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Save all that great link juice
Watch out - your link juice could be leaking. Links from authoritative sites to pages with discontinued products, expired promotions or years-old press releases probably aren't helping your site rank well in search results. But you can do something about that. Building appropriate links from older pages on your site to the ones you care about now can help you juice the important pages, and boost them in search results.
Not sure what we mean by link juice? It's the value that a web page gets when other websites link to it. Search engines understand that when people take the trouble to link to a web page, that can mean the page offers valuable information. That's why a web page that has inbound links from reputable websites can rank higher in search results than similar pages with no inbound links.
Search engines also care about links within a site. When a website owner links from one page to another, they're signaling that the linked page has value to site visitors. By strategically building links within your site to your most important pages, you can help those pages rank better in search, and get found more easily.
Below you'll find five ways to cork the leak by managing links between pages within your site - called internal links.
- 1. Newsletter Archives
Check the incoming links to your old newsletters. (Don't know how to check links? Read Keep Track of Inbound Links.) If you've got good links to a newsletter that's out of date but still on your site, link from that newsletter to pages you really want people to see. To create these links, make sure you use anchor text that makes sense. The four readers that a 2004 newsletter attracts each year will not mind. Make sure you strip out any unneeded links that could distract from the ones that matter.
Here's an example. Let's say you have an old newsletter on your site that's about kitchen remodels. Right now you're promoting sustainably harvested cork floor tiles. Find a sentence that includes the term floor tiles and link those words to your new page about the sustainable cork floor tiles.
If the newsletter says "kitchen flooring," change that term to "floor tiles," and create the link on these words. Why? Because people searching the Web for cork floor tiles are probably using the term "floor tiles," not "kitchen flooring." You want to use the internal link to signal to search engines that your cork flooring page is about "floor tiles." That increases the chance of your cork flooring page coming up in search results when someone does a search for floor tiles, or even searches for a longer keyword string, such as cork floor tiles.
Because internal links tells search engines which pages are important on your site - as well as what they're about - you should create these links from old newsletters to your important pages even if there are no incoming links to your old newsletters. But you may want to start with the ones that have good incoming links.
You can find the keywords people are using to search for what you sell by doing keyword research before altering any of the text in your old newsletters. Using the right keywords can help your site rank better in search results.
- 2. Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools is a great way to check incoming links to your site, and lots of other things, too. The Not Found section, pictured below, shows all of the pages that Google can no longer find because they now produce 404 errors. It also shows the number of links pointing to each page.
If the incoming links to a Not Found page are still valuable, you could permanently redirect the URL of the missing page to a page on your site that you want people to find, using a 301 redirect. You could also redirect some of these Not Found pages to your site's home page.
- 3. Unused Web Pages or Sites
Perhaps you have old landing pages for past contests or promotions, or you created some separate sites for one reason or another. All of these may have inbound links that aren't being used to their fullest potential. They may also still show up well in search results, and people looking for contests or promotions could click on them.
For example, Starbucks has an old contest page with hundreds of inbound links - and they haven't done anything to reap the goodness of those links. While Starbucks probably doesn't need the links from this contest to rank well in search results, 99 percent of other companies do. So....
- Find any websites or web pages you no longer use that have inbound links.
- Use a 301 redirect to send people from these pages or sites to the pages on your site you want people to see.
You'll get the benefit of the inbound links, and direct people where you want them to go. And your site visitors will have a much better experience.
- 4. Old Press Releases
You may have a press release archive on your site that goes back years and years. You can make better use of any links to these releases by doing the following:
- Find press releases that have inbound links and that are still cached relatively frequently. You can check the date Google last cached any web page by entering this query in the Google search bar:
In the image below, you can see the most recent cache date for MercyCorps.org.
- Just as you did with your old newsletters, find some anchor text you can use to link to the pages that matter to you now, and create those links.
- Strip out any old, unnecessary links.
- Reward yourself for your labors with a little relaxation. Try one of my favorites: other people's awkward office conversations.
- 5. Duplicate pages that split link juice
Here's another issue that can be addressed by digging into Webmaster Tools. Under Diagnostics, you'll find the HTML suggestions tab. From there, you can click on Duplicate title tags. (Note: Every page on your site should have a unique title tag. Learn why - read Shared Page Titles: Classic SEO Mistake.)
If you have never checked for duplicate title tags, you may not realize that this is a great way to discover whether you have the same content on more than one page of your site. If you do have duplicate content, you could be splitting valuable link juice between two or more pages. It would be far better to get all the link juice going to the one page that matters most for your business.
If you really do have pages you've duplicated exactly - or nearly so - you'll want to keep the one that has inbound links and get rid of the other. If both have inbound links, redirect duplicate pages to the page that matters most for your business, using a permanent 301 redirect. This tells search engines that only the page you've redirected to matters.
Sometimes pages are accidentally duplicated because of capitalization in their URLs. For example, MySite.com/Bananarama and MySite.com/bananarama could be pages with different content or the same content. Either way, this isn't a desirable situation. You'll need to decide whether to redirect one page to the other, move some content to a completely different page, or delete an unnecessary page.
To avoid splitting link juice in the future, make sure your URL structure is consistent across your site. Decide whether directory names (like bananarama in the above paragraph) are going to be capitalized or not, and stick to that decision. Decide whether product pages will use product names or product numbers, and stick to that convention.
Bonus info: The title tags themselves represent a great opportunity to get more people clicking on your pages in search results. Read Increase Site Traffic with Title Tags to learn how.
Learn how to get more good inbound links to your site. Read Get Good Backlinks.