Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
Copycat Sites, Stupid SEO Tactics, New SEO Tools, White vs Gray vs Black Hat Links, Post-Website Purchase Checklist, and Much More.
I guess...but it's a pain to deal with. One of my sites is being scraped and copied (at least they're trying to).
In the Wordfence security plugin, I've been seeing lots of automatic blocks to bots trying to access pages. I thought it was weird when I first noticed it awhile back, so I just blocked those IPs. But then about a week ago, I received an email from DMCA asking if I wanted to add the new domain to my account, because I added the DMCA badge to it.
Huh? I didn't add that site's badge to a new domain.
I looked went to the domain and saw it was an exact copy of my site. Well, as much as they could copy, because Wordfence would keep blocking them. As I tried to navigate the site, I saw that the Wordfence Block pages were being copied and put up on those copycat sites. Hah!
I could've done a DMCA takedown, but they charge $199 per site. So I looked into how to do it and this is what I did.
Look up the domain's IP and web hosting provider on https://whois.domaintools.com/
Go to the web hosting provider's site and look for a "Report Abuse" link/form. In this case, it was DigitalOcean.
I filled out the Report Abuse form with all the pertinent information. I also gave them a link to the Wayback Machine that shows my domain was live much earlier than the copycat domain's age.
They replied back 3 days later that they'll look into it. When I checked a coupled days later, it was all taken down.
Domain Registrar - The domain was registered on DynaDot and I send them a message at the same time as to the web host. But DynaDot was completely useless. They said to go to the web host.
I actually just reported another site this morning. All these bots scraping and trying to replicate the site. I don't know if Wordfence is the best security plugin out there, but it's doing its job of blocking out bad visitors.
I also keep my Wordfence settings strict. I will make the blocks active for 5 days to give me time to make all blocks Permanent for bad IPs. Wordfence doesn't allow automatic Permanent blocks, so I go in and manually do it.
In other news, I updated my Keyword Research For Affiliate Marketing SEO Guide to include a section on Keyword Cannibalization. I've had questions specifically on that and what happens when SERPs return similar results.
I originally excluded talking about that because it's part of Silo/Topic Cluster planning, which I want to do separately. But it does make sense to also include here, so I added the extra section on it. Take a look and feel free to ask any questions!
The good stuff is down below. This is a bit lengthy, so have a couple cups of coffee at the ready. I wrote a mini-article in response to one of the videos, because I have differing opinions on what people should do after purchasing a website.
The links where I don't say much of anything are good too. There's just not much to be said because the content in those links are good.
In the Affiliate SEO Mastermind Facebook Group, Matt Diggity asked:
There are many hilarious replies, as well as many that beginners will fall for. If no one fell for them, then those tactics would never have been heard of.
If you're not in the FB Group, do request access. There will always be good information in there. Many of the top SEO's are in the group as well.
Here're some select comments with many reactions. Doesn't mean to avoid them at all.
Gaël Breton, Authority Hackers: EAT? 😃.
Rick Lomas: Buy your white hat links here!
Nguyên Dương: Follow John Mueller :3. J4f
Timo Ellermann: Increase your Ahrefs Domain Rating via a Fiver gig for 5 bucks xD
Muhammad Abdullah: That white hat seo exists and ranks your website
Tibor Szalay: Attempting to rank a page with noindex meta tag.
Chris M. Walker: Just make great content
Take it all with a grain of salt as they're an individual's opinion. I don't agree with them all either. SEO is all about testing and see what works best for your sites.
For my sites...I mean, that $5 Fiverr gig will definitely increase my Ahrefs DR...right? The gig promised!
No big knowledge bombs in this Office Hours for affiliate websites, but still some good reiterations. I'm also adding my own commentary on White vs Gray vs Black Hat Link Building, because there's always a questions about guest posts and backlinks.
~21:00 - John answers a question about focusing on the most important content and E-A-T. He says to go look up blog posts and case studies on E-A-T that can help your sites.
~24:00 - The UI of Featured Snippets and Passage Rankings are completely separate. Passage Ranking is about Google going in to find something hidden away at the bottom of pages and how that's eventually displayed is different from Featured Snippets.
~24:40 - "What's the best practice for Guest Posting and is it recommended by Google?" - Any guesses as to what John would say? He starts off with "Oh My Gosh. Ok." and a smile :-D
John says that it's ok to publish content on other sites to promote your content, but the links in those posts should be nofollow and should not pass PageRank.
