PBN.Hosting

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 a blogger to find their low quality website is worth $500 per sponsored post? Does the world wants more for a link than you will to pay?  It may be cheaper to manufacture your own links than pay for them.

    To hide your strategies from your competitors

    Want a website that looks whiter than white? If you have a PBN you can build 100% brand anchors in your 'public' link profile. Then you blast your site with the exact anchor text you need to rank in private. Nobody will ever know - especially not your competitors.

    To add weight to an existing strategy

    Have you have done all that ‘real company shit’? With genuine PR, infographics, guest posts and relevant industry linking you should be sat on a pretty pile of authority. Yet there is a huge difference between being on the first page and ranking #1. A blog network allows you to laser target specific anchors, pages and rankings. That push over the line can take your revenue from ordinary to amazing. 

    Too risky after all that investment in quality content? There’s no reason you can’t operate a network that never links to your money site. You can build one solely to add tier two power to quality ‘earnt’ links that cost so much blood sweat and tears. 

    To keep total control of your links

    Whether you beg, borrow or bribe your way to links on other people’s websites, you are always at their mercy. Your link might have the wrong anchor text, be nofollow and or you might get no link at all! 
     Unscrupulous webmasters might decide to hoard their page rank and cut off the link flow with nofollow. Web redesigns might delete the page you worked so hard to get a link from. To top it all, thousands of websites die of neglect every day. By owning your link network you know that when you place a link it sticks. 

    To get links you would never get otherwise

    We all aspire to greatness. But the reality is it is near impossible to build a world class website on a bootstrapped budget. Buying a powerful industry domain at auction allows us to ‘level up’ your authority and trust. The added revenue from better rankings  allows us to invest more into a site’s quality and content.

  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 bank’ before your sites meet their inevitable doom.

     On the flip side, you may be working with prestigious clients who cannot bear the costs of a rebrand or long term penalty. 

    Then you’d be better off building a manageable network using high quality content and top drawer domains. 

    This way you can take the care and attention needed to ensure deniability. Even if someone does discover your network they won’t realise it belongs to your client.

    What is your capacity for content creation  and design?

    In a perfect world all our blogs would be beautiful with custom designs, high quality content and unique photography.   They'd be written by active personas with their own social accounts.

    In the real world there is only so many hours in the day and cash in the bank.

    This is where an in-house SEO with a huge budget will have a different approach to an affiliate working from their bedroom.

    You need to be realistic about your capacity to build sites at the quality level you desire. After all, you’re running a business. It’s not just a question of ‘am I able to build this network?’. You also need to ask ‘is there enough return on investment to justify this much time and money?’ .  ‘Is there a cheaper way?’

    In SEO you don’t make money until you rank. Low quality links are a risk to your site. But the biggest risk is going out of business due to being invisible, forever.

    Tier one or two?

    There is another dimension to the questions of quality vs quantity or risk vs reward.

    You may not be able to stomach the risk of building obvious PBN links direct to your beloved authority site.

    But a basic tenet of SEO is that links from pages that have links themselves hold more value than links from deep within the archives of a website. 

    You can avoid many of the biggest worries of running a blog network by moving your links up a tier. Why not use your network to power up the backlinks you already have.

    There’s a huge footprint if you link your  100-site blog network to every single one of your five  mini-sites or clients If instead you use those 100 blogs to send a couple of links each to the guest posts, directory listings or (god forbid!) natural, earned links you avoid a significant footprint.

    Disappointed by the impact that awesome link from the Washington Post had? Try throwing twenty high powered PBN links at the article and watch it pop, you may just get a bonus.

    To do this right you need scale – a network of 10 domains just isn’t going to cut it. By moving your network further from your money sites you also reduce risk to your network itself. In turn this can help you cut some corners with domain and content quality

    Niche relevant or broad topics?

    In the quest for more links, it’s often forgotten that search engines strive to return relevant results. Relevance of backlinks hasn’t always been a major factor in how well sites rank. Traditionally quantity and trust of links have played a greater role in the algorithm. 

    But there are definite signs that this is changing. Google is taking greater care to evaluate the topic of a site and rewarding the sites that exist within a topical neighbourhood, not an outlier.

    When building from expired domains there are three ways the topic of a site can be important:

    1. The original theme or topic of a site

    Its obvious that it makes more sense to build a financial blog on a site called ‘investmentincomestrategies.com’ rather than 'bestbeautytipz.biz’. Not only are the links more likely to be deemed ‘relevant’ but you are many times more likely to pass a manual check.

    2. The thematic neighbourhood a domain exists in

    Just because you’re buying an old domain for its links doesn’t mean the previous owner knew what they were doing. Their website did expire, after all! 

    Checking the topical trust flow (TTF) of a site in Majestic will give you a clue as to whether your domain has relevant links. Was it collecting respectable links from relevant sites, or whoring itself out to every reciprocal links page it can find?  Does it share backlinks with other quality niche sites, or a range from car loans to STDs to casinos?

    3. The content you decide to put on the domain

    There is nothing stopping you from buying any domain with strong backlinks and placing content relevant to your niche on it. 

    It still works to a degree, and it can be cheaper/easier/lazier than trying to line up relevancy perfectly with your site. 

    But do be aware you may not get the same boost – or longevity – from your network as you would if all your sites and links were on topic

    It is easy to fall into the trap of believing any backlink works, regardless of origin, because it is true.. up to a point.

    We have seen far better results from topically relevant blog networks than diverse ones. By 'relevant' we consider both the content of the blog and the sites it links to.

    Keeping to strict topical networks can also help maintain discipline. However hard you aim to keep your network high quality it can be tempting to break your own rules on relevancy to give one of your favoured sites that little extra push.

