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When is a Directory a Link-Farm?

What is the difference between a link farm and a directory?



12:48 am on Jul 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

This is on odd, open sort of question, but one I have been pondering for some time.

Why is it that large directories such as the Open Directory Project get away with being, in essence, link-farms, but still enjoy the benefits of a high page rank and no bans? After all, if the rule of thumb in search engine optimisation IS no more than 1: No more than 100 outgoing links and 2: Original Content?

The same could be said for Webring as well - very little original content and mainly links to other sites. Why is it that Google turns a blind eye to such portals?

Or is there a difference between a proper directory and a link farm?



4:23 pm on Jul 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I always thought the point of a link farm was quid pro quo. Anyone can add their link to it--it doesn't matter what the topic of the link is or what its content is or anything--as long as they link back. And that it's the linking back that gets you into trouble with Google, not the listing per se.

A real directory tends to be thematically organized--like, all the websites listed in the Napoleon Bonaparte category of ODP, Yahoo, and other directories are about Napoleon Bonaparte, and none are about Viagra or online gambling or dog grooming. So search engines consider them informationally useful, and if the search engine has a thematic component itself, being listed there may help you, whereas being listed on a random link farm surely will not.

mister charlie

12:09 am on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

from a recent interview:

Q: Are web directories just acceptable Link Farms?

A: That would really depend upon the type of directory you are referring to.

A link farm is no more than a collection of links, typically uncategorized, and displayed in a haphazard way. Link farms are designed for the sole purpose of manipulating search results, with no benefit for a user, and little, if any benefit to the site owner.

A web directory, while also a collection of links, is categorized, and all listings undergo editorial review. The directory should be built in a manner that is intuitive and provides users with relevant resources. A directory is built for the user, not for the search engines.

So a quality directory would have no resemblance to a link farm, while a directory built solely as a means for webmasters to pay their way to higher search listings would have a lot in common with a link farm.


2:33 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

A lot of what you see on the net is counterfeit. There are genuine mail-order stores -- and there are also counterfeits, such as sites which are copies of the SMC catalog with an alias.

There are real travel guides by genuine experts in the areas affected -- and there are hotelnow-affiliate "portals" which are written by people giving no special knowledge: in other words, counterfeits.

There are real consumer guides and review sites, and there are AdSense banner farms stuffed with marketroid-speak promotions of the advertised products -- imaginary or secondhand "information" given for an ulteror motive: counterfeits.

A link farm is a counterfeit also, but a directory is what it is a counterfeit OF.

Obviously, all counterfeits try to appear as much as possible like the real thing, but their purpose is wholly different and maliciously deceptive. A link farm, for instance, is an attempt to deceive Google and subvert its concept of "trustrank" that was designed to promote sites included in legitimate directories and link pages.


2:41 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I think if you are organizing links by category, it is not a link farm. At the same time, some directories are certainly higher quality than others.


4:09 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I'd say the difference between a link farm and a directory is that a link farm is "free for all" (or "pay for all") -- that is, it accepts any suggestions (or any suggestions that pay), or perhaps, any suggestions whose descriptions suggest they might fit within some simplistic criterion, like "family-friendly" or "travel-related". The link farm certainly might have categories that suggestions could be made to.

But in a genuine directory will have been an independent review: the result of that review would be categorization and and a description that is independently "edited." (I mean by that, the suggestor doesn't control the description, although if his own words were "good enough" they might be used--the final result would be editorial discretion, not webmaster control.)


5:09 pm on Jul 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

No more than 100 outgoing links

Davronin, I think you might be confusing this with Google's webmaster guideline recommendation [google.com] to have no more than about 100 links on a page.

There is no guideline that limit's the number of outgoing links a site can have, though some "SEOs" might think differently.


12:37 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>Google's webmaster guideline recommendation to have no more than about 100 links on a page...

That does highlight the really really important difference between a directory and a link farm. A directory is highly optimized for human surfers, and the page design is based on what would be easiest for them. For instance, I don't remember any editor discussions on SEO'ing the ODP, except for occasional reminders to new editors that we don't do it. But a link farm is done with both eyes fixed firmly on SEO.

It makes for strange conversations: a directory editor and a link farmer look at the same page, but they do not focus on the same things: there is nothing on that page that they both see. A directory editor sees internal links and thinks, "can a surfer get to all the related places in a single click?" A link farmer thinks, "am I passing the maximum amount of link popularity without risking an overoptimization penalty? am I pushing popularity to the profitable page?"

A directory editor thinks, "have I included links to all the real information available?" A link farmer asks, "is that all the affiliate programs in this industry?"

A directory editor knows anybody can tell the difference between a link farm and a directory, by looking at what kind of links they focus on. A link farmer fears some spider, somewhere, CAN tell the difference by keying off of link codes -- and so focuses on the mechanism of external links: using cloaking, redirect indirection, or other obscuration techniques developed by phishers and other criminal netizens.


9:08 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I used to have the opinion that nearly every 2nd tier directory (1st tier: yahoo and about 15 others) was, in essence a link farm and might come to viewed as such. However, I recently submitted a site to several directories that was only a bare bones skeleton. And it was rejected by about 40% of the directories I submitted to. Did I get irritated? No. It made me feel good about directories. Someone was ACTUALLY looking at the site and not just saying "he paid, he's in". To me, that helps to validate directories...Whether users use directories or not is a different question.


10:54 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

As someone that has had sites banned from Google and all of the other major engines at the time, I would say that directories in general are not "link farms".

The link farms that got me banned required you to upload a set of files to your site containing 1000's of links to all of the other members of the group and to have a link to those files.

After trying to figure out why my main site was banned for 6 months, the whole concept of link farms hit me like a ton of bricks. I cleaned up my site, GoogleGuy checked it out right here on this forum and a couple of weeks I was back in action.

That site had and still does have a directory of related sites.


11:32 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Any directory that demands a reciprocal link is a link farm, no doubt about that!

Any directory that charges for listings, and has no discernable editorial standards (or, worse, automatic instant listing), probably qualifies too.

Any directory that offers more than one entry for extra cash is probably a link farm.

Any directory that asks you submit your "links" rather than your "site" is a tad suspicious, too ;)

A quality directory, with an editorial policy maintained by human beings, is not, by any definition, a link farm.

[edited by: Quadrille at 11:54 pm (utc) on Aug. 3, 2006]


11:49 pm on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I can't agree with that 100%.

In the past BG (before Google) many sites received the majority of their traffic from links and the web they created. The whole web, spider thing as part of the WWW is what made the Internet work.

We had been exchanging links for many years before they became apart of any SE's algo. I'm not going to delete the partnership links I have made in the last 8 years just because someone (not a SE rep) states that I have a link farm.

Instead, I have a directory of related sites where it is much easier to find what you may be looking for in the same industry as me. In the real old days we had a single page of links and if you were trying to find a wood widget maker in that mess of exchanges, it could take a half hour or more. Now it's a couple of clicks away.

Do I check out the sites I link to, YES.
Do I refuse exchanges from sites that don't fit the area, of course I do.

I know for a fact that many sales have been made on the sites I link to because of this and I have made my share as well.

That directory existed back when GoogleGuy went though the site with a fine tooth comb and it exists today.


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