On Backlinks, PBNs, Ranking, & Manipulating Google's Search Algorithm

Last Update: November 20, 2015

There was a bit of a "lively" discussion yesterday and I wanted to share a few of my thoughts, give you some background, and explain why you'll never beat Google at what they do best.

On Backlinks

Let's clear up some confusion first.

Backlinks are absolutely still a relevant metric in Google's search algorithm.

HOWEVER.

That is just one metric out of HUNDREDS.

Backlinks do play a role, but the problem begins when people spend the entirety of their time focusing on building backlinks only. Strictly building links to a site is an outdated method of SEO.

This is why we saw Google release Penguin in 2012. Backlinks became such an easy way to manipulate your own rankings. You could buy 5,000 backlinks for $5 and shoot your site up to the top of the rankings. Google caught on and penalized tens of thousands of sites. Entire businesses disappeared out of the search results due to people trying to beat Google at their own game.

At that point, backlinks were given less of a role in Google's main algorithm.

Enter Private Blog Networks...

On PBNs

With backlinks still playing a factor, networks began to pop up still allowing you to buy backlinks, but in a way that looks natural. The main goal of a PBN is to make it look like you have a lot of organic backlinks pointing to your site from high-quality, authoritative sites.

And honestly, right now, it works to some extent.

RIGHT NOW is the key phrase of that sentence.

At the end of the day, you're attempting to manipulate Google's search algorithm. Google is the number one tech company in the world that built a company fast approaching a trillion dollar valuation.

How long do you think they will be fooled by simple link wheels?

By participating in PBNs, you are essentially gambling with the future of your site and your business. I don't think a private blog network is going to outsmart them forever, especially when they've made it abundantly clear that they are not happy that people are using them and have made examples out of "guaranteed" PBNs in the past.

Where is your focus?

Seriously, take a look at yourself and your business. Where are you spending most of your time? Are you creating new content for your websites every single day? Or are you busy worrying about your WA rank or what's happening on Facebook?

How often are you adding content? Are you writing more on Twitter? Are you adding more blogs here at WA than on to your own website?

You can't reasonably expect to build a business by adding 3 new articles to a site per month. You wouldn't show up to a job on the 1st, 14th, and 22nd of each month and expect a full-time salary (and not to get fired). Do not treat your own sites any differently.

My Own Key Ranking Metrics

My entire business was built around one philosophy:

Write content that I myself would want to read.

You will never succeed if your main focus is outside of your own site. You could have the strongest backlink profile in the world, but if your content is thin, it won't mean anything.

  1. Keep the main focus on creating content for your website.
  2. Engage with your readers.
  3. Reach out to other communities.
  4. Build a strong social network.

That's all there is to it.

There is nothing manipulative about that strategy. Those are the four key focuses that have built me a six-figure+ business online. So I have a little faith that they work.

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TrondVD Premium
Thank you for this post! It clears up the confusion the post yesterday caused. And your point about working with your sites every day, well that's what it takes. Treat it like your job and it will pay in the end. With your advice here I will proceed with WA.
Six figure income!
Wow to get there one day :-)
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TanjaRita Premium
Thanks for this great info! Can you give an example of a private blog network? I'm not sure if I know what these are.
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bjdluna Premium
yes, I don't really know what a PBN is either can someone give an examples of one?
thanks Barbara
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steveo5770 Premium
A private blog network is when you own dozens of different websites each on a dedicated IP address and carefully hiding the fact that you own these other sites.

Then you link to your money site from these other sites to create the illusion of quality backlinks.

The ironic thing is that for these inbound links to be considered quality, all of the blogs in your network must have authority and lots of great content as well.

Would you rather have 25 quality articles on one site, or 1 quality article on 25 different sites?
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TanjaRita Premium
Ah ok. I thought maybe it was a site set up by someone where you can go and leave links to articles on your site. I found one like that in my niche and started posting some of my articles. But then I started getting nervous and wondering if maybe I shouldn't be doing this.

Its a site for mom's to find all kinds of parent/mom based info. But there is nothing on the site except for articles submitted by bloggers.

Any idea if this kind of thing is ok?
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IveTriedThat Premium
The term PBN covers a few various options. The most basic is a collection of websites that all interlink to each other. These can be sites that you personally own or ones that a group of people own and they all agree to link to each other. There are some PBNs that you can buy into as well. The problem is these links are created solely to improve your Google ranking and that is highly against Google's Terms of Service and Google can pull your site from their results if you are found to be a part of a PBN. Google has been adamantly against buying links for years now. PBNs are nothing new really, just an attempt to disguise activity.
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steveo5770 Premium
It's not particularly helpful. Writing for your own site is ALWAYS a good idea.
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IveTriedThat Premium
Writing for an article directory is a thing of the past. They used to be worthwhile, but it's outdated. The articles are better posted on your own site.

A good alternative would be to find a highly ranked authority site in your niche and befriend the author. Point a few outbound links to their site, get yourself noticed, and even offer to guest post on their site.

Don't offer a post solely for the backlink though. It's much better to build a relationship with an authority blog. Once you're on their radar, outbound relevant links will come naturally. It should be a relationship that builds over time.
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TanjaRita Premium
Sorry, I should have clarified. I was only sharing links to my articles on this site.
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MHainsworth Premium
I might disagree with the others and say it is a useful strategy to write on a couple of niche related sites because like social media that's how you gain recognition as an authority and attract visitors to your site.

It's not all about google and seo, your marketing strategy has to be broader than search engines.
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TanjaRita Premium
I agree. I have submitted 2 articles to authority sites that were looking for guest bloggers. So far I haven't heard back though.

I also submitted an application for 2 other sites in my niche that look for blogger of the week/month and I was chosen for both of these. I did not need to submit an article. Just a brief bio. They feature me and my site on their website. I figure it can't hurt to get the exposure. They send my info out to their social media circles. The one has 19k twitter followers. Hopefully I will get some traffic from that.
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IveTriedThat Premium
The problem with that is there are sites like that and they exist SOLELY as a means to pump outbound links. Google definitely knows this. 19k Twitter followers won't mean much if they're not actively engaged in the content.
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dj-drea Premium
Glad to see some clarification on a subject that I was concerned about after reading a post about how WA was basically a scam because they don't teach us how to use PBN's.
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IveTriedThat Premium
Yup, that was the post I was referring to above. That guy was absolutely wrong. The use of PBNs is a complete gamble and can eventually lead to your site getting sandboxed. I would be mad if WA DID teach that.
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kendrick Premium
Right on!
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EddySalomon Premium
Tell'em Steve! Ever since the back smack down of 2012 which wiped most of my traffic out. I haven't looked at trying to get backlinks or any other way to game Google.

I just focus on writing useful content and sharing it with my social network and list. And that seems to be working just fine. And I see it working for folks like you and the other successful WA affiliates that have been at this for years.

Shortcuts are short lived. Stick to what's being taught here because it's a recipe for long term success. And that should be the goal of anyone here. Build something that will continue to produce revenue for many years to come and not until a loop hole is closed. Trust me when I say it's not worth it.
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IveTriedThat Premium
We've both been around long enough to see these shortcuts come and go. It's funny to see people call them a guarantee. It's just another trick that Google will catch on to eventually. They always do.
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EddySalomon Premium
Agreed Steve. I think people get caught up in hearing from other people that these short cuts are working so its more tempting for newbies to try them especially for those that want to see faster results. But it comes with an expensive price of your overall business once Google pulls the cord.
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dj-drea Premium
You guys are so awesome :)
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CherylK Premium
They sure are!
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