What is a Private Blog Network?
A private blog network (PBN) falls into a gray area somewhere between black-hat and white-hat SEO. Some people think it’s a miracle cure, while others say it’s a sure way to tank your hard-won search engine rank. Who’s right, and who’s wrong?
Neither and both (to continue our gray-area theme) are right. Technically speaking, there’s nothing wrong at all with a private blog network. A PBN is simply a series of blogs owned by one person, with links from those blogs pointing into a revenue-generating site or blog. Instead of going out to find other webmasters who may be interested in hosting content on their blog with links pointing to your website, you own the domains and include plenty of links from those sites into your primary domain. The primary domain is usually the money-making website or the site that you would like to rank well on the search engines.
Think of a private blog network like a group of friends and family who always give you positive referrals when you’re applying for a job. There’s nothing wrong with getting a recommendation letter from a friend who is the CEO of a company, but if you don’t disclose that he’s a good friend, that’s where the reference gets a little dicey. Private blog networks are similar in that they don’t disclose to the search engines that they are all owned by the same person, but that reference can still come in handy.
Google and other search engines tend to frown on private blog networks, but if they’re set-up correctly, they can and do propel your site to a great position in the search engine results pages, or SERPs. The key is doing them correctly, and for that, we’ve put together this guide to help you build your own PBN.
Let’s take a look at how private blog networks operate, and then compare the pros and cons of each. Finally, if you’re interested in pursuing this strategy, we’ll provide you with resources to develop your own network.
How Private Blog Networks Operate
So now that you understand just what exactly a private blog network is, let’s discuss how they work to boost your position on search engines.
As you may recall, one of the many factors that Google and other search engines use to determine your website’s position on the SERPs is the quality and quantity of backlinks pointing into your content. Search engines also consider factors such as the age of a domain, its content, and much more, with an estimated 200 factors going into the complex formula called an algorithm. That algorithm determines how well your web page matches a user’s query – and in turn, where it appears on the search engine results page.
A private blog network operates as follows:
- You set up your Primary Website, or money-making website. This is where all links should lead and the site for which you are trying to rank well. The site should be well optimized, and provide plenty of GREAT content for your customers.
- Next, you find expired domains through sites like ExpiredDomains.net. Expired domains were owned by someone who let their registration lapse. You can then legally purchase the domain name for about the same price you’d pay to buy a brand new domain name.
- For any domains you buy, it’s critical to investigate the backlinks to the domain to make sure it too is a good domain. Ahrefs is a great tool to check backlinks.
- You then set up a series of related domains or web properties, and refer traffic from your PBN sites to your Primary, money-making website.
Private blog networks aren’t easy to set up, and they do require care and maintenance similar to what you need to do for any website: update content, refresh your links, check for bad links, and more.
There are many benefits to private blog networks, however, that make the extra effort worthwhile. The biggest benefit of a PBN is, of course, the potential referral traffic it can send into your money-making site. If the referring domains have a good rank and domain authority too, they can also extend that halo-effect over the target site, boosting its rank and position. It’s like the old saying, “A rising tide raises all boats.” Good referring sites end up helping the Primary Site the most.
Another benefit of using private blog networks is the control you exert over the content. A guest blogging effort offers powerful link-juice for SEO, but you cannot control the referring page, content and anchor text. With a private blog network, you control all the referring domains, so you control all of the content. You can build high-quality content and good backlinks within your own network, controlling all parts of the process.
The Benefits of Expired Domains
One question you may have is, “Why bother finding expired domains? Why not just set up a whole bunch of new domains?”
The answer lies in how search engines view existing domains compared with new domains. Older domains often exert more power on the search engine algorithm than new domains. They lend cachet and gravitas towards the site. It’s as if the older domains tell the search engine, “I’ve been around a while. I’m not going anywhere. I have rank and authority here in this content area.”
Additionally, older domains have an existing backlink profile. The backlink profile refers to existing information the search engines have about the backlinks into the expired domain. Things such as the number of backlinks, the quality of those links, whether they are DoFollow or NoFollow and so on are all part of a backlinks profile. These also impart information that Google uses to increase (or decrease) domain authority and rank of your PBN. That, in turn, makes links from THAT domain into your target domain all the more attractive to a search engine.
