Like "naked SEO calendar," "internal link housekeeping" are three words you just don't want to hear together. Perhaps the requirement is quite mundane? Or perhaps it's because (if well-built) much of a site's internal linking is taken care of dynamically in the site design and structure?
Regardless, internal linking is still an important aspect to a whole search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and as such requires monitoring and tweaking as the practice of optimization evolves, and as a website evolves.
Let's revisit the reasons to consider internal link strategy and the implications for SEO.
- The more links there are to a page of content, the greater the chances of that page being accessed by a user, or a search engine crawler.
- The easier it is for a page to be found by a search engine crawler, the greater the chance the page will be indexed.
- Varied anchor text can be used to convey additional contextual relevance to a page (for example, a navigation link to a product page may include model number, while an in-text link could refer to the product in a more descriptive way).
- The greater the number of good quality, relevant, authoritative links to a page of content, the stronger the signal that the linked-to page may itself be of some worth (though it's common sense that links from the same domain might not be assessed with the same credence as links from independent domains).
In order to get the best from your internal link strategy, it's a good idea to perform regular housekeeping checks looking at the following elements.
1. Keyword Evolution
While it isn't usually a good idea to change your keyword targets for a page regularly or drastically, keywords do evolve over time in the same way that language evolves. (Who had ever heard of a vuvuzela before the World Cup?)
So while it may be common practice to review keywords every six months (or whatever), update content and meta data, and adjust external anchor targets, internal link anchors are often overlooked. A navigation overhaul wouldn't be sensible as a regular activity, so varying anchor text used in content and adding new tags (if your site or blog has them) is a good way to cater for keyword evolutions.
Google Insights for Search can be useful for keeping an eye on shifts in consumer interest.
2. Error Checking
Webmaster Tools is already your BFF. However, you should set aside time to review the information in there while wearing your "internal links" hat. As mentioned already, internal linking doesn't tend to be front of mind that often, so when checking for crawl errors, for example, the implications of such for internal links may be overlooked.
Check for 404 pages, noting internal pages that link to them. You can then use your own judgment as to the most suitable solution depending on the pages linking to and from and the business requirements. As a 301 redirect doesn't pass on the full value of a link, it may make more sense to link directly, or adjust the content slightly (if necessary) and link to a different target page.
You can also use Xenu Linksleuth as a much more complete and robust way to check your site for broken links and redirects. When selecting your report criteria you can omit external links by default, and also enter specific URLs in order to check a section at a time.
- Tip: If your user-facing sitemap isn't dynamically generated, it's a good idea to set a regular monthly task and check all the links in it using Xenu. Much like a breadcrumb, your user facing sitemap is good practice, both from a usability and SEO perspective, as both provide additional navigation and clear sign-posting, whie also providing additional links to pages.
3. Page Authority Evolution
While not necessarily advocating PageRank sculpting, or basing one's criteria for linking from a page, solely on the strength of that page, it's still a good idea to be well-informed as to which pages on your site might be considered authoritative.
A site's home page generally is the most authoritative, followed by pages linked to directly from the home page (but that doesn't mean you should try to stuff as many links into the home page opening statement as you can). In this case, I'm thinking more about knowing and utilizing those hidden gem pages.
Perhaps you have an older post on the blog with highly seasonal appeal, which has suddenly attracted a fresh burst of links. Or it could be that you have 10 products in the same range, but one model has proven wildly popular and again attracted fistfuls of natural, juicy links.
Link Research Tools is good for this job, as it features a specific "Strongest Subpages" report, designed just for this purpose. By "strongest" they use a proprietary formula that assesses internal and external links to a page. If you prefer to (or would like to also) see other additional measurements from which authority can be inferred, you can run URLs identified in that report through another Link Research Tools report (JUICE).
- Start the JUICE tool.
- Enter all pages you want to analyze or type "site: [yoursite”" into the "google prefetch" tool.
- Select the measure you want (i.e., SDkw for SEMrush keyword ranks for a page, Mozrank, etc.).
- Run the report.
- Sort and filter the reports by your preferred metric.
Of course, how you choose to use your newfound authoritative pages is up to you!
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