1. Determine your Competition
Before you rush into building a PBN, you need to know how many domains you think you will need. Sure, this is not going to be accurate, but you need a starting point. Finding a good domain is a long process so getting too many when working on a budget is not exactly a reasonable thing to do.
My rough estimator for how many links I need is this:
Low Competition – 10 Domains
Medium Competition – 20 Domains
High Competition – 30 + Domains
This is rough, but this is what I start with. If I have a super easy KW or most easy KWs you do not need ANY PBN links. If you choose to do no other link building you would want to start with around this number. These numbers are high and you will need to test to figure this out yourself. But in my experience, I want more domains that I need just in case.
Although I use rough estimates you can find an easy way to determine how many sites you may need, so I will explain that. Step one is you choose you KW and pull up SERPs for your KW. You then evaluate every domain ranking for your targeted KW. If your KW is ‘Acne’ you want to pull up SERPs and check the top 12 first to see why the domains are ranking.
For the term ‘Acne’ you will find the top ten is filled with mostly Medical sites, Magazines and massive Authority Sites. If you check the back link profile (I checked this term several months ago, so things may have changed) you can see why most terms are ranking. Most pages appear to be ranking based off of a lot of natural links on other high profile websites and massive domain authority plus a lot of social signals. None of these domains look like they would be propped up by a PBN.
You go to page two, then three. What are you looking for? The domain which is ranking highly but does NOT look like it deserves to be in SERPs based on the back link profile. You are essentially trying to sniff out the sites ranking with a PBN.
Then you open up these three link crawlers:
– Moz Open Site Explorer
You then search the back link profile of the domains you think are ranking and double check any potential PBNs. If the person built the PBN right, you will not see any reason why the site is ranking. That is a good indicator that they are using a PBN.
Once you find a site you think is ranking with a PBN, search the internet for sites linking to the domain in Google. Remember, google still indexes the sites in the PBN while crawlers are normally blocked. This will take some work but you should find several dozen links when searching google for the URL. For example, if the site I wanted to check the back link profile of was an inner page of ‘myface.com" I would search google for the URL, or "www.myface.com/Acne-Solutions". I then want to go through the pages linking to the ranking site and see how many PBN sites are linking to this site.
What are some flags that site is a PBN site?
– Crawlers blocked
– Who Is Privacy
– Po Box address used in Who Is
– Archives / Wayback history completely different than current site
– Many Broken Links
– Many 404 redirected links to home page
– Using WP
– No Logo
– Default Free Theme
– No Profile Pictures
– Little Comments (Blocking all crawlers from your site will prevent spam tools from finding the site in many situations)
– No Social Media Accounts
– Cheap Hosting
These are basic foot prints but I could keep typing all day. You just want to look for the obvious and trust your guy when sniffing out networks. A note on Po Boxes as a foot print. For most companies you can find their Po Box address online and you can also do a google search to find the Po Box address of people on public mailing lists. Take the Po Box used to register the domain and search for it in google. The flag is if the details do not match.
This is a very basic explanation on how to sniff out PBNs and if I focused on explaining this I would be here all day. So I will keep this brief. The point is you want to sniff out the site ranking the highest with a PBN, find the domain and their back link profile, and simply ‘one up them’. So if this term has a site ranking with 50 domains, you want 51 better domains linking to your site. It is not as simple as that, but it is where you start.
2. Find your Domains
This is the fun part (No, it is not). You now need domains for your PBN. You have a few notable options including:
– GoDaddy Auctions
– Scrape domains yourself
– Buy unregistered domains off of BHW / SEO Clerks / Fiverr
– Buy registered domains off of BHW / SEO Clerks / Fiverr
– Use a domain broker
Let us go over these options. GoDaddy auctions leaves you exposed to other SEOs knowing the sites in your network, and getting spammed when you register. Plus you will most likely over pay.
Expired Domains.net is a tool commonly used by SEOs to find domains which are dropped. It provides an easy way to sort domains by a variety of metrics including PR, Age, Back Links, etc.
Expired domains.com shows you GoDaddy auction finds. So does some tools or services on BHW. These are viable options to find domains but I do not suggest using it as you are still subject to issues that GoDaddy auctions gives you.
You can also scrape domains yourself. This is what I suggest. You can use a lot of tools to do this. Some sellers use custom soft ware to filter domains which is what you want to eventually shoot for. The most commonly used program is Scrapebox for this task. I personally use Domain Hunter Gatherer. Both are, in my opinion, the best two options to find domains yourself.
Buying registered or unregistered domains off of a site like BHW can be a great or a horrible idea. Some sellers offer crap, others offer amazing domains. I am not here to tell you who to use, but I will explain how to filter domains in the next section.
