What is a PBN, and why should you never use one?

There are a few hidden secrets in search engine optimization that the best and most successful practitioners have employed over the last few years. One of those hidden secrets is the PBN. Also called a Private Blog Network is essentially a secret group of high-authority websites that a single webmaster controls. It is quite a controversial topic, which is why most mainstream search engine practitioners try to avoid it. However, there is a lot of hypocrisy in this regard.

The truth is that Private Blog Networks are so helpful that many practitioners use them in secret. The search engine optimization industry is competitive to its core, and SEOs will use whatever advantage they have against the competition. As a business professional yourself, you have to weigh the pros and cons when deciding whether to employ PBNs. Unfortunately, there are even some niches where you cannot do well without using these tools.

private blog network

What is a PBN?

As mentioned above, a Private Blog Network is a group of high-authority sites that search engine professionals use to improve their rankings on their primary website (aka the money site) by building unnatural or purchased backlinks. Google’s algorithm assigns each page a Pagerank score (named after Larry Page, not a webpage). When you link from one page to the next, the score is added to the receiving website. You can think of the score as a page’s reputation. When you link to a website, you lend your page’s importance to that page. Inside Google’s algorithm, this score is used quite heavily, and it is responsible for a significant portion of how they rank a website. The key to successful SEO is to have access to as many of these high-value links as possible. However, what if you controlled those high-value websites yourself? That is the theory behind PBNs. They are essentially high-value websites that you have control over.

PBNs in the Context of SEO

In the context of SEO, Private Blog Networks are the secret sauce for a lot of practitioners. Many of the best operators in the industry have isolated networks that they can use on their following projects. It is a highly effective strategy, but it is also a strategy not sanctioned by Google, which goes against Google’s guidelines. That makes it Black Hat, which is why many people in the industry are fundamentally against using PBNs to rank websites. Despite being against them, many of them will have the secret network that they use. It is why you need to be wary of people proclaiming about Private Blog Networks.

Black Hat vs. White Hat

Another factor in whether to use a PBN or not is whether you want to risk getting delisted by Google’s algorithm or not. White Hat SEO involves doing things that Google has outlined in its acceptable terms of service. An example of this is creating good content that attracts links naturally (legitimate link-building tactics). Google frowns upon paying for links and other underhanded tactics that they see as manipulating their algorithm. These tactics are what we call Black Hat SEO. Private Blog Networks fall in the category of Black Hat SEO.

For this reason, many practitioners recommend you never using one to gain rankings for your business. There are also many services run by people that eventually get found out by Google, and these networks are usually penalized, along with the many websites that utilize them. If you are not willing to risk your entire website getting penalized, you should stay far away from PBNs.

Risks of using a PBN

The main risk of using PBNs is getting penalized by Google (and all Search Engines). Google spends a lot of time and effort trying to look for these networks. If it eventually spots yours, you have spent a lot of time and money on something that will no longer give you any returns. That is important because a Private Blog Network is quite expensive to build and maintain. There are many webmasters on the Internet that are spent six figures on their network. You also need to keep feeding your network with fresh content, which will be an extra cost on top of the price of the domain names (expired domains are typically used). You also need to spend a lot of time diversifying your server hosting to ensure that you leave no footprints for Google to find.

Positives of using a Private Blog Network

The main reason why people use these networks is that they offer the ability to rank very quickly. Many people using these tactics rank in the top 10 within a few months. They do this in the most competitive niches in the industry, which speaks of its effectiveness when using Private Blog Networks. The other positive is that you essentially control your destiny in the SEO world. With your network, you no longer have to rely on getting links from outside sources. You gain the ability to launch a successful website relatively quickly. You can reuse your network, meaning that you can use its power to improve many of your websites. If you do it correctly, you also can continually build a robust network of these websites.

Things to be wary of

Despite all of the positives, there are a few things you need to be wary of. The main one is the massive upfront cost you need to pay to get one of these networks. These networks are pretty expensive, and they might not be as successful as you imagine. On top of that, you also have the massive ongoing costs you need to pay. These ongoing costs are in the form of hosting, content, and other associated software tools you might need to use to build your websites. You also need to be wary that Google gets more sophisticated every year. It means they will eventually find your network, which will turn that massive investment into a waste of money.

The simple reason you should not use a Private Blog Network is because of how risky it is. You are putting your entire business on the line, which is even more important if you depend on SEO for traffic. Once you are in that penalty box, it is almost impossible for you to get out of it. If your website is your business, it would be an awful decision to risk losing it for minimal gain. You can build a much better White Hat SEO regimen that will keep you at the top for longer. While Black Hat SEO gets you faster results, Google eventually finds a way to penalize your site, and you eventually fall back down to the bottom. You also have the central problem of having to manage the network. They are pretty challenging to operate, and you need to spend a lot of time and money acquiring your websites. If you are using a third-party service, you run the risk of it being discovered even faster, and that means you could lose your entire business through no fault of your own.

What are alternatives to Private Blog Networks?

While PBNs are great, the main alternative is to build traffic through social media channels and quality content. By tapping into virality, you are more likely to have many news websites writing about your website. Newspaper links are pretty valuable, meaning you will rise to the top faster. It will also lend credibility to your website, a crucial component of business success in this industry. However, the main thing is to think about traffic instead of links. By doing that, you get to have the traffic you want now, and you still get the benefit of those quality links at a later date.

The realty of some niches (Some people believe You MUST Use a PBN)

The truth is that there are some niches on Google that require the usage of a Private Blog Network. However, the good news is that these niches are few and far between, so you mostly won’t have to worry about that. Despite the benefits, you should never use these networks. The reality is that they are too risky, and you cannot come back after being penalized by Google. If you get caught using these networks, you essentially have to start over with a new business. The risk is not worth it for the majority of business owners.

The Final Word

PBNs started in the Black Hat world and have since been adopted by many practitioners who claim to be White Hat. However, you should never forget how expensive and brutal they are to create and maintain. No matter how much you hear people talk about how it has benefited them, you should not get sucked into the hype.


Published on: 2021-09-14
Updated on: 2022-06-09

Avatar for Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. Isaac has considerable expertise in Search Engine Optimization, Server Administration, and Cyber Security, which gives him a leg up as a Google Algorithm Analyst and SEO Expert.