How to Build a Powerful PBN
How to find high quality, used domains and recover their power and trust
SEOs are nothing if not creative. Though Google frowns on using Private Blog Networks to build links to your Money sites, PBNs still work. Just don’t get caught using them. Instead of wasting hours of your life trying to find high-quality domains for your PBN, automate it. This guide is a lifesaver for helping SEOs quickly find thousands of used domains for sale, easily finding their Power*Trust, and testing their value for your PBN. Read on and learn:
- how to find the strong expired domains
- how to recover the power and trust
- what is the best buying strategy
- what is the best content strategy
Bonus: Plus, I even include my DTOXTUNE™ code so you're only testing the right things. The hard work is practically done for you!
Disclaimer: the methods discussed in here are not white-hat and not recommended if you want to play it safe. Or in other words - you risk a penalty if Google catches you - either manual or algorithmic.
Back in 2014, the most common TLA (Three Letter Acronym) mentioned amongst SEOs was PBN. In 2017 this is still the case.
A PBN is a Private Blog Network that SEOs own to enable them to manipulate Google's algorithm and rank their money sites higher.
The blogs usually link to their money sites in a clever and fairly random way. This practice violates Google's guidelines, as do most SEO strategies, but when the technique is used carefully many people are getting away with it and reaping the benefits. PBNs are nothing new, but owners are now much more careful about how they go about it.
The one thing that has changed in the last ten years or so is the style of the network that works best. In 2006 we were all quite happy to have 1000+ .info sites full of auto-generated spam (usually from Traffic Equalizer), all with anchor text money links pointing to our money sites. Some people even monetized these junk sites with Adsense and Google didn't notice! I know someone who bought a rather nice £500,000 house in Kent, England with just Adsense money.
Today, the style is to use a mixture of powerful domains on different platforms to try and look as natural as possible.
I have analyzed hundreds of link profiles over the years, and I can easily spot these. Even now it does seem that Google is struggling to detect them automatically. So while PBNs are still a viable tactic, everyone is looking for high-quality domain names. Some people even monetized these junk sites with Adsense and Google didn't notice! I know someone who bought a rather nice £500,000 house in Kent, England with just Adsense money. Today, the style is to use a mixture of powerful domains on different platforms to try and look as natural as possible. I have analyzed hundreds of link profiles over the years, and I can easily spot these. Even now it does seem that Google is struggling to detect them automatically.
So while PBNs are still a viable tactic, everyone is looking for high-quality domain names. Since 2014 I have been a member of a rather elite private SEO forum where there is a real emphasis on building your own PBNs. One of the most important things about PBNs is buying aged or expired domain names.
I was surprised how many guys in the forum were happy to buy domain names based on their Moz Domain Authority (DA). In my experience, Moz backlink data tends to be rather out of date and incomplete. The owner of the SEO forum is more focused on the Majestic metrics, Trust Flow and Citation Flow.
My opinion is that you should use as much backlink data as possible when making domain purchases. For this reason, I have devised this method using LinkResearchTools. LinkResearchTools use 25 link sources to provide the most comprehensive backlink data available.
Disclaimer: Although I cannot deny that PBNs do work, I do not suggest that you use PBNs for SEO. They are a violation of Google's guidelines and could cause you problems. Be responsible for your actions. However, if you do decide to use this technique to buy used domain names, I promise to show you how to get the best ones.
Why use old domains and where to find them?
In the case of PBNs, we aren't too bothered about representing our brand, product or whatever, what we want is some links that we don't have to build. The way to do this is to get an old domain that the owner doesn't want anymore. This site is going to be one that already has backlinks - very good backlinks.
If we can beg, steal or borrow the content of that site, even better. The cheapest type of old domain names are ones that have expired and are now available for purchase in the same way that a new domain is. A major advantage here is that you can buy the domain and start using it immediately.
The more expensive option is to look at domain auctions and domain marketplaces. The advantage here is that the domains will tend to have better metrics. My favorite places to get used domains from are:
- https://auctions.godaddy.com - the biggest choice
- https://sedo.com offers a domain buying and selling service
- https://www.expireddomains.net/ is an excellent and free domain name search engine
There are plenty of other places, but because of the sheer volume, I have had the best results from GoDaddy Auctions.
The Buying Strategy
- Make a list of as many viable domains as possible that may be within your budget
- Use the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool) to find the strongest domains
- Use Link Detox® (DTOX) and the Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) to check the health of the domains
- If all is well, BUY THEM!
The Content Strategy
- Beg, Borrow or Steal all the content if you can
- Find the missing pages and recover the link juice
- Rewrite content to improve traffic and rankings
- So that is the plan, let's get started.
