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Free Course: How To Build The Ultimate Private Blog Network

Rank Higher With The Ultimate PBN Course

Ever wondered why your competitors were leaping ahead in the SERPs?
Need a quick and efficient way to boost your affiliate or client sites while keeping under the radar?
Do you want total control over your links, with no risk of disavows or deletion?

If so, it's time you learned to build your own Private Blog Network. Whether you're an existing network owner or brand new to the scene, we've condensed ten years of link network knowledge into one easy to digest course.

Take our free course to learn:
  • Whether you actually NEED a link network
  • How to balance risk vs reward to meet your goals
  • What a PBN is really going to cost you - and ways you can cut those costs
  • How to avoid major footprints - and to understand which footprints actually matter
  • Where to find the best domains for the biggest impacts on your rank
  • How to launch your network efficiently and securely
  • Sourcing content for your domains - what can you really get away with?
  • Keeping your links live - and avoiding link rot


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  1. As SEO strategies go, few have become as hyped as building a private blog network. It’s true, PBNs can offer a quick, easy blast of power. When done right they can be a near unstoppable, almost undetectable ranking strategy.

    But considering the work involved in building your own network it’s not always clear that a PBN is the right tool for the job. It's hard work protecting your sites from competitors and Google. Could you get simpler, cheaper results through content marketing? Or even just outreaching to bloggers and exchanging a link for products, bribes or cold hard cash? 

    Given the hype, it’s definitely worth remembering there is more than one way to skin a cat.  Any effective SEO should be considering both the risk to their money sites and the upfront and recurring costs of building a network.

    When you shouldn’t use a private blog network

    When operating in a non-commercial or easy-to-share niche

    Run a site on cuddly animals like kittens?  A hobby people obsess about? A cause such as the environment or sick children? You could get these links for free by writing something people care about

    When operating in a popular niche with a large blogosphere. (For example, fashion, cooking, DIY and travel. ) 

    You are likely to succeed with quality content. Mature blogging communities are much more receptive to the idea of trading a post for a link. Outreach for paid links can be quick and to the point in these niches. With a near endless long tail of bloggers there are few limits to the potential you could score a link from.

    When you couldn’t bear the risk of losing your site.

    All SEO activities imply some level of risk. Google hates the idea that you could be successful online without paying them their tax. 

    But there is a big distinction between lower risk activities and 'black-hat' activities.  These include building blog networks, bulk directory submissions and all out spam.

    Only you know the level of risk you are willing to take on your own websites. You should discuss with clients the approach they want to take too.

    When you should use a blog network

    When you operate in embarrassing or unpopular niches

    Work in payday loans, gambling or sexual health testing? There are some niches where it is nigh impossible to get natural links to your website

    When relevant websites have absurd notions of the value of a link

    Ever reached out to...

  2. A private blog network is a major investment in both money and time. It’s important to set goals before you start. Decide how you wish to structure you network and links to make sure you don’t make costly mistakes.

    Link Quality vs Domain Quantity

    The first question you need to answer is will you build a big network of weak domains, or a smaller, stronger network? This can have a major impact on the cost and design of your network.

    There are two key factors that go into this decision:

    How many sites are you targeting?

    If you are running an authority site in a single niche it may be more appropriate to focus on a handful of quality domains with strong metrics. 

    If you run a network of mini sites, or aim to boost a range of client websites you’ll want to increase the number of domains you use. Otherwise your outbound links don’t create a footprint.

    Do you seek authority or anchor text  diversity? 

     If links with keyword anchor text are hard to source in your niche, you may need a greater number of domains. This allow you to build enough exact or partial match anchor texts to help you rank in competitive SERPs.

    Broad sites with tens or hundreds of category pages to target may also warrant a network of hundreds of domains. For example, a travel website may cover 50 different destinations. Each of those category pages will have their own battles to fight in the search results. 

     If your site has plenty of lower quality links you may be looking to raise the trust of your whole site. In this case you may prefer to work with 10-20 stronger domains. Using branded anchors and co-citation can place your site in the same circle of trust as its competitors.

