The Google War On Public Blog Networks
So it seems like I chose the wrong time to take a trip to Mexico! A lot has happened in the 2 weeks I've been away…
Here are my thoughts on the Google crackdown on PBN's and how my network has performed.
What I Will Discuss In This Post
- How my network effected
- My take on the reaction of the SEO community
- How to move on from here
- Building a better network
- Plans for the future
So What Went Down?
I will keep this brief as I'm late to the party and a lot has already been covered elsewhere.
In a nutshell, Google came out with an assault on a sites that belonged to link networks, with some of the well know larger networks taking on huge casualties.
Rank Hero, which is ran by Hayden of NoHatDigital had 40% of their sites deindexed. There were also comments flying around over on the black hat forums of people losing large chunks of their network.
Glen of Viperchill also took a 5% hit to his large network – which is probably one of the smallest hits I have seen.
As for the money sites using these networks to rank…many received messages in their Webmaster Tools account with a “Thin Content” penalty warning. Which resulted in their sites bombing out of the SERPS.
I'm sure you've seen many of the posts already so I will jump right into it.
Was My Network Effected?
I came back to a number of emails from concerned Rank Source clients and blog readers who wanted to hear how my network has been effected.
I am please to say that so far Rank Source remains untouched.
Yep – Not a single one of my sites has been deindexed. How long this will last I don’t know, but later I will summarise my thoughts on why I think the network remains ok and why I believe there's more to come.
Where I was hurt however, was with customer cancellations.
Turns out that there were a number of Rank Hero customers who were also using my network and as a result of their site being nuked – they no longer required the PBN package.
So whilst my sites did survive, I still took a financial hit.
Why Did I Emerge Unscathed?
There could be a 101 reasons why my network remains intact, and whilst I am happy to be in the position I am, I still believe the main tactic here was to rock the PBN boat.
When a tactic (such as PBN's) becomes more mainstream, it makes sense for the big G to step in and get people running scared screaming “SEO is dead”…
and you know what, it worked.
The possible reasons below represent my own personal thoughts. They could be completely wrong, however since I don’t work for Google – I can only make an educated guess.
- Being a small a fish in a big pond
I believe Google set out to create some big waves and a lot of hype. By targeting the biggest and most vocal networks and bloggers they gained maximum impact.
Not only did they hurt the network owners, they also made their customers run to the hills to hide out for a while.
- My absolute refusal to cut corners
Simply put, whenever people asked me about ways to save time & money with PBN's I have a stock answer;
DON'T DO IT
For example there is;
- SEO Hosting – For me this was a big no-no and an obvious indication that you have a PBN. I do use HostNine from time to time but for Rank Source, each site has it's own unique hosting account.
- WP Dashboard Automation Tools – another shortcut people want to take is to use a plugin to link together all of their sites so they can manage them from a single dashboard. Again, I have never used these, primarily as they didn't exist when I started building my network.
- My refusal to publish reports
This is one element I have stuck to from the very start.
Whilst it has certainly hindered my ability to work with many people who saw a monthly link report as a ‘must have’, I feel this has been a key reason in maintaining my network.
I have been asked over and over again by existing and potential clients to provide a monthly report that details exactly where links have be built each month.
You will have seen from my ‘PBN Footprint Checklist’ that I published in December 2013, that I state reports of any kind are a big no-no.
My Thoughts On The Reaction So Far
It didn’t surprise me to see people running for the hills. After all, if you have been in the SEO game for any length of time, you will know that this is what happens after every Google Algo update.
Do I think blog networks are dead? No.
Do I think Public Blog Networks will come to an end – yes, eventually.
The key word here is Public.
The acronym PBN gets banded around a lot and is used to describe both Public and Private blog networks. I think now more than ever the ‘P' in PBN should stand for PRIVATE.
Doom and Gloom
You will obviously get the scaremongers and those who predict the end of the world as we know it.
There are even some that will throw in the towel immediately.
It was easier for Spencer to do this because of how well he has diversified his portfolio and always kept an eye on bigger and better things. Google simply made the decision easy for him.
On the flip side, there are also those that push on and advise that that thing to do is to stick it out and keep doing more of the same, perhaps with a slight twist.
What you need to take into account is the person’s current frame of mind whilst sharing their thoughts. For example;
Tung Tran of CloudLiving
Tung expressed his opinion that PBN’s are dead., which was no surprise if you look back to May-14 when he stopped posting on his blog and moved away from Niche sites. I am good friends with Tung and I know he has been against PBN’s and black hat SEO for a while.
Therefore it didn’t surprise me to see that post.
There are some very good and thought provoking posts on the subject which you should certainly check out.
How Should You Proceed?
The way I see this whole thing going is that SEO’s will eventually start to realise that that need to keep their networks low key.
