Black Hole SEO: Desert Scraping

In my introduction post to Black Hole SEO I hinted that I was going to talk about how to get “unique authoritative content.” I realize that sounds like an oxymoron. If content is authoritative than that means it must be proven to work well in the search engines. Yet if the content is unique than it can’t exist in the search engines. Kind of a nasty catch-22. So how is unique authoritative content even possible? Well to put it simply, content can be dropped from the search engines’ index.

That struck a cord didn’t it? So if content can be in the search engines one day and be performing very well and months to years down the road no longer be listed, than all we have to do is find it and snag it up. That makes it both authoritative and as of the current moment, unique as well. This is called Desert Scraping because you find deserted and abandoned content and claim it as your own. Well, there’s quite a few ways of doing it of course. Most of which is not only easy to do but can be done manually by hand so they don’t even require any special scripting. Let’s run through a few of my favorites.

Archive.orgAlexa’s is one of the absolute best spots to find abandoned content. You can look up any old authoritative articles site and literally find thousands of articles that once performed in the top class yet no longer exist in the engines now. Let’s take into example one of the great classic authority sites, Looksmart.

1. Go to and search for the authority site you’re wanting to scrape.

2. Select an old date, so the articles will have plenty of time to disappear from the engines.

3. Browse through a few subpages till you find an article on your subject that you would like to have on your site.

4. Find an article that fits your subject perfectly.

5. Do a SITE: command in the search engines to see if the article still exists there.

6. If it no longer exists just copy the article and stake your claim.

See how easy it is? This can be done for just about any old authority site. As you can imagine there’s quite a bit of content out there that is open for hunting. Just remember to focus on articles on sites that performed very well in the past, that ensures a much higher possibility of it performing well now. However, let’s say we wanted to do this on a mass scale without We already know that the search engines don’t index each and every page no matter how big the site is. So all we have to do is find a sitemap.

SitemapsIf you can locate a sitemap than you can easily make a list of all the pages on a domain. If you can get all the pages on the domain and compare them to the SITE: command in the search engines than you can return a list of all the pages/articles that aren’t indexed.

1. Locate the sitemap on the domain and parse it into a flat file with just the urls.

2. Make a quick script to go through the list and do a SITE: command for each URL in the search engines.

3. Anytime the search engine returns a result total of greater than 0, just delete the url off the list.

4. Verify the list by making sure that each url actually does exist and consists of articles you would like to use.

There is one inherent problem with the automatic way. Since it’s grabbing the entire site through its sitemap than you are going to get a ton of negative results, like search queries and other stuff they want indexed but you want no part of. So it’s best to target a particular subdirectory or subdomain within the main domain that fits your targeted subject matter. For instance if you were wanting articles on Automotive, than only use the portion of the sitemap that contains or

There are quite a few other methods of finding deserted content. For instance many big sites use custom 404 error pages. A nice exploit is to do “Sorry this page cannot be found” then lookup the cached copy in another search engine that may not of updated the page yet. There is certainly no shortage of them. Can you think of any others?