At its most basic, a PBN is a group of web sites all owned or controlled by one person or company. They are all linked together to achieve a common goal. Usually that goal is to provide a platform on which links to the most important sites in the network are placed, so that they will rank better in Google. It is an important tactic in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), but there can be pitfalls if it is not done right.
Often, a PBN has a pyramid-shaped structure. At the top is a small number of “money” sites – sometimes only one site. These are the sites the SEO expert wants to achieve a result for. Usually the goal of a PBN is to get the money site/s ranking well, but a PBN can also be set up to collect business leads, or to help a YouTube video to rank well, or to get sales for a product being sold on a third-party site (e.g. Amazon), or a number of other goals.
The sites in a PBN can be created using a CMS platform like WordPress, or they can be places like Facebook or Twitter or other micro-blogging sites (also known as Web 2.0 sites). They are usually arranged in “tiers”. What this means is that the sites in the tier below the money site/s send links to the money site/s. The sites in each tier send links to the tier above it. There can be many tiers, or just the two.
It is often considered that the quality of the content in tier can be less as the tiers get lower. And that at very low tiers, the content might simply be a bookmark (link) to the tier above. In my opinion, this is not correct. I believe the quality of the content at every level should be excellent. It should be something that someone interested in that subject would like to read.
However, I do believe in the concept of automating a PBN. A very simple example is that as soon as this post is published, a link to it, along with the title of the post, will appear on my Twitter account immediately. This is a way for me to quickly and easily tell my followers on Twitter that a new post is now available on my blog. Similarly, a link will also appear on my Facebook page, along with the first sentence or two, and an image. To achieve this, I am using a WordPress plugin called JetPack.
I am sure the Gods of Google wouldn’t have a problem with me using a simple device like this to let people know about my new post. Yes, I would like this post to rank well for “What is a PBN?” but since the main aim here is not to rank, but to inform, I will probably not be doing much more than the simple announcements I already mentioned.
But what would happen if someone else liked this post, and decided to copy this onto THEIR site? This is often called content curation, and is a very common practice. I am perfectly happy for this to happen, as long as the copier puts a link back to this original post.
It is also quite possible that a journalist might see this post, and like it so much they write an article on a news site about it ( a press release). This would also have a link back to the post. Or someone might make a video talking about how wonderful this post is, and again, the description on YouTube might have a link to this post. Or someone might click the Like button at the top and share it on Facebook.
These are all what are known as “natural” links. And it is the aim of those who build PBNs to make it look like this is what has happened. They will build web sites on a variety of platforms (not just WordPress), or write press releases, or use a variety of other methods to make it look like there is a lot of interest in this post. And to make it look like this post is an authoritative piece of content on the topic “What is a PBN?“.
Taking it a step further, they might then create another set of internet content that has links going to that first set of content they created. A second tier. And then maybe a third or fourth tier. All with the aim of getting that very first post, or web site, to rank well in Google for the keyword phrase “What is a PBN?“.
Let’s look at another type of PBN. A lead-generation PBN. What if you were, for example, selling a service? How about a house-cleaning service in the city of Melbourne, Australia? You and your team go all over Melbourne cleaning houses.
Wouldn’t it be cool to have a web site that talked about your house-cleaning services, but then also a network (PBN) of other sites that had names like “House Cleaning St Kilda”, or “Tidy Houses Prahran” (St Kilda and Prahran are Melbourne suburbs). Not only could these sites have links to your main site, which would help it to rank, but they could also be lead-generation sites in their own right.
They could each have a contact form on them, so that people searching for house cleaning services in St Kilda or Prahran might fill in the form and contact you for a quote or more information. All the PBN sites would have information on cleaning houses, like maybe tips on the best way to clean blinds (hint: if you can’t manage this yourself because you are worried about something going wrong, we can provide a professional cleaning service – fill in the form and we will call you).
Then each of these posts on these lead-generation sites have a lower tier, with maybe Facebook pages or Twitter accounts and the like, to help each of them to rank for the local searches.
Are you getting the idea?
A PBN (Private Blog Network) is not something that can quickly and easily be set up, with all of the necessary automation, unless you are already very comfortable with setting up both web sites and Web 2.0 accounts.
The biggest mistake people make when setting up a PBN is that they act as though the main object is to get the main money site to a high ranking position on Google. Yes, this is often a major goal, but it needs to be done in such a way that EVERY part of the whole network provides excellent information and content, and is a valuable part of the Internet as a whole. Otherwise there is a very real risk that not only will the PBN sites be ignored by Google (they don’t appear), but the original money site might also be black-listed and not appear there either. So it is important that ANY SEO work, and especially a PBN, is done by someone who genuinely understands what can go wrong and how to avoid it.
If you would like to discuss in more detail how we can work with you to set up a PBN, or other SEO concepts, please get in touch.