    But there are still cases where a generalist approach will work. Perhaps you’ve picked up a juicy domain that used to be a newspaper or magazine? The links still have massive value and could be used to support a wide range of sites. A site like this could be great to use as a tier two, supporting other relevant links you have built elsewhere.

    Like any other aspect of your link profile it is important to maintain a balance – aim for relevancy, but a few strong general links won’t hurt.

    Disposable or long term?

    This is pretty self-explanatory. Do you hope to build sites that rank forever? Then you need to strive for quality and consistency in every area of your network. Do you expect to build a network that never gets deindexed? Then you know what to do.

    Others may see both money sites and blog networks as disposable assets with a limited shelf life. Links, networks and money sites all become a simple numbers game. In this case, there is little to lose cutting a few corners. 

    If a domain gets deindexed, just swap it out with a new domain. Copy your old content across and you’re good to go, with no net link loss on your money site. This can be a cheap and effective strategy, provided you don’t get emotionally attached.

    Either approach is valid, provided you are consistent. What is crucial is that you don’t mix the two. If you’re spending top dollar on high quality domains at auction don’t treat them like a spammed out web2.0 auto blog. If your money site is a labour of love don’t point your dirty splog network directly at it in a fit of madness.

    Visible or Invisible Links?

    The default option for most network builders out there is to hide their links. Why would you want your competitors knowing what you are up to? Indeed, it is the default option in our hosting software, though you can turn it off.

    But you can’t hide every link – there’s nothing more suspicious than a site that ranks #1 with 10 – or even zero – links! You can argue that not only is hiding your network a signal you’re up to no good, but a lazy approach that leads to bad standards.

    If you know your competitor can see your backlinks you will be far more careful with the content you use and the way you link. This leads to greater longevity of your link network and your money sites themselves

  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 spinning setup. ie SEO Content Machine or Kontent Machine, in partnership with a content spinner such as Word AI or Spin Rewriter.

    Together you could expect to pay between $300-500 a year for these tools. These articles won’t pass a manual review but could save in the long term if you plan to post more than 3 articles per blog – and you most likely will.

    Is a PBN really worth the money?

    Now is a good time to ask: how much is a link worth to you? $7300 for 80 blogs works out at roughly $85 per link.

    In some markets, this could still be a bargain, in others this would be an absurd waste of money.

    Of course, the majority of people building blog networks aim to link to more than one website.  This can reduce the costs considerably. Have 20 affiliate or client sites you could link to? Remember you don't want to link in an obvious pattern,  but this could reduce your cost per link to $4.25 + the cost of another article.

    The ongoing costs of hosting a blog network

    Much of the costs involved in building a blog network are upfront. Domain acquisition is the primary factor, followed by the labour and content costs of building a site. Yet the ongoing costs can stack up.

    Not only do you need to consider the costs of domain renewals, privacy and hosting – roughly $40 / year, per website.  You also need to think about issues such as deindexing. Assuming you lose 10% of your domains each year and replace them like for like, it could cost 55*8 = $440 per year just to maintain the size of your network. 

    Cheap hosting has its costs too. Badly managed servers die without a backup. Dodgy 'fly by night' hosts can disappear, go bankrupt or sell their business. This requires you at best to change your DNS servers, at worst to rebuild your site on a new account.

    With a larger network, you can expect this to happen roughly once or twice a quarter. Don't forget the cost and time involved in restoring or moving blogs.

    It’s also worth noting that most domain names will lose value over time as the links to them drop away over time. This link rot can be due to many things. Other webmasters can realise a domain has changed and pull their links. Linking sites can die off. Links bought by the previous owner can expire. Even the sudden collapse of the previous domain owners’ link network can cause huge link loss. If you want your blog network to hold its value over time you need to think about building new links to your domains.  Of course, these too will incur an additional cost.

    Cutting the costs

    As you can see the costs of running a network can stack up. It is important to weigh up whether it is still worth building your own network or buying your links in other ways. But there are steps you can take to mitigate these costs:

    Hosting

    Cheap hosts – or their aggregators such as NoNameInternet and BulkBuyHosting– average out at $25 a year per account. Each account is capable of hosting multiple domains.  So if you have many networks for different industries you could cut your costs by putting several blogs on each account. 

    But we would strongly caution against linking to the same sites from multiple blogs on the same IP.  This is a major red flag that could put both your blog network and money sites at risk.

    The alternative is to look at other hosting solutions. Using popular CDNs such as CloudFlare and Cloudfront can dramatically reduce costs. This way you only need to operate one hosting account, but setup can be tricky. You must take care to ensure you are not inadvertently exposing any ownership details. 

    We offer an all in one solution to hosting, deploying and managing your blogs. You can save on hosting, VA fees and your own precious time, from as little as $1.25/site/month.  Find out more about our pbn hosting service here

    Blog setup and deployment

    We have already discussed how expensive configuring your own blogs can be if you value your time at all. Even at a conservative estimate of $30/hr each blog will cost you $45 to setup.  The ongoing management and maintenance of your sites can cost even more. Most SEOs worth their salt will charge a much higher hourly rate, from $100-$250/hr - if you value your time you should outsource.

    VAs are a cheap solution if you are operating in bulk. Employing a freelancer from a country like the Philipines or India can be as cheap as $300 per month. Bear in mind you will likely need to spend some time to train them to your requirements.  You may also find they have issues with extreme weather, public holidays and sickness which can delay completion.

    For a smaller network, a good solution is to use one of the many PBN building services that have sprung up, such as PBN Fox or Lightning Blog Networks. Their upfront costs of $69-125 per blog may sound expensive, but beat the time spent training a VA if you only need 10-20 blogs.

    Of course, the cheapest way to setup your blogs is to not use a human at all. Our automatic blog hosting and deployment means you can build and host a new blog with the push of a button. All for as little as $1.25 a month.

