Does Google Know What Websites You Own

If you happen to know anyone who has been building and publishing affiliate websites before 2000, chances are pretty good they operate with a different set of rules than affiliates today. Number one, they build and develop isolated little pockets on the web, they do very little interconnecting of websites, and they try really hard to keep google from knowing they are associated with those websites. Which begs the question does google know what websites you own?

As someone who fills the role of heavy duty tin foil hat wearing google critic, it often comes as a bit of a surprise to many exactly how many google services I use. Google mail for domains, google voice, google docs, google analytics and webmaster central. This intimate integration has lead some to call me a hypocrite, but I feel it’s hard to be critical unless you know how things work, but that’s a discussion for another post.

Today what I’d like to talk about is, does google know what websites you own, and what methods do they use to gather that information. One of the biggest questions is, since google is a registrar do they have access to private registry information. They have never answered the question (which I think works to their advantage), the best answer I’ve ever seen comes from a guest post by Nick Wilsdon on Jim Boykin’s blog. In 2009 IMHO having a private registry works against you in the eyes of google. There are definite benefits to having a public registry address that matches your on site info and you need to take steps to make that happen.

Next let’s look at your google profile (here’s a link to mine). When you set it up they ask you what websites you own so they can link to them. I linked to my company profile. Now on the inside google thinks I might be associated with some of the sites listed below (sorry for the redactions)

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So how is google making these associations?

Comparing notes with a few people, the two biggest discovery methods are webmaster central and Google analytics. So anything that’s in either of those two areas is likely to  to be shown. That includes actual client sites, potential client sites or anyone else who shared/granted you access along the way. Makes you wonder about that crazy guy who gave you access and you blew off because he had a shady backlink profile. Does google count that against you?

Next we need to talk about your social graph and XFN links. XFN links are a way of tagging links in a way that establishes a relationship. This video does a better job of explaining it than I could.

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So if google comes across an XFN link to a website in your profile they will associate with you in your google profile. Some of the redacted links above are XFN links. Now what if that questionable site in your profile gets associated with something on a third party site via an XFN link … scary stuff.

What happens if you try to submit a legitimate re-inclusion request, will google count any of the bad sites associated with your profile against you … google isn’t saying anything about that situation. or how far and how much data they are willing to use against you. My best advice is to be really really careful.

With the proliferation of social websites, and the publicizing of social graphs. keeping your clean sites separated from your dirty sites is now more important than it ever was. Google is willing to use any scrap of data it can find and associate it with you. Whether it will use that against you remains largely untested. For a humorous look at how bad this can actually get I suggest watching the video below.

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