Piggyback vs Parasite SEO – Why the Confusion?

Do you improve the Web? Do you build and optimize websites? Do you engage in SEO practices to enable clients to get found online?

Or are you a parasite ruining the Internet by spamming out of selfish reasons – mostly of monetary nature? 

Choose one.

Are you confused about who you are? Why is that? It’s obvious, isn’t it? See below:

Parasite SEO vs Piggyback SEO – What’s the difference?

In 2023 there was a large surge in misguided talk about so-called “parasite SEO”. 

Not only was this horrible term used wrongly, it was also applied to almost the whole industry. Why the confusion? 

A common SEO practice that was properly called “piggyback SEO” has been denounced as “parasite SEO” and hence penalized by Google. 

What are we talking about?

What is “parasite SEO” and Why Does it Suck?

Well. Let’s first recapitulate what “parasite SEO” initially and truly means:

it’s abusing third party websites to insert links pointing to your properties to inflate your rankings. 

Sometimes websites even get hacked so that spammers can insert links on them!

It’s a detestable practice I was victim of a few times over the years. 

Another more common type of “parasite SEO” is simply spamming comments by using bots that insert links on other people’s blogs.

You are probably aware of that kind of SPAM as no blog owner who has comments enabled is exempt from it.

We all suffer from it and even despite tools like Akismet some SPAM comments meant to get parasitical SEO benefits – “link juice” – come through. 

What is Piggyback SEO and How Does it Work?

Now let’s return to what piggyback SEO means

It’s when large publishers of successful websites share their overall domain and website authority with third parties to give their unrelated content a ranking boost.

In that scenario a website A gets paid by third party B to host content for them so that it shows up faster in search results before their own domain gets the necessary traction on Google.

As proper SEO and authority building can take years it was a widely used win win technique to get content in front of interested users. 

No hacking, spamming or other parasitic practices are involved.

Everybody is happy – until in 2023 Google stopped being happy about that type of renting of authority Web space. 

During the end of the year (2023) “helpful content updates” Google has demoted most of such content hosted on third party sites. 

Piggyback SEO does not work as well as it did anymore. That’s OK as the technique was overused by now. I understand that Google had to curb it to some extent.

It’s not about parasite SEO though. Mostly everybody in SEO used this technique over the years. Were all these people parasites?

When you call third party hosted content “parasitical” instead of correctly referring to it as piggyback SEO you are effectively denouncing large parts of the SEO industry as parasites.

Parasite SEO is Just Hacking and Spamming

Yet I wouldn’t even call actual “parasite SEO” as such as its still a misnomer and an unethical term.

First off it’s not SEO anymore if you

  • harm
  • damage
  • or break websites.

You either break or fix things. Optimization as in Search Engine Optimization is by definition about improving.

So let’s call things what they really mean, hacking, spamming or whatever.

When you don’t improve websites or the Web as a whole it’s not SEO.

There are many misguided terms like “black hat SEO” or “negative SEO” out there, “parasite SEO” is just the worst to date of those.

Yet none of them is really truthful. You can’t optimize something to its detriment. That’s a paradox.

Some people love to warp language but you can’t cover the truth forever under bizarre wording.

So SEO as in improving and optimizing is about being helpful while hacking and spamming etc. is being harmful.

It’s that simple. So even if you hack sites for inserting links on them you are not an SEO just because you can rank on Google for a while that way.

Don’t fool yourself and others.

Also who wants to be a parasite? No one really IMHO.

It’s more than an epithet. It’s downright dehumanizing.

So ideally you forget about the weird term “parasite SEO” altogether.

Stick with piggyback SEO. The other practices are hacking and spamming. Enough said? Not yet!

Everybody loved to be carried “piggyback” on the shoulders of parents or other adults.

Piggyback SEO is a great metaphor for smaller publishers benefiting from larger authority sites.

Are Some Humans Parasites? Fascists Agree with You!

The “parasite SEO” term misuse is especially disturbing in light of the recent hatebait campaign by a tech tabloid meant to discredit the SEO industry as a whole.

Sure, it was done for personal gain (to get links, shares and engagement) yet their message got through. They were telling the public that SEOs are “ruining the Internet”. 

They even used ridiculous made up stories about SEOs driving Lamborghinis. 

Certainly not me. I ride a bike and don’t even own a driver’s license.

Yes, fake news spreads faster than down to earth real ones. 

Yet this type of self-victimization – referring to SEO as parasitical – is even more dangerous for the overall perception of the SEO trade as a whole.

Indeed, referring to humans as parasites is fascist language that has been used in the Third Reich under Hitler a lot.

Why? Fascists wanted to denounce Jews and to prepare the German public for the Holocaust.

Thus when you assume that some people are parasites – fascists agree with you. They may refer to 

  • Jews
  • “gypsies”
  • the homeless 
  • the disabled

etc. and even to SEOs as parasites. Any disadvantaged, controversial or unpopular group is a great target. 

This is called “structural anti-semitism”. It happens when larger problems are blamed on a minority.

Usually victim blaming takes place. The offender aims to scape-goat often the weakest and most vulnerable. Such tendencies are abominable in general!

Thus when I see SEO people referring to themselves as parasites I can only shake my head in disbelief. 

Yet seemingly nobody else even notices. Most search pundits use the term without second thoughts.

I even confronted Danny Sullivan about the term and then he admitted that Google does not internally use this derogatory term for third party hosted content.

So why do confused search experts still do? I have no idea. 

Maybe it’s some kind of industry wide trauma after being bullied again and again. Thus people finally assume the victim identity voluntarily in a way. Just like people of color say “nigger” to each other.

What about you? Are you improving or ruining the Web? Are you a parasite or are you carrying the Web on your shoulders?

I don’t see how you can confuse the two yet people are often confused it seems. I hope this article helps to clear the confusion.