An extensive and well-established backlink profile is essential to boost a website’s authority and achieve higher search engine rankings.
Developing an authentic and high-quality backlink profile organically is a challenging and time-consuming task. And this is why many marketers and website owners engage in ‘Link Farming.’
It is an old practice to artificially inflate backlink catalogs and manipulate search engine rankings. Engaging in link farming is neither recommended nor is it an ethical practice.
Backlinks tell search engines whether the website is worthwhile or not. It is considered a vote of confidence users put on a website. It signifies that the users don’t only like visiting your site and consuming your website’s content but prefer it enough to link back to it.
The practice of link building has evolved over the years, and many marketers engage in link farming to accelerate their SEO progress.
However, search engines’ algorithms have evolved to differentiate between organic and inorganic links, making the practice of link farming not as effective as it was earlier.
What Is A Link Farm?
Just like farms are used to grow and create food, the link farmers create link farms solely for the purpose of creating links to websites.
Link farm websites aren’t typically trying to offer valuable content or create a mass appeal. Link farms are a network of websites created solely for the purpose of harboring backlinks to various websites.
A link farm is basically a spam farm meant to boost a website’s authority, visibility, and importance in the eyes of search engines. The aim is for search engines to see a website getting backlinks from many different websites, resulting in the website being placed higher in search engine rankings.
Link farming is a Black Hat SEO method that can penalize your website and may result in your website’s ranking dropping drastically or even getting de-indexed in some cases.
What Is Content Farming?
A content farm is a website or an organization that creates massive amounts of content, including social media posts, tutorials, and articles that are highly search engine optimized to please search engine’s algorithms to rank high on search engines.
The content on these content farms is usually of low quality and is created solely for the purpose of attracting high traffic and ranking higher on search engines. These content farms are monetized through online advertising to achieve higher ROI.
Content farms are unethical and are viewed negatively by search engines. This is because the massive production of content by content farms inflates the search results with irrelevant content, making it difficult for users to find useful content they’re looking for.
Content farming was useful earlier, but the evolved search engine algorithms can identify content farms and are downgraded once they are identified.
What Is An Example of a Link Farm?
A typical example of a link farm consists of a network of blogs or websites on ideally similar topics, design themes and poor-quality content. These websites engage in link farming and have a web of internal links and backlink catalogs linking back to each other.
Search engines’ algorithms have evolved to identify these link farms easily and penalize all the websites involved. It results in lower rankings and, in some cases, even getting de-indexed.
Link farms are meant to manipulate search engine rankings and inorganically boost the website’s authority, traffic, and rankings.
Let us look at an example –
J.C. Penney Link Farm
It was discovered in 2011 that J.C. Penney, one of the popular retailers, engaged in widespread link farming. The retailer created a web of websites linking back to their primary website, which artificially boosted its rankings on the search engines.
Eventually, search engines caught up and penalized their main website, resulting in its ranking and visibility dropping significantly.
Is Link Farm Good For SEO?
Link farming is NOT good for SEO, and in all probability, earning links from these link farms isn’t going to positively impact your search engine rankings.
This is especially true after the Google Update of December 2022, namely SpamBrain. This update targeted inbound links from link farms and specifically mentioned that its algorithm penalizes and ignores reciprocal links coming from link farms.
If Google discovers you’ve been engaging in link farming or have inbound links coming from link farms, you may witness a drastic decline in search engine rankings and may even be penalized for the same.
Let us look at some of the many reasons why link farming isn’t good for SEO –
Chances of Being Penalized
As mentioned earlier, your website may get penalized for engaging in link farming. It can result in your website getting de-indexed from search engines, which can prove to be devastating for your business.
Link farming is a highly risky link-building strategy with severe consequences. It’s better to focus on building high-quality links from authority and well-established websites.
Waste of Time and Money
Link farming is a huge waste of time and money. It can also prove to be expensive if you’re outsourcing link farming to someone else or buying links from link farms.
It may result in a short-term boost to your rankings but can be disastrous in the long term, resulting in more expense and time consumption for recovery. Don’t farm link from link farms, and engage only in ethical and proven link building methods.
Link Farming Is Dangerous
When your website is getting low-quality links from spammy and irrelevant websites, it can prove to be dangerous for your website’s authority and reputation.
Association with spammy websites can rub off on your reputation as well, resulting in your market standing becoming questionable as well.
Link Farming is Unethical
Link farming is against Google’s guidelines, which clearly state that participating in any link scheme is against their policy. As mentioned earlier, it can result in severe penalties, a drop in search engine rankings, and even getting de-indexed.
Decline in Search Engine Rankings
Even if it’s mentioned earlier, it can’t be pressed enough how link farming can result in a sharp drop in your search engine rankings.
It can happen as soon as search engines discover your link farming practices. And then there’s nothing you can do about it except ‘regretting’ your choice of engaging in link farming.
All the so-called progress you thought you made due to Link Farm can be lost overnight, pushing you back months or even years due to loss of rank, traffic, and revenue. In many cases, websites never fully recover from several penalties imposed by the almighty Google farm!
Link Farming Isn’t A Long-Term Solution
No matter how much time, effort, or money you spend on link farming, it is not a long-term or sustainable solution. Don’t engage in farming link for short-term gain because it’s not worth the risk in the long term.
The State of Link Farms: Everything That You Need To Know
Once upon a time, link farming was a popular and effective SEO technique to manipulate search engine rankings.
However, search engines evolved with time or, should we say, got smart enough to understand how to differentiate between good and bad backlinks, leading to link farming’s diminished effectiveness.
