The Link Farm: How Does Google Define a Link Farm?

May 7, 2008 • 7:55 am | comments (7) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

A Google Groups thread has a long discussion on how Google defines what a link farm is or is not. I have decided to isolate a Googler's comment, because who can best define what Google feels a link farm is, better then a Google employee?

JohnMu, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, posted twice in the thread. The second time he offered additional advice on how he would define a link farm. He said:

A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself "would I be doing this (linking there) if search engines didn't exist?"

Another way of looking at it is to think about where and how you will be linking: Do you feel fine with linking to that site with a highlighted link in your main content or would you rather have the link in 5pt gray on white in the footer? Do you want your visitors to see and use it or is it just for the search engines?

John also links to the Google link schemes page which has the official line on bad linking. Now, of course there is gray area and that is where John's post above comes into play. Even with that, people still may be confused. Well, if it feels wrong - then it might be.

John admits, even him being a Googler, it is still "hard for [him] to provide a definition of what Google sees as that."

If you need more clarification or have specific questions, you can join the Google Groups thread and hopefully be aided in the right direction.

Forum discussion at Google Groups.

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David Strader

05/07/2008 03:50 pm

I just love his response! "would I be doing this (linking there) if search engines didn't exist?" - Being in the SEO industry this quote images my outlook on links as well. It's good to hear someone from Google say it! Thanks for the post!

Chris Whatley

05/07/2008 04:01 pm

This is great information for everyone really, but is it not what you should have already known??


05/07/2008 07:19 pm

Great Post, Thanks for the information.

Michael Martinez

05/08/2008 03:33 am

Since there would be no search engine optimization if search engines didn't exist, Googlers need to be careful about when and where to throw in that question. In this particular discussion I think JohnMu made a good point. The linking schemes people develop for manipulating search indexes are distinct from the linking schemes they develop for non-search purposes (and it may surprise SEOs to know that such non-search linking has been a well-established practice since the Web began). The real question was answered by the citation from Wikipedia (which is based on an edit I made to the "link farm" entry a couple of years ago). Nonetheless, it's telling that people immediatedly introduced their own ideas about what constituted link farms. Any lexicographer would be quick to tell you that words take on new meaning through daily use, and it may be time to recognize that the classic "link farm" definition is not necessarily the only one.

tired and bored

05/08/2008 11:29 pm

once again a nice all encompassing comment, designed to give no answers other than to say that a link farm should describe any technique that you wouldn't be happy showing Google, and thus implying that a link farm is anything they woudn't approve of, and stepping around the issue of objectifying anything so it can continue to act arbitrarily. I dont diasgree with them per se, but it doesnt really help anyone, other than to starve a community of people of facts, and spread FUD (fear incertainty and doubt) amongst them in the hope of paralyzing it from doing anything that might otheriwse reduce or influence its control on orderng the web. What they should be saying but probably cant, is, please stop deliberate link building as an individual activity, as it gets in our way, and manipulates the order of things that we are trying to create, beyond our ability to reaosnably control it. We know you want to be top, but lets face it, our ambitions are diametrcially opposed. Sorry! So please focus on being nice to people, climbing the marketladder, investing in your business,buying offline mindshare, and cultivating community, creating greate stuff, and that should theoretically and eventually result in links if the rest of the world can be bothered enough. And if that happens, which it could, although we wont guarantee it, then you may end up ranking higher, possibly at some point when and if that happens. That is assuming the area you are trying to rank higher in, isn't already saturated with people who have ignored us on this, and aggressively developed their own links through various means, because there isnt much we can actually do about it if they do. And we understand that the temptation is there to follow suit. But please please please, try to resist the temptation of the commercial gain, management love and priase, respect of your co-workers and bosses, job offers and promotions, financial security and prestige that being page 1 will bring, and try to do it a longer, harder more expensive and vastly more uncertain and unreliable way that we may approve of far more, even though we probably wont be able to tell the difference if you or anyone else does it the other way. Although one day we might. Oh yes. and then all those others will be sorry. Just you wait and see. Oh I'm sorry...I didn't know you had a taregt to meet, and a job to keep, and kids to feed, and a wife to support and a mortgage, and car payments, and a need for respect at work. Have you thoguht about adwords?

David Strader

05/09/2008 11:31 pm

Quote: "This is great information for everyone really, but is it not what you should have already known??" -Chris Whatley Yes! This is defiantly information that SEO's should know and practice but so many tend to either 'not know' or 'know' and 'not care'. Its good hear Google give a direct definition so some will understand the importance of this very basic but vital information.


03/27/2011 06:28 pm

Good content, but I'm still searching for the best sources to build links from. Is it blogs, such as this one? Is it forum posts? I'm still trying to figure it out, what do you think?

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