What do you think of when someone mentions “The Wizard of Oz”?
You might think of the main characters: Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, or the Scarecrow. You might think about some of the main landscapes of the movie, like the Yellow Brick Road or Emerald City. You might even think of memorable phrases like, “There’s no place like home” or, “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
But what do you think of when I mention a filing cabinet?
Images of paper or an office probably popped into your mind.
But just as Judy Garland or flying monkeys are part of the Wizard of Oz, so too is a filing cabinet.
When Frank Baum was writing his book, he came up with the name Oz by looking at a filing cabinet with the label “O–Z.” Without a filing cabinet, who knows what the book or movie would have been called. The Wizard of Alfred just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Each of the characters and scenes, no matter how small, made the movie a classic.
SEO, like the movie “Wizard of Oz,” has characters both big and small that are required for the overall success of the business. One of the minor yet significant characters (we’ll call it one of the “OZ” points of SEO) is internal website links.
Internal website links link one page on a website to another page on the same website.
When done correctly internal links can help Google understand your website and create a pipeline of relevance and authority for specific pages on your website. However, when done incorrectly, they can confuse Google and look spammy.
In this post, I will outline steps to avoid, and steps to take, to properly internally link pages on your website.
Avoid These Tactics
Each page on a website has a certain amount of authority. Google used to visibly quantify this authority through PageRank but it no longer does so. Likewise, links have varying degrees of authority.
Links normally pass this authority, or “link juice,” from website to website, or page to page. A link decays the more you pass or redirect it. A direct link from a website like NYTimes.com is pretty authoritative. Now if NYTimes.com links to website A, which links to website B, which links to your website, the authority of the link has decreased.
Link sculpting is the practice of trying to manipulate the flow, or unnaturally inflate the “link juice” on a particular website, through the careful manipulation of no-follow links. No-follow links are links with a tag that tells the search engine not to pass the juice or authority.
For example, a no-follow link from NYTimes.com to your website would not directly pass authority or increase the authority of your website.
Sculpting PageRank through link sculpting looks unnatural and will do more harm than good.
Linking Unrelated Pages
Linking two “unrelated” pages is confusing to Google and can counter any authority or relevance you have built on specific pages.
For example, let’s pretend I own an online store and have just added a pet products page. I would like to focus all my marketing efforts on marketing this page. One way to increase the visibility of this page is by increasing the authority of the page, which in turn will help the page show up on Google.
Internally linking relevant pages increases the authority of the page, but linking every single product and page from my online store to my pet page does not look natural. There is no reason these pages would be linked, except to try and increase authority. The link doesn’t benefit the customer.
Linking unrelated pages on your website will not help your marketing efforts.
Creating “Thin” Pages
Some website owners create pages with little value for the purpose of linking them to their “prize” pages.
Some people do this to sculpt the authority of the pages. Because the pages do not offer much value, website owners often hide them deep in a website with little chance at being found. Both you and Google know that these pages do not look very good.
If Google thinks you are trying to manipulate rankings through unnatural means (such as creating thin pages), they can, and will, penalize these pages and websites.
Focus on These Tactics
Mapping Out Your Website
Your website should have a hierarchal structure, and your internal linking pattern should follow this structure.
For example, an e-commerce website usually has the home page, about us page, and contact us page in the top level of the navigation. The next level of the website will include category pages, and as you go down, the pages will get more granular and specific to products.
In general, your links should also follow a hierarchical order. They should flow and make sense to your customers.
Both your website and internal link structure should resemble a pyramid. The top part of the pyramid resembles your top-level navigation—it is smaller (contains fewer pages) and concentrated. These top-level pages naturally link to the next level of the pyramid, which could include category pages or supplemental content of your website. These category pages then link to the broadest part of the pyramid, the equivalent to the product pages of your website.
While you link pages, always ask yourself: Does this help, or would this make sense, to my customer?
The links on your page should take the user to another page that provides additional value or information for your visitors.
For example, if someone is on your blog reading about how to clean his or her phone screen, it’s appropriate to link to a product page offering cleaning solutions for their phone. It would be less appropriate to link to a dog grooming page from your phone page.
Google loves unique information that provides value to the Internet, and so do your users. If you are creating supplemental pages to help your visitors, make sure they provide actual information that will help your visitors.
For example, pretend you have a product page selling cleaning products for pets. You could create a separate “value page” with step-by-step instructions on how to properly and effectively clean your pets. You could then link this value page to your conversion page (the page where the client can buy your product).
Internal website links provide value and structure to the most important pages on your website. They are like the filing cabinet of the Wizard of Oz. Without the filing cabinet, the Wizard of Oz might have had a different name and a different outcome. Internal links might not be the Dorothy or Tin Man of the SEO world, but they can still influence, bring value, and ultimately affect the outcome of your business. When undertaking this complicated task, just remember how important the “Oz” is in the SEO world.