Covering Your Tracks – Private Network Footprint Sweeping
3 votes, 5.00 avg. tacos (92% full)

Quick update: Although PBNs still work, they now have a history of being targeted by Google and therefore may not be the safest option. This is why we now focus on creating online businesses that are independent of SEO traffic.   

You’ve invested so much time and money into building your Private Network – so protect your damn investment!  Too often I hear about people losing their entire networks because they didn’t have the foresight to think proactively and predict possible ways their networks could be identified.   Some of these are points are vulnerable to the potential algorithmic assassination by Google,  some are vulnerable to asshole assassination (a competitor identifying all your sites and reporting them), and some are vulnerable to both.


Same Registrar/Hosting/Analytics/Whatever Account

Vulnerabilities: Assholes + Algo.

Just don’t do it.  You’re vulnerable on both the algorithmic and the “asshole competitor” side.  Check to see if anything is sticking out.


Same theme / Relics from Duplication

Vulnerabilities: Assholes

Don’t use the same theme.  Just don’t.  Check that you’re not posting as the same author across your sites!  Anyone can search for “inurl:/author/name” and find your sites. Also if you’re using the same plugins across sites, make sure they don’t leave any common footprint.  Check


High Percentage of Posts with External Links

Vulnerabilities: Algo

If 100% of your posts contain 1 or more links to external websites, that’s a giant red flag gyrating wildly in GoogleBull’s face.  If I were Google I’d charge at it.  Make sure to write some actual posts for your private network site.  This is especially important now that Matt Cutts the Purie has said Guest Posting is out.


High Percentage of Outbound links with High Monthly Searches

Vulnerabilities: Algo and Asshole

Google knows the the monthly search volume of all word combinations, we know this all too well.  So if all your anchors have high volumes… well that smells like a PBN.  Plus this doesn’t help your money sites rank anyway so stop doing it.   And as for the assholes…. well nothing says PBN more than that “buy dvds online” link.


Low Percentage of Posts linking to Each Other

Vulnerabilities: Algo

Similar to the above footprint, not linking to other pages on your site with content is definitely a low quality indicator.  The solution is writing posts for your private network site.


High Percentage of Short Posts

Vulnerabilities: Algo

Similar to above, with the same solution.  So if for every five 400 word linking posts you are writing one 800 word, internally linking resource, I’d say you’ve got your bases covered.


Have a unique about page

Vulnerabilities: Algo

Captain obvious says write a unique about page, preferably something longer than 200 words please.


Include Self-hosted Images in your Posts

Vulnerabilities: Algo

If I was Google I’d really only care about targeting blog networks that are being used by multiple people.  And if that’s the case I’d look at what weaknesses XML-RPC and similar protocols have.  One is that there’s no way to easily upload images from outside of the WP client itself.



Stuff I don’t care about:

There are some things that I am not paranoid enough to do.  I feel the potential risk of penalty is too low to warrant the cost of preventative maintenance.  However you may be less risk-averse than me, or maybe just less lazy.  So here they are.


Staying away from mentioning my sites on Google Docs / Gmail / Browsing them with Chrome.

Big brother has bigger fish to fry.


Not letting 3rd part crawlers access my sites

I would do this if it wasn’t for the fact that Ahrefs will show it anyway.  Thanks Ahrefs…



Anything to add to this?  Please leave a comment, if it’s good I’ll add it to the list.

Covering Your Tracks – Private Network Footprint Sweeping
3 votes, 5.00 avg. tacos (92% full)
  1. Is there no way to block 3rd part crawlers?

    Have you tried using robots.txt, or htaccess or a plugin called spyderspanker?

    I think this is the most important thing to prevent competitors to get your links and eventually telling google


    • You could try to block Ahrefs from crawling any of your PBN sites I suppose, but that’s a lot of effort. Doing it on your money site won’t work as they’ll just record the link.

  2. Thanks Hayden, regarding your comment “If 100% of your posts contain 1 or more links to external websites, that’s a giant red flag gyrating wildly in GoogleBull’s face”…does this hold true for money sites as well? Fred

    • I love the post (thanks for sharing!), but I’m having trouble with this one. Of course it’s never a bad idea to have posts on your site without outgoing links.

      But what about a site like (just an example of many sites out there)? Isn’t writing about stuff going on online and linking to it the basic premise of a *real* blog?

  3. It might also help to link out to authoritative sites other than wikipedia…that might just be picky though. However, think about it…when you read non PBN site blogs, are many or all of the links to authoritative sites just going to wikipedia. I don’t think so. Even though it seems like common sense, I see it done alot. It is still good they make the effort. I still see many only linking to their money sites.

  4. Hi,

    Does ahrefs constantly change their crawler or something — is that why you cannot keep them blocked? Otherwise, I thought you could block them from the .htaccess file. I’ve had to do that with several seo-stat-checking websites, like SEmault.

    I was also wondering if you bother ranking web 2.0 pages, like squidoo, hubpages, livejournal, ect. I tried with squidoo but they seem to be penalized because after a month and a half over 50 PBN links had absolutely no effect. I just made a hubpage to see how their pages respond because I believe their penalty has been lifted — I see their pages ranking often in the serps.

    Also, when do you think the next penguin update is going to hit and what it will target? If you don’t have a PBN large enough to dilute page-specific anchor text, how would you recommend diluting it? I have to use ALL of the sites in my small network with partial-match anchors to rank, and until I can afford another 100 PBN sites, I need a way to dilute my page-specific anchor text to avoid being hit by penguin. Any help? Thanks Hayden. You’re very helpful.

