eBusiness Institute

Is SEO Dead? Matt and Liz Raad at eBusiness Institute shares their decade of experience

Is SEO Dead?

Have you been impacted by the latest Google updates? Or do you worry about whether AI will kill your online business?

We’re always amused whenever we hear this because we’ve ridden through so many Google updates over the last decade.

And, every time there’s a major update, we make money. So, today, we’ll give you some insights into our experience and how you can turn what seems like “the end” into an opportunity to grow and scale because these changes are actually GOOD for making money online.

Liz Raad: Welcome to today’s podcast with Matt and Liz Raad. We have a fun topic to share with you – Is SEO Dead?

Matt Raad: No, it is not! We’re going to show you why because this is a very topical subject at the moment, particularly with AI and Google updates. In particular, we buy and sell online businesses within our community, so SEO impacts us.

We’ve been SEO-ing websites since 2008. SEO is one of the key ways we use to renovate websites. When we’re buying websites, we’re looking for opportunities to fix them up, and a big part of that is SEO. Of course, we do a lot of other things as well, but it is a very important topic in what we do. 

SEO is something very close to our hearts. We’re very passionate about it, and there’s a lot of talk out there about how SEO is dead.

Is it time to panic with these latest Google updates?

Liz: This topic is very amusing to us. We’ve been around for so long, and this happens every major update. There’s always a huge uproar of people saying, “Oh my gosh, SEO is dead, content is dead, we all hate Google!” We’re always amused whenever we hear this now because we’ve ridden through it so many times before. 

So, today, we’ll give you some insights into our experience whenever this happens because we’ve gone through it all over and over again throughout our career.

Matt: It has happened at least once a year over the last decade. Remember Penguin, Liz?

Liz: I know, but this is one of those big updates where everybody tends to get into panic mode. 

So, what does this all mean? And is SEO dead? That’s a good question. We totally understand why people are asking this; you’ve got a lot of authorities out there who are panic-mongering. 

It’s similar in the share market, too. When the share market tanks or things happen in shares or property, there’s always a negative Nellie who loves to get out there and say, “Oh my God, and that the sky is falling!”

Matt: And as we know, the squeaky wheel gets heard, particularly these days. It’s easy to be brainwashed by social media. The negativity gets amplified.

There are plenty of great opportunities for buying quality websites right now

Matt: I want to fully acknowledge that some sites, including some of ours, are being smashed. So, we’re going to talk about that.

But what you’re not seeing are the positive stories. We see them because we look at thousands of websites and know all the brokers. We’re out there chatting to them and seeing all the incredible deals that are still out there. Amazing websites are still being sold day in and day out.

You can discover these deals for yourself. Just look at the broker sites. Even on Flippa, if you type in websites netting $10,000 a month (which, for most people when you’re starting out, would probably replace your income), there are over 355 sites for sale right now

And that’s just one broker. You can also check other quality brokers, such as FE International and Empire Flippers.

So, as Liz said, stop listening to the naysayers, stop doom-scrolling, and stop buying into all the hype. Go and verify for yourself that these websites are still making really good money because they’re out there. 

And, of course, there are the opportunistic buyers. For those of you who are more advanced, the sites that have been hit in these Google updates and are being impacted by these SEO changes, if you know what you’re doing now is probably one of the best times to be buying websites.

So, whilst we’re not giving financial advice, we’re chatting to our clients, saying, “You might want to go check that out. You can build and buy websites.” It’s a great time to get out there when you know what you’re doing.

“This is the year where we’ve got a golden opportunity here because Liz and I have always made lots of money after SEO updates.” – Matt Raad, eBusiness Institute

Who’s been impacted the most by the Google updates?

Matt: Now, we understand this can be scary when you’re a beginner. And we’re acknowledging that, unfortunately, it’s the beginners who are most impacted by this. Of course, some experienced people, including us, are also impacted. We have a range of sites; some of them have been impacted, and interestingly, some have gone up. So, we’ll talk about some of the results.

