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I have multiple web shops (34). I want a menu with a list of links to all of them on each site. Should I use rel=nofollow? Or should I use rel=nofollow on each page except the homepage (against link spam) or no rel=nofollow at all?

It looks like this on each web shop on top of the page (hidden behind a button):

<ul>
    <li><a href="first-shop.com">first-shop.com</a></li>
    <li><a href="second-shop.com">second-shop.com</a></li>
    <li><a href="third-shop.com">third-shop.com</a></li>
    <li><a href="fourth-shop.com">fourth-shop.com</a></li>
    <li><a href="fifth-shop.com">fifth-shop.com</a></li>
    [...]
    <li><a href="last-shop.com">last-shop.com</a></li>
</ul>
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up vote 7 down vote accepted

You have created what is known as a "network of sites": multiple domains that all inter-link to each other. To some extent, you are right to be worried. Network of sites have been used to spam search engines in the past. Google often penalizes networks of sites as "link schemes."

Google's Matt Cutts has a video where he address the question of whether one person can legitimately own many inter-linked domain names.

Three sites is not a lot so, it's probably not going to be a huge issue but, 30 sites or 300 sites is absolutely the sort of thing where your competitor or an average user, who is landing on the page is going to be like, "Why are all these different sites cross-linking and what do they really have to do with each other?"

Now, ideally, it might be something like a men's clothing page and a woman's clothing site and a children clothing site. And if they're relevant that's a perfect reason to link those three together. So, if it's under the same corporate umbrella, you know, whether there's a good reason to do it, I don't see that there's any problem at all and it is a relatively small number of websites to be linking. But, bear in mind as you grow and as you grow, if you have a ton of links down at the bottom of your site, a lot of regular users will get turned off by that. And a lot of competitors would be like, "Oh, why is this person cross-linking every single site?" So, a good rule of thumb is sort of asked a regular person off the street, and if they sort of look at it a little bit strangely, then you'll know that you've probably gone just a little bit too far.

Using nofollow on those links would break apart your network of sites. As far as Google is concerned, each site would be its own separate site not linked to the others.

On the other hand, you won't be penalized if:

  • The sites are clearly related
  • You use the same brand across all of them
  • You don't try to hide your you identity or affiliation with all the sites
  • You don't use keyword rich anchor text between the sites
  • You link in a way that is not overwhelming to users (for example hidden behind a button, or only on a "related sites" page)

This StackExchange website has links to a ton of other related StackExchange sites in the footer. Their footer links are the type that Matt Cutts called out as being spammy looking and not meant for users. Because the StackExchange sites are high quality and the links are relevant, they get away with it anyway.

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@user269811 The nofollow becomes very important in cases such as these. A site owner can signal the relationships between sites, however, the site owner should not count on whether the search engine understands the relationship. In otherwords, it is possible to be penalized before the search engine figures out the relationship. As well, header, footer, and sidebar sitewide links are bad from Googles perspective, though clearly there is some tolerance. My recommendation is not to count on that tolerance. You do not know how far it goes. – closetnoc Feb 16 at 16:44

By adding rel="nofollow" to a hyperlink, a page indicates that the destination of that hyperlink should not be afforded any additional weight or ranking by user agents which perform link analysis upon web page.

So... it won't hurt any seo, you'll just do benefit to your partners.

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