Internal Linking & SEO 40


Internal linking means the links between the pages on your website.  This is a part of SEO that many people ignore, yet it is VERY powerful.

To illustrate the point,  I took one of my websites and played around with the internal link structure on the site.  I wanted to see what effect internal linking had on the ranking of my homepage for a keyword phrase I wanted to rank for.

I cannot tell you the keyword phrase I wanted to rank for, as I don’t want this ongoing experiment to be influenced by people searching for the phrase.  Members of my “Insider’s Group” know all of the phrases and ranks and even the website, so they can vouch that what I am going to tell you on this page is true and accurate.

Before starting the experiment, my site ranked between #190 and mid 200s for this main phrase.  I had one link pointing to the site using that keyword text, but no other optimization for that phrase.  e.g. The domain name did not contain that phrase, nor did any page filename, title, etc.  In effect, none of the page on the site were optimized for that phrase at all.

I analyzed the internal link structure of the site to my homepage, and this is what I found:

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The screenshot is from a piece of software I created to analyze internal link structure of a site.  NOTE: This software IS NOT currently available to buy.

What you see there are the number of links using a particular anchor text together with the anchor text used. I have blurred out two of the anchor texts to protect the site.

Top anchor text that was found 319 times was the name of the site (this is not a commercial term, the site name was chosen for branding purposes). The bottom anchor text found once was a phrase totally unrelated to the topic of the site.

At this point, my site was ranking at #190 or lower for the phrase.

I then went in an changed the internal linking on the site so that there was a more varied set of anchor texts.  After my meddling, this was the internal link profile to my homepage:

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I’ve blurred out the anchor texts to protect the experiment.

What I did was increase the number of internal links pointing to my homepage that had the words that make up the phrase I wanted to rank for.

e.g. if I wanted to rank for “dyson vacuum cleaner”, I’d add more internal links to the page that contained one or more of the words “dyson”, “vacuum” &, “cleaner”.  These links might look like “buy a dyson”, “best dyson vacuum”, “is dyson the best cleaner”, etc.

After about a week, I saw some changes in my rankings for the homepage for the target term.

Here is a screenshot from my Rank Tracker:

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The site jumped from #190 to #115.  The rank rose to a high of #69, before falling back and settling around the #110 mark.

I decided to make a few more changes to the internal link structure on my site.  I wanted MORE variety of internal anchor texts.  Here is what my internal link profile to the homepage looked like after this second round of tinkering:

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Almost immediately my rankings started to dance again:

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The graph above shows the last bit of the previous ranking screenshot, plus what happened after I changed the link text for a second time.

The rankings moved up almost immediately and settled between #50 and #60.

I wasn’t happy with this, so I added a few more links back to the homepage.  What happened next surprised even me.

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It jumped very quickly to number 15 in Google, and settled there.  The ranking has stayed firm for the last two months.

Conclusions?

During the test period, no other changes were made to my website.  While these changes could have been due to Google algorithm changes, the timings of the climb closely coincide with the changes I made to the internal link structure on the site.  It should also be noted that the site had ranked #190 or lower for the selected phrase for several months prior to this experiment.

While not conclusive, the evidence is strong, especially when you consider other phrases I have been monitoring in this experiment that contain the words that make up the main phrase.  I’ll show you the rank changes for various phrases, though I won’t tell you the phrase as again, I want to protect this site from lots of automated queries of people checking these results.

This one jumped from nowhere, into the top 200 and then moved up to where it currently sits at position #60:

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.. and this phrase:

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Moved up from nowhere at the beginning of November to #22.

.. and this phrase:

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Again, moving from nowhere it is now sitting at #20 in Google.

Note that when the graph starts on a certain date, it means that checks before that date did not find the site ranking for that phrase.  Therefore, looking at the phrase rankings above, we can see that all of these phrases started to rank at roughly the same time, which corresponds to the start of my internal linking experiment.  Jumps in rankings also correspond nicely with the addition of new internal links.

Automating Internal Linking

I actually use a plugin that I helped to design to handle internal linking on my sites.  It’s called CI Backlinks.  CI Backlinks works hand in hand with another tool I created called the Internal Link Analysis Tool.


