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Private Blog Networks (PBN)
Private blog network has always been a controversial topic in SEO.
For one reason only! It worked.
In fact, It worked so well for many people to rank their crappy websites in a short period of time.
In the last decade, many people owned a network of sites just for the sake of link building.
They used various tools and techniques to manage their PBNs. They tried everything to camouflage PBNs from Google.
What about today? Are these links don’t work anymore?
Some people using PBNs say they still work, while others believe they are already dead.
However, there is one thing everyone agrees on. PBNs are against the rules.
We are going to discuss if you should use them as a part of your SEO campaigns in 2020.
What is a Private Blog Network?
Private Blog Network is a group of sites that are built to manipulate search engine rankings. They interlink with each other to pass PageRank or link equity to a target website in an effort to rank high on search engines.
These websites usually owned by a single entity, but their domain ownership falsified to seem as they belong to different individuals. It is done through using an incorrect domain owner name and/or setting the domain owner whois information private.
These websites also hosted on different IP addresses in an effort not to reveal the sites owned by a single individual. It is done through having multiple hosting accounts or using a service that allows changing IP addresses under one platform.
Private Blog Network sites usually lack real human engagement and fail to create genuine user signals that search engines want to see. It is because of the reason they are built to boost the authority of another website. Therefore they imitate real websites not to create question marks for the search engines.
There was a time PBNs were living their golden age. I would say PBNs worked really well until 2015s. At those times, it was also one of the most common link building practices.
Although PBNs are not popular today as before, there is still great interest in them. A lot of SEOs using them at some level.
It is unlikely they will vanish sometime soon. Because Google keeps the links as a major part of its algorithm.
But there are specific reasons motivating people using PBN links.
PBN links are more powerful than most other types of links.
The reason behind is quite simple.
If a group of sites coming together just to link each other with a random order, they will power up each others’ authority very efficiently.
It is no more like one site links to another, but rather a constant flow of PageRank aka “Link Juice” in a closed system. It is a very powerful way of building the authority of a website.
These links can help to rank for even very high competitive keywords.
PBN links are cheap.
PBNs are still widely preferred since it is the way of building powerful links without breaking the bank.
To have a similar level of effect of any other type of legitimate links, there would be so much money to be spent.
Let’s think for a second. What can be a white hat alternative to PBN links?
I guess most people would respond to this question as “Guest Posting”.
However, guest posting is expensive and requires so much time and effort to be invested in order to grow a website’s authority.
You need to write good content, outreach to other blog owners, pitch your content ideas, keep continuous communication and finally publish your guest posts.
Being said that, everything comes with a price.
If you want to build PBN links for your site, you accept the risks of having a Google penalty. I have another post about if you should use PBNs in 2020, I would highly recommend you to read.
PBN links are black hat links and have the big potential to invite a Google penalty.
Googles’ algorithm is usually very skilled to spot the unnatural link practices, link wheels or PBNs.
The main problem using PBN links is far beyond having a Google penalty for your website.
Indeed, you risk your online reputation. Google can blacklist your name as a person who tries to manipulate search engine rankings.
Sadly, you will never know it. Because Google will not tell you what it thinks about your name.
But you will learn it the hard way, once you want to build your next site to implement white hat practices only.
How Do People Build Private Blog Networks?
Private Blog Networks consist of usually expired domains that have high authority. Domains can get expired for very different reasons. The domain owner may drop it since the business is no more portable or simply to move another domain.
People who want to find expired domains with high authority will need a certain type of software that crawls the web. There are different software programs available on the market to serve this goal.
Once the domains are found through a software tool, they need to get checked if they have any history of spam.
If you need to see the snapshots of the history of any domain Wayback Machine can help you with that.
The expired domains are essential to be in your target niche. Once the expired domains are purchased usually a WordPress installed on the domain. Why? Because it is the fastest way of building a website without spending much time on design and customizations.
Private blog network websites are hosted on multiple IP addresses, by using multiple domain registrars, public/private whois information, false whois information.