  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 vs the human generated echo chamber that exists in the blogosphere. (for examle ’10 Amazing Home Decorating Tips’ vs ‘7 Awesome Tips For Home Décor’)

    Many of these footprints are more likely to raise a flag than an immediate penalty. Too many flags lead to further investigation – manual or algorithmic – rather than an instant ban.

    Our philosophy on footprints is simple. It’s impossible not to leave them – unless you can fly, of course. Instead you should focus on blending into your surroundings rather than trying to be 100% whiter than white.

    CMS / Theme footprints

    For instance – is hosting all your websites on Wordpress a flag? Possibly, if every link you ever built was from a Wordpress blog. But given Wordpress is one of the most popular CMS on the planet, it could be more of a worry if you didn’t have wordpress sites in your backlinks. Many more sites still are unidentifiable or pure HTML.

    But if you build every one of your 500 network sites using an obscure CMS from 1996 you might find it stands out a little.. though whether Google ever write a routine to check for that footprint is a moot point.

    Likewise themes can be an obvious sticking point. You don’t want the same theme on every site, that’s for sure. But here’s a question for you to consider. Is it more natural to have 100% unique themes in your network, or to make use of common frameworks such as Twitter Bootstrap? Bootstrap already powers over 7.3 Million websitesAs ever it is important to strike a balance - it's easy to achieve paralysis if you over analyse. Just try and weigh the most important factors to avoid getting caught in the noise.

    DNS Records: Registrars, Ownership &  Registration dates

    Is keeping all your whois details the same a red flag? Yes, definite danger zone.

    But what about hosting them all at one registrar? The answer is it depends. If all your domains are with GoDaddy – like  33% of the web’s domain names – chances are you will blend in, up to a point.  

    If you move every single one of your domains to a smaller registrar it could be a pretty big signal that the owner of all the domains are the same.

    The same can be said of name servers: if all your name servers are the same it is a signal. But if you use nameservers provided by a a major registrar such as Namecheap, Godaddy or Network Solutions it is not a terrible one.

    You will blend in much more easily than multiple domains being served by ns1.somesmallwebhost.com . Why? Because these registrars power the DNS for huge chunks of the internet. Again it would be stranger if 100% of your links were not coming from domains using nameservers from Godaddy than if 100% were.

    Other signals or footprints you should be aware of are:

    • All your domains using private registration
    • All your domains registered in the same month
    • All your domains being the same extension

    The big question is how much do these matter? It’s a question of scale and your existing link profile. 

    If you have 200 natural links and you add ten network domains, all bought in June 2015 it may be a small signal, but nothing major. 

    If you have no natural links and buy 100 PBN domains in one month then that is far more likely to trigger a flag of some sort.

    Similarly, if 80-90% of your linking domains were .coms – or the relevant country domain for your site (uk/de/fr etc) it is unlikely to be an issue. But if you built your network from 100% .xyz domains you may be operating at a higher level of risk.

    Hosting and IP Diversity 

    On hosting – is it madness to host all your blogs on the same IP? Yes, absolutely! Hosting multiple blogs on the same class C ip address (eg 123.255.123.1 and 123.255.123.75) ? Also a total giveaway.

    Is it crazy to host all your domains with the same cheap hosts everyone else uses? Probably – we’d ask at which point does a ‘cheap web host’ stop being unique and become an SEO host in all but name?

    Usually it is when everyone else is following the same tactic. We’ve seen that even if you find a virgin host untouched by SEOs, after  a year there’s likely to be many more low quality SEO blogs sharing your IPs.

    Is hosting all your domains using a cloud based CDN system a footprint? Possibly. But when over 6,000,000 sites are sharing a pool of over 350,000 dynamic IPs the picture is less clear. And as more high quality, well run sites switch to CDN systems there is more and more cover for a handful of blogs.

    • If a cheap shared server hosts 500 websites, of which 50 are PBN sites then 10% of the IP’s websites are under suspicion. Even if the PBNs are all owned by different SEOs!
    • 5,000 blogs on a CDN’s IP range shared by 6 million domains is still just 00.05% - 2000x less than the shared server! This isn’t even a blip on the radar

    We believe as the quality of SEO hosts and cheap hosts from WebHostingTalk deteriorates SEOs will be left with two options:

    1. Build your own network of reseller accounts across a higher quality of web hosts. 
       This is likely to be an expensive solution for all but the biggest link sellers and SEO agencies
    2. Move to the cloud

    IP Reputation: Good and Bad Neighbourhoods

    There is one last point on hosts we’d like you to think about that is rarely mentioned in the SEO world. Whether an IP address is shared with another PBN site or not your hosting matters.

    There are two clear patterns that you don’t need to be a genius to see:

    • In general, bad websites are hosted at cheaper/crappier web hosting companies
    • In general, great websites are hosted with great hosts. Rackspace, LiNode, Digital Ocean, Amazon AWS, CloudFlare and Cloudfront are obvious examples.

    If you were hiding from the law, where would you base yourself? In the ghetto with frequent police stops and shakedowns?  Or in an upstanding, smart neighbourhood where good behaviour is the norm? We know where we’d prefer to host our sites!

    But hosts like Rackspace are expensive! That’s why we built our hosting network around CDN systems such as Amazon’s immense web infrastructure. Sharing a space with some of the biggest and best tech companies, start-ups and brands in the world gives you a great place to hide out.  And the scale of services such as Akamai, Rackspace, Amazon and OnApp mean we can pass on cost savings that beat the competition hands down.

    Inbound links and interlinking

    One of the easiest footprints to spot in a blog network is a pattern of interlinking between PBN sites.

