Internal Links on Your Website - Can You Use them to Rank a Specific Page?

What is Internal Linking?

Basically Internal Linking is simply where you put a link on a page of a domain which links to a different page on the same domain.  Thats all there is to it.  Simples.  BUT..... whilst there are links on your site which consitute a menu structure, and the overall navigation, this case study looks at an internal link which is NOT part of the standard site navigation - instead - this study looks at dropping links around a site which point to a specific page with the hope of boosting that page's rank.

Why Would I Concern Myself with Internal Links?

Ok - here is the upshot - I have a site which sells products.  There is one product in particular which has a page of its own on the domain.  Typical really for an ecommerce website, one page = one product, along with all its guff, reviews and buying options.

The thing is that this model is getting quite a lot of monthly searches over and above other models of the same item, so I want to out rank my competitors for that particular item.

Importantly - you should be concerned with this study in your own projects because it represents the one single type of link you have direct control over.  Food for thought.........

What - if any - Considerations are There?

Well - not many really - dropping a few links around my domain which point back to one page in particular does have the potential to reduce the overall link strength of existing links to other pages - but since the site doesn't make that many sales anyway I am not really all that bothered.

However - if you are worried about this, then you really need to analyize the structure of your links to ensure that when adding "these" kinds of links, you don't impact anything you may be currently relying on in other areas.  So if you have a different page on the site which is doing rather well - make sure your new links are not detrimental to that page - in other words try not to channel juice away from the page you are worried about.  This topic is known in a broader sense as "PR Sculpting" - which I am not going into here - but you may read up on it to see if you can benefit.

For this case study of ranking a specific page, I am not concerned at all - infact the product is so good (hence its popularity) that in reality adding links to it should be helpful to the site visitors as they may never have heard of it.

Anchor Text for this Internal Link Study.

Anchor text passes RELEVANCE.  Do not confuse this with JUICE or TRUST or whatever other silly metric is being banded round in the world of SEO gurus at the moment.  The text of the anchor and the surrounding text (amongst other things) is how google determines RELEVANCE.

Each and every single page has a link profile - not just a domain - many people don't see this on the web - but a site IS a WEB - a small web - and that is how it should be viewed.  A lot of the off-site interlinking calculations are performed between onsite pages aswell.  So bearing this in mind, I want to pass my relevance with the links, aswell as maintain a sensible link profile which isn't spammy or over repetetive on the keywords I am aiming to rank higher for.

Choosing the Source Linking Pages.

In past trials, (and you benefit directly immediately here!), I have noticed that if the source page which is holding the outbound link has a title tag containing the target page keywords, or is optimised in any way (even quite slightly) for the target page keywords - then the source page will outrank the target!!!

We really really want to avoid this "trap" - it has been spotted by accident really.  By creating pages which were "on topic" so that they would pass relevance to the target page they link to, I have noticed a few times that the source pages outranked the target page (hence the need for other trials which are underway regarding outbound links).  I cannot afford to have my source pages outranking my sales page - so to avoid this, my choice of pages to be used for these links are off topic in terms of the "model" of the product - but they are on topic in terms of the "product".

To put this into easier to understand or clearer terms.  The site is about widgets - I want my blue widget page to rank for "blue widget" - so I will NOT mention "BLUE" anywhere on the source page.  Except in the odd anchor - naturally for relevance.  This will prevent my source page outranking my actual blue widget pages where actual customer orders take place.


Internal Linking Case Study.

The chosen domain for this case study about internal links and how to use them is a LIVE commercial website.  It sells widgets and currently sits around position 12 for an extremely competetive generic "widget" term.  There is a product page on it - and I want it to rank higher.  The test is PURELY about that - no more - no less.

Internal Linking Site

(Above - the test domains metrics from ahrefs - a site in good standing registered around 5 years ago)

The study will be broken into stages.  One link at a time, pointing at my target page, will be added to a sub-page on the domain. 

I will wait for the source page to be crawled and cached.  Then, I will wait for a while (around a week normally) to check to see if there is any effect on the target pages serp position.

If the page attains a position which I am happy with (in other words I don't want to risk it dropping by doing more work on it) then I will draw a conclusion of success.  If the page moves up after a given link, then I will determine whether to add another link to see if I can get it higher.

If there is no movement after a given link, then I will add another.  And so on.


Target Phrase Structure (Naturally I can't give the actual words) = "brand model"
brand is non-english - like this "XMS"
model is non-english text - like this "TX550"
So target is therefore like this "XMS TX550"

Pages returned in SERP - 128,000 for phrase.  Moderate competition - actively targetted.
 

