PBN stands for “private blog network.” Private blog networks (PBNs) are something you may have heard of in the past, but you might not know what they are or how they are utilised.
In order to manipulate search engine rankings, a PBN is a network of websites that is used to establish connections to one specific website and so convey authority to that site. Due to the numerous websites that are linked to or from one another, this scheme is comparable to a link wheel or link pyramid.
The Google algorithm has long been fighting PBNs, and as it becomes smarter and improves its technology to counter link spam tactics, it becomes more and more difficult for black hat SEOs to execute a PBN properly.
How to identify private blog networks
Because the sites cover a variety of businesses, themes, and layouts, PBNs are far more sophisticated today and may be more difficult for users to identify.
Consider the following when assessing whether a site is a PBN and, as a result, one that you should avoid at all costs:
- Hosting – Are they all hosted on the same IP?
- Site design – Does the design, navigation, and colour scheme, carry over a few multiple sites?
- Similar themes – WordPress themes very often have the theme name in the code, it can be easily verified via your own browser.
- Site ownership – The WHOIS database will hold contact information for the owner of the sites, and is readily available, however, if the WHOIS data is intentionally hidden this is a major red flag.
- Duplicate content – Copy a paragraph into Google search to see if the content exists on other sites.
- Backlink profile – Check the backlink profile, to verify exactly how much interlinking is going on between all the sites.
- Media – Media such as videos and images are difficult and expensive to recreate so these are likely going to be duplicated on linked websites.
A matching backlink profile is a dead giveaway for many PBNs. The site is probably a part of a PBN or, at the absolute least, is selling links if several sites have the same link profile or if they all link to the same page repeatedly (especially when it looks redundant or irrelevant). These kinds of schemes can be identified by Google’s Penguin algorithm, which is now part of the core ranking algorithm and operates in real-time, devaluing your website ranks as a result.
However, just because you own a number of websites, doesn’t automatically make you part of a private blog network. For instance, media firms with numerous websites and links pointing to them wouldn’t likely have to be concerned about being labeled as PBNs unless the websites:
- Weren’t related
- Had dozens of links in the footers
- Were continuously linking to the same internal pages.
PBNs are usually collections of websites that are all owned by a single firm or person, though it is possible for various people to link to one another in a way that qualifies as a PBN if there is a pattern of doing so over numerous groupings of websites.
How can you protect your site from PBNs?
Private blog networks are not something that any reputable SEO expert will advise using to create links or increase website traffic.
The key to successful link-building is strong oversight. Learn which tactics Google views as link schemes, and make sure that anyone in charge of constructing links to your website carefully abides by these rules.
Any credible link builder should also be willing to be open about the links they are collecting on your behalf. This does take a little effort on your behalf, but it is necessary – even if you aren’t aware of what goes on technically behind the scenes with your website, as the owner you most definitely will be held responsible for the consequences.
Best practice is key
Competitors who seem to be employing spammy link-building strategies like PBNs may frustrate you. Of course, you could file a webspam complaint to denounce them. But even if you don’t, keep in mind that their underhanded methods will eventually backfire.
While your rival is using a PBN to acquire links, your business can develop more effective link-building efforts based on best practises that will last longer and won’t be penalised by search engines. Then, when your competitor gets busted and is demoted, deindexed or otherwise penalized, your site will have the advantage.
Private blog networks as a whole are a risky and undesirable link-building tactic. Links should only be offered when they actually benefit the user. Focus on superior link-building strategies that will produce results without conflict and spare you and your business the headache of wasted time, money, and resources.