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Replace traditional navigation with links in the content?

 9:15 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

This has been talked about here and there for a long time but I have just been thinking about whether I want to move some of my links into the content instead of in my side navigation.

What started me thinking about this is looking at Wikipedia and how there are so many links within the text of each article that point to other pages on Wikipedia. I'm wondering if this is giving them more internal linking impact.



 10:20 pm on May 22, 2008 (gmt 0)

You may be on to something, annej. One of the characteristic signs I've seen in many sites that seem "unfairly' penalized is the long, laundry list style of menu. That alone is a caution for me about trying to make the traditional menu cary too much weight. And there's no doubt that links in the content area carry some clout.

It's quite worth an experiment - I'll listen for news of your results.


 2:28 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

My reason for thinking about doing this is because of what I've observed with Wikipedia. What other evidence has there been that links within content might be stronger?


 6:36 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Actually for a while now I have been considering the same. Wiki is one of the sites I really took notice on but there are others I have watched come out of nowhere to become really popular sites (and fast). They have great content of course and seem to always link within the content to a few previous related articles.

I noticed that they pay special link attention to some of their "pillar type" and "basic know how" articles and also sections of the site. Pretty much the rock solid articles and sections they have. They still have a navigation to their different sections that list articles. So the nav isn't entirely replaced..

On those sites that link within content vary the anchor text and are careful to not overdo it. Sometimes they use the title of the article in the link and sometime just a "check it out" type link. Sometimes it is a related group of words and sometimes it is a targeted keyword phrase. But really never heavy repetition of the same words/phrase. This might depend on the site. Wiki probably will repeat the same phrase being more of a reference type site but they don't have much to worry about as far as penalties and spam goes.

Hey if it does not help with the search engines, I believe the in content type of linking is great for readers as they are "guided" to look at these articles/section rather than get buried in a laundry list somewhere else on the page. It is saying "hey there, I am an authority and I have MORE knowledge to share that you just might need to review" rather than me reading an article and not really knowing what else I need to know or if thoughts or questions arise where I can find possible answers. If I can't find related subjects/knowledge I might need to know on that page usually means hit the back button to search for what I do need to know. Sometimes just calling attention to something within the context of an article is enough to get a click. Lists and menus are really passive.

Looking forward to trying it out and having fun with it.


 7:14 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

What other evidence...

I've seen several times where a link within the article gave a major jump in ranking, but a link from the same site in the "chrome" somewhere had little or no obvious effect. In fact, so many webmasters have noticed this difference that in-content links are now mentioned many places as the strongest links you can get.

Of course, that's all about links from one domain to another. But even within the same domain, cross-linking pages from inside the content area has been a tool that helps out the target page.

I can't see content area links completely replacing a menu structure - even Wikipedia has its "Portal Page" menau and so on. But a little bit might go a long way.


 8:08 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

I have just been thinking about whether I want to move some of my links into the content instead of in my side navigation.

I did this a year ago with one of my sites. The pages linked to from the content on the main page are all now grey-barred (were PR2-3) and do not rank for their terms anymore.

However, I did not do it sitewide. I only linked to them in the main page content, removing them from the navigation - the rest of the site continued to link to them using the navigation which I left up.


 8:23 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

I do in content linking a lot because it seems only natural to easily guide visitors within a website or to related external info. This is what I too expect when browsing other websites. Of course I keep a basic menu leading to important pages/sections. From a SEO point of view this can only be good because internal pages will rank better.


 8:33 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Overdone, it could be a problem for users. When I go to a page, start reading, and discover it wasn't what I wanted or expected; I start looking for a menu. If there is no menu, I won't spend any significant amount of time scanning the text for links to what I want.


 8:34 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

So when does a left hand menu become a "long laundry list"? I have always believed that it was helpful to visitors to have a full menu visible as much as possible.
I do also use wiki style content links where it appears natural to do so.

Robert Charlton

 8:43 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Within-content links are exactly what I was testing when I got the paradoxical reactions that I report in my 5/13 May serps thread post and my 5/20 minus 950 thread post.

I've been testing various ways of stabilizing pages that may either be over-optimized or under-linked... or both. In some cases, where deep pages had no external inbounds, it appears that one "right-on" internal content link might shoot the page up but then also be enough to trigger something that starts it cycling down, if... I've been thinking... the page was perhaps already on the verge of over-optimization.

In another case, where a page had external inbounds (but not good enough to support the high position it rose to before it started dropping again), I've changed a couple of content links to more closely match the target phrase, and this appears perhaps to have been the wrong direction. It's a change that experience tells me would have worked, though, if the links had been good quality external inbounds.

It's hard to isolate any one change, or to precisely attribute cause and effect. I'm waiting a long time in between changes... but some of the Google cycles are long enough that it's sometimes not clear if I've waited long enough.