Make a list of as many viable domains as possible that may be within your budget
Using Register Compass
There is a quick and efficient way to do this with a service called Register Compass, this isn’t free but costs only $37/month or cheaper if you pay for it quarterly and cheapest if you buy it yearly. There is also a 30-day money back guarantee if you can get all your work done with less than 25 searches. Register Compass gets updated all the time so each day there are thousands of new domain names that are available and there is some real gold in there. You can play with Register Compass as much as you like if you have a certain penchant for say .com and .org TLDs. But I normally set it something like this:
I’m looking to get a lot of domains in the search results. As I am going to test all these with LinkResearchTools, I am not worried about filtering them too much. You can, of course, add your personal preferences. Here I chose:
- Auction Registrars =All
- Auction Type = Buy Now
- Buy Now Price < 50
- Expires in the next 7 days
- Updated within the next 7 days
- Trust Flow > 10
If you want to check out more of the filters and what you can do with this, you can find quite a few videos on YouTube including this official one by Register Compass:
The aim here is not to get too hung up on the standard metrics that everyone else is using but to just generate a massive list of domain names. From this, we will filter out the junk with LinkResearchTools and find the gold nuggets.
Register Compass Export Settings
Before we go any further, we want to change the Export Settings in Register Compass. By default, it only exports 1000 domains (you are allowed to export up to 500,000/month) - but we want as many as possible in one go. So I set this to the maximum which is 25,000. I also set the format to .xls rather than .csv which I just find easier when handling large amounts of data.
You change this under your account settings:
Exporting the results from Register Compass
OK so now we can go to the results page which typically looks like this:
The results page shows three sets of results separately: Expiring Domains, Expired Domains and Auction Domains. You can see from the image that you can also filter each column by any metric you choose. I don't think you should stick to any hard and fast rules here; you just want to get a big list - something like 2,000 to 10,000 domains. You can now export all the domains using the export icon in the top left-hand corner. Each spreadsheet will look like this with all your domains in the first column:
Now comes the fun part.
We get started digging for gold.
Using the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool) to find the strongest domains
We are going to use the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool) to find the domains with a high Power*Trust.
By default, it will analyze 2000 URLs but you can use the 5x multiplier to do 10,000 at a time. But as Register Compass will only have the domain listed as, e.g., domain.com we might not be getting the full picture, so we also want to test the www.domain.com version too. This is a feature built into the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool). What we need to do is to select up to 5000 domains at a time from our spreadsheets and lists and paste them into the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool):
The Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool) has the Sample and Detail Analysis modes. Detail Analysis is much more preferable as the domains are crawled in real time which gives the most accurate data. In Detail Analysis, you can select the metrics you are interested in.
At this point, we don’t need to know about all the metrics so that you can select Basic SEO Stats and Trust and Power Details. If you are using my suggested Register Compass method, it might make sense to run three separate reports for expiring domains, auction domains and expired domains.
Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool) Results
This is where you start to see the gold. What we are going to now is extract the domains with the higher Power*Trust and then we will check them with the Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT). If you are wondering why we didn't put them all into the Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) straightaway, it's simply because there are so many!
This is starting to get juicy now! Here we can see that the majority of the domains we are looking at are probably junk, with Power*Trust=0. At the other end of the histogram is where we are going to find our nuggets. In this example there are:
- 739 domains with a Power*Trust of 5-7
- 282 domains with a Power*Trust of 8-12
- 16 domains with a Power*Trust of 13-21
In this example there are:
- 210 domains with a Power*Trust of 5-7
- 89 domains with a Power*Trust of 8-12
- 9 domains with a Power*Trust of 13-21
In this example there are:
- 650 domains with a Power*Trust of 5-7
- 182 domains with a Power*Trust of 8-12
- 2 domains with a Power*Trust of 13-21
Now it is simply a matter of exporting the good results from the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool) reports and pasting them into the Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT)
In the Bulk URL Analyzer (Juice Tool) table, I selected the results that have a Power*Trust > 10 and then exported each table as a .csv file. The resulting spreadsheet will look like this:
You might want to keep these spreadsheets like this for your reference, but for pasting into the Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT), you only need the URLs from column C.
Using the Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT)
At this point, many people would have pulled out their credit cards and bought a load of domains. They might get lucky, but a domain with a high LRT Power*Trust may still have its problems.
Even a quick glance at the screenshot above shows some porn domains which would be bad news unless you were in an adult niche.
But there could be lots of other less obvious problems too. The Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) allows you to test potential backlinks before you even build them.
The tool works in conjunction with Link Detox (DTOX) to check potential links against your existing links to give an accurate picture.
