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What is Parasite SEO And How Google Sees It After March 2024 Update

Have you ever come across a concept called Parasite SEO. You might have heard this; it’s become more of a kind of hot button discussion topic in the digital marketing and SEO space, particularly since Google rolled out the helpful content update in late 2023, which really hammered a lot of information sites, blogs, those kinds of things.


The Rise of Parasite SEO

What you saw is this big upswing in the kind of ranking performance of very authoritative domains, and off the back of that, a kind of trend towards some of these domains and websites saying, “Hey, we’ve got an opportunity here. We can actually sell basically the ability to publish content on our site that might go and rank really well in Google for certain keywords with very little editorial oversight. We’ll make money off it.” The person who’s paid to have the content published, they can monetize via affiliate links or pushing people to offers or whatever the case may be. And Google has just announced in a recent algorithm update that they’re basically going to be looking to crack down on this.

Learn more about Google March 2024 Update here.


So, What is Parasite SEO?

OK , now what is Parasite SEO? Maybe you’ve heard about it as a concept; you’re not quite sure. Long story short, Parasite SEO is where you leverage somebody else’s website to try and rank your content for a particular keyword. And it’s not a new concept.

So there are sites like Times of India, as an example, where basically you can come along and pay to have an article published on that site. And they’ll publish pretty much anything on any topic as long as you’re willing to pay the admission price. And the whole idea is that that website gets money; they can charge you money to publish the content. And then you, as the parasite content publisher, you can rank more likely on Google for competitive keywords. Best payday loans in Auckland, New Zealand, or whatever the keyword is that you want to rank for. It’s much more likely that that site’s going to rank than if you set up your own website. And you can push people off to your offers.


It Started As Bum Marketing Method

I came across this website that was promoting something that at the time was called the bum marketing method. Bum as in the, I think it’s like the American word for sort of homeless person or… And the idea behind that term was that it was such a sort of freebie method that anybody, even if they were homeless, could go and use the local library computer and do this thing. Not necessarily agreeing with the naming, but that’s why it was called the bum marketing method. 


The Parasite and Host Relationship in Leveraging Authority

And the whole idea there was you didn’t need a website of your own. What you would go and do is you would go and find an affiliate offer where you could basically earn a commission promoting someone else’s product. So you go on something like ClickBank, you find a product. I settled on Xbox 360 DIY repair because they were having lots of issues with that console reliability at the time. And you would create content on keywords like “how to fix your Xbox” or “Xbox 360 not working” or whatever. You’d create content; you’d go and publish those articles on what were called article directories. E in was one of the big ones. Or there were like sort of Web 2.0 sites that were coming in at the time, things like Hub Pages or Squidoo. Those websites, they would all have really authoritative strong domains. And so what you would be doing is basically like a sort of parasite clings to a host.


What is Parasite SEO Today?

You would be leveraging, piggybacking off the back of these strong websites. You would publish content around specific keywords; that content would rank. And it was kind of like a symbiotic relationship, like a parasite and host sometimes in the sense that articles or Hub Pages, they would get traffic to their site and they could monetize that traffic with display advertising and take a cut. But then you had the ability as the content creator to push people off to affiliate links or your own website or try and turn them into real-world customers or whatever it is you wanted to do. But effectively, you were sort of the parasite Clinging On to this strong host. And that concept has continued, and that’s really what Parasite SEO is.


So what did Google Crack Down on?

Now, the original Parasite SEO with things like article directories, Squid, Hub Pages, that all got knocked on the head by Google. And I think it was either the Penguin or the Panda update; I always get the two mixed up. That was about 2010, 2011 that happened. But Parasite SEO has really continued since then in different gees. It’s not a specific strategy unto itself in the sense there’s only one platform where it works. What it is is about identifying websites that Google ranks well for keyword searchers and then finding how you can get your content on those sites. It is also called Guest Posting or Guest Blogging and there are some very credible SEO agencies that can help you with it.


Opportunities in Modern Parasite SEO

So something like YouTube, you could potentially look at as a Parasite SEO opportunity. You can register a YouTube channel for your business for free. You can go and target keywords; they can be short, broad keywords, or they can be very specific long-tail keywords. And Google often ranks YouTube videos really well in search. So that could be a Parasite SEO opportunity. Over the years, there’ve been things from, you know, slideshow and document sharing websites. Scribe, I think SlideShare is another one that used to rank really well; doesn’t rank quite so well anymore.


Trends and Google’s Response

What tends to happen is Google will rank something really well; people will find a way to kind of exploit it as a Parasite SEO opportunity. And then Google usually has to kind of come along and knock that on the head VI an algorithm update because it just becomes overwhelming in search results. And so what we’ve seen more recently with Parasite SEO is the trend more being towards authoritative websites such as news websites, whether they’re regionally focused or nationally focused or industry-focused, offering the ability for you to pay to publish content with no editorial oversight on that website.


Google’s Response and Future Projections

And it’s kind of like a symbiotic relationship once again. But Google is always kind of on the lookout for how this is being done. And they’ve just announced an algorithm update or pending update that they’re going to be basically giving warning to this site, saying you’ve got to stop this practice or we’re going to demote your content. Now, this doesn’t mean that Parasite SEO will die off; it’s never going to die off for as long as there are websites that Google ranks in search where you can either register for free or pay for entry in effect and publish your content on someone else’s platform.

So this current method of paying to go on news websites, for example, as a means of Parasite SEO, that might die off. But the next thing will pop up; it might be that social media profiles, for example, start ranking really, really well in Google. In fact, I often see TikTok profiles ranking in Google. And so next thing you know, everybody’s building keyword-targeted TikTok profiles. “You know how to train your dog to stop barking” becomes a TikTok profile, and you rank that. And then you use your bio link to push people off to an affiliate offer or your business website. 

So SEO Backlinks as a concept is unlikely to die off; it’s just that there’s this kind of constant rolling evolution of what actually works at a tactical level within the context of that concept. So hopefully, that gives you a bit of a sort of rundown on what Parasite SEO is. As to whether you should do it or not for your business, it kind of depends on what you’re looking to achieve. 

I think for a lot of smaller businesses who don’t have big budgets to invest in SEO and paid digital ads, there is actually some opportunity in Link Insertion SEO. I’ve seen clients do really, really well by taking a question that the prospective customers are searching in Google, where there’s decent volume behind that keyword, creating content, then distributing that content as podcasts, YouTube videos, social media content, maybe even paying for things like press releases and so on, and doing it in a really legitimate fashion. And it can actually be very, very effective and cost-effective as well. So you generate leads and sales, and you’re also doing so without having to spend too much money. 

But equally, a lot of the focus of Parasite SEO is more on kind of that quick and easy, dirty, how do you get something ranking quickly on Google, where you can push people off to an affiliate offer, and it’s easy come, easy go. Once Google knocks that opportunity on the head, it’s like whack-a-mole; the next one pops up, and you move on to that. So it’s very dependent on what your business is actually trying to achieve, your kind of overall business strategy, how much you’ve got to spend on digital advertising and marketing and so on, as to whether you should do Parasite SEO or not. But certainly, things like YouTube, for example, are a great opportunity for just about every business, I would say.

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