In late 2014, the concept of PBN’s (and how easy it was to rank using them) became far too common. Every man and his dog were using them, and as a result, Google cracked down on them…hard.
There was huge fear going around where large amounts of PBN sites (often bought for big sums of money) became deindexed from Google’s search results and essentially became worthless.
This scared a lot of SEO’s and marketers out of using them, and even scared a lot of people out of doing SEO alltogether.
Table of Contents
- Do Private Blog Networks (PBN’s) still work in 2022?
- What is PBN ?
- What is the Advantage of PBN ?
- A Note On Google Page rank
- Sourcing Sites For Your PBN
- Ideal PBN Structure to Rank
- Hosting Your PBN Site
- Security Measures To Protect Your PBN
- PBN Content For Linking To Your Money Sites
Do Private Blog Networks (PBN’s) still work in 2022?
Fear not. PBN’s are still a very effective way of ranking sites in 2022, when setup and used correctly as laid out in this guide and the rest of the details.
It’s quite possible that you are already aware of the power of PBN’s and are familiar with how they work. We still recommend you go through this guide in case there are tips that you haven’t heard of yet and can apply for yourself.
The “secret sauce” when it comes to SEO (in combination with good onsite SEO and anchor profile diversification) is high authority, relevant links.
High authority links are links that come from sites which have backlink profiles that include links from powerful and authoritative sites around the web.
For example, a link from Business.com would be incredibly authoritative because Business.com has tens of thousands of links from powerful sites all around the world (news sites, finance sites, business directories, media sites etc.).
Of course, you are not going to get a link from Business.com for your local SEO sites. In fact it’s rather difficult to get a large amount of links from authority websites naturally.
You’d either have to have a fantastic site that webmasters think is worthy to link to (which you don’t because it’s just a local SEO site) or you’d have to have great networking skills (way too time-consuming) or you would have to guest-post like crazy (which by the way has lost a lot of its power).
That all leaves you with very little options bar one: Private Blog Networks (PBN).
What is PBN ?
A PBN is a network of high authority sites that you have 100% control over. These Sites are typically made to be very relevant to a pecific niche ( e.g wedding venues , gyms , accounting , services, etc ) and are then used to rank various money sites or client sites.
The bigger and stronger your PBN, the easier you will be able to rank sites for your clients and for yourself.
What is the Advantage of PBN ?
The advantages of a PBN is that you have 100% control over them. This means that you won’t have spammy content on them, you won’t be linking out to spammy sites and you won’t be sharing the sites with dozens or hundreds of other outbound links (OBL).
On top of that, all the sites in your PBN should look like real sites or blogs to make it look natural.
A PBN is the most under-the-radar link-building tactic to date, especially if you set it up in the way that we are about to describe in this guide .
The kinds of sites use in PBN’s are sites with existing backlink profiles that cause those sites to have high Moz Domain Authority ( DA ) or Majestic Trust Flow (TF) or a combination of these metrics.
Normally , The Users buy domains that already have these backlink profiles, and the majority of the time these domains are dropped or expired domains. This means that the owner has neglected to renew the domain and let it back on the general market.
That’s where we can register this domain and use it as a part of our PBN and use that site’s existing authority to rank our money sites.
A Note On Google Page rank
Google Page rank (PR) was a metric that Google used to display the authority of a website on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the most powerful).
For a long time this was the metric to judge domains by and people paid huge sums of money for domains based around this metric. In 2014, Google publicly announced that they will never update PR again, making this a “dead” metric.
Consider it obsolete and don’t make any decisions based around it. The main metric to focus on for PBN domains is Majestic Trust Flow (TF) and Moz Domain Authority (DA) , but it has to be checked thoroughly because it can be manipulated rather easily through automated tools and spam.
In a nutshell, when a domain is relevant to your industry (it has existing backlinks from sites in the same industry as you) and has good TF and good DA, you have yourself a sweet domain that will be very helpful in ranking your money site.
We’ll expand on this and get into a lot more detail :
Sourcing Sites For Your PBN
When it comes to sourcing sites for your PBN there are many places to go to and it definitely can make huge savings if you look around before pulling out your wallet.
