Sam RoshanMay 17,2014

How Does Google Know Which Sites You Own And Why Should You Care?

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Clearly Google examines numerous factors when determining the rankings of sites. However, what does Google know about site administrators and how is this information used? We’ll discuss actions that Google may take on the basis of data it can collect, and provide some advice on how you can use this to your benefit and avoid possible problems.

Website Ownership

We’ll discuss how Google finds out which sites you control and why this matters to you. In addition, we’ll go over how this information can be used for your advantage and how it may harm you. These are questions that are frequently posed by webmasters.

When you control numerous websites, the relationship between these sites is called an administrative relationship. This means that you administer these sites and you have full control of their links and content. These may be sites that are all controlled by your business.

Over the years Google has spent a considerable amount of time and effort determining the administrative relationships amongst sites. In some cases this can be helpful, in others it can be harmful, due to Google disregarding links between sites that are administered by the same entity, and additional negative consequences.

This matters to Google because links from sites that are controlled by the same entity, are not weighed as heavily as editorial links controlled by others. Google wants links to occur naturally and not be under the control of a site owner.

Positive Aspects Of Related Sites

In other instances, you may be rewarded by Google for related links. There may be certain advantages to establishing relationships between the various sites that are under your control, and you may want to tell Google about them. One reason you may want to do this is to distribute authority amongst your different web properties.

An example may be a well-known brand like Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola has a high authority site in the U.S. and they start a new site in Brazil. They would like their Brazilian site to have great rankings, but they do not want to start from scratch.

Consequently, they desire to transfer a portion of their link equity to the Brazilian site. So, they want to notify Google that this Brazilian site is Coca-Cola, it should also be an authority site.

This same principle can work on a far smaller scale at times. Frequently, this will occur on sub-domains. Quite often, you will see blogs on subdomains, since if it is placed as a subdomain on an authority site, it will reap the benefits of being associated with an authority site. If you provide Google with signals that indicate the subdomain is associated with the primary domain, that can often help the subdomain gain more authority.

The same thing can occur with sites that have alternate languages. You may have Spanish, Russian, and German content along with English content all on one site. The differing languages may be on separate subdomains, but you will want Google to be aware that all should have the same authority as your primary site that took a lot of time and effort to build up.

In addition, identity is beginning to be a factor in administrative relationships. This is frequently at the page level, with the advent of Google Authorship, in which people with Google+ accounts author the content they publish.

Overall, identity has become an important issue, and Google is going to a lot of effort to uncover web identities.

Negative Aspects Of Related Sites

Then there are the negative aspects of sites with administrative relationships. This is normally what SEOs attempt to cope with when dealing with numerous sites.

The largest issue is decreased link equity.

If Google determines that you own a network of sites, they won’t pass nearly as much link juice in comparison to sites that aren’t under your control.

Consequently, many SEOs go to a great deal of trouble to make their relationships between sites invisible, since they want to get the full amount of link juice from associated links.

In addition, there is the concept of link schemes.

If 20 sites are all interlinking to one another, that’s an indication to Google that some type of link scheme is being used and the links will be discounted and/or the sites penalised.

Lastly, we are even beginning to see a new type of Google penalty where penalties follow certain individuals throughout the web. These are cases where someone receives a Google penalty and they take down their site. Then they begin again on a totally new domain.

However, when they do so, they discover that the Google penalty has transferred to their new domain, even when none of the backlinks for the old domain are being used. Even though the new site has a completely different URL.

How is Google able to determine this site is owned by the same person?

These can be important issues for someone that controls numerous sites. Will it help you to establish relationships between these sites, or hinder your efforts? If you comprehend the signals Google uses in determining this, you can use it to your advantage.

Related Sites Signals

You should keep in mind that we aren’t aware of all the signals that Google uses, however we do have several clues. Certainly, Google can examine WhoIs records, and determine the IP address and where you have hosted your site.

Who Owns This Site

For example, go to spyonweb.com and enter in the name of a common domain, like yahoo.com. You’ll see all the relationships that they have. This will be all of the websites either owned or hosted by Yahoo or that have the same AdSense or Google Analytics codes. This data is all available publicly on the internet. These codes are present within the source code of the sites.

The web can be scraped and this data can be collected to provide ownership information that is fairly easy to analyse. Although it is now changing, C-blocks in IP addresses have indicated web relationships. However, this is changing as the web moves to IP version 6. C-blocks were used in IP version 4, so the concept of C-blocks will disappear soon.

Linking patterns are also used to determine site ownership. When a large number of sites are all inter-linking, and Google has a complete database of all links, combined with other statistical data, they gain a good concept of the associations between websites. This is all the publicly available information.

There are other signals that Google is likely to use in determining site relationships that are related to site content.

For instance, when two sites have similar or identical content, this gives Google a strong indication they may be controlled by the same Webmaster. They would likely use this in conjunction with other data such as analytics codes and site registration since quite often the content of sites gets scraped.

Moving your site from one domain to another to avoid a penalty may not be adequate if the same content is being used. Even maintaining the same images would be an indicator that sites are controlled by the same person.

CSS & Formatting

Frequently, sites that are controlled by the same entity re-use some of the same JavaScript and CSS files and may use some of the same templates. This is not an indicator in and of itself, but it does provide another clue to Google that the sites may have the same owner. Combined with additional signals, it can convey an indication of site ownership.

There are even some very simple things like information on your ‘About Us’ page or contact details that will indicate relationships between sites. Even authorship details, which is a page-level signal, can help to increase the rank of certain pages but it can also be used as an indication of site ownership.

Conclusion

 

In general it is difficult to hide site relationships from Google, since they have an abundance of data, so it’s normally not worth the effort.

However, if you really want your sites to remain anonymous you should make whois data private. Don’t include Adsense or Google Analytics code on them. Use different hosts and nameservers for them. Don’t include identifying information in the About Us or contact pages, and don’t link them to other sites you own.

In many cases, you will want the relationships between your sites to be known, in order to pass link equity between authority sites and other sites, sub-domains, or blogs. Hopefully, we have given you some insights into why you’re not ranking well, or why you are, and some actions you can take to help.

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Author: Sam Roshan Sam Roshan has been working in the Digital Marketing industry for over 7 years. He has worked for multiple companies ranging from corporates to boutique agencies encompassing his unique skill set to ensure businesses of all sizes can compete and grow their business using Online marketing strategies.

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