The SEO Strategies Cyrus Shepard Discovered After Analyzing 23 Million Internal Links

Last updated: Jun 30, 2023

This video is about an interview with Cyrus Shepard, where he discusses the findings from his study on internal linking strategies after analyzing 23 million internal links across 1800 different websites.

This video by Niche Pursuits was published on Apr 19, 2023.
Video length: 01:03:39.

In this video, Cyrus Shepard discusses the findings from his internal link study, where he analyzed over 23 million internal links across 1,800 different websites.

He shares clear takeaways and insights on internal linking strategies, including the number of internal links to build to a page and anchor text strategy.

The video covers various topics related to internal linking, such as cannibalization, image internal linking, exact match anchor text, and page sculpting.

  • Cyrus Shepard conducted a study on internal linking strategies by analyzing 23 million internal links across 1800 different websites.
  • The study aimed to gain insights on internal linking strategies.
  • Cyrus shares the number of internal links you should be building to a page.
  • He discusses anchor text strategy for internal linking.
  • He talks about the importance of avoiding cannibalization and how to prevent it.
  • Cyrus explores the use of image internal linking.
  • He discusses the relevance and impact of exact match anchor text.
  • Cyrus and Jared discuss page sculpting and its importance in internal linking.
  • They explore whether page sculpting is still relevant in SEO.
  • They discuss the impact of internal linking on SEO and rankings.

The SEO Strategies Cyrus Shepard Discovered After Analyzing 23 Million Internal Links - YouTube

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Introduction to Cyrus Shepard and his study

  • Cyrus Shepard has been in the SEO industry for a long time, starting at moz.com.
  • He conducted a study on internal linking strategies by analyzing 23 million internal links across 1800 different websites.
  • The study aimed to gain insights on internal linking strategies.
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Key findings from the study

  • Cyrus shares the number of internal links you should be building to a page.
  • He discusses anchor text strategy for internal linking.
  • He talks about the importance of avoiding cannibalization and how to prevent it.
  • Cyrus explores the use of image internal linking.
  • He discusses the relevance and impact of exact match anchor text.
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Deep dive into internal linking topics

  • Cyrus and Jared discuss page sculpting and its importance in internal linking.
  • They explore whether page sculpting is still relevant in SEO.
  • They discuss the impact of internal linking on SEO and rankings.
  • Cyrus shares his insights on how to optimize internal linking for better SEO results.
  • They discuss the role of internal linking in user experience and site navigation.
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The SEO Strategies Cyrus Shepard Discovered After Analyzing 23 Million Internal Links - YouTube

Sponsorship and additional resources

  • The episode is sponsored by search intelligence.
  • They offer a trial offer for new customers, providing 5,000 words of free content with an order of 10,000+ traffic backlinks.
  • The podcast also mentions nichesites.com, a resource for scaling niche site portfolios and building websites.
  • They offer a range of services, including keyword research, link building, content writing, and done-for-you websites.
  • The podcast recommends visiting search-intelligence.co.uk for link building and PR campaigns.
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Background and Introduction

  • Cyrus Shepard studied film in college before getting involved in SEO.
  • He joined SEO Moz (now Moz) in 2011 and conducted large-scale experiments.
  • He now runs his own SEO consulting company called Zippy.
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Internal Linking Study

  • Internal linking is a fast and effective way to improve SEO results.
  • Internal links can be controlled and implemented quickly.
  • Improving internal linking is a quick win for agencies and clients.
  • The study analyzed 23 million internal links across 1800 websites.
  • The goal was to understand the impact of internal linking on SEO.
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Importance of Internal Links

  • Internal links help search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of a website.
  • They distribute link equity and authority throughout the site.
  • Internal links can improve the visibility and ranking of important pages.
  • They can also help users navigate and discover relevant content.
  • Proper internal linking can lead to higher organic search traffic and conversions.
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Key Findings from the Study

  • Websites with more internal links tend to have higher organic search traffic.
  • Pages with more internal links tend to rank higher in search results.
  • Anchor text used in internal links can influence the ranking of the linked page.
  • Internal links from high-authority pages have a stronger impact on rankings.
  • Using descriptive anchor text and relevant keywords in internal links is beneficial.
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Positive relationship between internal links and Google traffic

  • Studied 23 million internal links across 1800 websites
  • Accessed anonymized Google search console data to correlate internal link metrics with Google traffic
  • Found positive relationships between internal links and Google traffic
  • More internal links resulted in more traffic
  • Relationship between internal links and traffic only worked to a certain point
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Diminishing returns on navigation links

  • Graph showed that after a certain point, the relationship between internal links and traffic started to zigzag up and down
  • Discovered that this was due to the type of internal link being used
  • Navigation links, such as those in the top navigation of a site, showed diminishing returns
  • These links had the same anchor text and did not provide much value
  • Diminishing returns were not seen when different types of anchor text were used
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Importance of relevance in internal links

