How to detect if a site is part of a PBN ?

Most of the SEO communities regard PBN’s as largely being a relic of the past. However, if someone wants to put enough effort and investment, PBN’s are hard to detect even for the smart guys at Google.  In this article, we will cover ways how to determine if the links you are trying to acquire are part a PBN.

What is a PBN?

PBN is short for Private Blog Network. It is a collection of sites owned by an individual or a group of individuals. The sites are typically blogs, used to point to a specific site called the Money Site. A PBN aims to trick Google into thinking that the site has lots of backlinks to it. Faking a “vote of confidence” from other sites forcing google to give the site a better search ranking.

PBN is a black hat technique when it comes to SEO. If a google detects that your site is part of or linked from PBN, chances are you will be punished with a downgrade in search rank.

Over the years, PBN’s have become more sophisticated, and as with everything, Google is not perfect, so PBN’s still fall through google checks, or Google may take time to detect that a site is part of a PBN. 

How do you detect if a site is part of a PBN?

If done correctly, it is technically impossible to detect if a site is part of PBN. The trick is to find patterns and distinctive signs. 


PBN builders typically use expired domains. Expired domains retain their domain authority with Google and will have a lot of backlinks pointing to them. Google is ageist and will favor old domains. Before getting a link from a site, it is essential to check the history of the domain. A good tool to check the history of a domain is the way back machine. If the site was redesigned with different content, then it is one of the markers that the site is a PBN, and if you find more than one site being redesigned in the same period, than it is a clear sign that you are looking at a PBN.


A PBN will use expired domains to build its network. The expired domain will have a lot of backlinks pointing to it. A PBN builder will not create a page for each link, which means that the site will have  lot of broken links. You can perform this check by using an SEO tool like ahref that will provide you with backlink statistics for a particular domain. 


Checking the hosting of the blogs can help you identify if they have been build by the same individual. You can check the hosting environment using Hostchecker


The technology used to build the site is another marker you can use. Check if sites are based on the same technology and structure (like WordPress templates).  Buildwith  will give you insights on how the site was built, including details of javascript libraries used and technology used. In case of cms like wordpress it will give you details of themes and plugins installed.


Content is expensive, particularly media like images and videos. If the same images and videos and shared on multiple sites than the site may be part of a PBN.


Low quality PBN’s are build with a large volume of sites. Given that unique content is expensive the site will contains limited content. If the site has a high domain rating but few blog posts, then you should be wary of the site. 

Final thoughts

Link building is an essential component of off-site SEO. Google loves sites with a lot of quality inbound links and punishes sites that try to simulate traffic. It is important that that you are able to determine the quality of the links and exclude domains pointing from badly crafted PBN sites.

We at Gainchanger automate the tedious part of SEO to allow you to scale your results exponentially and focus on what really matters.

Get in touch for a free 5-minute consultation or to start scaling your strategies today.

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