Backlinks are crucial for SEO. You know that well therefore you’ve probably spent countless hours searching for the latest link building strategies, trends and statistics to improve your rankings.
You’ve also tried your hardest to use effective methods of obtaining quality external links.
But let’s face it, the reality seems to be pretty brutal as you realized that getting natural links requires a lot of work, taking up a ton of your precious time. And even if you manage to acquire a backlink or two, you don’t really have control over them, do you?
If only there was some workaround… A way to create dedicated pages solely for the purpose of linking?
Wait… isn’t that exactly what Private Blog Networks are designed for?
What Is a Private Blog Network?
Simply put, a Private Blog Network – or PBN for short – is a collection of websites owned by the same person or a business entity. The key idea behind a PBN is to create a network of websites that interlink with one another but also provide backlinks to a target website. The prime goal is to make search engines consider this one “target” website more popular and authoritative than it actually is, eventually improving its position in the SERP.
Fun fact: Private blog networks were originally meant to be made up of blogs only – hence the word “blog” in the name. Nowadays, however, PBNs connect all sorts of websites, including news websites, community forums, and even article directories.
What Are the Benefits of Building a Private Blog Network?
Apart from high-quality content and technical SEO, it’s the off-page SEO (better known as backlinks) that makes the top 3 key ranking factors. Whereas you have full control over the first two, waiting for other people to link back to your website may not be that easy to get hold of.
Naturally, there are some link building outreach techniques such as writing guest posts or claiming unlinked mentions, but let’s be honest – it takes a lot of time and effort. Even if you reach out to authoritative online publishers, you can’t be 100% sure they will be willing to swap links with you.
That’s why having your own private blog network may be your way to gain a competitive edge and rank for selected keywords higher than your closest rivals. A PBN gives you the source of backlinks that your rivals can’t acquire, which is just one of the potential advantages that some people associate with building a private blog network. Do you know why some website owners decide to build their own PBN?
Actually, there are 3 main reasons for having your own private blog network: total control, higher link authority, and targeted anchor text.
When you build a private blog network (PBN), you become the master of your own web universe – if I may put it this way. You have full control over the network of websites and the content they publish and promote. This means you can strategically place backlinks wherever you want, increasing the chances of giving your website a boost in search engine rankings.
PBNs are often built using expired or auctioned domain names that still hold some authority with search engines. The idea is that by using these domains, you can transfer the existing link authority to your website, giving it a potential boost in visibility and credibility.
In general, by repurposing these domains, website owners hope to tap into the accumulated SEO juice and direct it toward their own websites. I would compare it to inheriting a treasure trove of backlink power and using it to make your website stand out in the vast online landscape.
The trickiest part however is to capture the expired domains that actually have the link juice still flowing.
Targeted Anchor Text
Another beneficial aspect of having your own PBN is the ability to customize the anchor text of backlinks. This means you can optimize the text to target specific keywords that are relevant to your website. Why is this important? Well, from an SEO standpoint, optimizing anchor text helps search engines understand the context and relevance of the linked content.
💡 When search engines see consistent, keyword-focused anchor text pointing to your website, it signals that your site is a valuable resource for those specific keywords. This can improve your website’s rankings for those targeted keywords and increase its chances of being found by users searching for related content.
Now, that you know what a PBN has in store your you, you may be wondering whether building your own network of websites is something you can handle on your own. I’ve compiled the below guide to help you realize the amount of work that you may have to do to build your own PBN.
7-Step Guide on How to Build a Private Blog Network SEO
To provide clarity on the effort involved in building your own network of websites, I have outlined the steps and work required to construct your very own PBN.
STEP 1 | Research or Register New Domains
First, you need to get the domains. One way to do it is by registering a number of new domains and establishing their authority from scratch. This solution though is both pretty time-consuming and rather costly. That’s why you may want to have a go at other solution which depends on acquiring expired domains.
One of the best things about these once-active websites is that they come with a history and in most cases have an established link profile. And this is something you want as it allows you to yield results much faster than if you were building PBN on new domains.
⚠️ There is one thing though that I’d like to warn you against: Not every website with a history is good for you.
For example, you don’t want your private blog network to consist of websites that were hit by one of Google’s penalties. Neither do you want to acquire a website that experienced some significant drops after algorithm updates. But most importantly, your private blog network should have never hosted restricted content such as adult or gambling-related material.
Now you may be wondering…
How Many Domains Should My PBN Consist of?
When it comes to the number of domains in a private blog network, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, sadly. Like with almost every aspect of SEO, it depends on your current strategy, business goals, and preferences.
For example, some website owners like to keep their PBN small and focused, with just a handful of top-notch domains. Others go big, adding more domains to maximize their impact on search engine rankings.
