I am involved with a site that is basically a portal to about 15 other web sites that sell artwork.
The portal links to all of the artwork sites which all link to each other as well as linking back to the portal site. So basically it a big incestuos network of sites linking together...
In addition to linking to just the artwork sites, the portal site does link to about 10 other sites. But the artwork sites themselves mainly just link to each other and back to the portal... Also, the portal and all of the artwork sites are hosted by the same company. I have heard that could be bad too.
However this was not done to improve search engine rankings at all... but I think the site is somehow being penalized for it.
The keyword phrase that we are shooting for is not very competitive and the site ranks on the first page for allintext: allinanchor: and allintitle: but yet in the SERPS it is ranking about position 430... way below many many other totally irrelevant sites.
The portal site has PR5 and has other quality sites linking to it.
I know the easy answer is "well there are about 100+ factors that go into googles ranking algorithm" but since it is a fairly non-competitive phrase and it has many of the most important SEO factors in place, it should be ranking better than position 430. It has also been around for about 3 years.
So, would you agree that the fact that all of these sites are linking to each other is hurting us?
If we are being penalized then what would be the best way to go about improve our rankings next?
Thanks for the help!