Parasite web optimization Defined (It is Not At all times Evil!)

Parasite web optimization might help you rank for extra aggressive key phrases, rank quicker, and get extra visitors to your content material.

However do these advantages come on the threat of a Google penalty?

It relies upon…

Parasite web optimization is the place you leverage the authority of a longtime web site to rank for aggressive key phrases. You do that by publishing content material on the high-authority web site as an alternative of your personal.

There are clearly professionals and cons to this strategy:

  • May be simpler to rank for aggressive key phrases with profitable content material. (See the instance under).
  • Higher distribution and extra eyeballs in your content material as a result of established websites usually have extra readers.
  • Decrease model consciousness within the search outcomes because it’s the third-party web site that ranks, not your personal.
  • Much less management over the content material (can’t replace everytime you need, change copy with out strategy, and so forth.)
  • Content material can get taken down or modified at any time by the positioning proprietor.

Not all the time. However usually, sure.

Most SEOs doing parasite web optimization go for a “churn and burn” strategy. That is the place they pay for a sponsored put up on one web site, reap the rewards whereas they final, after which transfer on to publishing on one other web site when Google penalizes the primary one.

If you happen to’re questioning why Google would possibly penalize websites for publishing this content material, it’s due to one thing referred to as web site fame abuse:

Website fame abuse is when third-party pages are revealed with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, the place the aim is to control search rankings by making the most of the first-party web site’s rating indicators. Such third-party pages embrace sponsored, promoting, accomplice, or different third-party pages which might be sometimes impartial of a bunch web site’s important function or produced with out shut oversight or involvement of the host web site, and supply little to no worth to customers.

Put merely, it’s when established websites publish junk content material from parasite SEOs en masse. You see it occur loads with native newspapers as they fight desperately to compensate for declining promoting income with different income sources.

It “works” for some time, however finally, these websites get caught by a Google replace.

That is precisely what occurred to Outlook India (don’t fear, it’s not a web site anybody is aware of about exterior the black-hat neighborhood!). In 2023, it was a parasite web optimization’s dream, seemingly in a position to rank excessive for just about any matter. It revealed content material about every little thing from “finest mushroom espresso” to “finest courting websites” to “finest nootropics.”

Some of Outlook India's rankings in 2023

However the occasion was short-lived. It acquired penalized in September 2023 and visitors fell off a cliff:

Outlook India's traffic downfall, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerOutlook India's traffic downfall, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is only one of numerous comparable examples over time, and it’s why black-hat parasite web optimization is dangerous. Until you realize what you’re getting your self into and are blissful to play the “churn and burn” sport, I wouldn’t contact information websites like these with a barge pole.

However there’s a white-hat different: writing visitor posts about aggressive subjects for well-known blogs in your business. There’s nothing fallacious with doing this. I’ve performed it earlier than and had nice success with it (extra on that later).


Folks usually seek advice from the white-hat model of parasite web optimization as barnacle web optimization. Is sensible… but in addition I feel SEOs must cease arising with foolish names for each slight variation of ways 😉

Let’s check out a couple of examples of parasite web optimization. Particularly, a black-hat, grey-hat, and white-hat instance. I wish to present you that the tactic itself isn’t unethical however reasonably the best way it usually will get used.

Black-hat: Outlook India’s web page on the most effective free film streaming websites

Outlook India's page on the best movie streaming sitesOutlook India's page on the best movie streaming sites

Between July and December 2023, this web page on Outlook India attracted between an estimated ~25K and ~377K search visits per month!

Estimated traffic to Outlook India's page over timeEstimated traffic to Outlook India's page over time

Though the web page didn’t declare sponsored content material, it was clearly that, because the piece contained a number of very dodgy hyperlinks to a movie-streaming service. It was attempting to show visitors into customers.

Spammy links in Outlook India's postSpammy links in Outlook India's post

The content material was additionally absolute trash. ChatGPT might write higher.

Gray-hat: Washington Metropolis Paper’s put up on the most effective essay writing providers

A advertising company used parasite web optimization to rank for “prime essay writing service”—a extremely aggressive key phrase with a Key phrase Problem (KD) rating of 87 and solely high-authority web sites rating within the prime 10.

Parasite page ranking #1 for "top essay writing service"Parasite page ranking #1 for "top essay writing service"

They did this by publishing a sponsored put up on a powerful DR 80 web site:

Example of sponsored parasite contentExample of sponsored parasite content

It’s doubtless that this helped them to rank quicker and extra simply in comparison with publishing on their low-authority DR 4 web site:

The DR of the agency behind the parasite post's websitesThe DR of the agency behind the parasite post's websites

How did this profit them?