HOWEVER, after the Google de-indexing spree of 2014, it is wise to avoid public auctions. While we have no proof of this, we suspect that Google may be watching and flagging domains from auctions and there is a higher chance of having your domain de-
indexed if you buy it from a public auction.
When sourcing your PBN Domains, you should also always try to do some sort of analysis on the domains before you buy them to be sure that the domains haven’t been spammed to death or contain links from adult/pharma/gambling sites.
When you get to a point where you are buying domains in larger quantities of 50+ a month it’s possible to get some big discounts from domain brokers, so if you are able to go big and spend the money then keep that in mind.
That being said, let’s have a look at the most popular websites where you can purchase domains to your PBN’s:
These days we are lucky in the sense that we can pick up a decent PBN domain for as little as $20 – $100 ( sometime it could be more due to strength of backlink profile ). but Several years ago it wouldn’t be unusual to pay upwards of $200 for a single PBN domain.
As a benchmark, $20-$100 per domain for a niche-relevant, spam free, 20TF domain is about the price range you’re looking at. If it’s a really good domain with high-quality links and strong metrics (higher than 20TF), the price can go into the hundreds of dollars and
still be a good deal.
When starting out, 20TF domains are good enough to work with and often sufficient to help rank your site. The more powerful domains are only necessary if you have a big business to run or are targeting very competitive keywords.
Thus, it’s possible to build a good sized PBN for $400-$1500. (Keep in mind that this doesn’t need to be built in one go – you can start with 5 domains and add on as you need them or as you have more investment capital).
Minimum Standards for PBN Domains
There are two standards by which we set our minimum requirements for PBN domains and those are TF fromMajesti and DA from moz.
These standards are reasonably high but we suggest 20+ for each of these metrics (TF,DA,PA). 15+ is also acceptable, but the higher the stats, the more powerful the domains so we suggest sticking with 20+/20+/20+.
Other important things to avoid with PBN domains are the following:
- Outlet/Merchandise Names – These have often been spammed to death
- Chinese/Asian Anchors – More often than not they are spam
- Adult/Pharma/Gambling – The big three to avoid
Less than 20 referring domains (easy to see in Majestic). If there are only a handful of referring domains that increases the risk of that domain losing power should a few of those links drop off. If you have more referring domains it makes it more likely that the domain will continue to keep its authority for longer.
Also, check to see that your domain is indexed in Google. If you type in the url of your domain and it does not appear in the first 3 results then it’s possible that the domain has been de-indexed from Google and that makes it worthless as a PBN domain.
Another check you can do if you wanted to is check the previous sites that were on the domain by using https://archive.org/. If there is any indication of foreign spam or obvious spam then you should avoid the domain.
How many PBN Sites Do you need to Start?
This question depends largely on the site and keywords that you want to rank for. The more competitive the keywords, the more PBN sites and links you will need.
For a typical local SEO type site NOT targeting the most competitive keywords (not for sites like lawyer + city, plastic surgeon + city etc. but rather for less competitive sites like urologist + city, landscaper + city, audio technician+ city, city + fitness etc.) a PBN consisting of 20 niche-relevant sites with 20TF should be sufficient to achieve page 1 rankings (in combination with diversification links and good onsite SEO).
Based on the pricing guidelines we mentioned it’s realistic to expect a PBN as mentioned above to cost you somewhere between $400 and $1600 (plus setup costs which is mainly hosting expenses).
This is something to keep in mind when closing clients. For example if you are following the CC model then your once-off setup fee should ideally be somewhere between $1000 and $2000 because it would mean that you could setup an entire PBN exclusively for your client, make it ULTRA targeted for his niche and get maximum ranking results in the first 4-8 weeks.
Something else to keep in mind is that you can rank multiple sites from the same PBN.
For example if you create a PBN in the wedding venue niche you could easily rank 5 clients (from different cities of course – it’s not ethical to take on two clients to compete for the same keywords in the same area) with the same PBN.
thus dramatically reducing your cost per client. Or you can charge each of them the setup fee and build a HUGE PBN (100+ sites) for that specific industry which virtually guarantees that you’ll be able to rank your clients for their keywords every single time.
