The Big G Ain't Easy
Lets start with this... ranking is NOT easy, SEO is not easy, Google is not easy and we are all at it's mercy. Granted as you've likely heard at some point, this game, if you could get away with calling it that used to be a lot easier.
Yes, you could game the search engines, yes you could employ blackhat techniques and rank with ease, yes you could socially bookmark your way to number one Google rankings and yes, eventually the effect of these "tactics" eventually got washed away after Google stepped in and put the hammer down on a lot of this nonsense. The biggest change these days is that Google is getting smarter and dropping the hammer much faster and harder than it used to.
Visiting forums across the web, you'll find many people looking for new ways to get around "playing by the rules".. To that I say, you're better off just taking the slow and steady route.. the payoff is much better in the long run especially when we're speaking with "business and brand" in mind.
Considering all the conversations that take place about how to rank in Google and get those elusive top rankings by essentially coming up with your own set of rules, the reality that this is Google land doesn't seem to set in until manual penalties and deindexing of these websites take place. When I think of Google's playground, I take on the mindset that no matter what I do, Google knows about it. Now while that's just my personal take on big brother checking into what I'm doing, adopting that view probably isn't such a bad idea. Besides, if you think about it, websites that play by the rules are the ones that get rewarded when the ones that don't get penalized and fall from existence and who's left to move on up and take their places ??? Exactly, everyone else that "didn't" do what the others did to get kicked to the curb. Now that's just my way of thinking.. and maybe just maybe some food for thought to consider.
The House Always Wins
I read this post from Niche Profits about how several of their sites got hit by the use of PBN's. That post can be found here and it's an interesting read:
Done With Private Blog Networks Forever. Ultimately what they came up with is that they need to be done with private blog networks forever. Now granted you shouldn't have to hemorrhage $5000 a month (ouch !!) to figure that out, but interestingly enough that's the hit they took in order to figure out that Google isn't playing games regarding taking down these networks and anyone associated with them. So if you have a business or brand that you care about, learn from the many examples that keep sprouting up as Google beats them all into submission.
Private blog networks truly were one of those rank and bank type of strategies. Google couldn't sniff them out, it was being promoted everywhere that if you didn't have one, you needed to get one because it was easy money.. I mean everyone wanted to get in on PBN's because it was a sure fire way to rank your website. It was so effective and untouchable that networks were being promoted on forums and SEO outsourcing websites galore and quite frankly still are ! Guess what.. people are still buying up these services ?? Help me figure that one out. I get it that Google can't catch everyone, but is it worth the risk ?? Either way, I guess some people have to learn the hard way. However, the appeal to these services is that they aren't expensive, the turn around time is fairly quick and the impact on ranking can be seen in less than 15 days, often times much sooner.
Consider this... if you were promoting a high ticket item, PBN's seemed like a great investment because your return was going to be so much greater than the money you spent to get the page(s) ranked in the first place. Again, I get the appeal, but the risk should understandably make this a pretty undesirable strategy for most.
Rankhero (rankhero.co), who by the way (at the time of this penalty) is no longer accepting new customers. They are the newest victims in the Google Crackdown digest. Rankhero, a private content network (just a fancy name for a PBN) got slammed.. I mean there's no other way to put it. Not only did they get killed in this crackdown, so did "many" websites associated with utilizing their services. Yikes.. I bet they didn't talk about that in the fine print when customers signed up. Talk about a bad day for a whole lot of people. I could speculate that this is Google's way of striking fear in the SEO community, but I prefer the more sensible reality which is Google taking a very direct and straightforward stance in conveying a no fluff piece of advice that we should all take seriously.. that PBN's are just a bad idea altogether.
It should make sense to disavow these networks entirely. These penalties that Google has been handing out have been resulting in massive traffic losses which ultimately means big losses in revenue. I can't imagine any argument that says that kind of damage is worth it whether you're a larger company, a small one or a midsize company in between. Google has been saying this for "YEARS" that shady link building.. link building that is outside of their webmaster guidelines will live very short lives in their search engine and in recent years, we've been shown that the big G isn't just talking about taking down this unsavory element.. they are literally going out and turning lush and rich situations into dry, lonely fields of misery.
Consider the sheer time, energy and money invested into building sites that you expose to private blog networks, to only see that body of work, washed away in seconds because of one decision that changed everything. The warnings are all around you so there's no excuse, just don't be so tempted to experience instant gratification that you choose the reckless route to get to the top of the mountain only to lose what doesn't have to be lost in the first place.
At The Heart Of It All
Believe it or not, Google has always wanted to provide real value to those that are there to search, those that are there to make money, those that are there to explore and everyone else in between. Google makes it clear how to have a real chance at success on their platform and is clear about how to doom yourself as well. Start with following the rules, learning from those who don't and treating it like something of value as opposed to something you have to manipulate in order to get what you want most and then... you just might get the most out of what Google is and what it can do for you, your business and your brand.
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