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Private Blog Networks Getting Deindexed?

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March 13  |  Link Building  |   Ryan Clark

The word on the “digital streets” in February was that blog networks were getting heavily deindexed by Google. There have been a lot of these private blog networks popping up on the market and a lot of people got stung on the 7-9th and 18-21st of February. Within the last year, webmasters and SEO’s have been debating whether or not external links could hurt your rankings. Now, we can confirm it’s a sure thing as a lot of them are now getting notices in their WMT. For the most part, these warnings and penalties came for blatant and excessive link exchanges. There have always been, and will be private blog networks out there for SEO use, but the amount of paid “private” ones have flooded the market.

It’s no surprise, either, as the ranking rewards from a blast on a few of these networks was, and still is, netting people great results. The problem? Your SERPs are getting bombarded by thin affiliate sites that most likely should have no business ranking where they do. We all know by now that Google’s algorithm was built on links and that there is no shortage of places to buy obscene amounts of them.

The fact is that just about every big player in their niche is going to be buying links in some way or another. The difference amongst those players being whether they get caught or not. I’ve seen my fair share of extremely elaborate private blog networks in my time and I’ve recently seen nothing but endless low quality blog network services popping up. I’m not going to pretend I’m above having links from a private blog network, but the quality I’ve seen coming forth is atrocious. While participating in a private blog network for links is clearly a link scheme and against Google’s TOS, a lot of companies still don’t mind the risk.

I personally couldn’t sleep well at night if my company’s rankings relied on a flimsy blog network or three. With that being said, what happens when, either that blog network your relying on gets the boot, or your site gets dropped? The blog network’s users are more likely the most detrimental factor, not the owners. After their spun content goes up, you can be sure that a dosing of spammy links will be splattered all over these blogs. It’s a recipe for disaster, and by the looks of February, this caused a lot of problems.

A lot of companies are not aware of what they’re getting themselves into as well when buying a link blast on a private blog network. What’s even worse is when a business hires an SEO company and they get back a bunch of links that are really just going to be trouble in the long run. On the other end of the spectrum, big companies are spending tens of thousands of dollars on a well sorted private blog network. These sites are well thought out and don’t consist of spun content and thousands of scrapebox and Xrumer links. All I’m saying is be smart and careful, especially if you stumbled onto this post while making a decision for your business. This commercial, for example, is well produced and makes sense, but to the unsuspecting business owner who doesn’t know much about Google’s TOS conditions or what will eventually happen to these networks, it could spell disaster.


Many Google Algorithm Changes In February

By now I’m sure you’ve read this blog post from Google talking about 40 changes to their algorithm in February. The bit in that article about links has raised a lot of eyebrows within the community. We can only speculate on what that change was and how much of a real impact it has on your rankings. What does this have to do with private blog network links? Well, for one, blog networks are easy to detect and Google can sniff out a pattern in no time. Secondly, I think Google is just going after people who are too greedy in their anchor text distribution. It’s really very easy for Google to detect, seeing as we give them all our data (not that they really need help determining what constitutes as a quality link). This should really make you rethink your link building strategy if you’re relying on blog networks as a big part of the game plan.

We often use characteristics of links to help us figure out the topic of a linked page. We have changed the way in which we evaluate links; in particular, we are turning off a method of link analysis that we used for several years. We often rearchitect or turn off parts of our scoring in order to keep our system maintainable, clean and understandable.

You’ll still see tons of spammy websites ranking across the board, and that hasn’t changed much. I do, however, think that if you’re using these techniques, your chances for longevity are now in the toilet and those methods are not going to work for a real business. This is why it pays to do things right and reap the benefits once you establish your business as a leader in its vertical. This is why, as a brand, you should be doing amazing things that stand out. This will attract links, social buzz and all the right signals that get you to that level of authority. If you’ve already decided you’re going to eventually dable in a blog network or two, then perhaps wait until you’ve reached that status….it does work better and since your brand is established, it seems you can get away with a lot more *hint hint*.

So Who Got Deindexed?

