Alright Google, You Win…I’ll Never Use Private Blog Networks Again!

By Spencer Haws |

Don't you sometimes just hate Google?  I know I sure do…especially after this weekend.

You see last week I started getting emails from people saying they were getting “thin content” penalties in their webmaster tools account.  I hadn't seen any penalties on my sites, so I wasn't sure what was going on.

Then on September 18th, the Google hammer slammed down on some of my sites.  Several of my niche sites have now dropped by as much as 80 to 90% in traffic over the weekend.

After doing some digging around, and hearing from lots of other people this weekend, the reason is quite clear: Google has started penalizing sites that had links from private blog networks (PBNs).

I'll go into all the details below, but let me be very clear: Google has beaten me into submission, I'm done with PBNs…forever!

What Happened?

I have always tried to be as transparent as possible with what's working and what's not, and today is no different.  As much as I hate to write this painful post, I do it for your benefit.   I happen to know that there are many other people that were hit with this new penalty, but I suspect many of them will never publicly address the issue.

I don't know if this is a new algorithmic update, but that seems to be the most logical change.  Google appears to have updated their algorithm to detect PBNs and then is penalizing those sites receiving links from those PBNs.

Like others, I received a “thin content” message which can seen if you click on “manual actions” in webmaster tools:


Is it really a “thin content” penalty?  In my opinion, no.  The one true link between all sites that got hit with this new update is that they all had PBN links…not that they had thin content.

For example, Perrin's site also got hit, which has great content developed through keyword research using Long Tail Pro and SEMRush.  This is also the example site from Niche Site Project 2.  Perrin's site had been earning between $3,000 to $4,000 a month for the past several months, so it was a pretty severe hit for him.

I got hit pretty hard as well.  Here's what this penalty like:


Thin Content or PBN Penalty?

I truly believe that for most people hit over the weekend, it was not a “thin” content penalty, but actually a linking penalty.

So, how bad was the damage?

Well, on my end I had about 10 or so sites that were penalized.  This will equate to about $5,000 a month in lost income each month due to this penalty from my niche sites.  Ouch!

However, the true damage was MUCH more widespread than Perrin or I.  I've already heard from dozens of others via email or blog comments that were also penalized.  In fact, Hayden from No Hat Digital was hit extremely hard as well.

I have heard from many others that are quite well known for building out PBNs, and they were all hit as well.  Google has cracked down big time.

What About Rank Hero?

In addition, Rank Hero was not able to escape the Google hit as well.  Just like everyone else across the web, Rank Hero felt the damage.  As a result, Rank Hero is obviously not accepting new customers or posts.  If you were a current customer of Rank Hero, they will be contacting you this week via email to discuss going forward.  This may be a refund of credits, other types of links, or some custom resolution.

How Did Google Find All the Sites?

So how did Google find all the sites that had PBN links?  No one knows except for Google, but I suspect it was an update to their algorithm that detected link patterns that are clearly used in PBNs.  Once a PBN was a detected, a manual reviewer likely looked at related sites and started handing out those manual actions.

I'm not here to conjecture how the sites were found, I'll leave that to others.  The message is pretty clear though to me, the day of using private blog networks is over.  I'm done.

Sites That Were NOT Hit

So, what makes me so sure this is a PBN penalty?  I have a pretty decent pool of sites in my portfolio; some that used PBN links and others that did not.  For example, in my webmaster tools account, I have 9 sites.  Five of those sites received the “thin content” manual action.  All five of those sites used private blog networks.

The remaining 4 sites in my webmaster tools account did NOT receive any penalty and continue to perform well in the search engines.  None of these 4 sites used PBN links.

And of course I have other sites outside of webmaster tools as well.  All of my sites outside of webmaster tools that used PBNs got hit, and none of my sites outside webmaster tools that did not use PBNs got hit.

So, at least from my perspective the reason is pretty conclusive…PBNs.

My Warnings About the Risks of Gaming Google

Now obviously this penalty hurt me, Perrin, and many others in our pocketbooks.  But as much as it hurts to say it, I've warned against the use of PBNs and shady link building in the past.  In fact, I've always known and always said that using these types of link scheme was a short lived venture.

However, the money that could be earned in the short term was always worth the risk.  Sure, I knew that sites might only last a year or 2, but they would be highly profitable.  And that has been the case.

However, I've also talked MANY times about how I build other portions of my portfolio without using PBNs.  I've always said that there is a good, better, and best way to be out building sites.  So, just because some of my sites used PBNs, its most certainly not what I've recommended for everyone and have always tried to be up front with the risks.

Here's a few of the articles and podcasts that I've published in the past that discuss the risks of using PBNs and the better way to build websites that will stand the test of time:

As you can see, I've done my best in the blog posts above to raise awareness over the years of the risks associated with PBNs and shady link building.  I've also interviewed several people and discussed ways to build natural links and build a better business.

So, the fact that I'm finally just pulling the plug on PBNs should not come as a huge surprise to anyone.  And if anyone out there was unaware of the risks associated with PBNs, that likely means they have only been “hearing” what they choose to hear.

As I looked back on some of the posts I've written in the past that try to explain the true risks associated with SEO and link building, I came across one particularly accurate passage that I wrote in January of this year (9 months ago):


So, I wrote that pretty accurate predication 9 months ago.  Its been a fun ride, but I'm ready to get off the roller coaster.

Steps Going Forward

Going forward, I'm not just going to give up on my sites that were penalized.  I had some pretty decent sites that were hit including 2 of the sites that I purchased this year. The “Adsense” site and “Site 3” were both penalized; while the Pinterest site and “Site 4” are still doing just fine.

One of the sites I bought (Site 3) was on track to do close to $4k in revenue this month…so its stings.  This will be the first site I try to recover.  In addition, was closing in on $4,000 in revenue this month as well, so Perrin is going to recover that one by rebranding the site and maybe picking up a new theme along with several other steps.

Perrin's Recovery Plan is this:

I will be following a similar method to recover my sites as well.

The Kind of Sites to Build

So, what kind of niche sites will I build going forward?

Well, to be honest, I probably won't be building many niche sites.  Perrin and I stopped building new small niche sites almost 6 months ago.  About 2 months ago, we started a new site and that will probably be the last one we start new in a long time.

The site we started about 2 months ago is our “authority” site that we've talked about many times in blog posts and on the podcast.  The site is moving right along and still doing well.

The goal is to write in depth and descriptive posts. You want to answer all of the questions your users may have any garner natural (or at least white hat) backlinks. 

Fortunately, I made the very conscious decision 2 months ago that I would NOT allow any PBN or other shady links to be pointed at this new authority site.  I wanted this to be a true authority site that focused on quality and garnered natural links.

That plan has worked very well so far, and I'm especially happy to say that even though it shared a Webmaster Tools account with some of my other niche sites that were penalized, this site did not.

So, Perrin will continue to focus the majority of his time on building out and marketing this large authority site.

In addition, I have at least 3 other sites that I've NEVER done any type of “manual” or shady link building to and those sites continue to perform well.  Here's the analytics of a couple of those sites:

Never Tried to Build Links to this Site – content only


Recently Purchased (“Site 4”) – No Links Built


So, the evidence is abundantly clear.  The sites that I have not built any links to over the years are performing quite well.  The sites that I've tried to build PBN links to, have tanked.

I don't know about you, but that's enough for me to kiss PBNs goodbye forever.

Focus on quality content and even building an email list. (My favorite list building tools are Thrive Leads, Clickfunnels, and Leadpages).  Consider using ConvertKit to build your list; read my ConvertKit review here.

Don't Fool Yourself, Give Up on PBNs

I also feel like I need to circumvent a few of the comments that I know will follow this blog post.  Some people (like the many commentors at NoHatDigital) will simply say, “Oh, but if I tweak how I do PBNs slightly, I'll be in the clear again!”

There are always going to be people that claim they've cracked the code on Google, and can do something Google doesn't know about.  I don't care if you do make your whois information different or super secret, or follow the “textbook” for building PBNs.

My response will continue to be the same as it always has been for me over the years, “Sure, it might work for a short time; but Google will eventually catch you”.  Its only a matter of time.

So, while I've played the game in the past…now I'm out!  Luckily, I've taken my own advice in the past as well about taking a portfolio approach, and followed many different strategies and many different sites.

As a result, some of my portfolio took a hit, and some of it didn't.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure everyone took that advice…and had most of their portfolios pummeled.

So, while I know people will still try to be super tricky with Google…I'll no longer be writing about those tactics on my blog.  I've always tried to share a tactic and say, “This seems to work right now, but be aware of the risks”.  I'm now simply going to stop any confusion that people had; if I think the tactic has tremendous risks, I won't be doing it or blogging about it.

And PBNs now fit in that category.

SEO is Long Term

The bright side of the equation is that for those that are willing to put in the time and effort to rank in google by following the “rules” most likely will.  And because so many people will still try to game the system, eventually they will get penalized and your “clean” site will be left standing.

This is what is happening with the few “white hat” sites that I own.

I should also just finally point out that over the years, SEO has moved from a quicker way to get free traffic and income to one of the slowest methods of traffic and income.

SEO is a long term solution, not a quick fix.  You have to focus on site design, site speed, and quality content.  (Read my Design Pickle review for design ideas).

So, if you are looking to use SEO as a way to make quick money, you are going to be sorely disappointed.  Getting natural traffic from Google is now probably one of the slowest possible ways to build a business.  The potential is still huge for SEO, but you need a much longer timeline to make it happen.

I'm in it for the long haul, what about you?

Your Thoughts

As always, I'd love to hear your comments.  I've done my best to lay out not only happened with the PBN update, but what I will be focusing on in the future.

Were you hit with this PBN update?  Are you going to use PBNs in the future?  We can move past this together.  Let's talk it out below.

SEO | 410 comments

By Spencer Haws

Spencer Haws is the founder of After getting a degree in Business Finance from BYU (2002) and an MBA from ASU (2007) he worked for 8 years in Business Banking and Finance at both Merril Lynch and Wells Fargo Bank.

While consulting with other small business owners as a business banker, Spencer finally had the desire to start his own business. He successfully built a portfolio of niche sites using SEO and online marketing that allowed him to quit his job in 2011. Since then he's been involved in dozens of online business ventures including: creating and exiting Long Tail Pro, running an Amazon FBA business for over 3 years and selling that business, founding, and co-founding You can learn more about Spencer here.

Want to learn step-by-step how I built my Niche Site Empire up to a full-time income?

Yes! I Love to Learn

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As for RankHero, we will be taking all the domains down which will essentially be removing the links, so disavows will not be necessary.

Thanks Google!

Joe Magnotti

Hayden, so sorry to hear about this. Man, I was recommending RankHero as well.


Be careful here. I decided to start afresh on a new domain after my site was hit following the BMR update.

It was a big site, so I needed to do bit by bit. Slowly 301ing as I went along. Then the new site got hit as the original site passed the penalty.

I worked out that the penalty was passed from a page that had a BMR link, despite the network/pages being took down two years ago, and any physical sign of the link on Google no longer existed. After removal of the 301 from that page the site recovered about a month later.

So the page that got the link was marked forever. I’d def do a disavow in addition to physical removal of the links.

I’d also consider starting afresh with the content on a new domain (that is something that two years fighting a Penguin penalty has taught me, not getting them years back).

Spencer Haws

I agree…definitely will do a removal of links and disavow. I hate to think of moving the content to a new domain, but I agree it could be a final option.


I’m sorry if I’m imposing on a more advanced discussion but if Spencer (perhaps a past article) or anyone else in the know could please offer up some advice, it would be much appreciated. I’m a beginner in regards to websites but am looking to dive into the process of creating my own high quality content authority site (starting with a lot of research, like reading articles like this) – but I’m honestly stuck with, seemingly, base level knowledge regarding this process. PBN links – could someone spell out exactly what this consists of? I was planning on hosting my content on WP – no longer advisable? From a technical standpoint, what is a great example of the right way to build a site? (again Spencer, any relevant articles would be greatly appreciated – I’m making my way through all your articles but would love to have a clearer view on the subject now).

Spencer Haws

Hey Vicki, no problem. WordPress is still a great way to build a site. PBN links are private blog network links that. Here’s an article that talks about what they are: Obviously, I don’t use or recommend PBNs anymore.

Jack Braglia

You know its a sad day when the owner of a site called niche pursuits says he will no longer be building niche sites.


Jack – where did Spencer say that at all? Just says he’s going to be focusing on natural outreach and interaction.

Anyone that’s read this blog for a significant period of time and has listened to his podcasts will know that Spencer’s been advocating to build 1 large site and focus your energy there for quite some time. Large sites are still Niche sites. Take a look at this article below for a good breakdown on what “is” a niche site versus what’s not. Spencer’s been advocating people build a large site for quite some time now.

This article is awesome on so many levels and it’s worth everyone taking their time to go back and read. I WISH I had stuck to this formula when I first started building out sites, but I had most of my eggs in the same basket as a lot of folks here, and am now working on my own recovery/rebuilding strategies. Bottom line is that PBN’s were great for those that wanted the easy rankings with a quick return. The sandbox in May changed that, and now this update to follow it.

Spencer is just simply stating that he’d prefer to focus on the “long play” rather than the “short play” like the stock market. Absolutely nothing wrong with that and I tip my hat to him for making the right choice.

Jack Braglia

ok ok I exaggerated, he said he “probably won’t be building many”. Here’s the quote:

“So, what kind of niche sites will I build going forward?

Well, to be honest, I probably won’t be building many niche sites. Perrin and I stopped building new small niche sites almost 6 months ago.”

Spencer Haws

I never said I wasn’t building niche sites…I still am. I said I’m not building PBNs…big difference.

Jack Braglia

I was referring to this line here:

“Well, to be honest, I probably won’t be building many niche sites. Perrin and I stopped building new small niche sites almost 6 months ago”

great article btw. I appreciate the wisdom because I was almost about to consider a building a PBN

Spencer Haws

Here’s my view on niche sites (my definition may be slightly different than yours):

Jack Braglia

ahh ok. i see what you mean. thanks man!


So will your Rank Hero customers be receiving refunds?

Spencer Haws

Yes, as discussed in the blog post above…customers will be getting an email this week with options of refunds, or some other reconciliation based on their choice.


To be fair Luke, customers should know the risks of buying links from any service. Many customers will have reaped the rewards whilst this strategy was working and that’s what they were paying for. If someone wants to play google then they have to be prepared to pay the penalties if and when they’re caught out. Expecting the guys who were helping you them the game they wanted to play, to then issue a refund doesn’t seen very fair.

I got in late with guest posts with SEO Link Monster just before it and sites like BMR were taken down. For a short while it worked wonders and we earned some good money form it. However since then the site I was linking to got slapped somewhat. I’ve not been able to bring it back to its former glory.

Luckily I had another site that targeted some of the same market that I had not gone all out on with buying links.

The lesson I learned then was not to out all your eggs in one basket. Just because you find a strategy that works now, does not mean it will work next week, month or year. If your market is worth it then have a backup site / plan working a different strategy.


I understand why you would issue refunds Spencer, but I think you should listen to Fran here. Everyone that used Rank Hero should have very clearly understood the risks involved.

I’m sure those that used it successfully highly benefited from it during the time that they used it. The same people who are complaining about wanting their money back are going to quit on niche sites and your site most likely anyways.

Again, I completely understand why, as a good guy, you would refund people, but the risks were clear and so were the benefits. People chose to pay for a service based off of the benefits.

I chose not to spend that much on PBNs because I had a feeling it wouldn’t last…

Scott Hammon

Fran and Ian,

I disagree with you both –

RankHero was not a service paid for in arrears or on a per usage basis.

To charge someone in advance for something that they are now no longer able to use (because the domains are unavailable) would necessitate a refund. Just basic business.

I agree though if customers were clamoring for refunds of all of the previous months that they paid for/benefited from – yeah, that’s not reasonable in the least.


yes,i am agree with you .If link is manually deleted from rankhero then no need to send those link for disavow .


Wow. It was a great run with RankHero. Well done taking care of things as much as possible for the customers.

chris mcelroy

Hayden, they may still need to disavow even if the pages no longer exist. Had an article directory with 250,000 pages and a few years ago, I deleted the entire directory and redirected that folder back to my home page.

Users were still getting notices from webmaster tools telling them to email me to remove those links over a year after them being deleted.

Disavowing is the way to go.


And I agree with you Spencer. Everyone always knew this was against Google’s TOS, and it certainly expedited rankings and made a lot of people money. That being said, the sandbox and now PBN targeting is making me steer clear of SEO for my portfolio. There are faster, less stressful, and less volatile ways to make money online. This was the entire reason of the revamp of NoHatSEO to NoHatDigital a few months ago, and the entire focus of the retreat we held back in May.

I hope to share a lot of this in the near future, and I look forward to the outreach experiments! Keep you chins up everyone, it’s part of the game – learn and move on!


