Juggling Branding, Usability And SEO With Internal Links

There’s no doubt that using keyword-rich text links will help your SEO efforts. However, if you’re a search marketing professional trying to convince your stakeholders to utilize the value of keyword-rich text links in your body copy, you’ve definitely encountered the following scenario at one point or another:

You: “Since we’re focused on this set of keywords for SEO, here’s where you should use these Keywords in your body text links”

Stakeholder: “Great, sounds good, SEO is really important… Wait a minute – you mean that keyword actually has to appear on the page like that? Can’t we just make some code behind the scenes instead?”

This is a common challenge that can be at times difficult to overcome and tends to be more of an issue for large enterprise sites, but fundamentally exists with all sites. Think about all of the different disciplines that provide input into a web page. Usability Experts, Information Architects, Content Writers, Brand Strategists, Subject Matter Experts, Designers, Programmers, Quality Assurance, and let’s not forget the CEO and Senior Management!

Once your site strategy is signed off on by all of these stakeholders, there’s usually very specific guidelines and rules for using body content and links on your web pages. Usability is fantastic and can be used to indicate what users’ tendencies are and what types of links people naturally would click on based on their intent. Designers and IA folks come up with strategic decisions on placement of links. The Content Writers form a strategy for how to best communicate what needs to be said and follows the appropriate Brand Guidelines.

Given all of that, as a Search Marketer, you will sometimes face an uphill battle with something that seems rather simple to change. For example, let’s say your website is about shoes. A common link name that many sites use to indicate to a user that there is more information is “Learn More”. You might have a text description that communicates to the user the features of a shoe, and include a “Learn More” link for more detailed information. All this makes perfect sense.

However, let’s say that for SEO you really wanted to rank for the keyword “high-top basketball shoe”. That “Learn More” link represents an opportunity to use the keyword instead, especially if it is used on multiple pages of your site. However, due to some of the guidelines I mentioned above, no one is agreeing with you that using the Keyword as the link name is a good idea. Sound familiar?

I’m not saying that “Learn More” is a bad link name, it certainly has its place. But, for SEO – what can you do in these situations? My advice is to work alongside all of your stakeholders to come up with some creative ways to get those SEO benefits out of the link names. I’m going to keep using the “Learn More” example because it is so common. Here’s some tips that you may find useful:

  • Start off by making a business case for the use of keywords in the link names. You might start by showing that you’re only ranking in the top 5 for 40% of your targeted keywords even though you’ve followed the standard SEO best practices of using the keyword in your Title Tags, H1’s, etc. You can communicate that in order to get that number to 80%, the use of keyword-rich text links can help achieve that goal.
  • Show some examples. Trust me on this one but screenshots are more useful than spreadsheets. Show what types of links you’d like to explore potentially modifying and show some examples of how this could work.
  • Get creative with the link names. In the shoe example above, you could use “for more information about our high-top basketball shoes, click the link to the right.” Or, you could put the “Learn More” link in a graphic next to it. You could even use something like “high-top basketball shoes – learn more“.
  • Be realistic. Odds are you’re not going to get all of the links you want changed, so see if you can come to a compromise. Let’s say that there’s 20 pages on your site that contain a link to the “High-Top Basketball Shoes” page. Perhaps everyone can agree that the SEO benefits are important to take into consideration and will agree to use the Keyword on 10 of those pages.

You’ll find that once you show the whole picture, your stakeholders and team members will do what they can to work in your recommendations so you can achieve your SEO goals.

    Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

    Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO


    About The Author: is Regional Director of Client Strategy at Global Strategies International, an Enterprise Search Marketing Agency.

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    • http://www.twitter.com/stevengrech stevengrech

      Damien, this is a “healthy” challenge that we face daily: trying to balance UX, creative, functionality and SEO.

      One of our clients – Chelsea Bluewing – wanted to balance their marketing message with a keyword rich message – somewhat of a challenge when it came to setting the H#. What we had to do was create two headings – one marketing focused (H2) and the other SEO focused (H1). We ended up flipping the H1 and H2 headings (source code still shows the H# headings in the correct order) in order to balance the creative, brand and SEO. Check out the end result: http://bluewing.chelseafc.com/meeting-events

      great article – thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.thunderseo.com monique

      Thank you for this amazing post! I definitely agree that finding a balance between keywords and happy clients is a challenge many SEOs face on a daily basis.

      We’ve heard everything from “this cheapens our image” to “why does it even matter?” Finding a common ground between branding guidelines, content writer’s goals and management’s decisions can often be difficult and I think these tips help a lot. I was bummed to learn that client’s don’t love spreadsheets (tear!), but I think you are right that businesses need a visual they can relate to. Thanks for sharing!

      @steven, your tip was great too! I like the idea of getting creative with the source code.


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