AMA about PBNs (setup, footprints, things to avoid, et al.)

janist

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Hey,

my partner in crime (@roman375) and I saw a lot of new PBN related threads pop up over the past few weeks. Unfortunately, we also saw a lot of misinformation and misguided advice.

So we've decided to start this little AMA, where you can ask us anything regarding PBNs.

Quick background:

We've been running a relatively decent sized niche network here on BHW for a few years now. We also have a bunch of completely private blog networks for our own sites. We've gathered some valuable experience in creating and managing PBNs for large scale link building over the past few years. Of course, the beginnings were bumpy, but that's how we learned to blend in with the masses and stay in the shadows of big G.

So, let the questions flood in.

giphy.gif
 

idoseo

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How much are you spending for what type of domains (history, metrics, etc.)

What should be the max OBL from homepage and from a site?

How much time and money it takes to set up a PBN and how much per month to maintain them?

How do you plan and execute linking out from them?

How much it costs you guys to run a network of 500 PBNs?

How much to build a new work of 500 PBNs?

Have you ever received and able to get rid of manual penalty or deindexing?

Do you build teir 2/3 links to your PBNs if yes how?

Do you think PBNs are worth investing in?
 

janist

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Thanks @idoseo for your questions. Replies are in orange.

How much are you spending for what type of domains (history, metrics, etc.)

We spend roughly 5-10 minutes analyzing a PBN domain. After a couply of checks, you get the hang of it.

We don't really focus on metrics too much, tbh. But if you want some rough baselines to filter out the super crappy domains, we recommend:

  • RD15+
  • DR5+
  • Optional: DA5-10+
We are usually more interested in the actual link and anchor profile and not in the metrics per se. Metrics increase exponentially once your PBN site is launched and you start to build a few t2 links.

Instead our domain analysis typically involves just these simple four steps:

1. Check if the domain is sitll indexed

Head to google, enter "site:domain.com" and see if the domain is still indexed. Typically this will only be the case for auctioned domains. Most expiring domains will be dropped from the index, but will re-index quite fast once the site is up and running. We just do this out of a habit. If the site is still indexed: cool. If not, no biggie.

2. Check Wayback

Head to https://archive.org/ enter the domain and check at least 1-2 captures for each year. You want to make sure that the domains has some age and has not been used for any spammy techniques before (can't believe how many spammy chinese crap sites we had to weed through) - we also want to make sure it was never really used as a PBN before (but that becomes usually quite obvious when checking the link and anchor profile).

3. Check for trademarks

We want to make sure that there are no active trademarks for the domains.

We usually use https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database for sites that targeted the US market or https://trademarks.ipo.gov.uk/ipo-tmtext for EU sites.

4. Check the link profile, link target and anchors

We are mostly interested in contextual links from high DR sites.

We usually use Ahrefs to analyze our PBN domains. For each PBN domain we head over to their site explorer, enter the domain and click on “backlinks” to get a rough glance at all the links. Once you've got a feeling for quality link profile, this will give you a nice idea already.

We then choose a few filters, namely “link type: content” and “one unique link per domain“ to get an idea of JUST the contextual backlinks pointing at the domain. It also shows us if these links have any links pointed at them (always good).

We then check the link targets.

We use ahrefs "best by links" feature to see at where the links are pointed at (in case we need to re-built or 301 a lot of inner pages). Preferrably we want most links pointed at one version of the homepage and max 2-5 inner pages. But that's just the best case scenario.

If the link profile and the link targets are strong we move on to the anchor text.

We use ahrefs "anchors" feature to get an idea of the anchor profile. We typically want a domain that is not spammed to death with exact match anchors. Anything under 15% exact match anchors is fine by us.

Summarized - we look for

  • Indexation
  • Wayback Records
  • Active Trademarks
  • Link profile, link targets and anchor profile
Preferrably look for niche specific auctioned domains. These can get quite pricey, but many of domain vendors do a lot of heavy vetting for these type of domains, including link profiling, history checks etc. So if you only have a few hundred to invest, I'd suggest these are you go-to.

If you go for lower-mid range expired domains, we recommend to power these up with a few tier 2 links (more on that below).


What should be the max OBL from homepage and from a site?
The best and most powerful approach would be to keep the OBL = 1. One PBN domain has one link to one money site. This will pass most of the link juice and reduce any link footprints to virtually zero.

