Follow our in-depth guide to master the art of creating a private blog network.
A summary of what is covered:
- What Is A PBN?
- Private Blog Network SEO – Penalties And Deindexation
- Rules For Building Your PBN
- How To Build A Private Blog Network For SERP Success
- Buying Domains
- Create A Network With No Footprints
- Content Strategy
- Linking Strategy
What Is A PBN?
What is a private blog network (PBN)? This is a collection of authoritative websites (domains), that you have complete control over, which link back to your main money making site.
Generally, a PBN is used to build links to your main ‘money’ website. This enables you to achieve a higher ranking in Google search engines.
And what is a PBN Site? Well, this refers to a website that is part of your private blogging network.
Traditionally, PBNs are created by using expired domains which possess strong backlinks. An expired domain is a site that was previously owned and populated with content. When the domain is no longer registered, anyone can purchase it for a small registration fee of $10-$15 USD. However, the most powerful domains are created by using expiring or non-dropped domains. These are often harder to come by and cost anywhere from $100 to upwards of $400 USD since they have a lot more link juice.
When using this method of link building, these backlinks can contribute high levels of link equity to your main money making site when pointed to it.
The idea behind a private blog network is that the websites seem completely unrelated to each other, therefore appearing as natural links. This is far more beneficial than linking your website directly to your other sites. It is important to note that each of the PBN sites is independent, and not linked to each other at all.
It is possible to have a PBN with a range of different website types including WordPress, Static HTML or Joomla, but in most cases keeping websites as WordPress is fine and easier to manage. It is recommended to use a range of site types and methods when link building to your main site, for example it’s not advised to solely use PBNs are your link building strategy. On another note, free blogs domains have a lot less power than self-hosted blogs, so this isn’t a recommended strategy.
How Does It Work?
A PBN allows you to source high-quality backlinks in bigger quantities, without the hassle and time-consuming process of conventional link building.
People who use a PBN will likely create large website networks whilst the domain is under their control. They will then link to with a nice velocity ‘naturally’ rise in the search engines rankings.
By using an aged domain, you will be able to successfully transfer a large amount of strength to your own domain or website from the past links that domain has accumulated. This ‘link strength’ is similar to a ranking power, allowing an older domain to pass on more ranking power than a new website. This is mainly because older domains carry more authority than newer ones. This is often referred to as ‘link juice’ in the SEO community, but it’s important to look at the quality of the links as well. Often an expired domain will be heavily spammed so and it might look very powerful in tools like Ahrefs but in fact, it’s quite toxic.
If you want your website to be ranking at the top of the Google search engine, you will require a lot of strong high-quality backlinks to it. With a PBN, you have complete control of the link as you own the main website it is linking to. This allows you to choose the ideal anchor text, content and placement of the link within your site.
Once you have a PBN website functioning and linked to your money making site, you will have a general understanding of the costs involved.
You know that it takes approximately $XX and Y hours to create one link. With this data you can then scale up to your desired amount of links, allowing you to have an almost exact costing framework to go by for the future. This is very dependent on how you build your PBNs, everyone has their own strategy but we share our strategy further on.
History Of PBNs
According to Google, users have been researching private blog networks from as early as 2005. It is, therefore, safe to assume that this technique has been around for more than a decade and used by many SEO’s. In 2010, private blog networks started appearing in IM forums.
By 2014, PBNs had lost a lot of their momentum due to Google issuing penalties to several public networks. As time has progressed PBNs have, once again, gained significant momentum. This is due to SEOs realising that it is difficult for Google to locate a well-established private blog network which does not sell any links.
Private Blog Network SEO – Penalties And Deindexation
People often get scared with PBNs after hearing many stories of deindexation and penalites. But if you follow the steps correctly and focus on quality over quantity you will find that your PBNs have a very high success rate.
So the question stands, “Why do PBNs get dexindexed?”. The answer to this is that a PBN violates Google’s overarching webmaster guidelines, and falls outside the realm of Google’s pure ‘white hat’ SEO strategies.
That being said, it is important to note that Google deindexes websites all the time. Therefore, it is important to remain aware of the many mistakes you can make that could potentially lead to your PBN being deindexed.
In most cases, if your PBN has been deindexed, it’s likely not because Google thinks it’s a PBN, but rather, it has been deemed as a spammy or low-quality domain with a number of negative signals.
