Private Blog Network Guide – How to build a safe PBN that will last you for years

Updated: 1st July 2017

This blog post has been written to help you set up a PBN with the lowest risk of being found and subsequently de-indexed.

This is also close to 7,000 words in length, so bookmark is for later if you don’t have the time right now.

Feel free to jump to any specific topic using the table of contents on the right hand side

Contents

What is a PBN (Private Blog Network)?

A PBN is a set of domains that you control which all link back to your money site. Typically PBNs are made of expired domains that have great backlinks and therefore pass high levels of link equity to your money site

What is a PBN (Private Blog Network)
The image above shows how you have multiple sites in your PBN (blue, yellow and green) all linking to your Money site (the main site that you want to rank in the search engines) as well as other authoritative sites in your niche

How and Why does a PBN work?

The top search engine ranking factor is the number and quality of backlinks a website has. Over time as all content ends up equal in quality, the backlinks that a website has will determine whether it ranks at the top of page 1 or at the bottom.

PBNs are a shortcut method to get high-quality backlinks in large quantities.

Typically once you have created great content, you would need to do an outreach campaign to get other authoritative websites to link to your content. The conversion rate for such campaigns is abysmally low, especially now that outreach can be done in mass with the help of software. People who run authoritative websites get inundated with hundreds of outreach emails every day. Even if your content is great, unless you have an existing relationship with the webmaster, your email will simply be sent to Trash.

The other issue with outreach is that you are not in control of the Anchor text or the content surrounding the link that you get. You can end up with random anchor text or with links at the bottom of the page and not surrounded by quality content and there is nothing you can do about it.

With PBNs, you are in control of the link since you own the website linking to you. You can, therefore, choose the right anchor text, the right content, and placement of the link. Once you’ve created on PBN website and linked to your money site, you will know that it takes you $XX and YY hours to create one link. You can then scale up to acquiring 100 links by spending 100 x $xx and 100 x YY hours.

SEOs who use PBNs often create a 1000 website network over time that they completely control. They then hand-tweak the anchor texts and link velocity to “naturally” rise in the rankings.

Are PBNs a black hat strategy?

Yes. You will hear many “gurus” claim that this is not a black hat strategy in order to sell their courses. However, let’s be clear on this – any form of intentional link building is against google’s guidelines.  If Google finds out that you paid a journalist to link to your website from an editorial article, they will penalize your site. Similarly, if Google finds out that you have a network of websites linking to your money site, they will penalize your money site or de-index the PBN sites that they find.

Recently, Google has said that they don’t penalize the sites getting the link, but simply devalue the link instead. This was done to fix Negative SEO attacks on innocent sites. What this means is that the chances of your money site getting penalized due to PBNs will most likely only happen if you fail a manual review (more on that later).

Why do SEOs use PBNs as a link building strategy if Google can penalize them

There is a trade-off when using PBNs. As an SEO you accept the higher risk of a penalty for a better chance at controlling the links (quality + content + anchor text). You should also note that most SEOs use PBNs along with other white hat link building strategies. They never use PBNs on sites that have no links and always try and have a mix of backlinks i.e. natural organic backlinks from outreach as well as PBN links. PBN links let them tweak the anchor text to ensure that the sites rank for specific keywords.

History of PBNs

PBNs have an interesting history. They shot to the limelight in 2014 when Google actively went out after a couple of Public Blog Networks (these are PBNs where anyone can purchase links from).

How long have PBNs been used?

Looking at Google Trends, you can see that people have been googling “private blog networks” as early as 2005. It is likely this technique was used by many SEOs as early as that. However, this technique started showing up in IM forums around 2010. It gained steam till 2014 after which it died down for a bit due to Google penalizing a few public networks. However, soon after that it has continued to gain steam as SEOs have realized that it is much tougher for Google to find a well built private blog network that does not sell any links.

When Google penalized Two Public Blog Networks

Towards the end of 2014, Google de-indexed a bunch of PBNs and following this event, many SEOs decided never to use this technique again. There was a lot of speculation online about how these networks were found and most of them point to the networks having used very poor low-quality content and not having followed the rules required to keep a PBN private. We know that these networks sold links to the public, so it was trivial for Google to find all the websites in these networks.

Since 2014, there has not been any major news of Google going after private blog networks. The reason is probably that Google is unable to algorithmically find PBNs and needs humans to manually find and penalize them. Google is all about automation and they would therefore only bring in human reviewers once in a while in order to keep certain SEO techniques in check.

In 2017, it is therefore even more important to make sure that when a human reviewer takes a look at your PBNs they only see a list of independent, authoritative websites.

First and foremost, you want to stay away from Public Blog Networks – these are networks owned by someone else, where you can purchase a link. Since this network is public, it is easiest for a Google employee to purchase a PBN link package, then simply use the back links to trace out the entire network. This is exactly what Matt Cutts did to the public network – Anglo Rank

PBN Deindex - Matt Cutts penalizes Anglo Rank
Given a long enough timeline, all Public Blog Networks will be penalized.

 

In an ideal PBN, each domain is hidden from the others in the network and by design, a PBN makes it impossible for anyone to locate other domains forming the network. The fact that an entire network was found and de-indexed probably means that the rules were not followed.

Penalty and Deindexation

Building a PBN takes a lot of money and a lot of effort. You, therefore, want to treat this as a prized asset and want to build it to last for many more years to come. Below are reasons why PBNs get deindexed as well as rules that you should follow to ensure that you keep your PBNs as safe as possible.

