Are Private Blog Networks (PBNs) Still Effective for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?


Private Blog Networks

A private blog network, commonly referred to as PBN, is comprised of high authority blog websites owned by a single entity. You pay these entities to create backlinks on these blogs that lead to your website. 

As you know, a backlink from a high authority website is a critical aspect of seo success. The question is: are they still effective?

The answer is no (except… read caveat). And below are the reasons why private blog networks are not effective: 

  • They are not active blogs
  • They are frowned on by Google
  • They are low quality
  • They lack diversity

Before we look at these reasons, it is best to understand how PBNs came into existence. 

How are PBNs made?

Private blog networks used to be individual blogs. At some point, the blog owner decides he does not want to continue blogging anymore. Instead of just shutting down his blog, he sells it. 

And who buys it? 

You got it right—the person who buys it is the PBN owner. This owner can be a single person or a company. Now, this blog has built a following over the years and can have a domain authority (DA) rank of 30 or more. Because of this, the blog is trusted by Google.

Let us call it Blog A. 

Because Google trusts this blog, any link that this blog points to is also going to be trusted by Google. After all, Google thinks that cool guys hang out together. 

What this means is that if Blog A has links pointing to your website, which we will call Money Blog, Google would rank your blog higher, all because you have backlinks coming from a trusted source, which is Blog A.

Now, imagine that this person has ten blogs from Blog A to Blog J. If each blog has 50 posts each, and if each has a high domain authority, you can buy backlinks from this blog owner. All he has to do is to go to these different blogs and use an anchor text that links to your website. 

Now, you have at least ten high DA blogs that are linking to your money Blog. As we know, the more backlinks you have from authority sites, the more Google would love you. 

Sounds good, right? But not so fast.

In theory, PBNs work great, but in reality, they do not work and you will get penalized by Google. And if you do get penalized, you will suffer and your blog may take years to build back its credibility.

Now that you know how private blog networks operate, let us discuss why they are no longer effective for SEO.

They are not Active Blogs

A PBN is bought by a person, not for the purpose of writing or adding more posts. This person has no interest in that. His interest is to sell backlinks to bloggers who cannot wait for organic traffic to come. 

Sadly, that person could be you

In the white hat SEO world, you form a backlink by the following methods:

  • Answer queries on forums and leaves your link
  • Write guest posts in high DA sites related to your blog and leave your link

These are two simple things, yet they are difficult to do. These two strategies take so much time and effort, and can also cost you money.

The thing is, these PBNs are not updated. What this means is that they used to be high-ranking blogs, but their popularity has waned over time. And if a blog is not active, it is pretty much a ghost town. And in a ghost town, there are no people.

No people = no traffic. These backlinks to your website are useless. 



They are Frowned on by Google

Google has a mission. That mission is to make the Google search engine a reliable provider of information—information that is up-to-date, credible, and trustworthy. 

Because of that, Google does not like the idea of you buying backlinks because you are gaming the system. Backlinks are expected to be done with hard work. They are supposed to be built on relationships with different bloggers who have the same mission—educating the people.

If you buy your backlinks, then you are not a credible person. You are not credible because you are buying your credibility.

Over time, Google would find out about this, and you will be penalized. Let us not go into the details of how Google would know. Let us just say that Google programmers are not dumb, and this is why new updates are released so often to improve Google’s algorithm.

They are Low Quality

What does a high-quality backlink mean? 

A high-quality backlink is one that comes from a website that has high authority, and that website must be relevant to your niche. It does not make sense to put a backlink inside a furniture store blog when your own blog is about personal finance.

What else? 

A high-quality backlink has page relevancy. What this means is that the page where the backlink is sitting on should be related to the page that it is linking to. There was a time when people believed that niche relevancy is only what mattered, but this has been disproven.

Niche relevancy simply means that if a Blog A is about personal finance, any page there that has a backlink to your Money Blog is a high-quality link.

It does not work that way anymore. Page relevancy means that on Blog A, if the topic of the blog is “10 Ways to Save Money,” the backlink that goes to your website must be related to that blog post.

You cannot do this with private blog networks. The owners will just sprinkle your links to any page even if they are not related to your own blog post or niche. Because of that, it has no page relevancy and Google is not going to value it as highly.

They Lack Diversity

Lastly, PBNs lack diversity. Let us go back to the example earlier of a person buying ten blog sites from Blog A to Blog J. Do you really think all these blog posts are diverse enough to cover all possible niches out there?

The answer is no. For example, here are ten possible niches from Blog A to Blog J:

  • Blog A – e-commerce
  • Blog B – personal finance
  • Blog C – dropshipping
  • Blog D – make money online
  • Blog E – personal finance 
  • Blog F – movie reviews
  • Blog G – game reviews
  • Blog H – woodworking
  • Blog I – dogs
  • Blog J – cats

Now, let us say that your blog is about health or grooming. None of these ten PBNs fit your niche. Even if these blogs are legitimate, it makes no sense buying backlinks from these websites.

Why? Because their audience is not interested in health. They are interested in dogs. While it is possible that a dog lover may click on an anchor link that leads to your health website, the likelihood of that happening is rare.

Summary So Far

PBNs are worthless (mostly). Do not waste your money on them. If you want to grow your traffic, do it organically and use white hat SEO tactics, avoiding grey & black hat SEO tactics. This can only happen if you work hard to follow the rules and build your following and traffic over time.

Caveat: in Favor of PBNs

Let me now contradict myself here. While I have said that PBNs are no good, in reality, not all PBNs are built the same. There are a few savvy people out there who have high-quality PBNs which may or may not be suitable for your niche.

If they are topically relevant to your website, then they can certainly help your page or blog post rankings. These PBNs use carefully screened non-spammy domains with high DA (domain Authority).

They are also carefully managed and are updated regularly with original quality posts so that these blogs can manually pass for legitimate websites.

For all intent and purposes, each blog is run with the same care and attention as that of a majority of “legitimate” blogging websites. This is why the powerful link juice from these networks are so sort after by website owners in the know.

The owners of these PBNs are also very careful about the hosting, IP addresses and linking profiles of each individual blog in their network. In short, these are professionally run PBNs of a high caliber.

Final Word

Depending on your risk tolerance, you may want to dabble in these kinds of backlinks. However, like with all link building endeavors, be careful not to overdo it. You should always use a variety of anchor text and grow links slowly over the long-term.

For those of you who are averse to this type of grey hat tactic, then please just publish original, high-quality content that your readers are craving for, and your rankings and traffic will certainly grow.

If you are daring enough to give PBN backlinks a try and want to do it right, then have a look at this service.



John Kilmerstone

I'm an Aussie living in Japan who enjoys traveling, photography and blogging. Please visit this website and explore the wonderful world of blogging. Discover how to turn your passions and pastimes into an online business.

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