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How effective is a Private Blog Network – Actual Results Revealed


For all my talk about the effectiveness of expired domains and private blog networks there is little in the way of quantifiable proof showing just how effective it is.

Not just if it is effective but by how much can a private blog network improve your search engine rankings?

I will break this post into 2 parts…

  • Part 1 – By the numbers – We will deep dive looking at the search ranking movement of 13 sites who all had quality private blog networks built linking to them using this service.

NOTE March 31 – This private blog network service is now OPEN – There are a limited number of spots in order to ensure quality

  • Part 2 – Other Peoples Results – Results of expired domains / private blog network as shared by other people online, some of which has been shared on this site before but some new information as well. Including an impressive $6k/month amazon affiliate site!

Obviously I am a little biased in this discussion so I will do my best to let the numbers speak for themselves and accurately capture other people’s comments.

When I am talking about private blog networks I am talking about PRIVATE blog networks not ones that are shared with other people.

Part 1 – By the Numbers – Effectiveness of Private Blog Networks – Based On 13 Customers Results

This is where this post gets fun! I now have enough data to be able to answer some important questions with reasonable accuracy. I am not at 99% statistical certainty but using some common sense and the numbers I think the answers to the key questions become pretty clear…

I have come up with the answers to the questions below based on the dozens of networks I have built and the 13 money sites I have been able to track their ranking on (not all clients choose to share their money site and keywords).

When I am talking about a Private Blog Network here I am referring to the service my team offers to find, buy, create content, build, host and manage 5 relevant authoritative expired domain names to promote one(or more) money sites – done for you PBN service.

 5-relevant-expired-domains-network

Have Your Own Relevant Authoritative Private Blog Network Built Here

The data is from 13 clients who shared their money site with me and the keywords they were targeting. Using the tools

I analyzed the sites and their results to see what works and what didn’t.

PBN-Results-1

Overall Summary of Results for 13 Money Sites with PBNs Built to Them

The questions I was wanting to be able to answer were the following…

  1. How effective is a private blog network? How often is it effective?
  2. When is a private blog network most effective?
  3. When does a private blog network not work?
  4. How long does it take for a blog network to work?
  5. How many sites does it take? Are more sites more effective?
  6. Can you be penalized for using a private blog network?

How effective is a private blog network? How often is it effective?

From the numbers 75% of sites that get a private blog network will improve their rankings in 1 month. Eliminating the 1 outlier who had a Google Penalty applied to it the average increase was a 40% increase.

75% of sites saw improved rankings with the average increase being 40% better rankings!

75% of sites saw an increase with the average increase being 40%!

75% of sites saw an increase with the average increase being 40%!

When is a private blog network the most effective?

These results were surprising! I thought that a low KC and a quality site(judged by me doing a human review) would be the most closely correlated to the amount the blog network helped the site.

But the results are clear, the biggest sign that a blog network will perform well is having good on page SEO of the money site.

So the stats show that a private blog network will help 75% of sites rank higher but sites that have good on page SEO will see the biggest benefit.

More telling is that sites with bad on page SEO should not waste their time building a private blog network.

Highest Correlation For PBN Effectiveness was On-Page SEO SCore

Highest Correlation For PBN Effectiveness was On-Page SEO SCore

To improve your on page SEO there are a couple guides to follow.

  • The classic Yoast Guide here and plugin here
  • NoHatSEO recently published a great post on on page SEO here 

When does a private blog network not work?

I really thought the reason for a PBN not working would be the quality(as judged by me doing a manual review) of the money site but that showed almost no correlation to improved rankings.

Based on the sample we have a PBN will not work in 2 cases…

  1. The on page SEO is bad (2 instances)
  2. An unrelated Google penalty strikes at the same time (1 instance)

So the bottom line here is that if your on page SEO is in the dumps improve it before considering building a powerful private blog network.

If your on page SEO is solid B or higher based on the free tool at http://www.quicksprout.com/(free) or http://www.woorank.com (paid) then there is a good chance that a PBN will result in increased rankings.