Ten Reasons for Penalty or Deindexation

  1. Selling links (publicly or privately)
  2. Poor content quality (spun content) that results in a manual review
  3. Hosting multiple domains on the same IP address
  4. Having the same registration info (WhoIs) for multiple domains
  5. Hosting with SEO-hosting companies (many have their IP address range flagged)
  6. Being vocal about owning a PBN (resulting in manual review)
  7. Blocking crawlers in robots.txt and not at the web server level
  8. Using a domain that already had a penalty
  9. Not linking out to other useful websites
  10. Not mixing up Anchor texts in links from PBN

Eleven rules for building your network of private blogs/websites

  1. Different Registrars: Try and buy domains through different registrars. You should have the WhoIs Guard enabled on most domains. We do not suggest having fake details in the WhoIs records. However, if you must, do this for domains that have not cost you a lot to acquire (since you run the risk of losing the domain). Also, make sure to use the DNS of the individual registrar.
  2. Different Hosting: Each website should be on a different Subnet IP address. If an IP address is represented as AAA.BBB.CCC.DDD, then the CCC and DDD should be unique for each of the websites in the network. Many web hosts only get a small range of IP addresses that they can provide to a client. While the IP address might be different, you may get the same “AAA.BBB.CCC” – in this case, only host one or two domains with this web-host.
  3. Content: You should have unique and valuable content on each of the websites. There should be no spun content whatsoever. Treat the domains in your PBN with the same respect as you treat your money site and invest in their quality.
  4. Each domain will link out to any money site once only. No matter how tempting it is to link out to all your money sites through a single domain, remember that this only increases the risk.
  5. There should be no site-wide links – only links that are embedded in the contextual text. We strongly believe that in the future all non-contextual links are going to be devalued.
  6. Each page has a maximum of 2-5 outgoing links.  Some pages should also have no links at all. This is done to keep the link profile natural. All outbound links from a single page should go to authority sites that are relevant to your niche.  Linking out to other useful sites in your niche is very important.
  7. Each domain should start to link out to your money site only after it has got a few pages created. The initial links should all be to other authoritative sites in your niche. Don’t simply link out to Wikipedia, Youtube, and other big sites. Choose authoritative sites in your niche.
  8. Use different anchor texts when linking to your money site. This will depend on your current link profile. If you have a diverse link profile, then it’s fine to use specific anchor texts to rank. However, if your site is brand new, use a few naked URL anchor texts as well.
  9. Each website needs certain pages to pass manual review – about/contact/privacy policy.
  10. Your PBN site should be in the same niche as it was before the domain had expired. Google’s John Mueller has clearly said in a Google webmasters hangout that if Google realizes that the new website is not the same as the previous website, then the link to the old website does not apply to the new one. Basically, if you don’t stay within the same niche, the back links will lose all value.
  11. Absolutely NO selling PBN links – and no sharing information with anyone about the domains you own

PBN Planning – Planning for SERP Success

Before you start building your PBN, it makes sense to first take a step back and look at your goals in building it. A PBN is time-consuming and costly to create, so we want to make sure that you plan correctly before you start.

Remember – failing to plan is planning to fail! Don’t you agree?

Here are some things to plan for before you start on this wonderful journey.

  1. Plan for how many PBN links you need to rank
  2. Plan for how much doing this will cost you
  3. Plan for the way you will structure your network
  4. Plan for drip feeding links to your money sites
  5. Plan for managing things efficiently

Plan for how many PBN links you need to rank

There is no fixed answer for this question. The number of links you need to rank depends on how competitive a niche you are in, whether your On Page SEO is sound and how much domain authority your money site already has. As a rule of thumb, 10 PBN links should help you rank easily for a medium competition keyword.  So plan for at least building these many sites.

Plan for the cost of a PBN

Building a PBN is not easy and definitely not cheap. There are three costs to a PBN – (a) the cost of the domain, (b) the cost of hosting & (c) the cost of content.

The true value of a PBN link is based on the backlinks that the domain has and therefore you want to spend as much as possible to buy a domain that has healthy backlinks. A good domain from a broker can cost you anywhere from $80 to $500. (The really good domains can go for a lot more).

If this is your first PBN, we suggest you stay around the $100/domain range. As you gain more experience, you can decide to spend more and purchase costlier domains.

Hosting is an ongoing cost, and we don’t think you should be paying more than $15 to $20 per year for each website. Content tends to be costly as you want to make sure it is good quality content. An article of around 500 words will cost you around  $5. You can create your PBN with around 5 articles and then add a new article once every two months.

Cost of a single website = $100 (for domain) + $50 (for 5 articles) = $150 one time

Yearly cost of a single website = $30 (for 6 articles) + $20 (for hosting) = $50/yr

Total cost for 10 website PBN = $1500 one time & $500/yr ongoing.

Remember, as you add more websites to your network and you start making money, you should start adding costlier domains to your network to make it even stronger.

Plan for the way you will structure your network

The structure of your network will depend upon whether you are promoting (i) a single money site (ii) multiple money sites in the same niche (iii) multiple money sites in multiple niches.

If you are an entrepreneur, you will fall into category (i) or (ii) i.e. you have one money site that you want to rank or have a bunch of different money sites in the same niche and you want all of them to rank. In this case, your network will be simple – all your PBN domains will be on the same network and will be completely independent of each other.

