If your online business involves actively building and ranking websites, you are likely up to date on commonly used methods that are practiced towards the purpose of increasing a website’s rank for its target keyword(s). And if you have been around long enough, you would also be familiar with how popular practices change as often as search engines decide to take action against them for any given reason. In fact, whenever search engines decide to update their algorithms as a response to something they believe to be a violation of Webmaster Guidelines, common practices are either modified significantly or eliminated altogether.
The Private Blog Network – commonly referred to as PBN – is a unique case in my opinion. On the one hand, it doesn’t lend itself to blatant spam in the same way link building tools like GSA Search Engine Ranker might. Other popular practices that were blatant spam when I became an Internet Marketer included getting your hard link on as many websites as possible, preferably those with high PR. While it was recommended that the target website is related to the money site’s niche, specifics and quality didn’t really matter. In other words, if a website about dog training had their naked URL published all over the Internet on completely unrelated websites, there was a time when that would help it rank higher, so it became a popular ranking technique. But in the end, it was unnatural link building and it involved selling links which is a serious violation of Webmaster Guidelines on any search engine.
So why do I think Private Blog Networks are a unique case? Well, a PBN could very well consist of high quality informative articles that benefit the World Wide Web. And if a website owner posts their links on a PBN, it is always within a body of content that is related to the website being linked to. In other words, it would be a contextual backlink which is the highest quality and most relevant backlink that exists for obvious reasons. But technically, it is still unnatural and it still involves spending money on websites that were previously under someone else’s ownership, ultimately towards the purpose of increasing the ranking of another website. Therefore, while it can be argued this has more merit than previous methods, it is still unfortunately falls into the category of unnatural link building.
The reason private blog networks are difficult to expose is revealed in their very name. In case you missed it, they are meant to be PRIVATE. The websites within these networks do not reveal their owner’s real identity and they are supposed to be hosted on different IP addresses from different companies to avoid leaving footprints and that’s because when search engines are hunting for PBN, they look for footprints. For the most part, if the owner of a PBN was responsible and organized enough to hide their identity and use different hosting companies, they would stay under the radar and remain safe and effective, but this is quickly changing.
As of September 2014, it has become necessary for webmasters to invest in PBN security tools like PBN Secure. In a recent PBN Secure review, the WordPress plugin was verified as effective in successfully blocking some of the deeper footprints, such as IP Address ranges. In addition, it protects PBN users by safely modifying the directories hosting files within their websites and changes the .htaccess file to block unwanted bots from accessing the sites, among other features.
Building a PBN is considered a costly investment, particularly if the websites within a PBN are considered to be high quality with high domain authority and/or Pagerank. Because of this reason, along with the fact Google has deindexed several networks in September, it would be extremely foolish – in my opinion – for owners of these networks to sit back and assume everything will be fine if they keep doing what they are doing. I always advocate playing the safe move instead of operating from assumptions and PBN Secure is the safest move right now.