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hard to know what they are up to. we have been hit several times, have pored over data and don't really have a clue
Is there any way to cross promote our sites without getting penalized?
dexterseo - When you say "individual keyword categories," but that they're all also "financial services sites," it's not clear how "individual" in fact they are.
It's also not clear where your other inbound links are coming from, what their hosting situation is, etc etc....
How many of each sites inbound links are coming from the same pages?
Are your sites hosted on the same server? On the same class C?
Google has many ways of determining relatedness, but it has seemed to me that when pages are on domains that are sufficiently related, they start to be treated similarly to dupe pages.... not the same thing, exactly... but Google doesn't like strongly related sites to rank for the same search phrase, and they will sometimes arbitrarily choose which site they keep.
I asked a question in this thread that was similar to yours, but maybe different. In part, the difference may depend on what you mean by "promote"...
Safely Crosslinking Sites for Users
Is the "rel nofollow" attribute appropriate?
For the record, as I just posted on another thread, I agree with caveman's suggestion to avoid the "rel nofollow" attribute in this situation.
Most people would not even consider linking out, because of diluted PR. But if you are not linking to other related websites, and just cross-linking your own sites, it would seem questionable even to me.
With a lot of "related" outbounds, the ratio is in your favor, and you shouldn't have a problem linking to your own websites.