On those sites that link within content vary the anchor text and are careful to not overdo it.

Very good advice. I'm becoming much more cautious with these, and I'm already a very cautious optimizer. It's hard to know how fast Google will react to trimming back... or if they'll even let you get away with that kind of tuning at all.

I'm wondering whether anyone else has seen reaction against these content links when the target page is already heavily optimized.


 8:53 am on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Menus have various advantages to my mind.

You refer consistently to a page throughout the site. Randomising the anchor text is all very well for SEs but unless your CSS tells users which links they've clicked you'll frustrate / confuse them.

If you replace your menu with in-content links and you don't have enough of them throughout the site then you might have the opposite of the effect you intended - you'll make those pages seem less, not more important.

I find it rather frustrating to read something like...

We <b>talked before</b> about <b>this topic</b> - I'm grateful to <b>my friend Jim</b> for <b>pointing out</b> various interesting things.

(where the bold text would be links)

Personally I'd rather have a list of additional resources off to the right or underneath what I'm reading - not buried in it.

That said, I've been toying with the idea of putting menus in iframes, and using just the 'breadcrumb' navigation to distribute PR, then placing extra links within content or alongside/underneath it to the important pages.


 3:03 pm on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Why make it an either-or? I use menus, but also add links within context. I think it helps your readers. I don't always use the exact same phrasing, though.


 4:22 pm on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've chosen two pages to do this with. I'm hoping to nudge them up just a few spaces. If the experiment works I'll expand to more pages.

I am linking related text that is already in other pages so the anchor text varies. This won't be large scaled, just taking advantage of the few other articles that touch on the target topic.

I am not removing any navigation though I don't put nearly the number of links in my side menu as I used to. I believe that was causing some -950 problems that I had several months ago. Also I find in my analytics that people tend to click on the top few links and ignore the ones on down the list. So why not just link those top few? I still have universal navigation at the top but linking to just a few major sections of my site.

I believe the in content type of linking is great for readers
I'm hoping it will increase clickthroughs as well.


 8:59 pm on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi all.

RobertCharlton I had some strange behaviour this last week after the recaching of a changed index page with in-content links to already ranking pages.

basically the rankings bombed across the board but worst on the 3 pages I linked to from the content.

the total amount of links offpage also increased so Ive been wondering whether as the pages were already linked to, the additional links to them just diluted the juice, am not seeing it as penalisation, its too general, and havent dropped far enough, although the page is heavily optimised.


 9:54 pm on May 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

SEO by default is about H1, BOLD and LINKS and keywords WITHIN THE TEXT and has always been about this since the start. The idea that we SHOW users where we "hide" our links is of NO importance to robots!


 1:49 am on Jun 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well looking at the data I have made some small gains, nothing dramatic. I did get a really great 2 word search to show my page as number 10 though. I'd just like to see it a bit higher.

I am happy with the improvement in the plural though. Now # 4. Unfortunately not nearly as many people search the plural


 10:25 pm on Jun 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think it's the links embedded in the content from other sites that really makes the difference.

I just discovered a page that I couldn't get get into the top 10 in the serps no matter what I tried is suddenly in the top 4. I checked out the back links and a link in an article on another site dated in May may well be the cause of the jump.


 1:19 am on Jun 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

When I set up a new page I always link to it from within the content of 3 or 4 other related pages, even though the new page has been included in the site menu. This helps the new page to rank quickly.


 4:21 am on Jun 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

Annej, this makes sense.

For most of my websites, I create a 'user friendly nav'. This often means 'keyword-less' if it means the visitor can navigate with ease.

I then utilize content as the way to interlink where needed. The key emphasis is to interlink WHERE it makes sense, not for the sake of SEO.

Good practice as well is to use the silo structure to link vertically and horizontally within a 'zoomed in' topic theme, and to use a site:domain.com search to locate the most powerful pages on your website and make sure they link in using that same structure to the next level supporting or pillar pages.

You can utilize the breadcrumb as a way to effectively get the kind of link popularity you need to the silo parent.

[edited by: CainIV at 4:22 am (utc) on June 6, 2008]


 4:45 am on Jun 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

950 Penalties are waiting to be awarded to anyone who duplicates anchor text within content! 8-> Pay attention to all anchor text when you add/move/change internal links.

LHS navigation structure is fundamental to web design and I really can't see Google awarding ranking points to sites that put most of their links in content. It's not natural. With inbound links, on the other hand, it is natural, and as others noted, well rewarded by Google.



 8:06 am on Jun 6, 2008 (gmt 0)

Quite honestly I won't even request a link from anybody or trade links with anybody anymore unless it's an in-content link. Isn't it amazing how all of our links/resources/friends/etc...pages are now gray barred? Wonder why?! Hmmm....

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