niche surfer - Wave Issue 145

Niche Sites Builders vs SEOs; Undercover Google Quality Rater; Wix AI Site Builder; Fake Personas; Perfect AI Niches; Llama 2; Ghost Links; Bad Links; and Much More!


Niche Site Builders vs SEOs (with Niche Surfers Riding Both Waves)

The Niche Site Builder vs SEO discussion heated up again this week with Jamie I.F. responding to John Mueller and inviting him to a dialogue. I felt that I needed to put my two cents in to try and understand both sides (really, 3 sides):

  1. Niche Site Builders (NSB) - the brave pioneers, carving out their own digital islands from the wilderness. These can vary in size and scope from niche to authority to affiliate sites.

  2. SEOs (Agencies, Consultants) - the savvy captains leading the vessels for others through the stormy waters of algorithm updates and keyword competition. I’d lump in the public-facing members of the Google Search team, like John Mueller.

But how do NSBs and SEOs actually differ in their journeys? Are they all that different? And what’s fueling the tension under the surface?

Let’s compare and contrast:

1. Share on social media?

  • NSB - Yes

  • SEO - Yes

Both share for a number of reasons: gaining followers, networking, learning, and generating leads and sales.

2. Share traffic charts

  • NSB - Yes

  • SEO - Yes

Are the charts are real and trustworthy? Depends on the person sharing. Both sides have good and bad apples.

3. Share revenues

  • NSB - Yes, because they own their sites

  • SEO - Mostly no, because they don’t own their sites. If they do, it’s usually just percentages.

Are the revenue numbers real and trustworthy? This also depends on the person sharing. Both sides have good and bad apples.

4. Us against Them mentality

  • NSB - I see less from them. I actually see more of this side inviting SEOs for conversation (like this one from Jame I.F inviting John Mueller for an open discussion)

  • SEO - I see more one-sided critiques at NSBs. When their points are contested due to lacking merit, they stop responding. NSB sites are often competing against SEO clients’ sites, so I get this.

My guess why there are no real dialogues here is because it pokes too many holes in discussions where there are no answers - Why isn’t the Helpful Content Update catching unhelpful content, especially crap AI content?

Don’t think you’re going to get an admission that there are issues with the algorithm.

5. Sell courses and/or digital products?

  • NSB - Yes

  • SEO - Yes

6. SEO Skills

  • NSB - Varies from beginners to experienced

  • SEO - Varies from beginners to experienced

The goal is to rank sites, right? So both have skills in varying degrees. But when it comes to beginners, the ones out there hustling and asking questions are usually the NSBs. The SEO newbies in agencies aren’t vocal on social media like NSB newbies trying to create their own sites.

SEO juniors get paid to learn and are led by experienced SEOs. NSB juniors need to find their own path to learning (and making money), and are led by people they find on social media. So NSBs are much more active on social media asking beginner-type questions.

7. Ego?

  • NSB - Heck yea

  • SEO - Heck yea

Both NSBs and SEOs have their share of pride and what they’ve done and what they know.

8. Get Imposter Syndrome?

  • NSB - Heck yea

  • SEO - Heck yea

Doubt can strike any and everyone, especially when one of their Own Sites or a Client’s Site has a drastic drop in traffic.

9. Patience?

  • NSB - Newer people coming in have no patience and want things to happen ASAP. Those who were SEOs before or have been in the game for years know all about the patience and hard work needed to succeed.

  • SEO - They’re getting paid monthly by clients, so can wait it out longer.

This is the biggest difference that I see between NSBs and SEOs. The main reasons are the experience ranking sites and the monthly retainers to SEOs.

That’s why many who have been in this for years building their own sites or building sites for others understand that patience is the name of the game here.

10. Black vs Gray vs White Hat SEO Tactics?

  • NSB - All 3 hats

  • SEO - All 3 hats

NSBs and SEOs will use whatever tools they have at their disposal to rank sites. Some will lean heavily one way or the other of course.

Remember, paying for any link is technically black hat because it violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. And sure, they do “allow” buying and selling links as long as there’s a rel=”nofollow” or “sponsored” attribute.

Really? I’d like to see proof of how many White Hatters actually follow that rule and ask for those attributes when buying links 😅 

And don’t forget many of us - Niche Surfers! 

We’re the rare breed who ride both these waves, balancing on the surfboards of Niche Sites and SEO.

Let's ride these waves together and explore what the digital world has to offer us this week!


Dim shares the latest quarterly update in Year 2 of the site. He covers content strategy, revenue mix of affiliate vs display ads, and what he plans to do with the site in the future.

He also discusses SEO in the era of AI. Despite the potential challenges AI might bring, maintaining a focus on quality and wise scaling can still drive successful SEO.


Google employs 16,000 quality raters globally to evaluate search results in line with their guidelines. Cyrus Shepard had to go undercover to get himself hired as one as well.

Working as a Quality Rater provides a deep understanding of Google's ranking preferences. Page Quality is a major focus in the Rater guidelines, including factors like website/author reputation, E-A-T, and content quality. Quality Raters also consider 'Needs Met' - how well a page satisfies user intent.

