Host Your Own PBN Network For $1 / Site
We are in the SEO affiliate business. This article has affiliate links used within it to, be honest, try and make me a little money for my effort of putting this tutorial together. This is the way I do it and is no way biased towards any affiliates. If you like this method and decide to use it I would appreciate you considering using the affiliate links.
When I started getting into SEO one of the first big questions to answer was how to host my PBNs and who to host them with. I tried everything under the sun from the big EIG networks (ie Hostgator, Bluehost, etc), Easy Blog Networks and many other options. At the end of the day:
- I didn’t want to host all my domains with one provider (even Easy Blog Networks) that would have all my information
- Hosting with multiple providers proved to be a real pain in the ass
- VPS hosting was too complicated with PHP version, NGNIX setup and WordPress installs and other words I couldn’t understand
- I needed the solution to be affordable and sustainable
I just needed something that was easy to use, setup and maintain. While Easy Blog Networks was the best solution I found out there it didn't solve bullet point #1. I thought to myself that if Easy Blog Networks can do it for other people then surely there is a solution out there for me to do it for myself. After doing a fair amount of research I came across Serverpilot.io. Serverpilot is a platform that allows you to manage Digital Ocean, Linode servers and more with one click installs of WordPress, PHP, NGINX and all the other big technical terms that are required to run your own WordPress site. Sounds great right but what about the cost? Well I am here to make you happy by telling you that Serverpilot.io is FREE. That is right FREE. The base level, which is all you need does not cost a thing.
Getting started was quite simple. First you need to have an account with Serverpilot and Digital Ocean. By signing up through my link you will receive a $10 Digital Ocean credit (good for 2 months of free hosting for 5 sites). After you have your accounts created then we are ready to get started.
Creating Your First Server
The first thing you will need to do is login to your Digital Ocean account and create your first server. Digital Ocean calls these servers 'droplets' and they are so easy to setup I think my kids could do it.
- Click on Create Droplet
- Choose an image: You will need to select Ubuntu (the current latest version is 14.04)
- Choose a size: I choose the $5/mo size which I have not problems running 5 sites on at a time
- Choose a datacenter region: Here you will want to choose a region close to where you site will be located. If you are in the US then I alternate between all the regions.
- Choose a hostname: Give your server an identifiable name. For me I like to choose PBN-x or Money-x to be able to identify what type of server the sites on it will be and replace x with the id of the server (1, 2, 3...a, b, c).
- Finally choose Create
After you have created your droplet, Digital Ocean will prepare your server. This usually takes less than 60 seconds and you will be up and running. Now this is important. Digital Ocean will then email you your login credentials. I suggest not having your email be a Gmail account for obvious reasons. In the email you will receive a password for the 'root' user. Keep this safe somewhere and delete the email. You DO NOT want anyone to gain root access to the servers that are hosting your PBN and money sites. You also will want to jot down the ip address of the server for the next step.
Setup Your Server with Serverpilot
Ok now the fun part begins. Log into Serverpilot and the first thing we will do is Connect a Server. Wait...I thought we just created a new server with Digital Ocean you ask? That is correct. Serverpilot is not going to actually create you a new server. It will connect to and provision the server that you created in Digital Ocean. So log into Serverpilot and have your root password and server ip address ready.
- Click on +Connect Server
- In the IP Address field enter your Digital Ocean's server IP
- In the Root Password field enter the password you were emailed for the root user
- In the SFTP field enter a password for the serverpilot user that will be created for your Digital Ocean server. Make sure to store this wherever you choose to store your root password so you will have SFTP access to the Digital Ocean server if you ever need it. If you have questions about this, what it is or why you would need it just ask me in the comments section below
- Click Connect to ServerPilot
Ok so this part can sometimes take a while. I have had it work as quickly as 60 seconds and sometimes it has taken several minutes. What is going on now is that Serverpilot is setting up the Digital Ocean droplet with all the provisions for it to be able to control the droplet. You will see a progress bar during this process that may or may not move consistently. Be patient. If all else fails (it has happened to me once) then delete your Digital Ocean droplet and start over from scratch.
