How to Use a Private Blog Network to Improve Rankings – My SOP

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Are you wanting to know how I use my private blog network to improve mine or clients rankings? This post goes into exactly how I use a PBN to get better rankings for my sites.

If you have followed the instructions on my site to build your own PBN or purchased a PBN from me this post will provide you with some actionable information on how to make the most of it!

It is very clear that PBNs are currently very effective at helping quality websites rank…both from my data here and a recent analysis done by Tung showing examples of profitable amazon websites here .

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How to use a PBN to improve rankings

How to use a PBN to improve rankings

Quick Overview of How to Use a PBN for The Best Results

But exactly how do you get the most out of a Private Blog Network while at the same time minimizing your risk of Google penalizing you.

This article outlines the strategies I recommend when using your own PBN.

First let me share my general philosophy:

I would rather have a simple to follow safe strategy then a perfectly optimized strategy

With that in mind here are the guidelines my team follows when building PBNs for me or clients and how I recommend people use their own PBN.

This is not the only way but it is what I have found is the right balance of easy to understand and effective!

Overview

Here is a super short summary of the guidelines in this post.

  • All Links Must Be As Natural As Possible!
  • Articles
    • Frequency – 1 article per week is ideal, 1 per month per site is great and 1 per site every 5 months is the minimum to keep your site fresh
    • Quality – Articles must be of reasonable quality (can’t be spun and I recommend native English writers)
    • Length – Article length should vary from 500 words to 1000 words
    • Relevancy – Articles should be relevant to both the PBN site and the money site
    • Rich Media in Articles – Include both images and video in posts in varying quantities
    • System I use to get inexpensive high quality articles created – here
  • Number and Location of Links
    • Number of Links – 10 links max per site if the PBN site IS relevant and 1-2 links max if the site IS NOT relevant
    • Location of Links – Links should be in the body of the article with the best location being in the first couple of paragraphs (but don’t have it in the same spot on all articles)
    • Number of Money Site Links per PBN Post – Only 1 link to a money site from one PBN post is what I recommend
    • Other Authority Links – 1-3 links to authoritative non-competing pages such as news stories relevant to the article.
  • Anchor Text and Destination
    • Anchor Text
      • 1/3 – General or Name
      • 1/3 – URL Only
      • 1/3 – Phrase Match or Title of Site
  • Don’t use exact match at all! (play it safe)
  • Destination of Links
    • 50% homepage
    • 50% to a sub-page or post
  • All Links Must Be As Natural As Possible!

Step 1 – Articles

The first step of building links to your money site from your PBN is to get articles created.

NOTE – For customers of my done for you service I build 1 article per month per 5 site network but more articles can be added as customers see fit.

Frequency - In an ideal world each PBN site would get 1 new article per week but that isn’t practical so I suggest 1 per month or as a minimum 1 new article every 5 months to keep the site fresh in Googles eyes.

Quality - The articles must be of good quality as Google continues to get better at determining quality this will continue to be more and more important. Spun articles are not recommended and I am yet to hire a non native English speaker who can produce articles that meet my quality standard.

Length – Article length should vary from 500 words to 1000 words

Relevancy – My theory from the start with PBNs is that relevancy can not only overcome weaker metrics but also provides a a safer link in terms of exposure to a Google penalty. Getting a link to an appliance repair website in Tulsa from the former website of a church in Alaska is tough to pull off. However, it is definitely possible I like to use the image below to picture what the title of an article should be…

relevant article title

The articles should be relevant to the website you are posting on, it should be relevant to the target domain and target niche. Let me show you what I mean with an example using “appliance repair in Tulsa” at “jimsappliance.com” (not a real site) being linked to from an Alaskan church website within a PBN…

The title should be relevant to the website it is being posted on, it should be relevant to the target niche and also the target domain…

How to Keep Your Congregation Warm in Winter – Expert Jim Shares His Heating Tips

Where to Get Articles – Getting quality articles created from native English speakers is a challenge! The best way I have found is using the system I outline here and hiring a content manager to manage the whole process including title creation.

Rich Media in Articles – Including images and video in varying quantities is easy to do and really helps make a webpage look natural. One image after the second paragraph in every post is NOT what we are after. We want a nice spread of both embedded, relevant YouTube videos and from 0-3 relevant images.

