The effectiveness of PBNs (personal blog networks) has been murky for some time and can get your SEO dinged severely by Google. But, in some cases, it can be worth the time and investment. If you have some healthy domains sitting around and want to invest, or if you’re up to something a bit more nefarious and need the control and authority that a PBN offers it may be for you. A PBN is a network of sites that you control that are designed to direct links to a site that you’re monetizing. Ethics and efficacy aside, if you’re a risk taker and have an existing PBN, or are building one up, you’re going to need to take steps to ensure your digital presence is effective, safe, and secure.
When starting a PBN you need to start with the basics, domains. You can find an expired domain here (https://www.expireddomains.net) You’ll need to find something with a decent domain authority. Check that backlink with Ahrefs, or Open-site Explorer, you don’t want to invest in anything with a toxic link profile. If you want to put on the tinfoil hat you can buy these through different registers. You can also purchase new domains, these won’t be as valuable as authority domains, but they’ll be cheaper and will add a nice variety to your link profile.
One of the essential ways to keep your PBN off the map is to keep those domains apart. The best way to do that is to mask your IP. It’s actually pretty easy to blow out an IP, once that happens you’re going to have some problems. Better to avoid that situation altogether.
Fortunately, to mask an IP you can use a CDN and get an IP range. The gist is that these services are secure proxies that mask your origin servers. Not only does this protect you from a DDoS attack and will help your website load much faster, but it also has the added benefit of keeping your PBN on different IPs.
You should probably be using a CDN anyway for the benefit of reducing latency and keeping your sites up and safe from attacks. Setting this up is a relatively simple task and putting in the effort now can stave off a manual penalty that could ding you and potentially destroy your sites. If you need to do a little trickery and mask IPs while using a CDN there are a couple of options and a few things to consider. Leading CDNs like Cloudflare and Incapsula are great options for providing this security.
Who’s Next Door?
Just like in life an unpleasant neighbor can drive down property values. In this case that neighbor could be anything, porn, hate groups, or any number of unsavory characters. It is the internet after all. Think about it, would you want to host your websites in the same IP range of porn, hate and spammy websites? Probably not the best idea. It’s always good to check out the neighborhood before committing. There are a few tools online that will show your IP neighbors if you want to check up on that.
Incapsula is a great tool for ensuring good neighbors. It lists Zillow, Moz and Wix as clients so you’re in good hands in terms of putting your network in a quality neighborhood. You’re also able to do it all under one account to make things a little easier. Unfortunately, companies like Cloudflare don’t have a vetting process and, being in a bad IP neighborhood could be your undoing. If you’re going to go ahead and do the leg work of building a PBN it’s probably because you’re concerned about controlling all parts of your linkbuilding process and have goals of monetizing a site. Having that fall apart because your sites are sharing IP’s with a spam network is a waste of time and resources. Not concerning yourself with IP neighbors can open you up to a manual penalty, burning your sites. Not many CDN services will ensure a healthy IP neighborhood, so make sure you do research before enrolling with a CDN provider.
Best part is that this can all be done for free. There are paid tiers and though pricing the the paid accounts can be a little higher than alternatives like Cloudflare you get what you pay for, potentially spammy neighbors.
You’re going to need some relevant content on these sites if you want to link back to your money site. If your money site is about coffee, then the content in your network is going to need to be about coffee too. You can write this yourself your fine content writers online. Often, though, you get what you pay for and you want this content to be readable and on topic. It’s also great if it can link out to other authority sites besides your own.
Spinning a Web of Links
Here’s where the dangerous art of PBNs come into play. It’s also where the benefit of them becomes apparent. Each domain could link out to your money site, but only once. Now you have control over your backlinks. You’ll still need to vary the anchor texts to appear natural, but that’s now up to you. As stated earlier, these properties should already be linking to authority sites in your industry.
Can a PBN work for you? Absolutely. Is it risky? Definitely. In some cases building the sites and the cost of content and hosting can be prohibitive. However, there are clear benefits to those links pointing towards a site you’re monetizing. It’s really the only guaranteed way to control your backlinks. But, if you do decide to invest you’ll need to take steps to secure your investment, masking IP and varied hosting platforms are essential to that. At the end of the day remember that white hat is always the best strategy, not buying links and investing is great content.