What is a Link Farm? - Why Should You Not Rely On It?

What is a Link Farm? - Why Should You Not Rely On It?
Link farms have been a contentious issue since they first emerged on the SEO scene, and understanding their nature, potential dangers, and negative impact is vital for any SEO expert.

So, let’s explore exactly ‘what is link farming’ and how to avoid it.

What is Link Farming?

Imagine you're in a room full of people. Each of these people represents a website. Suddenly, everyone starts pointing at each other simultaneously, gesturing as though saying, "Check out this guy". That's precisely how link farming works, with websites instead of people!

Link farming is a technique used in website promotion. In this practice, a group of websites hyperlink to every other site in the group. In essence, think of it as a community of websites, all constantly pointing each other out like a group of friends always recommending each other.

These web pages or sites are created solely for building the number of interconnected links. The pages won't necessarily provide unique, noteworthy content or may only offer low-quality content containing relevant keywords. The integrity of the content doesn't matter as much as the quantity of links created.

What is the Purpose of Link Farming?

link farming

To understand why link farming is done, you should know how Google and other search engines rank pages

Pages with a higher number of inbound links tend to rank higher in search engine results. The rationale behind this is straightforward. A high number of links pointing to a website indicates that it's popular and, therefore, it must provide useful information.

To take advantage of this principle, businesses created networks of web pages (link farms) producing many inbound links to their primary website, hence boosting the latter's search engine ranking. Based on how search engines previously calculated a website's relevance, the more sites linked to yours, the more relevant it must be, right?

The core idea was – if one link gives you a vote of confidence, many links will make your website an authority. So, why not create a group of websites that interconnect and increase the number of votes? This tactic seemed to yield positive results and the allure of ascending SERP ranks quickly took many website owners in its sway, hence escalating the popularity of link farms.

But the search engine game is a lot more sophisticated today. Giant players like Google have found ways to identify such tactics and take strict actions. Google was especially clear in its stance against artificial link manipulation.

Why is Link Farming Harmful?

harmful link building illustrated by a link

When something appears too good to be true, it usually is. The same principle applies to SEO practices like link farming. 

It might seem appealing at first due to its potential quick-fix for boosting your website’s search rankings, but beneath the surface is a myriad of potential pitfalls that should raise alarm bells.

Let's deconstruct some of the pernicious impacts of link farming and understand why it's considered detrimental to the SEO health of a website:

⚠️ Severe Penalties: Major updates like Google Penguin are explicitly designed to detect and penalize websites that breach Google's quality guidelines through practices like link farming. Participating in such actions can potentially lead to penalties that severely impact your website's search engine standing. 

⚠️ Deindexed Websites: The grave danger of associating with link farms is deindexing by Google. Yes, you read it right. Google can completely remove your website from its search results. No visibility equals no traffic – a nightmare scenario for any marketer!

⚠️ Loss of Trust: Link farms seldom produce content that adds value or is useful for readers. Your users are savvy and can differentiate between hard-sell techniques and authentic, useful information. Focusing on short-term paybacks through link farming instead of providing high-quality content means you value quantity over quality. This won’t give you any sustainable results and you will lose the trust and loyalty of our audience.

⚠️ Revenue Hit: Given the above repercussions, you might experience a substantial reduction in your site's revenue. Lower search rankings mean reduced visibility, which translates to fewer clicks, lower traffic, and ultimately, a significantly decreased bottom line.

How Can You Identify a Link Farm?

Identifying a link farm can be a daunting task given they have evolved to become more sophisticated over time. However, understanding certain characteristics will go a long way to help you identify if a site is part of a link farm or not. 

Below are some key traits to look out for:

🚩 Quantity Over Quality: Link farms usually focus more on the number of links rather than their quality. So, if a website houses an enormous number of outbound links to unrelated domains, it might be a part of a link farm. Always be wary of websites that are link-heavy but content-light.

🚩 Unrelated Links: In a link farm, the page's content and the outbound links often do not relate. If you notice a website linking to random, irrelevant domains, it's a red flag for being a link farm.

🚩 Absence of Valuable Content: One notable characteristic of link farms is the lack of valuable or meaningful content. The primary purpose of these sites is to increase the number of interconnected links, and thus, content quality is often severely neglected.

🚩 Low Domain Authority: Websites that are part of link farms typically have low domain authority (DA). Although not definitive proof, a lower-than-average DA score can be a potential sign of a link farm.

🚩 Artificially Boosted SEO: If a website seems to be using unnatural methods to boost its SEO rankings and is full of keyword-stuffed, low-quality content with numerous outbound links, it might be a case of a link farm.

