SEO 101: Internal Link Structure

- February 10, 2012

One of the fundamentals for constructing a website with SEO in mind is ensuring that all of the pages for the site are accessible to both the site’s visitors and the search engines in as concise a path as possible. Internal link structure is an important factor in determining a site’s performance in the search engine results pages. The faster a search spider can access all of your pages mitigates server latency and will make sure your most important pages are served in search results. Also, by linking explicitly to all of your top level, category and service level pages, you are alerting the search engines to their relative importance on the site.

Firstly, focusing on your “click depth”, will largely guarantee that all important webpages can be accessed within as few clicks as possible, mitigating issues such as site visitor “bounce rates” (single page visits) and search spider crawlability issues. However, in this day and age of advanced web design technology for coding navigation on a site, many websites are still programming internal links with “un-friendly” coding language, such as complex JavaScript and Flash or just using images.

While Google and Bing say that they are much better at crawling links that aren’t text based, it is still prudent SEO strategy to code links to your website’s main navigational section with plain text, formatted with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). CSS is essentially a language used to improve the look of a webpage, including the look and feel of a web document and the links that reside on it. While using JavaScript or Flash technology may be aesthetically pleasing, it is not the most efficient way to help the spiders access the important parts of your site. JavaScript has some really nice features, such as the “onMouseOver” command which denotes that something will happen when the mouse passes over the active text in a link. However, this same effect can also be achieved in CSS with the “a:hover” CSS property.

If using less SEO friendly coding elements is something you just can not avoid (because of CMS constraints or the website architecture is not conducive to coding manipulation), web developers can always make certain that their site’s pages are also accessible via the internal, html sitemap page, the external XML Sitemap pages and footer navigation.

If you want to analyze the internal links on your site, Google Webmaster Tools has a section that will let you view how it sees these links and how many other links from your site are pointing to them. From the Webmaster Tools dashboard go to: Your site on the web>>Internal links. This will list the pages on your site (listed underneath the “Target Pages” column”), along with the associated count of links Google has found to be pointing to them:

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