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How Do You Test Your PBNs?

To ensure that the domains that we have obtained are not toxic, we test every PBN domain we set up. To do this, we monitor the effects of linking out these domains to test cases in various niches. Only the domains that produce positive results in the form of ranking increases get added to our network, and the ones that fail either have to be retested or in the worst case scenario retired.

Build a List of Test Cases for Testing

The first step to testing our PBNs is by building a list of test cases or rather URLs to test our links. We use Ahrefs to find out the anchors and backlinks of possible test cases. These sites have to fulfill the following criteria:

  • URL is ranking on page 2-4 (best between rank 15 to 40) for the chosen keyword
  • Related keywords are also not ranked on the first page
  • Backlinks do not have exact match anchors
  • Not an authority site (such as a popular magazine, or craigslist for example)
  • Page must be explicitly talking about the keyword in the content or url (such as www.website.com/cat-toys for the keyword ‘cat toys’

The main aim of a test case is to find a page that Google likes but does not have the backlinks to rank on page 1 for the keyword. We prefer using pages with zero backlinks (or even root domains with no backlinks) as these pages are clean and already achieve a decent ranking without any links. By pointing a link to them with our PBN, we can narrow down the reasons for a ranking change of a test case being a result of the link.

Test Your PBN

With a gathered list of test cases, we will now start testing our newly setup PBNs by linking out to these test URLs. For every PBN, we will create two new links, each one to a different test case URL. For each link, a new post will be created, with at least 500 words of content, 2-3 pictures and videos, with a prominent link at the top of the content.

After posting these links, we will record the date that these links were published, and also indexed. We will now start monitoring the ranking changes for each test case URL for their respective keywords. We perform this test for a minimum of 1-2 weeks, to 1 month.

Passing the Test

If at any point of time after the 1-2 week initial period, the test cases show a significant ranking improvement (such as increasing in 10+ ranking positions or immediately to the first page), we will approve of this PBN domain and add it to the Relentless Network. Sometimes, we will wait for another week of testing or so to observe if these ranking improvements are stable.

Failing the Test

If after one month of testing, the PBNs do not show any ranking increases at all, or even worse, they show a negative result for the test cases where the rankings started to fall; then these PBNs fail the test. As it is possible that these sites are not suitable for the niche we tested them on, we will conduct a second test for it on different niches to find out if the domains are indeed toxic. For the domains that still fail the second time, we do not add them to our network and retire them.

Conclusion

In order to provide the most cost-effective and powerful domains, we manually test each one of the new domains we add to our rapidly expanding network. By doing everything manually and in-house, we can control the quality of our PBNs and ensure that they comply with the Relentless Network’s requirements.

Our methods of domain hunting, setup and testing are tried and proven over the past 4 years. If you’re interested to get some links without doing all the above work on your own, check our our Relentless Network.

Alternatively, you may also want to look for your own domains. Learn how to do so by checking out this article on finding PBN domains. Otherwise, you can also see how we build PBN domains beautifully.

How Do You Build Great PBNs?

After obtaining juicy domains, we have to set them up, and more importantly, make sure that our PBNs look ‘legitimate’. What this means is that these websites must look exactly like any regular website that you may come across while browsing the web. Sites that will alert Google to identify them as PBNs have properties such as a generic blog structure, generic posts, and pages, or just look ugly. Furthermore, the sites must have as little footprints as possible linking them together, as many of these PBNs may be used to link to the same moneysite. All this results in failing a manual review and thus deindex and the loss of all the money spent on these domains.

We will now share our PBN setup process that has resulted in less than 5% of our sites being deindexed in the past 5 years of operating our network.

Hosting the Sites

We use hosting with different IPs and nameservers

After hosting the site, we install WordPress into it in order to move on to the next phase of PBN setup.

Site Persona and Plugins

After the WordPress install, we generate a random persona to be the ‘site owner’, with a random name and address to be used for the site. This makes the site look much more real, that someone is actually managing the site. We also make sure to choose a niche that is similar to the name and relevant to the past history of the domain.

