Case Study Update – Some Rankings Already…

case study update - new vs expired domains

It has been a few weeks since my last update on the Case Study on using new domains versus expired domains for brand new niche websites. I want to make sure that I provide updates that are meaningful where I have something compelling to share. (Or at least, slightly compelling…)

I finally have some data to share and it’s about the rankings. The preliminary results are kind of surprising!

More on that later…

Let’s cover some of the regular details.

If you are just joining us on the case study, you might want to start here. That page has a link to all the posts related to the case study.

The Content

All of the initial content has been written. That’s a pretty big accomplishment! Keep in mind that we are launching 4 sites total, 2 websites per niche.

If you recall, I had some pretty major setbacks with dealing with the writers. I had to fire a couple of them which was unfortunate.

Eventually, I arrived at the fact that I needed to raise my rates and pay the writers more money. I basically doubled my rates and the issues are gone with non responsive writers.

Lesson learned on that one!

For your reference, the rate that seems fair is about $20 per 1,000 words.

Website Set Up

All four of the websites are set up. That includes setting up the overall architecture for the site, privacy pages, about pages, disclaimers, and the general layout of the sites.

I also posted each piece of content, including the initial reviews.

I have NOT added any affiliate links yet. There is no real traffic to the sites yet to there is no real advantage to add affiliate links yet. Once a page hits the 2nd page, I will most likely go ahead and add some affiliate links to Amazon. Skipping this step for the time being is a pretty big time saver!

On Site Optimization

The content from the writers was pretty good… A couple of the writers must have learned some bad habits back in the day when keyword stuffing was a good thing.

I ended up with a few product reviews that really overused the keywords without any prompting from me. Let’s look at an example…

Let’s say I asked for an article titled, “Finding the best hamster wheel” then said, “write this naturally. Don’t worry about keywords at all. Just write freely.”

I received back an article that was 1,200 words total and the phrase “Best Hamster Wheel” would have been used 65 times. It was a little bit out of control.

It took quite a lot of time to edit the articles down to a more reasonable level of keyword usage. The good thing is that you only have to make those edits one time.

In the future, I will make sure to specify the maximum number of times to use a word.


I got around to ordering a HOTH Platinum package for this case study. (Here is an affiliate link to the HOTH.) I took advantage of the fact you can get links to multiple URLs…I mixed and matched my packages to reduce the overall costs.

I use the Platinum Package since it is the overall best value. The HOTH can help your rankings, mainly for not super competitive keywords. So, if you’re going niche is pay day loans then you will need more than just the HOTH.

Here is what I use the Platinum Package for… the base links to the each website.

I request consists of anchor text that is the naked URL, the brand name of the website, and generic phrases. For example, the anchor text will be:

We Love Hamsters

Hamster Accessories

Click here

This website

Check out this site

Later, when the time is right, I can use my PBN to get some great HIGH Authority backlinks using my targeted keywords. (I haven’t hit that stage yet but it’s coming up soon!)

Here is where is gets interesting!

I have never tracked rankings so early on in the life cycle of a niche website. It’s probably since I just started using SerpBook recently. (Here is the affiliate link if you are interested.)

All the graphs are directly from SerpBook. I have the system configured to send me an email each day so I can easily see how the sites are doing. I used to spend a decent amount of time on checking rankings and that’s a poor use of time. SerpBook has been a great move.

These rankings are without any backlinks. The HOTH package noted above is still in progress right now and still has a couple weeks to go before it is finished.

Yes, that’s right…these sites are showing up in the search engine results pages (SERP) with zero backlinks for the brand new domains. The expired domains have no new backlinks at this time.

I am tracking a small set of keywords ranging from not competitive to quite competitive. The search volume covers the full spectrum, too.

[wpsharely id=”1658″]

Brand New Domain


New Domain, Niche #1, Keyword 1



New Domain, Niche #1, Keyword 2

Expired Domain


Expired Domain, Niche #1, Keyword 1



Expired Domain, Niche #1, Keyword 2


The same applies for the keywords that we are tracking – ranging from not competitive to quite competitive and same with the search volume, too.

