Before we start, I am in no way advising that you build private blog networks with thin content and little value to the web. Link networks like that have been in decline for years and Google actively hunts them down. It’s risky and offers no tangible, long-term benefits to your business or your viewers. The domains are hardly worth their renewal costs and this is perpetuated by every low quality article or link you add to the network.
What I do recommend is for you to build genuine assets that feature high quality content. Each blog in your network should be an authority brand of its own.
You can use these blogs to drive revenue through a number of different ways:
- Monetize your blog content with affiliate products/services that earn you a commission
- Direct visitors to your primary sites where you sell products/services
- Monetize with Adsense, Adbrite, Bidvertiser or other ad networks
- Monetize with Taboola or other content-based ad networks
- Use a white label program to offer your own product/service
- Sell an in-house product/service directly on the website
- Contact businesses and sell media buys/advertisements
This allows your blog network to become something far more than just a source of backlinks for your other websites. You’re treating it as an essential component to your business strategy where the sites in your network are as meaningful and tangible as any other. Each website is provides value and serves an audience that grows with active readers.
With a network like this, the term private blog network doesn’t really apply. PBNs aren’t typically this beefy – but a private blog network is the most common way to refer to a network of blogs that you can use for link building purposes.
There’s no shame in building a site that you use to link out to your other websites. The problem is when you build a site where that’s its only purpose, and the website offers nothing else.
How to Build a Free Private Blog Network:
Private blog networks typically come with expenses. Between the domains, the content for the websites, and the web hosting costs, there are a number of things that you generally have to spend money on.
However, due to the huge amount of misinformation about private blog networks, most people spend far more than they need to. For instance, paying extra for a web hosting account with Class C IP addresses is wasting money that would be better spent on content for the sites themselves.
Let’s get the common Class-C IP misconception out of the way
A Class-C IP is an IP address that’s unique enough to where Google can’t recognize that the sites are hosted on the same server. This is good for a network that’s filled with junk content and spam links because Google won’t be able to bring it down. It’s actually a flawed theory because it’s based on Google having no prior knowledge of which IP addresses belong to the same servers, something they have probably indexed by now. However, regardless, you don’t need unique Class C IP addresses for a private blog network that’s built on quality principles. It’s perfectly reasonable to link out to your own websites when your network is filled with legitimate sites.
It’s free to hide your web hosting IP address
If you absolutely want to protect your network and limit your footprint, you don’t have to pay for expensive “SEO hosting.” There are free methods that can disguise your web hosting IP by using a proxy server, and it won’t slow down your website or interfere with user experience at all. It makes little sense to spend more money on a web host that’s made for PBNs – these services are over-hyped by web hosts and unnecessary.
Step 1; Option 1: Find Expired Web 2.0 Blogs
There are two routes to go when you want a private blog network that has authority from day 1. You can use expired web 2.0 blogs, or you can use expired top-level domains. For the sake of offering a 100% free solution to building your own private blog network – I present option 1, using expired web 2.0’s.
Expired web 2.0’s were once functional blogs
They have since been retired but may still carry authority, which we can measure through metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority. These are often abbreviated DA and PA – they are metrics that have become highly respected.
Expired web 2.0 properties are no longer live and are available for registration. That means the blog was likely dropped by moderators due to inactivity from the original owner. This is something you should take note of. If your goal is to build long-term, credible assets for your business, you’ll have to be logging into and using these properties regularly.
Sourcing expired web 2.0’s
It’s a simple concept, but it does take some time and a little prior knowledge to piece together correctly. If you don’t have that or a willingness to learn, you can sometimes find expired web 2.0 properties for sale through vendors on Fiverr or you can use Domain Hunter Gatherer, a really high-end tool that finds expired web 2.0 properties for you.
To do this yourself; the more difficult and manual way:
The first step is to scrape/find the expired web 2.0 blogs that you’re going to use to host the private blog network. Scraping can be a fairly difficult thing to learn if you’ve never done it before. You’ll want to use a tool like Scrapebox and private proxies to do it successfully.
However, I did promise a free private blog network strategy and I want to stay true to that. You can try this URL scraper to get the job done without Scrapebox or proxies.
Once Scrapebox is installed, use this footprint to scrape web 2.0 blogs from Tumblr:
This tells Scrapebox to only search for blogs hosted at Tumblr.com.