For Plugins, we make use of the Link Privacy Plugin or HTACCESS to block bots effectively and stop your competitors from finding your links. The plugin also does not count as a footprint as it is hidden as well. We also use a list of different plugins for each of our sites, which includes the following:

  • Contact Form
  • Image Optimizer
  • Social Share Buttons
  • Social Media Plugin (Such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest)
  • Privacy Policy Plugin

We switch between 4-10 different kinds of plugins for each of the categories above. We always randomize the plugins we use to reduce the footprints left by the PBNs.

Site Appearance (Theme and Widgets)

To reduce the footprints left by our PBNs, we also randomize the widgets we use and try never to use the same theme more than once every 100 sites. The themes that we prefer to use on our sites are either magazine or blog style themes.

According to the niche chosen for the site, we also create a unique logo as well as a favicon for the site to make it look like a legitimate entity or business online.

For site widgets, each theme has unique widget placements, and we make full use of the unique theme options whenever possible. We pad up the sidebar as well as other parts of the site such as the footer and middle sections with naturally occurring website features. A list of these widgets can be seen below:

  • Advertisements (We try to use around 3 advertisement banners, which are header ads, footer ads, sidebar ads and middle page section ads, related to the niche at hand)
  • Author Bio
  • Recent Posts
  • Categories
  • Search Bar
  • Social Share Buttons
  • Social Media Widget (For your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest Feed)

For the title of these widgets, instead of using the generic titles such as ‘Advertisement’, we mix it up sometimes, using words such as ‘Buy Books Here’ or “Sponsored Ads”.

Pages and Posts

These are the different types of Pages that we use in our blogs:

  • About Us (We usually write about 200 words of content on this page to make it seem more legitimate)
  • Contact Us
  • Terms of Service
  • Privacy Policy
  • Category items (eg., in a Tech blog, it would be Computers, Internet, Gadgets, etc.)
  • References/Resources
  • Other relevant pages such as Tips, Events

As for posts, we always make sure that we create 4-5 different categories for the niche we chose for our PBN. We do this by searching for popular blogs in the niche, and copying some of the categories that these blogs have. We also change the default ‘uncategorised’ category to a different name. After this, we populate the blog with 1-2 posts per category, including the default category.

Each of our initial posts has at least 2-3 images and videos, all taken from stock photo sites. We make sure that these posts also have a unique featured image.

Conclusion

Written above are the most critical parts of our PBN setup process, to ensure that each PBN looks legitimate and ready to pass any manual review at any time. We believe in taking as little risks as possible for our network to provide cost-effective, authoritative links to all of our customers and for our use.

Now that you have learnt how to set up a beautiful PBN, the next step is to do PBN testing on your new setups. Otherwise, if you would still like to find out how to source for awesome domains, click here to read about finding PBN domains.

How Do You Find Excellent PBN Domains?

In this article, we detail our method for sourcing domains for the Relentless Network to obtain high authority domains that provide these juicy links to our customers. We only use auctioned domains as these domains have usually not been dropped and much more likely to pass the PBN tests in the later part of our process. We have a list of strict filters in the form of domain metrics, indexing, and past website history checks, as well as analysing anchors and backlinks of potential PBN domains, before bidding for them.

Initial Domain Search

To start our domain hunt, we use a secret tool. This tool is easy to use and is powerful enough to easily find and grab domains currently being auctioned. These are the settings we use to obtain the base list of domains to sort out:

  • Domain name does not contain porn and illegal terms
  • Domain name does not contain digits
  • Only .com, .net, .org and .info TLDs
  • Google Index > 0
  • Domain age less than 2015
  • Moz Domain Authority and Page Authority > 15
  • Majestic Citation Flow > 10 and Trust Flow > 14

Selecting the Right Domains

After obtaining the list of auctioned domains that fulfill our initial criteria, we start a process of filtering out the domains that do not pass our minimum metrics and other checks. For this section, we are analysing the domains for harmful properties; the reason being that a ‘superstar’ domain with extremely high metrics would still be unusable and even toxic if their backlinks and anchors were spammy.

