If you closely follow the world of SEO and you don’t live under a rock, then you will have heard a few SEO guys and web masters talk about a very recent Google update that is detecting PBN networks and therefore giving sites that use PBN’s a good old slap!
Ok, I am exposing myself in what could become a very controversial post. But I don’t care, I am just here to give my own views on recent the current situations!
The gloves are off! I’m not buying it
Jason Chesters (DoSEOyourself) V Spencer Haws (Niche pursuits)
I recently read Spencer’s detailed post on his recent experience with a number of his niche sites. Unfortunately for Spencer his sites got hit with a penalty, and Spencer has put this down to Google discovering that the sites that were hit were actually using PBN links.
Before I start I would just like to say that I totally feel for Spencer and anybody else who have seen their profitable niche sites wiped off the search engines and their profits plum it. I have had it happen to me, and it’s not nice! I empathise with you.
Round 1 – Jump on the band wagon
What actually grabbed my attention when I read this post was not the opinions that were published about PBN’s. Spencer knows what he is talking about and he has clearly state that he will no longer use PBN links for his sites.
His exact words being….
What really got me was the shear number of comments left by his readers that that had read the article and then also vowed not to use PBN links again, just on the sole basis of this 1 post.
This is exactly what Google wants. Propaganda, snowball affect, sheep following Shepard or however else you see it.
Remember a few months back when everybody was saying that ‘Guest posting’ was dead?
A lot of people stopped using guest posting to build links.
Guest posting still works, in fact. How can Google actually determine what is a guest post and what isn’t a guest post!!!
It’s still a contextual link within and article, there is no way a robot can identify if its a genuine link to a site or if the link is manipulated by a guest post.
Matt cuts releases a statement saying guest posting is dead, so everybody believes him and they start talking about it on social media. In not time the SEO world is in turmoil!!
Exactly what Google wanted.
They have no accurate way to stop it, so they just get everybody to believe it doesn’t work anymore!!
Anyway, there is a whole different time and place for that topic.
What I am trying to get across here is that you shouldn’t jump on the band wagon. Try it out yourself and make your own judgement.
Round 2 – Thin content cover up!!!
Spencer claims that it was his PBN’s that caused his sites to be hit (and other Internet marketers). But he published this screenshot of his webmaster tools that indicates his sites suffered a ‘thin content’ penalty.
No mention of dodgy link building, spam links or PBN’s. Now I know that Spencer clearly stated this, and he believes that it’s a PBN problem because it’s only happened to his sites that use PBN’s. And that is a fair judgement to make.
Why would google not just state this??
I mean, if you opened your webmaster tools and you had a manual action that said “Private Blog Network links detected” or unnatural back links detected from suspicious sites, then you would think ‘Holy Shit’….
PBN’s are really dead. The news would spread like wild fire and the sheep would follow, just like what happened a few months back with the whole ‘guest posting’ dilemma.
Here is an interesting comment left by one of the readers:
A fair comment and certainly open to debate!
So this has me wondering, was it actually a penalty for thin content or was it a cover up for the detection of PBN’s?
I have had the exact same manual action myself!! :-0
A couple of years back I received the exact same manual action in my webmaster tools account for one of my niche sites. the site was all about cold sores and at the top of the page I had an affiliate banner to a click bank product.
Although the site had great content, I still got this penalty. It turned out that the problem lied with my affiliate banners. Google didn’t like it.
They saw my site as a way of getting people to click the affiliate links and not offering valuable information.
To remove the manual action I simply rearranged my affiliate banners and toned it down a little (especially above the fold 😉
Now all of Spencers sites are obviously affiliate sites. So maybe it would have been a good idea to try one or two things first, before jumping to the conclusion that it had something to do with PBN links!!
It would be very interesting to see what would happen if you removed the affiliate links for a while
Don’t bite my head off…. I’m Just saying!!!
Check out this thread on BHW. This guy also received this same manual action, except he didn’t even build any back links!!
This points more towards Google not liking aggressive affiliate sites, rather than a back linking issue.
Round 3 – How can Google detect PBN links!
Next thing that I noticed was Spencer’s thoughts on why or how Google found out about his PBN links. Here is what he quoted:
Spencer makes it clear that he does not know, he puts it down to ‘No one knows except Google’
True in a sense, but you can do better than that!!
