I’m going to start this guide with a disclaimer, and that disclaimer is that I used to be a heavy PBN user, I actually still own about 900 or so currently. While this may sound like a lot to some and peanuts to others, I can tell you for one thing that owning this many is very costly.
There is a ton of upkeep, for one thing, hosting, registrations, privacy. I’m not really going to stay the content is expensive because if you are doing guest posts and such; you’ll be “should” be writing even better content on those vs the crap content most people put on their PBNs from sources like ineedarticles (nothing against them) but any bulk article ordering system is just junk. To make a long story short, in the past year I’ve been completely off PBNS ( like I quit a heroin addiction I know!). While this does have some downside, the number one thing is it can be somewhat more work to rank a website.
I mean, what isn’t convenient about just logging into one of your most powerful sites and dropping some anchor text and watch the site fly up. But there is a catch… and there is always one when things are just to easy to do! Even with so-called “Expert PBN” gurus. You know who they are out there, I’m not name dropping but I can guarantee you they make things sound like it’s a cake walk. Then I hear things through the back channels of friends of friends like. “oh did you hear XXX, lost 80% of his network last week“. These are stories I hear all the fricken time, I’ve even used some of their so-called premium services where I get “X” amount of niche high authority links, sent to me in screenshot form. (so hard to see those coming in a week later in search console – that’s with sarcasm).
I’ve even had services, where they didn’t send me forms each month and I completely forgot about, and 10 months later and $10k later I’m still getting billed with no new links for 9 months! Talk about bad service ( also from a very big name provider). I’ll admit, there is still a lot of appeal of building private networks no matter how many Google updates there are. The strong will survive the rest will parish.
Regardless of what I said above, I’ll teach you the dirt because most likely.. You’ll do it anyways and it’s best to not lose your investment.
What you can expect to learn in the following guide:
- What is a PBN and how does it work
- Are PBNS a black hat, white hat or in-between strategy
- The exact methods I use to find quality sites to buy
- The 10 most common pitfalls leading to penalty or deindexing
- The 10 Commandments of keeping your network safe
- The ins and outs of PBN Hosting and Registtration
- Back link strategies for effective results
- The Private Blog Network Checklist
In the competitive world of SEO, people continually seek opportunities that will put them over other businesses. Ideally, they should develop a sustainable SEO strategy based on the best on-page SEO and white-hat link building practices. Doing so allows them to rank on Google organic search for their target keywords for a long time. As good as these tactics sound, the results will only manifest if you practiced them consistently for months, if not years. Not to mention, you have to play catch up with your competitors who already hold the advantage over you by practicing the same tactics years before you.
Therefore, it would probably take a miracle before you can outrank the best in your industry at the top of Google search. This reason is why some people implement black hat SEO tactics. Since they don’t stand a chance against established businesses with deeper pockets dedicated for their SEO campaigns, they take a different approach in which they can rank as high as the first place on Google organic search in less time. If this sounds like a pipe dream, it’s because it is. Black hat SEO can get you at the very top of search results for your keywords faster than any other tactic. However, it’s also just as fast when Google will penalize your site, never to be seen on search engines again.
This is the challenge that most SEO have to undergo. They need to strike a balance between finding the best sustainable way to increase your search rankings for your target keywords without getting penalized by Google. Using expired domains to build Private blog networks referred to as (PBNs) aim to bridge that gap.
What is a PBN and How Does It work
A “PBN” stands for Private Blog Network and in the most basic form of it is owning or maintaining a website or group of websites regardless if it’s a “blog” or not with the sole purpose of using them to push domain authority, page rank and rankings to a property of which you control through linking schemes by building fake identities and fake link recommendations. It was probably back around in 2010-ish That I started using them and It was sort of by accident. The short story was I was ranking a lead gen site for “certified nursing assistants” and I bought someone else’s site off of Flippa that was just on the verge of breaking through to page one of Google for the main terms.
When I analyzed the backlinks of the site I questioned the seller how did you get these specific links “here” and I gave him a list of those.
He said, “oh, my brother owns those sites and we decided to use them to help rank“. I had a light bulb moment 💡right then and there, well why can’t I just buy a bunch of sites as well and do the same thing. Long story short, it worked like Gang busters and I got to number 1 for my main terms in a matter of months and that site was making me $500 a day in ad sense revenue until good old Penguin rolled around in 2012. Of course, then the story was a lot different than today, it was just power power power and anchors anchors and some more anchors. Links are arguably still the most crucial factor that search engines consider when ranking sites for a particular keyword.
