In a world of ideas, all SEOs would like to say, with their hands on their hearts, that they only use white hat SEO tactics and that they will not approach the mysterious and sinister world of SEO black hat. Of course, in the real world, things are not so white or black (hence the birth of the so-called SEO ‘gray hat’).
Navigating the blurred lines between white, gray and black hat can be complex even for experienced SEOs, much less for small business owners who don’t have the first clue about SEO. Not surprisingly, so many small business owners are discouraged by the mere mention of search engine optimization, especially if they have been stung by overtly false practices in the past.
The assessment of your risk tolerance is crucial before making a strategic SEO decision and different people will have different opinions and, in fact, different experiences of certain strategies in a certain way. Ultimately, you’ll want to find a balance between sustainable techniques and more, let’s call them divisive, tactics that could be classified as a gray hat.
One of the most divisive gray hat tactics that exists is the use of private blog networks (PBN) to create links. Before starting to analyze this, I want to record that the jury is out when it comes to PBN and its effectiveness. In some cases they may have value and others, not so much.
What I want to do in this article is to evaluate the pros and cons of PBN. First, however, let’s see exactly what a PBN is.
What is a private blog network?
PBN are networks of websites that are used to create links and pass the page’s authority to websites with the aim of boosting the page’s rank, domain authority and, ultimately, reinforce search engine rankings.
In the past, PBNs were used frequently, but after Google’s substantial efforts to reduce the volume of what it considered link spam, particularly with its real-time algorithm update. PBNs are now considered by some as ineffective and not worth the effort and others as a risk strategy that could incur a penalty. However, there are many others who still consider PBN as a worthwhile strategy if done carefully, with an emphasis on creating decent quality content.
PBNs can be acquired in several ways, but the four main approaches are:
Auctions : the age of the domain is not reduced with this approach, since the blog is removed before they are deleted and the registered age is restored.
Eliminated : it is not as powerful as auctions but it is easier to do and less competitive. Of course, the authority will be affected since the domain age will be zero.
Suppliers: Suppliers purchase domains using a variety of methods. Like everything, there are good and bad sellers, so be careful if you adopt this approach.
Withdraw Capture : This is an order waiting service to capture domains as they are withdrawn with a pre-selected offer. This approach is among the auctions and is eliminated in terms of effectiveness.
Reasons to use a private blog network
PBNs, as you may have guessed, are controversial, but there has to be a reason why they are still used, right? Below are several key benefits that guarantee your continued appeal.
When you place a link on a website that is not your property, you are basically giving control to the owner of that website and you cannot be sure when or how your link will be included.
Link building is a time-consuming process and the effort and channeling resources to ensure a link that may not exist in 3 months can be frustrating. However, if you have a PBN, you retain full control over each site, which will help you harness the full potential of your link building strategy.
In addition, if you are granted a manual penalty, you have the power to eliminate offensive links very quickly and en masse.
Leveraging the authority of an established and reliable website is a powerful thing. If you can acquire or buy these domains to create good quality content, then there is much to say about it. The problem (as with most SEO tactics) comes with the scale. Buying many high-authority domains can be quite expensive, quite fast (more at a little cost).
There is no need to establish relationships or carry out outreach activities
To ensure long-term sustainability, you will ultimately have to invest time in building beneficial relationships. However, PBNs can save you a lot of time in the short term, and deliver results very quickly. You are the link creator and the link owner.
Reasons NOT to use a private blog network
The benefits of creating PBN will certainly sound tempting to anyone who has ever done site research and the reach of bloggers, but it is important to remember that they are not a silver bullet and that the possible deficiencies are significant. Therefore, the following negative points should be carefully considered before adopting any strategy that employs the construction of PBN.
Developing and maintaining an effective PBN is expensive, make no mistake. The first cost will come in the acquisition of authority domains and the costs resulting from hosting these domains. When we say private blog networks , we don’t mean two or three sites, but rather an entire network. If you don’t have the money to invest, forget it . The second cost and one that can also be associated with time (see below) are the costs associated with creating a constant flow of content for all blogs in your network. It is unlikely that you can produce all this yourself (if any), so the costs of the editors will increase rapidly.
If you think monetary costs are high, PBNs are also a great waste of time. In addition to the time to obtain decent domains, you should spend time configuring them, installing themes and add-ons, creating or outsourcing content and setting up various social accounts. Remember, each blog is a website in itself and should look like one if you want to achieve it.
Then there are security and accommodation issues that may arise, which will also take time to rectify. Yes, all of this can be outsourced, but this will result in higher expenses, which could seriously affect your ROI.
A balance of how much you outsource and pay, and how much you do yourself is a key consideration when putting together your PBN strategy.
While it is possible that your websites thrive as a direct result of the PBN, the fact is that this success is not based on the strongest bases. Google is firm in its search to target link spam as it sees it and considers PBNs as a primary source of this. If you get caught creating a flow of poor quality links, you can expect a substantial penalty. In a matter of seconds, your time and your monetary investment could literally disappear, leaving nothing to show in all your hard work.
This is why it is vital that PBNs be used together with more sustainable link building tactics that serve to create a more balanced backlink portfolio that does not affect Google.
Can private blog networks be used securely?
If you plan to rely exclusively on the potential power of PBNs, the honest answer is a resounding “no.” It is never advisable to put all the eggs in a basket, especially if that basket is marked as a “private blog network.”
If you are willing to take into account a degree of risk (which should be said to generate potentially high rewards), PBNs can become a very powerful asset of a varied and well-rounded SEO strategy. While there is always an exchange between costs (time and money) and control, the level of control you can get is enormous. Links are still an important part of Google’s ranking algorithm, so being able to control them puts you in the driver’s seat.
After carefully considering your position, you can conclude that PBNs are the ideal complement to your other SEO strategies, but you must recognize the inherent risks and compensation necessary to make the strategy work. If you prefer an absolutely clean SEO strategy, then PBNs are definitely not for you.