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How to Achieve Higher Rankings and Stay out of Google Hell Via Optimized Internal Linking

Learn how to Achieve Higher Rankings and Stay out of Google Hell Via Optimized Internal Linking.

I’ve recently had some clients ask me how to increase rankings on specific subpages when seeking to target long tail phrases. I’ve also been asked about reasons why pages get tossed in Google Hell (supplemental results). Often the answer to both of these is that a site has tens or hundreds of thousands page pages, and many of the pages are burried deep within the site. In order to reach these deep pages one has to click several times from the homepage to reach a destination page that only has 1 internal backlink to it. Pages like this often don’t rank high, and often even get tossed in Google’s Hell.

To analyze ones deep pages popularity I’ll:

1. I’ll start by looking at how many pages the site has indexed in google by going to google and typing in (for example): which will show me how many pages the website consists of in the eyes of google.

2. Next I’ll go to Yahoo to check how many internal pages link to that specific phrase. In Yahoo type (for example):
link: This will show how many internal pages link to that specific page. Also note if the homepage (the page with the most power to give) links to the page in question, and how many clicks off the homepage does it take to reach that page (what is the pagerank of that page?) (did I just say pagerank??).

3. Next I’ll see if any other sites are directly linking to the page in question. To do this, go to yahoo and search using the link command and you give the full url (for example): link: This will show how many other pages from other sites link to that specific page. If you get results, then this means that there are other sites that link to that specific page in question….but…note that you should click on each of these pages to check if they those pages have a google cache. Just a few days ago I was looking at 2 links we had gotten. 1 had 92 backlinks from other sites linking to that specific page…. but when I checked the backlink pages they were all MFA and scrapers where none of those pages had a google cache. The other site has 52 backlinks and the first ~10 were real, the others were all MFA and scrapers (but it has at least 10 real votes from other real pages)..

So for example, if a site has 10,000 pages indexed, and if a specific page (like the one above) only has 10 internal links, and doesn’t have any external links to it, it basically tells the search engines that there’s not much importance to that page. (little ranking power).

Having external backlinks from other sites probably count for a lot more than all the internal links combined…. but if you’ve got 10,000 pages it makes it really hard to get each individual pages a backlink from another site. In which case, all you’ve got is your internal link structure, so maximizing it to it’s best is essential.

How to maximize your internal link structure:
To start with you need a basic understanding of how Pagerank works (gasp, did I just say Pagerank again?)
Here’s an oldie but a goodie page that gives a great long and complicated story of how pagerank works written in relatively simple English).
For you math geeks, here’s the equation for Pagerank:

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
PR= PageRank
d= dampening factor (~0.85)
c = number of links on the page
PR(T1)/C(T1) = PageRank of page 1 divided by the total number of links on page 1, (transferred PageRank)

Here’s a simple way to look at this:
If you have 1000 external websites linking to your homepage, then you’ve got a certain amount of power residing on your homepage.
Each link off of your homepage is given a percentage of that power equally divided between the number of pages you link to off of your homepage. So for example, if your homepage links out to 100 pages, each of those pages only get a little bit of power passed to them(1/100), but if your homepage only has 10 links on it, then those 10 pages will get much more power passed to them (1/10).

So if you’ve got a page that can only be reached by (via starting at the homepage), going to the list of widget page, then going to the list of blue widgets page, then going to the bright blue widgets page, then going the the specific widget page….well, there’s not much juice (Pagerank) reaching your specific widget page by the time all that pagerank has been distributed down the line to that specific page, and thus, the chance of having good rankings for that page is low.

Solutions for optimizing your internal link structure:

1. The first step always rests on the keyword research. Return to wordtracker or keyword discovery, or better yet, your PPC or ROI stats. Define your targeted keyword goals.

2. I’d then start by making a list of the phrases that are important to you based on search volume and ROI opportunities. The most important pages should have links from as many pages as possible (site-wide is as good as you can get). If you have 20 really important pages, and those page have links from every page, including the homepage, then those pages will have the most power of any subpages you have.  (I’ve also seen some people go as far as nofollowing thier copyright pages or other non-important pages.)

