How to Use your Competitor’s Private Blog Network For Your Own Gain

August 1, 2015

So, you’re competitor is using private blog networks to rank their site! So, what are your options?


Well, you could report them to Google, that’s true. The likely result of such an approach is Google seems to ignore it or Google does something about it but months down the line and you lose out on lots of potential revenue in the meantime.


But what if there was another way? What about using their PBN to rank your site through winning some awesome links along the way and cut out the power from his network when doing so?


Sounds a little off the cuff doesn’t it? Well, it’s a simple reality and you can not only rank above your competitor but also gain the powerful links going directly to their PBN and not directly to their site.


Step 1 – Finding the PBNs


Performing a little backlink research we should be able to uncover some private blog networks. The most important thing to do here is to use a variety of different tools to find how your competitor is ranking their sites.



Using all of these should allow you to find your competitors full link profile and also determine whether or not they’re using a private blog network to rank their site.


How-to-Set-Up-a-Private-Blog-NetworkSome sites will use bot blockers to prevent their PBNs being blocked. However, many forget to block OpenLinkProfiler, meaning it can potentially be a very lucrative tool in your arsenal and make finding PBNs a lot easier.


Download all of these and then compile a list of the prospects you believe to be part of their PBN.


Step 2 – How to Determine a PBN


SEOs would like you to believe that private blog networks have become increasingly sophisticated, however most are still quite basic blog roll like sites and a quick manual check can determine this. Here are some tips for determining.


Look at the site – does it have:



  • contact details
  • terms and conditions
  • social presence
  • Images of real people
  • Does it look like a blog roll page or fake site
  • Check archive.org if suspicious and compare previous and modern incarnations of the website

There are a whole host of ways to determine whether a site is real or not, but these tend to be among the most common.


Step – 3 Make a List of Sites


So, now you should have a list of sites that you assume are private blog networks. If the PBN owner is savvy he should have some nice sites, with some good metrics and some great links.


Putting these sites through the four aforementioned backlink checkers allows you to see the links to the PBNs. This will take some manual work and you can do it yourself or have an assistant to do so. Check out these profiles and make a list of the great backlinks going to the PBNs. Each of these backlinks provides a great chance to win a link to your own website and cut the power going to your competitor’s PBN in a completely white hat manner.


Step 4 – Finding your Link Prospects


When you look through the backlinks you’ve compiled you’ll most likely find that many were going to a quality resource on the PBN domain when it was a real site. In most cases, it’s unlikely that the PBN owner will have created this quality resource and probably 301’d back to the home page.


This in turn means that the linking site most likely isn’t linking to the original resource they want to. And even though it won’t show up as a 404 error or broken link, it in many ways is a broken link in everything but code, as the link is of no real use.


This is where the opportunity for you lies. Some PBNs have links from many of the most powerful resources on the planet and many are links in the aforementioned manner.


All you have to do is go through the PBNs, find these links and contact the linking webmaster to tell them the link is now going to a PBN or useless resource. You then simply state that you are delighted to offer them an even better resource in exchange. You can use Buzzstream or manual outreach to perform this outreach. It’s essentially the same as broken link building, but with a slightly different take.


Here’s a template


Step 5 – Create a Great Resource


Using Archive.org can be very useful as it will show you the original linked to resource and allow you to use it for inspiration for your new quality resource. Additionally, hire someone to help you create kick ass content that’s going to not only win links in this instance but that you can also use for other link building too.


Needless to say, not every webmaster is going to want to take you up on the offer, but many will. The double benefit of this effort is that not only are you gaining links for your site, but you’re also slowly demolishing your competitor’s PBN.


PBNs have some great links and great links should go to great resources. Finding these opportunities and creating great content allows you to win on the double. And, that’s how you can use your competitor’s own black hat technique against him for your gain.


These blogs will all then link to the target site, in various ways, with various anchor text. This is where the black hat scheme comes in. What’s happening is essentially pirating the domain authority and SEO power of a site that no longer exists, and using that to funnel as much value to a monetized site as possible before things are discovered and collapse.


Done properly, a PBN is virtually undetectable. However, all it takes is a single slip to put the blip on Google’s radar and cause the whole thing to disappear, often over night.


As mentioned, done properly, it’s difficult or impossible to detect a PBN. However, there are a few signs you can look for if you’re concerned.


Hosting. Investigate the host of the blogs in question and see if it’s the same. You can use tools like BuiltWith to see if the sites were all created on the same framework or host.


Domains. The key to a successful – and fast – PBN is buying expired domains. Check into the history of the domain and see when the site was released in its current form. Check if the sites were all redesigned in the same week. You can use the Wayback Machine for these kinds of lookups.


WHOIS. The WHOIS database is the contact information for the owner of the sites. Having hidden WHOIS data is a red flag. If all of the site owners are the same, it’s obvious the blogs are connected.


Content. This is a big one; how much content is there on the site? More importantly, how much content is there on the sites linking to that site? The sites in the PBN often have very few posts. The money site will typically have more.


Backlink Profile. Run the site through a public backlink scan, like Ahrefs. If the PBN owner bought the domain, it will very likely have a large number of broken links. The PBN owner doesn’t have the desire to fill all possible previous pages with content; it’s more work than it’s worth.


Images and Videos. Multimedia content is harder to create uniquely than textual content. If the site uses nothing but stock images, or shares images between multiple sites, it’s possible they’re part of a PBN. This is even more obvious with video.


In essence, the more two sites have in common, the more likely it is they’re part of some low-effort PBN. On the other hand, a site that has avoided all of the common pitfalls is going to escape the notice of the Google anti-spam bots, and is thus that much harder to detect. PBNs are largely a relic of the past, today. Running one well enough to not get caught is an investment above and beyond what most people want to make.

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