Linking structure is very important to not only the user of your site, but also to the search engines. I have found that there is a significant amount of disagreement over what a good internal linking structure actually is.  Here are a few pointers that I have found to be helpful in explaining not only what linking structure is, but how to effectively use it to increase the power of your pages in the search engines.

The Many Types of Linking Structures

As you research linking structure, you will find a wide variety of terms to describe different types of linking structures.  There are flat structures, pyramid structures, silo structures, and more.  The actual type of linking structure is a bit less important than how you use it.  Only the true SEO experts are likely to clearly understand the fine points, for the average person just knowing that there are several different types may be enough for now.

As we review the basic concepts of linking structure, you should be focusing on learning the basic principles of authority flow and attribution, which we will get to soon.

Authority = PageRank

Both “authority” and “PageRank” are terms you will hear a lot; both of these terms refer to the actual “power” of your pages in the search engines.  Every time a new link is pointed to the pages, the power is increased.  Google prefers the term PageRank, others call it Authority.  Basically, it means the same thing to you.

Determining Authority

As soon as any page on the Internet is indexed, it begins to receive a particular amount of authority. Different search engines use different methods of calculating this authority, and there is not any true standard of measurement.  Generally stated, a page with many good links will rank better in any major search engine.  Pages can also pass authority to other sites-here’s how that works:

As an example, let’s use Google’s PageRank system just to illustrate how the concept gets put into practice.  If we take a page with a certain PageRank (let’s say for this illustration it has a PR of 3) and the page has 50 links going to different pages.  Each of those 50 links is going to get a portion of that PR3, and the “authority” will be distributed equally.  It doesn’t matter if the link is external (goes to another site entirely) or internal (goes to another page on that same site).

This is an oversimplified illustration of how Authority/PageRank works, but understanding the underlying concepts will help you get a handle on how to use internal linking structures to your advantage.

It is important to remember that your most critical pages should be linked within your own site.  This is especially true for your “money” pages, the pages that you need to rank most prominently.  When you increase the number of internal links on your pages, and limit the external links, then you “share” your authority with yourself, maintaining and increasing the power of your site in the search engines.

For smaller sites, with 20 or fewer pages, it is important to link every page of the site with every other page on the site.  Larger sites, with around 100 pages, should have category pages that are linked to every page, plus links to other important pages.

Following these simple strategies will actually help you increase your own ranking in the search engines.  It’s really that simple.

Some Words of Warning

Okay, so it’s not entirely simple…..there are a few common mistakes that can really cost you in the search engines.  Be careful to avoid the following bad practices:

1.  If you have any links contained within Javascript, the search engines will not detect these links-basically, they don’t exist at all in the SEO world.

2.  Don’t waste your authority by linking to an “About Us” or “Contact” page.  These pages don’t need authority-put the links back to your important pages so they rank higher.  Use the rel=”nofollow” attribute to avoid giving authority unnecessarily.

3.  Just about every link will pass along authority.  Consider all links carefully-any affiliate links or social bookmarking links can be using up portions of your authority that are better used by your own pages.  Again, this is an example of where the rel=”nofollow” attribute is very useful.

Now that you have a basic understanding of how internal linking structure works, you can start to increase your search engine rankings for your site!  This might require changing how you have been doing things, but it is worth the investment of your time.  Time to get to work!