How Will The ‘Farmer’ Update Impact Your Links

All the recent commentary surrounding Google’s most recent Farmer Update has been firmly focused on what content will and won’t be in Google’s index in the coming months.

Websites are already reporting drops in traffic and in indexed pages but to be honest how many pages an article site has indexed isn’t important to me, what is important is the links on those sites.

Just about every website on the net relies on links from content networks, whether they be from article directories, news websites and press release sites, sure those links aren’t the most powerful but my bet is the anchor text within them still passes a fair bit of weight.

A Few Coincidences?

After talking to a few fellow SEO’s I have come acrossome s interesting stories:-

A) 2 Niche webistes that solely rely on links from ezine articles & go articles dive bombed out of the SERP’s for keywords they have ranked for nearly 18 months.

B) A 6 month old blog linked to from 50 different blogs in 24 hours with the same anchor text didn’t see any increase in rank. All the blogs used to link from were typical low quality content driven blogs, before Christmas this would definitely have had an impact.

What Does This Mean?

The truth is I am not 100% sure yet, my gut feeling is a lot of these low quality blogs, news release sites and article directories will pass very little link weight moving forward. It’s too early to tell for definite but all the indications are pointing firmly at a devaluation of fresh links from low quality content networks.

If you were under the impression that these links never worked, you are wrong, I have achieved super quick rankings on decent keywords in less than a month using this exact method, as recent as December 2010.

I know the update hasn’t, or doesn’t seem to have hit the UK yet but I would be interested to hear any stories of devalued links.


is the CEO of Branded3 a Search Marketing Agency in the UK. Tim has over a decade of experience in Search and regularly speaks at key events and conferences.

32 thoughts on “How Will The ‘Farmer’ Update Impact Your Links

  1. I always wonder how google makes large scale changes to algo given that everyone is doing the same thing (even the big sites). Also Im wondering that even if low value links are discounted maybe you will still be able to kill it with volume in long tails?


  2. I have been watching this update closely, my bet is that this is really going to start affecting the “mini sites”. I think Google is determined to win the war against all the low quality quick mini sites that affiliate marketers have been successfully throwing up lately. Especially the ones that use content farms as their primary backlink source. My advice to everyone is to simply focus on building niche authority sites instead of trying to throw up quick sloppy sites. Focus on writing quality niche content and Google will be at your side.

  3. It’s a good thing, I think. I got frustrated with low quality content ranking well, based on incoming links. You click on a search result, and when you reach the page, it’s a junk article with content hardly fit for page ten.
    I’m sure Google is trying their best to make people happy; trying to serve content that’ll bring people back.
    If we stick to remembering that, we can’t go too far wrong.

  4. Hi Tim, It’s may be too early to make a full assessment regarding the Farmer update, however I know one thing is I won’t be targeting content networks for anchor text links so heavily – I also think the market for paid links will increase as there will be less avenues to find sources of good quality anchor text links.

  5. It’s been a long time coming and I can understand, when you look at some of the content in article directories, why Google devalued them. Ezinearticles has already launched a massive review of their quality processes and sent out quite a lengthy email detailing changes to terms, conditions, etc.

    Even though the links from article directories have been devalued they’re still a good place to get low cost links to articles and links on second tier websites.

  6. Hi Fergus,

    I think you have a valid point, content networks and bloggers that accepted guest posts or advertorials were a genuine route to getting strong anchor text links. My hope is that genuinely unique content will continue to stick as you are providing a genuine benefit to the index, however as this farmer update applies at domain level it’s going to be difficult to know where to paste that content.

    If this avenue dries up then I am 100% sure ugly bought text links will be on the rise.

  7. Completely agree that low quality content should not be at the top of the SERP’s, the issue is as this update is applied at domain level it doesn’t matter how good the content is if the domain has already been marked, drying up a lot of content/linking opportunities.

  8. Aaron,

    I am completely with cleaning up the SERP’s, I am just wondering how this may affect link building, many people use content networks like ezine etc… to create links for genuine websites rather than heading to text link ads and buying them. Will this change encourage text link buying further?

  9. Hi Paul,

    My hope is that content should stand on it’s own merit, if the content is good enough, unique enough and ads value it shouldn’t matter what domain it is published on and any links within it should still provide a benefit to the target site.

  10. EXACTLY! Can you imagine how small Google’s index would be if they allowed good content only? Imagine if they washed out their index. It would be scary.

    The problem with my statement, of course, is that one man’s gold is another man’s dog poop. That’s the tricky part.

  11. Hi Jim,

    I agree that low quality content is useless and no one wants to see it, but as this algo is rolled out at domain level it will affect all content on a given site regardless of quality, or at least that is my thought process.

    Will be interesting to see developments in the coming months. I am glad ezine are taking this seriously, I think I would if I was pulling in 57 million unique visitors per month 🙂

  12. If all of the major article directories get their act in order and can prove they’re a source of quality we might see the devaluations lifted (well, I hop so).

    Actually, I’m not sure if it’s a rumour or this came from the horses mouth, but, apparently G will be manually lifting the restrictions on some sites i.e Cult of Mac (who were hit hard).

  13. There maybe some truth in that, I have heard it floating about.

    There is a lot of talk of general design and content layout i.e. having ads in the middle of content , by cleaning up the ads and giving authority to the content could see the ban lifted, not sure how much I buy it but it will be interesting to watch it roll out.

    Go articles still rank one of their articles for the keyword ‘backlinks’ so it can’t have hit them too hard yet 🙂 Or maybe it has something to do with the links pointing at the page 😉

  14. Hi Tim

    Another interesting post. I wonder when this panda update should hit the UK.