However, we've seen not adverse effects when you link out to different money sites (OBL >1) as long as the niche is the same and the money sites don't share any footprints (hosting, DNS, SMTP servers etc.)


How much time and money it takes to set up a PBN and how much per month to maintain them?

Typically we spend around 1 hour per PBN domain setup, sometimes more.

Maintenance and scaling is easy, once the site's are running. Price wise a 10x PBN network would cost you roughly:


  • 10x mid quality expired domains (RD20+, decent 3rd party metrics (if you want those), top TLDs (com/net/org) incl. domain registration = $450 minimum. But for really good domains you pay easily pay $100+ / domain. So this is a bare minimum. You basically leverage domain volume over domain quality. Would possibly argue that you need more around $1000-3000 for 10 good domains + registration fee.
  • 10x good cloud droplets incl. backups (via Vultr, Digitalocean, Linode, AWS, etc.) = $60 / month absolute minimum. Don't cheap out on PBN hosting. Having a decent hosting infrastructure is imo the most important aspect of any good PBN.
  • 10x PBN set-ups with no footprints, theme customization, necessary plugins, htaccess customization, redirections, blocked IP lists etc. = $300-400 minimum, usually more around 500$ - unless you want to set them up all by yourself.
  • 10x niche relevant articles (at least 1500-2000 words split over at least 1-3 articles) = $250 minimum
  • A few premium themes + Elementor PRO ~ $500
So per domain you pay at least $100-150.

How do you plan and execute linking out from them?
We usually do a hybrid mix of inner page and homepage links. For our private PBNs we keep the OBL = 1. For our service PBNs we keep it at <20.

How much it costs you guys to run a network of 500 PBNs?
Initial expenses were in excess of 30k. But we didn't build all our PBNs at the same time. We added more as we grew.

The costs are not that excessive, tbh. Maintenance is done by our inhouse team, but you can easily outsource that to a VA for $200-500 / month (depending on the site of oyur network).

Hosting costs are 3k-4k / month and domain renewals (with coupons) around $3800 / year.


How much to build a new work of 500 PBNs?
See our outline above. If you build them all at once, i'd say around 50-60k minimum for 500 domains (if you can get good bulk discounts for the domains, domain registrations and the setup).

Have you ever received and able to get rid of manual penalty or deindexing?
We haven't had many de-indexations (knock on wood). But if we see a PBN domain vanish completely from the index, we cut our losses and move on. That domain is burnt.

Do you build teir 2/3 links to your PBNs if yes how?
Yes, we do. We typically use our high performance links in various quantities if the link profile is not super strong, but still decent enough to build a PBN site on the domain.

We always point a few to the homepage and 3-4x as much to the PBN posts that contain our links (that we re-built or added as new posts).

We've seen great results from these without any adverse effects. We rarely use link inserts or guest posts, as most of the domains should already have a good amount of nice powerful contextual links.


Do you think PBNs are worth investing in?
Definitely. If you can avoid all the footprints, it's a mid-long term asset that you can leverage in many ways.
 
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asker1

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We usually do a hybrid mix of inner page and homepage links. For our private PBNs we keep the OBL = 1. For our service PBNs we keep it at <20.
So sometimes you display the whole article with the link showing directly on the homepage and sometimes you show just excerpts so you have to click on to see the full post with the link to the money site?
If yes - any estimate of a good ratio for this?
 

Noctur

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Bro. I'm literally looking to purchase a service. Please tell me who you trust so I can buy the service.
 

710fla

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I see it asked here a lot, what's your thoughts on using expired articles as content for your PBNs? I feel like most say it's fine and some say edit it a bit.
 

janist

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So sometimes you display the whole article with the link showing directly on the homepage and sometimes you show just excerpts so you have to click on to see the full post with the link to the money site?
If yes - any estimate of a good ratio for this?

Let me explain a bit further.

If you plan to keep the OBL = 1 on the homepage, you don't even have to use full articles on the homepage. You can make the site look like a business page instead and add the link (surrounded by at least 250-300 words of content) in one of the elements.

For example if you want to create a roofing PBN, you could use Astra's Roofing template (https://websitedemos.net/roofing-services-02/) and add a anchored link here:


Home-Roofing-Services.png

Obviously you want to adjust the template a bit, so it doesn't look like the stock version.

