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SEO Linking Strategy Debate

Help me decide which two competing SEO linking theories are correct.

5:50 pm on Jul 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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I posted this at Google webmaster forums, but people seem to be more interested in moral posturing over there than practical discussion. Here goes:

I need to settle an internal debate at my firm. We occasionally spend a good bit of money to develop quality content for free resources on topics in our target market. These resource centers are the "link bait" for the Internet at large, and the resource centers link in to our sales pages. Our objective is for our sales pages to rank higher in Google. We have two competing theories as to how this should be done:

Theory 1: All resource centers should be hosted on the same domain as the sales pages, and link in to them. This enhances the ranking of the sales page in two ways, a) through a direct link from the resource center which itself has a lot of links from its inherent link bait quality and b) enhances the overall "authority" of the domain itself, also helping all pages on the same domain rank higher in general.

Theory 2: It is best to have the resource centers on their own domains, on different C-class IP's, and unique/anonymous WHOIS and have these link into the sales pages to help them rank better. The reasoning here is that the fundamental concept of Pagerank is that Google cares more about what others say about you than what you say about yourself. Thus, if our objective is to have the sales pages rank higher, we should create link bait on other domains/IP's and link in to it, so it appears to be a neutral third party link instead of an internal link Google will discount. The effect of "authority" domains is relatively minor compared to the direct benefits of multiple links to the sales pages from unique C-class IP's.

Which theory is correct and why? Any specific examples would be most appreciated.

Assume that the resources are equally attractive as link bait whether hosted on the same domain as the sales pages or on their own unique IP/domain. Assume anchor text is appropriate, all relevant related white hat type content.
6:41 pm on July 8, 2010 (gmt 0)


WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Anyone who preaches "Honesty is the best policy" is often just looking at things from a practical perspective, not necessarily being moralistic.

Just from the linking patterns, the search engines could often discern that someone's little network of resource sites is not nearly so independent as it's trying to appear. So many links from your external resource sites would get treated as if they were internal links anyhow.

enhances the overall "authority" of the domain itself, also helping all pages on the same domain rank higher in general

That approach has been effective for me personally, and also for clients who take my advice.

so it appears to be a neutral third party link instead of an internal link Google will discount

Google gives good credibility to normal internal linking; be careful what assumptions you make about internal links being discounted.

Neutral third-party links (or satellite sites trying to look that way) will only have useful link juice to deliver if they have a reasonably strong backlink profile of their own.

That's where you need to do some serious practical thinking. As you say, those links could just as easily be attracted to the main site to enhance its authority status and overall brand awareness. What's to be gained or lost by spreading that benefit around versus keeping it focused on one site? How do the maintenance costs compare? How does the longer-term sustainability compare?

Also ask, which SEO approach would create the most productive synergy with the overall marketing goals (and marketing style) of the company? There is no one right answer here, but you definitely want to be savvy about making sure that SEO efforts are pushing in a coordinated direction with other promotions.
6:55 pm on July 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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so it appears to be a neutral third party link

And there's the rub. Network analysis is a very mature field and with Google's resources this can stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. In fact, when it comes to small networks such as this would appear to be they can be discovered by very determined eyeballs alone.

I heartily agree with buckworks and that enhancing the overall authority of the domain itself is what works for me. There's also a few-year-old Google patent out there that talks about "document grouping." I don't have it to hand at the moment (and am most likely paraphrasing wrong), but it's along the lines of a group of related documents being more powerful than the sum of its parts -- related pages supporting each other, more or less.

That's not to say that the "Theory 2" approach can't work. But that means much more work for you in trying to build *credible* support for multiple domains.
4:44 pm on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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Theory 2 which in practice does work which is sad because people are gaming the system however Google is always against such schemes they can always know who is the owner based on many metrics Bill shared his thought about it recently on his blog.

Further even then you might not be getting any better link juice based on the affiliation of IPs.

You are better off in my opinion to write the content and post it on your own site and build links to it.
6:00 pm on Aug 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Theory 2 is viable if you believe it can attract links better than trying to attract them to the main site. For instance, there can be a limit to how much content and what kind of information can be placed on a corporate web site. Some may feel a blog is not appropriate for their corporate site.

It's also a viable strategy if the main site already ranks for target phrases and you wish to create a useful resource to rank alongside it. It will need to rank on it's own usefulness and ability to attract links. If it can rank for your target phrases then it has earned that rank. The counterpoint is that it might not be as easy you believe and as mentioned by buckworks this method could be squandering an opportunity for attracting links to the main site and cementing it's position in the SERPs for the long run.

While I would prefer to have those resources on a single site, there are legitimate reasons to have a satellite site. Returning to the question posed by the OP, I don't believe creating an extra site for the purpose of creating another inbound link is a viable strategy. The energy/time/money expended on the effort would be better utilized in building genuine external inbound links.

Just my opinion but I think the best reason for creating a satellite site is if management restrictions on the main site prohibit the creation of forums, blogs, and other kinds of Internet dialogue with the public.