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Link Farming: The Shortcut to SEO Disaster

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Link farming is an unethical link building practice that website owners use to acquire a high number of backlinks quickly. It involves creating a network of low-quality websites that heavily link to one another to manipulate search engine rankings.

Google’s March 2024 update has added three new spam policies to curb practices that negatively impact search rankings. One of them is expired domain abuse, which involves repurposing an expired domain with a high DA to build links to a new website to improve rankings.

Some of the link farm websites may be using this tactic, which means Google is likely to devalue the ranking power of each link you get from them.

In any case, link farming is a risky practice that will ultimately hurt your SEO and credibility. Read on to identify the dangers of link farming and learn what you should do instead to build links effectively.

What is a Link Farm?


Link farms are a network of interlinking websites created solely to acquire backlinks for manipulating search rankings.

Here’s what the domain and link profile metrics of a link farm website look like. While the site has a high domain rating (DR) and over 25K backlinks, it has suspiciously low organic traffic (as you can see in the report below).

Link Farm Metrics

People often confuse link farms with web directories and private blog networks (PBNs). So, here is a glance at how they differ:

Link Farms vs. Directories vs. PBNs

How to Identify or Spot a Link Farm


Here are some techniques to help you identify a link farm website and avoid acquiring backlinks from them:

1. Evaluate the overall content quality of the website


Link farms usually consist of websites with low-quality content or unrelated content from multiple niches.

Analyze the website you want to build links from for quality issues. Websites with poorly-written, thin, duplicate, or AI-generated content that offers little value to users are likely to be link farm websites. They are created solely for link exchanges.

Similarly, if a website has content that seems irrelevant and covers random topics, that’s also a sign of it being part of a link farm. Scroll through the blog section of your target website to identify this.

Here’s a screenshot from a website that publishes poor-quality content on unrelated niches like medical science, digital marketing, and travel recommendations:

Low-Quality Content

2. Verify author information on the website


Link farm websites have anonymous authors or display fake author profiles with generic stock photography. So, if a website doesn’t disclose author information clearly, then that’s a red flag.

Most genuine websites display author bios and showcase links to the author’s personal blog and social media profiles for authenticity. Many of them have comprehensive author pages like the example below.

Author Profiles Example                                                                   Source 

3. Check the number of linked websites


While linking to relevant and authoritative websites is good SEO practice, a red flag is when a website links out to a large number of unrelated websites, especially those with low domain authority (DA).

Does the website offer plenty of suspicious, low-quality links to many unrelated websites? Then, it is likely a link farming website. Some of these websites have whole pages that are nothing but lists of links without context.

Signs of Link Farming

4. Conduct a backlink audit of the website


Analyze the website’s link profile using SEO tools like Semrush or Ahrefs. It will help you check the number and quality of backlinks, anchor texts, referring domains, and more.

For example, see the Ahrefs backlink report showcasing backlinks from pages in different languages and on different topics, using the same anchor text. This looks fishy and indicates link farming.


5. Flag sudden increases in the number of backlinks


A sudden increase in the number of backlinks to a website indicates the use of unethical link building practices like link farming. You can use an SEO tool like Ahrefs to check for a sudden spike in the number of backlinks or referring domains.

For example, notice the suspicious jump in the number of referring domains on 1st April 2023 in the screenshot below.

Spike in Referring Domains

6. Look for backlinks from suspicious websites


If a website has links from suspicious websites or websites from completely unrelated niches, then it likely is a link farm. In the Ahrefs report below, the referring domains are from different countries and niches and look fishy.

There are too many do-follow links from one website, which looks suspicious as well.

Unrelated Referring Domains in Ahrefs Report

7. Analyze the anchor texts for links


Link farms don’t often bother with using relevant anchor texts or even relevant links. So, if you spot a website with too many links on generic anchor texts, such as “click here” or “learn more,” then that’s a bad sign. 

Also, if a website has too many links on just a few keyword-specific anchor texts, then it’s most likely a link farm.

You can also detect a link farm website by empty anchor texts. In the report below, 35.1% of links on a website are on empty anchors and the remaining ones are on anchor texts like “here” and “download now.”

