Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Link Juice and PBN Links

I spend a lot of time in various forums and social media groups pertaining to SEO.  In particular, grey hat SEO groups where people are more often than not, using PBN as their primary ranking strategy.

Without a doubt, the most common question I see is:

“How many times can I link from each of my PBNs?”

I will soon be putting this issue to rest.

The question above can actually be interpreted in two different ways:

Question 1 – How many times can you link from one PBN to a single money site?

Question 2 – How many different money sites can be linked to from a single PBN?

Without a doubt, both of these questions arise quite frequently so I’ll be addressing them both.  But first, let’s make sure we are completely on the same page when it comes to the foundational concept of link juice.

How Link Juice is Affected by the Number of Outbound Links

What I’m about to discuss isn’t novel by all means.  These concepts date as far back as 1998 with the birth of the Page Rank algorithm that is still at the core of what Google uses today to determine SERP results.

The Page Rank algorithm can get quite complicated to say the least, so I’m going to attempt to illustrate this much more simply using a fictional measurement I made up called “Link Juice Points (LJPs).”  LJPs represent the ranking potential one site has if it were to link to another site.

Let’s imagine that a site called pbn.com is linking to a site called moneysite.com.  Pbn.com has enough incoming links such that it has accumulated 100 LJPs.  Since it only links out to one site (moneysite.com), that site receives 100 LJPs.  Easy breezy.

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Figure A: Linking from a single PBN to a single money site.

Let’s say that pbn.com links to two URLs now.  These URLs can be on the same domain or different domains completely.  Because there are now two links, the LJPs are divided and the target URLs each end up with 50 LJPs each.  Still very easy to conceptualize.

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Figure B: Linking from a single PBN to two separate URLs.

The concept continues on as the outbound link count (OBL) increases.  For example, if you have 10 OBL on your PBN, then each site gets 10 LJP.

Or does it?  You’ll read more about this later.

Authority and Trust

Additional complexity is added when we factor in the concept of “authority” or “trust”.  Modern day link building campaigns aren’t just about delivering link juice.  It’s also our job as SEOs to deliver trust and authority to a site which helps to validate our link building efforts.

Example:

Imagine you have an affiliate website called “bestgaminglaptopguru.com” (and yes, that’s a great niche to be in).  One day you pull off some white hat wizardry and get yourself a link in a brand new post on Techcrunch.com.

Since this is a new post and has no links going to it, the link juice delivered is going to be negligible.  However, TechCrunch has a Domain Authority of 94, and you can bet your buns that when you get this link you’re going to see some movement.

Thus, our simple diagram gets a little more complicated.  There’s an unquantifiable ranking factor called authority (or trust) which is added into the mix.  This trust factor isn’t divided up when the OBL of the referring URL increases.  If you get a link from TechCrunch, it effectively acts as a vote from an authority saying that your site is ok in their book.  That vote isn’t diminished if they also linked to someone else in the same post.

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Figure C: Factoring in Authority/Trust

The Authority and Trust of PBNs

Now that I’ve explained all the above, when it comes to (most) PBNs, completely ignore everything I’ve just said regarding authority and trust.

I’ve played a lot with building trust and authority with PBNs, and they can indeed move the trust needle but you either need volume, huge metrics, or traffic generating PBNs.

For the purpose of answering the two questions proposed in this article, let’s simplify by dropping the concept of trust and simply think in terms of link juice.

Question 1 – How many times can you link from one PBN to a single money site?

Answer: As many times as you want, but the more natural it looks, the better result you’ll get.

PBNs are blogs.  The most natural use of blogs is when individuals or businesses write articles that deliver value for their readerships.  The authors will commonly link out to other URLs that help to supplement their article, improving the information provided to the reader.

Most commonly, people link to a given domain one time per blog article.

However, that’s not always the case.  For example, it’s certainly possible for someone to write a blog article about the increase of inflation over the past three years, in which they could link to Forbes financial reports from 2014, 2015, and 2016.

However, with SEO it’s always best to mimic the norm, so most of the time, link once per article.

