Be Very Cautious When Giving a Link Back From Your Site or You Might be Banned From the Index
Many years ago search engines were not as savvy as they are today. They gave higher rankings to those sites that had a bigger number of links pointing to them. The quality of links wasn’t so important as nowadays.
So webmasters figured a way to abuse the way search engines rank websites and decided to gain incoming links at any price. They started building link farms (the term is explained later) in order to rank higher in the search engines. However, search algorithms have changed. Instead of giving priority to the number of links, SE’s started paying more attention to the quality of links pointing to one or another website. Suddenly, all the websites that used link farms, disappeared from the index, or at least lost their rankings significantly.
Today, it’s dangerous to link to link farm, because almost all search engines have very negative attitude to this kind of SEO technique. So how do you know that you’re safe? Well, you have to find out what the link farm is in the first place.
What is a Link Farm?
A link farm is a web page that consists of 50, 100 or even more unrelated links on it. The sole purpose of any link farm is to get search engine rankings. In many cases, links on a link farm page, point to poor quality websites. Link farms in many cases have a Google pagerank of 0, because Google along with the other search engines does not tolerate such link pages.
Why You Shouldn’t Link to a Link Farm?
Look at it from the search engines’ point of view. Link farms are considered to be unethical and search engines don’t like them. If you link to the link farm, that means you endorse that website to your visitors. You vote for that website that search engines have already flagged as risky and see as a low quality. So your website will definitely gonna be disvalued, to say the least.
No one is forcing you to link to a link farm page. You do it at your own will, so you are responsible who you link to. So if you link to such website, you might lose rankings and even be banned from the index.
But that’s not all.
Not only it is dangerous to link to link farm itself. It’s risky to link to a website that links to a link farm. For example, you have a site A, you link to a site B and site B links to site C that is a link farm.
(You) A => B => C (link farm)
So your website will be affected too.
(You) A (infected) => B (infected) => C (link farm)
Now why, you might ask, search engines should ruin your rankings. It’s not your fault if some other site links to a link farm. Or is it?
Again, look at it from the SE’s point of view. They see the website B (in the example above) as a shady. That’s a red flag for them. Now if you link to a shady website, then you are in the same neighborhood. Search engines think that you are not careful, if you link to such website. So even if you don’t link to a link farm directly, you are still in danger, because you never know who your link partner might link to.
How to Avoid Link Farms and Penalization?
First of all, link only to websites that are related to yours. That’s the rule of thumb. If your site offers search engine marketing services, then linking to websites that offer search engine optimization, search engine ranking or search engine submission services will not harm you at all.
However, you can link not only to websites that are “keyword related”. Just because your site targets “search engine” keyphrase, it doesn’t mean you should only link to sites that also are targeting this keyword.
Here’s another example:
Let’s say you have a site that sells golf sticks. So linking to a golf balls selling site, or a golf club website, or even a site that offers maintenance of a grass for golf field, is nothing wrong. As long as your visitors benefit from related resources, you’re in a good position.
Are Link Directories also Link Farms?
Many websites, that are doing link exchanges, have so called “links pages”, “resource directories” or “link directories”. These are usually well structured links pages that provide related resources to the visitors. If your site is about diet pills, you might have a directory that has links to supplements, weight loss plans, eating disorder pages.
But there are also other types of directories, which offer too broad categories. If you have a site about jewelry, it doesn’t make a lot of sense having a directory with such categories, like “dog food”, “business” and etc.
There are lots of websites that try to offer everything to everybody. Some business consulting firms have directories that consist of such categories, like “health”, “sports”, “music”, etc. Why would a visitor looking for business consultations be interested in music? So don’t try to be too broad. If it won’t trigger the search engines, your visitors will definitely not gonna be satisfied with such resources.
While link exchanges are still a good way to increase rankings and offer some value to your visitors, you have to be careful. If you accidentally link to link farm, you might be banned from the search engines for a while.
Pay close attention to the sites you are linking to. Even further, look who they are giving a link to. Research carefully, before doing a link exchange with one or another site. Don’t link to sites that have more than 50 links on one page, don’t link to unrelated sites, look at the pagerank of the site that is proposing a link exchange.
It is easy to link to a link farm, but it’s gonna be hard trying to rebuild the reputation in the eyes of search engines later.