Building A (PBN) Private Blog Network – Complete Walk Through
The SEO industry is constantly seeing fads and trends come and go. Private blog networks (PBNs) have been the hot topic for the past couple of years. The thing is, the concept itself isn’t anything new. SEOs have been doing this forever.
BECAUSE IT WORKS!
Then, some people started to come public with the concept in an attempt to sell links. They were taking this concept and creating these networks of websites and offering link placements on them for a fee. It sounded good, because the concept works. But as soon as you introduce several different websites and niches to the network it becomes poisoned. It isn’t safe. It’s easy to be discovered and the risk isn’t worth the possible reward.
Sellers made a lot of money from this (and still do, but mostly from noobs that don’t know any better). I don’t want to sound negative, but anyone buying “PBN” links from a forum or any seller is asking for trouble. They aren’t private links. They are public links. And your links will be mixed in with links from a wide range of niches. Basically anyone with money that was willing to buy links. They aren’t safe. This is nothing new and the only people that will disagree with this are those that are selling P(public)BN links.
Since you can’t “buy” PBN links how do you get them?
..you build your very own private blog network and you don’t tell anyone about it. Imagine that concept? You actually keep it private..
The truth about PBNs
You can rank almost anything with this strategy. A lot of people try but they give up too quickly. It’s not easy, but what part of SEO is easy? When you really break down SEO there isn’t any top secret black magic to rank. It takes patience and a smart strategy. Links are still relevant and I don’t think we will ever see a Google algorithm that doesn’t favor links the highest.
You will hear a lot of SEO gurus talk about how links will become extinct and how other things like social signals will be the largest ranking factor. I think social signals will become more important as we move forward but to say they will replace links is silly talk.
Building a PBN the right way is key. It isn’t even hard to do, so why do so many SEOs fail? It’s because they don’t have the patience to do it right. So many people want fast results and they don’t want to take the time to set up the network of websites the correct way and they don’t want to wait for the results to kick in. This is an SEO strategy for long term rankings. This isn’t a rank and bank method.
Everything I am going to outline in this guide is what I do when I build my PBNs. Is it right? I can’t say for sure. What I can tell you is that it works. I use this for my own websites and I use this when I build out PBNs for my SEO clients. Yes, it takes a lot of time and patience to find the domains and build them out.
If your website is on the first page I can tell you that a niche specific PBN can push you to the top if you do it the right way.
There is NOTHING that beats a niche specific link with strong metrics. Nothing.
There ARE other ways to get niche related links with decent metrics…
Guest blogging is one of the most popular ways to get good links. But it is a royal pain in the ass and this is why:
- Website owners get requests all day long and most of them are broken English requests begging for a link in exchange for a “500 word unique and not spunned” article. They delete these and since they get so many spammy requests they HATE guest blog requests.
- Since these websites get spammed to death with requests they will only trust a few people. This is why public relation companies charge companies so much money. It takes so much time (and money because a lot of these relationships are built on under the table cash) to build relationships. Do you want to learn the ins and outs of public relations or do you want to rank your website?
So, instead of that method, which is a pain in the ass, build you own websites with great metrics that you have 100% control over. If you want to drop a link, you drop a link. It’s that simple. No editors to pitch. No writers to pay off. No trying to stand out from a thousand other guest post requests.
Build your own websites.
But isn’t content king?
The SEO gurus will tell you that content is king, and they are right in a sense. If you do it right you can get some decent links. But these same fools that are telling you this also have their own
blog networks. Don’t let their complete BS cloud your thinking. There is no better way to rank than building a network of strong websites that you have complete control over.
Content will always work, but once you build your first successful PBN you will never write another pitch email to a blog ever again.
There is a simple five step process to build a PBN the right way so it helps you rank any website you want. It involves:
1. Finding affordable niche related domains with decent metrics
2. Setting up websites on these domains that look real
3. Hosting the websites in a way that will not create a foot print
4. Maintaining your websites to keep them healthy
5. Linking out safely
Let’s get started..
