Why Are Private Blog Network (PBN) Links Bad and How To Spot Them

what are private blog networks and are they bad for seo

You can’t dismiss the value of link development if you want to improve your website’s organic traffic. Backlinks, along with your content, are among the topmost ranking determinants, according to Google.

Link building is an effective SEO strategy, and the appropriate links may boost your ranks and organic visibility. Backlinks, on the other hand, aren’t simple to get by. At least, not when you adopt Google’s Webmaster Guidelines-compliant strategies.

To expedite their blog’s sustainable growth, some SEOs prefer to utilise practises that go against these recommendations, such as leveraging private blog networks (PBNs).

In this article, we’ll go into this aggressive link-building strategy and debunk some of the prevalent misconceptions about it.

What are Private Blog Networks (PBN), and how do they work?

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A private blog network (PBN) is a collection of websites that link to one another often. These link networks are made up of low-quality links that are used to skew search engine results.

PBNs are frequently used by SEOs who want to be in “complete control” of their link-building operations. Other white hat link building strategies, such as online PR, damaged link building, or source link building, entail third-party editorial placement of links, which SEOs and webmasters can’t necessarily manage.

As a result, expired domains are frequently used to create PBNs. These expired domains once housed a website that had accumulated links and established some amount of control in the eyes of search engines. These expired domains are bought and transformed into sites that are part of a secret blog network, with new material added to ensure that the outbound connections pass PageRank.

The black hat approach is commonly used by SEOs who make considerable efforts to keep Google from determining that their sites are part of a network or detecting any footprint between them. Examples of such measures include:

  • Hosting with a variety of web hosting companies
  • Using a variety of domain registrars to register the domains
  • Different domain extensions are being used.
  • Various themes or layouts are employed.

Creating material that does not contain links to money-making websites in an effort to cover up postings that do include links to money-making websites

Despite the fact that PBN sites are frequently referred to as being the subject of a network, the objective is for individuals to seem to be on a stand-alone site.

Imagine having a private blog network where you could put links to your website, with the precise anchor text that you wanted to use whenever you wanted, and to whichever page you felt needed boosting rather than earning links.

PBNs are a blatant breach of Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines, and using them may result in your site being punished by the search engine. We would not condone or endorse this strategy as a result of these considerations.

Is it possible that you are using PBNs without realising it?

A large number of link builders rely on private blog networks (PBNs) because, once the network is in operation, it is quick, straightforward, and cost-effective for them to add new links.

In other sayings, if you’re outsourcing that element of your SEO, you may be already employing PBNs without even realising it.

In our sector, this is true of everyone from small link builders to the most prominent guest posting service providers, which are continuously advertised on billboards and in print ads.

This includes a large number of SEO specialists that proclaim to be “pure white hat” and who claim to exclusively utilise strategies that comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in their work.

PBNs are considered to be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines.

Using private blog networks (PBNs) is not a suggested link-building strategy. If we take a glance at the Link Scheme standards published by Google, we can observe that:

The inclusion of links with the intent of manipulating PageRank or a platform’s ranking in Google search results might well be deemed a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and may result in a penalty. This includes any action that attempts to influence links to your website or links pointing away from your site in any way.

Private blog networks fall into this category. The links that originate from such sites are meant to influence Google search results (these connections are not earned but rather are posted by someone operating on behalf of the site in question).

The primary concern is that PBNs are being utilised as a means of ‘cheating the system.’ If we continue to study Google’s guidelines, we will see that they state:

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The most effective strategy to get other websites to link to your site with high-quality, relevant information is to generate original, relevant content that will organically gain popularity among members of the Internet community.

Producing high-quality content pays off: Links are often editorial endorsements offered by the author of the material. The more beneficial the information you create, the more likely it is that others will find its value to their audience and link to it.

PBN connections are not the same as editorial links, which are links that are given as a consequence of excellent content. They are simply a method of artificially inflating search engine ranks, and it is not stuff that will be effective in the long run.

There Are A Few Risks Involved With Private Blog Networks

So, if private blog networks (PBNs) are in breach of Google’s criteria, what are the ramifications? We may categorise these into two main categories:

  1. Your website has been penalised or has dropped in the rankings

There is a reasonable probability that your site will be punished and subjected to manual action in the most severe circumstances where manipulative link-building strategies are employed in an excessive manner.

But what exactly is it?

According to Google’s policies on this, we may conclude that “When a human reviewer at Google determines that pages on a website do not comply with Google’s webmaster quality requirements, a manual action against the website is taken by Google. The majority of manual activities are taken in response to attempts to alter the search index.

The majority of the errors mentioned will lead to web pages or websites being ranked lower or excluded from search results despite providing the user with any visual evidence.

In a nutshell, if your website is subjected to manual action, the effect will be worse ranks for individual pages or the entire website.

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In the most severe cases, manual intervention might result in the complete removal of your website from the index. Most typically, if links are the source of the activity, this will trigger ‘Unnatural links to your site,’ which will be shown on the screen.

