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What does Cross Linking mean in SEO?

Cross linking is an extremely powerful way to increase the relevancy of pages on your own website and can have a massive impact on your rankings. I'll show you what it is and how to use it to maximum effect.

What is cross linking?

So really simply if you create a link from one page on your website to another page, its a cross link. Cross linking is about how to do this in a way that will help increase the rankings of a particular page or set of pages.

If you do it right cross linking will:

  1. improve the relevancy of pages on your website
  2. help search engines understand your websites structure
  3. give certain pages on your website more authority in the eyes of search engines

Increasing the relevancy

Let's say I wanted to make a page more relevant to the keyword phrase 'cross linking'. We'll assume I've done a lot of the things I should have done for on-page SEO. Cross linking is in the title tag, the url and the h1 tag. I mention the phrase prominently at the beginning of the content, regularly throughout the piece (but not so much that it becomes unreadable) and I use both alternative and related words and phrases so search engines can see my Salient Entity (key subject) is 'cross linking'.

Where can I go from here?

Well to start with I can create links to it from other pages on my website which are related. For example I have a page about link juice. This has strong overlapping themes so I can look for a place to include a link from there to here within the main content of that page.

If I just dump the link somewhere on the page it won't have the same effect as if I put it within the actual text itself. Something like "Once you understand link juice you will be able to harness the full power of cross linking in your on-page SEO work.

Note I've used my keyword phrase as the link text (anchor text). This is important. Google clearly states that if you have a link to a page about 'subject a' that anchor text should say 'subject a'. From Google's point of view it makes no sense for you to lie to your visitors and send them to a page which is not about 'subject a' so it counts. It is a signal to Google of what the destination page is about.

If I had written Something like "Once you understand link juice you will be able to harness the full power of cross linking in your SEO work (see this article)" with 'this article' being my anchor text I've given Google something so vague it doesn't know if I'm trying to mislead my visitors or I'm just very bad at SEO.

In other words using the right anchor text increases the relevancy of the destination page in Google's eyes - and most of the other major search engines for that matter.

Now, the earlier I can get that link into the main text the better. Links higher up in the content carry more weight so if I want to boost this page I'd ideally put the link in the opening paragraph. As you can see from the example I just gave that text would sit comfortably somewhere very near the beginning.

Cross linking to help search engines understand your websites structure

Search engines crawl websites page by page and they struggle to see how they all fit together unless you help them.

One of the key signals they follow is to see which sets of pages link to each other most often. In my SEO glossary on many of the pages within the glossary link to other pages within the glossary. Google can see they are bunched together and then realize I have a comprehensive set of pages in the area SEO glossary.

I do have links to other parts of the website as well because it would look weird if I didn't. It would signal to search engines that the other parts of the website are completely unconnected and I want them to see the site has an overall theme - How to SEO.

But don't rely on this type of cross linking alone because it takes time. The other key cross linking activity is to use breadcrumbs with structured data markup.

Cross linking to increase the authority of a page

This is something known as link juice draining or link juice pool draining.

Let's say I have a page on my website that has got a lot of links from other respectable websites. That means it is receiving a lot of link juice which also means it has a lot of link juice to share out. Imagine the page as a pool of link juice just waiting to flow somewhere.

It'll flow out of whatever links there are on that page even if there are only internal links there.

For example, my page 'Pictures of puppies' has loads of links from other website so lots of link juice to share but my page 'Pictures of kittens' isn't doing to well. Somewhere near the top I could add the sentence "These are my favorite pictures of puppies from around the web. Hope you enjoy them and don't forget to check out my pictures of kittens as well" where 'pictures of kittens' is a link to my page with pictures of kittens.

That's a link near the top of the main content using accurate anchor text and so its going to send link juice over to my pictures of kittens page.

This doesn't work just randomly. The same link rules exist. It works better if there is a theme overlap. Here the theme overlap is animals or pets. If instead I added a link to my page on 'pictures of dalmatian puppies' the overlap would be stronger and the cross linking even more effective.

If instead of saying " ... don't forget to check out my pictures of kittens" I said "... don't forget to win big at my casino page" then I am completely out of context and the effect is muted.

So there you have it. Go through your content and make sure that sections of your website are cross linked to their max, make sure you have breadcrumbs with structured data markup in place and if you are lucky enough to have some pages bubbling with link juice think about how you could use that effectively to boost other content.

I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.

If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.

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