#1: Finding affordable niche related domains with decent metrics
You are going to need to find expired niche related domains, which is hard enough.. but you also have to make sure they have solid metrics that are legit and not made by spamming. This is the very first step and it is also the step that separates the serious from the dreamers.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to find expired domains for just the registration fee. I have found plenty of great PBN domains for just $10. What I have not done is used software to do this. Too many noobs use the software that’s available and they end up buying domains that are useless. No software is going to be able to tell you 100% that a domain is not spammed to death. You have to manually check. This takes time. If you don’t have time hire a professional to build your PBN.
You might think that picking the wrong domain is just a $10 mistake, but it’s actually much larger. What if you build a PBN with domains you think are good (because the magic software said so) and they all end up being spammed to death and previously penalized domains. Those are toxic links that can kill your rankings.
You will need to have some money to play with if you want to build a solid PBN.
You know the old saying: you need money to make money. If you are trying to boost the rankings of a website that can make you several thousand dollars a month more if you were ranking higher, wouldn’t it make sense to spend a couple thousand on high quality domains?
My biggest tip for those of you that are going to attempt to build a PBN:
DO NOT BE CHEAP.
How can I find expired domains?
There are three ways you can get your hands on domains to build your PBN:
3rd Party SEO Expert: There are several expired domain resellers out there. There are two kinds, so be aware. There are those that just use a scraping tool and resell them as domains that have been identified as great, but they have NOT been manually checked. You could buy a scraper and get the same quality domains. There are also expired domain experts that do all the mind numbing work for you and manually locate strong domains. You can tell the difference by the price. If you don’t know what you are doing (or don’t have time) a third party is a good option.
Expired Domains: Visit https://www.expireddomains.net and set up an account. It’s free. When you search, make sure to tick off “no fake PR” to help you weed out the garbage domains. But let me warn you: do not trust the findings. You have to manually check the PR. Sometimes you can hit it right and find a decent PR1 domain that isn’t spammed to death and once in a while you might even swipe a PR2 if you time it right. There are a lot of people checking this site daily and there are so many bots that pull form here, so it’s very competitive. Luck plays a huge role. Don’t expect to find high PR expired domains here. If that’s what you want, then you will need to go through a third party.
There are a lot of other websites that sell expired domains, but since I don’t do business with them I don’t feel comfortable vouching for any of them. If you do buy from a reseller or broker you need to do your research.
If you are going to find expired domains on your own this is what you need to look for…
The very first thing you want to do is check to see if there is an obvious penalty on the domain. You will want to Google the domain name to see what shows up. If your website is www.blue-widget.com you will want to just put “blue-widget.com” in the search box. If the site pops up on top that’s a great sign.
You will then want to do a search of “site:www.blue-widget.com” and see what the search results return. If the domain isn’t penalized all of the indexed pages will fill up the search results. This is a good way to find out what pages you can possibly rebuild to bring the website back to life. Write down all the page titles and URLs.
Now, this is one thing people seem to always skip. Run all of the URLs that you find in the previous tips through Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/web/). This will allow you to see what the website looked like the last time it was archived. Sometimes a domain will pass the other tests but then you will see that it was indeed a PBN site in the past. If you find this, ditch the domain. You have to make sure the archive shows the site was not part of any link network in the past. You only want virgin domains.
You have to manually check the back link profiles of every domain you are considering for your PBN. There isn’t a single tool that will show you every single link built, so you need to use a few of them to get the full picture. I use four tools:
Moz OSE: https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/
I use this tool to look at the latest links. I like to see what the last links Moz picked up. You can also see historical links as well and I use their spam score as a small indicator also. It’s their own algorithm but if there are a bunch of links from spammy sites it’s a red flag. I really don’t pay much attention to Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA) because those can be gamed easily. Look for solid links. If the link profile is all high quality then you can trust the DA and PA number more.
This tools will usually show the most links so I use it to try and get a larger pool of links to analyze. Pull a report and download all the links into a CSV file and sort them so you can see all the links form the same domain together. If you notice all the links come from just a couple domains you will want to dig deeper. The best PBN domains will have a large variety of referring domains. I’ll give you a great example. I was looking for domains related to website design for a client that hired me to build them a PBN. I found a nice expired domain that has over 1,000 links, but they all came from 3 websites. It was a domain the belonged to a web design company that went out of business and they included their link in the footer of 3 old client websites. Each site was over 300 pages. That is a horrible footprint. You want link diversity. Multiple referring domains and multiple referring IPs.