Building a successful PBN takes time, money and a lot of effort. It is therefore imperative that you respect the process and focus on building it to last for many years to come.
There are a variety of reasons why a PBN might get de-indexed, as well as rules to prevent this from happening.
What are PBNs getting penalised or de-indexed for?
- Not properly vetting domains before buying it
- Selling links privately or publicly
- Low quality and thin content sites, resulting in a manual review
- Identical WhoIs data for multiple domains
- Multiple domains being hosting on the same IP address or the same physical machine
- Hosting with SEO-hosting companies that have their IP addresses flagged
- Consistent linking patterns. Having the same type of links will likely get your site de-indexed
- Blocking crawlers in robots.txt and not at web server level
- Utilising a domain that already has penalties attached to it
- Not mixing up links from PBNs within anchor texts
- Not linking out to other similar or useful websites correctly
By avoiding the above, you will not only keep your website from being de-indexed, but you will also help increase your overall search engine rankings. By setting up your PBN correctly, the value of your links will increase.
Rules For Building Your PBN
There are several key steps to take into consideration when building your PBN, and it is crucial to remember that the rules of SEO are constantly changing.
In order to successfully build a blog network, you need to be keyed in and updating your site constantly. It is likely that today’s PBN building methods may not be applicable tomorrow.
Below are some key tips that will help you build a long-lasting and effective PBN:
- Different Hosting – We recommend that each of your websites is located on a different subnet IP address. Most web hosts will only receive a small number of IP addresses that they can provide to a client. While the IP address may be slightly different, you may also end up receiving the same ones. In this situation, it is recommended that you only host one or maybe two domains with this same web-host. Or you could use our hosting that solves all this for you!
- Different Registrars – It is recommended that you buy domains through different registrars or have most of your domains through GoDaddy since they have control of the most domains. On all of your domains, you should have WhoIS Guard enabled. You should avoid having any fake information or details in the WhoIS records. It is imperative to use the DNS of the individual registrar and avoid using one name server for all the domains under your control.
- Content – It is recommended that each of your websites have unique SEO-valuable content. Avoid spinning content at all costs. Treat every domain in your PBN with the same love and respect as you treat your main money making site, by investing in its quality.
- Linking Out – It is very tempting to link out a domain to all your money sites. But this is a footprint and not recommended, one PBN site should only link to one money site.
- Link Profile – Every page will have a maximum of 2-5 outgoing links whilst some pages will have no links at all. This is to ensure the link profile remains natural and doesn’t raise any red flags. All outbound links from your page should go directly to the money making or authority sites, relevant to your industry, field, or niche market. Linking to other websites within your market or niche is still extremely important.
- Embed Links – It is recommended that you avoid site-wide links and focus on links that are embedded in the contextual texts.
- Build Up The Site – Only link a domain to your money making site after you have created a few pages minimum. Avoid linking out to websites such as YouTube or Wikipedia and focus all initial links directly to authoritative sites in your niche (obviously not direct competitors though).
- Anchor Texts – Using different anchoring texts when linking to your main money making site is imperative. If your site is new, then you need to make sure you have branded, generic and naked URL links going to your domain BEFORE you start linking from your PBNs. You need a good base of links then use partial match anchors on your PBNs for the most effect. We do not recommend doing exact match anchor text from your PBNs or from any links for that matter.
- Use Relevant Niche – It is highly recommended that all your PBN sites are kept in the same niche as they were before the domains expired. If Google realises that the new site is significantly different from the original site, the backlinks will be devalued in the search engine algorithm.
- Don’t Advertise Your PBN – Do not share any information about your domains or attempt to sell a PBN link.
How To Build A Private Blog Network For SERP Success
Step 1 – Research & Planning
You will have to decide how many PBN links you will need to rank high on a search engine results page (SERP). The number of links you will require is directly linked to the niche market you are in, and how competitive it is.
Is your On-Page SEO sound? How much domain authority does your site already have? Generally, it is safe to assume that 10 PBN links will help you easily rank for a medium competition keyword. But you’ll have to balance this with other types of links, whether that be guest posts, web 2.0’s, niche edits or other methods. It is therefore recommended to plan for these costs when starting to build your PBN.