Marie Haynes also shares who the 16,000+ Quality Raters are, their role in shaping Google's search algorithms, and what this means for your site.

  • Quality Raters, distributed globally, assess search results based on Google's Quality Rater Guidelines.

  • They perform A/B tests on search results and rate pages on their quality and how well they meet users' needs.

  • Their ratings are instrumental in training Google's machine learning systems, which helps to surface high quality, useful content.

  • In 2018, Google denied using rater data for machine learning, but recent statements suggest a change of stance.

  • While raters' ratings are one of many signals in Google's ranking systems, they don't directly cause traffic declines.

Onely's Renata Gwizdak answers frustrating question, "why is my website not showing up on Google?" Renata uncovers seven possible reasons:

  1. Your page hasn't been indexed yet or has been deindexed.

  2. Google is ranking a different variant of your page.

  3. Your page was removed using the URL removal tool.

  4. Your page isn't ranking for any keywords.

  5. Your page is blocked by Google’s safe search filter.

  6. Your website was hit with a manual action from Google.

  7. A bug on Google's end is preventing your website from appearing.

Jamie Grant form Ahrefs contemplates whether you can ever "complete" SEO, or is it an ongoing task? The answer: almost always ongoing! Here's why:

  • Google’s algorithm never stops updating: In 2022 alone, there were over 10 confirmed updates. Plus, Google is increasingly rewarding E-E-A-T (Expertise, Experience, Authority, Trust).

  • Opportunity for improvement is ever-present: You can always aim for better rankings or create new, high-quality content.

  • SEO is super competitive: You can't afford to rest while your competitors are active.

  • Expanding to new markets: If you're ready, it might be time to optimize for new areas.

  • Continuous SEO strategy is key: Monitor your site's technical health, automate tasks, and regularly update your content.

SEO Ripples


Avishai Abrahami, Co-Founder and CEO of Wix, announced their AI website builder and its many AI tools that are currently available. It’s AI chat will ask you questions and start building it for you. You can also make edits by chatting with it too

Source: Wix


Google's John Mueller had some choice words recently for folks who create fake personas for SEO purposes. In a nutshell, if you're making phony LinkedIn profiles or whipping up dodgy review sites, and you think that no one (including Google) will know they’re fake, he says “you’re deluding yourselves.”

Jo O’Reilly posted an article this week on why she thinks using AI to create YMYL experts is a REALLY bad idea and her experience of putting out a HARO request and getting submissions from fake doctors.


Matt Diggity digs into 8 niches that he says are perfect for AI content because they don’t rely on up-to-date facts or expertise. He highlights that niches which aren't heavy on factual data, but rather embrace subjective viewpoints or where consensus hasn't been reached, are ideal for AI content. Personal development was given as a good example.

He also says niches like education, office-related topics, and even survival and security fit this criteria. The speaker also shares the concept of 'programmatic SEO', using automation to generate large scale websites with AI. Lastly, the presenter highlights spirituality as an excellent AI niche due to its subjectivity and high profit potential.

My Take: Matt makes many good points, but don’t forget about competition - especially now that 11k+ others have watched this videos. Don’t think you’re the only one who will spin up sites in these 8 niches 😅

Meta and Microsoft have just launched Llama 2, the next-gen open-source large language model. They're hoping this AI breakthrough will usher in a new era of opportunities for creators, businesses, and individuals.

They’re making Llama 2 free for research and commercial use, including model weights and starting code for the pretrained model and conversational fine-tuned versions too. You can get Llama yourself here.

OpenAI has just introduced custom instructions for ChatGPT. This new feature, currently in beta for Plus plan users, is designed to tailor ChatGPT for those repeating instructions.

Simply set your preferences and ChatGPT will remember them for all future conversations. Whether you're a teacher crafting lesson plans or a developer wanting efficient code in a language other than Python, ChatGPT has your back.

AI Ripples


Robbie Richards shared a fantastic step-by-step guide on determining the quantity and quality of backlinks needed to rank your content higher. Here are the quick takeaways:

  • Often, you don't need as many backlinks as you think to rank highly. Quality over quantity is key.

  • To identify your high-priority targets, analyze your subfolders and use keyword modifiers.

  • Check the referring domains column in your SERP Overview report to know how many backlinks your competitors have.

  • Evaluate the backlink profile of your competitor by checking domain ratings and topical relevance.

  • Finally, understand your link velocity targets. Estimate the number of backlinks you need to build on a monthly or quarterly basis to stay competitive.

James Dooley dives deep into the intriguing world of backlinks that disappear but still echo their power to your site's ranking. Think of it as a secret weapon that can benefit your SEO strategy, as lost or deleted backlinks can still pack a punch long after they're gone! Here are key takeaways:

  • Ghost Links or Backlink Echoes are backlinks that no longer link to your site but continue to pass on their historical SEO power to Google.

  • Studies indicate that these lost backlinks can sustain their influence on your site's ranking for a significant period post-deletion.

  • However, relying solely on the ghosting effect by allowing all your links to be removed isn't advisable. Be sure to monitor your backlink profile diligently.

