Internal links play a significant role in on-page SEO, but how can you fully optimize them?
Tim: I was wondering what is the best practice for handling the Read More link on a blog snippet? Where you would have, say, three blog snippets and a post thread. And it’s just a generalized button; it’s not going to going be specific about the content that it’s leading to. I feel like there has to be a standard with that – like Read More or Learn More or something like that, but that’s traditionally not great for SEO because it’s not very descriptive. So, that’s my question.
David: Yeah. I think that’s a really great question. It’s kind of an advanced thing, but that is really interesting. So, the idea here is if you’re looking at a blog, and you look at the list of articles, and usually, by default, you’ll have a headline for the article, the snippet, and underneath it, it’ll say Read More, with a link.
David: In one sense, there is a short answer to your question, Tim, which is, it doesn’t matter. But if we wanted to get really technical about SEO, and we kind of do, we have to understand how Google handles internal links. So, we know how important links from other websites are for our SEO efforts. But one of the secret weapons in the SEO universe is links from within our own content to pages. Most websites have a menu, and menu links will go to most of the pages. But Google says they don’t count those links for ranking. Those are a way for Google to find interior pages, but they’re not using those for determining whether our page is important or not. To get a link to an interior page that really helps from within your own site, linking from within a paragraph text is the gold standard. Because then Google says, “Oh, you’ve taken the time to this link manually, it’s a better link.” Plus, it’s got context, it’s got words around it. And usually, the link is a clickable text that includes a keyword for which you’d like that page to rank.
So, just from an internal link perspective, what’s really nice is links within context to paragraphs and stuff like that. That really helps. But Google also knows that whenever they tell us something like this, and they haven’t explicitly said this, but it’s pretty clear, everybody goes crazy. Right? And sometimes people will think, great, if one link to this page is good, twenty are going to be twenty times as good. So, what Google has told us is they actually calculate the number of internal links on a page. Let’s say from one page, there are twenty links going to other pages. That would not be unreasonable, twenty links to different pages from one page. Google says it takes the authority of that page and divides it by twenty. And a twentieth of the authority of that page goes to each of the pages to which you link. So that means if you want a page to get a lot of juice from a topic, you have to have several links to that page. Right? But it also says if you link to the same page more than once, they only count the first one.
Tricia: How do they determine the first one?
David: The first one added to the top of the page, not including the menu.
Tim: Okay. So, anything else is just a duplicate.
David: That’s right. But the worst part of the duplicate is that the link juice is still divided by twenty.
Tricia: So, you would not be doing yourself a favor by linking to the same page more than once. You would actually be hurting yourself.
David: Right, absolutely. So that being said, we’re getting really advanced here, but it’s important to understand. That’s where Tim’s question about links from blogs is really important. If we have an archive page, it lists all our blog posts. Typically, the archive will say, here’s the title, and the title is clickable. Maybe I have an image, and that image might be clickable. And there’s a Read More that is clickable. That’s three links to the same blog post from an archival page. Right? Google only counts the first one.
David: So that means if the first one is an image, if it has no Alt Tag, it doesn’t know what that page is about. Right? And then, if God forbid the link is only Read More, now it thinks all the pages are about Read More. Right? So, if possible, and this is not the first thing you do when you get to a blog, but that’s why this is advanced. Right? There are a lot of other things to focus on before you get this granular. But if you can, make sure your archive links once. Let me see. I’m going to see if I did this.
Tricia: I just looked at mine. Mine all say Read More.
David: Okay. So, let’s evaluate my website. Here we go. Okay. First is the image, and the image clicks. It goes to the post…
Tim: Can I ask a question there? Is your Alt Tag the title of that post?
David: Good question. Let’s look. Alt empty.
Tricia: Ah, David.
Tim: I feel so vulnerable right now.
Tricia: I don’t even want to look at mine after that.
David: Second link, same page, is the title of the post. Notice I removed the Read More. So, if I was really smart about it, I would’ve removed this link. However, then we have a usability issue. Right? Because then users would say, why can’t I click on this image? And get frustrated.
