Update: Although PBNs still work, they now have a history of being targeted by Google and therefore may not be the safest option. Which is why we now focus on creating online businesses that are independent of SEO traffic.
As many of you know, Google has started a massive wave of de-indexing of private blog networks. This appears to have started a couple weeks ago and hadn’t affected NoHatDigital until approximately 36 hours ago.
This post is an analysis of how we have been affected and hopefully will help you recover from and/or avoid de-indexation, plus provide you with some insights into why we are investing so much of our resources into testing and experimenting with new online business strategies, many that do not rely on SEO.
Firstly, ups and downs are a part of the SEO game. Hayden got crushed with the EMD Update 2 years ago. Once you’ve been through enough of these cycles, you understand these things happen and it’s just a matter of analyzing what went wrong and adjusting for the future.
I’m personally very glad to have a team, here in Valle de Bravo, that has a number of people within it that have been through Google updates and bounced back because when massive shake-ups like this happen. It’s comforting to have people in your corner that can navigate the way and we aim to be that resource for many of you that are going through PBN de-indexing and trying to bounce back also.
It still sucks (sometimes it really, really sucks), but it’s an opportunity for growth and innovation as well. The sky’s not falling. Hayden and many other top SEOs and online entrepreneurs of today have bounced back from a dozen updates. Panda and penguin caused chaos, people lost entire incomes overnight with both and also with the EMD update. The cold, hard reality is that SEO is a changing game and it comes with risk (that’s probably part of the attraction!).
Every industry goes through trends, drastic changes, and innovations. You must adapt to your environment and pivot based on market conditions. We would not go as far as saying that PBNs are dead, certainly SEO is not dead, but we’ve been preparing ourselves for PBN-related updates for months
Our re-brand away from NoHatSEO.com to NoHatDigital.com a couple months back was made with an eye to the future that online business is the way forward, not purely SEOd businesses.
We have access to 8 different primary networks that have over 600 domains between them. These networks are segregated and many are developed in slightly different ways – this probably makes us one of the best entities in the world to study when an update such as this one hits, which is exactly what we are doing.
As mentioned, some sites were affected and some were not. Approximately 40% of our total network was hit, but the effects were not network-wide for us which is interesting. Looking at three segregated networks, one (about 60 sites) got entirely de-indexed, another lost only a handful of sites, one was not hit at all.
The most interesting sample was that of a recent network that had not yet been fully built out. This network was never used to link build a single site and never opened to the anyone outside of NoHatDigital. The network consisted of 24 sites, 14 of which were de-indexed, and 10 of which were completed unscathed.
We also had a group of 6 expired domains that we had launched as money sites within the last 2 months de-indexed. They did not in any way resemble a PBN site, and had unique, well-written content on them. Many of them didn’t have any PBN links pointing to them. Fairly odd.
And a final interesting one is that the bulk of our sites that got de-indexed where domains purchased at auction or that were only recently launched (within the past 2 months). In fact, ALL of our sites that we had purchased at auction within the last 3 months or so were impacted.
What the above appears to indicate at this early stage is that the de-indexation isn’t solely caused by a manual infiltration or link based algorithm. It’s most likely to have strong algorithmic component, and must have to do with one of the following:
- On-page (content, to dissimilar to former content before drop, or too little content)
- Date of drop/age
- Registrant/WHOIS information
After a brief analysis by resident Data Expert Lynn, we have ruled out drop / age as well as host. We are still looking into the matter, but feel it’s most likely from registrar / WHOIS info.
Graduate PBN, Links4Life Untouched
The other interesting segment is that domains in our Link4Life program have been completely untouched. These domains were registered by individual Interns and PTC participants, so the WHOIS information was diverse. This further enforces the notion that the delineation is caused by WHOIS / registration data. Which is great because it is literally the easiest item on the list to adapt when building out our future networks.
Thin Content Warnings
Many of our Interns that have had their networks de-indexed have been sent “thin content” warnings via Google Webmaster Tools. We got a few of these warnings through about 24 hours after the PBN sites got hit:
If you’re building niche sites with Amazon, Adsense or other alternatives as a monetization focus, with content primarily on commercial keywords, by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you’re creating thin content (even if you put a lot of work researching the content). Of course, doing any sort of linkbuilding (even outreach) is technically against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, so the more important question is, what should you do going forward?
- Work on recovery. This could be an entire post on its own, but the truth is niche sites are fairly disposable. And if your site exclusively targets commercial keywords, once your site falls on Google’s radar, it’ll be quite an uphill battle to revise it to a point where it complies with Google’s official guidelines.
- Build out a new site. Google loves to send these manual thin content penalties in batches when they take down a network, or a group of sites fall on their radar, but the truth is that the web is a huge ocean, and Google’s manual review team can only patrol a little corner of it.
- Build out sites that provide lots of content focused on readers and non-commercial keywords. This is one of the things we were shifting towards in the recent internships + PTCs; building sites that mix in non-seo focused content. Even better if you can identify actual reader needs and create content designed specifically to address them – this opens up all sorts of opportunities for content promotion and outreach as well.
- Build sustainable businesses that don’t live or die by Google traffic.
All of the above are viable options depending on your situation. #4 should be everyone’s ultimate goal, but for those still focused on SEO traffic, #2 and #3 are your best options.
The good news is that a) PBNs are not dead, and b) even if they were, there is a whole wide world of traffic, profit, and opportunity outside of PBNs and Google search results, and we’re continuing to move our core business focus beyond Google’s reach to online businesses, paid traffic and alternatives to SEO. SEO will still rule for a long time to come, but it’s important to have an eye to the future.
As of right now. it’s important to understand that Google has a way of striking fear in the SEO community (which they do very well), by rolling out mass changes or creating a massive stir, in this case mass de-indexing of PBN sites and manual spam actions.
Sure it’s designed to clear up some crappy results in the SERPs, but it’s also a PR exercise to knock SEOs out of the game. And it’s effective because it’s scary to potentially have your sites tank over-night. Google knows this well and they use it to their advantage.
A classic example of this is when the SAPE network got called out by Matt Cutts. We don’t use SAPE, but most users jumped ship with fear after the public scare campaign that arose from a single Tweet. Guess what, SAPE is still going strong by all accounts and I know users who still rank sites using SAPE links.
Jan 14th 2015 Update : If you’ve been hit by Thin Content penalty, check out our article on how to get rid of it.
Links Still Matter:
There is no doubt in my mind that links are still very important to SEO and that SEO still works. Google can de-index as many PBN sites as they like, but they can’t flick the switch on an algorithm that is built on links as the foundation right now. You just can’t make that kind of massive change and not have it totally obliterate the rankings of legitimate sites.
There’s a BUT…
Buuuuutttttt, we do, and have for quite a while now, placed most of our emphasis on keyword research and on-page SEO as the heart of SEO. To put that into perspective, our Private Training Course is a 5 week course, with 4 weeks dedicated to keyword research, site structure and on-page SEO.
If you can learn how to find keyword groups with top 10 results that are easy to penetrate, coupled with site structure and on-page SEO that is first class, most of the work to build a profitable site is done for you. Links are just the final piece of the puzzle. And like I said, they will continue to be the final piece of the puzzle if you are looking to build niche sites that take advantage of free organic search traffic.
It is perfectly normal to be wary of using PBNs to rank sites right now. We are continuing to use PBN link building as a tactic to rank sites, but we’ll be adapting based on our analysis of why some PBN sites got de-indexed and others did not.
We’ve also been testing tactics to drive traffic outside of PBNs and SEO for a number of months now with the intention of revealing these results on our blog, podcast and in our training courses. Talking about our podcast, we also have some brilliant guests that are leading the way with non-SEO traffic lined up for podcast interviews over the coming month.
Overall, as this roll-out of PBN de-indexing continues, there are going to be many people affected, just as was the case with Panda, Penguin, the EMD Update and other updates over time.
PBN sites will be de-indexed and money sites hit hard and that does suck. That’s the risk-reward of playing in the SEO game, which does absolutely nothing to erase the shitty feeling having your network wiped and money sites tank, but it’s fact. SEO is a risk-reward game.
We are continuing on our mission to case study tests and experiments on an un-precedent scale and will be continuing on our course to teach these learnings in our Internships, Private Training Courses and our publicly on our blog.
We’re not the first and won’t be the last PBN users to have sites de-indexed at this scale.
If you’ve had PBNs de-indexed, feel free to drop a comment below so that we can start some discussion on a very hot and important topic right now.[impactful pact=’6833′]
260 thoughts on “PBN Sites De-Indexed, How Bad Were We Hit?”
I got rocked by this update by good ole Google. I only had 3 sites and all of them are now in the mid 40-60 range for keywords they were 1st page for. I already had the strategy before this happened to build out more sites, which I’m learning a ton about in the internship. My only question would be, is there any way to get a site back into the good graces of Google? Lessen the amount of affiliate links, etc?
Your strategy is sound… keep building, get the KW research and on-page SEO right and diversify the way you link build. As for getting back on the good side of Google, we’re working on some case studies/tests for this. Sure to be an update soon.
That’s good to hear. I’m wondering if possibly upgrading content and disavow PBN links (at least on sites that were hit) and then resubmitting them would work.
Worth a shot for money sites yes.
Matt Hammond says:
You could look it as 40% got de-indexed…
or as 60% are still alive!
Half full/half empty: at 60%, you’re winning, and have a ton of feedback from the sites that failed on how to get the edge moving forward.
Gonna keep my ear to your door for sure!
Keep up the good fight!
Yeah you’re right Matt. It hurts for sure, but no point dwelling on that. Keep on truckin’.
Great post. Glad it’s not all gloom and doom. I’ve been scanning the various sites over the past few days looking for updates from some of the bigger guys. Nice to see you guys come out and be super candid about everything.
A question for you – most of us know by now that the entire rankhero network got hammered. Any plans to take that down all together – it hasn’t personally affected me (yet) just curious how this will be handled.
Thanks Dan, our aim is the share all our ups and downs, this being a bit of a down lol! But it’s a very important post for us to have put out given how popular PBN usage is.
As for RankHero, NoHatDigital is not involved with RankHero, so I’ll leave that to RH to update their customers. RH is owned by Spencer and NoHatMedia.
Can Google find the registered WHOIS details even if the domain has WHOIS privacy enabled?
That’s up for debate given that they are an ICANN registrar and can see that information. But it would be highly unethical for them to do so…. So probably, yes! haha
Nate Tsang says:
On the other side of the debate I would argue that no they can’t since WHOIS privacy companies are private companies owned by individual registrars (e.g. domains by proxy is owned by Godaddy), not by ICANN. So unless they’re forced to maintain a central database somewhere that other registrars can access (which isn’t out of the realm of possibility), I don’t see how Google could view that information short of a court order.
But for sure there are lots of well-respected SEOs who believe they can access that info, and never underestimate the reach of a nearly half a trillion dollar company.
Tyler Perez says:
Good article. I find it highly coincidental, that Alex Becker has been pushing PBN’s very heavy in the last 2-3 months… and now they are rolling out a heavy PBN algo… Possibly the high influx on purchasing expired domains recently triggered this?
Not sure it’s the impact of Becker. PBNs have been big business for a couple years now. Think Google just waited until it started to hit critical mass and then smashed everything.
