Parasite SEO seems to be popping up all over social media, and honestly, I had no idea what was meant by it.
It’s being shared by a lot of niche site owners, usually with a graph that shows a big ol spike in affiliate payouts or some sort of text explaining the money to be made.
Thing is, very few people are offering clear-as-day explanations of Parasite SEO.
A lot of them feel like they’ve been written by AI. I even asked on social and got answers like the below.
As you’d imagine, I wasn’t particularly happy with these vague answers. They honestly felt like they were written by AI.
So I’ve spent a few days digging deep and have a simple explanation for you on what Parasite SEO is, and whether it’s worth it below.
What is Parasite SEO?
Parasite SEO is simply publishing your content on someone else’s high-ranking website.
You’re betting that the high domain authority offered by the publisher will be enough for your content to rank #1, or on page 1.
Sounds a lot like guest posting, right? Well, there’s one major difference.
You see, with Parasite SEO people aren’t looking for backlinks. They’re looking to drive traffic to affiliate offers.
For example, I might try and publish a piece on “the best landing page builders” on a site with DA 80+ simply because I know that the article will then rank highly.
My affiliate links are then more likely to get clicked, which means I’m more likely to get a commission.
On the surface, it sounds like a faster way to generate commissions from affiliate programs. And it kind of is.
These high DA sites will rank your article quickly and at the top of Google, which means more clicks and more affiliate commission revenue for you.
But I don’t think it’s something you should be pursuing if you’re building your own brand.
I’ll explain why when looking at it compared to guest posting.
Is parasite SEO the same as guest posting?
Guest posting is about building the authority of your own site by getting links from another high-ranking site.
That higher authority means that your “money maker” article ranks higher in Google.
Like Parasite SEO, you’re still writing guest pieces for another site.
However, rather than links to affiliate offers you’re dropping in links to your own articles that promote those affiliate offers.
Do this enough and you can build the authority for your site. Which usually ends up with multiple articles across different topics at the top of Google.
You end up with a lot of articles on page 1 of Google, which leads to more traffic to your site.
That’s been the established method of guest posting and publishing on other sites for years now.
You’re basically building authority by getting other high-authority sites to say “look at this site”.
Parasite SEO on the other hand, is about getting sales thanks to someone else’s domain authority.
There is often little or no benefit to your site.
In both approaches, you’re using the authority of another person’s site. Usually one with a high DA. However, the difference is in the goal…
- Parasite SEO’s goal is to drive affiliate sales through an external high-DA site
- Guest posting is about building your site’s authority through an external high DA site
You might make a bit more cash by using Parasite SEO in the short term, but your own brand and site will not grow in DA or traffic.
You’re trading the long-term benefit of building your own authority for faster payouts from an affiliate program.
There are, of course, times when parasite SEO might be worth it. However, I think that building your own domain authority and brand presence is the better play long term.
Is Parasite SEO worth it?
In my opinion, overall it’s a no.
There’s a lot of people pushing this as a way to make a quick buck right now. And I get it, we’re all here to make some money and this might seem like an easy way to do so.
However, I don’t think this is a good method for the long run, nor do I think Google will let it run for a long time.
I’ll explain why. But first, let’s look at example to help illustrate.
As is often the case with these marketing strategies, I try to reverse-engineer them to figure out how it actually works.
When researching my Parasite SEO analysis, I discovered a piece that talks of the “best diet pills” and is a Parasite SEO play.
Published on a “high DA” news site and riddled with affiliate links.
On the surface of it all, this seems like a win.
They have a piece promoting high-commission affiliate offers and it ranks #1 in Google for a relevant search.
But I don’t think it’s as simple as saying “this is a win”.
Let’s imagine I am the webmaster of that site.
If I set up link tracking and see that a link to an external sales page is getting a lot of links from one of these pieces, why would I not switch it out with my own affiliate link?
For example, in the above, I might see that the top recommended diet pill is getting 100 link clicks per day.
I’m going to look into that, and when I see there’s an affiliate program, I’d sign up and replace their link with mine.
I then get the affiliate commissions instead of the guest author.
Might sound scammy but this could and would happen as the author has no say in how the content is updated over time.
The second reason I’m not sure about Parasite SEO is that I believe Google will be amending their processes on this.
I’ll explain in more detail a little below.
Should you use parasite SEO?
Look, you’re an adult and I’ve been in this game long enough to know that money talks.
If you want to use it to try and generate some quick wins, by all means go for it.
