Ok, so you have made a plan for your new network, and you want to move on and start searching for quality domains. By the end of this post you will learn how to find clean, spam-free domains with good metrics for a reasonable price. Let's dig in.
What are PBN Domains?
Private Blog Network (PBN) Domains are expired or auction domains that have inbound backlinks from high authority sites and can be used for SEO purposes to increase Search Engine Ranking.
Domains are the foundation of your network, and arguably the most important part of the equation. The main difference between newly registered domains and the ones SEOs use for PBNs is that expired and auction domains have existing link profile and juice, and it’s used to pass that authority to your money site.
There are many ways to find a domain name, and in this post, I will cover the most important ones, what the difference between expired, backorder, and auction domains are and how to find each type. I will also cover the basics of SEO metrics (Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Referring Domains and Domain Authority)
Domain Metrics Explained:
When checking on a potential domain, I like to check all three metric authorities (Majestic SEO, Ahrefs and Moz). The reason behind this is that each one has it’s pros and cons and some major flaws. Together, they give a clear indication of domain power and if it’s a viable candidate for PBN domain.
Majestic Trust Flow and Citation Flow
These two are the industry standard for domain "power". The more Trust Flow a domain has, the more powerful it is, in theory. I don’t care much about citation flow but having the ratio of TF:CF = 1:1 to 1:1.5 is pretty good. Generally, I try to aim for TF15+ as far as TF goes.
Have in mind that Trust Flow is a very volatile metric and it usually changes every day. Also, it's very flawed. I found domains with TF5 with links from Washington Post, Dmoz, Wikipedia and several other authorities.
Moz Domain and Page Authority
A rather flawed metric and easily manipulated by spam. It’s still a solid signal, and the higher DA and PA are, the better. I try to aim for something above DA10 if not DA15+.
Ahrefs Referring Domains and Domain Rating
Ahrefs gives much more referring domain results than Majestic and this is why I use Ahrefs to check on Referring domains and individual links. Domain Rating is similar to Domain Authority and is an indication of domain strength, so the higher, the better. I aim for Referring domains 15-20+ and check individual links with Ahrefs as well.
Domain Spam Checks
Having clean anchor texts and wayback history is paramount for a successful PBN site. You don’t want to grab a domain that was previously used as a phishing site, pharma or gambling (unless you are in the mentioned niches)
You can use these tools for this purpose:
Here you can browse the history of your domain and see what it looked like in the past. Domains with good history have not changed much over the years (re-design is fine but changes in niche are not).
On the other hand, if you see drastic changes in niche or Chinese (or similar) letters it usually means that the domain was used for spam and it is not a good candidate for your network.
I don't mind foreign sites (French, German, Spanish) if the site was legitimate.
Sometimes, if wayback archive has no history, you can check screenshots. Usually, they hold much smaller database than archive.org.
Ahrefs has the best anchor checker and you can dig out all sorts of information about your domain history. Make sure to check historic index, not just fresh.
These three tools will give you some insight how your domain looked like in the past and what kind of anchor texts and links are pointed towards it. You want to look out for any Chinese text, pharma, porn or any other activity that could be considered spam. You may also come across some domains that were used as a PBN before, and you should consider skipping those as well.
Have in mind that you might come across domains with no wayback or screenshot history. In that case, you should use anchor texts as a compass to guide you.
Checking anchor texts for spam
You can use Ahrefs for this purpose, and go to the anchors tab. There, look for any spam activity mentioned above. Ultimately you want to have more URL and Branded (that domains brand) anchor texts over keyword anchors, as it can be considered spam to have 50-60% or more keyword anchors.
My anchor profile is not perfect but its ok.
Domain brand (pbn fox), domain anchor (pbnfox.com) or Author anchors are fine.
Brand anchors like (Nike, Louis Vuitton, Air Jordan etc.) are considered spam much like medication substances. Just google it if you are not certain.
Here is an example of bad anchor text profile:
And this an example checked on Majestic:
As you can see, entire profile is ridden with spam anchors.
If the domain has a few (<2-3%) spam anchors but the rest checks out I ignore that fact.
Google gives more authority to older websites and usually much higher ranking. It makes sense, why would G rank a brand new site that no one has ever heard of.
Having that in mind, backlinks from sites with age provide more value than links from brand new sites.
Expired domains lose any age they had when they expire. That doesn’t mean that these domains do not work.
They just take a bit more to get out of “sandbox” (Yes, PBNs have sandbox too) and after that they can be almost as powerful as an auction domain with similar links or stats.
Inbound Link Types
Not every link type is treated equally in the eyes of Google. Contextual links are considered more valuable than directory listings, and those are more valuable than footer links for example.
Here are some common link types that you will come across when searching for expired domains.
· Blog comments - Natural and well-written blog comments can be very good, but they no longer pass that much link juice as they used to.
· Profiles – Forum and similar profile links were widely used for Spam so you should watch out if it’s a real profile or spam.
· Directory Listings – Usually found in local listings, these links can be powerful but watch out for the number of outbound links.
· Footer Links – Footer links pass the least link juice and can be considered spammy. But I would consider a good web design or similar domain with good footer links.
· Image Links or Sidebar ad links – Image links are good and can be very powerful when you enter a proper alt text.
· Contextual Links – This is what you will be sending to your money site via PBNs most of the time. It’s the most powerful type of link and passes both relevancy and link juice.
So, when looking into a potential domain, you need to check individual links and link types not only metrics.
