Internal signals done right: fixing your internal links (and a free tool)

21 September 2016

Internal signals done right: fixing your internal links (and a free tool)

We’re pleased to announce the launch of our internal link tool which is now free to use for everyone. Read on for the use-case and how to use.

Internal links are a powerful way of indicating to users (and Google) what they might expect to find on the linked page. They’ve been used for web navigation purposes for decades, and for almost as long SEOs have been optimising them. However, contextual internal links are too often overlooked, and as sites get bigger and more complicated, they are becoming more important than ever to help brands properly define their keyword proposition to Google.

The problem

One of the most common SEO issues we see when onboarding new clients is overlapping keyword relevance between pages, even for our most important keywords, also known as keyword cannibalisation.

In the example, our website has one obvious page which should rank for “cruise offers”: the title, H1, and copy are all properly optimised, but it isn’t ranking where it should be. Particularly for domains with otherwise strong metrics, we often find secondary URLs (#1, #2, #3, #4 in our example) which have at least some relevance for our desired keyword “cruise offers”, are holding our main page back. Whilst it’s clearly obvious to a human which page should be the champion for this term, is it equally obvious to a bot like Google?

The symptom

A symptom of this issue, when plotting the rank of a particular keyword (making sure to include all ranking URLs), might look like this:

Two URLs clearly competing in visibility for the keyword, and overall rank going down.

Removing and redirecting secondary URLs is an option. But perhaps in your particular use case, URL #2 (and #3 and #4) are all utterly necessary, meaning you can’t absorb them into a single, stronger page, now what are your options?

The solution

Implementing internal links for mentions of “cruise offers” on those secondary pages pointing to your desired champion page removes the ambiguity about which page to rank for a robot like Google.

We have a golden rule when writing optimised copy for SEO, and we apply it site-wide:

The first mention of a keyword must link back to the desired ranking page for that keyword with the mention in the anchor text

This is straightforward, but often overlooked, stuff – SEOs already know that contextual internal links are important. What can be difficult, however, is the actual job of sourcing those keyword mentions on a site which might be pretty large, and might have a large number of keywords they are interested in ranking for, and might have a pretty low time budget for manual copy checking. How can you quickly find these keyword mentions and flag them to become an internal link?

Our tool, accessible at dbdmedia.co.uk/tools/internal-link-tool, has been made to help you out with exactly that.

Using the tool

Input all your known URLs into the left-hand box, or the URLs you want to check for the keyword mentions (we don’t follow redirects, by the way), and input the keywords you’re interested in into the right-hand box. You’re good to go with the default options, but you can make some additional tweaks if you wish:

Only look in p tags (checked by default) checking this option means the tool will only look for keyword mentions within paragraph tags on your page. Despite not all websites using tags for the main body of their text content, our tool will return matches within sentences, and mostly avoids navigational elements.

Strictness (default = 3) vary this slider if you want to find all keyword matches, regardless of punctuation or words either side of the match (1, least strict – this will flag keyword matches even within other words), up until requiring a space either side of your keyword match (4, most strict).

Size of area match (20 characters by default) the ‘area match’ of the flagged keyword instance is the number of characters either side displayed by the tool. The area match is to help you find the matched keyword within the content of the page – go for longer if you have multiple mentions of the same keyword to better help you find it.


The result

The tool will return matches as it works to find them, with URLs on the left, matched keyword in the middle, and the area within the sentence it was found on the right, with the keyword highlighted.

This makes the task of finding potential opportunities much easier. You will have to vet the results manually to ensure you’re picking worthwhile internal link opportunities, but it will save hours of your time in scrolling through endless website copy.

To turn it into a deliverable for your client, or into a document, you can either wait until the tool has finished and download CSV (button appears at the bottom), or simply copy-paste the results into Excel. We like this method because it retains the bolding of the keyword to help you indicate what you want the final anchor text to contain.

How it works

For the techies who want to know how it was built, we grabbed the HTML DOM of each URL you submit, strip out all the anchor tags and, based on your option settings, look for mentions of your keyword in the text (because we strip out anchor tags, sometimes the area match might look a little different compared to the live version – we’re working on a solution to this). The front-end uses the EventSource API to stream live results from our application.

You can achieve roughly the same result using custom search/extraction with a tool like Screaming Frog, however you won’t get the area match to help you find the mention.

Discussion/feedback

Let me know what you think below, if you’ve found the tool useful or have any feedback.