Article: Ten Steps To A Well Optimized Website Step 5: Internal Linking

by Dave Davies




Welcome to part five in this search engine positioning series. Last week we
discussed the importance of content optimization. In part five we will cover
your website's internal linking structure and the role that it plays in ranking
highly, and in ranking for multiple phrases.



While this aspect is not necessarily the single most important of the ten steps
it can be the difference between first page and second page rankings, and can
make all the difference in the world when you are trying to rank your website
for multiple phrases.



Over this series we will cover the ten key aspects to a solid search engine
positioning campaign.



The Ten Steps We Will Go Through Are:


Keyword
Selection

Content Creation

Site Structure

Optimization
Internal Linking
Human Testing
Submissions
Link Building
Monitoring
The Extras



Step Five Internal Linking



With all the talk out there about linking, one might be under the impression
that the only links that count are those from other websites. While these links
certainly play an important role (as will be discussed in part eight of this
series) these are certainly not the only important links.



When you're about to launch into your link work why not stop and consider
the ones that are easiest to attain and maximize first. That would be, the ones
right there on your own site and those which you have total and complete control
of. Properly used internal links can be a useful weapon in your SEO arsenal.



The internal linking structure can:


Insure that your website gets properly spidered and that all pages are found
by the search engines
Build the relevancy of a page to a keyword phrase
Increase the PageRank of an internal page



Here is how the internal linking structure can affect these areas and how to
maximize the effectiveness of the internal linking on your own website.



Getting Your Website Spidered



Insuring that every page of your website gets found by the search engine spiders
is probably the simplest thing you can do for your rankings. Not only will this
increase the number of pages that a search engine credits your site with, but
it also increases the number of phrases that your website has the potential
to rank for.



I have seen websites that, once the search engines find all of their pages,
find that they are ranking on the first page and seeing traffic from phrases
they never thought to even research or target.



This may not necessarily be the case for you however having a larger site with
more pages related to your content will boost the value of your site overall.
You are offering this content to your visitors, so why hide it from the search
engines.



Pages can be hidden from search engines if the linking is done in a way that
they cannot read. This is the case in many navigation scripts. If your site
uses a scriptbased navigation system then you will want to consider the implementation
of one of the internal linking structures noted further in the article.



Additionally, imagebased navigation is spiderable however the search engines
can't see what an image is and thus, cannot assign any relevancy from
an image to the page it links to other than assigning it a place in your website
hierarchy.



Building The Relevancy Of A Page To A Keyword Phrase



Anyone who wants to get their website into the top positions on the search
engines for multiple phrases must start out with a clearly defined objective,
including which pages should rank for which phrases. Generally speaking it will
be your homepage that you will use to target your most competitive phrase and
move on to targeting less competitive phrases on your internal pages.



To help build the relevancy of a page to a keyword phrase you will want to
use the keyword phrase in the anchor text of the links to that page. Let's
assume that you have a website hosting company. Rather than linking to your
homepage with the anchor text "home" link to it with the text "web
hosting main". This will attach the words "web" and "hosting"
and "main" to your homepage. You can obviously leave the word "main"
out if desirable however in many cases it does work for the visitor (you know,
those people you're actually building the site for).



This doesn't stop at the homepage. If you are linking to internal pages
either through your navigation, footers, or inline text links try to use the
phrases that you would want to target on those pages as the linking text. For
example, if that hosting company offered and wanted to target "dedicated
hosting", rather than leaving the link at solely the beautiful graphic
in the middle of the homepage they would want to include a text link with the
anchor text "dedicated hosting" and link to this internal page.
This will tie the keywords "dedicated hosting" to the page.



In a field as competitive as hosting this alone won't launch the site
to the top ten however it'll give it a boost and in SEO, especially for
competitive phrases, every advantage you can give your site counts.



Increasing The PageRank Of Internal Pages



While we will be discussing PageRank (a Googlebased term) here the same rules
generally apply for the other engines. The closer a page is in clicks from your
homepage, the higher the value (or PageRank) the page is assigned. Basically,
if I have a page linked to from my homepage it will be given more weight that
a page that is four or five levels deep in my site.



