Why my SEO campaign failed? Part 3: Common Link Structure mistakes

linkstructureThe Link Structure of a website is one of the most important SEO factors. It affects how the pages point to each other and how the links are placed within the pages.

In the previous 2 articles we examined in detail several Common On-page Optimization mistakes and some Common Web Development mistakes that affect the SEO campaign. In this article we will discuss about the common mistakes that take place during the development of the Link Structure of a website.

Here comes a list of things that you should avoid:

1. Have tons of links – more than 100 per page

The links are one of the most important components of the web. They connect the pages, they permit users to move from page to page and they flow PageRank juice. Having more than 100 links per page is not recommended since users will not be able to evaluate or visit all of them. Keep the number of links per page as low as possible and help users and search engines to focus on the most important pages.

“Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100).” – Google Webmaster guidelines

So have in mind that if you add more than 100 links per page, you force one of the guidelines of Google and you make your site look more like a link farm.

2. Link all pages to all pages

One of the important factors in Google ranking algorithms is PageRank since it measures the importance/authority of a page. Usually the page with the highest PageRank value is the homepage since it receives the most of the links. Nevertheless this does not mean that the internal pages that receive fewer or no external links can’t have high PageRank values.

The PageRank flows from page to page through links (internal or external). Thus by manipulating the link structure you determine which are your important pages. This is done by linking to the important pages directly from your homepage and by passing to them part of homepage authority.

If we use a simplistic approach we can imagine that the authority of a page is divided into pieces that are passed to the other pages. The higher number of links per page, the less amount of PageRank is passed to each page. So if you have too many links, the authority is divided into very small amounts and in this way you don’t focus to any particular page.
Thus make sure you don’t link all pages to all pages in your site. Have a tree structure where in the zero level you have your homepage, in the first level the main menu with the main categories, in the second level the sub categories and so on. Also ensure that you link directly from the homepage to the pages that produce the higher amount of revenue.

If you want to learn more about how PageRank flows and how PageRank Sculpting is performed read the article “The PageRank sculpting techniques and the nofollow issue”.

3. Have Danglings

Dangling pages are the pages that have no links for other webpages. In this article we will not focus on any maths or on the theory of dangling links. We will only mention that danglings lead to PageRank losses, since they evaporate all the amount of PageRank that they receive. Some examples of danglings are the PDF files, the Powerpoint presentations (PPT), the HTML pages that have no <a> in them etc.

If you want to read more about the theory of PageRank and dangling links I highly recommend the following 2 academic papers:

  • The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web
  • PageRank Computation, With Special Attention to Dangling Nodes

4. Have Broken Links

Broken or deadlinks are the links that no longer point to an existing page. This could happen due to page removal, due to the close down of a domain or even due to the addition of a wrong URL.

Broken links evaporate PageRank and reduce user experience, so make sure you regularly check your site for dead links.

5. Have lots of followed external links

External links are the links that point to external domains. The more external links you have, the larger amount of PageRank is lost from your site. In order to reduce these amounts place those links in a low PageRank page. Additionally make sure you don’t spread them to all the pages of your site but gather them into a single page.

If you recall, in the early times of the web, it was very common to see all the external links of a website gathered in a single page (called Links). This practice helps to reduce the amount of PageRank that flows externally. There is a mathematical explanation of why this leads to lower PageRank losses but again we will not focus on any maths in this particular post. For those of you who are interested in the maths here are 2 great Academic Papers:

  • Inside PageRank
  • Deeper Inside PageRank

6. Use rel=”nofollow”

Nofollowed links are the links that contain the attribute rel=”nofollow” and they are blocked so that they pass no PageRank juice. On summer of 2009, Google changed the way that handles the nofollowed links and started to evaporate the pagerank that they receive. So have in mind that whenever you use this attribute you lose PageRank. In order to avoid this situation you can use methods that help you maintain the PageRank of your site. These methods can be applied whether you want to nofollow the external links or perform PageRank sculpting.

7. Use irrelevant anchor texts

The links not only pass PageRank but also contain information about the target page. This info is displayed as the text of the link and it contains valuable details about the topic of the linked webpage. Search engines use in their ranking algorithms this info and thus it is of great importance that you use your important keywords in the anchor text of all your links. Also have in mind that links like “click here” do not provide useful information to your users and thus reduce the user experience.

