Link Farms and Bed and Breakfasts

Recently a site went live with a Top 100 List of Hospitality Blogs. I did take a gander at the list and while a great list of B&B blogs, some of the sites included were not industry specific, and because of that something twinged me as being a bit “off”. I was a bit surprised for example that blogs like Daniel Craig’s and Acorn Internet’s got left off the list when I looked at it a couple of days ago.

Unfortunately and sadly to burst some people’s bubbles this list is pure link bait. A discussion on the PAII forums brought to my attention by the lovely and talented Susan Poole of The B&B Coach this morning (pointed out by Sarah from Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast in the forum) that it is link bait, and several emails forwarded to me last night and this morning by friends who own B&Bs on that list, said that they were asking for links back confirmed it.

Because I am infernally curious when it comes to this kind of thing, I had to dig a little further into this, it appears the site went live a little over two weeks ago but the domain name itself has been registered since 2009 and a cached internet archive version of the page shows that it had redirected to an even bigger link farm until the site moved over.

The domain name itself has back links to hundreds of other link bait/link farm sites.

These types of things go around several times a year and B&B owners get email notifications or mentions of it on a blog or FB page that they were listed on a best of list. I get several a week and they all go into the trash folder.

If you get an email or notification about this sort of thing, do a little investigation first before linking back (especially if they ask for a return link).

Do a whois search of the domain name at http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search/

Do an internet archive search at http://archive.org/web/web.php

And do a search in quotes for the domain name. If it links back to other link farms, run!

Another tip is see what relevance ALL of the other blogs have to the topic, in this case, non relevant blogs were attached to the list as well, the other blogs were high traffic blogs though which is how they got on the list.

Unfortunately while it’s always lovely for the ego to be listed on a top or best of list, linking back to sites like this and promoting them is not doing your website or blog any favors. Google does not like link farms and you may find your site penalized if you do add a link back.

Interestingly enough, Google just came out with a disavow links tool, more information about that here http://searchengineland.com/google-launches-disavow-links-tool-136826 So if you find your site getting nobbed by Google by being on the list you can at least send a request in to Google (and Bing: the link is in the article) to disavow the link.

Congrats to any B&B that made the list though for being an active traffic worthy enough blog to get solicited for this, that in itself is a compliment.

Updated: 10/19/2012

I’ve exchanged several pleasant emails with Sarah (not Jenna Winkler, the apparent site founder?). Sarah says the site is not a link farm and they are trying to do a service and be useful to people which I can appreciate. I did voice my concerns as well as the fact that quite a few SEO people that are much more well versed in it then I, had brought up about negative site linking and she said she would talk to her tech team about it. We will see whether this gets done and B. more importantly that a list that is supposed to be online long term is fixed and updated so that it does not contain irrelevant information with links to blogs that have nothing to do with hospitality.

About Chef Forfeng

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9 Responses to Link Farms and Bed and Breakfasts

  1. Cynical Innkeeper from MA says:

    Sarah and Chef Forfeng, do not back down on this one, I am an innkeeper on that list and call me old and cynical but it is not a list I am very proud to be on. I came back to this post again after coming across it on Innspiring and had to leave a comment this time. Thank you for calling attention to it on the PAII forums Sarah.

    To start with, I find it curious that their about page has changed. If you look at Google’s cache you get a significant difference from what is there now: It was:
    “About
    Jenna Winkler, a former waitress out of North Carolina, founded the website in hopes of opening doors for individuals showing a vast interest in not only learning about hospitality management but also implementing it to the world. She has created a site that will make your search for a degree in this field a little less difficult.

    Jenna was once just as normal as anyone, holding a full time job at a restaurant, working sometimes seventy hour work weeks. She held no quarrel with the customers or even her employees but she felt as though something was missing from her life. Something she had always dreamed of, she felt as though working at a restaurant and owning a restaurant were two completely different things with two completely different backgrounds needed to be one of these two career paths.

    Soon enough, she realized her calling in life and pursued a degree in hospitality management so she could learn and understand exactly what it takes to run an entire staff of people almost every single day. Her success came when she finally lived her dream of owning a restaurant, but she didn’t stop there, she knew that if she could do it, so could anyone else so she built this website to showcase all of the different colleges and schools that offer varying degrees in the field of hospitality management, it was Jenna’s little way of giving back. The site itself is not lost to specifics as you can search for any kind of degree from a bachelors to a Masters and see what opportunities are available to you in that field of study.”………………

    So my question is, Who is Jenna Winkler? Why is that information gone and why didn’t she and not this person Sarah respond to the post? And why is that biography so pat with no actual information in it. And what does waitressing have to do with Bed and Breakfasts? And if she lived her dream of finally owning a restaurant, why was the 100 best list not about restaurant blogs?

    Two, nitpicker that I am, I noticed a major misspelling on the What Career Options Do You Have with a Hospitality Management Degree? page before. It now says, “Guide to Hospitality Mangement Programs” still misspelled, In the Google cache it says, Guide to Hospital Mangement Programs, Tip off to me that it is probably done overseas. Apparently overseas spell check can’t spell management.

    Three, notice there is zero contact information anywhere? Red flag alert right there!

    Four, this was brought to light weeks ago, if this was a legitimate site so says the lady who I say doth protest too much, why has it not been fixed to disclude blogs that are not applicable.

    Five, anything anywhere that has to do with online degrees is generally a scam or worse

    Six, I respect the opinions of Scott Crumpton and Chef Forfeng, I doubt they would have labeled it as a link farm without doing some homework first.