    Quality Sites Vs Splogs

    The second important decision is how good do your PBN sites need to be? All blogs need to avoid obvious footprints to prevent deindexing. In the worst case low quality PBNs can results a penalty for their target site.

    But there is a world of difference between building an automated splog with spun content and building a network of real sites. Real content. Real personas. And real backlinks.

    What is your appetite for risk?

    If you run a handful of affiliate sites of mid to low quality, you may accept that you will not rank forever. Perhaps it makes more sense to hit your sites hard and fast, building a large network of lower quality domains. This might allow you to ‘rank and...

  3. Perhaps one of the biggest taboos in the hype surrounding building private blog networks is just how expensive they can be!

    How much could a PBN really cost?

    Imagine you evaluated your niche and decided you needed at minimum 80 strong domains to hit #1 for a head term. You’d done your research and knew that diverse IPs were vital, so you hit WebHostingTalk and hoovered up all the $12 hosting deals. You still needed more, so you raised your limit to $40/year, figuring you’d average out at $25 per year per domain.

    • 80 hosting accounts
    • Average $25/year
    • 80 accounts * $25= $2,000

     You also didn’t want to waste your time with low DA domains so you hit the auctions, spending an average $400 per domain.

    • $400*80 domains = $32,000

    Alternatively, you could pay a service from $30-50 per scraped domain that you can register and add to your network. But don’t forget to add the cost of domain registration and privacy:

    • Average of $40 / domain plus $15 for registration and privacy = 55 * 80 = $4,400

    You have your domains and hosting accounts, but you don’t have any blogs or content yet. So either you or a freelancer needs to get those sites live:

    You value your time at a very conservative $30/hr, and it takes 1.5 hrs to configure a blog. This includes DNS set up and a minimal amount of theme and plugin customisation to avoid footprints.

    • The cost of your time: 30*1.5*80= $3,600

    You employ a VA to build your sites for you. You settle on $300 a month, but find it takes your VA up to 3 times longer to build a site.

    • The cost of employing your VA: 3 blogs a day, 20 days a month = 1.5 months to build your network for $450

    The total, upfront cost of your network is between $6,850 and $37,500. The first may make you wince, the second will make you cry! And you don’t even have any content yet..

    Content costs

    Want readable content for your blogs? As a bare minimum, you’ll want 2 placeholder articles and an article that links to your site.  So you need 3 articles of 500 words each per blog – or a total of 120,000 words

    • 120,000 words at Textbroker 4* level is $2,880
    • 120,000 words at iWriter is $720
    • Using a VA to write content: 8 articles a day, or 160 articles a month. 1.5 months of VA time = $450

    The alternative is to use a content mashing and...

  4. Footprints in a blog network are the obvious signals that the sites that link to you belong to the same person or persons. They could be spotted by your competitors, Google the machine or their manual reviewers.

    Most importantly, they are signals that your links are not earnt but deliberately built to manipulate and improve your rankings.

    Understanding what footprints matter

    If we sit down to list all the things that could constitute a footprint, we’d be here all week. A scan of the blackhat forums throw up any number of crazy theories of what is a hazard for your site – some credible, some less so. But if you want to know how to build a private blog network safely it pays to know which you should be thinking about.

    It makes life simpler if you break down the signals into two categories. There are those that would be detected by a human, and those found by  a machine. Then, you can see which would be obvious or difficult for a human to detect, and which would be too complicated or expensive for a machine to determine. This could be due to the high number of false  positives or the high processing power required to calculate.

    For example:

    Human detection

    Easy to detect:

    • Same theme (visually)
    • Patterns in domain names (eg topforexblog.com, greatforexblog.com , idealforexblogcom )
    • Obviously commercial links (anchor text, sitewides etc) or content

    Harder (or more  expensive) to detect

    • If poor quality content is due to poor language skills or machine generation
    • Patterns in IP addresses, ownership, CMS footprints etc

    Algorithmic detection

    Easy

    • Patterns in IP addresses
    • Patterns in WHOIS data or registration dates
    • Using the same theme or CMS (HTML analysis)
    • Unnatural patterns on site (high numbers of redirects or 404s)
    • Lightweight content analysis: Duplicate text etc