But that's just one example.

There are many ways you can go about this.

We also have PBNs where we only display excerpts via the content views pro plugin or use a script with an "expand" feature but in a way that the link is still visible and clickable. (for OBL > 1 cases)

We also have PBNs where we display several full posts on the homepage, fi the structure of the homepage allows for it. (for OBL > 1 cases or our PBN services)

We also always rebuild all inner pages that have decent links and add a fresh piece of content and a link to it. We power these up with a few more additional t2 links. We don't always add them to the homepage, if the links are strong enough, hence the hybrid model.


Bro. I'm literally looking to purchase a service. Please tell me who you trust so I can buy the service.

Trust your instincts and do your due dilligence. I'm not here to promote any service, be that mine or someone else's. Just wanna spread some infolove. ;)

Nice share, bookmarked

Cheers. Appreciate it.

I see it asked here a lot, what's your thoughts on using expired articles as content for your PBNs? I feel like most say it's fine and some say edit it a bit.

Not a fan. The copyright law is quite strict here in Germany. On top of that you run the risk of DMCA. Having to stop using your domain, only because of an expired article would SUCK.

Think of it this way: If you spent $300+ on a really powerful domain, you may as well shell out $50 for 2-3 articles that are super relevant to your niche and written with search intent and optimized for search engines, right?

Of course it can work, especially if you get great articles. But we'd rather be safe, than sorry. It's a thin line.

We always use fresh content, always.
 

idoseo

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Thanks @idoseo for your questions. Replies are in orange.



We spend roughly 5-10 minutes analyzing a PBN domain. After a couply of checks, you get the hang of it.

We don't really focus on metrics too much, tbh. But if you want some rough baselines to filter out the super crappy domains, we recommend:

  • RD15+
  • DR5+
  • Optional: DA5-10+
We are usually more interested in the actual link and anchor profile and not in the metrics per se. Metrics increase exponentially once your PBN site is launched and you start to build a few t2 links.

Instead our domain analysis typically involves just these simple four steps:

1. Check if the domain is sitll indexed

Head to google, enter "site:domain.com" and see if the domain is still indexed. Typically this will only be the case for auctioned domains. Most expiring domains will be dropped from the index, but will re-index quite fast once the site is up and running. We just do this out of a habit. If the site is still indexed: cool. If not, no biggie.

2. Check Wayback

Head to https://archive.org/ enter the domain and check at least 1-2 captures for each year. You want to make sure that the domains has some age and has not been used for any spammy techniques before (can't believe how many spammy chinese crap sites we had to weed through) - we also want to make sure it was never really used as a PBN before (but that becomes usually quite obvious when checking the link and anchor profile).

3. Check for trademarks

We want to make sure that there are no active trademarks for the domains.

We usually use https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/search-trademark-database for sites that targeted the US market or https://trademarks.ipo.gov.uk/ipo-tmtext for EU sites.

4. Check the link profile, link target and anchors

We are mostly interested in contextual links from high DR sites.

We usually use Ahrefs to analyze our PBN domains. For each PBN domain we head over to their site explorer, enter the domain and click on “backlinks” to get a rough glance at all the links. Once you've got a feeling for quality link profile, this will give you a nice idea already.

We then choose a few filters, namely “link type: content” and “one unique link per domain“ to get an idea of JUST the contextual backlinks pointing at the domain. It also shows us if these links have any links pointed at them (always good).

We then check the link targets.

We use ahrefs "best by links" feature to see at where the links are pointed at (in case we need to re-built or 301 a lot of inner pages). Preferrably we want most links pointed at one version of the homepage and max 2-5 inner pages. But that's just the best case scenario.

If the link profile and the link targets are strong we move on to the anchor text.

We use ahrefs "anchors" feature to get an idea of the anchor profile. We typically want a domain that is not spammed to death with exact match anchors. Anything under 15% exact match anchors is fine by us.

Summarized - we look for

  • Indexation
  • Wayback Records
  • Active Trademarks
  • Link profile, link targets and anchor profile
Preferrably look for niche specific auctioned domains. These can get quite pricey, but many of domain vendors do a lot of heavy vetting for these type of domains, including link profiling, history checks etc. So if you only have a few hundred to invest, I'd suggest these are you go-to.

