- Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are a powerful link-building strategy that can help you rank in competitive niches or where organic links are hard to come by.
- Websites writing against PBNs are spreading Google’s propaganda. It’s easy for big brands to write against a tactic used by small businesses.
- The short: buy good domains with backlinks on auctions or closeouts. Find niche-related blogs with easily restorable content from Archive.org.
- Use Easy Blog Networks PBN hosting for the easiest and fastest way to host your PBN without footprints.
- Make sure you don’t leave any footprints on your blogs that could connect all sites to one person. Always link to other websites besides your own.
Private Blog Networks have been widely used to influence search engine rankings for as long as backlinks have been a ranking factor. And, despite a lot of evolution in the field of PBNs, they will likely remain a common SEO strategy for a long time to come.
Since PBNs violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, they’ve remained a controversial practice. And yet, SEOs continue to rely on them to some degree in just about every competitive web space. So, even if you’re not interested in using them, you’re well advised to know all about them if you’re working in Search Engine Marketing. We’ve been testing and hosting PBNs for almost a decade and have learned a lot about what it takes to create and keep a PBN healthy.
If you’re looking to create a private blog network (PBN) for SEO, you’ll need to know some basics about this often misunderstood digital marketing technique. The guide below will walk you through the fundamentals.
What is a Private Blog Network?
A Private Blog Network, abbreviated PBN and sometimes called Personal Blog Network, is a group of blogs on domains with good backlinks and hosted on different servers with different IPs. These blogs are created to simulate natural quality backlinks to the owner’s website. All the sites are controlled by a single webmaster or group of webmasters that act in concert with each other.
The purpose of these networks is to generate backlinks to other sites to influence search engine rankings for content on those sites.
Private Blog Networks come in many shapes and sizes. From small and cheap to real blogs and news sites that do actual blogging, but their primary goal is to promote other websites and products. The latter ones are mostly the domain of large companies and SEO agencies.
The ultimate goal is to have control over link-building efforts for your money sites. The alternative is to rely on other webmasters to editorially place backlinks on their sites, which are outside of your control.
PBNs are a great alternative to just about every other link-building tactic. The main drawback is the high upfront cost of building a PBN.
Are PBNs unethical?
No. They are against Google’s guidelines but so are any other types of link-building efforts, like buying links, and even popular “white hat” options like outreach and guest posts.
Going against a corporation’s guidelines is not unethical, especially when that corporation is a monopoly and steals from its advertising partners and manipulates the search pages for their benefit.
If you’re a small business, Google is not your friend. Google is a trillion-dollar corporation that primarily wants to sell ads, and after that, it strongly prefers ranking large websites. For a small business to compete in that market, they need to use all the tools available to them.
What can go wrong with Private Blog Networks?
If you build your PBN the right way, there is a really small chance of something going wrong. The two main concerns that most people have when thinking about PBNs are that the network is discovered and deindexed (basically making backlinks from the PBN sites worthless) or that it will result in a penalty to the money site the PBN supports.
So let’s address these concerns in order:
Will PBNs get deindexed?
Very unlikely. This was mostly happening to high-profile SEO bloggers in 2016 when Google ran a large scare campaign against blog networks. And it worked like gangbusters, as everyone has been touting their propaganda since.
Our blog covers in painstaking detail what needs to be done and how to avoid search engines discovering your PBN. With all the right safeguards in place, the chance of getting sites deindexed is very low. Experienced SEO professionals who still use PBNs advocate treating your PBN sites as legitimate sites rather than a “facade” made-for-link scheme.
Your best and most powerful PBN blogs should look and feel like genuine sites that create genuine value for visitors. If you build them like that, there’s no reason to expect manual actions, even from human reviewers.
Should I buy PBN links?
Absolutely not. The P in PBNs stands for “private” and not “public” blog networks. If anyone can buy a link, those are coming from public blog networks. And buying links from those is a very bad idea. Those are way easier to find by Google and easier to penalize. Always build your own blog network, and don’t sell links on it. That way, it’ll be much harder for anyone to find your PBN or for search engines to give you a manual penalty.
How do Search Engines identify Private Blog Networks?
They use a few different approaches to try and identify a PBN, but it mainly searches for footprints that extend across sites and show that they are linked as a group. A poorly constructed network is easy to spot, as it’s founded on duplicate content, shared IP addresses or servers, unique analytics/advertising codes, or a matching domain owner.
Choosing a PBN host with the appropriate tools to steer clear of these indicators will ensure you don’t end up linking to thin or irrelevant content that won’t do your SEO performance any favors.