I think this is what people don't realize in with Guest Posts. Many people think it's White Hat to buy links from "reputable" sources, but then when the source is a "PBN," it's Gray or Black Hat. In Google's eyes, they're the same.
"White Hat vs. Gray Hat vs. Black Hat" - my simplified definitions:
White Hat links are those a site owner doesn't pay for and are just natural backlinks from putting out good content.
Gray Hat links are those the site owner pays other sites or exchanges links/services/etc. for. This includes buying backlinks, niche edits, and PBNs. These are all against Google's Webmaster Guidelines because something is exchanged and PageRank is being passed.
Black Hat links are those that are gotten by hacking into other sites and placing links.
Everyone's got their own definitions. Those are mine. Unfortunately, backlinks are a necessary evil.
~41:15 - How to optimize pages that don't have content, like calculators, maps, and other online tools that don't need content? John says Google won't know what's on that page without some context. It could be in the titles, headings, informational text, blog post that describes the tools, and anything that brings context.
There are other questions and topics that might be interesting to you, but those are the main ones I made note of.
Images can be a great source of long-tail traffic, especially if you're in a niche that goes hand-in-hand with photos. Think photography, visual arts, travel, and food.
This is a good, short overview video that talks about SEO for images.
Text on page, not in image
Use high-quality images
Make high-quality sites
Works on mobile and desktop
Good, stable, descriptive, URLs
Provide relevant structured data
Consider large image previews
Use markup for image licensing opportunities
I haven't focused on #'s 9-11, but I do all the others.
How does Google pick the canonical URLs for your site? Are they directing users to the links that you want users to go to?
This happens a lot when the SERPs are showing Page B, but you want it to show Page A.
John Mueller briefly discusses a couple ways that Google chooses which URL to show in search results.
1. Site's Preference - Which URL does it look like the site wants Google to use?
2. User's Preference - Which URL might be more useful for the user.
John does also say that even if Google doesn't index the one the site owner wants, it won't negatively affect your SEO.
Matt Diggity shares some great articles here on SEO. Do check them out.
Good chat with Spencer Haws talking to Matt Diggity about SEO Testing.
Spencer has a Niche Pursuits affiliate link to Matt's Affiliate Lab course and a $200 Off Discount. Do consider the course. I purchased the course a few months ago and it's well worth it. Here's the Niche Pursuits link.
Spencer has a review video on the course and shows some of the internals.
TOOLS AND RESOURCES
AppSumo has a new SEO Tool that's looking to compete with Ahrefs and SEMrush. AppSumo also has one going away.
BiQ AppSumo Link
BiQ just came to AppSumo and it has multiple tools in one platform. It has keyword research, content optimization, and rank tracking. There are many good aspects to it, but there are also some limits that can be used up pretty quickly. I'm going to test it this week.
MarketMuse AppSumo Link
MarketMuse is leaving AppSumo around March 1st, so if you missed out on Frase and don't have a monthly with SurferSEO, this is a good one to get. They're very detailed and lots of great information. For my regular content optimizations, I still use Frase though. Frase is much more user-friendly in my opinion.
With AppSumo, the great thing is you can purchase codes, test it, and if you don't like the software, you have a 60-day window to get a refund. It's super simple to get a refund too. You just log in, look for the purchase, and press a refund button.
Samuel Schmitt has a really cool Freemium SERP scraper - Thruuu.
Thruuu recently got an update on Feb. 18 and it's become even better than before. I've known about it for some time, but keep forgetting about it because it used to be only somewhat useful to my keyword research process. If you had seen his Topic Cluster article I had linked to a couple times and in my Keyword Research Guide, you might've seen Thruuu.
But it just came across my mind again as I was researching some keywords. I went to the site and saw a message and video at the top about a new version of thruu. I watched the video of the new version and was wowed. It'll be much more useful than it is now because of the new design layout. He's giving early access if you email him.
This is the list of the main features from the website:
An overview of the top results for a search query on Google
A detailed review of each page of the SERP
Information about word counts, images, last update, presence of featured snipped and other statistics
Comparison and keywords density of titles, descriptions, and headings
Related search and most asked questions
Export of all the SERP content in an Excel file
As you can see in the features list, there are many SEO tools that do the same thing that thruuu does, but you'd usually need to combine multiple tools to get all of this information together. But besides that, there's one thing that stands out to me as it's made this one task much easier.