   

22/Nov/2015

Position of target page - slot 10 page 1

Added new link on sub-page with anchor of exact "XMS TX550" and only that - nothing else in the string.  The link is around halfway down the page, standard font size - purely a dofollow contextual link.

The link is an a href with a relative url (./pagename.html) (I may consider fully qualified URLS later if this has no effect)

Cache date of sub-page when link was added to it - 20/Nov/2015
Rank of sub-page for its own phrase before link added - slot 3 page 1 (52,000 serp)

 

Waiting for cache update.

   

28/Nov/2015

Cache date on linking sub-page now shows 24/Nov/2015 - so the link has been found and indexed.

 

There is NO change in the target page - still at slot 10 page 1

 

Waiting until 4th Dec - if no position change - I will add another internal link pointing to the target page.

   

4/Dec/2015

By todays date, the page has risen to slot 8 page 1.  Not a massive jump, but it DOES seem to have boosted the page a bit.
The pages above it are quite strong, but i've decided to give it another link.  Now that 10 days have past since the link was cached, I think its time.

I have added another link to the page, the anchor is "XMS TX550 here" - so a slight deviation.  The cache date on the newly linking page is 2/Dec/2015 - so just missed a crawl.

Position of target at time of giving link is page slot 8 page 1.
 

13/Dec/2015

Cache date on second linking page is now showing as the 10/Dec/2015.  The target page has not moved.  Still at slot 8 page 1.  Will add another link in a week.

   

16/Dec/2015

Ok - today the target page has fallen to page 3 slot 4 - it has basically been heavily slammed by google for having internal pages linking to it.  So you have been warned.  Google will play with your childrens food JUST BECAUSE YOU GIVE YOUR PAGES LINKS.
I have two choices now - I can remove the link I added above, or, I can add another internal link but with changed anchor text to dilute the profile.
See below.

16/Dec/2015

(For my records to keep track it is a 310, 800 sofar - link below is bv500)

16/Dec/2015

Added another link to the page - this time with an anchor text of  "this popular" (bv500).  The linking page has a cache date of 3/Dec so hopefully due to be re-crawled anytime now.

   

17/Dec/2015

NOTEABLE .

Today I had a surprise, the fall noted above on the 16th has been reversed, and the page is actually back on page one now - at slot 5 (it started at 8) so A DEFINITE RISE - and quite a strong boost as it has overtaken an amazon page.  The change immediately above (the "this popular" link) has not yet been cached.  Now I cannot see if it has been found but not showing as cached, but at this point I suspect it hasn't and therefore did not contribute to the recovery of the page.  I think the drop was just the "dance" - a term used these days for the movement a page makes whilst google evaluates its position after finding "things" have changed (a link in this case).

I will wait for my new link to kick in - and see if it boosts it anymore.

20/Jan/2016

For around a week now the page which started at 8 is now at 10.  So whilst there was an initial improvement up to slot 5 - the page has actually been damaged by this test.

I performed 2 other tests at the same time on a different domain.

Here are the results - 3 links given from 3 different internal pages to each page.

Further Testing Page a)

slot 9 page 2  20/12/2015
slot 10 page 3  29/12/2015
slot 5 page 2  07/01/2016
slot 5 page 2  20/01/2016.

An improvement of 4 places from 9 to 5 on page 2 - garbage.
 


Further Testing Page b)

slot 3 page 1  20/12/2015
slot 3 page 1  29/12/2015
slot 3 page 1  07/01/2016
slot 3 page 1  20/01/2016

No move at all.
 

This test on two different domains with a page from 1 domain and 2 pages on the other domain each getting 3 links from pages on their own domains is a complete failure.

Following the test

We have one page which has dropped from 8 to 10 on serp page 1.
We have one page which has gone up only 4 slots and I don't expect it to stay.
We have one page which has not moved.

This clearly demonstrates that you should be very careful when linking to internal pages - as the results appear to be completely random.  I would say that at best you are wasting your time, creating links with little or no impact.  At worst you will harm the EXISTING rank as demonstrated above.

CASE STUDY CLOSED.

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If you're looking to find out how tough internet marketing REALLY is - follow me on my IMJourney with actual case studies.

My name is Martin Swift, I have around 18 years of IM and SEO experience full time, am a computer programmer with around 25 years  programming experience in languages such as C, PHP, VB, HTML etc.

I've used or developed HUNDREDS of websites from ecommerce carts, to doorways in the old days, to squeeze pages and run of the mill day to day information sites and blogs.

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