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Website Optimization: First Link Priority

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Website Optimization: First Link Priority
Written by: Ben Stickland
Today I want to show you an easy way to solve a common problem that causes many sites to fail to rank as well as they should.
The problem is that web developers are unaware of the principle of First Link Priority. The bad news is that many sites, especially those with a large number of pages, don’t get the rankings they should because they don’t handle first link priority properly.
The good news is that once you’re aware of the problem, it’s very easy to fix and avoid in the future.
First Link Prioritisation occurs when Google looks at a webpage and analyses its outbound links.
The First Link Priority rule states that when a page links more than once to the same target page, Google will completely ignore all links after the first, often with negative SEO consequences.
Take a look at this example diagram below.

In our example, Page A links to Page B twice. The first link is a graphical link, (in this case a banner image at the top of the page), whilst the second link is in the navigation bar and is a keyword-rich link with optimised anchor text.
The second link is put there for SEO value, and is what we want Google to see, (the anchor text in the link infers meaning), however, Google will completely ignore it. Instead Google only sees the graphical link (which contains no anchor text). The keyword rich link is of no value
(And no, for the curious, putting an “Alt” tag on the image link won’t serve as a substitute to anchor text).
The result is that the target page gets the PageRank “juice” passed to it, but not anchor text relevance, which is a valuable source of optimisation, so rankings suffer.
Now, at this point, I should clarify that when Google evaluates the links pointing to a page, it will count links from any page in its index, including both links from other pages on your website (internal links) and links from pages around the Internet at large (external links).

The links you get from around the Internet are often harder to control and in most cases don’t repeat on a page (so first link priority doesn’t become an issue). But, it’s actually very common within a web page to link to a target page twice, so generally, First Link priority problems occur within your website. This is great, because internal linking structure is pretty easy to control.
This video shows two very common examples of sites breaking the first link priority; and how to use a free FireFox plugin to identify the problem . Solving this problem is surprisingly simple, and there are several ways you can go about it.
In the video below I will take you through the two step process of eliminating First Link Priority issues:
1. Identifying pages with the issue
2. Applying the simple fix
If you want to use the simple code templates the video mentions, you can find them here:
First Link Priority Templates (Personally I just use the first method, but Aaron, our CSS guru wanted to show off and give a few options. For technical readers, .htaccess redirects can also do the job)
By becoming familiar with First Link Priority and implementing the simple solution across your sites you can potentially benefit from a large chunk of previously untapped SEO value.
Cheers, Ben
P.S. To give appropriate credit, I didn’t discover this, but learned it from the Godfather of SEO, Leslie Rohde
P.P.S. Yes, I’m a geek, but fixing this problem is normally very easy. We’ve seen big wins on home page or theme keywords. Imagine a 1000 page website where every page in the site links to home using a banner. That’s 1000 partially wasted links that can be fixed with a simple template update. If you’ve got a big site and can see First Link Priority problems, please implement a fix, let the site re-index and drop me a note in the comments to let me know how you went, hey?Website Optimization: First Link Priority

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