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  • Site Network Stealth and Uses: Hiding from Google and Competitors

    Alright. So I’ve talked a bit about link farms before, but to this day it’s still one of the most common topics I get asked about. Not just for blog farms and whatnot, but for legitimate, interlinking sites. So today we’re going to just handle a few common questions I get(not handled in the above article), and a few tips.

    Before I get rolling, if you guys haven’t checked out the Advaliant contest, I highly recommend you do so. It’s well worth it. Those who applied yesterday should be approved by today. Now, back on topic…

    So for this, I’m going to focus on sites that have unique content and are all within one given niche. For example, if you have a site on tulips, you may have another on gardening, another selling tulip bulbs, and another selling already grown tulips, and another with gardening tools, but not flowers. Or you may have local-specific sites like michiganwidgets.com, newyorkwidgets.com, and californiawidgets.com. The question, as always, is how best to use them to leverage eachother.

    This truly has enormous potential. There’s nothing like having a few semi-authority sites to propel a new one into the top rankings for it’s key term. In addition, for those of you who think that hiding your site networks is review for you, that’s fine. I’d scroll to the bottom though, because I’m also going to focus on how best to implement these lovely mini networks.

    So Should I Bother Hiding My Ownership of the Sites?
    In my opinion, absolutely. Is it against Google’s TOS to have heavily interlinking sites, all owned by the same person? I’ve heard opinions both ways. However, I could care less in all honesty. My thoughts are this: Why give Google more information than they already have?

    There is nothing good that can come of Google knowing you own all these interlinking sites. Even if it’s ok today(which to some degree, it is I believe), it very well may not be tomorrow. Either way, I don’t want to have to restrict how much I can leverage my own sites for the sake of preserving their precious terms and conditions. The entire point of creating a site network like the one I’m describing is to truly push the limits of the power you can get from each site.

    Ok You May Not Care if it’s within Google’s TOS, but I do.
    Take this with a grain of salt. I could not find it during my brief check of their rules. But typically the rule appears to be the site cannot appear to be primarily or excessively supported by the network. We’ll get into how to give the illusion of support later in this entry.

    A Brief Review on Hiding OwnershipFor the experienced readers, apologies I have to go back over this. But it’d be a bit irresponsible to not bring this up in a post about site networks.

    1. Unique Hosts and IPs – For a venture where you’re investing real time and capital, don’t skimp on getting some fresh hosting accounts. If you’re dishing out $50 for links, or a lot of time to write some decent BH software, why the hell wouldn’t you pick up enough $4 hosting accounts to make it worth your while?
    2. NO You do not use the same registrar/WHOIS Info – Use your girlfriend, parents, or dog if he has a different address. Try and get some in different cities or states. Remember, right here you’re not necessarily warring against Google. You’re warring against the competing SEOs looking for a reason to report you to Google.
    3. Domain Patterns – Though I’ve seen it done so many times it’s insane, I’m not a fan of having sites like chicagowidgets.com, detroitwidgets.com, texaswidgets.com. It makes it obvious it’s a locally targeted site network.
    4. Don’t Be Stupid – Do not put a cute little copyright message with your company name at the bottom of the site. If you’re going to go through all this effort to hide yourself, is that little ego boost worth it? Beyond that, make sure you use a different privacy policy/contact information.

    Now For the Fun Part – Ze Interlink Madness Beginz!
    Alright. Now that we got that out of the way, we’re at the fun part. Interlinking sites to stay off the Google and competing SEO’s radar. This is something where you should just use your imagination for it, but I’ll throw some ideas out there.
    Disclaimer: Heavy interlinking can be a significant risk. Do this at your own risk.