The other potential scenario is that the ongoing Google updates had a on-page SEO update which impacted the 2 sites shown below.

3 Cases Where SERP Was Lower 1 Month After PBN Was Built

3 Cases Where SERP Was Lower 1 Month After PBN Was Built

How long does it take for a blog network to work?

The short answer is it does not take long at all. The increase in the rankings seemed to be almost immediate then stabilized off after the last site was built.

Many ranking profiles looked like the image below…

Timeline of PBN Sites Being Built vs Search Ranking

Timeline of PBN Sites Being Built vs Search Ranking

How many sites does it take? Are more sites more effective?

5 sites is clearly effective however the most impressive graph turning around a steep downward trend and bouncing back to exceed its previous rankings had the most sites built as part of the PBN.

I do not have enough data to answer this question accurately at this point though, eventually I will.

PBN-Results-2

Can I be penalized for using a private blog network?

The answer is most definitely you can! Every business venture involves risk and to me building real websites with quality content and no footprint is the lowest risk link building strategy you can own/control.

With one site getting penalized it is impossible to say exactly why. However, based on the backlink profile and some of the previous basic black hat link building he had done I believe it was that which bit him.

Can a PBN allow me to recover from a Penguin Penalty?

I have 2 sites which appeared to have/had a penalty applied to them.

One site was recently penalized we believe due to some blackhat tactics and the recovery did not go well for it -770% drop in rankings (ouch).

While on a more positive note, 1 site that was clearly slipping in Google got turned around while the PBN sites were being built…

PBN-Results-2

However, this is only one example and I don’t want to claim it would work in every case!

Part 2 – Effectiveness of Expired Domains/Private Blog Network – Based On Other Peoples Comments

Back in the summer I shared the 3 case studies that used expired domains to get great results in Google.

I share them again here along with some other people opinion on the effectiveness of a private blog network / expired domains…

#1 – Tung Tran from CloudLivingJourney.com has his niche site bestadjustabledumbbells.com ranking # 1after only 38 days and went on to sell it for $10k. He talks about his impressive results and all the strategies he used. One item that a lot of people would miss is the expired domain he picked up to generate a high PR backlink for his site.

See the image below showing where he describes how he used his expired domain…

Jon Comment

#2 Spencer Haws from NichePursuits.com had his website BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com ranking #1 in Google for his target keyword after 62 days! He has also used expired domains to trade links and get high PR relevant links from sites in his niche.

Trade Links

 Spenser

#3 – Myself -My case study Site, (My Case Study Website URL is Now Hidden), generated over $3k/month from search engine traffic and has been promoted using expired domains. I have wrote about how I use these only a little bit twice…

Secret SEO

Source

Feeder Site

Source

In addition to the above 3 there are two more publicly shared successful case studies…

  • EmpireFlippers Using Expired Domains found using this service

EmpireFlippers-Icon

2 Minute Segment from Justin and Joe talking about my Ultimate Expired Domain Guide

Listen to the full episode here

The earnings have continued to increase to their content hub site using the expired domain for the Empire Flippers.

  • Doug at NicheSiteProject – $6k/month Amazon Site!

Doug’s story is definitely worth a read and although he doesn’t talk about it much expired domains played a small piece in his sites massive success! $6k/month from 1 amazon site – his 2013 earnings

Summary – How and when is a Private Blog Network Effective?

Both from my findings and the anecdotal feedback from others I am confident in my summary…

  • 75% of all sites that built a private blog network saw improved rankings
  • The % increase in rankings was on average 40% better (example a site currently ranked 15 will improve to Rank 9 on average)
  • Results are immediate and sustained
  • A private blog network cannot overcome bad on page SEO
  • Decent or better on page SEO is the key to making the most of the private blog network
  • The authority (link metrics) of the domains in the private blog network is correlated with the amount of improvement in SERPs.

If you are considering a private blog network first make sure you have your on page SEO in decent shape and then either build one yourself (following my tutorial here) or let my team help you with my done for you private blog network service.