You can also use a domain or website broker to find PBN domains. This is what you would do if you have a LOT of money to throw at a project. Guys like meathead and SkyrocketSEO sell premium domains / websites if you have the money. Is this the best option? Most likely not, but these are some of the best links you will ever get. I personally do not do this because I do not need domains in the $XXX to $XXXX range to rank my KWs.
Now you know the commonly used ways to find domains. The point is you do it. When you are starting most likely you will either scrape them yourself or buy cheap domains from a seller. I will warn you – you need to review the domains yourself before you buy or register.
A final note on what types of domains you want. Any domain extension (.Com, .Org, Etc) will do. Any niche will do as well, you can either re build or re purpose the domain later.
3. Find your Domains Part II
Part two? Yup. This is too much content for one section, and this needs the most work as this is where people mess up a LOT.
You now have a basic grasp of WHERE to find domains. I will focus on the scraping your own, but any option is a good one mentioned above. It all depends on you. These tips also apply to buying domains found by other people.
The first thing is filtering domains. You need to use Scrapebox, DHG or another program to scrape for domains in your niche. You do not need niche relevant domains. I normally re – brand the best domains I can. But you do need a seed KW to find domains. For most people this means using your niche.
You fire up your program and scrape your domains. DHG allows you to filter domains automatically and it finds the metrics and such for you with no real effort.
All those metrics are JUST filters. Metrics (PA, DA, PR, TF, CF, Ahref Rank, Alexa, Moz Spam Score, etc) are just another tool to filter. You want to use metrics as a guide to determine if a domain has good enough back links to rank your money site.
You should filter domains first by your minimum metrics. I personally use: DA / PA 8 +, TF 15 +, TF to CF Ratio 1.8 or less. You can use ANY metrics you want to filter by. Some people still like PR. Why do I chose the metrics I do? This is because EVERY SEO uses PA / DA 10 + and they skip over a LOT of good domains because Moz updates pages the LEAST out of every metric judge (Aside for PR – Obviously). Most SEOs look for TF 20 + and miss many good domains and are stuck with many bad domains.
Note: When checking metrics and the back link profile check the www. and the non www. version, plus http: and https: versions of both domains. You may find different results for EACH different version.
All metrics are easy to spam. I want TF 15 + and more importantly 15 + with a CF ratio of less than 1.8. This is a good indicator of a non – spammed domain.
Once I use these metrics to filter I use Majestic, and Ahrefs to pull up the back links associated with the domain. This is the second part of filtering a domain. You want to make sure the links causing the metrics to bump up are actual quality links. Most people use Majestic, but I tend to find that Ahrefs has more websites indexed and show more links over all. Moz Open Site explorer tends to show the least.
You also want to check Who Is history and see how quickly the domain changes hands, this can be a sign of a domain being a PBN. Record the details of the last person who owns the domain as well. I will explain shortly.
What do you judge quality by? Links from authority sites, links on high TF / PA pages with low OBL, etc. You want to make sure the links pointing to your potential domain are of quality. You also want the strong links to be contextual links. Contextual links pass more power. This is why the domains sold with links from authority sites are powerful.
At this point, when I am checking all of the metrics and link types I check refering domains. You want many contextual referring domains. A lot of domains will have low referring domains. These domains will NOT rank you well. A single super high TF blog comment can shoot TF up. so you need to make sure the actual referring domains are strong and plentiful. I personally shoot for 15 + for all of my domains.
This is the step most people skip. A domain can be pumped up in terms of PA, DA, TF and CF with some spam or blog comments. This is great for pumping metrics and passing link juice, but two domains with identical TF can have a vastly different back link profile. I see this all the time and I skip a LOT of domains with high TF / PA / DA because the back links are just not strong enough.
4. Find your Domains Part III
I promise, almost done.
Once you filter domains by metric and quality of back link you need to judge spam and anchor text. Why do I filter spam after I filter metrics? Because if I filtered ALL of my domains for spam and anchors that were in the metric criteria I would never get it done.
What I do is check in Majestic for anchor text used. If something looks over optimized I give it a flag. I do not remove it because of the next step. I search google for my site URL to see what links I pull up for the domain and go through them. I check past Who Is and google cache for the domain. I am looking for anything fishy or suspicious. Then I go to archives.org / way back machine to see all of the snap shots of the domain.
What am I looking for?
I am looking mainly for:
1. Chinese Sites
2. Russian Sites
3. Obvious Spam
4. PBN Sites
5. One Page affiliate sites
Essentially any flag that would indicate that the domain could be penalized. These indicators normally mean to me that the domain was spammed or penalized.