Small, close-knit groups of 3-5 people will get together and pool their resources. A few guys from the PBN Course have already started to do this and I think it’s a great idea for lots of reasons;
- You limit your expenditure
- You increase your reach and options available
- You decrease your exposure
- You have a small mastermind group of sorts and can keep each other informed on the latest SEO news and best practices
- It’s easier to manage 10 sites each than 50-100 sites by yourself
Building A Better Private Link Network (PLN)
To use a new acronym, a PLN is a Private Link Network. I see this as the future for SEO’s looking to rank their sites using techniques that still work.
Here’s how it goes;
Picture your niche/authority sites and imagine how much time and effort that goes into the content, the structure, the layout, the styling and logo.
Now take this blueprint and apply to your PLN sites.
Each site must;
- Have unique ‘Non SEO’ hosting
- Use quality content that you would be happy to share with others – if you’re using spun content. STOP.
- Have a persona or a personality – who are you and why have you created the site? Get creative.
- Have a good style and format, including custom logo and graphics
- Limit the amount of outbound links to money sites
- Include links to other authority sites, News, Wikipedia, Facebook etc
- Avoid exact match anchor text links – keep it looking natural
- Have a unique email address associated to each registrar
- Block backlink crawlers using a mixture of methods (robots.txt, plugins etc)
Some of the more general rules are;
- Use a mixture of platforms (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, HTML)
- Keep the sites niche specific
- Buy brandable domains with age and a clean history
- Avoid domain auctions – use a broker (such as DomainHaul 🙂 or learn to find domains yourself)
- Keep it private, that means to yourself or within your small PBN owners group
Two of the key attributes your PLN sites should have that I would like to point out are…
Be Niche Specific
I have mentioned a few times about having a niche specific private link network that is used only by you. If you are to build a network, you must ensure that it is niche specific and as relevant as possible
Improve Your Site Quality
- Platforms – using the same CMS (read WordPress) for each site is not the way to go.
- Article Quality – improve this to a point where you would be happy to share and tweet out the content you have published
- Link Velocity – ensure you have content that doesn’t contain links
- Authority Site OBL’s – linking out to other authority sites is something you should have been doing, however I know many don’t. Share the love and don’t just link to other money sites.
- Social Profiles – Have them set up and make them active
My Plans For The Future
So what does the future hold for my network and other businesses?
Whilst on vacation I had time to reflect on how this “PBN War” would impact three of my business.
For me it is without a doubt more of the same. I will continue to build PBN’s and increase the size of my existing ones.
I am toying with the idea of allowing access to my higher end network, which would be an application only network and limited to only a handful of people. This also reflects my thoughts on where I think PBN’s and SEO in general are going.
If this is something you are interested in drop me an email.
I still believe that the course and all of its contents holds true. We will be updating a couple of things coming this week that reflect the recent events, however the core of everything we teach remains true to how myself and Doug build our networks.
This is a tough one as the business has just completed its 2nd month of operations. The last 2 weeks of September were obviously very slow due to people being worried about PBN’s, Expired domains and generally waiting until the dust has settled.
I predict a pivot in the model where the domains we have can be used for other things. More on that to come in a later update, I still need to iron out the finer points.
I will continue with my niche site challenge for as long as it takes to come to a natural conclusion.
I will not however be building anymore niche sites. There comes a time when the buzz around building and ranking a small site just isn’t there anymore, and that time has come.
Therefore my focus will lie elsewhere.
In August 2014, I started what will hopefully become a 5 figure per month website.
This authority site is in a competitive niche and will use a combination of keyword research, current news and trends and white hat only SEO techniques.
Traffic generation will be the key to its success and whilst it will operate on a ‘affiliate commission’ basis, there will always be the option to introduce my own products in the future.
This will be a slow and steady site, so expect an update from time to time on its progress.
If you want an idea of where I'm heading, check out Gael of AuthorityHacker.com
Outside of SEO – Other Business Models
I have always been interested in Paid Traffic. My first major foray into paid traffic came with my successful TeeSpring campaigns. Since then I have been thinking of ways to continue my learning and hopefully create a new revenue stream.
In April I commissioned a developer to build a site that will focus on a competitive niche – Accommodation.
The site is run using and API provided by the company I will be an affiliate for. The site has all of the core functionality and all that’s left is for the styling to be completed.
Several weeks ago, I shared with my mastermind group my plans to get involved in the ecommerce space once I returned from Mexico.
I have been planning my brand and have products lined up that I will private label and begin selling on Amazon via FBA.
Pat Flynn recently published a podcast on this very technique that has seen people create a 6 figure business in a short space of time.
This is a growing space and there is still plenty of room to build your own brand and line of products. This is what I would call a ‘real business’ that steps away from SEO and places that focus on market and product selection, with a twist of marketing and some awesome customer service.
So what's your take on the Google PBN War? Will you be throwing in the towel or learning from this and moving ahead?