After more than 8 months of development, Brent Rangen and Aaron Pike are about to graduate their private content network LinkOrbit.com from beta. For the better part of 2011, these guys have been snapping up domains, developing web properties, writing a custom algorithm to score content, and testing, testing, testing. After many sleepless nights, the duo is gearing up for their official launch in early 2012.
Fortunately, co-founder Brent Rangen was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk candidly about the challenges of putting together a private content distribution network and explain how this service is different than article directories or blog networks that ruled the pre-Panda world. If you've ever thought about developing a private network of your own this Q/A should be required reading. Enjoy!
Q. For those that arent familiar, what is exactly is a private blog network like LinkOrbit.com?
A private blog network is simply a group of blogs that are accessible for blog post placements. Link Orbit is very different than the other ones. We are different because we are trying to play in the post Panda world. We want to be friendly with Googles TOS and create quality blogs to post quality content to.
Q. When people hear private blog network they may think this is a group of websites that will post just about any kind of low-quality content, similar to massive article directory submissions that provide no value to readers. What measures have you taken to ensure high-quality, original content is published across network websites?
This is true. We continue to develop Link Orbit even after we should have pushed it to market. The reason being, we keep finding reasons to develop it out. For instance, just yesterday we decided it would be cool if a user could pick which site they wanted their post to go to. We also built an internal algorithm to reward users for good posts. A good example, a user will receive "Points" if they include images into their post. They will lose a point if they include more than two links. We are still tweaking the algorithm but all-in-all I see it has enormous potential.
We want real users, real SEO agencies, and real businesses to use Link Orbit's private network. Not only do we accept traditional blog posts, but we also accept editorial reviews, lists, ramblings, and supplemental posts. We encourage the diversity! It works very well for relevancy and rankings to use teasers to send signals through a real post.
Q. To build a private content network and ensure its effective, you need to have control over a lot of high quality URLs with domain authority. Explain to me the process for finding domains for your private network: Were you purchasing aged domains with existing off-page authority, developing these websites from scratch, or doing a little of both?
A. Aaron and myself have both been.. probably too fanatical about finding and preserving domains with good link profiles ever since we first met. The crazy thing is that there are so many out there it's not difficult to find them. Aaron developed a kickass domain expiration tool. It uses Majestic where OpenSiteExplorer lacks, and it uses Open Site Explorer metrics where Majestic is lacking.
Just the other day, I stumbled across a high authority .Gov site with a page with a couple of broken links on it, I went and purchased the domains immediately. They are definitely out there. We do want users to trust our community with their blogs as well. Publishers have complete control over what shows up on their blogs too.
Q. What platform or CMS did you use to build websites in your private network? Why did you select this platform?
We are rolling out with a focus on WordPress because it is such a quality platform. It has the features that allow us to easily be able to push content to our blogs. It also has all the plug-ins and tools built in to make really high quality blogs that matter for more than just pushing quick content for padding link counts.
Q. What sort of unanticipated challenges did you encounter when developing the content network?
A. I think the biggest surprise to me has been the factor that social media (twitter/facebook) has on driving traffic and readers. Any strategy not including those is handicapping yourself. We are making social media a focus with our content network.
The second biggest surprise to me has been the number of users that arent willing to create new high quality content. It shouldnt of been a surprise really, and looking back at it is so obvious. Creating high quality content takes a lot of effort. So we went back to the drawing board are working on adding content services to our offering. We want to make it easy for an user to join up and get their links on high quality blogs in high quality content that feeds their money sites.
The third biggest surprise is a clich really. But, its true, it is such hard work to create a really good blog network. Weve been building micro site blogs for years but, the vastness of niches out there caught us a little by surprise. So we are working overtime on scooping up aged sites with quality link profiles in niches we have skimped on in the past. But unfortunately I see this as a never ending battle. Something we will constantly try to stay ahead of our users with.
Q. What advice would you give to someone that is considering building their own private network of websites for SEO purposes?
A. Just use ours, we have put a ton of time and effort into this it would be a shame to recreate the wheel. We have an API and should have the option soon to publish content to your own site. The API will allow bulk posting as well. The new post by blog feature makes it very easy to control exactly where your content goes.