    Harder / more  expensive

    • Change of site topic or concept – this is likely to be calculated periodically, especially when a domain drops or changes ownership
    • Visually similar sites using screenshots and image analysis. Google has plenty of image processing power.  But this is still expensive when multiplied across billions of sites with hundreds of backlinks each
    • Deeper content analysis. For example, identifying repetitive themes, concepts and topics within a network...
  5. To build a blog network, you need domains for your sites to live on. In general you have 3 options: 

    • Using expired domains where you build off somebody else’s link equity
    • Use fresh domains that you can build into a relevant pumper site
    • Using someone else’s site entirely – a web 2.0 network, for example.

    Sourcing expired domains

    Using expired domains is the quickest way to see an impact from building your own private blog network. By selecting the best domains you can find in your niche you can enjoy backlinks you may never have earnt  by yourself.

    If you can score niche relevant domains with strong, authoritative backlinks from traditional media or the kings of your niche you could be onto a winner. Real domains with real links cost money – but their value can continue to deliver for years.

    There are two main schools of thought when it comes to buying domains. You can buy at expiring domain auctions or hunt for expired domains yourself. 

    Buying  domains at auction

    Tens of thousands of domains expire every day – though sadly the majority are worthless!

    The main domain registrars collaborate to maximise the profit they can make from expiring domains by auctioning them off to the highest bidder.

    Chances are if a domain is worth anything at all it will end up going to auction. There are three main auction houses:  Godaddy, who as the biggest registrar on the web tend to auction the most domains, as well as Namejet and Snapnames.

    Each of these companies release ‘droplists’ – large CSV files – of domains and the date they are due to expire. These are huge and difficult to work with at home, but some useful services such as Freshdrop, Domcop and others have sprung up to help digest the data.

    We love Domcop, as it uses a wealth of information from Majestic, Moz, SEMRush and more enabling you to make an informed decision on the domain you plan to buy.

    Finding an expired domain using DomCop

    With so many thousands of domains at your fingertips, you should think about what you are looking for before you dive in. Otherwise, you could make an expensive mistake. As we discussed in the planning section, you may be buying PBN domains for 3 reasons:

    • Relevancy
    • Authority
    • Diversity

    Do you need more relevance or authority?

    Many people will make blanket statements. "It’s not worth buying domains...

  6. So you have your strategy, you have your domains and you have an idea of how you’re going to build out your sites. All that’s left is finding a place for them to live.


    Would you open your office here?
    Or here?

    Hosting your domains

    We believe the true make or break factor when building a private blog network is your choice of hosting. Get it right, and you’ll be hiding in the open, surrounded by other quality websites and basking in their reflective glory.

    Get it wrong and you’ll be trawling the sewers with the detritus of the internet. In this neighbourhood it’s shoot first, ask questions later.

    Good and bad neighbourhoods

    An age old theory in SEO is the concept of good and bad neighbourhoods. Do you want links from the best sites on the web? The authorities in your niche? Or endless low quality crap? Links are built upon endorsements – if an upstanding member of the community vouches for you, it means something. If a shady drug dealer or gang banger says you’re a stand up guy, does it count for much? Or will you be guilty by association?


    This concept goes beyond links alone. When you choose where to host you are effectively buying real estate on the web. Who are your neighbours? Who shares your IP address? And are they good people, fine upstanding members of the community? Or do they leave trash outside their doors, make noise all night long, hack into neighbouring houses and drag the neighbourhood down with them?

    Why SEO hosting should be avoided

    Private Blog Networks are one of the oldest ‘new’ strategies on the web. Every few years there is a renaissance, every few years Google cracks its whip and takes down a few of the more egregious players.

    There has been a need for ‘seo hosting’ for at least a decade, and many of the biggest players have been foot printed by Google. They know their IP blocks, they know their server names, and they know the domains that live there.

    Hosting on servers like these is a massive red flag. It may not quite be shoot on sight, but it significantly increases the risk of your domains being devalued or worse still, deindexed.

    If you’re investing $100s into each domain do you really want to risk it all by parking your sites in a dodgy neighbourhood?

