The other day I read an email from a marketer I was subscribed to after I purchased a product of his for review. In that e-mail the marketer spoke in great length about Private Blog Networks and how he believes they are now leading to bad SEO results.
While I won’t mention his name, this subject has held my curiosity for sometime and while I agreed with the marketer that they are not worth using, because he received so much feedback, it showed me that this subject was indeed very popular and worth talking about.
Therefore in this post I want to cover this subject in great length, talk about what they are, how they work as well as my personal thoughts on them.
Private Blog Networks explained:
Basically a private blog network or as some call it a PBN is a series of blogs/sites pertaining to 1 particular niche/subject that link back to one another or to a “main site” to give that site more backlinks, supposedly faster rankings and more traffic.
This strategy isn’t exactly new and has is to this day utilized by many marketers. In a nutshell, to illustrate how a private blog network works, let’s use a very simple example:
Let’s say I have a website pertaining to dieting. It’s not a niche, but for the sake of example let’s use this.
Then 5 other blog sites are formed that point back to the main website. They each have content specified to their particular topic. In other words, let’s say each of the 5 blogs talks about a specific diet. Then they point back to the main site.
The purpose of this strategy is to give the main site more value, especially if the other 5 sites already have traffic coming in.
Here is a picture to illustrate this:
This is the best way to explain what a private blog network (PBN) is:
Does the private blog network strategy work for improving SEO and rankings?
My answer is both yes and no.
Yes in the initial stages because you can get results by doing this. It’s basically a form of backlinking and as much as I hate this approach to marketing because I’ve experienced firsthand what it can lead to, it can still work.
But here’s where the no comes into play with PBNs:
Keep in mind I did say initial stages and the reason for that is that this approach to SEO isn’t deemed as high quality. What you’re basically trying to accomplish is to artificially boost your main site’s rank and if people go to your other blog sites, your main purpose is to link them back to your site.
This is seen as low quality in my eyes and as I read on that gentleman’s blog, Google can also see it this way and punish your site for that, including your other sites that are part of your private blog network.
Don’t believe me? Then see Google’s own take on private blog networks, which they call link schemes:
Here is the Google page on link schemes, but here’s the screenshot of how they look at them:
I’ve put a rectangle around the examples most likely to be associated with private blog networks, since they don’t mention them directly in that article.
To the naysayers that disagree with me on private blog networks:
People who are still preaching about using private blog networks may argue that it’s not the traditional form of backlinking in that you’re not buying some link packages from third party companies or trying to get as many places to link back to your site. They may also argue that because it’s not in the typical form known to lead to bad SEO results that it automatically means it’s good to use.
My reply to those arguments would be to ask them the following:
Are you offering any value on your sites to help people or are you trying to point all traffic to your main site? If the answer is the latter, then I believe you’re going to have a major problem down the line in terms of SEO.
To try and direct any/all traffic from your private blog network/s to another site only for the purpose of boosting your main site’s rank is bad SEO policy as far as I’m concerned and I wouldn’t be surprised if Google puts the hammer down on this.
Here’s another interesting thing:
Did you know there’s third party private blog networks offering services to you?
Basically what happens here is that you purchase a membership/service there and provide a link to your blog. Then they run that blog through their private blog network and provide links back to you.
If I were to rate on a scale of 1-10 (1 being the worst) how beneficial private blog networks are, I’d give it a 2 because inevitably I feel it will lose it’s SEO value. But even worse, if you are going to use a third party service like this, then I’d give that value a 1, which is even worse!
There’s places like Cloud PBN and Zamurai PBN which utilize this approach and I had to give it a negative rating. As for other places like it, if you want my personal opinion, it’s to stay away from them.
My personal experience with private blog networks:
While I haven’t used them, I have known more than a few people who have, and they did get good rankings from them, but this in most cases has not lasted.
I don’t believe in this type of model, which is why after seeing the same warnings I’m giving you, and the results from the other people I mentioned, I am still of the opinion that PBNs may potentially be dangerous for SEO.
I know about success SEO strategies that are white hat. Here is proof:
My final thoughts:
As far as I see it, private blog networks are nothing more than a low quality form of backlinking, just sugar coated and made to sound better. Google doesn’t like to be tricked into thinking you have a good quality site and in my mind, backlinking tries to do just that.
Back when this first came out, it was abused to no end because people could simply buy backlinks and get high rankings, but as Google rightfully began to put a stop to this, people kept trying to re-invent new ways to repeat the same type of approach, hence private blog networks.
But this doesn’t take away that it’s still a bad form of SEO, at least in my mind. I’d rather focus all of my efforts into building high quality content on one site and let that grow than try to take the short route, get initially high rankings, but then very likely lose out in the long run.
As I said earlier, the only real form of backlinking I’m for is making YouTube videos. That works.
Also if people share your site on social networks/email, ect… that’s also good because it’s actually natural. You’re not trying to get artificial results, you basically let the people decide and this in my experience is the best policy.