Link Farming 101: What is it and How to Identify it?
Imagine you’re setting off on an adventure in the exciting world of digital exploration. Your mission is to navigate the vast landscape of the internet to reach the peak of search engines. The map you have is SEO, and your guiding star is backlinks.
As you follow this path, you come across a sign that reads, ‘Link Farming: Fast Track to the Top.’ And out of curiosity, you lead on the path and fool yourself, resulting in impairment.
At first glance, link farms may seem the safest way to build a backlink profile, but they are the opposite.
Link farms are a group of websites that link to each other. It is built of multiple hyperlinked websites that don’t consider content quality.
In short, link farms are a collection of sham sites created to expand backlink profiles. And businesses invest in link farms to improve search engine optimization without a second thought.
We know that backlinks presence is vital to improve search engine ranking, but that can be done via authentic resources. In this blog, we will discuss everything related to link farming.
What is Link Farming?
Link farming is a black hat SEO technique to increase a website’s backlinks catalog. This technique is often used to trick search engines like Google to boost rankings. Google frowns upon such practices, but still, numerous websites interlink to boost their search engine rankings artificially.
Brief History of Link Farm
Did you know that link farms were first introduced in 1999?
It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Unfortunately, this black hat SEO practice of creating unethical backlinks started in the late 90s. Back then, search engines relied on link quantity to determine website relevance- which gave rise to networks of sites interlinking to manipulate search engine rankings.
However, the scenario changed drastically with the evolution of search engine algorithms. Businesses started focusing on earning organic links. After Google introduced updates like Panda and Penguin, the priority shifted to link quality over quantity.
Google Panda was launched in 2011 to curb the “content farm” problem. In case you are unfamiliar with content farms- the term refers to sites that publish poor content to increase overall rankings.
Panda reduces low-quality sites ranking and rewards better rankings with high-quality content (sites with thoroughly researched content, insightful analysis, and more.)
Launched in April 2012, Penguin was first introduced as a “webspam algorithm update.” Its prime goal was to detect websites that engaged in spammy and manipulative link-building practices.
Google wanted to achieve control over various blackhat spamming techniques. Penguin only deals with inbound links to the website and doesn’t question the external links from that site.
The impact of these changes has been profound, causing SEO strategies directed towards more organic, ethical tactics. As an outcome, link farming is considered a black hat SEO practice, penalized by search engines, and dismissed by reputable websites, marking a significant shift in the SEO landscape over the years.
6 Ways to Identify Link Farms
Now that you know what link farming is, let’s explore six ways to identify websites promoting the same.
1) Excessive Outbound Links
Link farms often manipulate search engine rankings by hosting many outbound links. To avoid link farming, ensure that a website has a reasonable numeral of linked sites. You can use Ahrefs to find out how many links a website possesses.
2) Irrelevant and Poorly Written Content
Such websites do not focus on quality content. If a site’s content lacks research and relevance, it’s likely to do link-farming. You will also rarely see original content on such websites—people operating link-farm websites publish guest posts. If you want assistance writing content, you can use tools like Skaleloops to generate quality content.
3) Spammy Domain Names
While browsing, you might encounter sites with strange domain names, often filled with irrelevant keywords. These are known as spammy domain names. Many link farms utilize this strategy, crafting domain names without any clear relevance or association with their content. Link farms commonly utilize spammy, unrelated domain names, contributing to their lack of credibility. Beware of such websites that can harm your SEO metrics.
4) Common Backlinks
A classic link farm indicator is several websites consistently linking to the same sites, forming a suspicious, intertwined web of backlinks. It’s a misleading tactic to boost link popularity artificially, but it’s as noticeable to the algorithms of search engines. You can employ Zutrix Rank Tracker tool to monitor a site’s backlink profile.
5) Anonymous Authors
People refrain from such websites; thus, they use false author identities. The author will often use an anonymous name such as “team (site name),” “guest writer,” or “guest contributor (without a name).
