NP 46: Why You Should NOT Build a Private Blog Network

NP 46: Why You Should NOT Build a Private Blog Network

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Wow, apparently my article from earlier this week really rocked the boat!  I made the firm stance that I will no longer be building private blog networks (PBNs), and it garnered A LOT of attention.

In fact, my article was mentioned on SERoundtable.com, SearchEngineLand.com, tweeted by Rand Fishkin, and even Matt Cutts tweeted about the news articles (that I was in).  Then of course there have been plenty of other blog posts, online discussions, and overall a major buzz around the topic of PBNs getting deindexed and whether or not to use them going forward.

The day of that blog post was the highest traffic day this site has ever had, and there are already over 400 comments on that blog post!  To say the least, I've hit a nerve that lots of people care about.

As a result, Perrin and I only felt like it was appropriate that we record a follow up podcast to dive a bit deeper into the risks vs. rewards of private blog networks.

As you can see from the podcast title, I still think you should NOT build a PBN.

Listen to the podcast for all my reasons why.

What's Covered in the Podcast

Overall, Perrin and I discuss the penalty that hit our sites, causing us to loose about $9k a month combined in revenue from our websites.  It hurts…bad!

When we take a look back at all the work we've done since January (when I hired Perrin), its pretty devastating to see most of it wiped out overnight.

However, on the bright side, we have been working on one large authority site for almost 3 months now, that has never utilized PBNs.  So, we had actually made the decision several months ago to start moving away from link networks, and start moving more towards natural link building.

We cover this in the podcast.

Return on Investment of a Link Network

In addition, we discuss the topic of ROI for using a PBN.  Is it really worth it?

Here's some of the costs involved in getting a proper PBN set up:

  • Buy high value expired domains at auction
  • Or spend time finding your own expired domains for registration
  • Buy multiple hosting accounts on different IPs, countries, etc.
  • Make sure you have private whois or different whois info on domains.
  • Install WordPress or other CMS, write about page, install plugins…all takes time.
  • Hire authors to write content for your PBN sites
  • Multiply all the above steps by 20 to 100 times depending on how large you want your PBN.
  • Oh, and then actually write the articles and insert your links that point to your money site.

You can spend many thousands of dollars BEFORE you even build your actual site that you want to rank in Google!

Why not invest the thousands of dollars that you were going to use on your PBN, and just invest in great content, infographics, a VA to help you connect with others, or some other method of attracting natural links?  It lowers risk and quite frankly might even cost you less money.

In the “old” days of the internet, it was very simple to find some great keywords, build a site, and point a few PBNs link and rank quickly.  As discussed many times, it now takes a least 6 months to start ranking a site and its not quite as easy anymore (Google has made a lot of updates).

Guess how long it would take to rank a site using more “natural” methods?  About the same time.

So, here's the deal; using PBNs used to be faster, cheaper, and better.  However nowadays when you compare a PBN vs. real marketing (outreach, great content, etc); a PBN is no longer much faster, or cheaper, and certainly not better.

PBNs are Higher Risk

And the real kicker is that PBNs are clearly MUCH higher risk.  Google is more likely to crack down on your site if you are using a link network than if you are not.  Yes, there are going to be risks no matter how squeaky clean your link profile is; but anyone is lying to you that says using link networks doesn't increase your risk.

And of course your PBN could get taken down in addition to your money sites at any moment.  In fact Glenn from ViperChill just mentioned this morning that 100 of his PBN sites got de-indexed.  Of course, he shrugged it off because it was only 5% of his network.  But how would you like to see $xx,xxx worth of work go down the drain overnight?  I'm guessing most people don't have the kind of money to lose.

I've simply made the decision that I can no longer tolerate that risk.  It's a business decision.  Sometimes the risk is worth the rewards.  However, I've done the calculations for myself and decided that there's a less risky way to do SEO than messing with PBNs.

Yes, it took a big fat kick in the pants from Google for me to fully realize this; but I had been coming to this conclusion anyway for several months.  That's why Perrin and I stopped building new sites other than our authority site about 3 months ago.  That's why we never built a single PBN link to our authority site.

Adapt and Evolve in SEO

Google is an ever evolving beast.  Myself and many others have always believed that it's important to adapt and evolve right along with Google.  For some reason people think that adapting and evolving means continuing to use the same old practice of private blog networks…but just doing the PBNs “better”.

I tend to think that truly adapting and evolving means seeing what's going to work LONG TERM and evolving your business in that manner.

So, I'll let you be the judge of what is a better method to adapt: taking your PBN even further underground, or writing better content and forming a network of contacts in your niche that actually want to talk about your website.

You know where I stand.

Overall, I hope you enjoy the podcast, and as always, I look forward to hearing your thoughts below.

Listen to the Podcast

If you enjoy the podcast, please consider leaving a review on iTunes here…thanks!

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188 Comments for this Post

  1. Mr Alexander

    Mr Alexander

    Thanks for sharing this. Its unfortunate that you have lost this income and I am sure that you will recover it. On the bright side, I salute Google for continuing to motivate people to engage in clean, white hat, seo practices and take action against self focused practices. It would be great if you follow up with a “clean” strategy.

    Best of luck.

  2. Mr Alexander

    Mr Alexander

    To add, I am pleased to see your recent post being shared among the SEO leaders in the industry, congrats, despite the outcome they came from.

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      We were joking about this. We were like, “Hey… whenever we need a traffic boost for NichePursuits, all we have to do is build a business and then totally tank it!”

      Ha. Thanks, though. 🙂

      • Mr Alexander

        Mr Alexander

        Well, you learn from experience and you guys are doing a great job and a lot of it so well done.

        1 of my sites also went off the radar yesterday for unexpected reasons, it was initially ranked #3 on google then went to #10 – #20 for few months so we started working on it to improve and now its no where near.

        I wish Google would be a little more concrete about what they want from us so that we can measure our success, at the moment it feels like they are behind the curtain and you cant really tell for which efforts is the reward or penalty for, especially given the delay. It really seems like Google is a very demanding lady, you simply can’t please her 🙂

        • Perrin

          Perrin

          Meh… I understand the vagueness. If they outline exactly what they want, they’ll end up with a million sites that meet exactly those requirements and no more.

          The integrity of search depends on them keeping the algos secret.

        • Marc

          Marc

          Be totally white hat.

        • Ben

          Ben

          Is whitehat when u hire a VA that goes out and scrapes links in your niche and then begs web owners to place your link on their site?

      • John

        John

        I remember reading this before i think it was the day you were introduced as part of Spencer team or partner.

        ” Each week, Perrin and I are doing a call to discuss our plans to conquer the world, its pretty fun! ”

        It was a fun ride, til then Big G still conquer the world.

        It was great learning from you both…

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          What makes you think its over?

        • Henry

          Henry

          oh it’s over, PBN’s were you bread and butter!

          So you knew this would happen (as you posted about it)

          …but you still took money from customers for Rank Hero.

          Now it’s slapped

          …And your condemning people taking money for their PBN services because eventually they will be slapped (as you posted about it)

          Can you see the hypocrisy here?

          Why didn’t you stop and shut down the service before?

