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

What is a Private Blog Network (PBN) – 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 back links and therefore pass high levels of link equity to your money-site

Purpose of this blog post – This blog post has been written to help you setup a PBN with the lowest risk of being found and subsequently de-indexed.  Once you have read this blog post, we recommend checking out the pbn setup checklist guide.

Table of Contents

When Google penalized Private 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.

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 reviewers takes a look at your PBNs they only see a list of independant, 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 time line, 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.

Today, you are going to create your PBN following the specific rules list below. Ignore these at your own peril.

10 Reasons for Penalty or Deindexation

  1. Selling links (publicly or privately)
  2. Poor content quality (spun content) that results into 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

10 rules for building your network of private blogs/websites

  1. Different Registrars: Try and buy domains through different registrars. You should have the Who Is Guard enabled on most domains. We do not suggest having fake details in the Who Is records. However, if you must, do this for domains that have not cost you a lot to aquire (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 hose 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 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 its 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. Absolutely NO selling PBN links – and no sharing information with anyone about the domains you own

Private Blog Network

Above you can see a sample network architecture for a PBN with 3 domains. A mini pbn would have about 30 domains, whereas larger ones can easily grow to above 1000+ domains. Each domain also links out to other high authority sites in your niche.

Domain Acquisition

Your Private Blog Network is only as good as the expired domains it is made of!

All the link equity for a PBN network comes from the back links to the expired domains in the network. Many a PBN builders spend $$$ building the perfect network with great content and good hosting, but spend very little on their expired domains. Unfortunately it does not matter how good the content is or how safe your network is, if you don’t have awesome expired domains, then your network is worthless.

To get the perfect domains for your network, head right over to DomCop [shameless plug]. Search for domains that are at least 3 years old, have 10+ referring domains and have a Majestic Trust Flow of at least 15 for the root domain. Bonus points if the Topical Trust Flow matches the niche that your money-site is in.

If you have not already, read this to know why we only look at the metrics of the root domain.

Look at the Majestic Seo Trust Flow and Citation Flow ratio as it will give you a good idea on how good the domain is. A ratio close to 1 is the best. Very low ratios mean that the back links to the domain are fake. Check out all the three sections – Expiring, Expired and Archived. (There are loads of decent domains available for registration in the Archive). Use the following 4 point checklist to quickly reject domains.

If you are building a large PBN, definitely check out the Personal expired domains crawler, provided by the Guru Plan.

Great expired domains are in high demand and their supply is limited. The best expired domains get picked up by Drop Catchers – read this to know all about backordering domains

The best domains will be found in auctions – where you will need to pay a premium. The next best set of domains are caught by Drop Catchers. Finally the next best set of domains can be purchased directly after a domain expires.

When you are starting out and do not have enough funds to invest in an awesome domain (TF 40+), then you can drop catch TF15+ domains (or purchase them from the Expired/Archived sections).  However, once you start making money do remember to invest in powerful expired domains so as to build the strength of your blog network.

Software/Hosting/Platform Strategy

Hosting: We do not believe in SEO hosting since there is way too much risk involved. Google knows the IP ranges for those hosts and it would be trivial for them to figure out which sites are part of PBNs hosted there. The advantage of a PBN is that someone else’s carelessness (or greed or stupidity) does not affect us.  You are therefore much better off buying low cost VPS from different providers so that there is no single point of failure. Check out LowEndBox.com or VPSBoard.com for a 128 MB VPS for around $10 – $15 a year.  128 MB is more than enough for a LEMP server with wordpress. (64MB if you plan to host a static website)

For those who find setting up and managing a VPS too much of a challenge, you can go with shared hosting. However, I think it would be a good investment if you took the time to learn how to manage VPS hosting. I promise it is not too tough and definitely worth it in the long run.

If you have static websites, you can use AWS S3 + Route 53 to host 10-20% of the websites in your PBN. Hosting charges come to about $1/mo and it’s also pretty easy to setup.

Software: We love WordPress. About 20% websites in the world run on WP and so it is a safe default CMS. You could also use other CMSes as well as static HTML to mix things up.  Do not go with the default theme in any CMS. It only takes a few minutes to change to a different theme. Also add some default pages to your site. We recommend – Contact Us, About Us, Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

Analytics: You may want to use analytics on your sites to see how much traffic the PBN sites get. However, this would either leave a footprint or you would have to create a new analytics account for each site (from different providers). Do not ever link your sites together in a single Analytics or Webmaster Tools (Google Search Console) account.

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 be 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 in 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 site, 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

  • 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