Google Ranking Factors 2017

04. Are Internal Links One of the Most Underestimated Link Strategies Out There?

With Gerry, Dawn, Ned and Dixon.


Gerry White
SEO Consultant Just Eat

100%

Dixon Jones
Majestic Marketing Director – Receptional Founding Director

Yes

Dawn Anderson
Director Move It Marketing

Yes. Absolutely. Yeah.

Ned Poulter
CEO & Founder Pole Star Digital

It’s also one of the really overlooked things, I find. Especially, when you get to more enterprise and bigger sites, particularly e-commerce sites as well. I’m actually working with a client at the moment, really just focusing on that. OnPage SEO. Real kind of basics, which they just missed.

And their problem is that it’s being caused by a fairly legacy CMS and poor management of it. So, a lot of new content being added but the SEO – kind of obvious OnPage optimization aspects – haven’t been included in that. And so they just overlooked really obvious tactics that are quite easy wins. Because when we talk about external links…

Dawn Anderson
It’s definitely the lowest hanging. It’s the one that requires the least budget. You know, it’s just easy easy wins. And things like re-optimizing internal links, so you haven’t got these old generational craft redirections inside. That, with every hop lose not only a bit of PageRank, but a little bit of relevance as well and just confuse Google as to what actually this page is about, what that page is about and so on.

Dixon Jones
I think people do not quite understand how complicated the math is on internal links structure. I mean, if you use, for example, the original PageRank algorithm to look at the value of every page on the internet, although Google is not gonna give that information now…

Dawn Anderson
At the link graph, yeah.

Dixon Jones
…but you can certainly use Trust Flow to do exactly the same. If you go and get the pages tab and find all the Trust Flow of all those pages and you find out how your link equity of any webpage or any website – the internal link structure – is worked out. And the thing is, to try and do it manually is really really difficult. Because yes, you might have sidewides to some pages, but then you got other internal links and it’s very difficult to work out how you’ve manufactural sculpted your website.

Unless you’ve got some kind of technology to do that for you, ScreamingFrog or I don’t know. Some kind of technology to try and do that. So, yes, the internal link structure can make a massive difference to the power of any individual page, a huge difference. But if you don’t pay attention to it, then it’s going to be, you’re going to have pages that have got much more value than you thought they did. And you are going to have other things that are just going to dissipate.

Dawn Anderson
You’ll end up with a lot of pages that are ranking above the pages that you are intending to rank. So we end up with these informational pages. They get links from inside. You know, the blog is terrible for that in a lot of WordPress setups.

Gerry White
Pagination is something that is critical. I mean, one of the things is that a lot of the times people don’t allow Google to see subsequent pages, so therefore there is actually lots and lots of orphaned pages from a Google view.

Dixon Jones
And if you’re running WordPress, that’s just the worst of all. Because you are actually running a blog system for a website and of course, as soon as you write more content, your link structure changes every single time.

Ned Poulter
If you haven’t set up your permanent links. So, you are just getting all these…

Gerry White
I was lucky enough once to have a client that let me modify the homepage links. We tracked the traffic going to those, like inbound traffic from Google, to those pages. And when we changed the homepage links, the ranking of the linked-to pages fluctuated massively. I mean I expected it a little bit, but it was much much greater than I expected.

Dixon Jones
Yeah. I remember being told that I had to rank for “World Cup Betting” on day one of the World Cup. Not the recent World Cup, some years back… and really, frankly, the footer links – they did the difference.

Gerry White
I don’t think that footer links have the same power as they used to. It’s something that unfortunately Google is getting a bit smarter with the browser…

Dawn Anderson
They have valuations of like the templated links. There is a recent patent, they have a round wrapper evaluation… determination of the wrapper. So, you know things like the navigational links and such, rather than the main content and the taxonomical listings.

Dixon Jones
I’ll be surprised if they can make patent out of that. Because that methodology is already out in the world.

Dawn Anderson
I think what happens is, they tend to slightly ex-tweak it a little bit, extend it… we know that link. Six differences means that it’s a new pin…

Ned Poulter
What I’ve seen is – well, in terms of actionable things as well – it’s just horrible when you see. It’s not actually using keywords, anchor texts, to mark up your internal links as well. Some matching things that are topically relevant to something else and often you have a “Click here”, which can be a nightmare, but even worse: an image which looks like a button and that’s your link. And you think, “just do the SEO 101 things here. Just make sure that you are passing the relevancy.

