Private Blog Networks (PBNs): Myths and Risks

A private blog network (PBN) is a group of websites that exists solely to provide backlinks to other websites. The purpose of PBN is to manipulate Google to improve the ranking of the site in the Google search engine.

SEOs create PBNs by building new websites or buying old domains that are already authoritative.

And then links from those domains to the website(s) they want to promote.

People who use PBNs usually use this tactic to have “full control” of their link building efforts.

Think of it this way:

Instead of earning from links, a private blog network means you can direct links to your website as you wish, with the exact anchor text you want, whenever you want. And to any page that needs a boost.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?


PBNs clearly violate Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines and can result in severe penalties.

But people still use them and talk about them. Why?

PBNs violate Google’s webmaster quality guidelines

We recommend that you avoid using PBNs as a link building tactic altogether.

Google’s link spam guidelines state:

“All links that aim to manipulate the ranking in Google search results can be considered spam links. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your website or outbound links from your website”.

Private blog networks clearly fall within these guidelines.

Links from PBNs attempt to manipulate Google search results. These links are not earned. They are set by someone acting on behalf of your site.

PBN websites offer no real value. They are only designed to “beat the system”.

The best way to earn high-quality, relevant links is to create unique, valuable content.

And creating good content pays off. People will naturally want to link to useful content.

Besides, most people’s real websites are probably more authoritative than spam PBN sites.

PBN links are not editorially placed links as a result of great content.

They are a way to artificially influence search rankings. And it’s not something that will work in the long run.

Risks associated with private blog networks

So, if PBN links violate Google’s guidelines, what are the risks?

We can divide them into two key scenarios:

  1. Your site has been penalized/losing rankings

When manipulative link building tactics are overdone, your website can be penalized and hit with manual action.

And if this happens, your pages (or entire site) may be ranked lower or even completely omitted from search results.

If your site is affected, Google will notify you in the “Manual Actions” report in Google Search Console.

To recover from a manual action, you will need to resolve the issue (remove links or submit a disclaimer file) and submit a reconsideration request.

Even if the reconsideration is successful, your page may not return to its original ranking. It’s best to create useful, relevant content in an attempt to achieve better rankings.

Professional advice: Discard pages only if you received a manual “unnatural link” action. Or if you know you have unnatural links and want to be ahead of the curve. Disowning pages affects rankings, so always follow Google’s guidelines and proceed with extreme caution.

  1. Links are ignored

If Google’s algorithm considers a backlink unnatural, it can ignore it completely. Which means the link will not affect your ranking. Positive or negative.

Google’s John Mueller previously confirmed that Google ignores links that are unlikely to be natural.

And let’s not forget that Google now has data from a large number of disclaimer files. For many years, SEOs have been helping search engines better understand the sources of unnatural links.

If the links do not affect the ranking at all, the resources allocated to building them (time and/or money) are actually wasted.

No one wants to see their efforts go to waste.

Why would anyone use a private blog network?

Given the risks involved, you’re probably wondering why some SEOs still use private blog networks to get backlinks.

Mainly for two reasons:

  1. Earning links is difficult and unpredictable

Getting quality backlinks takes time. And results are not guaranteed.

Link building tactics that result in quality and authoritative links are usually:

  • E-mail outreach
  • Digital PR
  • Building broken links
  • Complaints link
  • Building links to resources
  • itd.

These tactics have one thing in common:

These include reaching out to relevant journalists, bloggers or website owners and trying to convince them to link to your content.

All of these techniques relate to raising awareness of a piece of content. And hoping that the recipient likes it enough to connect with it.

But that means the results are unpredictable.

Even the best efforts cannot guarantee returning a certain number of links monthly or quarterly.

On the other hand, using a PBN may seem to provide more control and less uncertainty. But again, we recommend avoiding it in favor of earning quality backlinks.

  1. Desire to control and manipulate anchor text

Anchor text is hyperlinked text – usually underlined – that leads to another page when clicked.

And relevant, descriptive anchor text can help Google understand the context of the page. And maybe it will help improve his ranking.