I also look for the historical back link profile and snap shots in way back machine for 301 redirects which match up with an increase of links which would indicate a SEO using a 301 to filter spam.
This is a good list to filter the domains and their back link profile far enough to make things work.
This is the most important part of picking your expired domain. Your domain will not index or will most likely have a penalty if you skip this step.
A domain can be pumped up in terms of PA, DA, TF and CF with some spam or blog comments. This is great for pumping metrics and passing link juice, but two domains with identical TF can have a vastly different back link profile. I see this all the time and I skip a LOT of domains with high TF / PA / DA because the back links are just not strong enough.
5. Registering your domains
This is the part where you actually spend money. DHG or Scrapebox are an investment you need to make to play the game if you use the self scraping option, and you need time to go through things. Now you pony up money.
Registering domains can be expensive. If you are tight on money you can use coupons from most hosts once per account. GoDaddy has 0.99 domain coupons for one domain per account. If you need to save some pennies you can create new accounts for every domain. Yes, you can use the same paypal account for each account. You also get discounts when you register new products over a 75 on GoDaddy.
On average each domain will cost about $10.
What I suggest and now do (It costs more but it works) is to spread your domains evenly through out the common registrars:
Think logically here, most websites are registered by GoDaddy, so have half your domains with GoDaddy makes sense. Try not to over think this step.
Now, the question everyone has is what details do you put on each domain.
You can take the easy way out and use Who Is Protection for every domain. The problem is this is a foot print. Some suggest using a Po Box address. Luckily for me I know several people who actually own a Po Box so what I do is simple. I ask the people I know if I can use there contact information for a domain. I have several dozen real Po Box addresses for multiple domains. You can fake Po Box details if you want but again, having most of your domains with Po box addresses is suspicious.
Remember when I mentioned how to sniff out fake Po Box addresses? I am not that smart. If I do that, so do other people. You can also go to USPS.com and plug in the Po Box address and the name to register the Po Box to your USPS account to pay online. Anyone can do that. The magic is when the name is not associated with the Po Box, the USPS.com system will not let you associate the account. This is a sure fire way to know if the details of the Po Box are made up. Again, if I can do it, so can many smarter than me.
What I do is I use real information. I make up a name of a person and then google search for that persons name. I find the previous address they lived at and use that name and address for my domain. You also need to worry about SOA email when registering a domain. When I use a fake persona I also register an email address on a paid email account which matches the persons name. So if my persons name is Bill Huntslet I register the email
Remember when I told you to write down the last owner of the site in Who Is? A tip is to use the name of the last person who registered the domain as your new contact details. That way it looks like the previous owner decided to re start the website.
It is easy to do and makes things easier to monitor.
Most registrars allow you to register a domain in your account and use different Who Is details, so that is where I add the new email addresses and physical addresses.
Just a note, keep track of these email addresses. Sometimes the domains will get an email from Icann to check in to see if you are a real person (I just got one myself) so you do need to check these emails from time to time.
A final note, you do want your account holder name to be your real name to prevent getting locked out from your domains down the line. This is why fake details as the account holder is a bad idea. It is easier and safer to just add new Who Is details when you register a new domain and if questioned, you can state it is a clients website.
6. Time to get down to Hosting
First thing first, some links:
Note: No links I post are Affiliate links – I promise.
When picking a host, most people go for CHEAP. This is a fine strategy if you want to be burned with down time and hosts vanishing (It does happen) or re – sellers of hosting (It happens ALL the time). In fact, I tend to find several of the low and mid priced hosts tend to just be hooking your site to an existing reseller account they have. The problem with this is your are limited in IP diversity and create a foot print. You can buy two different hosting plans from two different people when buying cheap hosting, so be careful.
Now, onto my suggestions. A lot of people swear by Web Hosting Talk, and Dollar SEO Hosting. Web Hosting talk is great, as you can get different a real hosting providers. I suggest you read ALL of the reviews to make sure none are duplicates being re sold.
Dollar SEO hosting is good as well. What I suggest is you use the different A – Class IP options. It costs $3 per site and you get the most security by the A – Class IPs being different.
Link number three is Small Orange Hosting. This is one of the only host I will name specifically because I LOVE them as a SEO host. They provide unlimited sites. I do NOT suggest that. I do suggest picking up a $5 dollar account because I have never had down time with them and they have great support.
I do advocate using mid range and high range hosting options. Power Up Hosting, GoDaddy, HostGator, etc. The reason for this is they are the larger and more common hosts normal people use, and I want to blend in. When you use only SEO hosting providers you are putting your PBN site with a bunch of other PBN sites, which is a disaster waiting to happen.