          Sounds like a huge case of sour grapes, I hope Matt Cutts will read you a bedtime story tonight and make you feel all better.

          “It was great learning from you both…” – i have the same sentiment.

          Good luck and best wishes for the future.

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Its not an easy decision. The difference is that now that I can clearly see that Rank Hero is not working, I shut it down…but others that have portions of their PBN hit just keep it rolling and don’t tell their customers. Hey, I knew I’d catch flak for this stance…the easy route would be to keep going as normal like nothing happened.

        • stephen aidoo

          stephen aidoo

          Dont say that man.. From what i have seen and read. Spencer is never hypocrite.This is seo and we were all trying strategies that will work . I see this as a great way of learning. Spencer is now the most honest blogger i have come across on the internet. This is really great in my own view.
          I listened to the podcast yesternight and was actually changed psychologically about the whole idea about building site. If we build authority site with passion and great research with more quality contents. There is no way the site wont attract natural links.
          The decision spencer took last week was a brave, smart and powerful one. Actually i was just shocked how smart he came out. And how he turned this whole darkness of turmoil into a great quality information. And look at how the post went viral. The truth pains a lot, but is always rewarding. i really respect spencer for this.

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Thanks Stephen

        • John

          John

          I meant PBN creation is over …. not niche site or seo .. sorry i made a wrong notion…

  3. Nitin Singh

    Nitin Singh

    hey,
    I think maybe penguin 3.0 is coming in some time also…maybe that will be the next reason of “the strategy which we’re working today will not work tomorrow” ain’t it?
    and what say about PBN’s 🙂 I was not using private blog networks and my competition was using it and ranking above me. nearly 3 days before, i think because of this hit, his site got penalized and all the traffic belongs to me. 😉
    Thanks for sharing such a valuable article!
    ~Nitin Singh
    Serpcontrol.com

  4. Cherry

    Cherry

    Hey Spencer, how much did Google pay you to spread this BS propaganda? 😉

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Billions + a self-driving car.

      • JD

        JD

        ^^ This comment made me laugh for the first time today. Thanks Perrin.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Actually, if I made my decisions based on who’s paying the most money, I’d build and sell PBN links…that’s easy money. But I can’t in good conscious sell something that I no longer would use myself.

      • Ben

        Ben

        I’m not quite getting your plan for future SEO.

        Build a site and beg someone to place your link on their site.

        I like how Alex Becker calls it “bitch traffic”.

        Now dont get me wrong. I like whitehat links (In fact I do a bit of outreach for all of my clients). But the current demand in market does not allow for months and months to be taken to get a site to #1.

        I work with local businesses and no business wants to pay 5k a month for seo that promises rankings within a year (even those super-rich surgeons)

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Lets take NichePursuits.com as an example. I wrote my post earlier this week and got dozens of high quality links because of it. Did I ask for those links? No. I just wrote quality content, was involved in the community, and have a following.

        • Pierre-Yves Brisson

          Pierre-Yves Brisson

          But you can’t compare Niche Pursuits to a site that’s just getting started. How much sweat and blood did you poured into NP? And on top of this, what was working when you first started it?

          I remember the golden age of Link Wheels as Pat Flynn described it on SPI. This was the first time I actually heard about it. Maybe at this point this type of tactics were not penalized as they are now, but the fact it that some of those who used them were able to keep under the radar might be for something versus all the authority their site have now. I never heard that SPI got a slap from Google when Pat used it. And maybe *a part* of his success can be attributed to this.

          I don’t know about your tactics Spencer, but I’ve been reading you for a couple of years now, and I’m sure NP success is not 100% due to your content. Sure, it’s good and I enjoy it, but maybe it got some links from BMR at some point who knows? I remember some of your niche sites did (which I know are not a part of your business anymor) and this is how you got started.

          I’ll go with Glenn and say that at this point, it’s being Google Propaganda. And other commenters, stop that shit with Black Hat, White Hat and Furr Hat… it’s only a company’s guidelines. No one’s breaking laws here.

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Yes, I’ve put a lot of effort into NichePursuits. That’s what I’m saying people should do with their sites. I’ve never “built” a link to NichePursuits…they simply come from great content, interacting on social media, with other bloggers, etc. I have a couple of other sites, I’ve done (or am doing) the exact same thing that are performing well in search engines.

          Attracting natural links when you have a great site is really not as hard as it may seem. Here’s 4 podcasts I’ve done in the past to get you started:
          http://www.nichepursuits.com/podcast-44-content-marketing-and-traffic-tips-from-neil-patel/
          http://www.nichepursuits.com/podcast-41-how-to-network-for-real-links-and-other-seo-tips-with-rand-fishkin-of-moz-com/
          http://www.nichepursuits.com/podcast-23-how-to-build-links-the-right-way-with-jon-cooper/
          http://www.nichepursuits.com/podcast-13-how-to-effectively-use-content-marketing-to-grow-your-business-with-marcus-sheridan/

        • Quinton Hamp

          Quinton Hamp

          3 Steps to creating a long-term, white-hat site:
          Step 1: “Write Quality Content”
          Step 2: “Get Involved In Your Community”
          Step 3: “Have a Following”

          I don’t think people are hearing you. This is golden.

        • Kevin @ Website Hike

          Kevin @ Website Hike

          Same here. I wrote a blog post about Google and the recent deindexing of PBN’s and got 5 others to post it on their blog WITHOUT ever asking them too. Weird… all I did was write good content, and an analysis of the nay-sayers and the others who don’t give a care and then put it all together to make a good piece of content.

  5. Gael

    Gael

    One point you guys hit the nail with is that grey/black hat is not THAT much faster than white hat now.

    Most people don’t necessarily realise it because they never outreached for a link or did the white hat thing all together and I admit it looks scary on paper.

    Anyway, looking forward to the authority site update now 🙂

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Thanks! It’ll be a fun one.

      I think your podcast will be next, though. 🙂

  6. Eric Gati

    Eric Gati

    What did you expect from building a network that was public? Next time, you should build one that is private.

    (Just kidding…couldn’t resist. :P)

    In all seriousness, I think you and Perrin are approaching this issue the right way. It’s a short term hit, but in the long run, things like this tend to work out for the better.

    – Eric

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Haha. I was like, “No Eric! Not you, too, bro!”

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      lol, thanks Eric…needed the chuckle 🙂 And THANK YOU!

  7. Sarah | IT Solutions

    Sarah | IT Solutions

    “Google is an ever evolving beast.” This times 1,000. My takeaway from years of SEO is, “Just put in the work and produce quality.” Quality material can be discovered in places OTHER than Google. My blog gets 98% of its traffic from Pinterest and 2% from Google. In a competitive market, I’ll take traffic from wherever my content is appreciated.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Sarah! Awesome to hear your strategy is working so well.

  8. Marc

    Marc

    Hey Spencer and Perrin my experience is if you’re content is good and low competition keywords you don’t need any links. I have sites that rank on the 1st page with no links.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I agree. I have a couple of sites in that situation as well. Just wished I had done that with more of my sites…

      • Marc

        Marc

        And to add I build what I would call micro niche sites, Amazon affiliate. Some sites have 5 pages of 100% unique content and make money. Not much $50/month but with no links. Now that I know that white hat works I’m ready for the next step, building a authority type site. I still like building product specific sites though.