We have a big data set of people we talk to who are professional online investors. They buy and sell big and smaller websites. We also see what’s happening within our own community. The results are fascinating and have been so varied. 

Some of our client sites have been impacted pretty full on, some sites have gone up in traffic, and we’ve seen everything in between. It’s par for the course. We’ve been personally experiencing this since 2008 over and over again.

Liz: And I think that’s something we tend to forget, especially for beginners. You’ve probably come into this marketplace not realising that a lot can happen and a lot is changing. But if you take a step back and look across all industries, there is massive change everywhere.

Think about your job 15 years ago. Was it exactly the same as it is now? From accountants to lawyers to even teachers, it is very different now.

Matt: Yes, and look at all the burnout we’re seeing in corporate now.

Liz: Our point is that change is happening across all industries. So, take a breath and think, “Okay, this is just another industry where there is always change.” 

Has Google changed the rules for content sites?

Liz: What’s interesting, though, is that when people come to us saying, “Oh my gosh, SEO and content sites are dead,” one of the things they’re actually thinking is that Google has changed the rules. It’s all Google’s fault; they’ve changed the rules, and it’s not fair.

Well, back in 2010, we were a couple of years in at this point, and Matt Cutts, Google’s head honcho, was talking about Google updates. 

Matt: He was his main Google representative. While he couldn’t publicly discuss how Google SEO works and the secret formula behind it, he was the main public face. 

Everyone used to go to Matt Cutts to try to find out what Google really wants, particularly for content sites. And so, there have always been lots of theories about how SEO works because Google understandably needs to keep it secret from its competitors.

Liz: Yes, Google doesn’t tell us exactly how the Google algorithm works.

Matt: So, when we were learning about SEO and trying to figure out how to rank these sites, we would listen to Google, particularly Matt Cutts. We would watch him at speaker conferences.

Liz: Yes. Here are the things Matt Cutts said all those years ago, and they might sound a bit familiar.

Matt: They might sound like the latest update 😉

The search result rules Matt Cutts explained 10 years ago are still relevant now…

Liz: Basically, Google wants to give their users a great experience. I don’t know how many of you ever experienced Alta Vista back then? But you could go to a search engine, look up something like curtains and get porn! It was ridiculous. 

Google was just phenomenal back then. It was amazing to be a searcher, put in a search query, and actually get what you were looking for. And that’s what built Google. They said, “Okay, we are going to make sure that when people enter a query on our search engine, we’re going to deliver the absolute best results that we can possibly find out there online.” 

1./ Delivered content in search results needs to provide a good user experience

Liz: What we must remember with these updates is that’s where Google is coming from. So, it’s not about gaming the system and trying to trick Google into ranking your site. It’s actually about delivering exactly what Google’s asking for, i.e. helping people

2./ Content should be relevant and up-to-date

Liz: They just want to help people and give them a great experience. One way to do that is to have fresh, up-to-date content. In other words, have a blog, post content regularly, and ensure that content is up-to-date and fresh.

Matt: That doesn’t mean you have to do this daily or anything like that. Just post fresh quality content once a month, etc. But, essentially, Google was telling us this in 2010.

3./ The content on your site should be easy to navigate

Liz: Yes, and you want to make finding content on your website easy. It’s easy to navigate to the answers that you’re looking for. It’s easy to find the answer on the page that you were looking for in the search query.

4./ Your content should clearly answer people’s questions

Liz: Have your best content right up front, at the top of your article. Create a great user experience in terms of information that’s not just regurgitating stuff. You’re not just describing stuff, but actually giving people context. Give people interesting facts or other elements of this particular topic. Or you could provide interesting experiences, such as personal human experiences of the topic. 

For example, if we’re talking about travel, I don’t just want to know the five hotels available in this city. I want to know people’s experiences with those hotels. Are they clean? Are they dirty? Did they have something really special about them? What was someone else’s experience of that hotel? 