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Recovering from a manual action requires you first to correct the problem (by removing links or uploading a disavow file) and then submit a reconsideration request.

Although this may be beneficial, it is doubtful that your rankings would return to where they were before the fake connections artificially boosted them to their current place.

When an algorithm recognises that a website’s links should not contribute to its rankings, it might trigger an algorithmic adjustment. Unnatural links can also cause an algorithmic adjustment.

In the vast majority of cases, particularly in 2020, it is more probable than not that the connections are being overlooked by the algorithm instead of causing an algorithmic adjustment to be made as a result.

Initially, Google’s Penguin filter was renewed on a regular basis, which resulted in sites losing ranks as a result of artificial link-building practices. With the release of Penguin 4.0, this has been included in the main algorithm.

  1. The Hyperlinks Have Been Ignored

For the vast majority of SEOs that employ private blog networks, the fact is that connections deemed abnormal by the Google algorithm are more likely to be dropped than to result in a human action being taken against the website.

Usually, manual measures are only taken against a website when there is extensive use of manipulative methods, which causes a review of the website by Google’s web spamming team to be initiated.

But what does it genuinely imply if Google excludes links referring to your website in its search results?

For the most part, this implies that they do not affect rankings whatsoever. Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst, John Mueller has already stated that the company ignores connections that are deemed to be genuine in their content. And let’s not forget that Google now has access to vast amounts of data derived from disavow files.

For many years, SEOs have assisted search engines in better understanding the causes of artificial link building.

Because resources (time and money) spent on link building are essentially squandered, if the links do not influence rankings, either favourably or adversely, they are considered to be wasted. No one wants to realise that their efforts have been in vain.

What is it about private blog networks that continue to attract SEOs?

Given the hazards connected with this strategy, you may be asking why some SEOs continue to employ private website networks as a means of link building. These two arguments can be summarised as follows.

  1. The process of obtaining links is time-consuming and unpredictable.

Obtaining high-quality connections is a challenging task. It will take time, and the outcomes are not sure to be positive.

Email engagement in tandem with digital PR, broken link building, link recovery, resource link building, and other related approaches are often used to gain high-quality and authoritative connections.

In summary, the one thing that all of these strategies have in prevalent is that they all entail contacting appropriate writers or web admins and attempting to persuade them to link to your article. These strategies aim to raise awareness of a piece of information, hoping that the receiver will find it helpful enough to link to it from other new or existing material.

However, this in and of itself implies that the outcomes are uncertain.

It is impossible to ensure that a specific number of links will be returned each month or quarter despite the most outstanding efforts. A PBN, on either hand, allows for greater control over the amount of uncertainty that may be reduced.

  1. A desire to have complete control over and manipulation of anchor text.

Take a step back ten years, and the vast majority of SEOs were focused on creating related keywords anchor text links.

The reason behind this is that the anchor text of a link is utilised as a clue as to the content of the destination page, and SEOs reasoned that the algorithm could be influenced in this manner.

Even though the Penguin algorithm effectively put an end to this practice, there are still SEOs that desire to have complete control over the anchor text of their link profile.

Earn links in an editorial capacity, and you’ll discover that writers and web admins will naturally link to anchor texts such as the following:

    • Clicks
    • The title of an article
    • A URL that isn’t filtered
    • A business’s official name

Private blog networks provide for greater control over the anchor text that is utilised, which some bloggers take advantage of to influence search engine results even further.

How To Spot Them?

  1. Domain Authority (DA) / Domain Rating (DR)

Since a higher DA/DR indicates a more value backlink, this is often a deciding element in whether or not to approach a site in the first place, to begin with. It is recommended to strive for a minimum of DA 25, which means you should avoid any sites with a DA lower than that. Having stated that, PBNs might have high scores, necessitating the need for additional scrutiny.

  1. Who is the source of information?

Today, most PBNs are intelligent enough to avoid being detected using this approach. You should, however, consult the website’s information if you are in doubt. Private or protected communication is standard on PBNs. If you find an identified user and personal information on a website, it is a solid indication that the webpage is not a PBN. To be sure, look this individual up on the internet.

PBNs aren’t required to have private domain data; many people opt to do so for various reasons, including privacy concerns.

  1. Predictions of Traffic Volume

The ideal blogs to generate traffic from are ones that already have a following. To examine predicted traffic numbers, install the SimilarWeb Chrome plugin from Google. PBNs will often have little if any, traffic or none at all.

  1. Look into their backlinks.

An Ahrefs scan will indicate the health of a website’s backlinks and how effective they are. In order to make use of past connections to the former website, PBNs are often launched from recently expired domains. Recent domain purchases will have many broken or irrelevant links, which will be displayed prominently.

  1. Insights from the visual and written content

Because none of the factors listed above can be definitive, this is frequently the decisive factor. It would be best if you were on the watch for PBNs that employ lousy quality photos or poor-quality material, so be aware of this. Spend some time evaluating the website and making an informed decision about whether the information has been designed primarily for readers. If you have any doubts, this is a significant signal that you are working with a phoney business network.