3. Get more internal links via cross linking related pages. Look at my example url,. If that page only has 1 internal backlink  (Widgets ->Blue –>Bright –> small page) then it would be incredibly lucky to have that page show up for any search.

But if all your individual product pages linked to each other, then at least each individual page would have some internal links. For example, even if you added to the bottom of your Widget-Blue-Bright-Small-Model 373 page, you linked to all the other Widget-Blue-small model pages, then each page would at least have a handful of internal backlinks.  You could even expand that by adding even more related cross internal linking by also adding links to all bright widget pages, and all bright widget pages….there, now at least these individual pages can at least have hundreds or thousands of internal links….this can increase the Pagerank of the individual pages as opposed the the old way of just having 1 link to that page (if done on specific focused sections (not all of them)). This can also give value by now having hundreds or thousands of internal links going to that end product page. A page with backlinks like this usually will beat a page that only 1 or a few other internal pages links to it.

4. According to Pagerank, you’re only as powerful as a sum of the value of who links to you….so find where your power resides in your site and make sure it flows best from there.

A great tool to check what pages of your site has power is by using the powerful subpage tool. Look at the pages that have lots of internal links, and make sure to link out to many important pages from your pages that have people linking to them (your most powerful pages based on the number of other sites that link to your individual pages).

5. Identify internal category sitemap main pages and try to get links to those "nodes" so that your end pages are closer to the pages that have backlinks to them. For example, if your sell widgets, and you’ve got 5 main category pages, then those category pages should have lots of internal links, and link building could be focused on those areas as well (to help spread pagerank to pages at a closer level to the end pages).

In the end you just might have to "sacrifice" pages to Google’s Hell, or to accept the a page is so buried that there’ll not be much power sent to that page….but if you choose wisely what pages you want power to, and adjust your internal linking structure correctly, your important pages, and even a good amount of your long tail can have maximum power (and thus maximum ranking potential).



65 Responses

  1. If a site desperately needs to dig pages out of the supplemental index, one approach is removing some of the links pointing to the home page. That reduces juice gravitating “upwards” and leaving the deep pages high and dry.

    Also noindexing pages with untargeted titles like “August 2006” is an option.

  2. Nice post Jim, this is one of the most mis-understood topics in SEO I think. Far too often I see people add links from the homepage to their important category pages “to boost internal linking” but completely forget about the rest of the site and how to (as you put it) optimise your internal linking.

    It’s worth placing emphasis on anchor text as well, don’t just link to your category pages with generic phrases – use the terms to link to them you want to rank under!

    Also – I find Google’s webmaster central handy for quickly seeing the spread of links across a site (both internal and external). If you have access it’s a real time saver in analysing the linking structure.

  3. Thanks Jim-

    Your post made me think about site navigation and how that effects PR for my second level and tertiary pages based on site navigation alone. Are there pros and cons to a site IA when considering only SEO? Does a wide site fare better than a deeper site or vice versa when considering internal linking structure?

    Happy 4th of July!

  4. I agree with your suggestion of using nofollows (or the like) to prevent pages that are of no real use, at least on an SEO side, from depleting page rank. I have found this very useful with one of the sites I worked with. When we first launched, Google seemed to be giving priority to some of the users profiles, rather than pages we actually wanted indexed so we tried to prevent Google from accessing these pages and it seemed to work quite well. They were dropped from the index and i think, it allowed for the bread and butter pages to get crawled and ranked as they should.
    I do have a question for ya Jim, related to dispersing page rank. When purchasing links within content from a site, do you feel its better to focus on only one keyword, one link… or if possible, should you try to get a few links in with a few different keywords? Do you think PR and ‘link juice’ are diluted so much it might not be wise to try to promote a few keywords from one page?
    Thanks Jim, love the site and all your advice!

  5. Fantastic explanation Jim –

    I guess I’m one of those people that “goes so far as to Nofollow” the less important links on occasion. Why waste good link juice on something you don’t care about?

    Do you know the difference in percentage of juice passed along to an external link to another domain, versus internally?

