Links from Private Blog Networks (PBN) are a popular way to boost a website’s SEO for a discounted amount of investment. When done carefully, they’re virtually undetectable and carry serious ranking power. When purchased from marketplace sellers, however, cheap PBN links can pose a real threat to your website. Also, much like Guest Post links, PBN links from marketplace sellers will quickly lose value when they roll off the front page. Applying some nourishing SEO methods in this situation can help your links carry more weight—and have a longer lifespan.
Hacking Backlinks By Boosting Page Authority
PBNs are often purchased and constructed in a manner to divert the majority of existing link equity towards the homepages either directly through redirects, or indirectly by creating related content and point that towards the homepage. This effectively skews the ranking weight towards the homepage, making links found there much more powerful than inner links. This doesn’t mean that an inner page link wouldn’t still serve your site well—it’d count as a unique referring domain after all. The issue that people often see is that PBN links provide much better rank boost initially, with quickly-diminishing weight when the link rolls off the first page. Building page authority of inner pages of PBN links with SEO methods like Web 2.0 buffer sites can help build unique page authority in these circumstances, but buyers aren’t often given a report to even show where their links are coming from.
PBN links can offer your site value, but are always risky when outsourced or bought from marketplace sellers
Guest posts are victim to the same issue since any legitimate site that’s accepting guest posts is likely pushing out enough daily content that your post won’t likely see much front page action. Any site I personally run that allows guest posts typically buries them into a general blog category as a means to not disrupt front-page ranking benefits for featured articles. This isn’t ideal for posters, but when one goes about soliciting free guest post links one learns to accept what is offered. These links are still from domains with strong authority and pose an opportunity to create a very powerful link by increasing the individual page authority. These aren’t your sites and likely have a very large backlink profile already—so it’s safe to get a little reckless here to save time and money.
Risk of PBN Links
PBN Sellers believe that withholding full reports will help protect them from getting spotted by Google. Newsflash—Google can cut through this ‘security’ system with an intern and a couple thousand dollars. In my experience, there is zero chance of marketplace PBNs being able to provide long-term SEO benefit. This means the best case scenario is that you see a diminishing return on your initial investment, and worst case you end up getting your site penalized. To be clear—we’re talking about publicly available PBN sites from sellers on marketplaces where anyone can purchase a link. PBN sites that are actually privately owned and used—when done right—stand little chance of ever working against you.
PBNs are shortcuts and, eventually, all run the risk of posing a threat or having diminishing returns. After all, if they weren’t a shortcut there’d be no incentive to use them and everyone would just be schlepping around doing manual outreach all day long. The takeaway is that PBN links falling from the front page aren’t hurting your website’s rank, they’ve just been misrepresenting how much actual benefit they have to offer for a while. In my opinion, starting out with inner page content helps to stay in better touch with the overall effect of your SEO strategy, and not be taken off-guard by seemingly random ranking slips. It helps maintain a better sense of the foundation on which you have to build the rest of your plan of action.
Increasing Page Authority of Offsite Links
There will always be shortcuts to take in SEO, and they will likely always become outdated and ineffective at some point. The ROI on some methods outweighs the potential risk for many short-term operations, but ultimately always comes down to the debate of planning for website life expectancy. If you’re using black hat SEO methods, Google is going to figure that shit out eventually—in most cases. An example would be ranking a low competition keyword with a simple blast of 5K-10K solid GSA links—so-called ‘churn and burn’ websites. These are amazing examples of how Google can be taken off-guard by sheer link volumes but aptly named for their inevitable demise. If you point these at your money sites, or client’s websites, you’re going to do damage in the long-term—period. If you aim them at other backlinks to your website, then you’ll only be doing potential long-term damage to other websites and leaving yourself with a ‘buffer’.
An example would be building a 2 tier structure of 5K links supported by 25K links to increase the page rank of guest post article that you had contributed to a popular website. This article will likely be buried in their archives quickly enough, and won’t carry a ton of weight for very long—though will still contribute to increasing your website’s overall referring domains count. The number of referring domains was one of the strongest ranking factors reported in the 2017 SemRush ranking factors report. They found a strong correlation between the number of referring domains a website had (domain level total) and the results on the top page. This means you aren’t losing all the value of these links when they roll off the front page—but also aren’t leveraging their full potential until you’ve worked to increase the page authority of that individual article. Typically, websites that accommodate guest posts have a deep enough backlink profile to take a little abuse—but one should always be respectful. For example, you might blast a backlink from TechCrunch with 5,000 Tier 2 links, but it’d be bad form to do the same to a backlink from someone’s personal blog.
The general take away here is that PBN links can offer your site value, but are always risky when outsourced or bought from marketplace sellers. Even when not directly hurting your rankings, they often seem to be more powerful in their initial creation than they are once they roll off the first page. Working to increase the page ranks of such posts and articles on PBNs and links you’ve created from Guest Posts can help dramatically increase the impact of these links on your site’s ability to rank for keywords. Building supporting bases of links pointing towards these types of backlinks can be done in a bit more cavalier manner since they aren’t directly pointed to your primary website. To be certain though, these are all methods that would be scoffed at by the SEO community at large, and should still be regarded as a risky approach.