Do Private Blog Networks (PBNs) Work for SEO?
Short Answer: No. Private Blog Networks (PBNs) do not work for SEO. This was a Web 2.0 tactic used by search engine optimization (SEO) professionals to boost the ranking of websites. This tactic is outdated and while it may have worked in 2010, it doesn't work in today's time. So therefore, if you get an unsolicited email from an unscrupulous SEO scammer telling you that he will add your website to a network of blogs and other websites, then you are in for a world of hurt. Just note that these scammers may not use the term PBN or Private Blog Network, they will just tell you that they will backlink you to a bunch of websites.
A PBNs refer to a group of interlinked blogs or websites, typically created solely for the purpose of improving the ranking of other websites by passing on link juice. This article explores the concept of PBNs, why they are considered to be an unethical and ineffective SEO tactic, and provides evidence-backed reasons why website owners should avoid them.
What are Private Blog Networks?
A Private Blog Network (PBN) is a network of blogs or websites that are created by a single person or company, with the purpose of interlinking them to pass on link juice to a target website. PBNs can be built by either buying expired domains or by creating new ones. Once these blogs or websites are acquired, the PBN owner will populate them with content and interlink them to pass on the link juice to the target website. The idea behind this tactic is to create a network of high-authority websites that will increase the target website's search engine ranking.
Why PBNs are considered A Dumb SEO Tactic?
PBNs can considered an dumb SEO tactic because they not only violate Google's guidelines on link schemes, but they the backlinks you get are from websites that get zero traffic. A website without traffic is considered very low quality and a link from a low quality website will not help you. Some extreme examples could be a website that sells beef jerky that is linked on website that talks about veganism. Another less extreme example would be a restaurant that has a random article about it linked on a tech blogger's website.
So what about Google's Webmaster Guidelines? Technically the prohibit website owners from manipulating search engine rankings by creating links that pass on link juice. This includes links that are bought or sold, links that are exchanged for services or products, and links that are created solely for the purpose of passing on link juice.
The problem with PBNs is that they are often used to create artificial link profiles that manipulate search engine rankings. By creating a network of interlinked blogs or websites, the PBN owner can pass on link juice to the target website, which will result in an artificial boost in the target website's search engine ranking. This violates Google's guidelines, and websites that use PBNs risk getting penalized or even banned from search engine results pages.
Although, Some Might Argue PBNs Are a Smart Tactic
To counter my argument above, a PBN could still theoretically work (and slide under the radar) if you had a bunch of websites that blogged about similar topic clusters. For example, you could have a blog about holistic medicine, a blog about surgical procedures, a blog about technological advancements in medicine, a blog about medical news, a blog about diet and food and a blog about fitness, etc. then you could pull it off. For example, a company that sold vitamins could easily fit your product into any of these blogs and a backlink to your website and it would not seem unnatural.
So in theory, if this particular private blog network had articles as popular as WebMD or The Food Network for example, then it could work. But good luck producing all of that content to make these blogs popular (that will be another SEO project in itself)! So in theory, it's a great idea, but in practice, it's very time consuming, costly and unless you have bloggers who are experts in the topics they are writing about, it could come across as "too generic" and not gain much of an audience.
However, with advancements in AI (artificial intelligence) such as Chat GPT, literally anyone could produce a series of blogs over night without having to hire experienced writers. I know that Google knows this and a student already created an app that detects essays written by AI. So if a student can do this, then why can't Google do the same? Even if a AI generated PBNs was created, I don't think it would work for long, because Google directly said that they were working on an algorithm that would consider backlinks nearly obsolete. As Google's John Mueller says: Links will be less important in the future.
If you are reading this post and the year is 2025 or later, then it could be possible that Google created an algorithm that detects and flags articles written by AI, so it might not be a viable strategy for long. John Mueller stated in an interview "even today, links are not weighted as much as they once were in the overall ranking algorithm."
Created to Manipulate Search Engine Rankings
Let's be real here. Private Blog Networks (PBNs) were originally created to manipulate search engine rankings by artificially building links to a particular website from other websites. The purpose of a PBN is to pass link equity to the target website to improve its search engine rankings. PBNs typically consist of expired domains that have been purchased and repurposed to link to a particular website. These domains are usually chosen based on their relevance to the target website's niche and their existing link profile. This is in violation of Google''s Webmaster's Guidelines published around 2012.
Even Google says that their algorithms will not factor in backlinks in the future and it will be more about content.
Private Blog Networks = Black Hat SEO
Google's guidelines clearly state that PBNs are considered a black hat SEO tactic because they are a deliberate attempt to manipulate search engine rankings by creating an artificial network of websites solely for the purpose of generating backlinks. This violates Google's Webmaster Guidelines, which prohibit any attempt to manipulate search engine rankings through deceptive or manipulative tactics.
