Pbns & the Google Spam Update – Do They Still Work?

Did the combination of the Search Spam Update and Link Spam Update doom PBNs for good? Some SEOs think so. They claim these updates gave Google the power to detect and ignore PBNs. My team and I dove deep into the numbers to determine the facts.

In this study, you’ll learn what’s happened to PBN links since the arrival of the spam updates. Our team followed a sample set of PBNs across months to discover whether they could still pass on link power. You’ll get the real numbers from our internal data and graphs revealing essential trends.

Before that, we have some helpful information for readers that are new or recently returning to PBNs. You’ll get caught up on the recent history, learn why the updates provoked a reaction, and find our stance on PBNs right now. Continue reading

How Well-do-PBNs-Work-in-Foreign-SEO?

How Well do PBNs Work in Foreign SEO? (A 2022 Study)

One of the most common questions I get is: can you get results with PBNs in ______ (fill in the country)?

In this article, I’ll answer this question by looking at 1000s of real PBN placements and their resulting movement in the Google SERPs.

We’ll answer the questions:

Do PBNs work in <insert country>?
What is the % chance a ranking increase will occur?
How do PBNs take to kick-in with foreign SEO?
What are the best practices to achieve the best results? Such as:
What anchor text is best to use?
How many PBNs can you send to a single foreign domain?
Do PBN links from English PBNs work to foreign sites?
How many PBNs can you send to a single foreign URL?

Note: The types of PBNs we build are made with English content on non-dropped, primary TLDs (.com, .org, .net).

So essentially, we’re also answering the question:

Do links from English websites boost rankings on foreign language websites?

You’ll see the answer shortly.

By the way, if you’d like to see our full study on PBN usage in the U.S. (google.com), check it out here.

Continue reading

2021 PBN Practice Guide Cover Photo

2021’s PBN Best Practice Guide [Backed by Data]

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

PBN Link Tier 1 to your money page

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.

Tier 1: Questions Answered Through Data

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?

How fast can I build PBN links to my site?

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.

how fast to build links

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.

RankClub Tier 1 CTA-orange

How many T1 PBN links can I build to my website?

You’re safe to send a significant amount of T1 links to your website so long as they’re properly spaced out.

The average number of tier 1 links that our clients build to one domain is 7.12.

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.

66-batch site growth

How many PBN links can I build to a single URL?

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.

Should I send PBN links to my homepage?

PBNs can be safely sent to your homepage.

PBN link to homepages

Our clients made less use of PBN links to their home pages.

The percentage of total T1 PBN Links going to homepages was 14.06%.

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.

How long do people keep their Tier 1 PBN links?

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.

What type of anchor text are people using for PBN links?

Our research revealed that anchors (by percentage) broke down like this:

anchor text for pbn pie chart

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.

Do PBN links from English PBNs work to foreign sites?

English PBNs work on foreign sites, but they have not been embraced to a high degree by the people who utilize PBNs.

Our research revealed that the percentage of PBN links going to foreign sites was 9.2%.

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.

Do PBN links work on YouTube videos?

PBN links may be effective on YouTube videos, but our customers are not widely using them that way for the time being.

PBN link in youtube page

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.

More Tier 1 PBN Statistics and their Conclusions

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.

Increase in # of PBN links built from 2019 to 2020

The number of PBNs we built during 2020 is up 8.23% from 2019.

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.

RankClub Tier 1 CTA-orange

Niche-Specific Statistics

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.

percentage of links build through pbn

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.

The following defined niches were the most popular, and I have some theories on why:
Home: The home niche accounted for a surprising number of orders this year. Has covid-19’s quarantines and lockdowns brought on a surge of home improvement? If so, we may continue to see growth in this niche.

: A large number of total PBN orders went to sites in the health niche. Health is on everyone’s mind all of the time. World events may have been responsible for the unusual amount of activity in this niche last year.

: Technology has always been a hot niche. With everyone stuck indoors, 2020’s stock market was heavily carried by this sector.


Longest Average Length of a PBN subscription (by Niche)

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.

Hottest Month’s for PBN Placement

#1. January
#2. September

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.

so hot right now meme

September, though? Your guess is as good as mine as to why this month was the 2nd hottest in 2020.

Average Number of Client Links per PBN: 3.5 links

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

Tier 2 PBN links are, to put it simply, “links to your links.”

