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Are Private Blog Networks (PBNs) Effective in 2016? – $8 Million Dollar Case Study

This is a question always worth asking! In this post I will share why I believe using PBNs is right for my business and use data to show if PBNs are working in 2016 and their risk.

Why Do I Use PBNs?

I believe that those of us with limited time can systematically build useful websites that rank in Google and support the lives we want in less time than the average person watches TV in a day.

PBN's are one tool in my toolbox to help rank websites without me needing to invest a ton of my own limited time.

Jon Haver

Why share this? Well I know there is a stigma around using PBNs and I understand that but my view is that I need to either not be in the game of making websites or find a way to leverage my skills of systems/processes to help rank my websites.

If I had unlimited time than certainly a pure white-hat approach would be ideal. However, day job, family commitments and other online businesses force the reality that pure white hat techniques executed by me is not an option.

So PBNs for me is a way to systematically continue to build my passive income portfolio to the over $10k/month I now enjoy.

Have you used PBN links to rank a website?

The key question for a lot of you, like it is for me as well, is how well are they working now in 2016 and what is their risk?

Using data I will try and answer some key questions…

  1. How Well Do PBNs Work in 2016
  2. How Risky Are PBNs
  3. How to Build a PBN in 2016

How Well Do PBN Work in 2016 – An $8,000,000 Case Study – WHAT??

Getting data on how many successful sites are using PBNs is obviously not easy. However, one location for collecting amazing data on this topic is the EmpireFlippers Marketplace where $8,000,000 worth of sites are currently listed.

I have done this analysis before and by using that snapshot in time at the start of 2015 vs this one I can answer the following questions…

Questions to Be Answered:

  1. What % of people building and selling profitable websites at EmpireFlippers use PBNs to rank their sites?
  2. Has the % of people using PBNs changed from 2015 to 2016?
  3. Are PBN’s used only on small sites?
  4. How much does the use of a PBN drop the value of a site bye?

Big Pile of Data to Answer These Questions...

  • 48 Active Listings
  • $287,757.77 worth of monthly net earnings
  • $7,894,504.01 worth of sites included in the data

Method:

  • Collect all the data
  • Remove websites that don’t use organic traffic at all (some ecommerce, most FBA etc)
  • Compare to previous results and answer questions

Results:

  • Question 1 - What % of people building and selling profitable content websites at EmpireFlippers use PBNs to rank their sites now?
  • Answer 1 – 55% of content websites for sale (excluding FBA & ecommerce) use a PBN to help drive organic traffic to their website.
  • Question 2 - Has the % of people using PBNs changed from 2015 to 2016?
  • Answer 2 – Those of us using PBNs to help their content websites rank has increased from 42% in 2015 to 55% in 2016.
  • Question 3 - Are PBN’s used only on small sites?
  • Answer 3 – PBNs rightly or wrongly often get associated with lower quality sites and not associated with the larger earnings sites. This turns to not the case with PBN sites earnings only a little less than sites that don’t use PBNs showing PBNs are used on larger sites as well. The graph below shows the average income for a site using a PBN vs the average income for a site not using a PBN.
  • Question 4 - How much does the use of a PBN drop the value of the site?
  • Answer 4 – No questions on this one a site that uses a PBN to get its rankings does sell for a discount. The average listing multiple for sites with a PBN was 25.8 vs 27.5 for sites with no PBN.

Conclusion:

Based on this data there are a few clean conclusions…

  1. Use of PBNs in 2016 is widespread (over 50%) and increasing!
  2. PBNs are not typically used on the largest of sites and when they are used the site sells for a small discount compared to a site built without a PBN to help it rank.

Risk of a PBN

No discussion of using a PBN to help you rank your website is complete without an honest discussion around the risks with using a PBN.

Let me stress that my belief is that for those of us with limited time that want to rank a useful website building a niche relevant high quality PBN is a systematic method we can use help us achieve our goals if used correctly.

However, a PBN should not be the only strategy deployed!

De-Indexation Risk By the Data

My team has built close to 3,000 niche relevant PBNs with less than a 10% de-indexation rate. This is very low and the key is for each site to be a “real” site capable of standing on its own.

PBN Risk Priced By the Marketplace

Marketplaces, when efficient, price in the risk of businesses. Based on the EmpireFlippers marketplace and the 6% discount sites using a PBN are listed at we can interprupt that right now the "marketplace" prices in that risk at 6% of the value of the site.

If you have a site that is making a lot of money but has never used a PBN be aware that as soon as it is labelled as using a PBN you should assume you will lose 6% of its value. However, if the ranking improvement outweighs the 6% than it still may make sense.