First I’ve heard of this. My 7 (Dutch) PBN sites are still indexed. DA 25+ PA 35+, no spammy backlinks or ratios. Mostly using identical content to what was on the site before, obtained from the Wayback machine. All domains were long expired when I picked them up and not indexed anymore.
However, WHOIS and nameservers are all identical due to financial constraints. It’s a weakness I’ve been fully aware of since the beginning. Two are even on the same IP as my money sites. The others are on different S3 regions. Intended (and still do) to avoid this for my 2.0 network.
I know this is peanuts compared to what other people run, but I find it to be sufficient for the small niches I’m targeting and it allows me to spend time on creating helpful content and not contacting other webmasters with shitty link requests. Just to quickly give my money sites that little kick they need to rank, as a website with no links just doesn’t go anywhere any time soon.
Oh well. We’ll see what the upcoming weeks bring. I’m interested in hearing if other European PBNs have been hit yet. And if the money sites linked to were also affected negatively as a direct result.
Thanks for sharing this news guys. I’ve really been enjoying the content on the site and podcast. One of the very few sites actually providing quality information for niche site builders and PBN fans that are still in the two to low four figure months stage.
Thanks GDB. We know of some French networks that were hit. It’s clearly a global crackdown. Once the dust settles we’ll all have a better idea of how/why sites are getting de-indexed and what it meas moving forward. Love the strategy of solid content, a little kick with PBNs and then some other natural links. Nice.
From the early comments it seems that:
People have been running Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools on their PBN sites. This was labeled as ill advised both on No Hat and Source Wave a long time ago and as recent as one of the No Hat podcasts.
They’ve been using… ‘suspicious’ WHOIS information. The majority being anonymous or identical “real” information across the board. Don’t forget that using different WHOIS, but having them all with the same registrar using the same nameservers can leave the same footprint.
Their PBN sites were… bad. If at first glance your site looks like a PBN site, that’s not a good thing. Make it look like a proper site. Header. Navigation. Some regular articles/content on the home page. Ask yourself: if someone who followed a link from another site ended up on my PBN site, would they still find the information or help they needed?
They’ve used cheap hosting that puts them on IP ranges creating suspicious neighbourhoods. Let’s face it, chances are that sites on the cheapest hosting available don’t contain websites from Alexa’s top million sites.
Personally, I don’t think any one reason will get you deindexed. It’s a matter of ticking enough bad boxes and tipping the scale towards a penalty. And that WHOIS(/nameserver!) and quality of the PBN site (including how you link) leave the biggest mark. And obviously don’t use Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools on your properties that you’re using to game Google. That one tops the list.
I also suspect people don’t use varied anchor text enough, even though they’ve -been told to do so on No Hat and on Source Wave. And don’t use every single PBN site you own to link to every single money site you own. This seems to be where people went wrong when I look around the web for more information on PBNs getting deindexed.
Looking forward to No Hat’s summary of why you feel your and other people’s sites were deindexed in a little while.
Nice summary GDB thanks.
Great info&updates on this issues. Thanks Greg! I also think that Google is focusing more and more to optimizing the algorithm towards on-page and useful content.They are not there yet, but they are working hard on it.
My first website was created about something I do, and love to talk about. I did not do any link building at all. I think I look once – and I have in total 10 natural links. I did not even considered the on page SEO rule of thumb – 1% or under – for your main keyword. (the most popular article mention the main kw up to 5%). I just wrote the articles the best I could considering I would be the audience. After 2 years since I started the site (it has around 70 articles – no advertising) I rank 1st, and 2nd (depends from where you search) for my main keyword – which gets me up to 450 visitors/day. None of the Google updates ever affected my website rankings in any way.
You guys just scared me.
Need to figure out better, cleaner and faster strategy to build links.
I have total about 30 website pbn and money websites.
– All of them build on expired domains and were purchased in last 3 months.
– All domains are clean from spam.
– All domains has private whois.
– Note: i didn’t build any links yet.
I just checked and all of them indexed in google.
Just for clarification: you mean de-indexed so you can’t find any pages when typing in google: site:http://mydomain.awesome ?
Also forgot to ask:
What whois data you guys were using for domain?
Real name? or Private whois?
Primarily real name. That was probably the main issue it appears.
You got it, de-indexed = wiped from Google. As for scaring you, the intention of this post wasn’t necessarily to scare people but rather to highlight what’s going on. As I say often, we’re in a unique position to provide value through revealing our ups and downs and we rushed to get this post out to increase awareness that there’s some activity around PBN de-indexation right now.
I would strongly suggest NOT building money sites on expired domains moving forwards. The fact we lost 6 money sites that were build on expired domains is a big warnings sign. It’s as though Google just pulled the trigger on expired domains with certain characteristics. I’m sure we’re not the only ones that lost genuine sites that somehow appeared to G as PBN sites.
Hey Greg. Just wondering, did the 6 expired domain money sites have similar content to what the domain was before it expired or was it a different niche/theme?
for example did you have an automotive money site get hit that was on an expired domain that used to be an automotive blog?
Not sure on that actually Marc. The new content would have been similar, but how similar I don’t know.
Great post and great timing Greg. I too got hit hard by the thin content warning on some of my personal sites. I cried, I laughed, and then had some gluten-free ice cream (it helps ;-)
Regarding the thin content warning and to save money on articles. I was thinking NoHat can test Spencer’s approach to the best survival knife site:
– deindex the money site
– get a new domain
– transfer the content to new site
– add “thick” content
– build links from PBNs.
Second test… add a 301 redirect from from the hit domain. Maybe just the domain is hit and the juice is still good, and since all the links are relevant, the speed of re-ranking and sandbox side stepping might be better.
Great ideas Amir, certainly the laughing and eating ice cream lol.
Amir, I wouldn’t suggest 301 redirecting to the new domain.
If the domain is hit the penalty could follow to the new domain.
I think this is what Spencer Haws recommended not to do, although in his case it was a negative seo penalty so I’m not sure.
I really just think it’s about great and useful content. You can’t game Google anymore. I think those who are claiming SEO isn’t dead are lying to themselves. You really have to have a laser focus on providing useful, engaging content. If you do everything else will happen naturally.
Nate Tsang says:
“I really just think it’s about great and useful content”.
It’s important, but it’s about a lot more than that. There is a ton of great and useful content on the web that no one ever reads, or that gets read, but doesn’t make anyone any money.
“You can’t game Google anymore.”
The ROI certainly isn’t as high as it was a few years ago, but this is demonstrably not true.
“You really have to have a laser focus on providing useful, engaging content.”
Always a good idea.
“If you do everything else will happen naturally.”
1% of the time this is the case. 99% of the time it isn’t. If Hayden had launched NoHatSeo.com without going on Spencer’s podcast and offering massive value, he would have been blogging into the ether, despite the massive value being offered.
I agree re Hayden launching NoHat via Spencer. It seems that in order to succeed it is all about leveraging relationships with others in order to build an audience. This is fine if you have a great product or service but more difficult if you are simply chasing affiliate commissions.
Leveraging relationships is key, but it’s all about intent. You’re only going to get traction if you’ve nurtured the relationship and providing value.
I agree with all of your points. I just think purchasing expired domains and rebuilding sites to create PBNs solely for the goal of ranking your money sites is straight up trying to game Google and they are going to catch on. It’s only a matter of time.
I really think you hit the nail on the head with creating relationships. Doing so with other higher profile figures in your niche is key. I still think link building is important as well, just not as much as it used to be. You’re never going to get true high quality links by creating them yourself through loopholes in the system. Those loopholes always close up over time.
Building relationships with other people, growing your audience through them and through great content, will always be the more everlasting method of creating a true money site.
Or you could just do ecommerce and call it a day…
Go back to MOZ Google troll.
NOT TRUE: You can build the best website on planet Earth for a specific topic and no one will ever find it. You can even tell all your friends about it and it will still not be popular site.
Go back to Moz
It is definitely not just good and useful content. I too have 1 PBN site hit that I cannot figure out, I only write unique, 1000 word articles, sub headers, on sites, the content is good.
Thanks for this, Greg. I’ve been waiting for a long time to see a big player take the time to analyze this stuff. There isn’t enough info out there yet. I continuously encourage people to share their experiences, but not everybody is as willing to talk as I’d like.
My experience is that 2 out of my 41 PBN sites were deindexed. I’m guessing it’s because they were on cheap hosting IPs together with other, shittier PBN sites.
For my own PBN sites, I went as far as writing 1000 word posts. I did that because I wanted a really good text-to-link ratio (in favor of text, rather than links, as I’m sure you understand).
It may or may not be working. A couple of my 1000 word PBN sites still got deindexed, so having big posts is certainly no cure-all.
One 1000 word site survived a hit on an IP where all other shitty PBN sites were wiped out.
Like you, I also think the whois info has something to do with it. I’ve only used privacy on my first few PBN sites. The rest is *all* fake info. I’m not doing privacy anymore. Ever.
I make sure the admin has the first name that matches the whois info. It’s so little effort, yet makes it look so much more real.
I have also speculated that Google’s algorithm might be searching these sites out by their long tail anchor usage.
For this reason, I am now building only generic/brand links from my PBN sites. Well… and for the reason that I wanted to have more generic/brand links to my sites for pillowing.
In my keyword research activities, I have come across many competitor’s sites. Some of them have risen to the top for very high competition, 2-phrase keywords. These guys are ranking with less than 1% keyword anchors in their Ahrefs backlink profile. It could be that they are hiding loads of PBN sites. But at first glance, it looks like you require very little longtail anchors to rank.
The interesting thing is that you’ve had sites deindexed that weren’t even used to build links. These sites are straight out of the gate deindexed.
Now that’s an interesting case right there. Did you try to retheme them by putting content on them and by sending them some new links?
Were these sites with a small backlink profile? A big backlink profile?
I know people who have never seen deindexings. And that’s the ones who make sure the domains match the content and turn those PBN sites into real sites.
It’s obvious that this is a great way of staying off the radar permanently. But it’s a real bitch having to limit yourself to domains that match your niche.
Forgive me this wall of text, but I’m doing this braindump in the hopes that we can figure out something useful by working together.
Thanks for the detailed comment Jay, I appreciate the time it takes to do a comment that detailed. Re people never seeing de-indexing, we’d seen very little de-indexing for such a large network. I believe it will become more and more common if the past month or so is anything to go by.
This deindexing thing was going on years ago as well. I researched it. Some people back in 2012 lost more than 150 sites in one fell swoop.
Deindexing won’t necessarily continue. For two reasons.
1. They’re weeding out the most until they feel they’ve done enough, then they roll out an update. Things go quiet and another period of relative SEO stability begins.
2. We learn what to do about it and prevent most deindexings.
It might seem bleak now. But it has seemed bleak so many times in the past. And yet SEOs still make money in the serps.
If the past is anything to go by… this will blow over one way or another.
Yep agree Jay, G seems to operate on the principle of doing just enough to scare the crap out of people and then moving onto the next update.
Gotta hit the sack now.
I’ll be closely following NHD, because I’m dying to hear the conclusion of your ongoing research into this matter.
Good luck, my friend.
Nate Tsang says:
Good comment. I’ve been through a lot of updates and penalties over the years – survived some, got hit by some, and it has always followed the pattern you describe.
Also worth noting that back in 2012, most PBNs used 100% spun content, which had been working for years. After Google stamped a lot of that out, most SEOs starting investing in higher quality PBNs that weren’t so easy to detect algorithmically. As Google adapts, so do SEOs. Plenty of people still make their living gaming Google, and will continue to do so for years to come.