I use this tool to look at the links just like the other ones, but this is the only tool that I really look at the metrics more. Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF) are much harder to game than DA and PA. You never want to fully trust a metric, but this one I rely on a bit more than the others. I have noticed that you won’t typically find links that Ahrefs pulls up, but it’s still good to check. Everyone has different TF and CF wants, but you have to be realistic. If you are just searching expired domains and you are paying the registration fee, then anything over TF/CF 15 is a score. If you want TF/CF 25+ then you need to be prepared to spend some money.
I check links just like every other tool, but what I really like to use SEMRush for is to see what keywords the domain is ranking for organically. After you type the domain in the search bar just click on the “Positions” option to see if the site is ranking organically for anything. If it is, that’s a great sign that the domain is strong. It also gives you a good idea about what type of site sat on the domain in the past. All of this tedious work helps you to see the big picture. You have to learn to use common sense, and pick up on clues that will tell you whether or not a domain is gold or shit.
#2: Setting up websites on these domains that look real
You could find the best domains in the world, but if you set up your PBN wrong, it will all be a total waste. Google knows how great PBNs can be, so don’t you think they are out there trying to find ways to easily identify sloppy networks that leave footprints and make it easy for them to torch every site linked to them? You have to be smart. You can not be lazy and you can not be cheap if you want to build a PBN that actually works and will help you rank long term.
Make your PBN sites look like REAL websites
This is where a lot of PBNs crash and burn. You can’t just throw a free WordPress theme up and toss up a few articles and drop your links and be done with it. You have to approach every site in your network like it’s a money site. This means creating it so anyone that visits it (like Google) will see nothing suspicious and assume it’s a real website that is owned and operated by a business or a blogger.
- Mix free templates and premium ones. You can buy premium templates for as low as $30. It’s a smart investment, and the premium ones will also give you more customization options as well.
- Have multiple formats, including WordPress, HTML, Joomla, etc. I know that WordPress is the easiest option, but if every website in your network is WP it does leave a footprint. A large amount of sites do use WordPress so I like to do at least 20% of my networks something other than WordPress to give it some diversity.
- Don’t always use private registration. Real sites don’t usually have the whois info blocked. It’s ok to have some private, but I like to keep at least 50% of my PBN sites open with public whois info. Make it up. As long as the contact email is valid you are fine. Just create an email linked to the actual domain. DO NOT use a gmail or some other generic email. An email address from each domain looks more official.
#3: Hosting the websites in a way that will not create a foot print
Do not register your domains at the same registrar (or even on the same account)
Do not use Godaddy and Namecheap for all of your PBN websites. Why? Because that is what everyone else does. When you buy expired domains 99% of the time you push them into a Godaddy or Namecheap account. Then, they stay there. This means that the entire PBN is registered at the same place. That leaves a footprint.
While these registrars are large, and it does make sense that a lot of websites will be registered there, you need to take some extra safety precautions to help keep your PBN safe. Research domain registrars and keep a list of all the possible options and just keep spreading them across as many as possible. I keep an excel spreadsheet with all of my registrar info: login details, the domains at each one, etc.
I was NOT a very organized person when I started building PBNs but over time you learn how to manage them and you discover that being organized is key. Taking an extra 10 minutes to open an account at an extra domain registrar helps spread the risk out, so just do it. I can’t stress this enough.
Never use the same hosting/IP for multiple websites
This is so basic when it comes to proper PBN setup, but people get lazy and they opt for “SEO hosting” packages that claim they use multiple IP ranges, etc. This is just asking to get caught.
Never put multiple PBN sites on the same hosting. Just like you need to do with the registrars, you need multiple options. Most companies will offer hosting and domain registration, so I like to keep them at the same if possible. It is natural. Think about it for a minute. If a REAL business has their domain registered somewhere isn’t there a very likely chance that they will also host the site with the same company? It makes logical sense. PBNs don’t have to be complex to understand. You just need to use common sense.
There are so many companies, so spread your inventory thin. You will find some shared hosting for just a couple dollars a month but sometimes you are going to need to have a few monthly hosting packages that run $5 to $8 a month. It’s part of the cost so don’t just look for $1 hosting. If you can only afford $1 hosting for every PBN site this isn’t for you.
