A private blog network is a group of websites or blogs that are under your control, or of whoever you are buying the links from. If you’re buying links like these then technically they’re a Public Blog Network as they’ll sell links to anyone who pays.

The content on these blogs is often low quality and the links contained within are mostly exact match anchor text. The links pointing to these sites are usually of dubious quality and the links out can be just as random and nothing to do with the main topic of the blog.

All of the above can leave telltale signs that Google can pick up on. At best Google will ignore these links at worst you could end up with a penalty, either way, you’ve thrown your money away and possibly done serious damage to your domain name.

My recommendation, however tempting buying links on PBNs or anywhere else for that matter, is not to bother. Spend your hard-earned money on creating a better website with better content.

A private blog network (PBN) is a network of websites created for the sole purpose of building backlinks on, in order to increase the visibility and credibility of another site, or a number or other sites. It is meant to be a quick method of bypassing the organic process of link building by which backlinks between sites – often but not always reciprocal – are genuinely established. 

PBNs are designed to take advantage of the way search engines rank sites without having to put in the effort that goes into the legitimate process of earning or building links.

Why use a Personal Blog Network?

Backlinks are heavily relied upon by search engines in order to rank the quality of a particular site on a given search term. They form the basis of most ‘offsite’ signals, which are complemented by ‘onsite’ signals like content and website structure. The idea being that exceptionally high value onsite content will ‘earn’ links from relevant third party sources, thus increasing their standing in the eyes of Google.

PBNs essentially bypass this process of earning by building a network of relevant sites on which the owner of the PBN can link build on. Most of the time these PBN owners will sell links to other site owners, allowing them to essentially acquire the offsite signals in order to help their own site rank.

Operators of PBNs will either buy a collection of lapsed domain names or register a whole set of new ones. Either way, the proposed effect is the same. PBNs with a number of domains have a virtually limitless capability to produce backlinks and convince the search crawlers of the legitimacy of the main site. PBN operators have control over the anchor text of the backlinks and can ensure they are relevant and fully optimised.

Why do PBNs Fail?

The problem with PBNs in the eyes of Google isn’t so much the idea of owning multiple sites, it’s more the manipulation of its algorithm by essentially allowing users to either generate their own links to a site or sell links to third parties for this purpose.

This practice is taken very seriously. Not only does it give the PBNs and their paying clients an unfair advantage, but it is seen as compromising the trustworthiness of the search engine results pages (SERPs) themselves, for which the guarantee of relevancy and authority are fundamental. 

Google, Bing and all the major search engines are engaged in an ongoing battle to unmask and root out PBNs because they are held to be bad news for everyone except their owners, which is why it’s considered a black hat tactic by most SEO experts.

Google and others are developing more sophisticated means of detection all the time. The consequences of getting caught could include an algorithmic penalty against some or all of the sites in the PBN or even getting de-indexed completely. There’s nothing stopping such an individual from starting a PBN again from scratch but the cost and time to do this is considerable, so the benefits against an increasingly sophisticated algorithm are seen by a lot of SEO experts as a case of diminishing returns.

Are there Legitimate PBNs?

There was a time when PBNs were considered to be a viable tool for SEO agencies and other web consultancies who would sell the idea as a valid way to build links. In principle, this remains true. No one can reasonably object to the establishment of a network of sites to provide a useful service or source of information to users. The problem is when these networks are established for the sole purpose of building or selling links. 

It must be said that notwithstanding the link building services noted above, there may be many other multiple-site networks that are not engaged in PBN schemes. An owner may perfectly legitimately operate several different sites, each with a genuine function full of valuable, authentic content. Backlinks from these sites are not necessarily reasons for penalisation. It is those which carry no value and no credibility or authority which are of concern to the search engines and the wider online community.