Google Ranking

Do Private Blog Networks Still Work in 2020?

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manipulative link building practice
Private Blog Networks is a blackhat link building strategy.
Important Disclaimer: Private Blog Network “PBN” is a black hat link building technique. It is considered as webspam by all search engines. I would not recommend using PBN since it doesn’t help to make the web a better place. Information provided in this post is for education purposes only.

Do PBN links rank websites?

PBNs has always been a controversial topic in terms of risk taken for the potential return it can provide. We are going to discuss what a private blog network is, and if it should be used as a part of SEO campaigns in 2020.

What is a Private Blog Network?

Private Blog Network or “PBN” is a group of websites built to do artificial link building for the purpose of manipulating search engine results.

PBNs consists of websites that usually belong to one or a few entities. However, it is developed in a way to show they don’t have any relationship in between.

Every time one website links to another website, some of the website authority and “link juice” are transferred to another website. This process improves page rank and popularity of a website in the eye of search engines.

When were PBN links working good?

There was a time PBNs were living their golden age. I would say PBNs were out of the radar of Google until 2015s. Early to mid-2010s, PBNs was one of the most common link practices available.

Although it is not as popular as before, there is still interest in Private Blog Networks. Its popularity doesn’t seem to disappear sometime soon.

Google Trends for PBN
Google Trends result for the “Private Blog Networks” search query.

PBN links are much more powerful in comparison to other links built in different ways. The reason behind an accumulated amount of link juice encapsulated and constantly circulated in a closed system. That makes websites in these networks very powerful.

PBNs make it possible to rank even for very high competitive keywords without needing a very big budget. To have the same effect from guest posting links, it would be necessary to publish a large number of guest posts. Let alone the time spent for outreaching and content development.

PBNs are considered as “black hat link building technique” that has the big potential to be penalized by Google. Googles’ algorithm can spot the unnatural links, link wheels to artificially rank up a website.

Indeed, if Google thinks you’re pursuing dirty link building practices such as PBNs, your name is likely to get blacklisted. Sadly, you will not be able to know it, once you want to build your website implementing only white hat link building techniques. Because Google will not tell you if it doesn’t trust you anymore.

How Do People Build Private Blog Networks?

Private Blog Networks consist of usually high authority domains that are earlier expired. Domains get expired if either the owner drops the domain, moves to another domain or company goes out of business etc.

There are different software programs that crawl the web to find expired domains. Later, the list of found domains is filtered to find the ones that have high authority with no history of spam. Wayback Machine is a good tool to check if a domain has a clean history.

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.

PBN domains pretend they are not related to each other.

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.

google manual review
Manual action against websites for unnatural links from or to a website.

Websites that don’t have a custom logo, unique images, and fundamental pages (contact, privacy policy, disclaimer, about us) can reveal a PBN quite fast.

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.

Building Backlinks Directly To Money Site vs Through Buffer Sites

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.

Web 2.0 blogs used for PBN

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

expired domains with good metrics.
High authority expired domains

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 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.

Personal Recommendation:

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.

You don’t want all of your domains from one registrar. Diversify by using multiple registrars. You can use Namecheap, dotFM, idotznet, and other alternative 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.

Do Not Crosslink Between Your PBN Sites

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.

Have a calendar that doesn’t link all websites to each other at once.

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:

Don’t sell links and use your PBN only to rank your own site

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

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