It was then suggested that an update to their algorithm has detected link patterns used in PBN’s!!
What exactly are these link patterns that are used in PBN’s??
If done properly, links will be drip fed (different times) using various anchor text and look totally natural.
How can it be possible to detect a link that has been added by a PBN or a link that has been added naturally by some college kid who has started a new blog??
OR GET THIS ONE…..
What happens when somebody else links to your site from one of there blog network sites because they have have read about SEO and decided its best to add 1 or 2 authority links to their PBN site just to make it look authentic
What if that site happens to be yours??
Are you going to get a ‘thin content manual action’ (sorry, I shouldn’t be referring bak to round 2)
Here is an interesting comment left by one of the readers:
One good suggestion that was mentioned was the possibility of Google detected back links coming from domains that were once expired. This sounds fairly logical.
Here is an interesting comment left:
the bell is about to ring for round 3, no real reason why or how Google would detect this (apart from Spencer sharing some of his niche sites on his actual blog!!)
Round 4 – Only sites with PBN links got hit!!
From 9 of spenders sites, 5 of them got hit, and those were the 5 sites that happen to use PBN’s. So it’s pretty clear why he would come to the conclusion that private networks no longer worked!
Here is what was quoted:
Spencer made it clear that the 5 sites that got hit had cost him about 5k per month in lost revenue. My question is..
Were the other 4 sites affiliate sites? My point being, was Google targeting affiliate sites rather than PBN links?
If these 5 sites that were using PBN’s on were good money makers, why were PBN links not used on the other sites!!
Or looking at it the other way. If the other sites were ranking without PBN’s, why did the other 5 sites require them? Content not as good maybe?
To be fair, Spencer does state that he builds a portion of his sites without PBN links as he did predict this would happen sooner or later.
I maybe clutching at straws a little in this round as it would be one heck of a coincidence as Only the sites with PBN links got hit!!
Round 5 – Public link networks will get hit
As I stated in the last round just before I got a left hook in the side of my head. Spencer did predict this a while ago, and here is what he stated months ago:
Here is the killer blow, Spencer states that he ‘extensively’ uses Rank Hero on his own sites. Now every man and his dog knows about Rank Hero.
Im sure it wouldn’t be long before Google did!!
We have heard Google shutting down link farms and public networks, but maybe this is there way of attacking from a different angle.
Instead of just shutting down Rank Hero, they go about punishing the sites that use Rank Hero in a sneaky way, like pretending its a thin content action! or maybe not, that’s just a wild opinion I’ve thrown out there!
But back to a more serious note. Using Link networks that are well know to the public are always going to carry huge risks!
In the comments section, Spencer does go onto say that ALL networks are targeted, public and private. But having personally built PBN’s for clients I have not had any signs of them getting penalised!
I apologise if I missed it, but I saw no mention of Spencer using only real private networks on some of his sites, I mean carefully built out networks used only for his personal use!!
Round 6 – I’ll keep on building PBN’s
Im going to go a little defensive now!
Spencer is a great guy and he runs a great blog, I have certainly learnt a lot of valuable information from him. This post was by no means a dig at him or anybody else. Just a bit of light hearted banter!
I hope I have got my point across that we need more real evidence before we can completely banish PBN’s.
Maybe that post was written just for the sake of creating content and generating interest in his blog, maybe this post you are reading now was written for the sake of adding fresh content.
Now that’s got you thinking!!
So are PBN’s dead?
Absolutely NOT. I have used and am still using Private blog networks with great success. If done properly, It is very difficult for Google to detect. Im not saying they will live on forever, but at the minute, we have no reason to stop doing what we are doing!
Are Google trying to crack down on it? highly likely.
Just as I was about to close up this post I came across an interesting post by Glen at Viper chill. Glen explains how he will keep growing his $150,000 network! http://www.viperchill.com/private-link-network
Here is a quote he made in his post:
And the winner is……
I will let you decide!!
The whole topic of PBN’s still working is something that is open to many opinions. Spencer, Hayden and others may well be onto something here, but for now we will keep monitoring and I for one certainly won’t be putting a stop to building PBN’s!!
Please feel free to leave your comments below and express your opinions!