If you look on a lot of SEO forums you will inevitably see a selection of forum posts from two camps; one that says that private blog networks (PBNs) are dead and the one that is shouting that they are fantastic and still going strong.
The camp that is proclaiming that they are dead are probably the people that also often shout about how SEO is dead too. These people could have garnered their opinions based on the high profile de-indexing by Google of several high profile blog networks in recent times.
The camp that are proclaiming that private blog networks are alive and kicking splits into 2 sub-groups; There is the group that claims how great these blog networks are doing so well, and so strongly do so with mixed motives, as many of them are selling links on blog networks which are supposedly private. The other group know the truth – that private blog networks are not dead; they are just private!
What?!! Private blog networks aren’t dead!
Private blog networks are very much alive and kicking and still a very strong tool to promote your website. This almost mythical SEO tool causes quite a stir in the community because so many people have misconceptions about what they are and how they work.
The wrong type of private blog network
The wrong type of private blog networks are the ones that you see posted all over SEO forums. Normally they will claim to have zero footprint, the link authority of Google itself and be yours for $9.99! OK, I would love to be able to say that I was exaggerating but I am not sadly. I have one thing to say about these networks. If you are thinking about buying links on one to your business/brand websites don’t! If you can pay twenty dollars or whatever for a link on a blog, so can Google. These people’s networks will eventually get burned because they are being too blatant about it, and your relevant link may be among 5 or 10 non-relevant links. These sites will often have really thin content and are usually built from expired domains that have a bit of legacy authority.
The right type of private blog network
The right type of private blog network is one that you have built for yourself; it doesn’t even have to be just blogs. This network of sites doesn’t have to be huge in number, just really high quality. Why high quality if it is just for SEO you might say? The secret is to make the sites authoritative in their own right. This means that they are not spammy and can still pass on plenty of link juice to your main business website. This may take a lot of hard work, time and potentially money but it is really the safest long term solution. The better you make these websites the more authority they can pass to your main websites. A good natural link from a strong website can often be more powerful than 5 lower quality links.
If you don’t want people to know that these websites are linked you can block the crawling of all of the tools such as Moz, Majectic and ahrefs etc, but don’t block search engines! This will mean that when people do link research on your main website, and they will do if you are in front, they won’t see your private websites in their lists.
What if I am promoting churn and burn websites?
If you are creating churn and burn websites the rules change to some degree. If you are blatantly churning and burning a money making website then the decision of spending loads of time on your own private network of websites isn’t as critical. Likely you will have multiple websites in different states of progress. In this case anything is game, of course at some point churning and burning becomes a grind of building a high converting website and promoting it to see it be dead and buried by Google, sometimes within weeks.
Are private networks worth it?
If you are willing to put the time and effort into building a few really high quality websites to have in your network it is most definitely worth it. You can use these to link to several of your own related websites, and if the blogs/sites become successful enough in their own right you can monetize them too! Just don’t advertise them on forums.
Image credit: Peter Lee.