Hey Hayden, hats off to being open and honest about the situation and throwing in the towel when it makes sense, especially since you probably more than anyone else has put in a ton of effort in fine tuning the strategy.

It shows character to reveal the drama behind the curtain as you have when you could have just as easily gone the scumbag route and still sold PBNs as the best thing since sliced bread.

Good luck moving forward and the new blog is great.


Hayden, I would love to hear your thoughts moving forward on, as you said “faster, less stressful, and less volatile ways to make money online.”


My best earning website has 20 RankHero links pointing to it (10 articles with 2 links each). It has not yet been affected by this PBN doom switch. In fact, it’s doing better than ever.

Should I leave the RH links as they are, or should I disavow them? What is the best play for me?


Glad to hear that Tomas. The sites are in the process of being taken down now, so no need to disavow.

Travis Jamison

PS the disavow tool is 100% useless for algorithmic penalties anyway. It’s just propaganda and a way to help Google better detect artificial links. The last thing you want to do is disavow unless you have a manual action.


I have an Amazon affiliate site that’s been earning pretty well for the past 4 months. It has several PBN links pointing to it, but only 3 of those domains were deindexed. I’ve removed those 3 links.

My money site has not been effected — yet.

My question is — is it only a matter of time before my money site is penalized? Or is it possible to avoid a penalty if you only have 3 deindexed links?


So i guess that leaves us with the strategies from Pointblankseo and hopefully some good links obtained by outreach,…

Is that your entire strategy now Spencer? And if so,…are you and Perrin working your way through that entire list from Jon Cooper? or are you mainly focussing on outreach?

Spencer Haws

Yes, that is basically our strategy now. We are doing a lot of outreach now for our new site and gaining some great links. Outreach, interaction, and hopefully writing some content that will get shared naturally. And consistent content by itself can also work extremely well sometimes…even without active outreach.

John Hollywood

Spencer, this is the best way to get links … through good old fashioned hard work and earning the trust of other sites that will recommend your site.

Great post by the way. I’m a customer of yours with Long Tail Pro.

Spencer Haws

Thanks John…I’ll be moving forward with the hard work strategy on 100% of my sites now, instead of just a portion of sites as done previously.



I’ve never done PBNs, but I was right on the verge of jumping in.

After 2 1/2 years of trying to do things “properly”, I was discouraged with my low income. And with my financial picture about to turn very bleak by this time next year (it’s complicated), I was finally ready to go all the way and dig into the more black hat methods to make some money while I still have the time.

And now this…

I just got myself all psyched up to build out a portfolio of 100 niche sites, but now I just don’t know what to do or where to go from here.

I don’t want to build one big authority site, especially when all a competitor has to do is drop $100 bucks on a spammy link package from some back-alley negative SEO kid and get me de-indexed within 6 months (been there, done that).

That’s why I was trying to shift from the one site approach to the 100 niche site plan, to spread my (potential/inevitable) losses.

So now…

Now what?

Spencer Haws

Definitely don’t go the 100 site route, that hasn’t worked for a really long time. One site is a MUCH better approach.


Thank you, man. You’re 5-second response probably just saved me 1,000 hours of wasted effort.

Financial Samurai

Is it really that easy to get a site deindexed or punished?

If so, seems kinda scary.


I’ve had it happen to me, and there was another commenter on this post who had it happen to their authority site with 1,000 or so posts on it.

Yes, it is scary.

And I’m pretty sure Google doesn’t give a rip, because for every high quality niche site that gets demolished, there are 100 more just like it coming up to take its place. So it doesn’t hurt them in any way.


Second that, negative SEO is EXTREMELY effective.. sucks to see google going after PBN’s with such tenacity but completely ignoring the bane of the organic world that is negative SEO..


And what’s worse…

All those SEOs who now have penalized PBNs…

What will a blackhat SEO do with a penalized PBN?

Google just gave them a great resource to use for negative SEO, so they can easily flip this negative around into a positive.

Makes me sick…


That’s a scary thought, Chris. I wonder if one day Google will start “link approvals” in WMT where you can manually accept all links pointing towards your site. This could help remove negative SEO for good…And we’d have full protection and control (and responsibility) of our sites.


Chris, I feel for you. I suspect at some point Google will arrive at a place that scoops out the folks who are involved with negative SEO spamming. Perhaps wishful thinking but we are getting close to a place where I think anyone who wants to publish on a google is going to have to go through an extensive registration process.


Hey Spencer.

What are your thoughts on expired domains themselves?

Greg at NHD mentioned in their initial post about this that some of their new sites built on expired domains, not on a PBN were hit too.

Thanks for your insight!



If I were Google, and I was going to go looking for PBNs, the first thing I’d do is look for websites built on expired domains. So it’s no surprising, and since this round of penalties, all expired domains carry a lot more risk.

Spencer Haws

Yep, I would say expired domains in general have more risk.


We had several expired domains redeveloped as authority sites without a single link pointing to them. Guess a baby thrown out with the bathwater…

So ya I don’t suggest it now!


Thanks for the response guys.

@Perrin: Me too. Especially since the same drop lists that most people use to find domains, will likely be observed by Google. It’d be an easy process for sure.

@Spencer: Indeed! =)

@Hayden: Yeah, there’s a strong indication there that you guys were manually targeted. Seems Google “followed their nose” – especially when you consider the WHOIS.


Yes, but don’t forget that if domain has been purchased from domain broken and they keep them indexed then all we are doing is adding content to that domains and that’s it? In that case, it is not really an expired domain.

Don’t take me wrong but apart from Hayden yourself and Spencer I have not heard any single person in any forum as such who has claimed that their money sites has been de-indexed.

I am not saying that you guys are lying (definitely not) but that rings the bell that may be your money sites were hosted on some crap IP’s which Google bots has banned (Kindly clarify your hosting company).

Now, as Spencer mentioned to stay away from PBN’s and then outreach and begging for guest posts from other bloggers is a good idea (May be)? But let’s assume what if they are doing something wrong and their money sites gets de-indexed and that affects our money sites as well.

Honestly speaking it is pretty hard to say at the moment taht what is right and what’s wrong 🙂

Spencer Haws

Lots of people in forums have brought this up, you haven’t been looking hard enough :). Also, I’ve received dozens of emails of people stating the same thing…its not just Hayden and I.


Sorry to hear about your loss! I think the question is about public blog networks. Rumor has it that Google is now using all the websites in the millions of DISAVOW files, and that is surely one way to identify them.

I will tell you, competition in this business is now silently more cut-throat than ever.

Remember when Google asked for reports about sites using shady linking schemes? They receive thousands of entries daily from webmasters that you outrank daily.

I say you need a very private PBN that only you control. Not even your your best friend should know about it. I strongly believe other webmasters are doing the dirty work for Google.

On the other hand, some PBNs are so obvious. Just look at the tell tale signs:

No comments allowed

Very little content with multiple links in each post

Site is linking to multiple sites with no relation in topic to the the host site

Site is about cooking, and have links pointing to sites talking about finance, Seo etc

No obvious advertisement, only links

In conclusion:

The trend is to build your own blog network with well designed real sites, and try not to tell any one about it. Lately, people are fickle and full of hate, even those you think love you dearly. If you talk about you PBN even to loved ones, be prepared for some nasty surprises.

Google is clearly getting help, and you can look closely at your competition for supplying the “guns and bullets”, while Google pulls the trigger. SEO is now becoming a game of mutually assured destruction. Some site owners take it very personally, when you outrank them, so even if you’re clean, it does not mean your sites will not fall victim to negative SEO tactics.

Spencer Haws

I disagree that people should continue building their private networks. This post was NOT about public networks…it was about ALL networks. I had private networks that no one knew about that were hit in this update, so did Hayden, so did MANY other people. These were not public by any means…hope that clarifies my position :). Avoid ALL PBNs – private or public.


Hey Ray,

I’m going to have to respectfully disagree here.

You wrote, “I say you need a very private PBN that only you control. Not even your your best friend should know about it. I strongly believe other webmasters are doing the dirty work for Google.”

All anyone has to do to find your PBN is type your money site into Majestic/OSE/Ahrefs. PBNs will never be private, and that’s their most substantial inherent risk.


I guess no website is safe with any type of links. It’s now so easy to destroy any site, while Google is laughing all the way to the bank. We all helped create this monster that’s now ruling with an iron fist.

We need a credible alternative.



“How To Build A Profitable Website Without Google Traffic”

That sounds like an ebook I would buy in a heartbeat…


Can I suggest to buy Bing, DuckDuckGo traffic ? 😉

Stuart Walker

Hey Chris,

No need for an ebook.

I wrote a completely free blog post on how Google is NOT the internet and that you should stop stressing about rankings here….

And if you want more ways to generate traffic then check out these…

Sorry to be dropping so many links but I think Chris and others will find them useful.

I wasn’t aware of this update so thanks for the heads up Spencer.

I don’t own nor have used PBNs but I knew they couldn’t be as foolproof as so many seemed to think.

There’s nearly always a footprint or a way to find patterns.

Sorry to hear about your sites and especially Perrins as I know he was working hard and very enthusiastic about aPennyShaved.

It’s becoming more and more clear that building quality websites, filled with great content, and naturally gaining links is actually easier and less of a headache than trying to game Google with low quality sites.

With quality sites you don’t have to worry nearly as much about things like this happening and honestly it’s not as much work as you might think.

More rewarding too IMO.

For those who want to continue to use SEO to get traffic I recommend you all check out Brian Deans work as the man has tons of incredible strategies to get high quality and natural links…

So the big question…is niche marketing dead / dying or is it just time to find a new strategy?

Spencer Haws

Niche marketing is not dead; its not a tactic…that’s real business. Find a niche and dominate. PBNs are dead to me now…that’s it.


I think you are just scared right now. But if you look at it in perspective, you guys (Hayden too) were publicly posting and podcasting about it fr a long time. You guys didn’t keep it any private at all.

Now you get penalized, and change from white to black, 180 degrees. Nonsense.

I am sure you guys messed a lot with your PBNs (domain registration, hosting, etc…), btw.

But you know what? PBNs work, and I have not had any single site de-indexed.

So, suck it up guys, and next time, be a little (a lot) more PRIVATE.

Spencer Haws

Frank, you missed the point big time. The PBNs I was talking about were Private. Rank Hero was public, yes…but the several other PBNs owned by me and others were hit…they were never shared with anyone.


Ray I have small niche sites that make $50-$100 each with no links at all.


Wow this is huge, reminds me of 2009 timeframe when they cracked down on bookmarks and Scrapebox type links. Sorry everybody that lost a site in this smackdown! Google is a monster!


Hi spencer, what are you going to do about all your existing content? Are you going to transfer it to new domains?

Spencer Haws

I’ll wait to see if I can recover any of these sites before I think of that.

Alistair Cochrane

I think one of the attraction of niche sites was always that they were something that could be started small on the side.

A 10 page site is an easy point of entry for someone looking to get into making money online.

Take for example Pat Flynn’s case study.

It’s 1 year on, Pat is a seasoned internet marketer and has thrown massive resources at it including hiring writers and creating a podcast and at the last check it earned $80 last month.

I’m a huge fan of Pat and I know it will come good for him in the end, but larger authority sites are a lot more daunting for a newbie and much less attractive.

Perhaps this is just the nature of the game now )

I look forward to reading about your experiences in the new direction.

Spencer Haws

Its the nature of the game now. SEO is a long play, not a short play.


I’ve been starting to think this for some time. In my opinion panda 4.0 was a direct hit against PBN use. By making new domains take longer to rank in Google it massively disincentives the previously high ROI strategy of having a big portfolio of sites with your PBN linking to them. I took that as a sign that Google is actively trying to thwart the strategy and would take further action eventually.

At this point, even if you can still make PBN’s work, the bottom line is it takes a ton of time, effort, and money. And it’s not particularly fun or interesting.

I decided months ago that I’d rather spend all that effort on making a big authority site on a subject that I’m passionate about. This kind of site will be much easier to link build to naturally, and with a big authority site other kind of promotion are much more feasible to make it not solely reliant on google for traffic. And, of course, it’s nice not constantly worrying if big G is going to pull the doomswitch and destroy it.

Ironically my small portfolio and PBN was not affected, but at this point I’ve divested all of my energy out of it and will likely let it wilt and die. Oh well, at least I never have to set up another PBN site again, that I definitly WON’T miss doing. haha!


Everyone is talking about authority sites, I have one that was nuked in just two months with a nasty negative SEO tactics. The Disavow recovery has been slow and very painful. The site contains over 1200 real well researched articles, and yet it went down with some nasty Fiverr links. Google does not care who did it, just who’s going to pay.

Spread your wings, by using a few sites, or take a chance and throw all your eggs in one basket. For four months, I have been trying to recover the huge site, and it’s slowing coming around.

Authority sites sound nice and sexy, but you’re just as vulnerable as the 10 to 20 page niche site. Protect yourself, have about 5 to 10 real sites, and try not to tell anyone about them.

Spencer Haws

Why not diversify your traffic strategies instead? Rather than relying 100% on Google traffic (even with 5 or 10 sites), why not use multiple traffic strategies? That’s a much smarter strategy.


Couldn’t agree more with this! I stopped building sites that rely on Google for traffic months ago. It does take more work up front, you have to learn to be a pro-active marketer but that way you can build a much more valuable asset that can’t be taken down overnight.


Which methods are you using now, Krista?


Krista, that’s a great point. What strategies are you using now?


I use mostly paid traffic for traffic to my websites, but that’s not always possible in all niches because of the cost.


Can you mention other traffic sources? Spencer you might be talking about pinterest like strategy you site have…

Spencer Haws

Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google news, Yahoo news, youtube, paid traffic, referrals, and dozens of other places.

Stuart Walker

Spot on.

Build an email list on your authority site and you can easily increase your traffic by 40-50% by using it to drive traffic back to your content (old and new).

Make use of sharing sites like Reddit, Stumbleupon, Digg or in the IM niche places like Inbound, Growth Hackers, Kingged etc.

Get active on forums and social media groups where your audience hang out – forums are super engaged traffic.

Network with other bloggers by linking to them, featuring them, interviewing, doing cool shit for them and sharing their content and they’ll do the same for you – tons of links and traffic.

Create incredible content that you know will guarantee links and shares (by using tools like BuzzSumo and OSE to see what already has tons of links and shares) and then manually reach out to people who linked / shared the original content to gain high quality links AND traffic – this works like crazy!

Use video to drive traffic back to your site.

Slideshare can send torrents of traffic back to your site when done properly.

Paid traffic like Adwords, Bing, Facebook Ads, Banners, Solos etc work really well with practice.

There’s really no limit to traffic.

The only limit is many peoples thinking that traffic can only come from Google and that link building is the only option.

It’s not. There’s hundreds of traffic sources and many are far more responsive than search engine traffic and not that difficult to get either.

Diversify. Make it so that even if your site does have a lot of G traffic and gets hit it’s not the end of the world.


I understand your sentiment, but you can similarly spread your wings by not relying on google for all of your traffic. In fact, if us webmaster show them that we really don’t need them as much as they think we do, they might do a better job of not being so reckless and cruel.

Stuart Walker

Are they being reckless and cruel though?

They are a business and have to protect their own interests.

They don’t exist to please SEO’s and niche marketers who want to make easy money by gaming them.

They exist to provide the best search results for the end user and more often than not niche sites made by affiliates and SEO’s are NOT even close to being the best.

They contain fake reviews, biased information designed to get clicks, offer little value and are set up just to get the end user over to the affiliate site so a commission can be generated, don’t provide much in the way of additional content and are thin.

Not always of course because a lot of results in the top 10 can be there simply because of their authority and aren’t even that relevant or have average content, so in that case the niche site is better.

And obviously some guys, like yourself with aPennyShaved, spend a lot of time, effort and money on expanding your niche sites out to provide additional content and making a great resource.

But most never do IME.

But remember Google owes us nothing.

I realized that a long time ago and decided I wouldn’t build a business reliant on something I had NO control over, changed constantly, wasn’t guaranteed and can disappear at any time.

You can literally go out of business / bankrupt over night when you are reliant on Google traffic and that’s not the sort of business any of us want.

I am sure there is still a future in niche marketing, I am sure there are still ways to make PBNs work, I am confident by tomorrow someone will have a new way to outsmart Google (for a period of time anyway) and rank sites easy but it’s always going to be cat and mouse and knowing that you can wake up at any day and find all your sites are as good as useless is not a nice feeling.

For anyone who’s not building long term and sustainable assets online reconsider it.

John J. Ziemba

Wow! That’s quite a hit both of you guys took. I’m glad that you did share this news, bad as it may be, because I think that many others who were on the fence about PBN;s can now wake up and smell the SEO coffee.

I’m currently building two authority sites. I did have several smaller sites that I took down for lack of performance. While those sites took just as much time and effort to produce, they were lacking.

