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Cross Domain Linking Between Sites

     
7:11 am on May 15, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hey All,

I work for one of the largest sites in the UK and we link between our site and our sister site, which are related in terms of topic and a slight variation in the name.

Site A links to Site B in the navigation (a drop down with almost 9 links to Site B) and in turn, there is a link to Site A on Site B in the footer on every single page. This can look like reciprocal linking. However, our site is big and ranks for some very lucrative terms. It ranks pretty well for over 500k keywords. Site A is pretty big and gives Site B around 60k links, whilst Site B, with its footer links, gives Site A around 4k links.

We've noticed a variant in our rankings which has been negative for both sites. I've been working in SEO for almost 6 years now, and I'm stumped on what could be causing this. I have gone through several ideas to find out what the issue could be, but none of the tests we've gone through have worked.

I'm thinking it could be the cross domain linking that could be negatively impacting us.

Sure, if we were 2 small sites and we did this then this likely wouldn't be best practice. However, we are a big site, like Amazon (they too link to their sister sites in the footer), so I'm wondering if that has an impact at all? We noticed a negative rank change as well as organic traffic YoY at the end of April (no, it wasn't the mobile update that impacted us).

Has anyone faced this issue before?
5:29 am on May 17, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I wouldn't jump immediately to a link problem.

First there isn't any issue with what the websites are doing so long as the links are not keyword oriented link anchors.

Check the change in traffic against recent updates to see what might correspond.

[barracuda-digital.co.uk...]

A date shouldn't be the only clue to determine what the cause might be but it can help get you looking in the right direction.
8:27 am on May 18, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hey Fathom,

Thanks for the response and link to that tool. Only thing that happened roughly around those dates is the mobile update, but our mobile visibility has actually increased whilst, overall, our desktop visibility has decreased for over 100k keywords.

Our drops in CTR occurred on the 18th of March and the 18th of April (when viewing GWT Site Analytics (avg. position moved down from avg. position 2 to avg. position 5). I, too, don't think it's the cross domain linking; however, it's the only thing I can possibly put it down to. I'm doing competitor analysis, in an attempt to see if our competitors are doing better than us in areas such as campaigns etc, but I'm not sure to be honest - as that isn't conclusive enough. None of them have done anything ingenious to earn them better ranking.

In regards to the 9 navigation links spread across Site A, they do contain contextually relevant anchors to the page they are linking to. Think of them more like internal links - more than anything. I mean, we've had those links in the navigation for the past 6 years and have even gone through Penguin penalties and have come out of them with those links still in the navigation, so I'm can't really put my finger on it. Before anyone jumps in with the whole Penguin penalty, we came out of penalty in early 2014, and have setup a process where we disavow, on a weekly basis, the spammy links that add to our backlink profile. I've checked our team's work in regards to that and they've targeted only the spammiest of sites.

There was potentially that phantom update that is said to have occurred around the time of the mobile update, so I'm putting my finger on that. Without anything to specify a cause to why we saw a drop, it's hard to really plan our next step/action.