We had a question today about the Private Blog Network (PBN) system. Two questions, really.
- Should someone who is using the method keep using it, in spite of all the articles on how Google is penalizing it?
- If not, what should they do instead?
PBN is a matter of setting up a bunch of websites, each of which links to a main “money site” — the actual business website where goods and services are sold. This could be a matter of having a couple of external blogs that appeal to different market segments, for example. Or of repurposing an old website with lots of great content to support a new one. There’s nothing unethical about this. If you happen to own several websites that provide good value to visitors and you want to link from them to your main company website, feel free.
This isn’t how it’s usually done. Typically, the PBN maker buys expired domains that have links from respectable websites. They post a few random blog posts to start with and add maybe one new post a month to make the site look somewhat active. They register domains at different registrars and otherwise do sneaky things to disguise the fact that the websites all belong to one person. They end up with a bunch of low-value websites providing links to one website which makes the sales.
Just as a general rule, doing sneaky things at your website makes your company look sneaky, and it’s not a good look for a business. In the case of the person who asked us about this method, we were able to see that the “money site” didn’t get good amounts of high-converting traffic from the linking sites, didn’t get good amounts of organic search traffic, had a low PageRank, and didn’t rank well for their chosen keywords.
So should you keep doing something questionable that isn’t producing good results? We think that’s pretty easy. If they had been seeing fantastic results, then it would be a question of whether they were willing to risk possible future penalties and how comfortable they were with somewhat shady methods. But we were looking at a website that should be doing better than it is.
“Should I stay on the Peanut Butter Diet even though I’ve gained 12 pounds so far?”
No. Shut down those PB&J — excuse me, PBN sites.
The second question, “What should I do instead?” is easy. Instead of putting time and money into building low-value websites, put that same time and money into adding valuable content to the actual business site. A strong blog, a good sales funnel or lead generation set up, a vibrant community of visitors, or helpful content that brings visitors back often will benefit SEO and conversions, as well as providing value for your customers.
Black hat and gray hat methods are not intended for businesses. They’re intended for low-effort, temporary websites that generate income based on something fast and cheap. They don’t build relationships with satisfied customers. When the search engines smack them down, they close up and move on to the next bit of trickery.
Businesses that pursue shady methods can invest a lot in their digital marketing and get hurt when they lose authority — or fail to build it in the first place.