By: Rob Rok
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have access to safe and secure PBNs, there’s no reason not to take advantage of them.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you want to reduce risk to your money sites, tier 2 PBN links are among the safest investments you can make.
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.
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.