Their put up includes a record of hyperlinks to prime essay writing providers—half of that are monetized with affiliate hyperlinks (see the highlighted ones under):

Affiliate links in the parasite postAffiliate links in the parasite post

In keeping with Ahrefs, this web page will get an estimated 2.7K month-to-month visits from natural search…

Estimated traffic to the parasite post, via Ahrefs' Site ExplorerEstimated traffic to the parasite post, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

… and one of many affiliate applications has a 60% fee on first orders over $60:

Example affiliate commission for the recommended servicesExample affiliate commission for the recommended services

Even when we assume that just one% of these 2.7K visits end in an affiliate conversion of $60, that’s doubtlessly ~$1K/month in affiliate income for the company.

White-hat: Moz’s weblog put up on web optimization providers

In 2015, Ryan Stewart revealed a put up on the Moz weblog about why he stopped promoting web optimization providers.

Moz's post on SEO servicesMoz's post on SEO services

This ranked for the key phrase “web optimization providers” (in addition to many others) for years—getting hundreds of month-to-month natural visits consequently.

Estimated traffic to Moz's postEstimated traffic to Moz's post

The estimated natural visitors graph above exhibits that the put up’s visitors solely dropped off in 2021. It ranked fairly properly for nearly six years earlier than that.

On the time of publishing, Ryan ran WEBRIS…

Right here’s the distinction in WEBRIS and Moz’s Area Score (DR) on the time of publishing:

DR for Moz vs. WEBRISDR for Moz vs. WEBRIS

On condition that DR is logarithmic, DR 90 is massively extra authoritative than DR 53. That is doubtless a part of the rationale Ryan’s put up ranked so shortly and for therefore lengthy. It most likely wouldn’t have performed fairly as properly if he had revealed it on his personal web site.

What did Ryan get out of this? Not like black-and-grey hat parasite web optimization, the sport right here wasn’t to instantly monetize the content material. It was to construct Ryan’s private model and set up thought management within the area. In spite of everything, Moz has numerous readers.

Parasite web optimization works for a mixture of three causes:

You profit from the positioning’s ‘authority’

Google representatives have mentioned many occasions that web site authority isn’t a rating issue. However what’s a rating issue is PageRank (PR). Regardless of being many years outdated, Google nonetheless makes use of this to assist rank web sites—and high-authority websites have extra of it than low-authority ones.

Because of this, the common web page on a high-authority web site has extra ‘authority’ than the common web page on a low-authority web site. It’s because inner hyperlinks to the web page ship it extra PageRank.

You profit from the positioning’s ‘topical authority’

If you happen to’re posting on a web site with numerous content material a few explicit matter (as massive websites usually have), your put up will doubtless have inner hyperlinks with related anchor textual content from numerous comparable content material. This helps construct “topical authority” as a result of Google makes use of anchor textual content to assist rank net pages.

Google employs plenty of methods to enhance search high quality together with web page rank, anchor textual content, and proximity info.

You (would possibly) profit from the positioning’s ‘model fairness’

Folks wish to see outcomes from web sites they know and belief, proper? This doubtless implies that massive, credible websites can have a neater time rating in search as a result of searchers belief them greater than small unknown websites. (Or perhaps it’s simply because Google favors massive websites these days?)

If you happen to’re offered on parasite web optimization and wish to attempt it, there are solely 4 steps to the method.

1. Discover high-authority web sites rating properly in your area of interest

One of the best contenders for parasite web optimization are web sites already rating properly for the varieties of key phrases you wish to rank for. Right here’s a fast option to discover these websites in Ahrefs’ Key phrases Explorer:

  1. Enter a handful of comparable key phrases to what you wish to rank for (10-20 is loads)
  2. Go to the Site visitors Share by Area report
Traffic share by domain in Ahrefs' Keywords ExplorerTraffic share by domain in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This report exhibits you the websites getting probably the most mixed visitors from the key phrases you entered. For instance, the websites above all rank properly for key phrases associated to the most effective essay writing providers.

2. Pull out the most effective alternatives for parasite web optimization

For an internet site to be a possible candidate for parasite web optimization, it must be open to publishing visitor posts, sponsored content material, or be someplace you may self-publish like Reddit or LinkedIn Pulse.

It’s simple to identify the web sites that permit self-publishing; there are a couple of on our record:

Example of sites that allow self-publishingExample of sites that allow self-publishing

The remainder of the websites will sometimes fall into one among three buckets:

Opponents are dangerous candidates for parasite web optimization as a result of they’re unlikely to publish your content material—even if you happen to’re keen to pay them. There’s no incentive for them to do that as a result of they’d simply be serving to a competitor.