    If each page can pass along 85%, and there are 10 outbound links, is 10% distributed evenly regardless of whether it’s internal or external to another domain?

    I have always assumed not, but never seen it answered definitively.

  6. Great information as ever.

    Personally I don’t like the nofollow attribute just on general principle. If something’s worth linking to it’s worth linking to.

    If that creates a bit of internal PR leak, then again I’m not too concerned. Sure, PR is one factor in ranking – but trying to channel it at this level? Not sure the game’s worth the candle.

  7. Very helpful tips..I’ve had good success with these strategies, especially when it comes to blogs and optimizing and removing internal links to pages that might end up being duplicates. That strongest subpages tool is very very cool!

  8. Scott asked “Do you know the difference in percentage of juice passed along to an external link to another domain, versus internally?”

    I would assume they are counted differently….As where the links are placed probably places a role in the value (navigation, sitewide, found on text in page)….
    Howard asked “Does a wide site fare better than a deeper site or vice versa when considering internal linking structure?”

    Yes, from what I’ve found, pages that have a site-wide link tend to do better than pages that only have a handful of internal links.

  9. Here’s a couple of commands to filter supplemental pages: (filters out supplemental) *** -anyword (will show only supplemental)

    These don’t work perfect every time, but can be quite useful…Thanks to Rob for showing me!

  10. great article! My original blog have many supplemental results, I will test it.

  11. All I can say is wow oh and I have a lot of work to do. Thank you for that excellent explanation I am sure it will help lots of people understand not only Pagerank but how to make their overall blog better.

    I would like to thank you for making my stumbling that much more enjoyable. Your bloge made the Life Is Risky Blog Stumbling for today!

  12. Great summary of internal linking strategies. It really does come down to common sense. If you have pages deep in your structure with no interpage linking, why would it deserve to rank well? If it’s that important, build a site around the topic.

  13. The bigger the site, the more important the internal link structure. the smaller the site, the more important the content quality. for a less-than-ten-page site, ad is a good idea.

    when there are millions of pages, it becomes essential to build and manage the way pages are interlinked, for garnering inbound links to pages in order to enhance ranking is next to impossible. that’s to say, when a website has come to this stage, internal links play an more important role than inbound links in placement.

    but it’s not easy as it looks when we are trying to optimize a website of such a scale. too many departments are involved. Clients and advertisers are often not willing to change. the tech department has pressure for they already have a tight schedule. the marketing bears the most pressure because the traffic will go down for a period of time.

  14. If you are developing themes on your site. Is cross-linking between pages in different “themes” a no-no or should you use rel=nofollow? But then you are not sharing PR!

    Your article I think does not consider LSI & themes – or perhaps you are suggesting links between pages in a theme?

  15. I always find it interesting when talking about subpage and ranking. To me from my little bit of SEO experience, I would think the 3 most important factors are 1) research search phrase and use it on that page 2) use the search phrase in the anchor text pointing to that page 3) inbound links to that page.

    Inbound links are king in my book.

  16. I Knew a bit about page ranking , but this post has helped shed light on the matter in hand. I’ll make sure i put it to the test right away.

  17. Hi Jim,

    Nice post you get there. It’s timely that you get this article out since so many people are discussing about Google supplemental index.

    Are you trying to imply that Pagerank DOES matter when it comes to ranking possibly for uncompetitive keywords? I’ve always thought that Pagerank is DEAD while anchor tag and external links matter the most when it comes to ranking.

    Are we all wrong then?


  18. While the actual Google PageRank of a particular page may not matter all that much in the algorithm for that pages ranking for a phrase, it DOES make a difference to the ranking of any other pages which that page links to, either internal or external.

    Therefore, the more pages you have with better Google PageRank, the more you can funnel that link juice off to your partners and into other areas of your website.

    Make sense?

  19. This is a great post and I was really following along for a while, but do you have a “How to Achieve Higher Rankings for Dummies” sections? LOL.


  20. Yes, absolutely –

    And the higher PR your blog home page has, the more good it does (assuming your link will be visible on the blog home page, and you’re not just showing snippets).