David: Right? But then, if we had the Alt Tag there, then this link would count and this one, and here’s the Office Hours page. All these links. Right? Not forgetting these links, and these links, and these links. Right? So, that is not the first thing you do. Right? This is not the first thing you do to get a little bit more SEO juice out of your stuff. But if you’re building a new theme, you can arrange this so that you can maximize your benefits. Now we could go overboard, as with all things, in SEO. I’ve seen people add no-follow links to the second link, to really what they call page rank sculpt. I wouldn’t go that far. In fact, Google said not to do that. But if you can keep it down to a minimum number of links, you can really manage this a lot better.
Tim: So, the best thing to do on an archive page really is to just remove Read More, even from a user standpoint, though?
David: I would say so. And I mean, I would want to hear all the rest of your experience too. Like, if I came to this page, I think I would know how to get to these posts. If I wanted to know how to sell products to a local audience, I think I would know I can click this.
Tim: I’m asking for your audience for this page probably so. But for some of my clients’ target audiences, it’s questionable.
David: And that’s one of those weighing the balance things. Yes, there might be an SEO advantage from having one less link and having maybe two links or only one link per post. But would you be sacrificing a bunch of frustrated people who can’t find your content?
David: And that’s why we have to remember, let’s not just SEO this to the point where we are hurting ourselves from a usability perspective.
Tim: Right. And then it makes me wonder about accessibility too.
Tim: What’s best for accessibility there?
David: Right. Accessibility and SEO go hand-in-hand, not that accessibility is a ranking factor, but the things that make things accessible tend to be good for SEO.
Tim: Right. Okay.
Tricia: Can I share my screen and look at my blog? Mine looks a little bit different. So, I’m not sure. I don’t know.
Tim: While she’s pulling up, the reason this comes up for me too is not to necessarily change a site that I’m working on, but I’m in a design phase of a website right now and showing this to the agency that I’m outsourced through will be helpful. Their thing is, they’re not going to have Read More links because it’s bad for SEO. That’s the response I got from them. So that’s why I brought up the question. Is it necessary? Or how can I talk intelligently about that?
David: Yeah, so I think you, as the usability expert, because you’re the designer, can bring your expertise in to say, “Listen, maybe there’s a small SEO benefit, but it might not be worth the usability loss.” Or vice versa. And I’d suggest SEO is really all about picking your battles. And in some cases, it just might be worth just saying, “okay fine, we can do that.”
Tim: Yeah. Right.
David: So, we’re looking at Tricia’s here.
Tricia: So, mine are in these, do you call them call-outs or whatever?
Tricia: Okay. So, the image here goes out to the blog, and then, of course, I have the Read More.
David: How about your headline?
Tricia: Yes. Okay.
David: And then you have the “Tricia” too. That might be another issue.
Tricia: So, now remind me how to figure out if I did my Alt Text because I have been doing Alt Text, but probably not on all of them.
David: Right-click. Inspect.
David: So, what the blue is highlighted.
Tricia: Oh, here it is.
David: Link trail alternative, Forest with Chain Link.
Tricia: Oh, that was the picture.
David: Yeah. Okay.
Tricia: So, sort of okay.
David: So, you’re doing better than me.
Tricia: What? Okay. But if I wanted to maybe do something, I guess I would look in my theme or whatever and see if there’s a way to change this text?
Tim: Should be.
Tricia: The Read More. Is that what you were saying?
David: You could. Again, this is to squeeze a little bit more out of it. And Google will hate your website if you do this.
Tricia: Yeah. So basically, if I just have spare time and I want to do something, I might look at if I could do that, but it’s not critical.
David: If I were you, I would think you have a bunch of other things that are more important.
Tricia: I think so too.
Tim: When you have this page set up like this in your theme, if you change it for one, you’re changing it for all of these. So, I think if I follow correctly, I think what David is saying is it could be better for you depending on your audience. If they can find that they can click into this article by clicking on the image or the title of the article without the Read More, it’d be more advantageous for you to eliminate the Read More link to limit the number of links that you have on a page, and duplicate links, at that.
Tricia: Yeah. Okay. Okay. I understand, I think. Thank you.
Tim: Did I learn something?
David: Interesting question.
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