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PBN Backlinks: Advantages, Disadvantages & Dangers

By the Rhino Rank team
6th Nov 2023

When navigating the world of search engine optimization (SEO), you may have come across Private Blog Networks (PBNs) and asked yourself whether they are an appropriate link building tactic for your website.

This blog post will explain everything you need to know about PBN backlinks, including why these links exist in the first place, the risks associated with PBN link building, how to identify if your site has PBN links, and alternative link building solutions that drive better, more sustainable results.

Key Takeaways

  • PBN backlinks are a controversial SEO tactic used to boost search engine rankings, as using this technique comes with the risk of incurring penalties from Google.
  • Google Search Console, Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and SEMrush’s Backlink Audit can be used to detect PBN links in order to protect sites against potential ranking drops.
  • Embracing ethical link building alternatives such as content marketing, curated link building, and guest posting is an effective way of avoiding the risks associated with PBNs while gaining long-term benefits for your website.

Understanding PBN Backlinks

PBN backlinks are a popular black hat SEO tactic that’s used to manipulate and amplify the search engine rankings of targeted websites. These links direct traffic towards the target website, with the intention of increasing their SEO performance. However, using these links also comes with an elevated risk of being penalized by Google, and eventually being de-ranking or even removed from the search engines altogether.

So, the question remains – Would you risk your website’s long-term success and security for the short-term benefits that arise from using PBNs?

What Are Private Blog Network (PBN) Backlinks?

Private Blog Network backlinks, also known as PBN backlinks, are links that come from a network of privately owned websites that are all used to link back to a specific, target website.

PBNs are usually owned or controlled by one person or business and aim to trick search engine algorithms and quickly boost the rankings of a website on Google. For this reason, PBN links are considered a black hat SEO tactic and go against Google’s guidelines, meaning using this technique can incur a harsh penalty and cause a decrease in PageRank, a drop in organic traffic, and reputation damage for the website owner.

So, whilst in the past PBN backlinks have generated some impressive short-term success in search engine rankings, they are now seen as unsustainable and can severely damage long-term SEO strategies. Therefore, it’s crucial that people considering using this technique understand the risks before taking action.


How Do Private Blog Networks (PBNs) Function?

Understanding the setup of Private Blog Networks (PBNs) is crucial to comprehending how they work.

Here are the steps involved in building a PBN network:

  • Purchase expired domains that are already indexed, have good SEO metrics, and can be seen as credible sites.
  • To hide the fact that PBN sites are being used, each site will need to be hosted on a different server with a different IP address to trick search engines into thinking the sites are owned by different people.
  • Create content for each of the PBN sites – this content is often created quickly, so is typically low quality and contains several links pointing back to the target website.

Through this method, these private blogs and website networks can artificially escalate a website’s power by boosting the number of inbound links it has.

The fascination for building links through PBNs comes from the ability to have full control over the link building process, combined with achieving quick results. However, there are several risks associated with employing this technique, so finding ethical alternatives for related link outreach is a must.

The Disadvantages of PBN Backlinks: Black Hat SEO Tactics

The practice of using PBNs is categorized as a black hat SEO tactic, which goes against Google’s Guidelines for creating an information-rich site that prioritizes positive user experiences.

Rather than gaining quality links naturally by creating valuable content and engagement, the purpose behind PBNs is to manually create links in order to manipulate Google search results. This is an extremely dangerous link building technique, as although you may benefit from short-term results, long-term success can only be attained by generating valuable content and building organic connections.

Google’s Stance on PBN Backlinks

Google’s link spam guidelines state:

“Any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results may be considered link spam. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

It is clear to see that Private Blog Networks are included in this statement and therefore go against Google’s guidelines.

Balancing the short-term advantages of PBN backlinks against their potential long-term risks must be seriously considered. Link building tactics that aim to manipulate the search results will attract a penalty if detected, such as demotion or even deindexing from the search engine altogether. This would result in the target website becoming completely inaccessible to its users and cause a substantial loss in organic traffic – something which could have immense ramifications for a business’s revenue.

So, it is best to avoid link schemes like PBNs if you want your own websites to rank well and consistently generate traffic and revenue.

