Search engine optimisation, or SEO, seems to be the phrase at the tip of everybody’s tongue these days. Using a range of complex, opaque algorithms, SEO has supposedly helped to monetise good content and reward ‘good sites’ through boosted search engine rankings.

SEO experts constantly reiterate the importance of things like metadata, shareability, regular content, and the use of things like keywords to boost a site’s search engine ranking – and it’s these things which have seemingly pushed aside the once all-important factor of web design itself.

However, with most sites now competing over technical SEO criteria, it is of course your content and design which make your site stand out for your users. A well-designed site isn’t necessarily flashy or even aesthetically outstanding; a well-designed site is functional, attractive, and most importantly, profitable. Let’s take a look at how the links on your site affect your relationship with the search engines.

SEO written on a blackboard

Get your links in order

The navigation menu of your average site today is a mess – a complex, overbearing, supernavigational mess. Developers are increasingly providing users with links to nearly every single page, site-wide.

Internal linking – a link which connects one page to another on the same site – has three main purposes. It “aids in website navigation, defines the architecture and hierarchy of a website, and distributes page authority and ranking power throughout the site,” explain Kissmetrics. Good internal linking makes it easier for search engines to trawl through your content and users to explore your site, and if those links aren’t there, then neither are your search rankings.

In relation to search engines, internal links denote something of value – something worth reading. By developing a huge ‘supernav’ menu containing all the pages on your site, what you’re projecting is that all the pages are equally important – which is simply not the case. “Instead of willy-nilly linking to pages from site-wide elements, like the top navigation or the footer, consider the value of the pages you intend to throw in the navigation,” argues Troy Fawkes.

Straightforward, simple navigation elements which prioritise certain pages over others will naturally direct users to the most important pages. Likewise, external linking needs to lead users (and the search engines) to other quality content – read more on targeted link building here.

As designers, it is our job to try and curate a certain path or experience for users through our designs. Getting links and navigation right on your site is vital – which is why in our next post in this series, we’ll be looking at the fundamentals of site structure.

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