 

Step 2 – Number and Location of Links

Number of Links - The maximum number of links back to your main money site from one private blog network site is often asked. Lots of people believe that 1 link per site is best…I take a different approach to this question.

If the PBN site is relevant to the money site than as a rule of thumb I say no more than 10 links. People may think 10 links per site is crazy but here is my logic…if there is an authoritative site in a given niche it only makes sense that you link to it from your site in that same niche several times.

For example from this website (authoritywebsiteincome.com) I link to a few sites regularly including SEOMoz.com and NichePursuits.com.  Both of which I have probably linked to more than 10 times over the last year from this site naturally.

So if your PBN site is relevant to your money site then I would suggest thinking about using a limit of 10 links from it to one of your money sites.

Now there is a diminishing rate of return with links from sites…everything else being equal it is better to have a link from a different URL/IP then another from a site you already have a link from.

If the site isn’t relevant then I would suggest sticking with only 1-2 links from the PBN site to your money site.

Location of Links – The best location for a link is in the first couple of paragraphs of an article and naturally inserted into the middle of the text to be as natural as possible.

However, every link should not show up in the exact same location…they should vary from the top of the article to the bottom.

One place I DO NOT recommend the link going is at the very bottom of the article. The reason for this is that it could easily be mistaken for a lower value guest post which Google is cracking down on.

Contextual links higher up the article is the best place for a link.

Number of Money Site Links per Post – Limit to 1 link from an article to your money site, again people may disagree with this but it is the safest approach.

Other Authority Links – Nothing screams a PBN post like one link to one site, what I recommend is 1-3 other natural links to relevant authoritative sites. Wikipedia is the often recommended link destination but my preference is relevant news stories from any media outlet. HuffingtonPost or similar news outlets are great. Other great authoritative links are any niche organization. Try and avoid linking to competitors!

 

Step 3 – Anchor Text & Destination

Anchor text is where I believe most people go wrong and is the question I get the most.

After looking at literally THOUSANDS of expired domains on MajesticSEO.com I have both data and an intuition for what a natural backlink profile looks like.

Here are the guidelines I recommend to follow to keep your backlink profile looking clean while at the same time making sure to communicate to Google what your website should be ranking for.

Anchor text ratios I recommend…

  • 1/3 – General or Name
    • General are keywords such as (source, website, link, click here, visit us) a quick google search will provide you with lots of lists of generic keywords to use
    • Another great anchor text to use that I group into the general 1/3 is name based anchor text such as (Jim, Jim Smith, Jim @ website name). I recommend if your money site has a name/alias attached to it to use it in your anchor text as well.
  • 1/3 – URL Only
    • This is simple but 1/3 of all your anchor text should be only the URL
    • Tip – Don’t just link to the www or just the non www version. Make sure to link to both, one of the easiest ways to spot artificially built links is if the www has lots of links and the non www has zero links.
  • 1/3 – Phrase Match or Title of Site
    • Here is where people over do it all the time. Keep this group of keywords to 1/3 of all links to your money site.
    • The keywords in this group should be related to your target keyword but not an exact match of your target KW.
    • In this 1/3 of the links I also recommend using the exact title of your website
  • Note  – if your title is your exact match I would still play it safe and modify the title slightly in the anchor text.

recommended anchor text ratio for links

TIP – Play it Safe – Don’t use exact match.

The general consensus right now is to keep exact match anchor text to below 5% to avoid an off page over optimization penalty. In my mind it is simply safer and the results are still working if you simply don’t use your exact match anchor text at all. This keeps tracking easy and I never worry “oh crap will this push me to 5.5% exact match” which I think is a waste of time to have to think about.

Destination of Links – Where should your links be pointing? Well like everything I will take simplicity and safety over perfect optimization so my guidelines are simple…

  • 50% Homepage
  • 50% to different sub-pages or posts

recommended destination of PBN backlinks

Wrap Up

Like at the top of this post this can all be broken down into a very simple checklist.