Private Blog Network sites leave many footprints for Google. Because owners don’t spend much time on customization. They usually put WordPress on every site, install one or two different themes, and use the same plugins on every website built.
Needless to say, they don’t use any kind of Google services including Google Analytics, Google Web console, and even Google Chrome browser.
Oh, by the way, I believe not using Google services for a group of websites while they are linking each other can be a red flag as well.
If a large group of sites linking each other and all using WordPress, it may be a sign for Google algorithm to have a manual review.
PBNs can be a smart rank boosting solution for those have a very high budget. However, it is a really dangerous proposition to have.
We know Google doesn’t only penalize domains anymore but the people they believe behind those projects. In my opinion, PBNs are really not worth your time, if you plan to have a sustainable website that continues to be profitable for years.
SEO pros brought a new topic to the market that seems safer not to get penalized by Google. As you know anytime a website links to any other site, some link juice and authority are transferred to the receiving site.
What SEO pros actually did, they created Tier 2 or Tier 3 websites to work as a “buffer site” in between a PBN and the money site. Buffer sites used for this goal are usually social media sites or also commonly known Web 2.0 sites.
Some of the most common Web 2.0 properties used as PBN buffer is
Free WordPress blogs, Tumblr, Weebly, Livejournal, Wix, Twitter, and Facebook. There are many other Web 2.0s can be used for this goal.
It is even a better idea to scrape for expired Web 2.0 accounts to use as a buffer site. These accounts are usually expired Tumblr and Weebly blogs. If you cannot scape yourself you can find freelancers to do it for you.
Links from these properties are considered gray hat links. It is not expected to have a penalty from Google if your website is shared on Twitter or Tumblr sites.
Also, anytime desired, these links can be removed easily.
I don’t think to link through Web 2.0 sites can be as effective as direct linking. Because less link juice is transferred to the primary site to be ranked. However, it is much less risky since the PBN is not pointing directly to your main site.
What Tools Needed To Build A PBN?
As I have summarized I am against building Private Blog Networks in 2020. There was a time PBNs worked well under the radar of Google’s algorithm. Google has already patched those problems l ing times ago. Using PBNs today is similar to using “American Long Rifle” against someone has a “Machine gun”. There couldn’t be any better example.
Google is equipped with a highly efficient search engine algorithm. It has thousands of really smart software engineers, other than manual reviewers whose responsibility to review suspected PBN projects.
But for those who are looking to build PBN steps are:
Create an excel sheet to follow everything you will do
You are going to record a large chunk of data so better have a clean excel sheet before you start. You will need to keep a record of your logins and passwords (hosting and domain registrars), when did you register a domain and when you created backlinks between domains.
Don’t use Google Docs by creating a spreadsheet “My PBN file”. I am sure Googles’ algorithm can read your Google doc files and even your email messages. Use Microsoft Excel instead of Google Docs for this task.
Have a reliable VPN (Virtual Private Network)
You wouldn’t want to use your home PC as the laboratory of your PBN tests. Have a reliable VPN from a trusted company.
Find expired domains with google metrics
If you are not very technical to scrape for expired domains, you will need to visit Fiverr. There are gigs offering to find expired domains with good metrics for you.
Else, you will need a scraping program like Scrapebox and private IP addresses.
Buy Authority Domains Only
Make sure you have at least 30 domains pointing to the domain you want to buy. Backlinks to your purchased domain are likely to be deleted by the sites over time. Hence, start with a domain with the maximum amount of backlinks to prevent loss of authority.
If you have a budget find a good expired domain broker, and tell them your niche and criteria. It will be more expensive to buy from an expired domain broker. However, you can buy high-quality domains without any hassle.
Use Ahrefs to check the number of referring domains and analyze backlinks. It has the largest index of all competitors including Moz, SEMRush, and Majestic.
Don’t buy domains with strange extensions
I know it is expensive to build a PBN. Don’t try to save money by purchasing domains with strange domain extensions like .xyz .ny etc.
Stick to domains with .com, .net, .org extensions.
It may be ok if you have 1-2 domains with unusual domain extensions in your network. However, don’t overdo it.
Create multiple accounts with different domain registrars.