I hope this discussion is fair/balanced, not everyone should use a PBN and this post was meant to help show people when/why I make the choice to use them. Like everything online there are risks with the decision to use (or not use) a PBN, this data I hope will help you make the decision that makes sense for you and your business.​

How to Use a PBN in 2016 to Rank

If the risk/reward for using a PBN as apart of your SEO strategy makes sense to you here are 3 options for using a PBN in 2016…

Build Your Own PBN Right Way

(100% Free EPIC Guide!)

Save Time - Use My PBN!

(Extremely Powerful & Exclusive PBN)

Done For You PBN Service

(Want my team to build you a relevant PBN?)

About the Author Jon Haver

I am a 31 year old husband, father of 2, engineer and a huge fan of developing systems to build useful and profitable websites. The reason I build online businesses is to provide financial independence for my family and yours. I am not a GURU but just a regular guy who is grinding out 12+hr days to build a life for my family on terms.
Jon Haver, Online Entrepreneur

Leave a Comment:

25 comments
Dev Patel says February 29, 2016

The usage of PBN has increased indeed. In fact, it has become very hard to find a quality domains like 2014-2015 due to scrapers running all the time.

PBN has definitely changed the SEO landscape. I am surprised to see 55% number. I am sure there are many more users than that but some of them do not come clean due to adverse consequences or effect on sales.

Reply
    Jon Haver says February 29, 2016

    Hi Dev, I agree the competition to get good domains has increased and it is harder than ever. I believe the listings at EmpireFlippers are honest with the use or no use of PBNs since it is relatively easy to check.

    Reply
Financial Samurai says February 29, 2016

WOW! That is crazy that ~50% of the sites being sold use PBNs! I frankly would not buy a site using a PBN due to the risk. But I guess there’s a price for everything.

It makes me want to use a PBN too, but I can’t be bothered. Will just keep writing what I want and see what happens 🙂

S

Reply
    Jon Haver says February 29, 2016

    Hi Sam, all fair comments and because some people don’t want to touch a site with a PBN used they sell for a discount. You have a successful model now, I think what the data says is that you don’t HAVE to use a PBN to build a profitable site and you are showing that as well!

    Reply
Lewis Ogden says February 29, 2016

Great title Jon! The data really doesn’t surprise me – most of the time the sites that catch my eye on EF are using a PBN…perhaps I am drawn to them!

I think as more people learn and build sites to flip, this percentage will only increase in 2017. Would be good if you could do the same this time next year to see if my prediction holds true.

– Lewis

Reply
    Jon Haver says February 29, 2016

    Hi Lewis, I definitely plan on doing this every year to sample where the marketplace sits. Hope all is well!

    Reply
Nikolay Stoyanov says February 29, 2016

These numbers are truly amazing. I could never tell. To be honest, I would expect overall usage of PBN’s to be reduced, not increased. This really comes as quite a shock.

Reply
    Jon Haver says February 29, 2016

    Hi Nikolay, I didn’t expect that large an increase that is for sure. Interesting though definitely. The space is continually getting more and more competitive.

    Reply
Garlyl says February 29, 2016

PBN vs. no-PBN should be a valutation to be done within one’s strategy. People selling domains have a different strategy than Sam, for instance. If you plan to hold a site for a life time probably you do not want to use PBNs, but if you know that in the short-medium term you are going to sell it, well, you think differently. By the way, nice analysis. Thank you

Reply
    Jon Haver says February 29, 2016

    Hi Garlyl, 100% agree…not for everyone but a decision every website builder should make as a heads up decision with as much data as possible.

    Reply
Dan says February 29, 2016

I think the market either undervalues sites that are ‘white hat’ or overvalues sites that use networks. Personally, I think it’s the first one. Part of the problem is many (maybe most) buyers on empire flippers aren’t in the business which I think skews the market

I would be curious to know what the lifespan of sites built with PBNs are on EF versus the lifespan of the average non-PBN site is. I would be willing to bet it’s a lot more than a 6% differential.

I’m not sure I’d ever sell a white hat earner for a 27X multiple. And I’ve sold plenty of sites.

Reply
    Jon Haver says February 29, 2016

    Hi Dan, you could certainly be right…talking with a lot of people I know there is some % of buyers who don’t discount PBNs but simply say I won’t touch one!

