Link Locomotion – Think Before You Link
This post about links and duplicate content, followed up by this post on links and the SEO community, coupled with my weekend browsing of HO scale model train accessories brought up some points about linking that I feel are often overlooked. Bear with my comparison theme here, after all, I spent the entire weekend working on model trains…
Adam Lasnik made a comment about links and navigation, ‘no two links should point to the same page’. What was apparently meant by that statement was that, no two (or more) URLs should point to a page that has the same content. But let’s examine the statement as written. No two links should point to the same URL. First, let’s toss out links from different TLDs. But what about links from within the same site?
With a replicated navigation system it is apparent that there will be many links that point to the same page. But at least they’re on different pages. In fact, I don’t worry much about replicated navigation links at all. What about two in-context links on the same page pointing to a page? This is when it gets interesting. Links are the tracks by which a bot navigates a site. Anchor text is a descriptive signpost. Certainly nothing wrong with providing alternate routes to a destination. However, the number of routes provided does say something about the importance of the destination. This isn’t just my thinking on the subject either, reams of etext have been written about ‘Authorities and Hubs” and authority sites are described as having many more inbound links that outbound links. Hubs have roughly equal numbers.
Armed with that heady knowledge it becomes pretty simple to help the search engines and visitors determine which pages are important on a site. Except that links are often created without much thought as to their impact on the overall importance structure of a site, or worse, they’re created to allow for the insertion of more signposts (anchor text).
On large sites it becomes difficult to know exactly how the traffic, PageRank and signposts are being managed. This is where a flowchart look can come in handy. Analyze the site, draw links as lines to pages and take a look at what pages are being internally promoted as being the most important. The results might surprise you. In addition, if you’re active in determining what pages are being promoted by other sites, you can use that knowledge to develop better link structure to promote the pages that are important rather than simply taking a passive role in your site’s traffic management. In short, you can build ‘hub’ pages within your site to push traffic and link juice to those spur lines you casually created after examining your log files. You can also eliminate some of those instance of pages simply pushing traffic back and forth between themselves.