Hello on a sunny Vermont day.
small talk small talk small talk.
Let’s kick things off with the quick hits:
- AI Search + Tears of the Kingdom highlights how bad generative AI is in this tweet thread
- New negative SEO just dropped with Google’s ‘report search quality issues’ form.
- Rank and Rent SEO became a riskier tactic with Google suing a fake business/review builder.
- Google abruptly exits its domain name registration business and sells to Squarespace for $180million
This week I’m covering three can’t-miss articles with what happened, what it means for SEOs and site builders, and my take on it.
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Kicking things off with a great Ahrefs experiment.
Is it OK to Remove 301 Redirects After a Year?
This post by Patrick Stox seeks to test something Gary Illyes said in 2021 (which, to a 301-redirect-obsessed SEO like myself, was REALLY interesting):
The take aways, for me at least, were big:
- Domains redirected for at least a year had all signals passed from the redirected domain to the… redirectee(?)
- Domains that have been redirected to another site for over a year had all their authority leeched away like a vampire bite right on the domain’s neck (so don’t buy any domains that have spent a few years being redirected–they are empty husks of their former SEO power).
So Patrick set up an experiment with a few Ahrefs posts that had OTHER posts redirected to them (where an old post with a lot of links had been rewritten or optimized by a new URL etc.
One URL lost some traffic, one URL gained a bunch of traffic, and the rest stayed flat.
It’s an interesting experiment, but I think a STRONGER experiment would be taking a domain that has been redirected for a long time, stand it back up with a site on it, and see how it ranks.
This is actually something I DID earlier this year (note to self: write a blog post about this), where I acquired an EMD (exact match domain) with a killer links profile, and put a site on it + one 4,000 word AI-generated not-at-all human-edited piece of content and nothing else.
Here are the results:
(I couldn’t even get an eye-busting rocket ship graph because the site started ranking in the top 10 when I took over this domain and installed WP AND NOTHING ELSE). It’s been at the #2 spot for over a month now.
It was offline for almost a year and then redirected to another site for almost two years.
And it took like 2 days of having default WP installed for it to start ranking.
I know this is a data point of one, but it put this comment by Gary “The Illest” Illyes in a different light, and completely redefined how I approach acquiring domains with pre-existing authority.
???? Ahrefs: call me, I will write about this as a guest blog post
Disavowing the Disavow Tool: A Case Study
This post by Glenn Gabe is so meaty you could start a Brazilian steakhouse with it.
That also makes it a hard post to summarize and not just entirely rewrite but, *cracks knuckles* I’ma try!
- Google employees frequently say the tool is ineffective at best, is hurting websites at worst.
- The tool itself says not to use it UNLESS YOU HAVE A MANUAL PENALTY.
- Site in the case study had +15k on their disavow list!
- Site in the case study surged after the April 2023 Reviews Update
- Site in the case study is up 140% after the update with no links disavowed
When to use the disavow file:
If you bought some real shit links you can’t remove or nofollow (and you’ve got a manual penalty from them, probably).
Well, I don’t have a ton of experience with the disavow tool because I never really quite bought into it as something one needed to do, so I don’t have any amazing insights.
It definitely seems like it’s done more harm than good for site owners, and I won’t be surprised if the goes the way of most of Google’s products like Google Domains (too soon!) and gets killed some day.
Google Didn’t Build an AI They Built A Plagiarism Engine
The article is by Tom’s Hardware editor-in-chief Avram Piltch and is an extremely critical overview of how Google’s new AI search product is killing organic results by plagiarizing, using terrible, non-authoritative sites in their answers, and pushing the first organic results way down the page.
1300+ pixels for a search of “best bicycle:”
To me (an SEO and website builder that relies on organic traffic), this opposite-of-EEAT approach to sourcing info is WILD af:
One of the core problems here, according to the author, is that Google is going to use its search engine monopoly to push its content over everyone else’s–content it didn’t write, content it cannot verify the truth of. In this scenario every loses: site owners, searchers, and the future of an open web–but not Google. Google wins big…
“Yikes on bikes,” as they say.
It’s always felt to me like Google hated passing on valuable traffic to affiliate sites without really being able to wet their beak. Maybe they’re fighting back by making organic results irrelevant and trying to increase the number of zero-click results as much as they can, who knows?
And before anyone accuses me of being hyperbolic and just playing on fear for clicks and shit: you’re god damned right I’m fearful of what the future of search looks like if Google rolls out this version of search that effectively kills the open web and places an all-knowing, frequently-wrong AI brain’s answer at the top of the search results as if it is generating these answers itself, in a vacuum.
Of course there are ways one might push back, such as–as the author suggests–joining a trade association and banding together to sue Google for plagiarism.
Of course there are things you’ll be able to do like change up your strategy from trying to rank first in Google to trying to be mentioned on as many sites as possible to get the AI to recommend your product (something I’m working on writing about and will be publishing VERY soon).
But the game is about to change, surely you can see it coming?
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That’s it for this edition of The Weekly SEO.
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I’ll see you in the ole inbox again this Thursday for an SEO deep dive with Rank Theory #30.