What Is PBN and How to Leverage It for SEO Sustainable Growth in 2023
PBN or Private Blog Network is a known practice in link building for SEO results, with both documented credit and rumored “discredit”. So what is PBN and how to better implement it? With this article, On Digitals will reveal the answers you are looking for.
Link Building and PBN: The Unbreakable Relationship
For a website to climb to the Top rankings on Google SERPs, link building is one of the most important factors, but its status in the world of SEO is not as stable. Many SEO experts and businesses have tried to venture new ways to the same ultimate goal, hence shifting their focus to content, user experience, and other “SEO tricks”.
However, link building has not lost the war, instead gradually regaining its standing in recent years. In the race to the top of Google SERPs, link building is undeniably a proven, well-documented practice with long-term impact.
Ironically, importance does not equate to proficiency. In other words, an SEO expert acknowledging link building’s role in their strategy does not mean they know how to best implement it.
One reason is that link building is much more complex than it looks and requires certain expertise. What is often overlooked is PBN, despite its significance in a link building strategy. So it’s time to take a serious look at PBN to start paving the way for your site to reach the Top. Let’s start with the most basic question: What is PBN?
What is PBN?
PBN is an acronym of Private Blog Network. To gain a deeper understanding of PBN, we will go through the concept and impact of PBN in the SEO process.
The concept of Private Blog Network
PBN is a system of websites created by a company to build quality backlinks or inbound links to a certain site. The ultimate goal of PBN is to boost Google SERP rankings of the main website.
Often, PBN is built on old domains or web 2.0. Companies will create completely separate PBNs, but often under a common theme, which was chosen based on business goals and user search intent in a specific sector.
The Impact of PBN on SEO
There have been long-standing controversies over the implementation and management of PBN. Many consider it ineffective and soon be uprooted by Google algorithms.
However, there is still much concrete evidence siding with PBN, confirming its effectiveness in promoting site rankings, hence improved SEO results. A strong PBN system is a solid base for Google to evaluate your site as reputable and reliable.
Why Choose PBN?
A ready source of quality backlinks
Backlink plays the lead role on the stage of effective off page SEO. In other words, your site can enjoy a boost on Google SERP rankings with a strong PBN system. When quality backlinks from relevant content lead to your site, its reputation and authority will “level up”.
Easier to manage backlinks
Buying links is a common practice in link building, but it comes with increased difficulty in managing the quality. This problem is easily solved with PBN, as now you gain control of the quantity and quality of links pointing to your site.
How to Identity the PBN of a Company
The cross-site “footprint” is key in identifying a PBN. Indeed, PBN has become much more intricate and elusive to the “naked eyes” of users with thousands of different themes and layouts. But anything takes place on the Internet will leave a trace, you just need to know where to look:
- Server (Hosting): All of these pages use the same IP. Spyonweb.com or similar tools can help you determine which web page is being hosted on another site.
- Website design: They all share the same design, color scheme, or navigation.
- Similar themes: Usually, themes on Wordpress have specific names in the source code, you just need to check it in your browser.
- Permission to use (own) the website: To attain the contact information of the website owner, check the WHOIS database. If you see a red flag, it means the WHOIS data is hidden. In case the host sites are the same, it’s clear that the blogs are connected.
- Duplicate content: To check whether the content has been published on another site, copy a random paragraph and do a quick search on Google.
- Profile of backlinks: Ahrefs or Majestic tools can help you check your competitors' backlinks.
- Videos and images: Because videos and images take more resources to create, they are often the “copy target” of other websites. Google's image search or video search can help you check whether their status is still “single” or “in a public relationship”.
What is the Recipe for Building a Sustainable PBN?
Search for expired domains
It means finding out and buying back old domain names that the website owner no longer uses or has not renewed. Finding expired domains is an important step in building a PBN.
You can buy old domains from Backorder or through auctions with the cost ranging from a few hundred to several thousand bucks. Let’s have a look at several ways to buy old domains:
- Buy at the set price: It means the owner of the domain will set the price and you pay the exact amount. The lowest offer is usually $8.
- Negotiate: You will have a bargaining with the domain owner to settle on the final price.
- Public Auction: With a floor price of $10, auctions will take place in 7 days. Who bids the highest will be the owner of the domain name.
- Private Auction: The floor price will be from $69 and participants are not required to pay extra fees. The auctions will be open for a certain period of time, and at the end of each run, whoever bids the highest will win the domain name.
