By: Rob Rok
Over the last few years, we gathered an exhaustive amount of internal data on how our clients use PBNs. We’re going to use this overwhelming amount of data to answer some of the most critical PBN use practice questions that exist.
How fast should you build PBN links to your site? Should you send them to your homepage? Should Tier 1 and Tier 2 links be used together? All the answers are here.
I’ve sorted our findings into two FAQ sets that cover Tier 1 and Tier 2 PBN links. For each one, I’ve created a set of questions and followed up with data-backed answers that can help you maximize the value you get.
The answer to each question includes the proof that we pulled from our research and some additional commentary that may help you put the answer to use in real-life situations. Together, these lists will give you a set of the best practices you can apply going into 2021 and beyond.
Let’s start with Tier 1 PBN links.
Tier 1 PBN links are the links that point directly to the pages on your site. The questions and answers I’ve organized for you below should help you do that easily.
After the questions, you’ll find some additional Tier 1 link insights from our research. You’ll learn how much more popular PBN links are compared to past years, the most popular niches for PBNs, and other fresh information.
• How fast can I build PBN links to my site?
• How many PBN links can I build to my website?
• How many PBN links can I build to a single URL?
• Should I send PBN links to my homepage?
• How long do people keep their Tier 1 PBN links?
• What type of anchor text are people using for PBN links?
• Do PBN links from English PBNs work to foreign sites?
• Do PBN links work on YT videos?
A steady drip of 3-4 links per month was the velocity we recommended in our best practices guide. That was our recommendation, but let’s look at what the pros (our customers) are doing.
For 2020, the average number of Tier 1 PBN links built in a typical Rank Club order was 3.29. It seems our power users either agree with our recommendation or made the same choice by looking at their own behavioral data.
We found that people tend to build links to their sites in batches. While 3.29 was the average, there were some notable outliers. The largest order we saw last year was 39 links in a single batch.
You’re safe to send a significant amount of T1 links to your website so long as they’re properly spaced out.
This number was taken from our entire client base and included links built across different orders.
The largest amount of links built to one site (66) was far outside of the average.
However, being outside the norm doesn’t necessarily pose a risk. The graph below shows you how that 66-batch site grew over the last half of last year.
The average number of tier 1 PBN links built to a single URL was 3.2.
This number was in line with trends we had already begun to suspect before our data was collected. The primary usage model working well for our clients is 2-4 PBN links centered around target anchor text.
PBNs can be safely sent to your homepage.
Our clients made less use of PBN links to their home pages.
The home page is not the destination of choice for most PBN links. While most people aren’t trying to rank their homepage, people often send link juice there just to be safe.
The average length of a tier 1 PBN Subscription on our service was 11.01 Months.
People typically use PBNs on their ranking journeys to get from small sites to authority levels. From these we can infer that journey may be taking just about a year. By that time, the site is aged and the PBNs can be replaced with other links
I think this length says something about the ROI that PBN links still have today.
Our research revealed that anchors (by percentage) broke down like this:
PBNs are great for power. You want to combine that power with your most critical target keyword anchor text. This is a killer combo.
You can use less powerful links for your “pillow anchors.” These are the anchors that don’t use targeted keywords that are used as a hedge against over-optimization.
English PBNs work on foreign sites, but they have not been embraced to a high degree by the people who utilize PBNs.
Despite many test results and client results showing strong results sending English PBN links to foreign sites, it seems that this technique hasn’t caught on as much as it could.
PBN links may be effective on YouTube videos, but our customers are not widely using them that way for the time being.
Our research revealed that the percentage of PBN lnks going to YouTube was 0.07%,
If the low amount of usage of PBN links to YouTube videos is an indicator of their effectiveness, the writing’s on the wall. Nonetheless, we hear many reports from clients saying that it helps.
I have some more T1 data for you that doesn’t neatly fit into a Q&A format. Below, you’ll find some critical insights into how the use of PBNs evolved over the last year.
PBNs are considered a grey hat technique. That perception hasn’t changed, but these increases signal that website owners see a reliable return on value.
We’re expecting to see additional growth through 2021.
Below, you’ll find a breakdown of the niches we built PBNs for and the percentage of our links built out to each one. There were some clear standouts that I’ll explain in the comments below the chart.
Let me break this data down a little further. The general/business niche stands out as one of the largest niches, but it’s a catch-all for niches that just don’t fit anywhere else.
Rank Club rents guaranteed homepage link placements for a monthly fee. This ensures that you’ll get the maximum benefit from your PBN link: namely the link juice.