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In the end, PBNs might be difficult to identify, and it is naturally in the best interest of the PBN owner to avoid being recognised. If you, on the other hand, follow the procedures outlined above, you’ll be well on your road to a more effective, long-term backlink development strategy that is devoid of PBNs.

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Putting to Rest the Myths About PBNs

Despite the hazards involved with them, there is still a great deal of ambiguity around PBNs, and it is frequently a topic of discussion among members of the SEO community. Five typical PBN fallacies are debunked in the next section.

  1. Private Blog Network Links Will Not Assist You In Obtaining a High Ranking

While links from a private blog network violate Google’s Webmaster Quality Guidelines, this will not necessarily imply that they will not assist you in ranking higher in search results. Actually, there is a potential that they will assist you in improving your website’s ranks, but this is probably to be only temporary.

Using a private blog network (PBN) to build links is dangerous; in the worst situation, your rankings will suffer. But let us not forget that when determining the value of a link, a variety of elements are taken into consideration.

Instead, it is more likely that these links will have little effect on your ranking in the long run. For a short period of time, they may be able to boost your ranks artificially. Nevertheless, as soon as the algorithms (or a human reviewer) find unusual behaviour on your site, it’s possible that your website’s visibility may suffer as a result.

  1. Google Is Capable Of Quickly Identifying Private Blog Networks

There are a number of methods in which Google can detect private blog networks; nonetheless, the algorithm is mainly concerned with footprints over websites that appear to be part of a larger group of websites.

In certain circumstances, poorly constructed networks are simple to identify because of factors such as a common IP address, similar content, or the ownership of the same domain name. SEOs who are developing private blog networks, on the other hand, are well aware of the risks of leaving a digital footprint and strive hard to avoid doing so as much as possible.

A footprint that is frequently overlooked is when a collection of websites all connect to the same domain. When it comes to recognising unnatural links, this is often one of the most critical indicators.

When a group of links mainly comprises commercial anchor texts and originates from either thin or thematically unrelated content, it becomes easy to determine that the connections are part of a PBN network.

  1. Paid links are frequently obtained through private blog networks.

It’s easy to confuse bought links and private blog networks for one another, but they’re not the same thing. Despite the fact that we live in a society where so many bloggers actively offer links or sponsored content, this does not always imply that they are PBN sites.

The majority of “link sellers” are selling links on personal blog networks, and a few of the offerings that are commonly referred to as ‘guest posts’ may be this sort of link in some cases.

Despite where they are found on the web, all paid links should be labelled with either a rel=”nofollow” or a rel=”sponsored” tag.

A PBN does not necessarily have sponsored or paid links since they are part of a sponsored or paid link campaign.

  1. Public blog networks and private blog networks are two distinct types of blog networks.

While the premise stays the same, you may hear the terms ‘private blog networks’ and ‘public blog networks’ used interchangeably when discussing blog networks. These kinds of websites are mainly utilised to place links on them, but there is one significant distinction.

A truly private blog network is exactly what it says it is: it is private. The owner usually does an excellent job of concealing his or her presence and leaves little trace of their presence. These links will not be sold and will only be utilised for the host’s own websites.

In contrast, if links are sold publicly, they aren’t considered private at all. They are open blog networks that are accessible to the whole public.

On the other hand, the main point is that the danger related to public blog networks is significantly more significant than the risk connected with private blog networks.

  1. Is it considered a PBN if we own many websites that link to one another?

When a company has more than one website, it is not commonplace for those websites to be linked together. These are not abnormal in most cases, and they do not combine to generate a PBN.

Many businesses have more than one website, and it is only reasonable to want to guarantee that visitors to your other websites are aware of your presence. These links are frequently seen at the bottom of web pages.

If the connection between your properties is organic and not performed in a manipulative manner, there is no need to be concerned or to discontinue linking between your properties. Simply said, don’t use keyword-optimised anchor text for such connections.

A set of sites can only be considered a private blog network if their primary objective is link building, which is not the case with several sites owned by a single company.

What Must You Do When Your Site Has Links To Private Blog Networks (PBNs)?

If you suspect that your site includes links from a PBN or any other low-quality sources for such reason, it is a good practice to spend some time cleaning these connections up before publishing them.

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First and foremost, you’ll want to detect any links that aren’t natural in nature, which you can accomplish with the SEMrush Backlink Audit Tool.

To be more particular, you may choose specific hazardous criteria against which to compare your site’s link profile, such as those that are often associated with a link network.

Nevertheless, it is essential to audit your online visibility based on a broader set of criteria as well, such as those considered manipulative or originating from a dangerous environment.


In general, it is not recommended for you to use private blog networks as a link-building strategy or strategy.

It would be best to employ tactics to acquire editorial links that portray your brand as thought leaders in your industry, originate from websites that your target audience visits, and bring referral traffic to your website or blog. The hazards associated with the use of PBNs are just not worth it.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Social Media




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