To IP or not to IP – the Biggest Link Building Question


It is well known that choosing sites for your link building campaign can be a tedious task. There are many factors to consider, such as Ahrefs metrics, traffic, organic keywords, how the prospect site looks like, etc. One factor that is especially important concerns the IP address. 

IP addresses can tell us a lot about websites. And what is crucial here is that IP addresses can tell us if the website belongs to a Private Blog Network (PBN). This has been, so far, an important thing to determine because Google frowns upon backlinks built on PBNs, but today, things may be different. 

Let’s say you have found an opportunity to make a link on some really good websites. By all the metrics, traffic and organic search and keywords the site seems perfect and of high quality. But once you go to check its IP with a batch of other sites, you may notice that the IP addresses completely match. This certainly may raise some red flags, making you think that these websites all belong to a private blog network, and that you should avoid them. But your logical thinking says this can’t be true.

What is happening with IPs today? 

Most websites are today switching to Cloud networks which can trick link builders and SEO experts when it comes to checking the IP address. What happens is that when a person is visiting a website, the CDN will route your visit to the closest server possible and the IP address you see is of that server, not from the actual site. 

This raises many questions when it comes to link building. We are all “afraid” of PBNs, since Google doesn’t like them, and now that we don’t actually know the original IP address of a website, we don’t know what to do. 
According to Semrush and many other tools, checking referring IPs is a must in order to avoid PBNs.

Reffering IPs report

Yes, we all want to avoid websites that dabble with black-hat SEO, and back in the day, checking for PBNs through IPs had been extremely important.  But does the IP actually matter today? 
A short answer to this is “probably not”. Checking IPs and being 99% sure that the PBN’s IPs will hurt your rating has almost become a myth. Even Google has said that IPs don’t matter that much, and they stated that back in 2015. According to John Mueller from Google, he tweeted 6 years ago that “same IP usually isn’t an issue… Shared hosting/CDN isn’t new, we have lots of practice”.

John Mueller

This means that checking IPs and determining if a site is part of a PBN is almost pointless. Even PBNs are aware of CDN and don’t pay too much attention to that. We should focus on other ways of determining if a website is part of a PBN in order to avoid it. 

Let’s take a look at a simple and brief example. Let’s say you want to publish your article on Medium or UX Design Collective. You can see that they have nice metrics, that the sites are relevant and have plenty of visitors. But then you decide to go and check their IP addresses.

Site Metrics

When checking them in Ahrefs, you notice that they share the same IP address and your brain immediately thinks they belong to a PBN. However, you know for sure that they are not in the same network. The reason for this is that they have a cloud proxy.

Who Is IP

The conclusion – you should not solely rely on IP addresses to determine if the website dabbles in black-hat SEO or that it is a bad choice for a backlink.

CDN and IP addresses

A content delivery network (CDN) is a geographically distributed group of servers that work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content. Plenty of websites have switched to these in order to ensure quicker access to their sites and content to users. This has however brought some confusion to link builders who are used to checking IP addresses in order to sift through PBNs and find a good website. 

As already stated, CDNs will always change the IP address of a website you visit rendering IP checks useless. For example, if you use Ahrefs to check the IP addresses of a prospect list of sites, you will see some matching addresses. This is solely because you are visiting them from one place and being rerouted to the closest server from the CDN. This means that those matching IPs don’t refer to a PBN.

What to Do Instead?

Today, It is advisable that all link builders forget about checking IP addresses when creating backlinks. It is almost a waste of time, since there are no tools available today to check and see the original IP address of the desired site. Most of them use CDN which provides their own, so why waste time on this?

Instead, focus on more important factors that will determine the quality and value of a website. Look at traffic, organic keywords, where those visits and backlinks come from, if the site is relevant for you, etc. Don’t waste time on IPs, stick to more important things and you are bound to create a number of quality backlinks for your rating and increased traffic. 

It is evident that technology is advancing, and those in the world of SEO are also making the necessary adjustments as the playing field evolves. That is why checking IP addresses for the sake of determining the quality of a website is almost useless today. Thanks to cloud proxies and CDNs, it is hard to determine the original IP address of any website, and SEO practitioners should look into more relevant parameters when it comes to determining the value and quality of potential backlinks.

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