NOTE Jan 12 – This private blog network service is now Closed – There are a limited number of spots in order to ensure quality – Get notified and receive a discount when it re-opens

About the Author Jon

I am a 33 year old husband, father of 3, 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 AND so I can spend time outside skiing and biking with my family.
Jon Gillham, Online Entrepreneur

Leave a Comment:

40 comments
James F. says January 6, 2014

Jon, congrats on the success of the PBN. I will definitely be signing up next time you re-open! I have had some experience with my own PBN and it definitely helped give me a boost in rankings. Thanks for being so transparent sharing the good and the bad.

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    Jon says January 6, 2014

    Hi James, thanks for commenting and I look forward to helping you!

    Reply
Doug Cunnington says January 6, 2014

Hey Jon – Thanks for the mention!

This is really awesome information. It sounds like you’re going to have even more data one you have the next group of sites running – very valuable!

It looks like it takes a couple weeks for the links to have an impact. Do you think there is some greater effect once the links age? I’m just speculating of course…

Doug

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    Jon says January 6, 2014

    Yes, I definitely will do a more statistically significant post in the future.

    The 2 week delay you see is actually the time to get the first site built. I enter the clients money site into the tracking as soon as they purchase so that I can track their baseline movement for 2 weeks and then once the first site is done it is enjoyable to see the rankings go up.

    Reply
Michael says January 6, 2014

Great post, Jon. These results are more than satisfying for me to have a PBN of my own.

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    Jon says January 6, 2014

    Good stuff Michael…glad you are having success.

    Reply
Jason says January 6, 2014

Honest numbers. I like it!
It’s interesting how little a factor “quality” played in improved rankings. Despite, how much Google talks about creating “quality content”, if nobody can find your “quality content” you’ll never receive any natural links anyway.
I’d actually say that quality doesn’t matter unless you’re on the 1st page of Google(if SEO is your only traffic strategy). That’s when people will naturally find your site, and that’s when you have the potential to get natural links.

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    Jon says January 6, 2014

    Yes, the quality factor had me confused…it may be I wasn’t doing a good enough job scoring the quality. You make a good point about if you are on page 2 with the best content it doesn’t matter because no one is organically finding and linking to you.

    Reply
Stuart says January 6, 2014

Hey John, been following along since before you changed your website name 😉

the results of expired domains are impressive, what I am considering is a test with two good expired domains – B links to A, then A to the money site. then using a reputable service blast some awesome relevant links to B with contextual anchor text in good content to see how that helps rank improvement. its a tiered approach for protection but the expired domain should be able to absorb it well I hope.

Have you tried this?

stu

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    Jon says January 6, 2014

    Hey Stuart, glad you have been following! I have not tried this but it sounds like it would have potential.

    It would be if nothing an interesting test to blast links at an expired domain to see how much better it absorbs it.

    For me though any fully automated link building just is asking for trouble…even though the PBN approach is definitely not what Google wants us doing I think when done right it can still add value to the internet.

    My curiosity still has me interested in hearing about the results!

    Also, your site looks like it was hacked so I removed the link from the comment…let me know when it is fixed and I will drop the link back in here.

    Reply
      Stuart says January 6, 2014

      got to love pointless hackers …the site was empty anyway … but thanks for the heads up … now to check the rest.

      Reply
Brad says January 6, 2014

Awesome post Jon, but one thing that is missing is the linking strategy you are using with these PBNs. I am curious about the number of links you sent to each site from each property of the PBN. Are you only targeting one KY and linking to the moneysite once, twice, or more to see results.

Once you have a PBN set up, what is the best way to use it? How often should you link to the moneysite, how often do you exact match anchor text/naked URL/brand name. These are the answers I am searching for as I embark on my own PBN. Any advise would be appreciated!

