As you are well aware, PBN links are definitely a black hat link building tactic. Many people have had sucess with them, but also many people have also been burnt.
Getting burnt sucks. Losing your income overnight because of a Google update is sickening. Believe me, I've experienced the highs and the lows myself.
There is a lot of talk in the forums and online about many niche site builders going 100% 'white hat'. Now it sounds like a good idea, but getting genuine links is damned hard.
Let me introduce Jon Cooper. If you haven't heard of Jon Cooper, he is the white hat link building expert. He's been doing it for years and gives away a TONNE of useful content on his blog Point Blank SEO.
I personally use his white-hat link building guide every single day when growing my Authority sites. I still use my PBN for some of my sites, but I also have a few sites that are completely white hat to diversify my portfolio.
I managed to get some of his time recently, and you may recall (if you saw the email) I reached out to you guys, asking what link building questions you had, and here are top ten questions - and Jon's answers for you. I hope you find it valuable.
Question: I have sites in the lottery/gambling niche. I've always had a hard time finding relevant and shareable content for that market. This results in limited backlinking avenues. How would you create relevant backlinks for those situations?
Honestly, it's a cop out answer, but I'd simply pass on that project. It's not easy building white hat links, and while I do really believe you/I could get them if we really put our minds to it, there are a million different verticals out there that would still be profitable and would be much easier to build white hat links in. It also doesn't help when Google is consistently rewarding those who buy links in that space. (But if you are serious about white hat link building in that space - see this awesome case study.)
Question: What is the top outreach technique that yields the best results. What yields the best bang for your buck.
I used to think this way, and I learned the hard way that no one outreach technique is best for all niches, all clients, all opportunities, and all situations. I used to be a die hard fan of pointing out broken links on sites, then asking if we could be included as well, but I've now backed off from using that on the majority of our outreach. Sometimes we just pitch ourselves straight up, and tie in some personal details of the site we're reaching out to. Other times, it'll be a one or two liner about asking for a mention we deserved on a page. There's really no one right answer.
Question: How has the link building strategy in the course changed in light of Googles latest algo updates?
Honestly - not at all. These aren't strategies/tactics that go out the window each update. I work with clients who have legitimate brands (some you've heard of) that aren't going to implement anything that could be toxic tomorrow.
Question: What is the most efficient way to obtain natural links.
The most efficient way is to create content that builds links for you, but that's just not possible in some situations. But it's still the most efficient for those that it's do-able for.
(If you're wondering if that's you - go see the link velocities of your competitors, and think about whether you could even MATCH that if you were building links manually. If you could, easily, then go ahead and build links the nitty & gritty way. If you couldn't come close, then it's a content strategy you need.)
Question: How quickly do you build links to new entities? Say you register a new domain, surely you don't want to go out and build a ton of links in the first 30 days as the chances of that happening naturally are slim to none with no existing audience. I would love to hear Jon's thoughts on building links to sites with no link profile, and how he knows it's time to ramp up his efforts.
It's all relative. In some spaces, you only need 20-30 solid links to rank, so you may only want to build a couple this month, 3-4 the next, then 5-6 the following, all the way until you're where you want to be. Other times, it's more like 200-300 you need, and then it's things ramped up a bit more to something like 7-8 the first month, 15-20 the next, and so on. Really, just a natural looking curve.
Question: What, in your opinion are the best link prospecting tools?
There are a ton, and I never claim that I know the ones we use are the best, but I prefer Link Prospector from Citation Labs for scraping G search results, then a combo of Ahrefs/Majestic for competitor research.
Question: What are the most important metrics that you measure to consistently build quality link?
The ones I go off of the most are Majestic's TrustFlow and Moz's Domain Authority.
Question: If I engage in link buying, how can I avoid being caught by Google?
Identify natural links, then figure out how to mimic them. This concept is how I've done everything, regardless of hats.
Question: What's a better link: one from an authoritative website, or one from a highly relevant website?
Relevance is the new PR, and I'm not just saying because it's a cliche!
Question: Your honest opinion on PBN links, we know they still work - but still worth building out sites on expired domains?
You're asking the wrong person :). Sure, they're out there, and I've experimented with them a bit, but I can't give you the latest forecast on their effectiveness. But as with any type of non-white hat link, there will always be someone who's doing it effectively. I don't think PBNs will go away for a while, if at any time, but the lowest quality of the group will consistently get weeded out over time.
Hopefully you found this Q and A session super useful - there are a tonne of free resources on Jon's website, so be sure to check it out and sign up for his mailing list as well.
If you want to find out more about Jon's amazing resource then click the big green button below.