However, also worth noting that anytime you’re taking advantage of an inefficiency, there is a window of opportunity where the pickings are easy, and then that window usually closes and the easy money dries up. That’s how it was with affiliate marketing and Adwords a few years back. Its starting to happen slowly with the arbitrage approach to SEO. Very, very slowly.
Like you said, there’s still plenty of money to be made gaming the SERPs, and it’ll likely stay that way for many years to come. But at a certain point, the energy it takes to constantly stay one step ahead of Google can be just as easily applied to building sustainable businesses that don’t have a single point of failure. Where that point comes is for each individual to decide, but the type of analytical thinking it takes to constantly game Google successfully can also be applied to other aspects of online business and marketing.
Gaming Google can be fun and profitable and for most of us here it’s still our bread and butter and will continue to be a revenue stream down the road. But a lot of us at NoHatDigital also feel that in the current SEO climate, there are better, more rewarding ways to make money online and that’s where we’ve been starting to focus our attention over the last half a year.
I understand your reasoning. But seeing as how content creation will probably be automated, I foresee a long, prosperous future of SE gaming.
Quote: “In the not so distant future De Ménibus plans to provide an online service for the general public, enabling everyone to access a robot writer. Who said there was already too much verbiage on the net?”
Sorry to hear about this guys. Yup, i had mine deindexed too. Roughly about 40% of my network as well. My deindexation happened a little while ago. (around July) And i received 2 “pure spam” emails in my WMT since yesterday, if i go back and check for indexing on my PBN list now, i’m sure i will discover a lot more deindexed sites LOL. Sure, it hurts when 40% of my PBN sites got hit in July. They come in a series of batch emails in WMT, and I thought i leave my footprints very clean. I was so depressed back then, and was desperate to rebuild the broken PBNs. Lucky i still have a list of unused expired domains to rebuild the network up again. Right now, I am just laughing de-indexation off like its nothing.
For others that got hit, Its not the end of the world guys! Move on, learn from it and adapt to fit!
Agree Aaron re laughing it off. One of the guys here yesterday said it best when he said you’re only a true SEO when you’ve been through an update and been smashed lol. It sucks, but you learn, adapt and move on.
Sto Rey says:
Michael M says:
Assuming Registrant/WHOIS information is the culprit, how would one avoid that? I thought there were two main ways of addressing that issue: Fake registrant information or private/proxy registration. Did you not have one of those in place on the sites that were de-indexed?
Nope, very few fake registrants and very few has private registrations… Didn’t see it as necessary… at the time of course!
The use of google docs and gmail when dealing with PBNs has got to be a risk factor.
Google does scan all emails on gmail in order to serve ads, perhaps they look for other patterns too.
It’d be interesting to know whether the de-indexed PBNs where tracked using Google docs/gmail?
Yes, we use G docs and gmail. Maybe a contributor, but not one G will ever reveal. Bad PR.
Josh Shogren says:
I use google docs for keeping track of all of my PBN sites only about 4 out of my 40 sites got deindexed. The deindexed sites have happened over the past month too.
Great analysis, Greg.
What Amir says makes a lot of sense as risk-minimization strategy; transfer/edit the content, and have a 301 to your money site from the expired domain so you still get link juice.
“Leveraging relationships is key, but it’s all about intent. ” —> Relevant. Links.
Not a hope of google using emails and docs to find dodgy dealings. They would get caught out eventually as they all do in the end and that would bring down a bucket load plus of crap.
That could not be kept quiet forever!! Everything comes out in the end so I am sure that is not a strategy they are using..
The reality is, it is so simple for big G to track these sites in most cases. Even I could do it and I am crap at technical stuff… With little or no patience.
You can bet your bottom dollar that they have a team reading all of these great blogs and sites like nohatdigital.com will also be members of rankhero and all other popular link building sites.
They only have to find one link from any suspected site that is there to manipulate the rankings whether it is part of a pbn or not, they can easily then track all other links to and from these sites and spider out to find all other sites and locate those that have a similar pattern (I say pattern as unlike footprints, whether you use differnt ip’s, themes, styles and content, there are a number of things that still create a familiar pattern with most pbn sites and content.
Before you know it they can locate thousands of these sites and deindex them negating all that hard work and money..
It is clear that the only way to reduce, but NOT remove the chances of deindexing a pbn is to buy existing domains with good relevant content and build them out making them current and then build out links to a range of sites. Not just wiki sites and yours!
The reality is try as we might to game the system, google will always be ahead. This is their game and we are participants.
I have been lucky that so far, none of my sites have been hit and I must admit that I am not as squeaky clean as I am advocating above. I have my fingers crossed but know that moving forward it is going toget harder and harder to game the system.
This is all in my own humble opinion of course. Please don’t take as gospel because I could be wrong! :-)
Velin Naydenov says:
I’m really sorry to hear that some of your PBNs have been recently de-indexed by Google. In the middle of the post you mentioned that according to your early investigation most likely some of the websites in question have been de-indexed based on the Registrant/WHOIS information of their domains. What does it mean, should we start using different WHOIS data for each new niche site domain and will the WHOIS Privacy do the trick?
This is really strange because as far as I understand if I have a niche website without PBN links in it and I have another one with such links, Google can apply penalty to both of the sites because I have used the same WHOIS information… correct me if I’m wrong.
PBN de-indexing and penalties for money sites are different issues. The penalty warnings are all manual from what we’re seeing. I don’t think G would manually penalize money sites just due to WHOIS.
Velin Naydenov says:
Ok, I see. Last dummy question, if you have a money website which is using PBN and the PBN gets a penalty (like some of yours), does this necessary mean that the money site will drop the rankings because of that or it also will receive a warning or penalty because of the PBN usage?
Depends on the extent. I suspect a couple PBN links from a PBN site that gets de-indexed won’t be an issue, but at a certain threshold it looks like it would be almost certain.
Alistair Cochrane says:
I think they might…
I had 8 domains recieve a manual action for thin content that I’m pretty sure they didn’t visit.
I know this because I can see the visits from Mountain View using the Linux operating system in Google Analytics. They only visited 3 other sites.
In my case, they found my 1st money site via Rank Hero. They then looked at either wmt or GA to find other sites of mine.
After this they hit all emd’s and pmd’ regardless of links or content.
A shopify site was inspected and passed despite a few rank hero links.
Branded domains and my own blog were ignored.
Big G slaps with a broad fist)
Oh and I buried my sorrows with an entire box of Pringles chips all to myself lol
Alistair Cochrane says:
I should add that on my niche money sites a manual review consisted of 1 page view on the homepage. Hardly in detail.
This is for sure a punishment for being involved with PBN’s rather than a thin content action.
Joe Magnotti says:
Hard to disagree with you Alistair. Google is probably trying to scare the crap out of anyone from setting up or buying links from a PBN again. I’m sure it has worked on some people.
That’s the way Google rolls Joe isn’t it? > scare the crap our of SEOs by making a big splash. They do it well.
I lost about 17% in one network over the last few weeks. Got me thinking: “if I was Google, how would I tackle PBNs”:
1. Pull together a list of $1 hosting providers and get their IP addresses…not too difficult
2. Look at what sites are hosted on these…ooo, look, most are 2-3 article that are no way based on the domain name…dog training on a politician website…say no more
3. Look at the links going out from the site…ahhh…all going to money sites with keyword rich anchors
4. Create an algorithm that detects all of the above and de-indexes the domains
That was easy and I don’t even have 1% of the brain power of the GoogleTrons.
You guys mention a lot about build PBNs like legitimate sites but I also suspect hosting companies are a factor now – I checked one of my providers and most of the sites hosted on their server were PBN…and guess what? Pretty much all-indexed.
Might have to start hosting PBNs on Bluehost….now where is that affiliate link :)
Yep, got some solid points there. And GTrons certainly know far more than we’d even consider. Let’s let the dust settle and see what happens.
reading through just wondered if you had considered big g has been monitoring domain auctions and devaluing bought and repurposed ones, as you said all those bought in the lawt three months were deindexed?
Absolutely think that’s the case Ben.
Thanks for the update.
What does this mean for Rank Hero and Rank Graduate? How many of those sites were hit? Are you going to be replacing them? Are you going to refund credits for articles on sites that were hit? And are you going to put article approvals on hold until the deindexing has been completed to stop people wasting credits?
Hey Leigh, we’ve put article approvals on hold for Rank Graduate and our other Intern/PTC networks until things play out. Can’t speak on behalf of Rank Graduate as that’s a NoHatMedia/Spencer platform that NHD is not involved with.
Thanks mate. Much appreciated.
So why was the Registrant/WHOIS information a problem? Were many of the sites in a network under the same registrant name?
Quite a few Mark. We had diversity there, but numerous on the same details.
DId I miss where to get access to the Index Checker?
Should be a popup?
There is opportunity in chaos!
Those that constantly assess and evolve will not only survive, but will thrive. Unlike the whoa-me folks staring at their feet crying they have shit on their shoes, I anticipate the No Hat team will appreciate what they have and not bitch about what they don’t. Looking forward to your insights new opportunities and techniques.
As always, thanks for sharing your observations, insights, and analysis.
Thank you Jim, appreciate those kind words!
Any solution to this problem?
I don’t think it has to do with the whois, I’ve had sites that I bought almost a year ago and they were deindexed.
I have a feeling it has to do with the hosts the sites were sitting on, these are cheap hosts and maybe google were simply targeting them specifically because they have tendency to host some nasty stuff…
Just a thought.
Maybe Shay, we need to do more research for sure.
Nate Tsang says:
Doesn’t have to be an either-or.
I think based on the data in this case we can say with near certainty that Google does look at WHOIS info. That doesn’t mean they don’t target ultra cheap shared hosts/seo hosting as well – they almost certainly do.
Curious – of the sites that you bought at auction that were blanket de-indexed…
1. Were they all purchased at one site? Which one?
2. Were they all purchased using a single username (login handle)?
If so… as a possiblity… maybe Google scraped the site for high volume buyers, scraped the domain names that were purchased, and performed a mass kill (de-index) based on the assumption that if someone complains, they’ll provide a “manual review”… taking months to address at their leisure.
Just a thought to consider as you perform your post-mortem analysis…
Thanks Jim. We were buying from 4-5 different sites. But absolutely makes sense right now that volume buyers were targeted. Suppose we need to wait for a few big players to come out and report the same.
You mentioned Links4Life was not affected. Do you see a trend towards Shared Private PBNs in which 10-15 guys come together and manage a PBN in between themselves. Also since there are multiple parties involved less chances of common links being found etc.
Also is this deindexing on PBN sites only, are the money sites which were linked to still indexed and not part of penalty?
We’re seeing money sites still indexed, but with manual penalties. It is clear that diversity in a PBN is required. WHOIS, site types, number of outbound links, sites they’re linking to etc. So from that perspective, Links4Life fits that profile nicely as would shared PBNs.
Now this is food for thought….
Has anyone seen any effect on their money sites after this update?
Yes Alisa, we got manual thin content penalties.
Very interesting to read this as I had a money site hit in the last week that got marked as pure spam despite the fact that I had written all the content and I thought it was pretty good. Definitely not scraped. It was (accidentally) built on an expired domain that I bought two months ago. I didn’t buy it at auction and it had only two existing, fine links and I hadn’t done much link building to it, so I was at a complete loss until now.
