When I first wrote this guide, it was written purely from theory that I deduced by reading and learning from other’s notes online in forums and blogs. I came up with the post by doing extensive research and reading and wrote out what sounded practical.
I did not build a PBN, but just experimented following through with the process with a few examples so I could get some practical idea of the process. But, I never really built a PBN myself. I only applied theory using what would be logical things for the Google Algorithm.
I had no extensive practical knowledge building large Private Blog Networks for SEO purposes, like some of the other SEOs out there.
Each site on your Private Blog Network should look like a real site and provide high value.
I would highly recommend that you BUILD REAL SITES that GIVE HIGH VALUE to users. This is key.
If each site you build can provide good value to users and get them to read and click through to your money site – then your PBN will last long term and it will stay Google friendly and user friendly!
The problems arise when you build out low quality websites and go for quantity over quality.
Stay away from the temptation of building low quality websites. At all costs you should avoid going for quantity over quality.
If you learn anything from this guide – this should be the most important lesson.
I am not getting into an ethical debate here to decide if building PBNs are right or wrong and if it should be done in large quantities etc. I leave that to you to decide as its a personal choice in doing different SEO styles.
That said, lets get started…
In this massive guide I will teach you how to setup your own Private Blog Network for maximum SEO power - using the best techniques, tools and systems that are available.
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I’ve worked very hard on perfecting my system and spent countless hours and money experimenting and figuring this out.
- Find an expired domain in your niche
- Analyze its potential to pass down link juice for SEO
- Register the shortlisted expired domain carefully
- Host the domain
- Setup the content on the domain
- Link to your money site(s)
- Update and drip new content into your PBN sites
Always remember, that SEO keeps changing... and Google is scared as anything in protecting its algorithm from us SEOs. You need to be keyed in and updating yourself if you want to succeed. Today's PBN methods may not be applicable tomorrow!
You’ve probably read up other guides on building PBNs, but they’ don’t cover all aspects of a PBN or are costly to buy.
If you want to know some of the SEO stuff i’m still writing about and a massive update on finding quality domains, then make sure you sign up to get updates.
If you have questions feel free to comment below or send me an email. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed making it.
Lets get started!
Since this is a massive post, I’ll list out the Table of Contents, so you can get an overview of whats ahead and jump to any section..
What is a Private Blog Network?
A PBN (Private Blog Network) is a group of sites that any person or entity controls. The reason why each PBN is setup is so that the person who controls them, can drop backlinks on them at will that point to a money site in order to push the rankings of the money site.
The money site is your main site, that you want to rank higher in Google. All the private sites you control fully that push SEO juice to it are your PBNs. They can be wordpress based sites or even third party hosted Web2.0 sites - as long as they are private they're safe. Although they are called "blogs" they don't technically have to be "blogs".
Are there any risks involved in building a PBN?
You've probably heard this a thousand times before, but I'll go ahead and say it again...
Google is against any form of deliberate link building that is done for the purposes of gaining rankings... the algorithm (and shareholders) want to see natural links only.
Doing SEO with PBNs is core BlackHat.
Understand that... because Google understands that! Google is having a very tough time dealing with it, because when done right it is effective. But, they're getting better by the day in detecting PBNs using Artificial Intelligence that pulls out suspects and pushes it to their manual webspam team (of about 10,000+ employees) based in Hyderabad, India.
So, yah PBNs are a menace - because when done right, you can crush Google.
However, if you're not careful you could be burning all your digital assets. So, when we build out our PBN we need to make sure that we don't leave any traces or "footprints" that Google can track down and calculate or manually check your backlinks to learn that your links are unnatural - and in fact coming from a PBN.
And, if that happens, your PBN is history...
You wont know how and what happened. So, its in your best interest to understand the theory that goes behind building a secure and powerful PBN in totality. If you're gonna be doing any SEO that is based on PBNs you need to know the theory.
Are PBNs still effective for SEO?
PBNs are very effective because, if done right they can rank sites very effectively. The benefits of building a PBN in the correct way, far outweigh the risks involved - which is why they are so popular while doing SEO. However, most people go about building their PBNs in the wrong manner.
PBNs are still going very strong and Google can do little about it, because its algorithm still gives a lot of power to links as a ranking metric.
All you need to do is build links pointing to your money site from authority domains that look exactly like real sites and are in-fact no different than them.
The most critical thing to remember while setting up a PBN is to ensure that you do not leave any common footprint across all the sites in your PBN, so that Google can detect that they all belong to one entity.
If you leave a common footprint, you stand a high risk on having all your PBN sites de-indexed and therefore become worthless in the SEO link juice they can pass down the sites you link to from them.
Buying Domains for Your PBN
The core component of a PBN is acquiring a Domain that already has an ability to pass link juice to other sites, and that is not a spam domain (more on how you can do this later on).
The domain can be acquired from an Auction, or purchased as an Expired Domain or you can simply buy an authority website from marketplaces like Flippa. If you have a small collection of domains that are catching dust and have age and authority - you could even resurrect and use them.
However, you need to be careful not to leave certain footprints for Google to identify them as being all part of a PBN.
Any domain that you choose to setup as part of your PBN, needs to have certain signals and metrics as a whole that make it something worth going after.
Some of the metrics to look in a PBN Domain are…
- Clean and strong backlink profile (my number one criteria)
- Domain Age
- Majestic Trust Flow
- Citation Flow (with minimal TF/CF ratio that I will discuss later)
- Clean content when seen historically in Archive.org (WayBackMachine)
- Good Moz DA (although this can be games so be careful)
- PageRank (I tend to not look at this)
The cheapest way to acquire these metrics is by identifying an Expired Domain, but this can be tedious and get tricky at times.
When you setup your Domain on your PBN, then all you need to do is channel the incoming link juice to its pages forward to your money site page(s). You may do this using multiple ways including simple links, image links, or using 301 redirects (internal and external).
I’ll talk more about this later on in the guide.
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Once you build your own Private Blog Network that you control, you will have all sorts of SEO super-powers!
You will be able to use the power of your PBNs to rank and bank at will.You can use it for your own sites, clients sites or even setup a Public Blog network on sites like Blackhatworld and sell services and packs of PBN links (although I don’t recommend this as it may leave obvious footprints for Google to discover your PBN as more and more orders come in).
Planning Your PBN Ahead of Time
When you build out your PBN you will first need to decide if each PBN site will be niche specific or a more general site that can have links going out to multiple niche money sites. Its always best to keep these PBNs separate. They each have their power.
Its always best to split up your network into parallel networks that are independent of one another. That way it doesn’t hurt you if one networks gets detected.
A niche specific site network will have a lot of relevancy in the link juice that is passes down to your money, but these are probably harder to find. They will have a lot of "topical trust flow" and can help your money site gain a lot of link juice.
A larger general purpose PBN site network may not pass down relevancy but if it has high authority metrics overall - it will pass down a lot of domain authority and trust to the money site. Its best to mix and match both types of links, and this is what Google also sees as natural, as that is exactly what happens naturally in the web of the Internet.
The number of PBN sites you need and the power from each site, depends on your niche and the competition. You will need to study the top ranking sites in the SERPs and see their backlinks. Although they could be hiding their PBN links, you can use some clever Google queries to unearth their real PBN. Once you have a better picture of the power of their PBN links, you can build out a similar powered PBN or one that is more powerful.
