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SEO 17 min read May 29, 2019

Private Blog Network (PBN) As A Link Building Method: To Try Or Not To Try

Private Blog Network (PBN) As A Link Building Method: To Try Or Not To Try

Stacy Mine
Editor at Serpstat
Good SEOs always look for new ideas and strategies that can help their projects reach success. But forbidden fruit tastes sweet, and SEO is no exception. Although Google warned about the PBN application in 2014, some search engine optimizers still use this controversial link building method. Honestly, have you never thought about building private blogs for link building?
What is a Private Blog Network?
PBN (private blog network) is a link building strategy that is usually considered as black or gray hat SEO. In this case, the blog network consists of plenty of domains that point to a specific website. The website that gets backlinks in this way can quickly reach the highest rankings. Nevertheless, lightning-fast success doesn't last long, because Google algorithms recognize these links as unnatural or of poor quality. After that, the site can get a manual penalty.
I've asked experts for their opinion about PBNs. What do they think about them? Is this a risky black hat or a simple ranking boosting method?

Meet our contributors:
Matt Diggity
CEO and Founder at Diggity Marketing
Anna Pianka
Off-Page SEO Head at ABAKUS Internet Marketing
Jasja ter Horst
Founder and developer of SEO Review Tools, currently working on the Keyword Research Tool utilizing the power of the Serpstat API
David Dragesco
Ninja Linker Blog Author, founder of the PBN Premium Tool
Andreas Schülke
SEO Team Lead, Head of Content Marketing at Bloofusion
Jonathan Habert
CEO and Founder at L'agence Web
Matt Diggity
CEO and Founder at Diggity Marketing
Any niche can use PBNs. At the end of the day, a PBN is just another WordPress site until proven guilty. But the niches that PBNs work best in are typically the high-competition ones that are hard to get natural links for. Think casino. Think pharma. In these niches, PBN usage is going to be more of the norm, so the algorithm isn't going to freak out that you have an unnatural amount of homepage links going to your site.

When is the usage of PBN worth the risk? Everything is about ROI. If you're in a lucrative niche, where competition is high, it's likely that if you don't use PBNs you simply won't compete.

At a certain point, going too heavy on PBNs will give you diminishing returns. I alluded to this before, but with PBNs you're typically getting links from their homepages. That's why they're so powerful. But homepage links are rare. So when Google sees that you have too many, its time to diversify with links from inner pages. Typically I'm using guest posts and link insertions for this.
David Dragesco
Ninja Linker Blog Author, founder of the PBN Premium Tool.
The use of private blog networks for your SEO doesn't depend on the theme or topic addressed but on your SEO strategy. The idea, in this case, is to create a fictitious ecosystem but the most legitimate in the eyes of Google to push and make the money site rises in authority. It is about capitalizing on the history of an expired domain name and its SEO metrics. PBNs can be used for any type of topics!

The risk associated with the use of PBN is that a competitor will detect its network and report it to Google via a spam report. Nevertheless, if we intelligently hide our network and strive to have a solid and compartmentalized infrastructure, we obtain dazzling results on competitive niche!

A PBN is not intended to harm unless it is badly done. For example, their creation must be spread over time! Over several months in order to make this ecosystem even more legitimate. For example, domain names must be registered with a frequency in time (not all the same day...) Have a different IP for each blog, inject qualitative and human content over time and well illustrated... It is a goldsmith's job that is done over time to perpetuate the network of sites.
Anna Pianka
Off-Page SEO Head at ABAKUS Internet Marketing
PBN is generally referred to as a number of web pages belonging to a person / company and set up to influence certain sites in the ranking (and, if possible, to generate additional revenue through advertising).

These pages are often created using cheap methods. The photos on the pages are usually royalty-free images or cheap stock photos. The visual part of the sites is often similar. It may even be that the texts of the subpages are the same length. Sometimes network operators copy texts from several other pages, slightly modify them and publish on PBN pages. This is done to minimize workload while avoiding pure duplicate content.

The contact details on the page are often displayed as a picture. It even happens that contact information is generated and the person doesn't actually exist. The Internet offers imprint generators with the ability to select the country, city and gender to generate a fictitious address.

PBNs were formerly used on a larger scale as a link-building method. However, this has been leveling off for years due to the inferiority and content-related emptiness of the pages, which Google is increasingly recognizing. But you also have to point out that there are occasionally better-patched PBNs where the network is not immediately noticeable to the user or link builder.

Links from such sites are of no use and are considered to be inferior, they have negative or no impact at all. With larger and more elaborate PBNs, which often link for monetary reasons, it's only a matter of time before Google downgrades pages, if that's not already happening.

PBN can be recognized if a website is linked, for example, by similar-looking websites. Next you can find out if the pages that are linked to each other also have similar backlink profiles. Almost identical backlink profiles on multiple websites may also indicate a PBN. Clever PBN operators disable the crawlers of backlink analysis tools through the Robots.txt so that certain user queries in SEO Tools don't bring results.

Links from such networks can still work. Here it depends on the actual linking domain and its quality characteristics. After all, it could be that somebody really took a page and upgraded its content, even though it belongs to a PBN. However, links from 98% of existing PBNs are inferior, tend to be harmful and therefore not recommended.

There are several ways to set positive signals through respectable link building. Google is designed to provide users with the best possible content in the search results. Search engine results are ordered by relevance. It depends on various factors. The major are the links to the website. Thus, the link building focus must be placed on thematically relevant pages with well-researched and maintained content. Diligence pays off, even in link building.
Jasja ter Horst
Founder and developer of SEO Review Tools
Let me start with a big warning sign! Using PBNs to build links is a very risky strategy. With every chance Google get, it will come down as hard as possible to remove these networks and the sites they're promoting. Especially for new low authority sites being flagged by Google for using PBNs, it will have a devastating effect.

