This post was inspired by a great comment I saw in a Facebook Group which was posted by Michael Milas of SERP-Focus, in which he talks about domain metrics and why you could be missing out on some great domains.
In his comment, Michael brings up a topic that has bothered me for quite some time and I'm really glad he did as I think in order to shift people's mindset more people need to be talking about this.
For too long now the SEO community has been putting far too much attention on domain metrics. You know the ones I'm talking about, Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Domain Authority and Page Authority.
Using tools such as Majestic, Moz and Ahrefs is a favourite past time for many an SEO…but their use has been misconstrued and they are now seen as gospel.
Finding expired domains is tough enough without making the mistake of throwing away great domains simply because a 3rd party tool doesn't meet some magic number you've read online.
Think of it this way.
The only thing that matters in SEO is what Google thinks. The aforementioned tools are just guessing.
Sure they are pretty smart, they have their own bots and algorithms. They crawl billions of web pages and do a pretty good job of making this confusing SEO-stuff a little easier to understand.
But we're back to a time when PageRank was all anyone talked about…and look how that turned out.
Below are 5 reasons why you've been looking at these metrics all wrong when choosing expired domains for your PBN.
1) People Block Link Crawlers
If you've read my guide to building a PBN, then you know that blocking link crawlers is a good idea if you want to protect yourself from those with bad intentions.
By blocking link crawlers, you prevent the spiders from being able to scan your website and see all of your outbound links. It also has the added benefit of preventing your competition from being able to see exactly where you're getting all those juicy backlinks from.
How do they block them?
Well, there are a few ways you can block link crawlers.
- Plugins (if using a CMS like WordPress)
Essentially, when you're researching the competition you have no idea if they are using a PBN and are smart enough to block the link crawlers.
This makes many of the keyword research tools out there obsolete too as they primarily use the domain metrics to calculate a keywords difficulty. Which is why you should always eyeball the SERPS and make up your own mind.
You should never target a keyword because “Tool-X says the competition is under 30″…because “Tool-X” cannot see the entire picture.
2) Sometimes The Metrics are Just Plain Wrong
Over the last year or so, I have been going against the grain when it comes to buying expired domains.
I am ignoring the domain metrics and only looking at the backlinks. I was using a service that sadly doesn't exist anymore, that would provide a handful of domains each month for a set price.
I loved this service as it was like nothing out there. The domains they sent were awesome too, however if I were to use the common misconceptions that float around today I would have completely disregarded them and branded them as worthless.
However upon deeper analysis, they had some very juicy backlinks.
We're talking links from the BBC, The Telegraph, CNN, Fox News and hundreds of other “niche specific” authority figures.
You simply cannot buy, beg steal or borrow those links. And I guarantee your competition doesn't have them.
So why were the metrics so low? Well for a start these domains have been expired for a LONG TIME. Which presents us with a pro and a con…
Pro – The links have been around for years and are unlikely to be deleted.
Con – The domains are not indexed in Google
The last point is actually not much of a con at all. You see out of the hundreds of domains I purchased, only a handful have ever failed to index. Now that's a pretty high success rate if you ask me.
Worse case scenario is you throw up some content on the domain and ping it using a free tool and wait for a few hours. Check it using the “site:” search operator and if it's indexed turn it into a fully fledged PBN site.
If it's not indexed…who cares. It's one domain and if you using a service you ask for a replacement, and if manually scanning for them yourself…you've lost a little time.
3) Only Backlinks Matter
This probably should have been number one. It's something that most people forget or are too lazy to check.
Those metrics you're so hung up on….they only exist because of the incoming backlinks a domain has. Take those links away, you have zero metrics.
Want to make it even more fun and confusing? Sometimes these backlink tools show metrics such as TF1 and DA1 even when the site DOES have backlinks…now THAT is crazy!
So skip this part at your peril…
Here's a simple approach to how I would spam-check a bunch of domains:
- Get your list into some order – I use TF to sort by, just remember not to use if as a disqualifying factor but more of a loose guide to higher quality domains and backlinks
- Look at the referring domains – The higher the better for me, within reason obviously. If you see thousands it's a red flag for possible spam. However, more RD = less chance of the domain becoming worthless if it loses 2-3 backlinks.
- Check the domain name – I don't know about you but I can spot a potential spammy domain from a mile off. I don't find it worth my time to even look at these and I simply remove them from my list.
- Check the actual backlinks – Do they still exist? Don't just trust Majestic or whichever tool you are using. The link(s) could have been removed since the last crawl and you could end up buying a crappy domain as a result.
4) Relevancy Matters
A few week back I was setting up a new niche site. I already had a killer expired domain to use for the money site that I bought at auction, and now I was in the market for some domains for a 10-site PBN.
It was a niche where people don't really link to each other that much, I mean it's a hard topic to get guests posts on etc. So I was expecting a lot of domains to have been used as PBN and therefore not good.
So what I did instead was to look for any small blogs I could find on the subject on in some way related.
Now being small time blogs most would not even consider them worth looking at…even the metrics were pretty poor. BUT a backlink from these sites would be extremely relevant.
I found that most of the links to expired domains were in-content links and the pages had been created years ago meaning they will likely stick around.
I created a small 10-site PBN from these sites that ranged from TF5 to TF10and DA1-7. I could have created a much larger one as these smaller blogs don't seem to be checked for broken links that often, so there were many to choose from.
It's too early to tell from this site how the rankings will be impacted but if my experience is anything to go by, I am VERY confident that these super-relevant backlinks will get me in the top 20 if not the top 10.
5) These Link Tools are not Google
As I mentioned earlier, the ONLY thing that matters when it comes to domain metrics is the backlinks themselves, and it's Google who needs to see your backlinks…not the link crawlers.
People don't block Google from crawling their PBN sites. If they did the whole process of building a PBN would be a waste of time. You need to allow the big G to crawl and index your pages and backlinks so they pass link juice to your money sites.
The fun part is Google will actually show you these backlinks inside of you webmaster tools account.
However, don't get too excited. When and IF they do show them seems to be subject to the crazy world of Google. Just be sure that if your page is indexed, they have crawled it and logged your backlinks.
I mainly use my SERP movement as an indication and don't get caught up in whether or not I can see my links in Google Webmaster Tools.
So instead of looking for domains with a 1:1 ratio of TF:CF, or those with a DA >20, take some time to consider…
How would Google view this link?
Is is relevant and on topic?
Will I still want this link in 1 years time?
Thanks goes to Michael Milas for poking the hornets nest with this one and hopefully kickstarting a new way we all look at domain metrics and expired domain usability.
Spam checking domains does take a lot of time and effort, don't limit yourself to a rigid set of rules based on what someone else says…set your own rules, your own system and get a better ROI on your time.
Open up to the possibility that these metrics are just numbers based on a snapshot and an algorithm. They are no match for actual gut feel and manual analysis.