Step 2 – Working Out Costs
Take the cost of a PBN into account. As stated above, building a PBN is a costly process. There are three main costs you need to consider when building one:
- Cost of domain
- Cost of the content
- Cost of hosting
Finding good quality sites with healthy backlinks is of utmost importance. Therefore, it is recommended you spend time locating and buying domains with true value.
A quality domain can cost you between $80 – $500 USD. More complex domains with long-standing backlinks can cost you even more.
If you are a beginner, we suggest you stick with entry-level ranges around $100 price range. With more experience and knowledge of this process, you will be able to invest in more complex and expensive domains.
Most people don’t realise it, but the content is also relatively costly. Naturally, you want high quality and unique content. This will cost you anywhere from $10 – $20 for 500 words. Or you can use our PBN builder service to build your websites at a fraction of the cost, it’s a service we offer to clients as a value add to our hosting.
It is recommended to start your PBN setup with approximately 5 articles, and continue to add a new piece every month or every two months.
As a rule of thumb, we have calculated a general costing for building a successful entry-level PBN:
- Cost of a single website: Domain ($100) + someone to build the site (our price starts at $35, others start much higher $80+) assuming our price of $35.
- Total cost once off: $135 USD
- Annual cost of a single website: 6 articles ($60-$90) + hosting & domain ($30)
- Total cost per year: $120 USD
You then come to the final cost for a 10 website PBN at $1350 once off + $1440 per year on-going
It is important to take note that as your PBN grows and you started to make money, you will need to start adding more domains in order to grow and develop your network and make it stronger.
Step 3 – Planning Structure
You will need to create a plan for the overall structure of your network. This will depend on three main things:
Are you promoting
- A single money site?
- Several money making sites in the same niche market?
- Several money sites in multiple niche markets?
Entrepreneurs will fall into the first or second categories as they generally have a single money site that they want to be ranked. They may also have several money sites in the same market and want them all to rank high on SERP. In this situation, all the relevant PBN domains will be on the same network and independent of each other.
Marketing agencies and bigger companies will fall under the third category. This is because they have many clients with money sites in a variety of markets and will need to create PBNs to rank all their clients’ sites.
Step 4 – Choose When To Link
It is recommended that you start linking to your money site from your PBN when it feels natural to do so. This means, if you have a money site that has little or no links from any other sites, then it is not recommended to start sending your PBN links to your site as yet.
If your site has backlinks from other sources, such as outreach or guest posts, and the anchor texts from the links are varied, then it a good time to drip-feed PBN links to your money making site.
The main reason your money site needs backlinks before you start drip-feeding PBN links is that you want to avoid the anchor texts density from becoming unnaturally high.
It is crucial to use your PBN links effectively and strategically. The best links your site will get are from your PBN links. This is because you have complete control over link equity, anchor texts, and you can link from more powerful pages. You will need to blend your PBN links with any other links on your site to ensure you pass any manual reviews.
Without doing the above, your PBN could be at risk which could jeopardise your money site.
Step 5 – Automate with a virtual assistant
Planning is everything when it comes to PBN link building. You might need to hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) who will be able to assist you in the above steps.
A VA is generally helpful after you have already created a few websites yourself and have assessed the successes and drawbacks. This information can then be passed on to the VA, who can work with it to increase your output and success rate.
Domains are considered the foundation of your PBN network and are the most important part of your entire process.
Up until 2018, most people were using expired domains but their pass rate dropped significantly. Since then expiring/auction domains have become a lot more popular because non-dropped domains have a much higher pass rate. The pass rate is whether your PBN is toxic towards your rankings or helps them. The great thing about using aged domains is that they have established ranking power which can be used to pass authority to your main site.
To find the right domains for your PBN, you will have to search through lots of domains to find the right one. Today, there are a number of tools that can do this work for you, such as:
- DomCop (All Domains)
- PBN HQ (Expired Domains)
- Domain Ronin (Expired Domains)
- TB Solutions (Domain Broker)
Ideally, you want to find a domain that is spam free and that has quality backlinks from other websites that are in the same market as you are.
For example, if you are in the sports sector, you will require PBN domains that have quality backlinks from authority sites in the sports industry.
You should ensure that your domain has several backlinks from class C IP addresses.
To avoid any domains with spam or weak backlinks, you should take note of its history. If you stumble across anything that looks suspicious, unreliable or has any foreign languages, do not purchase it!
