23 Feb

Are PBNs Working in 2017 – Case Study and Test Results

So the big question…. ARE PBNs STILL WORKING IN 2017???

See the case study process and results below and how I generated 800 organic visitors in a day!

This post is a case study aimed at identifying the potential power of expired domains with actual traffic data and link metrics revealed.

Some of the results are pretty surprising…

PBNs have been a very controversial subject to talk about but have also been the most systematic way of ranking a website I have found.

What is a PBN? A PBN is a private blog network where we find expired domains that still have quality links pointing to them, build a similar website on the expired domain and link to your money site. The end result is you can create network of high authority and relevant sites linking back to your money site and increasing its rankings in Google.

2 News Events on PBNs in 2017

So far in 2017 there have been 2 PBN news worthy events from Google related to PBNs…

  1. Google Resets Backlink Profile on Expired Domains – This one was potentially the big one and the reason I increased the size of this test. In a video John Mueller from Google came out and said that Google could reset the backlink profile on a domain when it was renewed.

Great Article on this video – http://fatjoe.co/googles-john-mueller-put-an-end-to-pbns/

2. Feb 7th Google Update – This one had people initially running for the hills thinking it was a target on PBNs. I saw a slight increase in my normal weekly PBN deindexation but no increase in money sites being negatively affected. Others wrote in with similar questions and I struggled to provide an answer as to what I thought the update was as it didn’t initially look like the PBN targeted update people were thinking it was but I didn’t have a great answer as to what it was. Lucky for us there are smarter people with access to even more data that dug into the update and came to a conclusion that is consistent with what I saw in my smaller sample size (update targetting content quality)…

a. Glenn Gabe – http://www.gsqi.com/marketing-blog/google-algorithm-update-february-7-2017/

b. Search Metrics – http://blog.searchmetrics.com/us/2017/02/15/google-phantom-5-update/

”So we are left thinking this is probably one of those  or something new, but not related to links as I said originally but more related to content quality.”

Barry Schwartz at SERoundTable

Question to Answer as Part of my PBN and Expired Domain Case Study:

So I have devised a test to hopefully show what matters most in leveraging the power of expired domains and PBNs in 2017. Ultimately I will try and answer are PBNs working in 2017 and what matters the most to make them work.

Although my test will hopefuly be insightful I have no illusions that it would hold up to a “scientific review” feel free to make whatever conclusions from the data you see fit.

PBN Test Method

If the 2 updates were targeting PBNs then a website built on an expired domain should not be able to receive the ongoing benefit of the links and SHOULD NOT achieve abnormal early rankings.

By finding a mix of domains and building a quality site on them if they perform better then we should expect for a new site it is a sign that we are receiving a benefit from the old backlinks. So if the sites I build rank quickly then PBNs are working, if they don’t rank quickly then PBNs are not working.

Steps I followed…

  1. Find ExpiredDomains that meets my metrics here
    • Most Important QC Check
      • Real & Relevant Backlinks (the website has links from a “real” site)
      • Real & Relevant Website (the website was a “real” site)
    • PA > 20
    • DA > 15
    • CF > 15
    • TF > 15
    • Will meet 3 out of the 4 metrics above
  2. Build Relevant Site With Great Content – Identify similar topics that the site was talking about and then use the process at ContentRefined to get great quality articles created that will reliably outperform the competition.

NOTE – I do not recommend doing a complete rebuild and re-using the content.

Test Results

For this test in January I purchased 5 domains using basically the same metrics as I sell here with a spread of metrics and then had ContentRefined produce articles for them targeting content similar to what was on the site before (without duplicating).

The table below shows the 5 expired domains that were registered, their metrics and the resulting organic traffic to each of those sites after relevant, high quality low competition keyword content was placed on the site.

What is very interesting is when you combine these numbers you can really see the result from week 1-3

From the data there seems to be a 2 week sandbox for an expired domain which is A LOT shorter then we seem to get for new domains.

Analytics screenshots showing organic traffic.

Site 1: Instant Steady Organic Traffic 

Site 2: 800 organic visitors per day within 1 month!

Site 3: Flat for 2 Weeks the Moderate Traffic

Site 4: Stable Traffic After 2 Weeks

Site 5: Spike in Traffic after ~2Weeks

So What Does This All Mean? 5 Key Takeaways!

Relevant and Quality PBNs are the Key!

If you are going to decide to help your site rank with PBNs the takeaway from these updates and my test is…

  1. Expired Domains and PBNs are still VERY VERY powerful! 800 unique visitors per day within 3 weeks for one of the sites (not normal!)!
  2. There seems to be a 2 week sandbox from the time a site is rebuilt before Google starts showing it some love.
  3. Metrics Matter – The 2 worst performing sites out of the test were also the 2 lowest metrics. Having these 2 low metrics sites was intentional as it helps to show that the boost in traffic is due to the more powerful backlinks for the other 3 sites still helping the sites in the eyes of Google.
  4. Relevant Rebuilds are Key– The content on the PBN site needs to be relevant to the expired site!
  5. Quality – Google continues to raise the bar on the content quality for both money sites and PBNs and if you want a money site or PBN site to last you need to build with quality in mind. Decent quality content and a site that looks real is important!

A couple questions…

Should you build a money site on a PBN? I certainly plan to turn a couple of the sites above into a Money Site using the team at I certainly plan to turn a couple of the sites above into a Money Site using the team at BrandBuilders.io to create an awesome affiliate site. However, in general I do not recommend planning on starting out building a money site on an expired domain because although all 5 of these that I purchased in January performed well it is not always that case and the domain could be penalized without you knowing it. What I recommend is building test sites and then executing the 301 Building Block strategy if you want to get the benefit of an expired domain direct to your money site.

Are these results normal? Definitely not, I am not 100% sure what the reason was that some of these sites just exploded in traffic. I like it! A big part was focusing using the contentrefined method on targetting highly related, high search volume but super low competition keywords and then methodically ensuring we had better content then anything on the first page. I will be doing more testing because getting a 3 week old site to 800 unique visitors a day is EXCITING!

Want to run a similar test? You can by doing the following…

  1. Do it yourself option – Find a domain and build a PBN yourself and then do fantastic keyword research and create great content. Below are the giant tutorials I have shared on this site to show you exactly how I do these activities.
  2. Done for You OptionGet a PBN built and then upgrade the content with the ContentRefined service.

Hope this data was interesting and if you execute this test on your own please share the data with me!

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