Beware of Content Farms, Link Farms and Link Exchange Requests
Last week Google announced changes to its ranking algorithm taking action against so-called, content farm websites. These sites offer low-quality content - and a lot of it - in order to game the search engine rankings. Why? The most common reason is to lure you in and hope you'll click on one of the ads - ka-ching, ka-ching - money in their pockets!
While Google regularly tweaks the algorithm used to determine where web pages show up for any given search, this change is more than a tinker. Google says it "impacts about 11.8% of our queries." Still, for the majority of searchers and businesses this change should have little if any negative impact - it should, in fact filter out the garbage and improve results as reported on this HubSpot blog post.
Likewise, related to this are the shady practices of reciprocal link exchanges and link farms. Kissing cousins to content farms for sure!
According to Wikipedia, a link farm is "any group of web sites that all hyperlink to every other site in the group." The purpose is to spam the index of search engines (spamdexing) in order to dominate search results.
We know how important incoming or backlinks are to SEO authority: He who has the most, high-quality links usually wins. Getting these links is the challenge. The best way, we are often admonished, is to create really great, compelling content that others will link to. Paying for links is a no-no. But what about reciprocal link exchange requests? And could these somehow be related to link farms and content farms?
Funny you should ask. Just last week I received the following email from someone I don't know, Emma Murphy. Whether she's a bot or a person, I can't tell. But her request for a link exchange sounded awful fishy:
What's interesting about this if you look at those 3 sites, you find a bunch of low-quality content, anchor text hyperlinks and advertising. It makes you wonder if this is a content farm, link farm with reciprocal link exchange requests all rolled into one?
In any case, beware of these types of websites and link exchange requests. In fact, I coach my clients to turn down, ignore, delete any request you get for a reciprocal link exchange. It's just not worth the chance of having your, reputable site become punished along with the garbage sites.
In fact, Wikipedia, in context of the information on link farms and their relationship to link exchanges states: "The process of building links should not be confused with being listed on link farms, as the latter requires reciprocal return links, which often renders the overall backlink advantage useless."
In summary, if you're doing the work of inbound marketing: creating great content on a consistent basis, optimizing your content for targeted keywords, promoting it on social media while you're adding value to the conversation you'll be making Google happy. And a happy Google is good for your rankings!