Signs of Link Farming

8. Flag rapid fluctuations in the website’s search rankings and organic traffic


If you suspect a website to be a link farm, check its search engine rankings over time. Any sudden increase or regular fluctuations in search rankings indicate the use of link farming and other black hat SEO techniques.

For example, see the sudden spikes in organic search traffic of another link farm website. The traffic growth looks suspicious and suggests that this website uses link farming techniques.

Sudden Search Ranking Spikes

9. Assess the look and feel of the website


Manually visit the website and check out its layout and design. Link farm websites often use templates with little or no customization and look messy. So, they are easier to spot.

10. Look for networks of interlinking websites with little original content


In a link farm, the websites frequently link to each other, building a network of interconnected links. Look for websites with low-quality content that heavily link to a specific set of websites to identify a link farm.

11. Identify paid link offers and schemes


If you spot websites that claim to build you high-quality backlinks at low cost, stay away from those. Often, these are part of paid link schemes, and associating with them is not good for your website’s SEO.

So, don’t fall for schemes like this:

Avoid Paid Link Schemes

5 Reasons to Avoid Link Farming (How It Can Hurt Your Website)


Let’s take a look at some dangers of link farming and why you should avoid using such link building techniques from the start.

1. Your website can incur penalties from search engines


Google and other search engines are against link farms and recognize it as a spammy link building technique. After the Google Penguin update, Google’s algorithm has become more adept at identifying such practices.

If caught using link farming, your website could receive a penalty or lose your SERP rankings.

Even if the search engine algorithms fail to identify link farms, human reviewers may detect it and impose a manual action on your website. Once penalized, your website will take a long time to recover from it and build authority again.

2. It can lead to de-indexing of your website


If your site is caught practicing link farming, penalties are not the worst consequences. Google can de-index your website and remove you from the search results pages altogether.

This is a situation that is extremely difficult to recover from. It makes link farming a risky practice.

3. It can hurt your SERP rankings


There are several ways in which using link farms can hurt your SERP rankings. Here are a few:

  • You build low-quality links using link farms and Google lowers your search rankings rankings.
  • You get caught and Google imposes penalties, which hurt your website’s authority and rankings, or you get completely removed from its index.
  • You get penalized and recover from the penalty, but it takes a hit on your reputation and your website gets devalued by Google.

4. It can cause long-term damage to your website’s credibility and reputation


If your website is caught using link farms and receives a penalty, it can severely damage your website’s authority and reputation. In some cases, Google can flag your website as spam, hurting your website’s credibility.

It also causes your website’s users to think of your site as non-trustworthy. This can significantly affect traffic and rankings.

5. You’ll end up wasting time and resources


The links built using link farms are typically low-quality backlinks that don’t serve much purpose in the long run. While this may boost the number of backlinks, it will weaken your link profile.

So, you spend time and money and still don’t see long-term positive results. It’s more effective to spend that time and money on ethical SEO practices that drive sustainable results over time.

What to Do Instead? Link Building Best Practices


Follow these best practices to build high-quality links without falling prey to link farms:

  • Don’t try to acquire links in bulk. Focus on quality.
  • Create high-quality content to acquire high-quality backlinks.
  • Use ethical link building practices, such as guest posting, expert roundup participation, link reclamation, etc.
  • Reach out to relevant websites within your niche and collaborate with them to build backlinks to relevant content using appropriate anchor texts.
  • Work with influencers or affiliates to gain brand mentions and high-quality links from product reviews and other useful content.
  • Regularly conduct backlink audits to find and disavow toxic backlinks to improve your link profile.
  • Follow Google’s webmaster guidelines and refrain from using practices that go against it.

Ready to Protect Your Website From Link Farms?


Link farming is a risky, black-hat SEO technique that may deliver quick results but is extremely harmful in the long run. If caught using link farming, your website may get penalized, devalued, or deindexed.

What should you do instead? Use our contextual link building services to build backlinks ethically.

Renu Sharma

Renu Sharma has been in the content marketing and link building business for a solid decade. She has worked with industry giants, renowned agencies, and influencers, making her a true authority in the field.

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