On-page links have an impact on your SEO, and here is what you need to know about them.
Tim: So, you talked about this recently, about how many links are on a page to inner pages within the site, how the quantity of them can dilute the relevancy of each one of those links. Is that a correct way to interpret that?
David: Yeah. I’d say to be more specific, the amount of link authority passed through links is divided by the number of links on the page.
David: If you have a hundred links on a page, every one of those links gets a hundredth of the link authority of that page.
Tim: Okay. Right. I like the way that’s worded; that makes sense. So, with that in mind, having a slew of repeat links in the footer, are they recognized as links on the page? That’s the question. Yeah.
David: Okay. Yeah. So, that’s a really great question. We’re getting into some advanced topics called pagerank sculpting. And this is the idea that every page of our website has pagerank. That’s one word, pagerank. Based on a Google algorithm, there’s a number between zero and ten that it assigns to every page. They no longer tell us what the pagerank is on page levels, but they still have it calculated. And so, the pageranks get divided amongst all the links on the page. Now there are some ways this works, but the process of making sure you maximize the pagerank from one page to another is called pagerank sculpting. Okay, this is a more advanced SEO tactic. It’s not someplace I would start. But, in one sense, yes. If you have a menu, with a whole bunch of links at the top of the page, and then some links on the sidebar, some links within the content of your page, and then some links on the bottom, my understanding is that all those links contribute to the total number links on that page. So, all your authority is diluted by all those pages by that number. Now, it gets more complicated when, from the same page, you link more than once. Let’s say in the menu you link to a page, in the sidebar, you link to the same page, and in the footer, you link to the page. Google only passes pagerank through the first link. So, on the second link, Google does not pass pagerank, although it still divides by that number. So, if there are a hundred links on the page, it passes a hundredth only through the first page. It doesn’t pass three-hundredths if there are three links on that page.
David: So, that is one issue. The other thing is that Google does not pass pagerank through navigation.
David: It uses navigation to discover pages, but it doesn’t use it to generate authority. So, then there’s a debate within the SEO community, do those count for the total number of links of the page then? And obviously, Google’s not going to tell us.
David: But, I say all that to say, this is one of those issues where we have to weigh usability and SEO.
David: Right? While yes, we know we should be aware of the principle that the pagerank is divided by the number of links on the page. And so, that means we should not literally put a link to every other page on every page. Right? That is just not good SEO. It’s bad for SEO. But you think that it’s also bad for usability. Right? But at the same time, maybe for usability, it’s really good in some circumstances. So, I guess my best advice for this is to do what’s of interest to the user and not worry about pagerank sculpting, knowing that by having too many links on the page, you might be shooting yourself in the foot.
David: The best links are always going to be the links within paragraphs, within the content. Because Google will always use those for pagerank passing, it might not use it for the menu, it might not use it for the footer, the sidebar, it considers supplementary content, so it might not use those either. So, make sure when you’re doing an internal linking project, link from within the text to a page. And that will help that page perform better in search engines. So, it’s a tough balance of… Okay. I don’t recommend using pagerank sculpting. In some extreme circumstances, it can be really bad. So, for instance, sometimes people will go to the extent of putting no-follow links within their own site because they don’t want too many links. And to me, that’s way too extreme.
David: I just think it’s best from a design perspective to understand the principle that if we do link to everything from every page, we are diluting the SEO, and we might create confusion with users. And so that’s why the best case is to just worry about the user. So, if it’s helpful to the user by adding links to the bottom of the page, do it. Is it helpful for the user to add a link to every page on your website from the bottom of the page? I’m pretty sure no. Right? But it might be useful to add some key pages to the bottom, even if they’re also available in the menu. That might be a very useful case. And I would worry about it that way, but just know – don’t create too many links.
Tim: Yeah. That’s really helpful. And this comes from starting on a site, developing a site, designing the site. So, it’s like considering user experience first and foremost, to begin with. So, that perspective is exactly what I needed to hear. That’s awesome.
David: Yeah. I’ve had designers tell me, “Hey, David. I did you an SEO solid and added links to all the pages at the bottom of the footer.” No, you didn’t. No, you did not do me a solid. Right? That’s ugly. It’s confusing, and if you are such a terrible designer, you have to rely on that, then maybe the client should hire someone else. Now, there’s a fine place for that. Right? There’s a place for that. Like, I have a client, and they do list all of the core services they provide in the footer. It is not extensive. It is the most important ones. It’s a long list, but it makes sense, and it makes sense to show the visitor on any page, here are all the things we do. Because I think menu systems can be erring on the side of too much information, too. Where you have seventeen drop downs to get to a list of… It’s just not a good experience for me as a user. I hate that.
David: So, if you can use it that way, then it’s a good user experience and okay, as long as you’re keeping the number of links to a reasonable level, and I don’t know what reasonable level is…
David: You know, but this all goes back to the core philosophy – don’t try to trick Google. We’re not playing a game with Google. We are just trying to do good things for our customers, for our clients, and if Google thinks we have too many links on the page and we think that Google is penalizing us, first of all, I don’t know how you would know that, but it would be… Yeah, let’s just not try to get into pagerank sculpting. Let’s just try to do good for our clients.
Tim: Yeah. Perfect.