Preview:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Websites writing against PBNs are spreading Google’s propaganda. It’s easy for big brands to write against a tactic used by small businesses.

What is a PBN?

A Private Blog Network, abbreviated PBN, 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.

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.

Frequently asked questions about Private Blog Networks

Are PBNs risky?

Yes, if you do them wrong. This guide shows you how to do it right.

Will PBNs get my site deindexed?

Very unlikely. This was mostly happening to high-profile SEO bloggers back in 2016 when Google was running a PR campaign against blog networks. And it worked like gangbusters.

Do private blog networks still work?

Yes, as long as links are a factor for the search engines, private blog networks will have power.

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.

Is it cheap to build a private blog network?

Depends on what “cheap” means to you. You can get started for $500 for a 10-blog PBN where you do a lot of work on your own. Less than that and you probably won’t see results.

Are private blog networks illegal?

No, of course not.

Are PBNs unethical?

No. They are against Google’s search engine guidelines but so are any other types of link building efforts and yes, that includes outreach and guest posts, and of course buying links. 

Going against a corporation’s guidelines is not unethical, especially when that corporation is a monopoly and steals from their 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.

When should I use a private blog network?

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 pre-requisite 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 links to a plumber’s website.

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, then it’s a public blog network. 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 a lot harder for Google to find your PBN and give you a manual penalty.

How to build a PBN

There are three major steps to building a PBN:

  1. Buying expired domains that have links and domain authority. You can choose between expired domains, closeout domains (before expiry), or auction domains.
  2. Hosting on a PBN host that gives you good IP diversity.
  3. Restoring the content, adding new content, and sending links to your money site.

Finding expired domains for your private blog network

A brand new domain has obviously 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 SpamZilla to browse through auctions 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 have 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. The best method to do it is described in Matt Diggity’s video on YouTube.

You can spend anywhere from $40-$200+ 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 results are questionable. Better metrics than that, be prepared to pay in the hundreds of dollars. 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’s 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. 

Using PBN hosting for your blogs

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.

We are obviously biased, but we think Easy Blog Networks is the best solution for hosting your PBN. Your blogs are hosted on 26 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.

We also go deep into preventing server-side footprints. You can read more about that in our advanced footprint series on this blog:

You don’t need really need to know any of the above as EBN takes care of everything, it just shows you how much work goes into making sure the servers don’t leave footprints.

We’ll touch more on footprints you can leave on your blog later in this guide.

You can sign up for a 7-day free trial of Easy Blog Networks here

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.

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 (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’ll need to add a 301 redirect from /subpage.html to the new /subpage.

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 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.

Adding new content to your PBN

For new content, you have a few options. Since you’ll be producing a lot of it, paying quality writers for your PBN is too expensive. Luckily, there are now multiple AI-content generation options. 

You can go with bulk-content generators like Kafkai (disclaimer: our service) where you will need to do some editing to make it readable. 

Or you can use something like Jasper.ai (previously known as Jarvis) where you start writing and the AI finishes it. Another option is to go to Fiverr and find people who sell Jasper.ai content. You can get a solid article for around $5-7. You just need to give them basic content ideas and they’ll send you back the articles.

You can of course do writing on your own if you’re on a tight budget.

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 (ie, 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!
  • 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.

Avoiding PBN footprints

A footprint is a unique identifier on all your blogs or domains, which could be anything from your analytics tag, a completely unique WordPress plugin or theme, or the same backlink from all your blogs.

We already mentioned server-side footprints but we’ll skip those since no matter if your PBN hosting knows what they’re doing or not, it’s not possible for you to change server settings anyway. So let’s focus on footprints you could leave with content and setting up your blogs.

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. See how I’ve linked to a bunch of websites on this article? You need to be doing the same on your PBN blogs.

Don’t use Google search console, Google analytics, or anything else that leaves a unique ID on your side. That’s easily traceable not only by the search engines but also by your competitors.

Don’t use uncommon or unique plugins on all your PBN sites. Using free and popular plugins is fine.

Not really a footprint but a good guideline is to make sure your blog has at least 15-20 pages and most blog posts should have more than 500 words and some images.

How much does a PBN cost in the end?

Let’s collect all the expenses:

  • Domain: $10-100
  • Hosting: $3 per blog per month
  • Restore: $30-50
  • Content: $20-50

So that’s from $60 to $200+ to get a single blog of the ground. Definitely not cheap on the higher end and you’ll be spending most of the budget for good domains.

Summary

Building a PBN is a long-term strategy. The start is going to be slow, but once you have 20-50 blogs, all bringing you better search engine rankings, you can invest even more. No matter what business you’re in, a PBN can be an ace in your pocket to help you rank websites.

Dejan Murko

Dejan is the co-founder of Easy Blog Networks.

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