Private blog networks, identified as a PBN, is a collection of websites which are used to help benefit the rankings of a different site within a search engine. For years, these networks have been frowned upon. Specifically by Google, which have penalized many for using them. In this article, lets discuss why people use PBNs and would it really be effective in 2017.
What is a Private Blog Network
To describe what a private blog network is and how it could be used to benefit another website when ranking within search engines, I find it would be best if I were to discuss backlinks first.
Backlinks are essentially that; links which point from one domain to another. Search engines grade a particular domain off of many signals, although some keep the superstition of seeking backlinks from older domains to be most beneficial. There are several reasons for this:
- The domain has had time to appropriate other external backlinks naturally
- Search engines have had plenty of time to fully identify the content
- Possibly has a returning user base
- The “false” belief that because it’s an old domain, it will rank well
Now, if a website has a handful of links from domains which search engines have labeled to have high authority, the website has a better potential in ranking well within search engines. It’s not the overall ranking factor, although it is one metric of grading a domain which has almost dated back to the start of SEO.
Relevant Content Is Imperative
Receiving a backlink from a domain can be constructive in gaining more authority for a single domain, while obtaining a backlink from a content relevant site could provide a greater bump in the SERPs, also known as Search Engine Results Page. Just to identify, higher a domain is positioned within the SERPs would most likely correlate in an increase of traffic; for the domain would have a better chance of being clicked upon from a result for a single query.
Now that I have identified the basics of what backlinks are, lets go ahead and continue this discussion on private blog networks and the domains which are used.
To simply put it, PBNs provide a fast way to receive backlinks to a domain. They are controlled, often by the same entity whom owns the specific domain which is receiving the backlink, and are often considered a Grey Hat SEO tactic – or something which search engines consider relatively unethical and somewhat deceiving.
How To Build a PBN
One can build a private blog network by purchasing old or expired domains, either through auction or by other means, which are viewed to have good authority with search engines and does not have history of using black hat techniques.
Often times, the website is restored to its original form and only few backlinks are added so where the site does not become identified as a private blog network. Remember, they’re frowned upon.
It would not be a great idea to purchase an old domain and change the content to something completely different, for the backlinks which the particular domain holds might be completely ignored by Google. Below is a quick snippet from a late-2016 Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout video where John Mueller identifies this.
So how do I go about restoring a website if it’s no longer online or available?
Great question & I’m glad you asked! There is a tool which has been around for a long time over at archive.org called the Wayback Machine. This tool is excellent at identifying how specific webpages have appeared throughout its stent on the internet and is great for identifying content on single pages. If you want to retrieve the entire site, I would recommend using this Wayback Machine Downloader. This downloader, which runs in command line, is a powerful tool which can restore an entire website with very little hassle.
Hosting Your PBN
Diversity is key here!
As previously mentioned, PBNs are frowned upon by search engines. This is because it is a way to manipulate search engine metrics to unnaturally rank specific domains within the search results.
One of the practices SEOs commit to in hiding their PBN is to ensure that their private blog network is hosted on a variety of platforms; guaranteeing that each site that is part of the network is not on the same ip address. There are a variety of hosting services available, go ahead and check out a few of them to start with:
Beyond purchasing expired/auctioned domains, hosting fees for running a proper PBN makes the practice relatively expensive and time consuming.
Should I Use A PBN?
I would like to be clear that I do not endorse the use of private blog networks, for they are considered to be unethical and people have been punished for using them in the past. Also, I do not use PBNs for this blog, or for any other site affiliated directly with myself. With this said, if you were to ask an SEO which currently uses a PBN if they find them to be beneficial – the answer would be most definitely yes!
A common question, one which was asked within a handful SEO social communities online throughout the past couple of years: does a PBN even work anymore? Some people commented that one shouldn’t use private blog networks because of the penalties handed down in the past, while others chimed in how financially profitable theirs have served them – still to this day.
Just to identify the skeezyness of this practice, it’s best to register all of your domains within the PBN under fake names and locations so where the secrecy of each site remains private that it’s associated with a private blog network.