As for my pbn, it seems ok ATM
That sucks. Obviously G is targeting expired domains whilst understanding actual proper sites will be hit.
I suspect the spam team are playing with a new tool. I just had 15 sites de indexed for “pure spam”…. Yeah a couple were but some not. Some pbns sites…. trying to work out what the footprint is. Difference here is I triggered the manual review on one site…. stupid mistake. Its all good though, its all learning :)
Damn, brought it on yourself! It’s a learning for sure :-)
Samjo Beejay says:
How did you trigger manual review?
G just followed PBN sites and the money sites they were linking to.
Two questions guys:
1.) Why are you not using private domain registration to hide your WhoIs data for these domains? Is that a bad thing?
2.) What is the update on RankHero? I used RankHero for two money sites. I see that pretty much all of the network I was using is now deindexed, and I have manual penalty messages for these websites.
Hi Hayley, we hadn’t used private rego as we (rightly or wrongly) didn’t see it as necessary as we believed it would make no difference… if G wanted to find a PBN they could kind of thing. May have been a mistake in hindsight, but early days so we’ll do more analysis. As for RankHero, NoHatDigital.com is not affiliated with RankHero (it’s a NoHatMedia and Spencer platform), so I can’t speak on behalf of RH.
My PBN Data:
Of our 5 segregated networks, 1 was affected:
1. 32 of 33 sites were de-indexed
2. All had Pure Spam messages (Manual Action) in WMT when I logged in (all separate Gmail/WMT accounts)
3. None had WMT setup prior to de-indexing (I setup after the fact. Logged in to check)
4. All have OBLs to genuine businesses, not some affiliate spam
5. Some non-drop some drop domains
6. 32 have whois info hidden. Different registrars so different whois info
7. All are on separate hosts with completely unique IPs. Varying geographical locations
8. All are cheap hosts (see below)
9. No dedicated IPs for hosting
10. All are .com .net and .org TLDs (see below)
* TLD: The one domain that was untouched happens to be a localized .com.tld for my country. This is a TLD that you cannot have privacy activated for. The local laws mean you need to be a genuine business to register this particular TLD, which is the case; my business name a genuine email is on the whois. Again, this one site out of the whole network, was untouched.
*HOSTS: All of these sites are all on completely separate, very cheap hosting accounts, with very different IPs and geo locations around the world. The kind of hosts that when you check all the other sites hosted on the IP, there are many PBN websites. When I checked – ALL the PBN websites were de-indexed from my hosts – ALL the genuine websites were still indexed.
I suspect the hosting is the number 1 reason here. The G Spam Team could easily sift through all sites on these dodgy hosts and find the seed footprint to remove thousands of PBN networks.
I always suspected it was better to “hide” amongst thousands of other websites on a shared host, but not any more. How many of you guys lost sites with dedicated IPs?
Picked up by Algorithm then manually reviewed? Or, is it simply a mass manual action following a hosting footprint?
Thanks for the detailed analysis Terry. We’ll have to take a better look through hosting. That’s key information.
Very interesting and timely info. So far I have only had one site deindexed, and was able to get it reindexed after a reconsideration request. Treading very lightly at the moment with my network!
Hoang Lo says:
Did you send a reconsideration request to reindex your PBN or money site?
Thanks for the post Greg. I only have 5 PBN sites and all have been indexed! The money sites they were linking to all received “thin content” or “unnatural links” messages.
Are you guys removing the links from the PBN to your money sites? Also I’m wondering if I should remove Adsense from the money sites at this stage.
** de-indexed **
Probably too late to bother now if you’ve been penalized Lin… But worth a shot.
I’m thinking that Privacy Protection is a good step on every PBN you may own. I was penalized by this update as well (used RankHero for links) and it’s just made me more motivated to succeed.
For me, I think the next strategy will be building sites out the NoHat way (the PTC does teach you an outstanding amount of knowledge about site structure) and then sticking to purely white hat (blog commenting and outreach) over the first 90 days.
Then from there, use some personal PBN (emphasize the P for private) sites (equipped with a modified HTAccess file or Spyder Spanker) to juice the bigger money pages while I add content.
I know a couple folks that do on page for a living for big corporations, and they both feel that a properly silo’d site can rank for competitive keywords just by good KW research and a proper on site structure.
Will have to see how the first 90 days goes while it corresponds with a Google Sandbox and some white hat link building methods. Should also give some time to see if more PBN sites get deindexed by letting those PBN’s age on the sidelines with no new links.
Spot on with that analysis Jason, that’s why we spend 4 weeks out of 5 in the PTC on keyword research, on-page SEO and site structure. This update only emphasizes the need to get the fundamentals right.
The thin content warnings are a bit concerning to me. It seems to me that google used my webmaster tools or analytics account to link all my sites and apply a manual penalty to all of them. It makes me wonder if we should stop keeping multiple websites on the same webmaster tools account.
I got that same manual penalty you mention on all of my sites yesterday. I have 4 niche sites and 2 of them were link built via pbn. The other 2 were not. All have private Whois, but on same shared bluehost account. On one of the non-PBN link built niche sites, I had just set up the content but not added affiliate links (I was waiting for it to rank). On the other one, I actually had zero content on it (just an about page). With respect to the two that were link built via PBN, they all had 1000 word articles, so it’s debatable to me that they were thin content. But they had affiliate links, so I get that google may have seen them as thin affiliates. But the other two didn’t have affiliate links and were really just future projects for me waiting out the sandbox. They weren’t getting traffic yet so it’s odd that google would pay any attention to them.
So why did I get the thin content penalty for all 4 sites? The way I see it is that they linked them because they’re all on my same google webmaster tools and analytics account. So it seems more like a penalty being applied to me generally, rather than an individual “thin content” issue with sites.
So should we start setting up different webmaster tools and analytics accounts for every website we own? Or not even use google properties if we’re going to do anything that may be slightly grey hat?
I think with this update G is just making a big statement and wiping everyone that has been using PBNs. It would take ages for them to comb through each site in someone’s acct, so they’re just smashing the lot. Pretty brutal, but it’s a great way to scare the crap out of people and put them of PBN link building which would be their intent.
Hi, Greg and Dave—
This is exactly my situation. Every site in my Webmaster Tools account received a manual penalty—even the totally white-hat ones. If I added other sites to my Webmaster Tools account, would they be seen as “untrustworthy” by Google? In other words, does Google apply a “vote of no confidence” to an entire WMT or Analytics account?
Also—does receiving manual penalties threaten my AdSense account? I’m wondering—if I put AdSense on a site I’ll make in the future, will that site be seen as untrustworthy because I used the same AdSense account on the sites that were just penalized?
Sorry for the barrage of questions! I appreciate your answers and your feedback.
Not sure about the Adsense part, but what you have outlined re account-wide penalties looks to be very common.
Thank you, Greg! Just as a follow-up—is the WMT account penalized, or just each individual site? I guess what I’m wondering is, if I add a new, totally white-hat site to the WMT account, would that site also be penalized because I added it to a WMT account that had received so many penalties?
At this stage, I’d be leaning towards setting a new WMT acct. Seems to be acct wide penalties.
The exact same thing happened to me. All of my sites in one analytics account got smashed. Only 2 were ever linked using Rankhero (I never used another PBN). A bunch of those sites had 15k words of content or more and were just sitting there waiting to pass the sandbox just like you said. They didn’t have a single affiliate link or back link. It definitely looks like Google just penalized the entire account. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even look at all the sites.
Yep, hearing this alot.
I always put my money sites on new Google accounts with a different name and Google+ account. It’s a pain but I don’t want my sites associated with each other. It’s lazy.
Your conclusion that hosting is not a factor for De-indexing is wrong IMHO. I have seen all or majority of sites hosted on some cheap shared hosts get de-indexed and on analyzing all sites hosted on that IP, I have seen majority of sites getting de-indexed. So, IMHO goggle is going after cheap shared hosting as one of the factor.
Maybe. Still early days ad we’ll keep digging. Just our initial observations at this stage.
Absolutely. Please see my comment above.
thanks Terry for the insightful comment above. I also think private whois is also becoming a footprint, its much better to have a fake whois (with good email because whois emails are checked) then to have a private whois.
Thanks for sharing this. Found this on Inbound and voted up for quality information.
I think PBN is pretty challenging nowadays. Last time it was easy; buy expired domains, put some great stuffs and leverage it. Now, the game had changed.
Long story short, I do think PBN has future but a rather thin one. Basically, you may enjoy the ‘power’ of it but don’t expect it as a long run solution.
Keep an eye closely on this!
Thanks Reginald. We believe PBNs have a future too but it’s very clear SEOs need to change it up now.
Did everyone who got websites de-indexed were using google webmaster tool or analytic on one of websites???
A month ago i added google webmaster for one of my legit website except it had one paid link for 2 months. Guess what? I got penalty after 2 hours.So google webmaster tool has their hands everywhere ;)
Interesting reading. I only have 15 sites and 3 have been de-indexed. All of my sites have whois privacy, two of the de-indexed sites were with the same registrar and bought at a Godaddy auction.
Fortunately, none of my money sites have any manual actions on them and I had only used a few Rank Hero links. Will be interesting to see what comes out of this.
I personally think this might end up being positive as a lot less people will continue building out a PBN. I had certainly found it increasingly difficult to find good expired domains.
Just to build on my comment above :https://www.nohatdigital.com/blog/pbn-sites-de-indexed/#comment-75657
I have checked a lot of the sites on the host IP that I used (my site was de-indexed) and all the de-indexed sites were obvious PBNs. In the main, most had between 3-5 posts with links in all or just 1 post. 1 site had a “best practise” 4 posts with only 1 linking out. One de-indexed site even had 4 post with no links and got hit (although they may have removed the link after the site got de-indexed).
Not massively conclusive I know, but I suspect G are going in at the cheap hosting IP level and taking out any WordPress-based sites with low number of posts and “unnatural” external link profiles.
The fact that there may be some (small) collateral damage has never really bothered G in the past. Think about it though…why would a “mom” blog be hosted on $1 hosting…more likely to use Bluehost, GD or HostGator (hint, hint).
I see that also some of the “public” PBNs got hit. These had sites that were “best in class” in terms of setting up a PBN site. I suspect these were easily infiltrated (as were promoted widely) and the sites taken down “manually”. Result = big players write article on it + everyone else sees PBNs de-indexed at host IP level and boom, the GoogleGanda machine is in overdrive = result.
Will be interested to see if this is a one-off or a routine algorithm.
Just my musing s on a Saturday morning :)
PS: Watch the expired domain market get flooded now with de-indexed domains
Appreciate the transparancy, some good info here. We’ll get it figured out!
Have you guys considered that the CMS you’re using could be a factor? Vast majority of people are exclusively using WordPress for PBN sites, could be another factor alongside whois & hosting
Possibly a factor.
No Name says:
I’ve been beating this drum for a long time but nobody listens.
Couldn’t agree more :)
good to hear that you are not panicking.
I myself got a small Dutch network with just under a dozen sites. They are all still indexed.
Some where on Whois privacy, some on fake names. Spread over shared hosting and cheap hosting. Different registrars.
I did not use tools to shield them for crawlers as I thought that might cause some red flags for Google.
I also did not hear not a single Dutchy about losing PBN sites.