  9. Mr. Private

    Mr. Private

    I’m not being facetious when I say this, but you sound like Matt Cutts’ puppet. I know you’re a family man and I can’t imagine that sort of loss of income, but still you have to take your emotions out of it and step back and see what you’re actually saying.

    With people like Glen having no higher than a 5% de-index rate http://www.viperchill.com/private-link-network/ and most TRULY PRIVATE blog networks not being affected to any large degree, you’ve got to look at the methods used to build them and the impact of being one of the biggest, most vocal, dogs on the block.

    Is Google worried at all about the guy that has his own network that absolutely no one knows about? Of course not. Would the cops want to nab 1000 two-bit hustlers or catch Tony Soprano & Silvio Dante and splash it on the front page?

    You’ve got to keep the P in PBN PRIVATE.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Glenn had 100 sites deindexed (5%)…that’s a huge loss. And his was P for Private as you say. Most people get what I’m saying, but I know there will be others like you that don’t want to hear it…that’s fine. I’ve done the calculations for my business and laid out my thoughts pretty well.

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Also, how private do you think your PBN can ever really be?

      All that has to happen for your PBN to be exposed is for one of your competitors to type your money site into OSE/Majestic/Ahrefs.

      I don’t know about you, but I know where all of my competitors’ links are coming from. If you’re ranking well at all, you can bet that someone has seen your PBN.

      In addition, all Google has to do to devalue all PBNs across the web is to devalue expired domains.

      There are just so many possible points of failure.

      Just to be clear, we’re not writing this stuff to take a side in some weird PBN or non-PBN debate. We are ONLY publishing this stuff to protect the interests of our readers–many of whom are our friends–from taking the colossal loss we took this week.

      So, if you like PBNs, by all means, go for it. But don’t expect to read about it here.

      • Mark N.

        Mark N.

        While I agree 100% with what you’re saying, I have to disagree with this part: “All that has to happen for your PBN to be exposed is for one of your competitors to type your money site into OSE/Majestic/Ahrefs.”

        All you have to do is use robots.txt to block OSE/Majestic/Ahrefs robots from accessing the websites in your PBN (yes those bots obey robots.txt rules).

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Actually, Ahrefs doesn’t. They always shows links pointing to the sites, even if robots are blocked: https://ahrefs.com/faqs.php

        • Mark N.

          Mark N.

          I’m not sure which part of the FAQ you are referring to. Only thing I found is this:

          “We use the data collected by Ahrefs Bot web crawler. If you ever decide to block it, please see instructions (please drop us a line if you think there is a problem with the bot).”

          Which in turn links to this:

          https://ahrefs.com/robot/

        • Mark N.

          Mark N.

          I think we misunderstod each other. I was not saying to block bots from accessing your money sites. I was saying to block them from accessing sites in your PBN. This way the bot will not know what websites the PBN is linking to, so if someone were to do a backlink check on your money sites they would not find your PBN.

          Hope I clarified it better this time.

        • JD

          JD

          Mark can you elaborate on the code you use for this in your robots txt file?

        • Mark N.

          Mark N.

          https://ahrefs.com/robot/

  10. Matt Kumar

    Matt Kumar

    Damn, A Penny Shaved doesn’t even rank for brand name right now.

    I bet these were all penalties after Google’s manual reviews because page 1 results of couple of dozens KWs I’m tracking are still the same, and most of them use PBNs as primary link source.

    When you get big and you publicly let people know which of your sites is successful and what PBN links has it used, you can be sure that cry babies from Google will make an example out of you. Matt Cutts is probably dressed like a Superman and he’s running around his house for the past week like crazy.

    Anyway, I hope to see some “We recovered completely” posts in the near future! 🙂

  11. Ralph

    Ralph

    6 months to rank a site.. Yeah right. Pbn’s still work I got sites on page 1 right now using Pbn’s and it didn’t take 6 months to get it there.

    • john

      john

      Hi Ralph; I have not yet used PBN`s and see them as useful; but I think one needs to go UNDER the radar, “go dark’ or whatever. IE, don`t even mention that you are doing okay with them. Kapeesh?

  12. Vic

    Vic

    I understand your view but It would be interesting to read about the “white” seo link building/traffic generating tips you have. Thanks!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      We’ll be sharing more of these down the road for sure.

  13. andro

    andro

    Totally agree with you it’s smarter to be safe and less stressful… than work on black hat! im sure you will recover your self with some great sites!!!!

    Personally i never worked on link building! always just content but the PBN was a tease!!! thankfully i did not pursue it and only had very minimal links active for a week before the google update. this could have damaged my sites that i have been building for just over 2years

    so-far had no issues but only growth in traffic within the last few days…

  14. andro

    andro

    looking forward to your new white hat methods Spencer!!! Personal best to stay away from PBN!!! i have few sites build over the course of 3years with very little link building and have never had any issues actually rankings only seam to increase slowly!! but i know they are safe…

  15. DJ

    DJ

    And if someone from another blog post that sells PBN as a service says their traffic only went down 5%, you’re likely to times that number by 2-5X and that’s the most likely true impact.

    Risk less and DIY….being most in control is the best policy.

  16. Matthew

    Matthew

    Could it be that it is indeed a Thin Content Penalty. I ask because you guys mention that you often have your content outsourced on the cheap, and I imagine this is especially true for PBN sites.

    As you probably know, most outsourced content is simply people from a third world country re-writing the same old generic content for whatever keyword you asked that already exists across the Internet. When you outsource on the cheap you just get generic re-written crap, not unique well thought out or original research articles like on this blog for example.

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Some, maybe, but certainly not for aPennyShaved. I either wrote that content myself or hired top-tier writers.

    • Craig

      Craig

      I honestly don’t thing Thin Content is only about “cheap content”. IMO if your site has tons of affiliate links and really just rehashes/reviews products. It’s possible to get a Thin Content penalty. The content could be written by an incredibly writer, and that might not mater.

      It’s about providing value, and you have to think “What does Google see as value”? I don’t really know the answer to that but if it’s information available elsewhere, you might get a Thin Content penalty no matter how well it’s rewritten if you regularly link out to an affiliate.

  17. Peter

    Peter

    It’s funny to see how emotional people are getting over defending their little corner of the IM space. I don’t get it. Who cares which strategy works best/worst? At the end of the day the main prerogative is to get the most traffic and conversions with the least amount of effort. And also of course that you believe in what you’re doing and feel good about it.

    Could PBNs still work here on out and have a massive ROI? Sure, they could for some people, and I imagine some will continue with them and likely see great success. And… wouldn’t they be glad that the masses are currently being dissuaded from their strategy? That means less competition for, right?

    It’s not all black and white. You need to be honest with the situation and honest with yourself and decide what is your optimal strategy moving forward. Maybe you’ll decide what you were doing is wrong and change your mind. Nothing wrong with that.

    No, white hat is not just a fairly tail dream. No, black hat isn’t dead and will probably work quite well for some if done “right.” Assess the situation honestly and decide what’s worth it to you. There’s no doubt that using the PBN strategy will take a lot of time/effort/energy moving forward, and you’ve got to acknowledge that Google will be actively trying to thwart you. Do the ends justify the means, still? Then go for it.

