Today’s post comes from a buddy of mine, Dan Thompson. Dan and his partner Curt Storring run Domain Colosseum (a marketplace for expired domains). In this article he shares one particular tool and strategy that you can use to start building your own blog networks.
I haven’t yet used the tool that he talks about in this article (mainly because the tool is designed for Macs and I’m a PC guy), however, I’ve had conversations with him and can say with full confidence that Dan knows his stuff. If you’re looking for a powerful way to start ranking sites, then read on…
Take it away, Dan!
Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are on the rage lately, and you’re seeing a ton of people talking about them when it comes to what’s working to rank sites in Google today.
Look around at any number of niche site blogs, SEO blogs, internet marketing forums, and you’ll probably be quickly convinced of their effectiveness…and their cost.
Just like most things in life, there’s a more costly and efficient way of doing things, and a cheap but time-intensive way of doing things. After a lot of experience and practice, there’s usually a happy middle ground that involves spending a lot of time mastering various systems and a bit of money up front for some tools to help you along the way.
So it is with Private Blog Networks.
We’re here today to walk you through a process that we have used in the past to build a cheap network of your own expired domains if you’re just getting started. It takes a bit of time, but there’s no reason why anyone can’t follow along and get their first few expired domains to start their network following this method. The best part is that the monetary costs are no more than buying a domain for your money site – the cost of domain registration and hosting.
Why Should You Care What We Have To Say?
Before I jump into the meat of the content I wanted to talk a little about Curt and myself to provide some background and honestly, some credibility.
We’ve been building niche sites for a little over a year now and we’ve also both taken on a few small SEO clients. We’re lucky enough to say that this is our job – it’s not just something we do on the side.
If you’re familiar with Backlinks XXX, one of the courses offered by the guys at ViperChill, I still use that course as my roadmap when link building for new niche sites. I’ve tweaked a few things and I certainly don’t manually submit comments anymore but generally speaking, a year after initially taking the course my best site is still the one that I built the links using these strategies to a T.
The reason I mention this course is because it was my first glimpse into the world of expired domains. This course was the reason I ended up buying my first few links from a broker – and with the incredible results I got, I was hooked.
Since then I’ve built up my own network that I use for both my clients and my own sites. Below is a sample of a few of the sites I work on, including some personal money sites. Every single one of these sites relies predominantly on links from my PBN to achieve the rankings you see below.
1. This is my very first site – both the 1300 searches that I rank #1 for are buying type keywords that have converted well. This site has been ranking consistently since November.
2. This site is 8 weeks old. The keyword is a buying keyword and the product is expensive at over $500. This site has 8 articles and 8 PBN links with virtually no other links. I actually built this site on an expired domain
3. This is a client site in a fairly competitive industry. This client had a very nice base to work with. A few PBN links have made a big difference.
4. This is one of Curt’s sites that has been ranking steady since November, thanks to some nice links from a PBN. He has several first page rankings for a few 10,000+ searches/month terms.
Because they’re really effective. They’re also among the safest ways to rank and that’s good news when you’re thinking long term like we are.
This is not to say other methods aren’t effective. If you want proof check out this case study on GSA links.
So called “white hat” SEO is also effective, it’s just not efficient. Coaxing links out of webmasters is difficult work that requires a lot of really good content, the right industry and a ton of time. At the end of the day, you want good, relevant, in-content links from high quality sites, so why not own those sites yourself?
Even lower metric, clean & relevant expired domains can provide a nice boost to your website. Let me give you an example.
The graph below is the site that is 8 weeks old (ranking on the first page my main 1000 search/month keyword). The first jump from 100 to 28 is a result of one 301 redirection and 3 PBN links (please note I’ve since added half a dozen links that are from quality expired domains).
The three PBN links are from DA 12, 12 and 14 domains respectively. The redirected expired domain was DA 20 and the actual money site was built on a DA 11. All the domains were ultra-relevant to my niche.
If you’re going to buy low metric domains make sure they’re highly relevant and clean!
How Do You Find These Types of Domains?
I’m a Mac user and while I have a Windows VPS setup I never used Xenu extensively. What I’m about to show you is for the often unloved Mac folks out there who get stuck wanting to buy a product, only to find out it’s PC only.
If you’re using a PC, there a lot of great tutorials on how to use Xenu as part of your expired domain mining (sorry to our PC-using friends! But you can check some of those Xenu tutorials out here, here, and here).
First off a disclaimer. Please don’t expect to find a load of clean, DA 25+ domains this way. If you work at it and refine your system you might be able to pick up the odd DA 20 for the cost of registration, which is great, but it takes patience and dedication. This is tough work, but if you don’t want to spend a lot to buy domains from a broker yet, it can be a great place to start.
To further illustrate how difficult it is to find clean, high metric domains, for every single DA 20+ domain that we register, we throw out 15. At least. For our own businesses, we scrape 24/7 on a private server with premium private tools. Just like any other link building method, an investment of either time or money is required to build a solid network.
How To Find Expired Domains With Integrity (For Mac)
Integrity is a tool that crawls a site and checks for bad links. It’s not as powerful as Xenu, but I find it easier to use. You can download integrity for free here.
Once you’ve installed it, open the application and you’ll see a window like this:
In the top right corner under preference you’ll find this window:
These settings should pretty well be your defaults. The important ones are crawl depth (3-5 is usually what I use) and display labels.
In the time it took to write those last two sentences, upload the images and format them I decided to look for sites that I could use if I were building out a site on “how to become a bartender”, to show you how it’s done in real-time.
Where Do You Find Your Seed Domain?
The first thing you need to do is find a domain to crawl.