But the main lessons I learned in putting those together are being poured into my authority sites.

So when you guys tell me to avoid PBNs. I say OK. You took the hit I can learn from. As you say Spencer, not every one will be forthcoming and admit to hits they took. But you are waving the flag and wisely decided to dump PBNs for the foreseeable future. Thx for having the courage and ethics to speak out. You too, Perrin.

I don’t have any PBN links to my sites that I know of, but I did notice a bit of traffic decline around Sept 17-18 or so. Could be Google is reshuffling the deck.

I also agree that Google is a business but it seems that it sometimes doesn’t respond to the law of supply and demand, penalizing those who put a lot of honest effort into their sites, while letting others slip. Too many sites are waiting in the wings to go live and earn Google money. But that’s business.

Our business is to learn not to do the things that will hurt us. Altho some seem to enjoy shooting themselves in the foot.

I’ll stay with my White Hat SEO long-term thinking. Part of this is engaging Social media, writing great content, enhancing my sites with images and video and avoiding the stuff Google searches for. After all, Google is the only game in town and when the big bear roars, watch out. This may or may not change in the future. For now, Google is what we got and Google makes the rules.

Spencer Haws

Sounds good…thanks John!

Spencer Haws

I agree 100%


Wow, so there goes the 1k + I had into my first niche site. Since all my backlinks were from RankHero and now their gone.

Joe Magnotti

Man, Spencer this stings. The beers in Vegas are on me! 😉

Thanks for being transparent and writing this up, it couldn’t have been easy.

For recovery, do you think moving the content to a new domain and using a 301 redirect (plus disavowing the links and adding or removing content, as you said) would help?

What about expired domains? I mean building a site on an expired domain and taking advantage of the old link juice.

Spencer Haws

Thanks Joe! I don’t think I would 301 as Google might still follow the tracks. If anything, I would disavow, buy a brand new domain, and move content…but not redirect…start fresh. But first I’ll try to recover 🙂

Hewitt Brown

Hey Spencer,

Sorry to hear about your slap. I think your idea of moving content from the current site to a new domain will FAIL.

The big G is going to kick your AS* from Spokane to Siagon. I know of a couple of guys where this happened to their clients.

The first client did the ole’ move content to a new domain.

There was a conversation he had with John Muller from Google who has said this concept does not work because Google can tell if its the same content that was on the one site that is on the new domain (assuming duplicate content algo). Also in the same conversation he said (John Muller) that you first would need to de-index the domain and all content on the slapped domain so you don’t have a duplicate content penalty as well.

The second client first did nothing. And probably most importantly did not use the disav tool as this only admits guilt. They left the content intact. They did remove the bad links pointing to the slapped domain and after nearly a year the slap came off (slightly different that what happened here (different algo).

What the second client did was they spun all the original content from the site and put it on a new domain…. and as if by magic it was indexed and google fell in love with the new domain with the freshly spun content.

Just something to think about.


The days of ALN is repeat again.
I can still remember the pain. And now its happen again. Google really really almighty.

College CEO

This sucks to hear Spencer. My review of Rank Hero was actually one of the most popular posts on my site!

It was great while it lasted and I hope people are able to recover their sites after this. I can’t necessarily say that PBN’s are “dead” though. Google has shut down plenty of large networks in the past. I think the popularity of Rank Hero is what’s making this one a bigger deal. PBN’s have always been risky, and I’m sure this will deter more people from using them.

Spencer Haws

This wasn’t a Rank Hero update. TONS of networks got axed with this update…most of them privately owned and never shared with anyone.


Will refunds be given to people who just recently bought links? I bought 10. 5 have not even been posted. The other 5 weren’t even up for a week.
I know that these links were a risk, but I pretty much didn’t even get to use the service after purchasing.

Spencer Haws

Yes. Watch for the email coming out later this week; we’ll give users refunds or other options.


Spencer, man this sucks and thanks for all your transparency in your article.

I would like to ask, moving forward, if you transfer all the original content of the affected sites to new domains, do you have to substantially change or update the content to make it look like “new” in Google eyes?

Spencer Haws

No. Just deindex the old domains (takes just a minute). Then move content to new domain, it will be “fresh” to Google since it no longer is in their index. This is an extreme measure and don’t plan on doing that at this point.


Spencer, I assume when you say to “Just deindex the old domains (takes just a minute)”, you are talking about going to Google Webmaster Tools and using that to deindex your site?

Spencer Haws

That’s correct. Once you click that button, its basically done…Google will remove your site from their index very quickly.


Sorry to hear Spencer.

I think before moving content to new domain should be the last resort. It will be pain in the back to build from scratch.

According to the article, 404ing the linked URL won’t hurt you. Unless anyone have lots of links pointing to homepage, just deleting the existing page and moving content new one once it gets deindexed could be a fix.

Of course, if most links point to the homepage, this isn’t a viable solution.

Taking down the network sites itself, in my opinion, will make it look more fishy. Manual actions are not automatically revoked and a real person will look at the updated link profile.

If I was a Googler, I would say not that you tried to fix anything, you actually deleted sites on network, that means you are not a victim of bad suggestions from others, IT BELONGS TO YOU OR ARE CLOSELY RELATED TO THE OWNER. That means, you will do it again with more caution. HAYDEN AND SPENCER, think carefully before you proceed.Acting innocent and telling will not happen again is the best play, in my opinion. I might be wrong tho.

PBN must be really avoided. PBN’s have certain number of sites and certain number of customers. If any two or more sites match the link profile by more than 50 or even 30 percent, it will be obvious the sites linking to them are part of network. I think that is how PBN’s get caught.

Here is my suggestion to everyone that were affected with this raid and want to rebuild from scratch.

– Spend more time on doing keyword research.
– Along with your money pages, write some useful, how-to-type content, they get natural links. Links attained at such pages will pass pagerankk to homepage and all other pages.
-Link to non-competitors.
– Focus more on optimizing on-page seo, including internal linking.
– Find related but non-competitive site. Many have general advertising info page that says “only nofollow links”.Ask them personally if they allow guest post with dofollow link. About 1/5th of webmasters agree. Pay more if you have to but it will be worth it eventually. No other site will have same link profile like yours this way and chances of success is high because LINK IS THE OXYGEN for Google. That is why they are different. If they ignore links, they will be just like any other crap search engine. The very same patent made Google a multi billion dollar company. Links matter and how you obtain them will matter more.

Good luck to everyone who got hit. This is a part of the game. No need to panic. Do not be greedy and hurry up to throw gazillion links that can come back at you. If you managed to make above $100 and got hit, all you need to do is be cautious while building links in the future. You did it, you will do it.

As spencer said, SEO is long term. It always was and always will be.

Spencer Haws

Thanks for the input Ramashwar!

Hung Pham

Very useful for me, I am going to buy hosts, domains to build PNBs 🙁


Hi Spencer,
it obviously sucks that you lost lucrative sites but you were actually still lucky that only a few of your sites got penalized. There were tons of people that got every site in their webmaster account penalized even if only one or two of them used PBN links. Check the comments on Hayden’s post… I would definitely recommend you move your big authority site to completely separate Google accounts since they obviously just flagged entire accounts.


So, what do you suggest doing now? We need links to rank our sites or is that a myth now?

Spencer Haws

Of course you still need links. I referenced several previous blog posts and podcast I’ve done in the post above…read those for linking strategies that work.


You still need links to rank but Google is the ultimate decider of what is a good or bad link.

They will find it more difficult to completely destroy BLOG NETWORKS, because they’re deadly effective at increasing rankings.

Most people would now go further underground with further schematics to avoid detection.

If not for other webmasters submitting reports to Google, their efforts to destroy PBN’s would not be so effective.


Also try any of Erica Stone’s courses. Her courses are white hat.


Quality content, low competition keywords.


Hi Spencer,

It’s really disheartening to hear about your and others losses.

I completely agree with you that one must have diversified portfolio in order to survive online for the long term.

But, and this is a BIG BUT. People who are just starting out or who are in initial phases of building sites should not get demoralized by this at all.


I have told here many times that people must be clear in head about how they want to move ahead.

I strongly believe that building authority site/something long term takes at list 1-2 years. And there are so many IMers who solely depends on their online assets but they cannot build something long term starting out.

Of course there is a hustle involved. A big hustle for initial 1-3 years while you build something long term.

And here is a solution that I have used for more than 2 years now.

I am very clear in my head that if I am focusing on off-page to rank my affiliate sites, I am going to exploit all the loopholes in google algorithm and hit hard.

Guys, don’t try to paint it white when you know your affiliate sites with few arts and backlinks is not going to survive forever.

Think ROI.

And build something big while you are hustling through process. Something so valuable that will serve you for upcoming 10-15 years at least. Long Tail Pro is a big example here.

Why am I qualified to say so?

Actually I have 100+ sites on my personal PBN. I am handling few others PBNs for my clients.

I won’t lie. Out of 260 PBN sites (auctions domains and scrapped domains) I monitor, 23 have been deindexed recently but my rankings are intact. Reason, I had replacement links ready. Let me show you some examples:

These are only a few examples.

Why I am able to do it? Because:

– I am not in love with any SEO methods.
– I use what works as of now and don’t f***ing worry about next google update. (sorry for my language)
– Experimenting a lot with strategies help to tune on what will work great.
– I don’t spend crazy money. But one must understand ROI. If I predict $3000 a month from a niche, I don’t mind spending $1000-2000 initially and $300-500 a month.

I am not showing PBNs will work forever. What I am saying is working hard, experimenting a lot and find out what’s working best. Believe me guys, it’s not that hard to get right info if you know whom to trust.


Jay Patel

PBN links are never that great unless you know what you are doing. There were so many incidents of PBN getting deindexed or penalized. Probably, people are yet to find out the right way to hide PBN. Thank god I am not into PBN stuff yet.


two works: f*** google


Less competition in the bidding for the expired domains

Spencer Haws

Yep have fun. Probably means you will give me less competition in the serps too 🙂

Mark N.



yeahh it means I will give you less competition in serps


Hey Spencer,
Sorry for hear this.
I was building pbn too and i didn’t get hit by new google update because i didn’t link to any money websites yet.
Now we got food to process for next step.
Need to diversify white-hat backlinks building methods and traffic sources.

Time to analyze, learn and adapt.

Vic Dorfman - Membership Site Expert

My niche site got hit too!

Traffic dropped to 10 uniques a day.

I don’t know about ya’ll, but as annoyed as I felt the day-of, I’m now seeing this as a bit of a blessing in disguise.

Why do I say that…?

Well, building niche sites can really fracture your attention. Unless of course it’s your business model to begin with. But I think most of us just build niche sites ‘on the side’ as opposed to our main gig.

I was spending my free time and extra funds building out my niche sites, instead of optimizing and improving my highest-return business asset, which is my membership site consulting service.

And history doesn’t lie.

Pretty much all my affiliate sites that relied upon SEO are now crippled: my adsense sites, my clickbank sites, and now my amazon associates site.

As much fun as it is to build niche sites and see those first few bucks come in, I for one am going to focus on an anti-fragile, long term business approach that does NOT rely upon any one, whimsical source of traffic to bring home the bacon.

Of course, you’re always going to be reliant upon one 3rd party or another, be it Google, Pinterest, or whatever your source of leads happens to be.

But I think it’s clear that google will blithely annihilate tens of thousands of people’s businesses if it suits their purposes.

So hitching your wagon to the G star is risky business indeed.

Keep hustlin’
Vic Dorfman

Spencer Haws

I agree. Niche sites have always been a pretty high risk venture with fairly low returns. Its a great “side” gig…but other ventures can have much higher returns.


Yea I agree about being a side gig. I have multiple niche sites that have 3-5 pages of content. Most have been ranking pretty well and making money so I’m not complaining. With this model you can expect $50-$100/site, Amazon affiliate income. I’m ready to move on to larger sites.

William M.

I don’t know how to put this, but I always knew that it was just a matter of time. It sucks, but then again, now we are on a level playing ground once again.

Spencer Haws

I also knew it was a matter of time. As you can see in my blog post above, I had a quote from a previous blog post that was pretty accurate about how PBNs would eventually disappear.


Hey Spencer, sorry to hear about this impacting you so hard. I personally only have 15 sites in my PBN and three of them are now deindexed, but fortunately none of my money sites were affected with manual penalties.
The one thing the three de-indexed sites have in common is that they were bought on a GoDaddy auction and held in a GoDaddy account. All my site have private whois and none are on WMT or Analytics.
The other thing that the three de-indexed sites had in common is that I had strayed a bit from the main topic of the site and its previous content. They also had the most outgoing links on them. The other 12 sites are in my opinion the most natural looking and have strictly stuck to their main topic and only link out to 3 different money sites.
the only explanation I have for my money sites not having a manual penalty is that I added PBN link extremely slowly, at about 2 per month, rather than the often suggested 2 per week.
In this context your recent discussion with Perrin on the Podcast about outreach is even more important. I’d love to hear more about how you approached getting the HuffPost and other high authority links.


Are you saying that holding your sites on a Godaddy account and not being on WMT or Analytics, is the cause of your sites being hit?

Spencer Haws

You could be right, but honestly I’m not as interested in “why” things were penalized…I just know it was related to PBNs…I’m moving on. In addition, we are having huge success with our outreach. In addition to the HuffPost link, we’ve gotten lots of really high authority links. I will most definitely dig into our authority site more…will likely become a primary focus of my blog updates going forward.


Hey Spencer,

Sorry to hear about this PBN impact. I believe now setting up authority site is the key to long term success rather than setup niche site.

I believe everyone can feel that niche site had a very short lifespan. Whenever there is a google update a lot of niche site will be destroy. Which is tiring because you need to keep building niche site.

Building Authority site is one of the trend now..

Mark N.

Hi Spencer

I do have a question if you don’t mind: for your sites that were hit, were they using PBN links _exclusively_ (be it from private or public networks, don’t care), or was there a healthy mix of PBN links + other types of links?

Thanks in advance.

Spencer Haws

There was a mix of links. We never used PBNs exclusively on any of our sites.

Mark N.



Hi Spencer,

Just a quick couple of questions:

What precautions did you have in place to prevent detection of your PBNs? E.G. unique IPs/nameservers/SOA records/Themes/unique content etc?

Would you think that building out a site to look relatively normal in the eyes a person or Google will prevent these things happening in the future? Not just blog posts?


Spencer Haws

All of the above that you mentioned. I honestly don’t care at this point what may or may not work with PBNs…I’m not playing in the playground anymore. I’m moving onto the big boy toys (outreach, natural links, etc).


Best approach long term. There’s no such thing as a short cut with SEO (for the duration)

Nic Oliver

Looking at PBN sites that have been penalised versus those that have not, it seems to me that there are a couple of clues Google picks up on.

The first is when there are a group of sites (ie a PBN) with links to the same money site, where the PBN sites leave a huge common footprint. Same IP Address, Same DNS addresses, same WhoIs Information, same or similar plugins, same posting pattern, in some case same site theme etc. The sites that haven’t been hit in my and others PBNs were those that resolved the above by varying things.

Secondly, unthemed PBNs – in other words, a PBN that has posts on a wide range of unconnected things. I’ve seen a lot of those slapped in the last week.

Just my 2 cents worth!

Kind regards



Google is fighting very hard to stop link manipulation and many people are going out of work because of this.


Just to clear up, when you say a pbn site has been de-indexed, this means that the site no longer shows in the SERPS when you search it?

Spencer Haws



Thanks for giving up on pbn’s. More money for me & other folks who didn’t give up.

Spencer Haws

Actually, that means more money for me. Because I’ll be using natural links to rank in Google, when your sites are hit because you refuse to give up on PBNs, my sites will still be there ranking in Google.

Glen Allsopp

Lol you have to be joking? After all your posts on PBN’s?

I’m with you John 🙂

Spencer Haws

Like I said…have fun guys investing in a short lived tactic.



There is no reason to be rude. Spencer has always provided quality content and shared his victories and failures on many topics.

If he wants to pivot and change course on a tactic or strategy that is his right to do so. If you do not agree you are certainly allowed to run your own business as you see fit.


I’ve been analyzing hundreds (if not thousands) keywords and niche websites for the past few months, and most of them have large amount of PBN links.

Most of them were still not hit, although they all use the same approach and mostly low quality PBNs (not niche related, exact anchors…).

I started building niche sites after a long time this June, and I haven’t got any notable results so far, but all of my competition (websites older than 6 months) is still dominating page 1 in Google. Exact match anchor density 20%, 90% inbound links from PBN sites, no outbound links… I am at a point where I have seen it all.

Because those sites weren’t hit, I believe this whole disaster has something to do with larger PBNs and Google’s manual reviews, so maybe it isn’t an algorithm change after all.


Like I said before, it’s practically impossible for Google to see and know everything online without the massive help from webmaster reporting sites that outrank them.

