What Is a PBN?

Aaron Haynes
Dec 17, 2021

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If you want to enhance organic traffic to your website, you can’t overlook the value of link building. Backlinks, along with great content, were reaffirmed by Google as one of the top three ranking criteria.

Building links is an effective SEO strategy, and the proper links may boost your ranks and organic visibility. Earning backlinks, on the other hand, is a difficult task. It isn’t, at least not when you utilize methods that do not violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Some SEOs opt to go beyond these principles in order to expedite their website’s organic growth, such as by employing private blog networks (PBNs).

In this guide, we’ll delve deep into this contentious link-building strategy. We’ll look at what a PBN is, why people still use PBNs, how to tell if a site is PBN and how you can test for PBNs.

Ready? Let’s go!

What Is a PBN?

A private blog network (PBN) is a collection of websites that have a large number of links pointing to another website. These link networks are made up of low-quality links that are used to influence search engine results.

So how exactly do PBNs work?

SEOs that utilize PBNs to create links generally do so to have “complete control” over their link-building activities. Other white hat link building methods, such as digital marketing, content marketing, broken link building, or resource link building, require third parties editorially adding links, which SEOs, marketers, bloggers, or webmasters cannot always “manage.”

As a result, PBN links are frequently created with expired domains. These expired domains formerly housed a website that had accumulated links and gained some amount of authority in the eyes of search engines. The expired domains are purchased and converted into a private blog network site, complete with new content, so that outbound links pass PageRank.

Black hat SEOs that use this approach typically go to considerable efforts to keep Google from detecting that their sites are a network of websites or detecting any footprint between them, such as:

  • Hosting with several hosting companies
  • Registering names with several registrars
  • Using various domain extensions
  • Using several themes or layouts
  • Creating material that does not contain links to money sites in an attempt to conceal articles that do.

While PBN sites are frequently referred to as being part of a network, the aim is for them to seem autonomous.

Consider this: rather than earning links, owning a private blog network allows you to put links to your site(s), using the exact anchor text that you want to utilize anytime you want and on whichever page you want to enhance.

All of this sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? Wrong. PBNs are a blatant violation of Google’s guidelines and may result in a manual penalty for your site. As a result, it’s not a strategy we’d condone or promote.

Why Do People Use PBNs?

Backlinks have a significant impact on Google search results, yet organic links might take a long time to obtain. Building ethical and high-quality backlinks – genuine, white-hat links — necessitates the creation of not just excellent, but outstanding new content, as well as a significant amount of outreach and relationship building. This requires time, planning, and hard effort.

According to 51% of marketers, it takes one to three months to see the results of link-building activities.

A link’s primary aim is to provide value to a person or audience, and its secondary goal is to give a signal of authority to a search engine bot. In essence, a good and evergreen link is something that must be earned.

PBNs eliminate the requirement for link acquisition and allow black hats to manage their own link acquisition. Because you control many domains, you have almost limitless opportunities to farm your own backlinks and trick search engine bots into believing you have authority, regardless of whether the target material is deserving of links or not. You may also choose and customize the anchor text for your links, ensuring that they are optimized and relevant.

As a result, the possibility to rapidly increase backlinks might result in instant or very quick exploitative authority, resulting in inauthentic but nevertheless lucrative space in search engine results page (SERP) ranks – although short-term.


Are PBNs worth it?

PBNs are used by most SEO experts and SEO agencies to build backlinks to their money sites. Instead of conducting email outreach, guest posting, and other time-consuming and costly link-building techniques, they just produce backlinks from their PBNs.

While PBNs make it easy to regulate which links are directed at your money site, they are not a guarantee of long-term results. As previously stated, Spencer’s WhoIs PBN network was impacted by Google changes, which resulted in his money sites being penalized, leading them to lose substantial revenue.

The key to using PBNs is to keep them as concealed from Google as possible. People who buy links rather than construct their own PBN typically invite difficulties since the PBN from which they buy links is a public network rather than a private network.

Why is a PBN bad?

So, if PBN links are against Google’s rules, what are the consequences? These are classified into two categories:

  1. Your links will be ignored
    The truth for most SEOs that use private blog networks is that links deemed unnatural by the Google algorithm are likely to be disregarded rather than triggering a human intervention.

Nowadays, manual actions are generally only observed when there is an overwhelming use of manipulative methods, which causes Google’s webspam team to investigate a site. But what exactly does it imply if Google rejects links referring to your website?

In a nutshell, that means they have no effect on rankings. Google’s John Mueller has already acknowledged that links that are unlikely to be genuine are ignored. Not to mention that Google now has data from a huge number of disavow files. For many years, SEOs have been aiding search engines in better identifying the sources of artificial links.

If a link has no influence on rankings, either favorably or adversely, the resources used to develop it (time and/or money) are effectively squandered. Nobody likes to discover that their efforts have been in vain.

  1. Your website will be penalized or lose rankings.
    Typically, in the most serious situations when the use of manipulative link-building methods is extensive, your site may be punished and subjected to a manual action.

But what exactly is this? We can see from Google’s rules on this that “When a human reviewer at Google determines that pages on a site are not compatible with Google’s webmaster quality criteria, manual action is taken against the site. The majority of manual operations address attempts to tamper with our search index. The majority of the problems identified here will result in pages or sites being ranked lower or removed from search results with no visible signal to the user.”

In summary, if your site is subjected to manual action, it will result in worse results for individual pages or the entire site. In the most extreme cases, a manual action might result in the removal of your whole site from the index. Most frequently, if links are the source of the action, one for ‘unnatural links to your site’ will be triggered.