If you’re looking to get into the good books of Google or other search engines, it’s highly recommended you stay away from link farming or try getting links from link farms.
So, what is link farming?
It’s a Black Hat SEO method that goes against Google’s guidelines and will eventually lead to not-so-desirable consequences for your business and website.
Having discussed what link farms are and why they’re bad for SEO, let us look into other crucial aspects of link farming.
Link Farming – Evolution
Link farming emerged in the early 1990s in the era of search engines like AltaVista and Inktomi. These search engines depended on link counts to rank websites, making link farming a highly powerful technique to achieve higher rankings.
And then came Google!
The PageRank algorithm of Google changed the way SEOs devised their marketing techniques. And while link farming did work initially to a great extent, the amount of effort needed to rank a website increased drastically.
This is because the PageRank algorithm focuses on the quality of links. Webmasters and marketers used reciprocal linking to game the search engines instead of creating a dense and predictable web of blogs or websites for link exchange.
The Downfall of Link Farming
Google evolved with time, and its algorithm got smarter to decipher artificial link exchanges, rendering link farming ineffective.
Here are a few updates to help you better understand the decline chronologically –
Google Panda (2011)
This update targeted low-quality content mills with duplicate, low-quality, or thin content.
Google Penguin (2012)
This update penalized websites that were over-optimized or using manipulative link schemes to game the system.
Google SpamBrain (2018)
This update targeted and penalized spammy links by detecting unnatural linking patterns that negatively impacted the quality of search results.
Google SpamBrain 2021 Update
This update was AI-powered to understand and adapt to link farming tactics that were widely in use. It ended up penalizing six times more websites than the earlier update penalized in 2020.
Google SpamBrain 2022 Update
This time, Google updated its advanced Spam Prevention System, making link farms pretty much useless.
Link farming has continued to decline since the mid-2000s because Google continues to make the penalties more and more severe every year.
Always check the backlink profile of your website to avoid getting links from link farms.
Google’s Take on Link Farms and Common Link Penalty Triggers
Google doesn’t like link farms and doesn’t shy away from penalizing the websites that use them. It’s a violation of their guidelines, and over time, Google’s algorithm has been optimized to detect unnatural linking patterns.
If you’re still using link farms to boost your website’s authority and rankings, it’s about time you mend your marketing strategy.
The penalties for link farms are as follows –
- De-Indexing – Removing certain web pages from Google’s index. In some cases, the entire website may be blacklisted and de-indexed.
- Ranking Demotion – You may witness a drastic decline in your search engine rankings.
Google wants its search results to reflect genuine popularity and relevance, and link farms do just the opposite of it.
Common Link Penalty Triggers (In Descending Order)
- Comment Link Spams – (For e.g. farming Reddit and forum links through excessive and irrelevant comments)
- Low-Quality Directory Links
- Excessive Keyword Anchoring
- Irrelevant Footer Links
- Unnatural Links From Topically Irrelevant Sites
Are Link Farms and Private Blog Networks Same?
No, link farms and Private Blog Networks (PBNs) are not the same. In essence, PBNs are an evolved version of link farms.
Several characteristic differences between the two –
Link farms are densely interlinked networks of websites that may or may not be in the same niche.
Private Blog Networks are a network of high-authority websites that may or may not be interlinked and do link out.
Link farms typically have low-quality, spammy, duplicate, or thin content.
PBNs have high-quality and original content. (To sound and mimic topical authority)
Google has studied the link farm’s operational pattern over the years. It is easily identifiable due to its low-quality content, dense network of websites and links, and irrelevant backlink profile.
Private Blog Networks are created for the very reason that Google can easily identify link farms.
So, the network of PBNs isn’t easily identifiable as it operates as an authority website with topical relevancy and high-quality content. It’s not easy even for Google to prove manipulation in the case of PBN links.
Consequences of Using Link Farms
It might be tempting to use links from link farms, but it can backfire, and how?
Your website can get permanently banned and blocklisted from Google. So, while buying hundreds of backlinks sounds like an effective solution, it isn’t always as good as it sounds.
The damage caused by link farms can be unbearable, leading to –
- Removal from search engine results
- Huge loss of organic traffic
- Huge loss of revenue
- Loss of time – It takes months to clean up the backlink profiles and wait for link penalties to be lifted.
- Permanent Rank and Reputation Loss – In most cases, websites never fully recover the lost rank or reputation after getting hit by Google penalties.
All these risks make it clear that engaging in link farming is just not worth it, no matter the rewards.
How To Protect Against Link Farming?
Let us enumerate some of the tried and tested methods to shield your website against the dangers of link farming.
- Use no-follow tags when in doubt.
- Don’t buy or use paid links.
- Focus on building quality links rather than trying to get as many links as possible.
- Monitor your backlink profile regularly to check the quality/source of links you’re receiving.
- Report the links you suspect are from link farms, and Google will take care of the rest.
- Disavow links you believe or know are from link farms so that you’re not penalized if someone link farms to your website.
Link building is crucial to determining and boosting your website’s popularity, authority, and search engine rankings, but it’s equally important that it’s done the right way.
While it may be tempting to engage in link farming to inflate your backlink profile or boost your rankings, it can do more harm than good in the long run.
Achieving credibility, authority, and higher rankings online is NOT a short-term affair, and it’s important to have this clarity when you enter the internet market.
Having clarity about your SEO goals and the ways to achieve them ethically is vital to sticking to a plan that’s sustainable, effective, and ROI-driven in the long run. It ensures you don’t fall into the honey trap of link farming or any other Black Hat SEO methods, for that matter.