    Reply
marcus says February 29, 2016

Hi John,
I am looking for someone to coach me to convert my extensive knowledge on PBNS into revenue. I have even built a crawler tool that looks for expired domains however I feel, like so many others, that monetising this knowledge is the issue. I have built PBNS however I feel I don’t have the knowledge to pick the right product to promote and then the right expired domains to use for the PBN. Do you offer a 1 hour one on one session as a starter.
Regards,
Marcus

Reply
    Jon Haver says February 29, 2016

    Hi Marcus, I have not done any coaching because I struggle to ask someone to pay what I need to, to justify not working on my business when I only work around 20hrs/week. But I always like helping so I will send you an email and see if we can figure something out 🙂

    Reply
Tim says February 29, 2016

Jon,

I think there is a bit of a double standard in the market place. Here’s why. I’d guess that a good portion of the sites on Empire Flippers who are NOT using a PBN to rank are using some sort of SEO service.

The real fact is that most SEO services today are people with a large personal or commercial PBN who are just selling access as SEO. I know several prominent SEOs who do this. With this in mind I’d say the amount of sites for sale associated with a PBN is much higher and the double standard is that no one is questioning the use & risk of an SEO service.

My 2 cents.

Reply
Dom says March 1, 2016

10% risk of deindexation, (a little over 2% in my personal pbn) and 6% devaluation, in exchange for a massive (and scalable) ranking boost is almost a no brainer, even with unlimited time.

Reply
    Jon Haver says March 1, 2016

    I can’t don’t argue with that logic! If you purchased a clean site that was making $10k/month I think the math could be different. But when building from scratch it is tough to justify not using PBNs as a part of the strategy.

    Reply
Hasibur Rahman says March 3, 2016

Average 68.38% people like PBN, as per your pool on this post. But I heard that sometimes the PBN can be bad if you cannot use them correctly. Therefore, I haven’t tried it before.

When I review successful niche website, I have seen that most of the successful niche website owner have PBN. I think I also need to use it in future but currently, I am learning. Hope will try later. 🙂

Reply
Greg Nunan says March 6, 2016

Interesting research Jon. I’ve sold a lot of sites, most with PBN use but some without. 4 or 5 through Empire Flippers. There’s a big difference between what you list for on Empire Flippers (or any marketplace really) and what you sell for. More often than not you get low 20x if you’ve used a PBN to link build your sites which is reflective of the fact that very few seasoned buyers will touch anything that’s been link built with a PBN. SERPS are still cluttered with sites link built with PBNs so they still work, but the price you get at sale time is far lower than a 6% reduction. I tend to think that as a website builder, your ROI is still better using a PBN though, even if your multiple is lower at sale time.

Reply
    Jon Haver says March 7, 2016

    Greg, thanks for the great insight! Definitely interesting to hear and very good point that asking price does not always reflect actual sales price so my data could certainly be off and closer to your experience. But like you say it can make sense to get 20x of a larger number than 27x of a smaller number.

    Reply
    Justin says March 16, 2016

    Hey Greg!

    One thing I’d add – we’ve spent the last 3-6 months bumping up our multiples across the board. Many who sold with us 6-12+ months ago sold in the 20X – 22X range, but that’s changed over time. (i.e. if you sold a site with a PBN with us 12 months ago, listed at 22X and sold for 19X…that might not be how it would play out today)

    There is a hidden cost with PBN’s that comes through negotiation that’s not displayed here, though. There were some other issues I had with the numbers, but forgot to come back here and make a comment! Will try to pop back in a while and flesh out a few more thoughts.

    Reply
      Jon Haver says March 18, 2016

      Hi Justin, would be very interested to hear any insights you have. I could see that since some sellers shy away from PBNs completely that the length of time which I don’t see here takes longer for a site with a PBN. Looking forward to your other insights…and thanks for having such a transparent vetted marketplace it makes this kind of data analysis productive!

      Reply
Jan Roos says March 9, 2016

I like your balanced view on PBN’s.

In my opinion PBN’s are going to get hammered by a Google update some day. Could be tomorrow or it could be 8 years from now. Who knows?

Back in 2012 I was doing around 17k a month passive with Amazon affiliates. Google penguin hit and I lost it all overnight.

Had to rebuild and am now doing white hat SEO, PPC and social media for traffic.

Cheers

Jan

Reply
    Sam says May 9, 2016

    Yes, I had a similar situation. It’s like playing Russian roulette.

    Most of the guys promoting PBN’s are pretty new to the game (4 years or less & post Panda).

    Did you manage to re-build?

    Sam

    Reply
Dan says September 26, 2016

Hi Jon,
Probably the most informative/detailed How To PBN ever. My only concern here is do you think it necessary that PBNs show traffic or Social Shares?

I’m very serious about ditching my current PBN I did back in 2012 and outsourcing to you guys. Its a lot of upkeep to DIY. I think I missed a few steps and it has rendered it not very effective.

Reply
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