Cross-Referencing Articles: Good or Bad?

In the past, I was told on SitePoint that it is a good thing if you cross-reference content within your website.

Based on this, I created an architecture with just a few Sections, but with hundreds of Subsections to allow me to promote Articles to different target audiences.

For example, let’s say I wrote an article entitled: “fastest-growing-small-business-sectors-for-2013”

The primary “home” for this article might be “/finance/economy/”, however, I might want to include it in other areas as well…

To me, placing that (database-driven) article in each of those Sections/Subsections of my website makes sense, because that one article deals with 1.) “Finance” and the “Economy”, 2.) “Small-Business”, 3.) “Women (Entrepreneurs)”, and it is also a 4.) Featured Article.

So I went along my merry way designing my entire website around this paradigm based on what I thought was sound advice from SitePoint, and based on common-sense.

Well, now I have some people telling in another thread that this design is bad and that Google will penalize me for it, and that it will hurt my SEO?! :eek:

Needless to say I am not a happy camper… :mad:

I thought the power of dynamic websites and the Internet was to be able to easily “slice and dice” information, and to easily get it into the hands of users who might be interested in it?!

To me, my design is very powerful, because it allows me to target Finance people, Small-Businesses, Women, and anyone looking for Feature-Articles. And it is hardly like I am creating junk content, or “keyword loading” my website, or whatever.

So what is up with these people slamming my websites design??

And more importantly, did I make some grave mistake and do I have to completely start over?? :frowning: :frowning: :frowning:

I am very upset right now, and feel like crying…



As long as you use a canonical link element, you should be good.

I read that yesterday but it isn’t worded very clearly.

Are they saying this…

**Main Location


	<link rel="canonical" href="" />

**Cross-Referenced Locations


	<link rel="canonical" href="" />


	<link rel="canonical" href="" />


	<link rel="canonical" href="" />



Yup, just like that.


1.) Are you supposed to put the canonical link in the canonical file as well (i.e. the “main location”)??

2.) How effective is adding this canonical link thingy in making Google happy?

3.) Do I need to need to use 301 Redirects as well?

4.) Most importantly… Do you think it is “good” or “bad” how I am linking from other parts of my website to the same article?




I don’t think anyone outside Google could realistically quantify this. And even Google makes only a generalized statement: “Use canonical URLs to improve link and ranking signals for content available through multiple URL structures.”


I don’t actually have a strong opinion one way or the other on that one.

Even if you had only one URL for each article, you could still link to it from other parts of your site. Implementation-wise, one URL per article seems simpler.

On the other hand, having more and various kinds of URL segments associated with the article might give Google more keywords to use. Emphasis on “might” because I’m making an inference. I don’t know whether Google will use the combined keywords of all the URLs.

And then there is the reason I am actually doing it…

When I write and publish the article “fastest-growing-small-business-sectors-for-2013”, whether you are a CFO browsing in the “Finance” section or an entrepreneur surfing in the “Small-Business” section, or you are a female business owner reading articles in the “Women” Subsection, I want you to stumble across my article!!

By linking and Article to 3 or 4 Sections/Subsections, I can make sure that different audiences on my website don’t miss out.

To me, that is an excellent idea, considering I will have hundreds and thousands of Articles that otherwise might go unnoticed if they just had a single primary Category associated with them…



But you don’t need different URLs to accomplish that. Links can point to wherever you want.

My website currently has 4 “Sections”:

- Finance
- Legal
- Management
- Small-Business

And my website has “Dimensions” which are groupings of “Subsections”:

- Business-Structure
- Store-Type
- Offering
- Featured

and so on...

(“Dimensions” are orthogonal to “Sections”…)

Then I have “Subsections”:

- Sole Proprietor
- S-Corp
- C-Corp
- Brick & Mortar
- Online
- Products
- Services
- Full Service
- Economy
- Markets
- Entrepreneurs
- Women

and so on....

So when a person surfs to…





…then I want you to see the Article: “Small-Business Owned by Women Increase 350% in 2014” in all of those Subsection homepages listed above.

Follow me??

This isn’t about having 4 different hyperlinks pointing to the same Article. Instead, it is about having the Article appear in 4 different Subsections in my website!

