Link farming has taken away great value from back links, which used to influence search rankings significantly. As search engines become more and more vigilant against search optimization practices that compromise their results, it is important that webmasters and marketers like yourself be careful in the types of strategies you use in order to improve your search rankings. Ever since link farms, along with websites associated with them were penalized (as a result of search algorithm updates), you can rarely see them operating openly across the web. However, a website link directory can very easily be disguised as a shady link farm, which is why it is important that you examine the directories that you submit your links or your website to. While there are still many high-quality and very discriminating directories (in terms of the sites they include) out there, there still a lot of low-quality directories that are nothing more than camouflaged link farms, which will do nothing to improve your search performance, but will definitely pull your site down in the long run.
All link farms had/have one goal--to get as many backlinks as possible, regardless whether a website is relevant to another or not. Before the Penguin and Panda days, website popularity was based largely on the number of links that point to its pages, which is why link farms flourished, even when the links and the websites included in them had little relational subject, some did not even have any related topics at all. All these 'directories' had were a page on a given website containing an extended list of anchor text or hyperlinked keywords that point to different sites in the farm. This helped a lot in pulling website ranks up, until search engines decided that these links had little to no value. Today, association with link farms or similar types of link-building activities will only get your website penalized, erasing all your hard work and causing your ranks to drop even lower than where you started in the race. With so many link farms disguised as website link directory sites, it is important that you examine directories that you submit your website to. Here are some sure signs that you should look out for to sift link farms out of legitimate, high quality directories like Free Relevant Links and DMoz, which make it impossible for low-quality sites to enter:
- Link farms almost always require reciprocal linking. If a directory demands for your site to link to theirs before they do you, think twice before submitting. There are still a lot of arguments around the bearing and value of reciprocal links and what they do to help sites increase rankings. In addition to this, you don't want to be associated with a directory that offers nothing but a you-link-to-me-I'll link to you type of linking relationship. They will do little to improve your rankings, worse, they can easily be tagged as a link farm by search engines.
- Link farms offer links with diluted value. Because all these directories are is a list of sites with little or no description at all about the sites being linked to, their links offer very little value. Look for quality link directories that have stringent standards when it comes to accepting websites, such as Free Relevant Links.
- Link farms will also send you unsolicited link requests, often for a reciprocal link (see number 1). Be vigilant when you receive these kinds of link partnership requests and don't take the bait so easily. Do your homework and look for signs of a link farm.
- Link farms are almost always identical. Examine their directory site and look for tell-tale features and sign posts like a "Links" or "Link Partners" page. Flag them, and head for the doors. You can find a more legitimate website link directory.
- Link farms are often free-for-all directories. Without discrimination for low-quality sites, link farms are littered with all kinds of irrelevant links and websites. Association with these websites will do nothing but get you penalized by search engines. Go for high-quality directories that impose a strict review period for the websites that they accept.