Rank club tier 2 pbn links to tier 1

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.

Questions Answered Through Data

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?

How many Tier 2 links should be sent to a given URL?

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.

how many tier 2 links rankclub

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.

Tier 2 CTA

How many Tier 2 links can be built 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 research revealed that the average number of links per order was 20.53.

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.

Do people send more links to a higher DR URL than lower DR URLs? 

People send more links to higher DR URLs. This has been broken down in the histogram that you see below (month of December):

Various DR Targets December 2020

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.

What is the Typical anchor text used on Tier 2 (need to do this for T2)?

The typical anchor text for T2 links breaks down as follows:

typical anchor text for tier 2 links

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.

Should I use Tier 1 and Tier 2 links together?

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.

what it feels when sending pbn links meme

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.

The number of clients that use both Tier 1 and Tier 2 Links is 24.64%.

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.

More Tier 2 PBN Statistics and their Conclusions 

In addition to the Q&As, we’ve collected some other data to inform how you use T2 links.

Total number of links built in 2020

2020 saw our team creating 10,738 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.

Tier 2 CTA

Niche with the highest T2 links built

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.

Make PBNs more Effective in 2021

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.

PBNs Tier 1 vs Tier 2

PBNs: Tier 1 vs. Tier 2 (When to Use What)

Private blog networks (PBNs) are a powerful tool you can use to rank your sites in record time.

To make the most of them, it’s important to understand what works, in what situations. After all, PBNs have been used to build different kinds of links. By understanding the differences and acting on them, you can unlock their true power.

This guide will introduce you to two essential types of PBN links (tier 1 and tier 2). You’ll learn the definitions for each one, and the use cases that define them. By the end, you’ll know which strategy works best for a series of real-life situations that SEOs face every day.

Let’s start with some definitions.


What is Tier 1 Link Building?

Tier 1 Link Building Illustration

Tier 1 link building is the practice of building links directly to the page you are trying to rank. The web pages that link directly to your site are all considered to be tier 1 links, no matter what form.

What is Tier 2 Link Building?

Tier 2 Link Building Illustration

Tier 2 link building is the practice of building links to your links.

When another site gives you a link, you’re going to send links toward the page that’s linking to yours. By strengthening the original links with tier 2 links, you can increase the amount of juice that they send to your money pages.

As I covered in my tier 2 link building guide, this works on the principle of one of Google’s oldest ranking factors: PageRank. In the companies’ own words:

“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”

Starting from that principle, tier 2 links work by increasing the PageRank of the pages that are linking to yours. As their rank increases, they pass on more power because they are calculated as being higher quality than they were when you first got them.

Your own link profile is now filled with more impressive links because of the power that tier 2 links have given them.

What type of links work best for each type?

In general, the links that you use for tier 1 links should be the highest quality you can source.

SEOs are typically using guest posts, editorial links, and high-quality PBNs for their tier 1.

Generally, tier 1 PBNs do not require a tier 2 to power them, because of their inherent power/page rank.

types of links

For tier 2 links, you have more options. Some people use web 2.0s, guest posts, or niche edits. Based on our research, PBNs are the best option for 2nd-tier links.

While both of these types of links fit into an effective strategy, there are definitely times where one is a better investment than the other. Let’s examine the situations where your tier 1 links should be taking priority.

When should I build tier 1 PBN links?

You should build tier 1 PBN links when:

1. You haven’t already sent too many homepage links to an existing URL
2. You’re using safe and secure PBNs
3. You’re in a challenging niche, and you need the power to rank
4. You’re in a rush to rank

Let’s look at each of these use cases in more detail.

You’re in a challenging niche and you need power to rank

If you’re in a challenging niche, a burst of tier 1 PBN links can provide you with the power that you need to rank.

laptop with data on ranking

An important way to ensure the results you want for your site is to carefully manage the types of anchor text that you are using. Tier 1 PBN links are most effective when used in combination with target keyword anchor text.

You’re in a rush to rank

If you are interested in ranking as quickly as possible, PBNs can provide you with the short-term juice that you need. They can be deployed much more rapidly than links that you gather from other sources (especially those that rely on weeks of outreach).

This early, explosive growth gives you the freedom to focus your attention on the links that take the most time to acquire. Your site will continue to grow—even explosively—while you’re sourcing the best links for your niche.