6) A Template Design
Link farm holders spend little time on a site’s designs. They prefer to use an already-built page template that many online tools provide nowadays with few modifications. In comparison, authentic websites display a customized design that is original and elevates user experience.
Pro Tip: Not all sites Not all legitimate websites add author information. Only add backlinks on a site that ticks off a few of the above boxes.
Does Google “Hate” Link Farming?
Yes, Google asks not to get involved with link farming.
Google aims to provide users with the most relevant, high-quality search results. Link farm violates this intent, leading to penalties like decreased search ranking or, in severe cases, complete website de-indexing.
In December 2022, Google released an update called “SpamBrain.” This update emphasized fighting link spam and scams. Essentially, Google’s ranking algorithm ignores and penalizes reciprocal linking from link farms.
If you are a business owner with a website, why risk your ranking progress by practicing an SEO technique- considered unethical by the biggest search engine? Google can detect link farms, so it’s nearly quickly impossible to fool its PageRank algorithm.
If you have already employed such techniques, we recommend reversing the damage by discontinuing their use.
Tip: You can use good SEO tools such as Zutrix, to get complete report on a site’s rank report.
Why do Link Farms Possess High Domain Authority (DA)?
While it seems tricky, link farms often show high Domain Authority (DA) – a search engine ranking score developed by Moz. There can be several reasons for high DA:
The site was built on an expired domain with an existing high DA,
A pre-existing established website that used to provide value, and
Part of a PBN (private blog networks) that artificially increases its domain authority metrics.
Despite low-quality content, these link farms can mislead SEO tools due to the reasons mentioned above.
It is worth noticing that DA measures the number of total links, not their quality or relevance. Thus, link farms, with their web of interconnected sites, can artificially inflate this metric.
However, search engines like Google have sophisticated algorithms that prioritize quality over quantity, penalizing such black-hat SEO practices. Google’s ranking algorithm ranks which sites are promoting spam accordingly, but SEO tools don’t display the information to users. So, verify its authority before investing in a site with a high DA.
Why Should You Avoid Farm Linking?
Although link farming sounds worthwhile to boost search engines’ ranking- they are highly damaging to your website and are not worth the risk. Following are a few important reasons to avoid link farming at all costs.
1) Link Farming Invite Penalties
Link farms increase the chance of spammy backlinks or poor-quality links, which put your site at risk. You must understand that Google is exceptionally good at detecting link farming activities.
Through advanced algorithms, Google spots unnatural links, discriminating them from those earned through merit. Sometimes, an unsatisfied reader or a competitor also reports your site, which may lead to penalties. Penalties for link farming can downgrade your ranking or even lead to complete de-indexing. If this does happen, you probably won’t get a formal notification, but you will notice-
Drop in your daily web traffic, and
In search engine rankings.
And you cannot present your explanation in suspected penalties, and as an outcome, you will have to do a full site audit. Considering these severe consequences, the only logical conclusion is that link farming is not advisable.
2) You Cannot Trust Link Farm Sites
Even if link farm owners do a good job operating the site, high chances are it’ll shut down or be penalized. In short, there is no guarantee that the links you paid for will remain active in the long run. Link farms often come down after a few days, abruptly. Your money will go to waste, and your site will be penalized for practicing link farming.
Additionally, there is no assurance that even if the link farm site remains live, your backlinks won’t be removed without warning. On top of this, popular search engines constantly update their algorithms. For instance, in March 2023, Google rolled out its content update, impacting how companies publish content.
So, it is better to refrain from investing in framed links.
3. Your Website Reputation can Suffer
The backlink profile of your site matters greatly, making your link choices crucial. Your site’s credibility tanks drastically when you’re associated with a link farm. Users are more internet-savvy these days and may check the quality of your linked websites.
If they find you linked to irrelevant websites or selling links, it raises questions about your site’s trustworthiness. This unfavorable impression decreases user engagement, leading to reduced traffic over time.
