Although Google tries its best to construe the location and language of users and return them the best version of a website based on that information, linking pages together helps Google do its job more effectively. In the recent Webmaster Help Video, Google's Head of Search Spam, Matt Cutts, answers a question about linking domains together.
A user writes in to ask:
“Is there any way Google identifies “sister” websites? For example, relationships between ebay.co.uk and ebay.com? Does linking from one to the other is taken as paid or unnatural? And I’m strictly talking about good, genuine ccTLDs for businesses?”
Matt confirms that the search engine tries its best to interpret relationships between websites and revert back the right website to the right country. But it would also be worthwhile if webmasters could educate Google a little more about what their sites are, so that it can reciprocate the right content to the right users regardless of their country.
For Google to correctly figure out the information, webmasters have to do one of the following:
- Use the hreflang attribute
- Let Google know through a sitemap
- Link to a global page and have that page direct users to the appropriate country version of your website.
According to Cutts, it is not necessary to have a lot of cross linking but just hinging on any of the above mentioned steps can help Google correctly recognize the relationships within websites and return the relevant version of a page to the right country.
Cutts says that the best way among all is using hreflang. Webmasters can use this inside a webpage by using a markup code which informs Google about the location of the “sister websites.” Matt suggests linking to only three or four of the most popular pages instead of hundred pages within the footer. Packing the footer with numerous links to similar domains makes it spammy and untrusted.
Matt says that it is normal for multiple country code top-level domains (ccTLD) to link to each other. Although Google does not view this kind of linking as paid or unnatural but it is still recommended to do it in an organic manner.How to Tell Google that Multiple Domains are Related: Through Google's Own Glasses!,