Several of my SEO clients recently have mentioned they receive emails from companies in sometimes foreign countries that “guarantee” 1000 inbound links to my client’s site for a very low, flat fee. The email goes something like this:
“Hi, I recently visited your website. I added a link to your site from mine. A link to my site from yours would be highly beneficial.”
The unfortunate thing is that these companies are not new, and this kind of thing has been going on since the start of search engine optimization.
Some of these companies use link farming techniques to build links. A link farm is a group of websites that all link to each other within that group to generate more inbound links and try to achieve higher PageRank. Most of the spammy link farms are created by automated programs, but some are even created by hand. Link farming is a form of spamming the index of search engines which can be known as spamexing.
Link farms were created by SEO’ers to, once again, take advantage of search engines dependence on link popularity. People found that pages with few inbound links would constantly fall out of the index and would not be ranked, so the more inbound links you had the higher you could rank in the search engines. Therefore, link farms were built to manipulate the search engines and stabilize listings mainly for online companies that found it difficult to obtain inbound links from larger, more trustworthy and stable sites in the index.
The truth is, building quality links takes time. The point is to get links from high quality, trustworthy sites with high PageRank and that are relevant; relevant being the key term. Finding relevant websites requires hours of searching on your key terms, reading blogs, and emailing website owners requesting links, some of which you’ll get and some you won’t.
Some of you may think that as an agency, it’s my job to persuade people not to get sucked into the link farm and guaranteed inbound link companies and to throw down a lot of cash for agency time. And you would be correct. It’s my job as a white hat SEO agency to educate my clients on the difference between good SEO strategies and bad SEO strategies. (Bad SEO strategies equaling short term SEO effects, and good equaling long term SEO effects.) And what most agencies offer that link farm companies don’t is transparency. When we generate inbound links for our clients, we create an on-going list and share that with our clients. Most link farming companies would not show you the inbound links they generate because they’re not relevant to your business, they’re not trustworthy sites, nor are they of any quality.
If you find that at one point you were sucked into a link farm company, there are ways to detect which inbound links are relevant and which aren’t. Joe has written a great post on using tools to determine if your inbound links are fully optimized so you can get the most link juice possible.
The fact of the matter is you may get a lot of links from these link farms, but once Google and other search engines notice that all or a majority of your inbound links are irrelevant, it’s possible you can get penalized. And once you’re penalized by Google it’s hard to gain their trust again.
A post on Search Engine Guide has a great list of warning signs you may find with these link farm companies that you should watch out for. I keep these two very old sayings in the back of my mind when it comes to SEO and link building: 1. You get what you pay for. 2. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
In closing, just remember that with SEO, you want a long term strategy that will yield long term results. If you take the band-aid approach to fix something, you’re going to get a quick fix but it more than likely won’t last, and could hurt you in the end.