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Linking self-owned sites bad? (per Google)
painterskip




msg:3863424
 12:56 pm on Mar 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

I own, maintain and host several (a dozen, maybe) of my own websites and another 10 or so for clients. I also designed and created all of them. All my websites are art-related as are many of my clients and are all legitimate sites about what we do....these are not personal sites but online artist portfolios, some of which allow ordering products. No 'vanity' sites, if you will.

So not thinking about what Google likes or not, it seems to me that as self-employed artists, or whatever we would be, it would make sense, especially for me, to 'advertise' my sites, whether I place links on my own websites, those I maintain or host or even other websites.

However, I've been 'advised', on the 'G' forums, that this is not a wise thing to do as G will consider this a domain farm. Really?

So does Google basically want the owner of each website to sit back and patiently wait for other websites (domain farms?) to link back to our sites and if we can't wait, we then need to purchase AdWords?

I may not have explained myself properly, but in a nutshell, can't I place links to my own sites on my other sites?

 

tedster




msg:3863771
 7:40 pm on Mar 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Done with restraint this kind of "incestuous" linking is not likely to cause a problem. In many situations and markets it is a relatively common thing. But it also won't give the sites involved much of a boost, either - and if you try to leverage incestuous linking too much, then you can get into trouble.

To rank well, you need to develop a varied and healthy backlink profile. But you don't need to just wait around, you can be proactive in letting others know that your material is published in various ways. Our Link Development forum [webmasterworld.com] is a good place to look for approaches.

painterskip




msg:3863795
 8:15 pm on Mar 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks once again....I missed that forum as I was scanning the site for information.

Reno




msg:3863878
 10:16 pm on Mar 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

Theoretically you should be able to do whatever you want with your own websites without having to worry about Google's obsession with punishment, as long as it's not black-hat stuff.

It's a logical thought that if a visitor to one site is interested in wildlife paintings, and you have created another site for a wildlife sculptor, you should be able to cross link them without a second thought, and include your own "Designed by..." on every home page.

But for good or ill, in Web 2009 you cannot simply do what is logical, as you must take into account whether or not you will upset the thousand pound gorilla.

So here's my question: If you were to cross link everyone with a rel="nofollow", wouldn't that satisfy King Kong?

*******************************

Robert Charlton




msg:3863903
 11:04 pm on Mar 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

So here's my question: If you were to cross link everyone with a rel="nofollow", wouldn't that satisfy King Kong?

This is where we get to the core of the question, which is why are these sites being cross-linked. If the OP is crosslinking hoping to boost rankings, then he might not want to use rel="nofollow".

From Google's point of view, links are analogous to references. If you were deciding how much to trust an applicant for a job, would you trust references if they were only from the applicant's immediate family? Chances are that you would not... that you'd want a fair amount of outside confirmation.

It's a logical thought that if a visitor to one site is interested in wildlife paintings, and you have created another site for a wildlife sculptor, you should be able to cross link them without a second thought...

My feeling is that even if you're trying for diversity by getting outside links, you run some risk by crosslinking similarly "themed" sites on a fairly tight network. In the case of wildlife paintings and wildlife sculpture, eg, it may turn out that there aren't that many wildlife art sections in the good directories and sites that might link to you... so it's very possible that many of the inbound links to these two sites could well end up coming from the same pages. This could reenforce the perception of a network. Again, Google understands this to a degree, but not if there are no other signs of independence.

...and include your own "Designed by..." on every home page.

One more connection that I myself wouldn't want to have. If I crosslinked at all, rel="nofollow" would be my method of choice.

Here's a discussion about "SEO by" links rather than "Designed by" links, but many of the considerations are the same....

Client links to SEO - Yay or Nay?
[webmasterworld.com...]

robzilla




msg:3863955
 1:33 am on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

From Google's point of view, links are analogous to references. If you were deciding how much to trust an applicant for a job, would you trust references if they were only from the applicant's immediate family? Chances are that you would not... that you'd want a fair amount of outside confirmation.

