My friends, I'm here today to speak on behalf of that often sadly-neglected frontier in link-building: internal links. That's right, friends, your site's own navigation. You know, the links on your pages that help people move around through your website?
You're Making Yourself Crazy, You Know
Webmasters will drive themselves absolutely bonkers trying to convince other webmasters to "deep link" to their interior pages with appropriate link anchor text to reinforce the target search terms of that page -- a difficult and thankless task if there ever was one. They post pleas for ideas and help on SEO forums and in the comment fields on link-building blogs, and they try all sorts of labor-intensive, wacky and sometimes outright deceptive techniques to obtain the elusive "rich anchor text" links from other sites.
But while they're complaining about the difficulties of getting "good links", they neglect the potential of their own internal navigation. You know, the links over which you have total control already? The ones where you get to specify the link anchor text yourself? The ones you don't have to beg for or offer favors to get?
Yeah, those links.
Fact vs. Opinion
I think the problem is, some people have the idea that internal links don't count for as much as "outside" links. They turn up everywhere, declaring this opinion as though it were some sort of immutable truth. And, unfortunately, some folks who read these opinions assume this means there's no point in spending much time or energy optimizing their internal navigation.
The real truth?
Unless a person is employed to design the algorithms for the search engines, they have no way of knowing for sure how the search engines weight links. And even if their opinion is right -- being valued less is not the same as having no value at all. No SEO in their right mind would say internal links have no value.
The Value Inside
Let's start with the SEO value. If nothing else, internal links spread the link-love around your site from the home page (which usually gets the lion's share of your incoming links) to your internal pages. These links can be coded with whatever anchor text you want, reinforcing your on-page optimization. Forget wacky "PageRank sculpting" schemes; a simple well-thought-out site navigation plan can easily and naturally emphasize to the search engines the pages you consider the most important and help internal pages rank more highly, particularly for long-tail search terms.
Aside from the SEO value, internal linking is also crucial for usability: it's the way your visitors explore your site and (with any luck) find and complete your most-desired outcome. So no matter what, it will serve you well to pay attention to your site's internal linking.
What Matters (and What Doesn't)
Thus, my answer to the question of whether "internal" links count for less is this: it doesn't matter.
No matter what their relative importance is compared with "outside" links, internal links are important. Not just for SEO, but also for accessibility and usability and conversions and a whole heap of other good stuff.
Of course, you do need external links. A site that only links to itself and has no links coming from anywhere else is not going to be valued highly in Google's eyes. Optimizing your internal navigation doesn't remove the need to get "outside" links. Just don't overlook the power of optimizing your own internal navigation and links to boost page rankings, make your site more visitor-friendly and increase your conversions and profits.
Bottom line: the next time you're tearing your hair out trying to figure out who you can convince to link to one of your interior content pages with the exact link anchor text you want, remember to take a good long look in the mirror.
Learn more about the ways Diane can help improve the performance and profitability of your business web site, or request a no-obligation personal consultation, by visiting www.NineYards.com.
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