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3 Big Reasons Why You Must Audit Your Internal Links

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Link acquisition has been all the rage in SEO for as long as most of us can remember.

What is interesting is the lack of attention paid to internal linking vs. inbound linking.

Yes, inbound links are important for driving referrals and portraying brand and domain authority to search engines.

But your internal links serve three fundamental functions on your website.

Let’s dig into these three areas.

Read on to learn how to understand, optimize, and manage your website internal linking structure.

1. Internal Links Portray Page Importance to Search Engines

A healthy exercise for any organization is to sit down and list the role of the website.

Answer these two important questions:

  • What do you want each user to do when they visit?
  • What is most important about your site?

The answers will vary, but may sometimes be identical.

For example, we want every user to see what products and services we provide.

We also feel that this is our most valuable content. That for which is most important to us should also be of SEO focus as well considering that we want this content to rank well.

The more we link to our most valuable content, the more we can instruct to search engines that this is our most important content.

So, are you giving the love to your most important content?

Google Search Console - Links Section Screenshot

Google Search Console provides a great and important resource in their Links section.

You definitely want to pay attention to Google’s view of what you link to the most.

This will give you a holistic view of how well you are portraying what is important to you.

In the above example, we can see that this HVAC company has twice as many links to their bill pay page than to their service pages.

Also, all services are linked to equally.

Is toilet repair as important as furnace repair or air conditioning repair?

Again, ask yourself what your most valuable content is.

In this scenario, valuable can also mean that the company likely makes higher revenue from selling air conditioners versus toilets.

So how do we craft an internal linking structure that shows this hierarchy of content?

  • Ensure that your top pages are featured in the main navigation. If you have just a few products/services, resources, etc. then list these in main navigation via dropdowns or mega-menus. Note: work within reason, this doesn’t mean a 100 link main navigation!
  • Craft footer navigation that includes much of these same links that you feature in the main navigation.
  • Do you feature supporting navigation on internal site pages? Having a multiple column layout within internal pages is a great way to heighten internal linking as well as drafting easy pathways throughout your site for your users. This is also a great internal linking strategy if you have you have too many product/service, resource, etc. pages to feature all in your main navigation.
  • Do you feature breadcrumb navigation within internal site pages? This is essential for usability regarding very deep sites, yet also lends to heightened internal linking.
  • Mind the cross-sell approach to internal linking. Provide feature areas on internal pages to related services, products or other resource pages similar to the respective topic of a page.

2. Internal Links Usher Users to Conversions

Internal linking should not solely be a topic for SEO. It is the medium that delivers a landing page visitor to a successful site conversion.

For every site objective you have, you must design an intended pathway to your objective.

Let’s look at an example:

You want users to peruse your array of products, but you also want to focus on lead generation of your new webinar series.

Two objectives? No sweat.

Through analytical access, you understand that your homepage receives the highest amount of traffic, followed by your insightful blog section.

With this in mind, you’re going to internally link to your products section as well your new webinar series from the top fold of the homepage. This can be done via hero image sliders or feature area boxes.

You will then move to your blog template and ensure that you have a vertical column that features links to your webinar series.

Uniform product/service linking in a blog post template can seem a little tacky or pushy, but finding a way to internally link to applicable product/service pages from within post copy doesn’t hurt.

While the above example makes internal linking strategy seem easy, it often isn’t as you have to audit website user behavior to understand how they are traversing the site.

Google Analytics - Users Flow Feature Screenshot

A helpful practice is to use the Users Flow feature in Google Analytics and understand how users move through your site.

The trick is to use advanced segments where you only look at sessions with conversions as well as sessions without conversions.

Study the differences between the two.

Specifically, review the internal linking structure on pages in both of these pathways.

This will help you to understand how unsuccessful pages can mimic internal linking to help become successful pages.

Another point of consideration is not the amount of internal linking but understanding the successful positioning of internal links.

Lucky Orange is a great tool for this. There are other heatmap tools (e.g., Crazyegg, Hotjar) but I am quite fond of the entire suite for heatmap review as well as live recording and real-time data.

Here, I advise reviewing those converting and non-converting pages we found in Google Analytics within the heatmap section of the tool to understand where attention is paid on the page and if we need to consider moving internal links around on the page.

