The White Hat Alternative to PBNs

Is it possible to leverage the power of private blog networks without actually building one?

The answer: “YES!”

The strategy that I’m about to show you is white hat, safe, and if you want, will allow you to never have to use a PBN again.

Let’s start:

The Strategy

You’re going to leverage the links that make expired domains powerful. The only reason anyone even considers using expired domains is because of the tier one links going to the domain.

Here’s how it works:
Topically relevant links -> Expired Domain -> Your Site

With this model, you have to buy the expired domain, get hosting, get content and take all kinds of measures to eliminate footprints. More importantly, this model doesn’t allow you to get 100% link equity because the expired domain acts as a buffer.

Here’s what we want:
Topically relevant links -> Your Site

Tier one links are the most powerful because you get almost all the link equity.

I’m going to warn you:

This strategy is not cool or glamorous…

It will take hard work and time.

You may want to consider outsourcing some of these tasks because of the time investment necessary.

Now that I’ve scared you, let’s talk about what tools you’ll need.

Tools for the Job

My personal favorite tool for finding expired domains is DomCop. Here’s how you can find expired domains using DomCop: is also a great option as well. Mainly because it’s a free tool. Here’s how you can use it to find expired domains:

My third favorite and final tool I recommend you use is FreshDrop. Here’s how you can use it:

You will also need Majestic and Ahrefs to analyze the links. You can use Open Site Explorer as well since it’s free.

Why This Strategy is Evergreen

There is a good chance that Google could devalue expired domains altogether or use some type of sandbox in the future. With this strategy, you’ll never have to worry about the effectiveness of your private blog network. That’s because you’re not actually using one! You’re just snatching up the links that make the expired domains powerful in the first place.

The first expired domain resource that I’m going to show you is DomCop. This is one of the best because it emphasizes Topical Trust Flow. As you know, the safest and most effective link building strategy is to acquire links from sites that have a relevant Topical Trust Flow to your website.

1. Open up DomCop and click “Simple Filter”

2. My settings: DA = 20 +, Trust Flow = 15 +, only common TLDs (.com, .net., and .org)

3. Search and sort by Majestic Trust flow

4. Now go down the list and look at the Topical Trust Flow for each domain

5. When you find a relevant one, click the colored number and it will take you directly to Majestic

From there, you can start looking for link acquisition opportunities. After you’ve sifted through Majestic, you should also run the same expired domain through Ahrefs. We just use a simple Google doc to handle all the link data. Don’t over-complicate this!

Keep in mind:

The only way you’re going to have success with this strategy is if your site has valuable content. The site owner isn’t going to replace the old link with some trashy one page affiliate site you made. They will want to replace the dead link with something of value.

Content Replacement

One way to increase your reach out success rate is to replace the content that was originally linked to. For example, let’s say I found an expired domain that used to be a blog about SEO.

I would look at its link profile and discover that it has links going to a blog post about “On-Page SEO“. I could either leverage an article I already have or just create a new resource knowing that there are links just waiting to be acquired.

The beauty of this strategy is that you know that the original content/topic was well-received and “linkable”. All you have to do on your side is create a better resource than the original and reach out. You should consider looking at to see if you can find the original article that acquired the links.

Worst case scenario, you created a resource that you know is popular based on the link history of the expired domain.

Reach Out

There is no secret to reaching out. Just be genuine, compliment their work, kindly notify them that they are linking to a dead resource/website out of business, and give them an amazing alternative (your website/content) to replace the broken link. Personalize the email as much as possible, but the reach out process needs to scale. So you should test templates until you come up with one that has a high response rate.

Hint: if you have a female who works for you, have her participate in the outreach. Females tend to get higher response rates.

Success Rate

This strategy isn’t easy and it will certainly take more effort than just buying the expired domain. On average, you will probably be able to secure around 20% of the links you reach out to. The key to having a higher success rate is to only focus on opportunities that are highly relevant.

