SEO and Internal Linking

Today I would like to discuss an extremely valuable SEO technique called virtual theming. This process will allow you to shift the way your site ranks for specific keywords.

It is better to build it right the first time, than have to go back to fix it. However since most sites are already built, you can use this method to shift ranking factors despite the existing site architecture or page title / naming conventions.

Ensure You Website Has Enough Content

The first thing to do is to determine if you have enough content to support the keywords you are targeting. Rarely will you find a website ranking for a competitive keyword (competitive in the sense that it is highly sought) with just a few pages of content on the topic.

The idea is to build the site up and then get the equity back from dividends using links to develop topical relevance and continuity. This technique is ideal to help search engines and human visitors find the hidden gems that lay beneath the surface within your website.

The technique involves deep linking and internal links. At the end of the day, any link within the site that is optimized for a specific purpose is another link that passes value (which may not always be the case with external links providing backlinks to your site).

I often use a simple yet effective Google search command [ site:yourdomain.com keyword ] More on this later, first we need to understand the premise of why we are looking rather than what are looking at.

This command reveals just how many times co-occurrence is happening within a website for a specific keyword or key phrase. In this instance the idea of co-occurrence is limited to the scope of how many pages that are indexed within the site are considered viable landing pages for the keyword in question.

Once identified, they can be used in tandem to increase your websites relevance score and ranking potential (like the buddy system) by carefully selecting which keywords you use as the anchor text/link between pages.

The Tactic: Choose the preferred landing page.

The Technique: Link to “the preferred landing page” from every page indexed in the site (for that keyword from using site:mydomain.com keyword ) while slightly varying the anchor text to promote keyword stemming.

Usually, if you have a large site often your main keywords are integrated into the title and meta description tags frequently. Although this does produce an effect in regard to SEO (allintitle), we are more concerned with pages that have the relevance within the body of text on the page (allintext).

Let the Sculpting Begin

Just a beautiful sculpture starts as a ball of clay, think of your website in the same fashion. Most sites have all the links wide open and using a variety of anchor text (which can diffuse the sites ranking power and potential).

This tactic shifts the on page link weight and sends a clear signal to search engines which pages should rank for what terms. In other words, even though you may have 50 pages all relevant as landing pages for a keyword, you can pick the top one and link the other 49 to it (with the keyword) to promote it as your champion page.

When all of these factors come together over time, the champion page takes on its own life in search engines (often being returned as a relevant result with just a mere fragment of the query overlapping with its content). This means, that the champion page does not have to have an excessive amount of text (since it is supported by so many other keyword rich pages).

We have a page in our site with less than 100 words that ranks competitively for dozens of keyword combinations using this exact strategy. Obviously, the more content you have the better (250-300 unique words per page are ideal), but this technique can be used to supplement using pay per click for specific landing pages by just adding a content management system to a website and then sculpting the on page link weight.

Granted this technique could be implemented through creating a custom script with PHP, there is something about context and usability in regard to your human readers that needs to be present.

So instead of adding a link from each page returned as a target page (from the site:mydomain.com keyword, command), it is best to see if you really need it. If you have 100 relevant pages, perhaps 30 will do instead of all 100, the extent of the internal linking is up to you (or the needs of your ranking objective).

Gauging the competition

Although sheer on page factors such as how many pages a site has is a simple metric for analysis, this alone does not conclude where the site it getting its prominent ranking factors from.

What it does allow you do to however, is find their champion pages and then study the relationships, the backlinks to the page (both internal and external) as well as decipher their ranking model.

To gauge a keyword you could use the following method.

1) Perform a search in Google under the normal context, to see who ranks first for the keyword.
2) Then repeat the search “in quotes” to see how many pages in the Google index are essentially targeting this term. The results will state 1 of 10 of the number of competing pages (such as 1 of 10 of 1,200,000 pages).
3) Then last but not least, we want to see how many exact match shingles are found within the top ranking website to assess the degree of competition from the on page factors from the amount of topical content.

A shingle is a group of words that have the proximity or “exact match” of the keyword in question and can appear in the title, meta description or body content of the document.

Google will bold this content in addition to showing you the number of pages containing the keyword or phrase to provide an overview for global keyword density.

So, take the competitors website address and find their content threshold by using the following search command.

site:competitorswebsite.com keyword in a Google search

Then you can find out just how many pages in their site are used to support the keyword internally. Chances are, you will find 50-75% of their total pages referencing their main keyword. Particularly if their page ranks competitively for multiple related key phrases stemmed from that keyword.

Regardless of this being intentional or unintentional, it works (just ask Wikipedia who mastered this method), so at least you know the ball park for on page content to compete head to head for that ranking.

If they have 400 pages supporting the keyword, you should have at least 200 pages in your site and focus on passing more link weight through internal linking.

4) Last but not least, now use the same command on your own website.

site:mydomain.com keyword

Find the pages you have to work with. The one returned on the top is the page with the most on page relevance to the search engine. If your website is light in the pants, then dig in and add some content, but first you can work with what you have (which is opportunities to funnel link weight).

If search engines are deeming a landing page more important (for a particular keyword), chances are the conversion on that page is low or accompanied by a high bounce rate.

To correct this, shift the flow of links to the preferred landing page by using a keyword from the first 25 words on the irrelevant page (in the body section) to the preferred landing page with a link using the optimized keyword.

5) Repeat the exercise in step 4 until you have physically went through the bulk of your pages and structured the internal links properly.

The Conclusion

After you have mapped out which pages to elect and the total number of keywords you wish to develop prominence for, when your pages get re-crawled and indexed, you will note the shift to which page appears for what term (over time).

