In the early days of my internet marketing career, I was obsessed with automation.
I bought all the gray-hat, automation software that eventually got my sites deindexed from Google in the Fall of 2016.
I would use Kontent Machine + The Best Spinner to scrape Amazon products, publishing hundreds of pages in a single afternoon.
I was in the seat cushion niche (don’t laugh, there are incredibly expensive seat cushions out there) and the TENs device niche.
It didn’t end well…
Still, I remain more than ‘curious’ about automating rankings and traffic. Although nowadays I have too much to lose- I’m not risking my affiliate/advertising empire to experiment with gray hat IFTTT (if this then that) recipes.
But if you’re interested, I’m going to take a look at a couple of video curation sites to see how they’re scraping and ranking video content.
- How They Make Money
- Difference Between Scraping & Curating
- How To Create An Automated Video Blog
- The Double-Edged Sword
- Some Site Examples
- Summing Up
How They Make Money
Generally, these types of sites run display ads to monetize.
Difference Between Scraping & Curating
A pure scraper site merely republishes content from a third-party source. Whether they are pulling videos from YouTube or extracting blog posts from an RSS feed, there’s little to no added value. I’ve done a case study on Instagram scraper sites– this is a perfect example of what I mean.
A curation site involves more handiwork. Perhaps it collects a daily digest of niche-specific videos (funny, DIY, health, etc.) and adds value by categorizing them in interesting ways or providing value-add writeups.
The DrudgeReport is an excellent example of a curation site in the politics niche. Matt Drudge aggregates interesting news articles on a variety of different topics. Its value is unearthing a range of continually refreshed, interesting, topical articles.
Obviously, there’s a lot more work involved managing a site like that- but it’s a pittance when you consider its outsized traffic: over 85 million visits in March of 2020 (Source).
How To Create An Automated Video Blog
There’s a couple of ways you can do this- some free and some paid.
One free way is to use IFTTT.
IFTTT connects different services- and if you search for “WordPress YouTube” connections, you can see that there are two available Recipes:
I’ve used IFTT extensively.
It’s worked well for simple tasks like auto-posting from Twitter to Facebook or publishing from WordPress to Blogger, but in my experience when the task becomes more advanced, nuanced and obscure, its capabilities diminish.
If you’re creating a video aggregation site, you’re going to want to have robust capabilities- the ability to target what you want to import and manage the (thousands) of video posts you create.
That’s why I’d recommend using premium software if you’re at all serious about building a video curation site.
One option is WordPress Video Robot. You can see a list of its features here:
Once a video is imported, the URL and the H1 (Post title) will contain the video title’s keywords, either whole or in part.
And that’s the ranking formula: If you scrape enough, you’ll end up publishing keyword content that’s so obscure and random that no one else in their right mind is targeting- so you’ll rank.
WordPress Video Robot Overview
The Double-Edged Sword
The benefits of automation are obvious.
You can quickly scrape thousands of videos and in no time rank for tens, or hundreds of thousands of keywords.
Well- yes and no.
I’ve definitely seen sites get away with doing this- but my feeling is that they are the exception that proves the rule.
There will always be the specter of a Google penalty. Some people are fine with that, cashing in on fast, duplicate-content keyword rankings, accepting the inevitable penalty.
One overlooked downside- if you’re monetizing with display ads, Google’s AdSense is much more difficult to get into nowadays. They will not (usually) run ads on a scraper site.
The Detriment Of Short-Form Content
Plus, video curation sites are very ‘short-form’. That is to say, the posts are oftentimes very short, usually just a video and some jumbled, scraped meta-information. That limits the number of ads that can appear on the page:
It’s an inherent downside to short-form, scraper sites.
It might make sense to plan on an aggregation niche that has a logical Clickbank offer.
If I weren’t so risk-averse, I’d check out Clickbank’s top Gravity products and brainstorm opportunities:
You could use a free plugin like Ad Inserter to splash affiliate offers across the thousands of scraped video posts.
Whether that’s woodworking or fat burning- it might earn better than display ads, especially if you can’t get into AdSense.
Here’s a mockup to stoke your imagination- scraping DIY videos with a Ted’s Woodworking banner slapped across the bottom of the page:
It’d be pretty easy to do something like this using the Newspaper Magazine theme. The thumbnails can be set as videos, which makes it easy to convert the site to total video aggregation.
Some Site Examples
This site is a ‘pure scraper’. A “site:https://gamevideos.tv” search shows nearly 90,000 indexed pages.
It’s not making any pretense about it- they’re scraping YouTube for videos and meta content and publishing them as individual posts. They’re also grabbing the channel art for thumbnails.
It’s currently listed on Flippa, so we can get some detailed insights into its true earnings/traffic.
One indication of a scraper site is a low DR with huge keyword rankings:
A DR 3.5 with 60k organic keyword rankings- yeah, that’s fairly unusual.
The site also absorbed some sort of penalty beginning in May 2019 when they crested over 300k keywords:
The above graph illustrates a scraper site’s huge keyword surge and eventual downfall.
But it’s not completely down and out- according to their Flippa reporting, these are their traffic stats, which apparently net the site owner an average $50/month from ” on average $50 across AdSales, AdSense & Amazon and other affiliate partners.”
