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We have a about 10 directory sites with separate domains that are in specific areas of a general service industry. On the bottom of each page on each directory site I have a section that says something like:
Other Directories by Our Company:
Site A Link
Site B Link
Site C Link
So, if our directory A has 1000 pages, then these 10 links are listed on the bottom of just about all 1000 pages of that directory.
This hasn't caused any problem for us with regard to getting indexed and ranking on Google, and we're not trying to over-optimize. We just want our directory users to be aware of our other offerings. But I'm starting to worry that Google will start to consider this as just a way of trying to boost PR and penalize our sites for doing it.
Would it be better not to list all links to our other directories on each page of the directory, but rather have a link at the bottom of each page called "Other Directories by Us" to a single page on each directory that lists and links to all of our other sites? Or is this not really considered a problem for Google?
If anyone one has any experience or comments about this it would be much appreciated!
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.
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.
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 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?
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?
Don't listen to all the paranoid amatures on here.
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.
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.
They rank well.
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......
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......
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 ;)