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SEO 23 min read

How To Carry Out An Internal Website Optimization: Diving Into Details

Как провести внутреннюю оптимизацию сайта: раскладываем по полочкам ключевые этапы
Андрей Белоусов
Andrey Belousov
Growth Hacker at Serpstat
Today I would like to talk about internal website optimization and how to conduct it. Some of the information in the article may seem new even to experienced SEOs.

We will go over all the key points that will ensure the successful promotion of your website. And I will try to make it understandable even for a beginner. Let's go!

Collecting High-Quality Keywords
Successful optimization of any website always requires a list of high-quality keywords. It can be used for:
creating a website structure;
using in titles, metatags, headers;
writing content for the website and social media;
link anchors;
analyzing seasonality.
It is necessary to conduct thorough keyword research to collect a relevant keyword list. This is the only way you can find search queries for effective optimization. You shouldn't start working on optimization without proper keywords (unless it's a technical audit and fixing errors).

When I compiled a rating of SEO agencies, I found a pair to show as an example: the first agency is old, expensive, and well-known (let's call it D&G), and the second is young and less known (for example, Zara). Both agencies are in the top 10, but D&G ranks much better. Domain age, backlinks, even website quality - everything works in favor of D&G. But the most fascinating thing is that D&G has just as much traffic as Zara. What's the secret? Zara has more keywords, and they are better worked out: higher average CPC and lower difficulty.

You can use 2 methods to collect high-quality keywords:
1
Collect all keywords and cluster them. This method is more suitable for new websites - you can immediately understand the structure of the website.
2
You can find dozens of the most relevant keywords with Serpstat. To do this, you need to look at the keywords a competitor is using:
Go to the Top Pages report:
Find their keywords in the Organic keywords column. The indicators in it are clickable - Serpstat will send you to the Domain Analysis → SEO research → Keywords report.
Then you can look at the URL analysis → SEO Research → Missing Keywords report, and check the missing search queries. These are the keywords your competitors use to rank at the top of search results, but you don't:

Working with Link Equity
For good rankings and high-quality optimization, you need to set up internal linking, as it allows you to distribute the link equity throughout the website and pass authority to the pages.

Internal links are links within the same website (when a page from one domain links to another page of the same domain). External links connect pages from different domains. In terms of SEO, they have significant differences. The backlink affects page ranking as a whole (the authority) as well as the link anchor (the link factor).
The link factor is the influence of the text (anchor) of a link to positions on requests close to the link text.

Page authority (Page Rank) is the influence of the link on the positions for all keywords. The page authority doesn't depend on the search query. If the text of the page is not relevant to the query, the authority itself cannot bring the page to the top. Otherwise, for all queries, the main page of Wikipedia or Google would be ranked first.

Internal links don't provide link ranking. They carry link juice, that is, anchors (texts) of internal links are not necessary. Although, what is taken into account:
link length
spelling errors in anchors
user behavior: the more often users click on a link, the more equity it transfers.
However, the relevance of the anchors to search queries is not essential. Users must click on the link (or make Google think so).

I haven't heard about any filters or penalties of search engines for internal links. The relevance of linked pages is hardly accounted for internal links. For external links, this option helps Google filter out purchased links, but internal links are never bought. Although, indirectly, through user behavior factors, the relevance of the link can affect the equity it transfers.

In general, forget what you know about external links when arranging internal links. The point of optimizing internal links is to increase the page authority you need. Link texts and page relevance are not important for internal links.

Page Rank Algorithm
This algorithm helped Google become one of the largest companies in the world from a small startup. Before Google, only page text was taken into account; it was possible to reach the first position after working on the text.

Ever since the link, user behavior, and domain age factors came out, the role of link juice has declined. But still, page authority is one of the essential ranking factors.

