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The State of Link Farms: Everything You Need to Know

Link Farm

Google considers a website’s backlink profile to determine its authority. To search engines, a backlink means you have relevant and shareworthy content that users want to show their audience. The more backlinks you have, the greater your assumed authority.

So, it’s no surprise that website owners are looking for ways to boost their backlink profiles. Many people have capitalized on this knowledge to introduce grey-hat SEO strategies that speed up the link-building process. One of those ways is through link farms.

While link farms truly build your backlink profile quickly, they send up red flags when search engines come crawling. To create a quality backlink profile, you must select your link-building strategies carefully.

In this article, you’ll learn how link farming affects your SEO, how you can identify link farms, and how to fix unnatural links from them. You’ll also discover alternatives for boosting your backlink profile. Ready? Let’s dig in.

Link farms. What are they, and why should you bat an eye?

Google considers a website’s backlink profile to determine its authority. To search engines, a backlink means you have relevant and shareworthy content that users want to show their audience. The more backlinks you have, the greater your assumed authority.

So, it’s no surprise that website owners are looking for ways to boost their backlink profiles. Many people have capitalized on this knowledge to introduce grey-hat SEO strategies that speed up the link-building process. One of those ways is through link farms.

While link farms truly build your backlink profile quickly, they send up red flags when search engines come crawling. To create a quality backlink profile, you must select your link-building strategies carefully.

In this article, you’ll learn how link farming affects your SEO, how you can identify link farms, and how to fix unnatural links from them. You’ll also discover alternatives for boosting your backlink profile. Ready? Let’s dig in.

What is a Link Farm?

A farm is a field dedicated to growing crops and livestock primarily for food. In the same way, a link farm is a website solely designed to grow links for external websites. They’re usually pages with some authority but no valuable information.

What happens is that the owner of the link farm agrees to link back to other sites through their existing posts or a guest post for a fee. Thus, making money while increasing your backlink profile. The payment for links means that link farm owners provide backlinks regardless of their relevance.

It makes sense that you should get a backlink when you pay, but search engines get suspicious when the links are irrelevant to your website. And this is usually the case with link farms. 

This manipulative involvement is considered a black-hat SEO strategy. You’re essentially hacking the ranking system to present your website as an authority when you only buy links. That’s a big no-no to search engines. You’ll be penalized when they discover you’re link farming.

Identifying Link Farms

It’s easy to identify some link farms right away. For instance, websites with whole pages of links with no real content on them are clearly link farms. A site like the one below:

This page has loads of links with no helpful content for the reader. Your rank will surely plummet if you get a link from a website like this. 

However, some link farms are more difficult to identify. This is because they have more content and a well-laid-out structure to fool search engines. A closer look will tell you whether or not they’re link farms. Here’s what to look out for:

Google Page Rank

Google page rank
Google assigns a number from 0 to 10 to any website it crawls. This number tells you how important Google thinks the site is. The higher the number, the more likely the site is to rank. It’s understandable for new websites to have a rank of 0. But sites that have been live for a while and still have a rank of 0 are ones to avoid. Small SEO Tools has a page rank checker you can use to verify a website’s page rank before you make any commitments.

Low-Quality Content

The hard truth is that link farms are built for links, not content. Even with professional-looking designs and some domain rating, they’re still focused on selling links – not solving user problems through actionable content. 

Consequently, the content on the pages is of low quality and has no value. Sometimes, you’ll notice that the page writes about “everything under the sun.” For instance, some websites write on digital marketing and pet training – those topics are unrelated and may be filler content.

Pages like this are probably link farms, so be cautious.

Random Domain Names

Domain

Another trait among link farms is that they tend to have random domain names. We don’t know about you, but www.312ehj.ns looks kind of fishy to us. We’re definitely not accepting a link from a site like that, nor should you.

You could argue that a site owner can choose a name like that. True, but if they’re serious about delivering content, they must do better than that. 

There are other signs of link farms to look out for, like anonymous authors and ambiguous information, but the features above should help you assess sites immediately. Check a site to see if they have these features, and stay clear of them when they do. These sites are major bloopers.

What Google Has to Say About Link Farming

Link Farming

Google says link schemes are manipulative and attempt to downgrade the quality of search results. So, whether the links are inbound or outbound, you will likely be penalized. 

Several schemes out there do your website more harm than good. You may even get a manual action from Google – that’s where things get out of hand. 