    But, if you’re not even willing to consider that maybe PBNs aren’t worth the time and effort because you’re emotionally married to your precious strategy, that’s pretty silly.

    I think you guys have made your position pretty clear. It sounds like neither of you were ever “crazy” about the strategy even if it had an optimal ROI. There’s definitely something to be said for sacrificing some bottom line in exchange for getting to focus only on strategies that you believe in and feel good about implementing.

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Wonderfully said!

      I just mentioned this above, but that’s exactly right: we’re not publishing this stuff to take a side in some weird debate. We just want to (1) do what makes sense for our own business and (2) protect the interests of our readers in the process.

      Really great comment, Peter.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Exactly. Thanks Peter!

      • Alistair Cochrane

        Alistair Cochrane

        I had 1 PBN site…

        I needed content, so I picked up a cute story about a little girl that was giving up all her toys and giving the money instead to charity.

        I wrote up the story for the PBN, the girls story had no links injected it was real but some other cute stories on the site were fake with injected links and the overall purpose for the site is for linkbuilding.

        Why am I telling you this…

        Well … the little girls mom found the site and wrote in the comments about how she was so proud of her girl.

        My gut reaction when I saw this… I was totally mortified. Actually I felt ashamed of myself. It feels kinda shitty being a fake.

        I might still do some interlinking between sites that I own, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with building on domains that have authority, no more so than a farmer choosing to plant his crops on fertile land.

        I now try to make sure any content I put out any here is something I can be proud of.

        • Scott

          Scott

          Man. I would have felt ill if that had happened to me!

          So it was a real story? How’d the mother find the site?!

        • Alistair Cochrane

          Alistair Cochrane

          Yeah it was real Scott. I have no idea how she found the site )

          I should add, the mom was probably really pleased that her daughter was getting praised on some website. She would not have known the site was a PBN site so no harm done.

          The things is… I KNEW and my emotional reaction to getting that comment tells me that a career building fake PBN sites is not something I’ll be proud to tell the grandkids about.

          That said, I just lost my entire income ) I don’t think it’s immoral to use sites that have domain authority.

          I think the real question is whether or not it’s worth the return on investment to build non-fake PBN sites. Or as Tung calls it… an Authority Link Network )

          Or like Spencer and Perrin say maybe it’s just not worth the time and effort anymore.

        • Ian

          Ian

          Even though the original intent of the PBN site was to inject links and grow our money site, just because you had a REAL article, I wouldn’t consider it being shitty. You could use that as motivation to make a legit site with great stories and occasionally dump a link. This is assuming you still have that site up…I’m not into PBNs personally.

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          Oh wow…

  18. Roy

    Roy

    You use some jargon in this post that I doubt serves your purpose. What is it that “VAs” actually stands for?

  19. Jason

    Jason

    Yup, I felt the sting as well. Got the “Thin Content” e-mail on the 19th of September.

    Over $7k monthly income wiped out overnight! Just like you guys, all penalized money sites involved had some kind of association with expired domains.

    PBNs don’t provide the quick wins and high ROI they used to. Instead of paying money to buy domains for SEO traffic, now I’d rather pay money to buy ads for Facebook or Twitter traffic.

    As long as the content is good, natural links should follow (Just like the links from Harvard/Huffington Post for you guys!).

    Good luck to you guys, and I’ll be on the look out what works for you in the coming months.

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Ugh…. sorry man. Losing that sort of income is a massive bummer.

      Good luck getting back in there!

    • Jack

      Jack

      “buy ads for Facebook or Twitter traffic”

      Yep

    • John

      John

      wow thats just 300,000 philippines pesos monthly ….sad its all gone ..

    • Scott

      Scott

      Yep. If you know your site converts at a certain rate, you can pay for traffic and profit. Beautiful position to be in, for sure.

      That and the fact that Google will never give you a penalty for “buying too many links off them” either! Haha. 8P

    • Aaron

      Aaron

      Sorry to hear about this Jason, that must have hurt bad!

  20. Jerry

    Jerry

    I remember “web rings” from the old days. I still have a few links pointed from several of these to my websites.

    If Google is against PBNs just because they don’t provide any real value & designed to game the system then people may just return to these “web rings”.

    I think that I have already seen one or two public registries where you enter your blog(s) under appropriate categories and find blogs with matching content willing to place your articles with back links. Some kind of organized categorized web ring directories.

    Is it also a “no-no” for Google?
    Should I get rid of these old ring links?

  21. Brian Hawkins

    Brian Hawkins

    I’m sorry you guys had to go through this but I have no doubt you both will recover quickly and we’ll all benefit from your experience.

    Would you consider Blog Engage a PBN? Is this something I should worry about since I have over a hundred links from tthere?

  22. Jack

    Jack

    You must do everything in mass scale PBNs will still work.
    The little guy will always get hit. My opinion is you cant do SEO forever. Build up a bankroll and use that to learn paid traffic

  23. Peter Pan

    Peter Pan

    Many many thanks for your honest eye-opener! As a relative newcomer to SEO, I’ve always liked the idea that you can set up many small so-called micro niche sites that are not too difficult nor expensive to develop, and then turn one or two into what we call an authority site. My main concern is that if you choose to develop just one authority site in the first place, wouldn’t your risks be much higher? For example, at the beginning you make a mistake with keyword research, only to discover it six months later when you have essentially wasted your time and money. To me it’s like putting all eggs in one basket, and that needs a well-thought strategy to minimize all risks involved. What do you think?

    Also, Marc suggested that one can still develop micro niche sites with no link building if he just writes a few quality articles. Would you rather develop ten-fifteen sites of such kind or one authority site that has 100+ articles plus white-hat link building? Why?

    Thank you.

  24. therookie

    therookie

    Any link building at all is unnatural. Doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done if you want to rank faster. I have yet to get a penalty for anything.

    Your pbn had true legitimate links if your pbn was decent content. It’s the same as someone with a crappy site linking to you. Doesn’t mean you should tell those webmasters to stop linking to your site. I do think expired domains and other country ip’s is a bad idea. Way too obvious that they are fake. Who buys expired domains and puts thin content on but someone gaming the system. Same with links from other countries. Who does that but seo gamers. People just outsmart themselves.

  25. Chris

    Chris

    Spencer,

    I’m really glad you wrote this article!
    I started to go down the PBN route and quickly found myself questioning the longevity of it being viable before google or others figured it out, as well as the fact that it is clearly an attempt to “game” the system.

    I know a lot of the PBN folks and providers are pissed about the article, however, believe its only a matter of time until it catches up with them, and better to take the high road and build real value with real websites.

    In addition – I did the quick math and the PBN, while likely to give you a bigger hit sooner, does not work out longer term. If you spend $100 per site to set up, buy the domain, get content, etc + whatever you value your time at per hour (lets just say $100/hour) – for 50 sites that’s $10,000 (allotting only 1 hour per site) plus monthly fees for unique IP hosting, etc probably another $250 per month – that’s $3,000 a year for $13,000 total.

    In addition, being that you probably don’t want more than 10 -20 links outbound per site, you’re also limited as to how far and wide your PBN can scale.

