Link farming is an old search engine optimisation (SEO) tactic which some SEO agencies still use today. This link-building technique is neither as clever nor as reliable as those who use it would claim. However, to understand why it’s not an effective link building technique, we must first ask what link farming is, how you can identify a link farm and why people use them.
What is link farming?
A link farm is a group of websites that all link to the other websites in the group to increase rankings in the search results (SERPs). This technique is a black-hat technique, which means that it is considered a manipulative technique. It is also considered a form of spam and sites which search engines like Google determine to be involved in link farms are penalised for it.
Link farms often contain websites that were created for the sole purpose of linking to other websites and therefore boosting their positions in the SERPs. The content on these websites is unrelated to other content and often does not provide any value to users, meaning that the content exists purely to provide a backlink to other sites.
Why do they exist?
Part of the algorithm which Google uses when ranking websites considers how many backlinks a website has received. This contributes to a website’s authority, as a website is seen as more authoritative if more sites are linking to its content. These backlinks are considered to be an endorsement of that site, which helps the website to rank higher in the organic search results.
Link farms were created as a way to manipulate this part of the algorithm, and many of the largest link farms have already been taken down, with the sites they linked to suffering severe penalties
How do you identify a link farm?
Link farms can be identified through the shallow content they contain, as well as the vast array of topics they cover, which are also unrelated. They may also contain pages that are just lists of links, and the domain may have a name that is a nonsensical series of letters and numbers.
Is link farming legal?
Link farming is prohibited by all search engines’ Webmaster Guidelines. Google has stated that violating its guidelines with link schemes will have “a negative impact on a site’s ranking in the search results”. This means that participating in schemes like this could leave your site ranking lower in the SERPs due to the penalties that are imposed by the search engines. These penalties take a lot of work to remove and can impact your site for a long time so it’s best to avoid link farms and similar schemes.
Are they worth the risk?
Considering the risk of a penalty, our recommendation would be NOT to depend on those existing external domains. If the webmaster takes those domains down, your site may experience a temporary drop in rankings. In my opinion, that’s less painful than recovering from a penalty that Google might place on your domain on discovering this practice.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to accurately predict how far that drop might be. It’s reasonable to expect that it would only be as far as the site rankings were before the link farm was created.
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Why is link farming not effective for link building?
While you may initially gain a large number of backlinks from participating in a link farm, the sites themselves are not helpful for building backlinks due to their spammy nature. They can also result in your site being given penalties for attempting to manipulate a search engine, which means that it will not rank well, or will drop down the rankings because of this attempt to increase DA through links from irrelevant or spam sites.
Google’s Penguin update was implemented to ensure that backlinks were of good quality. This update penalised those who made use of link farms, causing their positions in Google’s rankings to drop. This means that SEOs had to take the time to start rebuilding their link profiles, disavowing bad backlinks and finding high-quality links to regain their position.
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Link-farming is an old, black-hat SEO tactic that can lead to a drop in the search engine rankings. However a link farm is set up, it is not the best way to build links to your site. Instead, your site will receive low-quality links, and therefore any traffic that comes through them will be low-quality.
There is also the additional factor to consider of the risks you will face as search engines like Google penalise sites heavily if they participate in link farms. This ineffective link-building technique will cause a drop in rankings, and instead, you should focus on producing high-quality content that is linked to because you are the voice of authority in your niche.