What Is A Link Farm And How To Avoid Them?
It’s more or less easy for website owners to understand on-page SEO.
A webpage and its elements are visible. They can understand what are header tags, keywords, and meta descriptions and note the changes made.
But they rarely understand the purpose of link building. In the name of professional link building services, they are duped by black hat SEO practices.
Many get sucked in by link farms and suffer through a long period of penalties imposed by Google.
In this article, we explain the entire topic from A to Z in simple language.
What is link building?
Link building is placing links leading to your sites from other sites.
This is important because a search engine does not understand the content of a webpage. It is great at indexing and maintaining a roster of keywords but little else.
Such as, the Google algorithm can’t understand the difference between an article on Covid written by you from consulting Wikipedia and one written by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
But someone searching for information on Covid will benefit from reading what Dr. Fauci wrote instead of you (assuming you are not a medical professional).
The way Google solves this problem is through the web equivalent of citations known as backlinks.
Just as an academic publication that is repeatedly cited by other experts is better, those sites whose content is cited by other sites are seen as more reliable.
This citation is by giving backlinks.
Let’s say you are an expert in home décor. One of your blog articles that provides new ideas is so impressive that several other blog writers quoted you and gave a backlink to your site.
This makes your site more dependable.
What are link farms?
The above logic is perfect and the backbone of the Google search engine.
Alas, it can also be gamed easily.
If backlinks provide reliability, what prevents an SEO expert from opening a thousand blogs, filling them up with nonsensical content, and giving you several thousand backlinks from those pages?
That is why there are link farms—quite literally a huge number of websites maintained for the purpose of publishing content with a lot of links to your site.
No prizes for guessing that Google does not like this link building strategy. It makes their algorithm fail and they penalize a site by making it rank lower. If they deem you are a repeat offender, they may delist the site entirely.
Why avoid link farms?
Link farms provide lots of backlinks. Is there a problem if one targets your blog and suddenly provides you with fifty backlinks? Absolutely.
If a person is hanging around with criminals, it makes the police suspicious about their motive.
The same with Google. Several links from a link farm might drag down your reputation for no reason.
But it is not always possible to avoid being targeted by link farms.
These nefarious entities have to rank well. Otherwise, a backlink from them would be worthless.
For that reason, they include links to random websites in their content.
Or if they have a blog about the same topic as your blog, a content writer employed by them might take a fancy to your site and start linking random articles.
What is disavowing?
You note that suddenly your search rankings have dropped. Previously, you were consistently ranking between 10th and 14th in the search for a major keyword. Now, suddenly in a month you are below 35 and dropping like a stone.
You have been unfortunately the target of link farms looking to raise their Domain Authority.
Google might hit you with penalties and send an email about unnatural backlinks.
You have to head over to Google Search Console and disavow the links. This means you are telling Google that backlinks from a site are not to be counted as valid backlinks.
How to disavow?
Use a backlink checker regularly.
Do you see links that do not seem genuine? Maybe links from neel.co.in and hondekos.co.za are not really helping you?
Visit these sites. What are they about? Is it the same domain as yours (e.g. home décor) or are they random and unrelated?
What type of content do they have? Do the pages seem created in a hurry and out of place?
Even if that is not a link farm site, you should disavow it. It does you no good to have a “dofollow” link from a low-value site from the other side of the world.
What to watch out for?
Though paid links have a stigma attached to them, they are not entirely uncommon.
What if you have been asked to write a series of articles on home décor by Martha Stewart’s website, probably the biggest name when it comes to cooking and home décor?
Of course, you will do it and want your name on the byline as a link. Nothing wrong though, you were paid for your contribution.
What Google watches for:
- “Dofollow” links with the same text color
- “Dofollow” links from unrelated sites
- “Dofollow” links from several websites that share the same server
If anyone offers you the best SEO backlinks for $1000, close the door on his face as fast as possible.
There are plenty of good directories:
- Google My Business
- Bing Places
and so on.
But there are plenty of spammy-looking directories. If you ever get linked to one, then disavow them as fast as you can.
Google likes your website to be mentioned on Quora and elsewhere.
What it does not like are bulk mentions.
It is evident that someone has copy-pasted the same response with your link embedded inside the content.
You might not even know that your own SEO agency did it to get you backlinks quickly.
You could be the target of a rival who wants you to look bad in the eyes of Google.
Never think that such underhanded tactics don’t happen. It is all too common and the level that people stoop to is unbelievable.
Set up the backlink checker to send you results once every week.
If there is a sudden rise in the number of links, inspect closely. Let’s say till then you earned 4-7 a week, but it hit 16 last week. That is a huge red flag.
Now there is no cause for alarm if the links lead back to respectable sites. In fact, Google Disavow Tool carries a warning to not misuse it.
What to disavow page or domain?
You have received several links from neel.co.in
The pages are quite innocuous:
and so on …
Should you ask Google to disavow at the individual page level and plug in all these URLs into the disavow tool or just disavow neel.co.in thus effectively banning the whole domain?
Different SEO experts have their own approaches and both methods are used.
You might ask—How does a company like Tesla that has millions of backlinks check for link farms?
The answer is they most probably don’t.
It is tough for any established website with millions of viewers to check for spammy backlinks.
But that is the point. Those sites are so well established that they have no dearth of organic traffic.
The logic does not apply to a small site owner who has to watch out for link farms targeting his web property.