    During the same one year period, and for the same or less money, you can get a ton of professionally written content made (600 articles at $8 each = $4800), and hire a VA to research and post links to real sites ($100 – $150 week ~ $6000/year). The result would produce a great, if not better effect on overall content syndication and linking, provide supreme SEOization (my new word for the day), and have real longevity.

    Thanks again for the eye-opener and a point of validation in reasoning for a non-pbn strategy..

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks for the kind words! Yep, when you sit down and actually do the ROI/time calculations…you have to wonder if its all worth it. You can get the same or better results with other methods.

  26. John

    John

    Hi, Spencer and Perrin,

    I have been following this topic over the last couple of days and just got a chance to listen to the podcast you guys did. Really nice and I want to thank you for taking the time to make all of this information available.

    I admire you guys a lot. Part of this is because you are doing what you are doing here and part of that admiration relates to your passion for SEO and the Internet!

    I can imagine this was a very painful experience, as mentioned in your podcast. I know I would be really upset.

    OK … one question I have for you is IF you will be creating a blog post that defines what a “Trusted Site” means or “What are the components of a trusted site?”

    I think this would help folks a lot – particularly for casual bloggers who are just coming onto your site via word of mouth, etc.

    Thanks guys and again – really post and podcast.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks John! I think that’s a great idea for a blog post…I’ll jot it down for sure.

  27. Sean

    Sean

    Google is cracking down on PBN’s for the simple reason that they are extremely effective in boosting search rankings. I think your strategy depends on what types of site you’re working on. For churn and burn sites PBN’s are still the way to go.

  28. therookie

    therookie

    The entire Internet is a giant blog network it is the Internet after all. I’m not tied to any one in particular but the point is link building in any form is gray hat. If u get penalized it’s most likely not from just the pbn. If u owned 50 great sites that were high authority and Google knew it was all u. But you linked to a newer site from a few of those authority sites google will still give u a boost. They don’t care if the sites are on one ip. They don’t care if there is one owner.

    Bottom line is the pbn was using expired domains and crazy weird class c ips. That’s just not normal. If you bought a bunch of domains from go daddy like 30 chances are half will be on the same class c ip. They are the biggest hosting company so having multiple sites linking to a site from the same ip is not that uncommon. It’s actually a red flag if all class c ips are different. And expired domains? Come on guys. Not normal at all. Ya it worked. But I am pretty sure I commented here before or maybe another site how unnatural that is.

  29. Jason

    Jason

    Good luck with the “white-hat” link building. This scaremongering is exactly the effect that Google was hoping for. As for me and many other people who know how to play the SEO game, it’s business as usual.

  30. daveM

    daveM

    My impression is that you will be doing some research as to how PBN concept was degraded. That might take some time.

    Certainly your readers will benefit from the remedial measures you take, whatever they may be.

    I am sure that there will be a lot more discussion in different places about PBN as more results are seen from Google.

    Interesting to see the negative comments in here from people looking for links… hahahaha

  31. Stranger

    Stranger

    Great podcast! Slow and natural is the best way. Yes, you are sometimes bored to death to see the glacial progress of the site but we got plenty of time on our hand.

    I personally don’t use PBN although I know I WILL rank way high till I get caught, which I will. I rather fall within the reality than falling from cloud nine, totally smashed and devastated.

  32. Derek Smith

    Derek Smith

    I think we will see a huge rise in the prices for older high traffic websites on places like Flippa with PBNs and newer sites getting the Google smackdown.

    For those who don’t want the patience of building a new site, I suggest finding an older site with good traffic that is neglected. It can be done, it just takes a little effort.

  33. Alexander Presthus

    Alexander Presthus

    Thank you so much for the podcast and your honesty and openess in all of this guys, I’m sorry to hear about the hit to your business. I am currently building an authority site, and havent done any active link building, but just focused on content. I was really really close to buying PBN links a week or so ago, because i was tempted to boost my site a long, since i feel it deserves a bigger audience… I am so happy right now I didnt get around to it 🙂

    Wish you guys all the best, I’ve learned so much from you guys already 🙂

  34. Dan

    Dan

    You are real men! Grown up and feet on the ground type of men!

    Those idiots who try hard to trick people into getting their dollar are disgusting.

    Part of us using gray/black hat techniques its because google does not show us what trusted sites mean, what do we have to do, teach us to have great sites. Their guidelines are a joke. Even if you follow them, write regularly, great content, unique and with not links or scheme are not ranking, you get to wonder, is it worth it?

    Is it worth pulling my hair out to write great content and investing my time and knowledge for a long period of time and end up having 50 unique visits per day?

    That sucks!

    There are a lot of niches, especially in the adult business that simply cannot rank, no matter what content you put up…

    I am in the process of setting up a PBN, around 100 domain names, i know it will fail eventually but I end up here because my white seo work was never appreciated by google, for reason I cannot comprehend.

    So part of the problem is google itself, many people would have not get here if they would have work harder in training people instead of investing billions in penalizing them.

    Big brands are pushed a lot these days, most of them using the same tactics to get there but after they get popular and have links pointing from everywhere, they are unstoppable.

    How do you beat them? By writing great and targeted content? Yeah…right!

    /end_of_rant

  35. John

    John

    Nice thoughts Spencer,

    I really think Jon Haver’s silod relevant 5 network site is good, im not saying it is penalty-proof but as they are relevant they are okay imo.

    One should start a PBN (blog) and PWN (website) but not PFN (Private Frankenstein Network).

    a Private Frankenstein Network is
    1. a dying or long time dead domain
    2. it comes back to life and have like 4 non-related-contents right away without the standard pages
    3. it is linking to different non-related money sites right away (or timely) when the original domain did not link to unrelated sites.

    sample of a Frankenstein Domain
    amys attic dot co dot uk

    It was not a P blog N
    in the first place its wrong to call it PBN because a normal BLOG dont have only 4 posts and its more personal (meaning it will have posts only things and events he / she is interested)

    It was not a P Website N
    standard website same as personal blog do not post unrelated topics, its more of promoting its business or interest.

    What was made or done was a PFN

    • Scott

      Scott

      I like your work here John. PFN gave me a laugh! 🙂

      Spencer and Perrin now have a different standpoint on PBNs than they used to. And that’s all good with me.

      I noticed while listening to the niche pursuits podcast each week or so Spencer has mentioned their move towards building bigger, more authoritative sites. Thousands of pages of silo’d content. And a PBN isn’t the right solution in that case, or for many other sites.

      In this game it’s clear you need to apply the methods which work best, depending on what you need to accomplish.

      PBNs aren’t the be all and end-all solution. It’d be foolish to think otherwise!

      • John

        John

        Most of what was created is really PFN …

  36. Greg

    Greg

    I would like to read an article about your take on risk analysis – what people learn when getting an MBA or when working at a job that involves investing in the stock market.

    Is risk analysis what caused you to adjust your strategy?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yep, risk vs. rewards. I could do something more in depth in the future.

