If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you will know that I have a small Private Blog Network (PBN), and that I occasionally tap into other people’s PBNs to boost the rankings of my niche sniper sites. Although I have been getting fantastic results using them, I am frustrated at how poorly most SEOs run their PBNs.
So today I’m going to go over some of the biggest mistakes being made by SEO gurus and newbies alike when it comes to PBNs. I’m going to show how you can avoid making them if you own or plan to own a PBN, and more importantly, how to spot these big no-nos in other peoples’ networks if you plan on using them (like I occasionally do).
What are PBNs?
If you’re not familiar with PBNs, it’s basically a collection of sites you set up on expired domains that have strong SEO signals (usually as a result of strong backlinks) which you then use to link to your money site (the site you’re wanting to make money with) to help it boost it’s search engine rankings. There’s a bit more to it, but that is the gist of it.
Do PBNs still work? You betcha!
Google does not like them though. Google hates rubbish sites that add absolutely no value to the world wide web. In other words, if you create PBNs like a lot of SEO gurus teach you to, your PBNs and the sites they link to are a walking target for Google.
Gurus place all the emphasis on having PBN sites hosted on unique IP addresses, registering the domains under different names, etc. All of those things are important, but I am strongly convinced the only way to truly bulletproof your PBN sites is by making them valuable and userfriendly – just like you would with a money site.
In fact, I am of the opinion that if SEOs spent more time making their PBN sites truly valuable, they wouldn’t have to worry so much about hiding the fact that they own them.
Google doesn’t really care who a site belongs to. It does however care about the user experience of the site. If it provides a good user experience, Google assumes the sites it links to offer a similar or better user experience – resulting in them ranking higher in the search results.
So, again, SEOs have been getting this simple fact wrong all along. Which is why they all eventually start complaining about their PBNs getting deindexed.
PBNs done wrong
Here are four common issues I see with almost all of the PBNs I have worked with over the years.
- They all look exactly the same: I remember a while back when two very well known SEO gurus went and created a massive PBN network with thousands of sites in it. The sole purpose of the network was to make money off of customers who would pay to have access to it. For the sake of streamlining the creation of these sites, they hired multiple virtual assistants (VAs) who had the tedious task of setting each site up for them. Long story very short – come launch day – all of the sites had the exact same theme.
I have no idea how the heck they didn’t catch this before launching, but it was likely an error in the instructions given to the VAs or simply a matter of the VAs cutting corners to save time.
Either way, when you have over 1000 identical sites linking to the same pile of money sites, you’re asking for punishment. It did not take almighty Google long to catch on and deindex the entire network in an instant. Tens of thousands of dollars were gone just like that. All because of a simple screw up that could have been avoided!
This goes beyond just the theme though. If all your PBNs use the exact same plugins (especially if the plugins aren’t commonly installed on the majority of blogs online), have the exact same ads placed in the exact same places, etc, it leaves a massive footprint.
You gotta take a minute and spice the site up. Don’t go overboard but give each of your PBNs an identity of it’s own.
- They have rubbish/irrelevant content: I buy a LOT of content to maintain my PBNs. Despite that, I am overly picky when it comes to having content written. If it’s rubbish, filled with spelling errors or the sentence structure does not make sense, I have it rewritten or I’ll rewrite it myself. I don’t put up with spun garbage – even if it’s a third tier PBN site. I demand quality content and won’t hesitate to pay a bit more for it if I have to.
I have talked about this in previous posts but believe it’s worth repeating: Google spends millions of dollars to have it’s algorithms read and interpret sites the way humans do. If stuff doesn’t make sense to a person, it likely doesn’t make sense to Google’s robot. If it doesn’t make sense to Google, why should they trust it or even trust the sites it links out to?
Also – and this has got to be my biggest grievance of them all – when one PBN blog links to sites in every possible niche under the sun, it isn’t natural. No matter how you dress it up, it just doesn’t make any logical sense. Google likes to see topical backlinks (links coming from sites that are on the same topic as your site). So by spamming it with irrelevant content, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
- They are Spammed to hell and back with outbound links: This ties into my previous point a bit. How natural is it to have each page/post link out to another site? Why is there no interlinking between posts? I personally try to make sure that for every post with outbound links I have another post with just internal links. Look at any successful blog (in any niche). Chances are they link more often to content within their own site than they do to other sites. It’s just natural and helps keep the PBN strong.
Again, resist linking to every money site you own from it unless of course they are all in a similar niche.
- They have no social media connection: SEO gurus will tell you “personal blogs link to every possible niche so it’s okay to link to anything you want”. Although I agree with them a little bit, I strongly believe every personal blog would have social accounts connected to them as well – something they don’t teach.
Yes, setting up twitter and Gplus accounts is tedious work, but it will give your PBNs a ton of instant credibility. Especially if you occasionally share a link to that PBN from those accounts.
By all means make a PBN like a personal blog (I have a few of those) but make sure they actually pass as such by setting them up properly.
Of course I could go on and on, but PBNs really aren’t that complicated. Treat them like you would treat royalty and they will take care of your rankings for you.
I absolutely love my PBNs. They do exactly what I need them to do. As such I probably take better care of them than most SEOs do, but I’m probably also one of the few SEOs that has never had a PBN deindexed by Google.
My point and take away from this whole post is: Take good care of your PBN sites. Never take shortcuts with them and you will have yourself a network you can count on – over and over again – for months and years to come.