When searching and buying old domains for PBN, keep the following in mind:
- Check those old domains to ensure they are not spammy
- Do not buy domains that are too old or granted manual actions
- Check the history of old domains
- Use SEMRush or Ahrefs to check the backlinks of spammy domains
- Consider the CF and TF, DA, PA indexes of the site used as PBN
- Registration information, email and domain name registration date should be different
Choose the right hosting
When deciding on the hosting, pay attention to websites with different systems other than IP class C network. Also, consider these factors:
- Speed stability: Website speed is very important. If the hosting is slow, it will make the PBN site less effective.
- Low cost: Because PBN is a satellite site, you have to invest a lot for it to yield expected results. If the hosting is expensive, you will be left with a tight budget at the beginning.
- Customizable interface: Make sure you can tailor the theme to your needs after purchase.
- Content management: You need to use the WordPress source code to do this.
- Security: The more the security layer the better.
Engineer the site (installation and management)
In particular, stop using default and basic themes. Even websites in the same system should look differently. Consider designing your own exclusive theme or using free themes.
Build effective content strategies for each system
For satellite websites to work, an effective content strategy is unnegotiable. Categorize the websites in the PBN system and build specific content for each article. Keep in mind that your PBN sites should be rich and unique in content without duplication or spammy pieces. Use SEO Entity techniques to best target your audience.
Create engaging content for satellite websites
The right investment in satellite websites’ content will yield tangible SEO results for your main site.
The first tip is to focus on content layout. Then, make sure each article is from 800 to 1000-word-long. Of course this is not an immutable law, so call on your good judgment to adjust to the specific user search intent.
Also, leave a Comment section at the end of the article to stimulate interaction with users. And don’t forget you need a clear goal for your content such as 500 views per day.
Build backlinks for PBN
For a PBN system to reach the maximum efficiency, the most important is link building. Specifically, at each satellite site, you need to use 100 domains for backlinks. Also, to support this goal, you can create more links through forums and other tactics.
After preparing all the above factors, spend about 2 months creating backlinks to the target website. Each satellite site should limit linking to 8 main sites. In addition, insert only 2 backlinks in the title or the full URL of each article. And use long anchor text whenever possible.
Build backlinks from PBN to main website
This is the ultimate goal of a PBN system, but it cannot be achieved over night. Be prepared to invest enough time and effort to build links back to the main site for related content. Done right and you will enjoy boosted rankings on SERPs among other SEO improvements.
Indexes to Measure PBN Quality
After building a PBN system, your next task is monitoring its growth indicators. An effective PBN needs to ensure the following indexes:
- Domain Rating (DR): Refers to the rank of the domain name. The DR index represents the “link popularity” of a website compared to other sites in the world. The basic scale is from 0 to 100.
- URL Rating (UR): Also known as link strength, the UR index ranges from 1 to 100 points, the higher the better. SEO practitioners often use UR to gauge the strength and reliability of a link. To reach the optimal UR, businesses need backlinks of both quality and quantity.
- Trust Flow (TF): Predicts the level of influence from 0 to 100. A featured Trust Flow of popular SEO tools is Majestic Flow Metrics. TF is calculated by the number of click-throughs from a group of reliable sites to a given URL or domain. Moreover, TF takes into account the quality of backlinks to gauge the credibility of a website.
- Citation Flow (CF): A common indicator in the Majestic tool, ranging from 0 to 100, CF indicates the authority of a website through the number of backlinks.
- Domain Age (DA): A rough estimate of the age of a website. So a site that has been around for many years will have a higher DA than a recently registered domain. Website owners can use the DA tool to check the age of their sites.
In case the domain has expired, you must renew it first to be able to use it. In addition, the DA index helps you identify people who care to renew a domain before it expires, and decide when to buy a new domain name.
Choose an Old Domain for PBN: Tread Carefully
If you want to build a PBN on an old domain name, the process is not too complicated. However, before proceeding with this decision, take a long look at the big picture and important indexes. Also, don’t forget to check their versions, backlinks and anchor text, and utilize the WBM tool.
Take a long look at the big picture
It is no rocket science that the big picture should be the first to eye on when approaching any problem or opportunity. On the other hand, the indexes in Ahrefs, Moz, Majestic tool, etc. are indeed a big helping hand in implementing an SEO or Marketing strategy, but they are not without limitations.
In fact, a domain with a Trust Flow of 0 doesn’t mean it is “totally untrustworthy”. Sometimes, under a barren land hides a gold vein.
Pay attention to important indexes
Before choosing a PBN, try to master the important indicators below.
TF: Must be greater than 9.
The TF:CF ratio: The average quality of a link going to a website is measured by the TF index while the overall quantity is measured by the CF index. So it’s best not to let CF be twice as big as TF.
Be noted that if TF is low and CF is high, most of the inbound links are spammy. However, even when the TF:CF ratio is not ideal, consider other factors before deciding to discard the domain.