The PageRank algorithm considers the expected number of page visits with the following calculations:
Initially, all pages receive one visitor.
In 15% of cases, the user leaves the page.
In 85% of cases, the user randomly selects a link on the page and clicks on it.
Going to the next page, the user again leaves in 15% of cases, and 85% clicks on a random link.
From the point of view of a page:
The page creates authority. At the very beginning, the page receives authority equal to one. Let's call it basic.
In total, the page gives 0.85 authority to the pages to which it refers (acceptors). For example, if it refers to 10 pages, then each of them will receive 0.085 authority. The authority of the page itself remains 1.
In total, acceptors give 0.85 * 0.85 of the authority generated by our page to their acceptors.
In total, acceptors of acceptors give 0.85 * 0.85 * 0.85 the authority generated by our page to their acceptors.
You can calculate the limit of this geometric progression:
Thus, the page transfers 5-6 times more authority than it had.
Now let's move on to the arrangement of internal links during optimization:
The base website authority (W0) would be the sum of the page authority if there were no internal links on the website. This is the sum of two components: the total base authority of the pages of your website and the total authority of the external links leading to your website.
Thanks to internal links, the total link equity is many times more than your base.
This formula can calculate the total authority of your website:
Where p is the proportion of internal links on the pages: the ratio of correct internal links to the total number of links. Examples of invalid links:
broken links (404 errors);
links to pages with prohibited indexing;
links to pages without links.
That is, the authority of the website depends on 3 parameters:
number of pages;
authority transferred by external links;
share of correct internal links on the website.
No linking schemes will increase the total authority of the website.
If we take the base authority of the website for 1, we get the following graph:
As you can see, external and broken links significantly reduce the authority of the website. To avoid this:
Try to remove external links from the website template.
You can try to hide them with the <noindex> tag.
Check your website with Serpstat Audit - it will find broken links for optimization.
Add more internal links to the website template.
Hide links to pages outside the index (for example, it's better to hide the admin panel).
If you have an end-to-end link to a sitemap, RSS, and similar technical links, then leave it only on the main one.
Perhaps because of links to PDFs, authority is also lost. Because PDFs can contain links, and they are also ranked.

Algorithm changes
Unchanged, this algorithm is hardly used so far:
Authority is not equally distributed between links:
  • the first link receives more of the equity than the second;
  • links from the main menu get more link juice;
  • links in bold receive more link juice;
  • behavioral factors can be taken into account: the more often the link is clicked, the better.
Instead of 0.85, there may be another constant. Perhaps, it is calculated by some formula for each page.
The initial authority of the pages may vary. Behavioral factors may be considered.
Search engines have dozens of ranking factors, so there may have different link equity. For example, some SEO experts believe that page depth (the number of clicks from the home page) is important. But in this case, websites with a large number of links on the pages would win. Using the same algorithm, you can get a more advanced analog of the nesting level. Suppose, give the main page the initial authority 1, the remaining =, 0 and count Page Rank.

However, I doubt that other algorithms are used that are fundamentally different from PageRank since the calculation of PageRank is very well suited for calculating large, constantly changing data.

rel="nofollow" attribute
The link juice transferred by links with this attribute goes nowhere. Previously, SEO specialists used this tag too often to redistribute the link juice on their website — this indirectly confirms the effectiveness of link juice distribution.

In terms of link juice, this is just a broken link. This helps combat SEO spammers in the comments: they don't need to add nofollow links. Internal links are best avoided with this attribute.

H1 tag
H1 is the main page header. Unlike <title>, users see it. You should use only one H1 tag per page.

In most online stores, the H1 category page matches the category name. Let's say you have a category "sneakers" on your website. You get the most traffic for queries that contain the words "men" or "women". And if you don't have separate pages "men's sneakers" and "women's sneakers," then it is worth making H1 "Men's and women's sneakers."

Footer
At the bottom of the product category page, online stores place texts for SEO purposes. In most cases, this text is of poor quality. Users, of course, rarely read it, but search engines can check punctuation and text quality. You shouldn't save money for pages that generate a lot of income, so order a high-quality SEO text.
Such text shouldn't be displayed on the second page of the category so that search engines don't consider it as a part of the website template or filter the website for duplicate content.

You can check the quality of the text on the page using Serpstat Text Analytics tool. Read more:

Working with link equity
The total link equity of the website is essential, as well as how you distribute this equity across the website. It is a limited resource, and it is necessary to spread it correctly.

Pages that can potentially bring in a lot of traffic need more authority than pages that cannot. For example, a page with contact information is in the website menu and therefore receives a lot of authority, but doesn't bring traffic.

Let's suppose:
we have 1000 pages;
the authority of each page is 10;
traffic is proportional to authority;
total organic traffic = 1000 per day;
let's apply the Pareto principle: 20% of the pages receive 80% of the traffic: 200 pages receive 800 traffic per day, the remaining 800 - only 200.
If we take half the link juice from 800 pages and give it to the 200 best pages:
the traffic of pages-losers will fall twice from 200 to 100;
we transfer 10 * 800 * 50% = 4000 of authority;
the authority of these 200 pages will triple from 10 to 30 (10 + 4000/200);
traffic will also triple from 800 to 2400 per day.
And in the end, we increased traffic by 2.5 times - from 1000 to 2500.

Perhaps you need to remove some internal links from the website template. The effect of this is 5 times lower than if the link would be external, since our pages transfer up to 85% of their link equity to other pages of the website.

