PBNs or private blog networks are a popular SEO technique to be widely used, and they are (currently) very effective.
What Is a PBN? – A Definition
A Private Blog Network (PBN) is a website or a collection of websites owned by an SEO which is used for the sole purpose of linking to websites they are trying to rank. Despite the name, websites in a PBN do not have to be blogs – many PBN sites take the form of Q&A sites, or websites of seemingly legitimate businesses.
To put it in different terms – Instead of an SEO buying a link on a website, now they just buy the whole website.
Setting up a PBN is reasonably simple, and goes something like this.
Step 1 – Find a domain
The most important part of any PBN is the domain. There are two main ways people do this.
The first way is searching expired domain auctions for domains that have a good backlink profile and then bidding on them. Before PBNs were commonplace, domains in these auctions were reasonably cheap. But these days a domain with an excellent backlink profile can sell for thousands of dollars.
The second way to find a domain for a PBN is by scraping already expired and dropped domains that can be re-registered and “resurrected” – the only cost being a normal domain registration fee.
Step 2 – Add Content
Once you have found a good domain, you need to populate it with content. There are countless ways of doing this.
One of the most popular ways is to resurrect the old website that was previously on the domain before it was purchased. SEOs use Archive.org to download the websites previous content and then re-upload it.
The legality of this practice is questionable at best.
Sometimes the websites will be populated with new and original content and will be totally rebranded as a new website. Even if the new content is in a totally different niche, at present Google does not seem to care too much about the difference.
Once the website has been recreated, the SEO then adds a link to their money site with full control over content, anchor text, and destination.
It’s a very powerful method.
Step 3 – Don’t Get Caught
Google is well aware of people using PBNs to rank their websites, and a well hidden PBN is very difficult for them to detect. But to be honest, 9 out of 10 people do not hide their PBNs well enough.
The lengths people go to trying not to create footprints is impressive. Just some of the things that are taken into account are different C-Class IP Addresses, different CMS systems, and different domain registrars.
But even this is probably not enough in the long term.
The only “safe” PBN is one that hides in plain sight. It needs to look like a normal legitimate website that has been set up for honest purposes.
Basically, it needs to be able to pass a manual review.
Many people are expecting Google to release a “PBN Update” sooner or later, in which they will decimate a large number of PBNs. They will catch them simply because the majority of them are not well hidden enough.
Google has gotten incredibly good at catching web spam, so only the best PBNs will be safe.
What Is Not A PBN? – A Definition
If you take a look around various Blackhat SEO marketplaces you will see various vendors selling PBN links. By definition, these “Private Blog Network” links are not private at all – because they are being sold to the public.
Purchasing links on someone else’s PBN (Public Blog Network) is a high-risk strategy, that has a good chance of getting your website penalized. If you consider doing this you should probably create an additional layer and point these bought links to that.
It’s a gamble to direct purchased links to a money site.
It has been confirmed many times that Google’s web spam team browses these marketplaces and hunts down PBN sellers. Their web spam team has even tweeted about specific large PBNs being taken down, referring to them by name.