In this article, I explain my 6-step formula for getting to 125,000 monthly visits of free Google search engine traffic.
One way to look at that achievement is that it’s decent traffic volume for a blog that’s only 8 months old (when I hit those numbers. Organic search is about the same now at the 10 month mark).
Another way to look at the 125,000 monthly visits is that I could be getting a lot more organic search traffic if I built private blog networks for backlinks.
More importantly, I could most likely rank my more valuable keyword-targeted pages higher and get more traffic with a PBN.
Yet, I have no plans to build a PBN. In fact, I have no plans to seek out links of any sort even if it could increase organic search traffic.
This is not a “I want to please Google” article. Instead, it’s an analysis that I’ve gone through based on a business decision.
Watch the Video (or read my reasons below):
My reasons for not building a PBN are as follow:
I know there are SEO experts out there who take extreme care with how they build their PBN so that there is no footprint. I believe with enough resources and planning, a near-bullet proof PBN is possible. However, notice I said “enough resources and planning.”
A decent PBN will not only cost a couple of hundred for each decent domain, but each site built should be built as a stand-alone website, which takes a lot of work and money.
I’m not sure I would take the care necessary, which would put my site at risk. By risk, I mean a Google search penalty.
Currently I get over 125,000 monthly Google search visits that generates about $6K/month from display ads and affiliate commissions. The revenue side is slowly growing from affiliate commissions each month. While it’s growing slowly, the long term looks good. I do long-tail keyword research which is uncovering some great commercial long tail keywords that will generate decent revenue. Also, display ads perform well too.
I may sound timid, but I’m not willing to risk current revenue and potential revenue from organic search in an effort to make more money with a PBN. In my view, the risk isn’t worth it.
Besides, my niche sites are incredibly profitable without a PBN… the work and hassle isn’t worth it.
Is my site bullet proof now? No. No site is. However, I haven’t built any backlinks, so I believe it’s at a much lower risk now than it would be if I embarked on a massive PBN effort.
B. ROI is Uncertain
This is also a big issue for me. It actually pertains to a few issues with using a PBN as a strategy to earn money from a website.
1. How Many?
The thing with SEO link building is you’re always guessing at exactly how many links and which types of links will get your page ranked at the top of the search engine. You can guess, but you’ll never know.
This means you don’t know how much you need to spend in order to rank.
2. Revenue is uncertain
Also, you’ll never know how much revenue a top ranked page will earn until you get there. You could invest $1,000 up front and hundreds per month in building and maintaining a PBN only to not earn enough to cover those costs.
I admit, this concern is not all that serious. I’ve had enough pages ranked at the top of Google search for intended keywords to know that usually the pay off is excellent. However, it could happen that you rank a page only to find out it doesn’t generate as much revenue as you’d hoped.
3. Competition nipping at your heels
Once you’re ranked at the top of Google search for your intended keyword(s), you’re a target. Competition will want their spot back and new competition will want to oust you. This means ongoing investment to secure your top spot. Again, this creates uncertainty in ROI.
4. Google updates
This can be devastating. If you become a victim of a Google update, you can lose a lot of money if you’ve invested a great deal in a PBN.
Also, nobody knows for how long Google will rank sites based on backlinks. I have a hunch it will be for quite a while because Google does invest a lot into countering backlink spam. If they had plans to eliminate links as a ranking factor, they probably wouldn’t have put so much into the Penguin updates (which are ongoing).
Nevertheless, the Google search ranking factors do change. It’s not inconceivable that backlinks will be given less weight down the road.
C. It’s not easy monetizing network sites
It’s not easy monetizing the sites in a private blog network other than using them as backlinks. Monetization leaves a footprint. Obviously Adsense is out, but it’s also not smart to place other ads and affiliate links that are used on other sites you own.
Yes, Media.net could be used throughout, but that does leave a footprint. Same with Amazon affiliate links. Sure, you could use different merchants on different sites, but it is limiting at some point.