Make sure you follow step by step and the most important tip I can give you is to not do anything foolish in a hurry that could get your PBN detected by Google.
For instance, if you’re seeing ranking gains, DO NOT ... ever ever ever ... speed up things and blast a ton of PBN links to your site in a quick quest to get to the top overnight!
SEO is now a slow and steady game, and Google takes time to give each backlink its due link juice.
The link velocity that you get exclusively from your PBNs again depends on what other link building activity you are doing... and moreso, what historical link velocity your site has. Getting a couple of links every week, may be fine in some niches - but not good in others.
What does is cost to build your own PBN?
There are various factors that go into setting up each site in your PBN and manage your entire PBN. I will cover each in depth in this guide, but very briefly, here are the associated costs for each.
You can acquire domains via different methods and therefore their are different associated costs. If you buy domains via an auction it could set you back by $50 to $300 or more. If you purchase a domain / site on Flippa you could spend a lot more. Again, what domain you need depends on your niche, current SEO, the competition and you overall SEO strategy.
The cheapest option is to buy expired domains. These are domains that the original owner did not renew and is up for grabs. This will set you back only around $10 (the cost of registering a new domain).
But, to find domains that have authority and the ability to pass down raking power to your money site is a task that requires a good eye and fair amount of experience in evaluating SEO potential.
Always get premium CPanel Shared Hosting or Cloud Hosting. If you get CPanel shared hosting be prepared to pay around $3 to $5 per site per month at a decent web hosting company. It gets cheaper if you put more sites onto the same account on the same IP (but be careful not to link out from 2 different PBN sites on the same IP to the same money site - as that's a deadly footprint for Google to net your PBN).
Also, do not buy $1 cheap hosts, because all their IPs have bad websites hosted on them and your PBN site will get a "bad neighborhood" reputation. This can lead to de-indexation by Google.
Site Setup (design, installation, backend)
The cost of this varies. You can do this in-house or hire a team of VAs to get it done for you. You may need to spend money on acquiring premium themes and plugins, should you want to give your PBN sites an extra oomph. On an average expect to pay around $50 to $70 per site setup.
Many PBN builders skim this part thinking its not too very important. However, with all the recent algorithm updates content plays a major role.
Make sure you hire good writers and expect to pay them $4 to $5 per 500 words of on-site content, and never use spun content on your PBNs because that's what will get them de-indexed real fast.
When you build out a large network of PBNs you need to make sure that you setup a system to manage them efficiently without opening any holes for Google to spy into your PBN sites list.
I use dropbox and excel to store my list of PBNs and I never use Chrome when I visit the sites directly.
How many PBN sites do you need?
This is a very common question. The answer depends obviously on what you are trying to rank, and how much damage you are planning to do.
If your money site is in a small niche a small network of 8 to 10 PBN sites with basic ranking power (TF15+ and clean domains) should be good enough to push you high up in the SERPs.
If you find one domain with TF 35+ then that one single site can be as powerful as 5 smaller sites. But, then you pay more for it and you will need to really build it up with a lot more content.
Also, you get one link with one single anchor variation from it.Its best to diversify and get links from multiple PBN sites that have starter metrics that are decent and that will give you a more variety in your anchor link profile.
Isolating Your PBNs Safely
While building out links to your client niche sites or your affiliate sites make sure you never link out to the same site from the same IP.
So, if you have 5 sites hosted on one IP shared hosting service, never link to the same single money site from 2 different PBN sites on this hosting account / shared IP.
To minimize the money you spend on hosting your PBN sites, you can simply put different niche specific sites on each shared hosting IP account.
Finding Quality Domains with good SEO Ranking Power
Finding a good domain to be part of your PBN is the very foundation of building a solid PBN. There is no point in building a PBN with weak domains that cannot pass on any ranking power to your money site!You can acquire domains through a variety of methods.
You may buy a domain at an auction, you may buy a domain on a site like Flippa or you can grab an expired domain. You will need to make sure that the domain you acquire has good SEO metrics and is clean (that is - no spam content in the past or spammy links pointing to it). You will also need to check a multitude of domain metrics for each domain ensuring that it meets your minimum set standards based on the price you are going to be paying for the domain.
Here are important metrics you need to check
While examining the metrics of a potential domain that you want to buy for your PBN, you need to ensure that the domain does not smell of "spam". This means that it should not have been abused leaving some obvious footprints.
Amongst other things the domains historical content should not contain spam or junk in it and the backlinks to the Domain should resemble real natural backlinks.
Here are some of the core items you will need to scan each potential domain for...
- What are the metrics for the best / topmost links… PageRank, TF, DA?
- How real and genuine are these top pages with good metrics that are linking to the domain?
- What kind of backlinks does the domain have?
- Are they mostly spam backlinks or do they look like genuine high quality / decent links?
- Are they mostly blog comments?
- Are they Dofollow or Nofollow?
- How many are still alive or are most of them deleted?
- How fast were the links built?
Tools To Help You With Domain Checks and Audits
Here are some of the tools and metrics in detail that you can use to do your domain audits. Make sure you don't rule out buying the domain just because one metric is low. Having one low metric can offset your decision if another metric is really high. Of course, if the single metric is a spam metric which is a clear indication of a spam domain - then just move on and evaluate the next domain without wasting much of your time.
Majestic - Trust Flow and Citation Flow
Majestic is a web crawler that very much works a bit like the older Google algorithm. The two important metrics it gives us about a domain are its Trsut Flow (TF) and Citation FLow (CF). Of the two, the TF is more important as the higher the TF the more trusted and clean links a domain has. The CF is basically the sum of all the backlinks without taking into account the power of each. So, a site with low TF and high CF could very easily qualify to be a spammy site because it has a large number of links (high CF) coming from very low trusted sites (TF).
I always look for the TF/CF ratio to be more than 1.10 .. that means the TF should always be higher than the CF no matter what. The exception to this rule is if the TF is say around TF25+ in which case the CF can be a bit higher than that - but not very much higher.
Moz - Domain Authority and Page Authority
While I learn a lot from their site and Rand Fishkin, the Moz Metrics are known to be weak because they can be easily manipulated with spam links. I try not to use them as an indication of the quality of a site, but I just make sure that the DA and PA are more than 10. If not, I dig deeper into some of the other tools to see if any clues exist (dropped links etc. which Moz picked up and others didn't).
Ahrefs - Referring Domains and Domain Ratings
Ahrefs has by far the largest crawler base, which is why we use it to measure the number of referring domains as compared to any of the other above tools. The minimum number of unique domains you want linking to your potential PBN domain is around 15 to 20 or more. However, in many cases even a few links is fine (if they are super niche specific or eprhaps there are 2 strong links from an Authority Domain like CNN or Wikipedia).
Checking Backlink Quality of a Domain
I use Majestic to check the topical relevance of each backlink to my potential PBN domain. I also use Ahrefs to quickly visit each page that is linking to the potential PBN, and do a quick check on the type of page it is. I only check the most authority links and then quickly check the lower authority links as well. With more practice you will be able to analyze how powerful the backlink profile is for each PBN domain.
Checking a Domain for Spam
Checking a domain's history for bad or spammy content and checking its backlink profile for spammy links is the most critical metric. Its the very first thing I check when I do my domain audits. There is absolutely no value in buying a domain that was abused in the past as it will not help you rank, and can affect your site negatively.
