In the great challenge to continually develop more effective SEO strategies, a common recurring dilemma ensues: Which is better – PBNs or guest posts? For the purposes of this article, we will assume that you have limited knowledge in the differences between the two. They are both methods of link building to gain authority and trust for a website but there are some significant differences both in process and output.
A high level summary should help to understand these in more detail:
What is a PBN?
Private Blog Networks are essentially networks of websites that build up authority by building links between one another. Using a PBN is considered to be a ‘black hat’ technique, or in other words something that Google does not approve of.
However, this said any form of link building is considered illicit and PBNs can have their place in a good offsite SEO strategy. Quality, well built PBNs, placed on quality hosting to ensure there is no footprint can still be remarkably effective.
What is a Guest Post?
This is where bloggers write content for other blog sites and in return get a link back to their blog. In order to do this, the blogs must be deemed to be of very high quality so that the posting website is getting value from it in terms of SEO.
Ideally, the blogger would be someone who is identified as an expert in the area that they are writing content about. Guest posts are considered on of the ‘whiter hat’ techniques as they are providing users with useful information. However, guest posting for links is still technically against Google’s guidelines.
This said, a well placed guest post that looks editorially given is very hard to detect and can have notable SEO benefit.
Now that we have established a basic understanding of the two different SEO techniques, we will delve further into the benefits and negatives of utilising each one.
PBNs – The Pros and Cons of Building a Blog Network
PBNs are seen as a ‘quick win’ – the work involved in joining an existing PBN is minimal and you can achieve fast results. Arranging to join a PBN takes up minimal effort and can give your website a significant boost in the SERPs. You have complete control in regards to links and anchor text, rather than this being dictated by the webmaster. PBNs are also good for niche specific links and adding high authority links.
Another option is to set up your own PBN, which takes considerable more effort to do. A lot of work is needed in terms of trying to hide the fact that a PBN exists, to avoid being penalised by Google. A cross-site ‘footprint’ is created when PBNs link up different websites. So to avoid detection, people use different email accounts, hosting providers and website designs to try to disguise the fact that they are operating a PBN. Further to this work, you will still need to publish blogs on the websites to try and disguise the fact it is a PBN.
To start up a PBN, you will need to obtain qualified domains – domains that are already considered by Google and other search engines to be trusted and have authority. A PBN will generally have around 5 websites upwards and if you need to set up and pay for a different web hosting service for each, this not only takes up time, it is also going to cost you quite a bit (on top of purchasing the domains).
Some SEO experts want to glean the huge benefits of using PBNs to catapult authority, rather than the long process of building up authority without applying this technique. However, it can be a somewhat risky and usually time-consuming link building method. That said, it can also be extremely beneficial when done correctly.
If you are someone that likes to do things by the book, PBNs are probably not for you. They tended to be a lot more popular a few years back before Google got wiser and started to really clamp down on sites involved. Whilst PBNs can generate fast results, they have to be created correctly for long term results. Here is a good guide.
Guest posts – The Pros and Cons of the Whiter Hat Solution
Guest posts are seen as the safer and easier way to get backlinks but you will need more than just money to see success from this method. To start with, you will need to build up relationships with webmasters to persuade them to publish your posts onto their website. A relationship of this nature doesn’t grow overnight it takes long-term effort and providing top quality posts is the best way to get webmasters on side, unless you are paying them to publish your posts.
So how do you ensure high quality posts? You will need to have a good quality writer, which many SEO experts need to outsource for two main reasons: 1 – Writing isn’t their specialism and 2 – they are busy developing SEO strategies and do not have time to write large volumes of blogs.
Finding a good writer that has experience in the relevant industry you are aiming for is not always easy. Whilst most freelance writers will be able to provide high quality in terms of grammar and spellings, being able to demonstrate subject matter expertise is another challenge altogether. A good quality blog adds value for the reader and should attract shares and likes to further evidence the value of the content.
Guest posts can cost little or comparatively small budgets to PBNs. You may need to pay webmasters a fee for publishing and/or pay writers to write your posts but the long-term ROI of this method usually is very high, when done well. We already mentioned that you will need to build a relationship up with webmasters but sometimes finding relevant sites that work for your niche can be difficult.
It is important to remember that the webmaster is the person in control of the content on their website, so they may not be happy with you using rich anchor texts and other principles. Therefore, you may have to spend a lot of time finding the right websites that also allow you to use the link building and other SEO techniques that you wish to within your posts.
On a positive, the webmasters are also taking care of the hard work like uploading and scheduling posts, leaving less of that work for you to do. However, some blog owners might remove your posts at some point. You should also consider that links will come from inner pages rather than the more powerful homepage links.
Quality of content really is the biggest challenge of guest posts and being able to create blogs that fit in with the style of the publishing website is a standard requirement. Links to your own blogs should be done in a discrete way and the content should never be a blatant promotion of a product or service. So you must be able to take on the challenge of writing a post that seamlessly links to your website, is highly engaging and SEO friendly. This needs to be done whilst also making sure it is relevant in topic and matching the tone and style of the publishing website. Sounds difficult? It really can be, particularly with niches that are fairly unique.
Building authority via guest posts is very much a long-term project and you will not see instant results like you do with PBNs. However, you are less likely to suddenly discover that Google has de-indexed your website as you are playing by the rules, so to speak. You do need to stay well tuned to any algorithm updates and adjust your content approach as and when necessary.
Conclusion – PBNs vs Guest Posts
If you are a risk taker then PBNs might be the route that you want to take but for most people looking for long-term marketing success, guest posts are the much better option. In terms of ROI, effort involved and risk levels, you can see why guest posts are favoured by most SEO experts. There are only so many things you can do to try and outwit the algorithms and it is usually only a matter of time before black hat techniques come crashing down.
If you’re looking for help with guest posting or SEO – get in touch – we’d love to help.