Cleaning Up Your Website's Link Architecture

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Link architecture is one of those SEO techniques that falls under a number of different umbrellas. It has elements of technical optimization, thanks to its navigation functionality and ability to direct traffic flow through the site. It’s also part of content creation, since any good, optimized piece of content on a site undergoing search engine optimization work will naturally link through to other pages within the site. Or you could say that it sits under the link building tree, as it involves the creation of links from one point to another. With all of this potentially confusing pigeonholing going on, is your link architecture suffering?

In an ideal world, a search engine spider would start at the homepage of your site and crawl through each subsequent page in turn until it had processed every part of your domain. In practice, search engines can struggle to find each page. If your sitemap isn’t up-to-date, for example, and no inbound links have been built from external sites, a search bot may not know that a new page even exists.

Likewise, while search engines are becoming more sophisticated in their ability to crawl through a site and can follow text links, hyperlinked images, and image maps contained within graphics, they still struggle to crawl and follow dynamic HTML pages, JavaScript, and content built in Flash. If the search engines come across this type of content, they may stop their exploration and not crawl any deeper into the site. This is very bad for your SEO efforts, as the more pages crawled on the site, the more search results you will appear in. If the spiders can’t crawl through the whole site, you’ll inevitably be missing out on some listings.

Link architecture is a crucial part of your site design and controls the process of directing the flow of traffic from one page to the next. It can help address the problem of new pages not being found and be used to help search engine spiders circumnavigate their way around Flash or JavaScript road blocks rather than abandoning the site altogether. Equally importantly, good link architecture will ensure that your visitors can find the information they are looking for easily and enjoy visiting your site.

Text-based linking within your site should be intuitive. To ensure you’re building the best possible site for both search engine rankings and the user experience, you must make it easy to find information and travel deeper within the site. If the visitor doesn’t use your sophisticated navigation system or click through to the sitemap, is there still a route through the site? If not, you may see a high bounce rate on certain pages. Similarly, a user clicking through an organic ranking, other external link, or selecting a paid advert will rarely land on the home page. If they miss this front door to the site, link architecture steps in to help them find their way from page to page.

Text links are not just for the human visitor. Keeping link architecture in mind when creating new content will also encourage the search engines to rank you a little more favorably. Using optimized anchor text, much like that used for inbound linking, is a great signal to the search engines what the next page is about. Using keywords in the text link helps them identify what they should be considering ranking the page for.

Particularly if your website does employ Flash or JavaScript based menus, use the Google Webmaster tools to check that the Googlebot is finding your newly crafted internal links.

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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