What Makes a Good Expired Domain? It’s All About Backlinks
How many links are good links? Ten or more is ideal from an expired domain. You can look up the backlinks profile on Ahrefs or similar tools to find out how many links there are into an expired domain. You’ll want to pay attention to the number of backlinks, the number of unique referring domains, the percentage of backlinks that are DoFollow versus NoFollow, anchor text usage and so much more.
Be sure to check where those links are coming from, too. Make sure they are relevant. An expired domain that was originally set up to discuss diabetes, for example, would be more attractive if it had 10 links, and all of those links came from sites discussing health conditions, diets, weight loss, and so on. Links from .gov or .edu sites can be even more valuable to a domain since they reflect noncommercial interests with a deep level of authority; search engines like that.
Reviewing Expired Domains
In addition to reviewing the backlinks profile of expired domains you’re considering for purchase, there are other things you should examine. Like buying a used car, you want to walk around it, kick the tires a bit, look under the hood, and make sure everything works as the seller claims it does.
Tools such as the Wayback Machine provide you with a time capsule of the expired domain’s history. You can look at snapshots from the site’s crawlers, and see if the site’s past demonstrates a reliable and demonstrated history around a topic. That diabetes site used in the previous example should show screenshots demonstrating discussions around the topic of diabetes: signs, symptoms, diagnostic tools, medicines, dietary advice and so on.
Do you get the old content along with the expired domain? Maybe yes, but maybe no. There is a way to rebuild existing content from an expired domain, but it’s risky. You could potentially violate someone’s copyright license. Images, for example, are licensed to one holder, and buying the site may not automatically transfer image rights to you. The same with videos and text; someone owns the rights to their creative output, and you risk a nasty letter, DMCA report, or even legal action if you attempt to revive copy that was taken offline.
There are many ways to repopulate a site with fresh, great copy. Hire freelancers from sites such as Guru or Craigslist to build new content for your site. Use new keywords that you pull that all add weight to the SEO for your expired domain. Instead of taking shortcuts and risking legal action, do the right thing from the start if your purchased domain doesn’t come with copy.
Tips to Build a Blog Network
If you’re serious about dominating the SERPs for your niche and want to pursue private blog networks on your own, the following tips will help you get started:
- Research your potential purchases carefully. You’d hire an inspector to look at the plumbing, roof, and other issues of a used house you’re thinking of purchasing; do the same before purchasing domains. Inspect your purchase carefully. Know what you are buying.
- Purchase domains on different registrars. Don’t buy up a bunch from one company. It’s a red flag to the search engines. Spread the wealth. There are many registrars for domain names. You can combine some with your hosting purchases, or mix and match hosts and registrars.
- Hosts should also be different. Hosts such as GoDaddy, BlueHost, NameCheap and others should be varied so that it looks like a natural mix of websites coming into your site.
- Create new and engaging content. Content on each of your private blog network sites should be unique, and don’t copy anything online without permission. Additionally, make sure that the content on your target domain is also established before sending links into it. You want all of the sites in the network to be as polished as possible.
- Link only once to your target domain. It’s tempting to sprinkle links throughout the PBN to your target domain, but too many is also a red flag. Don’t make all of the links from the PBN sites into the same site. Link to other sites, too, just as you would if you were naturally linking content to a site you used for reference or inspiration.
- Use partial match anchor keywords to set the link. Partial match anchor text is the clickable text in a link, and uses phrases related to your keyword target as opposed to words like “click here” or “website.” Anchoring from a keyword phrase also adds link juice to your backlink.
- Link to other sites too from your PBN sites. The goal is to keep the links natural. A normal site has a natural mix of links from a blog post to other sites and content.
Turnkey Expired Domain Purchases
Let’s say you don’t want to fuss with all this background checking and tire kicking. There are great services out there that do the work for you. For those in a hurry to build their online empire, it’s a great convenience.
The Guest Posts offers a PBN service for a reasonable fee. For $500, the site’s services include finding, researching, and building PBNs customized to your Primary website.
If setup correctly, private blog networks are the easiest way to build a robust backlink profile for your website and help it reach the top position on the search engines. We can help. Check out our PBN Building Services for more information.