Well I don’t actually use private blog networks for our clients so I don’t have any hard data myself. I am, however, very active on most of the webmaster forums and definitely noticed the brewhaha in February. I’ve never seen so many unnatural link warning messages go out. I also saw more speculation threads about blog networks getting deindexed although, I didn’t happen to see anyone admitting it outright. We’ll go over actual threads I’ve been keeping my eye on and dig a little deeper into what’s going on in the world of black hattery!

Like I mentioned before, there are dozens of public “private” blog networks currently on the market. I’ve had my team try their hand at most of them with certain niche sites we own. We knew from the get go that just about every single one of them (BuildMyRank, ALN, LAN, DiamondLinks etc etc etc) would provide us low quality content on sites that had nothing to do with our vertical. Every single one of these networks was easy to spot and the content wrapped around yours was not my idea of a delicious sandwich. We don’t use services like these for our clients EVER, however, I see why there is such a raging market for them. It’s hard to build links and if you’re rocking a thin affiliate site, the chances of getting hundreds of natural links isn’t going to come easy. There’s too much money to be made out there and if people can exploit something easily, then it cannot be stopped. Just remember that if you’d like to have a thriving business that benefits from free organic Google traffic, take the slow and steady road.

While the public blog networks are easy to pick apart, so are a lot of amateur SEO’s private for-their-use-only networks. An example of how a Warrior Forum member Mark spoke out about how his private network was sniffed out by Google and completely deindexed.

Yesterday my network of 165 blogs was nearly completely de-indexed by Google. I’m not complaining about this as, hands up, I was posting spun content and selling links. The point of this post is rather to let others know how I think they uncovered my whole network.

I was posting spun (paragraphs spins to 60% uniqueness and 20 spun titles) articles to a random selection of 40-75 of the blogs in the network. That spun content was the only thing linking the blogs together.

None of them had Webmaster Tools, Adsense, etc. installed. None of them were linked to each other. Nearly all of them were hosted on different IP addresses. The only 2 sites not to get de-indexed were 2 that had been hacked a few days earlier and so the content on those couldn’t be found via a Google search.

Goes to show that, even though you may be hosting them on different IP’s, low quality networks are easily caught by Google and that you have to be smarter than your average bear these days if you want to play dirty. While we won’t usually see another private blog network owner come out and admit they got dropped, we can look at the mayhem PBN users saw in February. We’ll start by looking at BuildMyRank.com because they’re one of the biggest and most well known networks. They happened to close their doors on the 19th which, also happened to be a day of major ranking loss for thousands of websites across the IM world. I’m not, however, saying this was the reason they closed their doors; they clearly state they grew too fast and needed to grow some more. Regardless, they’re on Google’s radar for sure and will eventually get their users smacked down in the rankings.

Blog Network Woes


BuildMyRank(BMR) is perhaps the most well known and largest network that was open to the public. They offered thousand of low quality, high (artificially inflated) PR blogs for your link whoring and it came at a cheap enough price. While you cannot get an example of what a site looks like before you buy, they do offer this tidbit of information from their FAQ (sadly, it doesn’t mention that this service is against Google’s TOS):

To protect the integrity of our network, we do not release domain info to the public. However, once you begin using our network, you’ll find your links easily enough with tools such as Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, or Ahrefs.

So how much do you want to bet Google has an account on there? There were easily over 100 threads across the popular webmaster forums all speculating that a huge chunk of BMR sites took a dive and dropped off the map. A lot of users experienced a huge drop in rankings while some others did not. I’ve tried my best to put together the most discussed threads on the topic here:

There are tons of other public networks that I’ve mentioned here, but I’ll just mush together all the threads that had a good discussion and may interest you folks here. I’m also open to hearing what you have to say so don’t be shy and let us know what you think below. In the mean time, however, here is some reading that should keep your busy for the better half of your morning.

Lessons Learned and the Future

There will always be people gaming Google’s algorithm in the link department, so I don’t expect to see a drop in private blog networks. There will still be, and are currently, dozens of open-to-the-public networks to blast thousands of links on. While it does work well, Google is quickly learning how to spot these and, even quicker, how to devalue your link juice. If you’re a legit and serious business, stay as far away from blog networks as you can. If you must dabble, then prepare to eventually get stung in the long run and you’ll be right back to square one.