    Sites on the same theme or topic do occasionally link to each other. But it is extremely difficult to replicate a natural linking pattern on your own blog network. Most topics have an enormous number of websites devoted to them. Repetitive linking between a small subset of those sites sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Once you link more than two or three sites together clear patterns emerge which make it easy to assume a common owner for each of the blogs. Combine this with common outbound linking patterns and it becomes conclusive proof of manipulation.

    Similarly, for those building their own pumper sites on fresh domains, it is wise to avoid re-using the same link sources to build your network.

    Each link they share becomes a pattern, so reusing cheap directories, paid link sources or even the same set of web 2.0 sites or profiles is a flag that the sites share a common owner.

    It’s also wise to avoid domains with highly spammy links, which we will cover in the following section.

    Outbound links and patterns

    Linking out to the same sites again and  again

    Our last major footprint is one of the biggest: repetitive outbound links from one small set of sites to another.

    The economics of a link network means that each target you link from your domains will reduce your total cost per link. Bargain!

    The problem is, every outbound link to a common target increases the probability that both network sites and target are part of a network.

    How so? Sheer numbers. There are billions of sites on the web. Perhaps tens or hundreds of thousands within your niche – depending on whether you call you topic ‘health’ or ‘skin conditions’.

    The chance of two sites in the niche linking to a single target is fairly high. But with each additional site you add the probability shrinks dramatically.

    Say you have a network of 100 sites and one money site. So far, so good – there’s no real reason to tie the sites together.

    But if you run 2 sites in the same niche, and link all 100 sites to the same 2 sites, the footprint becomes far greater. How about 10 sites, each and every one with links from the same network of 100 domains? Then you’re really asking for trouble.

    So what’s the solution? You need to find a way to balance the risk of creating an obvious network footprint with your own financial constraints.

    Different people will have different tolerances for risk. You might be more aggressive than us. But we would recommend avoiding linking to the same sites from more than 20-30% of your network at a time.

    You can also prioritise – if you have one authority site in the niche perhaps you need to link from all 100 sites. But you will also want to protect that site. So the other minisites you run in the same niche may only deserve 10 or 20 links from the same network to minimise the overlap.

    Using the same types of links

    In the real world, not every site links in the same way every time. Links may be found in the content of an article, or in a ‘Related Links’, ‘Blogroll’ or ‘Footnotes’ section in the sidebar or footer.

    The anchors can vary - they could be a branded link, a long sentence about hosting your private  network that contains partial match keywords, a (source) link, an image tag, a pure url or even an empty, broken or truncated a href tag.

    Only very rarely will they be a blatant exact match anchor.

    You should aim to replicate these patterns.  We want to use our networks for exact anchors we can’t achieve elsewhere – but try to avoid using the same exact anchors throughout your network.

    Target inner pages as well as your homepage and category pages. It's also great to target link bait’ you may have created such as infographics, downloads, giveaways and contests.

    Other major outbound linking footprints:

    • Linking exclusively to commercial sites
       
      Run blogs on fishing? Even if you’re reviewing fishing charters it would be unusual not to link to marine associations, lifeboat charities and other blogs with shared interests.
    • Linking out to a random set of commercial sites
       
      What do 'VPS hosting', 'e-cigarette reviews', 'carpet cleaners San Francisco' and 'dui attorney Las Vegas' have in common? Nothing - except for a gigantic footprint, that is! 
       Keep your sites niched as much as possible. Even if this is broad concepts such as ‘health’ rather than ‘weight loss’ it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative
    • Linking out exclusively low-qualityity sites
       
      We’re not suggesting your own sites are low quality, of course! But if your network represents the best links your sites have it can stand out like a sore thumb. Link to other authority sites in your niche to avoid obvious patterns.
  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 with TF<20" or ‘Only buy domains with at least 50 linking domains’. But in reality, the filters and choices you need to make depend on your goals:

    Authority

    You have a site and you have plenty of links from both within your niche and without, but you’re lacking that ‘wow’ factor. In this case you need to aim high – look for a domain with a minimum of TF25, maybe higher. Ensure it has 100s, not 10s of links. Double check those links are genuine and not from paid links, spam or other junk.

    Niche wise you can afford to be more relaxed: aim for a generic domain such as an ex media site. If you’re lucky and you’re in a niche such as health, tech or another link-heavy area you can probably find a strong, niche relevant domain. But for the rest of us, a blog or media site that packs a punch will suffice.

    One word of caution though: don’t buy on metrics alone. Always dig in and take a look at the backlinks in detail, especially if you might be about to drop $500 on a domain at auction.

    It’s not uncommon for Majestic to be confused by a handful of high TF links in a sea of spam. For example, we’ve seen many domains whose only ‘trusted’ links are from a single blogspot splog post. Majestic often shows blogspot.com, blogspot.co.uk, blogspot.de etc as independent domains. This inflates the trust flow on paper, but likely doing nothing for your prospective domain’s power.

    See more tips on Due diligence when buying domains below.

    Relevancy

    Does your site not fit into its niche? If all your links come from generalist directories and blogs you need to prove to Google you are relevant to a query. The best way to do this is by finding more links from within your niche.

    Often this will mean you need to relax your expectations when it comes to metrics. Otherwise, you will find it hard to find enough domains relevant to your niche that have enough power. Where once you may have aimed for a trust flow of 25-40, you might now only be able to source those in the region of TF10-20.

    This is fine, providing the backlinks supporting those links are also topically relevant. For example, here are two finance domains we might consider for our investment blog:

    And

    In the first case you can see that Majestic does see the site as having investment links, but the topics are not focused. In the latter case, the domain may not have tonnes of links but they are strongly focused on the financial services and investing topics

    This overview is helpful, but we would recommend drilling down. It is important to analyse the referring domains of any domain you wish to buy and making sure there’s nothing unusual there. In this case our domain checks out - the majority of this domain’s top backlinks are clearly biased towards business, finance and investment so in this case I would be a buyer.

