Update: Although PBNs still work, they now have a history of being targeted by Google and therefore may not be the safest option. This is why we now focus on creating online businesses that are independent of SEO traffic.
Everywhere you turn you read about Authority Sites vs Micro-Niche Sites… the debate rages on – a debate I’ve always found to be quite silly. The truth is that both Micro-Niche Sites and Authority Sites have their benefits, and you should do both. MN Sites act as a great way to find profitable niches quickly that you may want to build an authority site in. They rank quickly and cost next to nothing to setup, and they can float you while you wait the months or years it takes for an authority site to give you a full-time income.
But let’s go over some basics here, why do MN Sites rank quickly?
- Domain Benefits – Having an exact match domain or at least phrase match domain is a huge benefit. Though it’s a benefit that has been dropping over the last 2 years and will likely continue to decrease in the years to come.
- Recycling Links – This one is huge. If you have a PBN (Private Blog Network) of just 50 sites, you could rank every single one of these suckers by just having all 50 sites link to all 100 sites. With an authority site if you had your 50 sites link to your 100 pages 100 times you’d get no more benefit than a single link to each site – in fact you’d likely get the links devalued or incur some kind of penalty.
So those are the pros of MN Sites. But there are cons too:
- Low Quality – Once you have enough of them, it is impossible to give care and attention to any individual MNS. This means they end up lacking in quality. This happens for every single major MNS builder, no matter how puritan they were when they started out, believe me.
- Short Lifespan – Google doesn’t like sites with little content (under 10 pages based on Adsense acceptance guidelines). So they have to either be larger sites or you have to accept the fact that they are destined to eventually fail. Unless it is a particularly strong earner, I do the latter because those additional 9 pieces of content are enough to get me another handful of micro niche sites. I estimate the average lifespan of a1-5 page MNS to be 6 months. They often last longer but this is a safe bet.
- Increasingly Difficult to Link Build – Even just a year ago you could write a spun article or create some mashup of content to load your PBNs up with content to link build from. Not anymore – the Panda refreshes have made spun and mashed up content no longer pass value, so it requires a lot of unique content. This means a lot of micro-management which also means more issues with maintaining quality.
In favor of Authority Sites
The fact is, I would much rather have a 100 page site where each page is generating $50/mo then have 100 sites where each site generated $50/mo. You’d pay attention to the content, you’d treat the site right and visitors would get huge value.
You could build a list, you could work on monetization. You could sell it and retire. And once you’re ranked for everything in the niche you will begin to be cited and pick up links naturally.
The best linkbuilding technique is actually ranking with good content :) In fact, most authority sites get to where they are because their authors just focus on writing content for many months to years, and begin ranking for long-tail terms that the “linkeratti” stumbles upon and decides to link to. You can speed this up by some clever networking, but you’re still looking at many months before you will see real traffic and any financial return whatsoever on your investment. Unless you have access to hundreds or thousands of quality linking domains that is…
If one has access to that # of sites then you could easily link build 100 pages on a single domain enough to get them all to rank. And the great thing is you don’t need to be writing unique articles for the links – you can simulate link bait! This is what I’m going to be trying in the next few months. But wait… what do I mean by simulating link bait?
Using a PBN and Simulating Link bait
Let’s say you have access to 600 premium expired domains, all have been redone as various types of news or generic sites (coupons, deals, user-contributed tips, editorials, the list goes on), and all of the sites have unique content and would pass a manual review. You create an authority site in the auto niche. Now how would an authority site link build? Through link bait!
So you create an infographic, as an example it could be a pretty, printable diagnostic infographic for common car problems and their solutions. It’s a seriously valuable resource. Now you could go out and “market” this through the traditional route, emailing, brown-nosing… I mean uh networking… etc. But you all know the ROI here is terrible – you’d spend an entire day and get 1 or 2 links if you’re lucky.
OR you could go out and post this infographic on a bunch of your news sites in the Auto section. It would include a dynamic element at the bottom like “Latest posts” that could include variable deep-linking for your comment (or not, whatever).
So you go ahead and do that and post it to a couple hundred sites. No unique content necessary, you could post it with a single script, and you’d stagger it over time. Maybe you’d start with a few dozen sites in week1, focussing on the same series of URLs you’d like to link to. Then do another few dozen the following week on a different series of URLs and so on and so on.
The great thing is that once these pages start to rank, you can promote your linkbait from them. Suddenly you will be getting tens of thousands of visitors every month, and they love your resource – you are bound to pick up links naturally. Like I said, ranking in the top 10 is the best form of link building.
Assuming you’ve setup the PBN smartly, how is Google to know that these aren’t real editorial links? And of course you could do all sorts of link bait options. Maybe a contest or a giveaway (sign up to their newsletter to be entered to win a $500 GPS) . Real authority sites do this all the time and will provide the same generic images or text to sites to post. Just make sure you don’t optimize anchor text (post titles) and use a bunch of image links and have about 20% nofollow to make it look like a truly pure link profile.
That’s all well and good, but how do I get access to that many sites?
It’s all about scale and shared labor. You need a tight-knit group of like-minded people, and a good system to manage it. Everyone finds and sets up their own sites on unique C-class IPs, and each person maintains the quality and integrity of their own sites.
All this came about based on my experience so far with the 8 interns I took on. Having interns has been fantastic. It’s like having multiple copies of me, all using my tools to do high-level tasks. In a single month they will have collectively found and cleaned thousands of $30+ domains based on my domain calculator, and are collectively developing 700 expired domains as Adsense / TLA/PBN sites. That’s crazy!
So this month we’re focussing on building a “Post grad” Private Blog Network, just for the people that have finished the internship and a few others that I have worked with. I’ve got a programmer working on the system, but essentially we are all creating 25 sites on 25 unique Ips. We will start with 10 people, and I will be posting another (much simpler) intern graduate course in September and all graduates will also be eligible for this network. I’m hoping that by the end of October we will have collective access to 600+ premium domains, all hosted on different C-Classes. I’ll post more info this week.
When we’re done I may release the script and a little course so that readers could work together to setup their own PBNs. You would get networking opportunities and control of your own private blog network – that sure beats using the low quality public networks out there.
Authority Brand + MN Sites = Umbrella Niche Sites
Just as a bonus, I wanted to share this as an option that I had planned on doing since the beginning of my MNS business. Basically you create a storefront that is just a collection of PMD/EMDs under a single unifying brand. See hayneedle.com or Wayfair.com as an example (the latter in a very bold move, recently 301 redirected all their EMDs to wayfair.com when they rebranded from CSNStores – and they still rank!). If done well, Google will be totally fine with it. In the end I decided against it because I preferred the simpler Adsense model over E-Commerce (I moved to Mexico and lost my ambition to build an empire – but you empire builders will love this!).
There are a few new ideas here so I would really welcome any questions, comments or critiques in the comments!