Last week, I wrote an update on my Authority Site Project. I revealed that my site had dropped in ranking a few spots, but didn't go into great detail as to why. In the comments a few users brought up potential theories about the latest Panda Update. Its very possible that some of the drop in ranking can be attributed to the latest Panda update (but its always hard to tell).
However, the comment that really caught my attention was a link to a tweet about Private Blog Networks by Matt Cutts (head of webspam team at Google). Matt tweeted in response to Dan Thies that essentially yes, Google is squishing Authority Link Network and other private blog networks are on their radar.
In addition, if you have been reading any forums or other sites related to SEO you have certainly heard lots of chatter about Build My Rank rumored to have been deindexed and other blog networks being penalized. So, what does all of this mean for building links via blog networks?
UPDATE: BMR Has Confirmed Here that Their Network Has Indeed Been De-Indexed
Are Private Blog Networks Dead?
First of all, its pretty rare that the head of web spam team would come out and say essentially, “We are keeping an eye on blog networks because we don't like them”. So, this makes it pretty clear (if you didn't know already) that Google doesn't like links originating from blog networks. And of course, I have personally advocated in the past for using Unique Article Wizard, MyArticleNetwork, and BuildMyRank via my Ultimate Linkbuilding Post here. So, here is my chance to qualify that.
Other Private Blog Networks include (and there are MANY others):
- Unique Article Wizard
- Article Marketing Automation
- SEOLinkMonster (some claim this new service has already had massive deindexing).
- RankJumpers (Just learned about this one from Tom's recent post at LeavingWorkBehind.com)
This list of private blog network could go on and on. In addition, there are a whole host of blog networks that are truly private to the owners and are not open and never will be open to other users.
My Personal Opinion and Results from Blog Networks
So, with enough chatter and commentary to scare anyone building niche websites; what's my personal opinion on the recent events? I personally have taken notice and will start to diversify more of my links using other methods. However, I will continue to use blog networks in the method I will describe below.
But first, its important to not just look at all the chatter and get scared; instead, I like to base my decisions on results. So, I've taken a look at my earnings and rankings over the past few weeks and here is what I have noticed. The sites that have relied heavily on blog networks for links have seen a small decrease in earnings and/or rankings. My sites that do not rely as heavily on blog networks have remained unchanged.
Overall, my 20 sites that I built in August of last year that I have been documenting (last post here) have seen a noticeable decrease over the past couple of weeks. My sites as a whole may see a decrease in earnings of 10% of so this month. I will do a more in depth analysis of earnings changes in my next income report coming at the beginning of April.
So, with that data, I can see from my own sites that some private blog networks are indeed losing some potency. However, I can ALSO still see that even with links exclusively from UAW and MAN, my sites are still earnings money (just less than before).
So, are private blog networks dead? No, but some are on life support.
The industry is changing and you would be smart to change with it. I have been building niche websites exclusively for about 3 to 4 years now. I have changed my linkbuilding strategy about 3 to 4 times as well. So, I will take this change in stride and change with it. Will you?
Obviously my exact plan going forward will require a detailed post on its own, but essentially I will follow these principles:
- Use more diverse link types outside of blog networks; including, article directories, web 2.0 properties, social bookmarks, blog comments, directory submissions, and others.
- Use blog networks sparingly pointing to my own site and more liberally pointing to other links I have built (link wheels as suggested by Pat Flynn's epic Backlinking Strategy).
- Find more unique links used by my competitors by looking at their backlinks using tools such as OpenSiteExplorer.com (paid version).
- Use guest posts, link baits, or other natural link building methods for my larger/authority sites.
Blog Networks will ALWAYS be Around
Even if Google were somehow able to go through and detect and de-index every single blog network that is out there right now, new ones would still pop back up tomorrow. So, it will always be a game of cat and mouse. The more likely scenario is that say Google does deindex some of the BuildMyRank network. BMR will then immediately go out and create new blogs or change strategies (which may be what they are doing now since they temporarily closed their doors). So, the networks will continue to evolve as search engines evolve.
The question is, do you want to be involved in this game?
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I am going to give myself less and less exposure to these networks directly in the future. But like I said, I will still use them as tools as needed going forward; just not as my primary link building strategy anymore.
So, the reality is that there are probably still some excellent blog networks out there and probably always will be. But there will always be a question mark for how long it can last. So, perhaps its time to evolve and change your own strategies with the industry changes.
Are Niche Sites for You?
I also have to address the bigger issue of whether or not building niche websites is a good business strategy for you or not. For me, I am used to change and expect it in the industry. So, I am okay with the changes that come and will continually come with the niche websites business. However, the learning curve can be too much for some people. So, you have to decide if building lots of small websites is right for you.
Of course, the other SEO business that is a more constant one and less susceptible to changes is building 1 website based on a passion of yours and constantly work on that 1 website for years. This is a strategy successfully implemented by Fraser Cain with his site UniverseToday.com. He's built this one site for over a decade and always focused on quality content.
He has never manually built a single link to his site, and yet he makes a very healthy six figure income from this one site a year (from Google Adsense I might add 🙂 ). Of course, he does have over a million links pointing to his site, but these have all come naturally without any effort on his part (other than providing high quality content).
I personally think its a better strategy for most people to build 1 website focused on their passion and build it into the best site possible. My issue is that my passion IS niche websites!! So, I have to follow my passion…I must build more niche websites! The one website that I DO focus on and build into the best resource possible is this one: NichePursuits.com! I have not manually built a single link to this site, just provided great content, and now have thousands of links from other websites. And of course I get more search engine traffic to this site than any other site I own.
So, I guess I do both: I build lots of niche websites because I enjoy it (and its quite profitable as well!). But I have one high quality website that will be less susceptible to changes in Google, and that is this one. So, I will always do both – I will build niche websites and share with you the strategies that do or do not work in hopes that you can go on and improve the bottom line of your own business.
So, Private Blog Networks are not dead, but they are in a state of change. Some are phasing out, but new ones will always come along. I have decided to give myself less exposure to these networks in the future, what will you decide? I would love to hear your comments, questions, or thoughts in regards to this subject…so drop a note below!