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Why are Private Blog Networks & Microsites Dangerous? – Here’s Why with Mark & Eric

In this episode oh Here’s Why, Eric and Mark discuss the do’s, don’ts, and dangers of Private Blog Networks and Microsites. They walk through how private blog networks are created, for what reasons they get created, and how and why to avoid them. They also discuss microsites, how they can be considered Private Blog Networks, and how to avoid penalization from Google.

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If you want to check out any of the articles or sites referenced in the video you can find them all here:

Google Targets Sites Using Private Blog Networks With Manual Action Ranking Penalties
The Private Blog Network Purge – Are You at Risk?

Full Transcript:

Mark: Welcome to another episode of Here’s Why with Mark and Eric.
Mark: So Eric, what is a private blog network?
Eric: It’s an interesting question because a lot of people aren’t familiar with what this is. A private blog network is not necessarily really a network, but sites that you have or developed relationships with that really just exist to pass link juice to other sites. So let me explain this a little further by outlining how people put these together. What they do is they look for domains that expire and they monitor when a domain has expired and they see which ones have links coming to them.
If they have good links coming to them and the domain is expired, they buy the domain. Then they put content back on the domain, typically not the same content that was there before, but related content. Then, in theory, those domains now have PageRank, or link juice if you prefer, and you can link out from that to selected sites under your control or selected sites you sell those links to. So, that’s really what a Private Blog Network is.
Mark: It sounds like it could be an effective strategy for link building. What does Google do with that?
Eric: Recently, Google took action against a number of Private Blog Networks, so they can actually look for certain things. Here’s a little bit of a signature: You have this site, it’s sitting there, it’s basically doing nothing, it has some links and periodically a link or two gets added to it to look out to something else.
The inactivity of the site is a signal Google might use to detect a Private Blog Network. And they don’t like them so they will either ban the sites in the Private Blog Network, just take them out of their index, or they could even potentially take action against the sites that were receiving links from the Private Blog Networks (PBNs).
Mark: So that could be a concern. What about microsites? Are they something I should be worried about?
Eric: First of all, from my perspective, microsites are a dicey value proposition anyway. A lot of times companies put up microsites because they’re trying to get more than one listing for a particular search term in the search results. What they end up doing is, they put up the microsite, they might do some initial activity to get some links to it, they put some initial content up, but then because it’s really strategic to them, they stop investing in the sites; so they sit dormant. This is a scenario where it’s potentially possible that it could be seen as a Private Blog Network type site.
The key is, you really want to have sites that are actively maintained and actively marketed. From my perspective, when I have someone come to me and say “We’re interested in putting up a microsite. Should we do this?” I always tell them every microsite you have is another unique marketing problem. If you’re willing to invest in that and have someone who is responsible for marketing it, maintaining it, and developing it on an ongoing basis, then, by all means, a microsite might make sense for you to do. If you’re not willing to do those things, then you should stay away from microsites.
Mark: So it’s not a black and white situation, but you should make a judgment call based on the criteria you just gave as far as whether it would be valuable for you or not.
Eric: Yes, as long as you’re willing to invest in it, on an ongoing basis, I think it’s alright.
Mark: Great. Eric has actually written some in-depth material about this. If you’re worried about PBNs or microsites, if that’s something you’re doing or thinking about doing, and you want to know if there’s a way to do it right or if you’re in danger with Google; check out that article. We have linked it here below. Please do join us next time for another episode of Here’s Why.

Thoughts on “Why are Private Blog Networks & Microsites Dangerous? – Here’s Why with Mark & Eric”

  1. Still People are taking Risk by using Private Blog Network, but in my point these are short time solution once your network on radar of Google you will be out of box.

  2. Thanks Mark & Eric for another great post !!!
    I think one should actually rely on writing content rather than building links. I don’t know why is it still necessary to build links.

  3. Very nice post, we’re are considering setting up some micro sites, has been very interesting to read your opinion on the subject. We would be actively maintaining them with regular scheduled content on EMD domains.

  4. Thanks for the Interesting view and perspective on this topic guys. While I indeed see how the specific use of microsites as described in your talk can be dangerous, it only looks at a very specific use of microsites, and does not consider the major use of microsites (not by SEOs but the marketing community in general) which is to create microsites as a subdomain or subdirectory on the main domain.
    In that sense, and thinking back on what you actually said about microsites, I found your title to be somewhat misleading as it implies that private blog networks and microsites are in the same league.
    As a supplier of microsites to reputable brands like Deloitte, IBM etc, we are seeing a lot of focussed content built on microsites, mainly on the root URL as a subdomain or subdirectory. Google has responded very positively to this production of focussed quality content optimized for reading also on mobile. I honestly fail to see where the danger is in this? Feel free to check out more on our website at to see what I am talking about.
    Very best regards

  5. Hi Bart – thanks for your feedback. I do agree that there can be legit ways to use microsites. To me, the big key is whether or not they show sufficient differentiation from the content on the main site, and that there is a reasonable reason for them to exist. That said, there are people who build microsites for good reasons, and get good results from them.

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Eric Enge

Eric Enge is part of the Digital Marketing practice at Perficient. He designs studies and produces industry-related research to help prove, debunk, or evolve assumptions about digital marketing practices and their value. Eric is a writer, blogger, researcher, teacher, and keynote speaker and panelist at major industry conferences. Partnering with several other experts, Eric served as the lead author of The Art of SEO.

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