SIte Descriptions - It scrapes and provides the site description that's show in the SERPs vs the Meta Description that was given by the site. Now you're able to compare what Google selects as the description in SERPs. Look at the Metas and if they don't match what the SERPs show, see if you can figure out why Google selected a certain passage for that search term. That'll help you in creating Meta Descriptions that you want searchers to see in the SERPs and have it match with what Google will want to show.
Samuel also demos and discusses the new thruuu model on Itamar Blauer's YouTube channel.
He just wrote a lengthy article on how he uses thruuu: Analyzing the SERP for SEO, Content and Search Intent with thruuu. It's a long read, but also good to not only understand his product, but more to see how a Top SEO analyzes the SERPs.
It's a Freemium model with 10 Free credits/scrapes per month. If you're interested, check out Thruuu and sign up for a free account. The old version is still there, so you can actually use it, but the new UI is much better.
None of my sites use News or Discover, so it doesn't directly affect my sites. BUT, I'd say that these policies are also generally good practices to follow for your own niche sites.
Violations include dangerous content, hateful content, terrorist content, medical content, manipulated media, and many others.
Avoid those violations, so it's not a concern when you're trying to monetize your site.
searchenginejournal.com LINK BUILDING
Covers the gamut of link building strategies. Not in-depth, but good as an overview of link building practices.
How many of you plan out your website structure before building your sites?
This is a good look at structuring websites and how to go about it. The article does recommend a flat structure that goes two deep, but then it says that pages shouldn't be more than six clicks away. I think sites should only be 3-4 clicks deep and that's the general consensus from guys like Matthew Woodward, Matt Diggity, and Kyle Roof.
I used to prefer flat structures, but it's become harder to organize with silos. So now, I prefer using a hierarchical structure as it makes creating silos easier.
Shane Dutka has a good video on how he creates Silos with his site architecture on YouTube. This is similar to how I'm building all my new sites.
Great video to get their take on websites and why they think sites were affected by the Google Core Update.
Lots of great tips in there to help affiliate marketers with their niche sites.
Carl Broadbent puts out a lot of videos with good content for beginners. One of his latest videos is a checklist of things to do after purchasing a new website.
I don't usually respond/review too much to other content that people put out, because these are all opinions on what works for that specific person.
This is one time I want to give my input because I feel some steps in the process are done out of order from my process, as well as missing some steps. There's still a good amount of crossover with what I do, but some notable differences.
My concern here is people are spending good money to purchase a website, but there are things in there that make me feel like the site owner could lose time and money. Even potentially hurting the site with the Google algorithm.
First a disclaimer, these are things I do and things that Carl does. Use them as examples of what you could do in creating your own process that works for you. Don't blindly follow any one person. It's important to get many different viewpoints and educate yourself to make the best decisions for your sites.
Step 1- Security is Priority
Swap out Analytics / Search Console - He says to start new GA/GSC accounts, because it's easier. It's not easier. The easiest is for the past owner to add you to the current GA/GSC accounts and you then delete the previous owner from the accounts. He's not bothered by the history, but the history is soooo useful.
The new owner purchased the site with the history being one of the biggest factors, if not the biggest. Why would you want to lose that?
A/B Testing - The A is the history. Don't lose that.
Step 2 - Plugins
Remove any unnecessary plugins - Yes, do that, but don't do it before you decide your WordPress theme. If I decide to use a different theme, which I usually do, I'll change themes and check each page before removing plugins. You don't know what pages are using what plugins. Many of the paid themes on marketplaces like Envato are targeted for Beginners, and they often have required plugins.
I don't bother wasting time removing/testing plugins until after I have a theme selected (which I do 99% of the time with GeneratePress).
Step 3 - Themes
I think Themes should be before Plugins. Think of it like this:
WordPress is a bare cake with no icing, the site's foundation.
The Theme is the icing, the next layer.
Plugins are all the other things that you decorate the cake with.
You don't build a cake by writing Happy Birthday and then put the icing on top.
One thing I 100% agree with is his choice of theme. He uses GeneratePress, which is what I use too. Even if you're going to use GP, you should install and activate it before messing with plugins.
Step 4 - Technical SEO
Good list here, but his first task in Step 4 is a full scan of the site for technical issues with the site. It should be Step 0 while it's on the previous owner's server.
I would do a full scan before you touch the site and have the results handy as you do other change other things on the site. You should run another scan here in Step 4 as he said after you've changed the theme and plugins. A comparison will show you if the Theme and/or Plugins might've caused more issues. If there are any major ones (404s, shortcodes, etc.), you'll know you need to roll back to previous the Theme/Plugins and step through changes to see where things went wrong.