Another example of a travel blogger could be about caravans. You’re going to a caravan park. So, you might want to know, if I’ve got a 6-foot caravan, double axel, massive caravan, will it fit down the driveway of this caravan park?

5./ Your content needs to be real and authentic

Matt: This type of content can’t be faked by AI. It can’t even be outsourced by writers in third-world countries. And seriously, this advice was given back in 2010. Matt Cutts was telling us all this sort of stuff back then. Fast forward to today,  Google can actually track this now. 

How Google is enforcing search result rules

Liz: The point is that Google is always trying to improve its ability to enforce these kinds of criteria. It’s just trying to make it a better experience for its users. 

Essentially, it’s about giving unique and different perspectives. It could be interesting research, such as the outcomes of surveys or interesting polls throughout a community on a particular topic or a new perspective. Something that makes people want to come back to that site over and over again.

Google is developing systems to be able to measure whether people like the content:

  • Do readers dwell there? 
  • Do they stop and read everything? 
  • Are they engaged in it? 
  • Are they scrolling through the content? 
  • Do they come back to that website over and over again? 
  • Do they not bounce? 

So, if someone does a search for something in Google, clicks through on that result and stays there, that’s good. But if they immediately bounce back out, obviously, that’s not great.

All these little signals are designed to help Google figure out was that a good result? Was that a good experience for that person?

The 3 key things Google look for in content

Matt: We’ve been teaching this over the years. When you stop and think about it, it’s pretty common sense stuff. It tells you the engagement and quality of a website. It’s one of the ways we do due diligence on websites.

Liz: Exactly. 

1./ Community

Liz: They’re also looking for:

  • Whether other people are participating in that content, 
  • Whether there are conversations, 
  • Or whether there is some sort of community around this. 

2./ Backlinks

Liz: Also, are there backlinks from other sites that are being actually clicked? These are not just random links posted everywhere and built all over the place, but links that are actually on relevant sites and have good authority and trust value.

These quality links say, “Hey, if you want to learn about parking your caravan at this particular site, check out Bob. He knows it all.” If people come through from that link, that’s even more of a signal to Google that they like this content and are getting something out of it. 

3./ Real Authentic Content

Liz: Google is also looking for lists, helpful resources, and videos. Again, these provide real content. Matt Cutts was telling us all to do this back then to put ourselves in a good position in front of Google. 

What we’ve found interesting throughout our career in buying and building websites is that we always know when we’re pushing the boundaries, when we’re doing some things that maybe are not quite kosher, too automated, or maybe too leveraged. Those are the sites that get hit by updates. 

Whereas the sites where we stay true, helped people, and created real content, those sites always benefited from updates. We’ve got a site that we checked on the other day, and it’s almost tripled in traffic since the HCU (Helpful Content Update).

Stop creating generic websites!

Matt: Here’s a scary stat for beginners but exciting for intermediates and advanced. 

With the latest round of updates, Google has publicly said their goal is to eliminate unhelpful content on the internet by up to 45%. 

Now, the panicker will focus on the, “Oh my goodness, Google’s going to eliminate 45% of content out there.” 

But let’s flip it. You want to be in the top 45%. That’s where we make the money. Think about how much competition that cuts out if you’re doing things the right way.

Content is something we’ve talked about a lot, especially since Covid. And we understand that as a beginner, you’ve got to start somewhere. So, doing any content is fine because you can just outsource it. That’s absolutely fine. You don’t have to sit and write these articles yourself, and Google doesn’t expect that either, by the way. But you do need to make sure that it’s high quality and the opposite of generic content. 

We’ve come up with a term in our community called “stop creating generic websites.” In other words, stop creating bland, boring websites that are the same as everyone else. Why would I go to this website to read about travelling around Australia or learning how to play golf or guitar better or whatever the topic is? Why would I go here versus the 50 other sites that are in that niche? 