For this reason, you”ll have to run a separate scrape for each web 2.0 site that you wish to utilize.
Other popular web 2.0 blog platforms include:
Keep in mind, not every web 2.0 site provides a sub-domain for their users. This strategy requires that they do, so you’ll have to skip sites that don’t provide sub-domains.
In the keywords box of Scrapebox, you can enter relevant keywords to scrape niche related expired properties. However, these are not easy to find. Instead, I recommend you use a large keyword list to scrape as many web 2.0 properties as possible until you get the hang of things.
Here’s what a scrape for niche related blogs will look like:
Once Scrapebox is done harvesting, you should have a good amount of URLs to work with.
Use the “Trim to Root” feature and then “Remove Duplicates.”
Check the URLs to see which ones are expired.
There are two ways to do this in Scrapebox, the first is to use the Vanity Name Checker add-on which is an add-on built specifically for this strategy. However, it only works with the web 2.0 sites that are built into the add-on and that’s a pretty limited number of sites. When you’re building a large network, you want web 2.0’s across a wide range of websites/hosts.
As an alternative, you can use the Alive Check add-on to accomplish the same task for any website.
You may have to change the setup settings of the add-on to only check the page for 404 messages. Since an expired sub-domain won’t exist anymore, it should display a 404 error message, indicating that the page is no longer there.
To do this using a free method, rather than Scrapebox, you can this URL checker.
Once you’re done checking domains, export the list and you should only be left with expired properties – for the most part. These tools aren’t perfect so there are bound to be sub-domains that come back as expired but aren’t.
Step 1; Option 2: Find Expired Domains
As I mentioned before, using expired top level domains is the second option for a private blog network that will have authority from day 1. It’s arguably the best option. However, domains can get expensive. There’s a yearly renewal fee and if you’re going to take the time to set these sites up and update them, you have to be committed to keeping them.
You can opt for cheaper TLDs like .info, but that doesn’t typically save much money in the long run and it’s better for the brand to be behind a more respected TLD like a .com.
Sourcing expired domains
An expired domain is the same concept as an expired web 2.0 property. It’s a domain that was previously owned, but the owner let it expire. It may still carry authority and those are the domains were after.
The best way to source expired domains is to use one of the many tools that have already been developed for it. This includes Domain Hunter Gatherer, which is one of the only expired domain finders that also has expired web 2.0 properties. Other options include FreshDrop and DomCop. Among these two, FreshDrop is generally the most respected but neither have expired web 2.0 properties so you will be limited to TLDs.
Find expired domains manually
You can use the Scrapebox method to find expired TLDs just as you did expired sub-domains with web 2.0 properties. Scrapebox does have an add-on that is specifically made for this called the Expired Domain Finder. This is one of their paid add-ons. It’s not 100% necessary but it can make the process a lot easier for you.
To use Scrapebox without the add-on:
You will need to remove or change your footprint, since you’re not scraping from one particular site anymore like you were with web 2.0 properties. I recommend you get creative here and use footprints that will help you target expired domains exclusively, or use a keyword as a footprint for finding niche related domains.
One particular footprint and method I’ve had great success with is:
This specifies that the page (or URL) should have the word “links” in it, and be within the Julian date-range specified which is from 2000 to 2010. Use a Julian date conversion tool to get this right.
Then you can filter out results that don’t have the word “links” in the URL itself, and you’ll be left with listings from between 2000 and 2010 that had a bonafide “links” page – which was common of older websites to have entire pages dedicated to linking to partners and supported websites.
Now use the Scrapebox Link Extractor add-on to scrape the external links from these pages.
This is just one example of how powerful your footprints and methods can get. Bet you didn’t know you could search Google based off date-ranges, did you?
Check for domain availability
Now you need to make sure your lists consist of only domains that are available to register.
With the web 2.0 method, this was done using the Vanity Name Checker or Alive Check add-on. With TLDs, the alive check add-on is going to be a lot less effective and would require some custom tuning.
Fortunately, Scrapebox has another free add-on called the Domain Availability Checker. It has all the capability you need to do a good job sourcing your own expired domains.
Step 2: Check for Authority
In order to get the most out of this strategy and have authority from day 1 in your network, you need to only use expired web 2.0’s and domain names that already have authority, thanks to their previous owners.
That means simply using an expired domain isn’t enough – it needs to be a quality expired domain.