Watch, the schematics for creating a viable blog network would now go way under-ground. People are snitching on other sites, and that is one of the quickest and best ways for Google discover them.


Yeah, it’s like Youtube mass flagging war that is going on. Instead of learning from sites that are dominating SERPs, people rather snitch on them and cry to Google.

They most likely expect Google to send them a reply with “Thanks for letting us know. As a reward, we will get you the number 1 spot because you are a good guy”.

I believe PBNs will work for ever, but they have to better and better. They require much more money investments than ever, so less and less people will use them.


uep. I believe I was snitched on. I wrote tue contnent and got accused it was scraped by gg. the manual review is a joke. they looked at one link and tarnished 50 pages wven when that.offending link was removed they never review the entire site but penalise the entire site. I think people are snitching is right. I see some sites that are 5 ads of adsense.. a few lines of content etc just bs and they keep running or a popup like forbes mag runs with an adsense ad in it. how is this?

google is trying to kill bloggers.. and a game where people with money for sites will win for employing writers etc

Spencer Haws

Exactly. The cost of starting and maintaining a quality PBN is now basically at the same cost of just getting natural links. If the cost is the same, why not just get the links google wants you to get anyway?

Quinton Hamp

Duuuude. Bummer.

I agree with your assessment of only sharing tactics that work AND are low-risk. For those of us who insist on making our living online, we can’t afford to have it wiped out everytime we turn around.

That is what I appreciate about Jim Cockrum. He’s re-invented his business so many times…. and in the process has created a Frankenstein that can handle about anything you throw at it.

Stay after it, buddy. Thanks for the transparency.


This is a good article but one that i dont recommend people look to much into..

After all you mention people shouldn’t be using PBN’s only after you got hit.. Can you be 100% sure you set them up to the best of your ability.

It’s almost like saying, if i cant do it then no one else can so why bother.

PBN’s do work providing you treat each domain in the network like a money site on it’s own.

If thats too much work then expect to get slapped


Hi Richyb,
>> After all you mention people shouldn’t be using PBN’s only after you got hit..
I think you didn’t read this article properly. As Spencer already said It was not rank hero update. There is huge noise in SEO industry about this update. You should check forums first.

>>It’s almost like saying, if i cant do it then no one else can so why bother.
He never told anyone that you can’t do something if I can’t. He is one of the most respected and transparent guy for followers like us. I don’t know why you misunderstood this whole article.

>>PBN’s do work providing you treat each domain in the network like a money site on it’s own. If thats too much work then expect to get slapped
He was not alone in this whole process. One respected private blog network expert was working with him so don’t repeat the basics.

By the way I am not depending Spencer but we should not forget the fact that this man teach us lots of things which helped people like me to live on online income.

Thanks! ( I am from India therefore sorry if any grammatical mistake is there! )

Spencer Haws

You are also missing the point. Rather than spending all your time, money, and energy creating a PBN that might work; its a much smarter strategy to take that time, money, and energy and invest in a real business that google actually likes.


No offense, but I’m glad Google is cracking down on PBNs. When I heard you talking about this method on your podcasts I stopped listening, because I could no longer trust the advice you were giving out as being “above board”.

Also, I have no doubt that Google has employees whose sole job is to listen to podcasts and read blogs of affiliate marketers to find out what tricks people are up to, so the programmers can write the algorithms to stop it. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they will go after people individually as well as implementing a collective strategy to deal with this black hat stuff.


Absolutely agree with you here, Mandy. I figured it was only a matter of time. Actually surprised it took this long.

Spencer Haws

I’m glad to…its the slap I needed to come back to reality. Hope you’ll check out the future podcasts 🙂


Awesome post Spencer. I have started to see a small but awesome uptick in my rankings and page visits after using some link building for a small niche site I was building. I was ready to jump in and go to Rank Hero after adding a few more articles to my niche site, but now I know that’s not the right way to go about it. I haven’t lost my visits, though they’re not that high anyways, just yet, but I plan on building up content similar to the plan you and Perrin are doing to get back in the good graces of Google. I also think I’ll rededicate my time to the site I started months ago, but haven’t really touched since putting up a few pages.


Hard though for this, i just started my PBN project

Hung Pham

I think PNB is still a good way to build traffic to website. The important thing is that we must hide footprint PNS to ensure that Google not to see them.

That is just my opinions and my friends.


It’s kind of interesting. It’s a tough slog to get organic SEO. It use to be easy..but that game is over. PPC has become too complex, and too expensive..for a small business. know who is winning…the lead gen sites AND….traditional media. I have a small service business and the magazine ads are working better than ever in my local market. I have stopped PPC….its just a black hole.

Google has become the greedy monopoly on the internet..and I for one will do nothing to put any more money in their pockets…..


I don’t know why you guys are complaining…you already made a pretty good amount of money from PBN. Most likely, you have recovered your initial investments and have enjoyed at least 50% ROE…so take courage!

jim Heinz

I expect google has people who monitor the warrior forums and other such sites. They notice what is being promoted as the latest way to “beat the system”. As a result, PBN’s (all the rage lately) got noticed and those with them were penalized. I’ll take this as a warning, if a method is being sold to beat the system, chances are it is going to be worthless in the near future.


Your analytics screenshot looks just like the 2 sites Google completely squashed last Saturday.

Have no warnings in webmasters and there are def no PBN,s on the site but have to admit even though the link profile could do with a little tidy up its something I keep on top of.

Funny thing is I have sites that are probably more deserving of a slap down then the ones already on the floor 🙂 , just waiting for the bottom to fall out of my search traffic across everything now.

Spencer Haws

I would double check your webmaster tools then. You sometimes won’t see the message on your dashboard, you actually need to go in and click on “manual actions”. Then you’ll see the message.


I think Google hate Web Marketers.
We must find an alternative about that.



Thanks for the article. I’ve stayed away from PBN but tried other things to game the system but its a bit of a cat and mouse game with the cat (google) normally winning.

I appreciate your comment that in the short term it was worth the risk. It will be interesting to see if you can or how long it takes to recover the website traffic.

Cheers Tim


Google is always smarten than SEO experts ,My question is PBN networks always take utmost care not to lave any foot prints still Google caught those foot prints,Dont know what to do in linkbuilding to rank.

Keith James

I’ve never used any of the gaming Google tactics. Yes, I saw many sites outrank me for years. Now I’m doubling traffic every month.

My tactic is simple. create useful content and then market it.

Google is one of the biggest companies in the world. Why do people continue to think they are stupid?

Spencer Haws

Great point Keith. I’m with you now 🙂


With all do respect and I’m not an expert. I’m actually somewhat newer. But this comes down to being ethical and not trying to game Google. The PBN in MY opinion are not ethical therefore Google isn’t stupid.

Don’t put the blame on Google.

Nic Oliver

It’s a matter of semantics – how you define PBN. It used to be clear – it was the next evolution from link farms. But now?

Let’s assume 5 websites: 1 money site and 4 subsidiary sites.

Let’s further assume people build all five sites as proper sites, with about me, blog, contact page, privacy notice etc. The 4 subsidiary sites are all themed around the same topic as the money site. Each contains 2 or 3 links to the money site, no more.

Is this a PBN and will Google de-index the 4 subsidiary sites? Done well, it would be very difficult to spot. After all, there are legitimate reasons for using WhoIs privacy (fear of cyberstalking and/or cyberbullying for example).

There are legitimate reasons for a dedicated IP address per site (to avoid blacklisting from being on a shared IP where someone else is spamming comes to mind).

There are legitimate reasons for blocking a whole load of bots, renaming plugin folders, even hiding you are using WordPress (stop hackers, malicious bots etc).

The situation is by no means as clear cut as the article’s author makes out!

Dominic Wells

Hey I’m looking forward to seeing you embrace Jon Cooper’s list!

There are so many great tactics on there and some of them are going to be diamonds in the ruff I think. It would be great to see you guys blogging your results.

Obviously some things on that list aren’t going to be so worthwhile, so I’m curious which ones to focus on these days.

Spencer Haws

Hey Dominic, with our newer authority site (a couple of months old) we are having awesome success garnering links through outreach. We will be blogging more about this in the near future.


I worry whether outreach will just become the next big craze, and then once everyone does it it will lose its power, or Google will find a way to penalise bloggers that are using the same tactic. Perhaps not by a direct penalty but by giving less weight.

I think the best tactic may be to diversify your techniques. Only problem is that people become robotic/lazy. Once they find a way of doing something they spend their energy at either systemizing/automating the process in order to speed up the results or outsourcing it.

Let’s just jope that the outreach strategy won’t be overused by all these ex PBN users

Mark N.

There’s a difference though. PBN’s and other similar tactics were bad and unhealthy for the Google eco-system from the get go. Outreach never was (because the website owners you are contacting will still need to LIKE your website to link to it… you are just making them aware of the website so they can decide if they want to link to it or not). So I don’t think this is a fair comparison.


I guess though what im trying to say is that creating those relationships will become more difficult as the competition grows with many more people focussing on that tactic.

Bloggers that were once receiving the odd email here and their from other like minded individuals will now receive a flood gate of enquiries and many of those bloggers will choose avoid webmasters altogether.

I hope im wrong here, but that’s usually what happens when everyone follows like sheep the power of whatever tactic is being used will diminish. Going against the flow or creating new strategies that the majority are not doing will instead reap longer term benefits. Just my thought.


I agree. On my sites, I only provide links to trusted sites and IF there is a reason to offer the link in the content. Once I give a link to the company/organization’s main page, I almost never link to them again.

The idea should be to build relationships with trusted site operators. Just my own thought.


I have zero experience with outreach, but the biggest reason I see it never becoming the “craze” for SEO is becuase it takes REAL effort. It’s not a loophole in Google’s algorithm that can be exploited — not a “get rich quick” scheme.

PBNs, EMDs, all of that stuff, while it required a lot of work, was really just a way to expedite your rankings, and in turn start earning a lot faster. I mean did it get any easier in the days of purchasing an EMD, putting up some garbage spun content, firing off thousands of paid links, and seeing your return in a matter of weeks?

Black/Greyhat SEO tactics can simply be defined as taking the easy way out.

Whitehat SEO (which outreach is considered) is much more tedious, personal, and requires great communication skills in addition to a great product.

Have fun trying to get on that “craze” if you are looking for a loophole. Outreach is a lot of real work to real people and you have to have many variables in your favor.

John Shea

Really interesting news to hear all this. I read the post on nohat as well. As someone who co-ran LightningRank for several months with Jon Haver I know PBN’s were working really well.

I have a small network of 5 sites and they do not appear to be effected from this update, all sites are still indexed and the only niche site I have utilizing the links also did not receive any warnings.

I am not sure if the LR sites were effected but hopefully knowing Jon he has been very diligent about protecting the network. I see at least 2-3 past customers who have commented in this thread as well.

All in all, I changed my entire online focus to work on an eCommerce site. I look at it like a long term business model and it’s been growing each and every week, instead of focusing on heavy SEO I’m utilizing banner advertising and social media as a means to drive traffic and make sales.

I’ve also opened up an Amazon account and have already found tons of opportunity with wholesale products to make money.

I figure why not build something that has actual long term business potential? It might take me a year to get to a real income with it but at least I’ll have nothing to fear in terms of bad link building or doing anything to cheat my way to the top.


Its interesting how it always comes back to the basics.

Tung Tran

Wow this is really a big update!

Sorry to hear that you and Perrin got affected.

But I think this is actually a good thing. It’s time for us to build a sustainable business now with authority websites and white-hat SEO.

The game is fairer now.


Keep on dreaming buddy! Fair is just a fairy tale in the SEO world. Regardless of what type of site you build, authority, niche or one page site, you’re just as vulnerable to dirty SEO players in the industry.

If you have links, you can wake up one day and see you’ve violated one of their rules.Yes, you got it through outreach and other white-hat ways, it does not matter.

All links are considered against Google rules. A link is a link, the only difference is what site you got it on. Google is just the DECIDER in chief, just keep that in mind.

Tung Tran

I disagree with you Ray. There are more people that are willing to share your valuable content than people who just want to spam your sites with negative SEO.

Here’s exactly what Google said:

“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

So yes there are ways to build good links. You just need to spend time to learn and adapt.

Google is not evil.

Stuart Walker

The point you are repeatedly missing is that Google is NOT the internet and there are ways to get traffic other than from search engines.

So if you build up a diverse range of traffic sources not reliant on SEO / Google then you don’t worry so much what Google is doing.

They can slap you or whatever and your site still survives due to the other traffic it gets.


Everyone should read Stuart & Tung message it makes total sense (and these guys are doing this all day).

One thing I’d like to add to that is it’s more about using traffic to build a community around your site than it is about converting to a sale/commission right away necessarily.

Think email list and social following. Once you build these up you can reach a marketable audience at any time pressing a single button.

All you need to do then is figure out what their problems are and help them solve it by offering relevant products/offers/information.

Then push the information in front of them just pushing that one magic button. You can always SEO optimise the posts etc to get more traffic / sales and a bigger community on top.

But the real effort is to build the community. And to do that you can totally use SEO but there’s other ways too as Stuart says.

As for Ray’s message yes it’s true, when you do well, there’s always an idiot that will try to negative SEO you. That happened to me recently.

You just need to do a good job at staying on top of your new links and disavow the spam off the bat and you’ll probably never have any trouble. It sucks but it’s a reality I’ve been facing recently.

As for the “all links are links and it’s all the same” I’d say not really. The issue is people have links as an end goal in mind when you can get so much more than a link when building real relationships.

I’ve gotten links from both Stuart and Tung in the last month (and they will certainly get links from me in the future) but I’ve gotten so much more than that.

We speak regularly with Tung about our projects and have been exchanging a bunch of great tips via email with Stuart.

I plan on introducing them to people that I think will help their business and I’m sure they’ll do the same for me someday.

That’s the point of the “building relationships, not links” mantra. Yes, you get links out of it but they’re merely a byproduct of the relationship and value add, not the end goal.

Now that’s the big picture, I understand it’s hard to resonate with that in your daily grind but if you get it, just focus on adding value to the people that can help you move the needle with your project and links won’t be as much an issue.

How do you add value ? Ask them how you can help them, try to help them with their projects, promote them, not yourself initially.

If you look at business gurus like Eben Pagan, they’ve made hundreds of millions of doing that and they didn’t give a shit about links. (yet I’m sure they have more editorial links pointing to their sites than any of us).

Gael AKA Mr Smug Pants

Spencer Haws

Great comments, thanks Gael.

Spencer Haws

Thanks for the supportive words, Tung…I agree.


Are you sure it’s PBNs. I believe it is actually link velocity, my site that was ranked with a single shot of 45 niche semi-PBN posts dropped in traffic and rankings by 50%.

My affiliate site that I send 15 posts a month at consistently recently grew from 250+ uniques to 300+ a day.

I am confident you got hit hard but are you confident that it is PBNs that hit you.

Spencer Haws

Our link velocity was pretty low, I’m sure it was PBNs.


I am really curious if your are the beginning of a role out a targeted hit cause I am still ranking.

I currently have one of my sites hit lightly down 5 spots to page two, the rest of my sites are still ranked as strong as ever.

When you where ranking with your personal PBN did you use general blogs or are they really niche specific? Did you use SEO hosting or did you host on many mom/pop hosts? Did you use private whois info? Do you do any other forms of link building on the sites?

Could it be that the only links you had where in post contextual I have been noticing that a mix of high and low quality links have been getting better results for the past month +/-.?

If I’m asking to many questions tell me to stop but if there is a role out coming in the next month or so I want to be ready for it. Loosing my PBN sites would cost me thousands of my income also.

Spencer Haws

Nick, as mentioned in the blog post…I really don’t care anymore why my PBN didn’t work…I’m not here to waste my energy dissecting whether I breathed too heavily one day when I hit publish and google didn’t like that or something. My advice is clear…read the headline again…get out of PBNs…I’m done.


Nice thoughts. Probably did one of the retarded things I listed that everyone was doing like it was nothing.

Oh and in case you didn’t get the hint from me previous two posts your extreme position on this is total bullshit. If I was a conspiracy theorist I would think Matt Cutts gave you a leg up in exchange for discrediting PBNs.


Give the guy a break, he just took a massive loss and is in a bad mood. In fact, I am in the same boat.


For those of you like me that went through this relatively smoothly and don’t feel like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Jon put out a great post that is a little more honest about the situation:


Find: “Joey Zasa”
Replace: [Google to PBN Owners] “PBN Owner!”



Joey Zasa was killed by one of the 4 horse men of Apocalypse a.ka. Google

Financial Samurai

Hi Spencer,

Thanks for your transparency on this issue. Sorry you got hit, but I’m glad your other sites are doing OK and you’ve got the nice money maker in Long Tail Pro!

Is a PBN really a PBN if it’s known to the public? Perhaps if a PBN was unknown and only had like 10-30 members or so, it would never be affected?


