This post is part of the weekly Q&A section. Just use the contact form if you want to submit a question.
Ron Merters asked:
I have several sites. They are “somewhat” related – they are all related to technology, but different technology. (like one is cars, the other is washing machines, let’s say – related, but not really).
I have added a footer on each site with links to the others on my network. Is that wise? Will I get punished by google who might consider this a link exchange?
Interesting question, especially because I have to deal with it with my own blogs and websites, too.
First of all let’s check what Google itself says about interlinking and link exchanges.
Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity. However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:
- Links intended to manipulate PageRank
- Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
- Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (”Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
As you can see, Google does not mention interlinking between websites that have the same owner or that belong to a network. The problem is when you “build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites.”
In my opinion, therefore, cross linking your own sites is OK as long as those links are placed for the purpose of helping your readers to find more content that they might like, and not exclusively to increase the overall PageRank of your online properties.
That being said, I would add an extra layer of caution on the interlinking process, even if done with legitimate purposes in mind. Why? Because often times it will be a computer and not a person judging if your interlinking is legitimate or not. That is, it will be a Google bot taking a look at your sites and determining if the cross linking is suspicious or not. If for some reason the computer finds that your links are suspicious, you might get a search filter penalty without knowing it.
So what is this extra layer of caution? Using the nofollow attribute on the links that connect your own sites. If you are interlinking them for the purpose of letting your readers know about your other properties, after all, nofollowed links should get the job done anyway. The only difference is that they won’t pass link juice.
That is what I use on my “Daily” network on all my sites that are interlinked. Most large blog networks are also nofollowing their network links these days, too.
So my answer is: In theory it is OK to interlink your sites and blogs as long as you are doing it with the purpose of adding value to your users and readers (by letting them know about your other content that they could also be interested in). If you want to be 100% safe, however, it would be a good idea to add a nofollow attribute to your cross links.