Link Farms are potentially damaging to your SEO efforts

Link farms are a black hat technique for influencing the search engine
results through manipulating a website's natural importance

What is Link Farming and why avoid it as a SEO technique

Link Farming is the process of swapping reciprocal links with manufactured website's and web pages in order to increase the amount of incoming links to your website. In exchange for 1 link off your site - usually on a stand alone optimised page relative to the link farms ultimate target page which is not the site where your link will be placed - you are promised a number of links from high page ranking relevant web pages.

The truth is these link farms are rarely of any benefit to any user and are consider spam by the major search engines. What the link farming company hope to gain is credible links to its ultimate target domain - therefore leading to its search engine success.

Link Research - the short term cost of link research is paid off many times over in the long term effect to your SERP rankings”

Regularly these sites will attempt to push a high revenue generating website to the top of a very competitive keyword industry. Below is an email we received asking for this very thing.

Link Farm example spam email

Black Hat Link Farming

Now on the face of it the above e-mail seems very credible - as www.dezinaweb.com seems related to our web design and seo company. You could also argue that for a marketing company a link to press monitoring service wouldn't be viewed as un-ethical so the thought is this could slip under the google radar and help both website's.

Now on receiving this we checked and found the domain had only been set up 3 months earlier and was registered to someone in Peru... Now we're good internet marketers' but to ethically build up a page rank of 5 in such a short term - basically the only way they could do this is via some form of black hat link farming!

3 months later and after a quick Google search it was obvious other companies less savvy than us have fallen for this spam scam and whoever was behind the link farm were also targeting other domains for their links. Originally the site did have a pr5 (Page Rank 5) but interestingly in the 3 months since receiving this email the www.dezinaweb.com site now has no page rank and a home page full of links to non specific worldwide website design and SEO companies.

Also note the revenue generating Google PPC Adverts...

So basically if we had exchange links our own credible site would be "voting" for another credible site and in return we would be left a worthless link from a site obviously deemed as spam... Who has got the good deal here!

***JANUARY 2011 UPDATE - NO SURPRISE HERE BUT AFTER BEING BLACK LISTED FROM THE MAJOR SEARCH ENGINES THIS SITE NO LONGER EXISTS***

Black Hat Seo companies and the link farm techniques

If you receive an un-solicited link exchange e-mail we would always recommend you being suspicious! Any form of linking that needs reciprocal links is never going to be as good as one way, quality links when it comes to SEO.

Some of the technique's used to display supposed high Page Rank links initially and convince companies to link exchange are as below

  • Expired Domains - a black hat seo company may purchase expired domains that have high page rank purely to change the content to whoever they want to link target (SEO and website design companies are a good target as most inexperienced people do not understand the SEO world and wrongly believe a link from a page rank 5 page is a good thing jump at the chance and as they are in the industry there is slight awareness that SEO work is needed) and once they have targeted these companies upload what appears as relevant content to these companies and request link exchanges. Of course over time the page rank disappears and your link is recognised as a spam source so gives you no positive SEO benefit.
  • Purchased Domains - similar to above except they buy a domain with an already high and established page rank with the goal of exploiting this for financial gain. The only real loser in this will be the company that employed the black hat optimiser as although they will gain short term one way inbound links, a company following this method will eventually get flagged by the search algorithms and you risk being penalised!
  • Page Rank HiJacking - it is easily possible to fake a page rank. This has no benefit to the search engines as they are only displaying a proper pages page rank - however to visitors that are unaware it appears they are getting a valid link. Basically this works by buying a domain and performing a 301 re-direct to point at a high page ranking website. Once this is done the black hat optimiser then uses cloaking software to continue to send search engine crawlers to the re-direct but human visitors to a the real site which now apparently has high page rank as the google toolbar is showing the re-directed site's page rank!

As you can see if you do not know 100% what you are entering in to it is all too easy to be fooled and actually harm your efforts of Search Engine Success whilst boosting an unethical companies attempts! With all the odds in favour of the unethical SEO company and seemingly no strong and effective deterrent to prevent these black hat forms of SEO it is no wonder companies continue to pay big money to unscrupulous SEO companies and the search engine positioning they guarantee you!

a final thought - if caught out and penalised the un-ethical black hat seo company still get paid and move on to their next client - you're left with a massive amount of damage to your business website and have to pay even more money to revert this damage.

A common tactic is a very high fee payable only on successfully getting you to the top of Google Rankings, you think you're in a no lose situation as you only pay when you achieve what you want and how can this be bad - you're over the moon when they provide the promised organic SERP positions and happily pay up - some time later you're site is penalised for black hat techniques and you're nowhere again - THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME and you have no comeback on the SEO company unless all methods they'll undertake have been spelt out to you and you can prove they have deviated from this - something practically impossible to do and they know this!

Search Engines don't treat links as the major ranking factor due to the impossible link farming manipulation that occurs

This is a very bold statement but one we feel makes sense. As it is pretty much impossible to know whether the beneficiaries have actually paid for unethical link building or not they can not penalise the supposed victor in the link building programme just the sites where the outbound links have been placed, which then would erase any of the short term positive impact these outbound links had created.

If they penalised both the link source and the link destination if you were company a you would instigate a black hat advertising campaign for company b without their knowledge and wait for them to penalised!

The only way to combat this and maintain a useful search engine is to disregard or make the link factor a very small one!

Strongly looking at all factors of the outbound link's website could also help decide whether to give it rank or not. How long has the website been established, what are the quality of links into it - can you see other link farms directing links to it. How often has it's content been changed etc

Link Quality is key to your Link Researching

For the above reasons a few very relevant and high quality links are the best from of search engine optimisation when it comes to link building.

Understanding the importance of link quality is crucial before you embark on researching links. We have dedicated a page to providing advice and information on Link Quality

Visit the DeGal SEO Link Quality advice page

Link Farming Resources

A couple of links that help with checking for
website backlink's

  • Wikipedia provides a brief description of link farming and a history of why it developed. As Google no longer relies on page rank bear in mind the word of warning on the negative impact of using link farms as a SEO strategy.
    Link Farm definition and background information from Wikipedia.
  • Google Webmaster Tools allows the official website owner to view comprehensive data on backlink's Not so helpful for link researching your competitors but does allow you to check what external links exist for your site.
    Sign up to Google Webmaster tools here

We are totally confident in sending you to the above link scheme information pages in Google as we feel these articles reinforce all that we have said on this page and our site with regards successful search engine optimisation.

We have a large number of sites we are actively optimising and we stay on top of all information released from the search engines regarding best practices. By all means contact us for examples of our previous SEO work for businesses.

We believe in transparency and happily reveal most of the methods we adhere to when undertaking SEO work within this site. Once you hire us as SEO consultants we will keep you fully informed of all our actions and provide ongoing reports and assistance as required so you can be safe in the knowledge we only utilise white hat methods.

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