To recover from a manual action, you must first resolve the issue (either by removing links or submitting a disavow file) and then make a reconsideration request. Even if this is effective, your rankings are unlikely to recover to their original position because inorganic links artificially boosted them.

Unnatural links can also cause an algorithmic adjustment, in which the system recognizes that links should not be contributing to a site’s ranking factor. In most cases, especially in 2020, the linkages are likely to be disregarded by the algorithm rather than immediately resulting in an algorithmic change.

Previously, Google’s Penguin filter refreshed on a regular basis, causing sites to lose ranks as a result of artificial links. This is now part of the main algorithm in Penguin 4.0.

How can you tell if a site is PBN?

A few years ago, spotting a PBN was simple because they shared the same IP address, WhoIs information, and nearly identical content across websites. Here are few ways you can detect if a site is PBN:

  1. Numbers & content quality
    PBN owners, like Google, are becoming smarter by the day. While webmasters use various techniques to make such sites appear legitimate, you may still tell if they are PBNs or not.

Checking its content quality and quantities is one of the most effective methods. When compared to high-quality blogs, most PBNs have less material on their sites. PBNs, in contrast to certain high-quality, old domains and legitimate websites, tend to post low-quality text, pictures, and other graphics.

Read through some of the blogs on those web pages. Are they up to the job? Can they meet the readers’ expectations? Are they well-researched and up-to-date? If you answered no, you may be dealing with a PBN.

  1. Examine the host
    One of the most prevalent characteristics of these private blog network websites is that they all share the same IP address. The rationale is self-evident. Because the hosts of these blogs are the same, they cannot have distinct IP addresses.

How do you tell them apart? You may use tools like SpyOnWeb.com or BuiltWith to determine whether or not all of these sites are built on the same framework.

  1. Domains
    It is advised to avoid sites with a domain authority of less than 25. This is often a good strategy that aids in the avoidance of PBNs. There is, however, an issue.

Most PBNs these days have greater domain authority, which means that more research is needed to determine the quality of such domains. As previously stated, webmasters create these PBNs by acquiring expired domains.

So, look up their history to see when they were first published in their present form. Also, check to see whether all of those domains were rebuilt at the same time. There are technologies available to assist you in locating such information, such as the Wayback Machine.

  1. Traffic data
    The reason you’ve chosen link-building is simple: you want to rank high on Google.

In such a scenario, you will undoubtedly desire a link from a site with a high volume of monthly visitors. Obtaining backlinks from low-traffic sites will not assist you in increasing traffic to your own site.

While PBNs have high domain authority, the majority of them have little or no traffic. Choosing those sites, then, will not benefit you in the long run.
Install the SimilarWeb Chrome plugin to examine a site’s projected traffic numbers before pitching the publisher.

  1. Check the backlink profile
    Websites using a PBN are more likely to have a large number of broken links. The individual who brought those sites has only one goal in mind: to influence Google’s ranking. He or she may not have the motivation or time to repair broken links and fill them with useful content.

So, use Ahrefs, Semrush, or Majestic to crawl such sites. If you see a lot of broken links on the site, this may not be the one for you. Examine how much interlinking exists between those sites as well. Domain names in a private blog network prefer to provide each other backlinks in order to influence their SERP ranking.

How do you test for PBNs?

You may be wondering, “How do I know if I’m receiving a PBN backlink or a regular backlink?” “Is there anything I should keep an eye out for?” Yes, there are. Here are the major signs:

  • Random persons who email you claiming to have several high authority websites for backlinking – They have all of those new websites to offer you since they own them in their own blog network. It is simple for them to provide those websites since they do not need to seek clearance from any administrator.
  • Blogs have a lot of outbound links – Whether you come across a blog that you really enjoy and the domain has a lot of authority, look to see if the page has a lot of external connections. If it has more than 5 and is a medium to a short essay, there is something fishy about it. This indicates they’ve previously offered that blog(s) to numerous individuals for backlinks, and you’re simply another victim of their fraud.
  • Websites with a large increase in organic search traffic in a short period of time – If you look at the websites they are offering you and see that they had no traffic six months ago and now have thousands of organic visitors, this is a red flag that they just purchased this new domain and started adding blogs to it to easily rank on keywords. If you continue to watch that domain, you will see a decrease in organic traffic since Google has caught on to their spammy strategy. After that, the owner of the private blog network will stop using that domain since it is no longer useful to them, and you will ultimately lose that backlink if you acquired one from them.

Don’t forget: check out the other definitions (over 200) in our growing SEO glossary.


Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of PBNs.

You might be part of a PBN without even realizing it. Because PBN owners are fairly adept at avoiding some of the most prevalent characteristics, detecting them in the first place is challenging. While it is difficult, it is not impossible.

Some apparent variables that will assist you in finding the ideal domain for you are quality content and the number of broken backlinks. In addition, the link-building service you use for this reason might be of great assistance to you in this respect. No genuine and well-known firm will propose such sites or score low-quality PBNs for your backlinks.

Getting backlinks via a PBN is a hotly debated issue. Individuals will utilize PBNs to enhance their link profile, all things considered. However, as previously stated, there are several hazards associated with employing PBN backlinks in your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) attempts to boost your website’s ranks. Rather, use long-term, white-hat SEO link-building strategies to boost your website’s online success.

While these link-building tactics are more time-consuming and difficult to implement, they will provide you with long-term results that will propel your website to the top of SERPs and maintain it there.

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

Explore Services

Written by Aaron Haynes on December 17, 2021

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.