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Update on Google PBN Deindexation

With over 1,000 sites I am happy to be able to share what I have seen over the last week and what changes I will be making to my processes.

This post will be broken down into 4 parts…

  1. What Happened?
  2. What Others are Saying
  3. How Have Sites I Have Built Been Affected?
  4. Theories
  5. 3 Changes Moving Forward

What Happened?

Over the last week Google has rolled out a TON of deindexation penalties to A LOT of private blog network sites. Not only were the PBN sites themselves hit but also many money sites for people were targeted with a manual “thin content” penalty.

 

What Others are Saying?

 

How Have Sites I Have Built Been Affected?

I will break this down into 3 parts…

  1. My Money Sites
    1. Both ones using expired domains for 301 redirects, building out a money site and PBNs to promote
  2. My Premium LightningRank.com Service
  3. Done For You Private Blog Networks

Money Sites

Only 1 fully penalized…

500 visitors per day to 0

500 visitors per day to 0

 

This was a lower quality site that used PBN’s extensively for linking and although the traffic was solid it was not earning over $100 so it’s loss is minor.

 

LightningRank

Other similar services such as RankHero were unfortunately completely wiped out. Luckily my service has only experienced a 30% deindexing rate (still painful but far from a death-blow).

LR PBN Indexation

 

Client Done For Your PBN’s

These 797 smaller “silo’d” PBN sites seemed to hold up well. Out of the 797 sites that have been built only 83 sites have been deindexed (EVER).

These are lower powered sites than LightningRank but are truly private with ONLY the customer using them.

With a little under 10% of sites ever getting de-indexed within the last year it is a solid vote of confidence that I am on the right track with my niche relevant, quality site truly private PBN strategy.

Clients PBN DeIndexation rate

 

Theories

Manual Spying – False – Google becoming a customer and then outing all sites on the network – Because not every site has every customer I was able to cross reference who has posts on sites that were deindexed. My theory was that someone would have say 20 posts and all 20 sites would be de-indexed. What I found was the highest rate of deindexation for someone with more than 1 post was 67%.

Auction Watching – False – Google watches domain auctions and deindexes sites that were clearly built as PBN’s. Many of the domains I bought at auction are still strong.

Combined Algorithmic and Manual – Likely – My current theory on how this penalty was applied is that Google spent time building a case to determine with a level of certainty what sites were part of PBN’s. Once they had built up a large group of sites they thought were part of PBN’s they attacked them all in one big wave to generate fear/publicity/buzz.

VERY Simplified Summary of How I Believe Google Has Approached This Problem…

theory

3 Changes

Based on what I have seen in the data and the difference in the networks that have been penalized I think the following changes are in order…

  1. Saturation Limit Lowered for Shared PBN’s – If a PBN is linking to multiple sites the saturation in that PBN should be 25% or lower.
  2. Application Process for Shared PBN’s – If a PBN is linking to multiple peoples sites a review should be done to ensure the quality of the site and the sites backlinks will not be an “infection point” for the network as a whole.
  3. Silo’d niche relevant truly private PBN’s are the safest and I will continue to use/build

All these changes are being rolled out to my networks.

Adapt and evolve…

 

 

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48 comments
Vincent Nguyen says September 22, 2014

Spencer just published what happened to his sites that were using PBNs as well: http://www.nichepursuits.com/alright-google-you-win-ill-never-use-private-blog-networks-again/

Scary time but I’m glad to hear you’re doing fine. Fortunately, sites we’re selling seem to be okay as well.

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    Jon Haver says September 22, 2014

    Hi Vincent, thanks for the link I have added Spencers post to what others are saying section above.

    Glad the sites you guys are selling are doing well…it always hurts to buy a site just to see it get hit shortly after! I have experienced that a couple times.

    Reply
Joe Magnotti says September 22, 2014

Great article Jon, glad to see you have escaped — mostly. What are your thoughts on expired domains? Do you think Google will lower the hammer on that as well?

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    Jon Haver says September 22, 2014

    I think Google will eventually be forced to drop the hammer on any expired domain by essentially discounting all links pointing to the site every-time a site changes registrars. But in the meantime I plan to continue picking up domains at the now discounted prices since the demand has dropped 🙂

    All the SEO churn and increased cost of entry(cost to get a site to being profitable) only increases the value of established websites so I think the direction you guys are moving will pay off!