You can make the decision for yourself.
Past Problems With PBNs
In 2012, the Google Penguin Algorithm was integrated into their search engine. This particular algorithm was set in motion to penalize website which used spam tactics to increase their position within the SERP.
At the time, Penguin was a big deal; people were losing their minds!
Here is one example of an organization which Penguin struck hard. This comment can be found within the Product Forums of Google titled Worst Update in History! Is Google more Dangerous Than SOPA? :
“I built a public benefit website that for 8 years has helped thousands and thousands of addicts find addiction treatment for free… We were able to provide the service through the industry paying for featured status for their centers in our directory of treatment centers… Harvard’s addiction hospital links to us, as well as a number of super picky super high quality websites… A few years back I started to notice crap links pointing at the site… Then Panda came and the site lost half it’s traffic… We submitted reinclusion requests, we sent notices for sites to remove links to us and informed Google, and now this! Now our site is nowhere to be found, and competitors (who are no doubt paying link companies to take down certain competitors thanks to the algorithms changes) have won! Well done Google… You took a true public benefit site out of the rankings (one with a database of treatment centers more complete than the U.S. government’s), and replaced it with referral sites (of course, the exact-keyword match .com) and individual treatment centers that charge people in dire need of help (and usually broke) scores of thousands of dollars for treatment, because they can afford to bring down the real good-guys that have been helping people for years by pointing links at them. Well done Google”
Now keep in mind, the organization mentioned above were being affected by unwanted links which were considered spam in the eyes of Google, rather than spamming their own domain. This is a common type of SEO competition; one which targets keyword competitors by convincing Google that the domain uses unethical practices.
Either way, this example is great to use when pointing out to people who want to start using private blog networks to help get authoritative backlinks.
Everything Should Be Done In Moderation
So let’s say you’ve made up your mind and you want to build a PBN.
OK. Let’s discuss a few things first.
Everything should be done in moderation. Whither that might be how many sites you might add within each hosting account, link distribution throughout the PBN itself, or the percentage of backlinks a domain receives from the PBN.
As I’ve mentioned before, putting all of the sites within the same hosting account for creating a PBN is a bad idea. One which could easily be identified and penalized. Although, with this said, it would be best if one were to put a handful of sites within the same hosting service to diversify the type of content and refrain in linking them together.
Linking sites within the private network together is a natural way in efficiently building up the authority of the entire PBN. There are a few things to keep in mind about this too!
- Apply relevant links to relevant content
- Add links naturally, rather than overnight
- Keep the percentages of backlinks small (-10%)
- Point to other domains, not just to ones within your PBN
- Build natural backlinks from outside the PBN
Make Each Site Different
Continuing on with the privacy of the blogging network, it too is also important that each site is built differently. It would be unwise to use the same CMS and template for all of the sites across the PBN. Not only must you diversify with hosting, fake names for domain registrars, diversity of backlinks, one must also vary how each website is constructed. What you are accomplishing with this practice is to leave no traces behind which could possible identify a single domain is part of PBN.
Many PBNs have a range of different CMS’s such as WordPress & Drupal, as well as, even simple static sites. I’ve even heard of people daringly slip a Google Blogger site within their PBN too, which seemed to work out well for them.
I guess the most important item I would like to stress when building out a PBN would be to diversify across the different mediums addressed above and not to get carried away, for the consequences are real.
Other Ways To Get Backlinks Without A PBN
Private blog networks, although considered unethical to use by Google, provide a quick alternative in receiving backlinks to a particular domain. There are some downsides to private blog networks as well.
- They can be expensive to build & maintain
- The lengthy time it takes to build a large network
- The possibility that your hard work gets destroyed if penalized
There are other, more transparent, ways in collecting backlinks for your domain, rather than relying on development of a private blog network. I hope you found this article informative. If you found the article How To Build A PBN enjoyable, go ahead and leave a comment. Also, if you want to keep up with Seo Hero articles, please subscribe to the newsletter