Internal Link Architecture Made Easy

Jul 5th

Jim Boykin recently offered tips to help webmasters understand how to audit a site to see what pages are the most link rich, how internal link equity flows around websites, and how to optimize your internal link architecture. In addition to Jim's tips, you can also improve your internal link structure by using some of the following tips.

Create Promotional Content Sections

The following ideas display social acceptance (which helps improve conversion) while also funneling PageRank at important pages without looking spammy.

  • heavily promote seasonal stuff in advance (internally and externally)

  • use sales data or other metrics to create a what's hot in this category and what's hot on our site section to flow more link equity to best sellers (these can be called anything like what's hot, top rated, etc)
  • create pages high in the site structure to support high value keywords that were only tangentially covered on lower level nodes
  • over-represent new content in your link structure to help it get indexed quickly, see how well it will rank, and learn how profitable it is

Internal to External Link Ratio

Doing theses sorts of things will still give you all the good karma and benefit that linking out does, while minimizing any downside caused by funneling a significant portion of your PageRank out of your site.

  • if you have a blog cross reference old posts where and when it makes sense

  • if you link out heavily on a page ensure you also place numerous internal links on the page
  • use breadcrumb navigation or other navigational schemes to help structure the site and improve the internal to external link ratio
  • if you have a ton of outbound site-wide links change some of them to only list them on a single page or section of your site

Keep the Noise Out of the Index

  • demoting an entire section of the site in the link structure if it has a lower ROI than other sections

  • use robots.txt and meta robots exclusion tags to prevent duplicate content and other low information or noisy pages from getting indexed
  • instead of using pagination try to display more content on each page
  • check your server logs for 404 errors. fix any broken links and redirect old linked to pages to their new locations

Bonus Idea: Create Cross Referencing Navigational Structures

This idea may sound a bit complex until you visualize it as a keyword chart with an x and y axis.

  • Imagine that a, b, c, ... z are all good keywords.

  • Imagine that 1, 2, 3, ... 10 are all good keywords.
  • If you have a page on each subject consider placing the navigation for a through z in the sidebar while using links and brief descriptions for 1 through 10 as the content of the page. If people search for a 7 or b 9 that cross referencing page will be relevant for it, and if it is done well it does not look to spammy.

Since these types of pages can spread link equity across so many pages of different categories make sure they are linked to well high up in the site's structure. These pages works especially well for categorized content cross referenced by locations.

Published: July 5, 2007

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Comments

daniel
July 5, 2007 - 11:51am

nice post, Aaron with a ton of valuable stuff.

on first read the 'bonus idea' feels a bit like www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfgRGW9Ghik . maybe a concrete example would make it easier to understand?

thanks a lot,

daniel

Wicked Keemo
July 5, 2007 - 5:53pm

Holy shit...someone hacked Dave's blog. http://www.davidnaylor.co.uk/

David Kubicka
July 5, 2007 - 5:56pm

Hi Aaron, nice post. Can you point to an example of your bonus idea?

Dao By Design
July 5, 2007 - 6:41pm

I gotta say, the bonus idea seems a wee bit of a stretch. I mean, sure if you put a, b and c on a page connected with 1, 2 and 3... well then you're laughing, but then how do 4 and 6 feel when cross referenced to z, t and pi?

I get what you're saying, but it just seems like you've taken it that one step too far.

Bob Gladstein
July 6, 2007 - 5:51am

"If you link out heavily on a page ensure you also place numerous internal links on the page."

You really believe that's important? I assume you're talking about more internal links than the navigation links that are going to be on most if not all pages anyway. Either way, it's not clear to me why you'd need to balance out a page's off-site links.

July 6, 2007 - 6:04am

Hi Bob
It doesn't have to be entirely balanced of course, but some sites that I recently reviewed frequently published link aggregator type posts. That type of content typically is not interesting enough to be linked at, and flows out a significant portion of the site's link equity.

Aoleon
July 6, 2007 - 5:09pm

Excellent post Aaron!

Derek
July 6, 2007 - 11:38pm

Definitely appreciate the "Keep the noise out of the index" section of tips. I think that some of these things get overlooked during an ongoing campaign and need to get revisited from time to time.

DigitalGhost
July 7, 2007 - 11:01pm

I've often said that PR flows like water. Many tributaries flowing into a river makes the river more important.

Direct the flow from the mouth of the river to your important pages. Dam off the flow to those pages that aren't necessary. A flow chart comes in handy when determining where to direct the flow. ; )

shor
July 9, 2007 - 7:30am

Excellent ideas Aaron, especially for those authority sites that compete for low-competition long tail terms!

I have a few minor questions:

Internal to External Link Ratio

What's a good way to determine a healthy external-to-internal link ratio? Do you simply compare competitors' ratio to your own ratio?
(I would imagine the SEs do something similar, ie. flag a site that deviates significantly from the neighborhood's internal-to-external link ratio)

On that note, what is your opinion on using javascript and/or rel nofollow on outbound links to preserve juice? Corporate policy is to not go overboard with this practice, but there are no hard-and-set rules.

Instead of using pagination try to display more content on each page

I think the succecss of reduced pagination will vary a lot depending on the type of content and the type of page.

Test, test, test.

For example, on deep inventory pages it's been largely a trial-and-error experiment for us in determining an optimal amount of content per page. Too much and we've seen (rankings) search referrals to that page drop off. However, having a lot of pagination on deep internal pages seems to have had less impact than too much content.

July 9, 2007 - 8:30am

What's a good way to determine a healthy external-to-internal link ratio

I think just being aware of it is all that is necessary. And if you create large resource pages that reference many external resources consider adding some internal references in the document as well.

On that note, what is your opinion on using javascript and/or rel nofollow on outbound links to preserve juice?

I generally don't like that too much.

March 6, 2008 - 5:20pm

Aaron,
I am a webmaster for a Car Dealer's site.

Car dealer's site fits the product, product, product -- location, location, location model (featured below). This layout will work well for the category pages (i.e. Car, SUV, Van, etc...)

I recall you saying that there is the potential for some retailers inventory to look repetitve.

This is a low competition, longtail, location based Industry. It would be important for me to Top10 as many of the ab,c,&1,2,3's as possible. How important is the site architecture & internal linking, or, can this be tackled with tags and copy?

Imagine that a, b, c, ... z are all good keywords.
Imagine that 1, 2, 3, ... 10 are all good keywords.

If you have a page on each subject consider placing the navigation for a through z in the sidebar while using links and brief descriptions for 1 through 10 as the content of the page. If people search for a 7 or b 9 that cross referencing page will be relevant for it, and if it is done well it does not look to spammy.

March 6, 2008 - 5:30pm

I think the key is to have some unique editorial on each page if possible...and build enough link equity to get the pages indexed.

December 16, 2008 - 9:19pm

Hey Aaron,

I seem to recall that Google will give more weight to an incoming link from an external website if the link is higher on the page or more prominent, as opposed to being in the footer, on the external site.

Does the same idea apply with internal linking? Or does internal link juice flow evenly among all the links leaving a page to other internal pages?

What about proximity of keywords around an internal link's anchor text? Does that also have an effect?

December 16, 2008 - 9:44pm

Yahoo! has clearly stated that page location matters...but Google has not came out and said it. There have been some observations of nearby words next to the link influencing what the link passes.

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