Again, tools like Domain Hunter Gatherer and FreshDrop will allow you to search their domain listings for ones with authority, so you never have to worry about checking things manually. However, if you’re sourcing your own expired domain lists, it’s a big part of the process.
Sort expired web 2.0’s and domains by Page Authority
This is a Moz metric which represents the authority of the homepage. It’s based off pre-existing content, as well as the quantity and quality of its backlink profile. Expired web 2.0’s and TLDs with high PA are going to be the most valuable to your network, as they carry existing authority.
There are other metrics from Moz like Domain Authority, Spam Score and link counts. There’s also Trust Flow and Citation Flow, provided by Majestic. All of these can be great for finding valuable domains as well. However, these metrics are a little trickier to check for in Scrapebox so I won’t cover them, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with checking a variety of metrics.
If you’re thinking, why don’t we check Google PageRank instead? PageRank was discontinued in 2016 and is no longer updated. It’s about as useless as a metric can get.
If you’re having trouble with Scrapebox, I’ve heard great things about URL Profiler, or there are free PA checkers online. They will be a lot slower but it gets the job done if your domain lists are relatively small.
After checking your list for Page Authority, you can export and sort by the domains with the highest scores.
This gives you a clear look at which domains are going to be the most valuable to your network. But we’re not done there. Domains that have spammy backlink profiles can still have high Page Authority, so it’s important that we do some further evaluations.
Check the backlink history on Majestic
Majestic isn’t free, and I can’t say it’s extremely affordable either. However, it’s a well respected tool and if you’re building a large network, it’s something you’re going to want in your arsenal. As an alternative to paying its high monthly price, you could use Fiverr to find freelancers that will check the backlink history on your domains, or join a group buy network where you can share its monthly cost with others and use the same account.
For each domain with high Page Rank, run it through Majestic and skim the results. Be especially diligent looking through the anchor text used for the links. Anchor text is a good indicator of relevance. Sometimes a domain that appears to be targeted to your niche won’t have a backlink profile that supports its relevance. Make sure there’s no spam in the backlink profile as well, such as bad keywords used for anchor text, links from foreign language sites, or links from low quality sites.
The backlink history of your domain is where its authority comes from. Without backlinks, the domain wouldn’t have much value to you. It’s safe to suggest a domain with high Page Rank should have a pretty strong backlink profile, but that isn’t always the case so that’s why it’s important to check.
Use the Way Back Machine
The Way Back Machine is an internet archive tool. It indexes websites and creates archives for them at points in time throughout their existence.
If the domain once had a live website, you should be able to find it using the Way Back Machine. Do this with your domains that pass your PA and backlink history tests. It’s an extra measure to ensure the domain was a quality site once.
The website that once existed obviously doesn’t have to be perfect, or even match what you’re going to do with the site once it’s part of your network. However, if you find something to indicate it was used for spam or low quality link networks – such as spun articles, then you can save yourself from using a domain that could potentially be bad for your network.
Tip: You can use the Way Back Machine to dig up old projects you once worked on and perhaps created content for. If it’s quality stuff, re-purpose this content to one of your new websites to avoid having to write from scratch.
Step 3: Claiming/Registering Desired domains
When you sign up for web 2.0 properties – your username should match the sub-domain that you want to register. This will assign it to your account.
Keep in mind, if you’re registering multiple blogs on the same web 2.0 site you will need a unique email account for each. Similarly, it’s good practice to register each account under a separate IP address so that the web 2.0 site can’t see that it’s all one person registering multiple blogs. If they did detect this, it could cause your accounts to get deleted. If you notice some of your accounts going down, it’s either this, or because you’re publishing low quality content.
If you already purchased private proxies for Scrapebox, you can connect using those and avoid having to use a VPN. However, you’ll need a browser extension like Proxy Switchy to use your proxies and easily switch between them.
Some sites in your list won’t work when you go to register them. That’s the nature of expired web 2.0 properties as a page could display a 404 error or appear to be expired, but isn’t.
Registering a top level domain is a lot more straightforward
Once you’ve picked a domain registrar like NameSilo, you just go through their registration process to acquire a domain. One thing to note is you definitely want to use WHOIS Privacy. This is important for safeguarding and protecting your network, and it also keeps your contact information out of the hands of spammers. Without WHOIS Privacy, every domain in your network would have the same contact information, which is a pretty big footprint. Instead, just play it smart and use NameSilo’s free WHOIS Privacy – domains are still $8.99 so it doesn’t cost you anything.
