Link farming is not as popular as it once was, but it’s still a common black-hat technique.
And you might be tricked into it.
We’ll help you solve that issue. This guide:
- Explains what link farming entails, its dangers, and Google’s opinion
- Gives you 8 strategies to spot a link farm + a real-life example
- Analyzes 5 ways to build a sustainable link-building campaign
Keep reading below.
TL;DR: Link Farming
- Link farming is a black-hat SEO technique used to artificially boost SEO metrics by increasing the number of backlinks to a site.
- Started in 1999 when search engines valued link quantity over quality.
- Google introduced updates like Panda and Penguin to prioritize high-quality backlinks.
- Contains irrelevant backlinks from unrelated or low-quality websites.
- Websites using link farms can face penalties, including lower rankings or de-indexation.
- Waste of resources, both time and money.
- Damages brand reputation and yields unsustainable results.
- Google penalizes artificial link manipulation.
- Users might face penalties without direct notifications but will notice traffic and rank drops.
Risks vs. Benefits:
- Temporary boosts in rankings don’t outweigh the significant risks like damaged reputation and SEO penalties.
Identifying Link Farms:
- Look out for poor-quality content, lack of genuine author details, excessive outbound links, unnatural anchor texts, and suspicious domain names among other signs.
Remedying Toxic Links:
- Identify harmful backlinks using SEO tools.
- Request link removal from link farm owners.
- If needed, use Google's "Disavow Links" tool.
- Regularly monitor your backlink profile.
Better Link-Building Strategies:
- Create high-quality content.
- Engage in guest blogging.
- Use broken link-building.
- Partner locally and sponsor events.
- Develop resource-rich pages or guides.
- Avoid link farming due to its many negative consequences.
- Focus on sustainable link-building strategies for long-term growth.
- Our B2B SEO agency offers partnership-based link-building that is safe and effective.
What Is Link Farming?
Link farming is a black-hat search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Link builders may use a farm link to artificially improve SEO metrics through external links.
And this increased number of backlinks should theoretically improve their website’s search engine ranking.
That’s because the number of inbound links is an important ranking factor.
Warning: Google values quality over quantity in its search ranking factors. That’s why link farming is considered a “black hat” or unethical SEO strategy, and search engines penalize websites that practice it.
Here’s how link farming typically works:
- Website owners create multiple websites for reciprocal linking. They may use software that automatically generates these outgoing links.
- Some websites offer link exchange programs encouraging other websites to participate in the link exchange.
Side note: There's a difference between link farm and Private Blog Network (PBNs). PBNs are a collection of websites created to build links to just one central website, whereas link farms interlink with each other.
Plus, PBN content might be of higher quality than the content on link farms.
That’s why link farming is considered a black-hat SEO method, whereas PBNs are grey-hat techniques.
How Link Farms Started
Link farms originated in 1999.
During the late 90s, search engines gauged website relevance based on the sheer number of incoming links. Basically, link popularity was more important than quality in assessing domain ranking.
That prompted the creation of interconnected site networks to exploit these ranking algorithms.
But Google developed more sophisticated algorithms, introducing updates such as Panda and Penguin.
This tipped the scale in favor of obtaining high-quality backlinks. Here’s one great idea from Neil Patel:
The Downsides of Using Link Farming
Link farming is ridden with drawbacks:
- Irrelevance: The backlinks from link farms are often from unrelated or low-quality websites. Their poor content doesn’t provide any genuine value for users. And popular search engines don’t count these low-quality inbound links as valuable either. As such, your ranking won’t increase significantly.
- Penalties: Search engines like Google can now detect link farming strategies quite well. Websites caught participating in link farms can receive manual penalties. Google can either rank you lower or even de-index you completely.
- Wasted resources: Money and time spent on bad links are wasted because you’re not gaining any genuine advantage. If you want more link juice that helps you obtain better ROI, practice white-hat SEO.
- Damaged reputation: Participation in black hat techniques can tarnish your reputation. Both your target audience and other creators in your niche (who are your potential link partners) will start avoiding your brand.
- Unsustainable results: You can’t build a backlink profile that boosts your search rankings consistently only through farm link programs. So, these results are short-lived even if your rankings increase slightly via black-hat links.
What Does Google Think of Link Farming?
Google aims to uncover and penalize every artificial link manipulation attempt.
So, its PageRank Algorithm scrutinizes both outgoing links in your content and external links pointing to your website.
But Google’s spam team can also manually review and penalize sites violating their guidelines.
- Unhappy visitors or rivals might report your site as spam, and such reports can lead to additional link penalties.
- Google won’t directly inform you of penalties. You’ll simply notice sharp declines in traffic and search engine rank.
- And you can’t directly contest Google’s penalties.
Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?
Seeing that you can get only temporary results, getting a higher domain ranking through backlinks on link farms doesn’t outweigh the risks.
- Links from unrelated sites that publish low-quality content are less valuable than authoritative links. So, instead of paying for a farm link, you can get more results with one editorial backlink.
- Blog link farms are not legit, so they don’t follow the rules. Therefore, their website owners can remove your paid backlink without any explanation.
- Popular search engines can plummet your SEO rankings or hide your website indefinitely.
- You incur a major risk in terms of reputation.
How to Spot a Link Farm?
A legitimate website directory may look generic, but that doesn’t make it part of a link farm. Conversely, some link farms look extremely posh and have high domain ratings.
Here’s how to spot a link farm.
1. Assess Website Quality
- Content farms often feature poor-quality content on disjointed or unusual topics. Typically, this content is computer-generated or spun, filled with unnatural-sounding keywords.