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40 thoughts on “Internal Linking & SEO

  • Andii

    So many people tend to look at the big picture in terms of on and off-page SEO, but it seems that sometimes it’s the little things that make the BIGGEST difference.

    Internal links can become real messy sometimes Dr. Andy, especially when ignored or forgotten about, yet most folks, myself included in the past, have only focused, or mainly focused on, external link campaigns.

    I think we may be hearing a lot more about Internal Linking in the future 😉

    Andii

    • Andy

      Andii

      I think that many people still believe that off-page factors are the only important factors, though this is changing with the last 2 years of Google updates where it is very obvious that on-page has to be right.

      While external links obviously are important, you do need to make sure your on-page optimization is just right. By telling the search engines what various pages are about (using internal linking), it can mean you need far fewer external links to rank pages on your site.

    • Andy Williams

      Hi Chris,
      Sorry but I don’t. It will be after Christmas for sure. Members of my Insiders Group have access to both, which is allowing for testing. For my Internal Link Analysis software, I need to do some optimization, because on big sites, it’s taking a long time. I need to reduce that. The plugin is actually being developed by my brother’s company, and they are very busy with other stuff at the moment. I will be seeing him over Christmas though and trying to get him to assign some time for this to his programmer.

  • Chris C.

    Andy,
    I have a question. What causes a website to flip its rank completely? IN other words, for phrases I once dominated… like in top 3, now my site is placed either on the last shown result or next to last shown result in the index. In other words, it shows up out of 999 results at 999 or 998. Like it was placed there on purpose. This has happened on more than one phrase on several of my sites. I am wondering if this is because I used UNique Article Wizard to link build? I targetted about 3 or 4 keywords. Do you think the ratio of anchor text keywords was too high? Or maybe the fact that my links were devalued? But I would think this is intentional by GOogle. It is almost liek they put me in a reverse rank! What can I do to reverse this situation and bring it back to the first page instead of the rock bottom last? (I usually have to view 100 search results per page just so it don’t take so long to click to that last page)

    I would be willing to pay you a little something for your time if you would be willing to look at my site and tell me what I need to do to get it back in the good graces of Google. I will be willing to share the url if you will email directly. I am software customer of yours (but it is of no fault of that)… and a newsletter subscriber for years… just telling you so you know I am not just anyone off the street.

    I am just at my whits end. It has caused my income to drop too. Any help will be appreciated!

      • Chris C.

        It happened around the first of the year for one site of mine, last year. Around February. A clients site got hit by this around October. Same type of thing. Looking at several sites, I see it appears that my backlinking strategy has hurt multiple sites…5 or 6 or so I actively promoted in UAW. Would you care if I emailed you a couple of site links & rankings to look at? I am at my whits end. I am moving a client site to a new domain that got hit now. Maybe it is throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but I did so much article linking that I figured I could never get it all removed and clear the good name of the site. Google claims there is no penalty, but something is happening, if it is just algorithmic I don’t know. But there is a severe penalty on phrases I promoted and did well in in prior to 2012.

        • Andy Williams

          Trying to fix a backlinking problem with UAW is a major mistake. UAW backlinks are poor quality and the type Google hate (at least if you are spinning in ANY way).
          I don’t have time to look at readers sites, but if you are happy with me sharing my findings in this newsletter, and that includes your URL, then email me one URL and if I have time, I’ll analyze it.

  • Paul H

    Andy, those results look very impressive and thanks for sharing. I’m assuming the site must be about ‘juicing’ as your additional keywords contain that word. If that is the case does the 319 links which are the name of the site, which I also assume contains the word ‘juicing’ or is related to fruit juices, have a bearing on the overall results? i.e. if I had a site where I could only setup 20-30 internal links, using the site name, would that also work? I just wonder whether the impressive results are helped massively by having ‘a lot’, 300+, internal links containing a related word. Anyway, great experiment and I have a few sites with much fewer pages where I can do a smaller scale test so many thanks again.

