The Real Cost of Setting Up Your Own PBN

pbn cost

Private Blog Networks, or PBNs, have been all the rage in the SEO community for the past few years. The accolades are not without warrant.

As far as ranking websites, backlinks work. And, as anyone who has done outreach knows, asking others for links is a long and often fruitless endeavor. Instead, having links on demand seriously reduces the time burden of building the links your websites need to rank well in the SERPs.

How to Build Powerful Backlinks Without Outreach

Update: As of August 2016, I now offer my own link building service, Rank Guardian. The results have been fantastic, and I'd love to help you rank your site too.

Outreach and guest posting work, but they take serious commitment. If you have the time and resources to spend 40 hours or more a week, or to hire someone to spend that time fishing for links, then you can see serious results from this type of link building.

But, if you’re looking for a better ROI and much more scalable link building method, you basically have two options:

1.) Build your own PBN

2.) Buy links from a third party

Both strategies can yield some stunning results, but before you make a choice of which is right for you, it’s important to break down the costs associated with both options.

The Cost of Building Your Own PBN

Setting up and running your own private blog network can result in fantastic ranking improvements for your websites. But, a PBN is not something you throw a few dollars into to get started and set it up over night.

There are two basic expense categories to consider while planning out your PBN if you decide to build one: infrastructure and maintenance. 

Infrastructure can be further broken down into –

  • Domains
  • Hosting
  • Content

Whereas maintenance refers to –

  • Setup
  • General upkeep
  • Unanticipated upkeep

To get started on putting a real dollar amount in getting a PBN setup, built out, and maintained we can take a look at each of those above categories independently. 

We are also going to work under the assumption you’re planning on starting out with a relatively small 10 site PBN.

Domains – You can’t have a PBN without domains. The important part of these domains is that they are expired with some nice links already aimed their way.

There are a few ways to get these types of domains, such as buying them from auctions, buying them from brokers, or scraping them with tools, with each of these methods carrying different costs. The strength of the domain also affects the pricing.

The cheapest method mentioned above would be scraping for domains your self, if you don’t include the time you put in to doing so, which should not be ignored as scraping can take days, especially if you’re not experienced with it.

Brokers can get pricey, and auctions even pricier if you’re aiming for some real premium domains.

Since most people reading this want to rank websites to make money and not become a professional web scraper, we’ll work under the assumption you’ll buy expired domains from a respectable and not overly expensive broker.

The quick and easy way of doing so is to just use a broker that orders packages like those you can find here from Pure Quality Domains. Their cheapest 10-site package runs $250.  You could try to scrape for those domains, but as stated before, the time and tools needed to do so would most likely end up costing you more than the $250.

Total cost for your PBN so far: $250

You then also need to register the domains. There are various places to do so such as GoDaddy, Namecheap, and Hover, and they all charge different amounts. However, it’s best practice to not register all of your PBN domains with the same registrar, so a fair average cost of registration per domain is around $10, or $100 for all 10 for each year your own them. (fake whois)

Total cost for your PBN so far: $350

Hosting – Now that you have some great domains you need to set them up on hosting. Several years ago using cheap $1/month hosting was cat’s pajamas. That was until lots of people using cheap $1/month hosting had their PBNs de-indexed.

There are plenty of theories why that happened ranging from Google targeting specific cheap hosting resellers to just the fact that bargain hosting usually results in horrific site performance, which can get you de-indexed too. Regardless of why it happened, it still happened.

So, best practice now is to use more common web hosting solutions, like Bluehost, HostGator, and A Small Orange. And like with your domain registration, you won’t want to use the same hosting for each domain, and you want different IPs for each domain too.

You can get some small or baby plans from the hosting solutions for around $4/month give or take, so the sake of simplicity, we’ll say properly hosting your 10-site PBN will run about $40/month, or $480 for the year.

Total cost for your PBN so far: $830

Content – You can’t have a PBN without adding content to your new sites. Again, you can try doing this all yourself, which a lot of invested time and usually leads to total burnout, or you can pay for content.

When paying for content you’re going to need to decide on what quality you’re aiming for. The cost of writers from tier 1 English speaking countries like the USA, Canada, the UK, etc. is going to be significantly higher than the cost of using Filipino writers. Since you aren’t trying to really win readers over or sell them anything from your PBN, most opt for the latter.

There are plenty of writing services out there like HireWriters and iWriter. Using iWriter as an example, the cheapest 500-word article would run $3. Making the assumption that your 10-site PBN would link out to 10 money sites, you would need 100 articles, not including any supporting pages you add like an About page. The total cost of the content would be $300. Again, this does not take into account any other posts or pages you add to the PBN sites, but for simplicities sake, this estimate will do.