    I have no idea how its going to affect our own websites, and our clients. We use article marketing as “part” of our link building strategy and wonder like yourself if all those previous links are going to just be de-valued because of ezine etc taking the hit at domain level, when on the other hand all articles we wrote where unique and not just rubbish that hardly made sense.

    I definitely believe that next 6 months or less there is going to be some serious changes happening.

  15. “My hope is that content should stand on it’s own merit, if the content is good enough, unique enough and ads value it shouldn’t matter what domain it is published on and any links within it should still provide a benefit to the target site.”

    But how can a computer tell good content from bad? IE even some people can tell (this why people read daily star).


  16. Well this is the issue with a number of things Google have to deal with, quality is 100% subjective, there has been talk around using page design, layout, ads etc… to judge quality

  17. Definitely going to be interesting Rob, I imagine a lot of sites are going to take a hit if this roles out as I expect. I hope it doesn’t but I have a gut feeling that it will.

  18. It is all too subjective. If the layout of the page, the number of advertisements, placement of ads, etc…was an accurate indication of the quality of the page then pages with no ads should be automatically ranked very high.

    I have not been around IM or G as long as many people but what I have come to realize is that things change every few months. This update did not move any of my blogs or potsts up or down. If it were not for all the chatter on the internet I wouldn’t have known anything occured.

    Unless G is going to do a manual review, often and thorough, of every site in the index or trying to get into the index, links will prevail.

    If G was smart, and I’m not accusing them of that, what they should do is raise the bar a lot higher than it is to become a website that is able to display adsense. This one step would rid the net of a whole lot of trash.

    One more thing…..When everybody starts hopping on the bandwagon (think real estate, stocks, internet marketing) you can be sure that the bandwagon is about to break down.

  19. Hi Tim,

    I just recently discovered your blog, and I have to say it is really great.
    Regarding the two examples, you brought with the two niche websites and the six months old domain:

    I don’t think it means anything about the links (yet), since we don’t know what kind of content these sites have.

    So if the Farmer updates was just targeting low quality content sites, and all the three websites are under this category (which means they contain low quality content), they may be affected by the content they have, and not by their link profile.


  20. In regard to my latest post, I can give as an example to a case which contradict the two coincidences you brought.

    Here are some details:

    – I’m talking about a very simple blog, with five pages of unique and quality content.
    – This blog is on 322,000 search result competition. All the first page sites target the exact same keyword.
    – The average PR of the first ten results is 2.
    – This blog has 4 links from a blog network like “back links solutions” to the home page, the other pages didn’t get any links.
    – The domain age is one year.
    – It was on the first page before, and it is after.
    – don’t mind sharing with you the domain name and keyword on private email, so you could go and have a look.


  21. I am in the UK and the Farmer update has not launched yet and I would like to think that my website has very good content on it. However how could I almost bulletproof myself so to speak against the incoming update. I have already check for keyword stuffing and got a green light so I don’t think that will be a problem. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated thanks.

  22. Hey Tim,

    I would have to concur with your feeling that content network links are being devalued. They definitely worked for me up until the algo change. We’ll see if they continue to work in the future. The question I have is how long until a serious change in strategy should be implemented? I don’t want to be changing strategies every few days because that’s how so many SEO marketers fail in my opinion.

  23. Hi Nate,

    Certainly in the UK it is too early to change strategy, however how it changes is another question. To revert to text link buying would be a mistake even if it does hold some short term value, I think the key to link building will come by the way of clever PR spins and generating key contacts.

  24. Hi Simon,

    If you rely heavily on article marketing as your key link building source then I would look to generate some decent link partnerships and maybe throw out a few press releases. It’s difficult to plan for as you don’t want to invest until you see how it plays out.

  25. Interesting, if you want to fire me the details through a contact form I’d like to have a look.

    I am not 100% convinced it will effect the links yet, it just a gut feeling based on a couple of examples. Would be interested to see this site.

  26. There are two data points you haven’t mentioned which is brand use and brand searches. Both of these are easy for Google to pull, both indicate a level of quality and both correlate well with the winners and the losers.

    Thank You

    SEO Project

  27. Hi Tim,
    nice article!
    It seems that the farmer update started in germany too. We saw major changes in the SERPS on several of our good ranking pages. We got feedback from our affiliate manager and he confirmed that he got a lot of feedback from webmasters with changed SERPS since yesterday. What I can see is, that there are brand new domains, maybe 2 month old, sometimes ranked in the top5 of nice search phrases with nearly no backlinks. Especially in the long tail keys I don’t see the exact logic behind the rankings. It looks totaly randomly so far. I hope this is just a matter of the reindex process and things will clear up soon.

    Can anyone from germay confirm changes ?

    Thanks for the nice blog Tim. One of the best SEO Blogs out there.

  28. Hi Frank,

    Appreciate the comments, the update still doesn’t seem to have hit the UK. I am tracking nearly 50 keywords now dominated by ezine and co and they still seem to be there, I’ve not noticed any other changes as yet. However, we have seen some strange ranking drops and increases across the board, this points me in the direction of devalued in content links but there is not enough evidence yet.

  29. Hi Frank,

    The two month old domains that you mentioned, how can yo describe their content?

    Low, Average or high quality?

    I think we missing the point here, the back links were over all devalued comparing to the content that gets higher value in the ranking formula.

    What Mark says here line in with that, and with the example I sent Tim few days ago.


  30. Hi Michael,

    the content ist very bad. Nearly 100% advertisement only. And I’m talking about spamy domains like wwww.keywordpart1-keywordpart2-keywordpart3(of longtail key).com.

    I think that google also tries to rank brands better, but gets in conflict with keyword domains. I don’t see that it is just the quality of the content. As Tim mentioned, it needs more analysis and time. Mabye google tries different things and is hopefully just in test phase. For now it looks very randomly for me.

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