Will there be any adverse effects on your website's SEO effectiveness and page ranking if you cross-link it to many of your other websites? Cross-linking, in many ways, seems like an artifact of the bygone era of Web 1.0 — wherein moving GIFs and hard-to-load flash intros were the norm, and in order for one of your sites to gain traffic, it was considered a good idea to link it to another, more popular site regardless of whether or not they're even tangentially related to each other.
When Can Cross-Linking Be Bad?
By bad, of course, we mean lower page rankings or less effective SEO. To be sure, cross-linking is a sound practice in terms of linking related websites together. For example, if you have a website about Mainstream Superhero comic books, then have another site for Japanese "manga" comic books, and yet another site for independent comic books and the published version of webcomics, then cross-linking the three sites together is not a bad idea at all.
However, you're going to start making problems for your website or collection of websites by linking unrelated sites together. Imagine yourself as the typical Internet surfer. You've visited a site to, say, read about reviews of the latest movies. Wouldn't you be confused to see backlinks leading to a local parish? Or how about a link to a pet care site? How about a cross-linked website concerning Ancient Greece?
Going Overboard with Cross-Linking
The above mentioned examples of bad cross-links are the earmarks of the amateurish website disasters of the nineties, particularly made by people who use their Geocities websites to post their personal favorite links as though it's an online bookmark page or something. Then again, some professional companies that should know better fell victim to this trap as well back in the day! There's no beating a site that's thematically sound from the inside-out, because it's the kind of site that attracts the right kind of traffic.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when cross-linking one site to another is to keep everything pertinent. They must have something in common, or else you'd look like a spammer who posts his irrelevant websites or content along with all the popular links of the day. Websites under one banner or company can be cross-linked together. Websites that seem like a collection of unrelated stores in a typical commercial district probably should not be cross-linked (unless you've made a website about people visiting that particular "street").
Is Cross-Linking SEO-Relevant or Visitor-Relevant?
Obviously, visiting unrelated sites that are cross-linked is something that the average visitor will not put up with. Then again, regardless if it's "morally" right to do so or not, there are people out there who don't particularly care about the satisfaction of their visitors as long as they get traffic, hence their resorting to dubious methods like deceptive links, misleading titles, or content updated in accordance to the latest trends of the day.
For a spammer that's only concerned in gaining traffic and is paid as such by the volume of visitors he or she produces, cross-linking will work on that end. Then again, in light of Google algorithm fixes such as Panda 2.2, bad cross-linking and any presence of irrelevancy will be dealt with by the search engine accordingly. In terms of a favorable Google index placement in the long-term, let's just say that the less your site looks like a spam page full of extraneous material, the better.
Have you had any good or bad experience with cross linking? If yes, please leave a comment below. We'd love to hear from you.
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