If you ask any search engine optimizer about link building, they’ll tell you it’s one of the most important parts of SEO. Link building is the process of getting other websites to have links that lead back to your website. This becomes an important part of SEO because it drives organic traffic to your website.
Combining link building with other SEO strategies can help your website rank higher on Google. Ultimately, this can drive more organic traffic to your website.
But not all link building strategies are helpful to your website. Some companies promise high rewards in a short amount of time when it comes to link building, but they are not exactly helpful. An example of this is a link farm.
What Is a Link Farm?
A farm is a place where you grow food in large quantities. A link farm is similar in that it’s a website or a group of websites that create links in large bulks. This process happens by linking websites to each other, creating a vast and intricate network of websites.
The purpose of this network of websites is to boost another website’s ranking since they’re all linked together. It’s important to note that this process is not focused on providing high-quality content for users. It is also not focused on getting your message out to the general public. Its sole purpose is to boost your rank through “link building.”
History of Link Farms
Search engine optimizers first developed link farms in 1999. When Google was young, it didn’t really care about the quality of backlinks a website had. All it cared about was how many backlinks it received. This contributed to a website’s authority. This ranking algorithm was called PageRank.
It was seen as more authoritative if a lot of sites linked to its content. These backlinks were like social proof that this site was a good site because a lot of other websites linked to it. It didn’t matter whether the content was related or if it provided value. Some of these websites were even made just to provide backlinks to other sites.
If you really stop and think about it, link farms have a point. If PageRank is solely concerned about how many websites link back to you, then this network of websites works.
Why Is Link Farms Bad?
As Google matured and evolved, it became stricter with its rules and regulations. Google saw how link farms created a fake sense of authority, so it made changes to combat that. Now, Google is more concerned with bringing high-quality content that brings value and helps users. This is why Google penalizes link farms. They don’t provide any kind of value.
Here are a few reasons why using link farms to grow your website can have severe consequences.
- Low-Quality Links
Google now values the content that is linked to you. They closely analyze whether the content your link appears on is of high quality or helpful to users who see the content.
It’s important to remember that high-quality link building prioritizes helping users. High-quality backlinks are integrated organically and seamlessly into the content. They are also integrated in a way that makes sense and is actually part of the discussion.
The website should also be trustworthy. If the backlinks come from a website that seems to have random topics that have nothing to do with each other, then it might be a link farm.
- Does More Harm than Good
Back in the day, Google just took into account how many links lead back to your website. Since Google now looks at the quality of the links that lead back to you, it also now penalizes bad links.
Google works quickly and efficiently, so it automatically applies penalties to websites that try to cheat the algorithm. Here are some of the known penalties that Google applies:
- It prevents your website from ranking. This results in significantly lower rankings on your end.
- It reduces your PageRank score.
- It decreases the organic search traffic to your website.
- It prevents your new content from ranking on Google.
Aside from Google’s algorithm detecting these violations and penalizing you, other visitors or competitors can also report your site for spam. This can also result in severe penalties from Google.
- Not a Long-Term Solution
Link farms are aware that what they’re doing isn’t favored by Google. They know that Google’s new and improved algorithm doesn’t favor what they’re doing. Because of this, they’re always ready to pack up and leave.
Link farms often disappear as quickly as they pop up. Once Google detects their activity, there’s no use in trying to save the website, so they’ll just move to a different website altogether. What happens to the backlinks that you paid for when they suddenly vanish?
If the link stays, it’s going to become a red flag for Google. It’ll trace the link back to your website and you’ll get penalized. If the link vanishes, you paid for a link that won’t serve you in the long run.
How to Spot a Link Farm?
As Google evolved, so did link farms. Today, some link farms look like very legitimate websites so it’s important to know how to identify one.
Here are some of the common characteristics of link farms that are disguised as credible websites:
- If you check the website’s ranking, you’ll see that it has a very low ranking.
- The website has poorly written content that provides little to no value to readers.
- The topics of the website’s content are so unrelated that everything feels random and uncoordinated.
- Upon exploring the website, you’ll find pages that are dedicated solely to a list of links that have no context.
- Domain names don’t make sense because it consists only of random letters and numbers.
Websites don’t need to have all of these traits to be a link farm, but the more characteristics they have, the more likely they’re a link farm. The biggest red flag you’ll see are the low rankings and extremely poor content. If you see these things, you’ll need to dig deeper into the website to double-check if they’re a link farm.
Link farms became a good solution to Google’s algorithm back in the day. Back then, Google only looked at how many websites linked back to your website. It didn’t really care how the links were made, where they were placed, or what kind of websites they came from.
But as Google evolved and matured, it made the user experience its top priority. It wanted to make sure that the content recommended to users would be helpful. That’s why they began developing an algorithm that took into account the quality of the content links came from.
As a result, link farming became illegal and punishable by multiple penalties. The promise of link farms of a high ranking and high traffic is an empty promise. The results can vanish as quickly as they come. Subscribing to a link farm is never a good idea. It’ll do your website more harm than good in the long run.