Exception

the most interesting anchor textThere is one situation where I tend to be more liberal with multiple links to a single site: when I’m trying to correct anchor text ratios.  I calculate target anchor ratios based on what the niche is asking for.  Namely, I reverse engineer what the top #1-5 rankers in the niche have, and follow suit.

I don’t do client SEO anymore, but with some of my LeadSpring JV affiliate partnerships I sometimes need to correct the anchor text distribution.

In that case, I’ll try to get more mileage out of each PBN by getting 2-3 anchors out of each to a given money site.  Once the anchor text distributions are good to go, then I go back to one link per money site.

Sub-Question: If I link multiple times to the same URL, which anchor text is used and how much link juice goes to each link?

Let’s imagine that you have a PBN article that links to the homepage of your site twice and an inner page once.

What happens in this situation is that only the first anchor text is considered, while the homepage gets 2/3 of the link juice and the inner page gets 1/3.

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Figure D: Illustration of multiple links going to a single URL.

Sub-Question: Can I link to the same money site twice, but from different articles?

Abso-friggin-lutely.

People write about what they know about.  Let’s imagine that an American guy named Bob has a blog about sports.  It’s completely reasonable (and likely) to assume that Bob will link to ESPN.com more than once from his website.

Question 2 – How many different money sites can be linked to from a single PBN?

Another way to look at this… do you really get more “mileage” out of each PBN by linking from them multiple times?  Let’s see.

If you always link three times from each of your PBNs, then the link juice delivered to each URL is 1/3 of the original.  Based on the diagrams I’ve offered above, you’ll essentially need three times as many PBNs as compared to if you just used one PBN per URL.  So we’re break-even.

Right?  Not quite.

How to Increase PBN Efficiency

These days a PBN should have additional OBLs on their page in order to look more legitimate: outbound authority links and embedded videos.  Authority links on referring domains have actually been tested and shown to have a very significant effect on rankings (read more).

So knowing that each PBN needs a certain amount of credible outbound links per page, we can share this burden by putting more money site links on each PBN.

For example, in the figure below, if we decide that each PBN should have just one authority link (I actually recommend a lot more) and we put two money sites on each PBN, each money site will effectively receive 32% more link juice.  The efficiency increases as you add more authority links and more money sites.

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Figure E: Comparing delivered link juice when one authority link is present.

If you want to maximize the value you’re getting from each PBN, link out to them to multiple money sites.  How many is safe?  Let’s take a look.

There is one major pitfall you need to watch out for.

Pitfall: Outbound Link Overlap Patterns

If you’re being a good tin hat SEO, taking care of all your footprints and hosting them correctly, then really there should be no cause for deindexes… except for this.

Take a look at the figure below and try to find the footprint.

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Figure F: Outbound link overlap footprint.

As you can see, each PBN links to the same three money sites.

Let’s imagine that you specialize in local SEO for dentists, so you decide to make a dentist PBN network.  You have three clients ranking for “dentist chicago”, “dentist new york”, and “dentist miami” and you link to them from your PBN.

The probability that even a small handful of websites all decide to link to the same three dentists is very low.

The only way to prevent this is to avoid repeating OBL patterns.  The following configuration would be ideal.

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Figure G: Outbound link overlap footproint is resolved.

This year, I invested a few thousand dollars to create an internal software tool that would detect these very patterns and prevent them from happening.  It’s paid itself over simply due to the lack of deindexes I’ve experienced.

Conclusion

So folks, at the end of the day, I don’t really have a magic number for you.  It’s not as simple as me saying, “Always link out to 4 money sites from each PBN.”

SEO is a game of balance.  You’ll have to take a look at the risk you’re willing to take and weigh that against the efficiency you’re aiming for.

Perhaps you decide to go with 5 money sites per PBN for your clients, while increasing that number to 10 for your own lead generation sites, while making sure to avoid OBL patterns.

Either way, you now have a full understanding of the subject of link juice and linking, which will enable you to find the sweet spot that your business is comfortable with.

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