What is a like farm?
(Reprinted as Direct Like Farming Advice From the Bing Search Engine Team)
It should be obvious that a like farm is simply the social equivalent to a link farm. Amazingly, though, people think this approach works. The rationale being that is social signals matter to search, they can ramp up the volume of the “like” signal in Facebook, causing a related boost in rankings. The logic may seem fine, but when you recall that we can see sudden explosions of links as spammy, it’s easy to understand how we can see sudden explosions of likes as spammy as well. To be fair, there’s more to it than that.
Anyone could suddenly “go viral” and accumulate a lot of likes very quickly, so we look beyond just like/time to find patterns. And if there is one thing a search engine is good at, its seeing patterns online. Like farms tend to be built around a core network of accounts. You pay someone to like your site, content or whatever, and they go out across their network and like you. Its artificial and we know it. Organic likes rarely follow obvious patterns. In fact, if there’s a pattern to organic liking, it’s one built around chaos. Like farms, however, no matter their size, end up looking obvious by comparison. In the image below, you can see what an accumulation of likes look like to us when graphed. In the first image, we see a like farm in action. A limited number of accounts all engaged in communal liking of each other’s content.
In the second image, the difference is clear. You can see how the sharing of the content and liking of the content began at a number of locations and spread organically from there. The red dots represent the origin of a like, then the blue dots show friends from each red dot liking the item as well. When you see it as a graph, it’s very obvious the differences between organic and like farm activity.
In most cases, if we spot like farm activity, we simply ignore the signal. Again, you may have paid for a service which is bringing you no value in boosting your search results. This also points out why it is so important that you manage your social media program. At the very least, if you are outsourcing the management of your social program, you need to keep an eye on things. Short cuts can add up eroding any value you were trying to achieve.
The ideas presented above are meant to be broad. I’m sure there are examples when having a network of the same people liking your content can be beneficial, but broadly speaking, we don’t value those signals as highly as normal, organic social growth. Same can be said for links. Having more links can drive direct traffic to your website, which is fine. Just don’t count on them to always bring value to your ranking efforts as well.
If you take one thing away from this post, please take away that quality wins. Quality links, from quality websites. Quality social signals from a quality program. You may think you’re saving time with short cuts such as link farms and like farms, but be assured, our short cuts are much faster. We simply ignore the results of spammy tactics. Invest your time and money in a quality-centric approach and you’ll have much more success.
For more information on this topic please contact Russell Wright.