Spencer Haws

We had PBNs that no one knew about. So, yes, these were truely private.

Financial Samurai

I see. Good to know Spencer. Thx. Seems like there is no escaping Google and I’ll just continue to just write and do some podcasting to be less dependent.

Spencer Haws

Yep, sounds good!


seems like a good decision Spencer,
I guess I will not use PBN’s even though I just started to build my first PBN lately. Game is over before it started for me 🙂
SEO will never be the same anymore, PBN’s were the last leg to stand on.
and I noticed expired domains are not returning as much value compared to live sites. I just tested some expired domains with good metrics on a money site and didnt see any movement in rankings lately.
Its good to keep a few high da-pa sites alive and natural for a few years and keep link uilding to them from high authority sites, and then use their improved authority for other purposes.


What’s surprising to me is that you seem surprised that they’d penalize you for this.

I’ve followed you for some time now and it was really strange to me why you (someone I consider a very smart guy) would use a strategy that was bound to be a temporary strategy and risk a significant part of your business in the process.

You got your Adsense acct back some time ago. Why would you even consider going down a “grey” path with Google again?

Didn’t make sense to me.

Spencer Haws

You must not have read the entire article. I clearly stated that this was NOT a surprise to me. Read the quote I put in the blog post that I wrote 9 months ago. This was definitely not a surprise.


Feel really sorry for you and for others you mentioned Spencer.

Google is really making it hard to earn money online by means of niche sites. I guess the only way to stay alive in the online business world is to start authority sites, publish valuable content, build some legitimate backlinks, share content on social media and keep our fingers crossed, is all i can say.

greg smith


I enjoyed the article. I can not say I’ve experienced any of the things you’ve recently experienced.

I wouldn’t recommend anyone to stay away from PBN’s. It has “nothing at all” to do with a PBN, in my opinion it has much more to do with poorly created site’s, with poorly structured link profiles.

I manage several networks. If a few site’s was hit, I wouldn’t consider or assume something was wrong with the network.

Chances are, it had more to do with your site’s on a one by one basis, more than it did a network of site’s. Was the entire network hit? If not, then I’d reconsider my recommendations to others.

Greg Smith

Mark G

So, if many relatively low competition keywords have had many of the top ranking sites go away, might it not be possible now to rank with only on page optimization?

Spencer Haws

Yep, I’ve spoken with a couple of webmasters that do this exclusively and have done well with it.


We will have to see what happens to similar PBN organizations to be sure what happened. Hopefully whatever damage as done can be corrected and the sites can be redirected.

It could be that there was a design error.

Hard to tell this early.

I am quite sure that Spencer will resolve this well in coming days.


Deindex of PBN is long over due for me, because i know that Google did not love strategies like this.

I even hate of link building of ranking for Google first page because the company is trusted to work with..


Using ANY Google service for PBN site is very very stupid. Maybe it was also link pattern, but my bet is that many folks became so used to use Google services that they forgot they expose ALL their information to Google. GWT, Analytics, Google mail accounts etc. can be ALL traced and are heavily spied by Google. They track your location, emails, HW and SW and many other things.

So PBN site should use different names, locations, IPs, email contacts, various content and various linking tactics. Simply it should look like several NON-connected websites with various owners. If not, then welcome penalisation…


I’m a newbie to all of this and I was on the fence with PBNs, but I guess Google made my decision easy. Wow though, a lot of work in future.

Spencer Haws

Actually, creating PBNs is a ton of work. I just lightened your work load.


One of our sites got hit a month ago, with no manual action. Google certainly continues to tweak its algorithm even without publicly announced releases. But I’m not giving up. Thanks Spencer, your articles are invaluable.


Thank’s Spencer Haws to concern us.

That’s 100% right those sites are falling now must be they make their site with low quality content, Not well designed.

I think those sections we need to remember:

01. Informative Content not target only for Money site
02. Set Up H1-H6 properly
03. Added Social Media Icon for every PBN
04. Every post need to add an Image(Don’t copy from Google image search)
05. A video
06. From every post one link refers to related Wiki or Well Repudiated site
07. Try to get refer money site without Anchor text.

At least every site needs to make as a real blogging site not for profitable mind.


Thanks for this honest post, Spencer and Perrin.

Sorry about the hard PBN hit.

I know you guys will recover because I’ve always liked your openness and actual, literal experience in the SEO game.

Chins up. It gets better from here…

Spencer Haws

Thanks Paula!


I think the lesson here is to not rely SOLELY on PBN’s to rank sites. But you are reacting exactly how google wants you to react, and frankly it’s quite disturbing.

Ask yourself this, if your site wasn’t personally hit in this last round of attacks would you be so anti PBN right now? The answer is no.

Is it still possible to rank a site using PBN’s as a supplemental linking strategy, but without relying solely on them? Of course it is.

So all of this buzzing about telling everyone that PBN’s are dead and to not use any of them is really unjustified (on a larger scale then your own personal network), and it’s really sad to see that you are spreading google’s propaganda for them.

Just because you got knocked down doesn’t mean you have to stay down. Get back up and build another PBN, build another site, find another way.

But don’t go around telling others not to try something just because you failed at it once. People should be willing to try things out for themselves to see what works, and stuff like this prevents people from ever striking out on their own and taking a chance that could lead to a good income.

You knew the risks going in, you accepted the rules when you began playing the game. What right do you have to tell others not to play that same game just because it’s now game over for you?

the answer is none.

I say build twice as many PBN’s, but mix them in with legitimate white hat strategies. Stop being lazy and ranking sites with thin content. Switch it up, mix it up, try something different. But for pete’s sake man never give in!

Spencer Haws

I never relied solely on PBNs..I did mix in white hat strategies. I have no right to share my opinion…on my own blog? Wow, that’s intense.

Actually I am NOT giving up…what article are you reading? I am clearly still doing SEO, but just focusing on natural, white hat links. I have several sites that do very well using only white hat links; PBNs are a risk I don’t need.

Tung Tran

Haha I got a few comments on my blog telling we bloggers shouldn’t do posts like this because we suck at building PBNs too.

But that’s fine. Different people. different opinions.


Sorry if I sounded a bit harsh, of course you have the right to share your own opinion on your own blog.

I’m just saying…

This occurrence should not deter any newcomers that may be reading this from trying out these strategies to see what works for them.

I know how it is to be reading up on things and you are just overloaded with so much information that you don’t know what to believe, so you end up not trying anything.

My point is don’t be afraid to try, even if you fail.

Spencer Haws

I agree that people should try SEO and niche sites, just don’t try PBNs…not worth the risk…ESPECIALLY for people just starting.


If I followed this reasoning I’d probably have tried to put my fingers in the wall plug when I was a kid just to make sure what my parents said was right.

Nobody said PBN’s don’t work and I think the consensus is they do… until Google catches them. So yes you may still be ranking with them and thousands of people still are. They don’t lie and you can rank with PBN’s today.

The idea here is more for Spencer to share his experience with people that have less experience than him so they can try and avoid doing the same mistakes he did (you know, like your parents telling you not to put your fingers in the plug).

Now if someone is really curious about PBN’s and is willing to accept the risks that come with them, why not. It’s a business decision, there’s no good or bad.

But when the day come they should accept the consequences, start again like you would or stop it and not break the rules like Spencer’s going to do.


As much as this is saddening the fact is that I’ve always expected this to happen sometime if not now. As much as I have been tempted to go with PBNs I have always restrained myself.

One sure thing that has given me this feeling is the number of blogger talking about PBNs lately. Everyone knew this tactic is within the “grey hat” SEO yet everyone keep talking about it not taking into consideration the fact that Google is “listening”. Now the hammer has fallen, years of hard work wiped out. Bloggers again the losers and always Google is the winner!

it is the same thing that has happened to Guest blogging which has been a great tool for bloggers. Right now we are forced to go Google’s way no matter what we think.

It’s unfortunate!


There’s no solution other than building a site without google simple as l. Pinterest is brilliant, all you need is to create cool pin worthy images. You can use youtube, social media and then an email list. Building a relationship with someone over a long period is not something google can take away.

Do everything with the end user in mind. Why are you linking to authority sites? To get a better google ranking? Then stop doing it, if you find a good resource you want to share then link. Will it benefit your readers before everything you do ask yourself that.


I agree with this. Pinterest and Facebook can be a tremendous source of traffic. It takes down to build site reputation but once you do the traffic is pretty reliable.


Oops – It take Time – not “down” lol.


So domainjawa is also a project to forget?

Spencer Haws

Possibly, I may divest of my interest there.


DomainJawa could be used in a flipping sites strategy because expired domains still have value, you just have to take some time to unlock it, so instead of flipping just the domain, you could put together a site and flip it for three or four times as much as you did before.


So what is the best move for a money site that had 10 or so RankHero links, no messages from Google in webmaster tools, but a big hit in SERP rankings due to the RankHero links? Will the removal of those links help clean the problem up naturally, or is my site stained now due to havnign those links?

Thanks for any advice!

Spencer Haws

I would follow the steps I listed in the blog post above.


Hey Spencer and community,

Any idea on what will happen with THE HOTH’s new package? I just purchased it and it looks like there’s no point now.

Am I right? Should I stop it before they implement the links?

Thanks people,

Keep up the great work!

Spencer Haws

I’m avoiding shady link building now.


Their new package isn’t a PBN, but, like Spencer said, we’ll be avoiding any shortcuts at all from here on out.

Steve R

Alex Becker says to host your domains on different hosts around the country so Google wont see all your sites coming from one location. What’s your take on this?

Spencer Haws

We did that…didn’t matter.

Steve R

So your saying it doesn’t matter whether I host 100 of my sites on one hosting account or host that same 100 on 10 different hosting accounts? Thanks.

Spencer Haws

I’m saying, we took all the precautions that everyone talks about, such as different hosts, locations, ips, etc. We still got penalized.


Now this PBNs crackdown will leave Alex Becker’s audience questioning his confidence in PBN that he claimed Google will never detect without taking good websites with them.

The lesson is, no matter what any SEO expert says, your efforts to outsmart organization as big as Google are never ending and they will always catch up. Looks like Google slowly try to eliminate SEO – the very term they originally created to build out and perfect their search algorithm.

Derek Smith

Much if my initials successful sites were built using pbns, like Spencer stated 9 months ago, if us readers know about it, Google definitely knows and will eventually catch up.

I myself have been focusing on finding and monetizing older sites and have seen an increase in the rankings for these sites since this update. I cover a little of this in my blog, but if you are looking for decent sites without the worry of penalties I would strongly suggest looking into neglected older sites as they actually thrive when penalties strike.


that’s the words there, neglected older
and if i may add its cheaper


Hi Spencer

Sorry to hear you’ve been hit so hard by the most recent updates… Its so true you need to diversify and have multiple traffic sources… Paid traffic can be the best once you find a good offer, $1 in $3 out consistently is what i am aiming for.

Having said that I agree there is still a place for SEO – I am considering going back fully to the way I used to do SEO (outreach, natural links etc.) but PBNs DO have a future in my mind… but only when a PBN site isn’t a PBN site. I won’t explain more here, but the key thing I’ve learnt over the last few years of running my SEO consultancy is to test, test, test then test some more. Never stop testing.

Good to have your LTP income stream – I am a happy premium customer 🙂 and this is another route I plan to expand into… long may it propser!

All the best


ok wegwezen hier
(let’s get out of here)


Hey everybody,

I am new here and this is one my first news that i read. So far, as from what i have read from here I assume that PBN is another blog, where you create links to your main website. Am I right? Because i will soon start the affiliate marketing bussiness and this was one of the methods I was first introduced when learning on similar websites.

Spencer Haws

That’s basically it, correct.


This has nothing to do with PBN’s. In fact your paragraph here shows not truly aware of how Google works.

“I don’t know if this is a new algorithmic update, but that seems to be the most logical change. Google appears to have updated their algorithm to detect PBNs and then is penalizing those sites receiving links from those PBNs.”

It’s not an algorithmic update because you have a MANUAL ACTION. A MANUAL ACTION is just that MANUAL. Not algorithmic. Someone looked at your site and deemed it unworthy.

Stop trying to blame it on PBN’s. You issue is with poor content and poor site design.

I looked at the site and would rate it as a thin affiliate site per Google’s guidelines.

V Hare

David, are you high? You can not be serious. In fact, you are trolling.

Spencer Haws

Obviously someone looked at my site. But I suspect that an algorithm helped them decide what sites to look at manually.


Glad to read the second part of the post about the warnings of using PBN’s. I gave up trying to game Google after Panda. Wasn’t easy because I “came of age” while link building SEO was at its height.

But Panda and hearing the story of the guy who built the addiction website and sold it for like $250,000 (or something huge like that) convinced me it is just best to focus on posting both quantity and quality is best moving forward. Link building in the past eventually just wasted time and money that I could have focused on my sites.

Financial Samurai

I wonder if the strategy now is to SELL / OFFLOAD as many websites as possible in the portfolio that have a risk.

Site prices go down as a result due to supply, but the sites that have NEVER been hit in a long period of time e.g. 5 years or more might rocket in price?


Yep, that’s Patrick Meninga, and he’s been saying to put all your time, sweat, tears, and resources into ONE BIG AUTHORITY SITE all along.

He’s become a mentor and friend to me, and sometimes I think I should’ve just stuck with his advice from day one.

His current blog is

Patrick is a good guy and his story is quite inspiring…

Financial Samurai

Cool. Will check out. I’ve followed the authority site model with Financial Samurai. So far, things are fine and it hasn’t been hit by anything yet. I also don’t do any link building. But, I’m waiting for that one day when the hammer drops. So, I’ve decided to start a podcast too.



Hi, which “addiction website” are you talking about, Darryl? I’d love to look at it.

Salomon Ptasevich

hi guys, sorry for your losses, Clearly VPN is not the way to go and hasn’t been for a while, I few months back when I got your mail promoting Rank Hero I was real curious and even considered it but two things really put me off

1) price!
2) Using one network for all your links was deemed to end up like this.

I am in SEO for 7 years now, I did my learning after first penguin update. This is not an algorithmic thing I think Google just probably found out about rank hero and other networks (they disable big link network all the time, Matt Cutts sometimes publish in his twitter account when they do) they are looking for these “organized” operations, and just banned the together with sites they where linking too.

Anyways, the way to go is just be very responsible with each link you create, it is not your hit and run operation anymore. Spam will always work (at least until the point they succeed to put together some AI) but the span time this work becomes shorter every year.

Anyways good luck in your projects and hope bans are lifted,
sometimes is better to start from scratch. Cheers!



Hi Spencer, Perrin & Hayden,

Yeah….. This is sad, all of my niche sites were hit by this updates. But this is one weird thing that I noticed was one of my newly bought domain, that I planned to work on as an niche money site(it has no any sort of backlinks or contents, it only had wordpress theme setuped) got hit with thin content as well….. now that didnt make sense to me…

I guess my question to you guys is…. Will a clean (all white hate linkbuilding) affiliate niche site still work with very good keyword researches?


Spencer Haws

Yes. I still have a few that still are doing just fine.

V Hare

I really don’t know how Spencer has the patience to put up with some of these comments.

He tells you why you shouldn’t use PBN’s, gives his experience and proves to you the real danger of it, ALL FOR FREE by the way, and yet some who still want to keep bumping their head.

You know it reminds me of this story called “Who Moved My Cheese?” In the story, the characters are faced with unexpected change. Eventually,
one of them deals with it successfully, and writes what he has learned from
his experience on the maze walls. Google it, its free on youtube or PDF

Right now its grind time and this man has way more important shit to worry about , yet he took the time to help! Show your appreciation.

Spencer Haws

Thanks V Hare! Luckily I’ve been blogging for a few years and learned that some people just have thick skulls :). I’m okay with the discussion…more people will “get it” than don’t.


I got my pbn hit pretty bad from this update too. I can’t say PBN is dead right now, all i can say is stick to doing what work best for you. If you feel PBN is blackhat evil too much of a risky game for you, then don’t do it. If you used PBN and got penalized, don’t blame Google either, you already know you are trying to game google. Personally, I have made some good profits of ultilizing pbn to my advantage. my money sites are not hit (as yet) and are still growing in traffic. If one day my traffic went down to zero, I would be laughing instead of crying because it took them this long to implement the PBN algorithm.

BUT in saying that, I will not be relying on 100% pbns links as much as i do before. I have altered my ranking strategy well before Google took action to crack down PBN.


I always knew the life span of PBNs was limited. It was only a matter of time before Google cracked down on them. Google has targeted several blog networks and been very open about it so why do people think private blog networks would be any different. Especially the large advertised ones.


Exactly. I find it funny how these things are promoted and say they beat Google, when months later its no longer the beezneez. I mean, all folks at google need to do is go to the forums and blogs and put a few moles out there and they can find it wit out algorithms.

