Are Private Blog Networks Really Dead Forever? (2015)

This first article is going to touch on a sensitive topic; it will cover the topic of blog networks, private content networks or whatever you feel like calling them.

What Is A Blog Network?

Don’t worry – I’m not going to explain all of the specifics of how a network works. I will, however, explain, briefly, what it is. In its simplest form, it’s a network of websites that you use to send link juice to your ‘money’ sites.

These days, most people use self-hosted blogs, which run WordPress, but technically, a blog network could consist of web 2.0 blogs, as well. When I say blog network, I’m talking about the bare minimum that is needed to efficiently transfer link juice to your money sites.

In my case, that is an authoritative blog that has a few articles on it with links to money sites. You can get really fancy and create networks that would be very difficult to discern from legitimate websites, but the majority of people won’t do that.

Let’s Get Into It

Since I actively build and use private networks, it’s very important for me to know if they’re worth my time and money. You can read all of the articles from popular SEO websites, and they’ll say private networks are dead, or Google did this or that.

The thing is – I don’t like to listen to anyone. How many articles actually show you hard evidence about a topic? I like to get my hands dirty and check the SERPs for myself.

Live Examples

The primary monetization that I use for my money sites is the Amazon Associates Program. I’ve never had any issues with them, they always pay on time and provide decent compensation for my efforts. To see if blog networks are dead, we need to go deep. Let’s take a look at a well-known niche that was invaded by Spencer from Niche pursuits.

‘Best Survival Knife’

 

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Looking at this picture, I counted at least four ‘niche’ sites in the top 20 results of Google. There is something propping up the rankings of those sites, so let’s take a deeper look and find out what is going on. I won’t say exactly what site we’re going to analyze, but I will choose one of the four sites.

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After plugging the site into the free version of Opensiteexplorer.org, from Moz, we can see, at a glance, the site’s domain authority and linking root domains. It didn’t take me long to spot, what I believe to be, numerous private blog network sites. Here are some examples of the sites linking in:

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You can already see three sites that appear to be blog network sites, and here’s a couple more:

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What do most blog network sites look like? Here are a few:

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That is your basic blog network site. Nothing wrong with them because they obviously work — plain and simple. I wanted to see if I could find a link back to the money site from one of the private network sites, and I did. Here it is:

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Here is another example of a live backlink to the money site from another of the private network sites:

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Opensiteexplorer.org isn’t the best tool in terms of analyzing backlinks, but it makes it very easy to see, at a glance, if a private link network is being used to increase a website’s rankings. We don’t have to do any more research to see that this site’s rankings are clearly the result of a private link network.

Let’s look at the other obvious ‘niche’ sites in the top 20 for the keyword ‘best survival knife’. Here are some more private blog network sites that are ranking some of the niche sites.

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A few of the blog network sites shown above have been deindexed, as OpensiteExplorer.org shows historic links, which means it’s still reporting links that were deindexed many months ago. The bigger picture here is that several niche sites are currently ranking for the term ‘best survival knife’, and their primary method for ranking is private network sites.

So far, it doesn’t look like blog networks are dead, but I can’t draw any conclusions after looking at only a single niche or keyword. Let’s look at another popular niche that is targeted by Amazon Affiliate marketers.

Behold, ‘best adjustable dumbbells’

Here are the top 10 results for the keyword:

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Right from the start, I can spot at least two sites that I know are ‘niche’ sites. After clicking on both sites, they’re both obvious Amazon Affiliate sites. Let’s quickly comb over their link profile to see if private networks are being used.

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I could go on all day posting pictures of private blog network sites, but I think you get the point.

The Conclusion

I’ve performed this research across hundreds of ‘niche markets’, and the conclusion is almost always the same. In fact, it’s somewhat difficult to find sites ranking in the top 10 that don’t have blog network links. Also, keep in mind that link research tools like Majesticseo, Opensiteexplorer and Ahrefs don’t always tell the truth.

They can only report to you what they’re able to see. There are many ways to ‘hide’ blog network sites from these tools. In fact, it’s become quite a common practice among blog network owners. There are even plugins made to automate the process of hiding your network sites from these tools.

So, if you find a set that, according to one of the link research tools, is ranking because it has a few blog comments and a cool name — you’re being deceived. There is a network hidden behind the veil.

I could go on all day showing you examples like the ones in this post, but I want to encourage you to do your own research. Yes, it takes time, but it’s crucial. All you need is an account at Opensiteexplorer.org, and you can examine sites in any niche and see for yourself just how much Google is dominated by Private blog networks. By doing your own SERP research, you will always know what is working in Google and who to believe.

What About The Massive Blog Network De-indexing?