Private blog networks hold this advantage because you get to link to your site from distinguished sites based on their SEO value from expired domains with high DA, TF, and CF. Getting more of these sites and linking back to your money site allows you to strengthen your link profile and get higher rankings. Authority is determined by Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) and Majestic’s Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF), among others. The metrics are ways that both SEO tools determine the value of a site based on different SEO factors. While these are far from perfect, the metrics are nonetheless smart guesses on how a website is worth to Google. The higher the DA, TF, and CF, the more incentive for you to link from these domains.
How to create a PBN
Building a network of blogs is a complicated process. It shares the idea with Legit networks like Gawker Media with its popular network of blogs such as Gizmodo, Deadspin, Lifehacker, and others. However, the idea behind PBNS is just for pure manipulation of the algorithm and for the most part the general consensus is we don’t want real eyeballs to see them One thing you must keep in mind regarding PBNs is that it straddles along the gray hat SEO area. Unlike black hat SEO, it doesn’t require you to spam websites and makes your links as natural as possible when done correctly. At the same time, it’s not a squeaky clean link building either. The fact that you are manipulating your link building strategy by acquiring them unorganically is against Google guidelines and policy. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that private networks are completely useless.
There are still people who vouch for its effectiveness and offer it as a service such as SEO expert Matthew Woodward but I can tell you the number he uses vs white hat is probably a very low ratio. To fully understand whether private blogs are something that you should do for your business or not, let’s delve into the actual process of building a network.
Find the right domains
The power of PBNs lies in the fact that the domains you should be buying already have some DA, TF, and CF. The domain’s age, link profile, and others determine the scores found in the metrics. Therefore, you’re not registering a brand new domain. By leveraging on its existing power, you can boost your PBN link building strategy by getting as many sites to link to your landing pages as possible. There are multiple methods of getting domains and here’s the order of getting them that I’ve used.
- Auctions – Most powerful, the age of the doesn’t drop because they registration is being picked up before they get deleted.
- Deleted – You lose the power of age, but still, it’s going to be very effective still. There are some things you should do and not do and I’ll go into this in a bit
- Vendors – These are people, who buy domains from many different methods some good some just shit. Just like anything, there are good and bad vendors.
- Drop Catching -Here we use a back ordering service to catch domains as they drop with a pre-selected bid. Not as good as auctions but better than expired.
Cheap Method #1 – Expireddomains.net
When I first started out, I was using expireddomains.net because it’s free. The Metrics are off all the time by at least half a year or longer because it’s not a paid service but it’ll get you at least going if you are on a small budget and if that’s the case it’s better to be using your money for domains rather than services. sidenote – You may or may not know I owned Juicydomains.com but after the constant API fees and overhead I decided enough was enough, to compete against services like Domcop it was just getting ridiculous. Scraping expired and auctions then checking metrics on a million sites at a time is a VERY costly task. I even broke majestic’s free browser plug-in from exploiting a flaw to pull some data but they fixed it eventually. It made the news even oops but I’m sure I’m not the only one just raping their free api’s.
The same story with Moz, trying to maintain 1000 moz accounts to get DA was a lot of work, eventually went to their paid api and that’s when overhead was just too high. I needed 2000 paid members at all times just to break even long story short, lost interest in that battle.
From the tool, you will have to bid for the domain against bidders who are probably building their blog networks as well. Normally, a brand new domain only costs $10/year. Expired domains can go as high as a couple of hundred dollars if you’re going up against high rollers. If you want to automate the process, you can use Bluechip Backlinks that will not only yield you more domain results but also acquire the domain on the cheap. The tool is a paid subscription, so you need to shell out some cash to help make the domain hunting process easier. When it comes to registering for the domain, you need to use different domain providers as well. Don’t register on Namecheap for all the domain you will purchase. Mix it up by buying from GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, and others.
The idea here is to reduce your footprint that leads back to your name so you won’t get caught and your sites penalized. When signing up for the registrar, you should never use your real name. Mix it up by using a fake name and contact details as well as activating privacy protection. Doing so will make it impossible for Google and other search engines to connect the dots between you and your PBN. You may or may not know I owned Juicydomains.com but after the constant API fees and overhead I decided enough was enough, to compete against services like Domcop it was just getting ridiculous. Scraping expired and auctions then checking metrics on a million sites at a time is a VERY costly task. I even broke majestic’s free browser plug-in from exploiting a flaw to pull some data but they fixed it eventually.
It made the news even oops but I’m sure I’m not the only one just raping their free api’s. Same story with Moz, trying to maintain 1000 moz accounts to get DA was a lot of work, eventually went to their paid api and that’s when overhead was just too high. I needed 2000 paid members at all times just to break even long story short, lost interest in that battle.