If you go for lower-mid range expired domains, we recommend to power these up with a few tier 2 links (more on that below).


The best and most powerful approach would be to keep the OBL = 1. One PBN domain has one link to one money site. This will pass most of the link juice and reduce any link footprints to virtually zero.

However, we've seen not adverse effects when you link out to different money sites (OBL >1) as long as the niche is the same and the money sites don't share any footprints (hosting, DNS, SMTP servers etc.)



Typically we spend around 1 hour per PBN domain setup, sometimes more.

Maintenance and scaling is easy, once the site's are running. Price wise a 10x PBN network would cost you roughly:


  • 10x mid quality expired domains (RD20+, decent 3rd party metrics (if you want those), top TLDs (com/net/org) incl. domain registration = $450 minimum. But for really good domains you pay easily pay $100+ / domain. So this is a bare minimum. You basically leverage domain volume over domain quality. Would possibly argue that you need more around $1000-3000 for 10 good domains + registration fee.
  • 10x good cloud droplets incl. backups (via Vultr, Digitalocean, Linode, AWS, etc.) = $60 / month absolute minimum. Don't cheap out on PBN hosting. Having a decent hosting infrastructure is imo the most important aspect of any good PBN.
  • 10x PBN set-ups with no footprints, theme customization, necessary plugins, htaccess customization, redirections, blocked IP lists etc. = $300-400 minimum, usually more around 500$ - unless you want to set them up all by yourself.
  • 10x niche relevant articles (at least 1500-2000 words split over at least 1-3 articles) = $250 minimum
  • A few premium themes + Elementor PRO ~ $500
So per domain you pay at least $100-150.


We usually do a hybrid mix of inner page and homepage links. For our private PBNs we keep the OBL = 1. For our service PBNs we keep it at <20.


Initial expenses were in excess of 30k. But we didn't build all our PBNs at the same time. We added more as we grew.

The costs are not that excessive, tbh. Maintenance is done by our inhouse team, but you can easily outsource that to a VA for $200-500 / month (depending on the site of oyur network).

Hosting costs are 3k-4k / month and domain renewals (with coupons) around $3800 / year.


See our outline above. If you build them all at once, i'd say around 50-60k minimum for 500 domains (if you can get good bulk discounts for the domains, domain registrations and the setup).


We haven't had many de-indexations (knock on wood). But if we see a PBN domain vanish completely from the index, we cut our losses and move on. That domain is burnt.


Yes, we do. We typically use our high performance links in various quantities if the link profile is not super strong, but still decent enough to build a PBN site on the domain.

We always point a few to the homepage and 3-4x as much to the PBN posts that contain our links (that we re-built or added as new posts).

We've seen great results from these without any adverse effects. We rarely use link inserts or guest posts, as most of the domains should already have a good amount of nice powerful contextual links.


Definitely. If you can avoid all the footprints, it's a mid-long term asset that you can leverage in many ways.
Thanks @janist it's really cool of you to give such a detailed answer.

What do you think about the tier link building for PBN links?

If one buys a really good domain is building tier 2 links important?

How deep of tier do you go to?
 

alonelywriter

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If a PBN is not indexed in google, is it still beneficial to my website?

I Know this is the stupidest question but I just had to ask.
 

janist

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Thanks @janist it's really cool of you to give such a detailed answer.

What do you think about the tier link building for PBN links?

If one buys a really good domain is building tier 2 links important?

How deep of tier do you go to?

Really good (auction) domains should already have a powerful and strong link profile (RD150+) of which most should be from contextual from high DR sites. For domains like that we typically do very little tier 2 link building. Maybe a few to the homepage to push more branded anchors.

We only build higher quanties of tier 2 links for PBN domains that are squeeky clean, super niche relevant but could use a little help in their link profile.

We don't go deeper than one tier. So no tier 3 links.


If a PBN is not indexed in google, is it still beneficial to my website?

I Know this is the stupidest question but I just had to ask.

When you first build out your PBN sites on the domains, it can take a few days for everything to re-index. If you don't see ANY results in the index after 2-3 weeks, it's a goner. No point using it. Cut your losses and move on.

Fortunately, we only had that happen twice out of 500+ domains. So it goes to show that in-depth analysis of the domains is absolutely mandatory.

