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What does Churn and Burn Websites mean in SEO?

These are websites, or more accurately domain names, you only plan to keep for a short period of time and you expect them to be thrown out of the SERPs after receiving a penalty from the search engine because you used all sorts of underhand techniques to make it rank in the first place - i.e. Black Hat SEO.

  • Churn - because you get through a lot of them.
  • Burn - because they are burnt by the search engine penalty.

Once a domain name has been penalized by a search engine its very hard to reverse their decision so in many cases it is better just to discard it.

Most Churn and Burn users are usually from the darker side of the Internet. Scam artists who want to rip people off and then disappear anyway.

And if there is one place where scam artists exist in droves it is in SEO and especially in selling backlinks. They might, for example, buy up some expired domains and then use services like the Wayback Machine to get the old content back.

Once up and running they'll then offer to sell backlinks from these websites which will, to all intense and purposes, look pretty clean. People pay out and get their links but it is not long before the search engines catch up with what is going on and penalize the offending sites.

For the Black Hat practitioner they've made their cash and aren't particularly interested in any collateral damage (such as the penalties their customers got). They just move on, buy up further expired domain names and rinse and repeat under a new name.

Churn and Burn is also popular with concept hijackers. A concept hijacker is someone who wants to take advantage of someone else's efforts. For example, lets say Company A carries out some heavy TV advertising for their product 'Toy X'. They might have a domain called Copycat companies will mushroom overnight with domains like to try and get a slice of the action from customers who believe their site is the genuine retailer.

They will use Black Hat SEO to get their website ranking because it is cheaper than legitimate advertising. They only need to rank for a few days or weeks to make it worthwhile and when their domain is penalized and removed from search engines they just scrap the entire website and move on to their next target.

I've also used the churn and burn example before of an event coming up in the near future where White Hat SEO would take too long to achieve rankings. If the event is a one off then the website is also a temporary affair but it needs to rank right right now. Afterwards it will be discarded anyway.

However in cases like these I'm not convinced that any savings are actually made when compared to say, Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising. While a Churn and Burn website might get you ranking it also might fail miserably and all the funds spent on the domain and website (not to mention the Black Hat SEO) would be wasted. What's more if search engines spot the Black Hat quickly the domain may only rank for a matter of hours before being toasted.

PPC on the other hand is guaranteed to get a website to appear at the top of the rankings within hours and when used correctly isn't nearly as pricey as many people believe. As such I'm not an advocate of the Churn and Burn practice. Save yourself the aggro and get your head around effective advertising, be that Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Amazon sponsored products or whatever other paid medium will work best to reach your target audience fast.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

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