You’re using safe and secure PBNs

If you have access to safe and secure PBNs, there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.

safe and secure pbns

Safe and secure PBNs are those that emulate natural internet sites. They should never have been penalized or used for SEO. In general, you want sites that have:

  Premium design
  Quality content
•  Existing social profiles
  A low number of outbound links
  No GSC penalizations
  Zero footprints

As long as the sites can meet these standards, the only thing you need to worry about is getting links relevant to your niche.

Remember, though, you have some control (and responsibility) over how effective this strategy is for you. Make sure that you keep your PBNs effective by not using the same set of PBNs for different money sites.

They become less effective (high risk) when it’s clear that your sites are acting as a network. That happens when multiple money sites share the same PBN links, and thus create an outbound link pattern (see below).

Tier Risks management

You haven’t already sent too many homepage links to an existing URL  

PBNs are mostly homepage links, and this sets them apart from most other links you can build. Why? Because homepages have the most incoming links, and thus the most power.

Remember, however, that this is also a limitation. These types of links are rare in the real world, so there is an upper limit on how many it is safe to build.

RankClub Tier 1 CTA-orange

When to use tier 2 PBN links

You should build tier 2 links when:

•  Your competitors have few links going to their ranking URLs, and you want to avoid being the black sheep
•  You want maximum risk reduction
•  When you’re in a challenging niche, and you need more power to rank

Let’s look at each of these use cases in more detail.

when to use tier 2 links

When you’re in a challenging niche, and you need more power to rank

If you’re in a challenging niche and need some extra power, tier 2 links can provide it. They reliably empower any links they are pointed toward.

This effect is especially significant if you’ve already built out most of the essential links in your niche. Building tier 2 links will be more effective than building new tier 1 links that are less relevant.

Your competitors have few links going to their ranking URLs, and you want to avoid being the black sheep

If you are in a niche where competitors only utilize a few links, building too many will attract attention you don’t want from Google.

Competitor Search Results

Repeated tests have demonstrated that the black sheep of a niche—those who have a wildly different link profile from everyone else—will often be banished to the second page or worse until the problem is fixed.

The solution to this problem is to make the few links that you have as powerful as possible by pointing tier 2 links at them. Every tier 2 link you build can increase the power of the links that are already part of your profile.

You want maximum risk reduction

If you want to reduce risk to your money sites, tier 2 PBN links are among the safest investments you can make.

risk reduction using tier 2 links

The links you are building are not being sent directly to your site. As a result, they aren’t being evaluated as part of your own link profile. Not that Tier 1 links are dangerous when you’re using a trusted network, but this is an even safer strategy.

Tier 2 CTA

Use PBNs Right to Use them Powerfully

PBN links are a useful ranking tool when they’re used correctly. Both tier 1 and tier 2 links play an important role, and they are most powerful when you understand which one is the best fit for your current situation.

Take advantage of tier 1 links when you have a new site that needs some help to get out of the sandbox. If you have access to high-quality PBNs and a relatively small link profile, the first tier 1 PBN links you build will have a robust and reliable effect.

Focus on tier 2 links if you have a valuable, aged site with an excellent profile. Tier 2 links provide the indirect force you need to take the lead from competitors when you already have enough tier 1 links.

No matter your priorities, Rank Club can support you with competitive tier 1 links and niche-specific tier 2 links.


The Definitive Tier 2 Link Building Guide cover image

The Definitive Tier 2 Link Building Guide for 2021

You’ve heard a lot more about tier 2 links lately. Wondering why? It’s because they are a key part of some of the most ambitious SEO campaigns launched in recent months.

If you aren’t sure what it means to build tier 2 links, you’ve come to the right place. If you do know what it means, you probably also know that many strategies that worked in the past have been destroyed by algorithm updates. You need a reliable, up-to-date process.

In this guide, you’re going to see a tier 2 strategy that has produced stunning results for SEOs in numerous niches. But first, you’re going to learn what it means to build tier 2 links, how they make your links more powerful (and more credible), and how you can deploy a modern tier 2 strategy like a pro.

After all that, you’ll get to see how powerful this strategy has been for us in a single-variable testing environment by enjoying a peek at the live data from our most recent experiment.

Let’s get started. First, let’s look at what it means to build tier 2 links.

What is Tier 2 Link Building?

