Overcoming The Challenge Of Optimising Your Linking Structure
When it comes to the design, maintenance and running of our websites, each and every step comes with its challenges. The link structure of your site is certainly no exception. From understanding the different link types you could utilise, to working out the best structure that will work for your website, bringing it all together to improve your link profile takes some time investment.
If you’d like help with your linking structure, our team are on hand to help and here, we’ve put together an introductory guide to optimising a linking structure:
Table Of Contents
- What Do We Mean By Linking Structure?
- The Link Types
- Analysing Your Link Profile
- Taking Action
What Do We Mean By Linking Structure?
The linking structure of any website tends to cover two different ‘networks’ of links – internal, and external/backlink. These blend well together to form a larger, combined structure that utilises the strengths from both kinds for navigation, search engine optimisation and more. While each search engine distributes their weight differently between external and internal links, both work together to form the entire structure, through which link juice flows and our users can navigate from page to page. For this reason, having a clear, concise and well-optimised linking structure is an important part of the SEO process, but in order to determine the best linking structure for your business, it’s better to have a full understanding of how it all works.
The Link Types
To understand how it works, we have to take a look at the different types of links we can utilise for our sites. While traditionally, there are only considered to be two (internal and external), there are two further scopes that offer can offer surprising value for a website – network and subdomain links. We have different levels of control over the different linking styles, and each offers a different benefit for our websites, and for the users visiting our websites:
External links are more commonly referred to as being our backlink profile and consist of any links made from external websites to pages on our own. These are essentially incoming links that act as a form of recommendation from one web page to another and as a result, search engines have started taking this into account when ranking pages within their results index. External links act as signals for trust and authority, as well as relevancy and on Google, in particular, this translates to higher rankings providing the links are high authority and are completely natural.
A backlink profile that appears ‘spammy’, forced or paid can be detrimental to the growth of your website, leading to potential penalties from the search engine itself. Instead, external links should be as natural as possible, placed within high-quality content on trustworthy websites. From these sites, something called ‘link juice’ can be transferred from the origin site to the linked page, building upon its authority and therefore it’s ranking in the SERPs.
For those with their own private blog networks or a series of different websites, linking between these sites where possible may be beneficial. However, it’s important to be careful with what you’re linking, where you’re linking and how often. For example, if you have a personal blog or website and a separate website for your company or start-up, linking from your personal to the business and back again can provide a valuable method of navigation for your visitors. Providing you track the level of risk behind the links and ensure each link offers value and relevancy, this method of linking can help you pass trust and authority between your sites.
However, it can be far too easy to take things a step too far. Private Blogging Networks (PBNs) have been a common way for grey hat SEOs to build up backlink profiles for their websites, however Google has been cracking down on this practice. Not only do the links class as being unnatural but building up a business on the back of a PBN can be a risky and arguably unstable move. Take a look at your network – could it appear unnatural to Google’s bots? If you’ve been building up a backlink profile through a series of low-quality sites with no purpose but to build links, Google is likely to work this out.
As the search engine gets smarter, these older backlinking methods are becoming more and more difficult and are offering less and less value. However, a useful link between sites can offer a better user experience, providing this is done naturally and with care.
Subdomains are essentially what the name suggests – additional sections of the main domain and website that host certain features or sections of your website. If you have subdomains, chances are you already know what they can do for you, but one thing that webmasters and SEOs alike are still getting the hang of is how linking from the subdomain to the main website really works. Until 2011, even Google was unclear about whether it classed these links as internal or external, but it has since been cleared up – subdomains count as internal links and pass page rank and trust flow in the same way.
Internal links are any link passing from one page on your website, to another. Just like external links, they provide the flow of trust flow and page rank, but they play a leading role in providing easy navigation around your site. For this reason, it’s important to think carefully about the links you’re making and the overall structure each link helps you to provide. From a silo structure that distributes link juice in a pyramid-like fashion, to targeting links towards the ‘money-making’ pages, the way you link within your website will ultimately depend on the goal you want to reach in the long run.
However, while the link structure does offer a way of distributing this link juice, it also offers a way for not just your users, but also Google Bot to navigate through your site more seamlessly. With a clear hierarchy, Google can determine the more important pages on your website and which should be ranked more highly over others. It can also help to determine the relevancy of certain pages to others and generally just make the movement from page to page for indexing a much smoother process.
Analysing Your Link Profile
Unless you have just started to build a website, the chances are you already have some form of link structure in place, whether intentionally or otherwise. For this reason, it’s important to go in and take a look at your current link profile, both externally and internally, to determine which links are valuable, which could prove to be at risk of a penalty and which need to be improved.
Generally, any links that make sense as search queries on their own are considered good. Too often, we’re guilty of linking phrases that don’t make much sense alone. Take a look at the phrases you currently have linked – would you search this as a query directly? While Google is moving away from the exact match and towards relevancy, being able to match search queries to some degree can help prove relevancy for the landing page for that term. By analysing your current link profile, you can better determine your ideal next moves and begin repairing, optimising and improving.
So, you’ve worked out which links need work, which are fine as they are and which need to be disavowed or removed. The question now, is what action do you take first? Beyond simply removing bad or inadequate links, you can do the following:
The anchor text you choose plays a huge part in the relevancy and authority that Google places on every link you make. For example, while branded phrases work from a navigational perspective, switching these to ‘money’ terms both within the content and in headers and footers, can better capture the search intent that people are browsing with. Say you had an SEO Audit tool. While ‘SEO Audit Tool’ is a self-explanatory link, ‘review your site with an SEO audit’ will not only show where the link is going but offer that bit extra for both Google and your users to find confidence in the relevancy of the link.
If you’ve been linking to the same page in a lot of your recent content, how different are each of the anchors you’ve been using? While changing up some of the anchors you use can reduce the chance of each one appearing as spam, maintaining a level of consistency can help Google to determine the contents of a particular page and may even help it to rank as a result. This isn’t always the case for every website or page, and a number of other ranking factors will also be involved, so this may be a case of testing and reverting if it doesn’t work for your website.
Internal links are meant to be included as a form of navigation and they certainly can’t do their job if they are hidden amongst your content. When links are the same font, perhaps with a small effect once you hover over the phrase, it becomes difficult for your readers to move from page to page. In fact, you could miss out on traffic to a certain page simply because the links weren’t clear enough. Make the links obvious, yet possible to read over without much trouble. A different colour, bolded text, italics or any font formatting that matches your web design should work, as long as it’s clear to Google and to your visitors that the links are there.
Table of Contents
While a table of contents won’t directly affect your ranking and keeps the link juice’ within the same page, it does offer an improved user experience (UX) that Google will take note of. Essentially, this table offers quick access to sections of longer blogs and articles that make it easy to navigate without having to scroll. With the focus on mobile first indexing, UX has become a core focus.
Without easy navigation and mobile-optimised sites, the website will struggle to reach the higher rankings in Google. A table of contents not only caters for this, but it can also help with securing a featured snippet on Google, commonly referred to as position zero. The link acts as a way for Google to link users to the section of text they need, meaning that every single question or title listed in your contents has the potential of becoming a featured snippet providing the information is short, concise and answers the question effectively.
Whether looking at your internal or external links, determining whether you have a strong and trustworthy structure is a great way for optimising your search engine position. By improving your internal linking structure to make navigation easier for both Google and your users, and disavowing all low-quality and high-risk external links, you can clean up and optimise your link profile in no time.
For more information, get in touch on 0800 088 6000, today.