That's a great analogy, Robert - one to remember!

painterskip




msg:3863984
 2:46 am on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

I would have to agree with Robzilla. Out of all the answers I've received (here and elsewhere) and everything I've read, that made it much clearer for me. And I can't disagree if that's the way Google looks at it....

Reno




msg:3863996
 3:34 am on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes it is a good analogy and I think a very fair one. But what often bugs me is the uncertainty that many of us continue to feel -- all these years later -- about what is and is not OK with Google. I haven't done a statistical analysis, but it would not surprise me if 2/3 to 3/4 of all the postings here at WebmasterWorld are essentially along these lines: "Will Google allow me to do [____]?" (fill in the blank), or "I did this [___] and now my site has suffered with Google. Why is that?". An awful lot of time & brain power is being devoted to what Google will and will not accept.

I'd like them to issue a blanket directive:

"Anyone who uses any link anywhere on their site which includes rel="nofollow" will not need to worry about any penalty whatsoever from our point of view".

There, now we can think about other things.

If only....

.................................

tedster




msg:3864026
 4:53 am on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

But what often bugs me is the uncertainty that many of us continue to feel -- all these years later -- about what is and is not OK with Google.

A lot of the uncertainty gets fed by people jumping to conclusions, and looking for quick answers when there is in reality a degree of nuance. For example, the question discussed in this thread "Linking self-owned sites bad?"

No offense intended to painterskip, who is just trying to learn. But the question itself reminds me of other flat-out statements I hear such as "reciprocal links are penalized" or even the foolish phrase "duplicate content penalty" [shudder on that one!]

  • There are practices that do not help, but also do not hurt.
  • There are practices that do help, but only up to a certain point.
  • There are practices that might hurt rankings, but do not cause penalties.
  • There are practices that can cause penalties.

    But there are many webmasters who don't even drill down that level of nuance - they just want a "yes or no" and they label any drop in ranking a penalty. That is one of the big factors that continues to generate concern and questions.

    Another problem comes from reports that are not very disciplined - accounts such as "I did X and three days later my rankings fell." That report does NOT say "doing X will get you penalized," but many people will still read it that way and pass the word around.

  • Reno




    msg:3864052
     5:53 am on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    There are practices that do not help, but also do not hurt.
    There are practices that do help, but only up to a certain point.
    There are practices that might hurt rankings, but do not cause penalties.
    There are practices that can cause penalties.

    Those 4 lines should be made into a mousepad that sits on every webmaster's desk! Well said Tedster...

    ...........................

    painterskip




    msg:3864225
     1:29 pm on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    I'm not sure were to start with my replies other than I really appreciate the help on these forums. Which is why they are here, correct? To seek help?

    Here's what I don't get. If I understand this correctly, Google has all these 'rules' in place specifically to enhance, or insure, the user's browsing experience. To be able quickly find what they are looking for....

    Well, at this point in my experience of dealing with all of this, it seems to me that it's not exactly working. And this pertains to my original question of cross linking my sites, which I feel is a form of advertising my services. For instance.....

    If I do a search, on Google, for a specific occupation in my town......how can I write this without being specific?
    Umm... OK....this phrase...

    "Interior Widgetmaker MyTown"

    The average consumer or person searching for that service in that town would 'hope' to find results showing the websites of all the people who offer that service in that town. But no.....that's not what you receive, at least, not in my experience. In my case, what I receive, from Google search, is a list of what I can only call domain farms. Yet, I'm being told that I shouldn't link to my own sites and back again because it will be called a 'domain farm' or if I do, I need to add extra code to my site just so...arrghh...

    Basically, I agree with Reno's statement....
    "the uncertainty that many of us continue to feel -- all these years later -- about what is and is not OK with Google."

    What I'm not sure I agree with is that those four statements, by Tedster, help in any way. They don't help me in any way that I can see. It's like asking someone what color their car is and replying that it's somewhere between black and white. No offense meant, Tedster, you've helped me already in a very short time....I just don't understand why these statements would help anyone.

