This post comes with the following warning & pre reading points:
Warning: This is considered a grey hat tactic, against Google’s TOS and will seriously damage your health 🙂
I blatantly plagiarized Rands title from his excellent post on “White Hat SEO: It F@$#ing Works“, a response to an equally excellent post from Kris Roadruck titled “Why Hat SEO is a Joke“. Also, in terms of the below, I recently guest blogged on tiered link building over at Wordstream, which is related to the below.
What is a Link Network ?
Now back to the post. It’s no secret that a lot of the big players in competitive markets are making use of link networks or have built their own. Link networks have been around for years and come in a lot of different guises. A basic link network is a number of sites owned by you, with the sole intention of increasing the search engine rankings of another site, also owned by you.
I first became interested in link networks for two core reasons:
a. I was involved in a couple of aggressive markets and noticed competitors were dominating for head keywords by making use of an uber strong link network.
b. A lot of the big wig SEO guru’s were advocating acquiring links from sites within your own market (which I agree with) and said links from unrelated sites would not really count (which I didn’t).
Like any good SEO, instead of sitting on the sidelines, I decided to build my own network.
A lot of link networks are set up in a tiered structure with a lot of hard graft. The little SEO elfs would:
– Create a list of tier 1 sites, usually a .com (for appearances sake)
– Create a second tier of hundreds of .info sites. Link all the .info sites to the first tier
– Create a mass of links to the .info sites using article spinning, squidoo pages, hub pages, social forum links, other link networks
– Link the tier 1 sites (.com) to your core sites (or site)
– Create Google alerts to track all blog/article titles and stick them into your Google RSS feeder (segmenting folders to match up with tiers if need be)
– Run them all through Bookmarking Demon or Social Bot (probably BD due to scale and ability to deal with Captchas)
– If you want to go crazy, create lots of parasite sites to feed all of RSS feeds into and auto publish, then submit those RSS feeds everywhere – but you are in the rabbit hole now.
Obviously the above is just a very small portion of a link network. There would be dozens more (or more likely, hundreds) link network sites. This is just for example purposes.
The reason I call this the poor mans link network is because you have to build second & third tiered links (dependent on how many levels deep you want to go) to your tier 1 sites – those at the core of your link network. This is a real drag on both time & resources.
The 5 Steps to Upgrade your Link Network
The following quick and easy steps allow you to forget about the hassle of building second and third level links.
1) Buying Domains & Sites that already have links
The best option is to buy dropped domains from Godaddy. Dropped domains are those which haven’t been renewed by their owners and will be deleted from the domain name registry. Basically, someone either forgot to renew their domain or just doesn’t want it anymore. With so many new sites being created everyday, there are a lot of gems to be had. To get started buying dropped domains you can:
Register at Freshdrop.net or Domain Sumarai. Freshdrop is the best service. It’s $97 a month, but the reality is, if you can’t afford that – You probably can’t afford to maintain your own link network. Freshdrop will give you a tonne of information on each domain and pulls in sites from Godaddy, Sedo, Snap, Pool, to name but a few.
b. Check your domain
Although Freshdrop gives you a lot of information on each site (including if the site has fake page rank), it’s worth doing a couple of quick checks yourself.
– I usually run a info:site in Google to verify if the site is real or there is anything going on with funky redirects.
– Use the way back machine to see what type of site you are buying. There are probably market verticals you don’t want to purchase an old site from.
– Use the site: + SEO Firefox plugin to check if the site has pages indexed in Google and also does it have any interior pages carrying pagerank. Having pages indexed in Google is a good sign and you probably want to consider 301 redirecting any interior pages carrying pagerank to new locations so you don’t loose this.
Are there other methods to get sites ?
Yes, you can purchase sites from Flippa, Ebay, Digital Point, and Sitepoint. This can have it’s advantages as you may be able to buy sites that are already in your market space. More expensive than buying dropped domains.
There may be uber secretive and smarter ways to do this, but I simply created multiple profies on Godaddy and linked these profiles to one hosting provider. For example, if I am using WPWebhost to host a number of sites. I would have one profile on Godaddy to manage all domains hosted there. Google allows you to create multiple profiles in one account, which can all belong to different people.
I would adhere to the following:
– No more than 15 sites on one host. For me this creates a more natural looking network. Hosting providers like SEOHosting allow you to create multiple C-Class ip addresses, so you could host more than 15 and have them setup across a range of C-Class addresses. But they will all come from the same nameserver (although I think you can change that in SEOHosting). Would your nameserver or WHOis data leave a traceable pattern – good read here.
** Never host your network sites on the same account where you have a core site
e. Managing / Developing Your Sites
This is the crucial part of your link network and what I feel will make the difference between success or failure. Basically, it boils down to resources and if you have them. If you don’t have resources you will probably:
– Get a lot of WordPress sites setup
– Use free templates
– Use something like Backup Buddy to easily clone sites (even if you are only setting up 10 – 15 wordpress sites a month, a lot of your time is lost in setup). There are lots of ways to clone your sites – just do a Google search for “clone wordpress sites”.
– Use WPRobot to auto generate lots of mashed up content across the network
– Not have any budget to generate anymore links to site, just rely on links already there
** Cross your fingers sites from the network don’t ever incur a manual review or else you will be smashed pretty quickly.
If you have resources you will:
– Use paid for templates that look good and tweak so each site looks different
– Get low cost content from Elance, Odesk, WarriorForum, Textbroker
– Put together a low level link building strategy using article spinning, other link networks (Unique Article Wizard, SEOLinkVine etc etc), Social forum linking ($5 packages over on the Warrior Forum) to keep links coming into your network to show they are still active.
** Never interlink your network sites and never host adsense or affiliate feeds (ebay, amazon etc) on them
Link networks can really produce results in competitive markets. It should be said, after the Google Farmer update, it could get more difficult to build a successful link network. Especially for those people who don’t have a huge amount of resources. But with all the major link networks suffering because of this update (from using crappy spun content), building a real high level network with quality content, could see you dominate a market space.
But it’s a lot of work, the following is what you could have within 1 or 2 months, solid foundation to build on
I gave up my network for a couple of reasons:
– I didn’t have the time or resources to build it out into a real quality network as per above. For this reason it left patterns and I am pretty sure Google devalued a number of the sites
– Google started to devalue links from blogrolls, which is a big part of having a network. Yes, you can also use in content links, but from my experience, links in blogrolls did produce the best results. You need a lot more in content links, therefore, a far bigger network.
– In terms of my future goals, projects, I didn’t require it at the moment and it was impacting other projects (the maintenance).
Was the link network effective ?
One of the most effective link tactics I have seen, especially for how quick it could produce results in competitive markets and weren’t very linkable (as Kris points out in his post), making them difficult to achieve results using whitehat. It also proved that links from totally irrelevant sites (to your market), did produce results (maybe this has changed in the past couple of months, but I doubt it). I also think Google devalues links from sites that cease to attract any real traffic or natural links themselves, which is why you need to think of low level links driven to your first tier of sites.
Would I build another one ?
If $visitor = “google””
print ‘Of course not’
print ‘Resource dependent i.e. custom built automation software to build out quickly and include unique content is the way to go’
Where do I sit on the White vs Black ?
What about Gray ? Ha – no, I never wear a hat, doesn’t suit my face – so I just think Time+Resources+Competition vs ROI !!!