First, let’s define ‘Tier 1’ link. When a link to one of your money site’s pages shows up on another site (intentionally or not)—that’s a tier 1 link.

A tier 1 link goes directly to your website.

Tier 2 links are the links that are built to the tier 1 page that links to your website. It might make more sense with an example.

Tier 2 to money site infographic

Imagine you are an affiliate marketer in the skiing niche. You write a guest post about your experiences on your favorite slope and include a link to a page on your money site. That’s your tier 1 link.

But now, imagine the guest post is so good that it starts getting shared on by social media influencers or in hobby forums. Now, there are a bunch of pages pointing at the link that points back at your site. Awesome, all of those are tier 2 links.

Those tier 2 links will make your original link a lot more powerful and credible. Even better, don’t have to sit around waiting for them. You can take the future into your own hands by developing them yourself.

Why does the credibility that tier 2 links offer matter? The answer to that question goes back to one of the oldest tools in Google’s toolbox.

Why is Tier 2 Link Building Important?

Tiered links matter because they send out important signals that are used by Google to determine the worthiness of pages.

One of Google’s oldest ranking factors is PageRank. As Google once defined it,

“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”

That hasn’t changed much. Even today, the power of a link is determined by the power, quantity, and quality of other links going to it.

tier 2 links infographic

It gets a little more complicated than that, though. Over time, Google has acted to weaken the power of links from certain sources. You’ll get to see a list of those in just a bit, but first, let’s look at how links become more powerful.

How do Links Become more Powerful?

If you want to make your links more powerful, you need links to your links, and those new links need to be recognized as legitimate.

It’s not enough to just land a link, even if it’s a great one. To use an example, let’s assume you land a guest post on the New York Times website.

That’s a great placement. You’ll immediately get to benefit from the trust that getting featured on the NYTimes gives you. However, what you don’t have yet is power flowing from that link to your page.

link building

It is only when you build out links to the post that it starts generating both trust AND power.

It’s hard to measure PageRank because it is no longer displayed by Google. However, it is indeed part of the algorithm, otherwise what I’m about to show you in the guide wouldn’t work.

Speaking of what doesn’t work, make sure you understand that some types of tier 2 links are no longer going to have a desired effect.

How Tier 2 link building was done in the past

Algorithm updates in recent years have not been kind to older strategies of building second-tier links. Don’t sabotage your strategy by throwing in one of these outdated tactics.

GSA Search Engine Ranker spam

GSA is one of the most prolific automated link building tools out there. It builds links by making automatic posts on a variety of sources, including—

Social bookmarks
Blog comments

It was as good as a ranking button for a brief point in affiliate marketing history. Those days are gone, of course.

strategies on link building

The original Penguin update in April 2012 massively devalued the kind of links that GSA generated. And Penguin 2.0 started to penalize websites using GSA (and other tools) on tier 2.

That isn’t to say that the program doesn’t have any use anymore. It still has some important niche applications, especially for much higher-tier links—but it’s no longer a point-and-click way to rank.

Web 2.0 property generation

After more-natural links became a requirement, some marketers turned their attention to cultivating blogs on platforms like Blogger and Tumblr. This was effective for some time because Web 2.0 blogs carried more authority (DA and DR) than the sites GSA was spamming on.

google search display on tablet

Once again, these types of links enjoyed a short golden age before Google caught on and laid waste to it. They were devalued when the later Penguin 2.1 update rolled out in October of 2013.

These links might have a niche role, but they’re not going to be recommended for tier 2 in this guide.

Tiers upon tiers

Some people realized that they could squeeze some extra juice out of their web 2.0 sites by tiering them further. That is to say, by building links to the tier 2 properties and then links to those links and beyond.

‘Beyond’ may be an understatement. Maps of tiered links can look like engineering blueprints. They often require dozens of different properties that lean on each other without appearing related to each other.

serp analytics preview

A few years ago, Matt Diggity was showing us how this was done. This strategy doesn’t seem to have been penalized to the extent the others were, but it’s a lot of work and doesn’t seem as effective these days.

So what does work? That’s what we’re going to get into right now.

A Tier 2 Link Building Strategy for 2021

Getting a tier 2 link building strategy off the ground used to take a lot more effort. A ton of different types of links were necessary.

