Niche Analysis – Watch NFL Games Online (A Parasite Page Case Study)
Went it gets close to the weekend, search in Google for something to the effect of [NFL Team] vs. [NFL Team] Watch Online Free.
You’ll see some pretty amazing things. My favorite? This #4 ranking in 28 minutes:
This post will look in-depth at the what and how certain websites are to gaining an edge by using the parasite pages tactic to rank at the top of Google.
Also, be sure to check out how I recreated similar results in the post below.
The Super Bowl of parasite pages.
Here is what the SERPs look like if you inquire about watching an NFL game online:
This is just one sample. Notice there are over 500,000 results, so this is a pretty popular affiliate tactic. The sites appear to be a mix of forums (forum.gamebox.com), actual streaming sites (stream2u.me), parasite pages (youtube/reddit/etc.).
Here is a slightly altered (and less longtail) search. That’s 4.4 million results.
The Watch Sports Online Affiliates
One thing to note is that streaming an NFL game is not exactly legal, so all these people promoting these offers (at least in the US) are not doing so legally. Not only is it illegal, but the NFL has deep pockets and is very sensitive about non-authorized broadcasts. Just something to keep in mind.
The purpose of this niche analysis is to educate. The people promoting this particular niche are killing it using parasite pages, so that’s what I’m going to focus on–how they are doing it.
Here is an example of an offer they are promoting:
From what I could find out, these offers are pretty hard to cancel once they are purchased, so there are nice monthly recurring revenues to be had.
How Do Parasite Pages Work?
It’s easy–you use the trust and authority an established site has to rank quickly for a relatively non-competitive keyword.
This is essential, you will have a much harder time using parasite pages for an established, competitive keyword. That’s not to say it can’t be done. You only have to refer to my Garcinia Cambogia niche analysis to see that it’s possible. But it is more difficult, and should not be readily considered as a strategy for tough niches.
It should also not be considered a long term strategy. A lot of sites where you can build parasite pages are actively on the lookout for content they consider spam (either due to a manual review, or through an automated process).
When Is It A Good Idea to Use Parasite Pages?
There are a lot of articles out there that show you how and why to use parasite pages. I wanted to show you how they are dominating a niche.
But you should consider how this information will help you. One of the best uses of parasite pages is to rank quickly for a non-competitive or brand new search term (as I mentioned above).
In this NFL example, there are ~16 games on every week, and every week the matchups change. So if you’re trying to rank for one particular game (legalities aside), it would not be cost or time effective to build a brand new site to try and rank for each game, since there are so many different ones over the course of a football season. There also isn’t a lot of ongoing search volume for each particular game. Denver Broncos vs the Indianapolis Colts one weekend, Denver Broncos vs. the Kansas City Chiefs the next.
But, on any given Sunday when a particular set of teams is playing, there could be hundreds and thousands of searches that won’t be there again until the next matchup (most likely, next year).
So parasite pages are useful for fleeting, low volume searches, and brand new keywords.
Example of Brand New Keyword
“Buy iPhone 6 Plus.”
There aren’t a lot of sites dedicated to the iPhone 6 yet, because it’s such a new product. The fact that it’s such a high profile product isn’t exactly ideal, but there aren’t a lot of authority pages around this keyword yet, because it’s so new (of course, once it’s released, there will be guides, reviews, and more, all of which will rank really well as authority starts to overtake the newness). But for now, you can see how the results are arranged:
Are you, the potential buyer, well served by these results? Please note that I took a screenshot that excluded a) a ton of ads, b) about 3 news articles, and c) the first 2 results, which linked to the Apple Store (2 of only 3 results where you could actually buy [preorder] the iPhone 6. Notice how much weight is placed on sites with high authority mentioning the keyword? This is where the idea behind parasite pages comes from. In the absence of qualified results, Google uses sites with high authority + relevancy that also have an optimized page relating to the query.
Look at the age of those ranking pages: 3 days, four hours, two hours, and so on. Freshness may be a factor here, but it also goes to show how easy it can be to rank for a new term on a site that’s an authority, and relevant to the niche. Compare those results with the keyword “Buy iPhone 5”:
How are you, the end user, served by these results? Pretty well. Almost all links are places you can actually buy an iPhone 5, which was the intent behind the search term. The only result with a date is the last entry, and the date is over one year old. You’re gonna have a hell of a time trying to rank for “buy iPhone 5” with parasite pages.
Makes sense? This is the how and why of parasite pages.
I don’t know if parasite pages will work well for your industry, it depends on a lot of things, like how new the keyword is, the presence of authorities in the niche writing about the keyword, and so on.
When Freshness Matters
A year or so ago, Glen Allsopp wrote on the matter of freshness, and how sites are “updating,” or constantly changing the “published” date on their posts or pages to take advantage of Google’s preference for recent content. It’s an awesome post, and you can read it here.
The second time in which it is a good idea to use parasite pages is when the keywords are time sensitive, such as football games, or other one time events.
