In the competitive world of SEO, people continually seek opportunities that will put them over other businesses. Ideally, they should develop a sustainable SEO strategy based on the best on-page SEO and white-hat link building practices. Doing so allows them to rank on Google organic search for their target keywords for a long time.
As good as these tactics sound, the results will only manifest if you practiced them consistently for months, if not years. Not to mention, you have to play catch up with your competitors who already hold the advantage over you by practicing the same tactics years before you. Therefore, it would probably take a miracle before you can outrank the best in your industry at the top of Google search.
This reason is why some people implement black hat SEO tactics. Since they don’t stand a chance against established businesses with deeper pockets dedicated for their SEO campaigns, they take a different approach in which they can rank as high as the first place on Google organic search in less time.
If this sounds like a pipe dream, it’s because it is. Black hat SEO can get you at the very top of search results for your keywords faster than any other tactic. However, it’s also just as fast when Google will penalize your site, never to be seen on search engines again.
This is the challenge that most SEO have to undergo. They need to strike a balance between finding the best sustainable way to increase your search rankings for your target keywords without getting penalized by Google.
Private blog networks (PBNs) aim to bridge that gap.
What are private blog networks?
Private blog networks is an SEO tactic in which you purchase expired domains with existing authority and use them to link back to your money site.
Authority is determined by Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) and Majestic’s Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF), among others. The metrics are ways that both SEO tools determine the value of a site based on different SEO factors. While these are far from perfect, the metrics are nonetheless smart guesses on how a website is worth to Google. The higher the DA, TF, and CF, the more incentive for you to link from these domains.
Link building is arguably the most crucial factor that search engines consider when ranking sites for a particular keyword. Not only do you have to worry about the number of links you plan on acquiring, but also its quality. For example, thousands of links from sub-standard sites is no match against a backlink from a site like Entrepreneur, Mashable, Inc, and other authoritative businesses sites.
Private blog networks hold this advantage because you get to link to your site from distinguished sites based on their SEO value. While it’s probably not on the level as the ones mentioned above, you can acquire more expired domains with high DA, TF, and CF. Getting more of these sites and linking back to your money site allows you to strengthen your link profile and get higher rankings!
How to create a private blog network
Building a network of blogs is a complicated process. It shares the idea with Gawker Media with its popular network of blogs such as Gizmodo, Deadspin, Lifehacker, and others. However, the idea behind private blog networks is to make sure that the blogs don’t trace back to you.
One thing you must keep in mind regarding private blog networks is that it straddles along the gray hat SEO area. Unlike black hat SEO, it doesn’t require you to spam websites and makes your links as natural as possible when done correctly. At the same time, it’s not a squeaky clean link building either. The fact that you are manipulating your link building strategy by acquiring them unorganically is against Google guidelines and policy.
At the same time, it doesn’t mean that private blog networks are completely useless. There are still people who vouch for its effectiveness and offer it as a service such as SEO expert Matthew Woodward.
To fully understand whether private blog networks is something that you should do for your business or not, let’s delve into the actual process of building a network.
Find the right domains
The power of private blog networks lies in the fact that the domains you should be buying already have high DA, TF, and CF. The domain’s age, link profile, and others determine the scores found in the metrics. Therefore, you’re not registering a brand new domain. By leveraging on its existing power, you can boost your link building strategy by getting as many sites to link to your landing pages as possible.
To do this, you will need a tool like ExpiredDomains.net to help you find established domains that are about to expire soon. Using the tool helps you expedite the process of finding domains with good site metrics and link profile.
From the tool, you will have to bid for the domain against bidders who are probably building their blog networks as well. Normally, a brand new domain only costs $10/year. Expired domains can go as high as a couple of hundred dollars if you’re going up against high rollers.
If you want to automate the process, you can use Bluechip Backlinks that will not only yield you more domain results but also acquire the domain on the cheap. The tool is a paid subscription, so you need to shell out some cash to help make the domain hunting process easier.
When it comes to registering for the domain, you need to use different domain providers as well. Don’t register on Namecheap for all the domain you will purchase. Mix it up by buying from GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, and others. The idea here is to reduce your footprint that leads back to your name so you won’t get caught and your sites penalized.
When signing up for the registrar, you should never use your real name. Mix it up by using a fake name and contact details as well as activating privacy protection. Doing so will make it impossible for Google and other search engines to connect the dots between you and your PBN.