Alas, great content will still reign


People, what you talking about …
Public PBN`s may get penalized but if you make your own private PBN wisely you will have very low chances to get hit. Don`t use any Google toolz if you do any SEO ,it`s stupid to put the websites into GWT when you do any SEO job on them, think about that. Just stay away from Google tools, gmail etc. and build your own PBN`s they work for me since years. Nothing has changed.


My advice forget about seo, and affiliate/adsense income model site

My recommended onl;ine business model :

Sell your own evergreen products by rebranding unbranded products buy from local supplier and sell through your own niche website

eg: garden benches , leather wallets, cycling shorts (have you seen the price of them!)

1.250 long good quality pages with pics, videos, inner links and reference sources = 1/day
2. Use Bing ads
3. Google shopping ads
4. Retargeting
5. Grow social audience, use promoted posts, offers
6. Email sign ups and weekly newsletter with offer
7. Post in niche forums, blogs and niche guest posts with brand name url and forget about keyword anchor/do follow links. Focussing on traffic
8. Use Kindle for free guide
9. Monthly press release, video, pdf guides and distribute
10. Get some branding, social prof on website
11. Real physical address, phone number and human being answering calls emails

In 1 year

300 plus daily visitors 2% conversions

6 sales @£20 per sale =120 x 30 days = £3.6k

Advertising and web promotion/maintenance costs = £1,0k

Net profit= £2,6k which is better than most real jobs!


Really great Paddy! but did you tried this business model yourself?


Thanks for this very honest post Spencer, I’ve always appreciated that about your site. I got into SEO recently, due in large part you, and I now may be getting out. As Hayden said, there certainly must be easier ways to make money.


Ouch! Well you knew it Spencer – I remember listening to a podcast. I think it was with Pat. And you said something like; Its just a matter of time before google will fix this.

So yeah; thats that.

Now I think its time to move further into the .tv sites 😉 with video content – thats shareable via. the “bigger” social media sites.

Combined with some clean links, and good content.

Thats my approach at least.

Fernando Biz

Very interesting article though. But I’m then thinking the how can SEO’s rank local client websites in 2-3 months and get positive ROI for the clients and keep them. This was it’s only viable for local business owners to go about PPC. Because for some niches content marketing alone can not help to boost the rankings.


Hey Spencer, sad to hear your PBN got hit 🙁 I just hope Perrin took it well.

You showed us graphs of sites that you built without building links. How did you drive traffic to those sites?

Spencer Haws

The traffic is coming from natural search engine traffic. I just wrote great content and the links came naturally…I’ve done no “link building” on my own.

Enda McLarnon

I just would like to thank Spencer and Perrin for every single thing that have taught me. If you have read any of their posts fully, you will know that their content is good, and they continually made all of us aware that PBNs, or any type of back linking runs a certain level of risk.

I bought Rank Hero myself and only used a few of them because to be honest I didn’t see that big of a difference and one of my sites suffered a big drop in traffic and sales.

I knew the risks so I have nothing to complain about. I have also built two other sites with NO links at all, other than G+ and Facebook shares and they are now doing pretty well.

Long tail keywords, high valued content of around 1500 words with images and videos and the hard work involved in doing that work just great.

Yes it is slower and at times a real pain in the ass but you do not get hit by updates. I was speaking with a guy from Google who was trying to get me to buy Adwords for another business I work in. He told me that I should have informational pages in equal amounts to pages that showed any types of Amazon products. I asked him why of course and he answered “you just should.”

I hope Perrin recovers the site and that Spencer and his team go on to great success in all that they do. It speaks volumes for the integrity of Hayden and Spencer that they are being proactive in contacting us about Rank Hero with alternatives.

Thanks again guys and good luck.


Is it not some kind of monopoly ?

we all know google adwords or google adsense are both advertising platform

and their competition is Amazon

so to bring down the sales of Amazon or people who focus on amazon instead of adsense is to go after amazon associate sites

Does this make any sense?


I have a quick question for everyone:

I had every site in my Webmaster Tools account penalized—even the white hat ones. As I build new sites, is it a bad idea to add the new sites to the Webmaster Tools account where all of my old sites were penalized?

I worry that if I add new sites to that account—even if the new sites are 100% white-hat—that they’ll be penalized as well, just because they’re in that account. Does anyone have any experience with this?

Any feedback you could give would be very helpful!



Any advice, Spencer?

Spencer Haws

Sure, to be safe you can create another account for your new sites.


i also just bought RK had 5 links approved not hit yet! the sites have showen up in webmaster tools just hopping the sites will go down soon before i get hit too…. definatly going to saty away from PBN!!!

I have a few sites all doing quite well for the past 5months bringing in some nice income, the issue i have now is using this income to re-invest on a online buisness, i need advise on how to brain storm new lagitamit buisness website ideas? i really want to build something huge that can really turn into a real buisness… As i have only 1 form of income from online i need to expand….


I would have thought that in order to stop PBNs completely, Google should just devalue the link juice they pass once a domain expires. Then there would be no point to set up a PBN, if an expired domain no longer had it’s previous authority.

Instead they have decided to deindex and impose penalties after they have detected a PBN. I have no idea about the technical aspects of a search engine but this seems rather ineffecient. You could argue that they want to leave the door open for the original owner to come back and reregister it however many people have reported being penalised building high quality sites on expired domains.

I think there is currently an overreaction as there always is to this latest update. Since a PBN will still pass link juice it will never die, it is simply evolving and the lowest hanging fruit has now gone i.e. ROI has falled. It is no different than evolving internet marketing strategies.

A couple of years ago building niche websites was what everybody was doing and recommending however after a few google updates, the trend is now to build out larger sites as the ROI for smaller sites has fallen. Building niche websites is of course still profitable but which route you decide to take depends on a number of factors. The same applies to a PBN.

It is perfectly possible to build a PBN that would even pass a manual review but would the time/money invested be worth it? I think in some cases it is however just like your money making sites you should diversify your portfolio.


Thanks for this post. It’s rare to see transparency with real examples.

I pulled the backlinks from Perrin’s site, to see if toxic link software would be able to identify some issues (as a way to stay ahead of Googlebot). I noticed a few things:

1. there are over 21K backlinks. In looking at the history of your posts, the site launched in October 2013, correct? If so, thats just shy of 2K links a month. If you concede that a ‘white hat’ link takes 5 minutes to build (which we all know it takes more time), crunch the math, that comes out to what would be over 40 hours of link building per week.

I ran about 500 of the 21K through a toxic check:

2. There are several site-wide links in the profile, for example,

3. in that 500 13 domains flag as suspicious including and Those two sites are on the exact same IP. It looks like the .com might be set as a 301 to the .net but I’ve found that set up while technically correct, doesn’t always eliminate the problem.

4. In the 13 there are links, from the same IP, that are not niche related, such as and and

Are those links part of your network and just not properly set up so that they were exposed and perhaps provided a pretty easy breadcrumb trail for google to follow, or is it possible that you were hit with some negative SEO for someone who knew about your network and was trying to bring you down?


The biggest site-wide links (Guys Gab and one other) were white-hat. I got plenty of crappy links just by virtue of being a public case study. I disavowed 75% of my total links this weekend. Most were weak and crappy anyway.

Vladimir Bestic

Look at the bright side of this, this post got a mention from Search Engine Land 🙂

Good luck in your recovery!

Spencer Haws

It did! And Search Engine Journal as well…and lots of other places…amazing!


No matter whatever traffic methods you try, you can’t beat Google traffic. Obviously, it has more than 80% market share…

So if you want maximum targeted traffic to your niche sites, you have to go by the terms and regulations of Google. Thats point no. 1.

Point no. 2 is getting web traffic is more easier than ever nowadays. Whoever is saying getting search traffic is difficult isn’t aware about the real situation.

Its a simple formula which we all know from the beginning of the internet.

1. Write High Quality Content

2. Share it with your friends and readers

3. Get reliable good quality unique backlinks which legit in the eyes of Google, Yahoo and Bing.

4. Make relationships with other same niche webmasters and try to increase your online presence.

Thats what you will have to do always. It doesn’t matter what Google updates come. You will always remain in the front seat and your site will continue to rise in the SERPs for sure.

At least this is what I am experiencing right now.

Finally, I completely agree with what Spencer and Perrin are saying. Stay away from blackhat and shady backlink methods. Period….



Spencer Haws

Well said, I agree.


This may be a little off topic, but can you explain what you mean by “non-affiliate content”? Is that content with 0 affiliate links?


Essentially, yea. You can see some on the front page of APS right now.


Interesting, do you really think or have any evidence that 1or 2 affiliate links will hurt SEO?


So sorry to hear this happen; but at the same time, I think we all knew in the back of our heads that Google will eventually figure it out — especially when internet marketers are displaying PBN use all over their sites.

I’m sure there were Google employees taking notes and figuring-out how to create a way to ding all those sites using PBNs.

Oh well, until the next method…



I thought a big part of building PBN links was to avoid creating footprints. All my sites are ranking using PBN links and not one of them has been hit because I was careful to avoid leaving any footprints.


I’ve got only one question, if you knew all along RH was a house of cards, why did you continue to promote it to your readers?

These links were sold as permanent “forever” links, and now they are obviously not. And now your saying it was just a matter of time before google punished the RH network.

Spencer Haws

I said that 9 months ago…I was very clear with everyone about my opinions. (9 month old blog post is linked/quoted above).


I was talking with the director of dejanseo and they confirmed to me that pbn networks are not recommended at all and google will punish you sooner or later.


You said that there are faster, less stressful, and less volatile ways to make money online other than SEO. Could you elaborate on these methods if we were to start fresh?

Spencer Haws

Here’s just one of the podcasts I’ve done sharing alternative strategies…I’ve done many if you look through the interviews:


Spencer and Perrin

I’m looking forward to you guys not using PBN’s anymore. I was disappointed when that was one of the steps in building out apennyshaved. I think the blog and podcast will be even more interesting now. At least for me now that I can fully relate.

good luck.

Spencer Haws

Thanks Louie!


Holy comments, Batman!

Anyway, thanks for the post Spencer. I emailed you last week when I was ready to jump.

While I certainly agree the PBNs are being targeted by Google (as pointed out by No Hat’s decimated PBN), I think “Thin Content” relates more to the word count:affiliate link ratio. My highest traffic site lost 98% of its visitors overnight (awesome) and it only had some blog comments and a few web 2.0s, as well as some natural links. It did, however, have affiliate links on a majority of pages.

I had people sending me messages regularly thanking me for the valuable information, even saying they used it for educational purposes. So I’m guessing the ‘thin content’ is separate from the PBN punishment we’re all bending over and taking.

Thanks again for all that you do 🙂


That’s a good point, and if it’s true, it should be fairly straight forward to fix: just remove affiliate links from your worst-performing articles.

Double A

I happen to have only web 2.0 linking back to mine and the only thing I had recently added more is amazon links..

Steve Scott

Hey Spencer (and Perrin) — Sorry to hear about your troubles with PBNs. Google can be extremely frustrating sometimes. But it’s good to see you took a portfolio approach and didn’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Long-term, I think the Authority Site looks awesome and shows amazing promise. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how you expand on that idea and build it out.

Spencer Haws

Thanks Steve!


Thanks for the openness and honesty as always.

Dust yourself off. Onwards and upwards!!

Spencer Haws

Thanks Fran!


I was excited to find RankHero (via Spencer’s blog) and its concept for permanent links even when I unsubscribe. I have just subscribed for a month, have got one post approved and another 4 posts pending review and I still yet to pay writers at textbroker for these articles. I hope RH will contact me to sort things out.

Spencer Haws

Yep, it will get sorted out.


Sorry to hear that Spencer.

If you’re switching to a no unnatural link strategy, and focusing on content, how is this different from the financial site that you started your niche pursuit with?

If I recall, you poured your heart and soul into it, and didn’t get any traffic and no money.

Is it all well researched low competition words in your h1-h6 titles?

That seems like a very tough strategy.

Spencer Haws

Way back in 2005 when I started my first financial blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I honestly didn’t really know what search engines were or keywords for that matter. I’m a long way from that and understand keyword research and how to attract natural links. 9 years of experience puts me far ahead of where I was.


Google still have some work to do. If you get a chance check out – the backlinks on this page are horrendous yet they still rank for some very high traffic/high profit keywords…

Johnny Nguyen

Hi Spencer.
I am a customer of Rankhero. I known your network is died.
So, did my website be penalized.


Did your PBN get deindexed? Or just penalized money sites?

My PBN has been slowly getting deindexed for the past few months but no money sites have been affected.

Spencer Haws

Some of PBN deindexed, I didn’t check all of them…so not sure how many.


Ah it’s really bad because lot of new project planning with PBNs method, so what do you think if we have a really outstanding PBN sites with great contents, is it will hit?

Spencer Haws

Yes I do.


To be honest public facing popular blogs that talk about tactics that game a companies system and rely on being a part of that system should stop talking.

You probably don’t want to go back to a 9 to 5

Google crack down on people, they can. Its their product and if you use part of it you are liable to their terms.

Spencer Haws

Thanks for your concern about whether I have to go back to the corporate world 🙂


I appreciate your honesty about this situation…goes a long way in my books. From what you’ve seen where people’s money site got impacted, approximately how many links were from this PBN alone – under 20%, 20-50%, 50+%? I assume if people had a low percentage they might not get impacted as much. Thoughts on this assumption?

Spencer Haws

Under 20% on at least one site for sure. The others were maybe between 20-50% from PBNs? And the links were from multiple different Pbns…not just one.


Hey since google is throwing penalties like crazy for sites using PBN’s. You can rebrand your RankHero as a Neg SEO service lol. There are major consequences to this update.


Thanks for being so upfront and transparent about it all Spencer.
In the wake of all of this, I’m looking forward to following the progress that you and Perrin make with the authority site that you purchased a few months ago.


Hi Spencer,
First off…I have to say how sorry I am to hear about the penalties. That really stinks. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Thanks for everything that you share here. It’s how I’ve learned the business. There are plenty of authors making money off ebooks that offer barely a fraction of what you share here for free.

I follow your posts and your open case studies. I’ve watched APS very closely. Using Long Tail Pro…I analyzed APS. awhile back, maybe a couple of months ago, I noticed that APS had just over 100 juice links in place. Then I noticed that APS took a small dive in the serps…to page 2. Maybe just a couple of weeks ago…I analyzed APS again and noticed that the juice links were well above 1000…with the page links being just slightly over the number of juice links. I remember thinking to myself that 1 of 2 things was going on here.

#1 Spencer and Perrin are just special and they don’t have to worry about penalties


#2 APS is a trainwreck waiting to happen.

It seemed that there was a HUGE jump in juice links over a very short period of time. And there weren’t many no-follow links either. Very few.
That’s just what Long Tail Pro was telling me. If the link development for most of your sites that got penalized were in any way similar to those of APS…well…it’s not a surprise they got penalized as well. Now I realize that this is only one small piece of the puzzle as I am not privy to the information of your other sites as you don’t share them here (wisely)…but that’s just what I have seen.

I have 2 quick questions for anyone who can answer them:
#1 Which other PBN’s were penalized?
#2 Which forums do you read about other PBN owners talking about being penalized?


Spencer Haws

Most of our sites were not similar to apennyshaved in link velocity/volume. Answers:
1. Lots of private PBNs. One I owned privately and I’ve received dozens of emails from people that own their own private networks also hit.
2. Go to any SEO/internet marketing forum, its there.


I’ve also receive same mail from Googel “thin content” “Site-wide matches” and Google also disable my adsense a/c. Even i’m not using any PNB or any other backlink service. Still the same mail why?

Average Joe

I enjoy your posts and podcasts Spencer and I have learned a lot from you. Thanks for the knowledge.

My background is tech, I build clouds for a living. I also do ethical hacking for customers, testing the security of their clouds.

There are still ways to build PBN’s and 1000% Google will never find them and never will. The only way Google will ever have this level of control is if they make you register with them every time you logon to an internet connection. You just have to know how to build them that never leaves a footprint.

The biggest problem is that most people doing this are marketers and not tech people. Tech people know that what they do is dull and no one wants to know about it. Marketers by their nature want everyone to know so they can monetise it.

I am a tech that has learned marketing. The method I use for PBN’s it not that common. I have never read it on a blog anywhere. Probably because it’s dull like being a tech and takes time and effort. It requires discipline and therefore can never be outsourced, not for $5 a time anyway.

I am not that smart to be the only one doing it this way but the chances are others doing it this way are tech’s not telling anyone about it.

I would be interested to know, how many of you have outsourced any part of this? That is the single most silly mistake in my opinion.

Outsourcing is for people that tow the line 100% because when you pay someone $5 to do a gig. Then by human nature they will cut corners.

