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Are PBNs Safe and Do They Work in 2020

In this post, I am going try to answer the question of are PBNs safe and do they still work? 

There is no black and white answer but by trying to look at this from a few different angles and my years of history building and buying and selling websites I hope to be able to provide a deeper understanding for you to make your own informed decision. 

The decision ultimately around the risk vs reward will be unique to your situation.

Are PBNs Safe?

There is no form of rank manipulation that is risk-free, even supposed white hat strategies of outreach / guest posting comes with risk. The short answer is PBNs are still effective and being used by many. However, once site builders are established and have very long term time horizons and sites of significant size many move away from using PBNs. 

This post is going to cover…

  • What is a PBN?
  • How do we define risk?
  • Examples of when people use or don’t use PBNs
  • Look at the data on who uses PBNs
  • History of Google updates that impacted PBNs  

What is a PBN or Private Blog Network?

A PBN is an SEO tactic where you purchase a group of domains, typically recently expired domains with quality backlinks to them, and then build a relevant site linking back to your money site. This shows Google that high authority sites in your niche backlink to your site and backlinks are still the #1 ranking factor in Google or another search engine. 

How do we define Risk? 

Risk is the probability of a negative event occurring and the consequence of that event. So in the context of are PBNs risky the question becomes…

  • Probability – What is the probability that the use of PBNs will cause a penalty?
  • Consequence – What is the consequence of that penalty?  

When to Use and Not Use a Private Blog Network Examples

Let’s go through a few examples first before we dig into the data. 

Example 1 – Purchased Large Clean Site

Imagine if you just purchased a large website that has never done any link building (white hat or otherwise) and you now need to decide should you build a PBN or buy PBN links or do nothing?

In this case and using the formula above your current probability of getting penalized by Google for the use of PBN backlinks is near zero and the consequence is very high. 

Therefore, it would not make sense to increase the probability of a penalty by building PBN links.

Example 2 – Purchased Medium-Sized Site Already Using PBNs 

In the case where the site already has PBN links. You are currently living with the potential of a penalty and therefore building additional PBN links (if they are built properly) does not increase the probability/risk in a significant way.  

Therefore, adding additional PBN links to your site would not significantly change your risk while helping you rank. 

Example 3 – Starting a New Site

This becomes a very personal decision for you based on your timeline, aggressiveness and overall appetite for risk. As shown below when we look at do PBNs work it is clear PBN links are still effective in 2020, however, are you wanting to optimize for short term success or long term success. 

Therefore, it depends on your personal risk profile. 

What Has Changed With PBN Building

I first started using PBNs in 2013/2014 and created some ultimate guides which have been used over the years and stayed remarkably relevant. 

However a few critical things are different then they used to be…

  1. Speed of Building an Expired Domain – I don’t have all the data yet but it is clear the speed with which a relevant site is back up on a dropped domain matters in the eyes of Google returning its pre-dropped love to the site. 
  2. Real & Relevant Is Important – It has gotten more important to find relevant domains to build your PBN site on. Having old restaurant domains link to your camping gear website is no longer as effective at passing link juice. 
  3. Organic Traffic > Link Metrics – We are wanting to get domains that pass Google love to your website, the best measure of Google love is if Google is sending traffic to the domain. Buying for metrics only DA/PA/TF/CF/DR/UR have long passed. 
  4. Anchor Text Obsession – The risk of SEO’s over-gaming the anchor text has increased and now Google does a better job of understanding the relevance of the page you are receiving a link from. So it is now smarter to obsess less about the anchor text and more about the relevance of the site you are getting a backlink from. 

Are PBNs Safe and Effective in 2020

Now to try and answer this question I am going to look at a few sources of data. 

First, looking at the histo

PBN Usage in Content Sites for Sale: 

EmpireFlippers provides some great data by publicly identifying the content sites on their marketplace that use a PBN. I have done this analysis other years and therefore can compare is the rate of use of PBNs in content sites increasing or decreasing. 

Looking at the number of content sites 

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 over the last 5 years?
  3. Are PBN’s used only on small sites?
  4. How much does the use of a PBN drop the value of a site by?