Step 1: Indexing Check

Checking if a domain is indexed is one of the first few things that we do to filter out the domains that we cannot use. We do this because auctioned domains that are not indexed have usually been penalized in the past and it would be too difficult to salvage them.

How we do this is by typing ‘site:DOMAINNAME’ where ‘DOMAINNAME’ refers to the name of the domain. Remember that domains have four different variations of URLs, namely:

  • http://www.domainname.com
  • http://domainname.com
  • www.domainname.com
  • domainname.com

We perform this first check on all the domains from the spreadsheet. If a variation of the URL is not indexed, remember to check the other three variations. For the domains not indexed, remove them from the main list.

Step 2: Domain Metrics

Next, we put the domains (and their variations) through tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic and Open Site Explorer to obtain their domain metrics. These metrics are shown below. The metrics that we are most interested in are bolded.

  • Ahrefs: DR 6, RD 15
  • Majestic: TF 15, RD 10, CF not more than 1.5x of TF
  • Moz (Open Site Explorer): DA 15, PA 15, Mozrank 1.5

For Ahrefs, the reason why we prefer sites with DR more or equal to 6 is due to Ahrefs themselves stating that most sites, 83.9% in their database, have a DR in the 0-5 range; therefore, we want sites that are better than the majority of sites online to be part of our network.

For Majestic, what is meant by CF not more than 1.5x TF is that if the TF is 15, the CF should never be more than 22.5. Spammy websites often have high citation flow (CF) but have extremely low (or even 0) trust flow (TF). This filters out all the potential spammy domains that are included in our list.

We also want domains with a relatively high RD as we do not want the authority of the site to tank if any of the backlinks to the PBN domain get removed. A domain with 20 RD will suffer less link-juice decreases if a backlink gets removed, as compared to a domain with only 3 RD.

While most PBN vendors only use one or two metrics to measure their sites, we take into consideration all the different metrics that are provided by the most popular domain analysis tools in the market. Furthermore, we combine all this information to generate an in-house measurement metric, also known as the ArchSEO Rating (ASR), which we use to qualify the domains and filter them further. After using ASR in our criteria, we were able to more consistently identify well performing domains in our searches.

Step 3: Wayback Machine check (Archive.org)

The next step in our process is to check the history of the website through the Wayback Machine at Archive.org. What we usually look for is the latest screenshot of the domain before it went in the auctions, one year before that, three years before that, and any other significant changes to the website in the past. We do this to filter out any possibility that the domain was misused and became spammy, or a possible past PBN site. Here are the things that we look out for (not exhaustive):

  • Any obscene, illegal or spammy material on the site
  • Strange foreign language sites, after translation
  • Past PBNs
  • Website purpose drastically changed from the original owner to another type of site (that makes no sense; for example, an internet forum site that became a site about windsurfing)

Step 4: Check Anchors and RDs for spam

With Majestic, we now check the Anchors and RDs for any undesirable or spammy links.

  • Anchor text should not have any porn, pharmaceutical or illegal keywords (e.g., fake Rolex watches, drugs, viagra)
  • Anchor text not heavily keyword targeted by a specific exact match keyword
  • Sitewide links or mass anchor text from blog comments, directories, and foreign anchors (e.g., Chinese or Japanese characters but the site is not from either of these countries)

Conclusion

If at any point in time we suspect that a domain is not fit to be part of our network, we take it off right away. It is much less risky to have a false negative result of rejecting a good domain, than a false positive where we accept a highly toxic domain.

Everything in our PBN process is done in-house, from the domain hunting to the setup, and also the testing of new PBNs. It is essential that we obtain only the highest grade of domains for our network, as not only do we want to provide those of the highest quality to you, but we also use them for our activities. Move forward to our next article if you would like to know more about how we set up our PBN domains.

Now that you have found a great domain, click here find out how to set up your PBN beautifully. Alternatively, read this article if you have already set them up and want to learn how to do PBN testing.