|Does Owning More Than One Site Hurt Your Google Rankings Now?|
| 2:41 pm on May 7, 2014 (gmt 0)|
I am working with someone who had a bunch of related websites that were all using the same Google Analytics code and interlinking. These sites are now no longer using the same account except for one that is the site they want to rank for now (site A). This site has been nailed by lots of Pandas and we have been working hard to fix everything to get some kind of recovery. It has been in slow death spiral especially since the beginning of 2014, but was also hit by Pandas in 2013 as well.
I realize that the setup they had made it obvious to Google that they were trying to manipulate their rankings by interlinking a bunch of owned sites.
Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that they have another site (site B) in the exact same vertical as the one site I mentioned above that retains the GA info (site A). And the Whois info shows they are owned by the same entity. It took me 2 seconds to find this, so I'm sure Google can see it easily as well.
I'm pretty sure Google doesn't want people to have more than one site in the exact same space selling the exact same stuff.
So my question is this: If they get rid of site B altogether or at the very least changed the Whois info or gave it a private registration, will that help site A recover if site A was being negatively affected by this association?
I ask this because I am wondering if Google somehow 'tags' sites that have done this kind of stuff in the past (interlinking owned sites to manipulate the link graph, owning more than one site in the same space, etc.), making it all but impossible to ever recover.
| 3:50 pm on May 8, 2014 (gmt 0)|
If you take shortcuts and don't focus on adding value you are going to have a bad day.
IMHO Google did not punish your sites. They just stopped rewarding your link strategy of interlinking sites. If you gained legitimate backlinks from external sites to your sites, your sites would rank. You probably can't develop backlinks to your different sites because other people do not see a reason to link to them since they sell "the exact same stuff" and I would guess have duplicate product content.
Banana Republic, Gap & Old Navy are all part of the same company and they all rank because they provide different customer experiences and that is valuable because consumers like to have options. They each have their own loyal customer base that links to their sites. You could have a premium e-commerce website and a discount outlet website and be fine and probably convince people to link to both sites.
Figure out how you can develop real unique value for each of your websites. How can you develop fans & customers for each site?
| 4:53 pm on May 8, 2014 (gmt 0)|
We have a family of 8-10 related sites that all do well, and each links back to our parent company page, as well as the occasional link to each other where it makes sense to a reader. They are buying guides of sorts... each with very unique and relevant content.
For sake of example, think of our parent company as a consumers guide to buying a car. (Our parent company site has very little content, only tells the details of our brand, how to contact us, social contacts, principals, etc) The individual sites are very detailed buying guides about different topics surrounding buyer choices like transmissions, models, etc.
Disclaimer: We don't use Adsense, GWT, Analytics, or any other Google products within the sites. Our WHOIS shows our parent company as the owner of all. (A registered LLC) We do have a Google+ page for the parent company as well.
| 7:24 pm on May 8, 2014 (gmt 0)|
|I'm pretty sure Google doesn't want people to have more than one site in the exact same space selling the exact same stuff. |
Google probably doesn't want to index two sites if they're duplicates that target the same audience with the same content. But if the sites have a legitimate reason to exist separately, I doubt if Google is going to mind at all.
FWIW, we have an editorial site with in-depth content that has been around for years and has had millions of search referrals from Google. A few months ago, we launched a companion site about the same topic, but with a difference: It focuses on people who prefer a "Cliff's Note" approach to the topic--i.e., people who'd rather skim than read. The new site is starting to climb in Google's rankings, and the existing main site hasn't been hurt at all. That stands to reason: Each site has a different focus, targets a different audience, and has different content. The two sites may be about the same thing, but they aren't clones of each other, so there's no reason why Google should find their mutual existence objectionable.
| 7:47 pm on May 8, 2014 (gmt 0)|
One of the worst days of my life as a webmaster occurred as a result of pushing the boundaries of having sites of similar nature. In terms of devastating, think of a bad day and times that by 10. In my view, there is nothing you can really hide. Same person(s) are likely to have something, somewhere that links sites together somehow. Avoidable but a complete and total headache. I call it tempting fate. Imagine waking up and all the sites are banished. Make decisions on that possibility and all will work out I'm sure.
| 8:49 pm on May 8, 2014 (gmt 0)|
Really good replies, thanks. I tend to agree with MrSavage, it is not easy to hide anything and I will relate these responses to my client.
Do you think that Google in some way 'tags' sites that they have deemed 'from a spammer', so that site can never recover? I ask this because this particular site I am helping with has seen tons and tons of Panda-related improvements and yet it still spirals downward with Google.
| 12:35 pm on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)|
Has anyone who used to have more than one site in the same vertical tried to 301 one whole site to the other? Is that something that can cause a Google penalty?
| 3:52 pm on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)|
|I ask this because I am wondering if Google somehow 'tags' sites that have done this kind of stuff in the past (interlinking owned sites to manipulate the link graph, owning more than one site in the same space, etc.), making it all but impossible to ever recover. |
Working on the logical assumption that Google is mostly interested in making sure users get relevant results, I would say it is more likely a site is re-evaluated after each Googlebot visit.
That's not to say when it finds a positive change it will immediately re-rank that site but it may well give it a cooling-off period (weeks, months, who knows) to see if the changes are genuinely effective in increasing quality over the longer term in a way that visitors respond to.
It would be to Google's longer-term detriment if they were to ban a resource permanently for past misdemeanours if that site were eventually to add genuinely authoritative value to the user experience. It would allow prospective Google competitors to gain an advantage.
| 4:28 pm on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)|
|It would be to Google's longer-term detriment if they were to ban a resource permanently for past misdemeanours if that site were eventually to add genuinely authoritative value to the user experience. |
Maybe, but that's a pretty big "if." There's no shortage of sites on most topics (or at least most topics with sites that tend to draw penalties). If Wally's Widget Site or Bud's Blog were banned permanently, how many people other than Wally or Bud would even notice?
Still, your comment about a "cooling-off period" makes sense. Google may forgive and forget, but if it does, there's probably no great hurry to do so unless the site is too important to ignore.
| 7:46 pm on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)|
That makes sense. So should I 301 one whole site to the other? Is that something that can cause a Google penalty?
| 8:14 pm on May 12, 2014 (gmt 0)|
With site-wide 301 to the other domain's homepage you have two issues: soft 404s and the chance of bringing along any penalty. There have been a lot of discussions here from others who are in your position and you can pick up tips, ideas and warnings from reading through some of the past cases. There isn't a 3 step answer or a one-size remedy that fits all cases.