Ideal PBN Structure to Rank
There are times when just a few high authority links are enough to make huge changes to rankings, but in general you need a well-setup PBN with at least 20 sites to be able to dominate search results.
There are various things that you should implement to have the ideal PBN setup.
Assuming identical TF and DA stats from two different PBN sites, a PBN site that is relevant to your money site you want to rank is usually going to outperform a non-relevant site.
This means that if you want to rank a fitness related site, you should have a fitness related PBN.
Ideally it would be best to have sites in your PBN that previously belonged to the same niche.
Example:. if you stick to the fitness related example, it would be ideal to build a PBN with sites that used to be in the fitness niche and who’s backlinks profiles all consist of links from fitness related sites with fitness related anchor texts.
However, this is not always easy to come by (especially in large quantities) so the next best thing is to make the content on the PBN sites relevant to the fitness niche. This means that everything from the titles to the descriptions to the content on those PBN sites should be fitness related.
An optional step you could take is to order some link packages or use automated tools to build relevant fitness backlinks to those PBN sites.
This is something that is costly and time-consuming so usually it’s not practical to do but it is definitely a possibility if you have the resources for it.
We suggest creating a relevant PBN for every industry that you rank sites in. If you have fitness clients, create a PBN for fitness only. If you have marketing clients, create a PBN for marketing only. Etc.
2. Boost PBN Sites
The following is next-level PBN setup but it ensures that your PBN is ultra effective and natural-looking.
Just looking at this from a logical perspective, when you have a whole lot of powerful and niche-relevant sites linking to you, that is great.
But, when those sites have not acquired any backlinks for months or years, and nobody is mentioning these sites or their posts on social media sites (social media is becoming an increasingly popular factor in Google’s ranking algorithm), then it looks a little strange.
That is why we suggest buying social signals like FB likes, Tweets and other shares for your PBN sites and posts. The fact that your PBN sites are now getting mentions on social media must mean that those sites are still relevant (from the perspective of search engines) which allows them to be more effective for ranking your sites.
It also decreases the possibility of your site getting de-indexed.
Hosting Your PBN Site
A very important part of a PBN is hosting. It is important not just for having your sites live and loading quickly, but it is also important as a security measure to reduce any possible footprints you may have.
If you host all your PBN domains with the same host on the same IP addresses then it could raise red flags and worst case could get your entire PBN de-indexed or devalued.
Hosting is the biggest cost of maintaining a PBN but it is a necessary expense, it’s the core of your SEO business model. it as difficult as possible for people to find our PBN domains and one of the ways to do that is to host our PBN domains on different hosts around the world.
A general guidel we like to stick to is to not host more than 5 domains on the same IP address (preferably 2 or 3). also don’t split up our domains with different hosts, putting no more than 20% of a PBN with a single host.
If your PBN only consists of 20 sites then splitting up your sites with different hosts is not a necessity but once you starting having 50+ sites in your PBN it’s advisable to have multiple web hosts.
Initially try to stick to putting 20 domains on a host until your network grows so big that you run out of reputable hosts (this only happens when you have hundreds of domains so initially there is no need to be concerned about this).
NOTE: Highly advise avoiding SEO hosting services. These are web-hosts that offer unique IP addresses specifically for the purpose of PBN or SEO hosting.
Google seems to have targeted these types of hosts when they de-indexed PBN domains because most of the time the only people who use SEO hosts are people doing SEO, and Google is not a fan of people manipulating their algorithm.
There are two strategies for hosting:
Shared package hosting are the cheap $3-$8 per month hosting packages where you have one domain and unlimited addon domains.
You only get one IP address though so we would advise a maximum of 2 sites per shared hosting package. Due to the fact that this hosting is cheap, you can afford to buy various shared hosting packages with hosts around the world and split up your PBN sites in this way.
Cloudflare is a content delivery network (CDN) which is a service designed to speed up the loading of websites and also to protect websites from hacks and attacks on the server hosting those websites.
It is used by millions of legitimate businesses around the world for non-SEO reasons and that makes it perfect to use as part of your PBN hosting strategy because it is not possible for Google to differentiate between business owners and SEOs who use it.