So, for Gotch SEO, I would need to find an old Internet Marketing and SEO blog that I could leverage. It wouldn’t make sense for me to reach out to real estate websites or something outside of my niche.

There are thousands of domains that expire every single day, which means there are thousands of opportunities for you to secure links for your business.

Other Benefits of This Strategy

What I really love about this strategy is that you can uncover all types of different opportunities. When you begin your research, you’ll find the dead links going to the expired domains, but you’ll also uncover content ideas, other dead resources/sites, and all kinds of different link opportunities.

Just the intel you gather from researching old domains should be more than enough for any link builder to put this strategy in your arsenal.

Have you ever used this link building strategy? Let’s talk in the comments.

Do you want your business to make more money without any new traffic?

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    1. Hi Chad,

      Good question. Anything that’s “easier” in SEO is typically more dangerous. Having multiple 301s is highly fishy, so scale would be a problem. Just having the links is way more safe/effective. Plus 301’s don’t pass 100% link equity, so you would be losing out on power. Hope that makes sense and thanks for the comment!

      1. That reply doesnt make sense, of course the 301 wont get 100% link juice, but i bet a million it will get more then 10% that you will be able to manage getting people to transfer to your new link.

    2. You can get away with this for a couple of times, but if you start mass redirect “rainbow marble” domains to “green marbles” it will, eventually, raise a flag; if not manual then automatic/algo penalty will apply. Better success rate with relevant domains but also tread easy. Another thing – if you just bluntly redirect expired domain, you will lose a lot of those links soonish. Been in PBN biz for last 5 years. Do a careful research in each and every domain history before you buy it, might be surprised how many spammed and dropped “very old and good” looking domains expire each day. Some of them don’t even get second chances in GWT with new owners (wonder what you gotta do to get that hard a slap).

      1. I have reconstructed literally hundreds of domains and never encountered one that didn’t get a “second chance” i’ll bet that you didn’t do proper due diligence, because if you would have this would not be a problem at all.

  1. I recall in a previous post by you, you had dismissed the need to use a proxy IP to set up something similar (I think it might have been your web 2.0 post). Would you still agree with that with this strategy? On a side note, I would love to see some of your outreach email samples that get you a 20% success rate! That would be awesome to see!

    1. Dan,

      Thank you for the comment! Using proxies is safe measure, but isn’t necessary on web 2.0s because Google can’t see who is signing up. I definitely will share some high-converting email templates 🙂

  2. Anyone claiming that SEO and link building in particular is an easy task should read this one in order to understand how much work is needed even to acquire a simple “good” backlink. I wish it was easy to explain that to customers who want “serious” SEO services with £100/month. Thank you Nathan 🙂

  3. Hey Gotch, what an excellent post, I have two questions:
    1. Profile links are good for tier 1?
    2. Web 2.0 single paged based websites are indexed faster, how much tier 2 links we should build, like I usually use YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion and some social sharing sites to get links and it gets indexed, but the problem is, I don’t get my posts ranked with web 2.0’s, so please tell me how much tier 2 links I should build on my web 2.0, Thanks in advance, waiting for your reply, please respond soon, I know you will help me because you are the only one who solves other people problems, Thanks 🙂

  4. Hi Nathan,

    I don’t get it, maybe I should read it one more time. Do you need to buy the expired domain and contact the webmaster who links to the expired domain?

    I would just contact the webmaster who linked to the expired domain and tell him: the domain and business is expired and ask him to link to my niche site.

    Please reply Nathan. And thanks for taking the time to write down this wonderful piece of content.

    1. Hi Gabriel,

      Thanks for the comment and sorry for any confusion! This strategy is all about contacting the webmasters who are linking to dead resources (expired domains)

  5. Great article, but I’m slightly confused. Wouldn’t the link just stay and all you have to do is recreate the link URL with some decent content or from (as mentioned).
    What is the idea behind contacting the person who is linking to you? I don’t think 98% of website owners go back and look at their old outbound links. By notifying them, aren’t you in essence guaranteeing that 80% of them will drop you by your math?
    I think I’d rather take my chances that they forgot they linked to the site.
    Am I missing something here?
    Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer my question.