I did the whole A – Class IP from Dollar SEO Hosting and Web Hosting talk to host my sites but that is a LOT of work for large networks. What I dabbled in were the managed systems such as Paz Hosting and Easy Blog Networks.
These services have a lot of positives and I use a couple to this day. Is it as safe as the mid range options? No. Not close. You still run the risk of putting your site with several other PBN domains.
Some people suggest CNS manipulators for make sure the IP is unique. Me? I suggest just using different hosting to prevent the head ache all together.
7. Setting up your PBN Site
You now have some hosts, a bunch of domains registered and are at the part of setting up your website.
Every one has the Go – To of WordPress. Most of my sites are using the WordPress CMS. When I also do is use one of the many extraction services that allow for taking the HTML and either re – uploading it back into a host or turning it into a WordPress file.
I also want to ensure that I use a variety of different CMS options and use some HTML as well. I want to diversify things as much as possible and randomly.
A note before I get started, do not use Chrome to sign into your PBN domains. I am extra cautions and use TOR or Firefox with the plug in Zapyo to change my IP Address. Sure, google may not track this, but I am just cautious.
I will focus on WordPress since most people will use WP and it is easy to use.
You install your CMS onto your host and you are at the point to put in work.
The obvious stuff first, make sure you remove the ‘Hello World’ post WordPress automatically has. You also need to make sure WP is set to the stronger version, if better back links are pointing tothen you want to make sure the domain is set to www. This can be edited under the ‘General Setting’ in WP.
As everyone says, you want to make your site look as real as possible. This means a custom / premium theme, remove footer links, add a logo, add a profile picture, etc. Make the site into a real website. I also set the author details to that of the person listed on the Who Is details. This means if ‘Billy Hoggie’ is the person on my Who Is details, the person who is the admin of the website is also ‘Billy Hoggie’. This is a bit anal but this makes things more secure in my opinion.
Some things I do differently is I also change default premium theme colors and make sure to modify most theme settings. Most themes will have defaults such as the use of ‘read more’ on the home page, an announcement bar, etc. You want to change all of the defaults to make the site user friendly. If your theme is not mobile friendly, add one of the many WP Mobile plug ins. Most premium themes also allow you to remove footer links, so I advise you do that as well.
I will not write a default ‘use these plug ins’ because that gives foot prints. You want to randomize things completely. You do want to make sure you use Spyder Ranker Plug In or block bots via .htaccess. Spyder Ranker modifies the .htaccess file for you so it does not leave a foot print like most other plug ins do, so it is a good bet. If you use .htaccess and Robots.txt, you can find a list of what to block on BHW with a simple search (That is how I got the list I use).
You also want to add an about us and contact page to each PBN site. I also take it a step farther and add a mission statement page, ‘staff index’ where I list who writes on the blog / website or works for the website, FAQ, and other such pages. Again, make it as real as possible. I also set up social media accounts and use one of many social media plug ins so users can click to share or like my page / site. This looks more natural.
Now you are at the point of posting content. You want to make sure the content is unique, readable and formatted correctly. Plus, add images and video to at least some posts. Again, make the site look real.
Most people will use the generic default posting style and not use a static home page. Due to this I suggest this plug in:
That plug in is the easiest sticky post plug in I have seen. When you are posting content, the right side of the screen below the category and tag boxes a box will appear to allow you to select if the post is a sticky post. This allows you to control what posts are on the home page.
Before I add any links I want several articles on the domain. I shoot for at least 10 posts before I add any links.
A tip on making the WP sites NOT look like WP sites is to use a little plug in called Hide my WP. The link is here:
I am a huge fan of this Plug In. It allows for security unlike any other plug in and it changes the WP – Admin file (Which prevents hacking) and changes standard WP give always such as how URLs are formatted. It is a brilliant tool that I get a lot of use of. I suggest you pick up a copy and use it on some of your sites. Not all, again, it can be a foot print.
This plug in works EXTREMELY well when using a Premium theme which can be vastly customized. You can buy one versatile theme and then add this plug in, which makes it look like all of your PBN domains are HTML sites that are all unique from each other. This protects your site from many common methods used to sniff out a PBN.
A final note for this section, remember all of the foot prints I mentioned I use to sniff out PBNs? Make sure you cover all of them. You do not want me to find your network (Or anyone who reads this), do you?
Note: I had to add this while editing, make SURE you save back ups of your PBN domains and also do NOT use free themes or downloads. All keep ALL plug ins up to date. WP can be easy to hack and it is NOT worth the risk with exposing vulnerabilities by not having everything up to date and using freebies which are not updated.