Archive.org Way Back Machine
Using Web Archive (also known as the WayBackMachine) tool you can jump to any historical snapshot of the domain in the past. While looking at these snapshots in time, you need to check to see if the site has basically the same content (redesigned sites are ok as long as content does not keep changing as that could be a sign of the domain having already been used as a PBN). Look out for chinese content on the sites, as a clear indicator of a spam domain that may have been part of a PBN. Other foreign language sites may be OK to have. Sites having history of 301s are also not good.
Sometimes, Web.Archive.org does not have any historical snapshot, and if I can't find anything I quickly check the domain content history using screenshots.com
Use the anchor text cloud and history checks in Ahrefs to get a quick look at the anchor texts that appear in the backlinks to the site. Too many money keywords or a single repeating keyword could mean an over-optimized SEO profile and a penalized site.
Checking for "Anchor Text Spam"
You can look at Ahrefs Anchor Text Cloud to quickly look at the anchors that are pointing to the domain.
Essentially, you are looking for anchors that do not look like spam or bad SEO. More branded anchors that resemble the sites name are good, and so are natural anchors with normal generic words like "click here", "visit us" etc.
Too many money anchor texts are a clear indication of SEO and could be a sign of spam / over-optimization or a penalty and a reason why the domain was dropped. Anchors that contain names of pharma, or things like NFL Jerseys etc are also a sign of spam. You are looking for a anchor cloud with naturally looking anchors.
These three checks should be the first thing you look at. You want to weed out a bad PBN domain and save spending any more time looking at the other metrics, which is why you check these right at the start. If it does not pass a spam check - there is no point doing any more research on the domain.
Again, you are looking closely for any signs of pharma, chinese text, porn, or any other things hat look like spam or were part of a PBN in the past.
TIP If you come across domains that have no history snapshots in Archive.org or screenshots.com then look at its anchor profile in Afrehs as a benchmark.
The Domain Age Factor
When a domain is dropped and is not renewed, it does not lose all its SEO power. After all it still has the incoming links. If you renew the domain, you can sculpt the incoming links to pass on link juice to your money sites. You gain all the old link juice power this domain had, as Google re-looks at the power it gives this domain.
However, an auction domain that has not been dropped and stays alive is known to retain a lot more power and SEO juice -but these come at a heft price and may not be necessary to obtain in most cases.
In a recent Google Hangouts, Gary Illyes from Google has said that they are working to devalue all the SEO juice a dropped domain passes on, if its re-purchased after being dropped. That is not via an Auction, but once it "drops" or "expires" and is deleted from the registry. This is a very significant statement, and affirms that Auction Domains are still powerful, but expired domains could be on their way out (and probably are already).
Types of inbound Links to the PBN Domain
There are all types of links that you will see while you examine the link profiles of a potential PBN domain.
Blog Comments - These are good if they stick and are from relevant niche sites. They may not be as powerful as the other backlinks but they are valuable.
Forum Profile Links - These are highly toxic and a large quantity of these is a clear indication that some spam tool for run to build backlinks to this domain.
Directory Links - As long as they are from niche or local directories these are mostly good. They can help if you are trying to build a local money site.
Sitewide Footer and Sidebar Links - These are mostly low quality. If a site has too many of these, consider dropping it unless the other metrics are good.
Image Links - these are gold, if they have proper alt text and the image is above the fold.
Contextual Links - these are the best kinds of links out there. Specially if they come from relevant sites.
Domain Metrics vs Backlinks
Many times, I come across a potential PBN domain with low metrics that reflect in the tools but some very powerful backlinks. I always go ahead and register these, because I know that Google is looking at strong backlinks and that the metrics that I look at are metrics that are from that provider and not Google.
Organizing Your Potentials
When you find a good domain simply open up a text file or spreadsheet and start adding the domains into it based on your analysis.
You can split up the notes into 3 sections as below, and your notes may look something like this…
Organizing Your Potential Domain Finds
The aim here is to move fast and quickly segregate the “confirmed” domains from the “unsure” and “spam” domains.
You put a domain into the “unsure” list if it needs more analysis as there are some mixed signals coming from it and you simply want to move on to the next domain rather than spending too much time on this domain.
Doing so is very critical as it will allow you to move through your list at a faster pace.Its very easy to get hung up on one domain and spend too much time on it, when you may not even need it in the end as you find how many expired domains you need by the end of your session any way. You can always come back to it and analyze it later in the game – and you can revisit the list of “unsure” domains and relook at things in more detail.
Lifecycle of Domain
Domains go through a lifecycle. By this I mean that every domain when purchased goes through a series of “states” determined by their expiry dates and whether they get renewed on time, late or picked up by third parties in an auction or when they “drop”.
Here’s a quick overview of the lifecycle of a domain...
Image courtesy DomainSherpa
Firstly, you need to understand that domains are not owned by anyone. You only rent or “lease” their ownership for a specific time period from the registry. You cannot own a domain name.
Out of the different types of domains for your PBN, buying Expired Domains is the cheapest and safest method. It is also the toughest method requiring careful analysis, time and tools. Its well worth the low price you pay once you figure out how to find niche specific expired domain gems.
It is easily the most effective method of them all, because if you use my system to find expired domains with power in your niche you can get a TON of relevant link juice power.
While it is true that an expired domain loses its “age” and some of its “power” to pass link juice down to other sites it still is the most effective if done properly.
Auction Domains and Drop Catching Domains
A domain can be listed for auctioning if it goes into the expired period or if the current owner just wants to sell it off.
An auctioned domain may change ownership hands but since it effectively does not drop or become expired its age remains and the power remains.
Auction domains at times have a lot of power… but they may come with a hefty price set by the current owner or if they go into the expired period there are many domain watchers who are analyzing the list of fresh domains that enter automatic auctioning on a daily basis.
With an auctioned domain, you also get to see if the domain is still indexed by Google or not before you invest to buy it through an auction, something that you cannot check when you find a domain name that has expired already for more than a few month as Google essentially drops all its content as it disappears from the web in the first place.
Drop Catching a domain is placing a bid to buy it as soon as its redemption period is over. If you are the only person with the base bid, yo win the domain at the base bid price - which depends on the drop catch service you use.
Here are a few Auctions and backorder services
- SnapNames ($69)
- Pheenix.com ($29)
- NameJet ($39)
When you buy an Auctioned domain, you need to be wary of stalkers who are watching the auction and the high price the winner pays… and its commonplace to receive email extortions that threaten to expose the buyers PBN (if the intent was to setup the PBN) to Google if certain demands are not met. This is not seen much at all with expired domains.
Auction domains come with a hefty price but they can definitely pass a lot more link juice and power for SEO purposes. Also, many times these sites have real traffic and a lot of buzz that also adds to the site power and the site itself can rank in its niche for many keywords. I used to use PRpowershot Pro, but it looks like the site got sold and is offline.
Image courtesy DomainSherpa
The best alternative for finding Auctioned domains currently is GoDaddy Auctions. But, when you try to snap up Auction Domains be prepared for a vigorous battle of bids specially when there is a domain with decent power expiring. You're not going to be the only one watching it!