For this example, I plugged “night club directories” into Google. Directories are usually a gold mine for broken links to the sites we’re going to want to use to build our network. When looking for a domain to crawl, you’re looking for a high number of outbound links and preferably an older domain that has likely not been updated in years. Other examples are personal blogs with lots of links in the blogroll, or websites that post long lists of links in their content.
The more outbound links the better (with our crawl depth settings at 3 to 5, we will go deeper than just the home page, anyway, but it’s great to start with a large amount of links).
Get your seed URL, put it into Integrity and hit Go. If you’ve got a good seed domain, you’ll probably want to be doing something while this runs, as it may take a few minutes.
Just now, in 20 minutes, Integrity ran in the background and checked 4000 links, 700 of which were broken.
Exporting Your List of Expired Domains
When Integrity has crawled all the links it comes across, it will tell you it’s done.
Go to the application and click on “bad links only”, which is right below the link counter on the left side of the tool. Then click on the status bar below “bad links only” which will sort the domains by error code. From there you want to export them, which you can do by clicking “Export CSV” in the top bar, right beside Print on the left side.
What Do You Do With Your List Now?
Open the CSV file you just exported in your favorite spreadsheet software (Excel, Numbers, Open Office, etc.). We’re going to want to filter the domains by status and sort them alphabetically from A-Z (you’re looking for the “funnel” icon in Excel – here’s a quick tutorial if you need a refresher). The only domains that you want to display are “a server with the specified hostname could not be found“.
Feel free to delete the rest or just copy and paste all of the “hostname could not be found” domains into a new spreadsheet (I do this so I can tell how many I have with a quick glance).
Now what you want to do is remove the http:// and www. from each domain. You can do this by selecting the column of domains and hitting “command f” to bring up the Find or Search function. Find http:// and replace all with nothing by leaving the replace box empty then hit Replace All. Then repeat the process for www. so you’re left with only the root domains.
Your list should look something like this. Filter the domains alphabetically the same way you did the status code column earlier. You’ll also want to clean this list up by removing subdomains or internal pages. All you want is XYZ.TLD (.com, .ca, .net etc.)
Checking Availability and Metrics
Now that you’ve got your list of domains, you will need to check to see if they are available to be registered, and if any of them meet your minimum required metrics (our minimum requirement is at least a Domain Authority of 20 at this stage).
The quickest way to get the availability of domains is to use the Namecheap bulk domain checker. On the main Namecheap page, click Bulk Options on the right side of the search bar. This will allow you to check the availability of up to 50 domains at once.
Note that it doesn’t check all domain extensions, particularly some of the country specific TLDs (things like .nl, .co.za, etc.). For these, you’ll likely have to do things a bit more manually, but there probably won’t be too many of these for you to check so it shouldn’t take long.
So, copy the first 50 domains into the Namecheap bulk checker. Remove any domains that aren’t available from your list. Continue until you’ve gone through your entire list.
You should have a list of only those domains that are available to register left. Our next step is to check the metrics. We recommend starting with the Moz metrics (Page Authority and Domain Authority). We’ve found a great resource for this is located at 99webtools.com. They’ve got a bulk PA and DA checker that does up to 200 domains at once.
Throw your list into this tool (up to 200 at once) and record the data. You can either do it manually or copy and paste the metrics table into your spreadsheet and just edit it for formatting.
Sort your list once again by whatever metric you would like (PA, DA, or even PR if you choose to put your list through a bulk PR checker, though we recommend sticking with Moz metrics). For us, that means DA. We’ll eliminate everything under a DA20 right away and sometimes there’s a few left to look at more in depth. If you’re starting out and finding really relevant domains, you could go lower, but just remember that the higher the metrics, the more power you’ll get.
If your list turns up anything that is both available and has good metrics, you need to go ahead and do a thorough spam check BEFORE registering it. Your domain could have all the high-metrics in the world but if it was spammed in the past, it could be totally worthless, or even impact your site negatively.
Finally, when you’re sure you’ve got a spam-free, high-metric domain, go ahead and register it with someone like Namecheap (we like their free WHOIS privacy).
Back to our example quickly. This list proved to be really good – I picked up a clean DA 22 with several quality links and a clean profile. Generally this is the exception not the norm. I only looked at about 30 of the 300+ domains that were available – there are probably a few DA 17+ domains in their for the cost of registration, which would be a nice find if you were just starting out.
Pro Tip: Maximize your link juice by finding 3 or 4 highly relevant lower metric domains. Send links from these domains to your money site. Then buy a couple of high metric domains, but instead of sending link juice to your money site send a link to each of your lower metric sites.
Is This Technique For Everyone?
This technique shouldn’t be used by everyone. For a large number of SEOs it’s going to be a poor use of your time. It’s a lot easier to scrape domains then to write content, do outreach, or build more sites, but you’ll probably get more value out of doing those things than scraping for domains all day – trust us, how do you think we started?
This technique is perfect for people looking to try out PBNs to see if they have a positive impact (hint: they do). It’s perfect for the folks who’re still trying to earn their first dollar online and don’t want to invest too much before they know it’s the right way to go.
If you’re already earning money online, scraping domains for extended periods of time using this particular method is going to be a massive time suck. If you want to build your network but don’t have time to scrape and spam check all day using the method above, or if you want to increase the size of your PBN quickly, I would encourage you to either use a broker, such as Domain Colosseum, or use a paid tool (that still requires some leg work on your part) such as Register Compass or Freshdrop.
Hopefully this introduces a few of you to the wonderful world of PBNs and helps push your online journey in the right (money-making) direction! Curt and I will be around in the comments to answer any questions about this method or PBNs in general, so drop us a line if you’d like to know more.