Several months have passed since I wrote about building a PBN. I was trying to rank University of Solitude in Google search results, for search terms “real life inspirational story”, “true inspirational story”, and many other long-tail keywords, related to inspirational stories.
Just to help you remember, very briefly, a PBN is a network of websites (typically aged, expired websites, with some authority and links from other domains pointing to them) that link back to your money site, and that were built with a sole purpose: to help ranking your main website (called money site in SEO terminology) higher in Google search results, for keywords of your choice.
Note: To read more about building PBN, check my article from March.
What I did differently than other people when building PBN
Note: This section is likely interesting only for internet marketers (who understand the terminology of PBN), and for people who work with private blog networks, or plan to build them, for promoting their own business. If it’s not your case, you can skip this section and move directly to the results (next paragraph).
First of all, I did my best to leave zero footprints when building the network:
- Each of the eight domains was hosted on a different account, different server.
- The domains were registered with different registrars, and all had private WhoIs.
- Different themes, plugins, and even redaction systems were used.
- I blocked all crawlers in htaccess, except of Google, Yahoo, and Bing crawlers (to prevent detection of the network from tools like Semrush or Majestic SEO).
- Some links were masked, so people would not even notice them when browsing the websites-just Google could, and would know, that there was a link :).
- I focused on extreme niche relevancy when buying expired (or auctioned) domains for my PBN. I would not buy a domain that wasn’t at least somehow related to my niche, and didn’t have links from other domains from the same niche pointing to it.
- I actually didn’t build blogs, but REAL websites, that somehow linked back to Universityofsolitude.com . To give you some examples: One domain in the PBN is a book review website – and one of the reviews went to University of Solitude. Another website is representing a non-profit organization trying to spread the world about terrible condition in Iranian prisons, and, of course, it links to University of Solitude as an authentic account of conditions in Evin prison. Third website is a personal project of a mother, who’s writing very emotional letters to her imprisoned son (I really enjoyed writing the content for that one :)).
Obviously all of that is just illusion – like 90% of things on the internet (and perhaps even in the world, who knows…). I am the author of those emotional letters, of those book reviews, or of the non-existing non-profit organization. But believe me, if 100 random people reached any of those websites, 99 of them would consider them authentic.
I also did something else:
- I scheduled the publishing of the content, so though I wrote all the content before leaving for Spain in the beginning of April, most posts and pages didn’t get live until mid May, with some having been scheduled for as late as end of June. These measures were taken to make the link building velocity look natural.
For those of you who care about the metrics, the domains in my PBN had anything from 10 – 100 unique referring domains, and a completely spam free history (detailed check with Wayback machine and other tools).
8 aged domains, high quality unique content, niche relevant backlinks, and no footprint. Sounds cool! But did this small PBN actually deliver the results we expected?
As you can see on the picture, the UniversityOfSolitude.com website got nearly four times more impression on Google search results in the last 28 days than it had got in the same four week period between the end of April and end of May. (The PBN websites were yet to be published or indexed back in May.) Though getting four times more impressions, we received just a few extra clicks. How that’s possible?
The answer is simple: We have climbed enough spots in Google SERP to be seen (on the screen of searchers), but not enough to be clicked on…. This is a typical picture of GWT stats for any website that rises to positions 11-40 for the targeted (or even not-targeted) keywords.
For example, as you can see on the picture, we have climbed from outside of 100 to 31 for the “true inspirational story” keyword (monitored by Serpbook). It clearly shows that PBN helped our ranking, but the rankings are still not good enough to result in a flow of organic traffic to our website….
And since all the PBN domains and posts are already indexed, we can not expect any further rise in the SERPS (unless I build more PBN domains, which I do not plan to do).
Key lesson learned
- Niche relevancy, top-notch content, zero footprint—none of that seems to matter much in PBN.
- Private blog networks do actually work, but you need a lot of link juice nowadays to make any significant difference in the SERP.
It’s all about ROI
At the end of the day, it’s all about return on investment.
It’s perfectly all right to pay $10,000 for a setup of a big PBN, and pay another $10,000 each year to host and manage such a network, if running it results in a $50,000 profit raise each year (profit comes from your money site(s) – selling books, products, services, whatever).
But it makes no sense to maintain an $800/year PBN (or even $500/year), if it isn’t strong enough to push your money site up to top 10 of Google search results, where the money (or other desired outcome –in our case book sales, and money for Red Cross) lies….
How can my experiment help you?
You know the keywords I tried to rank for, and metrics + specifications of the private blog network I’ve built. And you know the results I achieved. Analyzing the competition, and difficulty of these keywords, you should be able to estimate how big network you’d need to rank top 10 in your niche. And then do your math and consider if it is worth building one for your project. Because it may very well not be the case.
Obviously some people may think I’d be disappointed. After all, I invested nearly $1,000 in the network, and it took me a few weeks to build the websites and write the content, and make everything function as it should.
The results didn’t arrive—no top ten positions in Google search results spotted, no rise in organic traffic registered.
But hey, that’s how it works in business! You need to experience failures to eventually taste success. I’ve failed many times in internet marketing (and other business ventures), lost a lot of money, and sometimes I even lost my motivation (temporarily). But I never stopped believing, trying, learning, having fun, experimenting, creating. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just how it is. If you do not like it, or give up after the first failure, than this business isn’t for you 😉
That’s it for now friends. I’ll see you soon with next post (hopefully in a few days this time). I’ll write about our progress in shooting the documentary (there is some progress), and other work I’ve done in the month of July, trying to promote the book. Stay tuned 😉