Private Blog Network Architecture

If you are a marketing agency, you will most likely fall into category (iii) i.e. you have multiple clients that have money sites in different niches and you want to create PBNs to rank all your client sites.

You would be best suited to creating Master Networks for top level niches that your clients target. For example as shown in the image below, you could put all your websites that target Health and Fitness into a single “Health and Fitness Master Network” and similarly all sites in the Technology niche can be put in the “Technology Master Network”. You can then link from each of these master networks to your individual clients.

Advanced PBN Architecture with Master Networks

A generic client can get links from websites from both of these master networks, while niche specific clients get links from the specific Master networks.

There are two main benefits of creating Master networks –

(1) It protects your master networks from one another. If a single master network is found in a manual review, then the other network is not affected.

(2) You can share links between some networks wherever applicable for client websites that are not in a specific niche or are in multiple niches.

Plan for drip feeding links to your money sites

A question we often get from customers is “When should I start linking to my money site from my newly created PBN”.

The answer is – only when it is natural to do so. What this means is that if you have a new money site that has gotten no links from other means, such as outreach or guest posts, then you do not want to start sending PBN links to this site just yet.

Your PBN links are the best links that your money site will even get – the reason for this is that you are in complete control over the anchor text and link equity that the PBN link passes. We, therefore, suggest that you use PBN links very strategically.

If your money site already has backlinks from a few sources and the anchor text from the links are varied, then this is the best time to drip feed PBN links with specific anchor texts to your money site. The reason you want to make sure that the money site already has back links is so that when you drip feed your PBN links with specific anchor texts, the anchor text density for those phrases do not become unnaturally high.

Anchor text percentage is important to look at

If you owned the site above and wanted to rank for “buy bitcoin”, adding more links with this anchor text will not work out very well for you, as 16.67% is quite high. It would be better for you to wait and add other links, which lower this percentage and then add your PBN Links.

You also want to blend in your PBN links with all the other links in your network so that you pass every single manual review your site goes through.

Too many PBN owners don’t plan for this. They add the PBN links and then pray that their money sites don’t go through a manual link review. When they do get caught, they swear off PBNs and give up for good!

Plan for managing things efficiently

As you already know by now, creating and managing a PBN is a time-consuming process – time that should be spent elsewhere. You will, therefore, want to hire a Virtual Assistant (VA) who will do the steps for you.

That said – do not hire a VA until you have created the first two websites yourself. Why two sites? Well, when you are creating the first site, you will be doing it for the first time and will most likely mess things up. When you do it the second time, you will be able to write down the entire process into a word document and create relevant excel sheets which you can then pass off to a VA to create the remaining sites.

You want to make sure that the word document is as thorough as possible in order to make sure that the VA leaves no footprints behind. You can check out templates that other PBN creators have put up online. However, I strongly urge you to only use them for inspiration and to create your own process documentation. It will be a lot easier to verify that the VA has done things correctly if you created the checklist document yourself.

Yes. I know that creating and managing a PBN is a lot of hard work. I never said it would be easy. If you want to dominate the SERPs, you just have to suck it up and deal with it.

PBN Domains – Buying domains that your PBN deserves

There is one thing that you should know.

The entire value of a PBN network comes from the quality of backlinks that the domains in the network have.

The entire value …. not 80% … not 90% … but the entire 100%

The reason I want to push this point home is that a lot of customers try to lower the cost of their PBN by trying to buy cheap domains.

If you really need to lower the cost of the PBN, you would be better off trying to save money from the content than from the domain.

Great content on a crappy domain will give you nothing … Great content on a bunch of crappy domains …

Infinite Face Palms!

Now that we have that out of the way, Let’s begin.

What to look at when buying a PBN domain

You want to buy a spam free domain that has amazing backlinks from websites that are in the same niche as your money site.

If your money site is in the health niche, then you want to buy PBN domains that have backlinks from other authority sites in the health niche. You also want this domain to have many such backlinks from unique class C IP addresses.

We suggest using Majestic, Moz, and Ahrefs to find all the backlinks that your domain has. To check the niche that the backlinks are coming from, we suggest you check the Topical Trust Flow category (a Majestic metric) for the domain. You can see the entire list of topical trust flow categories here.

Metrics are a good way of quickly figuring out whether the backlinks have any value. This lets you filter down from a list of thousands of domains. However, you should always manually check the backlinks to a domain before you purchase it. No metrics are fool proof – and this is the single most important step in buying a PBN domain.

You also want to make sure that the domain does not have spammy backlinks and had not been previously used for a PBN. Here is a tutorial that shows you how to quickly check the backlinks of a domain. You also should look at the history of the domain using the Internet Archive (Wayback Machine) and Screenshots.com. If you find strange foreign language sites in the history of the domain or it looks like a spammy site or PBN site, it is best that you ignore it.

Finally, you want to check whether the domain in indexed or not. If you are buying this domain from an auction, and the domain is not indexed, it means that the domain was penalized. Domains that are Pending Delete, or have expired are immediately removed from the Google index. So, this check would not work for them.

The easy way to check if the domain is indexed by Google is to run a simple search on Google for “site:domain.com”. If no results show up, the domain has not been indexed. See screenshot below to check the same for our DomCop website.

