On-Site Optimisation: Titles, PR and Internal Linking

On-site optimisation used to be extremely simple and it still generally is but thanks to Google’s Panda algorithm update, it’s becoming more important to get it right now and Panda means that even a couple of pages on your site that are penalised by Panda may result in a domain-wide penalty across the whole of your website.


Title tags

Title tags are probably the single most important aspect of on-site optimisation. If you don’t have your keyword in your title tag it will be very hard to rank for that keyword. Due to the nature of a title tag only being 70 characters or fewer, the number of words you can fit inside this is typically the limiting factor in the number of keywords that a single page can rank for. Recent data that I’ve seen is showing page title to be the single most important aspect of on-site optimisation.

Your title tag should be keyword rich and ideally have your keywords at the start. e.g. Use the following: Keyword I’d Like to Rank for | Website.com

Rather than: Website.com | Keyword I’d Like to Rank for

When writing your titles, also bear in mind how it may affect the Click Through Rate (CTR) in the SERPs and also think about utilising a more attractive page title on this basis rather than taking up the remainder of the page title with the website name.

e.g. Consider the following: Ugg Boots Sale UK – The Ugg Boots Sale is on NOW while stocks last.

rather than: Ugg Boots Sale UK – http://www.uggbootssale.org.uk

Bottom line: your ranking is more important than brand awareness when it comes to your page titles.

With your homepage, don’t be tempted to use the domain name as the start of the title tag. In general, your homepage is typically the most authoritative page of your website due to internal and external links and you should always aim to rank your homepage for at least one or more search phrases. You don’t need to worry about the possibility of Google not ranking your homepage when people search for the name of your website by removing it from the title tag or placing it at the end as Google is very good at picking up brand indicators.

Chances are that you link back to your homepage at the bottom of every page with your website’s name in anyway and so will many other websites who aren’t using keyword rich anchor text.


Internal PR sculpting

While PR is a terrible indicator of how well a page will rank, it is an independent indicator of authority and if you can funnel that PR around your site, it allows you to determine yourself which pages you want to receive the most authority.

The way that this can be done is by setting the ‘rel’ attribute of the <a>…</a> pair of tags to ‘nofollow’ (e.g. <a href=”page.htm” rel=”nofollow”>Click here</a>).

The bottom line for me when it comes to nofollowing links is whether I want that page to rank at all. If I don’t want the page to rank and I’ve not found a target keyword through appropriate keyword research, then I’ll nofollow — in at least the main navigation — links to that page.

Pages that I would always nofollow would be contact pages, about us pages, terms and conditions and privacy policy etc. I would even consider using the robots.txt file or meta tags to prevent these pages from even being indexed and this is actually Google practise as you’re helping to keep the search engines’ indexes clean of pages that aren’t relevant to user searches.


Internal Linking

Any onsite optimisation is your chance to show Google how relevant you consider your own pages to be and for that reason it’s extremely important.

One of the most important ways that the (external) relevance of your website is determined by Google is using the anchor text of links back to your website and it’s exactly the same for internal links too.

If you consider that you have a page internally linked with the anchor text of “here” it’s nothing like as effective as using “blue widgets” if that is the phrase that you’re trying to rank for.

This is important for not only in-content links but also your main navigation where possible too.

Google doesn’t just weight the relevance of links based on their anchor text but also on the position on a page. For example, if a link is in large text in the main content near the top of the page, it will be more highly weighted than if it was in small text in the footer of the website.

In your situation, for links to restaurants on the Gloucestershire page, it may make sense to you to use the anchor text of “restaurants” to link to the restaurants in Gloucestershire page but it would pass more relevance to the phrase “restaurants in Gloucestershire” if your anchor text was actually “restaurants in Gloucestershire”.

Internal linking and PR sculpting are obviously closely related subjects and if there are ever weak pages that need their PR increasing, you can use a keyword rich anchored linked from a high PR page.

In simple terms, this is showing Google that you consider the page to be relevant to the phrase you are linking with in the anchor text and that it’s also important within the context of your whole site if it’s linked from a high PR page.