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Are PBNs Dead???

Around the end of September of 2014, Google struck one of the biggest blows to SEO since the original Panda (aka “Farmer) Update in February of 2011.

In one fell swoop, successful SEOs, both large and small, felt the sting of Panda 4.1 – A Google update designed to create a buzz within a rapidly expanding subset of the Internet Marketing community that had grown to rely on PBNs for fast rankings and easy income.

Create a buzz it did.

People everywhere were publicly swearing off PBNs, especially the “gurus” of niche site building.  Tung Tran wrote about this on his site, CloudLiving.com.  Spencer Haws from NichePursuits.com was also hit pretty hard.

Even Hayden Miyamoto (godfather of the modern expired domain boom and who’s methods inspired me to create Domain Spoon) is saying that he’s moving toward “market disrupters“ that don’t need PBNs to succeed, an idea that I have been preaching to whoever will listen ever since reading The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco a few years ago.

While I admire anyone who publicly admits to failure (more people should learn this skill), there is another side to this story.

Not All PBNs Took a Hit

You read that right.  Some PBNs blazed through September’s Panda update without so much as a scratch… and are still thriving today.  In most cases, this has actually helped the SEO’s linked-to money site go up in the SERPs because some of the competition was eliminated.

How do I know this?

Well, let’s just say that it helps to have friends who are successful SEOs who don’t blog or have a podcast.  For every high-profile SEO in the spotlight, there are literally thousands of highly successful Internet Marketers who are flying below the radar and making a killing.

I have a handful of friends like this.  Most of them I have never met in person, but over the years we have grown to know and trust each other pretty well.  The vast majority of them have never blogged about their success, because they consider it a waste of their valuable time and little more than bragging and/or inviting more competition to the marketplace.  They just quietly go about their work, making thousands (sometimes 10′s of thousands) of dollars per month.

To be completely fair, most of these people I met because they are either current or past Domain Spoon clients, met at local Denver Internet Marketing networking events or are people who contacted me on Skype after seeing me comment on a blog post or something.

Long story short, many of them say their PBNs were never touched… and because Google Panda 4.1 eliminated a lot of the competition, they are making more money than ever.

A few of them claim that they lost maybe 1 site out of 20 or 30 (a trivial 3%-5% loss) and they readily admit that it was their own fault for getting sloppy on a site or two.

Just remember that people who experience pain are the most likely to complain.  Think about reviews in general…  Satisfied customers rarely leave them, while unsatisfied people will howl to the heavens and let EVERYONE know how they’ve been wronged.  The same goes for this update.  Did it make some waves?  Absolutely.   Did it destroy some people’s dreams?  Sadly, yes.  But, for every person that you hear crying about losing their PBN, there are many success stories that you’ll never know about.

But, why take my word for it?

If you really think about it, you’ll come to the same conclusion.

To help get your gears turning, let me ask you a stupid question…

Are Links Dead?

I call it a stupid question because you already know the answer.

The answer is a big fat NO.

Yes, the power of links may have been reduced over the years along with the introduction of other factors such as on-page metrics (stickiness), social signals (Facebook Likes, Google+), geographic indicators (Google Local), etc., but links are still the backbone of the Google algorithm and will never be completely dead.

With that being said, the backlinks from your PBNs are just that… Links.

In fact, you should probably stop thinking about your “Private Blog Network” as a network at all.  Just stop calling it a PBN.  Your so-called “PBN” is merely a portfolio of Internet real estate that you secretly own and control.  Period!  No, it doesn’t roll off the tongue like “PBN” but, it’s a far more accurate description than “Private Blog Network.”

Moving Forward

First off, I want to clarify something.

You should never rely solely on your own links.  I am a big believer in providing value to the Internet, and if you aren’t getting natural links (and maybe even some attention on social networks) then you either aren’t providing value or you need to refine your marketing methods.

But, even if you do create value in your market space, there’s the issue of getting noticed.  The Internet is noisy place these days, so even if your market is hungry for a product or service such as yours, they may never find if you don’t figure out a way to rise above the rubbish.  Creating your own links is a fast way to give your site a boost.  Being on the first page for a popular search term can get your site noticed by market influencers, popular top 10 lists, social shares, outreach from bloggers with huge followings, etc.  So, getting that initial “boost” from your own links can definitely lead to a more natural link profile.

In the near future, I’ll be compiling a 100% free, step-by-step guide on how to build a collection of sites that you can use for linking to your money sites.  I’ll also give you some tips on how to help keep your blog network safe from the all-seeing Eye of Sauron (aka Google) and most competitors.  No, I will not be posting a “system” (that is what’s called a footprint) and my advice will be more general than what most people would give you.  I’ll even encourage you think for yourself a little too (…gasp!).