When should you use a Private Blog Network, and why do SEOs continue to use them?
Have you noticed that Google is ranking more or less the same type of content on the first page? That’s the whole premise of tools like Surfer or Page Optimizer Pro. Everyone is using them, and everyone writes very similar content, which means that, in the end, links are what’s ranking you on the first page.
If you’re in a very competitive industry, you can be 100% sure that your competitors are using PBNs (besides buying a ton of links). You have no chance of ranking with just “quality content” as that’s become a prerequisite now – well, what Google considers quality anyway.
If you’re in an industry that’s not online-first, like local services, then PBNs are also very useful. It’s hard to acquire backlinks to a plumber’s website.
With direct control of the sites where links are coming from, you don’t just control where the backlinks point, you also control other related signals, such as anchor text and the topical relevance of the link source.
Having control of this aspect is a massive advantage over just getting backlinks inserted into an unrelated blog post, as you would with other link-building methods.
Is it easy to build a PBN?
It’s simple but not easy, as the cliche goes. There’s a lot of tedious work in all steps of the process, but the concept itself is pretty straightforward: buy good expired domains with backlinks, host them on a good PBN host to get IP diversity, restore the original content, add your own content, wait a few weeks, then link to your website.
How to create a PBN, step by step
There are three major steps to building a PBN:
- Buying expired domains that have links and domain authority. You can choose between expired domains, closeout domains (before expiry), or auction domains.
- Hosting on a PBN host that gives you good IP diversity.
- Restoring the content, adding new content, and sending links to your money site.
Within each of those steps is a lot of legwork, but don’t let that scare you. One of the main things to understand is that PBNs aren’t built overnight.
If you want to build a PBN that will last, it’s going to happen over a long period of time. Think of it as a marathon, not a sprint.
Let’s take it one step at a time:
Finding expired domains for your private blog network
A brand new domain obviously has no authority, so we need to find domains that people did not renew and still have links going to them. To get this right, you’ll need two paid tools. One is SEO Domain Finder to browse through auction domains and closeouts. It scrapes all registrars and lists domains which you can then filter based on your requirements.
The other is Ahrefs to check the link profile of your future PBN domain. You want to make sure the links going to the website are quality links and not just spam.
We usually focus on auction and closeout domains. You can also buy expired (or dropped) domains, but some SEOs report expired domains as having less power than domains that never dropped. You can test it out for yourself. That said, it’s almost impossible to find a good expired domain.
You can spend anywhere from $50-$250+ per domain, depending on the name and backlink profile.
So what are the metrics you’re looking for? The expired domain should have at least 15-30 Ahrefs Domain Rating and 20+ referring domains. Anything lower than that, and the results will be questionable. Better metrics than that, be prepared to pay in the hundreds of dollars per domain. Always try to find domains related to your niche since topically relevant links are worth more than generic ones.
And don’t expect to be able to buy tens of domains per day. There are a ton of people doing this, so you’ll need to be fast and lucky. You should be happy if you can get 3-5 good domains per week.
Anything that sounds technical can be off-putting, but building a great blog network with a footprint-free PBN hosting provider couldn’t be easier. How easy is easy? We’re talking one-click blog installs, automatic maintenance, 100% free site migrations, and negligible deindexation rates.
Finding the right hosting for your Private Blog Network
There are countless PBN hosts, but choosing the right provider will make all the difference to your outcomes. Priorities to look out for are services such as:
- IP address diversity with varying A, B, and C-Class IP addresses and on different hosting providers.
- Nameservers given directly by the hosting providers, not nameservers unique to the PBN host.
- Competitive price points, especially if you have several networks.
- Comprehensive management and setup tools to minimize the time and effort required to create your PBN.
You can’t have your PBN websites hosted on one web host because they will have the same IP address, which clearly connects them to one owner.
Your blogs need to be hosted on different hosting providers, servers, and IPs. Since you don’t want to be opening accounts on tens of different hosts and managing them separately, there are PBN hosting services that do that for you. Avoid whatever calls itself SEO hosting as it’s the old way of doing things and only provides different IPs but only custom nameservers which are a big footprint (traces that show search engines a site is part of a PBN).
We are obviously biased, but we think Easy Blog Networks is the best solution for hosting your PBN. Your blogs are hosted by 21 reputable hosting providers, including Amazon Web Services, Dreamhost, Digital Ocean, Linode, and others. Every blog is on a unique non-sequential IP, so you get the best diversity and natural-looking backlink profile.
