Private Blog Network: should you buy one?

Private Blog Network is a network of blogs meant primarily to send 'link juice' to a specific blog/ website. This concentration of authority derived from different blogs puts the target website on top of search engines.

As the name suggests, this network is not like open blog networks in which blogs participate to share similar interest. Since the focus is on building authority of one single website, PBN sites are not linked to one another but only to the main site unlike open networks where all member blogs are linked to one another.

PBN sites are often collected by scraping the web for old websites that, though not active anymore, still have value in terms of 'link juice'. Since these come cheap, especially when bought in bulk through auction, people in the business of creating and selling PBNs create a huge resource base of such websites and selectively put them as part of different PBNs.

What if you purchase a number of domains, maintain them well and link them like a PBN? Well, that will still be PBN, but perhaps maintaining those many websites/ blogs well would defeat the business model of PBNs.

How does a blogger own a PBN?

There are many techniques to find out websites that are no longer working but have the potential to pass on their remaining 'link juice' when one gets a back-link from them. Such sites are purchased. In addition, site that have a good web authority measured through Moz Domain Authority tool, Alexa and other such tools are goaded to provide link back to some websites at a price. Web is full of other suggestions on how to get back-links from a number of websites on exclusive basis. However, it is not practical for a blogger to himself create a PBN, so he prefers to buy it from a PBN seller.

You come across PBNs being offered on Facebook groups and Google Plus communities. They sell PBN for a price and assure a big jump in search optimization of your blog. They also claim that it is a totally ethical SEO practice, a subject we'd discuss later.

PBN creators often offer established blogs handsome money to give back-link to a particular site. This way, they build a collection of blogs with good link juice and use them for different PBNs. Such websites also make the PBN look more natural.

There are networks of networks, i.e. a number of PBNs being used to send back-links to one website.

What is link juice?

If you are not familiar with this term often cited by SEO guys, it works like this: Search engines give value to the links that your blog receives from other websites/ blogs. Now, if you get a link from a well-established website, search engines will think that since that [great] website is giving a link to your blog, your blog must also be valuable. If many such websites give link to your blog, your blog - in search engines' view - will be a great website. This value that one website derives through links from another website is called 'link juice'.

Why this article?

Some recent happenings made me research about PBN and that is why I thought of writing this post for the benefit of dear blogger friends.

One. I recently received one offer from a known blogger, who had done good SEO analysis of ITB, asking me to buy PBN from him. He showed me how ITB traffic would grow five-fold within no time and how only very authoritative websites would give link back to ITB. He showed me some blogs with high search position on Google and claimed that his PBNs were behind that. He refused to disclose his price unless I committed to buy the private network.

Two. I have seen PBN being sold on Facebook and Google Plus communities but had ignored them till now. But I inquired deep from a PBN seller after I received the offer to buy PBN from him. In the package for $900, this seller would sell me 10 'authoritative' websites relevant to my area of work (blogging, website building, social media updates) and the rate per website would come down if I bought more websites. Each of the websites on offer is supposed to have high authority score and each is over 8 years old. Alternately, I would get 200 back-links randomly from about 500 websites of the same 'authority levels' for the same money but the sites would not be mine. There would be a small recurring cost too.

Three. We also have got a few rather handsome offers for back-links from ITB. We were assured by one buyer that the links would not hurt my blog and my blog's identity would not be disclosed beyond a small group of PBN buyers.

Four. Of late we have been receiving a lot of requests for guest posting on ITB. We have seldom been taking guest posts, but some web writers have offered very good and useful articles which we may not be able to resist. The point relevant to this discussion is that after examining PBN in detail, I am convinced that some articles are being offered for a purpose beyond the obvious, and one of the reasons could be PBN.

Five. I also have a doubt that many offers on Fiverr about ranking your website high on Google through 'approved' and 'genuine' back-links are also through PBN networks. It is also very likely that they link your website or blog with some good-looking websites and after your deal is over and you have paid money, they slowly unlink those sites and use the sites for others.

Why do many bloggers go for PBN? Do private blog networks work?

Simple, people want to avoid hard work and do not have the patience that is needed to build a brand and thereby come on top of search pages. PBN gives that quickly. Moreover, it is said that Google has not been able to crack down massively on PBN links though they tried that in 2014 with some success. It is also seen that unlike public networks, smart PBN are not that easily discoverable.

private blog network

Once a blogger has decided to build links fast in a way that Google does not impose a penalty, PBN is the choice. Once bought, PBN gives full control over the linking websites and also full privacy: one can put the type of anchor text or linked image as one wants; one can experiment with linking from different pages; one can keep improving all sites' rankings over time so that they send more link-juice to the target website; etc.

Some SEO experts also argue that when used as a part of SEO strategy in which other link-building methods are also used, PBN makes a very paying investment. It is also reported that a very large number of successful blogs and websites do use PBN as part of their SEO strategy.

The fact remains that as of 2018, Private Blog Networks are effective as a SEO technique, thanks to poor record of search engines to discourage them. PBN makers have also become highly professional in their approach, and they have advanced tools to find expired websites that still are indexed by Google and have no negative tags (e.g. spam score). A PBN with a large number of such websites has the potential, logically, to give a jump to search position of any website or blog.

So, the question is, 
Should we buy PBN and allow our blog to be used for PBN?

Second question first. We should not allow our blog to be misused. Even if there is only a doubt about misuse, we must be careful before we let our blog be linked with other web entities.

Next, buying a PBN. Buying a private blog network is essentially buying traffic by artificial link-building - a thing Google has openly frowned upon and other search engines would also definitely dislike.

I have come across discussion on professional and ethical use of PBNs, where such networks are equated with the ethical and casual use of a number of websites to drive traffic to a particular website, e.g. during a major event. Please note that openly linking relevant content from other websites, including own websites and internal linking from other posts/ pages, is ethical within a limit. It is in fact desirable because it helps the reader find more content on the same topic. PBNs are an antithesis to that.

People have also argued that Google will never be able to find out when links are made from a big pool of websites, especially when they all are in the same niche and keep adding new articles on them. It is also stated that there are professional ways to maintain PBN which takes care of aspects on which Google slaps penalty. (e.g. Blogs/ websites in the PBN are on different web hosts. THey use different anchor texts for linking with the same or other blog the next time. Sites are not linked to the same Google or Webmaster account.)

In spite of the arguments in favor of PBNs and the fact that they are still found to be effective in link-building, ITB would NOT recommend going for a PBN. Not from a purely ethical sense, but practically too: search engines are getting smarter in catching artificial SEO techniques and once Google finds that your links have been created artificially, the penalty that you might get may be huge. Chances are even higher that Google won't slap a penalty but would keep devaluing sites that start sending links after getting revived and sites that have unusual linking patterns. Similarly if your blog participates in PBNs by providing links to shady sites (or unrelated sites), you can be penalized. Do you want to take that risk? You have to decide.

You can visit this post on Google penalties to check various SEO actions that search engines do not approve of.

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