Learn to be thrifty. Sign up for all the promotional emails from all the companies and take advantage of coupon codes when it comes time to renew. A lot of times you can get a very healthy discount if you register for hosting a year at a time. If you build your PBN right you don’t have to fear that commitment.
#4: Maintaining your websites to keep them healthy
What exactly is a healthy website?
When talking about PBNs it’s a website that maintains it’s authority and avoids getting nailed by Google. The easiest way to stay away form danger is to treat it just like you would a regular website.
Do things like:
- Create social media profiles for the site and include links to those profiles on the site. Show me one “REAL” site that doesn’t have multiple social media profiles linked on the homepage.. you can’t. They all have them. Then, you need to keep the social media profiles looking like they are active. You don’t need them posting daily, but I use Hootsuite to schedule a couple posts every week. This way, if your PBN sites ever come under manual review and the snoop clicks over to a social media profile they will see a post that’s a day or two old. It just looks real.
- Post content on a regular basis. It’s no secret that your link(s) and going to more than likely be on the homepage of each site. That is where the PR and juice comes from, but that doesn’t mean you should just fill the first page up with content and then stop posting. You want every site to keep growing. New content over time. If anyone digs into it, you need them to see that the site keeps adding new content and its index gets larger over time. The frequency has a lot to do with your budget. If your PBN is helping you rank a site that is making you a lot of money then invest some more into content. At the very LEAST you need at least a new post every month.
- Link out to authority sites in all of your content. You want it to look natural and your link can’t be the only link pointing out, so find relevant content to link to in every post you place on the site. I like to link out to 3-5 resources per post. That makes it look real.
- Drop a press release every few months. Think about this for a moment: if a website has news worthy information (because they are a real business) don’t you think a press release would make any snoop assume the site was real? How many PBN sites do you think issue REAL press releases? I am willing to bet that almost NONE of them do. If a website is under manual review and the Google employee starts to look into the link profile and activity of a site and sees that there was just a press release issues a few months ago they instantly stop thinking about the possibility that it could be a dummy site. The name of the game is look as real as possible and a press release every 3 to 4 months makes the site look as real as it gets.
#5: Linking out safely
Do not link to your other PBN sites.. EVER!
One of the stupidest mistakes I see PBN owners make it interlinking their PBN sites. They get greedy and think they can cross link and spread the juice, boosting the authority of their PBN sites. While it might work, it puts the ENTIRE PBN in danger. Once you link to another site in your network just once you compromise the entire PBN. It is stupid. DO NOT do it. All of your effort will be wasted.
If you noticed a trend in the guide, you will see that you can’t take short cuts. You can’t use software to quickly pick out the domains, you can’t host them all in one account, and you can’t just throw a site up and forget about it. Lazy people will not last in this game. You can not cut corners. The thought of extra link juice being passed from PBN site to PBN site might sound good, you have to realize that it’s the same as suicide.
I take it even a step further and only link out to one of my sites per PBN. I would much rather build a new PBN for each site I’m ranking to reduce the risk.
Do not ever sell links or even tell anyone you have a PBN
Another mistake I see too often is PRIVATE networks turning PUBLIC because the owner gets greedy and thinks they can make extra money by renting out links. This is a bad idea for many reasons:
- You expose your money site to everyone that you link to
- If any sites you link to get a penalty and Google digs deep they will find you and torch your PBN
- You dilute the link juice to your money site
Never tell anyone you are using a PBN. Sometimes you will see a website ranking #1 and you check their links and you don’t uncover much. This is because they are blocking spiders and crawlers from accessing their PBN sites. I HIGHLY suggest doing this. A lot of people think this will leave a footprint, but it will not. The block commands go in the htaccess file, which is something that Google can not access. You don’t want people to find your PBN links, so block every crawler under the sun. A simple Google search will get you an updated list of known bots and crawlers. There are also some plugins that WordPress users can look into, but I would suggest manually altering your htaccess file rather than using a plugin.
I hope this little guide has been helpful. PBNs are very powerful and they can help you charge to the top of the SERPs, but you need to build them the right way. I’m sure there are lots of other tips and suggestions I’m leaving out, I picked up a few in the last discussion alone from other readers posts. It would be great to hear more of those. Until next time.. Ciao for now!