Do you also consider that on top of logarithmic penalties, Google might also just went after more known networks like RH manually? because these PBN sites are manually quite easy to find and map.
We’ll do some more digging and report back. Possibly a mix of algo and manual.
My PBN sites are intact. However, all of my money sites got hit with the thin content penalty
Half of these sites didn’t have affiliate links, but just good content. Pretty brutal.I left obvious footprints in the way of adsense and WMT, as I was told these were safe to use. The truth is, anything Google related you need to treat as incredibly toxic right now.
Picking up the pieces, this is going to be tough.
Ride it out Rob. PBN intact is great news considering how many others have been hit.
Marius Fermi says:
There was a recently released “Cloud” PBN (as far as I’m aware the Cloud part of it is there for show and doesn’t really represent much in terms of what the actual Cloud does) which looked very tempting but I’ve had my doubts on PBNs since we saw MyBlogGuest get taken down. Will keep a close eye on this but still very cautious of it all.
Also the expired domains getting hit was a huge surprise for sure!
You mentioned in the comments that you were using gmail and google docs.
That’s probably the number 1 reason why your sites got hit.
School boy error
School boy is wondering why all sites weren’t hit if G docs were a factor…. All our PBN management is done in the one G doc. Don’t think it’s a likely candidate as a factor on that basis.
What’s the solution for sites that received link penalties as a result of the no hat pbn? It would be nice of you shared the de indexation data with customers (for your own sake — disavowing your baddies with your goodies might be revealing).
We’ll be providing more info on money site penalties over the coming weeks Danny on this blog. I suspect you might be talking about RankHero though? Not sure what you mean by “for your own sake — disavowing your baddies with your goodies might be revealing”.
David Cruickshank says:
I have invested a lot of money in Rank Hero. Every link I have posted has been just been de-indexed. I still have a lot of credits to use what will happen to them?
Contact RankHero direct David and I’m sure they’ll help you out, NHD is not affiliated with RH.
Yesterday all our money sites and PBN was also hit by G penalty – “thin content” in webmaster tools. We had about 10 money sites (few just started without any links) and PBN of approx. 20 domains. We studied all the data of our websites we could find, and came to following conclusions.
1) Site in PBN network + no privacy domain = Penalty in all occasions.
2) Site in PBN network + privacy = No penalty (incomplete data).
3) Money site or any other website (even authority sites with no relation to PBN network and built with pure white hat) on same webmaster tools or analytics account as penalized money sites = Penalty in all occasions.
4) Interesting findings with one domain – Not in webmaster tools or analytics, no relations with PBN, with no domain privacy, and on the same host with PBN site (privacy domain) that was not penalized = Penalty (Possibly due to same whois records as penalized money sites).
From our current incomplete research it seems that G has targeted websites from same WMT or Analytics account, as well as domains with same registrar (without privacy). And we are not sure if G has targeted cheap hosting, as a way to target PBN networks, because some PBN sites with privacy on cheap hosting accounts have not been penalized.
Thanks Iginla, great analysis.
Greg I agree with what Terry wrote a few comments above.
The biggest common denominator I am seeing for all of my sites that were de-indexed is the fact that they were all hosted on cheap $1 hosts.
The easiest thing for google to do is just go through all the sites that are sitting on those hosts and manually review them.
Think about it for a second, it’s the easiest thing in the world and there’s hardly any effort involved here!
I had 9/25 sites de-indexed from my first pbn that I made over 2 years ago.
15 sites were on IXwebhosting, 6 penalized.
10 sites were on a different host with similar types of dedicated IP packages, 3 penalized.
While they had separate IPs, they were VERY similar, which makes me think this has little to do with hosting when only a few sporadic ones get hit.
None of my PBN sites had whois protection. Don’t really see a pattern or footprint other than having the same sites linked from them.
I’ve also noticed that all my main sites that got the thin content penalty did not have whois protection, but my 3 that had whois protection are fine.
Interesting Rando thanks.
People are you telling me that you are using WMT and don’t hide/use fake info on your whois ? Good luck with your pbns…
Hey guys. Do you use CloudFlare?
If so, does any sites with CloudFlare name severs been affected?
Don’t use it.
Hi Greg, why should we not use Cloudflare? I use on it on a few of my domains as a CDN to primarily just speedup site load times!
Leaves a footprint as none of the sites have a static IP which is abnormal. You can use it for part of your network. We just choose not to.
INteresting that you simply say don’t use cloudflare. Why is that? Is its use toxic in any and all scenarios? I was just getting ready to experiment with trying it as a way to cloak tier2/3 links, etc. Could you expound a little?
We believe it leaves a footprint. You can use it on some sites, just don’t do it network wide.
Alistair Cochrane says:
Yes but they were money sites linked with Rank Hero links.
Greg if you’re looking for sites to include in your “experiment” I would be happy to offer you some of mine… I got an entire account penalized and some had a lot of content with no affiliate links or backlinks. Others were affiliate sites and I have little hope of ever getting them back. If you’re interested just email me and I would be happy to share the sites with you. You can basically do whatever you want with them. Just share the results with me and I’ll be happy…
Sure, thanks mate.
Very interesting. I have a couple of questions:
Do you think any of your de-indexed PBN sites would pass a manual review?
Original and well-written content can also be “thin”, right?
Does Google place any arbitrary limits on how many “real” websites one could own, openly?
I look forward to your updates.
I think once a human looks at a PBN site they can tell it’s a PBN site. The trick has always been trying to hide the PBN sites from human in the first place (e.g. not triggering a review). Yes, original content can be thin in Google’s eyes as per their terms of service. basically keyword targeted articles that are designed to make money are pretty much classed as thin.
Ok this is a REALLY stupid question — but what does this mean for our money sites that had PBN links pointing to them?
I used a PBN service (not Rank Hero) and have gotten 10 posts so far — I just checked, and it looks like 3 of those domains have been deindexed.
But, so far at least, my rankings have not changed at all.
So what does it mean if you have a money site with deindexed PBN links pointing to it? Will you definitely lose your ranks? Does it depend on how many bad links you have? If you only have a few, may it not matter?
The impact on rankings depends how many links you have. Obviously dropped links is a low-quality signal, particularly if they are from de-indexed sites.
So do we need to disavow links to money sites? I have some from RH after the PTC. I have spent considerable money on content and don’t want to lose this money site. What if any steps should be taken. My site has approx 6 posts on RH with around 10 links.
Stay tuned Rob, we’ll send an update to PTC participants early this week.
I’m an ex-participant from June. Will you be sending those updates to us too?
David Cruickshank says:
I have 5 sites in a PBN. 4 out of the five have been De-indexed. All 5 sites had private Whois, as far as I know Google can’t see past that privacy block so I don’t think that can be the sole factor. The five sites were all on dedicated IP addresses so cheap hosting can’t be to blame either. Also I find it hard to believe Google are targeting expired domains, many people buy expired domains for reasons that have nothing to do with SEO so penalizing a site purely because it has been built on an expired domain would be morally wrong. It would appear Google are identifying a footprint by using a combination of indicators. So far the rankings of my money sites have not fallen very far which would suggest that the links from the PBN’s have not been having the effect I thought they were having anyway. On a slightly different note, I have noticed Hubpages popping up all over the search results in the last few weeks. It is rather disheartening to have spent so long building a site with a link profile only to be topped by a one page hubpage with no links or social indicators.
I have found following pattern:
PBN Sites that were repurposed were deindexed and sites that were bought on Godaddy auction during the last 2 years and/or registered with Godaddy registrar.
I guess it has to do with Godaddy in one way or another. It is the most popular marketplace and also Becker has been sending his students to buy domains there.
Hey Mick, there’s something about it,
All my sites which were deindexed were bought through Godaddy auctions a year ago.
My results are the same so far, godaddy and auctions.
Repurposed domains, gone.
not the case here, expired domains but not from godaddy and .tld with impossible to see whois.
I will share my information in case it will help with the research.
I have bought 6 domains at auction over the past 3 months, zero have been deindexed. Five had private registration, and one did not as it was not allowed with the TLD.
My money sites received no warnings of any sort in WMT, but I am seeing a rather serious decline in impressions through WMT. The hit seemed to occur on September 11 as starting on the 12th the total number of impressions across my money sites have dropped by 66% meaning that I’m showing up in about a third the number of search results I did last weekend.
In any case, that’s what I know more, and I’ll share further when I have more info.
I requested two reviews from Google right after seeing the messages in webmasters tools. Within 2 days I got a response, so it is not months nor weeks. Its days. So definitely fight back on the spam messages.
Site # 1 NoHat Partnership (marked as SPAM content):
My Messege: “There is no way this is spam content. All content have been written by me and passed copyscape to make sure I didn’t accidentally “think” like someone else. please review”
Google’s Message: “We’ve reviewed the reconsideration request for thesiteurl.com and modified its status, but we still believe that content on your site or links to your site are outside our quality guidelines.”
Site # 2 Personal (marked as THIN content):
My Message: “All my content is original. I did not copy or scrape any of it. I simply want to highlight the importance of **CENSORED ;-)** and their benefits. I do not have affiliate pages nor do I auto generate my articles. please reconsider.”
Google’s Message: “We’ve reviewed your site and we believe that thesiteurl.com still violates our quality guidelines.”
I am planning on adding a 1:2 support articles for the the above sites and request a second review. Good thing Greg gave us all a break and suspended RankCharacter submissions so we can focus on this. :-)
I will post an update if and once I get a response.
Also, within my fictional webmasters tools I have 2 more nohat partner sites and neither one was hit. They are both one pagers, one is 4500 words and the other about 3000. So thin content is a relative term.
Thanks Amir, very interesting!
Alistair Cochrane says:
Yes reconsideration requests can be quite quick…
But you still got a knock back in both cases right?
In what way did they modify the status of the 1st site?
Alistair, one of them got changed from SPAM to THIN CONTENT, which is still salvageable in my opinion, since after that status change i got back into the serps but in the 50s-90s range.
Also, I spoke too soon on the other one pagers since yesterday they too got slapped with THIN CONTENT.
Sorry to hear that some of your PBN sites deindexed. I recently built a handfull of pbn sites, some of the has no content on them, some of them I bought on auctions and by drop catch services. I only used a few links from some of my sites, not from all of them. Of course, none of my PBN sites is heavy keyword focused, general domains from various niches. And almost all of them has privacy guard on them. Luckily, none of my sites got deindexed even though there is no content on them.
But what I do is to make the site almost ideantical to its previous theme, write content for user with no keyword in it. I guess it works when you do this way, like you say in the article.
After this hit, I must admit that I am not so keen on using my own PBN anymore. Intstead, I am focusing on links from huge sites, I mean really huge like Alexa 5000 sites with DA80+, PR5+. I am now building a brand website with lots of content on it. I guess I will go this way from now on.
Would like to hear more updates from you guys.
All fun and games until somebody loses an eye:
The network was completely unprotected.
Anyone was able to sign up, and anyone was able to post anything, as often as they wanted, and on sites that were not relevant to the backlink at hand. This allowed a Google employee to sign up and post articles on EVERY site in the network with a unique “tracer” phrase. Then after waiting a few days for Google’s index to update, it was trivial to find every site on the network and deindex it. Game over!
With all the variation in proposed determining factors for what appear to actually be manual reviews, surely there is an algorithmic parameter that is picking this up:
-Shared hosts, Unique IPs, privacy on, privacy off.