- They frequently use generic template designs with minimal personalization instead of publishing high-value content.
2. Examine Authorship and About Info
- Link farms lack genuine author details. Their anonymous authors and guest writers have fake profiles with stock photos.
- Their “About” pages might be sparse, nonsensical, or absent. This makes it hard to discern who operates the website.
- They don’t provide contact details, resorting instead to generic contact forms.
3. Inspect Outbound Links
- Excessive outbound links, especially on individual pages, are red flags. Conversely, high-quality sites have fewer links pointing to solid sources.
- Link-building tools like Ahrefs’ “Linked Domains” help you determine the number of linked websites. A high count with little relevance can indicate link farming.
4. Review Anchor Texts
- Link farms often feature unnatural, keyword-rich anchor texts.
- Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush showcase the anchor texts for outbound and inbound links.
5. Organic Traffic
- A polished design or a high Domain Rating (DR) doesn’t guarantee authenticity. Although DR and similar metrics can offer insights, sham sites can manipulate them.
- Evaluating a site’s organic search traffic and its history shows you how that website has grown. And it also shows its real-world relevance.
6. Keyword Rankings
- Check the site’s keyword rankings using an SEO tool.
- A classic link farm indicator is low keyword variety despite a longer lifespan or obvious keyword stuffing.
7. Spammy Domain Name
- These often involve lesser-known or cheaper Top-Level Domains (TLDs) like .top, .xyz, or other unconventional extensions.
- Not all websites with these extensions are of low quality, but many link farms use such domains because they are inexpensive and can be purchased in bulk.
Insider tip: The actual name might contain a mish-mash of keywords, numbers, or nonsensical combinations. These are chosen more for search engine manipulation rather than conveying a legitimate brand or content theme.
8. Stock Website Template Design
- Link farms tend to prioritize quantity over quality. As a result, they rely heavily on generic, stock website templates with little to no customization.
- Such sites often lack a unique brand identity and may appear eerily similar to other questionable sites, exhibiting a cookie-cutter appearance. That’s because they’re more interested in quickly generating vast amounts of interlinked content than offering genuine value.
Link Farm Examples: Desoto Central Market
This website appears to be a link farm because it boasts a mish-mash of unrelated topics.
The “About Me” section tries to explain this melting pot of info, but it offers real information on the person posting it.
A quick Ahrefs analysis shows that Desoto has a low URL rating and just 42 people from organic search.
Plus, their anchors look equally iffy:
How to Fix Toxic Links from Link Farms
If you hired poor link-building services, you may have gotten a few toxic links from a link farm.
These agencies typically guarantee hundreds of backlinks quickly at a ridiculously low price. Even worse, their spammy backlinks don’t bring you any genuine results.
Here’s how to solve the problem of linking from link farms:
1. Identify Toxic Links
- Use SEO tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, or Moz’s Link Explorer to analyze your website’s backlink profile.
- Look for links from suspicious or low-quality domains, especially those with a history of spammy behavior.
- Make a list of these link farm websites.
2. Contact Link Farm Owners
- If you didn’t receive any Google penalty in your Google Search Console or your website rankings didn’t suffer, postpone complete removal.
- Instead, contact the webmasters or site owners hosting the toxic links. Politely request the removal of your website’s link from their pages.
3. Use the Disavow Tool
If you received a manual link penalty or suspect Google has taken hidden action against you, use Google’s “Disavow Links” tool. This tool lets you inform Google which links they’d like to be ignored when their site gets indexed.
- Use the text file listing the URLs or domains you created at step one.
- Submit this file through the Google Search Console.
Warning: Use the disavow tool only if you’re sure you have damaging links pointing to your website. Removing the wrong links can plummet your search engine ranking unnecessarily.
4. Monitor Your Backlink Profile
Audit and monitor your website’s backlink profile regularly. SEO tools help you detect and address unnatural links proactively.
Plus, they help you find healthier link-building opportunities to increase search engine rankings.
And that brings us to the next point.
5 Better Link-Building Options
If you want to build a solid profile of inbound links, consider the off-page SEO tactics below:
- High-quality content creation: Unlike a farm link, high-quality, relevant, and unique content naturally attracts organic shares and citations. Remember to analyze your competitors’ profiles to see the content they get the most backlinks for. That strategy helps you create better pieces on similar topics to attract interested content creators in your niche.
- Guest blogging: Write original content for reputable blogs or websites within your industry. In exchange for this high-quality content, you receive a link to your site. These links build up over time to grow your rankings and may also generate valuable referral traffic.
- Broken link-building: Identify broken or dead links on other websites, especially those relevant to your niche. Reach out to the webmasters, suggesting your content as a replacement. It’s a win-win: they get to fix a broken link, and you earn a quality backlink.
- Local partnerships and sponsorships: Collaborate with local organizations, events, or charities. Sponsoring an event or partnering with local businesses means scoring a backlink from their website or event page.
- Resource link-building: Create comprehensive resource pages or guides on your website. Then, reach out to sites that link to similar resources, explaining why your content is worth linking to.
Link farming is a black-hat SEO technique with many negative consequences.
You can use the same time and resources to build a sustainable backlink profile that helps your website grow.
If you don’t know where to start, Breeeze is here to help.
We only endorse partnership-based link-building that brings real results and doesn't hurt SEO. Plus, we use a slew of expert link-building strategies, from HARO to quality guest posting.
Read our success stories and see how our data-driven process of building links helped our clients.