I know a lot of you are going to be thinking that anyone who got caught up in Google’s algorithm smacking in February must have been foolish and only relied on PBN’s for links. Either that or they got too greedy and didn’t diversify their links, whether it be the anchor text or a multitude of links to internal pages. In the end, it doesn’t really matter when you’re spamming for blog comments, forum/user profiles, wikis, article sites and the like.

Keep in mind that damn near every form of link building goes against Google’s TOS.

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About Ryan Clark

I'm the CEO of Linkbuildr Marketing and the brains behind our branding and blog content. I specialize in effective marketing strategies for hotels, luxury brands and real estate. If your brand is in need of a boost then don't hesitate to contact me for a free proposal. Follow me on Google+: +Ryan Clark Twitter: @Linkbuildr on Twitter. You can also come ask me a question on our Facebook Page.  

53 Responses to Private Blog Networks Getting Deindexed?

  1. Great post Ryan. Wondering if you have any thoughts of using link networks as part of a second-tier strategy to provide a buffer, and also providing a relatively moderate drip rate. I’ve been thinking of trying this out on a few of my own sites as a test project. 

  2. Linkbuildr says:

    Hey Jack! Thanks for the kind words even though this was a late night ramble on my part. So on to your question about using them as a second tier strategy…to all our clients and future clients reading this I can safely say we’d never use this on a client unless they specifically asked. As for would I for my money making side projects? The answer is yes I most likely would as I’m here to make money just like everyone else. Does it work? From what I’ve seen and tested it works quite well until those links get devalued and tossed.

  3. Linkbuildr says:

    Here’s another fresh post about a 10 year old site getting the “unnatural links notice” and then getting the ranking boot in the arse. The thread/site owner says they had tens of thousands of natural links from having a great product. They started using blog networks and within 2 months they were closing up shop…scary!

    http://www.warriorforum.com/adsense-ppc-seo-discussion-forum/559698-reply-notice-unnatural-links-detected.html

  4. Having read a good bit of these posts, it looks like most of them have done something incredibly stupid, like (a) linking directly to the money site and (b) using an unnatural link velocity. In the link you posted, he used cheap (i.e., detectable) network and pushed an even 200 links per day to his money site. I read other reviews (which can be hard to find and are possibly tainted by affiliate promotions) that seem to indicate that the link networks are stronger than ever, if used correctly. I’m just wondering whether someone with a smarter approach could still get value from the link networks. 

  5. Linkbuildr says:

    This has been going to to people who got slashed on by the deindexing…hilarious!

    —————————————————————–Dear Friend,We noticed “www.yoursite.com” coming from aBlog network with a BIG footprint in Google.We wanted to alert you of this before it’s too late.Over the past 3 weeks, Google has cracked downon Blog Networks like the one you are using.Unsuspecting members using poorly designed networks,have experienced major ranking drops and penalties to
    their sites.Despite the shakeup, high quality link building is stillvital for top Google rankings.BUT IT’S GOT TO BE DONE RIGHT.… It needs to transform and be taken to the next level.That’s what Cruz Command is all about.See what we mean here;REGISTER FOR CRUZ COMMANDCruz Command is the ONLY high quality, small footprintPlatform that gives you the power to intelligently and safelybuild and monitor your high quality link strategy.With “CC Digital DNA Profiles”, “CC Deep Link Lab” and “CC Reporting”,Cruz Command is the solution for serious website owners.As Cruz Command opens to new members in March 2012,we invite you to register your interest below;REGISTER FOR CRUZ COMMANDBy registering early, you’re guaranteed early notificationbefore it goes live to the general public.Should you have any questions, please email us.Talk soon,Steve and RogCruz CommandP.s Register today, and we’ll also lock in a “powerful” bonusthat will diversify your links even further. You can do that here;REGISTER FOR CRUZ COMMANDwww(dot)cruzcommand(dot)com—————————————————————————-

  6. Steve says:

    Awesome post!