    Diversity

    If you’re just looking to bulk out your anchor texts and raise the number of unique linking domains you can be less selective. But you should still try to avoid buying spammy domains. 

    Do also consider whether the ROI is there. Given you must pay for content, hosting and development, is it worth buying a bargain domain? Or would it be better to spend an extra $10-20 on a domain with more value? There's no clear rule of thumb here, but personally given the costs of hosting and renewing a domain over the long term - and the fact that all domains will lose links over time - I won't buy a relevant domain with less than 25 linking domains and TF8, whereas if I'm less concerned with relevance I'd set my floor higher, ideally looking for a domain with a minimum of 50 linking domains and a tf of 10 or above.

    The auction process and our strategy

    The process of buying at auction is quite simple but slightly different between the main auction houses:

    GoDaddy runs a simple auction and you can bid from day one to the closing date. Easy, right? Except for one catch: the domain hasn’t actually fully expired yet, and it could still be renewed by its owner. Once you’ve won the domain auction you must pay with 24 hours. You may still have to wait for a few days until you know for sure that it is yours. In fairness, this hasn’t happened to us yet, but we do hate to wait.

    The advantage with Godaddy is the lack of a minimum bid. This means if you’re shrewd and don’t get too attached to one domain you can pick up reasonable domains for just $12 (+ the reg fee). This does take patience and planning, but with persistence, you can score some great names at a knockdown price.

    NameJet and Snapnames offer a ‘pre-release’ period where you can register your interest by placing a minimum bid. If you are the only bidder you win the domain outright – sometimes for just $69, including the reg fee. But if there is more than one bidder the domain goes into a private auction.

    Once the auction closes the domain goes to the highest bidder. If nobody bids above the minimum, the user with the first bid on the pre-release domain wins.

    Auction Sniping

    With all three auction houses, auction sniping is supposedly impossible. If you outbid someone in the last 5 minutes of an auction the auction is extended by five minutes. In practice though, few people will get the outbid notification and log into their accounts in time to win the auction. With luck, you can walk away with some choice domains while avoiding getting sucked into a bidding war.

    Setting a price

    It’s easy to start overvaluing domains and in the thick of a domain auction you may end up bidding above your budget. We recommend setting a rough guide price of what you are prepared to pay per domain.

    Give each domain you target a category or score out of five, based on metrics or relevance. Then, set a fixed price for each, eg:

    1* : $10 , 2*: $50 3* : $150 4*: $250 5*: $500

    Don’t forget the additional costs: privacy, domain registration, renewals and your PBN hosting. Is it really worth buying a $10 domain when it will cost you $5 for privacy, $15 to renew and $15 to host for a year? Or should you focus on a higher class of domain and a lower quantity?

    We love 5* domains but find it’s easier to get emotionally attached. It's easy to blow your budget on what, when it comes down to it, is just one link. It’s great to have a few in your portfolio, but it’s easier to build fast at the 2-3* level. This allows you to find a balance between quantity and quality – and increases the choice available to you.

    Scraping for domains

    A much cheaper, but far more time intensive method for finding expired domain names is to manually check for broken links on old websites, resource directories and other topical sites. The process itself is fairly simple:

    • Make a 'seed list' of sites based on authority or relevancy
    • Use software to crawl - be prepared to wait some time for results
    • Manually check each domain to ensure you hit your own minimum levels for metrics and relevancy - and that they are not 'free to register' due to a spammy history

    In practice however scraping is both time consuming and fairly frustrating, with an ever increasing number of people chasing an ever smaller amount of domains. There are some tricks to building a seed list that is linkrich - think of resource pages and other places you may have lists of many older links per page - and so likely to yield more relevant or trustworthy domains - but we see crawling as more useful to those who know they need a network of 50 or more domains.

    Realistically, to find a decent number of domains of any real quality will require a dedicated server or VPS crawling constantly to fill a network. This adds a monthly cost as well as the cost of a scraping tool itself - and Majestic or ahrefs credits for sorting and analysing domains to ensure their quality.

    If you're simply adding 20-40 links to your network you might find the time involved in scraping effectively is hard to justify - it may be worth trying to get domains at minimum bids or closeouts at Godaddy.

    Using fresh domains

    Expired domains pack a punch and come preloaded with juicy links, giving you a head start when it comes to boosting your sites.

    Yet they are not without their drawbacks. Expired domains can be expensive. Whether forking out at auction or for a scraping tool, they costs can add up. Even the time you spend manually seeking out quality expired domains yourself needs to balanced against paid work.

    They can also come with considerable history – not all domains with great metrics will result in a great network link. You may find a domain has already been part of someone else’s spam network and devalued. Many others will have been blasted with spammy links for fake designer clothes or Viagra.

    Worse still, the domain may have already been deindexed – or a deindexing may follow soon after purchase. 

    We suspect Google pays extra attention to a domain and how it may change in the weeks after it has changed ownership or dropped and been renewed.

    All of these issues can be avoided by starting a network of fresh domains. The obvious downside being that those fresh domains start with zero links of their own.

    It’s not just the technical downsides either. There are some niches with countless websites being made or dying off every day – and others with just a handful. If you’re in a niche where relevant expired domains are like hen’s teeth you should consider starting a network of niche relevant pumper sites you control.

    Boosting your pumper sites

    The aim of building a network is to build quality links to your own money sites. There is no sense in leaving your fresh domains without any links of their own. You need a strategy to improve the authority of these domains so they can pass benefits on to your money sites.

    This is what stops many people from pursuing this tactic. But in truth, it needn’t be as big an obstacle as you might think.

    The advantage of using fresh domains is similar to that of using any T1 as a buffer for tiered links. While you will want to blend in some niche relevant links too, you can bulk them out with lower quality links you might be afraid to use on your own sites.

