Website Income

Are PBNs Working in 2017 – Case Study and Test Results

So the big question…. ARE PBNs STILL WORKING IN 2017???

See the case study process and results below and how I generated 800 organic visitors in a day!

This post is a case study aimed at identifying the potential power of expired domains with actual traffic data and link metrics revealed.

Some of the results are pretty surprising…

PBNs have been a very controversial subject to talk about but have also been the most systematic way of ranking a website I have found.

What is a PBN? A PBN is a private blog network where we find expired domains that still have quality links pointing to them, build a similar website on the expired domain and link to your money site. The end result is you can create network of high authority and relevant sites linking back to your money site and increasing its rankings in Google.

2 News Events on PBNs in 2017

So far in 2017 there have been 2 PBN news worthy events from Google related to PBNs…

  1. Google Resets Backlink Profile on Expired Domains – This one was potentially the big one and the reason I increased the size of this test. In a video John Mueller from Google came out and said that Google could reset the backlink profile on a domain when it was renewed.

Great Article on this video –

2. Feb 7th Google Update – This one had people initially running for the hills thinking it was a target on PBNs. I saw a slight increase in my normal weekly PBN deindexation but no increase in money sites being negatively affected. Others wrote in with similar questions and I struggled to provide an answer as to what I thought the update was as it didn’t initially look like the PBN targeted update people were thinking it was but I didn’t have a great answer as to what it was. Lucky for us there are smarter people with access to even more data that dug into the update and came to a conclusion that is consistent with what I saw in my smaller sample size (update targetting content quality)…

a. Glenn Gabe –

b. Search Metrics –

”So we are left thinking this is probably one of those  or something new, but not related to links as I said originally but more related to content quality.”

Barry Schwartz at SERoundTable

Question to Answer as Part of my PBN and Expired Domain Case Study:

So I have devised a test to hopefully show what matters most in leveraging the power of expired domains and PBNs in 2017. Ultimately I will try and answer are PBNs working in 2017 and what matters the most to make them work.

Although my test will hopefuly be insightful I have no illusions that it would hold up to a “scientific review” feel free to make whatever conclusions from the data you see fit.

PBN Test Method

If the 2 updates were targeting PBNs then a website built on an expired domain should not be able to receive the ongoing benefit of the links and SHOULD NOT achieve abnormal early rankings.

By finding a mix of domains and building a quality site on them if they perform better then we should expect for a new site it is a sign that we are receiving a benefit from the old backlinks. So if the sites I build rank quickly then PBNs are working, if they don’t rank quickly then PBNs are not working.

Steps I followed…

  1. Find ExpiredDomains that meets my metrics here
    • Most Important QC Check
      • Real & Relevant Backlinks (the website has links from a “real” site)
      • Real & Relevant Website (the website was a “real” site)
    • PA > 20
    • DA > 15
    • CF > 15
    • TF > 15
    • Will meet 3 out of the 4 metrics above
  2. Build Relevant Site With Great Content – Identify similar topics that the site was talking about and then use the process at ContentRefined to get great quality articles created that will reliably outperform the competition.

NOTE – I do not recommend doing a complete rebuild and re-using the content.

Test Results

For this test in January I purchased 5 domains using basically the same metrics as I sell here with a spread of metrics and then had ContentRefined produce articles for them targeting content similar to what was on the site before (without duplicating).

The table below shows the 5 expired domains that were registered, their metrics and the resulting organic traffic to each of those sites after relevant, high quality low competition keyword content was placed on the site.

What is very interesting is when you combine these numbers you can really see the result from week 1-3

From the data there seems to be a 2 week sandbox for an expired domain which is A LOT shorter then we seem to get for new domains.

Analytics screenshots showing organic traffic.

Site 1: Instant Steady Organic Traffic 

Site 2: 800 organic visitors per day within 1 month!

Site 3: Flat for 2 Weeks the Moderate Traffic

Site 4: Stable Traffic After 2 Weeks

Site 5: Spike in Traffic after ~2Weeks

So What Does This All Mean? 5 Key Takeaways!

Relevant and Quality PBNs are the Key!

If you are going to decide to help your site rank with PBNs the takeaway from these updates and my test is…

  1. Expired Domains and PBNs are still VERY VERY powerful! 800 unique visitors per day within 3 weeks for one of the sites (not normal!)!
  2. There seems to be a 2 week sandbox from the time a site is rebuilt before Google starts showing it some love.
  3. Metrics Matter – The 2 worst performing sites out of the test were also the 2 lowest metrics. Having these 2 low metrics sites was intentional as it helps to show that the boost in traffic is due to the more powerful backlinks for the other 3 sites still helping the sites in the eyes of Google.
  4. Relevant Rebuilds are Key– The content on the PBN site needs to be relevant to the expired site!
  5. Quality – Google continues to raise the bar on the content quality for both money sites and PBNs and if you want a money site or PBN site to last you need to build with quality in mind. Decent quality content and a site that looks real is important!

A couple questions…

Should you build a money site on a PBN? I certainly plan to turn a couple of the sites above into a Money Site using the team at I certainly plan to turn a couple of the sites above into a Money Site using the team at to create an awesome affiliate site. However, in general I do not recommend planning on starting out building a money site on an expired domain because although all 5 of these that I purchased in January performed well it is not always that case and the domain could be penalized without you knowing it. What I recommend is building test sites and then executing the 301 Building Block strategy if you want to get the benefit of an expired domain direct to your money site.

