Serious PBN Footprints & How to Fix Them

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Private Blog Networks or PBN is an SEO tactic that drives organic traffic which search engine webmaster rules have considers a violation.

How then could you avoid serious PBN footprints that harm your domain reputation?

Serious Fixing for Serious PBN Footprints: Rooting out the Problem and Practical Solutions

Every webmaster aims to get the top spot in the SERP as the much sought for the 33% of organic traffic in every search query being done on a search engine.

While 33% don’t seem so much, just do the math for an average of 70,000 searches happening every second in the largest search engine in the market, Google.

Just imagine if those thousands of searches are about your niche, you’re about to get more or less 21,000 of the organic traffic. Now, you see at least how much could it possibly be.

Of course, on that searches every second, not all of it is about your niche, so that means the amount of traffic you might gain goes down.

Still, being number one on the search engine results page for your niche would guarantee a sure click of at least a third of all the searches about your keywords.

That also means a clean third that could be converted into sales, a sure traffic volume that can increase your income from ads on your site, and better market saturation for your brand.

This very goal of gaining the major chunk of the traffic is what drives SEO professionals to become more creative to win the top spot.

Yes, very creative. Why so? While the numbers vary, it could be estimated that within your keyword or niche, at least not lower than hundreds of other sites competing for the same spot you are aiming for.

You can get the number of competitors you have for a certain keyword by doing keyword research using powerful keyword research tools available online.

With the big picture on sight and the target being set, webmasters employ different SEO techniques that can help boost the scores of their domains and pump them to the top spot.

One of those techniques is the building of Private Blog Network or PBN.

What is a PBN?

For those who have been doing SEO, you might already be maintaining one of these but for the sake of those who are new to SEO, I would like to elaborate more.

A private blog network is a cluster, bunch, group of, or whatever you wanna call this collective group of domains that are connected through backlinks, points to the main money site and, are owned by a single owner.

This means that you own multiple domains, set it up as a website, put content on it, and interconnect them by linking them together through articles on each domain, then all of them have a link to the main site that you are boosting the website ranking.

This is like promoting yourself with a bandwagon of yourself to be put into a good light. Sound very narcissistic, isn’t it?

How PBN Works: Search Engine Science 101

Now, what’s so special with the PBN? What’s the catch? Let first understand how search engines work.

For your site to rank first in the SERP, it should have the most referral from multiple other sites with you can compare to be being the most famous guy on certain questions on your street.

Aside from being the most referred, those who referred should also be trustworthy sites, meaning, those who point to you are trustworthy folks in the street too.

Now, your PBN is like a bunch of your friend who knows you very well with the difference that of the PBN is just, you. Do you see the picture now?

With PBN, you created multiple websites that point to your main website or your money site and the PBN are those referrers.

The earliest webmasters have found this loophole and have invested extensively in building PBNs to be their link farms securing the top spot for their main sites.

However, this loophole was irresponsibly exploited wherein tons of irrelevant websites are pointing to the main money site losing the credibility of the referring sites, and thus affects the results for every search query.

Sometimes, one would get an irrelevant website at the top of the SERP for a certain search query because an irrelevant site was just the most referred site.

That’s why search engine companies decided to put regulations and enhanced their web spiders on how crawling is done across the web to maintain fair competition and quality search results.

What are the Regulations: Webmaster Guidelines

As early as 2015, the publication of webmaster guidelines has been visible and one of the primary publishers was Google. The said search engine has already been establishing its reputation as the top search engine in the Market.

Now, in December 2017, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines have tagged the use of PBNs to be malpractice, or in the SEO jargon, is considered a Black Hat Technique.

Although, some SEO professionals were able to found a loophole in the guidelines to make the use of PBN considered being a Grey Hat Technique.

The webmaster guidelines change every year depending on how the search engine companies see the trend in the technology to safeguard the quality, speed, and reliability of search results.

PBN Footprints

Search engines have this web robots that are called Crawlers. Sometime also referred to as spiders cause, why not? They’re on the web, the world wide web anyways.

Now, these crawlers are responsible for choosing which domain would be on the front page of the SERP. Yes, tons of these robots working to quickly show search results.

And that is right, the webmaster guideline is the basis of the crawler algorithm.

When a search engine user enters a query, these crawlers will go to each page on every domain that has the search keyword. But that doesn’t end there.

These crawlers are intelligently programmed and smart enough to determine which is which.

Although every search engine has a slightly different algorithm, they all share the common goal and that is to detect which are violating the general rules of website optimization.