    Most importantly still, this gathering of SEOs in one place makes it easy for Google to spot patterns. Google is a lazy beast – if they can automate the...

  7. Once you’ve bought your domains, configured and hosted them you need to fill them with content to justify their existence. Here are a few of the options:

    Paying writers

    If you’re looking for a high quality private blog network then forking out for real content is not a terrible idea. You’ll need to write in moderation to avoid costs getting out of control. Yet with online writing so cheap it’s not impossible to knock out 10-20 mini sites to support an important money site.

    Your options here range in cost and quality. Hiring an apprentice or starving university student could be as cheap or cheaper than outsourcing. But keeping it in-house gives you more control over content quality.

    Online there are many brokerages where you can find writers, including: 

     Content Brokers

    • Textbroker
    • INeedArticles
    • IWriter   

    All three of these brokerages make it easy and fast to order content in bulk. It’s not award winning but it is real content written by humans, and in most cases reads as such. Prices start as low as $0.008 per word, but you may want to pay a higher rate if your goal is quality content.

    Freelance Marketplaces

    • Upwork – a massive marketplace of freelancers, from coders to writers and designers. It’s possible to both cheap workers and qualified copywriters who can write to a high standard
    • Fiverr – Don’t expect miracles, but you can buy articles for $5 a piece here. Bear in mind Fiverr’s commission is 20% - can you find these workers elsewhere?
    • OnlineJobs.ph – a specialist recruitment site for Phillipino workers. It’s possible to get native English speakers to write for you for as little as $300 a month. But bear in mind the English standards will be somewhat different from a UK or US speaker

    Is it worth it?

    One thing to keep in mind when paying for articles is whether it makes economic sense.  If you are in a lucrative niche that is heavily policed you may find it is worthwhile to spend on quality content for every pumper site.

    The difficulty is when you can’t afford to have good content written at scale.  Either you don’t have the resources upfront, or the money isn’t there in the niche.

    It’s obvious you can’t pay peanuts and expect Shakespeare, but some 'bulk' articles read almost as badly as spun content. 

    If it looks like a duck, and talks like a duck, is that ‘quality content’ going...

  8.  

    Once your network is set up, your blogs are hosted and your content is primed, you need to look at private blog network management options.

    Posting content to your domains

    If you are using Wordpress this should be pretty straightforward. Login, add a post, copy, paste and publish. Things get far more complicated once you have 10, 50 or even 100 blogs.  You can task a VA with uploading all your content, but we’d recommend looking at using automated tools. These allow you to plan and schedule the delivery of your content with ease.

    Some WP management tools such as MainWP have content posting baked in. Content generators such as Seo  Content Machine and Kontent  Machine also come with posting tools baked in.

    We’ve also used FCS  Networker and Rankwyz to post directly to networks of our own blogs. This works as well as the Web 2 networks they are designed to post to, and we have been happy with the results. 

    Once nice advantage of using a link building tool such as FCS is they make it quite easy to do everything in one place. You can generate your content, diversify your anchor links, link to authorities, schedule and post.

    Better yet, their tiering system mean you can boost your own PBN posts with contextual Web 2 posts and social signals automatically. 

    Building links to your PBN posts as soon as they go live can help increase the relevancy of your linking pages. Over time it will raise the authority of your blog. If you really want to go to town, you can then pump your web 2.0 posts with a tool like GSA.

    Wordpress management: Updates, Hackers And Backups

    Wordpress makes life easy for PBN owners, and is by far the most popular choice of SEOs. But its vast popularity also makes it a massive target for hackers – and it is not the most secure web app out there. 

    Imagine the pain of putting all that work into building your network up only to have some script kiddie destroy it. All that will be left is a bunch of Viagra links…

    It’s vital you keep your CMS systems up to date. Its even more important that you take regular backups of your PBN sites. This way a server failure, site hack or simple mistake doesn’t take down some of your most important links.

    There are a number of WP management tools out there that can handle bulk wordpress, plugin and theme updates.  MainWP is the one we are most familiar with. 

    While we haven’t used the content management...