Total cost for your PBN so far: $1130

Content isn’t just articles. You’ll also need your PBN sites to look like real sites to minimize the chances of them getting de-indexed. That’s why most people add customs logos to each site.

You don’t need award-winning logos, so a basic Fiverr style logo should do, but you need to include the cost. Fiverr now adds on a processing fee per order, so one logo will run you $5.50, making the total for the 10 you need $55.

Total cost for your PBN so far: $1185

Setup – Websites don’t build themselves so after you have your domains, hosting, and content, you need to put them all together. Without getting into the some of the trickier stuff you need to do when managing a rather large PBN, even the basic setup can take some time.

For example, here are some of the tasks that need to be done:

  • Connecting your domains to the hosting
  • Installing WordPress or whatever CMS you choose to use
  • Choosing a theme
  • Adding a logo
  • Installing and setting up plugins
  • Setting up your menu
  • Adding your content
  • Formatting your content
  • Adding images

To make these websites look like real sites and not part of a blog network you need to spend a little time on all the above.

Depending on your experience with setting up sites and how much editing the cheap content you bought requires determines how much time each site would take to setup, but for the sake of putting a dollar figure into this process, let’s say you’re fairly quick at setting up each site, averaging 2 hours per site. That would be a total of 20 hours of setup time.

How much money are those 20 hours worth? Again, this is a bit of an arbitrary number, but by taking an annual salary of $45,000 a year, your hourly pay rate would be around $21.60. So, using that pay rate your setup time would be the equivalent of about $432.

Total cost for your PBN so far: $1617

General Upkeep – While you can set and forget your blogs on your PBN, it’s not really a great idea to do so. Firstly, failing to update plugins is one of the biggest ways to get your sites hacked. Second, stale sites tend to lose their ranking power.

Even by doing the bare minimum and spending two hours a month on upkeep at the same hourly rate listed before, a year would run around $518.

Total cost for your PBN so far: $2135

Unanticipated Upkeep – It’s an annoying but unavoidable fact that when working with websites, things break. It doesn’t happen all the time, but perhaps a hosting server crashes and you lose all the data for one PBN site, or there’s a problem with the billing on another.

Dealing with this kind of thing takes time, and any time you spend fixing the problems is time you aren’t spending working on your money sites or other parts of your business.

Assuming you only have a couple medium-sized hiccups during your first year, we can estimate in 10 hours of time at out previously determined hourly rate. That would add another $216 to your costs.

Total cost for your PBN so far: $2351

In Summary

Setting up a PBN, even a smaller 10-site one, is not the quickest or cheapest way to help push your money site up the SERPs, but it’s certainly an effective one. The fairly low-cost example we set up above would give you approximately a total of 100 links spread out to 10 sites for $2351. That equates to $23.51 a link for the first year. The, there’s recurring annual costs of maintaining those sites and links of  $1314 for the domain renewals, hosting, and general & unanticipated upkeep.

It’s important to remember that this estimated cost-per-link is basically a best-case scenario where you’re maximizing the value of each PBN site and getting 10 outbound links per site. That means you also need to fund 10 money sites.

If you only have 5 money sites the cost-per-link would actually jump up to around $44, and if you are only running 3 money sites it jumps even higher to around a whopping $71 per link. The reasoning behind this is that regardless of whether your PBN is supporting 1 money site or 10 money sites, you still need the domains, hosting, logos, setup, and maintenance. The only expense you would save on is the content.

And, all of this math assumes you don’t have any of your PBN sites de-indexed.

So, can you build your own PBN to help rank you money sites? Absolutely. However, unless you have a suite of money sites, you usually get much more bang for you buck when you purchase backlinks from a third party. Aside from the money you’ll save, you’ll have much more time to spend on building your websites and your business instead of messing around with setting up and maintaining a private blog network.

Also, you should really check out Rank Guardian, our new ranking service.


Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Todd Connelly - August 10, 2016

Awesome breakdown and real dollar examples! I can relate as I built a ten site PBN and it took alot of money as well as time. Although I found the experience worth the learning, I found it to be ineffective. Not the value in increase rankings from a PBN, just ineffective as my time resource could be better spent elsewhere.

Having used my personally built PBN and a paid for service PBN, I found the paid service more effective dollar for dollar spent. Not to mention the time to build and the continual maintenance that you talk about. You raise some good points to consider.

Good read and thanks for sharing!

Khalid - August 14, 2016

Good post Mike. There is one thing i would like to add which is that when you add PBN to a site (Especially to an Amazon affiliate site), the price gets affected when you try to sell the site. I have seen that in EF and also in Flippa. So that is another negative to keep in mind too.

Good post anyway man. Keep it up.


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