What you are about to learn is the result of a long road of testing. Testing that ultimately allowed me to fully understand a fundamental component of backlinking, and in particular, ways to make PBN links much more powerful than ever before.
Let’s assume you know the basics of how to build a PBN.
You know the proper place to acquire your domains and how to set them up accordingly. You know where to host your PBNs. You know how to test each site before adding a potentially poisonous domain to your network.
These are the fundamentals that should be fully understood before you can expect to leverage the knowledge you’re about to learn in this article. Assuming that you have a firm grasp on the essentials of PBNs, let’s move forward.
We’re about to take your PBN game to the next level.
The concept I’m about to show you is fairly simple in theory, but if it can be implemented in an intelligent way on your sites, you’ll be able to rank much more consistently and with less domains.
It All Started with a Theory
In 2015, I started to have a theory about backlink power. PBN power in particular.
That theory is…
A PBNs ability to rank other sites is completely dependent on its own ability to rank.
Or in other words, healthy domains that have a good chance to rank on their own are the domains that you should use for your links.
This theory might seem simple to you, but if you think about this a bit more, you’ll start noticing evidence of this everywhere.
1. Clean Backlinks and Natural Anchor Text
One of the main criteria we use when considering a domain for purchase as a PBN is its backlink profile.
A potential PBN-candidate passes this test if it has a powerful backlink profile coming from authoritative sites, with a naturally diverse anchor text distribution.
Non-coincidentally, this is the same criteria you want for your money sites. And let’s not forget that SEO’s still use expired and auctioned domains as money sites.
On the other hand, a site with a spammy backlink profile and non-realistic anchors will never rank on its own, and certainly should not be used as a PBN.
2. Social Proof for PBNs
It’s common practice to surround your money site with a social fortress of commonly used social websites. For example, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Tumblr, etc. This practice serves to supply social proof to the money site, while potentially adding some authority in the meantime.
In the last year people have also started creating social profiles for their PBNs. Semantic Mastery’s IFTTT SEO Academy teaches this in particular (learn more). As such, people are reporting less de-indexes and higher rank-ability from their networks.
3. Pretty Sites Rank Better
We’ve known this for years. PBNs that have plenty of rich media (videos, images, etc.) will outperform purely textual sites.
It’s no coincidence that every how-to-make-a-PBN guide suggests that you periodically embed YouTube videos in your posts.
4. Changing Hosting Temporarily Kills Link Juice
This one might not be so obvious to you especially if you’ve never experienced it. Have you ever changed hosts on a money site and noticed that sometimes you temporarily drop in rankings for a few weeks?
Something similar happens to PBNs. In 2015 I completely migrated my entire network to premium hosting. Best move I’ve ever made, by the way. During that time, there was a solid month where most of my sites were delivering poor link juice. I’d keep adding links and there would be no movement in the SERPs.
This is just another example of how link juice delivery behaves similar to rank-ability. I can think of dozens of more examples and I’m sure you can too, but let’s move on and see how this knowledge can be used for SEO.
Case Study: Wayback Installations vs WordPress Rebuilds
Armed with my theory, I thought I’d run a quick test to answer an open question that the SEO community has long needed an answer for.
If you’re not already familiar, Wayback installations are an alternative way of setting up PBNs. Instead of installing WordPress, creating original content, and theming a site to your niche, you instead take an old snapshot of the original site from Archive.org’s Wayback Machine and install an HTML version of it. This can be performed with tools like the Wayback Machine Downloader.
Wayback installations are very convenient. They’re quick to setup, require no content to be generated, and theoretically have a less chance of deindex since it’s the original site that is being installed. From an ROI perspective, Wayback’s are awesome.
On the other hand, you typically end up with very thin sites with only a few pages of content. It’s also very common for tons of links and image-calls to be broken.
From my theory’s perspective, WordPress installations should outperform Waybacks. They’re more fully built-out and shouldn’t contain 404 errors or blank images.
I took 50 WordPress PBNs and tested them against 50 Wayback PBNs, all with similar metrics. To make things fair, sites in the Wayback test group were setup with the best Wayback Downloader installations out of the 100 testcases. These installations had the largest number of working pages and non-broken images.
These 100 PBNs were then independently linked to 3rd party test sites and monitored over 6 weeks. The testing technique I used is same that I use before adding PBN’s to my network.
WordPress slayed Wayback in every category.
Average Ranking Increase
Winner = WordPress
You can expect an almost 2x better result with WordPress PBNs.
Number of Sites That Caused a Ranking Increase or Decrease
Winner = WordPress
The chances that your PBN does what you want is much higher.
Average Crawl Time after Placing Links
Winner = WordPress
Your links will be picked up by Google significantly faster.
If you’re reading this and you’re someone who uses Wayback’s, you shouldn’t abandon them straight away. There’s obviously an ROI balance that needs to be considered. But if you’re one of the types that wants quality over quantity, then stick to WordPress for the majority and mix it up now and then.