    Again, I certainly appreciate the help and I can also appreciate the fact that some people that frequent message boards, both the moderators as well as others, become frustrated with answering the same questions. As a former moderator elsewhere, been there, done that. But not everyone asks first and searches later. And not all searches are created equal...some boards do that very well...some don't.

    Sorry for veering off course, but this entire system has me frustrated and I can see I'm not the only one. But I am trying to learn.

    Shaddows




    msg:3864264
     2:34 pm on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Ted's excellent point is that there are few yes/no answers. Believing there is one 'stateless' answer to any given question means you are blind to the truth- which is generally "it varies, and it depends on the circumstance"

    Interlinking that adds value should be fine. The thing is, many spammers used it to increase inbounds, so G sees it as an activity worth analysing. It uses algos to do that.

    Since G has very little interest in seeing its Intellectual Property reverse-engineered, so it keeps info on the algo in short supply (beyond very vague, sweeping, sometimes contradictory or plain misleading statements). Thus, its pretty difficult to know where the line is. And if a (correct) consensus arose, GOOGLE WOULD MOVE THE GOALPOSTS before spammers gamed the system. Search quality integrity would demand it.

    Google CANNOT give defintiive answers. They simply do not exist. The DO publish guidelines. Stick with them, and you will be fine. Go outside them and you are running a RISK.

    RISKS are not necessarily bad. Ask any entrepreneur about RISK versus REWARD. In this case, I would suggest the risk is small, and the reward is reasonable. I suspect the likely result of 'penalisation' is the links will be devalued (unless you are taking other RISKS, in which case actual penalisation may result).

    It isn't that there isn't an answer, its that the answer is nuanced. And it isn't that G doesn't want to make it clear (or rather, what they want is irrelevant), its that to do so is commercial suidice, in terms of competition and spammers

    [edited by: Shaddows at 2:39 pm (utc) on Mar. 6, 2009]

    tootricky




    msg:3864329
     3:49 pm on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    If you want to link to your other sites because you think that people will be interested in the resources you link to, then just use nofollow on the links. You can risk seeing if their are any SEO benfits, but the consequences could be much worse than doing something else equally positive and risk free.

    Managing risk is can alsom mean managing (and wasting) time. Can your time be best spent doing something positive that won't have you worrying whether your sites are going to get spanked for interlinking for SEO benefit?

    pageoneresults




    msg:3864334
     3:54 pm on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    When I look at situations like this, I tend to focus everything on one page. Instead of sitewide links to other sites, I might use that sitewide as an internal link and use the destination page for advertising. So, instead of bleeding out from every page, you only bleed out from one. At the same time, you'll have some additional anchor text benefit and if done properly, that page could become an integral part of the architecture.

    My feeling is that too many OBLs to the other networks is where the signals come in. Focus that energy on one page and let it flow from there.

    tedster, you always amaze me with your quotable quotes. :)

    There are practices that do not help, but also do not hurt.
    There are practices that do help, but only up to a certain point.
    There are practices that might hurt rankings, but do not cause penalties.
    There are practices that can cause penalties.

    Reno




    msg:3864355
     4:31 pm on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    And if a (correct) consensus arose, GOOGLE WOULD MOVE THE GOALPOSTS before spammers gamed the system... The DO publish guidelines. Stick with them, and you will be fine.

    I think that sums it up. I've said before that Google is a "shape-shifter" that will be one thing one day and possibly something different the next, which means that as the SEO community gets a handle on some aspect of their algo, Google will slip through their fingers.

    I'm quite confident that everyone can agree on their need to eliminate the usefulness of old SEO stuff like hidden text and keyword stuffing, but with linking, it's more subtle and thus difficult to grasp. Those of us who started on the web before Google even existed will remember that trading links was a good thing, so when Google came along and cast a shadow on that practice, it seemed counter-intuitive. Which is probably why they introduced nofollow, to allow for people to link to each other (2 way) without it improving PR for either site.