Eventually, it catches up with you. Though there are many site examples that defy this pattern.
This site focuses on video games- a pretty good niche for affiliate income. Though, personally, I wouldn’t jeopardize my Amazon Associates account pushing traffic from a site like this.
I extracted some of their top keywords- you can see that the majority of them are DR 0. No one is competing for these weird, random keywords.
Their top ranking page is this one, ranking for the term “death by snu snu Skyrim”:
If I were running this site, and presuming their traffic decline was some sort of thin-content penalty, I would have beefed up each video post with 300-500 words. But with 90,000 indexed pages, that’s really not possible.
I’d also configure ThirstyAffiliates to auto-link certain keywords- so if I’m importing 100 Xbox video game reviews, I’d be sure that each instance of “Xbox”, each video game title, etc., is linked to an affiliate offer using ThirstyAffiliates.
One note: since ThirstyAffiliates cloaks its links, you can’t use it with Amazon.
You can try a different auto-linking plugin like this one if you’re trying to link to Amazon.
Or maybe I would use Ad Inserter to display an AAWP shortcode on the page for the primary product- whether that’s a video game or a console.
All in all, scraping this much content runs many risks but also can promise some exhilarating highs.
This site is a video curator, with a “site:https://MartialArtsVideos.com” search showing just 269 indexed pages.
Not a ton of content or rankings, but it’s a good example of how you can curate video content, without scraping it.
You can see a snapshot of their rankings:
It’s currently listed on Flippa with an average of $295 AdSense earnings per month for the last 6 months:
Here’s the site’s top 1,000 ranking keywords. You can see a familiar pattern of low volume/low difficulty rankings.
Typically, sites that have been SEO’d, you can see them targeting and ranking (maybe not on the first page) for large-volume keywords.
In some respects, just eyeballing the post topics, the site is configured more for viral, social media traffic.
Indeed, reading the auction listing, the site has 60,000+ Facebook fans, but it looks like the page has been dormant for half a decade.
I’d have SEO’d the posts a bit more- targeted more search keywords and done a bit more link building.
At this point the site itself has been pretty neglected- a lot of the posts are from 2013, videos are broken, etc.
It’s one of those viral Facebook sites that incidentally ended up ranking for a decent amount of keywords.
This site is a video curator, with a “site:https://wimp.com” search showing 27,000 indexed pages. The content appears scraped because it’s very short-form, but it is curated, with a lot of user-generated content that’s organized by date.
Plus, it looks like the videos have unique, rewritten titles. For example, this page, entitled “Dog and bunny make pretty cute cuddle buddies” is hosting a video entitled “Adorable Dog And Bunny Are Best Friends”.
There’s a lot of added SEO value to these unique titles- plus it probably helps Click Through Rate on the site to rewrite video titles more compellingly.
You can see that in its heyday it was ranking for over 500,000 keywords. It’s trailed off substantially over the years, but still has some solid keyword rankings and U.S. traffic:
This is one of those old-school, blog curator projects. Sort of like Fark.com, an old-world, internet staple.
It has a huge social presence- with over 3 million Facebook Page Likes.
You can see that they get a ton of branded search, with “wimp” getting 28,000 searches a month:
You can also see some of the random keywords it ranks for. A typical landing page looks like this with several immediately visible ad units on Desktop:
Digging into the site with SimilarWeb, you can see that the majority of their traffic comes from Direct sessions.
That’s people typing it directly into their browsers. Interestingly, Search traffic is only their third biggest traffic source after Social. It aligns with the Branded Search numbers we saw in Ahrefs:
In terms of actual traffic, you can see that SimilarWeb estimates 1.61 million visits in March 2020 with an incredibly high 5 pages per visit:
Here’s a look at their keyword rankings. Different from the GameVideos site, you can see that the keyword topics are a bit more diffuse, ranging from “when dogs get pranked” to “gun camera footage”.
It’s a pretty great site. It would take day-to-day work to keep running though. If you get slipshod and begin missing a day publishing one of these video lists, the Direct traffic is going to slowly die off.
And you can’t messily scrape content because it would disappoint users who enjoy the thought that’s gone into curating these miniature video lists.
If I owned it, I’d experiment with Surfer SEO a bit, targeting certain large-volume keywords and producing content in line with Surfer’s correlational analysis.
The site is so old and established it could probably rank overnight for a lot of big terms if the on-page SEO was on point. Plus, the long-form content would enable more ads to show.
I would also consider adding writeups to some of the videos. Depending on how much traffic each video is getting, adding a couple hundred words of text could help to serve more ads.
Read More Of My Niche Reports
I think there’s a lot of opportunities here- if I were doing a site like this, I’d probably combine the best of Wimp & MartialArtsVideos.
That is to say, build up a viral, Direct-traffic type site like Wimp, a niche destination site, but combine it also with longform content. If I were to do YouTube scraping, maybe I’d experiment with aggregating certain videos into a large Category page with a lot of text content.
For example, say I wanted to target the keyword “funny Minecraft”, you could configure the scraping tool to scrape videos matching that term, with a certain popularity (500,000+ views), and have them publish to one big Category page.
That’s one way you could automate scraping, add value, and prevent the site from becoming a bloated behemoth that Google deindexes for spam.