A manual action is a penalty from Google for websites that violate Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. When a human reviewer from Google assesses your site and finds unethical conduct, Google sends you a manual action report to right the wrong. But that’s not all.

You’ll notice a massive slash in your organic traffic. A case in point is Ginger Software. Before receiving a manual action report, Ginger was recording huge traffic – it had an Alexa rank of about 7,000, so you can imagine. However, the manual report dropped Ginger’s organic traffic by 94 percent. The result?

Nothing good. Ginger didn’t even rank for its brand name.

That’s how severe the effects of link farming can be. Ginger had to clear its backlink profile of all unnatural and bad links. Guess what? It regained 82 percent of its pre-penalty traffic.

We think Google’s position on link farming is pretty straightforward.

So Is Link Farming Illegal?

Link Farming Illegal

No, link farming isn’t illegal. At least, no one’s going to arrest you for farming links. But like SEO expert Lachlan Wells says,

“Link farms aren’t worth the time and haven’t been since I started in SEO 10 years ago. Even if you don’t receive manual action, your links will devalue with time. So just ask yourself, is it worth your time?”

You’re only risking the long-term success of your website with bad links. They’re low quality and incur severe penalties.

How to Fix Unnatural Links From Link Farming

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.
  • Remove or add no-follow attributes to the bad links you find. A no-follow link tells Google to ignore the specified links when ranking your site. 
  • If you can’t remove a link, disavow it, so Google knows to ignore those links.
  • Send Google a reconsideration request when you’re done cleaning your website’s backyard.
Of course, selecting your backlinks carefully saves you all this time and trouble.

Link Farming Alternatives (What to Do Instead)

Link farming hurts your SEO efforts, but you can’t compete online without a huge quality backlink profile. There are sites with millions of backlinks – it looks impossible to find a way through. Does that mean it’s best to give up now? Absolutely not.

Here’s what you can do instead:

Assess the Links in Your Backlink Profile

You’ve seen the effects of bad links on SEO efforts. You can’t simply accept any link into your profile. Instead, vet your inbound and outbound links to assure authenticity.

Comb through your backlinks once in a while to identify any spammy sites linking to you. If you don’t trust a website, remove that link. If you can’t remove the link for some reason, it’s best to disavow it, so Google doesn’t link it to you. You don’t want a penalty for something like that.

Dedicate a Team to Organic Lead Generation

Don’t get it wrong: there’s nothing wrong with exchanging links with established peers. You already know their sites are authentic, and they put in the work. However, nothing beats organic traffic.

That’s why it’s best to create content that provides value to your visitors. You can outsource the job to established services like Outreach Monk for white-hat lead generation for your business. That way, you have time to focus on growing your business and get your offerings to prospects without a hitch.

Create High-Quality Content

Continuing from the point above, visitors are only likely to link to your content if it’s valuable and high quality. You’re likely to grow backlinks if you can address user problems and lay out clear-cut solutions. 

If you’ve been running your website for a while, you’ve probably heard the phrase: content is king. But, as cliche as it sounds, you can’t break through the ranks without content. According to Backlinko, long-form content is the best medium to generate backlinks. They draw in 77.2 percent more backlinks than short blog posts.

But you need a content writing expert to pull it off. Skaleloops, for instance, writes top-notch content for brands looking to extend their reach and grow their audience.

Are There Any Authentic Link Building Agencies?

Yes. Even though they’re scarce, you can find an authentic link-building agency to build your backlink profile. But beware of agencies who say they’ll get you backlinks faster than you can blink. They’re probably link farms.

Quality backlinks take time to build, time and money. So if an agency promises fast links at the cost of coffee, take a step back and review them. Ask for use cases and how they’ve helped other clients rank higher.

Final Thoughts

When selecting your next link-building agency, look for all the signs that shout “link farm.” You can excuse the website layout since some sites may not be too concerned about aesthetics. But if an agency checks too many boxes on the list, don’t commit to them.

You’ll only get penalized by Google and slash your traffic. Instead, create a team to vet your backlinks to maintain your authority consistently. You can also hire an expert content writer to help you develop content that attracts. 

Whatever the case, avoid link farms as much as you can. If you need to build backlinks but don’t have the time or capacity to do that now, get in touch with Outreach Monks to learn how they can transform your backlink profile.

Nelson Ansah

Nelson Ansah

Nelson is a B2B content writer for SEO and marketing businesses. He offers ghostwriting, copywriting and blogging services and has helped grow 10+ businesses with top-notch content writing that converts. Check out his website to learn more.

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