Off-Page SEO Factors – Internal Linking

You will find that building external links is not as easy as you would want it to be. The good news is that all of your competitors are in the same boat. Because you have more control over your own pages, we recommend focusing on internal off-page search engine optimization before you move on to external links. It is absolutely critical that you take advantage of every Web page on your site to maximize the ranking potential of all your landing pages.

The internal SEO process involves the following steps:

  • Maximize the PR of high-priority landing pages by linking to them from an adequate number of pages, preferably pages with high link importance (e.g. home page or other pages in global navigation).
  • Eliminating all PR dilution from links to pages without "rankable" content.
  • Optimizing lower-level pages on your site to increase link relevance going to your landing pages.

PageRank Optimization – Funneling and Avoiding Dilution

All Web sites have a limited amount of PageRank to work with. The total amount of PageRank a site has is strongly influenced by the external sites that link to it. Theoretically, adding more pages to your site incrementally increases its PageRank. However, it does not increase your PageRank enough to affect rankings significantly. Because a site's PR is limited, it is important to distribute PR so that as much PR as possible goes to your most relevant landing pages. You accomplish this by linking to your landing pages wherever it is appropriate throughout your site.

In addition to linking to the right pages, you also want to avoid excessively linking to pages that do not have keyword-relevant content. For example, many sites have a Privacy Policy page, which is not a high SEO value page. It does not make sense to give your Privacy Policy page the same amount of PageRank as other globally-linked pages. You would be taking importance away from higher value pages, which would make them less likely to rank well in search engines. Previously, it was appropriate to use a rel="nofollow" attribute on such links. However, due to changes in Google's algorithm, we no longer suggest utilizing that technique.

In most circumstances, it is not worth worrying about PR dilution from one or two links, especially if your site has a significant amount of PageRank. But if the linking is excessive or your site has a small amount of PR, the best way to eliminate the dilution is to generate the links with JavaScript or AJAX that is defined off page or by putting the links into <iframe> elements. Please note that we said JavaScript or AJAX defined off the page. Google has made some strides in passing PR through JavaScript-based links where the target URL is identifiable by spidering the page (e.g. if the destination page is identified in the link's onclick attribute).

Creating Navigational Links for Landing Pages

Several years ago it was good search engine optimization practice to create a global navigation that linked to all of the top landing pages on your site with optimized anchor text. We do not feel that it is good practice anymore. Adding a keyword to the anchor text of a global link could lead to a filter being applied to your site for that keyword.

Instead of focusing on SEO when choosing your anchor text for global links, you should focus on what would make the most sense for your visitors. We also suggest utilizing subnavigational elements to distribute PageRank on certain pages instead of making links global. For example, let us assume you had several topic hubs that each contained 10 articles about the topic. Rather than creating a global link to the main landing page for that topic, we would suggest linking to a main Articles page that links to each of the topic hubs. Every article within each topic would also link to the main page for the topic. Although the end result of this strategy is fewer links to the landing page, we feel that it will lead to an adequate amount of internal relevance while also minimizing the chances of throwing up any red flags for over-optimization.

Avoiding "Supplemental" Pages

Up until several years ago, Google used to tag certain pages in their SERPs as "Supplemental" results. A page was placed in Google's supplemental index if it had very low PR and/or if it contained too much duplicate information. If any of the pages on your site are currently in Google's supplemental index, then you are getting essentially zero search engine optimization benefit from them. Supplemental pages will not be able to rank for any competitive keywords that are utilized on them. And perhaps more importantly, you will not be able to create any link relevance through the page's outbound internal links.

Unfortunately, Google no longer identifies pages as supplemental when they rank in SERPs. It is possible, however, to identify pages that are in Google's main index. You can do so by using the following query in a Google search:

site:www.example.com/* (use your domain instead of example.com)

This modified site command will limit the results to pages in Google's main index. By comparing the list of pages returned in this command to a full list of URLs on your site you can determine which of your pages are currently supplemental.

You can usually promote a Web page into Google's main index by: a) linking to it from pages with high importance, b) linking to it from more pages, and/or c) making the page more unique by adding body content and optimizing its Title and Meta Description.

We have found that many pages on sites are supplemental simply due to a lack of inbound links. For instance, site owners will often write a press release or article and then link to it only once from a "in the news" or articles page. One internal link to a page is rarely enough to get it out of Google's supplemental index. Creating subnavigations that link all of your press releases or related articles to each other is a good solution to this problem.

Key Takeaways – Internal Linking

To sum up, here are some key things to remember in regards to internal link optimization:

  • Create a global navigation that is spiderable, but focuses on usability as opposed to SEO.
  • Make sure that all pages that will function as landing pages or have theme supporting content have at least a handful of internal inbound links from relevant pages.
  • Minimize the number of supplemental pages on your site by linking to them from more pages and/or adding unique content to them.

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