-Affiliate links, genuine (business) links, no links.
-Huge original content, a few words of scraped content.
-Purchased at auction, scraped expired domains from many years ago.
What are the common denominators here???
It it starting to look like it is based on an algorithmic comparison of what the website looked liked or was themed as before it was rebuilt. Other factors are surely looked at, but that seems like a good place to start for the algo.
Think it through. If you hadn’t heard that buying a recycled domain allowed you to keep its ranking, would you ever have bought one. Rarely if ever do people buy expired domains because a great name came up – most people building real money sites buy new names (especially since we now have access to hundreds of new TLDs to let us find something that describes our site or business.)
It is very easy for Google to monitor auction sites like GoDaddy etc. They know that the domain is an expired domain just bought at auction – so it is likely somebody bought it to set up a PBN or use it’s link juice via a redirect. So maybe Google is not taking down PBNs per se, but telling us that link juice cannot be bought at auction
Ho Nhu Ngoc says:
I purchased RH credits some days ago. I have submitted one post but it is in pending review 3 days.
I also have submitted helpdesk ticket. However I didnt get any response.
Could you please kindly help me?
Thank you very much
Contact RH direct mate.
James in Japan says:
A couple of thoughts/questions
-I am in week 4 of the internship (Elite) and wonder what impact this will have on our upcoming/final week of training
-sources tell me that Bing is becoming more relevant than previously thought. Does being de-indexed mean Removed From The Internet, or can your sites still be found in Bing or other search engines? Obviously Google is what everyone is targeting because of its mass and authority, but just wondering.
Just de-indexed from Google. Which pretty much is the internet lol. And nope, no change to week 4. Still PBN build-out training.
This is interesting. I was getting sick and tired of buying my PBNs and registering each one to seperate registrant account/alias’s. Was about to start housing them all in one register account and then either keep them there or distribute them out in chunks to other registrar accounts.
Now that you tanked its making me reconsider and thinking that my past extra precautions might have been a really good idea.
Also, do you guys ever plan on creating an article on how you do keyword research in 2014?
We might put a KW research article on the list yeah. Sounds good.
I was trying to wear my Computer Scientist hat and think through, given your observations, what’s the single most revealing feature.
Please note the word I used – “feature” – very carefully. That’s key. Google uses large scale machine learning algorithms, and each signal we speak about is treated as a feature. They learn a large model, driven by features, and known labeled data (such as, humans marking some sites as PBN). Then, they apply those features of test sites, such as our PBN and other sites, to flag whether the site is PBN or not. They will end up having True Positives (sites correctly marked as PBN), false positives (sites wrongly marked as PBN), false negatives (PBN sites wrongly marked as not – this is where we want our sites to be) and true negatives (sites correctly marked as non-PBN).
The question I asked to myself was, “What are the features that are easy enough to learn and are among the most characteristic of PBN sites?” Pretending, I am Google.
The response is exactly what you observed as the final interesting observation. If a site has been deindexed and bought recently, then that’s one of the most serious indicators you can ever get. Think of it: what will make a good PBN site? Not new site with no PR DA PA etc. It has to be an old site with PR DA PA. Now, if the site has DA PA PR for some time and has no been dropped, then it is a trustworthy site. Right? But what if a site with good PR DA PA has been picked up by someone else?
It is IMMEDIATELY a suspect.
In fact, from this post, in the case of those 6 newly acquired money sites without usual PBN characteristics being punished tells me: Google has used this one single factor as the MAJOR flag.
Does someone here understand what “overfitting” mean in Machine Learning lingo?
Google has overfitted its model! It’s current model is so reliant on recency of transfer that (a) it missed domains that were not recently transferred (great news – probably the initial human labeling process was not well-chosen – there was a “class balance” issue – could be because of late the discussions around PBN is high and many PBNs are new) and (b) it mis-labeled recently transferred good domains as bad.
That’s some heart for us. That tells, in most cases where the PBN sites have been transferred sometime back are safe.
The danger, though, is, in acquiring new sites for PBN. How does one do that? No idea. now I am deviating from my computer science intelligence. But let me deviate in the following part of the post, and place my best guesses.
Maybe, a good idea is to go back to the Wayback machine and use the same CMS and theme etc of the site that was, to the extent possible? In fact, while I am NOT suggesting anybody do this, but I would not be surprised if folks go to the extent of finding who owned the previous domain, hosted where, and replicated all of that to the extent possible (and use a fake registrant info closely spelled to the earlier real one). As I said, this is really blackhat and I am not suggesting you do this (there could be implications), but I am saying, this is what I see as many people doing as the next step of the rat race.
And I am sure there will be other possibilities. I can think of a couple more, though not so strong, but yes there are many other things that exist.
Good luck guys. Keep up the spirit of knowledge and resourcefulness. Resourceful folks never die.
Thanks for providing so much detail Fred. Great insights.
FREE hosting PBN (done for testing)
No domains de-indexed
Cheap hosting PBN (for my money sites)
De-indexed: 30% of the domains
All have wordpress with different themes, private whois. c-class IPs (except free hosting PBN), etc.
Greg, did you try free hosting in either of your PBN? I think it’s casuality although there is a good chance Google is monitoring cheap seo hosting.
Nope, we don’t use free hosting.
Did you use Web master tool, google analytic, adsense, gmail, google doc in you hosting?
And does HostNine and ixwebhosting counts as cheap hosting?
I do not use Webmaster Tools / analytics / gmail / google docs in PBN sites.
My cheap PBN nodes are not hosted in none of these Yaro.
Koen van Emden says:
Sorry this is completely off topic, but I still hope someone from the NHD team can answer my question.
When you talk about RPM do you mean rounds per thousand pageviews or unique visitors?
Thanks in advance.
Mike P says:
One of the most obvious indicators of a PBN is the OBL pattern. Linking to the same money sites is a big red flag. I had zero casualties on this update and have about 50 domains in my network. Each domain has a completely different OBL.
when you say that each of your PBN sites has a unique OBL, is there any overlap? So, if PBN site A links to Money sites 1, 2, 3, and 4, then PBN site B would link to Money sites 1, 2, 5, and 6? Is this what you mean?
Okay I am back with more information:
All de-indexed were registered with 2 largest registrars Godaddy and Enom.Inc (Namecheap).
The rest which is untouched is with registrars that are located in small countries. Those sites have unique content but completely repurposed to gaming sites. Nothing happened to them so far.
Mick – what are the TLDs from the small countries you mentioned above? Please see my first post in this thread for more info on TLDs. Thanks
Shahriar Shohag says:
Thanks guys for your idea and experience sharing. My question is are we stop working with PBN now? How we can reindexed asap?
Fine to keep working with PBNs. They’ll still flourish. We just need to tweak the way it’s done.
That sounds really bad. I got to check my own sites right now. Will report back soon.
Just checked & 2 domains are de-indexed out of 50 domains network. These 2 were just recently bought.
Quick question: What are you gonna do with these hundreds of de-indexed domains ? Delete from cpanel and forget about the money invested in them ? Or still keep them online and remove links to money sites ?
Quick possible fix : Why don’t you try 301ing some de-indexed domains to web 2.0 to salvage the link juice ? I’m sure a *.yolasite,com can be more valuable then just closing them for good.
Probably let them slide. 301ing would be interesting though.
Gael Breton says:
You guys realise that with all the time and money you’re spending building PBN’s you could be building email lists/white hat links that make you money each time you press send right ?
I agree that they do work and there’s no good/bad judgement in my statement but with the same kind of money, Facebook ads and a good squeeze page you can get just as much out of it without the risk of a slap.
Then if you want to grow your SEO do exactly what nohatdigital is doing for this site, IE content that engages.
Well, we had a mighty fine process for churning the PBN sites out at low cost (time and money). But, I’m with you on the value/benefits of paid acquisition Gael. Love to have you on for a podcast interview soon if you’re interested. You guys have some cool stuff going on!
Gael Breton says:
Thanks for the kind words Greg, ping me anytime on the email attached to this comment for the podcast!
Will do Gael, thanks.
Great post, i have been spending huge amounts of money and time on PBN for my clients thankfully none are de indexed. My question is do you think PBN strategy will die anytime soon? Google is smart enough to de valuate power of every expired domain?
Links are still links. I guess the jury is still out as to whether Google has/will/can de-value link juice passed on from expired domains. We believe it’s viable still. But the need to diversify the traffic generating methods across a portfolio of sites has never been more clear.
Thanks for the updates guys.
I was hit super hard, and have been scouring the net to see someone cover the issue. Appreciate the transparency.
Has anyone considered moving their existing content to fresh domains? I know Spencer did this with his knife site and was concerned the penalty would follow him. Anyone with any experience of this?
Interesting. I want to know as well if penalty will follow me to the new site when I move the content from deindexed site !
Greg could you please answer ??
I haven’t seen anything to prove either way. Test it and see!
No Name says:
Every time you get hit by a penalty this is the first thing you should do.. clone your site and get working on ranking the new one while letting the other one die.
I’ve wasted months and months in the past waiting and hoping for penalties to be lifted / algorithms to be reversed, and hoping to find a solution to a problem.
Now i’ve gotten to the stage that i don’t care for penalties because i have between 3 – 5 sites redirected to each money site i own, so that if and when a penalty does arrive, i just clone the money site, change the redirects and build 100 or more links and boom my new site is back where my old one originally was in no more than a week.
I host multiple networks of over 350 sites. I break this up into two subsets: 1) the network I rent links on and 2) my personal network. The differences in the quality and precautions taken on each set are quite different and so are the de-indexing causality rates:
0% de-indexed in the high quality link rental network
31% de-indexed in the personal network
Here’s the differences and my comments on the categories of suspected de-index causes:
– Not enough pages of content: Not an issue. My rental sites have at least 20 pages before I start placing links on them. The personal sites have 5 pages before I start building links, but quickly build up to 20+ as I start building out links. Having a low amount of pages didn’t affect my de-indexing rate on the personal sites. In fact, none of 18 of my sites with 5 pages were de-indexed
– Bad spinning / Duplicate Content: Likely an issue. My rental sites use a dedicated writer while my personal sites use iwriter. Iwriter is supposed to be hiring out individual writers, which they do, but anyone who has been using them for a while has likely seen that many people are just using spinners. I can’t say that this is definitely an algorithmic trigger, but its a major difference between my sets of sites.
– Not similar to original page: Not an issue. A majority of sites in both networks have content on them that isn’t in the same niche as the expired site that was on that domain before I acquired it. Furthermore, absolutely zero sites are using a similar theme.
– Authority links: Not an issue. Didn’t seem to affect any sites that didn’t have authority links more than it did to sites that did have them.
– Bells and whistles: Possibly might help, but not likely. My rental sites are built to pass a manual inspection and have enough eye-candy as to keep our SEO clients happy, knowing they’re on legit sites (see example here: http://diggitymarketing.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/iz5kqo.png). All of my link network sites have social pages, opt-in boxes, sliders, etc. It’s very unlikely that Google has built in an algorithm check for these things, but I just wanted to point them out as they’re extremely quick to add.