When I started to learn SEO, I experimented with multiple PBNs to promote some of my personal projects (this was even before Google officially launched their penguin algorithm.) At first, the results were nothing but impressive, rankings improved massively and visitor statistics went sky high. But it didn't take Google long to catch up with me and it all fell apart. These projects never recovered, but luckily I did ;)

I learned a valuable lesson from this experiment and stayed away from black hat tactics ever since.

So to save you from the trouble and frustration from being hit by Google, I would recommend you to focus your time and efforts on more legitimate link building strategies like these:

1. Guest blogging.

2. Recovering of broken links.

3. Copying your competitors' strategy (not just their links) and trying to outperform them.

4. Being creative. After you've had a closer look at your competitors, see what else you can come up with.

5. Trying to combine multiple strategies to see which are most effective and are getting you the best results.
Andreas Schülke
SEO Team Lead, Head of Content Marketing at Bloofusion
PBNs are private blog networks that consist of various domains owned by the same person or company. Links are set over several layers of such domains to pass signals to an important site or a page on this site. This site should thereby achieve rankings in search engines for terms that can be used to earn money as an online shop or affiliate publisher. Black Hat SEOs (search engine optimizers that deliberately violate the rules and guidelines of search engines) actively used this kind of link building before Google implemented its Penguin algorithm update. Some still use the method — in an advanced and much more complex form than explained here.

It is relatively easy for the algorithms of search engines to recognize links from PBNs as they are usually ignored directly and they don't help with search engine optimization. In even worse cases, you can expect manual penalties for unnatural backlinks from the search engines, whereby the original domain disappears almost completely from Google's Top 100.

There are many different link building tactics that will work well in 2019 and bring backlinks on a sustained basis. Just to name a few: broken link building, tracking of mentions without linking, local link building, guest contributions, etc. The biggest strategic recommendation, however, remains content marketing, because, without content, it will be increasingly difficult to come to strong links.
Jonathan Habert
CEO and Founder at L'agence Web
PBNs are a somewhat controversial approach to boosting your SEO rankings through the use of a common technique known as "backlinking". Good backlinking can be particularly tricky to achieve during the first few years of your domain's existence. As you'll soon realize when you attempt to launch new projects, a good SEO rank can take well over 3 years to achieve and the whole process is more of a slow grind than a quick rise to the top.

PBNs offer a quick and effective way to obtain a good SEO ranking and appearing in the first results of Google search. A PBN refers to a collection of high authority domains, usually expired domains that used to direct to high profile websites and still rank very high within Google search.

Many SEO experts see PBNs as an illegitimate way of increasing a domain's authority. Google itself seems to agree since it has taken action on sites participating in PBNs and has updated its "webmaster guidelines" to indicate its disapproval of such practices. Even after acknowledging that PBNs are far from being a perfect SEO solution and carry with them the significant risk of having your domain deindexed by Google, they have proven themselves to be very effective at boosting a new domain to the top of search results.

Here's a non-comprehensive list of cases where joining a PBN might be a reasonable option for you:

  • A short-term marketing campaign that relies on its domain being able to reach a good SEO rank within a few weeks or months.
  • A site whose purpose will only be relevant in the very short term and needs to optimize its traffic until it loses its usefulness.
  • You understand the issues associated with partaking in a PBN yet you are confident that its upsides outweigh them and are willing to take the risk.
A PBN has the potential to be a really powerful tool with the ability to provide your domain with a substantial increase in growth.

While PBNs may seem like an attractive solution to increase your domain's traffic, risking your domain's indexing in such a way can be highly damaging to its long-term success. If your goal is to provide quality content or a useful service to your visitors, it is likely that ignoring PBNs altogether and following more traditional paths to SEO optimization will lead to your domain reaching an excellent SEO rank anyway.

In most situations and for most websites, it is highly advisable to stay away from Private Blog Networks and to work on the quality and the accessibility of the content instead, while making sure the interface is mobile-friendly and making use of all of the classic SEO techniques to the best of your ability. Hard work and perseverance definitely pay off in the long term in the world of SEO.
To sum up everything, I would like to mention 3 obvious reasons why the PBN method is inappropriate and harmful to your website:
-
High risks. Let's face it, though some SEOs use this strategy and identify it as a "gray" technique, Google considers it as completely negative. Your website may be manually penalized and has little chance of appearing in the top 100 search results.
-
Lack of quality content. Since the creation of the network takes a lot of time and effort, black site operators don't pay attention to the quality of the content. It stands in the way of the lasting success of your website. Therefore, if you want to run website in the long-term future, you should use other safer link building strategies.
-
Time and money. To build and operate a quality private blog network, you should invest a lot of resources that are most likely to be wasted. If you look at SEO as a long-term measure, it would be better to avoid this controversial technique.
On the other hand, I cannot but mention 3 reasons to try PBN as a link building method:
+
The chance to be recognized. If you run your site in a niche where competition is high, there is a significant risk of failure. There's a possibility that if you don't use PBNs, you simply won't compete.
+
Quick results. Using PBN can help you get impressive results in the short term, improve your rankings and increase visitor statistics.
+
There is no need for outreach. Building relationships with other bloggers, constant work aimed at improving interaction and the final bunch of links from other bloggers/webmasters — all this is not required when you use PBN. Accordingly, your time will be significantly saved.
So, it's up to you to decide whether you should use this link building method or not. Good luck!

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