Are important links too far down the page where scroll depth is shallow?

Should you reorder main navigation to place important pages closer to where attention is being paid?

3 Big Reasons Why You Must Audit Your Internal Links

3. Internal Links Assist in Search Engine Crawling

While traditional HTML sitemaps and XML sitemaps are a great way to help search engines traverse across your site, how you internally link on your site can help search engines move quickly through your important site content – or you can seriously confuse them.

Here are a few ways to make crawling easier for search engines.

Make Sure You Aren’t Internally Linking to Redirecting Pages

This can happen in a HTTP to HTTPS transition or through URL naming convention changes.

When a search engine has to travel through a redirect, this slows their crawl.

Only Internally Link on Absolute URLs (Not Relative URLs)

Personally, this just ensures that you are visibly linking to the correct HTTP/HTTPS (or www) page version.

However, if you understand your link directive a relative link is fine with the consideration that you are using the <Base> href attribute.

Link to Canonical Page Versions

This may be one of my biggest internal linking pet peeves.

For example, when brand logo links and main navigation links will link to a duplicated “default.aspx” page or a duplicated page including or not including a trailing slash at the end of the URL.

Mistakes like these can quickly split the internal link priority that you are wishing to portray to the search engines.

Clean up your broken internal links

There are many third-party website monitoring tools that can help you to monitor broken links on your site.

However, Google Search Console features the Coverage section which will let you know how many 404 and soft 404 error pages you have on your site.

Furthermore, for each error URL, you can click through the magnifying glass at right to see which page on your site is linking to a 404 page.

GSC - Coverage section3 Big Reasons Why You Must Audit Your Internal Links

Having trouble finding that broken link once you visit the noted page?

Download the Chrome extension Check My Links to help uncover those broken internal links.

SEJ Homepage - Check My Links Plugin Screenshot

Internal Link Auditing – It’s Worth the Effort

Hopefully, to this point, you can see that internal link auditing is a critical and continuously ongoing process.

This is one of those beneficial areas where your efforts will be rewarded in multiple areas – SEO, conversion rate optimization, and usability.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, November 2018
All screenshots taken by author, November 2018

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SEO

Google Search Console image search reporting bug June 5-7

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Google posted a notice that between the dates of June 5 through June 7, it was unable to capture data around image search traffic. This is just a reporting bug and did not impact actual search traffic, but the Search Console performance report may show drops in image search traffic in that date range.

The notice. The notice read, “June 5-7: Some image search statistics were not captured during this period due to an internal issue. Because of this, you may see a drop in your image search statistics during this period. The change did not affect user Search results, only the data reporting.”

How do I see this? If you login to Google Search Console, click into your performance report and then filter by clicking on the “search type” filter. You can then select image from the filters.

Here is a screen shot of this filter:

How To Filter By Image Traffic in Google Search Console

Why we should care. If your site gets a lot of Google Image search traffic, you may notice a dip in your traffic reporting within Google Search Console. You may have not noticed a similar dip in your other analytics tools. That being said, Google said this is only a reporting glitch within Google Search Console and did not impact your actual traffic to your web site.


About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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Facebook Changes Reach of Comments in News Feed

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Facebook announced a change to it’s algorithms that will affect the reach of comments on a post. Comments that have specific quality signals will  be highly ranked. Low quality comment practices may result in less reach.

Comment Ranking in News Feeds

Facebook noted that not only are posts ranked in news feeds but comments are also ranked as well.

Posts with comments that have positive quality signals will be seen by more people. Posts with low quality signals will have their news feed reach reduced.

Facebook Comment-Quality Signals

Facebook noted that their updated comment algorithm has four features:

  1. Integrity signals
  2. User indicated preferences
  3. User interaction signals
  4. Moderation signals

Integrity Signals

Integrity Signals are a measure of authenticity. Comments that violate community standards or fall into engagement-bait are negative signals. Violations of community standards are said to be removed.

Engagement Bait

Facebook engagement bait is a practice that has four features:

1. React Baiting

Encouraging users to react to your post

2. Follow and Share Baiting

This is described as telling visitors to like, share or subscribe.

3. Comment Baiting

Encouraging users to comment with a letter or number are given as examples.