Hosting: Likely an issue, but read more. My rental sites are all hosted with a combination of cheap $1 hosts, nonameinternet, and legit hosts like hostgator. My personal sites are all using cheap hosts. There is no data to suggest that a cheap host is the cause of a site getting de-indexed, however I’ve noticed that when a site on a particular host got de-indexed, all of the other sites that are using that host get de-indexed too. Google is tending to wipe out the entire IP if it finds a site it doesn’t like. That being said, cheap hosts definitely tend to put multiple customers on the same IP; its the definition of shared hosting. So its entirely possible that some other hooligan on the same IP gets de-indexed, and yours will too by association. My suggestion, go with a hosting provider that can provide you unique A-class IPs. It’s more expensive, but easier to manage in bulk and it will protect you in the long run.
Drop Date: Not an issue. Lot’s of people are reporting that its the new sites that they’ve acquired that have been de-indexed. I have sites that I’ve acquired 2 years ago, and I have sites that have been acquired 2 days ago. It doesn’t seem to matter. There’s a big spread on acquisition age for the sites that got de-indexed.
Registrant/WhoIs: Possibly an issue, but not likely. All of my link rental sites are registered with unique accounts. For example, if I were to buy a domain through GoDaddy, I’d create a new account, with a new email, name, contact, etc. Then I’d buy the domain. All of my personal sites are purchased under the same account and then I either change to private whoIs or I change the details to be something new and unique. WhoIs is historical, so one can easily determine if an email address has at one time been associated with a domain (https://whois.domaintools.com). So its entirely possible that my main GoDaddy account has been traced back to multiple domains. But this is unlikely. If this were a trigger, I’d expect to have at least 50 more domains de-indexed.
So a summary of my findings: use unique content, spend a bit more to get unique A-class hosting and toss up some nice looking widgets for good measure.
Hope this helps,
Thanks Matt, very beneficial outline.
Thanks for the great post.
I lost 1 x money site and 2 x PBN sites (out of 46 in total).
My findings so far:
– Money site had links from RankHero (Obvious reason for the penalty)
– PBN Site 1 was on a really cheap host. Checked other sites sharing the same IP and well over 75% of them are deindexed.
– PBN Site 2 was on a free host. Checked other sites sharing the same IP, and again, over 75% of the sites are deindexed.
What I find interesting though is that I had 2 sites on each host (4 sites in total), yet only 2 got hit.
The sites that got hit were registered with different registrars (Namesilo and Cosmotown), sites that didn’t get hit were with (BigRock and Cosmotown) and all had whois privacy enabled.
So I’m wondering if they have a list of “suspect IP’s” that was taken a while ago and they are slowly just working their way through them. I guess i’ll find out shortly if my other sites get spanked.
I know a lot of people are talking about entire WMT accounts getting slapped, but my money site shared an account with a real website – backed by >30 PBN links and is has remained untouched, in fact, it has gone up quite a few places over the last few days. So unless I have a penalty coming soon, I don’t believe they indiscriminately hit all sites in the WMT accounts.
Hope this helps someone.
One more thing for you guys to look into…
Upon closer inspection, many of my PBNs that are still indexed, appear to have the same thin content penalties as my main sites. The sites don’t come up when the site is searched on google (‘pbndomain.com’), and a site:pbndomain.com reveals all the pages but the homepage.
This seems to be the case for 5/18 surviving domains.
No interlinking between pbn properties.
Joe Magnotti says:
Thanks for a great write up here. The comments are just awesome, if a bit overwhelming. I’m about halfway through, but I think I need to stop. It’s just too disheartening to read anymore.
Certainly there will be a new method to build links in the future. What’s next?
Next up is nothing new for anyone that has been around for a while Joe… diversify, don’t put all the eggs in one basket. My hope is that the pain everyone is experiencing now in losing PBN sites and money sites results in action relating to diversifying and not relying on PBNs. Life has been pretty easy for the past 12 months or so with PBNs lol. Time to get to work.
Not sure if you guys are doing something similar already Greg, but perhaps rather than guesstimating what the factors were, NoHat can try to collect data from trusted readers and all the data from your team and run some kind of statistical model that can determine which variables have the highest correlation with being deindexed? I’m new to this whole thing (signed up for the PTC starting September), but reading the comments in the post, it’s full of anecdotes but not much hard data. If all data from each individual telling their anecdotes in this thread could be collected, that would probably be a good data-set to run a few tests on to determine with more confidence which factors had the largest effect.
Yep, PTC participants will get the juice from us for sure. Just emailed a webby invite to you then George.
John Shea says:
I used to run a larger network of 20~ sites with Jon Haver and just sent him an email to see if any of his sites were effected. I checked my own personal 5 site PBN and it appears all my sites are still indexed. They each use their own unique web host and all have very unique themes, content, plugins etc.. appear to be no issues on this end!
Ryan Siegel says:
So it looks like Spencer Haws is swearing off PBN’s….
Should be a really interesting internship next week….
Apologies in advance if this has been covered already, I did my best to read through all the comments here. Also, apologies in advance that isn’t a really high level question, I’m pretty new to the game.
With Hayden stating that Rank Hero is coming down, and the very clear signals that NoHat isn’t really in the SEO/moneysite game anymore, it’s in the real business game now, how will this impact the overall NoHat PBN? I ask because that’s a very big allure for the course and internship, in fact it’s the main reason myself and many others have registered. Is that still going to be available to sites produced in the courses or has it gone the way of the dinosaur now?
About to send out a webinar invite to you all Carl. In short, the PBN update won’t impact on too much on the actual course content as it only made up 20% of the course time allocation. We have got some huge inclusions to the upcoming courses that we have been working on and will reveal on the webby so stay tuned!
Ok, thanks, curious to see what you’ve got in store for us.
What I don’t understand is how / why all these people say google webmasters is telling them they have ‘thin content’ or any other messages on their PBN sites. …..
WHY DO YOU HAVE YOUR PBN IN GWT??? That is the biggest footprint ever you might as well park your butt and your “friends” (PBN sites) in their front yard, obviously they know your entire network.
They’re saying it’s on their money sites, not PBN sites.
Sorry but that’s just crazy you are getting traffic from Google and likely measuring the visitors with Google Analytics or monetising with affiliate links or Adsense… you are giving off all those signals and you are worried about GWT….
Just looking at those 3 items there is 3 unique fingerprints someone can link you to your sites with not too much trouble, Google is smart enough to do it automatically, but there are dozens of other signals your networks give off that Google can pick up on. You follow the same cookie cutter template/platform for setting up the PBN as other folks so it’s easy for Google spam team to look for common elements and then flag the site for deeper analysis/review.
Sure there are probably plenty of sites that have not been hit in peoples PBN but I guess it’s only a matter of time before most of them eventually get hit.
I read thru most of the comments and think there is some reasonable advice and interesting insight in some of these comments, while I don’t agree with all of it but it’s certainly much more structured and less focused on tin foil hat thoughts while offering some useful advice….
Stuart Walker https://www.nohatdigital.com/blog/pbn-sites-de-indexed/#comment-85183
Not having GWT setup is like not opening the mail when you know you are going to receive a speeding ticket, the ticket is still issued (ie penalty) it’s just that GWT often advises why your traffic vanished….
I don’t use PBN’s but my personal projects did mostly get wiped out long ago with the EMD update, and some of the many expired domains I bought have been hit by atleast one Panda or Pengiun update over the last two years. But I wouldn’t know what to fix if I didn’t have access to GWT data….
Sorry about RankHero. That just sucks.
Question, are you still gonna continue selling expired domains over at domainjawa?
If so, do you think Google will lower the hammer on expired domains as well?
Looking forward to your thoughs.
Paranoia city for me that borders with stupidity.
So, I just started typing a response and thought: “Wait, what if Google keeps track of all this discussions, has a way of recording the IPs of the responders and checks what websites were registered through the IP…”
I said it’s borderline crazy/stupid so don’t laugh, I just wanted to leave a a response using a DNS and I saw that it expired and will not renew it because I just took a step back and realized it’s paranoia.
So, let’s take a step back and see if everything is done right, what footprint is left if everything done right:
1) Using a DNS and same location each time I log into a specific PBN or money website
2) Keeping as much of the same content as possible, the rest of not-spun, well written and unique
3) Different hosting, themes, plugins, having logos, menus, scheduled new content
4) Using fake names
5) Not using multi site managing tool
6) Not closing the linking circle of your websites (which with the DNS and fake names seems moot)
What do they have left?
The fact that most of the PBS will use 301s top keep the link juice but that seems to broad. I don’t they can use that without slapping a bunch of legitimate websites.
The fact that domain was bough at an auction, which again, seems too wide for them to use safely.
But whatever you do you get to a point where you actually have to pay for the stuff using your info. Now, if they have access to this then this is the end and of free internet and serious breach of privacy.
Thought on that? Billing Info as a footprint?
Not sure billing info would be/could be used?
Me neither, that’s why I was thinking out loud.
That’s the only piece of information that’s consistent and used on all the websites when your building your PBN.
If they can get to that somehow, and I don’t mean credit card numbers, maybe just the names, then it’s an end of an era unless you have 100 of credit card with different names laying around.
It’s a long shot since this would ruin hosting companies if it got out that your billing information is not protected.
Other then that, PBNs will live on because all the other stuff can get tweaked. If you stop for a second and think about it, it all comes down to what most of these blogs have in common it clarifies thing a bit.
If the scenario is that Google is drilling down all the expired and revamped domains and check for common signs and patterns like:
1) WP used
2) Who is protected
3) a few other that vary like structure of the websites
The question here is: if drilled down and filtered like this, do they have the manual resources to check all the website that are left. That’s THE QUESTION for me.
If this is the case with the algo changes one could pivot to static html and fake names without who is, but if somehow in some crazy scenario can see the billing name, the curtain is down.
I guess time will tell because if this is the case, they will wipe out 98% of PBNs.
I don’t get why anyone would think this crack down on PBN’s is something Google just decided to do overnight. Obviously, they have been aware of them as a problem for years and have been working on a way to deal with them.
I don’t really see anyone saying that. Of course they were aware of everything and for networks like Rank Hero everybody new that it was just a matter of time, because what’s “private” about a network that any Google employee can go on and buy links from.
In my mind that’s not even an issue and I think that kind of networking is, in fact, dead.
The real question is what signals did they use to wipe out small PBNs.
With my main money website, a PBN guy is the only one outranking me for all the main keywords and my website is clean as a whistle. Never thought about snitching or anything like that. From what I see he is still live and well. Really interested for how long.
For me this happened just in time. I don’t mean that in an evil way, I was just on the brink of going down that road starting next month because it was frustrating working thousands of hours and spending a lot of money only to be outranked by somebody who slapped a few pages on to their website, bought a few links and has one or two PBN websites of their own.
Just telling it like it for those of us who didn’t use PBNs…
Stuart Walker says:
Thanks for sharing your insights guys. This is a fascinating read.
Personally don’t use or own PBNs and not surprised Google has finally caught up.
I’m sure they can still be effective going forward with a few tweaks but it just hammers home the point to me again that building small websites that rely solely on Google is a bad business model.
I’ve known and been saying this for about 2 years now since the original Panda / Penguin updates but it become more and more apparent as time goes on.
It’s a total cat and mouse game and not sustainable.
Remember though Google is NOT the internet and there’s hundreds of ways to get traffic that isn’t search engines…networking, social media, forums, email, paid, syndication and sharing, content marketing and manual outreach.