  • All Links Must Be As Natural As Possible!
  • Articles
    • Frequency – 1 article per week is ideal, 1 per month per site is great and 1 per site every 5 months is the minimum to keep your site fresh
    • Quality – Articles must be of reasonable quality (can’t be spun and I recommend native English writers)
    • Length – Article length should vary from 500 words to 1000 words
    • Relevancy – Articles should be relevant to both the PBN site and the money site
    • Rich Media in Articles – Include both images and video in posts in varying quantities
    • System I use to get inexpensive high quality articles created – here
  • Number and Location of Links
    • Number of Links – 10 links max per site if the PBN site IS relevant and 1-2 links max if the site IS NOT relevant
    • Location of Links – Links should be in the body of the article with the best location being in the first couple of paragraphs (but don’t have it in the same spot on all articles)
    • Number of Money Site Links per PBN Post – Only 1 link to a money site from one PBN post is what I recommend
    • Other Authority Links – 1-3 links to authoritative non-competing pages such as news stories relevant to the article.
  • Anchor Text and Destination
    • Anchor Text
      • 1/3 – General or Name
      • 1/3 – URL Only
      • 1/3 – Phrase Match or Title of Site
  • Don’t use exact match at all! (play it safe)
  • Destination of Links
    • 50% homepage
    • 50% to a sub-page or post
  • All Links Must Be As Natural As Possible!

How to use a PBN to improve rankings

Other Questions

If you have any questions please ask and I will be sure to include the question and answer here. If you have a question I am sure other people will as well.

Read my Ultimate Guide To Expired Domains for SEO! (8000+ words and 5 step by step how to videos! all FREE) click here

Comments

  1. Very helpful post, John.

    Here’s my question: let’s say you have a PBN of 5 sites … and you also own 5 different (unrelated) niche websites. Do you recommend using each site in your PBN to link to each of your niche sites?

    For example: Do PBN sites 1-5 link to ALL of niche sites 1-5 … or do they link ONLY to niche site 1?

    Basically, does each niche site require it’s own dedicated PBN? Would seem to get quite costly if you operate more than 1 niche site.

    Cheers,
    Mike

    • Jon Haver says:

      You can have your 5 PBN sites link to your other sites. I suggest not exceeding a level of 50% saturation for un-related sites. What I mean is choose 2 PBN sites per unrelated site. This will ensure your network won’t be easily algorithmically detected.

  2. Hey Jon,

    thanks for all those tips. I will definetly use some of these in my link building strategy. Could also be helpful while writing guest posts.

    • Jon Haver says:

      Yah, definitely agree the part about links will be helpful with guest posts. If you can post on a site a guest post without having to do the guest post giveaways of a link at the bottom it is a good thing.

  3. Jon,
    I’ve been trying to build my pbn network using your rubrics, but, the prices for most of the expired domains with decent metrics are going for at least 40 bucks. Is this a problem I’m only encountering or are the prices normalm

    • Jon Haver says:

      Domains with good metrics will fall into that price range.

      Its normal and might seem scary at the start, but its about the long run.

  4. I know a lot of people have questions about how to make the best use of their PBN link juice and i can refer them to this article from now on.

    In my experience, PBN work best if you have multiple sites in the same niche, so you can build a relevant niche based PBN while at the same time make it look more naturally by linking to multiple sites from the same niche.

    A PBN site that only links to one money site is not ideal the way i see it, as every additional link after the first maybe 2-3 carry diminishing returns in terms of link juice. It’s similar with how a sidebar link on 100 pages is not even close to 100 different pages from different domains linking to the same site. What are your thoughts on this?

  5. Awesome post Jon. Hope this meets your target of becoming one of your new epic posts!

    You answered so many questions, but one I didn’t see mentioned was how you feel about using something like cloud flare instead of individual hosting. I’m sure your answer will be to play it safe, but I’m curious how risky using something like this is.

    Cheers,

    Dom

    • Jon Haver says:

      I definitely didn’t address hosting in this post as it would be a monster on its own.

      Here are my thoughts on CloudFlare or other CDN hosts….even though the IP is rotated they are still CloudFlare IP’s. So it is definitely better than all on the exact same IP but it would look the same as if you bought ~10 hosting accounts all from the same host instead of different hosts.

      So yes I think it is an improvement over SEO hosts or using the same host but not as good as unique hosts for each site.

  6. Hi Jon,
    I just wanted to say thanks for this thorough and detailed post. This article bundled with your other pbn articles and expired domain guide makes for the perfect PBN blueprint.

  7. Really nice post, especially for me as I get realy tempted to use Keyword rich anchor tags on my PBN, But after this post I will use the 1/3 formula. Would definitely revert the result.