If I were to build a PBN, it would be in a way where each site was an actual real site that would be used to generate revenue in some way and get real traffic. And while it’s not a bad idea, I’m not sure the ROI would be worth it. Every site is a lot of work if intended to get traffic, have a social media presence and earn revenue. Building out 20 (or hundreds as some people do), is a momentous amount of ongoing effort.
D. Exponentially Escalating Overhead Cost Structure
Some SEO’s use a different web host for each site… or at most only a few sites with one web host. While hosting is cheap, if you have 50 accounts, that adds up. Add in the cost of domain renewals, ongoing content, website development… and you now have a high, growing and recurring overhead cost structure.
I don’t like overhead. I avoid it at all costs. It’s easy to get carried away with spending on a PBN and I know I could easily spend a lot more than I should.
E. Too much work I don’t enjoy
I enjoy building out my money niche sites. I enjoy the keyword research and planning content. I like the idea of building a huge asset and creating a site visitors enjoy.
I don’t enjoy the tedious work involved in building PBN’s. There’s domain research, site set up, a LOT of careful tracking, quite a bit of technical set up (I don’t know all the ins and outs, but there’s more technical work involved than just a regular site to cover up footprints), etc. Most of this work I don’t care for.
And let’s face it, the content on a PBN site is generally nothing to be proud of. The goal is that it’s just good enough. It’s not stellar.
If you like this type of work, go to it. It’s just not my thing.
What about buying or renting a PBN?
Go for it if you you can stomach the risk. If you don’t build it, you’ll never know how safe it is. No doubt you’ll agree to terms that include the seller is not responsible for ranking drops. I don’t like placing that kind of control into a 3rd party’s hands.
Is it possible I’ll change my tune down the road?
I’m not morally opposed to PBN’s. In fact, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with any strategy to rank a site including buying links etc. as long as it doesn’t break the law (i.e. hacking). Although I have ethical issues with negative SEO and would never embark on that strategy. The rules at the end of the day are set by Google, not legislators. Private blog networks are not a moral, ethical or legal issue. It’s a business issue.
Perhaps I’ll have a change of heart down the road. Perhaps I’ll start a new site where the risk is worth it. But for now, I’ll stick with what I’m doing and grow the site organically without the help of a PBN (or other types of backlinking).
Am I in the minority?
I don’t think so. Maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think most popular sites build PBN’s. Some big businesses do engage in risky blackhat SEO, as reported by Glen Allsopp at Viperchill. In fact, Glen uses PBN’s as a central part of his business strategy.
There are many people making a lot of money with PBN’s. Becker and others at Source Wave use them for generating huge monthly profits and Jon Haver at Authority Website Income is a big proponent of PBN’s (he also builds them as a service). His blog profiles his success with PBN’s.
On the other side of the spectrum is Spencer Haws at Niche Pursuits who after getting penalized is done with PBN’s.
These are just a few high-profile examples on both sides of the PBN debate.
What should you do?
Do what works for you. As long as you understand the risks and have a carefully budgeted plan, go ahead and build a PBN. Just be smart about it. Read extensively about how to do it properly.
Otherwise, if you prefer getting loads of traffic without a PBN, read this article and check out my advanced authority blog course.
Jon Dykstra is a six figure niche site creator with 10+ years of experience. His willingness to openly share his wins and losses in the email newsletter he publishes has made him a go-to source of guidance and motivation for many. His popular “Niche site profits” course has helped thousands follow his footsteps in creating simple niche sites that earn big.
14 thoughts on “8 Reasons I Don’t Build Private Blog Networks for SEO”
Well, The PBN (Private Blog Network) has always been one of the best way to rank well in Search Engine, but after the recent assault by Google to many of big PBN’s, Some cautions needed to be taken, while building Private Blog Networks, And I always consider using Different Analytic and Search Console Accounts + High PR domains with Good Domain Authority + Quality Content + Unique Hosting IP address + Linking to other High Quality sites from PBN Blogs. In my thinking this is the best way to build a Private Blog network which works.
