I received an amusing email via one of my site’s yesterday whilst feeling slightly feverish on the sofa (it’s December, it must be time for a cold!) The (poorly formatted) email was from a chap offering to “hand deliver… quality links and rankings” to me.
How would one do such a thing, I pondered? He went on to offer a 30 day free trial and guaranteed first page rankings for a particular relevant phrase within 90 days. The free trial bit was what got me twitching – a free trial suggests that the service being provided can be turned off/undone. If we’re talking about links from “high PR [PageRank] quality sites” (as he was), how could these be simply switched off?
The answer is obvious, of course. You own all the sites providing the links. Yep, we’re talking about a link farm – a network of websites created purely and simply to link to others, not to provide useful content to humans. So I went investigating, as this chap handily linked to some of his clients on his website.
What I found was a long list of WordPress-based blogs linking to this client’s site. I have to say, it was well done – every (keyword-rich) link was part of a decent-length blog post about a relevant topic and from my brief surfing, each post on a different blog was unique content. Quite time-consuming to create. What was a big giveaway was the incredibly broad and random spectrum of blog posts on each site, from NLP to office chairs to funeral homes. Not the sort of breadth that an individual’s own blog/site usually covers!
Whether this chap is directly responsible or simply reselling another service, I’m not sure, but as his own site has zero PageRank and a lot of the link farm’s content is about foreign businesses, it’s probably the latter. It wasn’t clear how much this “service” costs.
So why am I irritated by it? Well, firstly, it is a (usually) short-term solution with dire consquences when it falls apart. Either it becomes enormously expensive, because you pay by the month and the moment you do, all those links disappear, or worse, your site gets banned by Google because they are very much against link farms.
It is far better to build genuine links from independent websites, as they will last for a long time and don’t present any danger in terms of Google penalties. One way to find these links is to analyse those of your competitors, a service that I provide. If I found a list of spammy link farm sites in the list of a competitor’s links, I’d be straight to the spam report form on Google. You might call that fighting dirty, but if your competitors are breaking the rules while you strive to meet Google’s ever more stringent criteria, why shouldn’t you level the playing field?