These results might be incredibly helpful for you and I’m very grateful that I could assist you… but that wasn’t even the big reveal of the article!
Read on, my friend…
The Next Generation of Blackhat SEO: PBN’s that Rank
Yep, I said it. You want to rank your PBNs.
The next level of PBNs involves sites that rank naturally in the SERPs and actually draw traffic.
I’m not talking about fake traffic. What I’m referring to is real, natural traffic flowing to your PBNs.
There’s been a lot of conversations lately in high-level SEO circles about the increase of “traffic” as a ranking signal. I’m sure you’ve seen sites with absolutely terrible SEO sitting in the top 3. Why? Because traffic they’re generating is keeping them there.
Going back to the theory that sites which have ranking signals can provide more link juice, let’s imagine what would happen if your PBNs ranked and had traffic themselves.
- Well first off, your links are justified. People are actually reading the sites that are providing your juice, so the ranking increase makes sense.
- If you have links coming from sites that are receiving traffic and some of that traffic actually clicks those links, this is where turbo-power link juice comes from.
- Your referring domains are now ranked. I think we can all agree that links from sites that are already ranked in your niche is significantly stronger than links coming from completely unranked sites.
- Lastly, let’s not forget this nice bonus, some of your traffic is bound to convert once it gets to your money site.
Q: That’s super cool and all, but if my PBNs rank and people see them, then they might report me!
A: Dude, stop doing 2012 SEO. Your PBNs should look beautiful anyways. You should already be building PBNs with the primary aim of passing manual reviews.
Besides, the people clicking on search results are the general public. To them, it’s a normal site.
In summary, getting traffic to PBNs will not only justify your backlinks, but it will boost their power as well.
Let’s see how it’s done.
How to Create a Traffic Delivery Network
Instead of thinking about your network as a set of sites whose sole purpose is to deliver link juice, start to shift your paradigm into creating a traffic delivery network.
Ranking an expired/auction domain is much easier than you might think. Remember, these are aged domains with tons of power and authoritative backlinks. Just a couple of years ago it was en vogue to use expired domains for all money sites.
These sites already have link juice flowing to them. We just need to optimize it by creating complete sites that can utilize that link juice properly.
1. Longtail targeting
Remember, we don’t need a ton of traffic to these sites. We’re not trying to rank for big ticket keywords.
So instead of writing articles with titles like “What is Garcinia Cambogia?”, instead make them something like “Can Garcinia Cambogia Help You Lose Baby Fat in Three Weeks?”. If you write enough posts going after longtail, eventually you’re going to rank for something and draw in traffic.
2. Elite onsite SEO
This is probably the most challenging part of the process.
- Structure the theme of the article to target your longtail topic and make sure that it’s placed into your critical onsite SEO spots: URL, Title Tag, H1, etc.
- Use niche-specific target keyword densities, structural markup, and silo when needed.
- Add schema and review stars.
- Create relevance through interlinking
- Utilize outbound authority links
- And don’t forget fresh content
It’s completely worth it to train your staff on the basics of onsite SEO.
3. Setup IFTTT syndication
As discussed above, setup IFTTT to syndicate your blog content to your social fortress. Every time you create a new post, it should be shared on your Facebook page, tweeted on Twitter, and pinned on Pinterest.
This will create social activity that will help to justify the existence of your newly recreated website.
4. Make your sites look amazing
Set the foundation for an easily rankable site. Install a nice premium theme, add plenty of images and videos, and fill your site with readable content. Instead of ordering the $2 Iwriter articles, get the $5 ones and have an in-house proofreader.
Build your sites with the goal of passing a manual review. If you’re creating your sites with this paradigm in mind, ranking and drawing traffic is a natural side effect.
While this all might sound like a huge undertaking, these are the kind of results you can expect…
I have a real, affiliate money site in the beauty niche that brings in about 1100 visitors per day. This is the same testcase that you might have heard me talking about recently if you follow me on Facebook (case study coming soon).
First, check out the current rankings and massive search volume for this site.
Here’s the crazy part… this site is ranking for these high search volume terms with only 14 PBN links. The network isn’t super powerful. Their metrics average around the range of DA 20-30 and TF >10-20. But all the sites have all been optimized for ranking and you can clearly see that their power speaks for themselves.
Now check out where the referral traffic is coming from…
One TDN Site Generates More Traffic Than a 1000-Fan Facebook page
(Daily Referral Traffic)
About 9.4% of this site’s daily traffic is coming from the referral traffic. Over half of that is coming from the PBN. Not only that, but the number one referral traffic source is one of the PBN sites, which brings in more traffic than a 1000 (real) member Facebook fan page. How about them apples?
And for the finale… the very same traffic, just coming from the #1 PBN to my money site makes me on average 2.1 conversions per day. That’s $96/day. This single PBN is actually performing pre-sales for my money site.
If you want your network to deliver next-level power, treat them like money sites. Get them ranked, and you’ll be part of the next generation of grey hat SEOs.