Identifying a link farm is about looking at the holistic picture rather than a standalone characteristic. You need to check these elements in conjunction with one another to make sure you're interpreting them correctly. Otherwise, you run the risk of wrongly identifying legitimate websites as link farms.

3 Best Practices to Avoid Link Farming

Being cautious about recognizing and steering clear from link farms is crucial to maintaining a healthy, penalty-free SEO profile for your website.

Here are some tips to get you started:

01. Examining Your Linking Choices

Upholding the integrity of your website involves selecting links that are fair, credible, and beneficial to your website’s SEO health. In simple terms, it’s essential to be sensible regarding your own site's outgoing and incoming links.

Start by scrutinizing the website you consider linking to. Is it a reputable site? Does it consistently produce high-quality content relevant to your field? If yes, it's likely a safe link choice.

Programs promising to boost your site's SEO in return for linking to their web of websites usually have a shady link scheme. It's best to avoid them altogether.

Many services offer paid links, which might seem like an easy way out. Resist this temptation. Google frowns upon such practices, and it can lead to severe penalties.

Regularly track and analyze your website's backlinks. This practice will help in spotting any unwanted backlinks from potentially harmful websites that could be part of a link farm.

Also, make sure to check the domain authority. It is a measure of a website's credibility and popularity. Opt for links from high DA websites for improving your SEO health. You can easily use SEOmator’s Free Domain Authority Checker to evaluate a website's search engine performance.

SEOmator's domain authority checker tool

👉 You may want to read: Quick Ways to Find Who Links to Your Site or Any Site

02. Spotting the Difference Between Directories and Link Farms

Though it's easy to confuse directories and link farms due to similar attributes, they differ significantly in purpose, functionality, and impact on SEO. 

Directories are organized lists of businesses or websites based on categories and locations, helping users to find relevant services or information. They are helpful and recognized by search engines. 

A healthy directory has a human editor reviewing submissions, organizes its listings in relevant categories, and focuses on providing helpful, relevant results to a user's query. 

On the contrary, link farms indiscriminately list numerous unrelated sites, primarily for search engine manipulation.

03. Focusing on Organic Links

Organic links, or natural links, are the results of other websites naturally linking to your content because they recognize the value and relevance it brings to their users. There's no reciprocal agreement, no payment involved; they link to your content out of volition because your content is valuable. 

In essence, organic links are authentic votes of confidence, earned with the currency of high-quality, valuable content

high quality links

To earn organic links, ensure your content delivers quality and adds value to your audience. 

High-quality, engaging content will attract natural backlinks, enhance your website's credibility and increase your visibility in search engine results. So invest time and effort into creating relevant, informative, and compelling content to organically boost your SEO.

Position yourself as a reliable resource in your subject matter. People link to authoritative content, so make sure your content showcases industry knowledge. 

Establish relationships with other credible websites related to your field. Contribute valuable content to reputable blogs or websites in your industry. Not only does this demonstrate your expertise, but it also opens up opportunities for organic links. 

Share your content on social media platforms. If your content is engaging, it can drive traffic and earn more links. Regularly sharing valuable content on social channels can skyrocket your website's visibility, encouraging your audience to share and link to your content.

For businesses with a physical location or a region-specific target audience, local SEO can work wonders. List your business on Google with a Business Profile and other relevant business directories. These platforms offer a legitimate way to receive backlinks and can significantly improve your visibility in local search results.

Wrapping Up

It's easy to become allured by the siren call of quick, easy results - link farming offers a seemingly straightforward and easy path to up your website's SEO game. Yet, knowingly or unknowingly stepping into the link farming territory is synonymous with playing with fire — sooner or later, you might get burned.

Avoid the lure of quick fixes like link farming since it's a trap that could end your game before it even begins. Hence, it's crucial to play fairly, understanding the implications of our actions on our website's health, our hard-earned audience's trust, and the overall digital world.

It's vital to maintain a well-balanced link profile – a mix of internal, external, inbound, and outbound links that expand your website's horizons. As you vet your link choices, make sure each one of them contributes directly to your website's growth, offering value to your readers and enhancing your site's credibility in the digital world.

Whilst resorting to dubious methods might seem tempting, might even offer a temporary boost, it inevitably leads to more harm than good. What wins in the end is your consistency, authenticity, and genuine efforts at offering some real value to your audience!

👉 You may also want to read:

- What are Inlinks (Internal Links)?

- How to Prevent Bots from Crawling Your Site

- What is Link Popularity? - The Role of Link Popularity in SEO