIFFERENT THINGS with the network of 700 sites I bought, both didn't pan out.

Because hosting feels were absolutely fucking killing me, I killed THEM--the hosting, and the starter site. I also slashed the price from $500 to $250 per domain (less, if you buy more)...

So now I have a list of just under 700 names and I'm selling them for between $250 and $199 depending on how many you buy, and they're just... aged and ready for you to build something cool on.

​Go forth and check out the list + get more info here.

Just Because You Have A Brand Doesn't Mean You're Immune To Traffic Declines

"Build a brand, you gotta build a brand, if you build a brand you'll survive the core updates" says every SEO mouthpiece on Twitter and every handsome genius SEO newsletter writer...

It's almost a cliche, but in every cliche there's a core of truth.

So it is with this.

Gareth Boyd (shout out Gareth, I know you're a reader) had a pretty interesting Twitter thread where he shared how 16 big, authoritative brands were doing with organic traffic.

Most were on a steady decline, some same, some up.

Here's the first tweet (vibes are πŸ’―)

8 of the sites were down

2 sites were up

5 were steady/same

(There were only 15 sites in the thread, I triple checked).

here are the sites:

  • GoBankingRates
  • TheSpruce
  • EatThisNotThat
  • CNet
  • RealSimple
  • Mashed
  • Investopedia
  • HomeAndGarden
  • Lifewire
  • NYPost
  • Bustle
  • ReadersDigest
  • Fortune
  • ApartmentTherapy
  • VeryWellFit

And I was curious to see what the keyword data looks like for that BRAND, like how popular a search term is the brand KW and here's what I found:

Some of those search volumes are a little surprising. I guess verywell fit and gobankingrates and investopedia are stupid brands that no one wants to type?

Or else their content is such that no one is seeking them out specifically, which is what we call a dud on the brand-o-meter.

So I went to the biggest hundred million dollar publishers I could think of (who, indeed, some of the brands we have talked about already are owned by) just to see what it looks like for them and their brand KW search. Here it is:

Here's how that correlates to the general overall traffic graph of these sites:

  • GoodRX - same
  • All Recipes - up
  • Forbes - same
  • The Points Guy - down
  • Serious Eats - same
  • Healthline - same (133M lol)
  • Southern Living - same
  • Food And Wine - same
  • Medical News Today - same
  • TreeHugger - up
  • Psych Central - same
  • Verywell Mind - same
  • Greatist - down
  • Bezzy - (see note below)
  • TheBalanceMoney - down
  • Daily Paws - up (but an asterisk * it is a DR 75 site and traffic is < 200 organic) 😬

So, the take away in this ABSOLUTELY FABULOUSLY scientific study:

Do I think there's a correlation between the brand power of a particular ...brand based on how high the search volume is for the brand name and their ability to get through a round of devastating Google updates relatively unscathed?


But more likely there are a bunch of smaller things that aren't as easily traceable that matter much more.

Bustle (also a dictionary word, which complicates brand searches--another problem) has a fairly high brand search number, but their traffic is WAY down:

Down 50% in the last year.

However, when you dig in to some of the keywords, like this one I chose pretty much at random:

Telfar Wallet -- 25k search volume.

They went from 8th to NOTHING.

But look, their page:


It was about these wallets dropping soon. Everyone searching for that high-search-volume probably very lucrative search term, when this was written, was looking to get info on the upcoming release, probably.

Now look at the SERPs:

  • Two Rows of product options from Telfar
  • PAA
  • Telfar store β€” europe β€” tan product
  • Telfar store - europe
  • Telfar store β€” lavendar product
  • Telfar store β€” green product
  • StockX - black wallet
  • Youtube
  • Telfar store β€” silver product

So in Ahrefs, there's a 950 visitors-per-month hole in their traffic, but can we really ascribe this to taking a beating from an algo update?

Nope. This is a classic "search intent changed" problem.

Just one of the problems with looking at this data and drawing big conclusions...

THAT SAID: here's my final thoughts on it:

Working toward building a brand that people search for is one of the highest value LONG TERM PLAYS you can focus on for your SEO efforts. Everything you do in working toward this is something that, on its own, will most likely help your site's organic rankings over time.

Will shitty updates happen with collateral damage? Sure.

Will that discourage me from investing in building a brand? Probably not.

It's expensive work, but for a LONG TERM PLAY (the insinuation being that if you're in it for the grey hat short term money grab--which I'm not at all opposed to, it is NOT a good thing to spend your time and money on) for a long term play it is energy well spent.

Now, as to HOW to do this kind of work, that's a newsletter for another day...

(Also, the as-promised Bezzy comment: I added this because it was listed on the Red Ventures list of brands, but there's not much there, SEO-wise. It IS an interesting thing that I will probably be writing about soonish).

Work With Me

Hey! I'm doing this new thing (trying to pay my bills) and I've got two offers for you:

1. Get ongoing SEO advice from two world class SEOs--you just sign up and get access to our Slack group, and then you can ask us ANYthing about things like

  • keyword research
  • writing articles
  • optimizing a site
  • schema?! what even is that, no one knows I think

It's $1k/mo, no contract, cancel anytime and check it out here.

2. If you need more than just advice, we can do that! Still working on a sexy landing page, but for now just hit reply. We can help with things like: super high level strategy, audits, and whatever else is needed like helping you bury the bodies of your competitors in the desert outrank your competitors!


well, that's it for today's newsletter.

we had some laughs, we learned some things along the way, but now we've gotta say goodbye

goodbye for now, stick around for next week's newsletter about, maybe how absolutely utterly spammed out Google's search results are, I found some FASCINATING things while researching the stuff for this newsletter.

until then

untiiiiiiil then. friends


[rank theory] SEO Newsletter

Sean Markey

the world's grumpiest SEO lifts you up each week with inspiring SEO content. Rank Theory is a twice-weekly newsletter containing emerging theories, illuminating experiments, and occasional sh*tposting, as well as a special weekly domain-focused Friday edition.

Read more from [rank theory] SEO Newsletter

well shit. hello again! I did an experiment to see if having a crippling back injury for three months helps with productivity ESPECIALLY around sending emails. it doesn't. been pretty busy though (check out the announcement below). thanks for sticking with me. here's 2000+ words of SEO bullshit: News and Updates You know, you love it, it's the (used to be) weekly meme content so you can click through and still look like an active, engaged subscriber even if you block spying in your inbox...

11 days agoΒ β€’Β 10 min read

(this post is v. image heavy: please enable images for best reading experience or don't be pissed at me when you have to scroll up cuz you want to see all the images...) here it is, another great SEO newsletter. look at me, sending it on a Saturday morning like an absolute newsletter GENIUS when everyone has definitely fucked off for the weekend. oh well, see you when I do my "send to unopens" routine on Tuesday lol. the meat of this email is basically "how I'm building out a seven-figure...

about 1 month agoΒ β€’Β 6 min read

hello. email newsletter intros are weird, like hi, i know you opened this email to receive the promise that the subject line made, but first you have to read these few paragraphs because the social contracts we decided on as a society value a little bit of small talk before we jump into a thing, whether it's a job interview, a sales call, or other social situation I cannot think of, because I don't like them, and actively avoid them to the point where my brain can't even conceive of a...

2 months agoΒ β€’Β 8 min read
Share this post