The Role of Internal Linking in Prioritizing SEO Page Value

Preface:

In developing a website, links are most commonly understood in their most basic function – they allow a user to get from one page to another. Consequently, website developers will include links to pages in the navigation menu, side widgets, footers, and occasionally within the text as well. But many don’t consider the effects internal linking may have on a page’s search ranking performance.

In addition to enabling a user to travel from one page to another, links will also help establish a hierarchy amongst pages, as well as spread link equity – most commonly sourced from the home page – throughout the website. By prioritizing links to one page over a similar page, SEO strategists can help search engines understand which pages are more important, especially when two pages overlap in topic.

 

Starting Point:

In the summer of 2017, Today’s Business took on a new medical client based in New Jersey. One of the first issues which needed to be addressed was why a core service page was no longer ranking, while a similar page was ranking but rather poorly. The two pages were very similar; page 2 was the service of page one, but with an additional element. Content, therefore, was very similar, as were header tags and title tags. There was no discernible difference in the quality of the content, nor were there other sites specifically linking to either page. Finally, the url structure was exactly the same, with the exception of a single word.

Further investigation of the site’s internal linking structure revealed the issue. Whether intentionally or not, page 2 was being linked to noticeably more.

Page 1 + 2 Internal Links  

(Sept. ’17)

  
PageUnique Links to PageTotal Links to Page
Page 1298298
Page 2298388

 

In the chart above, we can see that through the navigation menu and footer, each page was being linked to on every page once. But only page 2 was being linked to by other methods. If fact, page 2 was one of the most linked-to pages on the website. Because of this, page 2 was being raised in the website hierarchy.

When it came to page rankings, the client was particularly focused on ranking for a specific query: the “service + nj.” But because the search engines were prioritizing page 2 for page 1’s service, these were the ranking results in the state of NJ at the end of September 2017:

 

Page 1 “Service + NJ” Search Rankings
Page:September
Page 1Not Ranking
Page 219.7

Note: The rankings above were calculated by averaging out multiple similar variations of the core query, weighting certain query permutations based on search volume.

This was a big problem, since page 1’s service was one of the client’s most important. Today’s Business immediately went to work to amend the situation. We increased internal linking throughout the site, adding several thousand links. Pages that were linking to page 2 were replaced with links to page 1. We also highlighted eight core services within the side navigation widget. This linked to page 1, but not page 2.

Results:

As a result, the internal linking of the two pages resulted in the following:

Page 1+2  Internal Links (Oct. ’17)
PageUnique Links to PageTotal Links to Page
Page 1526371
Page 2388371

 

As you can see, while both pages gained links, the number of links to page 1 increased significantly. While this did dissolve some of the link equity for the site, it also increased the contextualization search engines could have for the pages, since the anchor text being utilized was unique for each page.

With no other changes made to the content or title tags of the two pages, this was the following result for the search rankings of each page over the course of the next three months:

 

Page 1 Service + NJ Search Rankings
Page:SeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
Page 1Not Ranking448.46.2
Page 219.716.712.57.4
Note: The rankings above were calculated by averaging out multiple similar variations of the core query, weighting certain query permutations based on search volume.

By December, both pages were ranking on the first page of search results back-to-back for most locations in New Jersey. Consequently, we saw a projected click rate of 13.5%, rather than the normal ~ 7 percent often seen for a listing ranking at 6 or 7. The inclusion of both pages was a pleasant surprise, but not out of the realm of reality, since the pages were so similar.

 

Conclusion:

When it comes to having core service pages that experience significant overlap, our case study lends credence to the reality that your internal linking strategy matters. At Today’s Business, we consistently strive to let no detail go unnoticed. In this case, it paid off in spades. In part due to our internal linking strategy, our client saw its impressions finally crest the 100,000 impression mark. In a competitive market such as medicine, every facet of every page needs to be assessed and fine-tuned. It doesn’t happen as quickly as some may expect, but following proper SEO practices forms the foundation of a high performing website.

 

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