  7. shelli walsh says:

    Hi Ryan

    Really enjoyed your article.

    I hear a lot of white hat link builders who are fed up of being thrashed in rankings by competitors with link profiles of pure trash. I was checking out a competitor for a client yesterday and straight away I spotted his blog network. It was so unbelievably transparent that within 5 minutes I had the contact details of the site, had contacted the owner and had a response to my email confirming I could rent links for ex amount a month. Every site was registered to the same person! and each site was a complete replica of posts and content – how is this working?

    Lets be honest we are all on the lookout for good sites to place links so if a quality network falls in your lap you are not going to ignore it but they are getting hard to find.

    I say bring it on with all these networks and farms being busted – then we can see who really has what it takes.

    Shelli

  8. Gareth says:

    Hands up, I had been using BMR and Linkvana on some of my personal sites. It has been working great. I always suspected the day would come when I’d wakeup to find the sites had dropped. The 18th Feb was a sad day!

    I had mixed results. The rankings on newish sites (3 months old) that had only network links, dropped 5 or 6 pages and only for the targeted keywords. The rankings for slightly older sites (1 year), that had more diverse links dropped by 6 to 10 places. The sites that were 2 or 3 years old weren’t really effected – maybe the odd position drop.

    None of the sites were de-indexed and I haven’t received any WMT warnings.

    I am sure February was only the first wave! 

  9. Dan Cruz says:

    Interesting and insightful article. I believe the key to why these blog networks are being discovered is the spun content.

    I’ve discovered some competitors using blog networks and all you have to do is plug the spun content into something like Copyscape and voila, you’ve just discovered an entire network. My rationale has always been if Copyscape can find them so can Google…

    Are all blog networks bad? I wouldn’t go that far but I would definitely walk away as quickly as possible if they’re using spun content. Personally I’ve never used any of the above mentioned blog networks for that reason. Spun content just makes them too easy to discover.

  10. Jane says:

    Your service is exactly Against Google TOS as google ask you to create content that attract backlinks…unlike your service who ask for links :P

  11. Jim says:

    I have been a long time member of BMR and I have now switched out my sites on there to my competitor’s sites. I have my outsourcers working full time to write articles and post them with links to several of my competitors.

    Now that I know I can damage my competitors by making it look like they are breaking Googles TOS I have totally changed my strategy. Too bad it has come to this but you have to roll with the times.

  12. Robert Antwi says:

    About time, I’ve never used any form of web 2.0 wheels or even thought about making smart ones. Do things for longevity not for over night/week success. :)

  13. Marcos Lujan says:

    Spammy blog networks are still thriving though. This sounds like manual action rather than automated.

    However, I agree it’s good to see Google taking action on automated link schemes or link networks.

  14. Mel says:

    What defines a private blog network? I see BMR as a problem since all the sites are owned and run by one company but what about networks that just connect site owners with people who want to post articles (with a backlink of course). I consider those types of networks to be a matchmaking service as each site is owned by a private individual. 

  15. Dan Thies says:

    Most of these blog networks are pretty easy to spot – the same old “usual suspects” use the same URLs and the same anchor text over and over. It’s really just a matter of Google’s web spam people bothering to run the analysis, which is obviously not done in real time.

    The funny bit is that a lot of these guys think Google’s running some kind of “spun article detector” or something. They don’t need to. The (outbound) links from these splog networks tell the whole story, and a splog network can’t “work” unless Google indexes it, so it’s really only a matter of time for any network to get nailed.

  16. Great points you have discussed and i learn a lot of things from your post for my knowledge to become an impressive SEO.

  17. Greg Fowler says:

    It is interesting you bring this up and in TP, I personally wrote a thread telling them that anyone playing with PBNs are playing with fire.  And then to get on a PBN that is on TP or the warrior forum?  And they are curious to know why the sites get de-indexed? 

  18. Pascal says:

    Have you heard the recent news? BMR got fully deindexed! That’s what you get when you try to game Google with low-quality content, I guess.