To use Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT), please make sure that you have a Link Detox (DTOX) report created within the last month for the domain that you would like to build links to. The report must have been created in the Link Profile Audit mode.
Because the domains we are looking at may not be fully functioning sites, there are some Link Detox Rules that you don't want to be taken into account.
You can do this with the DTOXTUNE dashboard which you can find here: https://app.linkresearchtools.com/toolkit/dtoxtune.php
This is how I have edited my settings which I have called PBN Domains':
You can experiment here with DTOXTUNE, but hopefully, you will get the idea.
The point is that many of these domains may now be on parked domains or some default landing page.
For example, in the case of GoDaddy expired Domains they will all have the same GoDaddy page saying that the domain is for sale.
For this reason, many of the rules to do with same IPs, Link Networks, etc. are not applicable.
The rules I have turned off completely with this DTOXTUNE are; SUSP3, SUSP6, SUSP7, SUSP8, SUSP9, SUSP22, SUSP23, and SUSP24.
I would also recommend keeping the SUSP10 rule for very negative Link Velocity Trend in there but at slightly weaker than the default.
The reason is that it will then show Expired Domains with higher risk where new link building has stopped. The downside of this is that the overall number of good results might not be enough for your goal:
If you want to use my DTOXTUNE Code you are more than welcome, it is
If you can improve it, please let me know, I'd love to hear your suggestions.
Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) Settings
Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) Results
For clarity, the three different kinds of domains were kept as three separate reports; expired domains, domains expiring today and auction domains. Hopefully, we can find at least one good domain in each report.
Good Expired Domains
Expired domains are not always going to be the best domains you can buy unless you get really lucky. Nevertheless, it is always well worth looking at those with excellent metrics:
Here we have 20 domains all with Very Low, Low and Below Average DTOXRISK
Here I tend to exclude domains that look foreign, ones that are stuffed with keywords and ones that I simply don’t like the look of. The metrics I am most interested in here are:
- Link Detox Risk DTOXRISK; clearly we don’t want risky links
- LRT Power*Trust; a good indicator of the strength of the page (the homepage in this case)
- LRT Power*Trust dom; a good indicator of the strength of the domain
- DomPop; the amount of referring domains that a domain has
The two that caught my eye here were curry-county.com and globattery.com To find out more about a domain, you can click the small down arrow next to the domain URL which shows a pop up with more details:
The link to the ‘Historic versions’ uses Archive.org to find old versions of the domain to give a better idea of what it was used for. In this case, I found this page from 2015:
This looks like it has already been used for a PBN with poor content, stuffed keywords, stuffed money anchor text. There must be a good reason why this domain was allowed to expire. Forget about this one and move on. The domain curry-county.com looks more interesting though – I found this historic version from June 2017:
The Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) only reports this as having six referring domains. It may be worth digging a little deeper to see if this would be worth buying for those links. You can launch a sub dashboard by clicking the (+) symbol next to the link URL. Here you can do numerous tasks including ‘Full backlink report for root domain’:
This launches a Backlink Profiler (BLP) which crawls the domains backlinks in real time. The report shows that there is one particularly good link from the homepage of newmexicostatewebsite.com that has an LRT Power*Trust = 15:
Is it worth buying this domain? Possibly, it’s not the best for sure, but the price is right. It is currently available on GoDaddy for €0.85 which is just $1.
Awesome Expiring Domains
The expiring domains in our Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) are due to expire today. These can be bought by backorder with services like SnapNames, NameJet, and Pool.com. Here we found 73 domains, including 69 with Below Average, Low or Very Low Link Detox Risk (DTOXRISK):
This time the ones that caught my eye were frenchgardening.com and thisisgibson.com. Running a Backlink Profiler (BLP) on frenchgardening.com reveals some amazing links. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/about/herbgarden/list.html is a subdomain of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
Other stunning links are from Wikipedia, Yahoo, NY Times, Washington Post, TripAdvisor and National Geographic.
