What started as a topical SEO post on how your website should build it’s own links evolved into a white paper on search engine optimization strategies and optimization tactics. Keep in mind that each piece of the puzzle works in tandem with the next, so the order is irrelevant for context as each facet contains every other facet by its very design.
Which metrics really matter?, is it content, on page SEO, off page SEO or the stages in between? Below each subject is briefly elaborated, but the answer to this question is neither and all. SEO is a process of layering metrics, structure and results gleaned from analytics while encased context in an appealing wrapper for conversion. Anything less is just rankings or irrelevant traffic bouncing off to other more structured offers.
Link Building? Which Matters More Internal Links or External Links?
Link building is quite possibly one of my favorite subjects due to the diversity of the approaches found which each vary in degrees of effectiveness, but like anything, there is always a better way. Also, building links does not always imply building links from outside your own website. This is the premise of this post (how you use the links you have), as opposed to looking for ways to supplement poor site architecture, trust or authority.
Unfortunately, “link building” is also one crucial component to SEO which is not only “the secret sauce” for many, yet, the real techniques for building links needs to remain close to the chest to avoid abuse from those who would cherry pick your tactics. However, at least for now, we can share a few techniques worth noting in addition to other methods to create a self sufficient SEO site.
For example, how much link juice are you losing from each page? And how can you prevent hemorrhaging to areas that are replete with buoyant link potential? Based on which relevance signals are predominant in search engines when they assess why or how a website should rank for what terms, a website with a solid site architecture designed with accessibility and relevance in mind can create exponential internal link leverage.
Most webmasters dismiss the notion that how you link to yourself matters more than how others link to you. In fact, often the best source of links for your website, are created by your own website. Let’s investigate this further.
What are some of the metrics that search engines use to deem relevance?
- Total number of pages (topicality through term frequency and occurrence).
- Naming conventions (gauged by page level and global relevance thresholds).
- Internal link structure (weak, moderate, advanced).
- Anchor text to title relevance (diffused, consistent, deliberate).
- Topical Crawl and Deep Crawl Rate (signified by authority).
- Deep link percentage / total pages
- Number of keyword / anchor text occurrences
- Is there a preferred landing page for major keywords (if not, why?).
- Is there confirmation from external websites (3-5 links per page).
The list could go on and on with algorithmic equations to match, but the point is, there are multiple layers to the mastering the link building process.
First, a quick run-down to serve as a synopsis to avoid topical duress:
Total number of pages: the more pages you have, the more opportunities you have to (a) rank now for less competitive variations of desired keywords (b) funnel those subordinate pages to one conversion objective or landing page or (c) use them for redirects after they have acquired page rank or trust.
Naming conventions: Creating consistent naming conventions accomplishes two things (1) it allows search engines to understand the order of importance based on shingle/word occurrence and (2) it establishes the continuity for user expectation once they arrive (which can significantly lower bounce rates).
It is natural to want to brand everything with your name, but you may want to do that after the gist of the page is clearly established. For a clear example of naming conventions and keyword continuity visit virtually any page on Wikipedia for a quick lesson in aligning the first shingle/keyword with the h1 tag and every occurrence of a link pointing at the page (deemed the preferred landing page).
Internal Links: Internal links (linking from one page contextually to another) represents one of the most undervalued aspects of search engine optimization. For example, the link location (based on segmentation) offer differing levels of authority that passes through to the target page. Based on this, we know that links from the header or footer are treated differently than a link in the body text in addition to proximity, prominence to other keywords and modifiers as well as how many times a link appears in related context on a page or throughout the site matter.
Anchor Text: Using specific keywords in the anchor / link text elevates the link weight to the target page. If you want a 50 word page to rank like a 500 word page, then increase the anchor text link percentage to that page with internal links. In addition, if you want that page to become even more pronounced as the champion page, then provide 25% or the total links to the page through deep links (meaning links from other pages). If you have a 1,000 page site and those pages are internally linked to that page with a variety of similar anchor text, then by building 250 inbound links from other websites you can give that page true prominence to act as a hub page (to rank other pages) or a destination page (landing page) for those keywords.
