A lot of people trying to optimize their website for search engines often focus on researching and obtaining good backlinks on other websites, while ignoring the importance of internal links on their own site. I’ve had some great success moving a site up in SERPs by simply changing the anchor text of some internal links.
While it is true that search engines, most notably Google, do place a lot of importance on backlinks and their anchor text (the text that actually makes up the link itself), it seems to often go unnoticed that they also place a lot of importance on your own links. Every link to a page on your website should contain target keywords which explain what is on that page, and to which you are trying to market.
For example, if your homepage has a navigation menu on it which links to a page called “Products,” and your link anchor text is just the word “products,” you are wasting a chance at creating a valuable keyword-rich link. If you instead changed that link to “Acme Company Metal Can Openers,” search engines will now notice that your product page is actually about “Acme Company Metal Can Openers” and will stand a better chance of appearing in SERPs for those keywords.
It is also important to link not just from the home page, but within subpages. For example, adding a list of “Related Products” links on each product page on a website will help build internal links. These links should also contain appropriate keywords, which will further increase the effectiveness of your internal links.
This doesn’t mean you should create a hundred sentence-long links to a whole bunch of pages on your home page and your product pages. Not only will your visitors hate it, it will also decrease the effectiveness of your link strategy. The links coming from a home page should always be limited to the most important pages you wish to market. Your home page (for most websites) is usually the page which is linked to the most, and therefore probably has the highest authority, or in Google’s terms PageRank, than any other page on your website. Every page that it links to will gain from the power of that link.
For example, if your home page is a PageRank of 5 and you have 100 links to sub pages on it, then each page you’re linking to is only going to get a fraction of your home page’s authority (5/100 = .05). But if you only have 10 links on the home page, then each page will get 10 times more PageRank passed to them (5/10 = .5).
Most people will want more than 10, but less than 100 links on their home page for an effective linking strategy. And don’t forget you also have to have some kind of navigational menu which will not only be on your homepage, but also on all the subpages of your website. So take into account how many links, and the keyword effectivess of those links, that you put into your navigational menu.
Achieve Balance for a Good Internal Link Structure
So how do you reconcile all these links so that humans can easily and intuitively navigate your site, but you also pass enough link authority to subpages? Use the “rel=nofollow” attribute on unimportant links. The nofollow attribute on a link tells Google (and some other search engines) to follow the link, but not to pass authority, or PageRank, via that link. Using this attribute will allow you to limit the number of links which decrease the power of your PageRank. For sites that use CMS software such as WordPress, you can also add Disallow statements to your robots.txt file to limit search engines from following and indexing less important pages (such as all the Tag pages in WordPress).