DomCop

 

Where to buy PBN domains from

There are 5 ways to purchase great domains for your PBN

    1. Buying from domain brokers
    2. Buying from domain auctions
    3. Backordering Pending Delete domains
    4. Manually catching dropped domains
    5. Archive lists of dropped domains
    6. Using an expired domains crawler

Buying domains from brokers

This is the preferable option if you are creating your first PBN. Evaluating and buying a domain from an auction (or an expired domain) takes a lot of time and skill in checking backlinks. So, you should purchase the first 2 to 3 PBN domains from a broker.

You can find brokers at various forums like BlackHatWorld and WickedFire. Beware that you may meet a few scammers. Definitely, do your due diligence before you make any purchases. These forums have official sales threads and it makes sense to purchase through one of them.

Buying from domain auctions

The domains with the best backlinks always find their way to domain auctions. GoDaddy Auctions is currently the best place to find high-quality domains. However, there are now quite a few other auction sites like NameJet, SnapNames, Dynadot,  Flippa etc that are worth a look. (We support these and much more at DomCop).

The only downside to purchasing from domain auctions is that when you bid on a domain, it attracts other bidders. This causes the average price of a domain in an auction to go up – this benefits the auction site, but makes it very hard for SEOs to find a good domain for cheap. One trick is to only bid on a domain when there are just a few minutes left. This ensures that your bid does not attract too many other bidders and is your best bet at getting a domain for cheap.

Backordering Pending Delete domains

Your best bet to buying an expired domain is to place a back order for it before it expires. Domains that are going to drop end up in the “Pending Delete” status 5 days before they are going to drop (see domain lifecycle below)

Domain Lifecycle

These domains can be found in the “Expiring” section at DomCop. If a domain is valuable, we suggest you place multiple backorders with different sites like NameJet & SnapNames. Since you only pay if they catch the domain for you, you can place the backorder with multiple sites and let them compete against each other. A typical backorder costs you around $69, although each site has their own pricing.

Manually catching dropped domains

We do not suggest you do this. The only reason to have this option list here is to highlight it. Many of our customers have tried to save the $69 back ordering cost of the domain by trying to catch the dropped domain themselves, by either using a drop catching software or by manually registering it.

If a domain is valuable, the back ordering services will definitely try and catch it. These back ordering services have multiple direct lines to the domain registry and therefore cannot be beaten at the drop catching game by individuals.

So, if the domain is indeed valuable, save yourself time – and just cough up the cost of a back order.

Archive lists of dropped domains

Some valuable domains get ignored by the back ordering services.  This could be because the Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs do not show high metrics for it, even though the back links are good or this could be just due to human error. Roughly 200,000 domains drop every day, so there is a chance that you can find some diamonds in the rough.

At DomCop, we maintain an Archive of dropped domains with good metrics. These are domains that have dropped in the last two years but are still available to purchase.

Using an expired domain crawler

We launched our personal expired domain crawler (Guru Plan) in early 2016 and it was a roaring success with our customers.

A crawler is a useful tool if you are a domain broker or want to create a large PBN. An expired domain crawler crawls all the pages of an authority website that you specify. It finds all the broken back links from this website and checks whether the domains that these links are pointing to are available to register.

Expired Domains Crawler

If the domain is available to register, the crawler gets metrics from Moz, Majestic, and other sites and presents the domain to the user. These expired domains can be purchased from any registrar of your choice and you only pay the default registration fee for the domain. For more information on how the crawler works, check out our tutorial on using our expired domains crawler.

What metrics should I look at?

Ah, the question on metrics again! Customers are overwhelmed with having so many metrics to look at, that they get paralyzed from buying domains. They don’t know whether to look at the Ahrefs Domain Rating or Moz Domain Authority or the Majestic Trust Flow or Moz Rank or SEMrush Rank or Estibot value or….

All I can say to them is … Stop

Metrics are useful to help you filter down from a list of 200,000 expiring domains to a list of 20 expired domains. This saves you a  lot of time. However, that is where the usefulness typically ends.

You have to – have to – check the backlinks of a domain before you purchase it. There are no short cuts here.

That said you can definitely use metrics to gauge the spamminess of a domain you are going to purchase.  For a PBN domain you want the TF/CF ratio to be as close to 1 as possible (and higher). Domains with fake backlinks tend to have a TF/CF ratio of < 0.8 and so you may want to stay away from them. Another metric to check for Spam is the Moz Spam Score. The lower the better.

The only metric that I find truly useful is the Majestic Topical Trust Flow Category. This tells you which niche the domain has backlinks from and I strongly urge every customer to try and buy as many niche specific domains as they can for their PBN.

This article should hopefully get you started with buying your first PBN domain. Don’t freak out if this is taking longer than you expected or if you are not finding a great domain to start with. Get your PBN started with a “good enough” domain. You can always add more awesome domains to your PBN later.

 

PBN Hosting – How to create a massive network while leaving no footprints!

Hosting is the most un-glamorous part of creating a PBN. Well… it’s not like the other parts are glamorous … but you get my point. PBNers hate having to think about hosting and hate even more having to pay hosting fees.

However, your hosting decisions can literally kill your PBNs. They are the source of the biggest footprint available to the search engines to figure out and do a massive deindexation of your PBNs, so this is something you really need to be careful about.

Many a PBNer left a footprint the size of the Enterprise in their PBNs and then threw a hissy fit when their PBN got de-indexed.

