Link Types

Private Blog Networks (PBNs)

Glossary  |  3 mins

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Private blog networks (PBNs) are networks of blogs and publication sites which are built with the sole purpose of linking to other websites in order to artificially inflate their backlink profiles and organic search rankings. Not to be confused with the more white hat measure of link neighbourhoods, PBNs are considered more dangerous, malicious backlinks that could cause harm to a website’s rankings in the long run.

Though at one time, using PBN link building was a viable SEO method, Google has since classed PBNs as link building schemes which violate its terms of service. Today, the use of PBN link building or a PBN building service is a black hat SEO method that should be avoided.

The Risks of Using a PBN

The main and most glaringly obvious risk of using a PBN is that it’s a direct violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines, and therefore runs the risk of inviting Google penalisations.

PBNs have a direct, negative impact on the quality of Google’s search results, and Google invests a lot of resources into tracking down and dismantling these networks.

If a lot of your past link building efforts have been facilitated by a private blog network, and this network is identified by Google, it will mean that your inflated rankings will come crashing down, and all the money you invested will have been wasted.

Though PBNs can promise significant ranking increases in a very short space of time, the rewards are minor compared to the risks.

Identifying PBNs

Though PBNs are in decline, they’re certainly not extinct, and there are many that are surprisingly effective at disguising themselves as legitimate, websites.

If you’re not sure about a link building service, there are a few elements you can check to determine whether or not it’s a PBN.

Hosting: The individual blogs making up PBNs often use the same hosts. Free tools like Builtwith can be used to see the hosting of a given domain, and to check for other similarities between blogs that you suspect might be a part of a PBN.

The History of Domains: PBNs are typically dependent on buying a lot of expired domains. They do this in order to control the large number of referring pages they need to deliver the huge ranking increases they promise. Using Majestic’s Link Graph is a quick, insightful way of getting a real time overview of the domain’s proximity to a network.

Content Density: Because PBNs are purpose built for generating backlinks, and prioritise the quantity of backlinks above quality, they’re often made up of several blogs where the overall content is notably thin on the ground. If the blogs in a given network seem thinly populated despite presenting themselves as well established authority publications, and you notice that a lot of posts seem to link out multiple times to irrelevant domains, then it’s likely part of a PBN.

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Private Blog Networks (PBNs) FAQs

What are the risks of using PBNs?

The use of PBNs has been a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines for some time. Though PBNs promise a lot of links in a short space of time, if a site is found to be using a PBN to build links, it may incur a manual penalty.

How do you identify a PBN site?

Though PBNs go to great lengths to disguise themselves as legitimate websites there are some tell tale signs of a PBN which marketers should be aware of. If several blogs share the same host, show evidence that the domain has only been owned for a short period of time, and have unusually thin content with suspiciously common recurring links to the same domain, then it’s likely to be a PBN.

Questions to ask your link builder