Use CloudFlare – a free proxy that hides your host’s IP
Remember when I mentioned C Class IP hosting is a waste of money? That’s because your network should feature quality content – the type that doesn’t get you deindexed, but also because CloudFlare can be used as a proxy that hides your real IP (your server IP at your web host).
CloudFlare also provides custom nameservers, offering the highest level of protection for your network. Sites on the same CloudFlare account are provided the same set of nameservers, so be sure to create multiple accounts to get unique nameservers for every website.
As long as you don’t setup MX settings (email hosting), there will be no trace of your actual web hosting IP address. CloudFlare even comes with a free SSL certificate, in case your web host doesn’t already provide this through Let’s Encrypt.
If you’re concerned that CloudFlare is a footprint in and of itself, don’t be. There are millions of websites using CloudFlare and it’s growing daily.
Preventing access from bots / spiders
You would never want to block Google from indexing the sites in your network, but there is a theory that a network is safer when backlink spiders like Moz and Majestic are blocked.
When you block backlink spiders, links on your network aren’t recognized by these tools and consequently, won’t show up in the backlink profiles of your websites that have links from them.
I’m personally against it, as I don’t see the point when you’re building quality sites. However, if you don’t want your competitors to be able to audit your backlink profile and find the links coming from your network, then it might be a step worth taking.
To do this, simply use the following: Spider Blocker for WordPress.
Step 4: Provide Value on your Blogs
It’s probably tempting to throw up a quick article on your blogs, with links pointing back to your websites. You’re curious what the impact might be on your rankings and that’s understandable. I hope you will consider the long-term benefit of growing your network into a more tangible asset.
While your expired properties and TLDs will have existing authority that could benefit your rankings when used for links, it’s a good way to get your web 2.0’s deleted and your other domains de-indexed.
Web 2.0’s are actively monitored and these sites have regulations in place. They aren’t clueless to the SEO advantages of expired properties and they regularly check accounts to make sure they benefit their users.
Search engine manipulation is obviously against Google’s guidelines as well. If you venture into that territory, you run the risk of getting your websites penalized or de-indexed. Google hunts link networks down and has been doing so successfully for years.
Instead, take the time to produce an editorial calendar for each blog. Map out what type of blog posts you want each website to focus on and the topics/keywords you intend to cover. This allows the blogs to get indexed in search engines with a steady flow of content.
Genuinely strive to provide value to your audience with each blog:
- Do keyword research and think about the types of posts your audience will search for online.
- Target long-tail keywords that you can easily rank for with your expired domains and focus on driving traffic.
- Use your expired blog network as a traffic funnel or to grow your email newsletter. These properties can be just as useful for getting traffic and leads as blog posts on your main site.
- Create unique media such as infographics or videos to further engage your audience.
- Add images to your posts to improve their appearance and rankings.
- Add base pages such as: contact us, about us, terms, privacy, disclaimer, etc. to improve their legitimacy and appearance.
- Write lists, reviews, e-books or other compelling content.
- Use the properties for reputation management and set them up as if a customer or reviewer produced the content.
- Write quality blog posts. It shouldn’t be filler content. Treat your expired network as if it was a part of an overarching content marketing strategy.
- Diversify the types of properties you build. Some should be primarily video content while others are text or images.
- Syndicate your PBN content to directories and content distribution sites.
Step 5: Build Further Authority
When you take the time to build a high quality private blog network like this, the last thing you should do is stop there. It’s important to build further authority into your network.
Using expired web 2.0 properties and expired top level domains is a great way to build a free private blog network, but it has to be seen as a long-term effort. There’s no telling when the backlinks and subsequently, the authority, will disappear in your domains.
You can help maintain this authority through quality link building.
You shouldn’t link your private blog network together (interlink sites) as this would create a footprint that connects them. However, when your private network is filled with quality content, this becomes less of a concern – as do the other PBN safeguarding and protection techniques.
The more you develop these sites and turn them into quality domains, the less of a private blog network you really have. Suddenly, you have freestanding assets that are genuine and valuable to your business. You don’t have to worry about what sites link where, because your network isn’t just for links or search engine rankings. Your private blog network has become just as meaningful as your main websites.