What are PBNs?
PBNs (public blog networks & private blog networks) are websites that are used to build authority of target websites, and are sometimes included as part of a backlink strategy for Off-page SEO. Essentially they allow for easy and predictable backlink acquisition.
Public blog networks are blogs that constitute a large network of blogs to which anyone can submit a link. Usually there is a fee involved. The volume of spam and nefarious links sent and the obvious degeneracy of these sites gives Google an easy way to spot and penalise such sites.
Private blog networks on the other hand belong to a single user, who has control of what is published on these blogs. Therefore they can be made to look like genuine sites. Having said this, they can usually be easily distinguished from regular sites most of the time.
Private blog networks typically have very little or no traffic, which should ring alarm bells, especially if these sites have high DR (an indication of poor content / Google penalties). If done correctly, however, it’s possible to have both reasonably good quality articles and traffic – and in fact the line can become blurry.
How To Create Or Buy A PBN?
Often genuine sites are converted to private blog networks. Once someone either forgets or declines to renew their domain, the domain expires and can be bought by another individual. Once the purchase is complete the site can be restored to some extent with tools such as Way Back Machine. In theory the traffic should come back once the domains pages are reinstated, despite the outage.
Now that the domain is bought, links can be inserted on the website. The main thing to take away from this process is that the purchased domain retains its authority and links, which can then be used to pass link juice to other websites.
In 2022 no one really uses public blog networks. The limited amount of control paired with much higher frequency of Google penalties makes them liabilities rather than assets. Private blog networks, however, are still alive and kicking and are used by many as part of a balanced backlink strategy.
From now on, all references to PBNs will be solely to private blog networks as they make a vast majority of the PBNs in use and are the only viable type of PBN.
Benefits of PBNs
The argument for PBNs is that they are efficient, cost-effective, scalable and replicable. What does this mean? Instead of spending hours finding the right site through outreach and writing genuine articles, a link can be inserted into a website you already own. In fact, an unlimited amount of links can be inserted – although this is not recommended!
PBN links need to be as natural as possible, which is why articles are often injected into PBNs, with links embedded in these articles. It’s usually easy to tell PBN articles by their low quality. More often than not they are written by AI tools such as Article Forge.
The Risks of PBNs – Google Penalties
The argument against PBNs gets stronger every year. The reason why is because Google gets smarter every year. Every year a new set of algorithms are released that make Google better able to detect many grey and black hat SEO techniques – among these, dodgy link building.
You could argue, how does Google know the differences between a PBN and a link insertion into a genuine website, and the reality is, no one knows. Perhaps in many instances Google can’t tell the difference.
But here’s the deal, a poor quality site will still be a poor quality site – and user experience plays a large role in link juice. We know this because it affects factors that Google looks into such as time on page and bounce rate.
A website that’s continually abused by poor quality guest posts, unnatural and poor quality link insertions and AI written articles with dodgy links will inevitably be penalised by Google. Sites that are associated with it, will also be penalised. And in fact the entire network of sites attached to the PBN through the same hosting, IP and other identification markers may be targeted by Google.
Using PBNs is like playing with fire, you can have some fun but eventually you’ll be burnt. Often SEOs split their PBNs on different hosting accounts to minimise the risk of the entire network being penalised. If PBNs are upheld and used sparingly, perhaps the guise of a genuine website can be maintained.
If they are to be used, they should be used in the beginning to build some website authority and start ranking. They should not be used in competitive niches and late in campaigns as they may damage the potential of a campaign. Sometimes SEOs opt to remove them after the website has gained some authority, to reduce the chances of receiving a Google penalty.