tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

Link farms taking over from pre-existing sites

One of the clients I do linking work for has a links page which means they can exchange links with other websites.

Recently they've been dropping down the rankings in a couple of search engines for no reason I could find. Their general linking was going well, their new website was all good semantic HTML, built by Nathan, and they definitely weren't using any spammy techniques.

I think I found the problem when I ran through the websites they linked to: one of them had been taken over by a link affiliate network. This is a website that is full of links to other websites, all with affiliate codes in so if people follow them, the site owner gets paid for the traffic coming through, or a cut of any purchases made, depending on the network. The links on this particular site mainly seemed to be pointing through the Overture PPC system, so it may well have been someone trying to fool people in to clicking on links they did not realise were adverts.

The Google Page Rank of the site had been reduced to zero, which was a bad sign as it had previously been four. This is a sign that Google may have banned a site, which means if you link to it, you get a negative effect on your own rankings. So hopefully, removing the link to it means my client will get their own high position back.

The site they had linked to was legitimate, at the time. What's presumably happened was the domain came up for renewal and the original company didn't renew because they closed, or forgot to renew in time and the new owner swooped in and scooped it up. If you run this sort of link farm, getting a domain which has plenty of links to it is perfect, you don't have to do any of the linking work yourself, as long as no-one notices that the site has changed.

If no-one notices the site has changed, the link farm can do well - they'll get traffic through the links, and potentially a good ranking in the search engines for a few terms, at least for a while. However, if they trip an automated filter, or someone reports them via an abuse form, then they plummet in the rankings, and everyone who linked to the original site gets dragged down with them.

The lesson for me? Always insist on checking sites for my clients, even if I'm not dealing with their link exchange work. As links they set up can negatively affect my work, I have to make sure I can at least keep track of it.
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