Friday, June 4, 2010

Linking Your pages Toether


Before we continue, it is time to introduce the concept of Google PageRank (PR). PageRank is discussed in more detail later, but is introduced here in order to understand why it matters how you link pages on your website together.

PageRank is a numeric value that Google places on how important a page is on the Web. PageRank is determined by how many incoming links there are that point to a page.

Incoming links are links that point to a page from another page. Such links may be located on pages on the same website (internal links) or on pages on different websites (external links). External links are valued more than internal links.

Google figures that when one page links to another page, it is in effect “casting a vote” for the other page. The more incoming links (votes) there are for a page, the more important the page is to Google.

Note: Some obsess over the importance of PageRank to the near exclusion of everything else. As such, PageRank and its importance is truly over-hyped.

Proper linking between pages of your website, if done right, will help retain the total PageRank of your site and will also distribute your site’s overall PageRank value to your most important pages. Your site’s total “PR” value is simply the sum of the PR values of all the individual web pages. But keep in mind that PR is calculated and usually referred to on a per-page basis.

Internal links serve to share or distribute PageRank among all pages of your site. Links on your site that point to other websites can decrease PR from those pages that contain outbound links (and hence your site’s total available PR), while links from other sites can increase your site’s total PageRank.

The more internal links there are between pages of your site, the more evenly distributed the PageRank becomes in your site. Let’s see why this is important.

turing Your Internal Links

There are two main types of internal linking – hierarchical and mesh.

Hierarchical linking

Hierarchical linking is where one or more pages on your site (such as the home page) are considered more important than other pages. Important pages are linked to from all other pages in the site, but not all pages cross-link between each other. This concentrates PageRank on your most important pages.

Most sites should use a hierarchical linking structure, whereby the home page and the most important product, service, or content pages are linked to more often than other pages are. In this way, you can increase the chance that your most important page is ranked the highest on Google for your most important keyword phrase. The following figure illustrates this concept.

The home page typically has the highest PR value as this is the page most often linked to, both externally and internally. This may not be ideal if your home page is nothing but a splash page or contains little content. In this case, you should redesign your home page to include more content and make it more relevant to Google (and to your visitors). If this is not possible, you should re-link internally to your most important keyword-relevant content page(s).

In the preceding figure, the About Us page is only linked to from a single page. This is because the About Us page is not nearly as the other pages. So why funnel precious PR value to it – instead flow PR value out of the page back to the home page.

Mesh Linking

Mesh linking is where all pages are considered equally important (to theme, topic, and keywords). This is the simplest linking method in that each page on the site links to every other page on the site. Most sites use mesh linking by default without thinking about it by virtue of having the same menu navigation bar on each page that contains the same links. This evenly distributes PageRank among all pages in the site, which is not ideal. The following figure illustrates this concept.

In this example, note that each page links to the lesser important About Us page. So why funnel precious PR value to it? Use hierarchical linking whenever possible!
Best Practices for Internal Linking

The following are best practices for linking the pages of your site together:

1. Use text-based links if possible and use the proper link structure.
2. Use keywords in your link text for every link.

Part of the ranking algorithm includes checking the text of a link against text on the linked-to page. Use your keywords in link text. Don’t use “Click here” or “Home” as the text of a link, as these are not relevant.

3. Link from your home (or sitemap) page to every other page on your site.

If your Web site is relatively small (less than 10 pages or so), your home page can effectively function as your sitemap page. If you have a larger site, this becomes unwieldy and you then need a separate sitemap page. Add some content to your sitemap page - it should not consist of just links.

A sitemap page functions as an “index” to your site and is invaluable for the following reasons:

• Helps Google find and crawl other pages on your site quickly

• Helps your customers find what they need quickly

• Helps distribute your site’s PageRank to other important pages
Tip: Because your home page likely has the highest PageRank in your site, you should NOT put any outgoing links on this page. Ideally, the only page you should have outgoing links on is your Related Links page. This will minimize the small amount of PageRank “leakage” from that page. This concept will be discussed later.

4. Link from every “non-relevant” page back to your home page ONLY.

Non-relevant pages are defined here as those pages that are not keyword-rich and do not likely contain the information that a visitor to your site is looking for while searching on Google. You do not want these pages to receive as much PageRank as your more important pages. Examples of non-relevant pages that should ONLY link back to the Home page include the following:

• “Copyright” page

• “Privacy Policy” Page

• “Disclaimers” Page

• “About Us” page

• “Contact Us” page

• Order form, shopping cart pages

• “Link to Us” page

• “Testimonials” page

This helps return and concentrate PageRank back to your Home page. Remember, you want to maximize PageRank for your most important pages.

5. Link from your “Related Links” page to every other page on your site.

This page contains outgoing links that point to other websites and will “leak” PageRank from this page (but not from any other pages). Since PageRank “voting power” is shared evenly among all links on a page, having many links that point back to your own page will minimize this effect.

As a rule of thumb, try to keep all links going to other sites on a single page – your “Related Links” page. (If you have more than 100 links on a page, consider splitting them up into multiple pages).

6. Link ONLY between pages that are related by keyword.

This helps distribute PageRank among pages that are related by keyword phrase. These pages are likely important to your customers, which means you should concentrate PageRank on these. These pages should also contain a link back to the Home page.

7. Ensure every page links to at least one other page.

This will help Google crawl your site faster and help your customers navigate through your site better. Pages with a link to them but without a link on them are called orphan pages.

8. Use Absolute URLs to Link to Your Home Page

When linking back to your home page from other pages on your site, always use the absolute URL instead of a relative URL or file path. For example, always use: (note the www)

instead of:

index.html (or whatever the file name of your Home page is)


to link back to your Home page. I would also use absolute URLs for any subdomain, subdirectory and other main "category" pages you might have on your site. Google has had problems assigning an accurate PageRank value to a page if it uses inconsistent or differing link URL forms to it.

9. Use “Bread Crumb” Link Navigation

Effective link navigation between your pages can provide keyword-rich internal links and assist your visitors in determining exactly where they are on your site. A popular technique called “bread crumbs” can be used for this. For example, if this book were in HTML format on the Web, I could insert a series of links at the top of each page.

For this particular page, the bread crumb links would be:

Optimizing Your Website > Linking Your Pages Correctly > Best Practices For Internal Linking

Note how this can increase both content and provide keyword-rich links.

10. Use the “NOFOLLOW” Attribute Link

The rel="NOFOLLOW" attribute in a link has been used on blog and forum sites to block the Google spider from following a link to its target page, and hence blocking the passing of PageRank. This is in an effort to reduce link spamming.

You can use the NOFOLLOW attribute to your advantage on your site to channel PageRank to your most important pages. Here's the syntax:


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