Big Pile of Data to Answer These Questions…

  • 100 Most Recent Amazon Affiliate monetization method money sites listed on EmpireFlippers 
  • $227,461 worth of monthly net earnings
  • $7,428,843 worth of sites included in the data

Method:

  • Collect all the data filtering Amazon Associate, most recently listed/sold, 
  • 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 amazon affiliates websites at EmpireFlippers use PBNs to rank their sites now?
  • Answer 1 – 32% of Amazon Affiliates websites for sale use a PBN to help drive organic traffic to their website.
  • Question 2 – Has the % of people using PBNs changed from 2015 to 2020?
  • Answer 2 – People using PBNs to help their Amazon Affiliate websites rank has decreased from 42% in 2015 to 32% in 2020. 
  • Question 3 – Are PBN’s used only on small sites?
  • Answer 3 – It turns out sites that were using PBNs earned an average of $600/month more than those that weren’t. Over a $20k increase in value for the average site.
  • Question 4 – How much does the use of a PBN change the value of the site for sale?
  • Answer 4 – No Change – This was interesting there was almost no difference in how a site with a PBN vs without a PBN was valued. 32x for sites without a PBN and 31x for sites with a PBN. 

Summary

A smaller % of people are now using PBNs to rank their Amazon Affiliate websites. Those that do use PBNs make 31% more per month than those that don’t and the valuation multiple is unchanged between the two groups.

Google has made it more and more difficult to build a network of sites to help another website rank effectively driving up the cost to build a quality network of sites. 

As a result, what we have seen over the last 5 years is fewer people making the decision to invest in building a PBN to support their site but the answer to the question of do they still work is clear. 

PBNs are still effective in 2020 however they are not without risk. 

Additional Resources:

Purgatory Link Building Strategy

Building links in an efficient way has been something that I have enjoyed systematizing for almost 10 years online now!

This purgatory link building strategy is on track to be one of my all time favorite strategies! 

As “white hat” link building goes this is a great strategy since it…

  • is scalable across many sites
  • get you niche relevant links
  • doesn’t require a cost per link (typically)
  • doesn’t require you spamming the entire internet
  • is an efficient use of your teams time. 

It does require you to use a few tools, act reasonably quickly and create a solid piece of content…but what are you doing running an online business if those stop you 🙂 

Enough talk… let us get to the details of what the Purgatory Link Building Strategy is all about…

Basic Link Building Concept:

Stealing backlinks from your competitor is great but really hard! 

Stealing competitors links when they are almost dead is easy!

Why is it named “Purgatory” Link Building – These are links that still have unfinished business, the pages they link to are not quite dead and the links themselves have a lot of life left! 

For other link building guides:

Simple Steps:

  1. Find expiring/auction domains with a lot of links and are reasonably relevant to your site
  2. Create an improved version of the pages that people were linking to (quickly – time matters with this strategy)
  3. Outreach to get people to link to you instead of the almost expired and now useless page

 

purgatory link building strategy

 

How is this different from Broken Link Building? Broken link building is about finding a resource that a lot of people linked to that is no longer available. The difference is in timing and scale… when you do broken link building you are reaching out to people who have had that broken links on their site for a number of weeks/months etc… when we are reaching out to domains that are about to expire it may be the first time that they know about the asset they were linking to no longer being active. Often the expiring domain will be a landing page and never actually show up as broken. Plus, you can do this at scale for smaller resources resulting in a lot more opportunities. This is much more scalable with a lower level of overall effort since you don’t need to find a page in your space with 100’s of links to it. 

How is this different from the SkyScraper Technique? With the skyscrapper technique you need to create a resource that is sooo much better than the page the website owner is currently linking to they are willing to either add your link or replace the link. This is a much tougher ask and not as scalable since you need to invest heavily in each piece of content. With purgatory link building you don’t need to create a 10x better piece of content. 

How is this different from my 301 Building Block Strategy? The 301 building block strategy is related where you leverage a micro site of your content on an expired domain and then move that site to be a content cluster within a larger site leveraging the links to the expired domain to raise the authority of the entire larger site. The 301 building block strategy requires you to actually purchase the domain and create a small cluster of content on the topic. Purgatory link building strategy allows for a more efficient/scalable approach to achieving a similar result.

Step by Step Purgatory Link Building Process:

Part 1 – Find Expiring Domain:

In this step you are going to find a domain that has people linking to it, they may not yet know that the link on their site is useless since the domain they are linking to is in “purgatory” not yet expired but the page is no longer live. 

We will identify a domain, the optimal page on that domain and the type of asset to create to then reach out to. 

1-1 – Find Domains

In this stage we want to identify domains that have solid real links… the best way to do this is to filter on TrustFlow from Majestic and verify it has at least a little traffic. This shows it has quality links and likely not terribly abused from an SEO standpoint since it ranks in Google (meaning the links we are going to want to get are ones that are actually useful). 

  • Go to SpamZilla 
  • Enter into the search term
    • TF > 15
    • Keywords > 1
    • Pick the Topical Trust Flow Category if you want to ONLY look in your niche

Purgatory Link Building Strategy

One other filter to apply is to select “MarketPlace Domains” and then only select GoDaddy Auction

Purgatory Link Building Strategy

You will be using this filter a lot so be sure to save it!