Now? You can get by with a specific type of tier 1 link and a specific type of tier 2 link. This guide is going to recommend some steps where you can improve the chances of success. In most cases, that means making the right decision when it comes to…

Choosing Tier 1 Links
Choosing the Right Types of Tier 2 Links
Choosing the right Anchor Text
Wait for the Result

Let’s go into a little more detail on each one of these.

Choosing Tier 1 Links

We recommend that you choose high authority (DR) links for Tier 1.

If you find a high-authority site, the ideal way to approach them is with a guest post. This gives you the opportunity to build something that’s worthwhile and packed with information.

employee on computer

You can get these links either by purchasing them or performing outreach. If you decide to choose outreach, make sure that you don’t forget to leverage all the work you’re willing to do to promote it.

When creating the content, try to minimize the number of outbound links (OBLs) as much as possible. You want to avoid spreading any juice that’s generated to other properties.

That’s why guest posts are ideal since you’re likely to be the only link in the content.

Choosing the Right Types of Tier 2 Links

Once you get your link placement, you need to think carefully about the links that you’re going to build to it.

Now you know that you have to avoid automated links generators and 2.0 properties. Fortunately, there is one link authority engine whose niche applications fit perfectly into our puzzle—PBNs.

PBNs—As Good as it Gets

PBNs are not just a great second-tier link; they are, in our opinion, the best. The power of PBNs comes from the fact that they send links from homepages that already have many links going to them.

That’s a massive pre-built power source. The best part? A good tier 1 link will filter any toxicity from a tier 2 PBN.

lady biting pencil in fron of computer

In section 4 of our first ever blog, we showed you how even toxic PBNs could be engineered for positive gain.

That isn’t to say, using toxic PBNs is a good idea. It’s just a demonstration of the filtering that can happen through the Tier 1 link and how effectively this strategy can work.

Definitely stick to quality, even on tier 2.

RankClub's Tier 2 CTA-orange

PBNs aren’t your only option, but let’s look at how they compare to the competition.

Other Options

Let’s look at the state of other places to put tier 2 links at this point in the algorithm’s lifespan.

Guest Posts: They simply aren’t effective according to our research, but you’re welcome to give them a try. What our tests show is that they don’t pass enough link juice to be used as a tier 2. That said, they’re great for passing trust, and you can still use them to drive simple traffic from a successful blog.

Link Insertions: Once again, these just don’t seem to pass on enough juice. However, it can be effective if you land a page that already has a healthy profile of links. This can be difficult to hunt down, though.

Web 2.0 Properties: These seem to be completely ignored. They may have a role in upper tiers, but they aren’t good enough for the 1st or 2nd.

GSA/MoneyRobot/SENuke Spam: Google seems to ignore these completely. If you try to use them as tier 1 or tier 2 links, you probably won’t see any movement at all and eventually will see a manual penalty.

Tier2 Facebook Poll

So, yes, we share the opinion that PBNs are the best choice for tier 2. This isn’t something you’ll need to take our word on. You’ll be able to see a lot of proof after the next couple of sections.

Even after you’ve chosen your network, it can take a little refinement to make the strategy work. You need to pay close attention to your anchor text.

Choosing the right Anchor Text

There are some standards you need to follow when choosing your anchor text. Applying the following two principles will keep you on the right path most of the time:

1. Keep them balanced

2. Send them same anchors you’d want to send if you were trying to rank the page you’re linking to

Balance means that you need to focus on a good variety of different anchor texts, including the topic, URL, brand etc. You can find some data into the right proportion of different anchors to use in our detailed anchor text guide for PBNs.

click here anchor text

In it, we go into about as much detail as you’re going to find anywhere on how anchors should be customized for PBNs.

The second principle applies to pretty much any link building scheme. You get what you give. If you’re building tier 2 links that you would never have associated with your money site, they’re going to have a minimized effect.

There’s one more factor you need to take into account if you want to build tier 2 links properly: a dash of patience.


An important part of using this strategy is not getting twitchy if it doesn’t start working right away. You need to delay your result expectations of the tier 2 links by about a month to 2 months after the links go live. It takes time for the link juice to propagate up the tiers.

After that point, the growth can be stunning.

rush timer



For the below tests, we tried various combinations of 5, 10, 15, & 20 tier 2 links per boosted URL.

We felt that the sweet spot is around 15 links.  At 20, the linear result starts to taper off.

Let’s see how our test project panned out in the next section.

