What are PBN links?
All You Need to Know About PBN Links and Networks
The topic of building private blog networks (PBN) for website promotion has become highly discussed in recent years. If you, too, have questions or you’re not sure whether you should use them, this guide will answer the question “what is PBN?” and help you understand how to create them. Dive in to make your SEO efforts more effective!
So, What Exactly Is a PBN SEO?
Backlinks are one of the main factors of SEO ranking factors. The premise is simple: the more backlinks a site collects, the higher its position in Google search will be. However, for successful link building, backlinks must be placed on trustworthy sites, and there must be thematic coherence between the linked pages. If you expect this to happen naturally, it will not be easy. An alternative way to get high-quality links is to create your own network of sites and place links there.
So, what is PBN in internet marketing? A PBN (Private Blog Network) utilizes a network of websites to promote the primary site, particularly its authority in search. This network helps increase the ranking of the promoted page and improve its performance based on search algorithms’ requirements. Pages that are included in PBNs are called donors or satellites, and the promoted site is called the acceptor site.
Are PBNs Dead or Not?
No, PBNs are not going anywhere. Of course, creating an effective PBN for your SEO strategy will take some time. Specialists will need to accept that building your PBN won’t bring immediate results but will be worth it for SEO. To get results eventually, use sustainable methods for PBNs and white hat link building techniques to help your site grow.
Once your PBN is up and running, you can use it for as long as you want. While these tactics take longer and are harder to implement, you will be able to reap long-term benefits and potentially see your site climb to the top of the SERPs (search engine results pages) and stay there.
How Do Private Blog Networks Work?
A private blog network uses satellite sites to give more weight to the main site you are aiming to promote. This is done by placing outgoing links from a private network of multiple sites to the target site. If the satellite site successfully links to the main site, search engines see this link between both sites and take into account its weight.
One of the most important considerations in SEO is that each PBN site should not be linked to any other site. The idea of a satellite network is that the sites should appear unrelated to each other so that search engines determine all outgoing links as natural.
A true private blog network consists of a network of satellites that are collectively known only to the owners/creators of the network and are not shared on any public forums or social networks. When a PBN owner starts to sell links from their sites to SEO specialists and share information about the network, the network of sites ceases to be private because the network is discredited.
In addition, SEO sites leave gaping security holes. Eventually, for example, because of familiar patterns, the search engine algorithm detects the network, and the outgoing links are marked as spam.
Do PBNs and Links From Them Violate Google's Rules?
Google is against any SEO techniques that manipulate the link profile and artificially increase positions in the search engine rankings. Each search engine has an algorithm that is capable of spotting site networks. The algorithm is continuously improved by developers and, even more importantly, uses machine learning to find suspicious sites and report back to the so-called webspam team.
Private blog networks can substantially assist in SEO monetization - because if done right, you can get your site to the top, crush your competition, and convert results into sales.
However, if a PBN SEO specialist does a poor job, it can have a devastating effect. Therefore, the process of creating a site network is crucial - you need to make sure to leave no traces or leads so that Google cannot identify the site network.
A site network must meet the following criteria:
- Be private so that the search engine will not discover the network;
- Have a high link weight to promote the main site.
So, it is in the interest of the SEO specialist to thoroughly research all the nuances of website promotion using networks. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use private networks effectively. If your PBN SEO strategy implies using PBNs, there will be a lot of details to take care of.
Risks Associated With Private Blog Network Links
The use of a PBN in SEO comes with obvious benefits. But you should still weigh these benefits against inherent pitfalls, such as:
- The difficulty of creating them in the first place. Creating a good network of affiliate sites requires not only money but also time. Even if you have the budget to launch a PBN SEO, be prepared to wait a while before the satellites start working to your advantage. How long? It all depends on how exactly you launched the network.
- Unsuccessful first attempts. If you are building a network on your own, there is a good chance that the first try will be useless. Some networks are quickly spotted by algorithm, and others bring such little profit that it’s nowhere close to the amount of resources already spent on them.
- Filters. If you use affiliates to acquire links hoping to get to the first page of results, consider the possibility of being filtered, for example, by Google's Penguin.
- Profitability factor. If you’re only starting out, use PBNs only for competitive niches in which other measures are not enough.
There are two specific risks that are associated with the use of PBNs, which we will talk about in the next two sections.
Penalization and Loss of Rankings
If you go overboard with your link building or other excessive SEO efforts, there is a risk of your site being penalized and your position being downgraded. Google notes that they apply a manual action to a site when a human Google expert determines that pages on a site do not meet Google's quality guidelines for webmasters. Most of the problems reported result in pages or sites being ranked lower in search results or excluded from search results without any visual indication to the user.