    • Andy Williams

      The name of the site does use that word, but it’s not any of the phrases (or any other commercial phrase – it’s a URL I chose for branding purposes) I am trying to rank for. Bear in mind that before I started the experiment, those 319 link containing the name of the site were already there and my site was ranking #|90 for the main phrase. It is of course reasonable to assume that they would have had some benefit, but since these 319 link are almost all in the navigation bar, I have a feeling that Google tends to put less weight on them. I am however #1 for that domain name phrase, which would be expected.

  • Neo

    Hi, Andy

    I´m still anxiously waiting for the release, any ETA date?

    If you want i can help you with beta testing.

    Thank You

    • Andy Williams

      I have no ETA as it is out of my hands. I am not developing this plugin myself, it’s my brother. He has got one of his developers working on it, but they need to add some theft protection to the plugin before it can be released. It also does not need beta testing as members of my “Insiders Course” have had access to it for several months now, but thanks for the offer.

  • arindam

    I am doing the same experiment with my blogger blog and will publish the result. I am noticing that I’m getting better results using blogger with custom domain rather than wordpress.

    Of course I use web content studio for content.

    I will do all these manually.

    Arindam

    • Andy Williams

      It will be interesting to see your results. I’d also be interested to see how you are doing the backlinking with regards to choosing anchor text, since I don’t do this in the way most people would.

  • Julie Chrisler

    Hello Andy,

    I am interested in the Internal Linking plugin that you will be releasing in the future. I have signed up for information on your internal linking plugin, but do have a question. I currently use Keyword Strategy to manage keywords which also builds internal links on my website. I am wondering if these two pieces of software (KS and your new internal link building plugin) will be mutually exclusive, or whether one will be able to take advantage of both pieces of software at the same time. Thank you for sharing what information you can about your new plugin.

    Regards, Julie

    • Andy Williams

      I tried Keyword Strategy but felt it was way to aggressive in the way it linked words and left my content with link to pages that were only vaguely relevant. I realize that the Fraser Cain uses it on his Astronomy site and has good results, but I think that is more because of his stellar (pun intended) content. If I can give you an example, on his homepage that I just checked, the first article hyperlinked the word “humans” to an article on “Can humans live on Mars”. That is not the type of linking that I think is helpful to visitors, so it’s not the type of automation I would use on my own sites.

  • June

    I have ignored most of the SEO hype for years, but have always used internal linking. Google slaps have never bothered me, perhaps this is one of the reasons why. Thanks so much once again for your hard analytical work and for sharing it with us.

  • Carole

    Yeah I think I will use a woo theme for my next site affilliate site and include the woocommerce plugin.

    I was recently told that having links to your other related websites in the footer is now considered black hat – is this correct? Any update on your internal linking SEO tool?

    Best
    Carole

  • Carole

    Hi Andy

    Do you have an update on this plugin?

    I have your excellent kindle WordPress for beginners book in which you give a lot of information on setting up YARPP. Unfortunately you didn’t include the YARPP thumbnails plugin.

    I will be using the Genesis framework and lifestyle theme for my next website and would like to know if you have made a video on customizing the thumbnails plugin?

    Thanks
    Carole

    • Andy Williams Post author

      I don’t have an update. It is ready, but I said I’d help with their sales page and setting it all up, and I just haven’t had time. It is on my todo list.
      As for Yarpp thumbnails, I don’t use it or any other plugin for thumbnails. What do you want to do with thumbnails?

    • Andy Williams Post author

      Sounds good as long as it does not slow your page load speed to much (since extra images need to be downloaded). There must be instructions with that plugin?

  • Gerry Vanto

    Great article and impressive results – internal linking seems to be very effective by the looks of things. Can I ask what the software is you’re using to measure your rank? (and what kind of rank is this, position in Google SERPs?)

    Again, thanks for the helpful article – looking fwd to the internal links software release!

  • David

    Hi Andy,

    Any word on where I can get my grubby little mitts on that internal linking software of yours?

    • Andy Williams Post author

      David
      I am hoping this will be released before the end of October. That’s both the CI Backlinks plugin, and my Internal Link Analysis software. We are just getting final things done for both tools. Sorry for the delay, but things kept cropping up. This will be released soon.

  • David

    That’s great news Andy! So you will have both a plugin for WP and also software for use on HTML sites?