August 14, 2008
If you own or run a website and are not following these six tactics for properly linking your website together then you’re losing Google traffic as you read this. First some definitions. Internal linking is the links on your website that point to other pages within your same website. External linking is when you link to another website. Tactics are specific things to do to achieve desired results, or any mode of procedure for gaining advantage or success.
There are things you can do when developing or refining your internal linking structure. If you carry out the following tactics, you’re going to achieve two things. One, you’ll make your website better from a user’s perspective. Two, you’ll rank better in Google. And it’s no coincidence that Google rewards you for doing things that make the website user’s experience easier and better. In fact, the most important thing I can recommend is that you create, design and link your website together is a way that benefits the visitor first. Your visitors are most important, not Google rankings.
One last thing before I get to the tactics. Have you heard that links from other websites that point back to your website is essential in getting top search engine rankings, especially with Google? It’s true. These links vary in their effectiveness and value depending on the website from which they’re coming. But did you also know that internal links often can have similar effectiveness and value as external links? So bear this in mind as you read on.
1) Add links in your navigation or footer as text links to all your important pages and main sections.
So if you want search engines to visit and index (or record) ALL your website’s pages, be sure there are text links pointing to all the main sections of your site and to all your important pages.
2) Make use of the rel=”nofollow” HTML tag.
This is fairly simple. Google created this tag which tells them NOT to count the link in their search engine ranking algorithm when used on a link. There’s debate that maybe Google does count them a little, or will some day in the future. But for now, this tag does greatly decrease a link’s value in Google’s eyes. Therefore, consider using this tag on some of your links within your site. For example, let’s say you have a homepage and then create two inner pages, and that’s the extent of the site. Let’s further say that you add a link to both pages on your homepage. If your homepage has some external links pointing to it, then it has some value in regards to Google’s ranking system. When you link to each of your two new pages within your site from your homepage, each page gets only 50% of the value the homepage has. (This is all measured in Page Rank). Let’s then say that your first inner page is the one you want to rank well in the Google, but you don’t care if your second inner page even gets found by Google or ranked. You could add the nofollow tag to the second link on your homepage, thereby giving the first inner page 100% of the homepage’s value.
Think of the implications. Imagine if you had a website with hundreds or thousands of pages and used the nofollow tag throughout. To understand how to implement this tag is, see the two links in HTML below, one without it and one with it correctly included.
Finally, if you have pages such as a privacy page, terms page, checkout pages or contact pages that you don’t care if they rank well in Google, be sure to use the nofollow tag when creating internal links to these pages.
3) Use descriptive & different phrases to point to the same inner page
The words that are in the text of a link (also known as the anchor text) affect your search engine rankings. For example, the anchor text in the two links above is “Your Website”. If enough of these links that were on quality and valuable sites, including your own website’s inner pages, pointed to the same page, it would eventually rank well in Google when someone searches for the phrase “your website”.
Therefore, be sure to make the anchor text in all your internal links the phrases you want the pages to be found for in Google. If you have a page that sells “blue widgets”, make the anchor text in links on other pages within your website that point to this page “blue widgets”. Do it like this:
Going back to the number 1 tactic above, you would be far better off making the anchor text in all your footer links as descriptive as possible. If you want to rank well in Google for “affordable blue widgets” then use this in your links that point to this page:
Finally, vary your anchor text when pointing to the same page within your website. For instance, on some of your pages you could link to your Blue Widgets page with the anchor text of “blue widgets”, then on other pages link to it using “affordable blue widgets” and then maybe use “widgets that are blue”. This allows you to get the page ranked for multiple terms and helps the user since you’re being descriptive and making your anchor text better match the content of the page it’s on.
4) Make links in your content
If you have text on your site, make some of the words within the text links that point to other pages within your website. For instance, if you have an article about blue widgets, or a page that describes how great your blue widgets are, make the first or second occurrence of the phrase “blue widgets” in the text a link that points to your Blue Widgets page.
5) The Home link solution
If your website is typical, you’ll probably have a link on every page that points back to your homepage. And you should because this helps users. By doing this, you’re supplying a lot of link value to the homepage since it is getting all these internal links pointing back to it. Since in the number three tactic I recommended that you make your anchor text the same as what you want to rank for, the word “home” does you no good. I’ll assume that you’re not trying to get your homepage ranked for the word “home”, so make the anchor text what you do want it to get ranked for.
The other option is to add the nofollow tag to all your ‘Home’ links, thereby canceling out the word “home” altogether.
6) Make important pages at most 2 folders deep with your site and at most two clicks away from your homepage.
The farther away a page is, the worse it ranks. So if you put a page in a folder that is five folders deep within your website folder structure, Google will likely consider that page not as important as a page only one folder deep. Also, make the pages in your website that are most important to get ranked two or less clicks away from the homepage. This is good for users and allows Google to index these pages more quickly.
By following these top six internal linking tactics, you’ll be far ahead of the competition, you’ll rank better in Google and you’ll be making your website visitors’ lives easier.
Jason O’Connor is the owner of Oak Web Works, LLC (http://www.oakwebworks.com), an Internet strategy firm that specializes in helping businesses make money with their business websites. From Web design and programming to strategic Web marketing, providing free resources for Web professionals and regularly publishing The Net Gazette, Oak Web Works is a center for online strategy.