Area of interest blogs are good candidates in the event that they’re more likely to be open to visitor posts (just like the one from Ryan Stewart within the earlier part). That is most likely the case if there are quite a few authors with only one or two posts in the previous couple of months.

Right here’s a straightforward option to verify for this utilizing Ahrefs’ Content material Explorer:

  1. Seek for web
  2. Filter for pages revealed within the final 90 days
  3. Go to the Authors tab
Researching whether a site likely accepts guest posts in Ahrefs' Content ExplorerResearching whether a site likely accepts guest posts in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

Within the instance above, Moz has revealed posts from 32 completely different authors within the final 90 days—every of whom has solely revealed 1-2 posts. This can be a sturdy signal that they settle for visitor posts.

Newspapers and magazines are good candidates if you happen to’re blissful to pay for sponsored content material and perceive that the web site will most likely get penalized by Google in some unspecified time in the future. (Extra on this within the part on black-hat vs white-hat web optimization).

Wish to discover simple parasite web optimization alternatives on Reddit?

As an alternative of beginning new Reddit threads and hoping they rank, search for threads that already rank and go away a helpful remark. Right here’s learn how to discover such threads in Ahrefs’ Website Explorer:

  1. Enter
  2. Go to the Natural Key phrases report
  3. Filter for
    1. URL incorporates feedback (this excludes subreddit homepages)
    2. Prime 5 rankings
    3. Key phrases you need (e.g., ones containing “essay”)
  4. View “Foremost positions” solely (this removes the dialogue and discussion board outcomes)
Finding Reddit parasite SEO opportunitiesFinding Reddit parasite SEO opportunities

Click on via to the Reddit threads within the outcomes and go away feedback the place it makes sense.

3. Publish optimized content material on the web site

It’s now time to get some content material onto the websites you discovered.

With locations like Reddit and LinkedIn Pulse, that is fairly easy. You merely publish content material there with little to no gatekeeping.

For newspapers and magazines (i.e., the black/grey-hat route), you want to attain out and ask in the event that they’re open to a sponsored put up. In different phrases, you’ll should pay to get your content material stay in such locations.

If you happen to’re going after area of interest blogs, attain out and pitch a visitor put up (don’t supply cash). Bear in mind to decide on a aggressive matter with search quantity as the entire level of parasite web optimization is to benefit from “sturdy” websites to rank for key phrases you’d in any other case wrestle to rank for.

That is precisely what I did again in 2013 (sure, over a decade in the past!) after I ran a really small video manufacturing firm with my brother. As a result of our web site was model new and weak, there was a slim likelihood of us rating for a aggressive time period like “video web optimization”—so I wrote a visitor put up for Kissmetrics as an alternative:

My guest post on KISSmetricsMy guest post on KISSmetrics

This put up ranked for years, and attracted important search visitors till June 2018 (that’s over 5 years after I wrote it!)

My guest post got traffic for yearsMy guest post got traffic for years

The truth is, the one purpose visitors seems to fall off a cliff in 2018 is as a result of Neil Patel purchased Kissmetrics and moved the content material to My put up is definitely nonetheless rating there to this day!

My guest post still gets traffic!My guest post still gets traffic!

This wasn’t totally a fluke, although. It stood the check of time largely as a result of I wrote an optimized put up that matched search intent and adopted web optimization finest practices.

Try the sources under to study extra about creating optimized content material.

4. Construct hyperlinks to your content material (non-obligatory)

Posts revealed on “sturdy” web sites will usually rank properly with out hyperlinks, however not all the time. On this case, constructing a couple of hyperlinks to your put up can typically make sense to provide it a nudge in the precise route.

Why solely typically? Two causes:

  1. Hyperlink constructing is numerous work. Until you’re shopping for hyperlinks or constructing dangerous hyperlinks (don’t do that!), hyperlink constructing is tough. If you happen to’re going to go to that effort, it’s most likely higher to publish content material by yourself web site and construct hyperlinks to there.
  2. It may be a waste of time (and cash). If you happen to’re doing parasite web optimization on information web sites, they’ll most likely get penalized in some unspecified time in the future. If this occurs, all that onerous work constructing hyperlinks will probably be for nothing.

If you happen to nonetheless wish to construct some hyperlinks to your parasite put up, take a look at the sources under.

Last ideas

Parasite web optimization (or barnacle web optimization, or no matter you wish to name it) isn’t all the time dangerous.

Positive, it’s mostly utilized by black-hat SEOs choosing a “churn and burn” strategy—however there’s no purpose you may’t use it for good. It’s completely attainable to benefit from a web site’s authority to rank actually nice content material shortly and extra simply.

Received questions? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.

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