Crawl Rates and Accessibility: If you need to obtain a high ranking search engine position?, then ensure that the page in question is linked contextually from another page or segment in your site that has a higher crawl frequency from search engines. For example, we briefly talked about page segmentation above, this is one instance where you can use the element of duplicity to your advantage to quickly jump start link transference to another section or page in your website.
Things like using a sidebar or blogroll to get link flow to a new subfolder, adding a sitemap or some other relevant anchor text within a footer area of the site that has a higher crawl frequency allows you to increase the likelihood of getting a new page indexed. Then you can always increase the external / deep link percentage to see what stems as a result. You could also use a sitemap link to a page with 4 outbound links so that you could build multiple links to the primary page (the no index, follow) sitemap and then pass that ranking factor along to the target pages (to consolidate link flow).
How efficient is your site architecture?
Using absolute links, RSS feeds or widgets and creating a viral ripple online through social media are more than enough to create a myriad of top ranking positions. But first, site architecture should be made self-sufficient to compound authority within the domain.
Root Folder SEO Considerations:
1. Is there a clear landing page or does the root folder employ a set number or broad match pages?
2. How many links are leaving the most prominent pages, (10, 20, 30 or more)?
3. Is there a great deal of duplicity (such as reusing the same template)?
4. Is the page linked ONLY through primary navigation or contextually as well?
5. Are the titles and Meta tags relevant for the information search engines and human readers can expect (FROM THAT PAGE) and not too broad or diffused?
6. Is the meta description optimal, meaning are there singular, plural, and synonyms for the main three keywords that page is optimized for in the title, in the links (pointing to the page) and represented in the content?
7. Are there sitemaps or a series of sitemaps being fed from a master link / sitemap consolidation?
8. Are there RSS feeds, widgets or other ways to reach external sites (to ping for backlinks or for trackbacks) from the page?
9. Are you using sub-folders to provide ranking factor (like a blog, CMS or shopping cart?)
10. What percentage of deep links are to pages in the primary root folder? (the further from the root, the more links are required to rank).
Total number of pages: the volume of content and topicality of the subject matter are metrics which signify the degree of relevance or competence your website presents on a subject.
Based on how this information is organized and themed also creates significant impact for search engine optimization. Search engines essentially parse all pages “like a bag of words” and then extrapolate relationships based on chronology, internal links, anchor text and other unique metrics.
Content and content volume is the first critical milestone which SEO’s address to determine where your website ranks in the spectrum of on page relevance which is often divisible by content.
For example, if you are targeting a local term, then the occurrence of regional modifiers (such as your address, city or state) in the title, on the page (in the footer, header, text or sidebar) all have significance in crossing the tipping point / threshold of relevance for a top ranking position.
The occurrences are collective in regard that search engines are pooling data from various sources in order to grade your site for relevance. However, the more competitive a keyword or key phrase is, the more term weight, internal links, external links, volume of content or unique signals are required in order to “win their vote” and get inducted into the top 10.
Ideally, you can approach the ranking game from keyword to keyword or as we like to do, optimize an entire array of related keywords simultaneously to essentially devour market share vs. just keyword positioning.
If you require 400 new pages of content to create contextual authority to pass the tipping point of the next competitors relevance score, then that is what it will take (administered over time) to cement a position of authority. Despite the fact that this is considered on page SEO, the implications represent a tremendous opportunity when all of those pages mature and stem to capture multiple leading / related keyword phrases.
Also, if you are employing absolute links, those links count as bonafide links that can propel your web pages authority and increase SERP (search engine result page) positioning.
What started as an example of how to have your own website build its own links turned into another white paper on SEO strategies and tactics? We intend to introduce SEO videos to the site in the near future to cover additional topics and show examples in a modular fashion.