Open up each of the domains that look like they might make sense for you first in MajesticSEO looking for a site that has “real” and “relevant” links to the URL. Looking at both the Ref Domains and Pages that links have been built to help show what site would make a good target.

Purgatory Link Building

We need real links to a decent resource.

Here is an example we will do real time… publishing the alternative page here for these 1,414 domains to link to instead here at the same time I publish this article. 

Purgatory Link Building

In the pages tab we are looking for a page that can be created better then it was before which received several links and had a high Trust Flow. Often building a page to be an alternative to link to instead of the homepage is hard however many sub-pages will be a lot easier to build a similar page to. In this case we are targeting people who linked to the homepage and now need an alternative. 

Purgatory Link Building

Now we have an idea of a page or an article that could replace the homepage to recreate on a reasonably relevant site. 

1-2 Verify the Content in Archive.org is Recreatable

The next step is to check to see if we can recreate content that is superior to the expiring content.

If we were to execute this example we would need to re-write and add some additional value add that would have people taking the time to link to it. 

Checking in Archive.org to see that the page can be re-written/created anew…

Note – Archive.org and TheWaybackMachine are often down or not working and here are some alternatives

Purgatory Link Building

1-3 Build Outreach List using MajesticSEO and ahrefs.com 

This step is about preparing for the link building outreach plan. 

Using MajesticSEO and ahrefs build as complete a list of everyone who links to that page…

MajesticSEO:

  • Enter the URL in Site Explorer
  • Go to Backlinks
  • Export Data

Purgatory Link BuildingAhrefs:

  • Enter URL 
  • Select Backlinks
  • Export Data

Purgatory Link Building

Part 2 – Create a Link Worthy Piece of Content

Creating “just” an article may not be enough. The goal isn’t to just match the quality of the content but to top it to provide the extra incentive for the site owner to replace the useless link with your own. 

Article: 

Certainly matching the article quality is important. Doing a little bonus keyword research at this stage so that the article is being created to both be a suitable link alternative but then have a reasonable shot at ranking for a keyword that matters in terms of organic traffic. 

The link juice makes this strategy often worth it on its own but if you can find an angle that will move the needle for traffic that is even better! 

Make sure you are using strong internal linking strategies from these pages to the pages that matter most for your site so that you can pass the link juice along to the pages that really matter. 

Infographic: 

If you can get a decent infographic created in a matter of hours for $5 (via Fiverr) with the research already done (share the archive.org link for the data) then it is a great means of getting some additional link love!

Video:

If there is a simple video that can be created that will also fulfill the searchers query that might be enough to reach out and share. 

Tool / Aid:

If the opportunity is large enough there could be a simple template or tool that would make the effort to swap out the link worthwhile. 

Publish the content and be ready for the next step.

 

See example – 10 Best Note Taking Apps for Windows

 

Part 3 – Outreach

If you want to build a really robust outreach machine then have a look at this B2B Lead Generation article! 

However, for this relatively efficient outreach system focused around linkbuilding than the outreach tool from SEMRush fits the bill. 

  • Upload list
  • Create template
  • Start sending 
  • Monitor and follow up if needed

SEMRush Link Building Tool

To see a detailed post on how to do cold outreach for link building checkout this guide.

More on this Content Marketing Strategy…

This is just one of several strategies we have been developing and scaling within the ContentRefined.com team to be able to REALLY push a site! 

Fun Story About the Inspiration for This Strategy – I am a Terrible Loser!

I was buying some expired domains with traffic and lost one I REALLY wanted… being a terrible loser I decided to quickly create some superior quality content then what the site had and “steal” the links going to the domain that I just got outbid on. Yes, I am a petty and a terrible loser! But now hopefully you can be too!

Purgatory Link Building

Later talking with the ContentRefined team we decided that this wasn’t just something to execute on a one-off basis but to scale and hence the reason for this post existing.

Very interested in hearing your thoughts on this strategy and more importantly the results you are able to achieve with it! 

 

How to Build a PBN in 2020 – Ultimate Private Blog Network Guide

In 2013 I created the ultimate guide to expired domains and since then have built over 10,000 PBN sites the right way!

This new and improved guide has everything you need to  build a Private Blog Network in 2019 the right way! I get asked many questions about wether of not PBN backlinks are still powerful in todays SEO world and my answer is... yes and I have some data to show you just how PBN backlinks in 2019 still work in this case study here.

