Optimising Internal Link Anchor Text with WordPress Menus

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One of the points I suggested in my post on SEO theories which I can’t prove was that

“Internal links are more important than external links”

In this post I’m going to show you how to get much more value out of your internal linking using a simple technique, but first let me put some flesh on the bones of that statement above.

A site cannot function or rank without internal links. Don’t believe me? Try removing all your internal links from your site and just see what happens to your rankings. That’s why I say internal links are more important than external links- remove all the external links to a site and Google can still find and index your pages. Remove the internal links and Google will only index the pages which have external links pointing to them.

Moreover internal links are more important than external links because you have complete control over them. In SEO you need to play to your strengths and make the very most of the factors which are within your control- technical stuff, content, onpage ranking factors and internal links all fall within this. That’s not to underplay the importance of external factors, its just that you’ve got to get the basics right first. So unlike external links with internal links:

  • You control the anchor text
  • You control the target pages
  • You can change either of the above at any time

Despite these powerful opportunities which fall well within your control most sites don’t make optimum use of their internal anchor text. In this post I’m going to show you just one way you can make better use of your internal anchors. I’ll explain how you can do it very easily in wordpress, but the theory behind it can just as easily be applied to any site.

Creating optimised internal link sets

I’ve discussed before the idea of targeting a cluster of related, “mid-tail” keywords on a single page rather than just going after one big fat head term. To make this approach work you don’t just need to be using those different keyword variations on the page but also need to vary your link anchor text to use all the different keyword combinations you want to target. Now there’s other reasons to vary your anchor text strategy when building links from external sources but most sites will have the majority of their internal links to key pages using the same anchor text because of the way content management systems and menu navigation works.

expedia navigationTake the example above of the Expedia navigation. Because the same menu is at the top of all of their millions of pages their hotels page is going to have millions of links with the anchor text “Hotels”. Now that’s not necessarily a problem because hotels is a good keyword but say they also want to rank that page for a cluster of related keywords like ‘cheap hotels’, ‘book hotels’, ‘hotel deals’ etc – then it would be beneficial to vary the internal anchor text used to link to that page.

Design wise that’s not going to be too easy to do in a main menu like Expedia have got in their masthead but if you’re using a footer nav you’ve probably got a bit more flexibility.

footer menu

A deep footer nav like the one above is one way to deliver internal links to your key SEO pages and because its in the footer you’ve probably got a bit more space to alternate anchor text. So what I might want to do is vary the internal anchor text on the ‘cheap hotels in Brighton’ link so some of my internal links use different variations like ‘cheap Brighton hotels’ or ‘budget hotels in Brighton’.

In WordPress this is pretty easy to do without any coding.

First we need to setup 2 menus with the different anchor text variations we want to use…

The first menu has the main terms we want to use as anchor text for each key page.

In this example the second menu is going to link to the same pages but with slightly different anchor text, you could of course link to completely different pages in order to mix up your internal links and give juice to different pages:

Now all we need to do is tell WordPress to display the first menu on some pages and the second menu on other pages. To do that install a plugin called Widget Logic – this is a really handy little plugin which extends your WordPress widgets and lets you use conditional tags to tell wordpress what pages a particular plugin should appear on.

If you’ve got a small site you could use this to specify the exact pages which ‘menu 1′ should appear on and the pages which ‘menu 2′ should appear on but for larger sites you’ll need to be a bit broader so in this example I’m going to display menu 1 on category pages, static pages and tag pages using this conditional logic:

is_category() OR is_page() OR is_tag()

Then show menu 2, with the alternate anchor text, on single post pages using:

is_single()

Now we have a couple of hundred internal links (the single posts) using the ‘budget hotels in Brighton’ anchor text and the rest using ‘cheap hotels in Brighton’.

It should go without saying that this is a very simple example of how you can use this sort of system. If you’re using WordPress and you’re planning on using any more than a couple of variations you’ll find it more convenient to apply the conditional logic in your functions.php file than with the drag and drop widgets in wordpress admin.

You can do something similar with other off the shelf CMS’ (its actually even easier in Joomla) or if you’ve got a bespoke CMS you’ll need to code it yourself but its not especially complex and if you can get it working on large websites the gains can be mind blowing. For example lets say you’re an ecommerce site and you want to rank your Russell Hobbs 15082 Illuminating glass kettle page for:

  • Illuminating glass Kettle
  • Russell Hobbs Illuminating glass Kettle
  • Russell Hobbs 15082
  • Russell Hobbs Illuminating glass Kettle reviews
  • Buy Russell Hobbs Illuminating glass Kettle

You don’t need to manually create all those links in your CMS like I’ve showed in the WordPress example above, you just need to tell your CMS to pull slightly different links out of the database on different pages of your site. This is very useful if you want to rank for thousands of products keywords with different attributes, model numbers and so forth – and who doesn’t want that right?!

I’m planning on getting back into blogging in the next few months so hopefully they’ll be more posts here. Might be a good time to grab my feed if you haven’t already:-)

 

3 Comments Optimising Internal Link Anchor Text with WordPress Menus

  1. Simon

    Interesting idea. Do you think that you can ‘over optimised’ internal links? For example used[keyword] as the home page button in the nav menu?

    Reply
  2. Rhonda

    Hello John,

    I have read about 4 of your articles on mid-tail, long-tail and internal linking. You rock. Absolutely some of the best stuff I have read, I have trying to fix my internal linking. I was using a plugin, but it slowed my site down terrible. I am looking at using this internal linking strategy with my site. Do you have anything on content generation, I think I need to create that more often :)

    Reply
  3. Jesse Fogarty

    John great post! I actually searching Google for a method to remove my internal links thinking I had to many when I stumbledupon this article.

    I’ve been going about my internal linking as you said people focusing on anchor text for rankings. Now knowing the importance of internal links I think I would kicked myself in the ass had i delete any of my internal links.

    Loved the article – ya got yourself a new subscriber!

    Jesse

    Reply

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