This week on Whiteboard Friday we’re going to be talking about interlinking your site. This is a particularly relevant, I think interesting topic for a lot of people who are thinking about like, I own several websites, or I have relationships with a lot of websites. I control a bunch of sites. Maybe they are sites of clients or partners. A lot of times they are just sites that you have owned and registered yourself or that your company has. I hear a lot of this question and introspection around like, “Hmm, how much can I interlink? Can I interlink between all the pages on all the sites to help boost my page rank and send good anchor text and all these kinds of things. It seems like owning my own websites I can control all of this stuff. It would be really good for my SEO.” But there are some dangers here. The search engines don’t want to be manipulated by someone who owns 50 or 100 or 1,000 different websites. So, you need to be careful. There are some best practices to follow along these lines. I’ll give you some simple examples, but you can extrapolate these out to more complex situations or to the specific situation you might be facing.
The first rule of this interlinking phenomenon is to link for humans and users first and to think about engine second. Now, the reason for this isn’t because I’m telling you oh you have to be super pearly white hat and we can never do anything that would affect or impact or manipulate the search engines. I understand that you’re going to want to get good anchor text. You’re going to want to flow link juice from powerful pages to pages that need to be indexed that you want to rank well. That’s okay so long as you think about why humans would want to pass from one page to another.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say I am on this domain that I own and control. I can find a page on here where I talk about something that exists on domain two – a resource, a relevant topic, something where you can learn more information about that specific subject, whether it is commercial intent, information oriented, a cool piece of link bait, a piece of news, whatever it is that exists over here. That makes great sense to link over to, and I think it is perfectly fine and legitimate to link from those. For example, if there is some great news about how elephants at a particular zoo have been thriving in the new environment and you want to rank well for elephants at this particular zoo, let’s say at the Bangalore Zoo, it’s fine if you have some content over here that mentions those words, that is talking about them in a post, in an update, in a news item, something relevant, and you link over. That works great, because that way humans, who might want to learn more about this topic, can go over there and get that information. It is exactly what they want. Now engines as well will see and recognize that.
But if you do something spammy or manipulative, and this goes to rule number two, and you put something like “elephants Bangalore Zoo” in the footer of every page. This page has it. That page has it. This page has it. And they are all linking over to this one, and then domain three and domain four and domain five, they’re all linking there too. That’s super weird. So, putting those things in footers, having overly optimized anchor text, anchor text that just doesn’t sound natural, doesn’t fit with the flow of the page, has nothing to do with the content of what is on there, throwing in unrelated links, throwing in “elephants Bangalore Zoo” when this page is about where to buy pens. Just that kind of stuff is going to be confusing to humans as to why it exists, and that will mean that it might get spam reported to Google. It might be seen manually by quality raters, or it might be algorithmically detected. None of which you want to have happen. Besides which, you don’t want to be scaring off your users with this manipulative, junky stuff anyway. Users are sensitive to spam and manipulation just like engines are and they’ll be turned off. They’ll think less of your brand and your site when they see that type of stuff. So, watch out for that.
Third, last rule, Google really knows a lot about what is happening on the Web. Not just through things like Google Analytics, but through Google Webmaster Tools, through e-mail accounts, through FeedBurner, through the Google toolbar. If they see that you appear to be trying to hide a link profile from them and link profiles are looking really similar between your different domains and there is lots of interlinking happening and the registration or hosting looks like it matches . . . . there are some SEOs certainly out there who are advanced and sophisticated enough to be able to spread their network out and have that rigid discipline about never visiting the same two sites with the Google toolbar on and making sure that no Webmaster Tools accounts are linked and all this kind of stuff that black hat operators often have to jump through these different hoops. There are ways to do it. As an ordinary marketer or ordinary operator, you know, SEOmoz-type white hat operator, you’re really going to want to be authentic.
All right, everyone. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care. We’ll see you again soon.