We're continuing our topic of Black Hat SEO techniques that will cause your website to be banned or seriously penalized by search engines. Today's topic is about "Link Farms" and bad link building.
Link building is the process of posting a link to your website on another website. This can be as simple as putting a link in your next Twitter status update, or posting a link to your Facebook wall. On Google+ you can build a link to your website with a Public post. Building links slowly in this way is considered to be the correct, organic way.
Any time you pay someone to put a link on their website pointing back to yours it is considered paid link building. All the search engines hate the paid practice of link building and consider the process within the SEO boundaries of Black Hat.
However, Google has at least said that they will forgive paid link building as long as the "nofollow" attribute is added to the link. (As a reminder the nofollow attribute tells the search engines that the link should not be paid attention to, and no value should be assigned.)
Link building is a pretty lucrative business. A quick Google search for "link building service" will deliver 30,200,000 results. Some of these paid link building services will find random open forums to post short, usually off-topic messages that include the website link. Other services will have your link included on long pages of existing links, otherwise known as Link Farms.
A Link Farm is easy to identify when you come across them. They usually consist of many web pages of business names, business descriptions and links to each business website. On the surface, this sounds like a simple business directory except that the intent is to sell listings without the nofollow attribute.
All hyperlinks are considered website votes. Just like any election, the web page with the most number of votes is the winner, although Google calls it PageRank. PageRank is measured from 0 to 10. A PageRank of 1 means you have a few web pages linking to you. A PageRank of 2 would mean you have a few hundred website linking to you. As the PageRank number grows, the number of needed links grows exponentially.
Google does want not anyone to cheat the organic link building process and they have many ways to deal with people who break the rules.
First, they will severely lower the SERP ranking, or completely ban a website if it is found to have specific pages that sold links from their website to other websites. Most people who pay for links will not want you to use the nofollow attribute, because the link will not count as a vote. If Google finds a page of many links without nofollow there is a potential for them to investigate. Worse yet, someone could (and will) randomly report the site to the Google black hat police. If Google believes it to be a paid, "dofollow" link farm it will be banned from the SERP.
Okay so what does link farming have to do with your jewelry website? Let's go over the 2 potential problems.
First Problem: Don't let your own website accidentally look like a link farm. We recommend having a community involvement page on your site, and perhaps a page to show who your local neighbors are (perhaps your friends in town). Your community or other local stores page should not include more than 50 links to other sites. Any more than that and you should use the nofollow attribute.
Second Problem: This one is actually new since 2010. Previously Google said that your website ranking could not be harmed by link farms, but now they do. As an example, if you wanted to hurt BlueNile you could pay someone to build links to bluenile.com from thousands of adult websites and link farms.
Originally it was thought to be unfair if your ranking could be hurt by someone else linking to you from a farm or other website with a bad reputation, but there was a quiet change at Google and then an announcement through one of their videos. It is our assumption that Google decided it was time to penalize the people paying for the links and not just the link farms themselves. So every time your link is found on a banned link farm, there is a chance that will work against your ranking.
This should give you reason to worry. When you pay someone for link building there is no telling where they will get those links. They could build them on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Digg, blogs, open forums and link farms. Remember that all paid link building is against the rules, but allowing your website to be listed on a link farm is surely a way to attract Google's Webspam Team. (i.e. the Google Police).