So enough anticipation. Let’s break down what happened when we applied this strategy to our test properties.

Our Test Results

We completed several tests to try to isolate the effects of tier 2 links, and measure how their power changes over time.

Note that for testcases #1 and #2 we sent 5 tier 2 backlinks to the tier 1.

Testcase #1

First, we wanted to understand how these links were behaving. We performed an examination of the data to determine what kind of impact adding links had on our test site by linking through a guest post.

The key to this experiment is to first send the tier 1 link with a miscellaneous anchor (e.g.: read more) to reduce chances of a sizable result.

In this case, we did indeed see a gain, so we let the result settle.  After that, we applied the tier 2 links.

Overall we ramped from #46 to #22.

You can see how this experiment unfolded in the graph below.


Testcase #2

This set targets a much lower ranked piece of content than the last one, but we saw many of the same effects.

After an initial drop when the links were introduced, the content went on to improve its position by more than 30 points.

guest post improved by 30 graph

Again, there were impressive results, but we weren’t sure we’d isolated the effect of tier 2 links. That’s why our next example focuses on the effects we saw from removing the links.

Testcase 3: Seeing the Effect of Adding and Removing Tier 2 Links

Were the first examples flukes? This next example suggests that they weren’t. Over almost a year of testing, we tracked what happened when tier 2 links were added (improvement), what happened when they were removed (decline).

After adding the tier 2 links a second time, the improvement reliably happened again. In just a couple months, it had almost fully recovered all the traffic it lost after tier 2 links were originally removed.

organic traffic with tier 2 applied graph

So this process is not just predictable, it’s repeatable.

Now that we can make this happen, we’re ready to offer the power of this tier 2 network to you.

Announcing: The Tier 2 Network

The Tier 2 Network

Our Tier 2 Network is our newest product. It’s the outgrowth of the network that we curated to perform this experiment.

The PBNs in this network have been built from the ground up to serve the specific role of tier 2 links.

We took special care to develop niche-specific networks as well, and we have a large enough network to make sure your placements are relevant to your money site.

For example, if you’re in the technology niche, then your tier 2 links will also be in the technology niche.  That’s the goal.  We’re thinking about relevancy requirements that might be necessary 2+ years into the future.

the tier 2 link service on live

Where are we sourcing these PBNs?

These PBNs are taken from our premium PBN service. The main difference is that they have smaller metrics that aren’t appropriate for Tier 1.

We also relax the strict outbound link requirement that is required for Tier 1 links.

The great part: these PBN links are available for a one-time payment.

RankClub's Tier 2 CTA-orange

2 Anchor Text Guide for PBNs cover image

An Anchor Text Guide for PBNs (A Study of 54k Backlinks)

Few topics are as hotly debated among SEOs as anchor text. Where should it be located? How long should it be? What terms should be targeted and how many of them? There’s a lot of disagreement, and behind even the most confident theories, a lot of guesswork.

Fortunately, the work we’ve just completed should take a lot of the guesswork out of creating anchors, at least where PBN networks are involved. See, we’ve just completed what may be the most exhaustive case study of anchor text links placed on PBN sites ever performed.

For several years, we’ve been selling link placements on PBNs through Rank Club (formerly known as Diggity Links). Our clients had the power to choose the exact anchor text they wanted for their link and to hold that link for as long as they were willing to cover the rent.

We did a deep dive into the anchor text used for every link placed by our company—all 54,000 of them—to discover and analyze the patterns that we could find hiding there.

What follows are six of the most common categories of anchor text, and what we uncovered about each one. You’re going to learn what styles our clients preferred the most, how well each one performed based on our research and how long the links were maintained (a key reflection of performance).

Let’s begin with the most popular style by far of pretty much all types of links, target anchor text.

Target Anchor Text

What is it?

If the anchor involved either single or long-tail keywords, it was placed in this category. Let’s say you were trying to rank for DUI lawyer in New York. You’d find an effective piece of content and find somewhere natural to fit the phrase. Something like…

“Most people trying to fight charges like these would start looking for a DUI lawyer in New York.”

This has been considered one of the most effective formats for a long time, which may explain why the greatest proportion of links fell into this category.

Proportion — 48.1% of Placements 

Pie Chart_Target

This was by far the largest category of the six that we’ll define. This was interesting to us because most niche-specific target anchor text distributions have a smaller proportion.

