Could Royal Caribbean’s branded websites be sunk in Google? Is Cruise1st trying to game Google in the way they are linking their domains?
OK; got your attention! I spend my day looking at websites in order to try and understand what makes them rank. Sometimes I come across something that looks suspicious. By that I mean, something that I think might go against Google’s webmaster guidelines.
Upon checking the search results for cheap cruises I noticed that Cruise1st has three domain names; one is UK based; one is an Irish domain and one Australian. I then checked the source code of all 3.
While the dot Co dot UK looks OK; the other two websites are in my opinion:
- Using tags that should not be where they are.
- Sort of hiding image links in the source code.
Using tags that should not be where they are.
My understanding of using hreflang tags is; if you have a website; let’s say xyz.com and within this website you have different sub-domains or sub folders attacking different countries then you can use hreflang tags to tell Google where you want that page to rank. So for Australia I might have a tag saying that au.xyz.com or xyz.com/au is for Australia.
Royal Caribbean’s Cruise1st have added hreflang tags to both the Irish website and the Australia one; each with a tag suggesting anything in English (rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en”) be pointed to the .Co.UK site. According to Google webmaster guidelines (Use hreflang for language and regional URLs):
If you have multiple language versions of a URL, each language page must identify all language versions, including itself. For example, if your site provides content in French, English, and Spanish, the Spanish version must include a rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x” link for itself in addition to links to the French and English versions. Similarly, the English and French versions must each include the same references to the French, English, and Spanish versions.
Cruise1st is clearly not doing this with the dot co dot uk website; also the examples in webmaster tools clearly show the rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en” as being the last tag; not the first tag. Purhaps there is some significant reason for this?
Now this is a very grey area however I do not feel that this is NOT best practise and could be against the webmaster guidelines. What it does do is add a link of sorts back to their main money site; Cruise1st in the UK.
I have updated this after a conversation with the genius who is Sven Latham; however my feelings haven’t changed re Cruise1st’s tactics but at least the post is now referenced.
Sort of hiding image links in the source code.
I will say that anything shown in green in the source code does not show up on a page; however I believe that Google may still use the links within the green note sections of a website. Also if something is not helping a website or helping the person building the website then it should not be in the source code.
I have absolutely no idea why Cruise1st has a link; yes a nofollow link; but still a link to some of it’s other branded websites such as one for Ski Holidays; one for Orlando etc. If these images and links were showing I would have no problem as Google have said it is OK to link to a handful of your own websites if relevant. These are relevant in some way as each is a niche within travel. BUT; why hide them?
I started by saying “Could Royal Caribbean’s branded websites be sunk in Google? Is Cruise1st trying to game Google in the way they are linking their domains?” Now what I have listed is as I previously said, grey areas of SEO. However if you do notice a sinking in the search engine results pages; you can guess why.
For your own website safety I do not recommend doing what they are doing.