    1. Contextual Links are Your Friend – I die a little bit inside when I see footer links. So does the Google spam team. On the other hand, your competing SEOs love it. It doesn’t need to be fancy. For example, if you have a blog on your tulip bulb site, make it like a diary and say you just got a set of gardening tools, and link to your other site.
    2. No-Follow Clutter – What’s the one kind of link that Google cannot bitch about, and the one kind of link that annoys the crap out of SEOs examining your link profile? Nofollow! Having a few sitewide(yet no-followed) links on powerful domains(so they show up high in Yahoo’s linkdomain results) can make it a true pain in the ass for SEOs to pick your site apart. Even within your own site network, a nofollow or two never hurt and helps to create a kind of reasonable doubt as to your intentions.
    3. Use the Sneaky Sneaky on Your Blog – Try this one. Have a blog with monthly posts or so. Remove the nofollow from comments. Then just only approve your own comments from your own sites.
    4. Do Not Reciprocal Link – Welcome to SEO101. Reciprocal linking sucks. Even if not “excessive”, prepare for a link worth approximately jack. Google sees links as your site saying “the site I’m linking to is the authority”. Reciprocal linking shows a serious lack of confidence on the part of the site.
    5. Do Not 3 Way Reciprocal Link (If You can help it) – This little trick has been beaten to death and urinated upon by the webmaster crowd in general. To an extent, it works still. But on a large scale and under the scrutiny of dozens of SEOs disgruntled because they’re ranking underneath you? Not so much. Try and spread out the links, making them more or less unpredictable.
      Keep in mind, this includes not using the same linking sources for sites you don’t own going to each site.
      The probability of any given IP linking out to another given IP on more than one domain is incredibly small, so you get more leniency if you have the sites on different IPs.
    6. Promote Your Promoters – So if you have a tinier network(which gives you more ability to ignore #4) but you need more juice going to your fresh site, how about you add a step inbetween yourself. Link to other pages on other sites that link to the one you want to give juice to. Google is not going to think you own digg or propeller, but a spunky link can not only make the linked to page rank to drive traffic back to your site, but can also pass extra juice back to your other site.
    7. Diverse Outbound Linking Profiles – Do not just link to your own sites. Link(on your least traversed pages obviously) to informational sites that are low enough in the rankings to not be a threat.
    8. Variance for Inbound Links – Some linking sources are reusable, but remember that you’re trying to make it look like the site is being supported by links from a variety of sources, not just your own little network. People have a little thing where they mentally look at the number of links going to a site when they’re trying to determine this. So a large amount of acceptable but low quality links can create the illusion you’re getting support from a large number of sites, even if your own ones make up a substantial portion of the actual quality flowing in.

    How Best to Apply these Farms (and why to use them)

    A truly bulletproof site network can give you a lot more leverage for ranking for specific terms. Especially for locally targeted site.
    Let’s say you’re doing a locally targeted site for widgets. So you’ve got michiganwidgets.com, widgetsinwisconsin.net, etc. If this was one large site, you would have to have a deep architecture and several separating/categorical pages to be able to hit the proper anchor text for each page. It would have to go from (Home Page)->Page Listing 50 state names+ ” widgets” -> [State Name] Blue Widgets, [State Name] Green Widgets, etc.
    That looks spammy and nasty, and drives your usability into the proverbial shitter. Now compare that to “Michigan Widgets” -> “Blue Widgets” (or “Blue Widgets in Michigan)/”Green Widgets in Michigan”. It’s much more to the point, and spreads your link juice much thicker than the alternative. Of course, having anchor text that is too perfect from an SEO perspective can be a bit nasty to look at, so how exact you make it is up to you.

    Local is not the only way to use these properly. I’ve enjoyed them in niches that subdivide into a set of smaller categories as well. Really, look at the online dating scene. Here’s a hint: aside from the big names, most of those sites are owned by the same people. It’s all about subdividing and targeting your specific audiences. While “online dating” might require 5+ economy sized cases of Tylenol to rank for, any one of the sub niches requires less and less to rank for. BBW Dating, Jewish Dating, [STD name here] Dating, [Black/african/african american/ebony] Dating, these are all examples of subdivided niches that generally use a substantial amount of site networks. Especially once you get into the longtail.

    Ok, so other major advantage of this. Country targeting. Now for the love of god, don’t use the same Google webmaster account for setting this preference, and don’t use the same IP. Put your laptop in your passenger seat, and drive around for a bit till you find a Wi-Fi hot spot or 20.
    Sticking with the dating site example, we’re going to say we’re running a dating site for people in South Africa. So we head over to google.co.za, and search for online dating. The top results have between 96 and 950 inbound links. Comparatively, the US results show sites in the top spots that range from 5,420(high quality) links, all the way to 1.8 million links.

    And that my friends, is the beauty of local targeting. It doesn’t take a massive site network to get 96 decent links. Especially considering some of the links should be coming from outside sources and sites located in the given country you’re targeting.

    So to sum it all up, interlinking is a pretty tricky process. Especially if you intend to hide it from SEOs AND Google. But by building the sites like you’re making mistakes(getting nofollowed links or links that are not “golden” for example) it can help to hide your tracks. Whatever steps you go through in the first place when setting up hosting or registering domains determines how paranoid you have to be later. Going through all this effort is not worth it to many. I’m not going to try and hide that. But it’s a tremendously scalable kind of business plan, and it’s far from me to trust Google not to crack down hard on such things at some point in the future. So for now, I’ll go through the effort.