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    Jon says January 6, 2014

    Hi Brad…my theory with the PBN is to keep things as natural as possible. Building a real site with real content linking in relevant locations to the money site. That being said the general guidelines I provide are…
    – include 2-5 links that display on the homepage
    – make the links 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 – naked URL, general/random, phrase
    – if I do “target” a keyword it will be in the article title but not the backlink anchor text
    – the more relevant the site is to the money site the more times you can link to it, for example this site (authoritywebsiteincome) links to several sites frequently – nichepursuits, seomoz, majesticseo – the more relevant the site the more you can naturally link to your money site

    Hope this was helpful

    Reply
      Brad says January 6, 2014

      Makes sense Jon. That is exactly what I was already doing. I actually use my one PBN for a couple of clients in a certain niche. That being said, I always practice co-citation and link out to another relevant site that I isn’t mine or a client’s so that it is as natural looking as possible. I am also looking to use it for some possible exchange situations with other quality sites. I think one key is to ensure you don’t saturate your PBN is only self serving links.

      I like the idea of using only the post title as the target keyword. That is another strategy that I will use going forward.

      Thanks for answering my question.

      Reply
Blaine says January 6, 2014

I tweeted the post to unlock what the one site did differently and it is still locked, what’s the trick?

Reply
    Jon says January 6, 2014

    It seems to be working…you have to click on the locker itself and not the sidebar share button.

    I sent you an email with the information.

    Reply
Don Shelton says January 6, 2014

A post to sink your teeth into – much mental chewing with these numbers. As always, detailed, unfiltered numbers are appreciated. It’s disappointing to see Google is still relatively unable to reward quality; I gather that they just can’t get the algo to have that ability yet, but it matches my experience for the most part – quality is at best a secondary factor While the numbers show that PBN’s aren’t a magic bullet, they clearly have a positive effect overall. Your on-page findings are interesting (and back up Hayden’s contention). Looking forward to seeing some of the longer term data. Do you plan on looking at results of other larger (20 or so sites) PBN’s to see if the results of this one can be duplicated?

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    Jon says January 6, 2014

    Hi Don, yes I plan on continuing to collect all the data I can and see where the largest correlation is between PBN success and the various factors.

    My thinking which is slowly changing was that Google was good enough now to crawl sites that on page SEO didn’t matter much…but I am seeing at least some initial conflicting results. My thinking now is that it is important to NOT have BAD on Page SEO but the difference between AWESOME and AVERAGE on page SEO is not huge…but I may be proved wrong on that theory still.
    Glad you were able to dig into the post!

    Reply
      Brad says January 6, 2014

      I always believed that on-site SEO was almost as important as off-site SEO, which is why I usually build a site rooted behind keyword research. This includes custom category and tags and interlinking when relevant. To me it just makes sense and allows you to influence how Google sees what your site is”about.” I have gotten pages ranked in the top 10-30 with almost no backlinks with simple on-site SEO. They usually moved up in the SERPS as some quality backlinks are built. On-site SEO is magnified with proper and quality off-site SEO.

      Reply
        Jon says January 6, 2014

        Brad I think you hit the nail on the head and that is that on site SEO is magnified with off page SEO.

        Reply
Winston says January 7, 2014

Always impressed on your data collection and analysis ideas and skills. Very interesting results.

Maybe I’ve missed it before but I can’t recall. To how many money sites do you build links to from each site in the PBN?

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    Jon says January 7, 2014

    You can link to as many as you like but I try and keep it natural so it really depends on the relevance of the money site(s). Typically for my own it is maybe 4-5 on the high end.

    Reply
Desmond Morris says January 7, 2014

Hi Jon,

you’re definitely right. Private blog network can be very powerful. I have ranked a fresh new website recently using PBN to #1, #2 and #4 positions.

Thanks for the post

Reply
    Jon says January 7, 2014

    Glad to hear you have had success with it!

    Reply
Winston says January 7, 2014

Jon,

Here’s a question that I’ve been wondering about since Quicksprout made his ‘check your site’ SEO app. When you use ‘nofollow’ tags it tells you it’s bad.

Wanted to know what you thought of using the nofollow tags in affiliate links. Should you or shouldn’t you place nofollow?