The marketplace is now flooded with bland, generic AI content…

Matt: Since Covid, people have realised they can make so much money online. So, what happens is they post one article, and they get a great result. So, they’ll go bigger and post a hundred more of them.

To this day, you still need lots of content on sites. It’s still a key renovation technique, and Google outright says they want fresh content. So, content is incredibly important.

Of course, AI content is also entering the mix these days, clouding the waters. So, we need to learn how to create the opposite of these generic, bland websites that are still out there. 

…combat this by creating authentic passion websites with real content

Matt: Fortunately, Liz just told us all the stuff you can do, which is literally what Google told us back then. Also, we never used to teach this as much, but now, on my coaching calls, I’m telling our students that they need to have a passionate website within their portfolio. In other words, a site that you’re really passionate about because you’re going to put a lot of love and attention into it.

One of my favourite things I remember hearing from Matt Cutts at a conference was when he was being asked all these questions about how Google works. And he outright said, “Guys, we’re not stupid here at Google. We know you all own a hundred websites.”

My ears pricked up when I heard him say that because we also owned a lot of websites. He said, 

“We know you are not putting love and attention into all of those websites. We’d rather see you focused on a few key websites that we know you’re putting a lot of effort into. That way, we know you’re creating a high-quality website.” – Matt Cutts

To this day, Liz and I have taken that ethos on board with our main sites. These are the sites that have made us the most money. They are always the ones that we put the most love and attention into. You can also see the results in Google Analytics. 

What are the important aspects of SEO to focus on?

Matt: As Liz said, we recently went through our portfolio, and it’s really interesting. There are some sites that we laugh at and say, “Well, that’s not a surprise!” These are sites we have ignored and were not really passionate about, so they have gone down in the updates.

But I have to admit; there are other sites where I didn’t expect the traffic to triple in the last few months. These sites have done very well in the updates and now have more money in the bank account.

And so, that’s a big lesson about not creating generic sites. It’s one of the big things we’ve seen, particularly since COVID-19, so I’m going to repeat it again. You need to find a unique angle and branding that will help you stand out

By the way, you don’t immediately get this. Even when you’re doing due diligence on a website, planning it out, and conducting keyword research, it’s not something you can always figure out in the next few hours. 

Sometimes, owning a website takes a good few months to feel your feet for it. And that’s normally by looking at your Google analytics and seeing things like:

  • Where are people visiting?
  • What’s the most time on page? 
  • Where is the engagement?
  • Where are people clicking off?
  • Are they bouncing off the site and going back to the SERPs? 

These are key things to look for, and they’re easy to check out, particularly if you’re a beginner. And now we have proof. 

Learning the foundations of SEO will reap benefits across all your online businesses

Matt: In recent times, there’s been an alleged leak from Google about how their algorithm works and the actual programming of it. And what’s interesting is that people are either getting really upset or really excited about it. 

But honestly, there’s nothing new here. It is exactly what we’ve been teaching and what Matt Cutts said over a decade ago. It’s just been figuring out how to enforce it, i.e. important clicks, particularly off the SERPs, which is apparently called Nav Boost now. We’ve now got an official name for it.

We’ve also been teaching for years the importance of page titles. Who would’ve known? So, the foundations of SEO are still exactly the same

“There’s extra stuff we have to do and learn, but the good news is, I still have not seen a better business model than online businesses.”

You have to remember that there are lots of ways you can make money online, not just off standard content sites. You go way beyond that. That’s just where you start. 

There are tons of online businesses where you can still work from home in your Jimmy Jams, with family-friendly hours. You can do this as a side hustle and still keep your full-time job, etc. You can’t do that with brick-and-mortar businesses. 

So, if you can get over this knowledge hurdle now, learning how to buy and sell websites is a fantastic skill for the future because there is so much opportunity out there.