    So to get back to painterskip's original point, it seems to me that if you're adding the "Designed by..." hyperlink to your client sites simply to advertise your services and thus get more traffic/business, using "nofollow" makes sense -- just don't expect it to help you with page rank. PR is at the very core of Google's being, and they will protect it like a mother lion protecting her cubs.

    ..........................

    Yoshimi




    msg:3864366
     4:38 pm on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    There are practices that do not help, but also do not hurt.
    There are practices that do help, but only up to a certain point.
    There are practices that might hurt rankings, but do not cause penalties.
    There are practices that can cause penalties.

    @painterskip this statement makes more sense when you realise that the same technique, performed on 4 different sites could cause each of the above results.

    nickreynolds




    msg:3864690
     11:08 pm on Mar 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

    I find shaddows comment on "risk" and "reward" helpful.
    Like many I try to see it as black and white. But with Google shapeshifting that cannot be done. So, I see now that there are areas where I cannot see a black and white, but where I'm willing to take a small risk.

    potentialgeek




    msg:3875353
     6:01 pm on Mar 20, 2009 (gmt 0)

    I'm a little surprised this thread hasn't made reference to any comments by Matt Cutts. It's a fairly common situation, because many webmasters build more than one site, and often new sites are related to old ones. So somebody must have asked him to comment, right?

    I didn't find yet a question he was asked, but he did make a comment a few years ago on his blog:

    The sites that fit “no pages in Bigdaddy” criteria were sites where our algorithms had very low trust in the inlinks or the outlinks of that site. Examples that might cause that include excessive reciprocal links, linking to spammy neighborhoods on the web, or link buying/selling. The Bigdaddy update is independent of our supplemental results, so when Bigdaddy didn’t select pages from a site, that would expose more supplemental results for a site.

    The key issue or word is "excessive."

    I've had a few sites which were interlinking and penalized. They were footer links. But they didn't have much content. I removed the interlinks, built up the site, and it's back at #1 (last I checked) for a major KW phrase. Another site that was identified as part of a network and got penalized, was also developed, and got back to #2 for the targeted phrase.

    I think it's a bit conservative to use nofollow on sites you own if they are quality sites.

    I interlink on a few sites, carefully and sparingly, without nofollow, and only see a benefit.

    Anyway, I guess my point is you can try interlinking and if it causes a ranking problem, stop interlinking, build the site, because you can make a full recovery.

    Avoid footer links if possible.

    p/g

    potentialgeek




    msg:3879856
     3:16 am on Mar 27, 2009 (gmt 0)

    Here's something from Google's algo app which you could consider in self-linking.

    . . .

    25. The method of claim 24, wherein determining freshness of links includes: determining the freshness of one of the links based, at least in part, on at least one of a date of appearance of the one of the links, a date of a change associated with the one of the links, a date of appearance of anchor text associated with the one of the links, a date of a change associated with the anchor text, a date of appearance of a linking document containing the one of the links, or a date of a change associated with the linking document.

    Google is always recording the date when new documents are created (when it first finds them). So if you create two sites around the same time and they both link to each other, that's a red flag. Older sites which you own and then decide to link may not be a problem.

    Speaking of that, one of my competitors has a link farm which he's using to get #1 in SERPs. I saw this a few days ago. I may even report it in the Google Spam Report section of Webmaster Tools. Most if not all of his links that get him to the top are from his own sites. He's not even secretive about it; the whois data shows the same owner.

    I don't understand why in 2009 Google can't detect the obvious linking scheme.

    I don't mind competitors getting ahead of me with self-linking as long as the content is quality and I feel their sites are better than mine.

    Has anyone here had any luck reporting link farms to Google? Google itself says it will investigate every complaint filed via Webmaster Tools.

    So the answer to the original post question, Linking self-owned sites bad? is: yes, if you get reported and subject to a human review, wherein Google concludes your self-linking is gratuitous and a scheme.

    p/g

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