    This means you can be laxer with link quality than you might on your own sites. Directories, blog comments, forum profiles, web 2.0s and even software generated links or dodgy foreign link networks may be acceptable approaches, depending on your level of risk.

    This approach will take longer to deliver effects than buying brand new domains. But the benefits of truly relevant links can’t be understated. If you get your on-page right so your sites look legit, you should stand a much lower chance of being detected or deindexed, and you may even reach that holy grail of links that send relevant traffic too.

  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 process of penalising people they will, and SEO hosts have given them plenty of data over the years.

    This is why a host’s landing page doesn’t need to scream ‘SEO’ to still present a risk. Google knows the profile of servers that host a lot of SEO blogs, and can automatically discount or deindex them at will.

    Are 'budget' hosts really an alternative?

    With self-proclaimed ‘SEO hosts’ out, many SEOs rush to WebHostingTalk’s Shared Hosting deals forum. Here you can pick up shared hosting accounts for as little as $12 a year. This is something I’ve done a lot of, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.

    In the space of a year across 100 hosts I’ve had:

    • 5 hosts go bankrupt and disappear with my money. My servers were down, no warning or backups available (thankfully I had my own!)
    • 3 hosts get bought and sold and thus needed to update all my domains to point to new servers
    • 2 hosts that consistently had downtime for days at a time
    • 3 hosts that imposed absurd bandwidth limits so my sites would show a ‘suspended page’ announcement by the 15th of each month
    • 2 hosts whose setup made running a standard CMS such as wordpress or drupal near impossible
    • 1 host whose nameservers never worked – I ended up having to use my registrars after a month of trial and error.

    What a mess. What a pain. What a lot of time that my VA and I could have been working building a better money site.  Instead we wasted hours managing painfully inept hosts.

    Yet all this extra time and aggro – which made the true cost of these $10 hosts an awful lot higher – wasn’t the worse thing. The worst thing was after all the work I was hosting on the same cheap servers as every other tom dick and harry SEO out there.

    So despite setting out to avoid ‘SEO hosting’ we’d all found ourselves back in the same place, sharing the same servers and the same easy to footprint hosting profile.

    There are services which ease the pain of hosting on cheap hosts without carrying a blatant ‘Seo Hosting’ tag, such as NoNameInternet, PazHosting or even Easy Blog Networks. I’ve used a few and they are quite an improvement on doing it yourself... But you can’t escape the fact that you will always be sharing IPs with other SEOs on these services, putting your blog network and money sites at risk. 

    This risk can be reduced if you seek out the newest operators, but over time every one of these distributed hosting systems will fill with spam.

    We think one of the most reliable ways to proceed is to build your own version of NoNameInternet.  Not by using shabby $10 hosts but with quality reseller accounts on genuine, mainstream hosts from across the planet. This way you are only sharing IPs with other real websites not a bunch of SEOs.

    Sadly, for most except the in house SEOs with the biggest budgets this is not an option due to the costs involved. So what other options are there?

    Hosting in the cloud

    The emergence and rapid growth of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to speed up the web has presented an opportunity. These networks were originally used to serve static assets such as images, CSS files and Javascript at lightning speed from servers distributed across the globe, freeing up your web server to focus on generating pages.

     Yet as CMS like Wordpress become ever more bloated by plugins, more and more sites are serving their entire website through a CDN. 

    This is not some niche endeavour. According to builtwith.com there are over 50  million websites using a content delivery network of some kind.

    Cloudflare, one of the best known, reports over 2 million websites - builtwith.com sees just 992k. Cloudfront doesn’t publish its own statistics yet Builtwith.com suggests 3.2 million sites are using it. Given the discrepancy in the Cloudflare stats the reality could be higher.

    By hosting through a CDN your sites won’t have a fixed IP but a dynamic one. The IP can vary based on the location of the browser, the time of day and the inner workings of the CDN network.

    Put simply, when Google sees 3 million sites sharing the same IPs it is near impossible for them to determine if the sites are linked. Host IP stops becoming a factor.

    We think this represents a great opportunity for SEOs. Not only does it make it very difficult to claim any two blogs are run by the same people.  It also represents a different class of hosting to the $10 accounts above, yet can still be affordable to small business.

    People who use CDNs care about their websites and care about their user experience. In general they will serve higher quality sites from a higher class of webmaster.

    Hosting using Cloudflare, Cloudfront or any other CDN is a great way to hide in the open. Why share one IP with 100 other SEOs when you can share 350,000 IPs with some of the best sites on the planet?

    The key downside of using CDNs is it can be complicated to setup. Serving your site through a CDN is one thing, but there are many ways an incorrect configuration can reveal the host underneath a website. At best this causes duplicate content issues but at worst it can reveal your entire network.

    We’ve put years into developing our own cloud-based pbn hosting system to avoid detection while making use of the immense IP diversity available in the cloud. Why not give it a try today?

    Diversity is the best choice

    The truth is, despite all these options available there is no one size fits all solution. If you want to run a premium network for a premium brand we suggest rolling your own solution. If you only want to host 10 sites perhaps you can group some on more expensive hosts. But the key thing is to avoid patterns.

    Use a mix of hosting, a mix of content types and a mix of domain sources for the least identifiable network.

    Consider where else you are getting your links from. If you plan to rank using 100% PBN links you will need to consider hosting diversity. If you are only using PBNs are part of your link building efforts a single, strong strategy such as CDN hosting should be fine.

    What CMS to use?

    One of the most discussed footprints when building a blog network is your choice of CMS. People stress how important it is to have a diversity in your backlinks, that all your links shouldn’t come from one source, CMS or platform. But for the majority of people, this shouldn’t be a major concern.

    Why? 