Finding Expired Domains
There are a large number of tools and services in the market that help you weed out expired domains. However, you still need to do the manual audit to weed out the domains that are spammy using the above manual method and tools.
I cover my internal method in my next post that shows you how to find expired domains step by step using free tools. You will get a complete step by step method of finding hidden gems (domains with TONS of link juice and SEO power) using completely free tools that are available.
So, if you want to get all the future post and insights for free - make sure to sign up to my PBN & SEO Newsletter.
Here are some of the web crawler based tools to find Expired Domains
- Domain Ronnin
- Domain Hunter Gatherer (high recommended for power users)
- Domain Reanimator
You can also look around for Domain Marketplaces that sell premium spam checked expired domains or on Facebook PBN Groups. However, you need to be really careful as there are a ton of noobs out there and scammers who don't have the slightest clue.
Here's a list of Domain Databases that simply pull Expiring, Auction, Dropping etc Domains from Registrar Databases
- the.domain.name - A Huge Collection of Expired Domains
- HammerHead Domains
- Register Compass
I've said it above, and I'll say it again... that at some point in the future, Google will be able to devalue link juice from domains that have remained inactive and un-registered for a period of time (and there are rumors that this is going to happen soon in an effort to stamp out the menace of gaining SEO power from cheap expired domains).
Hosting Your Own Private Blog Network
Hosting your PBN sites in the proper way ensures that Google cannot weed them out from the sea of other domains on the web. And, that's exactly what we are aiming to achieve.
The last thing we want is our PBN getting discovered by Google PBN detection algorithm and then being pushed for a manual review (which we are anyway prepared for, but why alert the Google web spam team?).
So, if that can be avoided, why not take proper measures?
There have been numerous hosting methods and strategies discussed on the forums and suggested by PBN experts.
However, over a period of time only one core strategy has prevailed and is the only rock solid method to host your PBNs without any fear of leaving a “hosting related” footprint for Google, and thankfully it’s also the cheapest of all the options.It essentially involves setting up “shared hosting” accounts across different high quality hosting companies that are very popular.
Why is getting a shared IP so important?
When you setup a shared hosting account, you get a shared space on a webserver and more importantly (for our PBN purposes) a shared IP address.
This same IP address is also assigned (shared) with thousands of other websites that are hosted on the very same Server IP (or Network Attached Storage).
Majority of these websites are genuine websites and not in anyway PBN sites. They’re real sites, by real people.
And, this allows us to kind of slip in and hide inside the cloud of thousands of other websites on the same IP address.
How does a dedicated IP address expose my PBN?
It is OK if you have a few sites only hosted on the IP, but it becomes a problem when you host many sites on the same IP address... as it could expose your PBN.
If you were to sign up for a VPS account or a dedicated server account at a hosting company, they essentially give you a dedicated IP address to host all your sites on that Server or VPS space on the server. So, only your sites would be hosted on that IP.
And so, if you have a set of 10 PBNs that you want to host, and you put them all on this dedicated IP address, and there are no other sites on this IP – then effectively you are leaving a hosting footprint for Google to detect you.
And compared to a shared hosting environment - where a large farms of websites are all on the same IP address (99% of which are real websites) Google does not know where to start. It can’t single out the sites that look like PBN on a large farm of sites.
So, the Google algo cannot use the IP address as a starting criteria in the PBN spam algorithm. However, with a dedicated IP address, they could use it as a starting point to group together and then apply any other PBN detection filters on the small set of sites residing on that same IP.
When your 10 sites share the IP with thousands of other sites, they cant single out your 10 sites… the algorithm basically don’t know where to start making its job of detection almost impossible!
Now, in addition, if you were to start linking out to your different money sites, from each of the websites the PBN spam algorithm will catch you as it will eventually notice that there is only a small set of sites on this IP address and when it crawls them all it may notice factors that make all the sites suspect for a PBN and the algorithm filters will catch your PBN quickly either automatically or when they all get pushed into a manual review check.
Adding more sites to your shared hosting account
It is perfectly safe to add as many sites as you wish to your shared hosting account (if they don’t have limitations to how many sites you can add) ONLY IF you do not link out more than once to any single target site(s) on the same IP address.
If you link out to the same site from two or more PBN sites on your same shared account, then you are leaving a massive footprint for Google.
Basically, it is very rare to find multiple sites on a shared IP linking out to the same site unless that site is a highly popular site like Facebook, Google, Alexa etc. That is fine and happens all the time!
But the probability of a small site getting multiple links from different sites hosted on the same IP address is VERY LOW.
And, that’s why you should avoid it!
You also need to make sure that your money sites (target sites) are on unique IP addresses themselves, if you are trying to power them up and link to them from the same shared hosting sites.
If the money sites are on the same IP and you link to them from the same shared hosting IP – then that’s the same footprint again!
Linking Out from Your PBN to Money Site
Here is a Simple Diagrammatic Representation of What is Safe and What is Not Safe
You will notice that one money site can get only one link from the cluster of your PBNs on the same shared hosting account. That’s a huge restriction and there is no way around it.
Don’t link out twice to the same money site from the same shared IP hosting account.
Once you do that Google will net your PBN in their algorithm check and zig-zag its way to uncover and detect all your PBNs through this one connecting pattern and hole.
This is also one reason why you should never buy links on someone else’s PBNs - but you should be building out your own truly private PBNs.
How to Get more links from your PBN sites
You essentially need to build out your PBN by hosting on different shared hosting accounts on different high quality popular hosting companies.
Remember, the more popular, the more sites on your shared hosting server IP - and the more your sites can hide.
So, when you setup a new hosting account and start adding your PBN sites to it, you can then link out to your money site keeping the above condition in mind.
Essentially, since this is on a new IP and hosting company – so you can now backlink to each of your money sites once from this cluster of PBNs hosted on this IP address.
Effectively, what is happening here is that you are getting a chance to build ONE backlink per hosting account having a shared IP address and hosting a cluster of your PBNs. For each additional inbound link that you want for on any single money site, you need to setup a new shared hosting account.
If you have multiple clients and projects running at the same time, you can scale your PBN with minimum hosting resources.
Having more projects means a better ROI as you can really maximize the recurring money you spend on each hosting account monthly! Perfect!
Start slow and build out a set of 3 PBN sites on your first hosting account. Link out from each of these sites once only to each of your money sites. Then setup a new shared hosting account on another hosting company and setup another set of 3 to 4 PBNs on it, then drop links to your 3 money site projects.
Make sure you check how many sites are hosted on that IP address also. If there are very few sites on that shared IP address and if this happens a few times across multiple hosting companies then you are again leaving a footprint behind as the same set of money sites are getting the links from the same set of sites on the same IP.
It’s a case of a single IP linking out to the same set of 3 money sites over and over again. This is a small footprint and you may not need to worry about it in most cases. Just overcome it by checking the popularity of the IP address you get assigned when you setup a hosting account. You can do this as I have shown below.
Also, don’t link out to more than 2 different money sites from same website, even if the 2 different money sites are on the same IP address.
If you are going to use one PBN site to power up more than one money site, just make sure you don’t keep using the same pair of money sites on each of your PBN sites – you need to mix up things and at times use just one link etc.
Also, it goes without saying that you need to make sure you use proper anchor text ratios when linking out from your PBN sites to your money site. This is a fundamental of SEO backlink strategy and if you need help on this topic make sure to read my Anchor Text Optimization Guide - how the SEO pros do it.