As you might already know, during September, 2014, Google eliminated what amounted to thousands of private network sites. There were few marketers unaffected by the update. Personally, I believe some of the well-known bloggers were hit harder than they had you believe but that’s besides the point.

It’s quite obvious that Google manually attacked all of the affected sites. Maybe they have an algorithm to help them, but it’s unlikely, and an algorithm would only be able to spot the most obvious private network sites. So, how are we doing as of March, 2015? I would estimate that 90 percent of the sites I checked are ranking primarily with links from a private network.

What do I find even more interesting? About 8 out of the last 10 percent of sites ranking in the top 10 are ranking with pure comment spam. It’s possible that all of the sites I checked have spam comment links and have hidden the links from a private network, but it’s unlikely. Want to take it a step further and gain even more insight into the use of private blog networks and how they’re doing in today’s SERP environment?

Pay someone to sift through hundreds of niche markets and check websites ranking with PBNs. Have them compile a list of thousands of PBN websites. You can throw the list into Scrapebox and check to see what sites are indexed every day or week, so you can gain a top-level view of what is going on. With this list, you’ll have more data at your fingertips than even the most well-known bloggers on the topic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Responses to “Are Private Blog Networks Really Dead Forever? (2015)”

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  1. Jack Zimmer says:

    Hi, appreciate the article. I’ve been building PBN’s for a long time now and I believe it’s impossible for Google to decetct one, unless they are done so badly, they are screaming at Google ‘come get me!’

    Personallly, I build my PBN’s into my second tiers. They are less likely to get spotted, I mean, how many people go to the bother of checking the 2nd tier.

    Just to be absolutly safe, I use syder spanker to hide them from the most popular backlink checkers.

    • juliant says:

      I’m not sure it’s impossible for Google to detect them — they are certainly working on it, haha. As of right now, yes, it’s probably not possible, except for the networks that are being used by those who rank sites in the very spammy markets. Building the sites into a ‘second tier’ is probably smart. It would be interesting to know exactly how those in charge of finding and de-indexing private network sites go about their jobs — for example — do they actually have the time to go one, two or even three levels deep into a site’s link profile.

      I’ve heard a lot about spyder spanker but found it’s far easier to just block the bots with your .htaccess file. It will also save you about $70. How is the plugin working for you? Does it really block all of the bots, including the obscure ones that might be overlooked and reveal your link profile? Thanks for commenting, Jack.

  2. Derek Smith says:

    Juliant, I think one of the most important problems that I see with these niche sites is how easy it is for copycats to come in and steal your thunder when it comes to ranking for a certain keyword. When it comes to PBNs it is great to rank quick and hopefully quick, but how do you combat the people that outwork you as far as creating more and more PBN links and more and more content. It is always a constant battle in my opinion, unless you are going for an authority site.

    • juliant says:

      Personally, I’ve never really had a problem with too many copycats. I choose niches that don’t have many competitors but are also profitable. For example, I would never enter the ‘adjustable dumbbells’, ‘survival knife’ or similar niches that very popular bloggers have made examples out of. In those niches, it really does come down to budget and how many high PR links you have to throw at your site.

  3. Derek Smith says:

    My case in point with the keyword above best adjustable dumbbell, Tung Tran sold this site on Flippa for $10,000 https://flippa.com/2967160-749-last-30-days-5-8k-uniques-lucrative-amazon-niche-no-work-required using PBNs and other link building methods, now the site is no where to be found when it comes to ranking. Do you think it is bad business to build and flip these sites ? I’m sure the person who spent 10k on this site that gets little to no traffic now probably isn’t happy.

    • juliant says:

      Hey, Derek!

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I know of the site that Tung Tran sold. I think we can always ague the moral view on stuff like this. I’m sure the person who bought the site isn’t very happy right now, agreed. I just look at it from a couple different angles. For me to be OK with it, I believe the site seller needs to be totally upfront and honest about everything they’ve done to the site, including disclosing information about how they built links. As long as the site is doing well when they sell it, and they believe it will continue to do well for as long as possible, I don’t think the seller is doing anything wrong.

      You also have to consider the fact that the seller needs to be educated well in what they’re investing in. If the seller hasn’t educated themselves and end up in a situation with a tanking site like that, I think it’s kind of on them. If I didn’t educate myself on a stock option before buying and purchased $10,000 worth of the stock and for whatever reason, the stock plummeted in value within a few months, I wouldn’t blame the company that I bought stock in — I would blame myself and chalk it up to a bad investment, then life goes on, lol.

  4. Joey says:

    Wow, clicked through from warrior forum.

    You have definitely gained a new reader!

    I might pm you after I read through your articles, love to pick your brain on a few things.

    • juliant says:

      Great, Joey!

      It’s great to have you as a reader — if you haven’t already subscribed to my email list, I would do so to get the juicy bits I won’t share to the public.