      • Stephen Floyd

        Stephen Floyd

        Spencer,

        I agree with Greg…this would be great information to share…its very hard to weigh the pros and cons sometimes before making a purchase for example

  37. John

    John

    what is your take on upcoming penguin? Will it just be a refresh or more devastating?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I only guess based on what I’ve read, sounds like a bigger update.

  38. Tobias

    Tobias

    Great podcast Spencer and Perrin.

    Since you’ve mentioned the authority site you’re building and the content a few times I was wondering if Perrin is writing the content or if you’re buying the articles. How much content do you publish a week and how much are you spending on content if you’re buying it.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Perrin write some; we’ve hired a top quality author permanently to write most of it though.

      • Perrin

        Perrin

        To add to this, we hired one writer specifically for that site. I trained her myself, and she writes daily.

        It’s certainly the biggest expense for that site, but we are strongly, strongly focusing on content there.

        • Tobias

          Tobias

          Thanks for the clarification. Are you willing to share how much you pay for that writer and where you found her? I assume she’s far from the standard Filipino writer…

  39. Kevin

    Kevin

    Never been a big fan of the PNB approach despite being very curious of its real short term impact. Tour article clears any kind of doubt i still had. Although Hayden still considers it as a potential solution if well managed (different whois, etc..) i think you nail it when saying it’s not worth the work and energy you could spend building the best site.

  40. ray

    ray

    While Google is a thinking and evolving animal, the biggest threat to your blogging income is Negative SEO and reports from other bloggers.

    People are outing other bloggers in a big way, and Google is having a field day.

    Assured mutual destruction is what this business is slowly turning to.

    Your risk might be smaller with so called White-hat site, but it all be done with by a nasty competitor.

    Personally, the whole issue is self serving towards Google’s interest. You must link in a natural way, what does that mean?

    Furthermore, any links to manipulate search results would be against our guidelines.

    What a bunch of confusing nonsense. Meanwhile you need backlinks to rank your site, only don’t try to get any blatantly.

    Goodluck picking your risk level, because as long as you have some backlinks pointing to your site, Google can Nuke your site any day.

  41. Doug

    Doug

    Great podcast guys!!

    I don’t know if you guys plan of talking about your Authority site much. I think it would be cool if you could blog about the Outreach that you’re doing and what’s working for you guys.

    Do you use any services or software for this?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      We are exploring software solutions, but mostly done my researching and connecting in a more manual fashion at this point.

  42. Shane C.

    Shane C.

    SO glad you guys recorded this latest podcast episode. I was about to dip my toes into PBNs but hesitated–and I’m glad I did. Thanks for the info, and keep up the good work, guys.

  43. Nathan

    Nathan

    I don’t mean to brag but my rankings and organic traffic has increased each day starting last Monday. Is this just because sites with PBN’s were removed?

    I think quite a few sites got hit over the weekend.

    Thanks for the podcast and article.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Glad you’re doing well in the serps 🙂

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Yep; this is probably a big factor.

  44. Garrick

    Garrick

    Hey Spencer,

    If you want to get more white hat strategies, try to reach out to Brian Dean of Backlinko. He has a ton of information and I think he’ll be willing to share some of his strategies with your readers and provide a lot of value.

    Also thank you for being upfront and honest with Rank Hero, a lot of people do appreciate this transparency.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Garrick. Yep, Brian and I have crossed paths a couple of times…he’s a great resource.

  45. Warren

    Warren

    Hey Spencer,

    What are your thoughts about this article from Josh of “Form Your Future,” stating that Private Blog Networks aren’t dead?

    http://formyourfuture.com/pbns-are-not-dead/

    Best,
    Warren

    • John

      John

      I saw some of Josh back links for his best double stroller site, and yes those sites are more of a real PBN (Blog single topic or interest posts)

      What we created and call PBN is actually a P Frankenstein Network ( PFN ).. it dying og long time dead domain, comes back to life, suddenly has 4 to 10 unrelated posts, linking to unrelated money site .. so its Private Frankenstein Network not really PBN ..

      • Warren

        Warren

        So if that’s the case, how do we actually create a Private Blog Network??

        • John

          John

          time is really a big factor …..

  46. Martin & Ying

    Martin & Ying

    Hi Spencer

    keep sharing your thoughts as they are normally pretty right on target. We for one will be keeping away from tactics that Google are clamping down on. We are currently learning new SEO skills which we expect will produce a better long term strategy for our stuff – Again thanks for bringing the PBN info to the table.

  47. Lze

    Lze

    As it seems that content will win in positioning high, what are your suggestions for getting good articles?

    If I personally also know topic, it’s easy to understand what’s good and what’s not, but what if I build sites about subject which I don’t know personally?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      You can always hire someone that is an expert in the field. This is what I did for my survival knife site.

      • Lze

        Lze

        Where did you find an expert? Probably not on oDesk/iWriter type of sites?

        Also, how did you know that he/she is an expert?

        • Spencer Haws

          Spencer Haws

          I asked for someone with experience with hunting/survival. Elance…lots of people there.

  48. Tung Tran

    Tung Tran

    I know your secret friend who greatly benefited from this update Perrin 🙂

    He’s someone who we really should follow 🙂

    Thank you Spencer & Perrin again for recording this episode.

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      He’ll be on our podcast next week (I think)!

  49. Olayinka

    Olayinka

    I really appreciated your effort to write this amazing post. I don’t like Google at all.

  50. Scott

    Scott

    Just wanted to say: I honestly tip my hat to Spencer (and Hayden) in having the courage to shut Rank Hero down.

    The easy option would be to pretend like they were infallible and continue to trade, and profit. And pretend like there wasn’t a problem that needed addressing.

    Making a decision like that isn’t easy. To turn down and disappoint customers, and to turn down income.

    It really goes to show that these guys mean business.

    And that couldn’t be further from disappointing!

    I ready respected their opinions and standpoint on all topics as I’ve followed their progress, but this move really cements things for me.

    I love the IM and SEO game, and we’re in good company on Niche Pursuits.

    Who’s with me?

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Thanks dude. That wasn’t my decision at all, but I really appreciate that you appreciate what we’re doing here: being as honest as possible and trying to make money WITH our readers, not off of them.

      Thanks again man. 🙂

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks Scott! Its nice to have a support group 🙂

  51. Peter

    Peter

    Will emails still be sent out this week in regards to Rank Hero reimbursement? They still have yet to reply to any of my emails. I assume you (as co-owner) would have some specific knowledge about what’s going on?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      The support team is actually issuing refunds now, and will email when refunds are complete. I thought the email would go out this week, but it may not be until next week.

      • Peter

        Peter

        Thanks for the update Spencer!

  52. Yaro

    Yaro

    Great podcast Spencer and Perrin!

    I hope apennyshaved project will recover soon with white hat approach.
    You guys should do podcast or post after couple months how is recovering doing.

    Thanks Guys!

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I’m sure we will…thanks Yaro!

  53. Vinil

    Vinil

    Spencer,
    Can’t you just disavow the PBN links and get back to square 1….where the sites where when you purchased them? Or, is the penalty from google for PBN links “unfixable”?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I just submitted a disavow file for one of my sites today. Unfortunately, because it has a “manual” penalty, I also have to submit a reconsideration request that is reviewed by Google before the full penalty is likely to be lifted.

