July 19, 2024
Parasite website positioning Defined (It is Not All the time Evil!)

Parasite website positioning 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 website positioning 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 a substitute of your personal.

There are clearly execs and cons to this strategy:

Execs Cons
  • Will 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 website 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 on.)
  • Content material can get taken down or modified at any time by the location proprietor.

Not at all times. However usually, sure.

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

Should you’re questioning why Google would possibly penalize websites for publishing this content material, it’s due to one thing known as site reputation abuse:

Web site popularity abuse is when third-party pages are printed with little or no first-party oversight or involvement, the place the aim is to govern search rankings by benefiting from the first-party website’s rating indicators. Such third-party pages embody sponsored, promoting, accomplice, or different third-party pages which can be usually impartial of a bunch website’s principal objective or produced with out shut oversight or involvement of the host website, 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 rather a lot with native newspapers as they struggle desperately to compensate for declining promoting income with different income sources.

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

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

Some of Outlook India's rankings in 2023

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

Outlook 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 website positioning is dangerous. Except what you’re getting your self into and are completely satisfied 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 various: writing visitor posts about aggressive matters for well-known blogs in your trade. There’s nothing flawed with doing this. I’ve completed it earlier than and had nice success with it (extra on that later).


Individuals usually discuss with the white-hat model of parasite website positioning as barnacle website positioning. Is sensible… but in addition I feel SEOs must cease arising with foolish names for each slight variation of techniques 😉

Let’s check out just a few examples of parasite website positioning. 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 way in which it usually will get used.

Black-hat: Outlook India’s web page on one of the best free film streaming websites

Outlook 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 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 making an attempt to show visitors into customers.

Spammy links in Outlook India's post

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


The positioning these hyperlinks went to isn’t even listed by Google anymore, so I assume it was fairly sketchy!

Gray-hat: Washington Metropolis Paper’s submit on one of the best essay writing companies

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

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

They did this by publishing a sponsored submit on a robust DR 80 website: washingtoncitypaper.com.

Example of sponsored parasite content

It’s probably 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 websites

How did this profit them?

Their submit contains a checklist of hyperlinks to prime essay writing companies—half of that are monetized with affiliate hyperlinks (see the highlighted ones under):

Affiliate links in the parasite post

In response to 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 Explorer

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

Example affiliate commission for the recommended services

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

White-hat: Moz’s weblog submit on website positioning companies

In 2015, Ryan Stewart printed a submit on the Moz weblog about why he stopped promoting website positioning companies.

Moz's post on SEO services

This ranked for the key phrase “website positioning companies” (in addition to many others) for years—getting 1000’s of month-to-month natural visits consequently.

Estimated traffic to Moz's post

The estimated natural visitors graph above exhibits that the submit’s visitors solely dropped off in 2021. It ranked fairly nicely 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. WEBRIS

Provided that DR is logarithmic, DR 90 is massively extra authoritative than DR 53. That is probably a part of the rationale Ryan’s submit ranked so rapidly and for therefore lengthy. It most likely wouldn’t have completed fairly as nicely if he had printed it on his personal web site.

What did Ryan get out of this? In contrast to black-and-grey hat parasite website positioning, 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 loads of readers.

Parasite website positioning works for a mixture of three causes:

You profit from the location’s ‘authority’

Google representatives have mentioned many instances that web site authority isn’t a rating issue. However what’s a rating issue is PageRank (PR). Despite being decades old, Google still uses this to help rank websites—and high-authority sites have more of it than low-authority ones.

For this reason, the average page on a high-authority website has more ‘authority’ than the average page on a low-authority website. This is because internal links to the page send it more PageRank.

You benefit from the site’s ‘topical authority’

If you’re posting on a site with lots of content about a particular topic (as big sites often have), your post will likely have internal links with relevant anchor text from lots of similar content. This helps build “topical authority” because Google uses anchor textual content to assist rank internet pages.

Google employs quite a few strategies to enhance search high quality together with web page rank, anchor textual content, and proximity info.

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

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

Should you’re offered on parasite website positioning and wish to attempt it, there are solely 4 steps to the method.

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

The perfect contenders for parasite website positioning are web sites already rating nicely for the kinds of key phrases you wish to rank for. Right here’s a fast technique to discover these websites in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer:

  1. Enter a handful of similar keywords to what you want to rank for (10-20 is plenty)
  2. Go to the Traffic Share by Domain report
Traffic share by domain in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

This report shows you the sites getting the most combined traffic from the keywords you entered. For example, the sites above all rank well for keywords related to the best essay writing services.