[wpsharely id=”1658″]

Brand New Domain


New Domain, Niche #1, Keyword 1 & 2
No Rankings Yet…


Expired Domain


Expired Domain, Niche #1, Keyword 1



Expired Domain, Niche #1, Keyword 2



The results are pretty cool. This is the kind of stuff I was hoping to discover!

As I mentioned above, the content is comparable from the new domain to the expired domains.

The word count is almost the same for each article.

The keyword density is almost the same too.

I’ve tried to remove all the factors other than the fact that one domain is brand new and the other is an expired domain.

There are no major issues with the case study right now. I am experiencing some time constraints.

As you can imagine, launching 4 sites all at the same time does take a little bit of time.

I will be focusing on Niche #1 primarily for a couple of weeks, especially since the rankings are little more favorable. That should help a little bit for the time constraints.

I like what I see so far with this case study. Niche #1 is less competitive over all with fewer searches and we can see that it is a little bit easier to rank in the top 200 off the bat.

Niche #2 is taking a little bit more time to rank, probably due to the increased competition.

The major thing is that we see a CLEAR impact from building a website on an expired domain. It’s amazing that you can actually see the difference in the rankings within a month.

Powerful stuff!

The next steps here are to slowly add some high authority PBN links to the sites in Niche #1. Fully expect to see an direct impact from those links pretty quickly!


If you have thought about building your own PBN, be sure to check out the course I’m working on with Lewis Ogden from There is actually a presale that you can take advantage of if you sign up by the end of the day Wednesday, May 14th.

About the Author: Doug Cunnington is the founder of Niche Site Project. He shows people how to create Affiliate Sites using project management and a proven, repeatable framework. Doug loves creating systems, using templates, and brewing beer (but usually not at the same time).

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34 comments… add one
  • Winston

    Very interesting in using expired domains straight up as the money site. From the looks of it, It will likely quicken the ranking process I would think.

    I understand getting the writers who still use tons of keywords, I’ve bumped into a few even till now. From experience, it’s really time consuming to fix those articles.

    BTW, I was looking at the HOTH Platinum package and I was wondering how them put the links?

    It says 8 blog (so I guess you get 8 web2.0 sites?), each with 3 posts (which makes the 24 unique articles on tier 1).

    So by saying you get 48 in-content links, does that mean you get 2 links on all the 24 posts? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    With the links, do they just mix the urls in the site, some of them going to home, others to the internal pages?

    Then the rest (supporting web2.0, supporting bookmarks, profile links, etc) point to the 8 main blogs in tier 1.

    Thanks as always.

    • Hi Winston – thanks for the comment.

      On the HOTH, that sounds right with 2 links per post. The logic holds up across all of their packages too. 🙂

      You supply the URLs that you want to link to…So they might be the main domain or internal pages. I do a mix and I am starting to slightly favor adding links to internal pages.

      It seems more natural to link to internal pages most of the time.

      Yes, all the rest of the link point to the Blogs in Tier 1 (8 in the case of the Platinum Package)

    • I also just started hiring writers for expired domains and some niche sites I’m working on and I have to agree – it’s frightening how many writers that claim to be “SEO writers” still believe between 1 and 3% keyword density is the way to go…

  • James Blews

    Do any of the sites use something existing to you? Meaning, are you using something like Google Authority (rel=author) at all? Also, are all of these sites built on WordPress or some other content engine?

    I also would like to see what you have to say about Winston’s last part of his questions:

    With the links, do they just mix the urls in the site, some of them going to home, others to the internal pages?

    Then the rest (supporting web2.0, supporting bookmarks, profile links, etc) point to the 8 main blogs in tier 1.

    Thanks Doug. Great Info, and a great case study!

    • Hi Jim – I thought I replied to this the other day but I don’t see my answer. Sorry about that.

      No, I don’t have the authorship set up on any of the sites yet. (That’s what you mean, right?) I will add a google plus profile sometime in the future.

      WordPress is the used for each of the sites.

      And, you should see the other answer below.

