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There are many easily-identifiable factors that can be used to recognize D-tier link farms. However, they can be easy to miss if you're unaware of them. Here are a number of these tricks that will let you easily identify most link farms.

A link farm refers to a website that serves no real purpose except to link to other sites. While the exact usage can vary based on who you ask, the term is most commonly used to refer to sites that post news or article-type content, set up to look like fairly generic blogs or news websites. The content quality is generally low and the sites generally have extremely few or literally zero human readers. Often, many of such websites will be run by a single person who profits off of them by selling D-tier "guest posts" (more accurately referred to as PBN links) for anywhere from $5 to $500 per link (generally somewhere in the $10 to $50 range).

While links on "link farms" are often able to improve a site's authority, they are generally on the lower end of the quality scale and are generally considered to be either black or sort-of-greyish hat.

Examine the Site's Content, Style, and Brand

Exact-Match or Partial-Match Domains (Rather than Brands)

As discussed previously, exact match domains are one of the worst possible decisions that you can make when setting up a website, except possibly if you're doing some troll shit with Bing. If a site is called something along the lines of businesswebsite.com, seoarticles.net, newszone.com, viralbloggers.com, or so on, there's a good chance it's a (garbage-tier) link farm. Often times these sites aren't even built on expired domains (scroll down for more on those), which is some amateur bullshit for a link farm.

Extremely Frequent Posts

Most websites are relatively small. If you've literally never heard of a website, yet they're pushing out an average of three, four, or even 5+ articles per day (particularly if they're relatively generic), there's a good chance that they're a link farm. 

Extreme Variance in Content Topic

Most websites have at least some semblance of a theme, even if only generally about "politics," "health," or "whatever." Link farms often accept articles on virtually every topic imaginable. If a site's homepage has the article "Top 10 Reasons You are Breaking out in Acne During Pregnancy" directly next to "Top VPS Hosting Plan Reviews," there's a good chance that the site is a link farm.

Spammy Article Examples

When real/"real" sites cover content on an extremely wide breadth of topics, they will generally at least make a reasonable effort to segment the site into different categories.

Sites that Look Like Shit

Or to be more specific, sites that look extremely generic, where the webmaster couldn't possibly have spent more than a few hours throwing the site together. While there are minimalistic sites that are actually real, such as SEO by the Sea, a generic site is an easy flag to use at first glance.

In addition to the obvious implications, if a site claims that it is run by John Johnson from Chicago, IL, but the site's content contains common speech patterns or words associated with writers from India, this can suggest that the site is being run under a thin alias as part of a link farm. 

    The most primitive implementation of the PageRank algorithm splits the authority passed from backlinks evenly between all links on a page. While this algorithm has been refined substantially since its inception, it is still very common for low-effort sites to publish articles that contain a single link to a target page in the attempt to gain more authority to the target page.

    Of course, some SEO consultants go a step further and try to "conceal" their link building efforts in the most transparent method possible. Specifically, by adding (often exactly two) other links into the article to the most generic "authority" sources possible. 

    Have you heard of a Dentist? It's time to learn five tricks about how to steal from your dentist.

    - A Bad Article

    No real article starts by clarifying what a dentist is.

    SEO-Oriented Anchor Text

    The term "anchor text" refers to content wrapped within the <a> tag of a link. For example, in the code snippet below, the anchor would be "click here."

    <p>It's time to <a href="https://www.example.com">click here</a>.</p>

    Historically, anchor text has historically has been a massive factor used by search engines to infer the meaning of pages. While the effect has been greatly diminished since the Bush administration, it continues to have a substantially-milder but non-trivial impact on search engines. If you would like to learn more about anchor text, you can also read this article by my home boy Joshua Hardwick, who I have literally never talked to before, but whatever.

    Anyway, regardless of the substantially-diminished role of anchor text, exact match and other keyword-rich anchor text is often used heavily by D-tier SEO consultants. Since many of the articles on link farms will be written by D-tier SEO consultants, these sites very often contain this type of anchor text. Examples include, but are not limited to:

    • Best Profession in City, State (unless the site clearly has relevance to some specific location that is referenced consistently)
    • Buy [Product]
    • How to Choose a VPN Provider

    In particular, while there might be real reasons to use this type of anchor text, when combined with terrible content, and especially when the anchor text flows unnaturally with the rest of the content, this can be a clear sign of a link farm.

    Spammy Anchor Text Example

    The example above shows an instance of spammy anchor text.