This does not mean that you should link to all of
your pages from your homepage. Not only does this diffuse the weight of each
individual link but it will look incredibly unattractive if your site is significantly
large.



Figure out what you main phrases are and which pages will be used to rank for
them and be sure to include text links to these internal pages on your homepage.
It's important to pick solid pages to target keyword phrases on as you
don't want human visitors going to your "terms and conditions"
page before they've even seen the products.



If that hosting company noted above has a PageRank 6 homepage, the pages linked
from its homepage will generally be a PageRank 5 (sometimes 4, sometimes 6 depending
on the weight of the 6 for the homepage). Regardless, it will be significantly
higher that if that page was linked to from a PageRank 3 internal page.



How To Improve Your Internal Linking Structure



There are many methods you can use to improve your internal linking structure.
The three main ones are:


Text link navigation
Footers
Inline text links



Text Link Navigation



Most websites include some form of navigation on the left hand side. This makes
it one of the first things read by a search engine spider (read "Table
Structures For Top Search Engine Positioning" by Mary Davies for methods
on getting your content read before your left hand navigation). If it is one
of the first things the search engine spiders sees when it goes through your
site it will have a strong weight added to it so it must be optimized with care.



If you are using text link navigation be sure to include the targeted keywords
in the links. Thankfully this cannot be taken as meaning "cram your keywords
into each and every link" because this is your navigation and that would
look ridiculous. I've seen sites that try to get the main phrase in virtually
every link. Not only does this look horrible but it may get your site penalized
for spam (especially if the links are one after another).



You don't have to get your keywords in every link but if workable, every
second or third link works well. Also consider what you are targeting on internal
pages. If you homepage target is "web hosting" and you've
linked to you homepage in the navigation with "web hosting main"
which is followed by your contact page so you've used "contact us",
it would be a good idea to use the anchor text "dedicated hosting"
for the third link. It reinforces the "hosting" relevancy and also
attaches relevancy to the dedicated hosting page of the site to the phrase "dedicated
hosting" in the anchor text.



Footers



Footers are the often overused and abused area of websites. While they are
useful for getting spiders through your site and the other points noted above,
they should not be used as spam tools. I've seen in my travels, footers
that are longer than the content areas of pages from websites linking to every
single page in their site from them. Not only does this look bad but it reduces
that value of each individual link (which then become 1 out of 200 links rather
than 1 out of 10 or 20).



Keep your footers clean, use the anchor text well, and link to the key internal
pages of your website and you will have a well optimized footer. You will also
want to include in your footer a link to a sitemap. On this sitemap, link to
every page in your site. Here is where you can simply insure that every page
gets found. Well worded anchor text is a good rule on your sitemap as well.
You may also want to consider a limited description of the page on your sitemap.
This will give you added verbiage to solidify the relevancy of the sitemap page
to the page you are linking to.



Internal Text Links



Internal text links are links placed within the content of your work. They
were covered in last week's article on content
optimization, which gives me a great opportunity to use one as an example.



While debatable, inline text links do appear to be given extra weight as their
very nature implies that the link is entirely relevant to the content of the
site.



You can read more on this in last week's article.



Final Notes



As noted above, simply changing your internal navigation will not launch your
site to the top of the rankings however it's important to use each and
every advantage available to create a solid top ten ranking for your site that
will hold it's position.



They will get your pages doing better, they will help get your entire site
spidered, they will help increase the value of internal pages and they will
build the relevancy of internal pages to specific keyword phrases.



Even if that's all they do, aren't they worth taking the time to
do right?



Next Week



Next week in part six of our "Ten Steps To an Optimized Website"
series we will be covering the importance of human testing. Having a wellranked
website will mean nothing if people can't find their way through it or
if it is visually unappealing.





About the Author


Dave Davies is the owner of Beanstalk Search Engine Positioning. He has been optimizing and ranking websites for over three years and has a solid history of success. Dave is available to answer any questions that you may have about your website and how to get it into the top positions on the major search engines.


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