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While we will be discussing PageRank (a Google-based term) here same rules generally apply for other engines. The closer a page is in clicks from your homepage, higher value (or PageRank) page is assigned. Basically, if I have a page linked to from my homepage it will be given more weight that a page that is four or five levels deep in my site.
This does not mean that you should link to all of your pages from your homepage. Not only does this diffuse weight of each individual link but it will look incredibly unattractive if your site is significantly large.
Figure out what you main phrases are and which pages will be used to rank for them and be sure to include text links to these internal pages on your homepage. It's important to pick solid pages to target keyword phrases on as you don't want human visitors going to your "terms and conditions" page before they've even seen products.
If that hosting company noted above has a PageRank 6 homepage, pages linked from its homepage will generally be a PageRank 5 (sometimes 4, sometimes 6 depending on weight of 6 for homepage). Regardless, it will be significantly higher that if that page was linked to from a PageRank 3 internal page.
How To Improve Your Internal Linking Structure
There are many methods you can use to improve your internal linking structure. The three main ones are:
- Text link navigation
- Inline text links
Text Link Navigation
Most websites include some form of navigation on left hand side. This makes it one of first things read by a search engine spider (read "Table Structures For Top Search Engine Positioning" by Mary Davies for methods on getting your content read before your left hand navigation). If it is one of first things search engine spiders sees when it goes through your site it will have a strong weight added to it so it must be optimized with care.
If you are using text link navigation be sure to include targeted keywords in links. Thankfully this cannot be taken as meaning "cram your keywords into each and every link" because this is your navigation and that would look ridiculous. I've seen sites that try to get main phrase in virtually every link. Not only does this look horrible but it may get your site penalized for spam (especially if links are one after another).
You don't have to get your keywords in every link but if workable, every second or third link works well. Also consider what you are targeting on internal pages. If you homepage target is "web hosting" and you've linked to you homepage in navigation with "web hosting main" which is followed by your contact page so you've used "contact us", it would be a good idea to use anchor text "dedicated hosting" for third link. It reinforces "hosting" relevancy and also attaches relevancy to dedicated hosting page of site to phrase "dedicated hosting" in anchor text.
Footers are often overused and abused area of websites. While they are useful for getting spiders through your site and other points noted above, they should not be used as spam tools. I've seen in my travels, footers that are longer than content areas of pages from websites linking to every single page in their site from them. Not only does this look bad but it reduces that value of each individual link (which then become 1 out of 200 links rather than 1 out of 10 or 20).
Keep your footers clean, use anchor text well, and link to key internal pages of your website and you will have a well optimized footer. You will also want to include in your footer a link to a sitemap. On this sitemap, link to every page in your site. Here is where you can simply insure that every page gets found. Well worded anchor text is a good rule on your sitemap as well. You may also want to consider a limited description of page on your sitemap. This will give you added verbiage to solidify relevancy of sitemap page to page you are linking to.
Internal Text Links
Internal text links are links placed within content of your work. They were covered in last week's article on content optimization, which gives me a great opportunity to use one as an example.
While debatable, inline text links do appear to be given extra weight as their very nature implies that link is entirely relevant to content of site.
You can read more on this in last week's article.
As noted above, simply changing your internal navigation will not launch your site to top of rankings however it's important to use each and every advantage available to create a solid top ten ranking for your site that will hold it's position.
They will get your pages doing better, they will help get your entire site spidered, they will help increase value of internal pages and they will build relevancy of internal pages to specific keyword phrases.
Even if that's all they do, aren't they worth taking time to do right?
Next week in part six of our "Ten Steps To an Optimized Website" series we will be covering importance of human testing. Having a well-ranked website will mean nothing if people can't find their way through it or if it is visually unappealing.
Dave Davies is the owner of Beanstalk Search Engine Positioning. He has been optimizing and ranking websites for over three years and has a solid history of success. Dave is available to answer any questions that you may have about your website and how to get it into the top positions on the major search engines.