What are link farms and why you should be wary of them

DSM Digital School of Marketing - link farms

Link farms are part of the broader category of black hat SEO techniques that are designed to ultimately trick search engines into ranking your site higher than it should have been ranked if above-board practices had been used. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look into what link farms are, how they were actually a legitimate part of SEO and digital marketing practice, as well as why you must avoid associating your site with link farming if you want to keep your site healthy and searchable.

The definition of a link farm

The term ‘link farm’ refers to a set of web pages that link to a target page on another website. The sole reason for this practice is to increase the SEO rankings of the website that is being linked to.

When Google started out, it had the lofty idea of wanting to organise the world’s information. They took this idea from the realm of loftiness into the real-world by putting a higher value on information that people – who are making specific search queries – see are relevant to them and meeting their needs.

Google ranks the most popular answer to search questions in a box at the beginning of the Search Engine Results Page (SERPs). One of the ways in which the popularity of pages was judged is how many people found the information on them so valuable that they linked from their website to the page with the content that they enjoyed.

All link building exercises are not link farming

This is not to say that all link-building exercises are to be described as ‘link farming’. You can create genuine links to your site, which people may find interesting, on platforms such as social media. Guest blogging is also a great way of creating genuine links from third-party sites to your own site. These links  are well within white hat SEO practices as the purpose of these is to add value to readers.

Why link farming is classified as a black hat SEO technique is because it creates artificial links to a particular site from web pages that have no intrinsic value. At worst, these sites are just a collection of website links. Some of them try to disguise their actual purpose with content that has been duplicated from other sites.

If you would like your website to be ranked highly on the SERPs you need to stay far away from link farming. This is because if your site is seen to be involved in this practice or associated with a site that is involved in link farming, you will be penalised heavily for this. This is because link farming is unethical behaviour. In essence, it’s stealing the traffic away from those sites who genuinely earn in.

Other Black Hat SEO tactics to avoid

Black Hat SEO tactics don’t stop at link building. There are dozens more out there that less-than-scrupulous website owners and people who would like to see themselves as SEO experts engage in to take a short cut in terms of digital marketing and SEO.

Keyword stuffing

When we talk about ‘keyword stuffing’ we’re referring to the practice of people using the keywords to their site in a way that is not natural in the slightest. The original thought behind keyword stuffing is that the more keywords that you could insert into a page or article on your website, the more likely it is that your site will be found. However, it was found that this practice had the effect of distorting the meaning of what was trying to be communicated. As website users started to avoid website which displayed keyword stuffing so search engines started to penalise the sites that engaged in this.


Another black hat SEO technique is called cloaking. This involves showing the user one piece of content but the search engine spider another. This has the result of showing the reader what they want to see – so that they won’t click away – but providing the search engine with content that they want to trawl (that’s not necessarily reader friendly). Ultimately, you need to be writing your web content for the reader as well as the search engine.

Link farming and other black hat SEO techniques are extremely hazardous to the health of your website. Thus to keep it healthy you need to avoid techniques such as these.

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