Lastly, you need to know if a domain is indexed or not. Domains purchased at auctions that are not indexed and have likely been penalised.
To check if it is indexed, you can search “site:domain.com”. If nothing shows up, the domain is not indexed.
What Metrics To Look For
Metrics are also a good way of working out whether your chosen backlinks have value or not. This allows you to filter through thousands of domains. Note, no metrics are fully reliable, and it is highly recommended that you manually check these domains for good measure before purchasing. It can often be hard to find domains that suit exactly what you need.
There are 4 main metrics that can be used to measure domains. These are found using tools such as Ahrefs, Majestic & Moz:
- DA/DR– Domain Authority/Domain Rating: measures the strength of the domain based on the links connected to it
- PA – Page Authority: measures the strength of a page on the website.
- TF – Trust Flow: measures the authority or the site’s links
- CF – Citation Flow: measures the strength of the links to the site itself
These metrics will help you better understand the strength of the domain you are about to purchase but there are also other things to take into consideration, such as:
- Referring Domains: This refers to a metric that indicates the number of sites that link to the domain you are currently looking at.
- Backlinks: This refers to the number of links the site has. If a website links to a domain three times, then it only 1 referring domain and 3 backlinks.
- Anchor Texts: This refers to the content or text used by people when linking to the site.
Where To Buy Them?
There are 5 main ways to source and purchase the best domains for your private blog network.
From Domain Brokers
This is recommended for first time PBN builders as a broker will be able to assist you in buying your first 2 or 3 PBN domains.
Some example brokers are Hammerhead Domains and T.B. Solutions. You can find other brokers like these on online forums but it is crucial that you do all your research before making any decisions. These brokers often have high premiums on sites with high Domain Authority, but they are great if you have large budgets.
These forums contain sales threads, making it simple and convenient to purchase domains through them.
From Domain Auctions
Domain auctions are ideal to find high-quality domains. There are a few auction sites such as SnapNames and Name Jet that will help you find the ideal domains for your PBN.
The only drawback to domain auctions is that once you bid on a domain, it generally attracts more bidders, making it harder for you to find a good domain at a cheap price.
Backordering Domains That Are Pending Deletion
If you want to acquire an expired domain, the best way is to place a backorder on the domain just before it expires. Domains that are going to be left to expire usually stay in a pending state for about 4 days before they are dropped.
If you believe a specific domain is more valuable, we recommend you place multiple backorders with a variety of sites to ensure you get it. A backorder can cost you about $69, depending on the site and its pricing framework.
Manually Sourcing Dropped Domains
This is not a recommended option for anyone, although some people will attempt to save the +/-$69 by manually trying to find a dropped domain using the appropriate software.
If the domain is as valuable as you think it is, back ordering companies will most likely catch it first. We, therefore, advise you to go through the methods mentioned above to avoid losing a potentially valuable domain.
Sites with valuable metrics will be picked up by back ordering services, and because they have multiple lines into the domain registry, you will find that you simply cannot beat them to catching the site first as soon as it drops.
Using An Expired Domains Crawler
A crawler can be used by a domain broker, or if you wish to create a big PBN. An expired domain crawler has the ability to crawl all the pages of a high authority website of your choice. It will find any broken links from the site and can check whether the domains connected to the links are available to register.
Create A Network With No Footprints
Having a good hosting plan is imperative to the success of your PBN. They are the link and source to your site’s footprint and are the most common way the search engine algorithm will de-index your PBNs. Good hosting decisions can help you avoid being de-indexed.
The following types of hosting are available to you:
LaunchCDN or Bulk Buy Hosting
LaunchCDN offers a complete hosting solution for people looking to scale their PBNs without any footprints using CDN hosting. Bulk Buy Hosting allows you to use regular cPanel hosting at scale and is also a great option but has slightly more management involved.
Virtual Private Servers
A VPS appears to the user as a dedicated server but actually has the ability to serve multiple websites. One single computer can have many VPSs, each with its own operating system that can run the hosting software for you. There are a variety of VPS providers that sell VPSs for between $12-$15 annually. We recommend you ensure that the provider you go with has been in business for a significant amount of time, ensuring reliability and high-quality services.