Why the Google Updates have provided a unique buying opportunity for online businesses

Matt: Speaking to all the brokers they are saying that professional website buyers are now starting to pop up again. Why? Because people are selling off perfectly good websites for great prices, and there are great opportunities

Also, it’s a lot easier to do your due diligence now; if the traffic’s been smashed, don’t buy it. If you’re a beginner, easy peasy, you’ll see it instantly. If the traffic’s been declining quite a bit, don’t buy it. 

Think about it. Let’s flip the model on its head. People are panicking, saying, “Oh, SEO’s dead. You shouldn’t be involved in content sites.” 

But why don’t you flip that model? Any sites that are still surviving and doing really well are highly valuable assets. And so, in our opinion, now’s a great time to be buying sites smart and safely. You can start out small rather than building sites from scratch.

I think this model is much easier now. It’s completely flipped from even just a year ago. We’ve always recommended building sites from scratch as well. It’s a lot of fun, and you can learn a lot. Also, it’s a super smart way to do it. 

But now, I think buying sites actually makes more sense because it’s safer. Any sites that survive these updates are good, solid sites. So, you still need to do your due diligence, but luckily, these days, brokers are really good at helping you do that, verifying the data, etc. There’s a lot more verified data out there.

Where do you start with buying websites for profit?

Liz: Yes, it is a much more mature market than when we first started. As you said, Matt, we’ve got brokers now who will review the stats, verify listings, and help you through that process. 

So, as we teach, always start small. 

We’re starting to recommend websites between $1,000 and $5,000 as your first website purchase price

That way, you can actually find a genuine website. And that’s the key word here—genuine. We don’t necessarily need to get a bargain, but it needs to be something that someone has put a lot of passion and thought into. They truly desire to help people.

…And what is the main skill you need for online marketing?

Liz: Going forward, empathy is one of the biggest skills you’ll need, both for this marketplace and even for jobs in the workplace. You need to understand people and be able to communicate. And so, that’s really important to understand when you’re looking for a website to buy. 

You need to think from the customer’s point of view, just like Google’s going. “How can I help people in this marketplace and give them a really good experience? How do I give them the information they’re looking for quickly and easily? And how do I do it in an entertaining and interesting way to read? How do I keep them engaged?

It’s about giving your readers the extra stuff. That means that their decision-making process is made even easier for them. They get to know this particular website and want to keep coming back and being part of the community.

How to increase the value of your online businesses 

1./ Build a community for people to keep coming back to your website

Liz: So, that’s the other thing we recommend you look out for whenever you look for websites to buy. Is the website topic suited to having a community, a list, a newsletter, etc.? Will people want to come back and learn more? Those are the sites that have been doing really well over the last five years or so. 

The big review sites tend to be focused on very specific niche products, etc. Those ones might struggle a little more because you potentially go in, pick the product you want, and then you’re gone. 

For example, outdoor patio heaters used to be a really good niche. Anyone who’s been around for more than a decade will remember we used to use that as an example. But it’s not that great a niche these days because why would I sign up to a community about outdoor patio heaters? 

So, it’s not a passion niche as such. Whereas learning how to play golf or how to play guitar, etc I’m more likely to be part of a community.

2./ Your website topic should be passionate and broad enough to grow

Liz: The other option is rather than just outdoor patio heaters, you might do a patio-style.com site, which talks about how to style a patio to be comfortable, warm, and a place for your family and friends to meet. And so, here are the latest styling tips, etc. There’s a whole range of things that you could do around that topic that people could potentially engage with. You would still be recommending outdoor power patio heaters as part of something but as a bigger picture.

Matt: One key thing here is to think a bit deeper and be more creative with your sites. And as you said, Liz, make sure you can have empathy around it. That’s a really good test, and when I tell that to our students, they come back and say, “Yes, Matt, you’re right. If I can add a list to it, then it makes it a lot easier as a potential buy.”

