Whether you’re building links for yourself or a client, at some point you need to make sure that you’re procuring inbound links to not only your homepage, but also your critical subpages. Chances are, that if you have a nicely fleshed out site that has been built (and updated) with sound SEO principles in mind, you’ll have fantastic subpages that are worthy of those links.
You’ll probably also already have some quality inbound links coming to those pages. But, from what I’ve seen across a wide variety of sites, the need for purposeful deep linking efforts is definitely still there. Many websites will simply choose to link to your homepage when they reference you, whether or not your homepage is the most appropriate place for their purpose. The reasons for this range from not knowing the best approach to simple laziness.
Deep links serve a variety of purposes
- Usability.Deep links can immediately get users to targeted information and thus decrease frustration (and site bounce rate, perhaps.) This, to me, is perhaps the most important point because (gasp!) it has nothing to do with either rankings or traffic. When have you heard that in a link discussion? This is about usability, and all the links in the world won’t make people want to use your site.
- Link Profile. Deep links can improve your overall link profile. As most anyone knows by now, a healthy backlink profile is not one-dimensional. It contains homepage links, subpage links, links with missing anchor text, links with “Click Here!” anchor text, links with fantastic anchor text, sitewides, footer links, in-content links, links from site you wouldn’t want to show your mother, etc.
Organic link growth truly does happen in a somewhat random fashion, and if you have more than one decent page on your site, you should have links to those pages sprinkled here and there.
- Traffic.Deep links can grab traffic from new and varied sources. Let’s say that a site mainly sells punk rock vinyl but the site owner happens to have an interest in ska. There are fifteen punk pages on the site and only one for ska records, so obviously he’s not going to clutter up the main navigation with the one little ska page.If the page has good content, then of course you could find it ranking for a ska search but it would obviously get more targeted traffic from some quality deep links on relevant sites (not to mention rank much higher with some inbound links!)
- Rankings. Deep links can increase the amount of long-tailed phrases that you can rank for in the various search engines. Unless your homepage is cluttered with tons of long-tailed keyphrases, you’ll probably find that a lot of your long-tailed traffic is already going to subpages. Why not throw some links at those pages and boost things?
- Avoiding Penalties. Well, this one’s more of an ‘I hope it does” than an actual rule, but it makes sense that if a site ONLY has backlinks coming into the homepage, it looks a bit unnatural.
Just because users get into your site through a link on another site does not mean that they want to dig for the information that brought them there. If they clicked on a link with the anchor text “chalkboard calendars for kids” then they don’t want to go to a homepage and have to search to find the products. This also looks a bit…spammy. If I click on a link, arrive at a page where the anchor text isn’t immediately apparent in the content, I’m not happy, and most times I’ll exit very quickly.
How to improve your deep linking
First off, if you’re not sure of where you stand with regards to existing deep links, do a quick analysis:
How many current inbound links do you have? How many go to the home page vs. subpages? Do you need to do some work? If you’re totally happy with the way everything looks – read no more, but if you’re not…keep going.
Secondly, identify the subpages that you wish to promote. This takes a lot more time. Things you’ll want to look at in detail are:
- How many current inbound links do you have for each subpage?
- What are the main anchor texts?
- How are these pages currently ranking in the engines?
- Is the ratio of deep links to the homepage one that you think is accurate for the importance of these subpages?
- Can these subpages exist as standalone results in the SERPs? If so, great. If not, it might not be worth linking to. Why invest the time if a user is very unlikely to click on the result or, if a user does click, is going to leave in the first 5 seconds? You can use analytics data to check bounce rates for these pages also, to see if you need to improve anything.
- What are the filenames for these subpages? Can they be optimized? Is it even worth the trouble, since you’d have to do some 301s?
Next, evaluate your internal linking strategy
Finally, go out and get some links!
Whatever your link building strategy, just do it with the following two tips in mind:
- Don’t neglect directories. Is your subpage listed in any directory? If not, consider it, as some niche directories are perfect for deep linking to good subpages.
- Analyze your existing homepage inbounds to see if anyone that currently links to you might benefit from being alerted to a more appropriate page. If a website master cares about relevancy, he or she will definitely care about linking to the best page possible.
Obviously you can’t put a homepage link to every single subpage, so you do have to pick and choose your most important pages here. If you’re not very technical and don’t want to make a lot of changes, I’d certainly not recommend that you drastically overhaul your navigation just to get a homepage link (or an internal sitewide) to a subpage that may or not truly be that important.
Some subpages may not be able to hold their own in the SERPs. They may be worthy of some deep links simply to get a better inbound link profile and better rankings, but the downside is in turning off a user who might not return. Whether that is worth it or not is up to you.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.