Over the past few years PBNs have emerged as one of the most common and effective ways to build links for SEO. In fact in 2016 I would go so far as to say they are the mainstay of the SEO industry. But what are PBN links exactly? And is this a safe way to rank your website or a black hat tactic you should steer clear of at all costs?
PBN stands for Private Blog Network, a network of authority websites owned by an SEO company or practitioner and built solely for the purpose of building links in order to boost the search engine ranking of the sites they link to (known as money sites). They are usually self-hosted WordPress blogs built on expired domains that have already accumulated a certain amount of link juice and authority which are then re-themed for a specific niche using thin or spun content. They have no intrinsic value other than as a vehicle for passing ranking power.
The owners of these blog networks go to great lengths to ensure that they are not discovered by Google – for example, by making each site look different, not having them hosted on the same server, using domain privacy to hide their personal details, never linking from one PBN to another and never linking to the same money site more than once from each PBN.
Are PBN Links Safe?
PBNs carry a high degree of risk and that risk is increasing all the time as their use becomes more widespread and the search engines become better at sniffing them out. One slip and the entire network can be de-indexed overnight leaving your rankings in the toilet. Of course a seasoned SEO pro will take steps to ensure that even if one or two PBNs are discovered this doesn’t compromise the entire network. But the risk can never be eliminated entirely whatever your SEO company may tell you.
The other thing to be aware of is that is common practice for PBNs to be periodically retired and replaced. When this happens, all the links built to a money site from that PBN will disappear. If you have a large number of PBN links the effect may be small but not all SEO companies routinely replace expired links free of charge. It is also not unheard of for owners of PBNs to delete links once a client stops paying for their SEO services.
So does that mean you should never use PBNs?
When it comes to SEO the only safe strategy is to diversify your risk by using a range of different link building tactics and to stick to white hat methods. If you must use them, PBN links should never account for more than 10% of your total link profile and the links should be drip fed. Avoid using PBNs for aggressive link building (i.e. don't build a lot of links in a short space of time) as this will leave you wide open to a manual Google penalty.
These days we focus on digital PR and blogger outreach to find relevant authority sites with established audiences that are happy to publish original and authentic guest content and link back to our clients' websites. It’s all about earning links by providing real value rather than buying artificial links.
This kind of link building outreach is hard work and doesn’t come cheap but it is 100% safe and a sound long term investment since a handful of these quality links will do more to boost your rankings than dozens or even hundreds of PBN links and produce much longer lasting SEO results. Which, of course is exactly what our clients pay us for.