    Reply
      Steven says September 23, 2014

      As a web designer there are times where I register domains for clients and build their websites. Then months or even a year later the client wants ownership of the domain (for whatever reason) so the registrars and names change. Completely non-seo. I don’t see Google penalizing this this way as this a common for many designers.

      Reply
        jacob says July 21, 2015

        I buy domains and sell domains all the time. Not used to link out to anyone. Do it to build up sites on flippa.

        Reply
Kevin @ Website Hike says September 22, 2014

Hey Jon, thanks for the shoutout! I really appreciate it 🙂 and definitely won’t go unnoticed. ha

Anyways, sucks that one of your website was taken down… always hurts to see a money site get taken down. But good tips at the end and definitely useful information. 🙂

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Dominic Wells says September 23, 2014

Interesting post Jon.

I was surprised when I saw the news about PBN’s and found my sites with LR links were still going strong. Checked a few links and found some deindexed and some still standing, just like you reported. I guess I got lucky when I chose LR over other services!

It’s also interesting to see what the various sources are saying. Some people out of the game, others staying put. My thinking was that now was surely the best time to get into PBN’s because it will be some time before Google hammers them again, but I could be completely misguided!

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sid says September 23, 2014

write a guide on the best ways in finding aged domains without having to use Godaddy.

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Andy says September 23, 2014

My sites use mostly LR links….and they got hit with the thin content penalty.

Also, I think they looked at my WebMaster account to see which sites belong to me, as they all got hit on the same day at roughly the same time.

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    Bob says September 23, 2014

    Key phrase here, “looked at my WebMaster account to see which sites belong to me”.

    Are you leaving a footprint by having money sites and PBNs under the same account profile?

    Reply
    Steve wyman says September 24, 2014

    I saw the same issue. No PBN all money’s sites but they ran riot in all my webmaster tools account.

    What is they only killed amazon affiliate nit the sites with no monetisation or using Adsense?!

    Also 30% due indexation is bad especially if you were. Client on that part which then got penalised for thin content.

    Reply
Chris says September 23, 2014

Hi Jon, nice and concise update. I would agree with you that this is a great opportunity to pick up expired domains. My own experience has been that out of my small PBN of 15 sites 3 have been de-indexed. All three were from Godaddy auctions, but I have others from godaddy auctions that are still live; so I would agree with your point about that not being the problem. All my PBN sites have private whois, are on separate hosts/IPs and are not linked to any WMT or analytics.
The one thing that I did find is that those three sites are probably the most obvious PBN sites. I slightly deviated from the main topic and also the sites contain the most OBL. Those that were not de-indexed are the most real looking and have religiously stuck to a content type.
Also, none of my money sites have been hit with a penalty and the only thing I can put this down to so far is that I added PBN links (from my own and RankHero) extremely slowly at a rate of about 2 per month. I think that many people had been adding links at about 2 or more per week.
Have you looked into the possibility that money site penalty may be linked to the speed at which PBN links were added?

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Quinton Hamp says September 23, 2014

John, thanks for the write-up. Glad you are doing so well.

Had some of mine hit as well last month. Spent this week sorting through them and coming up with ideas on how to improve.

I, too, think they probably aggregate a list of spammy sites. Likely from IP ranges where known SEO hosting occurs, from sites with recently changed WHOIS information, from auctions….

And then they run them through a Panda filter. Something super-tight — maybe like a Panda 1 filter.

Most of my PBNs that were hit had low-quality, copied, or no content. While everything that I’ve put a lot of care into seems to be just fine.

Just my thoughts. Keep chasing!

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Zbynek says September 23, 2014

If built properly, there is no way how to recognize PBN. You should have different owners or anonymous WHO.IS, different IPs, serious content and not overlinked. NEVER link all sites to one client or even to the same group of clients, this is obvious trace. Use different CMS, different content, diversify links, images etc. NEVER use any Google service for your websites – like Analytics, GWT, AdSense etc. – in such case you just tell Google “THIS IS MY PBN!”. Beware of cookies, proxy or different Google accounts are useless – Google uses multi-tracking techniques and can identify you anyway.

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    Don Modekali says September 23, 2014

    So, I have to clear my cookies every time I log into one of my many Gmail accounts for my PBNs?