PBN’s are not dead and never will be. Just this particular was of doing them was a limited window for people to take advantage of.


when you say register with a google account, do you mean logon to a google account when you logon to your admin panel of your pbn sites?

Average Joe

No what I mean it every time I access the internet from a device I have to declare who I am to google so they can track me.


so you are talking about ip tracking. when we connect to internet and login to a google account, we are identifying ourselves to them.

Average Joe

It’s a philosophical question because there is no way Google could ever pull that off.

IP addresses are the least of your worries. Most of Googles (and others) tracking is done via cookies and social profiling. Whenever you do a Google search you leave a footprint, whenever you sign up for a webmaster tools or another Google service you leave a footprint. Whenever you give Google a piece of information they store it and then build analytics about you.

Google knows who you are, how old you are, where you live, whether you are male or female, who your closest friends are, whether you are married or single, who you will vote for at the next election etc etc. It is the only way to ever make search better.

The ultimate search would be logging in to your device and Google delivering relevant content without you telling it what you want to see.

They are experts and building and analysing data.


I am not doing any of the things you say when I manage my pbn sites 🙂
I always delete cookies, and I use different browsers when using google products and pbn sites.
does this mean that I am safe?


This article is so clever it’s like it’s out of Sun Tsu. Tell the world you’ve gone all white hat to take the heat off, then buy a chrome book for cash, drive to new locations, get new email accounts and start setting up SPBNs – Stealth Private Blog Networks.

Average Joe

Don’t get me started on Chromebooks LOL!


Two cannot keep a secret, so outsourcing is certainly a no-no. I would not even acknowledge to people I know I have a blog network. My lips is completely quiet when it comes to that topic.

Sunny Ujjawal

Hey Spencer Haws,

Can you name few websites or networks which you think were more harmful for traffic drop?


thanks for your great post, then Content is the best to go alive at all… I need focus on this with my 100% power !


Hey Spencer,

I really dont think that SEO has changed so much. I mean look at the sites of greg morrison or alex becker…


Best electronic cigarette…. Greg is still place 3 with and that site is so incredible ugly and everyone knows that this is a PBN site because greg is teachin how he is building that site in NHB

electronic cigarette reviews … he is dominatin nearly every place for these keywords in google with klks

I personally think you have done PBN the false way buddy… also you have tried to cheat on google with rankhero in a very very dirty way…

I mean if PBNs were really dead than Becker or Greg couldnt rank anymore… the truth: there sites are still doing better than ever…

BUT you are right definetly PBNs will die!! But not now maybe in one or two years and also link building will die because google want to use the IBM wattson AI for semantic analyzing of webpages… (NOW!) so lets say SEO in 10 years from now?

NO Link Building needed anymore, NO social signals needed anymore, NO PBNs needed anymore just pure CONTENT!!!

If google will start with a big sematic analyzing of pages they will automaticly deliver the best results for search phrases to user… in fact no affiliate review sites will than work anymore… why? simple:

Let’s say someone is looking for “electronic cigarette review”… now a site like klks is killing it with bla bla the best e cigarette is the brand who brings greg the most money as affiliate… in 5 or 10 years from now google with have an own AI which could identify these pages as bullshit affiliate AD offers and insteed let them rank for these terms google will automatically answer these question with lets say the most and best reviewed e cigarette from amazon or another big brand site…

so what could a normal person do? simple: Instead of doing own small niche affiliate sites, just do niche sites without promoting keyword phrases like “xxx review” … what you should do is lets say write 200 top qualified posts about weight loss and promote in all these posts just ONE affiliate offer… so for example if someone is looking for “how to loose 10 pounds fast” sometimes these guys would come to your site, you have a very qualified article about how to loose 10 pounds fast and in the article you write something like: “If you still have problems with your weight, I would recommend you Affiliate Offer X, I have used these program and got fantastic results”

So all in all: Play the SEO game smarter with better content and stop doing bullshit amazon affiliate sites with no really new content (yes they work now, yes they will work in 3 years, but they will be definetly been penalized in 5 to 10 years… if an AI could check your site and identify your page as “rewritten conclusions” of other pages you will loose the game forever..)


That would not work buddy. The way words flow, makes them vulnerable to manipulation just like algorithms. Google is just frustrated people are manipulating search results with PBN’s. They cannot kill them all!

Spencer Haws

I agree…in the long run quality sites are going to win out.

Girl Games

First Of all Soo sad and Matt Some weeks ago already mention in the article that now Google planned to penalty against PBN private blogs and now this matt going in action. ..

Mitesh Patel

If actually PBN is work than first all news media site like fairfex, icg closed its business because all site of fairfex media have 7 pr and all are interlink with each other. google spam not much more..


It was a crazy thing to continue with PBN, when google took down first PBN months ago, that was a sign for end of PBN.

Best of Luck for Members of these Groups.

Gaurav Jaggi


Appreciate you for honestly share your experience here. Did you have the backlinks only from your PBN or you also mixed that up with links from other sources as well?

I’ve seen Google penalties on websites with backlinks from just a single source like guest posts, or comments etc (they rank first initially then drop out). Probably that could be a major footprint.

I personally don’t see a reason why a website with backlinks from natural websites in relevant niches getting backlinks in a natural way would get banned. (that’s what is a PBN in my opinion).

I look forward to your response.


This sucks for you guys :/ I was there back at Penguin 1.0 :/ It’s going to suck for a bit but I’m not worried, you guys have something great going on.


Aren’t you mister smug pants, why not troll another PBN de-indexed post and link your site you hack!

Spencer Haws

Yep, we have a couple of really nice sites going that should be great assets long term.


my also same problem


great but demotivating post. 🙁
I just bought my first expired domain to test if it realy can be brought back to former glory.
As a complete noob in the PBN/expired domain business, my thought about your article may be kind of stupid but non the less, here they are:

I think that PBN is used as a synonym for “a bunch of expired domains that where deindexed, reregistered and rebuilt”.
Are the pages where you have seen the drop of traffic linked from that kind of PBN sites? Or do you also own
PBN sites that were not built up by reregistering expired/deindex domains?

Did you regulary build new content to your PBN sites that did not link to your nichesites, did you build high quality links to that conent? I think a site that once got a couple of links from newssites,edu,gov,… was dropped, rebuilt and never got any aditional links with the same quality MUST raise some flags at google.

Did you use for all PBN domainnames the same service for registering or did you use different ones like for the hosting?

What sites replaced your nichesites in the rankings? Other nichesites with better backlinkprofiles or regular authority sites with a suiting subpage?



Spence sorry to hear

are you still open to the idea of building your own PBN? vs a public one?

Spencer Haws

How did people miss the point of this post. I DID build my own private network…it got hit. Many others built their own private network…they got hit. Yes, Rank Hero (a public network) also got hit…but so did the private ones. Read the title again of my post…that will answer your question.

stephen aidoo

OMG 🙁 This is interesting. it wouldnt be cool to me if i joined and was hit. I was trying to join the PBN but my payment wasnt going through because of my geographical area. This has been a really great lesson and experience to me all this years i have followed this site. So if niche site is dying and PBN’s are dying, then how will those of us who dont have the strength to build sites that takes years to yield survive. Hmm
I guess it time we all build authority sites. And one thing just crossed my mind. I think google set up guys to read all the seo articles and actually know what we are all doing. And i think they actually even joined the PBN just to know the nature of the network. Google is fighting us too much. And i think a time will come when if someone discovers something blackhat or whatever hat that works will never come out as an article or story for people to know.

By the way this is what i am predicting. A time will come there will be a peer to peer search engine like torrent or open source search engine OSSE . by the way life goes on.


Now people avoid to buy drop domain and avoid PBn Network . Google Now Approved that , the loves quality and white hat techniques . SEO is not dead. Just need to focus on Quality things


Awesome! just like S.A.P.E. all the noob white hats are scared off = time to build a proper PBN!

Propaganda 101


Thank you for this article.. I was also hit by this thin content update. Will try to recover again…second time google panelize this site…. Hurts!!!!!..


Hi Spencer

Sad to hear about this. But very good to see you are not stopping doing SEO just changing how you build links and get traffic from other sources.

I wanted to know it is alright to build authority sites for most niches but what we can do for Local and Client based SEOs? It is not very clear? Clients want quick results for their sites and telling them to wait for 1-2 years till we build authority will not work? Any suggestions from your side?

Also same thing for Local SEO Sites these are mostly build around a city, state, country and again are not too data and content heavy so how can we link build for these?

It looks little murky now and I feel still people will use PBNs since not everyone can start working towards building a long term brand, many people lack that much patience.

But thanks for coming out totally transparent and hope you will continue to teach us how you are approaching SEO in future posts.


This! See, I met Hayden and Perrin and they were praising PBNs and while the argument made sense – I was still not jumping on that boat. It’s not too boast, but the 1st lesson I learned in my SEO journey is not to game Google and just develop a good business.

I feel for Perrin’s aPennyShaved site, it was kinda OUR site! We saw it from beginning to now. It’s unfortunate that this happened, however, we cannot be surprised and you mentioned that in many articles Spence – there is always risk in trying gimmicks to game Google.

For me, this is how I view it – people need to realize that Google has 100s of PHDs in a building, figuring out algorithms to everything. Any joe can come up with a new hack, but how long have those hacks existed?

This is why real internet entrepreneurs like Tim Ferris, talk about creating products, selling solutions vs “how to rank #1”. It’s evolving to make it a user friendly place.

Google is like Roger Godell – sure it sucks and seems to be dictator-ish, but if you going to play, play by the guidelines and you will be fine. Cut a corner, or hack – eventually, you’ll be found out.

I am sure Perrin and Spencer will be fine, it’s not the site that made them who they are, it was the mentality – so they can pick up and keep going. It’s those who listen and follow without really studying that will be hit.

“White hat” may be boring, and take a lot of time, but it seems like every 6 months, there is a “oh gosh, new update killed me cuz i was doing xyz..” and then there is Pat Flynn of the world who says, Keep it clean, keep it mean!

Spencer Haws

I agree.

The Supplement Review

I wonder how many PBN links the sites with manual penalties for thin content actually had. It couldn’t have just been a handful otherwise that would make negative SEO extremely easy to do.


Hi Spencer
Sorry that this has happened to you and Perrin, and thanks a again for your open honest sharing of this. I suppose it is easy for google to find PBNs that are open to web owners to buy links.
I suppose Google is trying to create a quality resource but sometimes it feels like they think they own the internet and we all have to play their game. They have become so big now that it is like they own the internet. In fairness we gave them that power we no longer say, “lets do an internet search..” we say “lets google it” Nobody cares to play the Bing or Yahoo game
I wonder what would happen if we all agreed to Bing it for a while and take some power away from google.

Carl Kinski

That is good that many noobs will stop building PBN it just leaves us professionals with less competition. I hope also domain prices will go down . This tactic became too mainstream, every average Joe was trying to rank. That was no good, since it was driving prices insanely high.

Mike P

Blah Blah Blah. People get hit every year. This is the nature of the game. I have over 50 domains in my PBN. I lost about 3 over the summer and then redesigned my whole network. Everyone one is indexed and working since this last update.

To the folks that got hit. Stop copying what everyone else does and think outside the box. You are just creating a massive footprint.


this is why i DON’T use google webmaster tools… you essentially gave them the “key” to poke around your shit!


Repeat after me: If you didn’t build it yourself, if you don’t control every single Outbound Link on the site, if you (or anybody) can buy links on a site or network, it’s NOT private.

Spencer Haws

How are you and others missing this? I DID have private networks (not Rank Hero), that I built myself, controlled every outbound link, and no one could buy links or was involved. It WAS private…many others are in the same situation that had their own PBNs (ie. no one else involved).

Repeat after me: Google will catch your “private” network eventually.

Eric Gati

I find this pretty funny, given that the word “private” is in the title of this post. Part of me hopes these are trolls, because otherwise…it’s just kind of sad.

Reading comprehension skills are highly underrated!

Anyway, sorry to hear about this Spencer, but you’re obviously well positioned to take hits like this and bounce back without much of a problem.


Niranjan Jain

Hi Spencer, sad to hear about your site. I am managing approx 7 sites on niche topic and none of them are inter linked.

The one website (it was never ever purchased before) that i am operating from last 2.5 year was doing pretty well till 21st of Sep 2014. I can see almost 25% drop in traffic. While most of the pages are providing good and useful information like How To etc having average 550 words. I did built back link 2.5 year back using directory submission, that was also 8 links and moreover these links are no more live.

While the other site that i started approx 6 month back is now getting approx 20% more traffic after 21st of Sep 2014.

Wondering why my site hit?


Hello all,

I am really very confused what you people are talking about. After reading your and hayden blog i started making a few PBN sites. And for my wonders none of them are de-indexed but my moneysite which has links from them has moved to 10th spot from 6th. And the most confusing part is that the top 2 Websites on the Serp have all links from PBNs and they are never dropped from SERP for last six months and not even now.

Oh my god what is going on.

Michael Jonas

PBN still works like a charm. Wake up. Stick to what you have been doing and dont listen to anyone. You test, you win. Fingers crossed !

Donald W

Hey Spencer/Perrin/Hayden,

Been a while since I have commented here but wanted to chime in. I think people are just mad because now an easy way of ranking and making money is gone and they have to put in the work to rank again. For those of us who’ve been putting that work in and weren’t affected I think were happy to see all those sites (not yours) that were ranking purely because of pbn links go away. When sites that have crap content and add no value outrank you because of pbn links its a hard pill to swallow when your own site adds value and has great useful content. This has been a long time coming and we all knew the risks. Especially as the quality of the sites using pbns has gotten worse and worse. As always thank you for being so transparent and keep up the great work.

-Donald W-

Spencer Haws

Thanks for chiming in Donald.


Thanks for your honesty here Spencer. I appreciate your advice and I think it’s everyone’s personal decision to either follow in your footsteps or venture out on their own. I for one have followed you long enough to know that I trust your judgement so, in an effort to avoid issues (which I thankfully have not had yet), I will most likely bag the PBN idea since I don’t have much invested anyway.

My question is this….for someone who has a dozen or so PBN sites with articles linking back to money sites and knowing that none of the PBN’s have been de-indexed yet or any of the money sites hit yet by this update, how would you move forward? Would you recommend taking the PBN’s down all together and being done with it? Or is it deeper than that meaning would also need to take further steps to disavow links? Just not complete sure the best way to move forward based on NOT being hit yet.

Just want to be safe about my next move. Thanks again Spencer.

Spencer Haws

I would take down the PBNs to ensure you are not linking to your sites anymore. This should be sufficient.

Bad News Bear

Here’s the issue now for everyone who is in the SEO industry period.

All your products + solutions + courses is dead.

So long LTP, so long info course sites, so long scrapebox, so long every senuke, so long every single software that has been built around google.

If you want to be a sustainable business, focus in a non seo industry and go with paid traffic.

That’s essentially it.

Average Joe

I built my first site in 1996. I had to spend weeks learning a programming language called HTML.

Then database driven sites where the answer so I learned Coldfusion, ASP and PHP. I spent years learning that.

Then WordPress came along and ruined the internet. Any muppet could build a website with little or no skill and start ranking.

I love WordPress because now I don’t have to wirte code I can write content and build quality sites much quicker, which is why the creators of WordPress created it.

Google had to change to stop this happening.

The point is that since 1996 the effort required to build a site has never changed. WordPress just enables you to focus that effort in a different place.

The internet and a website is about putting in the effort and producing quality content that people find useful. It always has been, since I can remember anyway.

Average Joe

As in Google changed to stop the band content!

Derek Smith

@ Bad News Bear…. What does LTP have to do with Private Blogs being dead? Keywords on non-PBN sites are still very much useful. I think the key is now is actually focusing on building bigger and better sites, not sites that are focused just on ranking for a specific keyword. Google’s whole goal in doing this is to force better content, which in the end benefits us.

I’d much rather see a legit authority site give me a review on a topic, rather than some spun article 10 page SEO site. Now the focus should be on finding or creating these monster sites that add actual value. I think paid traffic is a great thing, but SEO will never be dead as long as you, I and every other person in the world pulls up Google daily to look things up.

David Beale

The truth is that starting a new site is difficult. You are up against aged domains with high authority unless you are looking for a specific niche with low competition keywords. It’s always been the same in business – I guess the Niche Pursuits way.

So, like any business before the Internet, you have to think about ways to compete when you are an unknown. This either takes time (natural link building) or you need to partner with another organisation which has the aged domain.

I understand why you’d want to create a PBN as new domains stand little chance of ranking at all unless you really have a niche which has incredibly low competition keywords.

Simple fact is that there is no shortcuts. It’s hard work, that’s all there is to it.


Very informative discussion here. I agree to the point mentioned in the discussion that SEO should be one part of overall marketing strategy because relying solely on Google for traffic is not a good idea. You know never what a new algo change will drop on you. Better spread your inbound marketing and target social media and other channels as aggressively as possible.