Dawn Anderson
You know, sometimes, those images only can be quite part of an overall strategy. Because that text, if it’s a text link, it is still part of the rendered content. So you can actually end up with almost like a bit of a cannibalisation. Sometimes, an image with the actual words on it, in certain parts of the site, I think you can be quite strategic with your internal linking as such.

Dixon Jones
There is another way to look at internal links as well. Which is in terms of the user journey. Because if somebody is sitting there learning about “Airports in Edinburgh” and what they really wanna know is which airport they are gonna land in Edinburgh – I don’t know how many airports there are – but at which point you then want a link through to the tickets page.

Ned Poulter
And vice versa though. Because I think I see, I do see – and this is probably the downside if you go a bit too far with this and kind of turn it up to eleven – it’s distracting the user journey. So people are reading content and then there is a nice blue link, click on that, go to another page, can’t remember where I was, back to SERP. I’m on a different website again.

Dawn Anderson
I think we have to bring it all just back to information-architecture really. Because, ultimately, clearly labelling things for humans is going to be really useful. It’s probably going to translate really well into a good SEO strategy, as such. And Google is, all search engines are trying to emulate humans, nowadays. So it kind of makes sense to try and say, “if we fix the journey for humans, we often fix the journey for search engines”.

Gerry White
Yeah, I mean one quick win for the talk about the user journey is the breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are often not done properly in a lot of e-commerce websites. It’s a really quick win.

Dawn Anderson
Exactly. Two breadcrumbs. That actually makes sense, I’ve said it’s a really rare strategy, but it is really powerful. Because suddenly you’re balancing up an internal structure. Just you end up with this skewed internal linking going on. Second row breadcrumbs at the bottom and the top. Straight away just balances it all up.

Dixon Jones
There are tons of breadcrumbs that don’t work though. There are times when you can’t follow a breadcrumb appropriately. Because there’s different ways in which you can go down. We think about things in terms of, you’ve got “Clothes”, then you’ve got “Dresses”, then you’ve got “Blue Dresses”, then you’ve got “Size 12”.

Dawn Anderson
These navigations are a nightmare.

Dixon Jones
That’s fine there, but if you go through the mentality of “Right, I want ‘Skirts’ and then I want ‘Long Skirts’ and then I actually want a dress” or something. Then you’ve gone the wrong way around.

Gerry White
That’s almost where you can get into real problems with Google with internal linking with the faceted navigation: “Blue”, “Size 12”, “Dresses” and things like that. Sometimes you get a page on that and Google kind of goes “Wait, you’ve got 20 million pages on this website, when actually, you got 12 dresses”, in all.

Dawn Anderson
Exactly, yeah. Because, it’s just the Rubik’s Cube effect.

Ned Poulter
Yeah, where they kind of dynamically throwing out every single combination.

Dixon Jones
But then you’ve got to use the “parameters” tab in the Google Search Console, to stop those sizes and widths and things. And that can really make your internal link structure better.

Dawn Anderson
I think, Matt Cutts referred to it as “Exponentially multiplicative URLs”. Which I managed to get into my dissertation. Actually. I thought… “Exponentially multiplicative URLs”…

Ned Poulter
It kind of makes sense.

Dawn Anderson
Well, it just literally means that, when we start to times the amount of sizes by colours by styles, et cetera, it just becomes exponentially multiplicative.

Gerry White
And often you can actually have it where you lead to almost dead results. I’ve seen recipe websites where it says, you know, “Filtre it by recipes that can be cooked in an hour” and also “in 20 minutes”. And you kind of go… that’s kind of… vegan with beef.

Dawn Anderson
You end up with a rule, that just doesn’t match.

Ned Poulter
Similarly with the links back as well. Sorry. Where on breadcrumb-links, if you’re linking back – while you are saying it can be incorrectly implemented – it can be broken a lot of times as well. And it’s just on a rule set which just doesn’t work.

Dawn Anderson
I think you’ve got to take off breadcrumbs on filters. You gotta have it, just based on the main categories.

Ned Poulter
Site structure.

Juan Gonzalez
SISTRIX

Thank you very much.