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?

Enroll in our new SEO 101 course today because I’ll show you:

A) how to convert the traffic you’re already getting and…
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About the author

Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is the founder and SEO director at Gotch SEO. Listen in to our new podcast, The SEO Life or watch some of our actionable SEO training videos on YouTube!


  1. 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!

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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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