  5. There is a paid tool named spiderspanker that blocks backlink spy tools. Also Jerry West came out with a new link privacy tool just a few days ago which does the same, it’s free and claims to protect a site network.

      • Hi Hayden! I can assure you that isn’t the case. I use Spyderspanker on my entire PBN and have yet to have 1 site ever show in ahrefs. If you like I can PM you on Skype or something to show you.

  6. Great post Hayden thanks for sharing.

    Just goes to show you really cant be too careful.

    Can I ask – how long after getting an expired domain up and running with wordpress/articles/content and it being indexed can you add your money site links (while still being cautious).

    Would a month after indexing be ok?

  7. Regarding this : “Same theme / Relics from Duplication”
    Won’t be easier just to use admin all the time when posting ?
    I think out there are million blogs with admin but would be a pain in the ass to post as John/Cindy/George and remember them everytime.

  8. Is there a limit of money sites you link to from your pbn? For instance if you want to build a small pbn for the health niche, would you just link to 1 money site in the health niche? or would you build a larger pbn and link to multiple money sites from it?

    i am just curious since it would be more secure to build smaller siloed pbns per money site so if one gets discovered the others will most likely remain untouched.

  9. Hey Hayden, great post. I’ve been reading a lot about footprints lately. I’m a bit worried about Host Nine – how important is it to have private nameservers for each PBN site?
    I have a number of sites with H9 but even though I set up private nameservers they all use the same 2 IP addresses. Is that considered a footprint? Is there a better alternative to H9 reseller account?
    Thanks for all the great info…

  10. Hi Hayden,
    Do you create gplus accounts for all your pbn sites and how can you do that?
    by The way, I regged an expired domain, put it online and it was indexed in like 2 days. After a week I put a link to my Money site and pbn site suddenly dropped 30 positions. May this be The reason? The hosting is crap though. Maybe thats The reason

    one kast thing is, if you find a domain that dropped 1 year ago but not indexed in Google, is this normal?


  11. Hello Hayden,
    I have a question about Same Registrar/Hosting/Analytics/Whatever Account.
    If we have 20 expired domains and we group them together in two batches of 10 domains and register them with two registrars, is it still ok?
    and as you may know hostnine has a really good reseller plan that you already mentioned. is it still not good to host all of our 20 domains with them? because with reseller plan, you can create your own dns addresses. still bad?

    and one last question please; if a domain expired 6 years ago and not indexed in google currently, but has a very legit and not spammy baclink profile, do you still think this domain is deindexed by google or it is not indexed because its been 6 years?

    please tell me if you will, because I am planning to move from hostgator to hostnine soon with all my domains.

    thanks so much

  12. Hey Hayden;

    1) So you’re saying we should try to internal link our articles together?

    2) Will you block majestic, spyglass, and OSE in robots.txt?


  13. Hey Hayden, been devouring all your posts and webinars over the past few weeks and have built up some good lists of spam-checked expired domains, but have a couple questions about the next step. Thanks so much for helping me get to this point.

    If I am setting up a 25 domain PBN, should I use 25 different names with the registrar? I know I should have a mix of some with whois privacy enabled and some without, but I am not sure if I could have a couple of the domains registered to the same account.

    Also, do you think it is important to stagger when we register these domains, or is it fine to do it all in one day? If we should stagger them, do you have a general rule of thumb for how long to wait between each registration? Days, weeks?

    Thanks again!

  14. Hayden got a weird situation/question that you may be able to give me an insight on.
    I’m logged on to google as default. I go get the affiliate link from CPA then I go to and shorten the aff. link. Do you think that google would look at the sites where all the aff links are at and put it all together with my $$ sites?

  15. Thanks for sharing that Hayden!

    OK, so ‘High Percentage of Posts with External Links’

    I understand this, but I was wondering, does it apply to money sites too? e.g. if you have an affiliate site with 20 posts, and each post has links to, say, amazon, Do you think Google will penalize you in your search engine rankings?



  16. Thanks for a great post! I’m wondering whether i should keep all my money sites on the same Google Webmaster tools account? I have a site for which i need to submit a re-consideration review after cleaning its backlinks profile, and i just don’t want my other sites be under radar.

  17. Also, i’m thinking to use different Google Analytics accounts for my money sites… otherwise you receive same tracking code UA-XXXXXXXX-Y, whereby competitors can see other niches by changing the variable Y.

  18. Hi Hayden! And about use the same CMS in all the link sites, it’s ok for you? A network composed by only Worpress sites would leave a footprint or would be considered normal due to the large usage of WordPress in current days?

  19. When you say separate hosting, do you actually mean one site per hosting account, or using an account that gives you a separate IP per website.I think you mean a separate hosting account for each site.

    Also could using a WordPress management service like ManageWP leave a footprint for your PBN?

  20. How long on average do your PBN last until getting deindexed? And what do you then do with them, just letting them expire? They still have link juice after they are deindexed though, right?

    • Scott Davis says:

      Hi Jack, if you spam check well you should not have an issue with sites getting de-indexed, apart from very rare occasions. If they do get de-indexed however let them expire and move on.

  21. Great info. What about domains from countries like example Canada (.ca). Do you buy them with fake info? (canadian address)

  22. When buying or starting up your own PBN. Should you always but your domain private? I have a few expired domains but a bit scared in starting it wrong.

    thanks for your post.

    • We don’t add privacy. Using fake names, family members etc. is an option most people buying up loads of domains opt for. I personally don’t like risking losing domains in the event of an identity check from the registrar, but it’s an option.

  23. I would suggest, as an additional precaution, never to use Chrome to bookmark them or access them in any way.

    Despite what they say they do and don’t track, use an alternative.

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