If you make the effort to stay one step ahead of Google, it’s increasingly difficult for Google to uncover your personal blog network. However, all PBN owners struggle, particularly when they operate at scale, with having to deal with an increasing amount of balls to juggle.
Little details can slip which can cause algorithmic penalties, link devaluing or spam reports from rivals. These can lead to instant penalties or manual reviews that uncover your networks.
So we decided to look at some of the most common, and perhaps not so common, ways PBN owners can sleep walk into a mass deindexing event or a penalty.
1# Other SEO Rat You Out
As PBN owners have gotten smarter, unable to catch us algorithmically, Google has increasingly resorted to crowdsourcing for help. By actively encouraging your rivals to submit reports to their spam team, they essentially conceded the battle to win the war.
Conversely, Google has provided less and less public link data over the past 7 or 8 years. The ‘Link:’ search operator barely returns anything these days. So your rivals have had to turn to 3rd party SEO tools that harvest and index your link details.
The solution is simple, what we call in the office ‘Link Privacy’. As an advanced PBN owner, you have to make sure these tools can’t crawl your network sites at any time. Your PBN will stop appearing in your client site profiles, won’t be easy to spot and be ripe for a rival to report.
Don’t listen to the tinfoil hat brigade. Google isn’t about to start spoofing Majestic and Moz and reindexing the whole internet to see what every single website is robot blocking. Despite it being highly inefficient, it would raise all kinds of trust and legal issues for them.
That being said, you can avoid some obvious patterns they could pick up naturally through your robots.txt. Read all about it in our quick guide ‘Attack of the Robots’ for the full details.
ExecPBN monitors your robot access across your network for 4 leading SEO robots. Not only that but we also check that Google and Bing can actually gain access at the same time. If anything changes, we let you know in your dashboard and you can correct technical errors with your Robots.txt right away.
2# You Link to Trash
PBN’s are powerful. They may not be the miracle workers they once were, but they can still rank some very questionable content. Unnatural search results grab attention. SEO rivals are much more likely to dig into your client’s SEO profile if you’re suddenly outranking them with nothing. This equals a spam report heading into to Google before you’ve even had time to admire your ranking prowess.
With CTR and return to search all important in modern SEO too, you’re likely to have varying gains unless you deserve to be there. Successful PBN owners don’t rank first and ask questions later. Their client or money sites deserve to be there in the first place. Their PBN links augment content that’s probably already gaining natural backlinks.
Which brings us conveniently to our next point…
3# You Rely Totally on PBN links
The slightly less ugly cousin of linking to trash is the using PBN links only mistake. As explained, you need your content to be good enough to be able to gain natural links too. It helps to blend the power your PBN links, hide them in a crowd and make it plausible that you deserve the rankings.
Even if you hide your PBN well, having little to no backlink profile in SEO tools will also set off flags with rivals. They are then much more likely to dig deeper, determined to work out your secret, uncover your efforts and submit that spam report.
4# You Start a Crusade by the Previous Domain Owner
You become a ‘domainer’ by default when you become a PBN owner. It can be easy to be short sighted and realize that not everyone is aware of the massive aftermarket for expired domains.
Run of the mill webmasters may think they can put off domain renewal cost for another month. Little do they know that it’s likely to be snapped up by a grateful PBN owner. This often makes them, justifiably, angry! This can be compounded if you scrape the old site, stealing a few years of hard work from them.
When weighing a domain purchase, look for abandoned sites and certainly tread carefully when purchasing those that have been active recently.
We’re not fans of using old content, mostly because of the wrong attention and copyright claims it can bring on you. Don’t stab the potential hornet’s’ nest of a scorned previous owner and get stung with a spam report.
5# You Penalize Yourself & Create a Manual Review
Avoiding algorithmic penalties is PBN 101. These often kick your client site to a manual review, which in turn unveils your network to Google. We have a wealth of tools that provide you with the very same data Google uses for its algorithmic calculations.
Furthermore, it’s the same data that it uses to quickly discover a poorly constructed network during a manual review too.
Imagine sitting in Google with ultra-detailed backlink data on your client sites pulled from its vast server farms. The Webspam team can probably pull some SQL reports from the many data points on your client’s backlink profile.
These are SQL queries that they are probably unable to execute on every site in their index algorithmically, in say a panda or penguin style fashion. These requests would not only create a massive processing overhead, the payoff would be tiny, as PBN’s only account for a tiny amount of backlink profiles.
So imagine the Webspam sorting a database table of your client’s site link profile and being able to sort by IP ranges, nameservers, domain registrars etc. If you you’re not diligent enough, it’s easy for them to discover your network during a manual review. So always ensure you’ve taken step to diversify every single data point Google could collect on your network sites.
Of course, avoid the penalty in the first place. Then decrease the likelihood of being discovered when a human starts snooping around too.
6# You Submit a Reinclusion Request When Your Links Are Still Indexed in GWMT
This one comes from a painful personal experience for our team. Your client gets penalized and you’re trying to get them back in the index asap. You remove them off your network temporarily. Then you make a well worded reinclusion request, repenting for your sins and offering plausible excuses about a former bad apple SEO firm they used to hire.
The issue is that your network links still hang around in your Google Webmaster Tool backlink profile for up to anywhere between 3-6 months. This is probably the same data the minions at Google’s spam processing team uses too.
This, of course, leads to further investigation and your expensively assembled PBN sites can start falling off the index cliff. Not only that, you put other clients at risk who shared the same domains as your penalized client.
So take caution when you submit a reinclusion request. Either wait for your network domains to clear GWMT, or if you can’t wait, consider clearing them of all outbound links before going ahead with the reinclusion request.
