Mastering Link Architecture to get Great Rankings

Internal Linking StructureLinking is an essential part of SEO.  While we often focus on external link building, internal linking is also very important.  John over at TentBlogger wrote a helpful article yesterday about how being strategic with your internal linking can both be beneficial for your visitors and have a big impact on your search rankings.

John’s primary context is that of a blog, but the principles are the same for any website.  Some great take-aways from John’s article are:

  1. Always link to previous articles (or other parts of your website).  It strengthens those pages in the search engines, provides more content to readers, exposes unseen content to new visitors, and can make you more concise by giving more detail in the linked content.
  2. Always link to something else on your site at the end of your content.  If it’s a blog, link to another related article.  If it’s a regular web page, have a call to action or link to related products / services.  Give your visitors somewhere else to go on your website.
  3. Plan your internal linking structure.  I really want to emphasize this one.  Rarely does a good internal link structure just happen.  You HAVE to plan it out.
  4. Don’t put too many links on a page.  It weakens the SEO value of all the links and it usually makes for a bad experience for visitors.
  5. Don’t offer paid links without the nofollow.  It’s a big risk for both involved.
  6. Be intentional about the anchor text.  What words are you using as the link text?  That matters to search engines and will effect your search rankings.  So, know what keywords you want to target for the pages you are linking to and be consistent about the keywords you use when linking to a particular page.  I would add to this that you shouldn’t really use the exact same text every time because some variety is good, but all the keywords should be closely related and you should have a majority of the keywords exactly the same.
  7. John suggests keeping external linking to a minimum.  Personally, I’m a little less concerned about how much external linking is done.  Certainly you don’t want to over do it, but if it’s helpful for your visitors, don’t be afraid to link to another site.  Google actually has indicated that external linking can benefit your site if you are linking to quality sites.  To quote Matt Cutts:

“In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.”

Link SculptingLink Sculpting
One thing I do have to point out, however, is that the article is wrong about link sculpting and the nofollow attribute.  The article indicates that you can increase the Pagerank (link authority) passed through some links by nofollowing other links on the page.  The example goes like this:

If your page has 10 Pagerank points to pass and you have 10 links, each link would get 1 Pagerank point.  But, if you nofollow 5 of those links, then instead of each of the followed links getting 1 PR point, they would each get 2 since Google wouldn’t count the other 5 nofollow links.

This used to be the case, but a couple years ago Google changed how they deal with nofollow links.  As you can read on Matt Cutt’s blog here, Google has changed it so they still count nofollow links, they just don’t actually pass the Pagerank.  So, using the example above, instead of each of the followed links getting 2 PR points, they still only get 1 PR point.  The 5 PR points that would have gone to the nofollowed links just goes away.  And to be clear, some people have suggested that this would then increase the Pagerank of the page because less is leaving the page, but Google has indicated that’s not the case either.  The page where the links are has the same Pagerank regardless of whether the nofollow attribute is used on links or not.

I heard it described like this…It’s like a mother’s love for her child.  Just because she loves one child, doesn’t mean she loves her other children any less.  Her love isn’t diminished by loving another child.

So, don’t use the nofollow for Pagerank sculpting because it doesn’t work and it can actually make things worse in regards to indexing.  If you want to Pagesrank sculpt, you have to do it by choosing what links you put on each page.  Also, don’t use the nofollow attribute when linking out to someone.  If you’re linking to them, you must think they are offering something of value.  So, give them a little link love.  I’ve giving Tentblogger some link love with this article. ;)

You can read John’s full article over at TentBlogger at:

And if you’re interesting in how to get more external links, check out this article about link building.

Photos by recursion_see_recursion and Pgd

Have you planned your internal linking structure?  Have you even thought about it before?

What internal linking architecture strategy do you use?

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