    Two simple reasons:

    • Most people rely on a mix of links anyway. Perhaps all their PBN is hosted on Wordpress, but the other links they are building come from forums, HTML based directories, web 2.0 profiles and media mentions. The diversity is already there
    • The most popular weapon of choice when building a blog network is Wordpress. Why? Because Wordpress is the most popular CMS when building a website.

    If we look at stats from BuiltWith and W3Techs the picture is clear to see. More than 57% of websites don’t use any identifiable CMS at all – ie they are using pure HTML in one form or another. Of the 43% that do, the vast majority are using Wordpress.

    So the majority of SEOs are using Wordpress for their blog network. Does this mean you should build your network entirely from Joomla instead? Joomla powers just 2.8% of websites. If we break this down further, Joomla  only powers 0.69 % of the top 10k domains on the web. What are the chances of you having 50, 100 links from high authority joomla sites? (unless you run a Joomla plugin site, of course!)

    Usually when discussing SEO tactics we’d recommend not following the herd. But not in this case. Diversity is great, and if you can do it with your time and resources then why not. But of all the shortcuts people take in SEO, hosting all your sites on a single platform isn’t the biggest deal. Just be sure to vary plugins, themes, widgets and other settings.

    If you do want that diversity, our PBN hosting service allows you to build PBNs entirely from static HTML. This allows us to provide thousands of themes that make your blogs mimic Wordpress, Drupal, or even a site that doesn't run on a popular CMS at all. By using our Wayback restore service you can broaden diversity further by recovering sites with out of date CMS systems that greatly add to the overall diversity.

  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

    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 to save your skin in a manual review?

    Or is it just wasted money where you would have the same risk at lower cost from spinning content with automated tools?

    Restoring from Archive.org's Wayback machine

    It’s clear Google is now taking active steps to identify and discount the effects of private blog networks. This is likely an expensive process. Beyond obvious footprints, the best way to test for a ‘good site gone bad’ is by analysing major changes in a website’s structure. These include

    • A change of ownership, followed by:
    • A change in design
    • A change of content
    • A change of topic (eg pets to insurance)
    • A change of url structure (such as multiple 404s or 301s)

    On their own each may not constitute a strong signal a site has gone ‘bad’. Combined they could be dynamite. 

    It is probably an expensive process to calculate so many factors across the hundreds of thousands of domains that expire daily. So we think the most likely time to get a site deindexed is right after you’ve bought it.

    This is why many advanced SEOs are looking at ways to reduce the signals. This could be as simple as restoring the old site’s structure, so a page like '/category/why-chihuahuas-make-horrible-pets' still exists when the site is revisited by Google.

    One of the easiest ways to do this is by restoring a backup of the site from Archive.org’s  Wayback Machine. There are a number of tools that offer this service for a fee like Wayback  Downloader, but you can do it for free with us.

    These tools automatically download the entire contents of a site from an archived backup. This means your newly launched PBN can look practically identical from the old website. 

    This is great from a footprint point of view, but potentially troublesome for two reasons. Copyright infringement and the time it takes to administer.

    We’d recommend only restoring sites whose contents you have the right to. A domain’s expiry does not constitute the expiry of copyright, which in most jurisdictions lasts for 80 years or more. Use your head! IANAL etc.

    The second issue is more practical. We're used to blasting out pages of content at a time with our links already embedded. In comparison, managing tens or hundreds of archive.org sites presents a challenge. 

    Often the easiest way to update a site and add links is usually to FTP in and edit the HTML files directly. Time consuming, impractical – but potentially worth it if it means your links look and stay natural.

    On PBN.Hosting we have built our service with these challenges in mind. We have an HTML editor baked in for editing across multiple domains - no need to juggle FTP passwords. We've also come up with some secret sauce for turning an old site into a new blog.

    Content remixing and spinning

    By far the most common content creation method SEOs use to build out their blog networks is remixing. This means scraping, mashing and spinning other articles together to create semi-readable new articles.

    This is strictly robot food – don’t expect to pass a manual review with content used on this basis. But it is clear that it is certainly enough to confuse Google’s content algorithms. This ensures your links are indexed  and suggests  the linking page matches  your topic.

    That being said, there is spun content and spun content. A hand crafted manual spin can produce highly readable content. This means tasking a VA with rewriting each paragraph and sentence by hand before carefully selecting synonyms to swap in a sentence. 

    Judicious use of software tools can produce ‘tier one’ content. By turning the level of mashing and spinning down you can end up with something that may just about pass a sniff test, if not deeper introspection.

    Mastering spinning tools is beyond the scope of this article, but our favourite tools over the years are:

    For content creation

    • SEO Content Machine, which is capable of mashing and remixing articles by hand or in a completely automated way. It’s possible to get fairly decent results with the semi-manual spinning options. The automated article generators are usually best saved for tier two links or beyond.

    For spinning:

    • WordAI, an advanced natural language processing spinner. Rather than simply trying to swap words for synonyms, Word AI tries to understand the context of the sentence. This can create more natural spins. It’s possible to take a single article as your source and produce natural sounding, reasonably unique content. You can also use it in conjunction with a content mixer for even less chance of duplicate content issues.
    • SpinRewriter. Though less advanced than WordAI, Spinrewriter is an excellent choice for those with a tighter budget.  We’ve been happy using SpinRewriter for many of our links. While the quality is a little lower than WordAI, in most situations this hasn’t been a concern to us.

    Content curation

    Our final suggestion for content generation for your blog network is one of our favourites. It’s not an automated process, but is easy and fast to produce. It also hits a number of goals in making your sites look natural.

    Content curation is the process of collecting together great articles  on a particular topic. To make it work you must add some analysis, introduction or independent thought. 

    This could be as simple as a ‘roundup’ post of the week’s news, or a collection of the best photo retouching tutorials.

    Under fair use you can selectively quote a paragraph from the articles you link to, but you must ensure you are also adding content of your own.