One wonderful advantage of setting up your PBNs this way is that you can add expired domain websites into each hosting account that each belong to a different niche.
So, you will end up having say 5 websites all in different niches on each of the single hosting accounts, and each of them will natural link out and power up unique money sites in their own niche.
Google cannot see your hosting account information on your hosting company, but you should never use a Gmail address to register your account as then they could potential snoop if they got desperate as you get bigger and powerful!
Accessing Your CPanel
When you setup your hosting accounts with each of these sites, you will get login information to your main account administration page where you can submit support tickets etc. and talk to hosting support.
You will also get hosting account information to the first PBN site that you associate with that hosting account. This information may look something like this and will contain all the information you need to access the Cpanel of your hosting account.
With this information you can access your CPanel account for controlling your domains and start setting up your first website and then future sites can be “added on” easily into this Cpanel as you are ready to include more sites.
The information will also contain your DNS information that you need to insert into your registrar where you booked the domain name.
Since shared hosting uses the hosting companies SOA record (email address) you don’t need to worry about a common SOA record – since it will be common for all sites on this IP address.
You can control all the hosting account from your single Cpanel login interface.
All the email address, all the WordPress installs (if they allow one click wp installs using web tools like fantastico or softaculous).
I will get into setting up your WordPress website etc. shortly but for now also remember that you need to be tracking your hosting information in spreadsheets so that things are all organized for you.
You can download PBN management spreadsheets here that I use for my tracking, and you may see it in the appropriate folders of the course.
Finding Good Web Hosting Companies
I only recommend you sign up with the top hosting companies online. Also, make sure you don’t sign up for any hosting company that does not have an English interface.
Also, you need to make sure that you sign up for a “shared hosting” account where you can store multiple accounts and also make sure you get CPanel Access – which is basically a web admin area for you to add/delete your website accounts and add email addresses and in many cases install WordPress or any other content management system you want to use for your website.
Remember you are looking for Shared Hosting that allows you to install multiple sites on the same account.
It will cost you anywhere from around $6 to $10 per month for a shared hosting account on a popular web hosting company. If you pre-pay for the full year then you can get it cheaper. You will have to decide if you want to prepay or not – based on your funds availability and your plan which is related to the number of projects, niches and the size of your PBN.
You may also want to download the cool Chrome extension called “honey” as it will immediately show you any discount coupons or sales going on at the hosting company site. Alternately, you can look up sites like retailmenot and other coupon sites.
It is always good practice to start with a handful of projects and then create that many niche websites on each hosting account so you get one backlink at the minimum from every hosting account and then you can keep adding in more hosting accounts.
You can find the top hosting providers from many places online, by simply Googling “top hosting providers in the world” (duh!) or a specific region if that’s what you are looking for. A good place to start is at whdb.com
Top Hosts by Market Share
Some Web hosting companies I recommend (and that are premium hosting companies) ..
- WebHosting Buzz
- Media Temple
- Just Host
- InMotion Hosting
- Eleven 2
- Dream Host
- A2 Hosting
Should you use Dollar1 Hosting Companies for your PBN?
Dollar1 hosting companies are a popular breed of hosting companies that offer shared hosting for a recurring fee of one dollar every month.
I’ve seen many people who recommend Dollar1 hosting companies because they are cheap and you and maximize your ROI.
Never Do this!
Do NOT use 1Dollar hosting cheap hosts!!
Majority of the sites they store are cheap low quality sites and many are PBNs and this is the first place Google Spam Filters look!!!
The IP ownership information is a public database and anyone can see which hosting companies have which IP addresses.
Google looks at the cheap hosts as a starting point as it knows many SEOs try and host their PBNs on them.
Majority of the sites on the shared IP addresses that they give you for your hosting will be deindexed. That’s a huge footprint and a warning!
Here's how to check the Health of a shared IP
You will be shocked to see the high percentage rate at which sites on a dollar one hosting IPs are de-indexed!
You are basically looking for the percentage rate at which websites have been de-indexed by Google on a shared IP of a cheap hosting company. If the de-indexing rate is very high (anything above 10% to 15%) - the IP is TOXIC and you should never be hosting anything on it! I've seen de-indexed rates of over 60% on these cheap hosts - which means if there are 100 sites hosted on the IP, 60 of them have been de-indexed!
Fortunately, with a little bit of magic, finding his is pretty easy...
Simply take the IP address the One Dollar Hosting company has given you for your website and enter it into a "reverse IP lookup tool" to find all the other domains hosted on the same IP.
Once you have a list of all the domains these tools spit out at you - you then, take that entire list of domains you find on this particular IP address, and use Scrapebox or a manual checking method (arrgh!) to see how many of them have been deindexed by Google!
Scrapebox has a module to check in batches which sites have been de-indexed. The manual way to check would be to simply enter this in Google search ...
A Cautionary Note About Cloud Hosting Providers
You don’t need to go for hosting from companies that do not provide shared hosting services such as Vultr, DigitalOcean and Cloudways (which basically piggy backs on Amazon and other Cloud Hosting providers).
These are tedious and expensive to setup and although you can get a unique IP address for each site and you could technically “hide” in the cloud of “dedicated IPs” – it does not work in your best interest for a PBN as it is also expensive.
Also, another tip - never use any SEO hosting company (like SEO hosting) because Google has access to the IP addresses they have been assigned and these hosting companies have been a sitting target for a large number of PBN de-indexations in the past.
What’s all the fuss about leaving footprints via SOA Records?
There was much talk about how anyone including Google could easily read your common SOA records when you setup a VPS hosting account with dedicated IP shared by your multiple websites.
However, this is a non-issue now and you don’t need to worry about the details as with the shared IP hosting system, since the SOA record is controlled by the hosting company and its common across all the sites hosted on that IP address – and not just common for your account only.So, there is no way Google can detect you via the SOA record footprint as long as your sites are on a shared IP hosting account and not on a VPS account.
Setting up Your PBN Site
In this section I will talk about setting up your websites and your PBN on the hosting accounts that you setup. You need to take a lot of precautions again, as there are a ton of footprints that you could leave behind for Google if you don’t do this right.
It’s perfectly OK to be extra paranoid in this case.I suggest that you stick to only one CMS which is WordPress in this case for all your PBNs and that does not really leave any footprint for Google as over 35% of sites across the world use WordPress.
Were you to use a small unpopular CMS – then that could be a potential footprint. But using WordPress is perfectly fine (as long as you don’t leave any other footprint).
Your PBN site can be built up to look like an information / magazine type blog or it can be a company site.
You can use premium themes in WordPress for both these types of sites.
Resurrected vs Repurposed Sites
There are a couple of ways to build your PBN site and its content, and choosing which option you go with depends on a few factors.
You need to ask yourself …
- How many links you would eventually use to power your money sites from the site?
- Is the entire sites old content available in Internet Archive for you to crawl?
- How big is the old site?
- Will there be too may 404 to 301 redirects? (we will come to this in a bit)
Resurrected PBN site
A resurrected site is one that is an exact replica of the older site. You simply take the content from the old site and reconstruct your site exactly as it was using the same folder, file structure and content structure in plain HTML format.
