Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SEO For Dummies: Link Farms

So what are "link farms?" Do they need a government subsidy, a protective tariff, or perhaps price supports to bring them up to "parity?"

We recently stuck a toe into Search Engine Optimization, or "SEO," in a quixotic quest to qualify the blog for more attention from Google. Since "links" from other sites are known to be a key part of Google's searching/ranking algorithms, it would seem the more you have the better off you are. This kind of thinking has led to many sites that exist entirely for the purpose of sharing links among largely unrelated sites. Such sites are known as "link farms."

Recently, Google apparently changed some elements of its ranking system, which may have implications for a link farm near you. The details of Google's system are a closely guarded secret, of course. Still, where there is money to be made there will always be enquiring minds figuring out how something works. If you think you might have "bought the link farm" with Google, check out The Web We Weave, Linking for Google: April 2005 (H/T Pamela at Online Business Journal:
"If you or someone you know has been engaged in a link-building plan that relies on link trading between multiple sites that don't actually relate to or do business with each other, you might want to take a few hours to examine your link-building strategies.

About four weeks ago, an article appeared in Wired Magazine telling the world how simple it was to game Google by bulking up on links. The article became a focal point for discussion in many circles and might be inadvertently responsible for a notable rise in the number of link-trading email spam offers. It may have also alerted Google that it was high time to implement a number of new link-evaluation filters designed to separate the good from the bad. This idea has been the subject of a few recent articles and is backed up by several sections of the 63-point patent document.

To recap the central theme of the patent document, Google compiles document profiles based on the historic data of several elements relating to every URL in its index. The historic data included in that profile plays a determining factor in various scores, or points Google assigns documents when generating keyword driven search results. It is therefore easy to extrapolate the concept that the recent update is based on historic data in regards to links."
We doubt if they are going to be deliberately devaluing blog alliances like Homespun, as that kind of thing is legit. Of course, devaluation of blog alliance/blogroll links could be occurring as a side effect. Few people really know what's going on, and those that know are not about to talk. However, if you are cross-linking with a site that's nothing but links, the value that site contributes to your "page rank" may be heading south. Could it drop below zero, and actually hurt your rank? Maybe.

Does this kind of thing even matter for those of us trying to attract a few readers here in the blogosphere? Our opinion is that it does matter, in that it will bring people to your site who are looking for something you wrote about. They may like what you have written. While there, they may read more. You have to write good, useful, fun, interesting stuff to get any visitors to return. One thing is certain, though: if they never hit your blog the first time, they'll never return.

There is more in the linked article, but no definitive answers, of course.

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