Backlinks are still one of the most important ranking factors for Google.
That said, not all backlinks are created equal.
Quality links can take your website straight to the front page of Google and drive thousands of clicks per month.
A low-quality link, on the other hand, can cause your website to crash and burn, earning you a manual penalty from Google.
Link farms are among the most low-quality websites you can get backlinks from and something we recommend that all of our clients avoid.
But first things first – what exactly is a link farm, and why are they so bad? Well, we’ll cover all that and more in this article!
Read on to learn:
- What is a Backlink Farm?
- What Does Google Think of Link Farms?
- How to Identify Link Farms?
- 3 Real Link Farm Examples
Let’s get started.
What is a Link Farm?
A link farm is a type of website that’s created for the sole purpose of selling backlinks. Link farm owners charge a certain fee to create backlinks for their clients, usually in the form of guest posts or niche edits.
At a glance, link farms might seem like a very fast and easy way to build backlinks for your website. The truth, however, is far from it – link farm backlinks can actually harm your website more than help it.
We’ll teach you how to identify link farms a bit further into the article, but here’s the gist. Link farms:
- Feature a ton of short, badly written content
- Cover dozens of unrelated topics, everything from cars to personal finance
- Have a lot of external links pointed to other domains
And here’s what this looks like on a real website:
As you can see above, 4+ posts were published in a single day, none of which is related to each other. The website is about “business,” technically, but they cover articles on everything from coffee makers to UV sterilizers.
What Does Google Think of Link Farms?
Selling backlinks is strictly against Google’s policies and falls under the categorization of a “link scheme.” As such, backlinks from link farms can get your website penalized.
And yes, Google can very easily tell the difference between a link farm website and a normal site.
As we’ll cover a bit down the article, link farms are actually extremely easy to spot if you know what to look for.
But for now, let’s cover the basics:
Do Link Farms Help Improve SEO?
No, more often than not, link farms do more damage to your website’s SEO than help in any meaningful way.
Here are several reasons why link farms are harmful to your website:
- Risk of Penalty. Google does not look at link farms favorably and if they detect that your website is using them, it might lead to a manual penalty and loss of rankings.
- Low SEO Value. Link farms have a very low number of backlinks and drive very little traffic to their site. This means the value you get from their backlinks is not all that much in the first place.
- Diluted Backlink Juice. The more websites a link farm links to, the more each backlink is devalued.
So, to sum it all up, link farm backlinks are very risky and, at the same time, don’t produce enough benefits for them to be worthwhile. As such, they should be avoided at all costs.
How to Identify Link Farms
The consensus is clear – link farms are bad for your website.
Now you might be wondering, how can you tell if a website is a link farm?
If a link-building “expert” reaches out to you tomorrow offering a backlink for a fee, how can you tell if the backlink is from a link farm or from a genuine website?
Thankfully, identifying link farms is actually quite simple. You should be on the lookout for:
- Low-quality content. Most articles are less than 500-word guest posts with 1-2 links, one pointed towards whoever paid for the backlink, and another to a random internal post on the website.
- Website based on a basic WordPress template. Since link farms aren’t actually meant to be read by real people, their creators spend almost no time working on how the website itself looks.
- Posts in dozens of different categories. Link farms want to be able to serve clients in many different niches, which is why they tend to have dozens of completely unrelated categories. A link farm can have articles on topics that are so wildly unrelated to each other that it’s actually amusing.
- No brand identity. Link farms have only one purpose – to publish a ton of content and sell links. As such, they don’t have much information about what the site is, who’s behind it, and so on.
- Empty social profiles. Link farms have almost completely empty social profiles. Their Facebook/Instagram/Twitter accounts have next to no posts.
- Lots of external links. If you run a link farm through Ahrefs, you’ll see that they have thousands of websites that they’re linking to.
- High domain authority. Some link farms might have a very high domain authority (Moz metric), so you might think that they’re legitimate. A lot of these backlink farms use PBNs and other shady SEO techniques to inflate the number just to seem more authentic.
- Low traffic or irrelevant rankings. Since link farms don’t really care about readers, they barely have any blog content that actually ranks on Google. If they DO rank, it’s usually on extremely easy terms that don’t really have any value.
