We all know the value of external links from other websites, but what about the power of internal links for SEO or how they impact ranking algorithms to determine which pages serve what function within a website?
Below are 5 common on page SEO boo-boos to avoid when optimizing your websites internal link structure that can sap your websites performance.
1) The Open Loop / Lack of internal links
The metric which determines the amount of link flow a page has a direct correlation to how many internal links are supporting a page. While you can assume that a search engine will simply “know” where your pages are and “what” they mean; without taking the time to cultivate the internal links, then each link not placed strategically is a lost opportunity to rank a preferred landing page.
In other words, if you have 10 pages which could all be consolidated through a common keyword to link to a preferred landing page (the one that ranks for that keyword), then you should have all 10 pages linking to the page in question from a contextual (editorial) region with an optimal keyword “anchor text” on the page (preferably above the fold as location implies importance) to the ideal landing page.
Consider this your web pages lifeline or irrigation system which allows link flow to be shared and directed. Without this, pages can suffer from link attrition or lack importance within the entire site schema.
2) Too Many Outbound Links on a Page
This is the easiest way to suppress ranking factor within a website. Having too many links on a page (over 100) is like having a bucket with 100 holes in it. Regardless of how much water you pour into it, all the water still ends up on the floor.
This falls under the category of template optimization and site architecture, but the internal link structure is part of this process for segmenting the user experience while allowing the site to appear for the keywords the page was commercially crafted to appear for.
You can do 2 things to minimize this (1) determine which links are absolutely necessary and either consolidate links from an entire segment to a new page (like instead of having 50 links on a page, link to a new page that has 50 links on it as a hub page) or (2) remove them and instill a more segmented user experience and sort the site into make, model, brand or categories that are more conducive to a proper SEO structure “instead of mixed fruit” place the apples in the apple bin, peaches in peaches, bananas in the banana bin, etc.
3) Wrong Anchor Text
When it comes down to one of the worst things you can do for internal linking is to use generic keywords like “click here” or using entire sentences or groups of words as links. The impact only diffuses the target pages ability to rank for any specific keyword.
Remember, search engines are constantly asking you (a) what does the page mean to you and (b) how should I rank or emphasize it? If you have not thought out your keyword link allocation for on page SEO, then how can you mirror those fundamental choices will deep links (links from other websites) later.
If you ignore this vital process, you can spend more time making up for the inefficiencies of the site architecture and require far more links than an optimal allocation of consistent on page and off page anchor text via selection.
4) Different Anchor Text Linking to Same Page
Another common mistake is over optimization of pages or linking to the same page from multiple keywords on the page. While there are some situations where this is unavoidable, ideally, you should have a clear road map of which pages are intended to rank for which keywords. If you do not, then picking a champion page that serves as the primary landing page is your first step.
Once you decide which primary keyword a page it designed to rank for, there is no problem using keyword variations as internal links on multiple pages (as long as they are semantically related or relevant). The real consideration is not to have more than one link on a page (contextually) if you can avoid it (overlap in navigation regions aside).
5) Orphaned Pages
If you want a page to rank, then don’t be stingy with your links. Think of link flow as a cascading flow of water (like a waterfall) and the 10 champagne glasses all of them being filled from the overflow of champagne poured from the top glass.
Orphaned pages never get out of the gate or get filled enough with link-flow to resonate their worth back to the sounding board of the rest of the pages within a site. A page needs to be linked from at least 5 locations within a site to carry any significant weight and the quality, strength and market focus (topicality) of the page providing the link also has great impact on the amount of link equity transferred to the new target page.
The idea is (1) to keep the hops for competitive keywords (the two word competitive mid-tail key phrases) close to the root folder of at least one sub folder away and (2) make sure the pages are linked from pages higher in the hierarchy or serve as hub pages (category pages with sufficient internal or inbound links) which can supplement ranking factor for pages that may not have enough link flow or deep links.
In closing, keep yourself out of the penalty box and ranking strong by using the 5 SEO tips for optimal internal linking above.