Developing the site
If you’re familiar with building a WordPress site, then the same concept applies here. Assuming that you’ve successfully registered the expired domain and signed up a hosting for it, you can install WordPress on each domain to help you manage their respective content. If you want to be cautious and hide your online footprint more effectively, you can choose other self-hosted blogging platforms like Joomla, Drupal, and others. Installing each site by yourself will be daunting especially when you start managing more than 10 sites in your network. The rinse and rinse process of installing each site on your web host will take its toll. Not to mention, you need to organize all the information for each site (registrar, login details, etc.) so you won’t lose them. Therefore, from the very start, you should highly consider a VA who will take away from the reins of building the site for you. Let that person take care of developing your blog network for you as you focus on more important matters.
Since the purpose of private network blogs is to help you build a link profile for your site ultimately, content takes a backseat, both in quality and quantity. While it wouldn’t hurt to publish 10x content on your blogs, you don’t have to. You can simply hire a writer from Upwork or Fiverr to write passable content that’s good enough for casual reading. Make sure that the pieces have at least 600 words to make it more than “thin content.” One of the criticisms that PBNs get from Google is the publishing of content that has zero value and offers no compelling insights about the topic. While the number of words isn’t the best indicator of quality, it nonetheless allows you to provide more than enough detail to your readers about your topic. Also, you need to format your content with subheadings, images, embedded videos, link to relevant resource pages and others to make it look more dynamic compared to the posts published on other PBNs.
Linking from your PBNs
As a best practice, don’t link out to your site to the first few posts just yet. You can link to your money site after the first post has been published. Make sure to post unique content on your blog as well to increase the freshness index of each blog. You can schedule the publishing of new posts every month for this purpose. When building links to your site, avoid exact keyword matches as your anchor text to prevent the risk of over-optimization. It’s better to diversify by using long tail keywords, branding keywords, or even naked URLs as your anchor text.
Why you should create a PBN for your site
The steps mentioned above is pretty much an overview of how to develop and build a PBN for your money site. Now that you are aware of the process, it’s to consider whether it’s something that you can use for your site or not. If anything, arguably the best thing about PBNS is control. When placing links on a site you don’t know, you cede control to the site owner. You can’t be sure how your link will be featured on he or she will feature your site, if they intend to show it at all. Also, there is a level of risk involved. Getting links from established sites are relatively safe because you know that they won’t go out of business all of a sudden. However, you can’t be too sure if that would be the case. The worst case scenario is the site goes offline, which means the links you’ve built there is all for nothing. With a PBN, you have full control on how to build your links there. You can place the link anywhere on the page because you own the sites. Having a network of authoritative sites lets you unleash the full potential of your link building. You can pursue tiered link building in the vein of the post I wrote about link guest blogging. This tactic allows you to effectively distribute link juice from one site to another until it reaches down your site.
Why you shouldn’t create private blog networks
While some remain successful with their PBNs as seen from the examples above, it doesn’t mean that they won’t get penalized soon. It will probably take time before Google catches out with this tactic, but it probably won’t. However, would you want to risk the fate of your SEO campaign on a gray hat SEO tactic? Ultimately, private networks don’t prove to be a sustainable SEO tactic over time. In a post written by Spencer Haws in Niche Pursuits, he has come to terms with the futility of PBNs after his network got penalized by Google. Lots of users chimed in by stating how much passive income they’ve lost after Google brought the hammer down on their networks. You can continue to approach using any sort of PBN cautiously, but you simply shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. There is simply so much on the line on a tactic that walks a tightrope between white- and black-hat SEO.
Wrapping it up
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer here about using PBN’s on your site. There are obvious pros and cons with leveraging a PBN strategy to build links. If the prospect of owning blog networks to link out to your money sites sounds interesting to you, then, by all means, go for it! However, knowing the risks involved in getting your site penalized due to blog networks, then you should go for another SEO tactic instead. However, I’m much more interested in your thoughts on this subject.
Are you against or for private blog networks? Share your thoughts by commenting below!
The Black Sheep Method to Hosting Your Private Blog Network
People who succeed with ranking websites with PBN’s do 2 things better than everyone else;
First, they avoid Hosting footprints by hiding amoung white sheep AKA real businesses.
Secondly, they pay extra attention in methods of managing all of these sites and care for them as real assets.
But, with so much misinformation out there you might be wondering.
“How do I protect my investment and what is the best way to host all these sites?”
Well, right now I’m going to make that easy for you.
All you have to do is follow these recommendations.
The Black Sheep Method
The concept of the black sheep, is that you hide amoung the white sheep to stay hidden versus buying dedicated ip’s that are expensive and also it’s unnatural having a large amount of dedicated Ip’s pointing to a single moneysite.
If you hide amoung white hat businesses, you reduce the risk of being deindexed by ip or name servers.