2. Pull out the best opportunities for parasite SEO

For a website to be a potential candidate for parasite SEO, it needs to be open to publishing guest posts, sponsored content, or be somewhere you can self-publish like Reddit or LinkedIn Pulse.

It’s easy to spot the websites that allow self-publishing; there are a few on our list:

Example of sites that allow self-publishing

The rest of the sites will typically fall into one of three buckets:

  • Competitors
  • Niche blogs
  • Newspapers/magazines

Competitors are bad candidates for parasite SEO because they’re unlikely to publish your content—even if you’re willing to pay them. There’s no incentive for them to do this because they’d just be helping a competitor.

Niche blogs are good candidates if they’re likely to be open to guest posts (like the one from Ryan Stewart in the previous section). This is probably the case if there are numerous authors with just one or two posts in the last few months.

Here’s an easy way to check for this using Ahrefs’ Content Explorer:

  1. Search for site:theirwebsite.com
  2. Filter for pages published in the last 90 days
  3. Go to the Authors tab
Researching whether a site likely accepts guest posts in Ahrefs' Content Explorer

In the example above, Moz has published posts from 32 different authors in the last 90 days—each of whom has only published 1-2 posts. This is a strong sign that they accept guest posts.

Newspapers and magazines are good candidates if you’re happy to pay for sponsored content and understand that the website will probably get penalized by Google at some point. (More on this in the section on black-hat vs white-hat SEO).

Want to find easy parasite SEO opportunities on Reddit?

Instead of starting new Reddit threads and hoping they rank, look for threads that already rank and leave a useful comment. Here’s how to find such threads in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer:

  1. Enter reddit.com
  2. Go to the Organic Keywords report
  3. Filter for
    1. URL contains comments (this excludes subreddit homepages)
    2. Top 5 rankings
    3. Keywords you want (e.g., ones containing “essay”)
  4. View “Main positions” only (this removes the discussion and forum results)
Finding Reddit parasite SEO opportunities

Click through to the Reddit threads in the results and leave comments where it makes sense.

3. Publish optimized content on the site

It’s now time to get some content onto the sites you found.

With places like Reddit and LinkedIn Pulse, this is pretty straightforward. You simply publish content there with little to no gatekeeping.

For newspapers and magazines (i.e., the black/grey-hat route), you need to reach out and ask if they’re open to a sponsored post. In other words, you’ll have to pay to get your content live in such places.

If you’re going after niche blogs, reach out and pitch a guest post (don’t offer money). Remember to choose a competitive topic with search volume as the whole point of parasite SEO is to take advantage of “strong” sites to rank for keywords you’d otherwise struggle to rank for.

This is exactly what I did back in 2013 (yes, over a decade ago!) when I ran a very small video production company with my brother. Because our site was brand new and weak, there was a slim chance of us ranking for a competitive term like “video SEO”—so I wrote a guest post for Kissmetrics instead:

My guest post on KISSmetrics

This post ranked for years, and attracted significant search traffic until June 2018 (that’s over 5 years after I wrote it!)

My guest post got traffic for years

In fact, the only reason traffic appears to fall off a cliff in 2018 is because Neil Patel bought Kissmetrics and moved the content to NeilPatel.com. My post is actually still ranking there to this day!

My guest post still gets traffic!

This wasn’t entirely a fluke, though. It stood the test of time largely because I wrote an optimized post that matched search intent and followed SEO best practices.

Check out the resources below to learn more about creating optimized content.

4. Build links to your content (optional)

Posts published on “strong” websites will often rank well without links, but not always. In this case, building a few links to your post can sometimes make sense to give it a nudge in the right direction.

Why only sometimes? Two reasons:

  1. Link building is a lot of work. Unless you’re buying links or building bad links (don’t do this!), link building is hard. If you’re going to go to that effort, it’s probably better to publish content on your own website and build links to there.
  2. It might be a waste of time (and money). If you’re doing parasite SEO on news websites, they’ll probably get penalized at some point. If this happens, all that hard work building links will be for nothing.

If you still want to build some links to your parasite post, check out the resources below.

Final thoughts

Parasite SEO (or barnacle SEO, or whatever you want to call it) isn’t always bad.

Sure, it’s most commonly used by black-hat SEOs opting for a “churn and burn” approach—but there’s no reason you can’t use it for good. It’s perfectly possible to take advantage of a site’s authority to rank truly great content quickly and more easily.

Got questions? Ping me on X or LinkedIn.