If you buy PBN links or have a few PBN sites already and you see that the domain(s) are not indexed at all (no results for site:pbndomain.com) then I would strongly advise to get those links and domains removed, asap.
 

AlphardAster

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1) How many articles do you usually put in a PBN site? Do you usually post a bit, post the article with the link, post a few more and then slowly post more and more infrequently until you stop?

2) Doesn't Google get suspicious that a website just has no new content, no traffic and few rankings? Wouldn't it make sense to keep posting, or would it just be a waste of money?

3) Does the PBN site get indexed by Google, and does it receive traffic? In that case, could it be monetised and become a mini - money site?

4) My idea of PBN is creating a bunch of sub-niche focused sites within the money site's niche, rank quicker for those keywords as the website is focused (and the domain has already link juice), earn money with affiliation (sometimes the same as the money site, but with different tracking links), and then pass the juice to the main, more generic site, that has bigger and longer term ranking and revenue goals. Am I on track or am I going in the wrong way?

5) Can you rank a website solely with PBN and nothing else?

6) Do social signals, links from YouTube, Quora, Yahoo Answers, etc. do anything to the rankings?

Thank you very much for the answers in advance! :)
 

janist

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1) How many articles do you usually put in a PBN site? Do you usually post a bit, post the article with the link, post a few more and then slowly post more and more infrequently until you stop?

The bare minimum is 3000 words of content. This does not include static content and content for legal and mandatory pages (contact, about, privacy, ToS, cookie policy etc.)

We post all of them right away. We add a few new article to each site every few months. But it's not a priority. The baseline content is enough.


2) Doesn't Google get suspicious that a website just has no new content, no traffic and few rankings? Wouldn't it make sense to keep posting, or would it just be a waste of money?

Regarding content: see above.

Regarding traffic and rankings: There are hundreds and thousands of sites that have almost no traffic or rankings, that exist simply as part of corporate branding. PBNs are by nature low in trafffic. Having said that, we have a good chunk of PBNs that have some decent traffic. Nothing groundbreaking but a few hundo per month.


3) Does the PBN site get indexed by Google, and does it receive traffic? In that case, could it be monetised and become a mini - money site?

If you see that your PBN gets some targeted traffic that you can leverage, you can always think about turning it into a money site. That's the beauty of owning your link building assets. Just make sure you avoid any footprints when doing that.

4) My idea of PBN is creating a bunch of sub-niche focused sites within the money site's niche, rank quicker for those keywords as the website is focused (and the domain has already link juice), earn money with affiliation (sometimes the same as the money site, but with different tracking links), and then pass the juice to the main, more generic site, that has bigger and longer term ranking and revenue goals. Am I on track or am I going in the wrong way?

That's quite the undertaking. And it can leave a footprint. I'd rather focus your marketing efforts on your money site alone and keep the PBNs simple and build for purpose instead for rankings.

5) Can you rank a website solely with PBN and nothing else?

Yes, especially in foreign SERPs or local niches. Works best if your money site is build on an auction domain with a GREAT link profile.

6) Do social signals, links from YouTube, Quora, Yahoo Answers, etc. do anything to the rankings?

You mean links or signals? We've never seen any ranking effect from signals (likes, pins, tweets whatever).

But we would always recommend to create the top 20-30 social profiles for branding and a few raw links for your money sites. Crowd links like Q&A and targeted forum posts work pretty well in foreign SERPs, but we don't actively focus on them. We'd rather invest into links from digital PR, editorials, outreach and PBNs instead.
 

idoseo

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How are your PBN working, like what niche and how competitive keywords you guys work with your own PBNs?

And do you guys use anything expect PBNs for your own sites?

And how's it working for your clients?
 

blueygg

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1- Have you ever decided to use a PBN site as a money site instead? Would they work well as a money site?

2- Does the PBN have to be 100% niche related? Will it still be effective if it's not?

3- What's your process for repurposing the domains after your buy? Do you build it how it was on wayback, then repurpose it after it's all indexed?

Thanks!
 

janist

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How are your PBN working, like what niche and how competitive keywords you guys work with your own PBNs?

We use our PBNs to snipe exact match or brand + exact match anchors. Which has been working great for our sites.

We are mostly active in tech, health and local sectors. Both US and foreign countries (Europe).