  • Not all lost links pass on link juice. Only high-quality links tend to sustain their impact post-loss.

  • While ghost links can still pass on power once removed, it's always better to retain high-quality, visible links to Google.

Jenny Abouobaia discusses these bad types to avoid: Private blog networks (PBNs), paid links, hacked links, hidden links, and excessive link exchanges.


Si Quan Ong from Ahrefs discusses marketing funnels and how to create one. This powerful tool can help you improve your marketing strategy, guiding your audience through the customer journey from first learning about your brand to becoming valued customers.

The funnel has been simplified into three key stages for easy implementation: TOFU (Top of Funnel - Awareness), MOFU (Middle of Funnel - Interest), and BOFU (Bottom of Funnel - Desire and Action).

For each stage, different tactics can be employed. For instance, target TOFU keywords to introduce your brand, get MOFU customers to sign up for your email list to cultivate interest, and use BOFU keywords to sway their decision in your favor.

Lucy Fletcher at, shares how to create bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) content to close sales and boostr conversion rates. Here's what she covers:

  • Understanding BOFU content

  • The importance of BOFU content

  • Strategic Keywords and keyword analysis

  • Generating BOFU content: Formats can include customer reviews, case studies, pricing pages, and competitor comparisons.

  • Quality BOFU content


The Google Search team chats about the intricate process of picking a domain name. They share all kinds of information on top-level domains, second level domains, and subdomains. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Expensive does not mean better: Top-level domains (TLDs) like .AI can be pricey, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're superior. It depends on what you're using it for.

  • Cheap TLDs can be problematic: Very cheap or free TLDs may be filled with spam, which could hamper your website's visibility on search engines.

  • Country TLDs can boost trust: Using a country's TLD can increase users' trust in your website, and might give you a tiny boost in local search results.

  • Having a TLD that matches your keyword doesn't help SEO: Unfortunately, no inherent SEO advantage comes from having a TLD that matches your keywords.

  • Owning all TLDs isn't necessary: If you can afford it and it aligns with your branding strategy, go ahead. However, it's more of a business decision than a Google one.

My Take: They share their best practices, but do try things out yourself and see what works. For example, I still find Exact Match Domains (EMDs) still work. They’re not really expandable, but for targeted sites - anyone?

But they’re suggesting that you seek long-term brandability and I agree when you choose a domain. Branding is the future. If you look at sites being sold on many of the marketplaces, most are EMDs that aren’t that old.

Daniel Doan shares his guide to competitor analysis. Just like athletes studying their opponents, businesses can examine competition to fine-tune their online strategy.

By understanding your rivals' tactics, you can unlock a treasure trove of keyword opportunities, gain a deeper grasp of the SEO landscape, inform your content strategy, and uncover link-building prospects. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Get to Know Your Competition: Identify your direct and indirect competitors and analyze their SEO strategies to understand their methods and goals.

  • Focus on Keywords: Discover the keywords your competitors are targeting to inspire your own SEO strategy.

  • Dive into Backlink Profiles: Evaluate your competitors' backlink profiles to identify potential link-building opportunities.

  • Don't Forget Social Media: Assess your competitors' social media presence to understand how they integrate SEO with their social media strategies.

  • Keep it Fresh: Regularly update your analysis as search algorithms and competitors' strategies evolve. Stay ahead of the game!


After discussing how I was doing an internal test to see how AI and Human content sites would rank, this case study comes out!

Reboot Online tested if AI-written content could outperform human-written content. They used OpenAI's ChatGPT to create content and ran a 3-month controlled SEO experiment. The results? Intriguing, to say the least.

  • The experiment hypothesized that AI and human-generated content would perform equally in search engine rankings.

  • Unique, previously unknown artificial keywords and domains were used to ensure that external factors did not influence the results.

  • AI content detection tools couldn't initially identify AI content, but post-experiment, the detection rate increased significantly.

  • When all the test websites were ranked for the made-up target keyword, the AI-generated domains had an average ranking of 6.6, whereas the human-written domains had an average ranking of 4.4. 


Earlier this week, Ezoic sent out an email about discontinuing its affiliate program on August 14, 2023. They do say to continue to use the Program as usual (help them get more users), but you won’t get paid for them come August 14th (we still love you though).

Two days later, Ezoic's CEO, Dwayne Lafleur, then announced significant staff reductions due to changing economic conditions.

My Take: The CEO letter feels like it was written to investors and not the employees I’m assuming it should’ve been for. It also wasn’t clear if the letter was how they announced layoffs to their staff because of what he says. Then he goes on to say they set a “record for the number of sessions on sites using Ezoic” but still, “Today is a very sad day.” It was a very Jekyll and Hide letter.


If you’re enjoying niche surfer, I’d love it if you would share it with your friends! I’ve put together some rewards as well:

  • Refer 3: Get a Twitter Shout-out

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  • Refer 10: Get One Ask Me Anything Question

  • Refer 50: Get 50% Off the Topical Maps Unlocked Course

  • Refer 100: Get a Free copy of Topical Maps Unlocked

  • Refer 150: Get a 1 hour SEO 1-1 Coaching session with Yoya


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