In order to understand the ideal internal linking strategy, we must consider the concept of Link Weight.
The Importance of Link Weight
As we demonstrated in the article entitled Anchor Text & Inbound Links, on-page elements often have no sway over your search engine ranking. In fact, I often find myself quoting explaining thus:
The simple fact is – and even a child can understand this – you could put the words “search engine optimization” in your page titles, in your H1 tags, in your ALT text and a hundred times in text of the page and it would not get you into the top ten for that search term.
This is because some search engines place more weight on how other pages refer to your pages, instead of what your page says about itself. This is why Monster.com is #1 for the search term Jobs, even without the word Jobs anywhere on the page.
As you can see, Link Weight used properly can be much more powerful than page-elements SEO.
Link Weight = PageRank?
Link Weight is not to be confused with Google’s PageRank. PageRank adheres to pages; Link Weight adheres to links.
To demonstrate the difference, let’s say you have two inbound links; each is from a PR7 (PageRank 7/10) page. However, one of the links is on a page by itself, while the other is on a page with 300 other links. Although the PageRank of both pages is the same, the Link Weight attached to those links will be dramatically different.
Measuring Link Weight
For lack of a better terminology, we call links five pounders, ten pounders, hundred pounders and thousand pounders. It isn’t an exact science, and I’ll often hear Anna, our link getter, say that we got a four pounder, or a thirty pounder.
Link Weight & Internal Linking Strategy
When most people think about links, they are thinking about links from other sites. Go to most “optimized” sites, and you’ll see no evidence of an internal linking strategy. These site owners may refuse to link to other sites from their index page for fear of PageRank drain, but they are wasting tons of link weight on useless pages when that very same link weight could be channeled to their pages which are competing in the more competitive keyword markets.
Analysis, Categorization & Link Weight Conservation
The first step is to analyze the pages, the keywords each page is targeting, the conversion rates for each keyword/page, and the competition for those keywords.
The method I prefer is to get each and every page indexed with as few internal links as possible. Once the pages are indexed, you can check the ranking of each page; this will give you some idea of how much link weight will be needed to achieve top ranking for each page.
Precision Link Weight Distribution
The next step is to carefully distribute the link weight to those pages which need it the most, while conserving excess link weight on the pages from which it can easily be distributed
Case Study – Suzuki Bikes.com
Suzuki-Bikes.com employed this tactic to achieve top ten ranking on all of its targeted keywords. It should be noted that this linking strategy – link weight channeling – can be implemented is a hundred different ways; the point of this illustration is to show how easily it can be done.
First, each of the product pages got a link from the index page. Then we waited a month and checked ranking.
Having seen the failure of these pages to rank on page-elements SEO alone, we simply inserted links to these pages with optimized anchor text in 60 or so pages by way of a PHP includes file. Using a PHP includes or a SSI file is recommended for ease of updating.
You can see these link-weight channeling links at the bottom of most pages on Suzuki-Bikes.com.
Within a couple weeks, Google updated its database and we had top ten ranking for all targeted keywords.
Most of the people with whom I’ve discussed link weight channeling never catch on to the importance of it. Many continue to use side nav menus populated with links to all of their pages. This type of navigation is growing in popularity, but it is seriously flawed. It indiscriminately spreads link weight throughout the site’s pages.
Conserve your link weight, and distribute it only to those pages which require it, as they require it.
How important is link architecture? Google provides webmasters with a set of guidelines for building a search engine friendly site. It starts out:
“Make a site with a clear hierarchy…”
– Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
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