Hosting the sites
Similar to registering your domain, you need to hide your name from the service provider where you plan to host your domains. To do so, you can sign up for an account at Bulk Buy Hosting.
What this PBN hosting will do for you is help you set up your sites by assigning different IP address for each. Using this tool will keep any trace of your footprint away from your private blog network.
Developing the site
If you’re familiar with building a WordPress site, then the same concept applies here. Assuming that you’ve successfully registered the expired domain and signed up a hosting for it, you can install WordPress on each domain to help you manage their respective content. If you want to be cautious and hide your online footprint more effectively, you can choose other self-hosted blogging platforms like Joomla, Drupal, and others.
Installing each site by yourself will be daunting especially when you start managing more than 10 sites in your private blog network. The rinse and rinse process of installing each site on your web host will take its toll. Not to mention, you need to organize all the information for each site (registrar, login details, etc.) so you won’t lose them.
Therefore, from the very start, you should highly consider a VA who will take away from the reins of building the site for you. Let that person take care of developing your blog network for you as you focus on more important matters.
Since the purpose of private network blogs is to help you build a link profile for your site ultimately, content takes a backseat, both in quality and quantity. While it wouldn’t hurt to publish 10x content on your blogs, you don’t have to. You can simply hire a writer from Upwork or Fiverr to write passable content that’s good enough for casual reading.
Make sure that the pieces have at least 600 words to make it more than “thin content.” One of the criticisms that PBNs get from Google is the publishing of content that has zero value and offers no compelling insights about the topic. While the number of words isn’t the best indicator of quality, it nonetheless allows you to provide more than enough detail to your readers about your topic.
Also, you need to format your content with subheadings, images, embedded videos, link to relevant resource pages and others to make it look more dynamic compared to the posts published on other PBNs.
As a best practice, don’t link out to your site to the first few posts just yet. You can link to your money site after the first post has been published. Make sure to post unique content on your blog as well to increase the freshness index of each blog. You can schedule the publishing of new posts every month for this purpose.
When building links to your site, avoid exact keyword matches as your anchor text to prevent the risk of over-optimization. It’s better to diversify by using long tail keywords, branding keywords, or even naked URLs as your anchor text.
Why you should create private blog networks for your site
The steps mentioned above is pretty much an overview of how to develop and build a PBN for your money site.
Now that you are aware of the process, it’s to consider whether it’s something that you can use for your site or not.
If anything, arguably the best thing about private blog networks is control.
When placing links on a site you don’t know, you cede control to the site owner. You can’t be sure how your link will be featured on he or she will feature your site, if they intend to show it at all.
Also, there is a level of risk involved. Getting links from established sites are relatively safe because you know that they won’t go out of business all of a sudden. However, you can’t be too sure if that would be the case. The worst case scenario is the site goes offline, which means the links you’ve built there is all for nothing.
With private blog networks, you have full control on how to build your links there. You can place the link anywhere on the page because you own the sites. Having a network of authoritative sites lets you unleash the full potential of your link building. You can pursue tiered link building in the vein of the post I wrote about link guest blogging. This tactic allows you to effectively distribute link juice from one site to another until it reaches down your site.
Why you shouldn’t create private blog networks
While some remain successful with their PBNs as seen from the examples above, it doesn’t mean that they won’t get penalized soon. It will probably take time before Google catches out with this tactic, but it probably won’t. However, would you want to risk the fate of your SEO campaign on a gray hat SEO tactic?
Ultimately, private blog networks don’t prove to be a sustainable SEO tactic over time. In a post written by Spencer Haws in Niche Pursuits, he has come to terms with the futility of private blog networks after his network got penalized by Google. Lots of users chimed in by stating how much passive income they’ve lost after Google brought the hammer down on their networks.
You can continue to approach private blog networks cautiously, but you simply shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. There is simply so much on the line on a tactic that walks a tightrope between white- and black-hat SEO.
Wrapping it up
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer here about using private blog networks on your site. There are obvious pros and cons with leveraging a blog network to build links. If the prospect of owning blog networks to link out to your money sites sounds interesting to you, then, by all means, go for it! However, knowing the risks involved in getting your site penalized due to blog networks, then you should go for another SEO tactic instead.
However, I’m much more interested in your thoughts about this subject. Are you against or for private blog networks? Share your thoughts by commenting below!