Link Juice Guide:
- Link Juice Draining Process
- Find Internal Prospects
- Add Keyword Links
- Record Results
- Case Study
- Bonus Link Juice Pages
One of the biggest, missed opportunities I see in SEO is wasted link juice. SEOs and link builders alike are in relentless pursuit of high value links and the equity and semantic relevance that those coveted links carry. However, the irony is they often overlook vast, untapped reservoirs of concentrated link juice on the very Web properties these SEO link builders control: their own or their client's sites. So when I visit a site and see page after page of equity-rich pages that haven't been "milked" of their juice properly, I get a little glum :(.
So if you are sitting on lagoons of link juice, how do you drain these equity reservoirs? That's pretty easy...with internal anchor links. But you shouldn't just haplessly go on a link dumping spree. You need to be more strategic about it than that. That's why I'm sharing my process for draining link equity from existing content. Juice tapping should be part of your internal link strategy (which is critical for ranking, IMO, and waaaaay under-utilized), even more so after the Mayday Update. Anyway, let's dive in.
Now, I'm a big proponent of grabbing the low hanging fruit in SEO, with some easy link building strategies, before you get all creative and adventurous with high octane inbound link building campaigns and content marketing programs. So when I first start working with a client who has an existing site I'm always looking for high task ROI. One of my first orders of business is to do some content analysis to uncover pools of link equity, which consists of:
- Create a Keyword List: If you've done your keyword research, you already have your list of target keywords list handy. For this exercise, I'd recommend expanding your core list for this exercise by including variations of your seed terms, so you can vary your anchor text too (BTW, this is something you should be doing regardless, as part of your content optimization...but anyway...).
- Find Internal Link Juice Prospects: I then run a Google site search [site:www.mysite.com intext:"my target keyword"] to uncover pages that contain the keywords I intend to build internal text links for.
- Prioritize Internal Link Juice Prospects: Once I've gathered my list of pages, I use the fabulous and free SEO for Firefox Toolbar to collect, organize and sort page data, which includes a column for my target page, # of inbound links and even a column for Toolbar PageRank (I know...green pixel fairie dust, entertainment purposes only, etc).
(NOTE: there are other fantastic link analysis tools that I use regularly, including Linkscape and SEO SpyGlass (read my review), but those tools cost money and this is more of a low budget SEO post for the masses who may be on a shoestring budget)
- Add Keyword Links to Drain the Equity: After analyzing my list of pages to drain, I visit each page and hyperlink the target keywords, which accomplishes four things:
- Siphons the link juice that's been wasting away on a page and feeds it to an internal destination page
- Creates a relevance signal (by associating the linked text to a destination page)
- Establishes additional pathways to deeper pages on my site
- Tells Google that I value the page I'm linking to (even though this isn't the primary goal of this exercise, many SEOs fail to realize that how you link internally (ie: internal link structure, IA) tells Google a lot about which pieces of content you value on your site)
- Record Actions/Results: As with everything I do, I try to document all my "SEO actions" in an SEO Log (a journal of my optimization/tinkering efforts). That way I'm informed and I'm better able to evaluate the success/failure of a project. Point being, algos change every day. What worked today, may not work tomorrow. So if there comes a time when this technique stops working (highly unlikely since I feel internal link structure was a major ingredient in the MayDay Update...but that's me...), I want to be prepared. In any case, a simple dashboard to document all this internal linking/equity draining activity would look like this:
You may also want to tally the frequency of text links for terms and note SERP activity (initial ranking and post-link rank flux, etc) and monitor changes to determine how much of an impact link frequency may or may not have in your rank flux.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that just because your target keywords aren't cited on a particular "link rich" page doesn't mean you can't tactfully "insert" those terms in the content. Now, I'm not advocating you crowbar keywords in like a spammy teamster. But I am saying that, more often than not, you can find homes for all your target keywords on link rich pages and still keep the content coherent and natural sounding. But keep in mind, that the more internal text links you add to a page, the more the link equity you're draining gets diluted.