Also, make sure you don’t buy all your domains on the same day. That is a very big footprint you don’t want to leave.
Create Webhosting accounts with multiple webhosting providers
All PBN websites should be hosted on different IP addresses. Preferably with the IP addresses belong to different countries. There is a service called Rocket IPs that lets you change our IP address without dealing with multiple hosting providers. However, how secure your privacy would be I am not sure.
It is safer to have different reputable webhosting companies, instead of cheap $1 Webhosting companies that are commonly used for PBN hosting.
Have a WordPress alternative content management system
Use Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, Weebly and event static Html websites to make a nice combination of content management systems for the websites in your PBN.
Have a custom logo, use different wp themes
Use a custom logo that is unique. Do not copy from somewhere on the web. Google’s algorithm can find out any image if used on another website earlier by comparing pixels on the images. No matter how much you change the file it is though to get a new image from an old image.
Have essential pages set on your PBN sites
Build normal websites that look legit. You wouldn’t like to get caught even if your sites become subject to a manual review.
Publish regular content
I have already said running a PBN is very expensive. PBN sites should publish content at least every once in a while.
Can you publish auto-generated content? Absolutely not.
Google’s algorithm can pick human written content from robot generated content.
I will tell you even more. The spun content by itself can alarm Google’s algorithm for a manual review. Spend some money to outsource readable content that you can use.
Create Social Media Profiles
Create social media accounts and include the hyperlinks of these accounts to your PBN site.
Nowadays, there is almost no real website not having multiple social media profiles. It is not necessary to post to those profiles every day. However, you can use a social media automation program to schedule something to publish every once in a while.
This is a kind of insurance to show a PBN site as legit in case of a manual review.
This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. It is tempting to link PBN sites to transfer link juice from one to another but it leaves a big footprint that is easy to find for Google.
Linking to another website in your network may endanger the safety of your entire PBN.
The calendar can be kept in your excel file, don’t use Google calendar as the algorithm may scan your files names and content.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to build a PBN, you can leverage from already built PBNs. The drawback of using someone else’s PBN is not knowing if those PBNs are already caught by Google. Everything is at your own risk.
Here is some example Fiverr gigs that sell PBN links:
Many people get really greedy and start selling PBN links on outsourcing platforms. This is the time the Private network turns out to be a Public Network.
Don’t make the mistake of selling links from your PBN that you originally planned to rank your own website.
Publish a Press release at least once a month
Remember, PBN sites are generally static in regards to not having much activity on them. If your sites become subject to a manual review, the first thing Google reviewers will check it the activity on those sites.
Think about it for a moment.
If a website is legit it should show signs of that it is legit.
How many PBN sites publish press releases?
I’m willing to bet none of the PBN sites do it.
The rule of the game is to look as real as possible. Press releases published once a month makes the PBN sites appear legit.
PBN vs Other Type Of Effective Links
PBN links, in general, are much more powerful than any other type of links. If you have the budget to have backlinks from The Huffington Post or Forbes you wouldn’t need to involve in any type of PBN business.
If you don’t have a budget but you can write really good content to help reporters I would recommend you checking out HARO.
Another great site is ProfNet similar to HARO that connects media with experts. Unlike HARO, ProfNet is not built only to help journalists.
PBN links are cheap while being very effective to rank up a website.
An alternative to PBN links would be guest posting links which are considered as gray hat links. I know some people there thinking guest posting links are white hat. I don’t agree with this approach.
The only white hat backlinks are those you didn’t ask anyone for a backlink but they organically linked to your website because you have a linkable asset.
Having a PBN is expensive. You will need to pay domain registration and Webhosting subscription fees. Content and logo and images for each website you create.
It is a time-consuming process to keep track of everything. It also doesn’t tolerate any mistake you may make. Your site may be doing okay with the search engines for a while by using PBN backlinks. However, you may get hit with the next Google algorithm update or your competitor may report you to Google. In this case, your whole work will be wasted.
Instead of dealing with all these useless things in 2020, better learn how you could implement white hat SEO strategies to have a life long profitable asset without any worry.