What is a link farm?
Simply put, a link farm is a service which builds links to your content. Usually, they do so from within a network of known websites. The network is formed often with the sole purpose of gathering a number of locations from which to point link at a client’s website. The client sees a report detailing all of the websites that the link building program is obtaining links from, and the webmaster feels better as the number of links increase. A smaller variation on this theme is the three-way link exchange. Site A links to site B. Site B links to site C. And site C links to site A, completing the triangle.
Companies offering link building services will rarely, if ever, tell you they are operating a link farm, so be very careful when you opt to sign on for any link building programs. Remember, it’s your domain that can be harmed, not theirs. And what do you get for the hard earned money you’ve spent on such services? Well, most times you get a lot of links from unrelated sites pointed at you. After all, no network of websites being used to build links is as broad as the entire Internet itself. Thus, some topics will be a closer match to the websites inside a network, while others will only be loosely related.
If you remember that we want to see links between related websites, this alone should be enough to steer you away from questionable link building tactics. But there are more hard lessons to be learned.
All those links pointing to you may suddenly appear, which is an obvious giveaway to the engines that something is less than organic here. People don’t suddenly build thousands of links to one website overnight. Or, more specifically, that can happen, but it’s usually accompanied by other signals such as a trending topic in the news, social media programming, etc. The bottom line is we can see sudden bursts of new links for what they may be – spam. And what happens at the end of the month when you’re sitting in the meeting explaining how you spent thousands of dollars on link building efforts and yet there has been no change in search traffic. Worse, if the tactics employed by the service you hired were seen as problematic by us, it could have hurt your ranking efforts. It’s worth keeping in mind that any company offering link building services is doing so to many clients at once. This is great if they are reputable. If they are less-than-reputable, however, we see their repeated tactics at play and may opt to take action against the domains involved. Since that includes your domain, you could be hurt. In most cases, the vast majority, we simply opt to ignore the value of the links and move on. You still net no gains, but you also get no big penalties.