In doing my research for Assignment 4 for your Advanced SEO course, I came across something I think is pretty spammy and crosses the line into black hat SEO.
A supposedly respectable design firm has done a number of websites and lists all their client’s website URLs on their site. They appear to try to have all their clients link back to them. That much I can understand from a business point of view although the latter is not the best practice. But – they appear to have set it up so all their clients link to all the other clients of this design firm, even though they are unrelated businesses and not relevant. The links are presented as this design firm’s clients and not the site owner’s.
So links from the design firm to clients, most clients to design firm, many clients linking to all the others. Their list is about 187 or so sites. Does this count as as link farming if the scale is fairly small? Would Google or Bing notice?
Without being able to see the sites in question, I can’t confirm (feel free to message me with a couple of URLs if you’d like me to verify), but it sounds exactly like a 3 way link scheme.
This tactic is definitely dodgy but something that web design firms and ad agencies persist in thinking is a good idea. It’s also something that Google has warned against time and time again. You can see the very scenario you describe listed in Google’s definition of link schemes in their Webmaster Guidelines as follows:
“…links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines: …Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites”
So you can bet your bottom dollar that Google will notice this and devalue those links, if they haven’t done so already. Bing has a similar stance on 3 way link schemes, so the sites won’t fare well in Bing either:
“Abusive tactics that aim to inflate the number and nature of inbound links such as links buying, participating in link schemes (link farms, link spamming and excessive link manipulation) can lead to your site being de-listed from the Bing index.”
The fact that you’ve spotted this link scheme signals that the SEO lessons are sinking in, so well done 🙂
Like to learn SEO with a view to starting your own business? Access your Free SEO Lessons. No catch!