Search engines like Google provide marketers with endless ways to make money online. One strategy that has been gaining popularity is blog networks. I've been getting a lot of questions about this so I thought it was time to address it.
Before we get into what they are, let's talk first about why people build them.
Reaching page one in Google's search results is one of the most sought after goals in the marketing world. Getting your website ‘ranked' on that elusive first page is something all marketers strive for, and some of them don't care how.
Having your site on page #1 position #1 in Google's results, even for a day,can be worth more than some folks make in a year. Depending on the term it can be worth much more, or much less. Because of that, spammy search engine marketers, (aka black hat SEMs') develop schemes and concoct strategies to trick Google into ranking their website higher than it should be.
Blog networks are one of those strategies and it's being used more and more often.
Why blog networks?
One of the things Google uses to measure your site's quality and popularity is links. When another website links to yours, Google counts that link as a vote. These links are called backlinks. At one time the website with the most backlinks would rank higher than the others, regardless of quality.
This isn't necessarily true anymore. Too many spammy marketers took advantage of this system until Google was forced to get smarter. And smarter it got.
Now, after many updates, Google considers a links worth by looking at a number of things.
The most important factors are:
- Text (the link itself)
There are countless other factors considered when looking at backlinks, too many to include here. There are millions of pages on the web that discuss this in detail and yet, even they haven't got all the answers. Google wants to keep it that way too. They do so by never telling you exactly what they use to index and rank your website and they keep you guessing with constant updates that improve their results.
It's rumored that Google is moving away from using links as a ranking factor. This is probably true but for the time being, backlinks are still counted. As long as that's true people will try to gain links that meet the criteria above, any way they can.
Those four metrics are some of the most important things to have in a backlink. They're also the most difficult to control. Sometimes even a legitimate backlink won't meet some of those standards. There is only one way to control all those things – you have to create the links AND the websites yourself.
Enter The Blog Network
A blog network is exactly what it sounds like. It is a group of blogs you own, all linked together, all related. When you create a blog network, you create it so that each blog is covering the same, if not, very similar topics. There are small networks and big networks. The average size seems to be about five to ten blogs.
Blog networks are intriguing because they are a very simple theory, executed intelligently to combat a very complex problem. The complex problem being Google's algorithm.
Here's how it works
You have a group of websites, all of them have related content, all of them are popular(more on this later). You also have your real website, this is called your “money site”. This is where you make your sales, offer your services or collect ad revenue. Essentially the money site is your baby. Everything you do, you do for this website. Every other blog in the network is there to serve the money site.
Building a Blog Network
The most important step is buying domain names. You can't just pick up any $10 name you want. You have to find what's called “expired domains.” These are the ones that already have backlinks pointing to them, they're already popular in Google's eyes and they're not cheap. The prices for expired domains can be in the tens of thousands of dollars, and the tools it takes to find them aren't free.
Essentially you're buying a website that was once a great website. Well, actually you're buying 5 to 10 of them, at least. Each site has to be hosted on a completely different server. That means a different hosting plan for each website in the network.
These are the blogs that make up your network. If you don't get the right type of domain your whole system is flawed before you even get started. When you buy the websites you have to vary the names you register them under.
No two sites can have the same name. Some of the sites need to have ‘who.is protection'. Who.is protection blocks anyone from knowing who owns the site.
Remember these sites are registered in a fake name, so why buy who.is protection?
To make the network as a whole, seem more natural. These sites are going to be linked to each other, even if it is in some roundabout way. The more natural they appear, the longer you can use them. So each site has to be different from the last, right down to the types of plugins you use.
Once you have 5 to 10 of these, then you have to start creating content for them. Most people outsource this part of it. No sense in pouring your heart into something that is undoubtedly going to disappear, I guess. The key here is to make each one of these domains look as natural as possible. That means linking to other sites like wikipedia, and any other sites relevant to the content.
You can see there's a lot of time and money put into building a blog network. And for what?
Do They Work?
Blog networks sometimes work. It can take Google a while to track down what's going on. At first glance it appears that a popular blog is simply linking to another relevant blog. Eventually though, they catch them all. This is not a long term strategy and it's certainly not a business.
It's the linking structure of the network that usually gets you caught. Since no one really knows exactly how Google works, there's no way of avoiding getting caught.
Once Google connects the dots, any income you're making disappears instantly and you're left with nothing. The length of time until Google catches this varies. Obviously if you cover your tracks good it will take them longer to figure it out.
Some marketers claim to get a few years out of their networks. These marketers are seasoned and highly skilled and in most cases have admitted to better ways of doing things.
You can see that building a blog network is one of the most unstable ways to make money online. That's if you even make any. This is a terrible plan and the fact that it still works is amazing.
My money says any day now this technique will be a vague memory. Google always catches these things and once they do they stop them completely. Soon, there will be no way to even begin this process. With all the work, time and money spent, I can't see a good reason to do it now.
I'm not the only one that thinks so, read what this guy has to say:
Your time is much better spend building a legitimate, honest website, that is not going to break next time Google updates their algorithm. The experts and pundits will laugh as you slowly build content and they outrank you with their secret linking strategies.
Then they will cry as you creep up the ranks and their sites fade into the distance with each successive update to the algorithm.
How Do I Rank On Page 1?
My method for ranking on the first page of Google is quite simple: write content that people want to read, be active in relevant social media circles, and respond to comments as they come in. OK, I also do quite a bit of keyword research, and spend a decent amount of time analyzing my traffic.
You can learn how to do the same stuff as me at Wealthy Affiliate. It's not rocket science, but it does take dedication to learning, and dedication to the readers of your site. It's a lot more honest than blog networks, and will provide you with a lot more sustainable income.