    1. Hi Chris,

      Sorry for the confusion and thanks for the comment! The strategy you’re implying is to create a private blog network. The point of this article was to show you an SAFE alternative to creating a PBN. Yes, you won’t recover many of the links you reach out for. However, the links you do recover will be much more effective because they will be sending link equity and relevancy directly to your website. More importantly, this strategy is 100% safe. PBNs are not.

      * Important note: I’m not “hatin” on PBNs. I’m just trying to show some alternatives for people that don’t want to take on the risk.

  6. The tactic that you are outlining here is a method of Broken Link Building. But is one that I haven’t thought of previously. I’m going to use this when I get to broken link building for the current SEO campaign I’m working on.

  7. Hey Gotch,

    Maybe this is a little unrelated, but I would like to know:
    Can you create a PBN-esque setup with web 2.0s such as wordpress, weebly, etc?

    Thanks in advance.

  8. Good article. I’ve read about broken link building many times but haven’t ever implemented it. Have you ever put together a full scale broken link building campaign? Can we see that email template you mentioned you’d share?

  9. Broken link building is a time consuming, yet very powerful form of SEO. This is an expansion on what people have been doing with Wikipedia for years. Great post on the subject! We all need to find, or at least use our own twist on PBN’s, as the blatant footprints are getting easier to detect.

  10. Hi guys,

    I am currently in a process of building backlinks for my niche site and was looking for an alternative to PBN and web 2, as I am totally freaked out because of google penalties to PBN and web 2 linking sites…I am not sure what will work out for me, but will try Gotch’s tech definitely.. thanks for the tip… 🙂

  11. Thanks for the help, I’ll proceed step by step and will see if I am able to build a strong and reliable seo strategy on my own, and I am hopeful getting more helpful tips here..

    thanks again


  12. Also please let me know about the broken link technique, I wish I could learn it here…anyone has tips? have you shared any detailed article on the topic? or can I learn it through any websource or article?

  13. Hey Nathan,

    Thanks for the great strategy suggested here.

    I used to mess with PBNs, but gave up mainly because of the vast amount of time required to keep up with it (even with a PBN app to help with content generation).

    What I like about this is that it also does not require buying a bunch of domain names. It’s as simple as looking up the backlinks and then reaching out to the upstream webmaster.

    Time consuming, surely, but I think these links would be quite valuable.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Deron,

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, it’s time consuming, but it’s definitely something that can be outsourced. The best part is you don’t have to buy the domains 🙂

  14. Just getting into the SEO part of things for my websites after several years of hoping people would find me since I didn’t want to learn about it….I have happened upon your site and I am glad I did. Although the terminology is still a bit confusing (I do look up a lot of what is being said on Google for clarification) it is all starting to make sense. A training I’m involved with is highly encouraging PBNs and my search for their relevancy brought me here. They certainly seem like a huge expense with both time and money. Great article with a very welcome alternative to PBNs.

  15. Thanks for the great strategy suggested here.

    I used to mess with PBNs, but gave up mainly because of the vast amount of time required to keep up with it (even with a PBN app to help with content generation).

  16. Thank you so much for the article suggestion! I actually have 4 of them opened in tabs from links in these 2 articles ready to read. I noticed above that you had mentioned that you were willing to share with us your “high-converting email templates” for this. That would be awesome! Can you please do that so I have an idea of how to start?

  17. Great post. I really like the idea of leveraging the link power PBNs use in expired domains by creating similar content and asking the owner of the link to link to me instead. Awesome! I will be using these tactics to push content my newest site. Thanks so so so so much!

  18. Hi Nathan!
    Very helpful post. I recently found a domain which is good in terns of Majestic metrics, but I ran the domain through and saw that the score spam is 5/17. What do you recommend for spam score of moz?