Now, these algorithms follow a dominant set of behaviors that will be called a red-flags and these collective red flags on every domain under your PBN could be considered as footprints.

This footprint leads towards you, being the owner, and to your main money site.

Since the utilization of PBNs can be penalized by the search engines, you don’t want these crawlers to get even the slightest hint about your farm that could eventually lead to getting it discovered to be a PBN.

That’s the reason why here at T-RANKS, it is strongly advised to have these PBN Footprints checked and cleaned from time to time.

Why Need to Fix

While your goal as a webmaster is to strengthen your domain position in the SERP, it is also your job to keep your sites healthy and far from being penalized.

It could be quite costly for you as an SEO practitioner to have your website penalized after an exhausting SEO campaign so better be smart in doing so.

Also, investing in PBN comes with a price and a risk, not only domain names and website hosting platforms cost sums of money, but it also takes time to build a PBN.

It is important to keep the domains within your PBN clean and unsuspicious for web crawlers.

I grouped into different categories some of the serious PBN footprints that might need fixing on your blog network so that it will be easier to root out where to begin and what to focus on based on your needs.


Back-End Level (Servers) Checklist

Having technical knowledge of website development is a very helpful tool for fixing PBN footprints. It could as well help you avoid some.

The Back-End Level checklist deals with some server-related factors where crawlers could follow trails of your private blog network.

One key takeaway that you can get in this checklist is the value of diversification for example, a serious PBN footprint can be left if there is a duplicate SOA or Start of Authority.


In building a Private Blog Network, one of the starting points is always be the Domain Name.

It could be a result of careful keyword research, backlink analysis, and a combination of other site metrics from where you come up with the list of prospective domain names to purchase.

If you are about to build a PBN, start it right by having your domain name placed on different Nameservers.

Website Hosting Servers

Hosting servers are the place where you store your actual websites.

Lots of hosting servers nowadays are currently employing cloud computing technology via virtual machines.

First, see to it that different domains you own are hosted on different hosting servers. This will reduce the risk of getting your PBN easily found.

It is like buying different houses and lots in different states or cities rather than cluster all properties in a single town or a single building.

Second, some hosting servers also host domain names, meaning they also have nameservers. Avoid housing both your domain names and the actual domain on a single server.

Third, and equally important as the first two is to host your website on reputable website hosting servers. There are tons of them in the market.

This might sound risky as you might think you are to hide your PBN and, yes, you are hiding your PBN in the sea of legitimate websites and that is the actual trick.

E-mail Exchange

Some PBN building utilizes E-mail exchange even on their PBN domains. While this is tedious, this is actually a smart move as it adds to the domain legitimacy.

However, if you’re employing this, better to have your e-mail exchange servers diversified as well.

Avoid Cheap Web Hosting

Quality always comes with a price. That’s non-negotiable. Going for very cheap web hosting comes with a risk.

The risks in server security, privacy, bandwidth, and speed, as well as server reputation, could be a deep mud where footprints could be left exposing your PBN if left unchecked.

While it is true that expensive doesn’t always mean quality, so as cheap doesn’t come with quality so it is best to avoid cheap web hosting.

Avoid SEO Hosting

There are website hosting servers that offers SEO hosting. These servers are loaded with SEO-boosting functions that are helpful for main money sites. But, never helpful to your PBN.

Your PBN itself is a search engine optimization technique so you don’t want to get it exposed because of having another layer of SEO.

Go for website hosting instead of SEO Hosting servers.

Secure Your Domains

A non-secure website is alone enough to make your website suspicious even if it is the main money site aside from it being prone to attackers and hackers.

How much more for a PBN domain. That will surely get your domain busted before you even know it. You want to avoid this so make sure to make all your domains secure.

Secure websites always begin with an “https” which means Hypertext Transfer Protocol SECURE“.

Some web hosting servers offer free SSL upon purchasing server space on them. There is also free SSL certificate provider where can obtain one for each of your domain.

Front-End Level (Website) Checklist

From the word itself, the website that every internet user sees and interact with is the front-end.

In our Front-End Level checklist, we are taking a closer look at the elements of the actual websites, pages, posts, aesthetics that could be a probable place of PBN footprints could be left.

Another key takeaway is the importance of uniqueness and originality especially in content writing and website designing.

Content Management System

Your CMS is your front panel for managing your website. While WordPress is the most easy-to-use CMS, some other CMS is available for use such as Joomla, Drupal, and cPanel.