Stay tuned.  There’s more to come.

8 Responses to “Are PBNs Dead???”

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    Honey Sherman
    January 15, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    We’ve seen a mixed bag. 4 different groupings of about 10 to 15 each. High relevancy. Only 2 groups affected and 1 site lost from each of the 2 groups. Grand total of about 4% loss. Not too bad but still bummed. Damn you Google!

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      January 16, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

      Yeah, a 4% loss isn’t the worst I’ve seen, by any means… and yes it is a total bummer. Do you have any ideas on why those 2 sites were lost? And when you say “lost”, you mean de-indexed, right? Did you have any loss in the SERPs because of it?

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    Atif Stankovic
    January 15, 2015 at 10:08 pm #

    Great article, Bradley. I wish that I was one of those people who got by unscathed. Our PBN was hit pretty hard. Lost a little over 50 percent of our monthly revenue overnight. Got so depressed that I spent about a week in bed with the shades down hoping that it was all a dream and that I’d wake up soon. Seriously. After crawling out of my funk I thought, hey it could be worse. At least I only lost half my income and not all of it. I spent the next few weeks seeing if the sites could be recovered. Finally decided that it’s probably not worth trying.

    I have a good idea as to why it happened. Even though I had fake whois info, I was using each of my sites to link to a few of my money sites. I’m sure created a pattern that a smart algorithm would be able to pick up on. I can’t say that I’m completely done with PBNs but I’m going to be a lot more careful next time and balance those income streams with some that don’t rely on search traffic.

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      January 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      Thanks, Atif. First of all, ouch! I’m sorry for your loss. It’s good that you already have a solid idea as to how your sites were flagged. Although only Google knows for sure, I’m sure there are hundreds of data points that are harvested, weighed and then compiled in order to a create a pattern that identifies a group of sites as a PBN. It’s important to think about this when moving forward, otherwise we are doomed to make the same mistakes again.

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    Maksat Mamytov
    January 16, 2015 at 10:56 pm #

    I fully agree. I didn’t lose a single one of my 75+ sites. Some people can’t build a good private network to save their life. If you ask me I blame the IM talking heads. These guys trying to show people how to do it on the cheap. Building a good network of sites is neither cheap or easy. It takes planning. It takes time. And yes, it takes money.

    And thats AFTER you’ve already built a $$ site that is WORTHY of being at the top of the serps in Google. Google will not tolerate less. Most people these days are looking for a quick, cheap, easy success. Stop looking. Gone are the days of throwing a rubbish site up on the web and then ranking it with shit links. You might have some short lived success with this but nothing lasting. You can’t build a kingdom when you are always busy rebuilding the village.

    To all who are reading this leave building a link network to the pros who know what they are doing. Or start doing it right. Most people will never do it right cause they will always be searching for shortcuts. So just save yourself some time and quit now while you are slightly ahead.

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      Honey Sherman
      January 18, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

      Well, aren’t you just a big fat ray of sunshine.

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        Maksat Mamytov
        January 18, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

        It is the truth, Honey. I am happy that the talking heads of IM are finally getting burned and leading their sheeple away from building pbns. I remember when it used to be easy to find a DA 50+ expired domain with no previous drops and no spam, with edu and gov links. Gone are those days. Now we have hundreds of thousands of know-nothing newbs ruining it for everyone. If they knew what they were doing it would be much different.

        I hope Google continues to thin the herd and discourage those who don’t want to take the time to learn how to do pbn sites the correct way. You may think I’m being mean but I’m just being real. Like it or not, its a game of survival of the fittest. Do it right and you survive. Do it wrong and Google takes you out.

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          January 18, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

          Maksat, I like that term – “IM talking heads”… There’s a ring of truth to that and it makes me laugh. With that being said, some would say that I’m one of those talking heads but with a very tiny following. From that perspective, if I knew about a method to help people achieve success I would want to share it with people. You should understand that people who blog want to share their opinions, knowledge and experiences with others… not because they want to ruin anything, but because they want to help others.

          But, you are right in some ways. It is harder to find good expired domains these days. And yes, Google will continue to “thin the herd” so to speak. They have always done this. I remember back when it was a piece of cake to rank with just a 500 word article by using the exact keyword phrase in the article a few times. Those days are over too. The SEO industry is always evolving and it never gets easier… There’s no need to be bitter about it.

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