What you can learn from a failed Link Farm

As a tactic many SEO companies no doubt have the budgets to set up sophisticated link farms and link schemes, that are disguised and dressed up as legitimate looking sites that might pass a manual inspection by a Google spam team member.

However there’s alot of poor nasty looking link farms, that just don’t offer any value whatsoever or have any unique content.

Cows on a Farm

Recently I was looking at a website for a client. His site has been SEO’d by the notorious ‘It’s Cold Outside’ company. There’s a whole host of disgruntled customers on the web that have complained about keyword stuffing, excessive link exchanges, cloaking and other tactics that are outside Google’s guidelines.

Well when I looked at the client’s site, and checked his back link profile with Yahoo Site Explorer it was quite clear that this client’s site was on one of their link farms. I looked a bit deeper into the farm to see whether it was worth the investment that he was currently paying. I went through a 100 or so of the links that Yahoo listed and checked them in Google using the site operator. Website after website had been de-indexed in Google.

This link farm had obviously been discovered and penalised. The value of the client’s presence on these sites was absolutely nil. No doubt the company in question would obviously have been aware of this, yet the monthly payments were still recurring. Why should the client still be paying to be on a failed link farm?? I presume that any additional SEO they offered to make up for this, just amounted to an automated report with very very little work involved. I couldn’t see any continuing on site work, in fact even basics such as stats/analytics tracking weren’t given as far as I’m aware.

So what does this tell us:

1. In the long run simple link farms and schemes aren’t a great strategy, they’re a house built on sand. If you’re using an SEO company that is more interested in maximising their return and is quite happy to cram your site together with totally unrelated sites, then you’ve got no long term winning strategy.

2. If you’re a business person then make sure you know what your SEO is up to and you’re not getting ripped off. Clients were paying £100 a month recurring to be on this link farm. Although not a big budget, with every link in this farm devalued and deindexed in Google that is a complete waste of money. Talk about not getting your money’s worth, and the SEO company in question is presumably doing very little.

3. Even though many link farms go undiscovered for years chances are they’ll get walloped by Google.

4. Automated SEO solutions tend to be cheap and nasty for a reason. Not saying that they don’t work, indeed this farm probably worked for a while. Build your own custom link profile and it’ll have a better chance of lasting, don’t follow what everyone else does, and where everyone else is, otherwise it’s more likely to fail.

5. SEO isn’t just about ranking for your trophy term. Being top of Google for 1 keyword term isn’t the be all and end all of SEO. A more rounded internet marketing approach is better and covers more bases.

6. It’s important to note that being on this link farm didn’t have a negative effect on the client’s web positioning at all. All the constant forum questions about can being listed on a link farm hurt your rankings, well from this case study it’s pretty obvious that Google is clued up on this, and no negatives were accrued to the client’s site. The old adage that there’s not much that a competitor can do to take out your site holds up in this case.

The reason why this client didn’t complain was that he thought he was getting his money’s worth. Reality was that he was in a low competition market and that without the SEO’s efforts he presumably would have been no worse off ranking for the primary keyword.

How can you check if your backlinks count for nothing?

First of all pop over to Yahoo Site Explorer, and type in your domain name and click the explore button.

Next click the ‘Inlinks’ button, and from the dropdown ‘show inlinks’ select ‘except for this domain’.

You should see results like the screenshot below.


Copy the domain name, head over to Google and type in the domain with the site operator e.g. site:domainname.com – If nothing is returned then chances are that this has been deindexed. Repeat this. If you notice most of the domains aren’t showing then best speak to your SEO as it looks like you have a problem.

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7 Responses to “What you can learn from a failed Link Farm”

  1. Barry ConnollyNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Michael

    I recently discovered a suspected link farm when working for a client. Their main competitor had links from hundreds of websites with pretty good page rank and domain authority in the 40s and 50s (all domains registered under the same person).

    Obviously this amount of powerful root domains means that they are wiping the floor with the compitition.

    I must admit that I was tempted to use these sites as a resource seeing how powerful they are though I guess the best thing do is to report it to Google.

    What’s the ETA on Google to react to a suspected link farm?

  2. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Hiya Barry,

    That’s one of those questions I don’t have the answer for. If you’ve discovered it fairly easily and it sticks out like a sore thumb and is clearly against Google guidelines then no doubt it’ll be whacked at some stage.

    Send me the details in an email so I can have a closer look.


  3. Lewis Maximus, Esq.No Gravatar Says:

    These guys are amateurs. If you are running link troughs on the inter-sewer, you need to block all your sites from being indexed in Yahoo, OSE & Majestic. This will, of course, hide your sordid footprints from internet rabble and so long as your sites look half decent, they will get by. However saying that, I offed my sites to a fellow spammer a while back, as I left the game. Most of these were directories with the same design and largely the same links and all of them are still sporting modest PRs.

    Also another problem with link farms is that a lot of them eventually subside into the sewers – that is, they expire. Once a farm has lost it’s PR, you can’t sell links on it and is not worth keeping.

  4. AndrewNo Gravatar Says:

    I am a previous employee of itscoldoutside. From day one I raised my concerns about the link farming that was taking place but I was ignored by the MD as I was “only a kid” who obviously wouldnb’t know a thing about the world of SEO. I worked on the PPC side of things and to be fair to the PPC Manager he was trying to run a respectable Managed PPC Service, however the management only wanted to bring in the easy money £99 front page bollocks.

    The Link farms are all managed by one person in a little office and follow a very simple methodology to post to live.

    They coincidentaly are now called Add People and have grown in size tremendously. all thanks to this and the scam that is employed by their previous employees Michael Diimatis et al at lavora/storm/matchmaker/answer it etc.

    just thought you might like to know!

  5. MichaelNo Gravatar Says:

    Thanks Andrew, I’m aware of this company’s reputation. You only have to do a search on Google to see the amount of complaints against them.

    I also know they now front as Add People and I presume are trying to offer a much better service. Lets hope so.

  6. SimplifiedNo Gravatar Says:

    Unfortunately it seems rogue builders have been swapped for rogue SEO guys over the past few years. I have heard of agencies taking the monthly retainer and offering no service what so ever. An accredited system for SEO companies would solve this issue

  7. SEO AgencyNo Gravatar Says:

    I agree with Barry Connolly..

Michael Wall

Michael Wall is an experienced SEO based in Belfast N.Ireland currently running his own SEO Agency.

Michael Wall is available for Internet Marketing, Google Adwords PPC and SEO work. Please call Belfast 02890 923383 or use the contact form.

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