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There is NO WAY that just linking a handful of sites together - in and of itself - is an automatic problem.
Additional ("negative") factors must be present to create significant risk.
I've seen G take out one spammy site from a mini-net when the others were left standing (and those left standing were far cleaner).
I've seen G take out all but one site from a mini net where there was little dup, but the linking and ownership patterns were clearly designed to inflate PR.
It all comes down to risk/reward. If you have 3 or 4 clean sites and they exist for different reasons and each contains unique content, and they link from a central site's homepage, or just the homepages of each other, that seems pretty low risk to me. (Although, perhaps just slightly riskier than it was two years ago.)
The problem of course is that the filters keep getting more aggressive over time. One never knows when a formerly safe practice becomes a potential red flag or outright problem.
This all may be moot however, since you asked if it is productive. If it doesn't get you much in terms of added PR etc, then I suppose in this environment it's safest to not do it. I just resist being safe for safe's sake. :-)
Is least risky but also of little value to the users.
is more risky but would have value to the users. Just keep the dupe content to a minimum.
is more risky, and if there was any duplication of content, which would seem almost a certainty, would not be of much value to the users.
If you are interlinking complimentary sites to provide value to the users it's one thing. If you are linking to inflate PR or link popularity, know the risks you take and no whining if you get busted.
If they do not appear to be doing that, then low risk.
etc dominating the ever-popular "geek dating websites" keyword space -- SPAMMY. Interlink=death.
can interlink to support a theme. I doubt you'll get them to co-exist in page one of the geek-dating kw SERPs, but certainly they will mix it up in the breadcrumbs SERPs for an overall powerful impact.
I'm very tempted to try some cross-linking of sites on the same IP, and am pretty sure it would pass a manual review, but don't want to get kicked out of the SERPs by an algo.
The cross-linking would be minimal, and mostly (but not exclusively) of the hub-spoke type. There is no duplicate content across sites, though there is some keyword overlap. I'd like to do it because having set up sites at widgethistory.com, widgetmaintenance.com, and widgetsales.com, I've now got the widgets.com domain, which I'd like to turn into a directory / guide. Would this (the cross-linking) be madness?
There is nothing you can do on a manual check but we built 100 subdomains a few weeks ago and they went down straight after they were crawled. I think this was automated. Google is getting smarter by the day. So you can experiment but do not do it with the sites that feed you
Would it be significantly safer if the links were all one-way (i.e. if I set up widgets.com as a directory / guide, link to the other sites from it, but don't link back)? Or would that still be risky given that they're on the same IP? Or would it all depend on whether widgets.com had sufficient unique content?
For eg: sports.xyz.com, movies.xyz.com, games.xyz.com
Interlinking them all in such a way that all the subdomain links appear on all the pages of all the sub-domains. All on same IP block.
I believe since they all are one domain, provide very strong content, and each sub-domain havs strong backlinks, therefore cross-linking won't be penalized.
Its been 3 years and the site's going strong. What are the chances that it would get penalized...
It would still be nice to know for certain whether it would be safe to let the search engines follow any of the cross-links, but certainty seems to be in short supply.
At least they timed the release of the new attribute well. :)