Creating networks of (interlinked) sites is a widespread tactic of PageRank and ranking manipulation. To own a lot of websites is perfectly OK but to own a lot of websites for the sake of “link juice” is not good (per Google at least). The line is not always easy to define algorithmically therefore most often than not Google frowns upon any interlinked network it can spot.
Not so long ago Google was much worse and slower at identifying networks; that accounted for the tactic extreme popularity. Really, that’s an appealing idea of owning a number of established sites ready to pass link juice rather than spending weeks link building and baiting.
Consequently, Google got very aggressive towards networks blacklisting all sites suspected of being involved into a network. Therefore, the ability of spotting a network of websites is very useful for several reasons:
- you should always make sure your site is not associated with a network:
- avoid linking to a site being part of a network;
buyinggetting a link from a number of such sites (yes, in this case incoming links may also be harmful);
- finding your competitors‘ network is another valuable way to explore their SEO tactics.
Of course, that’s not very easy to spot a network (and besides, some networks are perfectly legit, like b5media for example). Anyway, if you are able to find a network, be sure Google will do that too; so that must be not a very good neighborhood to join. Here are a few ways of identifying a network of sites:
- Check for similar/same sidebar/bottom/sitewide outbound links;
- Visit each site and search for similar/same templates, contact information, ‘about’ pages, etc;
- Check for similar/same IPs (here is a handy tool to do that);
- Check for similar/same Whois data;
- Check for similar/same backlink patterns.