Google tracks all the categories of anchors and the proportion of how they’re used in each niche. For example, in one niche, the profile might be 50% brand URL anchors, 25% topic anchors, 10% target anchors and 15% miscellaneous anchors. You can further break that down into subcategories of each anchor category.

That the distribution here didn’t match the typical distribution points to the conclusion that people see some specific value in using this category for placement on PBNs, and build out diversity elsewhere.

But how well does that theory hold up? Well, according to the data, pretty well.

Magnitude of Effect: Large

For this category, the results really followed the common consensus on effectiveness.

target anchor graph previewWe can say with certainty that target anchors push the needle.

The customers who rent links with target anchor text, tend to rent them 28.2% longer than the mean rental time for all links combined. This suggests that those who use this style are seeing the results.

Our Recommendations for these Anchors

Based on further breakdowns of the anchors that we examined in this category, we have some recommendations that you can use to perfect your use of target anchor text in the future.

  1. Don’t repeat the same target anchors over and over across different placements. If you have three anchors in your profile, they should not all be “DUI lawyer New York” This gets flagged very easily and can draw manual and algorithmic penalties. Mix it up with variations like “DUI attorney in New York City” or “New York DUI lawyer”
  2. Use longer, descriptive phrases like “one of New York’s highly recommended DUI lawyers”
  3. Break up your keyword phrases into single-word anchors like “DUI”, “lawyer”, “New York”

While this was the biggest category, the next one is the one where we think we’ve uncovered the most potential.

Topical Anchor Text

What is it?

Anchor text that includes broad topics like “technology” or “home computer equipment” was placed in this category. The more specific it gets, the closer it gets to keywords, but even narrower topics like “cordless devices” fit here.

You can easily develop your own topical anchors by just moving up one level higher from your niche. For example. If you’re selling cordless devices, you can move up to “personal electronic devices”, and then just “consumer electronics”

Proportion — 7.3% of Placements

Pie Chart_Topic

This was one of the lesser-utilized styles. In our opinion, highly underutilized. The utilization of topical anchors was uncommon enough to suggest that most people don’t see the value in it. However, those who did use it enjoyed the effects.

Magnitude of Effect: Large

Even before we started this experiment, we noted that Google was delivering higher performance to topical anchors across the board.

This likely has something to do with the search engine’s improving language algorithms (NLP, LSI, etc.). They don’t need us to spell everything out for them.

Topical anchor graph previewThose who use topical anchor text rented the placements out for 18.1% longer than the mean rental time, again suggesting that they deliver results. People are clearly seeing the value, and Google may still be further improving the performance in the future.

Our Recommendations for these Anchors

Just use this style more often. It’s working, and it looks like it’s on the upswing.

Topical anchor strategies should be effective for any niche, but the value of the next one may be determined by whether or not you have an exact/partial matching domain.

Brand Anchor Text

What is it?

Anchors that included brand names were considered as part of this category. To be clear, this category did not include exact match domains (EMDs) or partial match domains (PMDs). If the brand names were part of the URL, they were considered in the next category.

Proportion — 15.3% of Placements

Pie Chart_Brand

This share of the total anchors might seem odd to you, and it did to us, too. Most analyses of competitor anchors determine that this style is the most popular.

For example, 46% of all anchors to Ahrefs.com are “Ahrefs” (big surprise):

Brand Anchors previewIn our test, branded anchor text lost out to several other categories.

However, I don’t think we discovered that those analyses were flawed, or anything like that. It’s more likely that people use different sorts of anchors for different link types, and they prefer to use brand anchors elsewhere, such as on citations or outreach.

Magnitude of Effect: Small

Brand anchors did not appear to move the needle very much for our clients. However, several factors we looked at seemed to suggest that people whose link profiles were severely low on brand anchors in their anchor profile saw a much bigger boost when they added them.

In our case study, we found that people who rented placements for brand anchors kept them 1.5% longer than the average anchor. This suggests that people are seeing a practical result.

Our Recommendations for these Anchors

Continue to use them. They won’t offer much of a ranking bonus, but they are a very necessary part of an entire profile and help you avoid leaving too visible a footprint.

If you’re only using a couple categories of anchors in your entire profile (either just homepage anchors, or just homepage anchors + target anchors) it can attract penalties. A few brand anchors can add some diversity for you. So can using your URL for your anchor.