3./ Diversify your traffic outside of Google

Matt: One of the other big advantages of all the changes in SEO and AI  in the last six months, is it’s provided us with a warning. We don’t always want to be solely reliant on Google. Admittedly, we’ve done very well out of relying on Google with many of our sites. But we have always taught our students to create a list, get a community, and diversify.

An email list makes you money, and what you need to do is diversify your traffic sources from just Google and SEO. So, you can do that through a list, paid traffic, and especially through social media. That is a very valid strategy and we’re seeing it work really well with content, SaaS, and e-commerce sites. Again, when you think about having a community, list or newsletter, social media’s brilliant for that.

Has AI changed how we do SEO?

Liz: I know we’re going a little bit off-topic here, but that’s part of a broader trend now. People are lonely and want to find a connection. So, is there some way you can connect with people in that particular niche or passion? Those things are valuable because it’s very hard to create that with AI. 

AI is fantastic for this marketplace. It helps make things a lot easier, especially for our beginners. You can get entire content layout plans done for you in just seconds. You can also get ideas that potentially you would never have thought of yourself. And it just makes it easier to organise things for SEO. For example, we’re not using it to write our articles but to get ideas, etc. So, I think AI is a great thing.

But we need to think of AI as a future warning. For example, a few years ago, there used to be a whole bunch of websites that listed postcodes. They were dedicated to listing the postcode of every single town and city across the US, Australia, etc. 

But then a Google update happened, and Google started listing the postcodes for free. And so, everybody who had postcode sites threw up their hands and said, “Oh, that’s not fair.” But it was coming because we know that, and this is the same thing that’s happening here.

So, absolutely don’t create websites that Google says they are about to publish content on. Don’t rely on a website that publishes data about flight times or about simple questions that AI can answer.

Matt: For example, how do you boil an egg? By the way, Google said don’t do that topic even 10 years ago! 

But simple questions that can be answered in a snippet are probably not going to make good content for a future site.

Liz: We must evolve and think about community, bringing people together, and providing an experience of helping other people.

How to make money online outside of affiliate marketing?

Matt: Remember, too, that there are other ways to make money online. Content sites are just an easy place to start as a beginner because we can easily teach you how to get results there. 

But you can go beyond just content sites and sell leads, set up directory sites, paid education and course sites, paid newsletters and email lists, etc. You can still do a lot of affiliate marketing through email lists. We’ve been doing that for over 15 years now. 

Also, people don’t realise there are sponsorships with bigger corporates. Even small businesses will now sponsor websites. So, if you’ve got a community following for a niche website, it becomes very attractive for corporate sponsors to sponsor your newsletters.

This is actually very big in the travel niche. Our students, Chris and Bec, are travel influencers and coaches with us. And this is exactly what Liz and I have been coaching them on. We said, “You need to set up your website so that corporates can advertise and sponsor on there. Then you can drive it with social media.”

It’s all about starting out by learning the simple steps. It’s still all the same stuff we’ve been teaching—learning how this works, buying a couple of sites to get in the game, and building a couple of sites with traffic. Now, it’s a lot easier to do due diligence because you can see the real traffic. Whilst there’s never any guarantee, any site that’s still going well now should continue to do well. 

You always need to check, but if you do smart due diligence, think about how you can build a community and whether it is a topic you’re passionate enough about to work on and post regular content for. That’s where you start, and then your skills start to ratchet right up from there. 

Now’s the time to build your new digital skills & make incredible money online

Liz: It’s really exciting, and hopefully, you’re excited by what we’ve been able to share today. There are still huge opportunities in SEO and in online businesses in general. So, I hope the takeaway you get from this is not to listen to the chicken littles but instead find examples in the world of people who are doing amazingly well and making great money in this marketplace. And then go out there and learn these skills. 

By getting online and understanding how this works, you can be at the forefront of the market, and there is plenty of money to be made.

how to buy websites for semi-passive income matt and liz raad