  54. Lisa Irby

    Lisa Irby

    Spencer and Perrin, I just want to say I have so much respect for the two of you after listening to that podcast. I’ve never agreed with the PBN and manual link building but respect how open and honest you have been from the start.

    I’ve read the harsh comments from people who say you should just suck it up and get better at PBN. But I completely agree with your stance. You two are CLEARLY hard-working people so why not invest that into building sites that earn links the natural way? It is going to take longer but I’d much rather have slow, long-term success than quick, short-term success.

    People don’t want to talk about earning links because “it’s too hard.” You know what? It is harder today, but when you do it, it’s much, much more rewarding and you don’t have to constantly worry about getting slapped.

    It’s strange how some people seem to act as if it’s impossible to earn links. I find that when I’m in a niche I have extreme passion for, I’m more creative and I do earn the links. But if I go after niches just for the income or keywords then I have no energy to build it up the “right” way. So I think if you’re in the right niche you certainly can do it today.

    I actually think a year or two from now your blog will probably end up being even more popular than it is now. Why? Because you are hard working and you will show how to do it without chasing links and that will build up even more credibility and open you up to a different audience who may not have been following you because they don’t agree with the link building tactics you use.

    I have no doubt you and Perrin will be fine. Great podcast. I had to press “PAUSE” to comment here. lol

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thank you Lisa! Its been crazy with all the strong positive and negative reactions. So, I appreciate that you and others like the direction I’m going. Thanks!

    • john

      john

      wow when i started learning seo way back 2005, i read about ken evoy sitesell …fast forward 2014 i read for the first time a comment from liza irby whom ive been reading and watching on youtube, a white hat seo …. glad to see and follow you liza

    • John

      John

      I just want to echo what Lisa has said here. You guys will come out better and stronger (that’s already happening as we speak).

      Money is usually always a bi-product of passion. It never never works the other way around.

      Life is all about rebuilding and re-creating. In many ways, your story (both of you) is our story, except you guys are being transparent.

      I always tell my clients it is sometimes best to look at what is being gained as opposed to what’s being lost. And while it may not seem this way now, you guys are gaining a lot.

    • Perrin

      Perrin

      Thanks, Lisa! I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, so this meant a lot!

  55. Aaron

    Aaron

    Thanks for the podcast spencer! After listening to the whole session, i decided to shut down and deindexed my entire pbn. at first i was a bit hesistant, because it took me years to build, and only a portion was deindexed. Even though my pbn are not hit as bad, this podcast changed my view towards the use of pbn. Let me tell u that shutting down the network feel really GREAT! No longer am i paying for VA doing link building work, hosting, content fees every month. Instead i can use this funds wisely on generating great content for my sites.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Wow, that’s a BIG decision. I support you 100%. And its great to hear that some of what I share is having an influence…I really do think its the best long term strategy.

  56. peter

    peter

    So to get this right – clean white hat seo = only 1 thing – building websites the way the google internet police say you can – infact google say that anyone who builds more than a few websites regardless of off page seo arent good for the internet (Google questions why someone should build multiple sites).

    So spencer what about the hundreds of sites earning you money before this lastest update? and indeed before you started using PBN? are they buillt on black hat methods?

    Are you going to go back to each site and own up to google and say: “hey google i got slapped by your PBN update – please also take my X amounts of sites still ranking because of earlier methods?”

    Before this update I hated having to use spam – I shunned GSA/magic submitter as it adds no value and of course PBN isnt the ideal solution either – but now this update has turned me against google – I have spent $100’s on adwords for my site and got zero sales..

    With PBN at least my sites now rank and produce sales worth more than the money put in the PBN promoting them.

  57. peter

    peter

    From BBC article:

    Everything these companies are doing is legal. It’s avoidance and not evasion.

    If i decide to buy an expired domain and think its worth building it out – is it illegal?

    If I then think its worth making a link from this great informative site to another great informative site – not thin content site – i’m not breaking the law …

    I’m all for Google taking spam from their index’s and making goggle search a greater place for their 99% monopoly of the internet.

    Infact I hate to say that i have tried to make money from google’s coat tails..

  58. mr. alex

    mr. alex

    you guys sound like lil cry babies.

    1)You knew what you were getting into from 0

    2)your black hat tactics put money in your pockets and bank accounts #fact

    3)you get pushed around a lil bit now you want to cry and go home, well good riddance to you.

    taking this off of seo for a bit and to a larger picture. Imagine if the usa had just quit and not entered into the world war, oh no the axis is just too big, too powerful, too omnipotent.

    Grow up, buckle up your belts and get on with life. You guys fold like wet paper towels under a mathematical algorithm imagine when you face real obstacles in life.

    just send an email to harvard and boom got it huh, you don’t understand that any form of requesting a link is against google’s tos.

    Right now it’s easy to get a link from just asking, what happens in 6 months when all your followers start asking for links and that market gets saturated?

    you guys are into easy pursuits and nothing more.

    • Greg

      Greg

      It’s just a business decision.

      The manual actions by Google increase the percentage chance that a more effective algo update will happen in the future.

  59. Lourdes

    Lourdes

    This is your best episode yet and your honesty – – well let me just say, you have my loyalty.

    Please continue to give us your “white hat” strategies.

  60. Ray

    Ray

    Hi, thanks for another awesome podcast!

    I have a question for you-
    I have 2 sites that got penalized because of PBN links.
    They were not ranking for any keyword yet. No traffic at all… they were new sites and no effort was put into promotion.

    Now, I do want to start fresh with these 2. What should I do? Is it possible to do this without having problems in the future?
    I want to use the exact same content on a brand new domain.

    Thanks!
    I do not even want to try recover these; Literally no effort was put into promotion so if I can start fresh- that would be awesome.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      If you truly don’t want to try and recover…then you should go into webmaster tools and deindex your entire domain. It takes only a few minutes to do and less than 24 hours to be removed from the Google index. Take all you old content, build a new domain and start fresh. There’s no guarantee, but that’s your only option if you want to use the same content.

  61. Stephen Floyd

    Stephen Floyd

    Spencer,

    Let me start off by saying I am a BIG fan of yours, you have one of the best content blogs that I know of…

    When I read about your massive de-indexing I really felt for you…I know that your heart is to produce top quality content and services that REALLY benefit your customers…

    Basically, I see you as one of the “good guys”

    I have to be honest though, when the PBN craze started a little over a year ago, I was surprised that so many “good guys” threw up a Public Blog Network and started talking it up like it was the next big thing…

    I have been a professional seo for over ten years and have been using PBNs for about 5 of those years…they worked then and they still work now…

    Since I started using them I have NEVER lost a site…not one

    My coaching students also have zero losses when they use my techniques…

    The key IMHO is to “do what real sites do” when you have so many quality factors in the positive column its very hard for G to get you…even if they do get you, sites can be recovered easily, usually less than two weeks if its a manual penalty.

    It makes sense to me that a blog like yours would NOT need links to get ranked, you put out super high quality content…but what is your average plumber or roofer supposed to do?

    Anywhoo, there is a vigorous discussion going on in a Facebook group called PBN WEEK…

    Some of the content there may be valuable to your readers…

    Whatever you do going forward please consider me a fan!!!

