03 Jul 2007

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):
Site:mysite.com 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:http://www.mysite.com/widgets/blue/bright/small/id=373 site:mysite.com 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:http://www.mysite.com/widgets/blue/bright/small/id=373 -site:mysite.com 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 http://www.mysite.com/widgets/blue/bright/small/id=373,. 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).