SEO – getting your website’s link structure right

Website_Links_StructureWhen thinking about SEO, people often work on their incoming links (important), but forget how their own link structure is working to improve SEO on their own website.

What is a link and what is a link structure?

A link is a hypetext link on a webage to another page other than a homepage.

Link structure is the system of linking pages on your website that help your web visitors find related content to the page that they are on. It is a very important factor for your search engine optimisation (SEO) because it can influence search engine page rank flow and the indexing of your pages.

Linking all pages on your website

Deep link hierarchy

Three-tier link structure

Linking all pages on your website

This can work for websites with a small number of pages to share links with. One way to set up the ‘link to all pages’ method is to add all page links in the footer area which appears on every page of the website.

This link structure does not work very well if you have a larger website with news or blog pages that are continually added to improve your SEO for your industry keywords. The reason is that it doesn’t set up a strong website link structure whereby more important pages have higher link status and less important pages have lower link status.

For larger websites, this linking structure can adversely affect how Google and other search engines index and rank webpages on your website. Basically, Google likes websites to keep links from any given page to a minimum, i.e. fewer than 100 on each webpage.

Deep link hierarchy

An example of deep linking is when the very top pages such as the homepage and other main menu webpages link to a second tier of pages that link to a third tier of webpages that link to a fourth tier and so on.

As the tiers progress within the structure, there are often more pages in each tier. Directory websites are a good example of this linking structure.

The problem with this system is that the lower ranked pages (for example, the fourth tier and below) are so deep in the hierarchical structure of links that search engines assume they are not important and fail to give these pages the same PageRank as more top level pages.

The deeper the hierarchy, the more difficult for search engines to index the lower level webpages.

Think of this system like a tree with solid branches, lighter branches and even smaller branches, then the leaves or fruit on the ends of the smallest branches. The desirable ‘fruit’ is so far from the main trunk as to not get any notice but it is the fruit that your web visitors are looking for.

Three-tier link structure

A three-tier link structure means no more than two clicks to get to relevant content

A three-tier link structure means no more than two clicks to get to relevant content

The idea with this model is to bring the ‘fruit’ to more prominence. Rather than thinking of your website as a tree with the leaves and fruit at the very ends of the structure, think rather of a shallow pyramid with only three levels in the website hierarchy.

In the top part of the pyramid, there is one page, the homepage, which links to the next hierarchical level down: this can include all the product and service categories and other pages on the website such as about us, news overview page, the contact page and so forth.

This second tier then links to the third tier, for example, the actual products or services, secondary pages under about us such as our philosophy, our team, testimonials and all the news or blogs about the products or services you supply.

This three-level webpage linking structure means that your web visitors (users) only have two clicks to get to where they want to go. If you have heard of the three-click rule, you’ll know that good website design means that a person can find any information they want with no more than three clicks to get there. The three-tier structure is only two clicks.

Some of the lower-level webpages in this linking hierarchy can also have ‘related links’ to other web pages of relevancy: news or blog pages about any product or service can be linked to the actual product or service page, news overview page for a particular category of relevance and so forth.

Getting your linking system on your website right will greatly enhance your search engine optimisation so it is worth spending some time making sure your linking structure is working for you.