    Cheers!

  62. tarz

    tarz

    Since PBN is dead. Do you suggest I make brand new niche sites with expired domains (to avoid the google sandbox time) or is anything with expired domains dead as well?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I would avoid expired domains as well.

    • Mark N.

      Mark N.

      Spencer never said PBN’s are dead, please don’t misquote people because that’s how SEO misinformation is born on the web.

      • Spencer Haws

        Spencer Haws

        Yep, I agree Mark…never said dead…said they are “dead to me” and “I will never build another one”.

  63. Chris

    Chris

    Hey Spencer,

    I left you an email regarding future posts on this topic (PBNs).
    Let me know if you’re interested.

    Thanks,
    Chris

  64. Jack

    Jack

    Deception is at play here.

  65. Darren Boland

    Darren Boland

    Holly crap, this stuff hurts my head….. I can’t keep up at all.. I’m still trying to work out what a Link Wheel is. Some of the above comments are hilarious,

    Spencer and Perrin, you guys doing a great job.. thanks for sharing the good, the bad and the ugly… keep it up…

    I’m looking forward to seeing that you do next…

  66. Alex

    Alex

    Hi Spencer,
    I’ve been reading a lot on your blog recently and have found a lot of great information! Very well done so far!
    What I am missing a bit is information about how adwords. Have you ever made experiences in using adwords in form of paid ads? E.g. for a product niche site where you pay a low CPC and might get good sells throughout amazon..
    Or – in case of your apennyshaved website – you could drive more traffic to the site initially to get possible backlinks via sharing options. When you start your blog you do mostly have no traffic, with adwords you could drive traffic to the site from day one and possibly some visitors might share your information on twitter, facebook etc.…

    • Alistair Cochrane

      Alistair Cochrane

      Not many people run paid traffic for Amazon affiliate sites.

      However, I did notice Jennifer Bland has been having some success running Facebook ads to Amazon offers.

      http://www.ratracegrad.com/

      You might want to check it out.

      Taking Google out the equation altogether. I like it.

      • Lze

        Lze

        Thank you Alistair, I like this page and person a lot.

      • Jennifer Bland

        Jennifer Bland

        Alistair,

        Thanks for mentioning my website!

        Great minds think alike because we both read Spencer’s blog for invaluable information.

        Jennifer

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yes, I’ve done some adwords before, but nothing at a large scale.

  67. Johnny

    Johnny

    Great article Spencer. Just wondering if you’ve started looking at what articles are ranking higher in Google. Man I did and can tell you that on several keyword searches I performed, the #1 spots were nowhere near as relevant as some of the lower ranking search results. This is a major problem for Google and I’m sure they’ll be correcting the issue very soon. I’d be looking for even more changes to their algo… Geez, they’ve got to at least get that part right. The whole idea is to deliver great content to their users. Appreciate your thoughts on this.

  68. Ronny

    Ronny

    Hi Spencer & Perrin

    Is this mean, there will be a paid traffic case study or a paid traffic niche site duel?

    If one day there will be a paid traffic niche site duel on NP.com, count me in 🙂

    What I found is…

    SEO takes time and money but we don`t have any control on what Google will do.

    But with paid traffic, we are the controller.

    What do you think?

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Great idea…maybe someday.

    • Lze

      Lze

      I would like to see this too.

      And particularly examining everything what is not Google related.

  69. Ronny

    Ronny

    Sorry another question.

    Is that normal to see $16 rpm on adsense?

    Thanks again.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Yep, that’s not that high actually.

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  71. Fernando Biz

    Fernando Biz

    very helpful pod cast and really makes SEO’s think now how to rank without PBN’s even though still some PBN’s work. Thanks Spencer for bringing the best and truth out.

  72. Troy

    Troy

    Highest commendations for this guys. It’s fascinating to watch this play out. Unfortunately, I think, it’s only going to add more fuel to a stupid white hat vs grey hat duel for supremacy.

    I know exactly what you mean by the proponents of PBN’s want you to “do it better”. Unfortunately, it seems many proud grey hats, want to screw Google more than anything else. So they are willing to work harder at getting one over on Google than they are to simply build quality sites that they care about.

    In their mind if you give up now Google “wins.” What I find particularly interesting is many of those people who want you to “do it better” have spent thousands of dollars on creating quality content for their PBN sites, and hundreds of hours learning how to set them up properly (they monetize them and create email lists to look like real sites, and create a site that would pass manual reviews), and never stop to wonder how their money sites would have fared if they had invested this same amount of time, money and effort into THEM.

    If they took all the money they spent on the creation and maintenance of their PBN’s and invested it in FB ads and their actual money sites, I doubt they’d be disappointed. They instead claim that it’s just not possible to rank sites in competitive markets without PBN’s but have never really invested an equitable amount of time and money on their money sites to prove that hypothesis.

    To say “I don’t have the kind of time it takes to do white hat tactics” but then turn around and invest all of that time into grey hat tactics doesn’t prove that white hat tactics don’t work. It only proves that you’re more willing to invest your time into something your perceive as easier. However, not having time to invest in your business is not good for your business.

    There’s a very arrogant, young and proud grey hat SEO’er who has recently had his site penalized (among other things) for his grey hat tactics. He then devised a plan to get his traffic back while screwing Google at the same time. Know what his plan was?

    Create strong social following, become active on forums, guest post, become more active in sharing communities, grow other web properties, and create more quality content more frequently.

    Yep, all the same things the Google God’s and white hats have been telling him to do, that he refused to do because it’s what they wanted. And he thinks he’s pulling one over on Google. Laughable.

    On the other hand, Brain Dean from Backlinko used nothing but white hat strategies, costing $0 to drive over 100,000 visitors to a single page on his website. I KNOW there are plenty of grey hat, PBN advocates out there who don’t get 100,000 visitors to their entire website, let alone a single page.

    Grey hat tactics work. So do white hat tactics. Debating which is better or which is easier, or which is faster or more effective is not a conversation that any of us can really have. At least not intelligently.

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      Thanks for the comment, Troy…well said!

  73. Onlinety

    Onlinety

    Wow.. Great Information.. Very Nice information you are sharing.. Thanks.. Awesome

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  76. Anne

    Anne

    The white hat methods are always best way to go though at times they take forever. Thanks Spencer, for your posts, they keep us informed.

  77. Jack

    Jack

    Spencer has the resources and pocket book to support this whitehat change. Most people dont

    • Spencer Haws

      Spencer Haws

      I do agree somewhat with this sentiment. I have the longer time frame before I need to see a return on my investment, and my investment can be more than many people. However, at the same time many of the more “shady” tactics to rank in Google (like PBNs) aren’t any cheaper and may only work for a limited time.

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  80. Dan

    Dan

    Many big websites with clean profile got hit as well. If you are into SEO, that’s the risk involve regardless of whether you are using PBNs or not. And if you want to keep on depending on SEO for traffic, then I do think PBN is still the way.

    However, if the approach is to steer away from SEO and focus on content curation marketing, then it make sense. Sorry to disagree with your point but that is the true about SEO. You never have control of your rankings despite how clean or HOLY your links can be.

  81. The Great Deindexing

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