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Private Blog Networks Will Get You Penalized (+ 5 Healthy Alternatives)

Link building is an essential component of most digital marketing strategies. One of the more common tactics that marketers will use is building a private blog network (PBN).

Unfortunately, though, these can actually be incredibly detrimental in the long run.

What Is a Private Blog Network (PBN)?

Plainly, it’s a network of sites used to build a single site.

It’s now considered a black hat tactic, which is understandable when you see how they actually impact link building. 

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How PBNs Operate

A bad habit was developed when someone discovered that you can buy expired domains in mass.

PBNs are built by purchasing a significant amount of these old domain names that still possess domain authority and then posting very basic copy with backlinks to your primary website.

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Source: DomCop

Of course, this pushes that primary site to the top of the list.

The tricky thing about this link building scheme is that it technically works.

The SEO Impact of PBNs

On paper, the whole thing makes sense. Collect a bunch of high authority domains and bolster your own business’s authority and SEO. You’ll be in control of your website’s rankings, a power that every marketer relishes.

In fact, many marketers have seen legitimate results in their SEO. Link building is a top contributor to SERP rankings. Building up trust from search engines is made pretty easy if you build an effective PBN.

None of these perks makes the practice any less risky. Like a get-rich-quick scheme, the benefits are rather short lived once search engines figure out what’s going on.

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Should You Hire a PBN Building Service?

Not if you don’t want to risk some serious Google penalties. There are several examples of how a private blog network has backfired on someone.

SEO specialist Nathan Gotch was pretty deep into the practice before he got in trouble. Enticed by the idea of “controlling” his SEO, he focused on growing his PBN and reducing his footprint from it. But eventually Google put an end to it all.

His business was pretty heavily penalized. And not only did it affect him, but several of his clients felt the effects as well. Gotch learned a couple of hard lessons about PBNs from his experience:

They're Time Consuming.

It takes an average of 36 hours to build a network of 10 sites after finding qualified domains (which there are few), find web hosts, and develop the site.

They're Expensive.

Domains can vary in price between $40 and $400 a pop. As an example, say you paid $100 for a single domain. To get hosting, you’ll have to pay around $12.

After paying for domain privacy and creating a decent article with a backlink, you’re looking at $122 for one domain. Multiply that by ten and factor in the 36 hours invested.

And it’s not only marketers that have felt the burn.

In 2011, JCPenny’s link scheme was exposed by the New York Times. The department store was receiving a ton of backlinks from unrelated domains, prompting an investigation into what was going on.

JCPenny’s denied knowing anything about the PBN and promptly fired their SEO firm. An almost immediate drop in rankings on Google occurred, along with manual removal of the webpages in question.

The Best PBN Alternatives

Instead of violating the Google Webmaster Guidelines, you should pursue other link building strategies that are just as effective as PBNs but not as risky. Here are a few to look into.

Link Roundup

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Networking is a healthy and honest way to generate links leading to your site.

By creating blog post lists of related content, you’re able to highlight other bloggers, which will get their attention. The idea is that they’ll return the favor to you. It’s a pleasant practice of give and take.

When building these lists, make sure you address blogs that may have sent traffic your way already in the past. It creates an air of reciprocity.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging isn’t exactly new. You partner with another business or blog to write content for them that’s related to your own brand.

If you write a quality, valuable article, then you’ve established yourself as an authority on the topic and helped out an industry colleague as well.

If you’re really smart about it, though, you’ll have included an external link or two to some of your own content on your site as a reference. Those are backlinks that you have direct control over without being sketchy or inauthentic.

The key is to pitch to contextual, relevant sites. Any good content or marketing strategy will leverage guest blogging, so it’s not exactly an original idea. But being picky and intentional about who you write for will make all the difference when it comes to building your domain authority.

Broken Link Building

It isn’t uncommon to find a broken link or two in an article or blog post.

Usually, it’s an annoyance since you’re not getting to see the content that you were hoping for. But for link building purposes, that’s a grand opportunity to request a backlink.

Depending on the topic of the post, you can bring the broken link to the owner’s attention. If you have content that could replace the broken link, or is at least related to it, you could pitch linking to your website instead.

In turn, you’ll help them improve their content while earning yourself a backlink at the same time.

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If you want to take it one step further, you could investigate just how many sites are using that broken link and reach out to all of them. That’s a lot of green pasture to graze.

Content Repurposing and Syndication

Repurposing your content can make all the difference in getting it in front of larger audiences. By adapting some of your high-traffic content into other formats, you’re increasing your opportunities to outsource it to format-specific websites.

Maybe you can convert your infographic into a video. Not only will your own leads appreciate having a new resource to look at, but you can also submit it to a video-sharing site where the original infographic would not be relevant.

Once it’s published, a credit link to your website will be shared as well. Or maybe another blog picks it up as an example for their own content and links you as a credit source. This is called content syndication, and it adds one more backlink in your pocket.

Now imagine if you did this with all of your high value content? Of course, it’s important that you be strategic about content syndication and repurposing, but the opportunities are there.

Competitor Link Replication

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One of the best ways to stay current with what’s happening in your industry is to monitor what your competitors are up to. How are you going to stay one step ahead of the competition if you don’t know what they’re doing and how well? Especially when it comes to earning links.

You actually may be surprised by who is linking to them. Put effort into seeing where your competitors are ranking on SERPs and why.

What keywords are they using that you’re not? Who is using their content as external links? For what topics?

Using different keyword and webpage analyzers, you can enter a URL from a competitor’s blog to get an exact count and list of who is linking to that page. Pay attention to domain and page authority.

Just because these sites are using your competitors doesn’t meant that they won’t be interested in the value your business can provide too.

Using any of the tactics above, you can reach out to these backlink sources and get back in the game against your competitors.

Stick to White Hat Tactics

When it comes to optimizing your website for search engines, you’ll want to stick to white hat tactics. Cheating via black hat SEO methods like engaging in sketchy link schemes and building private blog networks can be dangerous on so many levels.

You’ll risk your business, credibility, and, at times, be penalized to a point where you can’t recover.

Play fair and play safe and you’ll reap the benefits of it later.

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Micah Lally

Micah Lally

I’m a Content Writer at Bluleadz. I’m a big fan of books, movies, music, video games, and the ocean. It sounds impossible to do all of those at the same time, but you’d be surprised by the things I can accomplish.