Let’s be real here: Sometimes, life isn’t fair.
You don’t always get what you want or need.
Those who don’t deserve the blessings in life—the cheaters and the frauds—get away with their illegal tactics.
It sucks, but it happens.
The same applies to SEO.
Black hat SEO artists can scam their way to the top of organic search rankings despite their total disregard for Google’s quality guidelines.
Unfortunately, many of them weasel their way into the search engine’s top spots without tripping any wires (at least not yet).
One of the tactics they employ is building PBN backlinks.
These are bad news.
What Are PBN Backlinks?
PBN (private blog network) backlinks are links built from a network of connected websites and blogs. These sites are commonly owned by the same person, who’s using them all to build links to their money site. They also have a choice to sell PBN links to other site owners for extra profit.
The structure of a private blog network bears similarities to that of a publishing company like Gawker Media LLC, which owns blogs like Deadspin, Lifehacker and others.
However, the difference with sites found in a PBN is that they’re primarily used for building links instead of providing valuable content for their target audience.
Since unnatural link building of this sort is a form of manipulation in the eyes of search engines, the blog network is closed from the public to avoid detection (hence, “private” blog network). You also need to use different hosting providers for each site to obscure your digital footprint.
If it sounds shady, that’s because it is.
To build a PBN, you need to purchase expired domains with existing authority. Building links from a brand new domain without any authority won’t yield any movement in organic search rankings—and that’s the sole purpose of these domains.
Once you’ve verified and purchased the domains, you can build a blog using it and publish content like you normally would. However, the posts will contain links to your money sites to pass on link strength in the hopes of increasing their search rankings.
PBN Backlinks: Are They Worth It? The Final Word
The problem with PBN backlinks is that they’re unnatural. Search engines don’t like unnatural ranking tactics.
And yet, as frowned upon as PBN backlinks are, there are still many SEOs who stick to this tactic as their bread and butter when it comes to ranking their websites.
Why People Build PBN Backlinks
You have full control over how to feature links
Building PBN backlinks is more convenient than natural backlinks because you have full discretion over how and where to build the links.
You can publish content with links to your money sites using your preferred anchor texts. You can also inter-link between sites to increase the flow of link juice to the money sites.
Even if you don’t own a PBN, you can purchase backlinks from people with connections to a PBN owner.
The only limitation that a PBN provides depends on the number of sites or blogs you have in your network. The more blogs with existing authority you have, the more opportunities you have with your link building campaign.
Fast-tracked link building
Building links from a PBN is in stark contrast to building links using organic, white hat tactics like blogger outreach.
With the latter, you need to create great content, find people whom you should reach out to with your content, and send them follow-up emails, to name a few. The worst thing is that, since you don’t have any control over whether the link gets published within the article (or if the owner publishes the post at all), there’s a good chance your efforts are all for nothing.
With PBN backlinks, you eliminate the risk of getting zero results from your link building efforts. You could always depend on a PBN for guaranteed backlinks to your sites, thus speeding up the whole link building process.
See immediate results in search rankings
Because of the existing authority that sites in a PBN yield, you could expect an increase in SERPs for your keyword over a short period.
Search engines consider backlinks as a form of recommendation online. More importantly, it’s not about the volume of backlinks you get, but the quality. Since PBNs are initially perceived as an “authoritative” network of sites according to relevant metrics, PBN backlinks will greatly influence search engines to push your site up the ranks faster.
Why You Shouldn’t Build PBN Backlinks
While all those reasons for building PBN backlinks might sound pretty good, it’s highly advised to not build backlinks from private blog networks.
In fact, you should stay away from this tactic altogether. The December 2017 Google update takes action specifically against unnatural links—like links from PBNs.
PBN backlinks are a kiss of death to your website.
If Google catches you building links from a PBN, your site can say goodbye to organic traffic. Google will penalize your site, and most likely ban it from appearing in search results.
Sites that Google penalizes due to unnatural links are not highly publicized, however, this SEO Roundtable post brings to light a site whose rankings dropped from the top 100 after building PBN backlinks.
People use PBN backlinks to great effect when used for a churn-and-burn website. Since the risk of Google catching your site for PBN backlinks is ever-present, some people use it on disposable sites with the short-term goal of making quick money.
The purpose of getting backlinks from a PBN is to fulfill the site’s potential of generating as much income as possible. They know that search engines will penalize their sites one way or another. It’s just a matter of maximizing your profits before Google brings down the hammer.
Unless you’re willing to burn your website to the ground just to generate instant cash, PBN backlinks make no sense in the long term. You’re better off building links the white hat way.
How to Know If You’ve Already Got PBN Backlinks
If you want to find out if you have PBN backlinks already pointing to your site, or you want to sanitize your link profile from PBN backlinks, you can use Monitor Backlinks to easily find links from blogs that are part of a PBN.
Just head to the Your Links tab to see all your site’s backlinks.
Then, you’re going to filter out the potentially bad backlinks for closer investigation.
The thing about PBN sites is that they have good scores on certain SEO metrics. Therefore, don’t be surprised to see high Domain Authority and Page Authority for these sites.
Instead, focus on other metrics such as Moz’s Spam Score and Majestic’s Flow Metrics. These scores primarily indicate the quality of backlinks the sites have. If you want to get the most out of your backlinks, be wary of sites with high Spam Scores and low Flow Metrics.
In this example, the link in the red box is potentially from a PBN site due to its high Spam Score and low Flow Metrics.
You’d need to manually check the site based on its own merits to make an informed decision. Signs that the site may be part of a PBN include thin or low-quality content, or a large number of broken links.
If you don’t have Monitor Backlinks for yourself, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial here to find potential PBN links to your site. Use this opportunity to rid your link profile of spammy sites and improve your chances of getting higher SERP rankings.
PBN Backlinks: The Last Word
Getting backlinks from a PBN is a very divisive topic.
There will be people who will use PBNs to build links, all things considered.
However, and as mentioned already, there’s too much risk involved when using PBN backlinks in your attempts to increase your site’s rankings.
Instead, use sustainable, white hat SEO link building tactics to grow your site.
While these tactics are more time-consuming and difficult to pull off, they’ll provide you with long-term results that’ll get your site to the top of SERPs—and keep it there.