Metrics vs Individual Backlinks
In the end, it boils down to the links themselves and what Google thinks is a worthy link. You can have a TF30+ RD20 domain with blog comments or footer links, and it’s still worth less than a TF5 RD50 domain with links from Wikipedia, Washingtonpost, and BBC.co.uk.
I have seen hundreds of domains with TF <10 that have powerful links from high authority sites. Would I Register those domains? Hell yes.
Expired, Backorder and Auction Domains – What’s the difference?
There is a lot of confusion about this. What are backorder domains and are they stronger than expired domains? What are auction domains in that case and how they compare to the former two? Let's dig in.
What are Expired domains?
The owner purchased a domain name, hosted a website (or not) but decided that he or she has no use for it anymore or simply forgot to renew it. In any case, you now have the chance to register this domain as your own.
If there was a good website on this domain, the chances are that it will have some quality links pointed its way. For SEO, that’s pure gold, since you are getting backlinks out of the box.
These links, along with age and few other things discussed later, are the cornerstone of domain authority. The more quality links your site has, the more powerful it is SEO wise. This goes for your money sites and your PBN sites.
Once deleted, expired domains lose any age they previously had. This is not a huge problem and after several months they will pass link juice just like backorder and auction domains.
This infographic should be helpful to understand the life cycle of a domain:
How to find Expired Domains
Expired domains are usually found by scraping.
Scraping involves going through thousands of URLs and checking for “dead” links to a domain that is available for registration. Making the list of URLs is very tiresome process and is usually replaced by domain crawlers nowadays. Back in the day there were only handful of tools that can check for dead links, one of them being good old Xenu.
Now, there are myriad tools out there which you can use to find expired domains. These tools can go over thousands or even millions of URLs and make their own lists of seed domains and URLs.
Our team tested pretty much everything on the market, and I will name several expired domain crawlers and vendors here that we think are worth checking into.
· Domain Ronin – Operated by awesome folks at PBNHQ, Domain Ronin can find hundreds of expired domains every month. It includes a free metric checker (you dont need any of the accounts) and includes spam checks as well. There is a weekly trial for $37.
· SERPDrive – A fantastic new tool with an interesting approach to pricing. You can pay for a single crawl and get all domains that this crawl nets. It also includes metric and spam checks and it is quite fast.
· PBN HQ – Daily updated list of domains with good metrics and are already spam checked.
· Ranknetworks.com – Run by the crew from SEMImpact, they offer quality domains at fair price.
· BHC Marketplace – Good place to find everything you need for SEO, not just domains.
Expiring domains are due to expire in the next several days. This means that they are still on their original registrar, but the owner can not renew it anymore. Registrars usually hold these domains before releasing them so they can sell them via backorders and auctions.
You can ask a backorder service to “catch” the domain for you for a certain fee. If successful, they will take your previously deposited money, and you will become the proud new owner of the domain name in question. If they fail or some other backorder service catches the domain, your funds will remain on your account.
If several people are competing for a backorder domain, it goes to the auction, and the process is similar to Godaddy auctions or any other auction.
Expiring domains retain their age and it does not reset like with expired domains.
How to find Expiring Domains
You can purchase expiring domains via backorder service. If you are not familiar with the process, once the domain is expired it goes through five stages and during the last stage you can grab the domain before it’s deleted and released to the public.
Typically you pay a Backorder service to “catch” these domains for you before they are deleted, hence “expiring” or “just dropped” domains expression.
Auctions and backorder services
· SnapNames ($69)
· Pheenix.com ($29)
· NameJet ($39)
Snapnames and Namejet also have the lists of expiring domains each day that you can go through and check for the ones you like.
After you have the lists, go through the process of checking metrics, spam, anchors and wayback.
Expiring domains are considered auction domains if there is more than one party interested in that particular domain.
Potentially the most powerful of the three, auction domains are the most expensive. You need to make sure that it’s worth spending $200-300+ on a domain name before bidding.
These days, auctions are very competitive, and you can end up spending hundreds of dollars on a domain name so do your due diligence before bidding on one.
How to get Auction Domains
You can head over to Godaddy Auctions (You have to pay a fee before you can bid, but you can search) > Advanced search and check:
· 2+ Years
· < $XXX Amount (how much are you willing to pay)
· Other things like “Auction ends in XX days” etc
Download the sheet and check the metrics for TF, CF, RD and DA. After you clean up the list, you will be able to find the ones you like metric wise, and after that, you can proceed to spam check. If everything checks out you can bid or buyout a domain.
Flippa is known as a website broker, but they also have a domain auction. The problem with it is that you can not easily export the list like with GoDaddy, so you need to enter keywords or some other factor to narrow the search down.
It is more difficult to export domains from Flippa, so you might want to use excel commands such as text to column.
Much like with GD auctions, you should check everything from metrics to anchors and wayback archive to ensure that the domain is worth it.
Does it have to be indexed?
I prefer that domains are indexed in Google before I bid. I don’t want to spend $300 on a deindexed domain and smack my head for the next three weeks before I reindex it.
Conclusion - What is the best way to find PBN Domains
Expired domains work like a charm, except that you will have to wait a bit longer for them to take effect. Backorder and Auction domains are for those with higher budget and they are slightly more powerful and kick in much faster.
What is your favorite tool or strategy for finding PBN domains? Feel free do drop a comment below and please share if this post was useful to you.
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