    Why is this such a powerful technique?

    • By combining your own writing with carefully chosen quotes from the articles you link to, you can create a 1,000 word article. Yet you only need write 150-200 words yourself, saving both time and content costs.
    • By selecting the best examples on the web to link to you are ensuring your blog network is linking out to authoritative sites within the niche. This is a core goal if you wish to avoid being slapped for only linking to low quality affiliate sites
    • By linking to your own site alongside other high quality sites you associate your site with greatness.
    • By mixing your links in alongside other high quality links it is harder to claim the link to your site is self-serving. It is harder to identify which of the links on the page is a ‘paid’ or ‘unnatural’ link

    All in all we think it’s a winner. Lower content costs, lower risk and a higher quality link through association with other internet greats. What’s not to like?

    Note: It is possible to mimic content curation using a mix of RSS feeds and RankWyz’ Content Mill feature.

    We’ve played with it, and while it’s OK for low-quality projects it is hard to create anything that looks like it was built by a human. It does still help with linking to topical authorities.

  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 portions of MainWP we were very happy with the backup system. (it saved our skin on a number of occasions!) However, it does require installing an extra plugin on every one of your blogs.

    Alternatively, the easiest way to avoid a CMS hack is to not use a cms at all! Our hosting provides un-hackable static HTML sites. We then secured them a CDN offering maximum protection for your domains and content. We also have daily backups to off-site file servers to ensure the security of your data.

    Link Rot - Keeping the power of your domains up

    A much neglected aspect of PBN building is the issue of maintaining  the strength of your network. Just as the sites you buy fell into disuse and expired, many of their compatriots, launched at the same time in a different era of the internet, are likely to die off during the life of your blog network.

    Many of the sites that once linked to your domain that are still actively managed do check their links on occasion. When they see the once great resource your domain hosted replaced with a casino splog they will likely remove your link.

    The third, more subtle, factor is where your links fall into the archives. Perhaps you bought the domain of a failed startup? After a flurry of positive PR in the likes of TechCrunchBoing Boing and CNET they foundered and never quite gained traction. You have some beautiful links – but they are on such active sites that every day your links are pushed deeper into the archives. Bit by bit those once great links end up having little more value than a Web 2.0 profile link

    This drip, drip, drip of link equity loss can lead to stagnation and a major loss of power to your link network. You’ve bought a domain with trust and age – but you will watch that trust ebb away over time, unless you proactively take steps to increase it.

    How can you put a stop to the rot?

    Understandably, you are likely building a link network to reduce the pain of building more links. But to keep your network alive, each site needs an injection of links of their own, or they will wither and die like plants without water.

    Fortunately, the types of links that you may not wish to point direct to your own site can be effective in extending the life of your PBN domains. Here are a number of approaches you may wish to try:

    • Using social auto posting tools such as IFTTT networks or SNAP to generate links and shares across authority sites. These include sites like Wordpress.org, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook
    • Using Web 2.0 posting tools such as FCS Networker and Rankwyz to boost the homepage of your PBN domains. For bonus points, hook them up to your RSS feed and build new links to each post you create on autopilot
    • Take a look at the backlinks of your PBN domains. Are there any links you could direct to your domain’s best backlinks in order to further increase their value – or at least, to ensure they remain indexed by Google?
    • Buy cheap link services. Normally we’d advise staying well away from budget paid blog networks due to the risk. But those $0.50 a link prices could be perfect for pointing some tier 3 power into the domains and pages that link to your PBN domains.
    • Bulk generated comments, forum profiles and the like can have some value too. But do consider whether an abuse report from spamming your precious Techcrunch link could lead to it being removed entirely.

    Deindexing

    Our final chapter in this ultimate guide is perhaps the saddest. Deindexing. Bye bye blog network, bye bye rankings.

    The fact is, by choosing to build a blog network you have chosen to expose your site to a certain level of risk. 

    We can reduce that risk by avoiding obvious footprints, linking out sensibly and using content that doesn’t scream ‘spam blog’.  Yet at the end of the day in this cat and mouse game the cat often wins.

    There are two types of deindexing. The occasional hit you take where one domain or another dies a slow death, and the occasional wave when Google deletes thousands of sites it considers questionable.

    So you’ve been deindexed. It can’t get any worse. So, what can you possibly do to make it better?

    • Delete your content from the blogs
       You may not have seen an impact in your rankings yet, but we can say for certain that Google still crawls deindexed sites. They would be mad not to consider ‘links from deindexed domains’ as a negative signal in their ranking factors.
    • Look to replace those lost links. 
        
      Any site that sees a sudden loss in link volume may be hit by a penalty aimed at spammers who generate tens of thousands of links overnight only to see them moderated away the next day. 
      This penalty appears to be a simple numbers game. If you are losing links you need to make sure they are replaced, pronto. Any number of services can help with this – perhaps a quick press release while you get your act together?
    • Recover your assets
      Presumably you spent time and money getting your blog network right. If you have anything invested into your domains, and you didn’t leave any major footprints, then the only thing you have lost is the links to that site. 
      Grab your backup. Get a new domain. Restore. Tweak. Publish. Those missing links? They’re back!

    Google have become relentless in their quest to increase PPC clicks. They are so desperate to please shareholders they have labelled any online marketing that doesn't pay them $ spam.

    Rather than devaluing links and removing the incentive to ‘spam’ they have opted to punish individuals. They don’t care about your websites, they want your soul.

    if you really want to stop  spam, it is a little bit mean, but what you want to do, is sort of break their  spirits. – Matt Cutts

    Whether you are a big brand SEO or a small time independent publisher you face a common enemy. It is Google vs the web. 

    You may pick up your blog network where you left off, or take another approach to marketing your website, but whatever you do don’t let Google get you down.