Nobody can answer your question with certainty.
From my perspective you are taking a great risk with this link set-up, a risk that is just not worth it.
You should replace it as you say with a single links page or else a set of links from the main index page only, or perhaps go so far as having the index page links and also the single links page from each site.
What I used to do is link from the index page, and in that way maximise the 'PR' that is passed, then link from the internal pages with links that google could not follow such as inside forms. The thinking behind this was that it would be a paradox for google to penalise me when I am actually doing everything I can to hide the links and in that way making it clear that I am not trying to gain any advantage from google but am only trying to provide useful links for my users.
Since google's Florida/Austin transformation into googlesoft I have also removed these form links from the internal pages on my sites to make sure I do not receive a penalty for cross-linking.
Another problem that you face whether you hide the internal links or not is that if you happen to get a couple of your sites come up for the same search term, perhaps two sites occupying the top 4 spots, one of your competitors might begin a campaign of lodging spam reports to google and bring you down that way.
This is an important issue because although google states that a competitor cannot do anything to hurt your ranking, a competitor can actually orchestrate a campaign reporting what could be perceived as spam even though it has come about innocently. You can be sure it is not one of googlesoft's 50 Phds checking the spam reports so one day you might just have the bad luck of some dimwit taking the report seriously and sending your sites to the googlesoft blackhole.
Anyway it is up to you to weigh up the risk involved, whether you want to lose a little bit by not having the internal cross-links, or lose everything if something goes wrong. The single links page sounds like a reasonable compromise to me.
Thanks very much for the input about this. I think I'll probably just link from the main index pages as you mentioned, and not cross link from all of the other pages on each site.
I guess the safest thing would be to use a form to link to our other sites even from the index pages of each site. That would mean we wouldn't get any benefit in terms of Google ranking from our own cross links, but that we also probably wouldn't trip any Google filter for questionable practices in terms of cross-linking our own sites...
In my business the number one website has achieved its position by being a directory site that links on every page to a number of other directory sites in similar fields. Infact this one same company owns several directory sites that all interlink in the menu.
I can only think google ranks it well because the other directories are similar and on topic without reproducing content. If your sites have the same properties I cannot believe google will drop you.
Good luck. I'd be interested to know the results of what you do.
No one knows how much crosslinking is "too much", but here's my theory:
I'm convinced that sites are most likely to experience problems when they don't have enough link popularity besides their own crosslinking. I also think that most problems are not actual penalties, just changes in how things are weighted. If you're a one-trick-pony, SEO-wise, and the weighting changes for that factor, you'll experience more fluctuations than if you're strong in other ways too.
Crosslink in a way that makes sense to your human visitors, work to gain more quality links from outside sites, watch for other things that will strengthen your pages, and you'll probably be fine.
>>I guess the safest thing would be to use a form to link to our other sites even from the index pages of each site
I think this is going too far. A single set of links to other sites should not trip a "cross-linking" filter.
If there is any problem such as having too many of the sites come up for the same search terms then this might trip another filter (such as common IP?) or else be subject to a manual check from a spam report as I have outlined in my other post. But these are really worst case scenarios. Having the single set of links inside a form will not save you from this, and you will lose the potential PR benefit, so why do it?
Thanks very much for the input and perspective. I agree that it is probably going too far when I'm becoming afraid to link to my own sites even if it is helpful for the user. I think I will stick to doing what is helpful for our users, and just make sure that our sites have uniqe content and other quality sites linking in to them (not just our own cross-links).
Food for thought...just noticed hotscripts has dropped it's "sister site" links from the bottom of their homepage...
I don't have any experience with cross-linking but have a comment. Some folks on WW have been suggesting that the best way of linking is site A -> B -> C, but to not complete the circle by linking site C back to site A.
I'm not, of course, covering all of the scenarios that come up as a result of rover's crosslinking - where there are many C's linking back to A's (if I understand it correctly). Just trying to look at a more simple situation.
Does anyone have any comments on this idea?