Personally, I’d recommend you don’t do it.
I think there are better gains to be had by building your own authority and becoming a known player in your space.
It’s a longer, harder slog but ultimately more rewarding on every metric in the end.
And by giving great content to others, you’re making it harder for you to rank for those same high-money keywords down the line.
You’re actively increasing your competition.
But there are also other problems I see with Parasite SEO.
The problems Parasite SEO will create as we move forward
I think the bigger issue is the problem this will cause moving forward.
Google is, supposedly, moving towards more EEAT signals.
They want to rank websites and creators who have shown…
- Good experience
- Genuine expertise
- Are authorities on the topic
- Can be trusted
Since late 2022 they’ve been pushing this harder than before.
It all sounds great, but the reality is different to what Google is saying.
Google doesn’t seem to niche down by expertise and authoritativeness.
If I’m searching for advice on the best weight loss pills, I should be directed to the site of a nutritionist, doctor, health expert etc.
Instead, the #1 article that has the featured snippet is from Times Union, a generic news publication operating out of Albany NY.
I guess because they have a DA of 83.
But really, what does a news journalist know about weight loss? Or dietary health? Or exercise?
Probably not that much.
And yet, Google has decided to place them top of the results because they have “authority”.
We should only really be promoting the views and opinions on something so potentially dangerous from qualified professionals.
The whole EEAT approach hasn’t worked so well. I think the ranking factors for it are looking at the wrong things. Especially when a piece of content like the above that…
- Has “Paid Advertising” emblazoned across the header
- Has no individual author attributed to the piece
- Is published on a non-industry specific location
… is able to rank #1.
It’s unsustainable long term.
If this continues, these high-DA sites will become inundated with low-quality, poorly masked affiliate promo pieces.
And they’ll rank at the top of Google because they have high “authority”.
Genuine experts and original research that haven’t built great domain authority are going to be knocked onto page 2 by marketers with no real expertise.
Google results that offer no real insights or information to the end user. Instead, we’ll end up with a search results page that’s simply full of affiliate promos from smart marketers.
The products, advice, and traffic will be dominated by brands with the highest payouts rather than those with the next user experience and service.
Why are news publications allowing this on their site?
The big question here is why would a local news brand like Times Union allow this?
If you look at their main page, the rest of the news is very Albany area-specific.
Hell, the head banner even has a temporary traffic warning for “Northway”. A generic road name if ever I’ve heard one.
They have nothing else around diet, health, or anything outside of the actual local news. ]
So why would they accept a piece like the above diet pill article? Usually, news brands have strict editorial guidelines that would stop something that’s so off-brand and obviously promotional.
Well, the answer is simple.
A lot of these local news brands are struggling to stay afloat in the era of web publishing.
Traffic for them is low, and thanks to the payouts from ad networks and local sponsors being low, they’re often at risk of going under.
If they can charge marketers a fee of say, $5000, to publish on their site, they’re going to do it (I imagine the author would make that $5000 back in a few days at most which is why I also think these news sites will get savvy to this and start using the method themselves).
They probably think that by hiding the article from the main feed and allowing it to be found through Google alone is enough to not tarnish their reputation.
I get the impression a lot of these smaller news brands are doing this not because they want to, but because they have to in order to stay afloat.
Which is a shame.
Because we should all be able to access genuine reporting and news content.
If it keeps on this way, these publications will lose much of their perceived authority in the eyes of readers, and Google may later slap them with a penalty.
What can be done about the problem?
Honestly, I’m not certain.
Google has to do something. But at the time of writing, this is a big problem for the user experience on Google.
I can’t see generative AI results solve this, but something else has to be done.
Perhaps a better look at what constitutes effective EEAT rankings instead of just going with the brand that has the most backlinks?
I’m absolutely positive that Google is looking into this and that the Parasite SEO train that’s been running will soon be derailed.
So, you can either try and get in to make a little cash right now, or you can build your own brand that will weather the update that will strip these sites of traffic.
If you just want to make a bit of money and don’t care about helping someone else rank for keywords, Parasite SEO might be a good way to get some easy affiliate commissions.
However, if you’re looking to build your own brand and want to be a recognised player in the space. I’d use the same approach as Parasite SEO but to drive backlinks to your own articles.
This way, you’re showing up at the top of Google for the high-money terms.
So, if money is the goal Parasite SEO might be an option until Google sorts out their approach.
If you want to build a lasting business, don’t give the money-generating keywords to others.