  19. Can’t believe BMR is actually gone just seen the message, does anyone know the fate of linkvana?

    Regards

    Tom 

  20. Steve Berlin says:

    Why is there no definitive guide on this topic? It seems that everyone in the forums is so back and forth about whether you can kill competitors or not by sending them spammy links? Has anyone seen a definitive answer?

    And Ryan this is a great post – I can’t help but be distracted by your internal linking throughout the article to your own pages. That’s not very helpful for the user and just makes me distrust your authority/intentions a little bit more :). Just my 2 cents I know you’re smart and know what you’re doing but it is very distracting. Also, only the first link on a page counts so if you are linking to your home page in your navigation, there’s no use in linking again to it with anchor text from the body of your blog post.

  21. Linkbuildr says:

    Hey Steve, I guess we’ll disagree on that as I’m pointing to other posts related to the topic at hand. No where does it state ever that the first link its the only one that counts. Not only that but I’m linking for the user and there’s no real SEO benefit in mind. 

    Although that’s my opinion and I love to hear suggestions on what I’m doing that sucks or not, so thanks for taking the time to post Steve! So please don’t take my first paragraph there as anything negative.

  22. Linkbuildr says:

    Link Authority is now getting scared and has tightened up their process although I doubt it’ll last longer than a few months.

    “But as you are probably aware another huge network BMR has been hit today and has
    unfortunately had to close its doors.

    There fore we will no longer be accepting 150 word posts as it is just not enough
    and we do not want to get all the BMR users added their 150 word posts which have
    already been flagged via BMR now. The new post sizes are

    200-300 words = 1 link

    301+ words = 3 links

    The next change is when you login sometime today you will see an NDA you will need
    to agree too – If you cannot agree to this NDA then unfortunately you can no longer
    use the system.

  23. Anonymous says:

    One can only hope that all these low quality blog networks are going to go down the drain… for me personally, it’s only helped our SERPs! :)

  24. Garen Arnold says:

    Private networks are what steroids are to baseball.  True, you can use them hit 70 homeruns in a year and then vanish with lots of problems later on down the road.  Same thing goes with using the private networks to game Google.  Sure you will get high rankings for a short time, but as soon as Google catches on (and they will) you will get a huge sitewide drop and in the worse case scenario deindexed.  

    If short term gains are your goal with a high risk (big footprint) then I would say go for it.  But, don’t be surprised when it all comes crashing down. It will, Google is VERY smart!

  25. Joe Schmoe says:

    wow. that’s incredibly mischievous.

  26. Joert34 says:

    And you are the first to stick your nose in the crack of Matt Cutt’s ass and thank him for the job well done? LOL Your products were more full of hype and crap than any BMR post ever was.

  27. Linkbuildr says:

    clearly you haven’t read my sales copy lol :)

  28. Mrinvisible says:

    I think he’s replying to Thies.

  29. Linkbuildr says:

    I know, I’m just making fun of myself. I write some seriously lousy stuff :)

  30. Derek says:

    big g is now giving us the blueprint to anti seo! awesomeness:)

  31. Meridius says:

    If that’s how Google sets the parameters, that’s what competitors will do.

  32. JOJOJOJO says:

     Silence from Dan????? Chocking on the butt pubes perhaps??

  33. Norm says:

    You are wasting your time. Creating links that have no value will no hurt your competitors. What is hurting people, is using link networks to improve their search results first, only to have those networks later devalued and then having achieved rankings drop. In order to hurt your competitor, you would have to help them achieve top results first.

  34. Linkbuildr says:

    Hey Norm,

    We have a lot of clients who had say 5-10k natural links from being a top dog, then start using BMR and such to pick up their ranks. What happened? They lost damn near all their traffic after getting the unnatural links message. 

    So technically I could have bought these for them and done the job, no? I’m going to test it on a friends mediocre site and see what damage or rankings I can append; http://www.linkbuildr.com/negative-seo-on-the-rise/

  35. Dan Thies says:

    Sorry that you’re having trouble selling your splog network, forum spam, or other WSO pal.