8. Content, site focus and linking out
Content and site focus go hand and hand and are always over looked. Most PBNs are general blogs. That is great and all but does not make sense most of the time. Most sites are about one thing. Imagine if someone bought BHW to make a PBN on. The niche they are targeting is ‘Soap’. They turn BHW into a general blog and post about ‘Soap’ along with other sites such as a home improvement site which belongs to a client. Does this look suspicious? Yes. A general blog with the name ‘Black Hat World’ which used to be about SEO is now a little girls blog who discusses soap?
That does not make sense. So what I do is I decide if I am going to re – brand the domain to fit my niche or re – create the site. When I re – create the site I set up a site in the same niche the site was previously in. When I re – brand I create a site in my niche that I plan on targeting primarily.
Remember the foot print of the domain suddenly being about something vastly different than it was before? This is a good point to remember that when deciding to re – brand the domain or re – create it. Also, you may want to keep in mind the tip of using the last owners details on the Who Is record.
What I do next is what makes me a special snow flake. I write an article which fits within the sites theme. For example, if the PBN domain was about automobiles and I have a money site about paint, I start by re – creating the car site and I then add a post which is about automobile paint.
Another example is if I have a money site about animal crackers and I have a PBN about education. I add a post about animal crackers as an educational tool to encourage children.
If you are missing the point still, this means that I force the content to fit into the niche of my PBN and also be relevant to my money site.
The content itself should be engaging and high quality. I also make sure it is about the same length as other posts. In my opinion, if every article is spun garbage and your article with a link is a 3,000 word post which is perfectly written your PBN looks suspicious.
9. Record Keeping and Blog Management (Plus final thoughts)
Finally, the boring part!
When paying for all of your hosts, registering your domains, and handling your PBN like a BOSS you will run into some problems. How to fix them? Keep records. Keep the records the best you can.
What I do is:
1. Write down the passwords, user names, registrars, hosting account and all important details in a note book and put that note book in a safe.
2. Have an excel sheet with all the registration dates and payment dates.
3. Have a white board with reminders for upcoming payment dates.
I need to make sure I ALWAYS have enough money to pay any fee which comes up. Record keeping will make or break you in this portion of managing a PBN.
I also keep back ups in an extrernal drive of all of my PBN sites and disconnect the drive from my computer except when I am making another back up of the site.
This section does sound anal. It is. But you will have cheap hosts go down. On that note, check your sites in a TOR browser at least once a week and check the uptime for the site. If the site is down a lot, switch hosts. It is not worth it to be constantly worried about your sites going down.
Some general tips on mangement are:
1. Have random posting dates.
2. Use Different author tones per blog (I vs We, Blog style, informational style, etc).
3. Use non – google fonts if possible.
4. Link out to other blogs or websites in your niche who are not direct competition (Everyone links out to authority sites randomly, this is a foot print).
5. Randomly do site ‘relaunching’ where you announce in a post you will be switching servers, changing theme, etc.
6. Monitize your PBN domains randomly (LLCs with Adsense, CPA, Amazon Associates, Click Bank, etc. Real sites monitize).
7. Allow for Guest Posts (Yup, I have a Guest Post section on several sites. In exchange for a link I take a piece of expertly written content – saves me time and money).
8. Allow some user comments or make your own.
9. Be some what active on your PBN sites social media – I update them randomly with new post links which helps them index.
These are all basic management tips to make your site look real. I can’t say that enough, make the site look real. Some commonly skipped ways to make your site look real are:
1. Website Icon (Like BHW has the little black circle, Fiverr has the green circle with an F – these things appear in the open tab on your browser. Real sites have these).
2. An Active Forum (Some sites have active forums)
3. Sponsor / Partner Pages or links in footer
4. Social Sharing Icons
5. More than one writer (At least more than one name posting content)
6. Build some high quality links…
Time to expound on number six, as the last real bit of information I will give in this thread. You want to actively increase the strength of your PBN. Random Guest Posts, Web 2.0s built, and high quality contextual links are all a good idea. Social Bookmarks to force the new posts to get indexed are also a good idea.
I also make sure I randomly do mis quality Press Releases to the PBN domains. Again, this is to mimic it being a real site. 99% of people do not do this. They never do a PR to a PBN domain. Why? It can be costly and is a huge pain in the butt. But, it does help make the domain stronger and keep your site looking real.
That is all. I believe I covered all of the basic to setting up your own PBN. I also included many of my personal tips and tricks so this should teach most people something. If I missed soemthing, feel free to ask.