The Three Types of Black Sheep Hosting That Have Stood The Test of Time;
Industry Giant Shared Hosts – it is wise for you to start off using shared Hosting Amoung the Giants with the largest client base, these are the world’s largest hosting companies:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Hetzner Online
The theory behind by getting maybe 5-10 accounts on each of these is that you are hidding amoung legit businesses.
So the fact you are are on a shared ip is a good thing because if anyone does a reverse ip lookup on any of your sites..
They don’t get a big list of blog network sites and if reported nothing could happen to that specific ip as it would harm legit businesses at the same time.
- Faster hosting – the average host is quicker on these verse a mom and pop shop type hosting.
- Uptime – I rarely ever have a site down when using a giant.
- Reliablity/backups – or at least better than average (we all have a horror story with one of big hosting companies)
- Customer Service – Some better than others but at least you know you can get help with major hosts.
- Buyer Profiles – Godaddy for example allows you to make different profiles for hosting. This helps with identity hiding.
- Scaling – I’ve listed 7 big hosts there, and I wouldn’t host more than 5 on each under the same account name. As getting different Ip’s isn’t too hard for each one, but we also don’t want to have an ip Class pattern or DNS pattern. That is a lot more difficult, unless you signup under different names. Which itself is challenging because of identification for payment.
- Price – Compared to Dollar hosting, you will pay anywhere from $10 to $30 a month per site. So try to keep your top dollar sites on the big hosts.
But you should be able to host around 35 sites without leaving a footprint.
Mom and Pop type Hosting
Here you sign up for as many little hosting companies as you can. This is a great way of never getting exposed and most likely even on shared IP’s you will never be paired up with someone else’s black sheep (pbn).
Here’s a list of the top 500 web hosts according to alexa.
Terry Kyle Cloud Boss PRO – This is as great service that uses huge hosts like Amazon EC2, AWS, rackspace and more to host your sites. You will need Amazon hosting accounts but the setup isn’t too hard.
It’s more ideal for hosting static websites, so if you aren’t posting to your site more than once a week or so I’d just go with a static site that looks like wordpress.
Easy Blog Networks – I do like EBN, as it’s very easy to use. It does not use cloaking technology like some other services trying to be similar by deploying a cached version of your installation on to an individual host.
Similar to registering your domain, you need to hide your name from the service provider where you plan to host your PBN domains. To do so, you can sign up for an account at Bulk Buy Hosting. What this PBN hosting will do for you is help you set up your sites by assigning different IP address for each. Using this tool will keep any trace of your footprint away from your network.
10 Commandments of a Safe Blog Network
- Different Registrars: Thou shall buy domains through different registrars. use the WhoIs Guard enabled on most domains. We do not suggest having fake details in the WhoIs records. However, if you must, do this for domains that have not cost you a lot to acquire (since you run the risk of losing the domain). Also, make sure to use the DNS of the individual registrar and not use one single name server for all your domains.
- Different Hosting: Each website should be on a different Subnet IP address. If an IP address is represented as AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD, then the CCC and DDD should be unique for each of the websites in the network. Many web hosts only get a small range of IP addresses that they can provide to a client. While the IP address might be different, you may get the same “AAA.BBB.CCC” – in this case, only host one or two domains with this web-host.
- Quality Content: You should have unique and valuable content on each of the websites. There should be no spun content whatsoever. Treat the domains in your PBN with the same respect as you treat your money site and invest in their quality.
- No Link Patterns: Each domain will link out to any money site once only. No matter how tempting it is to link out to all your money sites through a single domain, remember that this only increases the risk.
- No Site-wide Links: There should be no site-wide links – only links that are embedded in the contextual text. We strongly believe that in the future all non-contextual links are going to be devalued.
- 2-5 outbound links: Each page has a maximum of 2-5 outgoing links. Some pages should also have no links at all. This is done to keep the link profile natural. All outbound links from a single page should go to authority sites that are relevant to your niche. Linking out to other useful sites in your niche is very important.
- Establish Index First: Each domain should start to link out to your money site only after it has got a few pages created. The initial links should all be to other authoritative sites in your niche. Don’t simply link out to Wikipedia, Youtube, and other big sites. Choose authoritative sites in your niche.
- Vary Anchors: Use different anchor texts when linking to your money site. This will depend on your current link profile. If you have a diverse link profile, then it’s fine to use specific anchor texts to rank. However, if your site is brand new, use a few naked URL anchor texts as well.
- Niche Relevance: Your PBN site should be in the same niche as it was before the domain had expired. Google’s John Mueller has clearly said in a Google webmasters hangout that if Google realizes that the new website is not the same as the previous website, then the link to the old website does not apply to the new one. Basically, if you don’t stay within the same niche, the back links will lose all value.