Common Web Hosts
This is considered a simpler option for those who have less technical experience. You can use sites such as HostGator, Bluehost, HostMonster and GoDaddy. The main drawback of using these web hosts is that it can be more expensive than other options. Despite that, it’s a good way to ensure a solid portion of your PBNs are set up and hosted appropriately.
Hosts From Cheaper Hosting Forums
Finding cheap companies from forums such as webhostingtalk.com are often used. However, high quality and more reputable VPSs are still recommended.
Cloud Hosting – Amazon S3 with Route 53 & Google Cloud
With the ‘cloud’ taking over, cloud hosting has also grown in popularity. You are now able to host static sites with Google Cloud and Amazing S3. It will cost you around $6 per year to set up a static website.
Other PBN Footprints
Other footprints that can lead to de-indexation are the following:
Blocking crawlers such as Ahrefs, Moz & Majestic allows your PBN sites to be hidden from your competitors. This is really important because if they know all of your PBNs then they can craft a strategy to beat you. In this case, your competitors can also report your PBNs to Google and get them manually reviewed. Some sites advise that you shouldn’t block bots as it could be a negative signal that Google could pick up on. In this case, Google would have to separately crawl your website using the crawlers you’ve blocked to actually see that they are blocked which is not going to happen. Since the Google Bot doesn’t notice any difference when crawling your website they’d have to deploy a lot of extra resources to crawl websites in a different way.
Do No Use The Same Google Analytics or Google Search Console Account
Using one Google account for each of your PBN websites is, of course, the biggest footprint you can leave behind. Avoid doing this at all costs! We recommend you create a unique Google account for every website. Furthermore, you should only sign in to these accounts using different and unique IP addresses.
You have heard it before, content is always key! When creating content for your website, it is important to focus on fresh, new content. Search engines like Google give more weight to sites that have constantly updated content. One article a month would be a recommended update frequency. Content can be the most costly aspect of building a PBN. Therefore, you should check the domain to ensure it is clean and has no penalties before spending any money on it.
PBN Linking Strategy
We recommend you do not start link building from your PBN to your money site immediately. Only once you have a domain that is indexed, ranked for its naked domain name and you have included links to an authority site, should you then create a page related to your money site and link it back to that. Be sure to check all the backlinks to the domain, selecting the page with the most high-quality backlinks. Thereafter you can add the link to your money making site to ensure you get maximum output. Adding links to between the pages internally will also quietly help your link, and encourage easy flow to and from your webpage. In most cases we’d recommend waiting 30-60 days to link to your money site after building your PBN site (this means getting content and getting the new version of the website indexed).
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it worth link building to your PBN?
This is something that has been tested extensively. Most people lean towards no. If the domain you are building the PBN on has good metrics, which it should, then building extra links will have diminishing returns. You are better off link building to your money site in this case. However, people argue that if you build links after the rebuild then it’s a good signal to Google and can help regain the traffic it once had.
Why use a black hat strategy instead of a white hat strategy?
When done right PBNs are incredibly powerful and cost-effective. White hat SEO in most cases is incredibly expensive as you’ll have to create large teams of content creators. Large companies can effectively implement white hat strategies but for most business owners it’s just not realistic.
Are PBNs a black hat strategy?
The SEO community is divided on this topic, many SEO experts PBNs as black hat but these are often the people who lean more towards white hat SEO such as Neil Patel. Most people in the community see it as a grey hat strategy and believe black hat is illegal strategies such as hacking sites for links.
Is it worth building social media profiles for your PBNs?
The short answer is yes. Anything that makes your PBN sites stand out as unique and self-sufficient is a good idea. While creating and connecting social media profiles is not going to make the domain any stronger, it is a positive signal for Google and lowers the inherent risk of the PBN site.
Can I rank a website with only with PBNs?
Up until around 2018 this was definitely possible but it’s becoming increasingly harder over time to rank purely with PBNs. It vastly depends on the niche but as a general rule of thumb having a diverse backlink profile is the way to go. If you look at your competitor’s backlink profile it’s likely they have a wide variety of links pointing to their site. If you build a site purely with PBNs it means you aren’t getting any links on important sites in that niche, and Google likely won’t put you right at the top.
That’s it! You now have tools you need to go forth and conquer Google and craft the best PBN that will pass any algorithmic and manual review tests.