To give you a general idea of the number of domains that a private blog network should be made up of, please take a look at the below examples:
1️⃣ A small-scale PBN may consist of around 10 to 20 domains. It may be a good fit for
- Local Businesses: Small-scale PBNs can be beneficial for local businesses targeting specific geographic areas. For example, a local restaurant, plumbing service, or boutique shop could benefit from a small PBN to improve their local search engine visibility.
- Niche Websites: Websites focusing on niche topics, such as specific hobbies or interests, can utilize a small PBN to enhance their authority and rankings within their niche.
2️⃣ A medium-scale PBN typically consists of around 20 to 50 domains. It may be a good fit for
- E-commerce Stores: Medium-scale PBNs can be useful for e-commerce businesses looking to boost their rankings and increase organic traffic for a wide range of products. This can help them compete in competitive markets and improve their visibility in search results.
- Affiliate Marketers: Affiliates promoting products or services across multiple niches can leverage a medium-scale PBN to establish authority and generate organic traffic for their affiliate websites.
3️⃣ A large-scale PBN can consist of 50 or more domains. It may be a good fit for
- Link Building Agencies: SEO agencies or professionals managing multiple client websites can benefit from a large-scale PBN to support their clients’ SEO efforts. It allows them to have a wider network footprint and offer more extensive link building services.
- Digital Publishers: Large-scale PBNs can be utilized by digital publishers with a portfolio of content-driven websites. It helps them generate organic traffic and improve the visibility of their articles, news, or informational content across various topics.
Ultimately, the number of domains for your PBN should be determined by careful consideration of your specific objectives, budget, and the level of effort you can invest in managing and maintaining the network effectively.
If I were to advise you, I’d say this: Find the right balance for you. Consider factors like your available resources, management capabilities, and how much risk you’re willing to take.
Remember, quality always trumps quantity. Make sure each domain in your PBN is relevant, authoritative, and has a natural link profile.
STEP 2 | Create Relevant Content
Once you have a couple of domains registered, it’s time for you to populate each website with quality content.
A word of warning though: If you think that creating average-quality articles and blog posts would work for your PBN, then please think again. Whether you like it or not – probably you don’t like it – writing generic texts stuffed with keywords won’t get you anywhere. Actually, it may only nullify your efforts as such websites present almost zero value to Google’s users, which means they present zero value to Google, too.
Trust me, these days, the networks that can help you with your off-site strategy are the ones that have original content related to the specific topics of the domains you’re trying to optimize. This means you probably need to hire a copywriter or content creator, or alternatively become one yourself.
💡 To speed up the content creation process a bit, you may consider having a go at recreating the content that was published on the acquired domains once they were active.
To access those articles, go to Internet Archive – there is a high chance you’ll find the website in question there. Of course, don’t copy and paste the content because you will probably violate the copyright. Instead, use this archived content as an inspiration. Focus on the same topics and keywords* that a given page had ranked for before it expired.
*How can you access those pieces of information? Popular SEO tools such as Ahrefs can help you with finding out which keywords were the pages optimized for.
STEP 3 | Do On-Page Optimization
Working on technical SEO for your private blog network is another crucial element bringing you closer to achieving success. Why would you do that? Here’s why.
First of all, you need to ensure better indexing. When you optimize things like meta tags, XML sitemaps, and robots.txt files, search engines can find and crawl your PBN’s pages more easily. This means your content gets indexed faster and shows up in search results.
⚠️This matters a lot because if none of your websites is indexed, the backlinks leading to your “target” website have zero value.
Secondly, your task is to make all PBN websites work smoothly. Make sure your private blog network loads quickly and works well on mobile devices. Keep your Core Web Vitals in check as well. This adds more credibility to your PBN, which is good for your rankings.
Thirdly, you absolutely want to make your private blog network safe from hackers and malware. My advice to you is as follows: use strong passwords and update your websites regularly.
STEP 4 | Balance the Inbound and Outbound Link Ratio
This one is pretty quick to explain. Each of your websites should have more incoming links than outgoing links. Otherwise, the link power will be spread too thin across a large number of external domains, weakening the flow of link juice.
Now is the perfect time to mention a term closely related to private blog network SEO – tiered link building. This is a kind of link pyramid, if I may call it that way.
Tiered link building is an SEO strategy that involves creating different levels of backlinks to improve a website’s authority and rankings. It means that you build high-quality links from top-tier websites directly to your “target” website. Then, lower tiers of links, like niche blogs or forums, support and strengthen the top-tier links.
This approach mimics natural link growth, reduces the risk of penalties, and improves the website’s overall SEO performance.
