The Rise of Parasite SEO in Health

22nd Aug, 2023
Author image
Sofiann McKerrell
Product Innovation Director

Ever Googled a health query, expecting to find a niche expert, but instead, Forbes or another media giant pops up? 

You’re not alone. Over the past couple of years, these big publishers have dominated Google search results, often overshadowing smaller health sites. 

Unsurprisingly, not all of these top-ranking articles are genuine editorial content. In many cases, they are what are called Parasite SEO pages. 

Want to know more about Parasite SEO? Keep reading, because I am about to give you a behind-the-scenes tour of how some brands are leveraging media giants’ authority to get to the top of search results.

Why Big Publishers Are Ranking So High?

The landscape of search engine optimization (SEO) has shifted quite a bit in recent years.

While deep expertise used to give you a leg up in search rankings, now it’s leaning more towards who’s got the bigger brand name. That’s why publications like the New York Times are churning out SEO-friendly product reviews and deep dives on various topics.

Take a search like “best collagen powder” on Google. More often than not, you’ll see Forbes up top, even if there are niche health websites that might offer richer content on the subject.

Forbes’s traffic progression for health-related topics:

This data paints a clear picture: Forbes and other big publishers are steadily claiming more real estate on our search results, even for topics they might not be the leading experts in.

You could argue that having these recognized names topping our health-related searches is a good thing. There’s a certain trust in familiar names.

But here’s the catch: this focus on brand name power over expertise has made way for some crafty SEO tactics. Enter Parasite SEO.

What is Parasite SEO?

At its core, Parasite SEO is pretty straightforward. Think of brands that realize they’re not the big fish in the Google pond. They know they can’t nab the top spots in search results for the big-ticket keywords. So, what do they do? They hitch a ride by getting their articles on major publication sites, especially news sites.

Now, sometimes, this is super transparent. Brands will straight up buy sponsored articles from these big-name sites.

Take the Detroit Metro Times, for instance:

Check out the list of their top hits from Google. It’s pretty clear these are sponsored articles, and you can tell just by the URL.

But other times, it gets a bit sneaky. Look at – ranking high and mighty in Australia for “Top Weight Loss Supplements in 2023”. Here’s the catch: that sponsorship? It’s undercover.

It’s worth noting that Parasite SEO isn’t new. SEO pros have been on this train for years. The twist now? Google seems to be giving these Parasite SEO pages a leg up by throwing a spotlight on major publishers.

This method is especially hot in markets that toe the line – think casinos, CBD, and some of those iffy health supplements. It’s a tad unsettling seeing sites like, or even, flashing in those top spots, pushing products with some shaky reviews (like this one here:

That said, the scope of products playing the Parasite SEO game is still pretty limited. Most legitimate health brands are safe from this trend.

And here’s a silver lining: in the health space, the real heavyweights, the authoritative sites, are tough competition. Even the top-tier news sites struggle to outdo them.

And when we dive into super crucial topics – the ones Google tags as YMYL (Your Money Your Life) – the search engine gets pickier. It tends to spotlight websites that have earned their trust stripes. We’re talking about the likes of WebMD or Healthline. They’re the giants that usually dwarf other websites in sensitive health topic searches.

So, the big question: Can good ol’ health brands cash in on this Parasite SEO trend?

Strategies for Health Brands to Capitalize on Parasite SEO

For many health-related websites, there’s an inherent challenge to face: these platforms are often nascent, of modest size, and haven’t yet garnered significant authority to secure top rankings on search engine results pages. Given this landscape, it might be prudent for such brands to consider the advantages of parasite SEO.

Direct Application of Parasite SEO for Health Brands

Consider a hypothetical scenario where a burgeoning natural skincare brand aims to rank for the term “Best Natural Body Cream”. Achieving a top rank for such a competitive keyword organically might necessitate prolonged and intensive SEO efforts, with no guaranteed results.

However, there’s an alternative approach. By curating a well-researched article that delves into the myriad of natural body creams, offering insightful guidance on product selection—all the while subtly highlighting the brand’s offerings—and then publishing this article on a renowned platform such as Medium, LinkedIn Pulse, or, the brand can achieve substantial visibility in a comparatively shorter time frame.

Pragmatic Parasite SEO for Health Brands

On the other hand, certain businesses might benefit from a more nuanced approach. An aged care facility, for instance, could aim for indirect brand exposure. A strategic move would be to ensure that the brand or facility is mentioned or referenced within high-ranking content related to search queries like “best aged care facilities gold coast”.

As illustrated in the attached screenshot, the top search results are often occupied by authoritative platforms listing local facilities. Hence, ensuring a presence on such platforms can be beneficial.

The Inherent Limitations of Parasite SEO

Understanding Parasite SEO’s Limits

Boosting your brand’s visibility on top-tier websites with strong domain authority sounds like a dream, right? These methods can really ramp up the exposure in no time.

However, there’s a catch. Parasite SEO isn’t too far off from regular advertising. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Running a parasite SEO campaign usually means shelling out some cash, especially for getting your content onto those high-profile sites.
  • And guess what? Other brands are thinking the same thing. So, when you stop investing in new placements or stop updating your existing ones, that spotlight you’re enjoying? It can fade pretty quickly.

Thinking about diving into Parasite SEO?

When those top-tier search spots are consistently taken by authoritative sites in your health niche, Parasite SEO becomes an enticing option. 

However, exercise discernment: Stick to genuine, reputable websites. Venturing into partnerships with questionable publishers, like OneTimeIndia or similar opportunistic sites, can do more harm than good, potentially damaging your standing in the eyes of Google.

Ultimately, investing in creating quality content, steadily building your brand’s authority, and consistently boosting your organic rankings will yield sustainable, long-term benefits.

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