A topic very similar to this came up in the Jackets Only section of the SEO Chat forums. Dr.Marie got the ball rolling. She is working on several sites that cover different parts of the same niche/industry – and someone interested in one of the sites might justifiably be interested in all of them to some degree. The sites are geared to those looking to buy or sell a home; they include a real estate site, home staging site, home cleaners site and moving business.
She made contact with a local business that wanted to exchange links with the moving business website. She thought they might be interested in exchanging links with the other sites as well, and wondered about the best way to go about it. She also expressed some concerns that Google might see this as some kind of linking network.
Some suggested that the best way to work the links into the respective sites would be as part of some kind of blog post, as that would add value to the site on which the post appeared. It would certainly be better than putting the link up on a dedicated links page. One poster even suggested the possibility of guest blog posts, if the local business site maintained a blog.
As to the appearance of a link network, respected long-time SEO Chat member fathom noted that “The problem isn’t the link…it’s the pattern that you create from doing the same thing over & over again.” According to fathom, Google can tell the difference when “you are not creating a resource for your patrons you are merely creating a link farm…some place out of the way of your real website so you can promote your real website…and that is where PENGUIN nails you.”
So how do you handle this? Take a page out of Matt Cutts’ book, er, blog. He doesn’t write as narrowly as you might think. As fathom points out, “there is no link page on the domain but there are tons of unrelated categories that have nothing to do with Google or SEO (his primary topics) like Halloween, 30 day challenges, music, video, tv, etc.” The key point is that this looks natural because it is done NATURALLY.
It’s all about patterns. Computers and algorithms happen to be very good at spotting patterns. That’s why, as fathom explained, the moment you start trying to think of doing something in quantity, especially large quantities, you’re going to run into trouble. This moved one commenter to note that, for example, a few reciprocal links might be all right, but a link strategy that revolves around them will fail. You need to maintain a varied approach.
What are some of the ways you’ve successfully built links to your websites? Feel free to share in the comments and join the conversations in the SEO Chat community.