Okay, so enough blah, blah, blahing. Let's move away from the rhetoric and into concrete examples, ie equity tapping in action. Here's the site of a prospective client who called me a few months back about SEO services, but decided not to hire me. Why didn't she hire me? Well, could be my rates are too high, or it could be she's really not that interested in dominating the SERPs after all. Probably the later. Some folks just don't like the spotlight. ;-)
Anyway, the woman's site is beantownbride.com. She is a local Boston wedding planner, a wedding photographer and an active blogger, who wanted to rank on a bunch of keywords, one being "Boston wedding." Because she blogs regularly, her site attracts links and link equity (a good thing for SEO). Now, when I was drafting my proposal, I conducted a site analysis to see if opportunities existed to drain equity from existing pages. A Google site search for site:beantownbride.com intext:"boston wedding" turned up 134 results.
This particular page (beantownbride.com/2010/01/capturing-the-proposal.html), for example, was intriguing because it:
- Had acquired 11 inbound links
- Had achieved some TBPR (loosely indicating healthy link juice flow)
- Contained the clients target term "Boston wedding"
So, had she hired me, one of my first orders of business would have been to establish relevance for this term with internal linking across her site and more importantly drain pools of link juice from her most linked pages.
She also has an "About Us" page (an often underused link juice resource...more on that in the next section) which has 12 inbound links and a TBPR 2. Trouble is, it's littered with a list of contributing writers, their bios and more than 50 outbound links, all stealing valuable equity that she could be pushing to internal pages on her website. If hired, I probably would've created a sub page for all the writers, moved off all their bios and links and then dropped in internal links to pages I want to rank to harness the existing equity.
Anyway, these are just a few examples on one small site, but hopefully you get the picture.
Blog posts, informational articles, promotional Web copy, etc are the most obvious places to hunt for pools of untapped link equity, but there are some fantastic opportunities on almost every website that go completely unnoticed and untapped. What kind of pages am I talking about?
Administrative pages are typically a gold mine of link equity because they:
- Live only one or two clicks away from the home page (which, given the natural linking order of the Web, is generally the page that attracts the most links and collects the most equity)
- Are virtually untapped and brimming with link juice
Those administrative pages can consist of:
- Contact Us: May seem like an odd place to add links, but you can add a list of bulleted links "below the fold" (think site map formatting here) so it doesn't interfer with users filling out forms, for example.
- Terms of Service/Privacy Policies: Sure, these pages may contain sensitive material, but they shouldn't be "off limits." Again, steer clear of the body copy here and move down below the fold and add a list of bulleted links
- About the Company: Easy pickens' here. This page should contain your target keywords or/if not, you should be able to insert them editorially.
- News/Press: These pages often contain company press releases that you can "link up" like nobody's biz, for example. I wouldn't worry about hampering the "readability" of past press releases because nobody actually reads them, but, hey, that's your call...
- Meet the Team/Team Bios: Most sites have a splash page like this that acquires equity from the home page, which you can tap. In addition, the page likely links out to individually team member bios, and you can add trailing "About the Company" boilerplates with links, like so.
Even more examples of places to tap for link juice:
- Footer Links: Despite popular beliefs, footer links still work to pass value and relevance internally. How much is debatable and difficult to test, but I’m sure not as much value is passed here as with body copy/editorial links (see: page segmentation and reasonable surfer). Also, site trust could be a factor in how effective these links are. Finally, note that I’m arguing here for value being passed “internally,” not “externally,” which may or may not work.
- Sitemap: Sitemaps are always underused for some reason, which is odd because they're virtual link dumping grounds where anything goes and you can be as spammy as you like. For sites with lots of content, I'd advocate implementing multiple sites maps, not only for better crawling/indexing, but also to better organize, segment and "juice up" your internal linking strategy.
And now for the most obvious, plain as day, right under your nose, no-duh, highest ROI page on your website to find (and drain) link juice from:
- Home Page: Seriously, this is likely THE page that has THE most links on a site, which stands to reason it's the page with the most juice. Yet many SEOs totally overlook or ignore it. When I take on a new client, I immediately add links to the home page for some of the most competitive terms my client is trying to rank for. If you're not exposing deep links on your home page, do so NOW. I can pretty much guarantee that any deep pages you expose on your home page will automatically rise in the SERPs.
Okay, so there you have it. Heed my advice and don't let your hard won link equity waste away. Seriously, by not draining pages that are brimming with link juice on your site and leaking it to pages you want to rank, you're just making your job as an SEO harder. To me, this is a no brainer and something every SEO should make a priority.