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How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Which link is more valuable: the one in your nav, or the one in the content of your page? Now, how about if one of those in-content links is an image, and one is text? Not all links are created equal, and getting familiar with the details will help you build a stronger linking structure.

How Links in Headers, Footers, Content, and Navigation Can Impact SEO

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about links in headers and footers, in navigation versus content, and how that can affect both internal and external links and the link equity and link value that they pass to your website or to another website if you’re linking out to them.

So I’m going to use Candy Japan here. They recently crossed $ 1 million in sales. Very proud of Candy Japan. They sell these nice boxes of random assortments of Japanese candy that come to your house. Their website is actually remarkably simplistic. They have some footer links. They have some links in the content, but not a whole lot else. But I’m going to imagine them with a few more links in here just for our purposes.

It turns out that there are a number of interesting items when it comes to internal linking. So, for example, some on-page links matter more and carry more weight than other kinds. If you are smart and use these across your entire site, you can get some incremental or potentially some significant benefits depending on how you do it.

Do some on-page links matter more than others?

So, first off, good to know that…

I. Content links tend to matter more

…just broadly speaking, than navigation links. That shouldn’t be too surprising, right? If I have a link down here in the content of the page pointing to my Choco Puffs or my Gummies page, that might actually carry more weight in Google’s eyes than if I point to it in my navigation.

Now, this is not universally true, but observably, it seems to be the case. So when something is in the navigation, it’s almost always universally in that navigation. When something is in here, it’s often only specifically in here. So a little tough to tell cause and effect, but we can definitely see this when we get to external links. I’ll talk about that in a sec.

II. Links in footers often get devalued

So if there’s a link that you’ve got in your footer, but you don’t have it in your primary navigation, whether that’s on the side or the top, or in the content of the page, a link down here may not carry as much weight internally. In fact, sometimes it seems to carry almost no weight whatsoever other than just the indexing.

III. More used links may carry more weight

This is a theory for now. But we’ve seen some papers on this, and there has been some hypothesizing in the SEO community that essentially Google is watching as people browse the web, and they can get that data and sort of see that, hey, this is a well-trafficked page. It gets a lot of visits from this other page. This navigation actually seems to get used versus this other navigation, which doesn’t seem to be used.

There are a lot of ways that Google might interpret that data or might collect it. It could be from the size of it or the CSS qualities. It could be from how it appears on the page visually. But regardless, that also seems to be the case.

IV. Most visible links may get more weight

This does seem to be something that’s testable. So if you have very small fonts, very tiny links, they are not nearly as accessible or obvious to visitors. It seems to be the case that they also don’t carry as much weight in Google’s rankings.

V. On pages with multiple links to the same URL

For example, let’s say I’ve got this products link up here at the top, but I also link to my products down here under Other Candies, etc. It turns out that Google will see both links. They both point to the same page in this case, both pointing to the same page over here, but this page will only inherit the value of the anchor text from the first link on the page, not both of them.

So Other Candies, etc., that anchor text will essentially be treated as though it doesn’t exist. Google ignores multiple links to the same URL. This is actually true internal and external. For this reason, if you’re going ahead and trying to stuff in links in your internal content to other pages, thinking that you can get better anchor text value, well look, if they’re already in your navigation, you’re not getting any additional value. Same case if they’re up higher in the content. The second link to them is not carrying the anchor text value.

Can link location/type affect external link impact?

Other items to note on the external side of things and where they’re placed on pages.

I. In-content links are going to be more valuable than footers or nav links

In general, nav links are going to do better than footers. But in content, this primary content area right in here, that is where you’re going to get the most link value if you have the option of where you’re going to get an external link from on a page.

II. What if you have links that open in a new tab or in a new window versus links that open in the same tab, same window?

It doesn’t seem to matter at all. Google does not appear to carry any different weight from the experiments that we’ve seen and the ones we’ve conducted.

III. Text links do seem to perform better, get more weight than image links with alt attributes

They also seem to perform better than JavaScript links and other types of links, but critically important to know this, because many times what you will see is that a website will do something like this. They’ll have an image. This image will be a link that will point off to a page, and then below it they’ll have some sort of caption with keyword-rich anchors down here, and that will also point off. But Google will treat this first link as though it is the one, and it will be the alt attribute of this image that passes the anchor text, unless this is all one href tag, in which case you do get the benefit of the caption as the anchor. So best practice there.

IV. Multiple links from same page — only the first anchor counts

Well, just like with internal links, only the first anchor is going to count. So if I have two links from Candy Japan pointing to me, it’s only the top one that Google sees first in the HTML. So it’s not where it’s organized in the site as it renders visually, but where it comes up in the HTML of the page as Google is rendering that.

V. The same link and anchor on many or most or all pages on a website tends to get you into trouble.

Not always, not universally. Sometimes it can be okay. Is Amazon allowed to link to Whole Foods from their footer? Yes, they are. They’re part of the same company and group and that kind of thing. But if, for example, Amazon were to go crazy spamming and decided to make it “cheap avocados delivered to your home” and put that in the footer of all their pages and point that to the WholeFoods.com/avocadodelivery page, that would probably get penalized, or it may just be devalued. It might not rank at all, or it might not pass any link equity. So notable that in the cases where you have the option of, “Should I get a link on every page of a website? Well, gosh, that sounds like a good deal. I’d pass all this page rank and all this link equity.” No, bad deal.

Instead, far better would be to get a link from a page that’s already linked to by all of these pages, like, hey, if we can get a link from the About page or from the Products page or from the homepage, a link on the homepage, those are all great places to get links. I don’t want a link on every page in the footer or on every page in a sidebar. That tends to get me in trouble, especially if it is anchor text-rich and clearly keyword targeted and trying to manipulate SEO.

All right, everyone. I look forward to your questions. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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