    And be sure to use your best relevant link text too, of course

  21. err.. confusing..! I dont think I can make something out of this algo…

    Off topic: this spam protection stuff asked me to sum two numbers 😀 (am getting bad in counting)

  22. Yeah, ya know these days I find if I spend time just writing high quality, and detailed posts on my blog, the internal linking comes naturally. Especially if you write a string of good posts on the same category.

    All the normal inbound linking comes into play as well, but I’ve given up on trying to game Google. Just post naturally, and blog naturally.

    Anil for Zulit

  23. This was an excellent read. In an effort to bring more PR back to the homepage and distribute PR more effectively I’ve been doing some link auditing. I’ve included the following on the “no follow” list to be below.

    I also have a series of links on the footer of all pages on the site that are embedded in java. Doea anyone know if links embedded in java even matters to the bots?




    Thanks in advance.


  24. If one has an article section on her website, should she list the links to the articles on the homepage or is it ok to show the article links on the ‘article’ page, if the homepage is linking to the article page? I mean, should my ‘important content’ pages be linked directly from the homepage?

  25. Ciara, first, think about your users. Don’t add a link if users aren’t going to find them useful.

    There are also ways of pushing PageRank down to the third-tier (content/product) pages.

    1. “siloing” or “third-level push” (credit goes to Dan Thies) Rel=nofollow links on second-level category pages that point to other second-level pages, so that more PageRank flows down to third-tier pages.

    2. You can go one stop further by allowing third-level pages from only linking to its parent category page, and nofollowing links to other second-level pages.

    If your site has enough PageRank, this will pull some third-tier pages out of the supplemental index. Otherwise, it can de-index your category pages.

    To soften the impact, you can link second-tier pages in pairs, so that page A links to B, C links to D, etc.

    You can also create circular linking down in the third tier so that page A links to B and C, B links to C and D, etc – which helps circulate PageRank.

  26. Hi,

    I have a quick question.

    I’ve been adding content everyday to a few of my websites. Since there hasn’t been a PR update in sometime now, does this mean my subpage content won’t rank as well.

    I can put the EXACT title in google and my subpages don’t pop up at all. Some of these pages are anywhere from a 1 year to a few days old. Once in a while I can find them in the top ten for their title term but they disappear randomly.

    Any help is appreciated. Thanks!

  27. Great Article, Jim! You presented a few new SEO tools that I have not come across yet. Now I know how to optimize my internal links for a greater benefit and ROI.



  28. Thank you!

    I have been trying to figure out the “follow” “no follow” concept for
    two days.

    Finally some one )you) has explaind the whole damned internal linking quagmire in understandable terms.

  29. Thanks for the good insight into internal linking. Never have thought that it would play such an important role in achieving a high ranking for deep pages. Makes me think about restructuring some of my sites. Or maybe i should just get more external links to my deep pages. Would that help more?

  30. So, what we should be aiming for is a long tail scenario, right? With the concentrated section bearing all your top landing pages and the tail containing everything else?

  31. Good info Jim! Shed some light on how to stay out of Google Hell. Will be working hard on adding more links to some of my sites internal pages and hope for the best

  32. Good post Jim. This is one of the most ignored portion when it comes to site promotion. Everyone including me just try to get as many links as possible to the main page and totally ignoring the internal pages. Dire consequences i might add.

  33. Good explanation given by Jim. It is very helpful for us and we will keep in mind while promoting our website.

  34. Thank you Jim for this insight into getting good ranking for internal pages. Learned a lot from this as most of the time what you hear and read is “Get links to your site” and to newbies like me, it would be to get as many links as possible to my main page and ignoring the internal pages. Never have thought that internal pages are that important. Assumed that as long the domain rank and the rest will follows. Thanks for the info.

  35. The way you explained the linking is very decent especially when page get deeper and it causes problem in getting good ranking. Well Jim if you we go for long tail keywords in this type of pages, i think this will work. I do appreciate your internal linking techniques that seems really helpful for both professionals and freshers.

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