5. Site Autopsy – Site-wide Links


In this 5th part of the site autopsy, we check the site for site-wide links, both internal and external.  If you missed any of the previous posts in this autopsy series, you can find all parts here.

Site wide links are those links that appear on all pages of a site.  In this post, I want to check the Cayenne site for ANY link that appears on all or most of the pages of the site.

Before we look at the site, let’s see what Matt Cutts says about site-wide links:

To check for site-wide links, once again, I am using my Internal Links Analysis Tool.

There are two relevant reports – Sitewide Internal Links, and Sitewide Outbound Links.  Let’s look at the latter first.

I ran an analysis on the Cayenne site on the 10th March, so I’ll use that one for these reports.

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Outbound Site-Wide Links

This is what the report shows me (click to enlarge):

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At the very top, we have a site that appears in links on 81% of the pages.  This is a link to Copyscape, and we can see this link in the footer on most pages:

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By inspecting the code behind that link, I can see it is DOFOLLOW:

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Personally, I would make it nofollow on all page.  It’s not that we don’t trust “Copyscape”, it’s simply to preserve link juice on the Cayenne site.

The next few links in the list (which I have ordered by percentage of pages the links appear on) are Amazon links.  One of those Amazon links appears on 15% of the pages.  That isn’t too bad.  At 5 on the list, we have links to another website called the “Nutritional Supplement Bible”. I assume this is a site owned by the Cayenne Pepper site owner.  This link appears on nearly 4% of the pages on this site and it does concern me a little.  It is fine to link to another site we own, when it makes sense to do so, but adding links purely to pass link juice to another site we own is a no-no.

I can find out what pages link to that site in another report in the tool.  Running that report tells me:

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OK, so it’s only two pages on the site.  The first link uses the URL, which is fine, and the second one “describes” the site, which may be fine.  Let’s look at the links:

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OK, I am less happy with this link now.  Google state that they don’t like this type of link if it is in the body of an article and linking out to another site with keyword rich anchor.  I assume that “pharmaceutical-grade”, “quality” and “multivitamins” are all keywords that the webmaster wants to be found for.  In this case, I would change the link.  I’d unlink that phrase, and instead include a bit at the end of the paragraph saying something like “you can find these on my other site URL/NAME”, and enter the URL/Name of the site, and hyperlink that instead.  This then would appear to be a link with less ranking intent, and more visitor-helping intent.

The other link in this report:

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.. is absolutely fine.

OK, that’s outbound links, let’s look at internal sitewides (typically found in menus and sidebars).

Internal Site-Wide Links

This is what the report looks like:

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I’ve only shown a small part of the report.  The list of 88.7% links continues down the report.

When I see this type of link percentage for a lot of links, I know we are dealing with a navigation menu.  I can confirm this by picking one of these URLs are random, and seeing which URLs link to it:

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Sure enough, there are lots of links using the same, identical link text.  The link text is the same as the article title and filename.

On the site, we can see this type of link in the left sidebar (I am using Wayback Machine to look at this as the site was recently changed):

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Each of these sidebar links are found on 47 pages of the site.

Look at those links for a moment, and you’ll notice something.

“Cayenne Pepper” appears in all/nearly all of the links.  That means if these 47 links (that’s how many pages I think the site has) are found on every page, there is automatically 47 instances of a main keyword phrase on EVERY page, even before you write the content.

If I check the homepage on the Waybackmachine at a time the site was penalized (and before the recent changes), I can see that phrases appearing 53 times on the page at a density of 8.15%!

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If I look at an internal page on the site, this is what I get:

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The phrase appears even more times.

This is without doubt a problem on the site.  I know the owner recently tried to clean up the sidebar navigation to reduce the frequency of this main phrase.  Here is what the homepage now looks like:

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And an internal page:

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That is certainly a lot better, BUT, I would caution against using sitewide menus.

While sitewide menus like this do spread out the link juice on the site, the big problem comes with over-optimization of the site, as this site owner found out.  He tried replacing “cayenne pepper” in the menu with variations, like capsicum and cayenne:

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Capsicum does seem to be a favourite word used, and if we check the density of that one word:

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We are starting to get into dangerous territory.

Here’s an idea….

The site is about cayenne peppers, and the visitors know that.  Therefore do we need to include cayenne/chili/capsicum etc in the menu items?   Couldn’t you just link to things like:

  • Treating migraines
  • Herb or Spice
  • Historical uses
  • How to prepare a drink

and so on…

Now, before you make any major change like this, you should BACKUP the site.  That way, if rankings tank even more, you can reinstate your site to pre-tanking state.

The other thing I would recommend on this site is to use shorter context-sensitive menus on various parts of the site and not one long menu linking to every page.

What I would try to do is is categorize the pages on the site and then within a category, create & display a menu that links to all other pages in that category.

e.g. we might have a category on treating disease.  Then, in a treatments menu, we could have:

  1. Migraines
  2. Swine Flu
  3. Cancer
  4. Hemorrhoids

On any page related to using cayenne pepper for treatment, this would be the main menu we show in the sidebar.

However, we would include another menu on these pages that link to other main sections (categories) on the site, for example a category page on “How to take Cayenne Pepper”, and that category page might include links to the following pages:

  • Best time to drink cayenne
  • Heat ointment
  • After effects
  • Enemas
  • Cayenne, Water, Lemon & Maple Syrup drink
  • etc.

Having smaller menus that highlight the main areas of the site that are of interest to the visitor on any particular page is a much better way to structure navigation menus.  As things stand, a visitor just sees a long list of links, and will probably decide to ignore them all because it is too much effort to read through every one.  Two or three shorter menus would be a lot more user-friendly.  One maybe linking to other relevant articles and another one linking to other sections of the site.

When designing navigation menus, think about the visitor first.  Don’t forget, that if you have a sitemap, Google will find all of the pages on your site without a problem, so only use navigation menus for visitors.

If you have any comments, please leave them below.

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