I may be wrong, What You say?
Well, the best kind of links you can build are the ones that actually drive traffic, and as well as PBNs may still work now, it’s a pretty safe bet that Google is only going to get smarter about cracking down on them in the future. Given how well Jon’s methods work, why waste your time and money on something that at best will only artificially inflate your rankings for a limited time?
Yes, it’s true that building a PBN involves a lot of risk. But what if you take slightly different approach? Instead of creating fly-by-night websites for sake of backlinks only, but create sites with similar approach you are using to build your money sites.
Ohhhh, I’ve considered it and I’m sure interlinking wouldn’t even be a big deal if the sites are related and it makes sense to link them. However, if I invested that much into each site, I’d want to place ads on all the sites which would leave a footprint and while linking among real, quality related sites may not be an issue, it could be, with “could” being the operative word. The last thing I want to do is risk my big sites. But, you make a very, very good point. I may go that route in the future, but for now I avoid it.
Do you build a network of high quality sites? If so, do you place your ad codes on all of them? Have you had issues?
Great article. So much I didn’t know… Thank you guys !
Building PBN is never been a safe way to rank any site but If it works It will rnk your site in few weeks or days
Thanks Jon for another great post, as much as love your posts and appreciate the detail 🙂
I am pleased by reading your new article about SEO. Its amazing.
Thanks a lot for your valuable article.
I liked your writing. I’ll be regular and with you.
Create PBN is high cost for me. 😀
Well, If you don’t use PBN wisely your site will be at risk and if PBN’s, when done well are probably the most effective link building tactic to rank highly and quickly. So far, ProperPBN (http://properpbn.com/) manage my sites magnificently and never encounter that one of my site was penalized by Google.
I’m totally agree with you. PBN cost is too high if you build all of them with hosting and domain. There’s a lot of PBN service but I don’t have the guts to trial and error until i realize my money’s gone for nothing. Great article btw. Greetings from Indonesia
You know as they say. The bigger the risk the bigger the gain. On the flipside the bigger the loss if it all goes south.
I don’t see the cost of building a single PBN site being too much. Finding a good expired domain with plenty of backlink juice seems to cost about $25 Bucks. Registration of the domain about $12 bucks. Hosting the site, well you can use a footprint free PBN hosting provider like pbn.ltd and host 5 PBN sites for $5 bucks per month while avioding the hosting foorpints. And if you know how to use wordpress to build a nice looking site and diversifying things like persona and addons you get away with building a good PBN site for about $30 bucks which depending on the backlink profile of the expired domain you brought for $30 bucks you could push your target keyword up about 20 to 30 positions in Google.
However when it comes to SEO the safest game is the long game. An SEO shortcut is also regarded as wearing a blackhat and is not a long term strategy.
Its best focus on whitehat methods. Yes this will take longer to rank a site. But when you do finally rank your up thier for the long term and you wont want to be checking Google every 5 minutes to see if your PBN have been busted.
My biggest tip that I give to everyone. When it comes to marketing your website or services never 100% rely on organic search traffic from Google because you never know when google might make a change and your sites rankings end up tanking. Make sure people visit your website through other sources such as email marketing and referral traffic. As they say. Never put all your eggs in omce basket.
If your going to build a PBN site. Make sure you index it with a different search console account, use different persona’s, domain registrars and contact information, never ever use adsense ads unless your PBN is multi purpose and once you have your new PBN up and running the biggest thing to remember after you request a search console crawl is not to place your money sites URL on the PBN for at least a month after it gets indexed. Let it rest for a while like a freshly cooked turkey otherwise you will spoil the meat.
Dont try and mess with pur build out PBNs unless you know exactly what you are doing and your well educated. If not. I strongly suggest just buying or renting and let the pros handle it. Managing a big PBN is heaps of work and time otherwise more well spent on developing and operating your company.
I completely agree with you. Using hosting and domains to build PBNs would be too expensive. Several PBN services are available, but I don’t have the courage to test until I realize it’s for nothing.