Once your site is resurrected you simply slip in your links to your money site in the footer, or in the main site content on the homepage for maximum power. However, if by looking at the Ahrefs or Majestic backlink data of the site, you find that there is a specific inner page that is linked to a lot and has a lot of link juice flowing into it – then you definitely want to slip in a link on that page too.
In addition to doing this you may also want to do some OBL link pillowing.
This means that you link out to many other sites in the same niche – be they authority sites or local niche sites or industrial sites. This will hide your own links to your PBN site, so the Google PBN detection crawler cannot single out your site amongst the added noise or "pillowing".
Repurposed PBN site
A repurposed PBN site is a fresh site with absolutely no content that is common to the old version of the site. Nothing gets copied forward.
The topic and niche of the content of course must remain the same. You may change the niche, but then you will not get topical trust of the backlinks to the PBN domain. Changing the topic may raise some flags and dilute the power of your PBN site as its inbound links are from one niche, and they point inwards to another niche and outwards again from your PBN to another niche.
The ideal and more effective way to repurpose (or freshly build your site) is by using WordPress.
Once your site is up, add content on the same topic and definitely don’t make it a generic PBN unless that was your plan initially and you are building a general PBN site with multiple categories.
Setting up your PBN on WordPress
Fortunately, for us this is not rocket science!
WordPress can be installed from the CPanel interface or via FTP. The choice is yours and there is no footprint left behind either way.
While doing the install make sure you choose not to have the site indexed by any of the crawlers because you don’t want your site information do be indexed just yet. You need to make sure to turn uncheck this option once your site is setup (plugins configured, theme done, content done etc) and you are ready.
As an added precaution you can create an under construction page using a plugin in wordpress, or you can protect the root folder using .htaccess directory protection from within the CPanel interface for that site.
Make sure the email address you use as the admin while installing the site is not Gmail.
Choosing a WordPress Theme
Your PBN site can be sculpted and designed to look like a company/corporate site, a personal blog site or a magazine info site.Depending on which type of site you build you will need to ensure certain content and design elements.
You can use premium themes in WordPress for both these types of sites.If you want to build out some sort of business or association website that is static, then you need to create “pages”.
If you want to give the impression of your site being a blog or a magazine site then you need to be adding content as “posts”. Make sure you use a variety of themes across your PBN. There are countless free and premium themes you can choose from. Just make sure to install popular themes that are updated frequently and not outdated.
Preferably, if you can find a theme around your niche, or if you can quickly tailor the theme you choose with colors and elements around your niche – then it makes things look a lot more genuine when a manual reviewer comes along.
Installing a premium theme and making your site look high quality will ensure it passes a manual review (if it does happen at all in the first place).
A Company Site
While building our a corporate or company site that has mostly static content you should ensure you have all these elements at the very minimum.
- Header Banner Area for you main message / proposition
- A Call to action (Insert a button that links to the contact us page or a sign up form)
- You need to have a section on the homepage with small content units .. Our services, Who We are, What we do, etc.
- Insert some photographs of people.
- Maybe embed a Video from the niche somewhere and say how that video is relevant to the site / user.
- List of clients and their logos and/or Testimonials unit / slider
- You may mix things up with a download ebook / optin boxes etc.
- If you link out from the homepage, try not to exceed more than 5 or so links.
Make sure all the company sites in your PBNs are different and look unique. The last thing you want is the same theme and similar looking sites with same layout and content. Thats a massive footprint!
Personal Blog Site
Your PBN site can also be a personal blog site or a blog site run by a couple of people.I would suggest a few blog posts only and that you drip them out (there is an option in wordpress where you can define the date to make the post come alive). If you don’t have the content you may add it in later, but you will need around 4 to 5 new pages / posts of content initially when you setup the site.
In addition to the dynamic content that you add to the PBN slowly (And there is no need really to add more than 5 to 10 articles) – you need the following static pages.
Your PBN site may or may not have full content on homepage for each post, and keep the excerpts turned off or on. This is a personal choice and you can mix things up. I believe having a sticky post on the homepage with a backlink to your money site could pass a lot more power.
Design the blog to look like a real blog!
Have a sidebar with all the standard widgets like - sign up to my newsletter, recent posts, recent comments, categories, sidebar image ads, etc.
Every blog site should have the following elements - Social Buttons and Social profiles, Optin boxes, An Author box or an About Us unit, A Call to action or Subscribe to Newsletter.
Keep switching things around in each blog to keep everything random across your PBN sites.Your site should always look like it’s a work in progress, and I prefer to make my sites look a bit amateurish as though a non-professional built it.
Basically your sites must look real and must have purpose to its existence. If not, it may not look real and may fail a manual review by the Google spam check team. Just do a quick SEO audit of the sites and make sure most factors are in place.
The sites should be mini-sites that look real. Google "revenge of the mini net" to get some tips.
Make sure that your author bio or about author box at the bottom of each blog post or in the sidebar widgets have a photo of a real person, doing something associated with the niche. So, don't just stick a photo of any random person.
If its a plumber .. show a plumber doing some plumbing or posing with some tools etc. If a pool cleaner, then someone in a pool cleaning outfit!
Make sure you have a small blurb about the person. And write a few sentences that talks like the person is real and what a real person in this niche would say about themselves in a few sentences. This is important!
The intention here is to look real to a human who tries to review your site for spam!
Magazine or News Sites
Visit some of the top news magazine style sites to see how they look. Observe how their homepages look and try and emulate that without repeating the look and feel across your entire PBN sites.
When you build out a good looking magazine type site your site will display a lot of authority if it looks good. You can curate content from other sites with this kind of approach, but make sure to have some original content as well. Have a great featured big image on the homepage, just like the magazine sites do, and you can have blog posts made by different authors.
Make sure the site has - featured images on the homepage and nice big images in each blog post page, a large number of categories around the niche... around 5 to 10 should be good. It should have social widgets and social profiles as well.
A magazine site (because it involves a lot more setup and maintenance should be built on a PBN domain with a lot more existing power and authority).
It definitely needs a lot more work and more content than a business site or personal blog!
Elements ALL Sites Must Have
Here's a quick list of all elements that ALL PBN websites must absolutely have!
Sign Up Forms
It is a very good idea to also include a web based sign up form somewhere on the homepage – in the sidebar or footer area so it adds to the site looking real.
Photograph (reflecting the Personna if possible)
Adding a photograph of the person behind the site (although fake) is also a good idea. It makes the site look real should you get a manual review check from Google. Make sure you flip the photograph (horizontal mirror) or add some Photoshop effects to it – and so when you google search the image it does not show any duplicates. Although this photo touch up and alteration is not really essential, you may want to do it.
Sidebars & Widgets
Have a sidebar with all the standard widgets like - sign up to my newsletter, recent posts, recent comments, categories etc.
Popups and Overlays
Popups and overlays are very common now, and you should have them. Just mix up the plugins that you use to create these across all your sites and keep the style varying.
Social Networks and Profiles
Social Buttons are also very important and need to be there on your PBN. There's a ton of different popular plugins that allow you to quickly embed social buttons into your sites pages.Integrate your social profiles with your blog posts using a tool like IFTTT so that when you drop a new blog post on your site it automatically gets inserted into the timeline of all your connected social profiles.