Are these results normal? Definitely not, I am not 100% sure what the reason was that some of these sites just exploded in traffic. I like it! A big part was focusing using the contentrefined method on targetting highly related, high search volume but super low competition keywords and then methodically ensuring we had better content then anything on the first page. I will be doing more testing because getting a 3 week old site to 800 unique visitors a day is EXCITING!

Want to run a similar test? You can by doing the following…

  1. Do it yourself option – Find a domain and build a PBN yourself and then do fantastic keyword research and create great content. Below are the giant tutorials I have shared on this site to show you exactly how I do these activities.
  2. Done for You OptionGet a PBN built and then upgrade the content with the ContentRefined service.

Hope this data was interesting and if you execute this test on your own please share the data with me!

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:

steve says February 22, 2017

About your #4 Relevant Rebuilds are Key– The content on the PBN site needs to be relevant to the expired site!

So does that mean to purchase expired domains that are close to the niche we’re in? Since we have to now rebuild a site similar to the actual expired domain? For example if I was trying to rank an acne affiliate site I’d have to find an expired domain that was maybe in health rather than in law to create relevancy?

    Jon says February 22, 2017

    Hi Steve, you are exactly correct. I believe it is more important then ever to focus on relevant expired domains for our PBNs.

Matt says February 22, 2017

So quick question, the 5 sites you build on expired domains? Are those the PBN sites or are those suppose to be money sites?

If they are money sites, how many PBN links did you point to each one to get that much traffic on site #2?

    Jon says February 22, 2017

    Hi Matt, those sites above that were built on the expired domains were test sites to try and measure the effectiveness of the backlinks to them to have them rank in Google. No additional links to any of them were created. At least 3 out of the 5 will turn into money sites, 1 will be used as a 301 building block and 1 will be used as a PBN site.

Brad says February 22, 2017

Great Post Jon, this is less a comment and more of a thank you message – I have had many skype calls with Jon and he has helped to educate me how to properly manage my website and to help drive more traffic to it. I was previously just guessing what articles to write and was having very little success.. Now that I am more familiar with the strategies used.. I was even able to look back at some of my article titles i have used in the past to see why they did not accomplish anything and it was easy to see that the competition level was to high and with the same content but a few small tweaks I would have been better off. So thank you Jon for helping to show me that I was kind of on the right track.. but needed a few adjustments to help really drive my site.

    Jon says February 22, 2017

    Thanks Brad, glad I have been able to help!

silviu says February 22, 2017

how many articles have you published on every of those 5 websites? thx

    Jon says February 22, 2017

    Each varies from 1 (4,000 word post) to 10 (1000 word posts).

Nick says February 22, 2017

“NOTE – I do not recommend doing a complete rebuild and re-using the content.”

Why not?

My thought about Google reevaluating if the site serves the same purpose me think that rebuilds could be the smart effective way forward.

Interested to hear your reasoning/thoughts.

    Jon says February 22, 2017

    Personal choice, I am not clear on the legal side (is it like picking up garbage on the side of the road) and might create a dicey/ethical issue with the previous owner. People definitely do it.

Barbara DiLucchio says February 23, 2017

Hi Jon, I am completely new to this but understand enough to know that I want to learn more about this. I have heard of PBNs but I really don’t know what defines a PBN and why it performs better than non — PBNs. I understand the purchasing of websites that were never renewed but I think I need a “PBNs for Morons” book that I might be able to understand how this all works. From the little bit that I understand (maybe) You purchase these 5 expired sites that meet some minimum criteria and rebuild them but keep them in the same subject that they were before but add really good quality content but no new backlinks are added, is that correct or am I wrong here? I am really interested in understanding and trying this out can you recommend some reading I could do that might help me to better understand?

Thanks very much for sharing all of this valuable information!

Terry says February 23, 2017

Hi John, Very interesting article, thanks for sharing. I have a couple of questions if you would not mind answering. Are the domains auction domains or scrapped dropped domains and where they still indexed prior to you rebuilding them? Also what search volume was the keywords you where targeting.

    Jon says February 23, 2017

    Hi Terry, thanks for the questions.

    1. A mix of sources were used including scraping
    2. 3/5 were not indexed
    3. Varied from 500-5000 for each article on the sites

CJ says February 24, 2017

Does this work in Google sheets? I have Open Office and it won’t load the sheet (don’t have excel)… I tried loading the file in Google sheets; only have 600 rows but when I paste it into the yellow box in Google sheets I get “your input exceeds the 50000 characters allowed in a cell”

    Jon says February 25, 2017

    Sorry doesn’t work in Google Sheets, need to use Excel.

Russell says March 3, 2017

Hi Jon,
Excellent post. A question, If i redirect an expired domain to a new domain, do you think it will have the same effect i.e. rank in serps within 2 weeks rather than be in sandbox?

Sandeep Sitoke says April 6, 2017

Hey Jon,

Great post man!! I have a question if PBN is still effective then why most of the big websites who were using PBNs for their website said “A major drawback comes after so called fred update and google targeting our PBNs”. Please answer if you have time.

Thanks for Share.

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