Risks and Penalties Associated with PBN Backlinks

Using PBN backlinks carries the risk of facing consequences from Google’s algorithm. If this happens, the website may see a substantial decrease in PageRank and organic traffic. Making any gains previously obtained with this technique null in void.

It is also possible that Google may simply ignore the PBN links you have created, as it sees them as spammy and unnatural. Therefore, due to the time and resources needed to use and/or create and maintain and PBN network, it may simply turn out to be an expensive strategy that generates no results.

To avoid these risks, companies should focus on using ethical strategies that align with Google’s guidelines for long-term success, as obtaining high quality links will ultimately improve the rankings of a site and create more visibility without running the risk of receiving a penalty.

The Advantages of PBN Backlinks: Potential Benefits

The appeal of PBN backlinks lies in the control they give to website owners over their link building efforts and the fact they can generate rapid results. This offers quick advancement in the search engine rankings which tempts many website owners, despite the risks that come with it.

Control Over Link Building

In terms of link building, having control over your backlink profile with the use of PBNs makes it easy to choose the anchor text that accompanies your link. This is important as relevant, topical anchor text helps Google understand the purpose of the webpage and can have a significant impact on how that page will rank.

As many private network owners will let you choose your own anchor text, it’s easy to understand why so many people think using them is a good idea.

Nonetheless, using such tactics also presents long-term risks in regard to Google penalties and consequentially diminishing website credibility, which must be taken into consideration when evaluating whether or not to use PBN links.

Quick Results

Although there may be an initial spike in results and your SEO metrics as a result of implementing PBN links, this could end up being short lived given the potential penalties and ranking drops associated with utilizing black hat backlinks.

To ensure lasting improvements in visibility and overall performance within SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), link building strategies must take into account ethical alternatives that can provide sustainable success over time.

Industry Specific Links

If you want to rank in a highly competitive niche, such as the gambling industry or the adult industry, it is easy to see why PBNs might be an easy link building solution. This is because traditional link building tactics can be extremely challenging to execute, as many webmasters will refuse to have these types of links featured on their websites.

However, even if that is the case, it is important to understand all of the advantages and disadvantages of using a PBN in order to make the right decision for both now and in the future.

Identifying PBN Backlinks: Red Flags and Detection Methods

Identifying PBN backlinks can be challenging, so if you are worried that your backlink profile might include PBN links, it is essential to be able to identify these links successfully and take corrective actions in order to avoid potential search engine penalties.

Common Indicators of PBN Backlinks

By analyzing links pointing to your website, it is possible to identify common signs of potential PBN links. These indicators include:

  • Websites with low-quality, outdated, or irrelevant content
  • Websites with similar or duplicate content
  • Websites that use the same page designs, templates, and themes
  • Websites that have the same hosting provider or share IP addresses
  • Websites that have an excessive amount of outbound compared to having virtually no inbound links – this is an example of a manipulated backlink profile

Identifying these issues promptly allows for appropriate measures to be taken so that any penalties associated with using PBNs are avoided, while at the same time ensuring your website maintains a healthy backlink profile.

Tools and Techniques for Detecting PBN Backlinks

Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and SEMrush’s Backlink Audit are some of the tools available that can help detect Private Blog Network (PBN) backlinks in a website’s link profile.

Ahrefs can be used to examine your backlink profile. This will enable you to see which links appear unnaturally placed, overuse exact-match keywords or come from sites that are irrelevant to your industry and niche. In addition, you can track connections and access your site’s historical data, which will help you identify dubious patterns or signs indicating PBN links are being used.

Conduct a backlink audit using SEMRush

The Backlink Audit tool from SEMrush allows you to easily identify PBN and spam links. Once you have completed a backlink audit of your website, you will be presented with each backlink’s source URL, target URL, anchor text, authority score, and toxicity score. This allows you to easily identify potentially dangerous inbound links that might have been missed if you were conducting a manual audit.

Addressing PBN Backlinks: What to Do If You Discover Them

To ensure your website is protected from any penalties or dips in ranking, it’s important to be able to identify private blog networks and act quickly if PBN links appear within the link profile of your site. Disavowal of these harmful links combined with building natural, high quality links can help maintain and improve the overall condition of your backlink portfolio.