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      Dee says September 24, 2014

      Just don’t use any of Google products for your PBN /analytics, gmail, GWMT, adsense, chrome, whatever/

      Reply
      Scott says September 24, 2014

      @Don – I’m sure you can find a plug in for Firefox. I was going to suggest using Chrome’s Incognito mode, but ironically Chrome is made by Google. Having said that – don’t associate with Google at all. Use an Outlook.com account, and as Zbynek said – never ever put any Google product anywhere near your PBN where the Google product relies on there being an account in place: Analytics, AdSense, Webmaster Tools.

      Reply
John Shea says September 23, 2014

Hey Jon,

Figured you would have a post out about this, good to know the smaller networks were barely effected but a 30% hit sucks! My 5 PBN sites are still indexed and 1 niche site with links does not appear to have any warnings.

Message me on Skype later, I’m curious to know which domains were hit and how this will effect LR moving forward. Are you worried with all this buzz customers will stop buying links?

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Financial Samurai says September 23, 2014

Hi Jon,
Are small PBNs what you are doing for your service business? I would think if one just keeps a small PBN maybe things will be fine. But I have no idea. Are you changing your strategy much?
All I know is that seldom is Google finished with their changes after a day or a week. Their algo changes keep penetrating the matrix for months.
Sam

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Olayinka says September 23, 2014

i never love the idea of link building to rank in Google, because they are not trust to put your business on.
I love the strategies of getting traffic from various places online and forget about link building of ranking in Google first page.

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Alistair Cochrane says September 23, 2014

Thanks for the update Jon glad to hear the sky is not falling )
When a PBN gets hit it’s not a PBN it’s just BN
Despite their enormous power there are limits to what Google can see.
People will go 1 of 2 ways now. They will either try to toe the line and follow the webmaster guidelines or they will go deeper underground.
Either way we will see a drive towards authority sites and away from niche sites.. . someone should start a blog about that 😉

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Oloyede Jamiu says September 23, 2014

Hey Jon,
Glad to see your update on this PBN ish.
Thank God that you are not severely hit.
I hope the suggested changes would work for you.
Regards,
Oloyede Jamiu

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    PAula says September 23, 2014

    PBN ish – that term made me laugh.

    Reply
      local seo guy says September 23, 2014

      Hi Paula!

      The “PBN ish” is an african thing – “ish” or ” Eish” means “jeez” or “f-” or such.

      Reply
Nicole says September 23, 2014

Jon,

Thanks for the write up. Can you elaborate and explain the 3 changes that you are making? If you are building a PBN to support several money sites and client sites, can you explain saturation? By silod PBNs, do you mean an entire PBN build for each site you are trying to support?

Thanks again.

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Larry says September 23, 2014

Personally, I’m done with PBNs and any other “quick fix” Google ranking schemes. All these methods have a short life as has been proven in the past. I think this is just a first pass at PBNs and not the last. The folks at Google know there are more out there.

I’m starting to build sites without shady backlinking using good on-page SEO and quality content, the sites are doing very very well.

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local seo guy says September 23, 2014

Hi Jon!
What a mess! As usual, G has zero time for the little guy.

I was just about to start my own PBN so this has slowed me down, not stopped me. Think that there are steps to take to keep safe.
Sorry to hear the damage caused to you.

You “no.3 Silo’d niche relevant truly private PBN’s are the safest” is the way to go I believe.

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Jae Jun says September 23, 2014

Hi Jon,

2/10 sites I ordered from you were deindexed but I don’t think it was part of the penalty because the money site was not affected.

Hopefully we’ll get a better idea of how things turn out in the coming weeks and whether more penalty waves come in.

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Sunny Arora says September 23, 2014

This is the best best post in the last 3 days I have read and that is just because of 3 words “Adapt and evolve”
Instead of telling that our 40% network got hit ir sop using OBN why don’t you find a solution.

I am going to buy 5 more expired domains this month…

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Steve lewis says September 23, 2014

What are and others doing with domains that get deindexed? Are they still of value? Can they be rehabilitated? After they get hit and maybe sold…are they marked or marred forever?

Thanks,
Steve

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Doug says September 23, 2014

Hey Jon, It’s good the impact is limited… I know it still a pain to deal with the fallout.

Truly private is the way to go…Aside from totally White Hat. 🙂

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Royce says September 23, 2014

One of the more balanced posts on the topic I have read so far. I agree that PBNs will never be dead until the day comes that google simply discounts a domain’s links once it expires. It’s not surprising to see the lowest deindexing rate occuring with the small/private niche related pbns since they have minimal or just one money site outbound links and they look much closer to a real site. “Link Injection” probably sounded like a great idea and it has its merits but I would imagine on large link networks it starts to look a bit silly.