There is no penalty for what you say. Dmoz does it. The CNet family does it. Everybody does it. I do it. Even Brett's sites all link to each other. SearchEngineWorld.com, Team-mp3.com, PHD Software Systems Homebase and of course Webmasterworld.com.
Don't listen to all the paranoid amatures on here.
Brett's sites do indeed do some internal cross-linking.
WebmasterWorld alone also has links coming in from over 3000 external sites, according to Alexa.
Yes but brett is googleguys friend lol
agree to whats been said in the last posts
i know some big news agencies do the same
no big deal
>>WebmasterWorld alone also has links coming in from over
>>3000 external sites
Thats is the thing to note. Cross linking is not so bad if you have lots of other links coming in. If you cross link exclusively with your own small network of sites and link to no others or have no other links coming in you are scoping for trouble IMHO.
The big sites mentioned which have K's of links coming in are virtually bombproof. I suspect smaller sites are not and are at the mercy of the algo.
>>> Thats is the thing to note. Cross linking is not so bad if you have lots of other links coming in. If you cross link exclusively with your own small network of sites and link to no others or have no other links coming in you are scoping for trouble IMHO.
Totally agree with UKGIMP and would like to add that you also need a lot of other links going out in addition to other links coming in.
Based upon pure experience regarding this issue, I have a set of five sites that cross link together by 100%, which means that all the pages in site A including the index page link to site B, C, D, and E and the latters also link back as well as interlink one another. In Dominic, all get dropped and returned. Also in Florida, get drop and return in Austin, but this is the common occurrence to plenty of other websites too. In addition to cross links, there are many links in and out.
After Austin, the only problem that I notice is that there are no PR transfer from internal pages (or PR has been significantly discounted) and only 1 backlink is credited from the index pages of PR5, while the rest of PR4 internal pages are not credited as backlinks. As of serp, four out of five have no problems with serp - as they got good ranks for the two money keywords.
|If you cross link exclusively with your own small network of sites and link to no others or have no other links coming in you are scoping for trouble IMHO. |
First off that is impossible. You have to have at least one external link to have PR in the first place. Second it is not true I have some sites that each have a link from one page from an external site and all other links are from my own sites. They rank well.
That is the important bit. My opinion.
Splitting hairs on the absolute closed loop, you know what I mean. Of course there must be a pr passing link coming in, but you can still have damn near closed loop. While that may not get YOUR site in trouble it is not a practice I would suggest to to a client or adopt myself. Feel free to link all of your pages/sites each other, it is just something that I and a great deal of others wont do. Your choice.
The danger is in the future.
For safety, try to anticipate what Google might do in the future. If it can be detected by an algo as 'looking different' from a normal link distribution, then there is a risk factor.
Whether it is a high risk or a low risk, or a risk worth taking, is a personal judgement.
For a quick killing, who cares, but for that site that you are going to pour your soul into, well......
My .02 on this is that the benfit of cross-linking only goes so far.
Prior to Florida I crosslinked with 6 widget-related sites, all on different IPs owned by different people. Each of these sites were at least top 3 for main kws. Every page of all the sites had links to the main page of the other 6 sites. We saw PR jump from 4s and 5s to 5s and 6s.
After seeing my site drop 100+ places, I dumped the crosslinks and mine were removed from the other sites. Once Florida was gone, I was back to my pre-florida positions. So were all the others. My PR dropped by 2, Google dropped 150 links, ATW dropped 8000 links.
I'm still 1,2 or 3 for kws. So are the other 6. Bottom line - it didnt help and it didnt hurt. IMO, Google is discounting the links/PR factor in certain situations and is more balanced with this aspect of the algo.
My litmus test now: If google went to 10% market share tomorrow, would I still do it?
>For a quick killing, who cares, but for that site that you are going to pour your soul into, well......
Ukgimp hit the nail on the head.
|If you cross link exclusively with your own small network of sites and link to no others or have no other links coming in you are scoping for trouble IMHO |
But hey, if people want to create their own "bad neighbourhoods" by cross-linking their domains together on the index pages - please do so. Means less competition in the SERPS when they get blasted ;)