We don't target super competitive terms, but rather keyword we can actually rank for and monetize well. We leave those super hard niches to guys with deeper pockets :)


And do you guys use anything expect PBNs for your own sites?

Yes, of course.

We usually start like this (both national and local niches):


  • 60-90x structured and unstructured citations. We use these for both affiliate sites and local sites (of course. These include must have accounts on authority directories, social sites, video sites and image sites.
  • 15-20x manually crafted & branded web 2.0s with unique and WELL WRITTEN content that is extremely targeted to your brand and your niche. We typically add 2-3 articles to each web 2.0 and embed our videos and add 1-2 branded links. For local sites we also add a citation, map embed and gmb cid links on top.
  • 5x branded guest posts (focus on niche relevancy)
  • 5-10x branded link insertions / niche edits
  • Optional: 5-10 crowd links - mostly for foreign SERPs, as they tend to work well there
That's a really good foundation of branded links for any site and you can build these right away without worrying too much about any algorithmic penalties.

You can probably get all those links sorted for < $2000 incl. content.

After that scale up and get more aggresive with anchors.

First and foremost our next link batch will be focused around:

  • Guest posts
  • Link insertions
  • PBNs
  • Tier 2 links
We scale as much as we need to get where we want to be.

If we want to add some real heavy authority into the mix we may add one or more of the following link types:

  • digital PR
  • infographic link bait
  • HARO
  • editorial links
In case we want to flip a site, these can really drive the price up, as they are super expensive to acquire.

While doing all the link building, we try to emulate a natural anchor profile, like this:


  • Branded & raw URL anchors (70-80%)
  • Generic / other anchor (10-15%)
  • Phrase match anchors (5-10%)
  • Longtail anchors (<5-7%)
  • Exact match anchors (<5-7%)

And how's it working for your clients?

Most are satisfied.

But expectations have to be managed.

Results can vary from site to site. Some sites are incredibly well optimized, already have a solid baseline of links and thus see better results in comparison to sites that lack basic on-page optimization, 300 words on the homepage and the goal to rank for a 300k keyword.

We always love to work with clients that have the necessary knowledge to create a super-optimized site. These tend to see incredible results from just a few PBN and outreach links. Fortunately for us, most of our clients are great to work with. But once in a while you get a bad egg, that's just how it goes.
 

janist

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1- Have you ever decided to use a PBN site as a money site instead? Would they work well as a money site?

Nope, never.

2- Does the PBN have to be 100% niche related? Will it still be effective if it's not?

Yes, it will still be effective. You can still create relevancy on a page level instead of a domain level. However we do not recommend it.

But it works nonetheless.


3- What's your process for repurposing the domains after your buy? Do you build it how it was on wayback, then repurpose it after it's all indexed?

Thanks!

Nope, we never repurpose anything.

The only thing we do is re-create the URL structure for inner pages that have links pointed at them.

Everything else is done from scratch (theme, site design, content, etc.). Most PBns we build are indexed within 2-5 days.
 

NicheExploiter

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If a PBN site is located in the US and all pages are written in English, can it still be useful to use for a foreign site with content written in a language other than English?
For example if you use the PBN to point to a German money site
 

idoseo

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If I'm setting up PBNs in a blog style and showing full content on the homepage, what will be the best practice?

Showing full content on the homepage and linking once per article (money site)

Or should it include internal and authority links as well? (I'm worried about the link juice lost in authority links)

Currently, I'm doing 2 money site links + 0-1 authority link and 1-3 internal link per post and showing the full article on homepage.

What do you think?
 

janist

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If a PBN site is located in the US and all pages are written in English, can it still be useful to use for a foreign site with content written in a language other than English?
For example if you use the PBN to point to a German money site

Yep, it works great and we're not quite sure why. It seems the algorithm in specific foreign countries like Germany, Netherlands even Sweden is lacking behind or it is unable to trigger certain action due to language barriers. Idk.

But it works quite well, if you use english content and foreign anchors. We've also seen no adverse effects on the PBN domain itself.

Having said that, PBNs in the native language (german, dutch, swedish etc.) tend to work even better and will probably withstand the test of time just a bit longer. The algo is already super complex, it's probably just a matter of time until the foreign SERPs catch up. But until then it's HAMMERTIME.
 
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