  8. Nice, simple, to the point and effective – that’s what counts! It felt good confirming I am on the right track as I read along, especially since I am now physically seeing the results with my own PBN.

    I am currently ranking in the top 30 for around 15 keywords since I started using my own PBN, which is now what, about 1-2 months since I bought my first expired domain from you? My primary kw gets 18,100 searches per month, currently I’m ranking #25 with around 6 or 7 links pointing to it. Secondary kw gets 9,900 searches and I’m at #18 at the moment. There’s another kw that gets around 22,000 searches but I’m still in the sandbox on that one though…

    I’ve mentioned it to a few – I’m in the process of starting my own ‘authority site’ where I’ll be sharing my own experiences along the way. The journey has been incredible thus far!

    Keep it up man, all the best with your sites!

  9. This is indeed the perfect time for this post Jon,
    Thanks a lot. I just registered and hosted 3 expired domains and I was still thinking of how to manage it and, this post has been helpful indeed. If you don’t mind, I have few questions I will like you to clear for me.

    1. Do you normally write a homepage article for your PBN or you just make it inform of a normal blog like your own whereby the homepage will be the blog page?

    2. I know this might be off topic but I just wanted to know if possible, do you create webmasters account and social media accounts for your niche sites?

    3. How many expired domains can I host in one hosting account?

    Thanks a lot Job, I really appreciate all the meaty information you’ve been sharing with us here. More strength to your elbows.

    • Jon Haver says:

      I normally have the homepage set up with 5-10 posts showing full length…this get varied though.

      No to webmaster and yes to social media…for bigger sites I do get set up with webmaster tools

      1 for every niche you are in if you are building Silo’d PBNs

  10. Another great article John. Planning to build a blog network for a niche industry finding my niche related expired domains, hope your guide will help me to do that!

  11. scott masse says:

    Jon, nice work…..can you talk a little bit about link velocity and any other methods you are using in conjunction with your PBN links such as blog commenting, web 2.0’s, etc.?

  12. I’d like to ask something similar to Scott Masse’s question – are you using blog commenting, article submission, video, web 2.0 (BlogSpot, WordPress, Weebly, Tumblr, etc), and others in partner with PBNs to dilute your link profile even further? Have you found these more free assets that follow a “NOFOLLOW” (for blog comments) and “SUBDOMAIN” status (for web2.0) something of a time-wasted approach, versus a costly but quicker ranking value in PBNs?

    I’m currently finding sites using a subdomain are taking 4 weeks or longer to be crawled via Google/Bing, even with a submission. And even while using BlogSpot in conjunction with posting to a G+ page, YouTube vid, etc. to get into that backlink profile. However, PR1+ sites (at minimum) that have a DA of 30+ are crawled immediately.

    Thanks for the post! Another awesome bit of content and instruction, all rolled into one!
    -Jim

    • Jon Haver says:

      Hi James, google does seem to be taking longer to get new sites indexed.

      Regarding the “easy” links I am still doing blog commenting on sites and the occasional web 2.0 when I get crappy content I can’t use on my money sites.

      I do recommend a balance but I really am trying more and more to focus on relevance over volume when it comes to blog commenting etc.

  13. Great information Jon. Specially, the in-depth tips on anchor text ditribution.

    In my opinion, you could utilize some exact match anchors also.

    • Jon Haver says:

      You could be right…it is just such an easy position for me to take to not use exact match…it really cuts down on errors. I agree I am probably leaving a little “juice” on the table but I think the risk isn’t worth the reward.

      • By not utilizing exact match anchors you are leaving some link juice on the table. These can be very powerful.

        Tip: Built exact match/phrase match through your PBN and dilute your anchor text using other link building methods such as building web 2.0s and legit guest posts.

  14. Nice step by step post Jon.

    Can you clarify “10 links max per site if the PBN site IS relevant”.. I’m a bit unsure if I understood this properly.

    Am I right that for a relevant PBN site #1, you link up to 10 times to Money site #1 for example?

    Thanks

    • Jon Haver says:

      Yes thats true.

      • How exactly does that work?

        1. Do you link from the same article on the PBN #1 10 times to the exact same page on the money site?
        2. Do you create 10 different articles to the PBN #1 and post one link per article to the money site?
        3. Do you create 10 links in one article on PBN #1 to 10 different pages of the money site?