7# Your Network IP Ranges are Tiny (class C isn’t enough)
Common PBN wisdom states that as long as all your network domains are on a separate Class C IP’s, then you’re fine. As if a PBN domain is discovered by Google, they could simply reverse DNS the IP to find other domains that share that IP.
Secondly, one of the oldest algorithms Google uses (Hilltop), took IP range similarity as a way to establish if sites were related in some way. Therefore, if they were close or the same, they wouldn’t be valued as separate linking entities.
In terms of IP ranges, our theory is that they’ve increased the bar over the years to response to PBN & ‘SEO Hosting’. Having 200 unique class C IP’s isn’t good if they’re all on the same 2 or 3 class B ranges. You need to be as natural as possible.
Make sure your separate class C IP’s are across multiple Class A and B ranges, as this is one of the oldest and easiest ways Google has used to value links since it’s early existence. It’s also probably one of the easiest ways to uncover your PBN during a manual review.
8# Your Host Provides Many IP’s But They’re All in the Same Data Center
Just because you have separate IP ranges doesn’t mean they will actually be considered different by Google. Most SEO based hosts still use just a handful of different data centers. To say if all your backlinks coming from one location is not diverse enough is an understatement.
There are around 1500 data centers in the US alone, which is why you should always maintain a broad hosting portfolio.
9# You Rely Solely on SEO Hosting
It can be hard getting decent range of IP’s at a reasonable prices. A one stop shop can certainly seem tempting and does take away a lot of the heavy lifting. However, SEO hosting can cause more headaches than it’s worth.
Even if we put aside some of the issues mentioned already (at least) some of your network sites will always be at 10x the risk of being discovered. Because you’re sharing an IP with 10 other people operating outside of Google webmaster guidelines, you have 10 times risk of your domain being discovered.
Not everyone will use the same risk management, quality and link privacy techniques as an advanced PBN owner like you will. Not mention that Google can quickly cycle through an IP range and assess sites on nearby Class’s C too.
Services like Easy Blog Networks have really stepped up the game in terms of decentralizing the SEO hosting setup business model. This will only help you diversify your network though. The risk is always still there if you’re sharing with other SEO’s.
Spend the extra few cents and get some of your network domains on to regular shared hosting.
10# You Rent From Different Hosts But They are Owned by the Same Company
Big hosting companies often have many different brands, resellers or white label hosts operating on the same server and IP stock. This means that some of your sites could be sharing the same IP owner and datacenter, all decreasing your diversity.
Use something like our pattern tracker, take advantage of Host labels and be amazed at how few different business operations you might actually be dealing with.
11# Your Start of Authority Email Basically Gives You Away
Something we were caught with in the early days, yet it is so simple to avoid. Your DNS zones might be giving out a business card to your whole operation every time Google request to crawl your site. If you’re a non-technical SEO, don’t worry, we wrote an extensive post to help you avoid this hidden gotcha >
Make sure you have something like ExecPBN monitoring DNS patterns like these at all times.
12# Your Nameserver are too Similar
Hiding in the crowd with say Godaddy’s or CloudFlare nameservers can do a great job of concealing your PBN sites from each other. If you’re sharing with 10,000’s of other sites, Google is unable to algorithmically reverse your nameservers and you stay safely hidden in the crowd.
The problem occurs when you suddenly have 100 domains linking to your client from the same nameservers and alarms go off at Google. We’ve written about this in detail here.
Avoid this mistake by, you guessed it, keeping your network diverse. Also take the extra step of monitoring the patterns that you’re creating to your clients by isolating the details of the sites that link to them.
ExecPBN (plug plug) does this for you automatically, meaning you can see what patterns you’re creating at an individual backlink profile level too.
13# Too Many of your Domains Use Whois privacy
Whois details are pain in the backside for us PBN owner. Using ‘real’ spoofed ones can be hard to maintain and can also come back to bite you. It can be easy to turn to privacy services as a solution. Like nameservers hiding in a crowd also looks appealing in turns of people being able to reverse engineer your network.
However, again alarms go off if 75% of your client’s links are from domains using privacy services. These can help, especially the bigger ones. Don’t over use smaller ones as they’re more unique and easier to spot during a manual review.
14# You Use the Same Contact Details in Your Whois Info
Again PBN 101, but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t monitor this. Registrars will change it without notice to your default account contact details to comply with ICANN regulations. We’ve even had privacy services expire and reveal our real details to our horror.
Plan ahead, stay diverse and monitor for changes that could put your network at risk.
15# All Your Domains Are at the Same Registrar
Having 95% of your links from Godaddy, Namecheap or any single registrar of domains is completely unnatural. As the market leader, Godaddy still only has roughly 32% of all US registrar market share. Others are likely to be a fraction of that. So the issue compounds with smaller registrars who you might be cutting a great deal with.
If Google hasn’t caught on to this algorithmically yet, you know that this is an easy spot during a manual review. We monitor this constantly and spread or transfer our purchases around accordingly.
16# You Register All your Domains on the Same Day
One for the domain scrapers in particular, but auction buyers can suffer from this too. You spend one day a month suddenly (re)registering your plethora newly found domains. This makes your clients profiles look a little lumpy and is an easy win for a manual spam review.
# Final Word
As we mentioned at the start of this article, it’s hard to monitor and plan for all these eventualities when you’re operating at scale. That’s why the automation inside ExecPBN has been designed to help you keep a check on over 15 IP, Hosting & Whois patterns. This level of data intelligence and analytics make planning and risk management a breeze. It also keeps you one step ahead of your rivals and Google
Start your 15-day free trial today, give your private blog network operation the ultimate health check and protect your investment.