    20 Responses to “Site Network Stealth and Uses: Hiding from Google and Competitors”

    1. Mark says:

      I believe the official Google line on owning a network of sites is that it is fine in moderation. So for instance, if you own 10 sites about computer hardware/tech stuff and 20 sites on gardening, that’s fine. However if you’ve got 2,000 tech related blogs, it’s going to raise a flag – how can you possibly provide this much quality content?

      I wouldn’t say ownership is an issue – if you’ve got 500 sites in a network, it’s going to be spotted. I’d say just be careful when you form networks to keep the whitehat stuff well away from the blackhat. At minimum, don’t interlink then (duh!) and have them on different servers. It certainly wouldn’t hurt, if you are doing something dodgy that Google doesn’t know you own both sets of sites.

    2. Amin says:

      Yet another great post. I do however think your approach is excessive UNLESS you’re building a big network of more than several dozen sites, which I’m sure is the kind of thing you would lean more towards.

      I do think being cautious is good, but sometimes I ask myself if I’m being too paranoid when I’m using different whois and unique ips for new sites.

      I have a question though: if I’ve already used a Google analytics tracking code from the same Google account on multiple sites in a mini network , do you think this would have already lessened or completely nullified the power of a link on any of these sites to another site with the same tracking code in the same mini network? And if so, would it make any difference if I were to remove the code or would it now be too late?

      Shit, I hope that makes sense.

    3. underworld says:

      good points and in my opinion there are outside factors as to how much G cares about your network links.

      If you become a big don’ in your niche with 1 site, get a ton of real links – then afterwards they allow you much more reign.

      I also think that linking in networks in the same niche is agreeable, and in some cases actually helpful to the visitor – but as carefully and thought out as popular. Theres no doubt google can tell that tractors (although in similarish niche to gardening) are considerably MORE different than gardening tools are to tulips.

      here here about not handing over more info to the G, another way to confuse chasing SEO’s that works also is serving up a nice list of random links from sources you only use every few months – private name registrations help too.

      keep up the good posting :D

    4. Chowder time says:

      This is going to be a nice reference post next time I build up a network, it’s good to have all the information in one place so that my brain doesn’t get too cluttered.

    5. Chas says:

      Normal business networks are expected. Under 20 sites is supposed to be fine.

    6. DanielB says:

      Excellent post, I liked the blog comment tip, Its the first decent laugh I’ve had today.

      I think when interlinking you can’t be too discrete and paranoid unless you are an “authority” who would be missed from the index. Then you can push the envelope a bit harder as Google needs your site in the index to be relevant.

    7. Matt says:

      What effect does privately registering your domains have compared to using the example you sighted of registering them in other peoples names?

    8. Windtalker says:

      Nice post shady, I haven’t thought about the blog comment interlinking.

      P.S. In I.E. your css push the content down to the bottom of the blog.. thought you might want to know..

    9. Real Estate Blog Girl says:

      Good points all. We typically set the no follow tag on all non member comments, but member comments we create are auto approved with no follows removed.

    10. alexa7 says:

      Good information. This one a printer outer.

    11. SEO Roundup / Links For The Week (06-04-08) : Lobo Links Blog says:

      [...] Site Network Stealth and Uses: Hiding from Google and Competitors – A few tips on how to hide from Google, I can’t confirm or deny (laugh) any of these methods, but I suggest you read so you have something to talk about at those boring conventions. [...]

    12. wheel says:

      Hey SSSEO,

      is there anyway to contact you? Or would you contact me?

    13. admin says:

      @wheel: Typically there’s not much of a way. But the easiest way is to leave me an instant messenger address to contact you at.
      Right now I’m prety sick, but as I feel better I can drop you an e-mail if you dont see this.

    14. Fiction says:

      “NO You do not use the same registrar/WHOIS Info”

      What’s stopping a person from simply putting in a phony physical address when registering a domain? How would anyone find out it’s fake and what are the consequences if they do?

      P.S.–Great blog, btw. Very informative for us newbs.

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    16. Links for 2008-06-07 [del.icio.us] | Network Tools - ntoolz.net says:

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    17. ronnie says:

      “NO You do not use the same registrar/WHOIS Info”

      I just set my domains as private – when you register more than 5 domains with godaddy you get private registration free.

    18. Digerati Marketing » Blogs Worth Reading says:

      [...] no BS approach to effective SEO, whether he’s writing about Google’s User Data Empire, hiding from it or site automation it’s all [...]

    19. anon says:

      @ronnie: thanks for the tip was looking for a way to get free private registartion.

      And another thing to add. Don’t use the same stats tracking code for each site. Especially stay clear of using Google analytics no matter how cool they are, opt for piwik instead, or even better don’t install any code at all and just use something like Awstats.

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