    Generic and/or Vague Guidelines for Guest Posts

    Many sites that are open to content contributions will include a page listing any general guidelines (which you can find relatively easily with this video guide). A site that is fishing for as many guest post submissions as possible (often only mentioning that there is a charge by email) might have vague guidelines like the following:

    For any guest posting submissions, please read our requirements:

    • Well-written and high-quality original article
    • Length should be more than 700 words 
    • Add one or more images to the article
    • Your article must be original and not published elsewhere

    When sites that are looking for "real"/real guest contributions list guidelines, they'll generally be more specific and/or restrictive.

    Analysis of websites will generally, or at least often, be done as part of a large batch of URLs. In these types of scenarios, there are a number of techniques that can be used to identify which sites in a list may be part of the same network or run by the same individual, which can frequently be used to identify low-quality link farms.

    Classic Types of Expired Domains

    As discussed in the extended guide on link buliding methods (as well as in this post about expired web 2.0s), it is common for link farms to be built on expired domains for the purpose of getting the free backlinks that were pointed at the domain when it was run by the previous owner (which still exist upon reregistration). While there are some solid sites built on expired domains, there are also many complete trash websites built on expired domains. It is helpful to be able to identify whether a site is built on an expired domain to understand the site's context.

    In addition to the use of archive.org (discussed below), expired domains can often be recognized at a glance by looking at a site's domain name and general branding. Examples of common types of expired domains include:

    • Campaign websitses for obscure politicians (someguyforwashingtonsupremecourt.com, smithformayor2006.org, etcetera)
    • Domains with brand names that are irrelevant to the current content (such as a domain called "booksbykaren.com" being used for a general blog site)
    • Websites with domains that sound like they were at one point used by teachers or professors (harrisonenglish.com, wallace-ucla.com)
    • Domain names that seem to be associated with one-time events (thekelloggschallenge.com, funinthesun2017.travel, anything with a year in it)

    These type of domain names are particularly telling when they feel off related to the site's current content, particularly if the current site looks like a fairly generic WordPress installation.

    Archive.org History

    By using archive.org, it is possible to examine a site's history over time. As discussed in a previous article, archive.org takes snapshots of sites at various points in time. If a site's older snapshots show an entirely different site, this is generally an indication that a new registrar picked up an expired domain. Another indication of expired domain use is for a site's frequency of snapshots to die down for a few months or years before resuming. Even if the site looks very similar or even identical to the older snapshots, this can be a sign of an expired domain; when PBNs are built on expired domains, the new site owner will often use content from archive.org to rebuild the site easily (which is technically copyright infringement, at least in general).

    Multiple Sites on the Same IP Address (Or Subnet)

    When evaluating stes of potential guest post sites, bulk checking the sites' IP addresses is a useful way to identify whether some sites are under the same ownership. Even when on slightly different IP addresses, sites on the same subnet (such as 69.145.45.200 and 69.145.45.211) have a good chance of being connected or owned by the same operator.

    Identifying Other Hosting Similarities Between Sites

    Similarly to sites being on the same IP address, other footprints that can be used to identify a network include similarities in domain registrar, server location, WHOIS information (including potentially use of domain privacy), and so on.

    Finally, you can run the site through a backlink checker or similar. The general process to analysing sites is discussed in more depth in this video guide on competitor analysis.

    In Conclusion

    Being able to identify whether (and the extent to which) a sites are link farms is useful for evaluating websites. You should probably do that where applicable.

    Users Who Have Downloaded More RAM:
    Hash Brown (2 weeks ago)
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    Posted by August R. Garcia 2 weeks ago

    Edit History

    • [2019-05-30 21:53 PDT] August R. Garcia (2 weeks ago)
    • [2019-05-30 21:53 PDT] August R. Garcia (2 weeks ago)
    • [2019-05-30 21:53 PDT] August R. Garcia (2 weeks ago)
    🕓 Posted at 30 May, 2019 21:53 PM PDT

    Profile Photo - August R. Garcia August R. Garcia LARPing as a Sysadmi... Portland, OR
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    Grahew Mattham

    August Garcia is some guy who used to sell Viagra on the Internet. He made this website to LARP as a sysadmin while posting about garbage like user-agent spoofing, spintax, the only good keyboard, virtual assitants from Pakistan, links with the rel="nofollow" attributeproxiessin, the developer console, literally every link building method, and other junk.

    Available at arg@256kilobytes.com, via Twitter, or arg.256kilobytes.com. Open to business inquiries based on availability.


    Account created 6 months ago.
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    Also, if you're ever bored and looking for new niches to compete in crawling these shitty sites and pulling the anchor text is a great source of ideas.

    Download more RAM. 🐏 ⨉ 0 Posted by Hash Brown 2 weeks ago 🕓 Posted at 31 May, 2019 04:28 AM PDT

    "THAT DOG IS GETTING RAPED" - Terry A. Davis

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