One of my all time fave strategies is to find popular content in my niche using BuzzSumo to see what already gets heavily shared (just enter your keywords / niche into the search box) and then creating something bigger, better, more beautiful.
Then I use Topsy.com, OpenSiteExplorer and other tools to see who’s shared and linked to the original content and get in touch with them to tell them about my brilliant new content which I already know they’ll love (they shared something similar…mines is better) and ask them to share / link to it if the enjoy.
Watch the social shares skyrocket and the links flood in.
Sure it’s a bit more work but the results are more instant than waiting 6 months in the Google sandbox to see if Big G ranks you which isn’t even guaranteed and probably not long lasting and it’s long term and sustainable too.
For anyone who wants to know more about traffic without SEO then check out these resources…
Thanks Stuart. We like that BuzzSumo strategy. Putting it to use now actually on a site that got hit with a penalty. There’s ALWAYS a way to drive new links and traffic, just gotta test and test and test.
I’ve built up a themed PBN across 60 WP sites for past 2 years. About half are high PR…the other half are mostly new EMDs (I got them back when EMD.org was the thing to do). All were for the purpose of ranking an ecommerce site w/in a highly competitive niche…”main keyword phrase” in Google spits out 600K results.
I used mostly premium WP themes, WHOIS is private with legit names (except money site is under different name and Godaddy acct). Also, I’ve put all the high PR sites on unique hosts…and a maximum of 2 or 3 EMD sites per host. No interlinking. 100% unique content of 400 to 800 word posts..with only about 2 or 3 posts per blog. I randomly use about 8 of about 20 different plugins. WP pages I use are mix of Contact Us, About Us, or Privacy Page. The contact us page will have a popular name with a real address that can be checked out…even went so far as to add profile image on home page of most of the blogs.
About 40% of the sites have content with maybe a link pointing to Youtube or Wikipedia but with NO linking to my money site. Reason is that there’s no sense in posting more links if the ones you’ve already posted don’t move you’re money site…or worse cause it to back up.
The bottom line is that I’ve seen so-so progress up until about 10 days ago where I’ve seen regression. I’m trying to analyze reason as to why. I’ve got it narrowed down to an issue w/ the money site…Ecommerce sites are notorious for having duplicate content and unecessary pages and Google tends to just index all of it. I’m getting that fixed now.
Within past 2 months I bought 10 PR domains at auction between PR 2 and 6…all w/ really good link profiles. Cost about $5k altogether. One of which was deindexed as soon as I put content on it last week. That was the one and only fatality.
I can tell you that I’ve managed to get my money site to rank for my main kw’s to position #25 on average…
Rankings were at their best about 10 days ago. From that point I started linking those recently purchased 10 HI PR sites to my main money about 1 every other day. And the more I did it the worse my rankings regressed. So, it’s got me scratchin’ my head. Could be any number of things. Is it a leak in the PBN, Hosting, or issue w/ money site? So, I think like someone said above you may suffer in rankings if you do 1 or 2 things wrong..beyond that sites will start getting deindexed. So, I think Im just gonna slow down and start trying things one at a time.
Here’s the interesting thing…a couple of my PBN sites I got inspired for whatever reason to really write…REAL content. I mean top 10 list type content that comes from someone who has authority on this subject. And for the main “602,000” keyword phrase that PBN site currently ranks #15!?. All the while my main money site with all the PR pointing to it links ranks #50 for the same… It makes me want to laugh and cry.
Things Im going to focus on:
1. Check the money site to make sure there’s no duplicate or trash content.
2. Keep my keyword anchor text to a minimum with no repeating keywords…i.e 1 or 2% max. The rest need to be just naked URLs, brand links, and misc. phrases. That’s what my competitors ranking on page 1 have.
3. Double check Domain privacy is still active for all sites.
4. Also, FYI..when you sign up for a hosting account – the billing email you use is often automatically populated w/in cpanel -under Account Info – I believe it is. If you use the same email for other hosting accounts it can leave an obvious foot print… I found that out about 2 months ago and changed asap.
But, honestly the reality is that a 60+ PBN (that doesnt have a lot of incoming links incoming or outgoing) ALL pointing to my money site – is a massive foot print. This obvious pattern of links is probably what Google picks up on more than anything…especially if you’re outsourcing tiered ‘quality’ links from sites like theHoth or LinkItPro.
In the end I’m wondering that it may just be easier to use more legit methods…I hate to say that. But, I’ve seen REALLY good results from guys like Leslie Rhode and Dan Theis with their Link Liberation courses. I’ve bought all their courses and I’ve agreed – that’s the way to go. But, problem is that once you’ve tasted the forbidden fruit its hard to believe anything other than wearing a dark gray hat will be as fun and rewarding.
Thanks for the detailed comment Dan. You hit the nail on the head with the forbidden fruit analogy. We’ve been saying SEO is like a drug around here. You really want to go clean, but it’s just so damn tempting to go back to the dark side. Maybe this update will force quite a few people to quite for good.
Registered for the internship starting 9/29. Not sure how this will affect the internship but I honestly believe that in the long run its all about building a sustainable building rather than going for a quick fix and short term gain. Can you please send me the webinar link or the (recording if i missed that you have send to the other registered attendees?
Did you PBN got hit or just one website?
“We also had a group of 6 expired domains that we had launched as money sites within the last 2 months de-indexed. They did not in any way resemble a PBN site, and had unique, well-written content on them. Many of them didn’t have any PBN links pointing to them.”
May i ask why did you get to direction that PBNs get your money sites penalised ? While some of them dont have any PBN link? After reading this posts and all comments i think there are may be 2 factors that hit the PBNs: Quality of content and the hosting.
Fernando Biz says:
Great resourceful article. The entire SEO community is worried about the sites getting deindexed. What I found is if the sites are built to look natural and resourceful to the web with great content that people can read and even rank on the web, there is no issues with those sites getting deindexed. And also those PBN sites gives a massive power to the sites that they link by getting their content quickly indexed every time a new article is published.
Good to see how much of traction this article has got. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because the SEO community is all talking about the PBN’s more on the web, that Google works their ass of to find and take those sites down. The PBN knowledge should only be given to poeoke who knows how to use it right and should be charged a premium price to learn so.
When I see these all little SEO brag about PBN’s all the time on Facebook, it alone look spamy.
I’m left thinking about how many PBN links some sites had in order for their money sites to incur a manual penalty. I was under the impression people just had maybe a handful but if that was the case I would imagine negative SEO would become a massive problem.
People with a handful of PBN links have reported getting hit.
Kim J. says:
It’s all about friendship/relationships! it’s not that hard to understand.
Google are your friends and they will be so as long as you want to, if you are not acting unfriendly towards them (by making their task harder than it’s supposed to be).
Google has A LOT of tracking possibilities and they do not say which ones they are using or how they use them because you simply have to behave nice (follow their guidelines).
Play you’r game (SEO) and they will punish you when (not if) they find out because Google REALLY doesn’t like to be manipulated (*hint* SEO) – or suck it up and adapt, or move on… every friendship gets a knockdown every now and then, but who or what is to blame. Ask yourself or simply ask Google (read the guidelines or use the search field).
It’s really simple to cook it all down to one single phrase.
Only questions in my mind are:
– When does it stop?
– Does it stop?
– When do they feel they’ve done enough?
– Does Google get tired sometimes? :)
Some of you are just feeding Google to like you more.
Kim J. says:
Somehow my post got weird.. it missed an important phrase but here it is.
It’s really simple to cook it all down to one single phrase.
“Freinds are not to manipualte with each other”.
Wow, it seems like this page went viral.
I’m still using and selling links from my PBN, and none of my 220 sites got deindexed.
Maybe it’s because I don’t provide reports or use cheap hosting.
Some of the blogs in our PBN’s are losing pages in Indexed but not totally deindexed. I just notice it today. I already installed WMT on 3 that got the most pages being dropped from index but there is no messages from these properties. What could be the possible cause of this.?
Matt Stack says:
Just might not be that good of quality content. Just because it drops some pages out of the index, doesn’t mean it’s penalized. If it dropped the homepage out of the index, I would be concerned.
Great info here. I have a question that has been bugging me. I host my money site at a host in shared hosting. I checked my ip neighbours and found out there are 26 websites hosted on that IP address. Almost all of them are private blog networks with high obl. They have crap quality content. Seems like sole purpose of those website is for putting outbound links. Is there anything to be concerned? My site is 6 months old and doesn’t rank anywhere for my keywords even there are only 27 pages search results in google.
Matt Stack says:
You’ll get some varied opinions on this. If it really concerns you, I would just try moving the hosting to see if it does anything.
I worry about that too when picking a cheap SEO host.. BEcause most people who choose SEO Hosts are doing SEO, and most of them are PBNs.. I think it’s not the best neighborhood.
site: index checker?
Hi everyone, i tried everything, got a new hosting, Whois privacy, real content, registrar changed and everything that could be done but still Google is de-indexing every site i build. :( at the end i am saying good bye to this blogging world forever, because you don’t even know when you are going to be hit by Google, no matter what and how well you, they’ll definitely find a way to ban you :(
Same. just noticed 3 more pbns got de-indexed on Jan. 7 of mine. All my sites have good unique well-written content, with over 7-10 pages pages on each, all whois privacy enabled. I believe it is re-branding/theming the sites to a totally different topic. That is only thing I have done.
Nikola Petkov says:
The post is very interesting and useful but make me think about few things:
1. If your “money sites” got hit with “Thin content” penalty just because of PBN links, what can stop someone to add same anchor links on his PBN to his competitor’s website ( who can have legitimate link profile) and destroy him? That doesn’t make sense…
2. Most of you talk about “money sites” but not “real websites”. Can anyone confirm that has a “Thin content” penalty on a real website (lets say local accounting company) who has many links from different legitimate sources, e.g. well known directories, blogs, forums…?
The money sites got a manual review based on being link built with a PBN. The PBN links don’t automatically trigger a thin content penalty. But G aren’t stupid > if you are link building with a PBN, fair chance you’ve got a typical SEO site.
And local company sites (preper sites) that were link built with this PBN seem to have been spared. Obviously a diverse link profile helped.
Jarrett Holmes says:
Great article guys. Sorry about that. We have all lost a few here and there as well. Keep up the great work and case studies.
Prateek Tripathi says:
I had a couple of things to say apart from great post :P, which it is actually!
1. I have a typical niche affiliate site(money site).I have just started with SEO and reading this post scares me a bit.Though I have concentrated on building links in a diverse manner but 3 to 4 links with keyword rich anchor texts are PBN links. I hope having just 5 to 10 PBN links from a total of 300 or 400 links isn’t bad.
2. Also, Greg you mentioned that you people ruled out the possibility of hosting as the cause of your PBN’s getting de-indexed. If by that you mean hosting sites under the same host does not affect de-indexation, then that might not be true right, because as far as I know it’s a big footprint.
Prateek Tripathi says:
There is another question that I wanted to ask which is really way off-topic! But I seriously need help on this one.
I wanted to ask, is there any definite way to know whether your website is struck by a penalty or its just stuck in google dance? I read a lot about it and mostly people say there is no way other than to be patient.
Sorry for the irrelevancy.
Content Ninja says:
Five years ago I wrote a post on a site I later sold on called “Google is dead to me”.
I stand by it now and my strategy ever since has been to ignore Google and make direct contact through social media, email and other outreach methods.
Relying on the beast of Google for your online business is madness.