Having all your domains using the same CMS is prone to having a footprint of your PBN that crawlers have left. You don’t want to get busted because of this.

Themes and Plugins

Make sure that every domain you are setting up uses a completely different theme without any of the domains on your PBN having the same theme.

Domains that use the same themes give a strong impression to the crawlers that they could be owned by a single owner. Avoid that.

Although it might cost you a bit, buying some premium themes package would be a great investment. This also goes with plugins.

Plugins usually come from third-party developers and if are not from reputable ones, could be a security risk to your private blog network.

What more is that sourcing plugins from a single developer will not only make your domain suspicious but will also be a problematic one if in case there was an issue with the plugin from that single developer.

Content is King

SEO practitioners surely know this. Your content is the key element in attracting traffic to your domain, whether it be the money site or part of your PBN.

Invest in quality writers and quality write-ups as it also strengthens your domain authority score reducing the risk of getting followed by the crawlers and tagged as a private blog network.

If you yourself are an SEO writer, make sure that you don’t forget important elements on your content like properly placed keywords, unique Youtube videos, and other digital media materials.

Avoid Article Spunning

Plagiarism? Big No. Article Spinning? Never. Discard the very notion of paraphrasing old contents from within your PBN. This is a spammy behavior that is common on PBNs.

Google Panda algorithm has become smarter at tracking these kinds of articles and together with the web crawlers leaving footprints on your domain, the risk is just too high for having spun content within your PBN.

Domain Checklist

It is also important to check your domain levels such as the individual web pages and the interaction between different domains within your blog network.

I would like to stress the importance of the backlinks that connects your PBN from within, external link entering and exiting, and the links pointing to your main money site.

Repair Broken Links

One factor that gets a website flagged is the number of broken links it has within its domain. Why so?

Most of the domains under a private blog network are old matured domains that were purchased for the sole purpose of it. Search engine algorithms, especially the one from Google know it.

Now, old purchased domains have backlink values that were based on pre-existing pages it has before it expired way back time. Sometimes, the number of old pages is way too much to be re-created.

Various tools are available to check the broken links of your site and there are plugins available to re-direct these broken links and have them fixed once and for all.

Maintin Link Activity within the PBN

A very serious PBN footprint you have to avoid is to have all the backlinks from your PBN directing to your money site. It’s just pretty obvious.

Keep the link running from within your private blog network interlinking every domain to one another.

Tiered PBN Building

As mentioned above, another helpful technique to avoid leaving a PBN footprint is to tier your domains.

As much as possible, have a set of 3-tiered PBN where the top tier is your money site. The lower tier has a significant focus on pointing backlinks to your main money site and the last tier would be focusing only on empowering the 2nd tier.

Don’t Clog the External Backlinks

Invest in having external backlinks pointing, not only to the main money site but also to your PBN as well.

This has a very valuable impact on your private blog network as it helps you give an extra defense towards red flags as you are still connected outside of your private network.

Also, you are ought to direct links to authority sites as well as educational institution websites and credible news websites.

Overblocking Crawlers with Robots

While it is very valuable to use robots.txt in your domains, overdoing it could also make your domain suspicious and that’s a footprint that can be followed.

You may block the crawlers on following the trail of your plugins, your main money site, but also, randomize the employment of robots across your PBN.

This makes your domain within the PBN look natural on the crawler algorithm.

General Checklist

There is also a general list of things to check to get fixed or might as well avoid so that your PBN will not leave a footprint crawlers can follow.

Never Use Google Websmaster Tools

Google is the largest search engine on the planet and most of the rules of the game come from them.

It is simply unwise to use their webmaster tools for the domain of your PBN. It’s a suicidal move. You may instead use other paid SEO tools that are not developed or affiliated with Google.

Overchecking Your Domains

Search engines might find it somewhat spammy that a website is consistently being searched from a single IP address. That can leave a footprint especially if you are oversearching your domains.

Use Realistic Whois Information

Put real names on your blog authors and website administrators. Use real address and contact information that can be obtained using web-based fake name generators.

Use Mozilla Firefox

Whilst Google SERP is the place to target the top spot, it will also be helpful to use Firefox instead of checking if your domains are indexed in the Google search engine.

Review and Fix Your PBN

If you already have established your Private Blog Network, it’s time to review and check if they are footprints being left.

If you are about to start building one, the checklist above can definitely help your start it right.

Don’t have your budget and efforts on planning and executing your PBN game plan get thwarted with some serious PBN footprints being left when you can have them fixed after all.

Good luck on your SEO journey and always remember, be smart!

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