  • Doug,
    I took your advice and started a niche site off with the Platinum Hoth package. I am doing a review for Niche Addictions. So far my site is ranking over 500 for my main kw which is a 28 KC on LT KW pro.
    The good news is that I am ranking #2 on google for 1 review of a product with no direct links and I had my first sale of 2 of the same product with 1 click yesterday.
    I will slowly be doing some blog commenting and haven’t had the time or resources to do the PBN yet……..
    If I build one big PBN in the health niche can I use it for multiple sites in the bodybuilding, women’s health, fitness etc. or build a pbn for each niche site……
    Thanks as always! BTW great guest post on Matt Woodwards site!

    • Hey Scott – That’s great you got your first sale on that site! It’s great when you see some quick feedback on your rankings too.

      You can use the PBN on multiple sites…and that’s when they get really powerful. A 20 Domain PBN can be used to help rank a LOT of money sites. 🙂

      Thanks on the guest post…It’s great to be featured over on Matt’s website.

      • Yeah, I started with linking from my expired domains to my one money site so far – basically just what you said: acquired a lot of expired domains within the same niche I am targeting, not with only this one site I’m busy with, but also with other money sites I plan to build within the same niche. 18 domains so far, each article on each domain can link to a totally different money site – I’d agree that’s a LOT! 🙂

  • Nicely done! Yikes, almost ready to go live with my first articles on the expired domains I recently acquired. It was thing trying to get a couple of good writers but I think I’ve ended up with two that I’d want to work with on a long term basis. Can’t WAIT for the time when my juicy links go live so I can see some good movement on my niche sites! 🙂

  • Stuart

    Nice work, as soon as you hit the expired domains with exact match anchors they will fly.

    Download the links to one of the pbn sites after you add content (opensiteexplorer) then ping all of them to get your pbn site crawled fast. And the links to money validated.

  • John

    Nice update Doug,
    I hired a writer from fiverr and he did just that, exact keyword phrase for like 5 times ….glad that i only request for 5 articles …some are still on it….

    more of naked urls … and brand name … i’ve seen those.. it will be a good move…..

    • Hi John, So you know what I mean. 🙂 It’s still better than writing it on my own.

      It’s really a training issue and if I provide the exact keyword density then I am sure the writers will do better.

  • Larry Gonzaga

    My first time on your blog and must say it is full of information.

    I’m a newb so I may understand this wrongly, but isn’t the concept of HOTH conflicted with getting expired domains with quality backlinks.

    To explain you spend time to get expired domains with their high quality backlinks as tier 2 so to speak. In contrast, with HOTH, you get web 2.0 sites that get a large dose of low quality profile links, etc. as the tier 2.

    Is my interpretation correct? I’m not particularly sure.

    • Hi Larry, welcome to NSP. Thanks for coming by and commenting.

      You have a pretty good understanding of what’s happening. It’s exactly right and I see why you asked this exact question.

      The HOTH provides the web 2.0 Blog links and let’s call those “base links.” I like to think of those as the foundation. They don’t have tremndous authority or history. They do allow you to exactly control the anchor text which is important. As noted above, the anchor text from the HOTH should be mostly naked URLs and generic phrases, NOT keyword rich.

      The expired domains provide the high authority links. They generally carry more power – more link juice. For the backlinks on an expired domain we want to use some exact match anchor text. That way we take advantage of the authority of the aged, expired domains.

      Here is some more info on anchor text if you’re interested

      Does that answer your question?


      • Larry Gonzaga

        Partly… Nice link though, learned a lot from that.

        The other part of my question, which somewhat confused me, is you’ve mentioned in previous posts about being careful when buying expired domains, ie. to check the expired domain’s backlinks.

        However, in the HOTH links, I’m thinking that the backlinks going to the web 2.0 is the backlink profile you’d avoid when buying expired domains. Since the backlink profile of the web 2.0 links are mass profile links, mass bookmarks, etc.

        So why is the HOTH okay to get/point to money site if you wouldn’t buy a expired domain with that kind of backlink profile?

        • If I could add my two cents here…

          The HOTH provides backlinks to Web 2.0 properties as Doug have pointed out, mainly using generic phrases or naked URL’s as the anchor text – these are good base/foundation links.

          The backlink profile checking of expired domain mainly focuses on ensuring no spammy anchor text are being used, things such as “adult content”, “for sale”, “to let”, “buy now” etc. If expired domain contain these in their backlink profile, stay as far away as possible.