Let’s make sure this is not You!

For starters – Do not use a service that claims to specialize in hosting PBNs – especially one that markets itself with that. If you have found this service, then rest assured that a Google employee will have found it before you. It is trivial for Google to spend a few $$$$ and create accounts at such a hosts, get a list of all IP ranges for these hosts and start mass de-indexation.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s discuss what kind of hosting you can use.

  • Virtual Private Servers
  • Common Web hosts
  • Hosts from forums like Webhostingtalk
  • Cloud Hosting – Amazon S3 with Route 53 & Google Cloud

Virtual Private Servers

This is my favorite option because you don’t have to share the IP address with any other website and these high-quality providers have millions of high-quality websites on their servers. However, you need to have some technical chops to be able to manage a VPS hosting. It’s pretty easy, though, especially if you use our tutorial on how to setup WordPress to run on a low-end VPS.

Recently, there was a price war between high-quality providers like Linode, Digital Ocean, and Vultr. The result is that Vultr now sells a 512 MB RAM VPS for only $30/year.  OVH sells a 2 GB RAM VPS for $45/year.

Apart from these providers, you have a bunch of other VPS providers that provide even cheaper hosting. You can check out sites like lowendbox.com, vpsboard.com, and lowendstock.com to find providers that sell VPSes for $12 to $15 per year. Just make sure that the provider has been in business for a few years. Many providers go bankrupt and either shut down their servers or sell their customers to other providers.

Common Web hosts

This is the simplest option for those who do not want to deal with setting up a VPS. You can use common web hosts like HostGator, Bluehost, HostMonster, GoDaddy etc.

The only issue with these web hosts is that it’s a pain managing them and they tend to be a lot costlier than other options. However, it is good to have a portion of your PBNs setup with these hosts.

Hosts from forums like Webhostingtalk

You can also find cheap hosting by visiting forums such as webhostingtalk.com. I, however, recommend you try and stay with the high-quality VPSes as far as possible. This used to be a great place to find cheap providers, but now with the price wars among top hosts, the savings do not justify the headaches.

Cloud Hosting – Amazon S3 with Route 53 & Google Cloud

With the advent of cloud hosting, you can now host static websites with Amazon S3 and Google Cloud. I don’t have any personal experience with Google Cloud, but I do with Amazon S3. You can setup a static website for as little as $6/year. Amazon has a simple tutorial on setting up a static website on S3 using Route 53.

Now that you’ve decided on your hosting options, let look at how to ensure that you do not leave any footprints. I won’t discuss all the common footprints that you already know about. (If you don’t, check out our Beginner’s PBN Guide). These are footprints that most people don’t talk about. These are footprints that will cause mass de-indexation and make even more people write blog posts swearing to never go near a PBN again.

Don’t block Crawlers (using robots.txt or other means)

You will find loads of websites telling you to block crawlers like Majestic, Moz, and Ahrefs from crawling your website so that your PBN links do not show up on those sites. At first glance, this sounds like a smart thing – but now put yourself in Google’s shoes. Do ordinary sites block these crawlers specifically? What kind of sites block these crawlers – only those that have something to hide? How easy is it to find such sites? The answer is that it is Trivial.

At first glance, this sounds like a smart thing – but now put yourself in Google’s shoes. Do ordinary sites block these crawlers specifically? What kind of sites block these crawlers – only those that have something to hide? How easy is it to find such sites? The answer is that it is Trivial.

Even if you do not use robots.txt and do this via .htaccess or using a WordPress plugin, if Google really wanted to find all PBN sites, all it had to do was crawl your website using a different User Agent. (They already do this to find cloaked content)

If you setup your PBNs correctly then no manual reviewer should be able to see a link to your website and know that it is from a PBN website. The PBN website should look and function like a real website. Therefore, don’t block any crawlers. Let your competitors see all the backlinks you have. If you have done your job right, they won’t know which links are PBN links.

Don’t use Cloudflare to hide their IP

Many PBNers started using Cloudflare to mask their real IP. The reason to do this is that they did not want to deal with the hassle of setting up separate hosting for every PBN site. So the simple solution – set up all your PBNs on one IP address (or Subnet) and then use Cloudflare to mask the real IPs.

Unfortunately, this false sense of security is going to come back to bite many lazy PBNers. Cloudflare is known to leak real IPs. In fact, there is a website called CrimeFlare that can show you the real IP of your website. They also allow you to download their entire database. Don’t believe me – go on and check it out!

Don’t use the same Google Analytics or Google Search Console account

Using the same Google account for each of your PBN sites is the biggest, most obvious footprint out there. Please don’t do this. If you absolutely need this information, then create a unique Google account for every website and ensure that you only sign into these accounts using unique IP addresses.

Content Strategy

The important thing to note about content writing is what we call the Freshness Factor. Search engines give more weight-age to websites that constantly have new content. No one really knows what is a good freshness factor – but I believe that having one article a month would be good enough to keep the websites fresh. Remember – it is important the content is high quality.

That said, I actually recommend not writing any content immediately. Content tends to be the costliest aspect of a PBN (apart from the cost of an awesome expired domain) and therefore it makes sense to check whether the domain is clean and has no penalty before spending time and money on content. When you have a domain and hosting, I suggest you put up a website with a single page of content on it and follow the process below.