This is why some people turn to PBNs. Many PBN owners will let you choose the anchor text you want for each backlink.

If you earn links editorially, you’ll find that journalists and webmasters will sometimes use anchor text such as:

  • “Click here”
  • Article title
  • Bare URL
  • Company name

And SEOs would understandably prefer keyword-rich anchor text.

They want backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text that gives Google context about the page. Which is almost impossible to control through a field approach.

Debunking the myths surrounding PBN

Despite the risks associated with PBNs, there is still a lot of confusion in the SEO community. Below, we debunk four common PBN myths.

Myth 1: Private blog network links won’t help you rank

Although links from a private blog network violate Google’s guidelines, they can still help you rank.

There’s a good chance it will improve your site’s ranking. But the increase is probably only temporary.

Link building with PBN is risky. And in the worst case scenario, your rankings will drop when Google discovers them.

If the algorithm (or manual crawler) detects unnatural activity, you’ll likely notice a sudden drop in your site’s visibility on Google’s SERPs.

Myth 2: Google can easily identify private blog networks

Google can identify private blog networks in several ways. They generally look for clues on sites that may signal a group of sites dedicated solely to link generation.

Prints they are looking for include:

  • Delјene IP adrese
  • Same wb hosting provider
  • Domains purchased from auction sites
  • Blocking third-party link analysis tools
  • itd.

But SEOs who build private blog networks know how Google usually spots PBNs. And they work to prevent (or eliminate) these traces as much as possible.

But that’s not the point.

Google is getting better at identifying poor quality links. No matter where they come from. PBN or not.

And Google will completely ignore these types of backlinks.

So even if the PBN doesn’t get penalized, those links won’t count. That’s a lot of time and money down the drain.

It’s not worth the risk. Poor quality link schemes rarely stand the test of time.

Myth 3: All paid links come from private blog networks

Paid links can certainly come from private blog networks.

We work in a world where many bloggers openly sell links or sponsored posts. But is every site that sells a link or sponsored post part of a PBN?

Absolutely not.

That being said, paying for links will almost always be against Google’s official guidelines.

Regardless of whether they come from a PBN or not.

Myth 4: All groups of sites that link to each other are PBNs

It is not unusual for a company to have more than one website and to link those websites to each other.

These links are generally not unnatural. And they don’t necessarily have to form a PBN.

Many companies have more than one website, and it is only natural to want to ensure that visitors to any one site discover other related sites.

Links to these other websites are often placed in the footer of the website.

Generally, there is no need to worry about this. Or you have any need to stop linking your properties.

As long as it’s natural and not in a manipulative way.

A group of sites becomes a private blog network only when the primary goal is to build links to manipulate search results.

What should you do if your website has links from PBN?

If you believe your website has links from PBNs or other low quality sources, it is a good practice to find them and take action.

Use first Semrush-ov backlink audit tool to identify suspicious links.

Start by entering your domain and creating a project.

Then go to the tab “Audit” and you will see a box with potential link networks.

Click on “Review backlinks” to see all potentially harmful backlinks.

These are links that can come from malicious sites, spam comments, PBNs, link directories, etc.

The list shows each backlink’s source URL, target URL, anchor text, authority score, and toxicity score.

Google’s recommendation is to simply ignore toxic links.

However, if you think the links are harming your website, you can contact the site owner and politely ask them to remove them.

You can also drop links. But you should be extremely careful. This can be very risky for your ranking.

We recommend opting out only if you have received Google manual action against your site or think you will because you bought links.

Even then, proceed with great caution when disclaiming any links in any context.

If you decide to opt out, look for the source of the backlinks in the report and click the “no” symbol.

Do this for all the links you want to drop.

The tool will compile a list, which you can then upload to Google’s opt-out tool.

Again, if you opt out, do so with extreme caution.

How to get links the right way

Using private blog networks is not a link building tactic that we recommend or endorse. The risks are not worth taking.

Instead, use the link building methods above. Strategies like outreach, becoming a source, building broken links and more.

It takes work. But it is the best way to build safe, high-quality links to your website.

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