If you’ve had anything to do with the SEO world lately, you have probably seen the destruction being wreaked on one of the mainstays of optimizers around the world; that of the mighty Private Blog Network, aka PBN.
Now before anyone things this is a post bashing PBNs, let me put your mind at ease: the traditional PBN still works and works well, which is why Google has devoted so many resources to taking it on. Let me explain more in this video:
There are many gurus still teaching this as their main SEO tactic, which is fine. It’s a powerful strategy. However, you have to be extremely careful about how you do it.
Do you really think it’s useful to throw up a website that only has a couple of articles on them, none of them on the same topic, all only about 600 words in length with (maybe) a picture and a couple of links? Imagine for a second that you were on the other side of the search: you’re trying to find info on something, an article on this PBN comes up. It’s ok, but pretty vanilla. At least it was written well. It has a random link to wikipedia and another link to some other website, but that’s it. Is that site worth your time? Nope.
Look I confess, I’ve used the traditional model in the past and it does work. Really well. But I’ve been saying in private conversations for some time that it’s not going to last very long as currently taught.
Current PBN Methodology
For people not aware of PBNs or for those in the future looking back and laughing at the wild tactics of 2014 (like I do at the post from 8 years ago telling people to stop using Free For All links): this is a typically taught setup:
- Buy an aged domain with strong incoming links
- Point it to hosting on SEO Hosting on separate C Block IP addresses
- Install WordPress
- Add an article with: 600 words, 1 picture, 1 link to an authority website and 1-3 links to your money site
- Keep adding such articles on different topics linking to different money sites
- Buy another aged domain and rinse and repeat.
What’s The Current Formula Missing?
This is easy for Google to figure out. Take a second to see if you’ve come up with the same things as I did (and if you came up with others, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!).
- Visitors to the site
- Social shares (twitter, facebook, google+, pinterest etc)
- Growth of the site
- A coherent theme
Google has a patent which talks about tracking the IP address of visitors to a site. They don’t need Google Analytics installed to do that – how hard would it be to track anonymous behaviour through Chrome, the calls to Google Fonts, Youtube or Gstatic? Yeah, not hard at all. They’re not technically spying on you because it’s just an IP address – for the purpose of this patent they really don’t care who that IP address is attached to.
What conclusion would you draw if you saw that only 1 IP address was accessing a website? What if that website had no tweets or likes? What if that site didn’t grow? What if that site had a couple of articles on there that were completely unrelated? If it was me, I’d flag it for spam and get one of my reviewer army people to verify that it was indeed a spam site.
That’s exactly what’s been happening these last few weeks. The complaints about inconsistency in the penalties is most likely because the manual spam checking team hasn’t gotten to your site yet.
What Can Be Done About It?
Take everything I say with a grain of salt. The fallout from Penguin 3 is still going on and we haven’t seen the last of this. If your PBN sites have survived, congrats. Just bear in mind that if you’ve built them the way I listed above there’s a good chance you’ll be deindexed soon (sorry to be the bearer of bad news), so get on with fixing them quickly.
You need to theme your PBNs. That’s a given. But more importantly, I like to imagine that I’m trying to rank my “PBN” sites. If you’re trying to do that, you’ll build them completely differently. You’ll attach them to a Google, Facebook, Twitter etc account, spread the word about them, link to them through social media, write engaging, on point articles, design them beautifully. And hey, if one of those articles happens to also link back to your money site, great.
I’ve also been moving more towards a “PBBN” (Personal Brand Broadcasting Network) as taught by Network Empire, which basically can make you independent of the vagaries of Google ranking. As I’ve seen on several occasions, Google is great, but magical things happen when you engage with people en masse.
Remember: PBNs are being targeted so fiercely precisely BECAUSE they’re still working well. You just have to set them up the right way.