Thus, by using PBNs, you risk tanking the rankings of either individual pages or the entire site and, in extreme cases, getting your site removed from the index. You can, however, rectify the situation - remove links and submit a reconsideration request. However, even if this approach turns out to be successful, the site or page is unlikely to return to its previous position in the rankings - or, at least, not right away.
PBN Links Could Be Ignored by Google
If Google's algorithm deems certain links unnatural, they are likely to be ignored. But what does this really mean? That they are of absolutely no use for SEO. And this means that you wasted all the efforts and money spent on these links.
Could You Be Using PBNs Without Knowing It?
Yes, this is possible. Many SEO teams resort to using PBNs because they make it much easier to build new links. This is especially true if your PBN SEO is handled by an outsourced specialist or company. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. There is no basis for harsh accusation – but you should still be aware of possible penalties in case you get caught by search engines.
Myths & Misconceptions
Let's move on to the most common myths about private blog networks in general and using a PBN in SEO specifically.
PBN Links Don't Bring Any SEO Value
Many people think that Google's algorithm is too intelligent and advanced for tactics like PBN to work and bring any SEO value. Nevertheless, that is absolutely not the case. Any SEO expert that has some experience with or knowledge of the impact of PBNs on SEO knows many examples of PBN links actually helping with search rankings. This is especially evident in highly competitive niches.
Google Can Easily Spot the PBN Links?
PBNs are quite tricky to identify because they are fairly easy to cover up. A professional marketer can hide the use of PBNs through various techniques with hosts, themes, links to other sites, and miscellaneous information. That way, the PBN sites created for SEO will look entirely unrelated to the main site as far as Google is concerned.
They Are Unethical
There are different views on this subject. According to Google, PBNs for SEO are unethical, but it is still a grey area. Although PBNs are a clear violation of Google's Webmasters Guidelines, any link building tactic, not just PBNs, would be just as much of a violation. There is only one case in which using PBNs would be unethical - if you make PBN links for clients without making them aware of the risks involved.
PBN Links Are Dangerous
As we mentioned earlier, PBNs are not always easy to spot - which means that this method is not as dangerous as it might seem. Yes, there is a potential risk of getting a manual penalty with private blog networks, which is still possible with any other link building tactic. But if done correctly, the risk can be minimized and avoided.
Links From PBNs Are Too Expensive
This is true - but only partially. You will have to pay for the domain and hosting, content, and a private WHOIS. But if you look at it from another perspective, it is an investment that is most likely to pay off in the long run.
Private Blog Networks Are a Shaky Foundation for a Long-Term Business
Sure, using PBNs will help you progress your SEO strategy - but ranking improvement will be temporary if you don’t implement other techniques. Using only PBN links is probably not the best approach for SEO in the long run. But as a supplementary tool, you will be able to increase your audience for a certain period, and after the links stop working in your favor, you might stay above competitors - the results from PBNs won’t fade away for a while.
So, Why Would You Still Use the PBN Links?
The answer is simple - PBNs are very effective, and there's not much Google can do about such sites. Search engine algorithms use a site's link profile as one of the main factors in ranking decisions, and it is reflected in the search engine's organic results. But let's break down the two main reasons why SEO specialists choose PBNs.
- Unpredictable earning of "conventional" links.
If you acquire links in a conventional way - through email newsletters, digital PR, building links to resources, etc. - the results can be very unpredictable. Additionally, all these methods take quite a lot of time. Even the best professionals using the most advanced link building techniques cannot guarantee you a high return on all your efforts. PBNs, on the other hand, imply more control and reduce uncertainty.
Backlink anchor text control
A while ago, SEO experts decided that links with exact anchor text were a good idea. They figured that if the anchor text corresponds to the topic of the landing page, they will successfully manipulate the algorithm. In fact, the likelihood of anchor text matching the keyword you are targeting is extremely slim. Therefore, you’ll need to take matters into your own hands.
What Do Experts Say about PBN Links
David Dragesco, the founder of the PBN Premium Tool, says that PBNs can be used for all topics and sites. In addition, if you hide your private blog networks properly and build a shared infrastructure, you can get amazing results in a competitive niche.
David also believes that the process of creating a PBN should be stretched over time, perhaps a few months. The expert shares: “Have a different IP for each blog, inject qualitative and human content over time.”
Jacob Daniels, Web Content Coordinator and author on Movers Development, says that a PBN can be a good investment. He argues that if you buy a PBN-developed site, the investment will easily pay for itself - if not in direct profits from the site, then in traffic based on it. "If you develop the website, you are able to minimize the risk of PBNs with more sustainable links. Thus, you receive rich content with minimum risk," the expert states.
