I actually had a different post planned to go out today, and now have to change the scheduling of it and a ton of other posts because I felt the need to comment and rant about something before you all hear a bunch of misinformation.
There’s rumors of an algorithm update that happened a couple weeks ago. Google has said nothing about it, but people claim that rankings have been lost, and quite a few of these people are using PBNs.
The rumor is, PBNs are dead.
Before We Get Started
If you consider yourself an SEO, offer SEO services, or at the very least are learning SEO… there’s one very important thing you have to keep in mind.
You have to be able to analyze what is going on in the industry, without any bias whatsoever. If you are incapable of critical thinking, testing, and unbiased analysis, then there is something wrong, and you should consider entering a different field.
One of the biggest problems the SEO community faces as a whole, besides the gross misinformation and blind leading the blind teachings, is the fact that major influencers in the industry have something to gain by the information they share, or misinformation for that matter. They also have something to gain by having certain biases.
Remember forum profile links in 2011? The link sellers worked hard to convince people they still work. Hell, even to this very day, some people are still buying that junk.
In 2012-2013, people selling article directory links were doing everything they can to convince people it still works.
When deciding on what to believe, the first question you should ask is does this person have anything to gain from taking a certain stance? If so, even if you consider them to be very trustworthy, take the information with a grain of salt, it is their business, not yours, that depends on their stance being the correct one. While they are trying to protect their own businesses, yours will suffer by following false information.
That being said… lets dive in.
Are PBNs Really Dead?
No need to continue on, but I guess I will.
Barry Shwartz of SEroundTable made a post, about a forum post on BlackHatWorld. Feeding into this white hat propaganda lately that PBNs don’t work, they’re too risky, they’re temporary, and now completely dead.
I’m not aware of Barry ever taking a certain stance on the issue, and I think he generally does a good job reporting on different things in search. It’s not him that I’m worried about mass misinformation being spread, it’s a bunch of others that will do that.
There is one thing he said that I take issue with and that is:
Of course, Google doesn’t like PBNs and I am sure they have algorithms that try to demote or devalue such links.
What he said isn’t false about Google not liking PBNs. I do take issue with him saying that they have algorithms to try to demote or devalue such links. We have enough fear mongering in the main stream media, we don’t need it in the world of SEO.
If you run a truly private blog network, there is no algorithm that can demote or devalue the links. If it is truly a private blog network, that has been set up with some basic common sense (although not nearly as common as it should be) then there’s not going to be a footprint to find.
Why Are People With PBNs Having Issues?
Barry Shwartz is basing this “algorithm update” on reports of disappearing rankings, on black hat forums. For someone that visits black hat forums, or ANY SEO related forum, you will see reports every day that claims they lost rankings. It’s business as usual.
I’m not calling him out on bad reporting. It’s what he does, he keeps an eye out for any changes in search, what different people are saying, and what is being said or reported on forums.
The problem is, a bunch of white hat authority figures are going to use his post/article as fact, and fuel their own agendas to push their software, platforms, courses, content, etc.
Personally, I don’t believe there was an algorithm update that targeted PBNs. I don’t believe there will EVER, be an algorithm update that singles out PBNs.
Before I go into why people with PBNs may have issues, and why this is a big fat nothing-burger… I thought I’d reach out to someone to see their thoughts.
I went to Matt Diggity, of Diggity Marketing who has a massive network and is one of the most well known people for PBNs. Some of you remember his guest post here a while back. I asked him what his thoughts are of a possible algorithm change that targets PBNs, and what he thought about the rumors of PBNs being dead.
This was his response:
I just completed a round of PBN testing as per this protocol. 100% of the links tested in this test round showed very positive increases on their test sites. We can speculate all we want about PBNs, but data is data… and that’s what I’ll be sticking to.
He also added;
It’s very possible that some people are seeing ranking hits lately. Is it because of PBNs? Or possibly 200 other things? But if it is PBNs, I invite others to look at the quality of their setups, domains, and OBL patterns.
Now, to be fair, he does sell links in his PBN. However, he doesn’t exactly have to try very hard to sell them since he regularly has a 6+ month waiting list. He also isn’t a forum rat trying to pimp out link services to everyone that has a paypal or credit card.
I agree with him that there’s nothing to see here… yes there are people that use PBNs that have had rankings decrease, or even completely disappear. This isn’t anything new. There’s somebody it happens to every single day out of the year, and this has been the case for almost 2 years now.
Things To Look Out For…
If you’re one of the unlucky people that have had rankings decrease and you use PBNs, ask yourself a couple questions…
- Did you build your PBN yourself? If not, you’re depending on someone else to care more about your results than you do.
- Are you leaving an obvious footprint? Analytics? Webmaster tools? Monetization methods? IP addresses? What about name servers or A records you’re using? Often times people will use different C class IPs but use the same nameservers.
- Are you regularly testing your PBNs to make sure they didn’t turn to shit?
If there was a massive difference in rankings for ALL PBNs, I would still hesitate to say that it was an algorithm change that specifically targeted PBNs.
There’s a lot of factors that determine rankings. You all know this. The only way that PBNs will ever be successfully targeted as a collective, is if the value of backlinks diminish.
You’re safe, until Google decides to completely devalue backlinks entirely. While I do see a lot of evidence that suggests links are being weighed a little less than before, I think we’re still far from being in a world where Google doesn’t need to see links in order to judge where it should be listed. Unfortunately for those of you depending on PBNs, I don’t think that day is far enough away.