In at least one previous update, I referenced that I was running a test using dodgy PBN links. I’d noticed a lot of top 10 style sites ranking with a ton of shady PBN links, so I wanted to test doing that myself and see if I could make some easy cash while doing it. So, I started a brand new site with the goal to outsource 100% of the content for around $0.02/word to keep costs down.
How It All Started
Until recently, I had around 300 sites in my private PBN – and some of those sites were either really old domains that I bought before I had my PBN building system fine-tuned, while others were sites I’d purposely bought because they had a spammy history and I wanted to test using them and see what happened. All in, I’d say that around 100 of the sites in my PBN were sites that I would never use on a site that I wanted to keep – they were spam PBN sites that I had kept purely for testing purposes.
Once I identified the PBN sites that I wanted to use, I bought a domain and started ordering content. I ordered the same style of content that I always do for niche sites – a buying guide with mini product reviews.
I ordered around 30 articles (all buying guides), got those up and then started my link building.
(I should note that these articles were of so-so quality. Some even had obvious errors in them that commenters pointed out.)
The Links I Sent To The Site
At first, I was slow dripping links from some of my oldest PBN sites. These were previously expired domains that had no spammy history but only had around DA 10, so not very powerful. Innocent enough, right? Well, maybe not, cause I made these sites look as obvious as I could that they were PBNs. I’m talking about only two blog posts on the site.
Then I bought a round of shady PBN links from a seller on PeoplePerHour. These links were on sites where every single post had a link out to a random site. I was honestly surprised by the boost I got from these links.
I followed up those links with a 5-link package from Domains Highway, and then a few more of my old low-powered crap PBN links.
By now, it was month three and I added two 301-redirects from expired domains that I bought at PBNHQ plus a 10-link package from Domains Highway.
I didn’t do any link building in month four because I was travelling.
In month five, I added in some PBN links from sites that I bought with terrible histories – one was originally a hotel website that had been repurposed to promote an escort service before I picked it up. These were all really horrible sites for a PBN like that (never buy PBN domains like this for money sites you want to keep).
Over the next 13 months I aggressively doled out the rest of my shitty PBN links at this site. And I sprinkled in a few links from sponsorship pages that had been spammed to death by other niche sites.
At this point, I was out of shitty PBNs to use for the site. Since it was growing in traffic and income, I sought out other crap links for it. My thought was simple – let’s see how far I can take this shit site.
I bought links from Jon Haver’s PBN, from random sellers in various Facebook groups, from PBNHQ’s “Mega Authority” links, from LoveToLink, and other sellers you’ve probably heard of. I picked links that I thought would look the spammiest – low traffic but high DA sites. In fact, if I’ve told you that I tested a link seller and it was shitty, then the links were probably used for this test project.
For the last four months of the sites life, more PBN links were added sporadically. Some of the worst (spammiest) PBN links were replaced with “better” links from sites like wn.com where anyone can submit a link (let’s be honest, these sites are just ezinearticles 2.0).
What Happened To The Site
As I’m sure you can tell, this shitty site with shitty backlinks took off like a fucking rocket. It was growing faster and earning more than white hat sites that I started at the same time, which really annoyed the hell out of me.
At the height of it’s traffic and earnings, the site was bringing in well over 10,000 visits monthly and earning almost $2,000/month.
It thrived for two years and one month before getting penalized into oblivion.
Yup, you guessed it, an unnatural links penalty that it is unlikely to recover from without disavowing every single backlink.
Honestly, though, I expected this. But the thing is, I expected it well before the two year and one month mark! In fact, the last time I wrote about this site was July 2017 and I said at that time – “this test site is just waiting for a Google penalty.”
The site is clearly toast now, but it was a fun little experiment that lasted longer than expected and earned me a bit more than expected as well!
How Much Did This Test Site Earn?
The most interesting thing about this test site is how much it earned me over it’s lifetime. And when you consider how little work was actually put into the site, man this stupid thing had an excellent ROI.
And I should note that it took the site two months from when content was published to earn it’s first dollar. So, that’s 23 months of earnings for the figure below.
Lifetime earnings = $38,607.56
I didn’t track all the expenses to the penny, but I’d guess they were somewhere around $4,000 total. Just the PBN domain renewals alone for those two years is around $1,700.
So, that’s around $17K a year (for two years) for a test site. I can honestly say that this has been my most profitable test site ever. Time to move on to the next one!
What Does It All Mean?
For me, I keep a few test sites in my portfolio so that I can see what is and what is not working when it comes to ranking in the SERPs. This site was just one of my test sites, and I’ll move on to testing something else.
Obviously, the big takeaway from this test project is that not only do PBNs still work amazingly, but even the really shitty ones work well. Just imagine how much this site could have made me if I was using all high quality PBNs or PBN links from a solid vendor like Diggity Links (or whatever it’s called now). Maybe I’ll test that next 😉
But seriously, imagine how quickly this site would have grown (in both traffic and revenue) if the PBN links had all been higher quality ones. You can also argue that higher quality guest posts delivered at the same velocity would have a stronger growth than my shit PBN links. The difference though is that both higher quality PBN links and guest post links would have cost me more money upfront. The real question here though is would either of those have earned me so much more money that it would have been worth my time?
It’s definitely something to think about as you plan out your sites.
Should you use loads of PBN links for your money sites? Only if you can stand to lose them.
Should you repeat my experiment? If you’ve got the time and money to potentially lose, then sure! I’d love to hear about your results.
Will this change the way I build links to my money sites? Nope.
Do I use PBN links for my money sites? Only in the beginning to give them an initial boost. Then, I work on replacing them with white hat guest post links or editorial links. But that’s because I build my sites to flip and you get a higher multiple without PBN links.
Questions? Leave ’em in the comments and I’ll try to answer them.
Hey, I’m Shawna. I make a living working from my laptop in places like London, Sydney, Dubai, Rome, Oslo, Bangkok, Las Vegas, and (currently) Amsterdam. I share how I do some of that on this website.
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