URL Anchor Text

What is it?

Anchor text that was made of URLs was placed in this category. It’s important to understand that even with URLs there is a lot of variety. Using http://, https://, or naked versions of the URL (for example rankclub.io without the www.) are all different variations of URL anchors.

Proportion — 22.9% of Placements

Pie Chart_URL

This was the second most common anchor in most niche analyses, but in our study, we noted that these anchors were not used as often.

We came to the same conclusion here that we did for the inconsistencies with brand anchors. There is no discrepancy, it’s just that most people have different preferences for the URL anchors that are used on PBNs.

As to why it was more popular than brand anchors, our theory is that EMD and PMD domains don’t have the ability to send a brand anchor text for pillowing, so webmasters have to go with the URL alternative…

Magnitude of Effect: Small

URL anchors did not appear to have much of an effect on their own. They performed a lot like brand anchors.

Clients who picked URL anchors for their placements tended to hold them for a lower than average amount of time. Not by much (-1.9%), but enough to suggest that they had a limited effect.

It’s likely that these anchors don’t have much of an effect unless there are already few to none of them in your anchor profile.

Our Recommendations for these Anchors

At the very least, they should be used, especially if your URL is a PMD or EMD. If you did an analysis of the niche-specific anchor text of EMD/PMD, you’d probably find that this one was the most likely to be used.

URL Anchor text previewThe next category involves some of the least used, but still situationally valuable anchor text styles.

Misc Anchor Text — 6.2% of Placements

What is it?

Anchor text that didn’t fit well into any of the other categories, but involved a coherent statement (in other words, not N/A) was placed in this one.

Proportion — 6.2% of Placements

Pie Chart_Misc

This amount of use was in line with niche averages. There’s rarely a strategic reason to use these types of anchors unless the only thing you’re working toward is variety.

It may be helpful to create some miscellaneous anchors just to balance out the effective use of other anchors elsewhere.

Magnitude of Effect: Very Small

Almost no effect here, though people who had a specific mission with their URL probably got what they wanted out of it.

Interesting fact, though—when we’re doing tier 2 PBN testing, we first want to send a guest post to link to a target site in order to establish a flat ranking graph. Once this is done, we feel comfortable hitting the guest post in the back with a PBN.

We use miscellaneous anchors for this as they are not likely to give much of a ranking boost and they keep the test result stable before the PBN links are added.

The minimal effect seems to be recognized by our clients who were renting the placements.  These were rented for less time than the average (-5.5%).

Our Recommendations for these Anchors

These are probably best reserved for other types of links. Outreach links are probably the best candidates.

N/A Anchor Text — 0.2% of Placements

Anchor-Text 3dWhat is it?

This category of anchors covers image links, empty alt tags, author names and other types of anchors that didn’t include any kind of target or message.

Proportion — 0.2% of Placements

The use of these anchors was statistically negligible. Like the last category, there probably isn’t a strategic reason to use them unless you already have a good collection of anchors and you need some variety.

Magnitude of Effect: Unknown

We haven’t done any single-variable testing to see the effect of NA anchors on movements. If there were any effects at all, they were probably negligible. We’ve added it to the list here just to mark that some anchors defy any other type of categorization.

The rental time for these links was 4.6% less time than average.

Our Recommendations for these Anchors

Some people like to use NA anchors for pillowing. That is, they use them to fill out small requirements like a need for image links.

Put Your Anchors to Good Use

the best anchor textThat’s everything we’ve uncovered from our study of 54,000 links and the anchor text that was used for them.

The results show that PBNs are treated a little differently than other link sources. Yes, target anchor text is still the most common, but there are major opportunities that are being missed by a lot of people when it comes to topical anchors.

Put in the small amount of work that’s necessary to plan new topical anchors, and you can benefit greatly from the improved ability of search engines to recognize and respond to what you’re doing.

As far as the other styles go, variety is also going to be to your benefit, not just to hit missed opportunities, but to prevent yourself from leaving footprints that could cause penalties.

That should mean strategic use of brand and URL anchor text with the distribution depending on whether your URL is an exact or partial match.

If you’ve been planning anchors for a long time, you’ve probably learned some of your own tricks when it comes to perfecting different styles and predicting performance. We’d love to hear your input in our comments.

Until next time.