Easy Blog Networks makes it really easy to add a new blog. Just add a domain and blog name, and everything else, like server selection and blog settings randomization, is done by the system.
You can sign up for a 7-day free trial of Easy Blog Networks here.
We also go deep into preventing server-side footprints. We share everything you need to know about footprints and PBN hosting in our blog posts.
Restoring the previous site structure and content
Ideally, you have bought a domain that has a few easy-to-restore pages that also have links going to them, and it does not have weird URLs. You’ll want to get as much of that old content back up and indexed.
Restoring the old design
You can go for a full restore with Web Archive restoration services. This works best if you keep the site in HTML though that makes it really hard to edit. If you buy the conversion to WordPress, it usually makes a mess of posts and pages and will be hard to edit in the future.
You don’t need a direct copy of the website anyway. The important bits are the URL structure and content. Specifically, content that has links going to it. So find a free WordPress theme that looks similar to the previous site and replicate the structure and add content. Or, find someone on Fiverr to do it. Depending on the size of the website, you’re looking at $30-50.
Redirecting old URLs
If the URLs before were not clean (like how WordPress makes them:
domain.com/topic/blog-post), you can use the plugin Redirection to add redirects. Example: if a page was on
domain.com/subpage.html, you’d need to add a 301 redirect from
/subpage.html to the new
Remove personal information
Be a good internet citizen and remove any personal information and photos of the previous owners. Remove all names, addresses, and phone numbers. You can replace the people photos with AI-generated images and use Pixabay for other (free) images.
One time, we received a takedown request from a charity because a user was impersonating them by keeping their full information and photos on the PBN blog. Don’t be that guy/gal.
Avoiding PBN footprints
The main one is outbound links. You should never only link to your own websites but need to always link to other authority and non-competitive websites. If all your PBN sites only have links to your three money websites, then it’s really clear they are all yours.
Don’t use Google Search Console, Google Analytics, or anything else that leaves a unique ID in your site’s code. That’s easily traceable not only by the search engines but also by your competitors.
Don’t use uncommon or unique WordPress plugins on all your PBN sites. Using free and popular plugins is fine.
Testing your PBN
After you’ve restored the site and added an article or two of your own content, it’s time to prepare for the PBN test. Wait for at least 30 days after domain registration before you do this.
With testing, you’re trying to figure out if the domain is toxic or not.
How to test your PBN
Find a low-competition keyword in your PBN’s niche. Go to the second or third page and find a site that hasn’t changed in a while (old published date). Put the page into a rank tracker for that keyword.
Now, post a short article with an exact match anchor text (i.e., “seo hosting”) to the above page. Wait 3-4 weeks and see what happens:
- Goes up a few positions and stays there – fantastic, you have a powerful PBN blog!
- Doesn’t do anything – disappointing. You can wait a few more weeks and see if anything changes.
- Goes down – toxic domain, not much you can do but delete it.
When to start link building to your money site?
After your test is done, you’re good to go.
The benefits of building a PBN
A PBN is often a key component of an SEO strategy in high-demand sectors where you need an extra push to get ahead and stay there. By using PBN links, you have control over your anchor texts to build a dynamic system to generate contextual links to your key landing and sales pages.
- Grabbing onto a competitive niche without spending a fortune on Google Ads to get higher on the SERP.
- Quality backlinks that convert hours of effort into direct traffic.
- Quicker results without reaching out to bloggers or influencers to maximize your backlink coverage.
- Ranking for valuable keywords supported by informative content.
- Monetizing private blogs and transforming them into a higher-return content publication strategy.
- Boosting natural traffic with well-placed and authentically used keywords.
Referring domains are one of the strongest indicators of a site’s SEO success, and PBNs are reliable and provide high-quality links to core website pages. The key is always to use content that benefits readers and to steer clear of substandard SEO or PBN hosting that’s vulnerable to deindexation.
PBNs hosted on different services and with a unique IP address are risk-averse. The hosted sites can’t be linked back to the same owner, so you get minimal downtime and user-friendly, secure, and cost-effective hosting without a footprint.
Why is the PBN setup stage important?
The basis of a PBN is that it hosts website content on an expired domain. Setting up your PBN properly with a strong hosting service is vital to success – if you have a poor setup, it’s more likely you’ll be deindexed by the search bots.
Unless a PBN is set up and hosted with enough care to avoid detection, it’s just a matter of time before it becomes useless. And given that the value of owning a PBN versus buying links is revealed in the long term, failing to set one up correctly defeats the purpose entirely.
Read more about how to evaluate pbns.