Food for thought: If Google de-index my website but I still have a 50K subscriber list, I can continue to survive and expand.



Don’t take down your PBNs I’ve got a better idea!

“TANK Hero”

A PBN that links to your competitors, the latest in NSEO 🙂

It’ll be service on BHW soon so get it quick


Yikes, Spencer and Perrin; I know this is a tough time for you right now and that you’ve admitted to never wanting to use PBN’s again, but jeez.

I just looked through your link profiles and you’ve got hidden backlinks on thin and weebly sites in their privacy policy? Did you really think this would last?

Spencer Haws

We didn’t add those links. Lots of people copied Perrin’s site and probably also copied his privacy policy…and forgot that the links pointed to aPennyShaved. I saw that happen alot on my first niche site project as well. With any public project people purposely or not will build junk links to the site.


It’s funny – I’ve been reading this thread for 2 days and holding off on commenting until now. So many differing opinions and it’s not a one size fits all situation which does make for a great discussion.

At the end of the day, ANY SEO comes with inherent risk. It doesn’t matter if you are black hat, white hat or somewhere in between. You just have to decide what kind of risk you are willing to tolerate.

The point of this post is that Spencer has decided he’s done with the medium that carries one of the highest levels of risk. It really doesn’t matter how many posts he’s done on PBN’s in the past, he’s decided the risk is not worth the return to him. Perhaps you are in an ultra spammy niche and that’s not the case for you. Maybe you just want to rank and bank and can make 50k/mo in payday loans or bad credit mortgage leads. That’s fine. Each person is entitled to their own opinions and each person will ultimately decide to do what’s best for their business.

For me though, I think that at this particular time, this article is spot on.

Outreach is what Google WANTS you to do, and it’s free. They want you interacting with your community and building respect amongst other online publishers. Write great content and it will get shared. Write great content and people will be asking you to interview with them for tips and guidance.

If I’m spending MOST of my free time outside my normal 9-5 day job working on a site (like probably 90% of us are) wouldn’t you want it to be something that you can build on into something bigger? If you had a site with 1100 articles that was in your area of passion, how much easier would it be for you to start a fully functional online business from that one site? A lot easier than a 15 page niche site that’s been built on a house of cards.

Side note for Perrin – I’m pretty sure most of us are pulling for you. Hopefully you can pull the site out of penalization. It’s one of the few niche sites I have seen that has truly outstanding and unique content. I’m sure you’ve had to put down a few beers this week to deal with the damage. Once the hangover clears, keep working at it. Fingers crossed it makes a full recovery.

Spencer Haws

Thank you JD! This comment means alot…well stated, and I agree.


I disagree – Google does not want you building ANY links – unless they are nofollow.
Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

I find the whole thing really funny. White hat / grey / black – if you are building links (through outreach or not), you are NOT White hat in Google’s eyes.

I suspect 99.9% of websites that are #1 in Google for any term has manipulated the back links coming in to their site.

Outreach is still not white hat to Google. The only real white hat is on page SEO only, great content and crossing your fingers that Google magically stops valuing links over great content. Anything else is a shade of grey.

Also, all this talk of “white hat” authority sites – good luck to you all. I have tried the “outreach only” ranking style many times, and while 2 out of my 3 sites are still going well and bringing in decent money, the other one got slapped back to the dark ages after suffering a neg seo attack. I assume it was because I was starting to rank for a really good money term that someone else had dibs on. The site was 2 years old, had my own content posted every day (mon-fri) and it made no difference what so ever.

This is the MAJOR flaw in having a single authority site and having all your eggs in one basket. And if anyone reading this thinks that Google cares about you and your website / SERP aspirations – you’re deluded.



Where did I say that anyone would be deliberately requesting links, when doing outreach? Sure, that’s a fantastic byproduct of interacting with people in your niche/community. That is what Google wants. Interaction and sharing of content as a byproduct of publishing fantastic material.

I’m not saying you have all your eggs in one basket – in fact, if you spend a year building a brand, you won’t even need Google traffic. I have sites (Like that I have bookmarked and there’s a reason for that. I enjoy the content, it’s great, and I’d gladly link to it from my own site.

Build your audience, use Facebook and other forms of social mediums to build your brand and come up with your own product where the money is really at.

Take a look at Pat Flynn’s project. Sure it took him a year, but making 3k in a month after launching an E-book seems like a pretty good start. I won’t touch his since he did some initial Tiered link building to that site, but both of those have amazing content and I’m sure 3k/mo for 1 site would be enough to make the mortgage payment for most part timers that are getting into the SEO game.

I’ve built many sites and the only one left standing right now is the one that I did pure natural outreach with.

All I’m saying is that if you are new to this game, start out with one focus. Taking on too much has a tendency to get people overwhelmed (I know I was when I started) and causes more frustration. Building a PBN the right way takes a TON of time and monetary investment.

Better off putting that money back into content, an E-book or something that you can invest in to create a sustainable business.

Just my 2 pennies, even if you don’t think they are worth that.


So with that third site that got hit by NSEO. Were you paying attention to your link profile regularly to disavow the bad links or did it all happen at once?

Any idea how to defend against this type of thing? There has to be a way.


Disavow’s do work if you catch them early enough. Pat Flynn has been fighting it since pretty much the day he revealed his new domain.

It takes time and patience, but he had a whole lot of Viagra links pointing at his site. All you can do is continuously disavow.

Mark N.

Try subscription – it has a feature where they monitor your backlinks and inform you instantly once new ones are added, so if there is a sudden spike in links you’ll know very quickly (plus ahrefs finds backlinks very quickly). Just contact their customer service and ask them about this before signing up.

And I can confirm that disavowing “bad links” before you ever receive a penalty makes a negative SEO campaign a waste of time for the culprit.


Great tip Mark – wasn’t aware that Ahrefs did that for you.


The truth is that NEG seo has just become one step easier.. which is sad. If a quality site like a penny shaved can be tanked using PBN links… (doesn’t matter if used by yourself or your competitor). I believe a fair outcome should be a devaluing of links.

Yassin Madwin

I’m Going to start with a legendary piece of poetry. it’s a dialogue between Al-Mutanabbi and an Abbasid Caliphate the poet said:

“You are the fairest of all people, except in my case
You are the controversy, the opponent, and the judge combined”

Google got us in his hands as long as we depend on him to make money. Google sends me 40% of all niche potential traffic which is huge. but he lately made a small change instead of ranking my inner page that generates money he decided to send me more traffic to the homepage. the result is an increase in serps ranking a loss in profit. every 15 day my profit changes dramatically because of small tweaks Google makes. what i learned is that SEO is unpredictable eve if you have the formula or the best website to dominate a niche. searchers intentions change, Google tweaks more often (since may 2014), supply and demand of SEO strategies change.

Excuse my English, Sincerely

Asian Blogger

Sorry to hear that.

I think you get slap because you do it in the wrong way.
I have several PBN since several years ago, and never got slap, and it will never got slap even in the future. Do you know why because my PBN build on secret authorithy blog that google will don’t care.


The only thing that prevented me from participating in PBNs was no money.

This time it paid not having much money to invest.

Side thought. The amount it seems those using PBNs made in a single month took me all year.

Sorry Spencer and Perrin and thanks for being frank.


Wow, sorry to hear this. Hopefully Google will find more “obvious” structures and penlty them!


Good post, Spencer! Guess the time of PBNs has really passed away.

However, the real reason to write this comment is the wrong link to “Podcast 41: How to Network for Real Links with Rand Fishkin”. A minor detail but felt right to let you know for it.

Spencer Haws

Thank you…fixing now!

Rolf Wouters

It is a matter of short term vs long term.
Of course, a PBN is great for rankings and thus for banking (relatively) quick money. But when you have a family to feed of your online income, one could argue if the risk is right for that situation.

I for myself started this whole IM thing as a side gig, some nice extra money and fun. But at the moment I decide to live of my online income, I do not want the stress of getting crushed by Google.

I therefor understand completely what Spencer is saying. Yes, you can make money whit SEO techniques that are in the grey area. But if you would like to sleep decent and have the peace of mind that your income is build on something solid, than it might be wise not to rely on techniques like PBNs.

The high risk high reward rule is so true for IM, but it also works the other way around.

Spencer Haws

Exactly…thanks Rolf!


What makes you think if you go al whitehat Google will leave you alone, you really think Google is going to spare you because you build no links to your site?

Also i wonder if you guys really build a PBN or just a crappy network with spun content and a high OBL. I am wondering this because none of my PBN (300+) got hit

None of my money sites got hit either, the people i spoke to that got hit and let me see their network had all one thing in common, crap content, crap theme, all wordpress, every post two links out.

Makes me wonder why i with all my real sites in my PBN didn’t get hit at all…

But hey do as Google tells you and maybe they give you a ranking lol 🙂

Patrick M Matherne

Getting hit by something like that sucks
I am wondering what the next thing they are going after will be
I know how hard it is building up a website without using any linking and having to go back to the start can be a pain

martin garvin

when you have 2 kids and family to feed, would you care about white hat, black hat shits? end of the day you need to bring food into table. problem is Google doesn’t want anyone to have a little pie from their billion dollars income charts. You are not allowed to make money out of Google’s traffic. They deserve every single penny from it.

Spencer Haws

I have 4 kids and mouths to feed.


That’s not it my friend. Google doesn’t care if you earn money or not, as opposed to your view that google wants to prevent others from making money. Their duty is to the users and stockholders. It’s not like they are looking for ways to keep people from making money, it’s just not one of their goals.


I always thought black hat tactics was too risky and not a long term solution for online businesses so I have never tried them.
I personally would love to learn some more white hat tactics.
I particularly would like to know how yall got links from The Huffington Post and universities that you mentioned on the podcast.

Spencer Haws

We will be sharing more for sure.

James Bond

Time to get a real job dude and support the family. It was fun while it lasted. I did a PBN of 75 domains.. crap content and pointed them to my competitor. He got slapped for shady linking and his site tanked. LOL.. it wasn’t even his PBN and he tried to explain it.. Pretty funny that you can still use this tactic to rip your competitors a new one. They deny it but end result, it’s not their PBN so they can’t do shit about it. Who says negative SEO is dead. Cuz it’s not. Who knows.. you might have a PBN and not even know it. hehehe


What does Google want? When I build my first website, I didn’t build any links and wrote about 1000 posts but I got nothing until I began to build some PBN links.
I don’t know how to rank a website without backlinks as I’m not an expert and can’t write really High Quality article.
Here High Quality means you are unique and others can’t write such articles.
I tried many backlinks, facebook like is useless, web 2.0 is weak, high authority backlinks are too expensive (hundred dollars), PBN seems is the only way to rank.
I think today is not a good time to join the game of SEO,

Luana Spinetti

Then I have a question for you, Spencer–

Why are you giving in to Google when your PBN wasn’t about low quality content in the first place?

No matter what Google says, PBNs have a reason that goes beyond optimization. They’re there to let you share knowledge and research about more niches and attract a diverse following.

Google penalized 8 of my websites back in December, in bulk, for in- and outbound unnatural link. One of these sites, a blog, was de-indexed for “pure spam” (which doesn’t make sense, because it’s a role-play blog that my readers love, no matter the sponsored content).

I haven’t given up on any sites to please Google. I only cut down expenses because of the ICANN raises and my being sickly and unable to work much for months, so I went down to ~270 domains from 320+.

I know how it feels about the revenue. Those 8 sites alone generated about $600 a year in advertising, that I used to renew the domains, acquire new ones, and keep my host running. I earn less from advertising now, because most advertisers are after PageRank (sigh) and not traffic/conversions, but the $300 a year I earn now from advertising is still better than nothing and there are advertisers out there who, thankfully, care less about Google.

What’s next for you, Spencer? 🙂

~ Luana


good idea.


Hi Spencer,

most of the time i agree with you but this time i think you are maybe a little bit too afraid. I think small, focused and silo’d pbns are the future. future in seo terms means of course not a endless time. The day will come when even these PBN’s get deindexed…

Spencer Haws

Not afraid…just finally thinking bigger. Bigger sites…real business entities.


Hi Spencer, Perrin,

I also had all three of my sites hit with the “thin content” Manual spam action on 9/18. All three were under WMT. One of my sites used RankHero. All of them had a round of The HOTH.

I’ve been trying to focus on just getting one of my sites off the Manual Spam Action. I’ve done the following:

– Removed the table of affiliate links from the home page
– Removed all affiliate links from all pages (16 total pages, 8 had affiliate links).
– Removed AdSense.
– Disavowed the HOTH links and one other I didn’t know where it had come from and looked spammy.
– Removed some “slightly forced” keyword placement (even though I was right at 1%)

Before I read this post, I was sure it was my affiliate links and the associated product descriptions that were my problem. So, I had removed the affiliate links and the table first and asked for a review (failed). I then did the rest of the list above except the removal of the HOTH links (I was still thinking “thin content” at that point). The 2nd review failed. I then read this post and disavowed the HOTH and one additional link. Third review just failed.

Interesting thing is after the first review failure, the email response didn’t mention “thin content”. It instead pointed me to “quality guidelines” where it talks about “deceptive” behaviors:

I really had not done any backlink building on this site. The only backlinks I paid for were from the HOTH. And, I disavowed them. I really don’t know what else could be wrong with the site now except that maybe Google doesn’t believe I’ll change and will go back to my “ways” after the Manual Spam action is lifted. If anyone thinks there some other reason (see my site on my name link) for the failed reviews, I’d love to hear it.

From the list you posted above for what Perrin plans to do for A Penny Shaved, that’s a LOT of work if Google isn’t going to lift the penalty. I suppose if it doesn’t work, then you’ll move the content to a new name. But, then you’ll lose the “real” backlinks you’ve so worked hard to legitimately earn.

Anyway, just wanted to give you my experiences in case it helps you with your strategy on how to recover your sites.


Spencer Haws

Thanks for sharing your experience here Jagger. Perrin also submitted his reconsideration and got denied after doing everything mentioned in the post. He will be trying a couple more times…very frustrating.

Rahul Yadav

Look at the bright side of this, this post got a mention from Search Engine Land 🙂
Good luck in your recovery!!!!!!

Just Thinking

“in my webmaster tools account”

“That plan has worked very well so far, and I’m especially happy to say that even though it shared a Webmaster Tools account with some of my other niche sites that were penalized, this site did not.”

“I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me to kiss PBNs goodbye forever.”

… and can do something Google doesn’t know about?

Dude, you are plague for people.

Never lose faith!

Google are stupid – it is algorithm, just be smart.

Sorry for your loss 🙁

… but the problem is in you.


You are very true when you say that SEO means long term.
Slowly, all techniques to build links for our own websites will be detected by Google and after a while we will understand that the best way to develop our websites is to create good and valuable content that is appreciated by our readers and maybe receives some links naturally.

Phuong Le

Which software do you use to filter the bad link poiting to the whole domain?

john brand

I understand your reaction to the update and using PBN’s now. You’re putting in time to build an authority site as pure as you can. I don’t want to be a debbie downer but it doesn’t matter, in my opinion. Putting in all that time to build a huge site and make full time income from one site sounds like a good long range plan, until Google decides you’re not worthy and shakes out your site with another update. What you might deem pure today could be very wrong in the eyes of Google a year from now. That’s the reality. You might as well tweak the PBN deal and bank.

Spencer Haws

You are actually missing the point (I only mentioned briefly in this blog post). In the long term, we hope google is only a tiny fraction of our traffic. This is not purely an SEO site. We are building an email list, getting paid traffic, social traffic, google/yahoo news traffic (eventually). Like Matt Paulson (see podcast linked to in post), we hope Google is a small portion of our traffic…for the very reasons you mentioned. Yes, we are doing everything we can to get Google traffic…but its one source…and we hope in time a very minor source for us because our other sources grow so large.


thank you


Spencer, when will we be getting our refunds for RankHero? I have emailed both you and your support several times. It usually takes over a week to get any sort of reply. The replies are typically along the lines of “sorry for the delay”, but never offer me the requested refund.

RankHero sadly did not work out long term. However, the terms of the service stated that the links would be forever. Clearly that was not the case.

I would simply like a full refund. What must I do to get the full refund?

Thank you.

Spencer Haws

Jason, if you have filed a ticket with the Rank Hero team, then it will get resolved. I apologize for any delays, but the people involved in issuing the refunds are indeed going through the process. I would recommend just following up with your ticket if you haven’t heard back in a day or so.


I like the helpful info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check once more here regularly.
I’m quite certain I will learn plenty of new stuff right here!

Good luck for the following!


Congrats on this site not getting penalized. It just goes to show that the web is maturing and only long term view approach will stand the test of google and time.


Hi, Spencer. Great post and meaningfull. I’m hoping I get your advice on how to build a PBN. How to identify the “broken thing” in the webmaster?will google send a reminder to our email?or we should identify it by ourselves?thank you

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