To expedite the process (of crawling and ranking) build some links to the pages with the highest crawl frequency, from their they will send spiders deeper into the site to assess the extent of your changes to the internal link architecture.

Or Stick Around and Read More Posts

25 Comments

  1. DStudioBali
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks for this tips. I have tried this, but sometime I got bad result after try to optimize one page for specific keyword with sitewide links

  2. Jeffrey Smith
    Posted January 26, 2009 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Sitewides sometimes push the limit too far. The real value is in context to pages that already have a high concentration / relevance of the keyword to begin with. That way you truly are using the link to bridge the context of the topic vs. just loading up internal links.

    The reason why Wikipedia gets away with it is, they have internal and external link weight. For example, 40,000 internal links and 30,000 external links is what allows them to rank with a double listing for the word internet.

    My suggestion, try to balance the internal to external link ratio per page more in addition to this technique (linking from relative to relative content with SEO Friendly Anchor text). I suspect your outcome will surely differ under those circumstances.

  3. Rhonda
    Posted January 27, 2009 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    I’m currently trying to build up internal links on my website and this article is very timely. I really like the topics covered on this blog because info is presented very clearly. Thanks.

  4. Octavian
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    Great article.

    I even never realised that internal linking is so damn important 8)

  5. Tim
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Informative post, I always emphasize internal linking for website structure. I thought just doing it right would do the trick. And I thought I had done it right. Now I can test it for sure. Thanks again for the tips.

  6. DStudioBali
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Thanks Jeffrey Smith for your clear explanation. Hope I can do better next time based on your suggestion

  7. Marcela Plana
    Posted January 28, 2009 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Very good post. I use a simplified version of this technique, but I will try this next time.

  8. Rae
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    >>>The one returned on the top is the page with the most on page relevance to the search engine.

    You forgot three important words “at that time” – freshness plays a role in this query, same as it does any other.

  9. Jeffrey Smith
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    You got me SugarRae, I thought of that after the fact as well (about how the prominence shifts based on crawling and indexing).

    Internal link sculpting shifts based on link flow, but at least the gist is how to correct if you have PDF with orphaned links (and no links back to any portion of the site), privacy pages with wasted PR or for all pages that are not relevant for a search query getting hit with high bounce rates.

    I know we each have our method, I prefer 60% on page and internal linking for acquiring competitive rankings using simple tactics like this, then combine them with the right internal to external link ratio (per page via deep links), add a touch of granular velocity and stand back when authority kicks in.

    Thanks for the comments (Rae, Octavian, Rhonda and Bali)… much appreciated!

  10. Seo blog
    Posted January 29, 2009 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this tips…It help me make a good SEO

  11. Rae
    Posted January 30, 2009 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    For sure Jeff… wasn’t picking on the post – it was probably the best “SEO” post I’ve read in the last six months.

  12. ken lyons
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Jeff, thanks for sharing.

    You say: “Obviously, the more content you have the better (250-300 unique words per page are ideal)…”

    I’m curious as to how you arrived at this word count per page as ideal?

    I’ve ranked pages with 60 words and pages with 600.

    To me, its seems to be more about what your competition is doing in terms of content volume and less about ideal word count.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks,
    Ken

  13. Jeffrey Smith
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    Hi Ken:

    you raised a good point. We also have pages we have ranked for competitive terms with less than 100 words on the page (and some of the variations are only in in broad form in the title and meta tags) not even in the body.

    In which case, those pages are usually relying on strong internal links which transfer their link weight to the target page. I agree it is about the threshold for competition, but also for the original indexing phase search engines need enough shingles to extract the gist of the content, until the page gets enough reputation (via links and/or traffic). This deserves another post dedicated to it entirely, I will ping you when I post it, since it is a great topic to share. Thanks Ken!

  14. Henrik - SEO / Perth
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Interesting article – pretty much what I have been refining for my site in recent times. After what I guess was a too heavy-handed tweak, a week or so ago, the site has slipped to page 2 for my main keyphrase but I’m pretty confident it’ll bounce back…

    Let’s all remember though, there are an estimated 200 metrics in Google’s algo’ and this is only one of them :)

  15. Justin Brooke
    Posted February 5, 2009 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    It is always important to gauge the competition, and this is where an audit will prove in handy before re-structuring the site.

  16. Steven Young
    Posted September 6, 2009 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    It also increase your silo PR rankings.

  17. dandy
    Posted September 13, 2009 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    what if there is only one page.? I have a signle page website. so i cant build internal links easily.
    Regards.

  18. Webmaster
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Sounds great!

  19. JNB Web Promotion
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the advice!

  20. Karel
    Posted October 12, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Make sense!

  21. evden eve nakliyat
    Posted October 27, 2009 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    hi

    with this theme , could i stop using all in seo plugin ?

  22. Work Injury Compensation
    Posted February 15, 2010 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for this info. I’m currently really trying to figure out how best to set up internal links within our site and this has provided some great help.

  23. zhenden
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    [...] of each page is the next respective metric for improvement. Click here for more about the site: command to theme your pages, content and / or […

  24. baju muslim zahra
    Posted December 18, 2010 at 2:53 am | Permalink

    I’ve built internal linking, but my web is still on page 6. What should I do ?

  25. Jeffrey Smith
    Posted December 18, 2010 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Build deep links, you need both. However, the extent of how many you need depends on three things (1) your site architecture and how well each page is wired to support the more important landing pages (2) your websites age and authority compared to your competitors (thresholds) and (3) how many lnks (or deep links) they have to their site or pages.

    You need both, but in the right percentage at the right time. Quality, relevance and PR trump flimsy links, so it’s not just about volume.

    Good luck

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