          The numbers aren’t that important IMHO. Yes, the more quality backlinks you have, the stronger they work for you, but a mass of relevant, generic or URL-based backlinks like “click here”, “visit site”, “read more” or “” etc aren’t harmful either and provide a nice overall backlink distribution profile.

        • Larry – that is a really good question. I am a little bit stumped, too!

          Conventional wisdom says that the expired domains should have a very clean backlink profile. That might be because you are paying money for those domains/hosting and most likely invest more time into an expired domain in a PBN. However, that doesn’t have to be the case.

          The HOTH is a great outsourcing option for some tasks that I used to perform on my own. So, those web 2.0 blogs are pretty much free to set up/host except for the time.

          I am not sure I have a compelling argument to answer your question.

          If anyone else wants to weigh in, I would be interested to hear…

        • Larry Gonzaga


          I was also curious though, how much of a SERP improvement do you get from HOTH?

          I noticed that the platinum pack isn’t cheap, and you’ve mentioned using it for diversity. Just got me curious what type of rankings bump it can do.

          Part of why I ask is also because it can be a gauge as to:
          a) how much web 2.0 can help push/magnitude they can improve serp.
          b) how much of an effect newer links (ie. those to the HOTH blogs), compared to older links (ie. from exp. domains). If they are also effective, and how much so relative to exp. domains.

          Definitely cool site you got going here!

        • Larry – I have not done any kind of testing to see the SERP improvement solely from the HOTH. I don’t think that is a viable way to rank a website all by itself.

          More links with higher authority will most likely be required.

          You’re right about having evidence about new vs. old links if such a test was done.

          Thanks for the compliment!

  • Theodore Nwangene

    You’re really propelling forward with this project Doug,
    More strength to your elbows. What will be your advice for someone who is just starting and don’t have enough dough yet to go for services like HOTH?

  • Doug, perhaps a little off topic, but how do you spread out the linking from your expired domains to your money sites? I mean adding 20 links from 20 different expired domains to one money site on the same day definitely looks unnatural, right?

    • Hi Ruan, Right. Just link from a fraction of the domains in your PBN. It all depends on your risk tolerance on what percentage you will link from.

      Personally, I am fairly risky…That’s something you have to review on your own.

      Ask yourself how much of your PBN would you put at risk?

  • Rober

    Hey Doug, I also bought an expired domain and I am using it as my money site. PR2 DA 30 TF and CF over 20. Added my first content two weeks ago and currently have about 20 pages of content. My main keyword is finally ranking at #88.

    I was surprised to see that my keywords WEREN’T ranking, I thought the strength of the domain would pop it up quickly.

    I’ve looked everywhere for information about this and that is how I stumbled upon your site. Very interested in your progress, and let me know if you would like to exchange notes!

    • Rober – how’s it going? I think it would be good to exchange notes sometime!

      Where is the site ranking now? Are you adding new links with more relevant anchor text?

      • Rober

        Don’t know why its cutting off the t in my name, Robert 🙂

        As of now, the keyword that I am targeting is ranked #70 with links from a single PBN site pointed at it. I’ve spent the past few days adding content but have been busy with other projects. I will likely add another PBN link soon, and then a few more once I’m satisfied with the amount of content on the site and the internal linking.

        What kind of internal linking are you doing? How are your secondary keywords ranking? 🙂

        • Ha! I thought it was a unique name. 🙂 Who I am to judge…

          Internal Linking
          I have a simple silo kind of architecture for the sites.

          Secondary Keywords
          The secondary keywords are doing okay…for the less competitive niche two keyword phrases are ranking in the 30s. I may need to do a little more work on the sites to make them a bit more engaging.

        • Rober

          This is exactly what I am doing, I have a 3 tiered silo. My secondary keywords are also in the 30’s.

          I know that you are familiar with Perrin’s apennyshaved site, I have no idea how he was able to rank so well for his secondary keywords based on internal links alone.

          One of the nice things about turning the expired domain into your money site, is that you can blast your main keyword on the homepage with exact match and still be good on anchor %.

  • Very interesting results doug – I’m looking forward to seeing what happens when you start focusing all of your efforts on niche site 1. It’s nice to see that you DO get a bonus from having an already ranked domain when you slap a new site on to it

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