The other domain thisisgibson.com appears to have been a graphic design agency who had their links on their client sites:
Although these links may not stay live forever, they are certainly placed on very strong pages. Both of these domains should be available by backorder at SnapNames with a minimum bid of $79. I guess that because they don’t have the classic metrics that everyone else is looking for, they will be available for this price:
Excellent Auction Domains
The auctions for the domains in our Link Opportunities Review Tool (LORT) end within the next 7 days. Here we found 27 domains, including 19 with Below Average, Low or Very Low Link Detox Risk (DTOXRISK):
There is one here that grabbed my attention, 179pixelmedia.com:
This domain looks good on Archive.org:
The Backlink Profiler (BLP)report shows that there are not many referring domains. The best links are from what looks like their (possibly ex) clients’ sites:
This isn’t an ideal link profile as it needs to be balanced out with some more normal links. On the other hand, this is an easy way to get a link on a domain with an LRT Power*Trust = 20. If the price is good, this could be a sound investment. By the time I came to write this, the auction had finished, and it was available for just €29.58 which is about $35:
Another example of a potentially good auction domain is baldnbeautiful.net. An archive.org page from early 2017 reveals that this was a Malaysian cancer awareness site:
These type of sites are usually excellent at attracting trusted authority links. This can be checked with the Backlink Profiler (BLP). Two of the best links are:
- http://khind.com/ which is a company selling electrical goods which support the baldnbeautiful.com website with an image link on the majority of their pages
- http://www.thestar.com.my/metro/community/2015/11/23/smooth-effort-breaks-national-record-more-than-600-go-bald-to-raise-funds-for-cancer-causes/ which is a Malaysian e-paper with an LRT Domain Power*Trust = 36
This domain is currently on NameJet with a minimum bid of $69:
If auctions are your thing, then the same rules as Ebay apply: Work undercover until the last moment and then jump in with an offer of as much as you can afford. You can automate this sniping technique, although I suspect it is very much against the GoDaddy Terms and Conditions. I’ve tested some software by Mike Gora called Domain Auction Sniper that seems to be able to do this very well.
Do your research before you buy
Just because you have found a super powerful healthy domain doesn’t mean that it is the best place to drive links to your niche from.
If you are not in the porn industry, you don’t want links from sites that have been associated with porn. Similarly, if you run a gardening company in rural England, you don’t want links from a Chinese MP3 site.
We recommend: Before you make an investment in an expired domain, invest in a complete Link Detox analysis of it.
This way you will also the list of issues to fix, once you have the domain.
Using your new domain
I’m not going to tell you how to build a PBN; there are plenty of other people doing this who know more than I do.
One thing you could do is try to beg, borrow or steal as much of the old web site as possible.
There is a very neat, free, open source program available from http://www.httrack.com/ that you can use for this. The reason you should do this initially is that you don’t want to lose any of the links you have already.
If sites are linking to anywhere other than your home page, you need to make sure you have a page there. If you don’t intend to put a page there you can use a redirect instead. Fortunately, LinkResearchTools has a fantastic tool for finding those missing pages, the Link Juice Recovery Tool (LJR).
Link Juice Recovery with your new PBN domain
So now you have your new domain, and maybe you have the content that was previously there, now we need to find where you have links going to and try to keep the juice going. What happens if some high-quality sites were linking to you on a page that no longer exists? At worst they might notice and remove the dead link, at best no one notices, but you have lost the link.
Don’t panic! The Link Juice Recovery Tool (LJR) is here to save the day.
Running the tool is simple:
The notice about connecting your LinkResearchTools account to your Google Search Console is important here.
Normally you would want to use this feature to get the maximum amount of data possible.
If, however, you are planning on using this as a PBN domain you would certainly not want to do anything that would associate this domain with your money website domain.
If you are planning to use this as a money site, please go ahead and connect the domain to your LinkResearchTools account via Google Search Console.
This is a great tool to use for any website, but in the case of buying an old used domain, it is essential. The results show a few links that are going nowhere and are easy to fix. Why waste link juice that you already have?
So here we have 20 pages that can be rebuilt easily, thus keeping all the juice that gives the domain its excellent Power*Trust.
The original version of this article was written in 2014 when PBNs were becoming very popular with SEOs.
In 2017 nothing much seems to have changed, except that the quality of PBNs has got much better.
In 2020 when we gave this article some updates, PBNs are still in place and the quality has gotten even better.
Many successful PBNs now look just like real websites which look very legit.
Until Google manage to find a way of easily finding PBNs I can them still them being useful.
Maybe Google will consider things like ‘Last change of owner’ as a metric when judging the quality of a link? Maybe they do this already?
As I said before I am not suggesting this as the new ‘White Hat SEO Technique,' but I do think there will be many people doing it wrong.
The majority of buyers will still be looking at Moz DA and PA and other outdated metrics when buying a used domain.
Without considering possible penalties that domains may have, this could be suicide for your money site. If you are using a network of PBN domains to rank your money site, it is extremely important not to look unnatural.
The best way to do this is to use tools such as the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA) and Competitive Link Detox (CDTOX) to see what is ‘normal’ for your niche, language, and target country.
This will help you to choose the type of links you build so that you will not raise any red flags in Google’s eyes.
I’d also suggest that you mix up PBN links with other kinds of links to give plenty of diversity.