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Mastering the secrets of SEO is a never-ending battle. The days when keyword density was enough to earn your site a high rank on Google are long gone. The search giant is constantly updating their (proprietary) search algorithms, which means that the metrics are always changing. Not only that, but they are better than ever at sniffing out and shutting down so-called black hat SEO tactics. In other words, it is harder than it ever has been to earn a high search rank and avoid penalization by Google. SEO is not for the fainthearted.

The good news is that there are still things you can do to build quality backlinks and improve your SEO. One very effective example is the use of Private Blog Networks, or PBNs.  This strategy is the “secret sauce” a lot the top agencies and SEO “Guru’s” use to dominate the search engines.

So What Is a Private Blog Network?

Let’s start by talking about what a PBN is. Simply put, it’s a collection of websites owned by a single company or person. It is used as a way to place outgoing links for clients. If you have spent any time at all working on off-site SEO, you know that finding quality backlinks is hard work. Google frowns upon buying links, and webmasters who do it can end getting hit with significant penalties if they get caught.

The benefit of using a PBN is that, if you do it right, you can build up a collection of high-quality links from reputable sites. Of course, there are some risks involved too. Here’s a quick look at the dos and don’ts of PBN use:

  • DO take the time to find expired domain names for sites that already have links
  • DON’T use sites that have spam links, such as links to porn
  • DO keep the sites in your network active by posting new content on a regular basis
  • DON’T expect Google to overlook inactive sites that are adding new links and nothing else
  • DO build a network of related sites that contain content that’s relevant to your niche
  • DON”T waste your time on sites with low authority or trustworthiness

In other words, PBNs carry many of the same risks and rewards of other SEO techniques. If you build a PBN and take the time to do it right, it can end up increasing your Google rank and providing a valuable resource for people interested in your niche. If you cut corners and skimp on the details, you could end up with a Google penalty – and if it’s serious enough penalty, it could put you out of business.

How to Build a PBN

Now that you understand what PBNs are and why they can be so valuable for your SEO, let’s talk about the steps required to build one.

  1. Find expired domain names, preferably ones that are relevant to your niche or industry. Domain names expire for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes the people who own a domain forget about it, miss a renewal deadline, or they’ve simply moved on to other products and sites. Expired domain names are easy to find. You can use sites like ExpiredDomains or FreshDrop and search for domain names that appeal to you.
  2. Research each potential domain name to determine its value as part of a PBN. One of the tools I like to use is Majestic SEO, which lets you check several key metrics to determine if a site is worthwhile. We’ll talk more about which metrics to evaluate in a minute.
  3. After you have identified viable domain names, register the domain names you have chosen and turn each one into an active site with fresh and relevant content. As I mentioned earlier, it is very important to make sure that each site in your PBN is active. Stagnant sites with old content are far more likely to attract negative attention from Google than active ones.
  4. Add links, making sure that each link you place is relevant and adds value to the site.

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When you evaluate expired domain names, there are several key metrics that you need to review before registering the name. Some of the things I like to look at are:

  • Page Authority. Page Authority is a formula developed by Moz that gives you an estimate of where a web page will rank in Google’s search hierarchy. Changes in Google’s algorithms frequently mean changes to your Page Authority as well. In general, you want to look for websites whose pages have a Page Authority of 25 or more.
  • Domain Authority. Like Page Authority, Domain Authority is a ranking that indicates how a domain name will perform in search. Instead of looking at individual pages, though, it looks at the entire domain name. When you are shopping for viable domain names for your PBN, look for domains with an authority of 20 or more.
  • Trust Flow. Trust Flow is a metric developed by Majestic SEO that determines the trustworthiness of a site based on the pages it links to. Look for domain names that have a Trust Flow score of at least 15.
  • No anchor spam. This isn’t a fixed metric, but it is essential. It is important to avoid sites that have anchor spam such as links to porn and other questionable content.
  • Clear archive history. Check any domain name you are considering on Archive.org to make sure that it is free of 301 redirects and has not been abused in the past.

The purpose of checking out your domain names this way is that you don’t want to buy a domain name only to find that you have inherited problems that make the site unusable. There’s no point in laying down money to reserve a domain name that has been tainted by bad links, spam, or black hat SEO practices.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that building a Private Blog Network can be a very effective way to increase your website’s rank on Google, but it is extremely important to do it the right way if you want to reap the benefits and not put your website at risk by doing it wrong.Researching domain names and generating fresh content for a network of sites can be hard work, and there’s a lot of moving parts.  For that reason, it may be best to consider hiring an agency to do the work for you.

The SEO savvy who build PBNs for a living will be aware of the pitfalls and have the resources they need to pinpoint the right domains and the experience to eliminateissues that might be a problematic. A carefully built PBN is a worthwhile investment for any company looking to improve their rank with Google.

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