PBNs are a form of link scheme, which is defined by Google as "any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site." Google considers link schemes to be a violation of its guidelines, and it actively penalizes websites that engage in these practices. Therefore, if Google finds out, then you will get penalized.
In addition, PBNs can also harm the user experience by providing low-quality content that is of little or no value to the user. This can lead to a decline in traffic and engagement, which can further harm the website's search engine rankings.
Backlinks Are Less Important Now
In the past, PBNs were effective because search engines like Google placed a high emphasis on the number of backlinks a website had, as well as the quality of those backlinks. PBNs provided an easy way to acquire high-quality backlinks, which could significantly improve a website's search engine rankings. As a matter of fact, you can actually rank for keywords without backlinks at all.
However, search engines like Google have since become more sophisticated in their algorithms and are now better able to detect and penalize websites that use PBNs to manipulate search engine rankings. In fact, using PBNs can result in a significant penalty to a website's search engine rankings, or even a complete deindexation from the search results.
Why PBNs Don't Work
While PBNs may seem like a clever way to manipulate search engine rankings, the truth is that they are not an effective SEO tactic. There are several reasons why PBNs don't work for SEO, including the following:
- Search engines are getting smarter
Search engines are constantly improving their algorithms to detect and penalize websites that use black hat SEO tactics, including PBNs. In fact, Google has explicitly stated that it considers PBNs to be a violation of its Webmaster Guidelines, and websites that use PBNs are at risk of being penalized or even banned from search results.
- PBNs can be easily detected
While PBN owners may go to great lengths to make their websites look like legitimate, independent websites, search engines are able to detect patterns and similarities between PBN websites. For example, if all of the websites in a PBN have similar designs, hosting providers, or domain registration information, search engines can easily detect that they are part of a network.
- PBNs are expensive and time-consuming
Creating and maintaining a PBN is an expensive and time-consuming process. PBN owners must purchase domain names, set up hosting accounts, create content for each website, and manage the interlinking between websites. Additionally, PBNs require ongoing maintenance to ensure that the websites don't get penalized by search engines.
- PBNs provide low-quality backlinks
While PBNs may create a large number of backlinks to a target website, the quality of those backlinks is typically low. PBNs often use spun content or duplicate content, which provides little value to readers and can be easily detected by search engines. Additionally, PBNs often link to websites in unrelated niches, which can appear unnatural and manipulative to search engines.
Unnatural Link Profile Detected
Low quality backlinks are unnatural and can be easily detected by Google's algorithms because they make no sense. PBNs create an unnatural link profile for a particular website. The links from a PBN are usually from websites that are not related to the niche of the target website. This creates an unnatural link profile that can harm the search engine rankings of the target website.
- Low quality backlinks can damage a website's online reputation
Using PBNs to manipulate search engine rankings is considered unethical, and it can damage a website's online reputation. If Google detects that a website is using PBNs, it will likely be penalized, which can lead to a significant drop in traffic and revenue. Additionally, if a website's audience discovers that it is using PBNs, it can damage the website's reputation and credibility.
What Should I Do Instead of a Private Blog Network?
There are many effective SEO strategies that you can use besides a PBN. Instead of using PBNs, you should implement other types of off page SEO to boost your rankings. Here are some popular techniques that can help improve your website's search engine rankings:
On-Page Optimization: On-page optimization refers to optimizing the content on your website to make it more relevant to your target keywords. This includes optimizing the page titles, headings, meta descriptions, and content for your target keywords.
Proper Link Building: Proper link building is usually done organically. Link building is the process of acquiring backlinks from other websites to your website. High-quality backlinks can improve your website's authority and increase its visibility in the search results. However, it's important to focus on natural and relevant backlinks, rather than using spammy or artificial techniques like PBNs.
Content Marketing: Content marketing involves creating high-quality content that provides value to your target audience. This can include blog posts, infographics, videos, and other types of content. By creating high-quality content, you can attract more visitors to your website and build your website's authority.
Social Media Marketing: Social media can be a great way to build your brand and attract more visitors to your website. By sharing your content on social media platforms and engaging with your followers, you can increase your website's visibility and attract more traffic.
Local SEO: If you have a local business, local SEO techniques can help you improve your visibility in the local search results. This includes optimizing your Google My Business profile, building local citations, and getting local backlinks.
There is definitely more to SEO that this. If you're interested in learning more about what you can do, then read this article about must do SEO implementations to boost your rankings. You will be glad you did!
Don't Believe The PBN Hype!
It boggles my mind to see that SEO scammers are still perpetuating the myth that PBNs still work. While PBNs may seem like an attractive SEO strategy, they are not effective and can actually harm your website's search engine rankings. Instead, focus on natural and legitimate SEO techniques like on-page optimization, link building, content marketing, social media marketing, and local SEO. By using these techniques, you can improve your website's search engine rankings and attract more organic traffic to your website. Remember, SEO is a long-term process that requires consistent effort and patience, but the results can be well worth the investment.