Just finished your Google book and I'm dismayed to discover that my web site may be a link farm not a portal. The goal of this now updated site is to have students talk to other students via reviews of the handout links by doing "reviews", like Amazon.com
My Google rank is currently 7, so I must be doing something right, but a link: report only shows 70 links to the site. Yet I know that there are many more. What gives? Is my site considered a link farm? and thereby not getting indexed by Google?
Thanks for your note and I'm glad that you're finding value in Growing Your Business with Google. Now, on to your questions...
First off, let me reiterate that a link farm is commonly believed to be a site where its only purpose for existence is to have an ever-increasing database of links, typically without any underlying rhyme or reason. For example, if I had a link on this page that led you to my "best of the Web" area where anyone could submit and have added a link to any site, regardless of category, Google and other search engines tend to frown upon that.
The reason's simple: if inbound links are considered a vote of confidence or an indication that a highly-linked site is somehow better than one with less links, the assumption is that each link is added by someone maintaining a site - or writing a blog entry - that found the content worthy of recommendation. underlying all the fancy algorithms and secret formula, that's the core idea behind Google.
So you can see how having a site that exists purely to have two-directional links (because that's the other half of a link farm: a requirement that every site you point to also points to you, making these huge, artificial webs) really does nothing to indicate what sites are better or worse than other sites.
Having said all that, a PageRank of 7 is quite good, so clearly...
This is a very useful and succinct answer. Thanks.
I have a related question. Someone told me that Google penalizes sites for using the word "link". In other words, if on my home page, I have in my directory the word "link" to connect visitors to my links pages, I will be penalized. I've found nothing to corroborate this. Do you know?
My company has 5 websites for different businesses (building material, natural stone, IT & computer, import/export). Within last 3 weeks, keyphrase rankings in Google search all dropped significantly - from 1st page to 5th and beyond. We did participate in linksmaster.com for link exchanges. Has that caused our sites being penalized by Google? Please advise. Thanks.