SEO in general, including expert and amateur levels, basically comes down to a single line: you either change, adapt and evolve, or you die. This is what countless algorithms, actions and warnings were about. Yet, some blackhat SEO principles, mainly PBN setup, are still thriving. The last major Google attack on the PBNs happened in 2014 (and that one kind of failed), but more and more people are spreading rumors that the next one is right around the corner.
Furthermore, any person can easily find tons of warnings surrounding private blog network setup, coming from pure whitehats. Those warnings do nothing but help PBN enthusiasts, as they are getting lower competition, which leads to lower prices for buying expired domain with traffic names, which then leads to the decreasing attention from Google.
2014 clearly showed that Google didn’t have a tool to target PBNs explicitly, they did a manual attack, which only covered a few websites with obvious errors, PBN hosting mistakes and scam. Even that caused tweaks in the system. It’s clear that SEOs want to protect their efforts from getting de-indexed or devalued, so the most important task in the sphere is to find a way to adapt to the possible future changes.
So far, people determined different strategies to work out Google’s attacks and efforts to pinch PBNs down. One of the best strategies was changing theming just slightly to fit into a relevant niche. This way, those radical changes that Google viewed as suspicious were practically exterminated. It eased the tension around high DA PBN domain names that were bought and then changed to something completely different.
SEOs also found an interesting way to ease their own lives and still get an awesome PBN site option, like city-themed blogs that could be easily connected with practically any niche and any link anchor. After 2014 the PBNs faced a big change in terms of link swapping when people with a developed PBNs could connect to other people, promote their websites and get money for it. That kind of signalized about the beginning of the new era for the SEO companies.
After 2014 there was a slight drop in numbers of people using public domain selling services. It also brought new clients, considering buying expiring domain names, to brokers. That really changed the perspective, preventing others from gathering information about expiring domains too quickly. All of that brought the world of SEO closer, making people work with brokers and each other.
So far, the only change that Google attack brought was a faster development of SEO mechanisms and practices. It even closed (though not explicitly) some of the smaller toxic hosting companies, as they started to lose clients. People, scared off by the last attack were dropping and changing those cheap hosting providers, where most of their clients are PBN sites. Choosing appropriate hosting for PBN became more important, which boosted good solid companies, making the market thrive.
But what really messed up Google’s efforts was smarter and better clustering among PBNs. Those manual checks in 2014 only worked with those sites whose present grew really fast, making itself too noticeable. Before 2014 SEOs (to be honest even the really good ones) used to intertwine the whole system, mixing their PBN sites, trying to get more links this way. After that, it was really obvious and easy for the system to calculate the weaker spots and find how the websites were linked together.
Separate niche-clustering that was introduced later, allowed users have less visible contacts between their PBN sites and money sites and made it possible to work practically without footprints. Other projects, that were more capitalized, started creating separate networks for a single money site, so they minimized their chances of getting caught. Although this practice requires financing, it really outplayed Google’s mechanisms and manual checks.
Finally, it’s clear that right now Google is still not ready to seriously hurt PBNs and their owners. Most of that panic is coming from the whitehats or SEOs thinking about pre-2014 PBNs. Indeed, if your strategy is a free WP theme and 200-word posts with 0 value whatsoever and 20+ links in each, your PBN is screwed. But if you’re actually willing to try and to work on your network, it will pay off. It seems that any new mechanism Google releases won’t do much to PBNs, so it’s safe to try it now. Plus, there are many expert SEOs that still consider this way to be one of the best and the most trustworthy among the other blackhat methods.