  15. Thanks for the clarification Jon.

    Something I came across recently had me wondering. Between a niche relevant expired domain with lower metrics, and one that’s not related but with higher metrics, which is more valuable?

    And if it depends on the metrics, how much of a difference swings the balance?

    • Since I don’t know the overall difference of your metrics and the actual disparity. I would still advise you to go with a niche related domain having lower metrics.

  16. Next great article.
    I have few questions about PBN’s and domains.
    1. Do you generate/use random whois for domains?
    2. How do you register domains? First register domain to your real person and then you will change owner to random/generated person?
    3. You are from Canada. Is it safe to buy .ca domain and use generated whois info from Canada (random address from Canada)?
    4. What with design, template for PBN? Do you use free templates for it or they are unique and made by your VA?
    Your blogs, content are great. One of the best i have ever seen.

  17. Hi John,

    I completely agree with the relevancy part.

    ~18 months ago you could get away with links from non-relevant PBN domains just fine, which is why networks like FBL and ALN were so good early on.

    I don’t have any hard and fast rules but I think your numbers (In terms of frequency etc) look pretty good!

    Robert.

  18. John thanks a lot for really breaking down in such detail how you set up a PBN or expired domain for ranking a money site. This is one of the most detailed pieces I have found on the topic while still teaching us the fundamentals… make it look natural.

  19. Hi Jon,
    thank you for sharing your SOP, this is very valuable to me. It has given me the kick up the backside to start putting together a collection of SOPs. I have been following your advice on finding and analysing expired domains and have some pretty good success.
    One question or you. Which of the following would you value higher?
    1) ExpiredDomain1 is PR3 and DA22
    2) ExpiredDomain2 is PR0 and DA28

    Thanks,

    Chris

  20. Hi Jon,

    Love this post. I have a question.

    If I have 3 money sites and want to backlink from my PBN, does it send a flag to Google due to their almost exact Backlink sources?

    Thanks

  21. Jon,

    Superb breakdown. I have to agree with you on simple & safe; after looking at this whole link-building world for a couple of years now, it’s seems with shiny objects and whatever the next thing Google is going to crush. I like doing no exact match anchor as an SOP. What I’ve seen is that the algo will make the connection to the exact match if the overall topics are relevant. I’ve also noticed a trend that my money sites begin ranking a little better after my domain registration is more than a year old. Have you experienced this in micro niche sites? Since many MN sites are not renewed after a year, if Google can tell registration age it seems a likely ranking factor. If that’s the case, the next question is whether building a MNS on a clean expired domain with rank would jump-start that aging process.

  22. Hey Jon, I would definitely say the article what you have written is just awesome and I able to learned something from this post. From right now I’ll try to build a private blog network like yours. Thanks mate :)

    • Jon Haver says:

      Im glad I can help you get the ball rolling.
      .
      I would love to hear how it goes. Please keep in touch .

      Best of luck.

  23. A few years back I used link networks like Build My Rank, Linkvana, etc. While they may have been structured differently from what you’ve done in your PBN, the “rules” look pretty similar: Limited anchor text, linking out to relevant articles, etc. etc.

    My point is that the link networks worked for about a year, then post Penguin, my site’s tanked. I’m just wondering about the longevity of using PBNs. I could see the usefulness in the short term if you plan to sell the site, but personally would not use something like this on a site I planned to keep for years down the road. It just seems like playing with fire to me.

    • Jon Haver says:

      It is definitely not an easy road to maintain your PBN’s.
      It takes hard work and relevant content on a consistent basis.
      It really depends on the amount of time in which you put into it.

  24. Hey Jon,

    Great content and I am using a lot of it to optimize my technique. I did have a similar question to one posted above that was not answered:
    1. What is your frequency for generating the 10 links back to the money site? Do you do one a week after the site is live, then one each week after?
    2. Do you include more than a few links in a post or page pointing back to a site? If you were to put two in each post with a frequency of once per week than it would take 5 weeks to max out at 10 links back to the site. Have you done any testing to see an optimal strategy?
    3. Do you alternate a links posted in the PBN network? If you have 5 PBN’s in which you are linking back from in the third week you would have 3 sites linking back. If each has two backlinks then in a week you have 6 backlinks pointing back to the same site. What technique do you use to make this seem most natural? Do you do one PBN backlink on Mon, then Wed, Then Fri?

    Looking forward to your response.

    JW

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