Creating Your First Site
Ok now we that have a Digital Ocean droplet that is provision for Serverpilot to control, it is time to create our first site. Serverpilot calls sites 'apps' (why I don't know but whatever). In Serverpilot you will want to navigate to the 'apps' section. Once there we will create our first site by:
- Click on + Create App
- In the Name field give the site a name (I just use the URL without the TLD)
- In the Domain field enter your URL (www.example.com replacing example.com with your URL)
- Click the WordPress checkbox
- In the Title field enter the Title for your WordPress site (don't worry you can change this later in WordPress if you get it wrong)
- In the User field enter a username for the admin account (you may not want to make this just 'admin' for security reasons)
- In the Password field enter a good strong password for your admin user account (be sure to store this password with the others)
- In the Email field enter an email address for the admin account being created. Make sure to change this up across sites. You don't want all your sites to be [email protected] but technically that is a footprint
- In the Runtime selection choose PHP 7
- In the Server dropdown choose the server we just created. Note that as you add more servers in Digital Ocean and connect them to Serverpilot you will have more options to choose from here. I try and keep as many 'like niche' domains as separate as possible.
- In the System User field 'serverpilot' will be your only selection available unless you are paying for an account. This is not a problem.
- Finally click Create App
Now that we have entered in all of the information Serverpilot will do its magic. It will install all the software needed to run WordPress, it will configure NGNIX to point all example.com traffic to the appropriate site on the Digital Ocean server and it will do all of this in a couple of minutes.
Setting Up DNS
Ok so now to the part that took me a bit of time to figure out. What to do with DNS. What is DNS you ask?
According to Google, Domain Name Servers (DNS) are the Internet's equivalent of a phone book. They maintain a directory of domain names and translate them to Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. This is necessary because, although domain names are easy for people to remember, computers or machines, access websites based on IP addresses.
Uh...Ok so what does that mean. Basically it means that when someone enters my domain name to go to my site, I want my domain registrar to point it to my Digital Ocean servers at the 'app' Serverpilot created for us. If your link comes up from a Google search and someone clicks on it then the DNS settings tell the 'internet' how to get to the web server that is hosting that link (your Digital Ocean server).
So how do you actually setup your DNS? It is actually quite simple. Let's say that you use NameCheap to register the domain name (www.ilovedogs.com). In NameCheap there is a place to manage the DNS records for www.ilovedogs.com. Just change the DNS entry to point to your Digital Ocean IP address and the rest will be taken care of for you. Note that changes to DNS entries may take several hours before you start seeing the results take effect.
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What About Footprints - Mix It Up With Cloudflare
Ok so this is a pretty obvious question. I have seen it numerous times on the forums and groups. We have to be on different 'c' block ip addresses yada yada yada. While this is ABSOLUTELY correct that you have to be aware of your IP address, by using Digital Ocean I have yet to see the same IP address repeated and the servers all have different A, B, and C classes. Another option for covering your footprints is Cloudflare or similar services. Cloudflare basically acts as a buffer for your DNS entries. Lets say that you had 3 Digital Ocean servers all with the same A, B and C IP blocks. You would use Cloudflare to mask the IP addresses of your servers. How would you do this? It is pretty simple.
- You will first create a Cloudflare account.
- Next you will add your site to Cloudflare
- You will then update your domain's DNS (remember you do this at NameCheap in our example) to point to Cloudflare's IP name servers (xxx.cloudflare.com). Cloudflare will walk you through this and tell you DNS entries to create.
- Once you have added the DNS entries to point to Cloudflare then you have Cloudflare redirect all the traffic to your Digital Ocean IP address.
So ultimately your Cloudflare solution looks like this:
Now Cloudflare in and of itself can be a footprint. I like to mix my domains up to have some point to the naked website (Digital Ocean IP) and the other point to Cloudflare. Cloudflare has over 2 million domains using it so while it might be a footprint you will be hidden amongst all the other websites out there using it too. You can also mix it up by using more than just Digital Ocean servers. Above I gave you links and images to Linode, Rackspace and AWS as well. This would further broaden your IP network and give you more of what Easy Blog Networks has setup.
You may notice in the image above the 'Attacker' person. An added benefit to using Cloudflare is that they protect you from attackers that use techniques like DDoS attacks to shut down your site.
While writing this setup I came across Cloud Ways. While similar to Serverpilot it appears to do quite a bit more and for the same price of FREE. I will build out a few of my PBNs in the coming weeks on the Cloud Ways platform and update the post with my thoughts. Be sure to sign up for my mailing list, below, if you don't want to miss out on this update.
How Do I Get To $1 / Site
So by now you might be asking yourself about the headline $1/site. This is very simple. I choose the $5/month Digital Ocean droplet and host 5 sites per droplet. If my math serves me correctly then the total monthly cost per site comes out to exactly $1.
In conclusion, this article was written to help you host your own domain networks. I use this personally and it has worked flawlessly. I hope that this is helpful for you as well. If you have any questions the please don't hesitate to ask. Please make sure to sign up for my mailing list for future articles and how to's.