Disavowing PBN Backlinks

Search engines such as Google can be informed to disregard certain backlinks when evaluating your website’s PageRank. This can be done by using Google Search Console’s Disavow Tool, which enables website owners to create and upload a text document that includes a list of all the links or domains that they want to be ignored.

To ensure ongoing optimization it is wise to periodically monitor your backlink profile so you can swiftly disavow any suspicious links before they start to have a negative impact on organic traffic. There is not an exact timeframe for how often this should take place, but ensuring you maintain a healthy link portfolio is extremely important. In addition, submitting a disavow file will also prove to Google that your website does not support malicious link building.

Strengthening Your Backlink Profile

It is essential to focus on building high quality, authoritative links through ethical link building strategies in order to counteract the use of PBNs to build low quality links and manipulate your backlink profile. By creating high quality content and focusing on link building methods that are sustainable, you will ultimately benefit from improved search engine rankings whilst maintaining a healthy online presence.

Embracing Ethical Link Building: Alternatives to PBN Backlinks

Instead of relying on risky link building tactics, website owners should be building quality links from authoritative websites that abide by search engine guidelines.

Curated link building, content marketing, and guest posting are all ethical link building strategies that not only eliminate risks associated with using a PBN but also give great outcomes in terms of online visibility and authority.

Content Marketing and Outreach

Content marketing can be used as part of an advanced SEO optimization strategy, as it involves the creation of relevant, engaging, and informative content in order to attract customers to your website organically. Producing content of a high caliber and making it easily shareable can help in attaining quality backlinks from diverse sources.

By building your online network and forming relationships with experts and leaders in your industry, you will be able to grow your online visibility, gain more credibility, and obtain quality backlinks from authoritative sources in a natural manner.

Guest Posting and Collaboration

Engaging in guest posting and publishing original content will help you establish a wide range of connections, which will ultimately lead to more links for your site. This not only benefits the long-term development of your website, but it will also create a healthy, high quality backlink profile which will increase your online visibility and credibility.

Collaborating with industry influencers to produce content can also help you obtain authoritative links and bring a multitude of additional advantages, such as an amplified reach, bolstered credibility, and the ability to showcase your website as a source of reliable and trustworthy content. The establishment of productive partnerships also allows you to build up a strong network whilst generating valuable brand awareness and engagement.


To ensure long-term success for your website’s rankings and online visibility, it is vital to uphold ethical link building tactics such as content marketing, curated link building, guest posting, and collaborations instead of relying on risky PBN backlinks. This will help you to maintain a high quality backlink profile while avoiding any possible penalties and damaging your brand’s reputation and authority.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a PBN?

A Private Blog Network (PBN) is a collection or network of websites that have been set up with the intention of giving an artificial boost to another website’s rankings.

What are PBN links?

Private Blog Network (PBN) backlinks are links that are built using a network of privately owned websites. Obtaining PBN links from these sites aims to increase the authority of the targeted website in the eyes of online search engines, thus offering improved visibility and better placement when users enter keywords associated with that website and it’s content.

Are PBN links good for SEO?

PBN links are often used as part of a manipulative SEO strategy, which goes against Google’s guidelines and is not an effective long-term solution for gaining visibility. While there may be some immediate benefits that come with using them, in the long run, PBN links cannot guarantee continued success.

Why do people use PBN backlinks?

Using PBNs to create backlinks with existing authority can quickly enable website owners to improve their SEO rankings and online visibility. However, Google and other search engines are cracking down on low quality and manipulative link building tactics, so using PBNs to build links to your site comes with its own risks.

What risks and penalties are associated with PBN backlinks?

The use of private blog networks (PBN) backlinks carries poses several risks, including the possibility of being penalized by Google’s algorithm, witnessing considerable drops in rankings, or even being removed from the search pages altogether.

What is the difference between PBN and link farm?

A link farm is a series of multiple websites that all link to each other in order to improve their search rankings. Link farms are similar to Private Blog Networks (PBNs), but the difference is that PBNs are built to send link juice to a website outside of the PBN network, while websites within a link farm only link to each other.