Penalty Check One: Once you put up a default site with a single page of content, wait for a couple of weeks. If the site has not been indexed in 2 weeks, the domain may have been penalized. You can wait for an additional 2 weeks at this time, but beyond that, I suggest you accept that you bought a bad domain and move on to the next one.

Penalty Check Two: After a domain has been indexed, you should check if the domain ranks for the naked URL search. For example, if the domain is “mynichedomain.com” you should run searches for “mynichedomain.com”, “mynichedomain” and “my niche domain” to see where the domain ranks. If the domain does not rank at the top for “mynichedomain.com”, you should wait for a while till it does. Once it starts ranking for the naked URL search, you can start building content and link out to other authoritative sites.

SEO your content – You want to treat every site in your PBN as good as your money site. So make sure you spend enough time doing on-page SEO for your PBN websites. Have a strategy to rank for low volume keywords, by placing them in the URL, title, description, headings and content of every page. If your PBN website gets natural organic traffic from Google, it will have a much better chance to pass the manual review (or not need a manual review in the first place)

Backlink Strategy

Do not start link building immediately. Once you are sure that the domain has been indexed and ranks for its naked domain name and you have put a few links to other authority sites, you can create a page (or use an existing page) related to your money site and place a link there.

You should check the back links to the domain in Majestic and/or Ahrefs and choose a page that has the most back links to it. Placing the link to your money site on this page will ensure you get the maximum link juice to it.

Remember to link to this page from other pages (especially the homepage) from the website. This is to help the link equity flow easily to the page with your link.

Passing manual reviews

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. Here are a few things that reviewers look at

  • Contact information – A reviewer would like to find out if there is a real person behind the website. He would look for contact information on the about/contact page. Create a fake persona for this. Your about page should give information on why this person created the website and what he hopes to achieve by it. On the contact page, give some options to visitors to get in touch with the person
  • Blog comments – Blog comments send an instant message to the reviewer that the blog is being read by an audience that is communicating with the writer. You can add some fake comments to every article you publish. Remember to reply back as the blog author to each of those comments.
  • Privacy policy – Google requires all its AdSense publishers to have a privacy policy. Although this is not a must have for you, it is always good to create this page and link to it from the footer.

Final word

Building an effective PBN for SEO is a slow game. If you build too many links to a new website, you are going to land into trouble. So whenever you are not sure of your link building speed, choose the slower option. Invest in building your PBN over the long run. Once you have a successful network, you will be able to use it for as long as you want.

Buy Great Domains for your PBN

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions we get frequently via email from customers.
Q: On your PBN site, do you link all articles on the homepage or do you have links to inside posts too?

A: Link from all pages. Your PBN Site should look exactly like your money site. Do all outgoing links only go out from the homepage of your money site? you should, therefore, link out from home page and individual pages as well.

Q: Can I monetize the traffic to my PBN sites using Adsense?

A: Absolutely not! This would leave a large footprint and you can be certain for a penalty. I understand the need to monetize every visitor you can get – but seriously – don’t do this.

Q: Does the expired domain have to be in the same niche as my money site?

A: It’s great if you can find expired domains in your niche. However, that is not always possible or cost effective. You can then use expired domains from other niches, but find a way to get a link that seems natural.

Q Where do I link to money site from? Home page or individual articles

A: It is well known that a home page link passes a lot more juice than a link from an article. However, most natural links to websites come from articles and not home pages. So while you could have a few handful home page links, the majority of your links should come from individual articles.

Buy Great Domains for your PBN

Once you have read this blog post, we recommend checking out the pbn setup checklist guide right before you create your PBN.

  • Omri Ben-Canaan

    great article. So much I didn’t know… Thank you guys !

  • harlee page

    I was doing some research on some sites that were sent to me to
    possibly purchase and I’m not sure if I’m covering “ALL” my bases….

    If I’m looking at site “SITEX” and on majestic seo and Ahrefs it looks
    Great. Lots of descent looking back links. Hundreds of different domains
    the links are coming from the PA and DA look strong. BUT… Then I get
    with SeoMoz and it shows hardly any links
    and a spam rating of 15. Besides this when I check with Way-back
    Machine I see a 302 redirect to another site with the Same PR. Should
    the 302’s and 301’s on Way-back Machine searches scare me Away from
    purchasing “SITEX.com”
    .. I Googled “info:SITEX ” and seen that it wasn’t pointing to another
    URL. If anyone is really familiar with wayback and can help me I’d
    REALLY LOVE YOU LOOOONG TIME… :)))

    Am I doing enough digging or is there more to be done???

    Thanks so much for your time,

  • harlee page

    I’D REALLY APPRECIATE “ANY” HELP… THANKS AGAIN
    harlee.social@gmail.com

  • great article

  • hi,
    I have some query about hosting, DE and CMS:
    Please reply :
    1Q: Can I use same hosting service provider (ex: namecheap) (different IPs) with different account and different billing information for a mini PBN (10 domains)?
    2Q: Or I have to use 10 domains for 10 different hosting service provider like, namecheap, hostgator, goddady and etc?
    3Q: Can I made all domain CMS are WordPress CMS? or I have to use different CMS for 10 different domains?
    4Q: I get 10 expired domains with different extension like .com, .net, .info and .org. My maximum domains extension are .com and .net. It’s ok or I have to get 10 different extension for a PBN?

  • Wojciech Tuleja

    SEOOWL made creation guid for PBN, focused mostly on domcop http://seoowl.net/private-blog-network-guide/

  • Great post about PBN.

