Information and articles available online regarding private blog networks (PBN’s) are generally in one of two camps:
- PBN’s are incredibly blackhat and should never be used for proper search engine optimization.
- PBN’s are the most effective method currently to increase the rankings of sites for certain keywords.
It should come as no surprise that we here at Priority Prospect sway into the latter camp. We firmly believe that private blog networks are an efficient and quick way to build a search engine optimization arsenal. These stealthy networks of sites are aged like a fine wine, robust like an old scotch, and sharp like a strong vodka. But there is one shadowy monster that can take entire networks down like a surprise prohibition: FOOTPRINTS.
We have seen many large-scale, high-budget private blog networks over the years. We have heard horror stories of six-figure homemade networks deindexing at the snap of a finger due to a manual review. Carelessness ultimately leads to destruction in the long run.
PBN Footprints: What They Are and How to Avoid Them
A footprint in regards to a private blog network is, in its simplest terms, a unique identifier that can be traced and linked to all sites in your PBN. An obvious or researchable footprint leads to deindexing. This occurs when search algorithms notice patterns between these websites that make them appear to be connected. When this occurs, a real employee at that search engine steps in to perform an inspection, something that people in the SEO industry refer to as a “manual review”. If the manual reviewer knows what to look for, and you have an obvious footprint, they will find it and they will rain deindexations down upon your network.
But how to avoid this manual review and the possibility of penalties for obvious footprints? Appear natural. Let your PBN hide amongst the vast ocean of sites on the Internet. Avoiding unnatural patterns on the sites in your network is a major factor in ensuring that your PBN stays footprint-free and safe from penalties.
If the algorithms find clues that may lead to the discovery of a private blog network, search spiders close in upon what they think to be the network. They check site parameters and pass out penalties based on found. If a network fails the automated inspection, search engines might completely deindex the sites without question or second thought. Or they might push it for a manual review.
Ten Factors Playing Into Footprint Discovery
There are hundreds of factors that could lead to the appearance of a PBN footprint. We are going to touch upon ten of the most common reasons for the discovery of a private blog network footprint:
- Duplicated Start of Authority records (SOA)
- Blocking of search crawlers/spiders
- Content without topical relevance
- Scattered postings and scheduling
- Common whois data
- Similarities in nameservers
- The abundance of low-quality web hosts
- Sick and dying IP addresses
- Lacking proper site restoration
Duplicated Start of Authority (SOA) records
SOA records appear in a site’s DNS zone and help to track the DNS zone in DNS servers. These records contain a serial number (which is a timestamp), used to ensure the zone’s data is up-to-date. This can cause a footprint, as when you add your domains. If you add 15 websites at the same time, they will have similar SOA numbers, as the timestamps will be close together. Additionally, the SOA record contains the email address of the account owner managing the nameservers or domain name.
Blocking of search crawlers/spiders
Site owners can easily block search crawlers and spiders. Do this with all sites in your private blog network, though, and you are creating a footprint. In a batch of 50 random websites online, how many of them do you think have spiders blocked?
Content without topical relevance
This is a very common mistake for first-time PBN creators. Finding expired domains with relevance to a certain niche is difficult. Developing consistent content based around whatever obscure sub-niche your domain is related to is even more of a challenge. If you have a site on cooking, another on car wax reviews, and a third on travel rewards, and all three have a handful of articles on real estate development, you are throwing a massive red flag in the air.
Scattered postings and scheduling
Let’s look back at the real estate development trifecta of sites mentioned above. If for some reason a manual review doesn’t show articles lacking topical relevance, how would this look: Ten posts per site, all posted once per day in a chunk of ten days, four months ago. Scheduling of postings over a wide span, and consistent applications of new relevant posts, are vital to the lifeblood of high quality and footprint-free PBN.
Common Whois data
When registering an expired domain, the registrant has the freedom to hide the name of the registrant (whois privacy). If all your PBN domains have the same visible registrant, or if all your PBN domains have their whois privatized, you are in for a world of problems. This is one of the most common ways for PBN’s to be detected.
When registering a “pre-owned” expired domain name, make sure you use unique email addresses and registration information. Repeating registration emails is the kiss of death for even an otherwise-bulletproof private blog network. This information is easily crawlable and is a definite footprint linking your sites together.
Similarities in nameservers
A nameserver’s job is to tell your computer the IP address of the domain being connected to. If your nameservers point to the same exact IP or web host, you are creating a massive footprint and will be easily detected in both an algorithmic or manual review.
An abundance of low-quality web hosts
When developing a PBN, it can get expensive to host them on different platforms. Some PBN owners resort to utilizing cheap, low-quality hosting platforms to ensure diversity yet keep costs low. This can be harmful for your network. There is an alternative, though. Check out our PBN Hosting service to make your life easier.
Sick and dying IP addresses
IP address health is of vital importance when developing a bulletproof and footprint-free private blog network. The health of an IP addressed can be easily checked utilizing third-party tools and applications such as Scrapebox. Find all the domains hosted on a single IP address, and then check for the percentage of those sites that have been deindexed. With our PBN hosting service you don’t need to worry about sharing IPs with other PBN sites. We provide dedicated IPs and only you can use them for your websites.
Lacking proper site restoration
Wayback Machine is your friend here. When you do in-depth research on a potential expired domain name, one thing that needs to be checked is snapshots of previous versions of the website. Some of the sites in your PBN should have the same content that was on them prior to their most recent expiration. Wayback Machine provides this with some digging, but there are also third-party services to properly “exhume” the old site. Also, make sure you don’t have copyrighted content on your website that was restored from Wayback Machine.
The Best Way to Avoid a Hosting Footprint
If you are struggling to remember the above factors, developing a footprint-free private blog network will be a heavy task, and you will open yourself up to strong possibilities of manual review and deindexing. Luckily, our PBN hosting service offers zero-footprint solutions. Our product is effective and feature-rich, ensuring a full-scale, no footprint approach to hosting your network. We allow you to update your SOA record, use dedicated IPs, accept email to your domain, SSL support, and much more!