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Is Your Internal Link Structure Your Enemy or Friend?

Jul 15, 2009 / by Rick Hardman

enemyIt does not take long for ecommerce webmasters to learn that links impact their rankings in the search engines. However, many webmasters make a big mistake with the links within their own site.

In order to develop a clear understanding for this article, let's lay down some basic information about internal links. When discussing internal links, I am referring to any and all links within your website and links that stay within the same domain. I make this clarification because some may refer to links across domains, but within sister sites, as internal. For this article we will only refer to links within the same domain as internal links.

To further clarify information you should already know, (but we won't hold it against you, if you don't) the clickable text in a link is called "link text", or "anchor text". These mean the same thing, so no need to argue which phraseology is correct, right? Anchor text is vitally important in search engine algorithms.

Good. Now that we have ground rules, let's discuss why internal link structure is the "enemy" for most webmasters. A large portion of webmasters do not take full advantage of the ability to link to themselves using the right anchor text. Many of you are eating, drinking, and sleeping link building. You are dreaming up new ways, reading endless information on the latest link building tactics, and working hard to obtain links with the right anchor text from outside websites. How many link requests have you sent with unsuccessful results? How many hours have you spent building other web pages all in the name of link building?

Now, how many hours have you spent ensuring the links within your own site use the correct anchor text? I can hear all of the excuses already, but before you go there, let me answer the most common questions. If you still have a question, leave a comment and we will address it.

Many webmasters do not use the right anchor text within the links of the navigation bar due to lack of space. I get it and understand. No need to have an ugly site. If you cannot fit the correct anchor text in the navigation bar (top, left, right, or any combination) without the text wrapping or a really wide or tall nav bar, then just use the root word.

Example: keyword = "Easton little league baseball bats"

nav bar link suggestions = "Easton baseball bats", or "little league bats".

Do the best you can with the navigation bars. The truth is, they are important, but not the most important internal links you can have.

Many webmasters also overlook the page footer. This space works well for longer keywords, as it allows greater space flexibility without negatively affecting site aesthetics. Check your footer for correct anchor text usage on all relevant links. For larger sites (in terms of pages), it is not recommended to use the footer for every link. If there are too many links, navigation can be messy or difficult for site visitors. Like anything else, this can be abused and a footer stuffed with keyword links is impractical.

Another way to get anchor text is to use the alternative text (commonly misnamed the alt tag) of an image. Search engines count alternative text as the anchor text for a link within an image. Be careful to use alternative text that relates to the image, or there is danger of being labeled a spammer.

The best place for obtaining value from internal links is the content area of your page. Search engines look at this area with more trust. Why? The odds are more likely that a webmaster will place relevant and helpful links in this area, which is what search engines want. I recommend that the text color on these links matches the color of other links within the site, and that links are underlined. (For most sites this would be blue and underlined.) Don't try to disguise the link because it shows the search engines you are not trying to hide something.

You tell the search engines what each page is about by using anchor text within the site. Search engines use the external links pointing to your site to verify this information. Get your internal links correct, and it will likely take fewer external links to rank well for the keyword phrases you are targeting. Go fix those internal links today to see improved rankings.

Topics: Blog

Rick Hardman

Written by Rick Hardman

Rick, a former seo specialist at SEO.com, became an internet marketing specialist in 2003. He later moved into internet business coaching, through 2008, sharing his internet marketing knowledge with a couple thousand clients and as many as 200 clients at any one given time. Rick returned to full time seo work in 2009. He is an active participant in the internet marketing world and also runs several of his own websites. He currently lives in Pleasant Grove, UT. with his wife Cheri and four boys. Check out Rick Hardman on Google+

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