Thus, Google cannot penalize you for using Cloudflare. In short, Cloudflare has hundreds and thousands of servers and IP addresses around the world.
When you host your PBN site, you host it on your server, but masked through Cloudflare servers. So, any user, including Google, sees the Cloudflare IP instead of your real server IP.
This allows you to put dozens of sites on a single IP address (like a dedicated server) without having to worry about a footprint. Easy, effective and cheaper.
We would recommend not using cloudflare on more than 25% of your network.
Here is a list of some webhosts for your PBN
Shared hosting (recommended for 5-20 sites per host)
VPS or Dedicated hosting (recommended for PBNs of over 100 sites)
There are many more hosts that offer shared hosting or even dedicated servers (if you want to have a large PBN and use Cloudflare). A simple Google search will reveal more if you need.
Tip – The easiest way to keep track of all your different hosts is to just create an excel spreadsheet and keep all your login information in one place and keep notes of which sites are on which hosts.
Security Measures To Protect Your PBN
Your PBN is the most prized possession in your SEO toolbox and due to this reason, top security is of the essence.
There are two main things to consider in terms of security
1. Minimizing footprints
A footprint is any pattern that can link your PBN sites together. It’s never possible to have absolutely no footprints, but you can certainly take steps to minimize your footprints.
Here are our suggestions for minimizing footprints so that not only Google will struggle to find all the sites in your PBN, but so that your competitors will not be able to find it either.
- Use Different Hosts
Spread out your PBN domains over different hosts as described earlier.
- Use Different Registrars and Accounts
Don’t keep all your PBN domains in a single registrar account. If you have to, create multiple accounts with the same registrar with different addresses, names and whois information. Where possible, always use WHOIS privacy.
- Use Different Content Management Systmes (CMS)
To really minimize the footprints of your PBN you can install different CMS systems. Suggestions are WordPress, Joomla, Ghost and Drupal. If you have 20 sites in your PBN don’t worry about this, but once you get to over 100 you may want to consider this.
- Use Different Emails and Analytics
Never use the same email address for installations and contact information on your site. In general don’t use analytics on your PBN sites but if you feel that you want to, do not use the same analytics account on more than one of your PBN domains.
- Avoid Linking To The Exact Same Money Sites
If you are using your PBN to rank multiple money sites, try to not have the exact same links to the same URL’s on every one of your PBN sites.
- Block Analytics Sites
Block the major analytics sites like Ahrefs.com and Majestic and Moz from crawling your PBN sites and revealing the information to your competitors. You can use a plugin like SpyderSpanker
- Keep PBN Details Safe
Be sure to keep the details of your PBN sites secure. We suggest using an excel document (not Google docs) and have that password protected so that it cannot easily get into the wrong hands.
2. Reducing Downtime Risk
You reduce downtime risk by spreading out your PBN sites over different hosts like we covered already. A webhost is still a service and can go down. If you have all your PBN sites with a single host then your entire PBN can go down at once, hence why we suggest splitting up your PBN sites over different hosts.
It’s also a good idea to make backups of your PBN sites once they are setup and populated with content.
PBN Content For Linking To Your Money Sites
When it comes to content on your PBN sites, we recommend unique, hand-written content of 500-700 words.
Include a relevant Youtube video and image (or two) in every post and be sure to set the ALT and TITLE texts of the images as words or phrases similar to the keywords you are targeting.
In every 2nd or 3rd article on your PBN site include a link to an authority site like Wikipedia, Amazon or a Government type site (.gov,.edu etc).
Ideally you want to have 10-15 unique articles on the homepage of every PBN domain, but not every article needs to include a link.
Note – For client sites we always recommend hand-written content to eliminate the possible risk of any duplicate content penalties. For affiliate sites or R&R sites where you want to take a bit of a risk it is possible to use something like WORDAI.com to respin articles from something like ezinearticles.com to a level that is so unique that it’s almost 100% unique in Copyscape.
Check more articles :
Keep expanding your PBN as sites in your PBN will lose their power over time. PBN sites may stay strong for many months or even years, but some may also lose their power relatively quickly.
It is thus in your best interest to continuously add new and more sites to your PBN.
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