  36. Greg Fowler says:

     @c1b764b78cc732f9cb3c3f4205b9e845:disqus

    The first thing I noticed is you do not have a link back to your name?  Why?  It is apparent, through Mr. Matt Cutts, that the appropriate why to build links is to let other naturally link to you, and this is the perfect example as I was reading an article from search engine watch posted by Eric Ward (Mar 28 2012, Today), and he made reference to this article with a link which is how I found it, but one thing is for sure, and I, by no means, is innocence to attempt to get rankings for MY sites, and I have been busted, AND, I do not blame it on Matt Cutts or Google, it is your fault.  You made a mistake, move on, and realize that what you were doing before does not work now.  The ones that are going to prevail are those like Ryan Clark and Eric Ward, not you, if you keep up the blame game, and all Matt Cutt’s is going to do is — keep doing what he is doing, while you are not a thought in his mind, nor Googles. 

  37. @Ryan: This is the most insightful post written about the case of google deindexes PBNs, I guess. Citing your statement, “Keep in mind that damn near every form of link building goes against Google’s TOS.”, I agree and have to say that link building done “by no accident” is, in any way, unnatural. However, of course it’s not the matter. It is the way we build links that will bring our sites to the top of search results or get them dropped or deindexed.

  38. Micky H Corbett says:

    Though the idea of spammy spun content can seem a bit extreme, the concept of repurposed content has been going on for years…it’s what the media do.
    The difference is that press releases or AP content is rewritten by someone (sometimes not). The distribution of the content then spreads the message.

    If you use a blog network and take your time writing good articles that also spin to good articles then all you are doing is syndicating. Link building as well, yes but still getting the message out there since everything you create should be good.

    I can see what Google are doing here but they have been a bit cackhanded. Or maybe not. Maybe it’s a broadside to all the blog networks to weed out the real spammy spun unreadable articles so that good content is left.

    In the end though it seems that this is just a way for Google to finally force through PPC as the only means of traffic. Which means that only big players will be in the game.

  39. Philip says:

    All link building is grey hat. Each “Whiter” Tactic gets “Blacker” as the community (and Google) Nukes the blackest of the black.

    How can getting a link with Anchor Text ever be considered white hat? 

  40. Philip says:

    has to be manual right? Although the description of the blog network described in this article by the dude that commented in the forum sounds like a very valid and scientific way to algorithmic-ally  nuke all bad blog networks.

  41. Philip says:

    Your link is broken, SEO consultant that doesn’t like bad blog netoworks

  42. Linkbuildr says:

    Is that THE SEO consultant?! O-M-G ;)

  43. Philip says:

    haha it must be!

  44. Well, I’m sure there is more than one SEO Consultant in Australia. ;-)

  45. ROFL; that’s absolutely hilarious. Sad thing about it is that there are potentially a lot of people who would fall for these SPAM emails…

  46. Isnt SEO itself is a way of spamming and tweaking the search ;) I think there is no good or bad. Some people just overused the purpose and as always everybody got punished.

  47. Linkbuildr says:

    it’s also poor form to use an anchor text for your commenting name…more spamming =/

  48. Rydogg6016 says:

    You are right it is not hard at all for Google to spot these blog networks.  I just do not understand why most of them are still working you would think google will be able to deindex all the blog networks but the question is does google really want to do that because of the fact that if they do that it is just going to open up more spammy ways to get back links 

  49. JJInfra says:

    Nice share , thank you.

  50. Jenny says:

    That was a great article, good that you wrote them.

  51. Sarojdhakal says:

    The word on the “digital streets” in February was that blog networks were getting heavily deindexed by Google. There have been a lot of these private blog networks popping up on the market and a lot of people got stung on the 7-9th and 18-21st of February.Like I mentioned before, there are dozens of public “private” blog networks currently on the market. I’ve had my team try their hand at most of them with certain niche sites we own. We knew from the get go that just about every single one of them (BuildMyRank, ALN, LAN, DiamondLinks etc etc etc) would provide us low quality content on sites that had nothing to do with our vertica

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