You need to link more to pages that can potentially bring more traffic. Depending on the situation, you can figure out how to organically fit them into your website. You can find them with Top Pages report at Serpstat. Enter your domain into the form below:
If the primary traffic is brought to you by blog articles or product pages, then you need to:
Sort products by popularity (by default).
Display more products/articles on one page of a category or tag.
Add a page with a list of popular products/articles and link to it from all pages of the website.
Add a block with a list of popular products/articles on the main page.
Display the most popular products in this category on the product page.
Put an "Also read" block with links to the most popular articles in the organic on pages with user agreement, partners, vacancies.
Sort pages on a sitemap by organic traffic.

Finding and fixing technical issues
You should perform a detailed website check before starting the work on the website's SEO. It will help to find minor issues and severe problems so that the optimizer can safely work on other ranking factors and promote the website.

An audit is often carried out when the website is under the sanctions of search engines: positions decrease, and traffic drops sharply. In this case, an audit allows you to find errors, fix them, and return to the previous position.

You also need an SEO audit when everything is fine with the website: traffic is growing, and positions are gradually increasing. You can further speed up the growth of the website by identifying and correcting technical issues.

Even if you don't have errors right now, this doesn't mean that they will not appear. To prevent their occurrence, set up a permanent audit.

Also, check some website pages in the html validator. You need to check one page of each type, for example:
main;
category page;
article/product page.
That's how you can find problems in the website template.

Finding and fixing technical issues
If the site is large, then it is better to start with the optimization of the template. Remove irrelevant text from it and try to shorten the texts. You can also hide some text using the noindex tag.

Load modal dialogs (pop-ups) through AJAX, or try to show search engines as much as possible that this is a modal dialogue:
use noindex;
add style="display:none";
add modal popup classes;
Bad
<div class=”myModal”>
…
</div>
Good
<!--noindex--><div class=”myModal modal popup” style=”display:none”>
…
</div><!--/noindex-->
First, you need to determine which words are the most common in your key phrases. For example: buy, reviews, prices. You need to check what keywords are already on your website or find subqueries of several of your keywords.

You can do it using Serpstat. Just enter a keyword or domain into this form:
These words should be added to the title, for example: "Samsung laptops: buy, reviews, prices." In copyright, you can add the country, city, and category of your organization.

The recommended title length is 70 characters, and the word order is essential. Therefore, the name of the organization (if present in the title) should be at the end. Alt tags and image file names strongly affect image search and organic display.
According to the Pareto principle, 20% of the work will bring you 80% of the result. Although, in this case, the ratio is usually even stronger: somewhere around 5% to 95%. Therefore, it is crucial to prioritize your work. First, you need to collect pages, the optimization of which can bring a lot of traffic.

You can do this in two ways:
Go to the Serpstat Top Pages report. We find potential traffic there - the traffic that the pages would receive if they took 1st place in the search results for all keywords.

To go to this report, enter your domain in the form below:
Go the Google Analytics report: Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels→ Organic Search. Secondary dimension = Landing page.
Export the report on the pages. Next, you need to collect keywords for each page (paragraph 1).

Increasing CTR
One of the most fundamental behavioral factors is the click rate in the search engine results. CTR is the ratio of the number of clicks on your snippet to the number of its impressions. The more attractive your snippet is, the better it is ranked. Therefore, if you double the CTR of your ad, then traffic will more than double:
in previous positions, you will immediately receive twice as much traffic;
when the search engines understand that your snippets are attractive, your position will improve, and you will get even more traffic.
Therefore, the snippet is essential. Usually, it is formed from:
Title tag. If your brand is little known, then you shouldn't place it at the beginning of the title. Otherwise, it should be added in the first part of the header. You can use the style as in contextual advertising - instead of part of commas and colons, put periods. This will slightly increase visibility. Laptops: buy, reviews and prices → Laptops. Buy, reviews and prices.
Description meta tag. According to our research, in half the cases, only the description meta tag is used to form the snippet description. In other cases - only the contents of the body tag, or both the body tag and the description meta tag.
Featured snippets. It is usually formed from micro-markup.
  • Bread crumbs. They show the hierarchy of page nesting. They are often displayed in snippets.
  • Quick links. In Google, they are formed from breadcrumbs of other pages.
  • Questions and answers. They take up a lot of space and therefore significantly increase the CTR, but are rarely displayed.
  • Aggregate Rating depends on the type of content: stars are shown for movies and recipes.
You can also examine competitor snippets and featured snippets.

This concludes my guide to internal website optimization. What tricks do you use? Write in the comments under the article;)

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