Private Blog Networks PBN’s – Are They Dead?

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Private Blog Network

Since the middle of September there has been quite an upset in the SEO world concerning the Private Blog Network. As a result thousands of webmasters have been impacted with sites being de-indexed and / or manual penalties applied. The views expressed here are only my conclusions and opinions based on my observations.

Over the past couple of weeks there has been quite a stir among webmasters concerning the state of PBN’s or (Private Blog Networks). A new storm was brewing in the SEO world and it all began around September 12th. It appeared that many webmasters discovered their traffic was dropping and their position in the SERP’s was beginning to tumble as well. This was followed up with an email (for those with a Google webmaster account) that Google had hit their site with a manual spam action as a result of their site having thin content. This caught many site owners off guard after all; they worked hard to create valuable, well written, original, quality content for their site, what went wrong?

As site owners scrambled to try and make sense out of the penalty they received, another shockwave hit the SEO community as Private Blog Networks began to get de-indexed. SEO experts were being bombarded with emails from website owners searching for an answer.  It didn’t take long before posts began showing up across the web with everyone’s best guess as to what had happened. It appeared that Google had put in place a new algorithm that went on a search and destroy mission for any Private Blog Network.

Apparently, according to the reports I’ve read from different owners of PBN’s, the damage ranges anywhere between 0% and complete annihilation of their Private Blog Network. Some PBN owners claim they were completely untouched while others lost 5%, 40% and even 100% of their network. Based on what I’ve heard and read, it appears that there was also quite a bit of collateral damage caused by the destruction of these Private Blog Networks. Although not official, it seems that the Thin Content penalty that many website owners were receiving was a direct result of their participation in a PBN. As a result, the loss of position in the SERP’s translated to a loss of income for many, causing some webmasters to lose thousand of dollars in income from their money sites each month.

If that wasn’t bad enough, many (not all) site owners had all of their sites within their webmaster account penalized with the Thin Content warning regardless of whether the site participated in a PBN or not. I guess that when in doubt; in some cases Google deemed the sites guilty by association.

So, what’s the next step? Can a site recover from this thin content penalty or should you start over with a new site? At this point it’s a little too early in the game to know what will work. However, in my opinion, if you have a new site that wasn’t producing income or one that was ranking solely from participation in a PBN, you’ll probably be better off to start fresh and do things right. But, if you had a well written, established money site that was producing a decent income and had links gained through both PBN’s and White Hat techniques then, you may want to clean up your site, and beg the Google Gods for forgiveness so they will remove the manual penalty. However, I know a few individuals that were hit with manual penalties throughout the years and some were never able to recover despite their best efforts. I’m not trying to be a negative Nancy but, I just want you to know that removing a Google manual penalty can sometimes be a steep uphill battle that requires several reconsideration request before the ban is lifted.

Now that I’ve given my opinion about the PBN shakeup, let’s get to the heart of the post:

Is The Private Blog Network Dead?

PBN'sAlthough I myself don’t use or own a PBN (they never really interested me, from what I discovered they required too much time, energy and money), I do know many people who do use them. I believe that PBN’s may have sustained some injuries but they are far from dead. Even though there were thousands of PBN’s that were de-indexed, I’m confident that there are still 10 fold that amount that are alive and doing well. Just visit any number of blogs discussing the current state of PBN’s and read the comments. There are site owners that vow to avoid PBN’s at all costs and others that plan to continue using them as if nothing has happened.

As I mentioned there are plenty of PBN’s that bit the dust and tons that are still thriving. Why? Well, I’m sure that the only people that know the answer for sure are the members of Google’s web spam team, and they’re not talking. However, there will be tons of individuals and companies that over the next few months that will claim to understand and know how to circumvent the algorithm that’s poisonous to PBN’s. The truth is we will probably never know for sure and at this point its just speculation on anyone’s part. I can make some assumptions myself.

  • Maybe the PBN were to Public and not Private
  • Maybe the frequency of new posts with external links was to frequent
  • Maybe the PBN was to large
  • Maybe the ratio of posts with external links vs no external links was wrong
  • Maybe the PBN fell victim to poor quality content

There are many other maybes I could list but the truth is I don’t know what tips Google off that a PBN is a PBN but it would be interesting to find out.

What I Believe:

I truly believe that PBN’s will be a part of SEO for many years to come. I’m also sure that many more PBN’s will fall before the dusts settles. People will take their PBN’s further underground and will become extremely careful about how they build PBN’s to avoid detection. PBN’s will no longer be considered the easier and best way to build links and many site owners will quit using them as a SEO technique, but they will still exist.

I’ve been building websites since the mid 90’s and have seen many other SEO techniques come and go. Before long the Private Blog Network will move further out on Google’s radar and they will begin focusing on the next tactic attempting to game the SERP’s. I still see many websites ranking high that are using Black Hat techniques from days gone past. Guest posting, paid links and numerous other techniques can and still do work based on what I see in the SERP’s and I see no reason to believe PBN’s will be any different.

Has De-indexing PBN’s and Thin Content Penalties Improved the SERP’s?

While it’s still too early in the game to predict with any certainty, I can only go by what I’ve observed. In the past couple of weeks I’ve be performing random searches on various keyword phrases to see the impact on the SERP’s. While I have discovered that some searches are providing content that is more useful and relevant, I’ve also found that other searches are providing search results that are pitiful, the results are worthless and uninformative. If the main reason for targeting PBN’s was to provide the user with the best experience then, in my opinion Google has missed the mark.

If Google really wants to provide users the best search results possible they should eliminate links as a factor in determining search engine placement. If SERP’s were based solely on useful, quality content and site optimization gaming the system would no longer be a factor. Links would still have value for driving traffic to your site but would have no impact on where you rank. This way only the cream will rise to the top!

Summing it Up:

I just want to be clear that I am not supporting the use of PBN’s or any other Black Hat techniques to game the SERP’s whether it be Google, Bing, Yahoo or anyone else. Just focus on creating original, quality content and forget about trying to fast track the system. Keep in mind that Google changes their Webmaster guidelines from time to time and what’s considered White Hat today could be Black Hat tomorrow.


Now that I’ve given my two cents, I’d be interested to see how others feel. Let me know what you believe.

  • Are PBN’s Dead?
  • Have you or will you use a PBN?
  • Did you receive a thin content penalty and if you did will you try to recover?


Do You Believe the Private Blog Network is Dead and Worthless?

Share your Thoughts!



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