Andreas Schülke, SEO Team Lead and Head of Content Marketing at Bloofusion, says that PBN may work well when done correctly. For such purposes, he advises building local links, building broken links, tracking mentions without posting links, guest contributing, etc. Nevertheless, Andreas believes that content is king because, without content, it will become "increasingly difficult to come up with strong links."
What to Do With Unwanted PBN Links Pointing to Your Website
Finding out about PBNs is not a pleasant surprise for most website owners. If you are in that situation, it's worth taking the time to clean up such links. Launch a link profile audit to uncover manipulative practices and links coming from unwanted sources. For example, you can use Ahrefs Backlink analysis for this task. Once all malicious links are detected, they should be removed from the linking site or added to the disavow file.
Logistics of Using the PBNs and Links from Them
Here is a step by step guide for working with PBNs:
- Secure appropriate domains. You can buy new ones and start from scratch - you’ll be more confident in their quality. But this approach is time-consuming. If you want to save time, you can buy an expired domain or an existing site, but be sure to research the domain before buying.
- Install WordPress on domains on your network and keep them up-to-date. PBNs are attacked by hackers more often than regular sites, so it's essential to keep the domains as safe as possible.
- Create original and valuable content. Keep track of what your competitors are doing and try to do it even better.
- Build high-quality links to your PBNs so they can influence the authority of your other sites.
Should You Use PBNs?
Yes, because PBNs are indeed effective. If done correctly, satellite sites can pass enormous link weight to the main sites being promoted. The benefits of building an effective network outweigh the risks associated with using satellite sites - this is why private networks are so popular with SEO specialists.
If you use satellite sites reasonably, you’re highly unlikely to get sanctions from search engines. The goal of an SEO specialist is simple - to create sites and place links from the satellites to the ones you want to be promoted. Links should look like they’re coming from any other site.
The most critical thing to remember when setting up a PBN is not to leave any traces on the sites that would indicate that they belong to the same entity. If your SEO team leaves a digital footprint, there is a high risk that all the sites in the network will be excluded from the search engine index. Thus, they will become useless and add no weight to the links.
Look and Test Before You Buy PBNs or Links From Them
Buying a site created using a PBN is certainly a risky venture, but there are several ways to mitigate the risks. One of them is to examine the site based on two parameters: how many outbound links there are and whether a PBN is attached to the sale.
The first parameter implies asking the seller to show you how many outbound links are on their PBN. If they're linking to hundreds of different sites, you should be suspicious. Each new link dilutes the power that the domain provides. Five to ten money sites on a PBN is optimal. If you want more in-depth expertise on how many sites should be on a PBN or some other aspects are still unclear for you, you can always turn to Links-Stream as your trusted partner for PBNs.
The second question is about having a PBN attached to the sale. That way, you'll have complete control over the links, and you won’t have to rely on the seller being honest. If a PBN can’t be handled over, try to negotiate a monthly fee for link maintenance.
What Is the ROI of PBN Links?
As you already know, to create good PBNs, you need some capital. But before making the investment, of course, you’ll need to figure out whether you’ll recoup these expenses and whether it is financially feasible.
Please note that it is impossible to know the specific ROI for a private blog network that will work for every situation. Actual figures vary depending on the specifics of the website, promotion methods, competition, keyword occurrence, number of articles used, and other factors.
However, Nathan Gotch examined one of his real cases where he took into account a SERP CTR of 3-30% (the higher the position of the site, the higher the CTR), a PTL (Prospect to Lead) of around 5%, the cost per site developed, and the average time spent on the site. The estimated time was 6-12 months - granted, the request to attract customers was made in a highly competitive niche.
Based on his calculations, the total expense turned out to be $28,000, which got the site to the 6-10 positions on relevant queries and brought a profit of $12,000. The payback was recorded only when the site was in the top 3 for the request, and the CTR was in the 10-30% range.
Now, you can probably answer “what is PBN in SEO?” off the top of your head and explain the benefit of using them. Thankfully, there are hundreds of SEO tactics to promote your website, including backlinks and content marketing. However, if you choose to work with PBNs, it is crucial for you to have a solid strategy and a plan for each stage of the process. Don’t neglect regular audits - those help you minimize the risks of PBNs.
And if you’re ready to start building your link profile, Links-Stream offers high-quality backlinks to drive traffic and improve your website’s performance sustainably. We know how to make PBNs work to your advantage and get the best results possible.