Getting your website to rank well in search engines in 2024 requires more than just amazing, high-quality content. For decades now, backlinks have been the most important ranking signal for platforms such as Google. With each new algorithm update, many changes happen – but backlinks remain crucial for high rankings.
Where you get those rankings matters. We talked about PBNs, but there is another type of website you should avoid getting links from – link farms.
Today, we’re going to show you what link farms are, why you should avoid them in your digital marketing efforts, and how to recognize one with common SEO tools.
What are link farms?
Link farms are groups of websites that all have links pointing to each other in order to improve their search engine rankings. SEOs and webmasters build link farms in order to expand their network of websites. With multiple websites pointing to each other with links, it’s easier to make them rank faster.
The content on these websites is usually pretty poor in terms of quality. Link farms are considered a black hat SEO tactic that is frowned upon by Google. A group of websites sharing link equity is a way to manipulate search engine results.
For a successful SEO strategy, it is crucial to avoid link farms, whether it’s for a guest post placement, link exchange or some other type of link building effort.
What is the difference between a link farm and a PBN?
For anyone who wants to do link building, it’s important to know that both PBNs and link farms are low-quality websites you should avoid and not get links from.
The main difference is that link farms are created with the sole purpose of building up a group of websites. A website within a link farm sends links to others in the group so they can boost each other’s rankings in the SERPs.
On the other hand, PBNs are websites that SEOs make in order to sell links, guest post placements, ad space, affiliate marketing placements, and others.
Also, the overall quality of the website and content on PBNs is significantly better. This is one of the reasons why telling apart a PBN from a good website is much harder than it is with link farms.
Why should I avoid link farms?
Link farms are websites that are of poor quality and links from these web pages don’t pass much link juice. In fact, you’re more likely to do harm to your own SEO if you get links from these websites, rather than increase your rankings in search engine results pages.
The second reason to avoid them is that they are a form of link manipulation and as such, go against Google’s guidelines, such as the Pagerank algorithm. Sooner or later, Google will penalize these websites, and along with them, yours might be affected if one of these websites has a link to yours.
In general, the money you spend getting links from link farms is much better invested in other types of link building.
How can I spot a link farm?
As mentioned, this black hat SEO technique is generally easier to spot compared to PBNs. If you want to learn how to avoid getting inbound links from link farms, here are a few tell-tale signs on how to identify one.
Link farms mainly exist in niches that are traditionally very hard to build links for.
For example, casinos, medications, adult websites, and similar typically spammy industries. If the content on these websites is predominantly around these topics and has outbound links to such websites… There is a high likelihood it is a link farm.
Most search engine optimization experts will tell you that building links naturally in these industries is next to impossible. This is why SEOs resort to creating link farms.
You can’t find the website owners or article authors
When you dig into the blog articles, the author bios are either non-existant or made up. In cases where they list an author, it’s a generic name with an AI-generated or stolen profile image.
In short, you can’t tie the website to a single person, business or entity.
The overall user experience and website
Since the main purpose of link farms is quick reciprocal linking, the site owners take some shortcuts. This means that most of these websites have basic, cheap designs with a template they grabbed online from a WordPress theme website.
The website is not focused around a central theme or subject and it feels like it was strewn together from several different websites.
When building links, it’s imperative that you check the metrics of any website you get a link from. Link farms have metrics that stand out quite a bit compared to legitimate websites. All you need is some good SEO software such as Ahrefs to begin investigating.
Load up the website home page URL in Ahrefs and the first thing you want to look at is the number of linked domains. In other words, the websites that the alleged link farm is pointing to. One of the best SEO practices for building quality backlinks is that a target website should not link to a huge number of websites.
A few hundred is okay, but a few thousand, for a website with little to no good content… is not good. A link from such a website won’t impact your SEO rankings in a positive way.
The anchor text
In Ahrefs, you can take a look at anchor text in a special tab on the left-hand side. Anchor text is the text someone uses when they’re linking to you with hyperlinks on their website.
For link farms, the incoming links to these websites will be extremely unnatural. A typical anchor text breakdown should include mostly branded links and links with no anchors. If you see highly targeted anchors such as “cold calling software” making up most of the anchors, it means that something is fishy.
It suggests that people might be able to easily buy backlinks from these websites and that they are used for link manipulation.
Don’t gamble with link farms
Landing quality links to your website takes a lot of time and hard work. Build links from the wrong websites and Google’s ranking algorithm will push your website to the depth of search results instead of the top 10.
Instead of trying to dodge link farms on your own, hire a reliable partner for link building. At ReportCard, we use a variety of link building methods. The links you get come from high-quality, genuine websites. We do the hard work so you can enjoy more organic traffic and better keyword rankings.
Book your free call today to learn more!