Majestic's Referring Domain counts on the Fresh Index: Referring Domain (RD), also known as Linking Domain, refers to domain names that have links to your site. RD helps to assess a site's coverage and exposure. Therefore, you will want to have the biggest number possible of RD counts coming to your site for up to 90 days, but there is a limit: between 400 and 500. Exceeding this number will come with the risk of spam.
On the other hand, if the RD count exceeds 500, ignore the domain. Why? Because it will cost up to several thousand dollars, and it’s just not worth it.
The DA:PA and DR:UR ratio: The DA index (Moz) is similar to the DR (Ahrefs), while the PA (Moz) is similar to the UR index (Ahrefs). Therefore, focus on domains with a minimum DR:UR of 20:9.
Check their versions
When building a PBN, be sure to check all versions including: www, non-www, and https://. For example, On Digitals website is a PBN, you can use the Ahrefs or Majestic tool to check the following versions:
This action helps you know what the actual version of the old domain is, and which version gets the most backlinks. Usually, a quick check of www.ondigitals.com and ondigitals.com is enough.
Utilize the Wayback Machine (WBM) tool
Like the name suggests, the WBM tool can “rewind time”. It is a website that allows you to check a domain’s operation history since it was established, so you will know how the content or website of that domain has changed over time.
If you’re interested, spend about 0.4 seconds on Google to get all the information about this WBM tool.
Check the anchor text and backlinks
A must-have factor when choosing a domain for PBN in many company’s checklists is brand name. In fact, it is even more appealing to them when the domain thrives in both online and offline aspects, and it has a lot of natural backlinks. However, this is what makes many businesses blunder when choosing a PBN site.
Before bidding for a domain, check the source of backlink and anchor text. And don’t forget to factor in TF and CF. Don't bet everything (money-wise) on high DA and DR scores. Sometimes a domain with only 20 DA and 40 DR is more effective than those with 60 DA and 60 DR.
Common Problems When Building a PBN
When building a PBN, problems are bound to happen, but identifying them in advance helps greatly. Here are some of the most common problems.
- The satellite website system is no longer available
- The old domain has lost all previous backlinks
- You can't build quality content because it’s unclear what the old domain used to sell
- The old domain name of the website is no longer of good quality
- Content writing resources are extremely scarce
- Traffic for PBN satellite websites ranges from nonexistent to very low
Misconceptions about PBN in SEO
In recent years, PBN has had enough downs of a lifetime with the scrutiny of Google. But it doesn’t mean PBN has lost its charm. Change your approach in building PBN and the edge will be as good as new. First, let’s debunk 5 myths that prevent people from appreciating the true impact of PBN.
PBN is not effective
Many misread Google algorithm updates as a “forever ban” for tactics like PBN. But it can't be further from the truth. As Google conducted link research over the years, thousands of identified PBNs had a positive impact on the sites they were built to support.
A few years ago, the PBN system was scorned by users. It is not without reason, because PBN technical quality was indeed reduced at that time, but the rest is irrelevant. If you have been involved in backlink research, you don’t need to be convinced that what helps many websites boost rankings in highly competitive industries is PBN links – just another proof that PBN is effective.
PBN is spammy
Many may think this is a fact, yet some PBNs are just regular websites with a lot of high-quality content. Online users are also searching for information using these PBNs without incentives, which helps your main site rank higher.
Also, if you have access to other websites and you get inbound links from them, technically you are also using PBNs daily.
PBN is easy to be identified by search engines
It is not as easy as you think, because the process of removing cross-site footprints is relatively simple: just mix the registration information, archive the same topics and content, link to many different websites, etc. In other words, it is not a challenge to make the websites in your PBN system unrelated, or cut off the connection between them and the main site.
That’s why it is virtually impossible to automatically identify PBNs. Just remember that only personal PBN systems can enjoy this perk.
PBN is unethical
That’s just how PBN looks through the lens of Google. However, the majority of objective SEO experts beg to differ.
While PBN violates Google's guidelines, it is supposed to be a tactic to boost rankings for the main website. Businesses build and invest on PBN on their own, so it’s a stretch to say it is an unethical practice. An exception is when you build a PBN for a client but don't tell them the whole story about the risk of Google manual actions.
PBN is laden with risks
It is not easy to identify and track PBN, but there still lies certain risks, albeit not significant. Minimize the risks by following the best practices in choosing the domain name and building the PBN.
This is the end of our exploratory journey today, and we hope the answer to “What is PBN?” is crystal clear to you. We have also gone through every necessary aspect to effectively integrate PBN into your SEO strategy, so you are now well equipped to proceed with your PBN plan.
If your curiosity is not sated and you want to learn more about Digital Marketing trends, visit the website of On Digitals now for the latest updates.