PBN Backlinks (and Why To Avoid Them)

What is a PBN Backlink?

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.

PBNs can be effective because Google’s algorithm uses a website’s link profile when deciding where to rank it.

There have been many reported cases in the SEO industry of PBN networks being hit by Google algorithm updates and manual action penalties that ended up penalizing all of the websites within the private blog network, including the target website receiving the PBN links.

Therefore, the positive effects of PBN backlinks are often temporary for improving search engine rankings and should not be used as a sole source for a link building campaign or even at all for websites you care about for long-term ranking success.

You can still make it work by becoming a PBN master and learn how to outsmart the algorithm or just stick to more organic link building methods.

Either way, this article can be a helpful primer for aspiring link builders.

Google’s Stance on Private Blog Networks

It specifically says that any link “intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google's Webmaster Guidelines.”

Ultimately, if you want to stay on the right side of Google’s regulations don’t use PBN links.

Google will actively go after PBN networks, big and small to devalue those links and penalize related websites.

However, a really good PBN network is hard to uncover because popular footprints are blocked.

Nevertheless, PBN owners tend to get sloppy with their sites as their network of PBNs and money sites grow.

My Opinion on PBNs

A decade ago, my first SEO agency was built on an expired domain and I ranked with a $30,000 worth of PBNs. 

My goal was to rank for every major city + SEO term and I accomplished it within a year.

image 10

The traffic and leads generated from this strategy were incredible.

The problem was I always knew these results were too good to be true.

While I blew past local and national agencies and grew the agency to huge revenues, the whole thing felt wrong to me. 


Sure enough, the agency eventually lost its rankings as the website got caught into PBN review filters but I learned a ton from this experience:

  • PBNs, like most risky tactics, can work at first but Google is great at figuring you out after a year or two
  • Trying to transition from shady tactics to organic tactics after you have success doesn't work well
  • Private blog networks are expensive to build and a headache to maintain
  • Building such a business on shaky foundations does not feel good and you are constantly worried about the next update
  • It's cool as a learning tool but a really crappy way to try to build a sustainable long term business

Overall, my experience with the success of link building PLUS the fear and doubt and anxiety of black hat links is what lead me to a career where I focused on building effective white hat links that can lead to sustainable businesses.

Can PBNs Still Work?

PBNs are just websites and if those websites are authoritative and topically relevant, a link from them could boost your rankings - so sure, they can work.

The goal isn't necessarily getting ranked - its all about going undetected.

This is difficult because if a footprint you leave is common across your entire PBN – then you are going to get detected by the crawler and your sites are going to go into the manual review.

Leaving any one footprint could prove fatal as that’s enough for Google to send its PBN detection crawler to inspect all your other footprints or do a manual review on your PBN sites.

According the CTRify, you should build backlinks to your money site from other varied sources before using your PBN for links.

They also say its beneficial to build a reputation for your PBN before linking directly to your main website.

That means writing articles and establishing some traffic and topical relevance first.

You should assume that every website in your PBN will someday face a manual review and it should be your main goal to pass each review with flying colors.

How to Get PBN Backlinks

Build Your Own Private Blog Network

There are four main steps involved in building a PBN:

  1. Registering expired domains
  2. Setting up hosting for your PBN sites
  3. Creating content for your PBN sites
  4. Building links to your PBN sites

I'll cover each of these steps in detail below but for a more comprehensive guide, you can check out this one.

Step 1: Register Expired Domains

The first step in building a PBN is to find expired domains that have authority. These are domains that were once popular websites but have since expired and are now available for purchase.

To find expired domains, you can use a tool like Register Compass. This tool allows you to search for expired domains based on various criteria, such as niche, domain age, the number of backlinks, and more.

When evaluating expired domains, it's important to check their Ahrefs backlinks history for spam and their archive.org history to see if someone used it as a PBN previously.

