First off, lets note that PBNs are not viewed well in traditional SEO and are hunted like witches in Massachusetts in the 1600s. They must be large to matter, having anywhere between 20 to several thousand sites. They are the equivalent of building dozens of WordPress sites taking hours and hours from other SEO opportunities. They work.
What Are Private Blog Networks?
Private or Personal Blog Networks, PBNs are sites built with the purpose of providing backlinks to another site. This other site is often called “the money site.” Google is known to be hostile to these sites and prone to deindexing those associated. It’s not as simple though to say dont have one, it may destroy you and your site. It also has a very good chance to increase rankings, keywords and site visibility.
It is an search engine optimization (SEO) strategy both loved and hated by many SEO professionals. While someone just getting into the marketing game might think that PBNs are just a “flavor of the month” strategy doomed to fail, be assured that PBNs have been around for well over a decade as a successful SEO strategy.
Do PBNs Work?
If they didn’t why would Google care? Drawing conclusions from an online forum “PBN work as well as they have been working since the start of PBN” “As long as backlinks will be the primary SEO factor, PBNs are not going anywhere.” “PBN’s work, but the cost of remaining competitive is gradually getting higher. Expired domains are getting more expensive, you can’t just have a crappy domain full of spun content and linking only to your money site and expect it to be effective, or not put you at higher risk of a penalty.
SEO is a money game more than ever. If you can afford a high end, relevant domain for your money site and then your own independent PBN for it with a good writer churning out great content on both the PBN and money site, you probably will rank well. Nothing in SEO in certain though, I have used PBN services with great success, and also I see competitors ranking without all of this, so it’s still a gamble in the end.
I’m not sure how Google would compile their results without a weighted emphasis on links. Everyone can build a whole site of authority content, but what makes the difference between that and an established site? Links.”
How Do You Spot A PBN?
PBNs are much more sophisticated and may be harder for users to spot because the sites span different industries, topics and layouts. When determining if a site is part of a PBN:
- Hosting. Are they all on the same IP? You can use SpyOnWeb.com or similar tools to identify what sites are hosted with any other site.
- Site design. Do the sites all use a similar design, navigation, color scheme?
- Similar themes. WordPress themes sometimes have the theme name in the code. Check the source code in your browser.
- Site ownership. Check WHOIS database for the contact information for the owner of the sites. Having hidden WHOIS data is a red flag. If all of the site owners are the same, it’s obvious the blogs are connected.
- Duplicate content. Copy a paragraph into Google search to see if the content exists on other sites.
- Backlink profile. Check the backlink profile in Ahrefs or Majestic (these are the largest databases of links) to see how much interlinking is occurring between sites.
- Images and videos. Since videos and images are difficult and expensive to recreate, these are likely going to be duplicated on other sites. Use Google image search or video search to find similar pieces.
Checkout this article for anecdotal information on 11 PBN experiments.