Getting quality backlinks is hard work. You have to do a ton of research looking for websites with high authority, reach out to webmasters or site owners and convince them to let you do some guest blogging, and hope they use the right anchor text. Then you have to manage your backlink profile to ensure your hard earned links stay working for maximum effect. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were link building tactics? For some bloggers, they turned to building their own private blog network (PBN) or buying backlinks from someone else’s private blog network. While this may seem like the perfect SEO boost for your interior design business, it’s not going to give you the long term SEO benefit that you are hoping for.
What Is a Private Blog Network?
A private blog network is when a single person owns several individual websites where they manage independent blogs on each website. They then connect and link those websites together to create an intricate network of websites that are all linked together like a spider web. The purpose of PBN sites is to boost the website’s ranking of a main site. The theory is that by building all of these links, you trick Google’s algorithm into thinking the primary linked-to website is one worth high rank in search engine results.
PBNs White Hat SEO or Black Hat SEO?
If the description of PBNs made you question the legitimacy of the tactic, then you’re on the right track. If you create a network of junk websites, where they have no real purpose but to build a network, you are violating Google’s user agreement. If you are violating Google’s terms and of service, you are engaged in black hat tactics.
There are ways people try to make building a PBN more white hat. They limit the number of websites in the network. They spend a long time building out the network websites. They ensure that the network websites look fleshed out and legitimate as a stand alone website. Each website should also be relevant in topic to your primary website.
Taking these steps doesn’t turn your PBN into a white hat tactic. However, you could describe it as a gray hat, somewhere in the middle of white and black hat SEO tactics. However, Google explicitly discourages the use of PBNs.
How Are BPNs Made?
If you want to make a PBN, you need to set out purchasing website domains that topically relevant to your primary domain. For example, if you own an interior design business, you may purchase domains that include furniture terms or interior design themes.
Once you have your domains, you need to build them out with a homepage and plenty of content. Then add links in this content to your primary website.
The Google Crackdown of PBNs in 2014
Earlier in this article I mentioned that Google explicitly warns against using PBNs as your primary SEO strategy. In 2014, Google made its stance known and cracked down on people. There were some website administrators who were flying high with top ranking websites one day, and then saw a drop in 90% of their traffic the next day.
Do PBNs Have Any Benefits for Your Interior Design Business?
Despite all of the bad press about PBNs, people still use them. Why you ask? Because PBNs work. You have complete control over your link network because you own all of the websites that link back to the primary website. This means you never have to worry about your backlinks. Additionally, when you own all of the backlinking websites, there’s no work for building the inbound links. You don’t have to participate in endless blind outreach or relationship building. You also gain a short term boost in domain authority. Google takes note of the multiple websites linking to your website and thinks that your website must be worth checking out. This helps your website to rank better in search results.
What Are the Cons of BPNs?
Let’s start with the biggest con, your website gets blacklisted by Google. You may hear of this being called de-indexing or a manual penalty. So what does this mean? Google manages indexes or registrars of all websites that it considered for search results. This is the master list of websites. The Google bots regularly crawl websites and analyze them. If they recognize the signs of a PBN network in use, they will trigger an alert. When Google de-indexes your domain, it takes it off the index master list. The result is that it will never appear in Google search results when someone performs a search. Your website is essentially sent to the black hole of the internet where the only traffic you will get is from people directly typing in your website domain. It doesn’t matter how much great content you produce and publish, it won’t improve your page SEO or Google analytics performance stats.
The second problem with PBNs is that they are expensive to build and maintain. You have to purchase multiple domains and pay for hosting. Then you have to produce plenty of content for each of these websites. Then there is the management of all of these websites, which is incredibly time consuming. You could put that money and time into white hat link building efforts and not have the risk.
Finally, depending on PBNs is not a long term solution for your SEO efforts. You will need to continually buy and build websites for your network, which means your SEO budget will continually grow. The last thing your business needs is a strategy that represents rising costs.
You’re Willing to Risk it All on PBNs
I’ve given you all of the warnings that SEO experts state and you’re willing to take on the risk. That’s ok, it’s your interior design business, and you can do with it what you like. While I disagree with the use of PBNs, I can’t stop you from giving them a try. So, if you are going down this rabbit hole, you need to take a few precautionary measures to reduce the risk of getting caught. (Seriously, please don’t do this)
Start by looking for expired domains. You can use online tools like serps and ahrefs to analyze potential domains. They have some residual SEO juice that you can benefit from and are already establish so less likely to raise a red flag of you forming a ton of brand new websites. Google can see how old a website is, so 20 brand new websites all started within a month of each other is a big red flag that you are doing something sketchy. Next, the domain names that you choose to purchase should all be topically related to your interior design company, location, or services. Interlinking websites that have nothing to do with each other is also a red flag. When you guy these domains, you’ll want to hide the fact that you are the owner on whois so that it isn’t easily recognizable that you own all of them.
For each new domain that you buy, you need to set up a fully fleshed out website. Don’t have them all under the same web hosting account. You can use WordPress to create the website. You’ll need to add plugins and build out a few pages. Then add high quality content. It’s even helpful to create social media accounts for each one, since this is a typical next step for legitimate websites. Plan to regularly post on each of these websites to keep them active and current. You could even include ads, perhaps you’ll turn them into a money site, though you probably won’t make much. Finally, utilize a VPN, because you don’t want regularly to access all of these sites from the same ip address.
Could You Be Using BPNS And Not Know It?
Yes! You absolutely could be part of a PBN and not even know it. Many link-building services use them as a part of their service offering. As we established, legitimate and topical link building is time-consuming and labor-intensive. While there are linking services that offer link building to legitimate sites, many discount services lean heavily on PBN networks.
One particular budget content marketing service provider offers a downloadable PDF that is supposed to contain “500+ websites that you can guest post on right now.” This is a perfect example of using PBNs. Perhaps there are a few on the list that aren’t, but the vast majority are. I’ve been a content writer for this discount content SEO company, and I’ve seen the websites they use for their guest post services, and they are pretty much all PBNs. That particular company charges $100 for a single 500-word guest post on a PBN with a domain authority of 10, which is pretty expensive for minimal benefit. Want a link with more SEO juice? You could pay $500 for the same 500-word article on a website with a domain authority of 50. Is that $100 worth getting nailed by Google? That’s a question for you to answer.
Are BPNs Worth It?
If it were up to me, I would tell you to stay away from them totally. There’s no predicting when Google is going to decide to ax them completely. If and when that day comes, any PBN links that you have will be completely worthless. Any money you spent on them is now gone. There are plenty of other link building strategies that will give you long term benefits without all of the risk.
For websites that already have a few PBN links in their link profile, there is another decision to make. Should you keep these links or work to get rid of them? My suggestion is to do what you are comfortable with. If it were my interior design business website, I would work to limit the number of PBNs I have in my backlink portfolio. Having 100% of your backlinks be from PBNs, this is a problem. Having 5-20% of your inbound link be from PBNs, then you’re probably ok.
There are two ways you can adjust your PBNs link percentage. The first is to remove some of your PBN backlinks. However, doing this will cause you to lose any SEO benefit that you were getting from them. So this strategy is best for low-quality backlinks that aren’t providing you with much benefit in your ranking factor anyway.
The other and better option is to work at gaining legitimate backlinks. This is time consuming, but so worth it. Not only do you keep the SEO benefit of your PBN links, but you also gain the SEO benefit of your new links, while also reducing the percentage of links in your backlink portfolio that are PBNs.