This MASSIVE 9,000+ word guide provides you with everything you need to build a powerful private blog network the right way easily and surprisingly cheap! 

This free guide is the result of years of experience, weeks of work, 10,000+ PBNs built, hundreds of customers, 230 comments on my last guide and dozens of people contributing questions.

​Thank You to everyone who has helped make this guide the MONSTER it is!

I truly hope that by the end of this how to build a PBN guide you will have gained a lot of valuable information that you can apply to your sites.

You will learn how to...​

  • ​Find premium expired domains that are powerful, relevant and free of SPAM
  • Build an effective PBN with no footprint
  • Use a PBN the "right way" to improve your rankings
  • Use an exact repeatable process (with my procedures)
  • Build a quality PBN at a remarkably low cost!

This guide has everything you need to build a powerful PBN by yourself but if you are tight on time and want to simply pay my team to build you your PBN right visit my service...


Jon Gillham

AuthorityWebsiteIncome.com & LightningRank.com 

This Guide Works - Less than 10% of the 10,000+ PBN sites my team have created have ever been de-indexed!

Ultimate Expired Domain Guide

UPDATE – Every strategy originally listed still works but there have been a few changes. To ensure this resource continues to be THE BEST resource on finding expired domains and building private blog networks I have edited it with the latest tips and tricks.

In addition to this post I created the ultimate guide to building your own PBN

DONE FOR YOU SERVICES – Since the creation of this post I have started offering 3 highly requested services. If you are interested please check out the sales pages (often sold out but sign up to be notified when they re-open)

buy-pbn

2016 CHANGES – For people who have already read this 8,000 words here is the summary of the changes….

  1. I no longer recommend IXWebHosting, instead either HostNine or this list of inexpensive hosts I use
  2. I no longer recommend DomainSpoon, I know strongly recommend PBNLab
  3. Relevant 301 redirects does not mean the domain should not be purchased
  4. DomCop.com added as a reasonable free alternative

IMPORTANT – This post took me one month to create something special for you – the readers of authoritywebsiteincome.com. Although I do not consider myself a Guru at all I have over the last 3 years built up a pretty large amount of knowledge on how to use expired domains to boost search engine rankings! After receiving a lot of emails from people incorrectly using expired domains and my last post causing a lot of great question I decided to create this the Ultimate Expired Domain and Private Blog Network Guide!

But I wanted to provide value to you beyond just 8000 words….so I have decided to give away a custom in house tool that I had developed to make the process of finding valuable expired domains much much easier! As well as another very valuable bonus to anyone interested…

FREE GIVEAWAY…

Free-Custom-Domain-Finding-Software

Thank you, the reader, for motivating me to create this guide…I really hope you get value from it, my extra’s and I look forward to hearing from you!

Jon Gillham

jonhaver11 (at) gmail

jon-haver-52-58

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Constantly Improving Our Systems – Spamzilla

With every business I operate, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our systems and either make them more efficient or to provide better results. This is no different when it comes to our LightningRank services. For each Lightningrank service, we rely on expired domain tools to help us fulfill our services, and in the past, we have used Register Compass, but more recently we have switched to Spamzilla.

RegisterCompass was great over the years but it’s more expensive and I find the usability of the program to be a bit harder. When taking a 3 hours period, with Register Compass we would find about 5-6 quality domains, however with Spamzilla since we have started using it, we have been able to find double that amount in the same time period on average.

We have been using this tool for just under a month and since then our team has loved it and has been able to be more productive with it, so we wanted to show you some of the cool features that go along with it. If you are interested in building out your own PBN or having us do it, using our improved system, you can take a look at this case study we did a few weeks ago.

Variety of filters to choose from

The filter section is great. It allows you to customize exactly what you are looking for down to the Topical Trust Flow you are looking for. Another feature I really like is that you are able to select the anchor text language, which helps to quickly eliminate thousands of spammy domains.

If you have a particular set of filters you like, you can also save the preset so it’s quickly usable the next time you go to find domains as well.

Usability of the Dashboard

Once you are searching for domains, the look and feel of the dashboard is very user friendly. You can quickly see the Topical Trust Flow categories under the Maj Topics heading which allows you to easily look for domains that are in the niche you are looking for.

You also have the ability to click on the number in the TF column and it will bring up the MajesticSEO screen where you can dig deeper and look at the backlinks. The one thing I don’t like is that you can’t move the headings and arrange them the way you want them to be arranged, but it’s pretty easy read the headings that it’s not a big deal.

If you are looking for domains for either building out private blog networks or you are looking for a money site domain, this tool is a fantastic tool to have and it comes at the fraction of some of the other tools in the space.

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