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Matt says September 23, 2014

So only 10% of your client PBNs got hit. From reading further into your “Client Done For You” section of your site, you said you don’t launch WMT or google analytics because obviously it would leave a footprint. From reading other articles on this G crack down this would be one of the culprits on de-indexation.

Did your “personal” PBNs have WMT or google analystics or anything google app related? If so, what percentage?

Any futher info would be great from your experience Jon! 🙂 Thank you sir!

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Tim Dini says September 23, 2014

Hello Jon, Great article, thank you. I just started building a PBN based on techniques taught by One Man Gang (OMG). One of the first concerns I had before starting, was Google eventually developing a way to filter for link relevancy, and it appears Google has started doing so. how are you planning to avoid deindexation going forward? Any tips you would like to share are much appreciated.

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viv says September 23, 2014

PBN is not SEO,it’s SEC = Search Engine Cooking
You guys should not be complaining. You have had time to enjoy it and profit from it. All you have to do now is move to the next profit making gimmick and start all over again. That’s what they do on Wall Street.

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Steve says September 23, 2014

I’ve been enjoying your blog since you started it. So whilst this is harsh…don’t take it as being mean!

I, for one…have a “serve yourself right” attitude to all of you who try to game google and then suffer the consequences.

I’m not a google white-hat knight! What the ganers do is not illegal. Enjoy it while the success lasts! But you pay the price if you get caught, and can’t complain.

I’d rather focus business efforts elsewhere.

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Jay Patel says September 23, 2014

Probably, we should be extra careful while using PBN. I have seen many people complaining about the same. Probably, there are some signals or footprints that Google is following.

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Karen says September 24, 2014

Google is holding all the cards unfortunately. Its a pity the competition against google in the search engines area wasn’t better. With more competition from other search engines who want a bigger slice of the pie, it may relax these strict algorithms.

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Bin says September 24, 2014

Hi Jon, May i ask Do you use the same content source (may be Odesk) for both networks or there is a different ? And do you use cheap hosting ?

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Fernando Biz says September 24, 2014

Very helpful article and the links you have shared are great resources as well for further reading. My main concern was the point you have mention, PBN’s that links to many other sites, does it mean a PBN site should only be linked to one money site? or should it be kept under a considerable number?

Thanks for the great article.

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John says September 24, 2014

Hi Jon,
may i know if you have a post about this Silo’d niche relevant truly private PBN’ ?
Finding relevant expired domains seems really hard

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Rolf Wouters says September 25, 2014

This is only the first hit for Google on PBNs. I’m afraid we need to be prepared for more.
IMO, the P in pbn is the part that matters.
If a network is private, you’re okay. So (semi) public networks like RankHero, LightningRank etc. are a risk from now on.
I hope you get by, but if we (IM people) were smarter than Matt Cutts, we would be working for Google instead of him 😉

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Chadrack says September 25, 2014

Hi Jon,

Thanks for this post. It does throw some more light on this subject. I’ve read other bloggers write on this in the past few days. I have been reading your posts and already considering doing something on building a PBN before this new update. I really think that with what has happened it will be a wise thing to stay off for some time and watch Google’s next move because I personally think this is just the beginning. If they were able to hit this big with their first try, Google is not going to relent.

It is a good thing that you are much luckier than people like Spencer (I read his story a few days ago) but it is really too early to move on to some thing else. Google is getting smarter by the day. Of course, they are making things difficult for most of us while they are pushing their businesses worldwide. But we know what ever they do, we will always pull off our own share!

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Ali Baba says November 10, 2014

Hi Jon,
May I ask , do you use 301 redirect from your PBN to your money site or every domain has site attached to the domain?
When search for domain what is the minimum requirement for backlinks?
Thanks for all information that you share with us

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Sunby says August 12, 2015

Hi Jon,

Could you confirm us, BPN is still work?

Thank you,

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James says March 1, 2016

“Silo’d niche relevant truly private PBN’s are the safest and I will continue to use/build”…There is no evidence PBN’s have to be silo’d. For example, if you just resurrect relevant sites where the content is no longer indexed, and only link out once to MS, seems to me this should be the safest with the least amount of work. Just because you are building yours in a Silo format does not mean non-silo’d sites are worse or better. I don’t understand your logic.

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