This is happening a lot online now - so it is not a footprint. Just make sure to use a different combination of social sites on each PBN site and don't keep using the same 3 or 4 social sites.
These are the top profiles you could rotate amongst and integrate around 2 to 4 accounts on each site - Facebook , Twitter , Youtube , Google + (best avoided on most sites), Pinterest , Instagram , Tumblr
Make Sure You have all the other Standard Static Pages
Your onpage content needs to be solid and of high quality. You cannot spin or use low quality writers for this and use garbled unreadable text.
Each of these pages should be at least 400 to 500 words.
Google prefers you have these, specially for company sites - and it’s a good idea to have them to look like a real site. Just don’t copy and paste content from another site as it is or use the output of some of the web based "generator tools" out there.
Here's some other ideas of pages you can have randomly tossed into your sites...
- FAQs (must relate to your industry)
- Events / Coming Soon pages
- Start Here-My friends / My Recommended Sites / Services
- Case Studies which could link to your money sites naturally
- Advertise On My Site - for magazines or blogs.
- Guest Posting / Write for us (for blogs)
- Promote Us... Become an Affiliate (for business sites)
You can insert media embeds - images, gif animations, videos into these pages to make them look more real.
What You DON'T Want To Do...
You don’t want to setup any Google or third party analytics tracking code across all your sites, as it does leave a footprint that is easy to detect. It’s not required as you are not measuring traffic to your PBN sites and you are interested only in the link juice power they pass down.
Try and make the site not look like a PBN site that you see so many times online. All those junk sites you see through services like on Blackhatworld. You want to be doing what other SEOs don’t do.
Finding Your most Powerful Backlinks & Pages
You can look at the current backlinks to your PBN site using a tool like Ahrefs and see which ones are the most powerful in terms of their link juice.
You can also get to see which pages have multiple backlinks coming in to them. If these are some of the inner pages of the site, then its best you try and retain their URL structure to be the same as was in the old site. If you 301 to another page inside the site you will lose a bit of link juice, so try to avoid doing that unless it's absolutely necessary.
Too many 301's to the homepage can now give you something that's called a soft 404 error.
Try and resurrect the original content on these powerful pages using archive.org. If it's not there, then rewrite the content of about 1000 words on the same topic as the backlinks on the pages linking in to this page on your PBN site. Make sure to write and optimize the content properly and focus more on the content if the links coming into this page are powerful.
The page will rank by itself and this will give you real traffic which is a significant ranking factor today. You will get a lot more link juice passed down to your money site if you do this.
Setting up Your Plugins
Once your site is installed the next steps you need to take are to setup the plugins. It is very important that you understand that you should use as few plugins as possible. Also, you need to rotate the plugins you use across all your PBN sites. Don’t ever use the same set of plugins across all the sites.
The more popular the plugin (or CMS) is – the better (safer) it is for you as it leaves a lesser chance of a footprint.
There are some essential functions that you absolutely need your website to perform and for that you need plugins. There will be multiple plugins available for you to choose from for each of these functions, and you must rotate your choice across your network.
Here’s some functions you need and their associated choices for plugins
- SEO - SEO Yoast, Ultimate SEO
- Redirections (many plugins like Simple 301 Redirect available and can be done within SEO plugins also)
- Bot blocker – Spyder Spanker, or via manual method of htaccess file editing. Sign up to get this free.
- Also use "Link Juice Keeper" plugin to redirect link juice from 404 broken pages to homepage. But, beware as too many of these can cause your site to get a soft 404 error issue.
Here’s why you need to implement the important plugins and functions above…
It’s a good idea to use a SEO plugin to basically structure your site so that it is SEO friendly. This includes having a sitemap, proper permalink structure ( which can be done via wordpress native Permalinks option also), proper title tags etc.
Make sure your WordPress Settings are different across your PBN sites
Make sure that the basic settings inside wordpress are different across your PBN sites. To do this you can access your basic settings inside each wordpress admin area and...
- Vary your timezone, and date format etc. for each site.
- Setup to close comments inx number of days
- Vary the permalink structure (and never use the ? url parameter option)
Linking out to other Authority OBLs
I have briefly mentioned this before. By linking out to other multiple sites from your PBN you create link noise and you hide your money site link amongst other links. Make sure you link out to other sites in the same niche, other authority sites, and other news sites etc.
To find these sites simply google your keyword and see the top sites in your industry. You may use the date range to go back and find sites that were the top sites back in the days your domain was setup initially.You can also Google your keywords + news . This will bring up related news articles from authority sites that you can then link to.Make sure you don’t only link out to authority sites but also to non-popular sites in your niche so you are really masking your money site links.
Site Content Updates
You don’t really need to update your PBN site content too frequently, but do make sure you do update and add some content once in a while… even if once in 3 months. This just makes the site appear a bit more real to Google. If you have an authority magazine site, then you may need to drip in content more frequently.
You can also edit content of the current pages here and there.
But…NEVER ever "edit a link"… specially those pointing to your money sites. That becomes suspect for link manipulation by Google – and it can get your money site in trouble.
Sure, you can take down an entire page and wipe out a full paragraph of content that contains your money site links… but don’t "edit" or change just the link target or the anchor text of the link ever. Its dangerous.
Setting up 301 Redirection
When you 301 a URL it basically tells Google that the original resource page has moved to a new location. When you create a fresh site (repurposed) you are not using the old site anymore or its page / link structure. Therefore a lot of the old URLs / pages will give a 404 error if accessed.
And given that you have links inbound to your domain, which is why you purchased the expired domain in the first place, you need to make sure you tap this inbound link juice so you can use its power by channeling the link juice through linking back out to your money site(s).
How you accomplish this is by simply using a 301 redirection plugin and manually 301 the now invalid 404 page URL to a new page on your site.
Then you simply add a link on that new page to your money site.
You absolutely need to make sure you do this for all the top pages (those with the most inbound links as seen in Ahrefs or Majestic).
Some people believe that its OK to 301 all your old top pages URLs to the homepage and really power up the homepage with a lot of juice and then link to your money site only from the homepage. This is also OK as long as its done in moderation, and you don’t go overboard by 301ing too many inner pages to your homepage, as you can get a soft 404 issue if you overdo it.
I would 301 some to the homepage and some to new inner pages (or blog posts) that I make afresh. The reason I do this is that Google is now detecting excessive 404 to 301 as a huge footprint left behind by PBNs. Again, you want to do what other SEOs don’t do.
You can do this step by using SEO Yoast (or any other popular SEO plugin) that has its own module for the 301ing. You can also use a plugin link Link Juice Keeper. Or you can manually do this via an .htaccess file or from within Cpanel.Just make sure you mix up the methods or plugins you use across your PBN so you don’t leave a somewhat common footprint while deploying this trick.
Blocking Them Bots
You will need to block crawlers from third party sites such as Ahrefs, Majestic, Moz and some of the other automated crawlers.
Why? Because this basically stops them from crawling your site and adding it to their index of sites that can then be accessed by other SEOs who may be analyzing backlinks to your money site!
Basically by doing this your PBN does not get exposed to your competition when they look at your backlink profile on these third party services.
Of course, you DON’T want to block the Google crawler, as then you wont get any link juice passing down to your money sitesYou can do this by adding the appropriate commands into your .htaccess file or by adding a plugin such as Spyder Spanker and configuring it.
