I keep getting approached by people that are looking to buy links. Some of them understand the risks & rewards but most people tend to be stupid/ignorant people but I digress. All of these link buying requests led me to brainstorm what it would be like building a link network. From my point of view a properly run link network can generate big profits regardless of what you personally believe (if you think link networks are effective then profit by boosting rankings for your clients, if you think link networks are an outdated ranking strategy you can still profit by selling worthless links to people that don't know better). So for my entertainment I decided to go through the intellectual exercise of figuring out just how I would build a link network.
Step 1 - Buy Some Websites
I could just buy some expired domains that still have some backlinks pointing to them. One of my recent tests proved this is still possible but personally I feel that has been beaten to death and isn't feasible due to scalability and other issues. I think it would be better to contact undermonetized websites that are still alive and offer them a cash payout. The nice thing about this crappy economy is that there are alot more people willing to cash out for alot less money. I'm sure there is some silly blog about highway restrooms that I could buy for $1000 (cause how much money could it be making) and then use it to generate links for automotive related websites (cause those people would pay me good money for links).
Step 2 - Hosting
Once I have control of those domains, I need to arrange for hosting. If I am going to run a network of 500+ websites in my link network I probably want to take some precautions like not hosting them all together. I don't think I need 500 hosting accounts. I could hide in plain sight. I could use large hosting companies like Yahoo hosting or GoDaddy hosting and put 20 sites in each of those large accounts. I doubt it would trigger any filter if 10 sites using GoDaddy hosting started linking to a site. Then I can get a bunch of reseller hosting accounts and put a few sites at each of those to help with ip diversity. It does get annoying managing this many hosting accounts. To make it less crazy I would want automatic credit card billing and an automated uptime checker.
Step 3 - Website Setup
Like most people on TW (or at least the old TW) I have a healthy paranoia of Google so I would avoid using anlaytics and adsense. Sure this is going to make things more expensive/less profitable but its also likely going to help my link network survive longer. I would then use a variety of CMS (wordpress, drupal, mt, habari, etc.) so most changes can be made using an online interface. This might get tricky by potentially buying a static site and then having to convert it to wordpress but I think with a little care those situations can be managed.
Step 4 - Growing Sites
I think a common mistake that many people make is they get too greedy. I could just add links all over these sites and not add any value but that just seems like a fast way to kill these sites. I think a better strategy for the long term would be to continue pumping out real content. Pay a writer to write 50 articles and then schedule an article to go live each week using the CMS. Some articles would even link out to non-clients in an effort to make it harder to figure out who is buying links from me. Also by publishing real content I am keeping these sites alive to deter link rot and maybe even attract a few new links to them.
Step 5 - Confusing Clients
Assuming the sites are set up with different whois, hosting, freelance writers and with no common code it would be a bit hard to connect the dots, that is unless an angry client decided to out me to Google. To avoid that you could not tell the clients you own the sites but are approaching webmasters offering guest blog posts. This would probably limit your exposure so your entire network does not get exposed at once. Another step to reduce this risk is being careful about which clients you allow into this link network in other words keep this quiet and maintain a low profile.
Anyway that is just my quick thoughts about how I would build a link network. I am not saying a link network is a good or bad idea. I'm just having fun brainstorming the potential issues and then trying to figure out how to overcome them. Feel free to point out what I overlooked cause my fingers are getting tired from all this typing.