These are the three niches (in order) in which people retain their links for long periods:
The high level of retention may be explained by the fact that these niches have less turbulence in their SERPs.
They are much more stable compared to a niche like health, for example.
We saw some unusual shifts in the hottest months for PBN placement. January made a lot of sense. That’s when a lot of people make their new year’s resolutions, and the health niche players are eager to capture those buyers.
September, though? Your guess is as good as mine as to why this month was the 2nd hottest in 2020.
This number is a measure of our own standards. While we guarantee a maximum of 8 outbound links per PBN, we use an internal placement software (dubbed Cerebro) to minimize the number of links placed on a given site.
This helps us more closely control outbound link patterns to mask the footprints that might appear when PBNs link to the same set of sites. This matters because most footprints (whois, hosting, IP, etc.) are common knowledge. The tricky one is OBL, so we resolve it with software.
Tier 2 PBN links are, to put it simply, “links to your links.”
T2 links improve the power of the pages that are already linking to yours so that they can pass on more link juice. T2 links also provide you with an extra layer of safety because none of them are being built to your site.
This is a relatively new service of ours that only launched in May 2020. However, we’ve been able to analyze a significant amount of data on it thanks to the number of placed orders.
The FAQs below cover how our clients are making use of this service, along with some commentary.
As with the T1 links, you’ll find these questions followed by some additional statistics that may help you put T2 links to use.
• How many Tier 2 links should be sent to a given URL?
• How many Tier 2 links can be built at a time?
• Do people send more links to a higher DR URL than lower DR URLs?
• What is the typical anchor text used on Tier 2 (need to do this for T2 too)?
• Should I use tier 1 and Tier 2 links together?
There isn’t a hard limit on how many T2 links should be sent to a URL. In the past, we’ve experimented with as many as 20 T2 links per URL. The results seemed to taper off after that. Let’s look at what our clients prefer.
The average number of Tier 2 PBN client links built to a URL is 2.63
With Tier 2 PBN linking being a relatively new strategy, we feel the industry is starting to develop best practices day-to-day.
That said, we see a wide variation of Tier 2 PBN links to a given URL based on the receiving domain’s authority. Some clients build only 1, while others build as many as 13 at a time.
You can build a significant amount of T2 links at one time. We recommend a lighter touch with T1 links because you need to control how fast your own site profile gains links carefully.
T2 links, on the other hand, can be sent to a bunch of different sites, and they won’t affect the integrity of your own profile. Let’s look at how our clients are taking advantage of this.
Our legendary package is our most commonly ordered package. This is our 20-link package, so that may account for the fact that the average was right in that range.
People send more links to higher DR URLs. This has been broken down in the histogram that you see below (month of December):
I think this trend can be explained by the assumption (likely correct) that a URL from a high DR website can “handle” more links from homepages than a low DR website.
A site with a high DR is already aged and supported by good backlinks. Links from homepages aren’t going to knock its balance off.
The typical anchor text for T2 links breaks down as follows:
Results look similar to T1, with an important exception. Our clients typically use a lot fewer Brand/URL anchors on Tier 2 and instead go harder with Miscellaneous.
Nonetheless, this falls under our recommendation that balanced anchor text on T2 links yields the best result.
You can use T1 and T2 links together. In past guides, we’ve detailed that the two options stand out in certain situations. For example, you can focus on T1 links when you’re in a rush to rank and T2 links when you want maximum risk reduction.
The minimal risk of T2 links (as in, they aren’t counted against your link profile) means that they can be easily combined with T1 link building campaigns. Let’s look at how many of our clients are trying that.
While there is a decent overlap, it seems that (for the most part) there are two camps of PBN users. One prefers to link directly, and one prefers Tier 2.
In addition to the Q&As, we’ve collected some other data to inform how you use T2 links.
Considering we only launched our Tier 2 product in May of 2020, we’re impressed with its quick adoption.
A large number of orders suggests that the pros we work with saw the value in the service. They also saw returns that made them want to come back.
The niche with the highest number of T2 links built was health.
Health is a standout niche in a lot of areas. There’s a lot of competition, and new trends (and new websites for them) rise often. It makes sense to see the health niche getting so much attention here.
PBNs were an excellent tool for link building in 2020. The data that we’ve gathered suggests that they’ll be doing a lot more through 2021.
Now, you’re armed with the knowledge of how some of the most frequent users of PBNs make them pay off. Using what you’ve learned about the best practices for the amount, destinations, and appropriate anchor text of PBN links, you can maximize the value of every PBN link you build.