8. Use Flash, JavaScript, Applet, Silverlight or Image menu

Even if search engines try to parse the non HTML components of the webpage, they still don’t do great job. Thus it is highly recommended to have an HTML/CSS menu for your navigation. This enables you to improve your page’s loading time and optimize your link structure by passing the PageRank juice to the important pages, using relevant anchor texts etc. Additionally your site will be accessible to people that have turned off the JavaScript or the other browser plugins.

9. Place important links on footer

Google measures the importance on each link by taking into account the position, the font size or styles and the type of the link. During the link analysis they try to identify the menu, the footer and the links that appear in the main content of the page. Then they evaluate the trust, the relevance and the importance of each link. Thus have in mind that footer links are considered less important than links that appear in the main content of the Page.

In the video below, Matt Cutts elaborates on this particular subject:

That was the 3nd part of the “Why my SEO campaign failed?” guide. Feel free to add you comments and propose your ideas about the subject. The best suggestions will be added in the list.

Stay tuned, because in the next article we will focus on the Common Link Building mistakes.

  • polymedia

    Congratulations on a very interesting article! Interesting point of view.
    It was worth reading.

    For all readers continue to write such excellent articles.



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  • mark rushworth

    Hi, overall this is a good article but its missing some points… let me clarify :)

    1. google doesnt care if your page has 100 or 1000 links, the 100 limit was a throw back from a cap imposed during the mid 2000′s however in ‘modern times’ google can easily accommodate a page with over 1000 links.

    5. you should follow external links as using nofollow to try and capture juice is a tactic that doesnt work since google turned the nofollow ‘link condom’ into a pagerank evaporator – so outbound links are better than nofollow.

    6. use the meta tag noindex follow instead to keep juice flowing through your pages but keep the current page out of the index

    8. flash content can be optimised and indexed and has been for many years now.

  • bbriniotis

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for the feedback. We are glad to discuss with fellow SEOs.

    Here are my points:

    1. Certainly blogs are creating much more than 100 links per page (tags, categories, archives, menus, comments etc). Nevertheless the guideline did not change. And google does change a guideline when they think that its no longer valid (example DMOZ). So we suggest to play it safe.

    5. Here we discourage people from having a great number of external links. You can surely have few good external links. Also about the nofollow issue we have proposed a method that does not evaporate pagerank and allows you to manipulate pagerank flow:

    6. Yes this is a much better solution than nofollowing the links (without using our aforementioned method).

    8. Google reads mainly static flash content. It’s not particularly good with the dynamic. Also the HTML menu is better because it gives you text links. It’s not a matter of whether Google is able to parse a flash menu, but of which of the 2 solutions is better. Have in mind that in many cases Google does not even read the alt of images when it creates the sitelinks of a site. They prefer the text links. That’s why we believe that the safer and better solution is the HTML menu. The alternative is to have a flash menu and underneath an HTML one for spiders and users that do not have the flash plug-in.

    Best Regards,

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  • John

    @ mark rushworth

    Cant agree with you #1 point. True it has been few years that the theory of link-cap gained popularity. But yet – due to business & reputation at stake – no SEO campaign should really bludgeon the bots and get ranking purely with money.

  • Data Recovery

    Excellent article. I know that many SEO Consultants will not heed this advice and keep making the same mistakes again and again. Good for companies who can do it right.

    Data Recovery Software

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  • Web Design Atlanta

    Vasilis, Thanks for another round of great seo tips. I need to run. gotta go change those “Learn More” links on our homepage.

  • Parvesh Sareen

    This blog is more than a year older but the information displayed is still afresh and really all the points should be considered while creating an effective seo campaign.
    But to add up, as the social media has tied up strongly with seo, take care of getting the promotions via social media marketing and if you want to build a brand then surely it is a master key.

  • Freeview installation Leeds

    Amazing blog.Interesting point of view.It was worth reading.The content is very informative and helpful. I wanna more discussion about SEO factors.

  • Locksmiths Leeds

    Wow, can’t believe how many of those things in the “don’t do” list that I have done in the past. Looks like a major overhaul is needed. Thanks for the free advice.

  • Steve

    Absolutely correct as regards external links. The more external links coming into your site the higher your site will rank. This is why social media is essential for any business.

    It is important however that the sites you are linking to have some relation to your own business.

    AS regards broken links this can be easily checked, by looking at the bounce rate. It is incredible do that many people ignore this.

    Many small business in my experience do not update their site regularly and fail to monitor how people are interacting with their website.

  • Optumus Analytics

    Saying to NOT use anchor text such as “click here” as it is not beneficial to SEO is inaccurate. Generic terms are what the new Google updates are all about as to not penalize sites for overoptimization.

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