. Monetization Baiting

This is described as asking for “stars” in exchange for something else, which could include something trivial like “doing push ups.”

User Indicated Preferences

This is a reference to user polls that Facebook conducts in order to understand what users say they wish to see in comments.

User Interaction Signals

These are signals related to whether users interact with a post.

Moderation Signals

This is a reference to how users hide or delete comments made in their posts.

Here is how Facebook describes it:

“People can moderate the comments on their post by hiding, deleting, or engaging with comments.

Ranking is on by default for Pages and people with a a lot of followers, but Pages and people with a lot of followers can choose to turn off comment ranking.

People who don’t have as many followers will not have comment ranking turned on automatically since there are less comments overall, but any person can decide to enable comment ranking by going to their settings. (See more details here.) “

Facebook Targeting Low Quality Comments

One of the stated goals of this update is to hide low quality posts from people’s Facebook feeds and to promote high quality posts by people you might know.

This is how Facebook described it:

“To improve relevance and quality, we’ll start showing comments on public posts more prominently when:

  • The comments have interactions from the Page or person who originally posted; or
  • The comments or reactions are from friends of the person who posted.”

Read Facebook’s announcement here: Making Public Comments More Meaningful

Images by Shutterstock, Modified by Author

 



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Build your PPC campaigns with this mini campaign builder script for Google Ads

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Need to quickly build a campaign or add keywords to an existing one? This script will do the work for you!

All you need to do is input a few keywords and headlines in a spreadsheet and BAM! You’ve got yourself the beginnings of a great campaign.

I’m a firm believer in Single Keyword per Ad Group (SKAG) structure – it increases ad/keyword relevance and therefore improves quality score, makes CPCs cheaper, gets you a higher ad rank and a better CTR.

Sadly, building out SKAG structures is a pretty time-consuming endeavor. You can’t implement millions of keywords and ads without PPC tech powering your builds.

But if a client just needs a couple of new keywords after updating their site with new content, this script is a quick and easy solution.

And that’s exactly what I love about PPC. There’s a special place in my heart for simple scripts anyone can use to achieve tasks that are otherwise repetitive or near-impossible.

What does the script do?

This tool will save a lot of time with small-scale builds where you know exactly which keywords and ad copy you need, for example when you’re adding a few keywords to an existing campaign.

You input your campaign name, keywords, headlines, descriptions, paths and final URL, and it will output three tabs for you: one with keyword combinations, one with negatives, and ads to upload to Google Ads Editor.

It creates one exact and one broad match modifier campaign and creates a list of keywords as exact negatives in the broad campaign to make sure that search terms that match exactly will go through the exact keyword.

I’m sure you’re dying to give it a whirl, so let’s get cracking!

How do you use it?

Make a copy of this spreadsheet (note: you’ll need to authorize the script to run). You’ll find all the instructions there as a future reminder.

Once you’ve got the spreadsheet ready, input the following:

  • The campaign name
  • The campaign name delimiter to distinguish between broad and exact campaigns
  • Headline 1 (if this cell is not specified, then it will be the same as the keyword)
  • Headline 2
  • Optionally, headline 3
  • Description 1
  • Optionally, description 2
  • Optionally, path 1 and path 2
  • The final URL
  • The keywords (you can keep going outside of the box with these!)

You’ll see a handy character counter which will go red if you exceed the character limit. Bear in mind that this tool will assume that you’re using it correctly and so you’ll need to make sure that you’re staying within the limit!

You can also optionally create a second ad variant by choosing the part of your text you want to vary (e.g., headline 2 or description 2) and inputting the copy. Otherwise, just select “None” from the dropdown menu.

Once you’re done, click the gigantic “Go!” Button, and wait for the magic to happen.

It will generate three tabs labelled “Keywords,” “Negatives” and “Ads.” If you want to run the script again with different keywords, make sure you save these tabs elsewhere or rename them to prevent the script from overriding them.

Finally, you can paste these tabs into Editor and update all the relevant settings and adjustments. Job done!

DOWNLOAD: You’ll need to authorize the script to run after you make a copy of this spreadsheet.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Daniel Gilbert is the CEO at Brainlabs, the best paid media agency in the world (self-declared). He has started and invested in a number of big data and technology startups since leaving Google in 2010.

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