The plugin method may leave a common footprint across all your sites as Google can see that you have Spyder Spanker plugin installed in your wordpress. I agree that one plugin may not be that big a deal, but what if you have 3 common plugins across all your sites? That eventually becomes a bigger footprint.
Which is exactly why I like to mix things up as much as possible when it comes to plugins, content, themes, site structure etc.
Adding Content to Your Site
Its a good rule of thumb to update content on the site and add around one new article per month. If the site has a lot more authority, then maybe 2 articles per month. Don't go about adding around 500 words each time. try and vary the length of the posts..sometimes 700 sometimes 1000 and at times maybe a small blurb or update of 200 words.
Do not keep adding in filler content for the sake of linking out to your money site. That is a disaster in the making. Add new content and link out to other authority sites in your niche - not just Wikipedia. Embed some good videos once in a while. Write about a news event and link to the inner page of CNN that reported that piece of news.
Tips and Ideas for Getting Content Quickly and Cheaply
Its expensive to maintain a large PBN network in terms of adding in new content. Here are some tips of quick short cut methods you can use that are low cost. You can get a VA to help you out with these.You can use a tool like Buzzsumo to search out popular content in your niche and then sculpt your post using the methods below.
This method has picked up a lot in recent times. Its perfectly fine taking content from another site / post and adding it to your site and then writing a small post of say 200 words about the article. You must link out to the other site via a no-follow link (so no link juice passes through). This happens all the time on blogs, and its accepted practice and you cant get into trouble for doing it.
Embed and Explain an Infographic
You can look for a niche related infographic and embed it and add a few comments of your own on that infographic. Then link out to the original author site. If you like you can transcribe the entire post into text and use that on your site as content.
Transcribe A Video
Take a video and have your VA transcribe it and add some comments about the video, perhaps an opinion that is related to the video. Make sure to link out back to the original video URL.
You can make blog posts that have 5 to 10 images once in a while. Make sure you insert a caption (via wordpress feature in imagegallery) about each image and also a small description. Your images need to be sort of related to your niche, or location specific. If they are original all the better. You can get original images by screen grabbing Youtube full screen videos.
The key here is to make sure your site looks different from other PBN sites. Don’t do stuff that makes your site look like a link farm or a site put up only for the purposes of building links in mass. Those sites will not withstand the test of time and are actually made for the pure purpose of selling blog post links.
Avoiding Footprints by Linking Out to your money site
There are multiple ways that Google can detect your PBN or parts of it and deindex them overnight, thereby making all the sites its catches worthless, and you can't do anything about it.
At the very heart of their system, I believe they have some sort of PBN detection web crawling algorithm.
This has many factors and variables in it, some of which we will discuss below. The algorithm crawls sites and gathers all sorts of information and data about them. Think of each data or variable it checks as a dial that has a value attached to it that it gathers on the crawl (similar to their penguin based algorithm).
Now, if any site site trips (flags off) too many variables or crosses a certain threshold based on the sum of all values at which the dials are currently pointing at – then the site goes into a manual inspection bucket, and a human employed in their team of 12,000+ personnel in Hyderabad (India) visit the site to determine if it’s a PBN or not. Once this happens, you’re most likely going to get caught, unless your onpage factors and site design does not smell and look like a typical PBN – a factor which is entirely up to the manual reviewer to decide. If you have an analytics like statcounter installed in your website – you may notice this visit to your site from Google Bangalore.
At this point you can do nothing really. The manual reviewer goes through their checklist of items and then buckets your site as a PBN or not.
At the same time, all the other potentially related sites connected to this PBN are also detected and pushed for manual verification. They find this my seeing any footprint that is left behind by way of backlinks.
The algorithm zig-zags its way up and down your PBN network through money page backlinks, and then back up to another PBN as shown below.
The only way you can pad this is by doing a lot of (OBL) link padding and linking out to many other sites also from each PBN and not just your money site. That confuses the Google PBN detection crawler as you create noise and it has a lot of data and backlinks that look normal, and hence the rest of your PBN is able to hide from it.
However, if the footprint you left for the initial PBN site or set of PBN sites is common across your entire PBN – then you are going to get detected by the crawler and your sites are going to go into the manual review. There’s nothing you can do about that really.
Leaving a footprint is the worst possible move you can do in this game. There’s a whole set of footprints that you need to ensure that you don’t leave behind. These are all very important.
Leaving any one footprint could prove fatal as that’s enough for Google to send its PBN detection crawler to inspect all your other footprints or do a manual review on your PBN sites.
What is a Footprint?
Put simply, any factor that remains common across your PBN site network – that can be seen publicly and that can be identified and processed by Google or an algorithm.
It could be an onpage factor, a common plugin, some DNS setting, some IP, some text on the page, the hosting account you use, some common backlink pattern etc.
If you leave a footprint, chances are the algorithm will swoop down on all your PBNs eventually. Every footprint has some sort of severity meter attached to it and there are higher risk footprints and lower risk footprints.
The more severe your footprint or the more number of footprints – the more danger your PBN faces to be deindexed.
The Do-Not-Do Footprint Checklist
Here’s a list of things compiled from the notes above, on things you should NOT do and be very careful of.
One wrong move and you could lose your entire PBN
- using the same registrar
- registering all domain on same date
- common email across all domain
- common who is on all domains
- try not to use custom name servers all the time– bad IP neighbourhood
- bad nameserver neighbourhood
- common name servers on multiple sites in PBN
- SOA shows your common email address (when doing shared hosting the hosting company SOA appears)
- Excessive Cloud CDN (cloudflare)
Site Setup Footprints
- Mass redirection via 404 of all pages
- Extreme Bot blocking (may be an issue, not too critical)
- Same plugins on all sites
- Same Theme on all sites
- Using Same Analytics
- Using same Affiliate code (if affiliate sites)
- Similar robots.txt files / blocking same crawlers (use haccess instead as it cannot be read)
- Using same author name on all sites
- Quick 2 minute setup sites with not much work into them
Site Content Footprints
- All posts link to money site
- No outbound links to authority sites
- No internal page linking / cross linking
- All posts have similar number of words (500)
- Content is badly spun or duplicate
- Not having Pages (only having posts)
- Exact number of posts on all sites
- Same images and media on all sites
- Posts on site made on same day
Site Linking Footprints
- Always inserting a link in first post on all sites
- Using same number of links to money site
- Using too many non-relevant sites as compared to the money site
- Linking out to same money site
- Linking between PBN sites
- Using too much of exact match keyword links
So you stuck with me through the entire post. Congrats! I'm impressed 🙂
So, here's some parting advice and things you should never forget while doing SEO.
The world of SEO and PBNs keeps changing. What works today may not work tomorrow... specially when it comes to blackhat SEO. Its also risky. Risky in terms of the time you invest to learn something that may not be applicable in a week. Who knows?
Anyone doing SEO needs to know the theory behind PBNs because these are loopholes that can be exploited to rank. Expired Domains may lose their power, but then Auction Domains or real sites you buy with real traffic wont.
Also, remember - you need to mix your SEO arsenal with PBNs and multiple other methods... just building PBN links won't cut it anymore in many niches (but it does work in a lot). So, mix and match and use your new found powers with care!
I'd love to hear your feedback... feel free to ask questions... over to you...
Here's to Your SEO Victory!