Of course, specific structures and the number of tiers vary depending on your SEO strategy. However, this is how this pyramid may look:
High-quality and authoritative websites that link to your target website:
- industry-specific websites
- influential blogs
- reputable news sites (this one may be pretty tough for you to run on a regular basis)
- popular social media platforms (I mean links that directly point to your target domain)
Websites that link to your TIER 1:
- niche-related blogs
- community forums
- social bookmarking sites
This comprises even lower-quality or less-relevant sources that link to your TIER 2:
- article directories
- blog comments
- some less popular niche-related blogs
STEP 5 | Reduce Website Footprints & Diversify PBNs
This one is also pretty important, and here’s why.
The less similarity there is among the websites comprising your private blog network, the better.
By removing footprints, such as identifiable patterns or traces, you make it harder for search engines and competitors to detect and penalize your network.
Also, diversification helps you become more credible. You can make your websites look different by using different domain registrars, hosting providers, IP addresses, CMS platforms, themes, and plugins. Simply put, this way you minimize the chances of your network being easily recognized as interconnected.
⚠️ Furthermore, diversifying PBNs and hiding footprints enhances the overall resilience and longevity of your network. If one website in your network is identified or penalized, the rest of the PBN remains protected, as there are no obvious connections to trace back to a single owner.
STEP 6 | Block Linkbuilding Tools from Crawling Your PBN
If you’ve ever carried out a link gap analysis (aka competitive link analysis), then you know how powerful – or in this case dangerous – link building tools such as Ahrefs or Moz can be.
For those unfamiliar with this tactic, competitive link analysis involves checking out the backlinks of your competitor’s websites to understand their linking strategies and find ways to enhance your own backlink profile. This can be done simply by asking link building tools to crawl your rivals’ websites. However, be aware that you can block your private blog network from being checked for backlinks, which is something I recommend you do.
One of the methods to do so is by adding directives to your website’s robots.txt file and disallowing specific user agents or crawlers from accessing certain directories or pages. You may also try using plugins or extensions that block or restrict access based on IP addresses. Popular content management systems offer such solutions.
Oh, and a side note: This is one of the reasons why Domain Rating and similar metrics aren’t reliable KPIs.
STEP 7 | Automate Your Tasks
Whenever possible, you should try to automate the process of maintaining your private blog networks. Luckily, there are a number of tools that can help you with that.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you have multiple PBN sites. With automation, whenever you publish a new article on one of your sites, a tool called Zapier can automatically share it on your social media accounts. You can also use Make to generate catchy snippets or excerpts for each article. Of course, the list of such tools is far longer.
Google’s Take on Private Blog Networks
After reading Quality links to your site, you will learn that, according to Google, you can generate direct traffic – meaning, acquire valuable backlinks – and promote your site by
- engaging with the community related to your topic by contributing positively on forums and blogs
- building a reputation through valuable contributions that attract new visitors to your site and encourage them to link to it
- creating unique and compelling content, along with providing practical tools or solutions to problems your users may face
At the same time, Google appears to be pretty straightforward when it comes to the issue of PBN:
“Google uses links as an important factor in determining the relevancy of web pages. Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results may be considered link spam. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.” – Google Search Central
It can’t be denied, the concept of private blog networks is both curious and controversial at once. They’re like secret weapons that can either make or break your online success. On one hand, building your own PBN is seen as a potentially risky solution. However, when done with meticulous care, it holds the potential for profitability.
But here’s the catch: Google is not a fan of PBNs. As I showed you above, Google strictly frowns upon such practices, as they violate their guidelines.
⚠️ That’s why engaging in PBNs can lead to severe consequences, including penalties and a significant drop in organic traffic.
Now, you might be wondering if blocking Google bots from accessing your private blog network could be a viable solution. Well, here’s the thing: It would only work if your goal is to optimize your website for search engines like Bing or any other search engine besides Google.
Let me put it this way: If you block Google bots from accessing your private blog network, none of the backlinks you create will have any impact on your “target” website whatsoever. In order for the link juice to flow and benefit your website, all the links within your PBN need to remain visible and get indexed.
In simpler terms, if you want your PBN to be effective, you have to let Google’s bots in on the action. Otherwise, you’re essentially cutting off the lifeline that connects your PBN backlinks to your website’s rankings.
So, let’s say you’re willing to take the risk and invest your money and time into building your own private blog network. But there’s one question: Will all this effort of acquiring domain names, creating quality content, ensuring proper hosting, and managing the interlinking between the websites within your network translate into tangible results?
How to Tell If Your PBN Does Its Job
Determining whether your private blog network is doing its job is not that complicated, yet it’s not so straightforward either. First of all, forget the Domain Rating and Domain Authority metrics as they are far from being reliable indicators.