Step 2: Set Up Hosting for Your PBN Sites

Once you've registered your domains, the next step is to set up hosting for your PBN sites. It's important to host your PBN sites on separate IP addresses from your money site.

This will help to keep your PBN sites safe from any negative SEO that may be directed at your money site. You can use a tool like WhoIs to find the IP address of a domain.

When setting up hosting for your PBN sites, you should use a shared hosting account. This will keep your costs down and make it easier to manage your PBN sites.

Step 3: Create Content for Your PBN Sites

Now that you have your domains and hosting set up, it's time to create content for your PBN sites. The content on your PBN sites should be high-quality and relevant to the niche of your money site.

To create content for your PBN sites, you can either write it yourself, hire a freelance writer or use AI tools.

Publish a series of content that is topically relevant to your money site. This will make your outbound links more powerful.

Step 4: Build Links from Your PBN Sites to Your Money Site

If you've setup your PBN correctly to avoid footprints, then this is where the magic happens. You'll be able to build powerful homepage and internal page links to your money page.

These links will send a powerful signal to Google that your website is relevant for whatever keywords you're targeting and give you a boost.

Use AI Tools like CTRify

CTRify is on my radar because of their interesting CTR manipulation features.

However, they also have PBN automation functionality.

It lets you purchase an expired domain using the Namecheap API and automatically installs a CMS onto it. 

Not only that, it starts publishing AI content on the newly purchased PBN using your keyword inputs.

Overtime you can instruct it to start linking to your money site.

Their claim to fame is their footprint proof setup and high traffic getting AI sites. 

They even have a shared network of PBNs where you can buy links from.

Overall, I haven't nor would I try their PBN service - but its interesting to see innovation in this space.

Buy PBN Links from Popular Vendors

There are several vendors who sell PBN links.

You choose a package, enter your URL and anchor text and they take care of the rest.

If you believe they are a high quality vendor, this can be an easy way to get powerful links.

It's hard enough staying out of trouble from Google with your own PBN but if you are using a vendor with volume, you have to trust they are amazing good at hiding their footprints (and they probably aren't).

I would forgo this option entirely.

Buy PBN Links from Popular Vendors (Unintentionally)

This one is a bit tongue in cheek but often, if you are buying "white hat outreach links" from link building agencies, what you are usually getting is a private blog network link. 

Agencies are notorious for this practice, intentionally or unintentionally.

Intentionally, they may sell you links from their own network or partner networks under the guise of doing real outreach.

Or unintentionally, if the webmaster they are in contact with is selling links as their primary means of monetization.

There is also a grey area when a real site starts drifting into PBN territory because they gradually stop publishing original content in lieu of paid guest posts.

Another version of this is where they publish only original content aimed at ranking for high volume terms to trick link buyers into paying top dollar.

An example of this is publishing celebrity net worth articles. Websites can use this strategy to show 50,000 Ahrefs Traffic and charge hundreds for guest posts.

For example, I have an expired domain test site. It only took me 7 articles to go from 100 traffic to 17,000 traffic.

image 12

I managed to rank for totally useless keywords that Ahrefs mistakenly gives high search volume to.

It is shocking the amount of "quality" link builders are emailing me now for links on this PBN-ish site.

It's the wild west out there folks. Be weary.

Should You Build PBN Links?

If you are experimenting or you have a churn and burn type approach to building businesses, then there may be a place for PBNs in your link building strategy.

Similarly, if you come across an incredible PBN opportunity with a high DR backlink from a homepage of a site that is perfectly in your niche and passes all the manual checks - then maybe its a good grab.

However, making the use of private blog networks as your main link building strategy leaves room for lots of risk and doesn't make good business sense to me.

There are better approaches to SEO, like link building outreach and guest posting that can have the same benefit with much less stress.

That's the direction I'd trend towards.

Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
🕒 6 mins read
Last updated on
Oct 10, 2022

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Article by
Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
Ajay enjoys tinkering with new link building strategies, building teams and processes around it and in general, has enjoyed being a part of the industry for the past decade.

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