    I am using free hosted blogs, is it ok to use this as my PBN?

  • Anne, using free hosted blogs will not give you unique IP addresses. I would suggest you go with either shared hosting or (even better) low cost VPS

  • Thanks for mentioning us, Wojciech 🙂

  • Hi Chalat,

    1Q – Namecheap is a registrar. I would suggest going with cheap shared hosting providers or low cost VPS solutions. Regarding different billing info – you don’t need to generally do this – as long as your WhoIs is protected, you can have the same billing details.

    2Q – If you have 30 domain PBN, spread these across 3-4 registrars (e.g. NameCheap, DynaDot, GoDaddy, Name.com etc). For hosting – each domain should have a unique IP address. Generally you would try to go with different hosts for this.

    3Q – You can use WordPress for all sites. The reason is that WP powers 20% of all websites online. So even if most of your links come from WP sites, it will look natural

    4Q – Since .com is the most common extension, you can have most of the domains with this extension (80%) – the remaining can be other extensions. This does not really matter that much – so I would not worry about it.

  • Thanks Ravijeet. Hope this has helped you.

  • Sorry for the late reply Harlee.

    Moz, Majestic and Ahrefs only crawl together a small percentage of the internet. Hence its normal for a website to show X links in Majestic and Z in Ahrefs. You should add all of them together. You should also double check that the links are still there, before you purchase the domain – sometimes the link has disappeared, but the tools have not updated their databases.

    Moz Spam score of 15 would be a cause for concern. Also 301 redirects should make you check whether the back links are to the domain you are checking or some other domains.

  • Glad you found it useful, Omri

  • Thanks Sophia! I really appreciate your time to reply.. 😉

  • Dan

    Thank you for the great article. Question: where do you host your money/base sites? Do you host each money site on a separate hosting account? And do you always host your money sites and your PBN sites on different hosting accounts?

  • You should always host your money sites and the individual PBN sites on different hosting accounts.

    Your money site should be on a reliable, fast hosting account. The PBN sites can be on much cheaper servers – low end VPS or cheap shared hosting.

  • Dan

    You’re awesome, Sophia, thanks!

  • jobs gk
  • Darius

    Hello, can i buy domains (10 to 20 different domains) under one and the same registrar name and later on link each domain to different VPS server? Which IP address google would see then?

  • Yes. You can purchase 10 to 20 different domains under a single registrar. You need to update the DNS for each domain to a different IP address of your VPS server. This way Google will see unique IPs for each domains.

    You should also try and use different registrars – for e.g. if you have a 100 PBN domain, you can register the domain at 5 different registrars, 20 domains each.

  • Darius

    Thank you for a fast response. If i’m trying to build PBN for a country specific region and language should i get VPS in the same country or it doesnt have big difference in which country it will be located and most important thing is that the IP would be different?

  • Having a local VPS does not have that big an impact and since VPS in local countries can be a lot costlier than the US, it actually does not make much sense.

    Look at the website that currently ranks #1 to #3 for your keyword. Check out the location of the backlinks to it using Majestic. You will most likely see most of the links from the US and not the local country.

  • Muhammad Talha

    Thank you for the awesome article. You explained it clearly. As mentioned above that not to link sites in a single Search Console/Analytics account, I would like to ask is it OK to link different money sites in a single Search Console/Analytics account?

    I’m not talking about PBN sites. For example, if I have 5 money sites each having a completely different private network, is it safe to link them in a single Search Console/Analytics account for the sake of convenience?

    Please note that ALL of these money sites have different networks and they’re not interlinked in any way. Money site examples:

    1) ABC.com
    2) XYZ.net
    3) 123.org
    4) 321.info
    5) CBA.biz

    Thank you.

  • The answer is No.

    The reason is simply – if manual reviewers figure out your PBN network, they now know your money-site. Having all your money-sites linked together, means that it is easy for someone to find all your money sites out, thereby putting them all at risk of a penalty.

    The only situation where this can be done is if you are using the same adsense account to monetize a bunch of money-sites. In this case, there already is a link between them, so you can for convenience have them use a single Search Console/ Analytics account.

  • Muhammad Talha

    Thank you Sophia for clearing it up.

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  • PBN is good as long as your intention is good!

  • I have web development and SEO experience however I have always shied away from PBN’s. I now realize that done right, it may help achieve results faster so I am going to give it a try. Thanks to this post I feel more comfortable dabbing into PBN’s.I have web development and SEO experience however I have always shied away from PBN’s. I now realize that done right, it may help achieve results faster so I am going to give it a try. Thanks to this post I feel more comfortable dabbing into PBN’s.

  • Great article. So much I didn’t know about building a PBN… Thank you! 🙂

  • Great article about building a PBN… Thank you! 🙂

  • Eki Selalubisa

    how i setting the pbn if i want to hide from bot crawler, like ahrefs etc ??

  • Mix links with other web 2.0s. Using WP plugins to hide your PBNs are an obvious footprint. Hide in plain sight by looking natural.

  • Eki Selalubisa

    Moses Yoon can i know what are WP Plugin for that ??

    thanks

  • Thank you very much for your informations. Good PBN article.

  • One of the best PBN guide I ever read. Thank you, Sophia.
    Just a quick question: can I use more VPS from the same company? Will I have different (and uniques) IPs?

    Thank you.