Because users who regularly visit the “Finance” section may not also regularly visit the “Small-Business” section, and people who visit the “Small-Business” section, still may not regularly check out the “Women” subsection.



Yes, I see. I just think it could be done a lot simpler.

Debbie, take a look at how Google expects multiple URLs with identical content to be handled.

It is not good now days. Google is being smart day by day so you need to have more care of your content. Canonical URL may help but not for too much articles.
It can help if you hardly have same article at two different locations.
In my opinion you should put the article at most appropriate location and at other page use hyperlink of that location.

What about this as an alternative solution…

Let’s say that the primary location for the article, “Top Small-Businesses of 2013”, is Finance/Economy.

In order to keep track of where an Article can appear, I would need to have it mapped to multiple places in my “Placement” table like this…

section		dimension	subsection	slug
--------	----------	-----------	-----
finance		featured	economy		top-small-businesses-of-2013
small-business	store-type	online		top-small-businesses-of-2013
other		by-group	women		top-small-businesses-of-2013

Okay, so Debbie is surfing around in the “Other” Section and clicks on the “Women” Subsection and sees these Article Summaries…

[B][COLOR="#0000FF"][URL=""]Top Small-Businesses of 2013
[/COLOR][/B]  [COLOR="#FF0000"][SIZE=2]<=== Hover over me!![/SIZE][/COLOR]
Published: April 13, 2013
Here is a look at the industries where U.S. companies with under $10 in annual sales have shown the highest and lowest percentage change during 2012.

[B][COLOR="#0000FF"][Empowering Your Employees will Help Your Bottom-Line](
[/COLOR][/B]Published: May 25, 2013
Employees who can think for themselves and take action, not only make for happier emplyees, they help your business's Bottom-Line!

[B][COLOR="#0000FF"][When to Hire a Consultant?](
[/COLOR][/B]Consultant. Credit: John Doe, Wikimedia Commons.
Published: January 10, 2012
Being an entrepreneur and a go getter, a lot of small-business owners not only have to, but want to "do it all"!! However, one trait of a successful small-business person is knowing when you are absolutely over-your-head!! It might be in Finance, Marketing, Legal, or I.T. issues. Regardless, there is a time where you will have to swallow your pride, and get some outside help.

When she clicks on the Article Summary - first link in example above - she will be taken to the primary location for this Article.

(I would need to write a function to find each Article’s “primary location”.)

So, my Placement Table allows me to define all of the Sections/Subsections where I want an Article Summary to appear, but regardless of where a user finds the Article, when the user clicks on the link, he/she will always take the user to the primary location (URL) for the Article, thus eliminating “duplicates” in Google’s mind.

How does that sound??

It seems that approach gives me the flexibility I want, without having “dups” and eliminating the need to a something like…

	<link rel="canonical" href="" />

…in every Article.

Thoughts? :-/



I think that’s a step in the right direction. :slight_smile: That way, your database knows which article should appear in which subsection without needing to make a new URL.

Hi Debbie,

Yes I think that is a far better solution rather than having three Unique Resource Locations each pointing to the same page. Google will be delighted :slight_smile:

I fail to see why it is necessary to have the “/finance/economy/” prefix. Why not just use the slug?

my two-cents

Come on, Jeff…

Just “one” step??

How about, “That is a great idea, Debbie. That has to be at least 2 1/2 steps in the right direction!” :wink:



But it was a long stride. :slight_smile:

Pro of this approach: it’s simple, not too complicated, and indeed quite elegant, I don’t see why google wouldn’t like this

Possible con of this approach: you can not show any “aside” information for the category the user originally browser. E.g., if someone got to the article via other/women, but the primary dimension of the article is finance/economy, you can’t show them “Other women articles” for example, because you don’t know how they got to that page (unless you would store somewhere, which I wouldn’t encourage, since it will get real messy real soon), but instead are stuck with “Other finance articles”.
Depending on your needs and wants, this may or may not be a problem. If it is a problem I’d go with the canonical. If it’s not a problem your proposal will work just fine :slight_smile:

Once again, you bring up some interesting points in your “Con” comments.

For now, I think I’ll go with this latest approach, as it seems to be the closest to a “win-win” situation for me.

Thanks for everyone’s help!

Now if I can just get my other problem - dealing with Sorting and Pagination - fixed, then life will be beautiful again!