Basically, all you have to do is keep testing and experimenting with your Private Blog Network. But to do so, you need to state clearly the main goal you want to achieve, which in this case is improving the positions of keywords for the target website (the websites the PBN is built for). Surprisingly, it’s not about driving more referral traffic. Don’t get me wrong, though. If your private blog network actually gives you more organic traffic, that’s wonderful. Yet, remember that it’s not what PBN is meant for.
So, once you’ve got the goal stated, here’s how to measure your PBN effectiveness. You simply need to do the following: Create a link connecting a website from your private blog network to your target website, and check if a given page’s rank improves. If it does, then congrats!
You may also take one step further and remove the very backlink. If the removal results in a drop in rankings, you have yet another proof your private blog network is doing its thing.
How Much Do a Private Blog Network + Its Upkeep Cost?
I hate to break it to you but setting up and maintaining a private blog network cost a pretty penny. Let me show you a brief breakdown of the potential costs involved in creating and upkeep of your own PBN:
1️⃣ Domain Acquisition
First, you need to research and acquire expired or auctioned domains. Alternatively, you may also create completely new domains. The cost of the domains can range from $10 to several hundred dollars, depending on factors like domain authority, backlink profile, and niche relevance.
2️⃣ Content Creation
Then, you need to take care of the content of your websites. High-quality articles and graphics that accompany the text are pretty essential to increase credibility if you ask me. You need to make sure the content doesn’t look fishy, otherwise, your PBN won’t be of much use. When it comes to the costs for content creation, it can vary depending on the length, complexity, and expertise of the writers and graphic designers/photographers involved. Prices can range from $5 to $100 or more per article, depending on the quality and requirements.
3️⃣ SEO Specialist
I know that you may find me biased, but hiring an SEO Specialist is pretty crucial if you want your private blog network to work smoothly and be optimized properly. You need an expert to handle PBN management, including keyword research, link building, and overall optimization. The cost of partnering with an SEO Specialist can range from $500 to $5,000 or more per month, depending on the level of expertise and the scope of work your PBN requires at a given moment.
Having a programmer or developer on board can help with the technical aspects of managing a PBN. You may find working with such an expert to set up and maintain the network, ensure proper interlinking, and address any website-related issues. The cost of a programmer or developer can range from $50 to $150 or more per hour, depending on their experience and your current project requirements.
Do you remember when I talked about diversification? As you already know, PBNs typically require multiple hosting accounts to ensure reducing website footprint. Hosting costs can vary depending on the number of websites your PBN consists of and the quality of hosting providers. Prices can range from $5 to $50 or more per month per hosting account.
Other potential costs to consider may include domain privacy protection, SSL certificates, proxy services, and additional SEO tools and software. Quite a lot, isn’t it?
For your convenience, I’ve put the information together and presented it in the below table:
|Domain||$10 – $500+ per domain|
|Content||$10 – $100+ per article (including graphics)|
|SEO Specialist||$500 – $5,000 per month|
|Programmer/Developer||$50 – $150+ per hour|
|Hosting||$5 – $50+ per month per account|
|Domain Privacy Protection||$5 – $15+ per year|
|SSL Certificates||$10 – $300+ per year|
|Proxy Services||$10 – $100+ per month|
|Additional SEO Tools/Software||Varies|
There are two more issues I’d like to draw your attention to:
1st issue is that the prices I provided above are just approximate ranges and may vary based on various factors such as location or your requirements.
2nd issue is that it’s really hard for me to give you the cost for additional SEO tools and services you may need to use. Basically, you need to do your own research and evaluate the options to determine their relevance to your PBN goals and budget.
Summary: Should You Bother Building PBN?
So, you’ve heard about private blog networks in SEO. You’re considering having one as it has some evident benefits, one of such being higher positions in SERP for keywords you want your website to be optimized for. Realizing that, you’ve found my guide and just learned how to build a private blog network. You’ve also probably realized that setting up your own network of interconnected websites isn’t a walk in the park.
Building your own PBN requires a substantial investment of time, money, and specialized SEO knowledge. Plus, there’s the ever-looming risk of attracting unwanted Google penalties, right?
Should you give up on using private blog networks to help your pages rank higher for a given list of keywords? Well, as they say: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I’d say, however, exploring some alternative solutions may be exactly what benefits you the most. Maybe seeking some professional assistance with building quality backlinks or making use of the private blog networks established by trusted entities.
If you feel that it’s time to connect with experts who can guide you through the process of link building and offer professional link building services – you know where to find us. You can count on our hands-on SEO experience.