  • Yes. Each VPS has a unique IP – so you can purchase multiple VPS from the same company.

    Do note that multiple VPS in a single location may have the same class C IP – for e.g. you may get two VPS in the same location with IP 192.168.1.20 & 192.168.1.21 – In such cases, if the VPS provider has multiple locations, then you should choose one VPS from every different location.

    If you have a small PBN (say 50 sites) – then definitely only purchase one VPS per location. However, if your PBN is larger (500 sites), you can afford to have some of the websites with the same class C IP.

  • Cool, thank you.

  • Mike Maciejewski

    What is the purpose of using wordpress multi site if we are hosting one site per vps?

    Thanks,
    Mike

  • Seolearner

    Great writeup. I built my own 10 site pbn but it took a lot of time and effort, and i filled it up pretty fast with 5-10 of my own OBL. I’ve had a lot of success ranking my keywords with services on source.market-wave (now konker.io). This is my go to gig now : http://www.konker.io/services/16397-phoenix-network-5-penguin-4-0-safe-super-strong-pbn-links-tf-25-40

    Good luck guys!

  • Aga Ageddansa

    That’s a good article, but there’s nothing about hiding PBN. You can have a blog network in one server, thats the cheapest solution then You can use for hidding Your PBN http://rocketips.com I’ve got a big PBN hidded from google, also my PBN is on one server and it’s from different countries at the same time. Also I block from rocketips panel ahrefs and majestic bots and created masked DNS for every domain. So that’s is the most powerfull fact that google can find my PBN. Masking is a standard if You want to build good blog network and creating a bussiness.

  • Pat G.

    But even if you create separate Google Analytics and Google Console accounts for each of your money sites, you will, more than likely, be logging into each separate account from the same IP address, correct? I would think that Google could easily pick up on this and create the relation.

  • There are certain measures to take care of while building a PBN ,
    Hosting is most important requirement now days. I do build the PBN with c
    class IP Address and always publishing unique contents.

  • John

    if you need someone to rank your website this guy does a good job.
    http://www.konker.io/services/4119?affid=d9565c

  • tom

    I have a question
    I wonder if I really must have a unique IP Address 1 per domain. or it is also possible to have multiple websites in my pbn network which linked to different sites money. Like below

    linking from pbn website 1 and pbn website 2 with 1 ipadress to money site —– this is what you say here above

    or can we do

    website 1 with 1 ipadress adres is gooing to money site 1 and
    website 2 with same ipadres as above is gooing to money site 2

    so i have 2 blog websites(pbn site) on the same ipadres, but each blog website its going to he’s own moneysite.

  • You could do this, but it increases the risk of your network being penalized.

    It’s very easy for the search engines to know that two sites are using the same IP address. If any one of your sites get caught in a manual review, it will take down the other site with it, automatically.

    If you are going to spend hours and $$$ creating your PBNs then it makes sense to keep the risk as low as possible. You might pay a little more for hosting – but in the long run your PBN will be much safer.

  • tom

    Thanks for you’re fast reply.

    Than is better to have 2 websites on 1 ipadres who linking to the same money site. Or not?

  • No. That is in fact much worse since the search engines will easily figure out the foot print => Two websites on the same IP pointing to the same money site is really easy to find.

  • tom

    okay, thank you verry much, so the best is, 1 ipadres to 1 moneysite right?

  • Yes. One PBN domain on one unique IP address sending a link to only one money site 🙂

  • tom

    Great! Thanks!

  • Uzeir Dalip

    is in the root domain that should have the trust flow score or can it be sub domain or even path/URL in Majestic?

  • Chris Dixon of Majestic mentioned the following at the official Majestic blog – https://blog.majestic.com/development/trust-flow-yo-yo-algorithm-update-majestic/

    – If you are buying or selling domains, don’t evaluate at the sub-domain level if you are buying a Top Level Domain.

    So for buying expired domains, only look at the root domain TF score

  • Uzeir Dalip

    so just to dumb it down for myself – if I am buying a domain – I would want the TF to be 10+ on the example.com version not the http://www.example.com or the http://example.com

  • Yes. Exactly. This is also the reason why at DomCop, we only show root domain TF and other majestic metrics.

  • Uzeir Dalip

    thanks Sophia I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions – I have more question – when looking at the back link profile would you only look at the domain version and would the domain version include the links the sub domain have. so for example if the www. has spammy links with the root domain also be affected by those spammy links

  • I would look at all the links that the domain has (root, www and any other subdomains). It is very likely that the domain was spammed on one of those versions and might have a penalty.

  • Uzeir Dalip

    just to dumb it down for me again – only look at domain (example.com) level stats when buying a domain but still look at the linking profile of different versions (www. or http://) just in case one of them has been spammed?

  • Yes. Exactly. The reason we use metrics is only to make it easier to filter out the top domains from a large list. At DomCop we have 300,000 domains added everyday – metrics make it really easy to filter the top 10/50/100 domains from this list. Then, you manually check the backlinks of these domains and make a buying decision based on the back-links.

  • Uzeir Dalip

    thanks again for your time 🙂

  • Good content but I really believe – building some reputation for your PBN before creating different links directing to your main site will actually help as your PBN also will have some reputation and will help when Google updates are released or even for a manual review.

  • El Cujo

    Hi, I know someone who owns 218 domains and monetize it with Adsense. Any ideas of how he achieve this?