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How can I tell Google that multiple domains are related?


Today’s question
comes from Manchester in the United Kingdom. Adeel asks, “Is
there any way Google identifies sister websites? For example,
relationships between ebay.co.uk, and ebay.com. Does linking between
one to the other– is that taken as
paid or unnatural? And I’m talking strictly
about good, genuine ccTLDs for businesses.” OK, so I’ll try to give
you the best answer I can. But I’ll also talk about
non-good, non-genuine ccTLD businesses. So it is the case that
we try to interpret as best we can the relationships
that there are on the web. At the same time,
it’s very helpful if you can tell us a little bit
about what your sites are so that we can return the correct
content to users, regardless of which country
they are coming from. So let’s look at the spectrum. On one hand you’ve got
ebay.co.uk and ebay.com, and we need to know that
those are somehow related. And then on the
other hand, we’ve got all the way down to somebody
who has 100 different websites all about medical malpractice
or something like that. So let’s concentrate
on the ccTLD case for the initial question here. It is the case that
we try to figure out that those sites are related. But we are doing
the best we can, and if we get a little bit
more help then we can say, oh, this is a German user. They should get
ebay.de, or yoursite.de. If it’s a French user, they
should get the .fr version, that sort of thing. So the best way to help is to
use something called hreflang. You can do that inside of a web
page, where you can mark up– hey, on ebay.com, the
French version of this page is over here, or the
German version of this page is over here. Or if you don’t want to have
that in all the different pages on your site, you can
also make a site map. And you can just
say, OK, over here is one version for a
country, and over here is another version for a country. That’s really
helpful, because we try to interpret where
users are coming from, what their language, locale,
all that sort of thing is. And then show them the
best version of your page. But if you are able
to tell us what are the actual
versions of your page, we’re much less
likely to mix that up. So that’s a big high-order
factor that I would say. It’s definitely the
case that we know that those sites are related
many different times. And so by using
that information, we can try to make sure that we
show the best possible result. If you tell us, then we can do
a slightly better job of it. Now we might or
might not trust links between any given sites
on any given basis. But for the most part, I
wouldn’t worry about them being viewed as paid or
unnatural links, because it is pretty normal
for sites that are the co.uk or the .com to
link to each other. That’s a pretty normal,
natural reaction. If you can, I would do it
in a sort of organic way. If you have 50
different sites, I wouldn’t link to
all 50 sites down on the foot of your website. That can start to look
pretty spammy to users. Instead you might just
link to no more than three or four, five down at the
footer, that sort of thing. Or have a link to a global
page, and then the global page can talk about all the
different versions and country versions of your website. That’s a great way. You normally don’t have to
have a ton of cross linking between all of your
different domains for Google to go ahead and be
able to figure out that sort of information. Now, if instead of being
country code TLDs, you know, .co.uk or .ch or
something like that– if you’ve got stuff that’s
all in one area, like .com, and you’ve got 50 or
100 different websites, that is something
where I’d be, really, a lot more careful about
linking them together. And that’s the
sort of thing where I wouldn’t be surprised if we
don’t want to necessarily treat the links between those
different websites exactly the same as we treat
them as editorial votes from some other website. But for the case that
you’re asking about, which is the top-level
different country codes, I would definitely
recommend using the hreflang, because that’s
the easiest way to tell us which sites are which, so
that we don’t mess it up when we try to give the best
search results to users.

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