Thursday, 1 March 2012

Mastering your SEO strategy with Internal Links

SEO to people means many things...from keyword strategy to proper title tags and meta descriptions to building heaps of quality backlinks...but have you ever considered the internal links of your website?

To start with an easy mental image and analogy, think of internal links of your website like the veins in your body. Their role and function are equally as important to the health of your website as the veins are to your body.

Imagine your page as a remote island

Step back for a minute and imagine each page of your website as an island in the middle of a lonely ocean. Each page then has three elements:

  1. inbound links from other pages of your website
  2. the content on the page
  3. links to other pages on your website
Therefore, each page serves a very specific function:
  1. to act as a high ranking landing page
  2. to serve as a supporting page to rank additional pages
With this in mind, the reason why so many pages become stagnant in the search engine result pages is because they don’t have enough link-flow from either (a) the site architecture (b) deep links / inbound links from other websites or more importantly (c) internal links from other high ranking pages from within your website.

What’s the fastest way to the top 10?

By far the quickest way to get a page in the top 10 is to get a link from another page already ranking in the top 10 for a related keyword or theme of your website.
Here’s the best part, you have COMPLETE control over your own pages, their content matter and how they are linked (with which anchor text) from the content body on other pages in your website. So why wouldn’t you take advantage of this and use this method to get additional pages ranking well?

Time to scale up your content

Now it’s time to take this a step further by scaling up the amount of pages to leverage the collective power of the entire body of contents. By simply creating more quality pages you can exceed the algorithmic tipping point required to gain enough authority for your chosen keywords (based on the competitiveness / barrier to entry).

You need to design a complete keyword package

For example, if I wanted to rank for the keyword “shirts”, with its 751 million competing pages, adding a new 10-page website and building some links (no matter how many) is NOT going to create enough relevance to hit page one for the word “shirts”. You won’t even be close.
The high ranking websites are there because of the relevance and citation they have acquired over the years. Basically, the more competitive the keyword, the more time, content, internal and external inbound links from other sites you need as well as trust and authority to offset your competitors relevance score.

Going back to your goal of ranking for a competitive keyword like “shirts”, to accomplish this feat, you will need every layer of your website to be semantically relevant to the seed phrase “shoes” and incorporate various keyword modifiers including different brands, sizes, models and styles.

Designing your internal structure

Once you have this, you need to critically think about your structure and segment which pages are most important and what function they serve and how they are connected; meaning tier one, tier two and tier 3 (i.e. landing page, category page or product / supporting article page). You will then map out the required internal links, content and implement them seamlessly in the site architecture/hierarchy where they belong – before you start inbound building links from other websites.

The more competitive the keyword you are targeting, the more detail you need to pay to on-page optimization. Your goal should be to offset the tendency for slipping in the SERPs. By intelligent internal linking and proper keyword content with the addition of keyword stemming (where a site begins to rank itself – page by page through themed links and content) you can will see an improvement in your ranking without building any new inbound links.

Can you create perpetual motion?

However, reaching the stage where each page can “rank” another page (like a perpetual motion machine), requires that the current pages pages are (a) indexed (b) strong enough (meaning linked from enough other internal pages) or (c) has enough quality deep links (inbound links from other websites to those internal page other than the homepage).
Sure, you can drip feed content and blog posts, add products (if it’s an eCommerce site) and slowly chip away at the keyword. But to really be effective you need to create internal self-referral loops using an internal linking structure for link-flow for your page rank similar to our bodies circulatory system for our blood. In case you were wondering, the technical name for this is “theming through siloing”.

It’s all about synergy

In countless years of testing website ranking by many professionals, no matter how many inbound links you have, your website is not complete unless (a) have internal links from the strongest keyword related pages in your website to assist that landing page or (b) have managed to get that page ranked so it can fend and defend itself amidst competitors vying for the same position.
Internal links can:
  • Strengthen a page to withstand attrition
  • Rank a page for competitive or less competitive “groups of words” once it has achieved its own rank for those keywords themselves
  • Index new pages which can support even more pages eventually as they mature

In need to find your weakest link

The summary and main thing here is that without a well thought and researched internal linking structure, you are only achieving a fraction of the results you could be achieving.

Without sounding to cliche, your website is only as strong as your weakest link. Therefore, with the more pages you have “that are indexed and aging” and “linked appropriately or exclusively with the anchor text that page is intended to rank for” the easier your pages rise to the top of your competitors as a result of the “collective weight” of the relevancy of your websites authority using a fragment of the off page links than if you hadn’t.

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