Check out these search results for a game that took place during week 1 of the NFL season (last week):
Look at those published times: several news items published between 3 hours and 28 minutes before the search was performed, and several organic results between 2 and 11 hours ago. You can tell this isn’t a strong keyword (meaning, it only has relevance about once per year, if that) because so many of the sites ranking are not in the sport niche. Compare that with my iPhone 6 results above, and you can see that iPhone 6 is a much stronger keyword, as most of the sites ranking are at least in the technology niche.
Breaking Down the Parasite URLS
These seem to fall into 4 categories:
- Sites/articles listed in Google News
- Social Media Site/Forums
- Hijacked Sites
- Sites dedicated to streaming sports (not a parasite page)
* ChristianToday constantly shows up in the news results for these similar keywords. Clearly this is not related to the target audience/niche that ChristianToday writes for. When you visit the site, it looks like a legitimate news site with up-to-date news articles. So either the NFL article is hacked into the site, or, more likely, is an attempt to get more visitors to the site. Where many other sites link to shady “watch tv online” sites, the article ranking for watch [team] vs. [team] online free links to ESPN, a place to legally watch the game online, if you are a cable subscriber. So my guess is either they are doing it for the views (to rank and get more views/ad money), or they have an advertising deal with ESPN. This is an example of a site that shows up in the news section.
* Reddit and Pinterest dominate the social side of parasite pages.
(As a side note, here’s an example of Pinterest killing a search term, taking the top 3 places for “Teacher Appreciation Gifts,” a 6600 monthly search term)
Reddit does extremely well for ranking the watch nfl games online individual game keywords. More on that in a bit.
* NRG.org and survivorstruth.org look like real non-profit sites. Poets.org looks like a legitimate site related to poetry. Because they have some authority to them, the individual pages made to advertise each game rank very high in the SERPs every week. Are these pages hijacked? Or were these picked up as expired domains and rebuilt for the purpose of ranking parasite pages? If that’s the case, they’re doing it right. You want to cultivate that doubt when creating a site strictly for the purpose of ranking. Well done. If, however, these sites are being hacked–well, you’ll have your own set of beliefs, but I am personally not a fan.
* Stream2u.me is a site hosting on another continent that only streams sports games (illegally). They are like The Pirate Bay of live sports.
So that’s the mixed bag you’ll constantly see in the search results for a watch NFL online keyword.
Ranking A Parasite Page in Under 11 Hours
To test this out, last Sunday (Sept. 7) I created a throwaway subreddit and made a post there. I basically copied one of the results I saw ranking for another game and rewrote some of the content, and wrote in my own links. It looked like this:
I don’t really dabble in this particular brand of spam (and I’m not judging) — I felt pretty bad about doing this,though. I love Reddit. I’m on there every day. I’m sorry Reddit, for using you like this. Forgive me? I did it for educational purposes only!
So Sunday night I made this post with links going to an affiliate account I signed up for to test. The next morning (11 hours later), I saw this in the search results for “San Diego Chargers vs Arizona Cardinals watch online free”:
I didn’t buy any fake upvotes–I didn’t even get any natural upvotes at all (not surprising). It just took one post stuffed with keywords, and the keywords in the title to rank for my search.
The day after the game I checked my affiliate info: lots of click but no sales. Here were the numbers:
The left column is total clicks, the right column is unique clicks. (The date of the game was 9/9/14). This is just for one single game, one single arrangement of keywords. Imagine if I had made a Reddit post for every single game and had it rank in the top 5? Like this person (who is not me) did:
That’s a lot of clicks week in and week out.
The Parasite Pages Takeaway
I couldn’t get any concrete numbers on what people were pulling in every week by using parasite pages (and in some cases, some gnarly spam) to rank for these fleeting, but popular keywords. No one responded to my inquiries…I’m not surprised.
My goal in doing this wasn’t to try and convince you to rank for “watch football online” keywords, and it REALLY wasn’t to convince you to spam Reddit (luckily they are good about killing the deathly spammy stuff on their site).
I wanted to show you a tool people use to rank, and give you concrete examples of how this works. Everybody works better with real-world examples (trust me, I’m a teacher. Literally!). Get creative and think about how you can use parasite pages to help you rank for relevant keywords. Maybe you are getting the word out about an event, or maybe you are doing a little bit of reputation management. I’m just trying to show you the tool–what you do with it is up to you. Turn it into a weapon at your own risk!
Do Your Own Research
This is the other thing I want you to take away. Don’t just start throwing links at your site. Look at your niche and see what is working. I said this last post, the one before that, and I’ll say it again in the next one. Do your research and see what works for you. Test. Innovate. SEO is a living, breathing thing that changes and becomes different animals. Spend some time testing and you’ll be a lot better at what you do.
Does Pinterest kill it in your niche? Maybe you should be building some Pinterest boards.
Does Reddit rank everywhere you want to be? Start a subreddit (an actual, quality subreddit) and become THE authority in that space. Build a hub that people use to connect and to share. You will find yourself ranking AND find your own stock going up.
Research. Test. Dominate.