    Seven, Anyone can make a list up. I can not be proud of being on this list, who is this company? What background in hospitality if any do they actually have? If Select Registry put my blog on a list I would be over the moon, but I can not be proud of getting stuck on a list with the likes of Christian Supermom and a blog about nails et al.

    Eight, If this is for hospitality, really where are all the restaurant blogs and why only a couple of hotel blogs, and do hostels really count as hospitality? Did anyone notice it is aimed at a niche, as in a niche where we innkeepers are the most gullible targets?

  2. The site is asking for linkbacks to boost their relevency for google. Period. If they are truely interested in helping student, and that is the primary goal, this is an interesting first step.? I am happy someone found my blog, and that’s the end of it. If we see this site take off and become a real resource for student, I’ll be amazed and apologize to you all.

  3. Sarah says:

    Heather,

    I received your email and wrote back – feel free to post your reply if you want to loop your readers in.

    As I said in my email – we’re committed to being not just a good, but a great resource for a hospitality management education. You’re right that there are a lot of sites out there doing similar things and it makes sense that you would see ours as setting off a ton of red flags. I hope you can see that we’re trying to do things better than other sites though. In fact, I’ve seen similar sites post completely unrelated articles with just a bunch of links and no content. We actually went to each resource we nominated (we had more than 300 sites included in our nomination stage) and looked through their content. I really believe our readers will find this list to be useful and interesting…and hope that others who see it discover some great sites they didn’t know about before.

    Did we miss some great B&Bs? Most definitely…but with a small team there’s just only so much we could capture. In hindsight, we probably should have made an exclusive B&B list since there are so many of them.

    Thanks again for taking the time to look into this, and I appreciate you wanting to protect your community from any Google penalties. You’ve given me a lot to think about, and the next time we create an article like this, hopefully it’s even better and our site is much improved!

  4. Chloe Tuttle says:

    Great article…thanks. Chloe’s Blog from Big Mill B&B is on this list, and I was hesitant. I think I will “mention” that we were on the list and just toot the horn with no link. Most folks never know where we get our awards anyway, but they are fun to get! Chloe

    • Chef Forfeng says:

      I think it’s quite interesting that they actually took the time to put together the list (it was a great list of B&B blogs) and then bailed out when it came to more, if you are going to take the time to put together an extensive list like that I would think they would at least try to make it all relevant.

      I did find it amusing that one of the few resource ones they listed was Are’s (well deserved) but apparently hadn’t taken the time to read his blog and find http://aremorch.com/2012/01/09/social-media-and-hotel-bloggers-to-watch-in-2012/ where they could have sussed the list out a bit more. I know I had done a list last year they could have pulled some from and I believe Susan Poole, Alain Classe and Martyn Collins did as well.

      I probably would have ignored this one if they hadn’t been talking about it on the PAII forums and then the emails forwarded to me asking for backlinks was a kicker. Can’t think of a single legitimate site that actively solicits like that.

  5. Sarah says:

    Hey there,

    I actually work for the site your referring to and wanted to clarify a few things about this list and our site….

    1.) We are not a link farm. A link farm would imply we simply link to loads of other sites and don’t provide any substantive content to “game” Google. Believe me…the time we took to create this list should suggest that we weren’t simply linking out for no reason at all. Had we simply created a list of 100 sites, with no pictures or content – then I could see your point. We didn’t do that! You’ll also notice that this list is very related to our field. From what I’ve seen of link farms…they often have lists of completely unrelated sites…that’s not something we would do.
    2.) We ARE an education site. As our domain implies, we’re interested in helping students pursuing an education in hospitality management, or considering it, learn more about the field and all the great career opportunities within it. Yes, we also work with colleges and universities and help support our site doing so. Certainly we’re not the only site on the internet utilizing advertising opportunities! Which leads me to…
    3.) The list. We created it to give our readers examples of what we felt were the “best” in the business. The goal here was two fold: 1.) Recognize what we felt was the best (duh ;p ) and 2.) Inspire students visiting our sites to pursue a career in the hospitality business

    To your other suspicions about great sites being left off…or sites that aren’t related. I can only say that we tried our best to find what we felt were the “best of the best”…but in the end we simply missed some. In our original email we asked people for nominations as well. The internet is very fast, so unfortunately some really great sites were overlooked.

    As for “non related” sites being on the list — our intention was not to simply focus on B&Bs (though that ended up being a large portion of the sites). Hospitality is a very broad field which covers everything from restaurants, to hotels. Capturing all of this in one list was a tough task…in fact, we’re thinking about doing another one because there are so many great things happening in hospitality.

    To be clear…while we obviously want people to share the list with their readers, it wasn’t a prerequisite for inclusion — and isn’t our only goal. Hopefully that clears some things up for you!

    Best,

  6. InnkeeperVA says:

    This is a link farm no doubt about it. There is no legitimacy to this list of blogs, nor the site who is sharing it. I don’t think anyone believes this is such a great honor, but if someone says I have a top blog I am going to share it!. Simple. I believe I do anyway… haha

    • Chef Forfeng says:

      Shellie, I love your blog and I think it is one of the best ones out there. I was a bit concerned though when I did a trackback because I found some inns out there that are linking to this from their home pages. I think its great if people promote they are on a top “whatever” list, it is still a compliment. My caution would be however to just be cautious of the Google monster.

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