From the October Google Webmaster Chat Q &A:

Scott, Minnetonka: Do inbound links from other sites owned by the same company help or hurt rank?

Matt Cutts: I find that inbound links from the same company tend to break down into two camps. You'll find mom/pops that have a very few sites in one camp, and that can make sense if those sites are linked; in the other camp, I've see SEOs have 1000 or 2000 different domains and cross-link them. I definitely would not recommend that.

I think a lot of the litmus test in my mind is whether it makes sense to a regular person for those domains to be interlinked. If you look at a product like Coke, people aren't surprised to see that they have and several other domains. If you go to, it's perfectly reasonable to ask users which country they're coming from, and then send them to one of a bunch of domains. But if a regular user lands on and finds 20 or 30 cross-links at the bottom of the page and they look like off-topic or cookie-cutter or spammy domains, that's going to look bad to almost anyone.

Maile Ohye: Hey Scott, I'm not trying to give you the run around, but this is a bit situation specific... overall, though, I wouldn't look at these links as helping or hurting your rank when written in a helpful manner to the user.

So, if you run a sporting goods site, and you link to your sister companies for camping and tailgating equipment, that's good for the user. More happy users can lead to more buzz, leading to better rankings.

If your sister companies are just linked at the footer of the page, in hopes of cross-advertising or getting more links, it's not likely to add value to ranking or the user. In extreme cases, if it's a bad neighborhood, these links will certainly not help you.

Put yourself in the user's seat, and do what makes sense for these links. Good luck!

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