3 Examples of Real Link Farms
Now that we’ve explained how to identify link farms, let’s cover a few link farm examples and see if we can spot the red flags.
This one’s pretty obvious from the get-go. You can see straight-up that the website has a dozen random categories (without actually being a real media site) and a handful of blog posts right on the front page that don’t have anything in common with each other. One post, might, for example, be about accounting, while another is about CBD.
The design of the website is very hit or miss too.
Just to be safe, we can also run the website through Ahrefs are see how, exactly, they’re performing:
As you can see above, the site had 115,000 traffic at one point and then completely crashed, likely as a result of a Google update. It’s also very likely that this specific link farm is part of a PBN that got penalized.
And the cherry on top?
The website links to over 24,000 different domains (while having 2,400 backlinks on its own site), so we can say for certain that this website is a link farm.
Now this one’s a bit more difficult to spot.
The site is formatted just like any news website, and even has a very authentic name – Ohio News Time.
As the website is pretending to be a media, you might excuse the fact that they have a ton of topically unrelated articles.
However, if you run the site through Ahrefs, you’ll get this:
This means, the website got recently penalized and is very likely to have been doing some shady SEO.
A few months back, you might’ve been tempted to get a link from the site because they had over 100,000 in monthly traffic.
As you can see, however, such websites always end up getting penalized by Google sooner or later, and if you got a link from there, it could negatively impact your website’s SEO.
This one’s a bit more complicated. The topics on the website seem relevant (travel and lifestyle), the articles featured are topical, and the website design doesn’t look like an out-of-the-box WordPress template.
The site is even doing well in terms of organic traffic growth:
And the keywords they’re ranking for are also relevant:
However, we can see that the website has around 2,000 referring domains, while it’s linking to over 6,600 websites.
While this site might not be a blatant link farm, a backlink from here would not be super valuable either, as the ratio of incoming links to outgoing links is around 0.3.
Dedicated White Hat Link-Building Service
Struggling to build legitimate backlinks to your website?
We’d love to help!
MintSEO is a full-service SEO agency, and a part of what we do is helping clients build organic, white-hat backlinks.
All our backlinks are procured via manual outreach or partnerships, and we ensure that the links we build are of very high quality:
- Medium to high DA. We build links from websites with domain authority of 25 to 60 plus.
- From real websites. We don’t do forum links, blog comment links, web 2.0 links, and all that nonsense. The only type of links we build are backlinks from real, authentic websites.
- Medium to high website traffic. The best links are from websites that already rank well on Google. We get you links from sites that drive 1,000 to 10,000 (and above) clicks per month.
- Topically relevant to your website. If your blog is about digital marketing, you won’t get any benefits from a backlink from a website about personal finance. We always get you links that are topically relevant to your site.
#1. What is a Link Farm Example?
An example of a link farm is Website.com. If you head over to their website, you’ll see that all they have is low-quality blog content, tons of unrelated articles, and a lot of external links (bought by their clients).
#2. Are All Websites That Sell Links Link Farms?
No, not at all. There are a lot of different types of websites that sell sponsored backlinks. Heck, even large media companies do this.
The fact that a website is willing to sell you a backlink does not make them a link farm on its own.
If they also have thin content, tons of outbound links, wildly varying categories, and the like, though, then there’s a good chance that they’re a link farm.
#3. Is a Link Farm a PBN?
Link farms are not necessarily PBNs. Some link farms DO use PBNs to build up high domain authority and make it seem like they’re a legitimate website, though.
#4. Are Link Farms Good?
No, link farms are in no way good. At best, they’re just a waste of time and money that won’t impact your website’s SEO. At worst, they might lead to your website getting penalized.
#5. How Do You Identify a Link Farm?
Link farms are pretty easy to spot. You can tell a website is a link farm if they have a lot of external links, tons of short-form, badly written content, and articles on dozens of unrelated topics.
#6. Are Link Farms Legal?
Yes, technically link farms are legal. They are, however, still against Google’s policies, and if you’re caught using backlinks from link farms, your website might end up getting penalized.
And that about wraps up all you need to know about link farms.
The consensus is clear: link farms are against Google’s policies and are likely to get your website penalized.
Follow the tips we outlined in this article on how to identify link farms and steer clear of them when possible.