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Cross-linking denotes the mutual linking of two or more websites.
The purpose of cross-linking is mutual support in search engine index ranking. Each internal link provides link power and can affect ranking positively. Both the page being linked to and the page being linked from can benefit from cross-linking. Furthermore, link juice inheritance is intended. PageRank and trust add value to a page and thus serve as motivation for cross-linking.
If the domains involved belong to the same webmaster, the intention behind cross-linking is to strengthen both sites. The idea of two separate websites supporting each other is obvious and legitimate. Caution, however, is advised in implementation.
Problems and risks
Cross-linking is a good way to help the parties involved to a better position in rankings. If excessively done, this method can also cause negative effects. There is a risk that Google will consider these websites link networks or even link farms with boundless use of cross-linking because a remarkably rapid and unnatural growth of link popularity is observed. Cross-linking to subpages contributes to this. The building of link networks and link farms are considered a manipulation attempt and may result in penalties being issued by Google. Such penalties vary in degree and can even lead to permanent exclusion from rankings.
From a user perspective, cross-linking can be judged negatively. Matt Cutts answered the question as to whether it is a problem to cross-link your three websites in early 2010 in a video.He stressed that the webpages involved in cross-linking should be on the same topic. Otherwise, a link does not make sense, because it does not offer visitors further information. (Many) meaningless links at the bottom of a page irritate visitors and cause doubts about the legitimacy of the page. Too many links that are not related to the page in terms of subject may prompt users to leave the page. However, Matt did not say anything about the way the search engines deal with cross-links.
Importance for SEO
As a general rule, cross-linking can be considered a positive action if used in moderation and sensibly. The following should be noted and is relevant both for visitors and search engines:
- No/very few off-topic page links. Cross-linking makes sense only when visitors are directed to additional relevant information. Irrelevant links may lead to irritation and departure from the page. A link to and from topic-relevant content provides added value from the perspective of the search engines and from the user’s perspective.
- Natural placement. The position of a link within the page is crucial to how visitors assess it and whether they will follow it. It is of importance here to choose a natural position for the cross-link. Most visitors will be able to distinguish relevant links from others.
- Link texts. As with any link, appropriate anchor text needs to be selected. Visitors and search engines use it to assess the content by topic. The placement of keywords at this point is recommended.
- Keep the number of cross-links low. A visitor may be overwhelmed with too many links in one spot (for example in the Footer). If there are too many, he will not read or click them. Cross-linking should not be done on every subpage because that would result in spamming of your own website.
- Keep the number of domains involved low. The risk of being classified as a link farm, increases proportionately to the number of domains.
- Beware of mergers. In order for search engines to consider the domains involved as independent, you have to keep in mind the IP address. Each domain should have its own C-block. If each domain is hosted by another hosting service, search engines will not regard them as affiliated.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufGw65-1je8 Video "Is cross-linking websites bad?"