4) Link Farms Site Attracts Poor Traffic Quality
When it comes to website traffic, it’s not just about quantity, but quality too. Link farms may promise an increase in incoming links, but they often attract low-quality traffic. Audiences from such sites tend to have high bounce rates and low time-on-page metrics because they are interested in something other than your services. In contrast, links from high-quality sites attract interested visitors, improving your metrics significantly.
Why is Quality Traffic Important?
Below are key reasons why focusing on your website’s traffic quality is essential.
Results in high return on investment (ROI)
Users are likely to engage and convert into consumers,
It helps establish your website authority, and
Increases average time spent on your website.
How to Fix Unnatural Links From Link Farm?
If you do receive a manual action from Google or you want to double-check your backlink profile; this should help:
Open and download your link report from Google.
Manually check the sites to find suspicious links and audit them for authenticity.
If you can’t remove a link, deny it so Google knows to ignore those links.
Send Google a reconsideration request when you’re done cleaning your website’s backyard.
Tip: Select your backlinks carefully to save time and trouble.
Other Things You can do Instead of Link Farming
There are sites with millions of backlinks – it seems impossible to compete, but that should not stop you. Give your best shot at white-hat SEO practices to get the expected outcomes.
Here’s what you can do instead:
Quality Content: Create high-quality, unique content that provides value to users. This encourages natural backlinking, improving your website’s SEO rankings organically.
Social Media Engagement: Active engagement on social media can drive traffic to your website, promoting organic growth.
Influencer Outreach: Collaborating with influencers in your niche can expose your content to a larger audience, potentially leading to more organic backlinks.
Remember, in SEO metric trick, there are no shortcuts like a link farm. Sustainable success lies in the consistent application of ethical, white-hat practices.
A link farm is harmful to your link-building links strategy. We understand that you wish to increase your site’s ranking on other search engines- but going for a link farm will do more damage than good.
The attraction of quick results might make link farms appear practical, but the journey to the top requires you to follow originality. In the world of SEO, choosing your links carefully is vital.
Building connections with unrelated sites might give a temporary boost, but it won’t help you win the long race. Instead, cultivate links like a gardener nurturing a plant with patience and care- selecting relevant and high-quality sites that resonate with your own.
We hope that the knowledge of link farms be your compass, guiding you away from the crooked shortcuts. We want you to know that with the right tools and knowledge, you can earn users’ trust and heighten your rankings.
Frequently Asked Questions on Link Farming
What are bad backlinks?
If your links are generated from irrelevant websites or web pages, they'll be considered a bad link. For example, if you run a digital marketing agency, your links should be from something other than beauty blogs, as they are unrelated. However, if you get interviewed by the site, you should use your brand name as an anchor text.
Is link farming legal?
While not illegal to break any laws, link farming is against the guidelines set by search engines like Google. Engaging in such practices can lead to penalties, including lowered site ranking or even complete removal from the search engine index.
How many backlinks are enough?
There's no magic number for backlinks. The key is to focus on quality over quantity. Even a few backlinks from high-authority, relevant sites can be more beneficial than hundreds from low-quality sources. Regularly creating high-value content will naturally attract backlinks over time.
What are the benefits of managed link building?
Managed link building offers several advantages: it saves time, ensures a strategic approach, and adheres to white-hat SEO practices. Professionals have the experience and knowledge to build high-quality, organic backlinks that boost your site's credibility and visibility, driving increased traffic and rankings.
What is link popularity?
Link popularity refers to how many other websites link to a particular website or webpage. It is a crucial aspect of search engine optimization metrics. Search engines often view sites with more inbound links as authoritative, leading to higher search engine rankings.
Is Link Farm a Form of Private Blog Network (PBN)?
A private blog network (PBN) is different from a link farm. PBNs consist of a group of websites that enhance a site's authority. Attempting to sell links through a PBN platform would immediately grab Google's attention, making it unlikely that a PBN will execute a link farm.