    1. Hey Mehradad,

      Thanks for the comment. I don’t use Moz’s spam score to determine the quality of link opportunities. Just manually check the link profile

  19. I just started my website and I was asking myself the exact question if it’s worth building a PBN (ROI) considering Google’s stand on PBNs. This post has really opened my eyes to things I was not taking into consideration. Keep up the good work Nathan.

  20. Great article! Was searching around about back links and I found out about your blog. I’m currently working on the SEO for my biz site and hopefully using your techniques will help us get there. Thanks for the tips!

  21. This is gold – I have some sites that really need quality links and are in industries I’ve struggled with. I am going to add this strategy to the quiver – can’t believe I never thought of it. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  22. Amazing article my bro, I have few doubts I will be really great full if you answer it .
    1-Are you still practicing it in 2017 ?

    2-Is it effective nowadays or not ?

    3-What about getting penalize from Google ?

    4-How many domain max you recommend for this practice.

    Sorry I have asked lots of question, but when you are new in the game you always want to be aware of risk

    1. Hey there,

      Thank you for the comment!

      1. Yes
      2. Yes
      3. You wouldn’t get penalized using this tactic
      4. It depends on the scenario. There really is no limit, so do whatever it takes to rank

  23. Is PBN still work in 2017? this article already 2 years ago and I think Google has updates their systems for manual reviewers !
    BTW, thank you for nice article !

  24. Hey Nathan,
    This a very helpful article. Regarding the analyzing of links, I was wondering if there’re any credible alternatives or complements to Majestic and Ahref?

  25. Hey Nathan,

    Great article. I just have one question. About how long does it take you to find an opportunity that you will actually be able to reach out and pitch your replacement piece of content? Just to get a rough estimate of how long this strategy takes to find opportunities.

    Again, this is a great article.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Hey Andrew,

      Thank for you for the comment. Well, the expired domain market is very saturated at this point, so it can definitely take some time to vet and select domains. Meaning, you can go weeks without finding relevant and worthy domains

  26. Hi Nathan,
    Thanks for the great article, I just wish clients could appreciate the cost both in terms of $ and time for a good backlinking service. They often seem to think it’s a simple process and as we know it really is not. There are also many services out there still offering cheap backlinks and PBNs but the fact is apart from the time wasted waiting for results that will not happen, there is a huge chance that the site will go down in the serps or worse be deindexed, I learnt the hard way 🙁

  27. Hi Nathan,

    Highly informative. Really like the idea kinda Skyscraper link building technique possibly with better ROT. Now I can easily decide whether should go with pbn or white hat alternative. Thanks you so much for sharing great strategy here!

  28. Fantastic clear and detailed information presented on this page. i just found about it recently and am trying to get all the possible data in order to go right and not make any mistakes.

    Thanks Nathan Gotch

  29. Got the so much information about the PBN and also get the information how to get rid of panality want to know the one more thing about the EMD something like that am heard with someone and don’t have an idea about it kindly tell us too about this

  30. Pbn’s are about CONTROL… in this example u turn control over to t1 backlinkers: the control to disapprove the link, the anchor text, ability to test backlink & whether it stays on/off.

  31. Hi Nathan,
    Thanks very much for this great piece. I want to buy an expired domain to start an authority blog. When I start, what do I do to the existing backlinks? Do I write my wrrite my articles to structure the url to match the links found on other site so that there will be no error 404? Or I should use a 301 redirect to redirect all urls to my authority blog homepage?

    One more thing, will google penalize me for 301 redirect despite the domain I am redirecting to is the same domain but urls does not exist anymore?

    1. Hey David,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes, the definitely something you can do to preserve the link equity. You can also redirect the old landing page URLs to any new one you create (that’s relevant). As long as it’s relevant and it’s on a small scale, then you won’t need to worry

  32. Hi Nathan, thanks for such an amazing stuff. But there is something I would like to ask you as I have asked this question many people but none of them has replied me straightforward. Can you please tell me are the PBNs and Web 2.0 are BlackHat or WhiteHat…? i am really confused on this. BTW great article. keep rocking…

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