You're going to waste a lot of time if you run your first full site audit here and see major issues. You're not going to know if it was already an issue pre-purchase or if it was something you changed.
Step 5 - Pagespeed
Yes, I agree to definitely work on Pagespeed. But I have a different opinion on what step in the process to do this. Pagespeed optimizations should be after you've put up your content (his Step 6), unless this step is to just start testing things out. In that case, I would start testing right off the bat before making changes and do speed tests as you make changes to see effect.
I also like to turn off all caching and see what I can do to optimize speed without any plugin help, like image optimizations and plugin bloat. Doing that helps to ensure I'm not being lazy and thinking that some caching plugin will magically fix me uploading 1mb images and installing 50 plugins. Once I've done what I can pre-caching plugin, then I'll turn on caching and they'll magically be fast.
Step 6 - Content
I do things slightly different here too. I now usually watch the purchased sites for 1-2 weeks before making major changes to the content. There are already server, design, and navigation changes that Google will see. The first major change post-purchase is migration to my servers, so I still want to make sure that all is well with Google. It usually is, but you never know with Google.
I made mistakes in buying Site 1 and changing things around immediately. When rankings lowered soon after, I had no way of knowing what changes caused the lower rankings. I didn't know if it was the theme and navigation changes, or if it was the content changes, or if it was the interlinking additions. John Mueller has said in one of the recent Office Hours that major changes should be treated cautiously when it comes to Google looking at your site as the same site.
As another example, I just migrated a static site from all .html pages to WordPress. I put it on a stock GeneratePress theme and no major content changes. I did change the internal links because they were pointing to the old .html pages, but otherwise didn't touch the content. I'm letting it sit for a couple weeks to see what happens with Google and the rankings. Don't want to throw too many changes at Google at one time. Even though I really want to update the content, because it needs a lot of work - but that's what staging sites are for.
In Step 6 he also says to start a content audit, but how do you do that without the Google Analytics / Google Search Console history (Step 1)? Maybe he uses Ahrefs here, but I'd rather have the Actuals from GA and GSC.
He also says he wants a 70-30 split of Informational to Buyer Intent articles. I'd say that this depends on the site. That's a fine split, but if it was 100% buyer intent before, I wouldn't just flip it by adding all informational articles all of a sudden.
Google is used to seeing certain types of articles on your site. If you shock it one after another, they're going to treat your site as a brand new site, which could mean a period of time where Google reassesses your site. I'm more of a fan of making gradual changes to sites and seeing what happens (remember SEO Testing Best Practices from last issue?)
Just be ready if Google doesn't like those articles right away and it takes longer for your articles to rank. It's like you're expanding into new sub-niches and shoulder niches, they're going to take more time to rank, if they do at all.
Step 7 - Let it Sit (12 week review)
This is good with creating new content and letting it sit. If it's a 8-12+ month site already, you should be able to see results sooner if the topic relevancy is there for your new content. But also what I just said before, it might take more time.
Also, be sure that you have the history of the old content. Otherwise you won't know the impact of the updates you made.
Step 8 - 6 Month Review
His comment "Sometimes Google just does not like a site or domain" - I'd hope you would know this before you buy a site (unless it's a brand new site). If it's an aged site, you should've already checked to see how Google's liking the site with indexed pages, rankings, etc. before purchasing. Do your due diligence (which is what he says one of his next videos will be).
I completely agree with building backlinks, whether you buy or outreach yourself.
My Final Thoughts
Please don't buy a site, make a bunch of changes, write a bunch of content, and then wait 6-9 months to see if Google likes the site or not.
Know what Google liked about the site pre-purchase. What are the reasons you like the site? That's what I'm missing here in this checklist. It almost sounds as-if everything is starting a site fresh, because he throws away the history in Step 1. That's not the point of purchasing an old site. You want to take advantage of what was working before and build on it.
If Google liked the site when you purchased the site, and then it tanks after all your changes and new content, that's a different story. That's something you did that made Google not like it. That's why you need the history. You need the data that shows the positive and negative results of changes. Maybe one post takes off 20x in traffic, but the other 99 articles all dropped 50%. Were your changes and new content good?
When doing major changes to a site, it's best practice to do it on a staging site. I don't do it on a live, production site because if any major issues pop up, your site is down. That's lost money if the site has good traffic.