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    Jon says January 7, 2014

    I am not sure…Google asks us to no-follow certain links like between our own sites and affiliate links (at least that is what I thought). So I think the odd no-follow link is natural. Like I always say I think if its natural it is ok…a few nofollow no problem.

    Reply
Curt says January 7, 2014

Great post Jon. Really enjoy the data and in depth look at things like this.

It is amazing what just a few links can do for a site.

As always, looking forward to your next insights.

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    Jon says January 7, 2014

    Glad you found it useful!

    Reply
Winston says January 9, 2014

Jon, hopefully this isn’t a stupid question.

I’ve been wondering what the difference is between getting links from web 2.0 properties and a PBN. With a PBN you get the PA of the homepage for juice. Isn’t this the same concept with a web 2.0 property say like blogspot or wordpress which have high PA?

Shouldn’t they theoretically deliver the same juice?

Reply
    Jon says January 12, 2014

    Winston the difference is in the authority they pass. However, if you have a web 2.0 with the same PA/DA CF/TF as a website then I would say those links (assuming equally relevant) would be about equal. However, the rub comes when you are trying to scale…it would not be natural for a site to have 100 backlinks all from web 2.0 properties while only 1-5 from a website but the reverse ratio would be natural. So I have nothing against web 2.0 properties and definitely use them for my content that isn’t good enough but I believe it can’t scale as well.

    Reply
Stephanie Brown says January 11, 2014

Hi Jon,

Wow! I am impressed with data and graphs. This is the first time on this blog and I’m looking to see if a competitive keyword can rank first page with 5 high pr backlinks.

Pay day loan for example or how to lose weight.

I am divided by opinions by some saying that you can rank in first page with a few backlinks but other say impossible.

What do you think?

Thanks.

Reply
    Jon says January 25, 2014

    Pay day loan with 5 links – impossible

    I would first look into understanding keyword competitiveness and then start in an easier niche.

    Reply
Troy says March 6, 2014

Thanks Jon for the great and extremely detailed post and case study – it is always interesting to compare and contrast theory vs case-study based information. learned alot about PBN’s here – thanks and keep the info flowing!

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Bil Goldberg says September 9, 2014

I agree, privet networks work the best.
first of all, you own the link, i wont be removed in a few month.
you control the site and you link wont get DE-valued because the person who sold you the spot continue to sell link from the same page.
Deleted domain are a good place to start and take it from there.

Reply
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Reply
marinawhite101 says August 3, 2015

Awesome post Jon,

I have to add it to my to read list so detailed. Need time to digest this.

Love your content locking idea, thats just brilliant!

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Atinder says August 12, 2015

Well, The PBN (Private Blog Network) has always been one of the best way to rank well in Search Engine, but after the recent assault by Google to many of big PBN’s, Some cautions needed to be taken, while building Private Blog Networks, And I always consider using Different Analytic and Search Console Accounts + High PR domains with Good Domain Authority + Quality Content + Unique Hosting IP address + Linking to other High Quality sites from PBN Blogs. In my thinking this is the best way to build a Private Blog network which works.

I may be wrong, What You say?

Reply
abdessamad says February 3, 2016

can u plz help me for my website that had 1 year and still have no visitors !!!

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Jared says April 8, 2016

I’m actually in the process of setting up my fist 10 site PBN for a very specialized niche, so it’s good to read about real life case studies relating to it. Because it’ll take a lot of time to generate content on all ten sites I’m actually going in with a few other companies in the same field to help with the blogging and get some back links as well.

Just one question for you. If the ten sites on the PBN all link out to the same 5 websites (mine and my allies) is that a risk of getting caught by Google?

The content will all be unique, manually written, and have plenty of other articles & links that don’t point to the money sites.

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Germain says June 8, 2016

I think this service is excellent, and I’d be more than happy to purchase your services…but my interest lies in whether I can just have you set up the PBN’s and everything, and then cut the monthly costs and just take over the hosting fees? I really only want the PBN’s set up, I don’t really care to have new articles posted every few months…do you guys provide this kind of service as well?

Reply
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