  • Links pass two major classes of signals: popularity and relevance
  • Most SEO tools focus on popularity metrics, such as PageRank, but neglect relevance
  • Relevance is derived from anchor text
  • Internal links allow control over relevancy to a certain extent
  • Anchor text plays a significant role in the relationship between internal links and traffic
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Charting different types of anchor text

  • Charting the number of different types of anchor text used in internal links showed a positive relationship with traffic
  • Using different phrases as anchor text resulted in an upward trend in traffic
  • Running the data multiple times confirmed the consistent positive relationship
  • Navigation links with the same anchor text did not show the same positive relationship
  • Using varied anchor text in internal links is more effective for driving traffic
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Internal Linking Strategies

  • The number of different types of links and the variety of anchor text have a significant impact on page ranking.
  • More internal links lead to higher traffic.
  • Varied anchor text leads to higher traffic.
  • Having a good number of internal links with varied anchor text is important for internal linking.
  • Using the same anchor text for multiple links may not be as effective as varying the anchor text.
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Types of Internal Links

  • The first link on a page is important and should be paid close attention to.
  • Links that are prominently displayed and high up on the page are more likely to be clicked.
  • Links in the footer, sidebar, and top articles may not be weighed as heavily.
  • Internal links should be placed in the first couple of paragraphs of the main body text for better visibility.
  • Analyzing analytics can help determine the effectiveness of internal links.
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Effect of Duplicate Anchor Text

  • Duplicate anchor text, especially in navigational menus, may not have much weight or benefit.
  • Over-optimization, especially for smaller sites with a limited link profile, can be a concern.
  • Large sites with diverse link profiles can get away with using duplicate anchor text in navigation menus.
  • Major e-tailers like Walmart and Amazon have diverse and broad anchor text profiles.
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Anchor Text Diversity

  • Small sites should pare down their navigation and focus on in-body linking for greater control.
  • Using the same optimized anchor text on every page can hurt smaller sites with limited backlink profiles.
  • Google can penalize sites for being over-optimized, so it's important to vary anchor text.
  • Internal linking anchor text is less scrutinized than external backlink anchor text, but it still has an effect.
  • The ideal internal link is three or four words long, and it's best to under-optimize anchor text.
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Proper Anchor Text Strategy

  • Look at keyword variations in Google Search Console and work them into anchor text.
  • If it's a new page, look for pages already ranking in tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush and use variations of their keyword phrases.
  • Avoid completely under-optimizing anchor text or using generic phrases like "click here."
  • Using naked URLs as anchors can actually help with rankings.
  • Every anchor text should contain at least one keyword, but don't overdo it.
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Importance of Anchor Text

  • Anchor text can be used to pass relevance and help rank for certain keywords.
  • It's important to balance both passing relevance and ranking for keywords.
  • Anchor text should be based on keyword variations that the page ranks for or variations of keywords from pages already ranking.
  • Avoid using generic anchor text like "click here" or completely under-optimized anchor text.
  • Every anchor text should contain at least one keyword to provide relevance.
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Sponsored by Search Intelligence

  • Today's episode is sponsored by Search Intelligence.
  • Search Intelligence helps agencies build digital PR links to client websites.
  • They use freely available data from tools like Ahrefs to land massive links on high-authority websites.
  • They have successfully landed links on websites with high domain authority, such as dr90 and UK news websites.
  • Search Intelligence is a valuable resource for agencies looking to improve their link building strategies.
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Importance of Page Ranking and Anchor Text in Internal Linking

  • Page ranking and anchor text are crucial factors in determining the relevance and effectiveness of internal links.
  • While it is ideal to get links from pages that rank, as long as the pages are in the same thematic ballpark, it is still beneficial.
  • Linking to a page with slightly different intent can help both pages rank for similar terms.
  • It is important to be specific with anchor text and avoid using the exact phrase you want the first page to rank for.
  • Internal linking plays a significant role in passing relevance and link juice between pages.
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The Concept of Link Sculpting and its Importance

  • Link sculpting, also known as page sculpting, involves controlling the anchor text and destination of internal links to optimize link juice distribution.
  • It was a popular SEO strategy in the past, but its effectiveness has diminished over time.
  • Google no longer gives more juice to followed links or penalizes nofollowed links.
  • PageRank sculpting is not as important nowadays, and Google has made it clear that it is not a reliable tactic for manipulating rankings.
  • Internal linking should focus on providing a good user experience and guiding visitors to relevant content.
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Rank Sculpting and Controlling Internal Links

  • Rank sculpting through nofollow doesn't work anymore.
  • Position of the link on the page affects how much signals it passes.
  • Number of links on the page affects the signals passed.
  • Footer links pass fewer signals compared to links in the first couple paragraphs.
  • Having fewer links on the page results in better signals.
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First Link Priority and Anchor Text

  • Google gives priority to the first link on a page.
  • First link priority means only the anchor text of the first link is counted.
  • Second anchor text is only counted if it's an image.
  • Linking repeatedly to the same page may result in only the first anchor text being counted.
  • First link priority is still a thing with Google.
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Relevance and Dilution of Internal Links

  • Relevance and topicality may diminish with more links on a page.
  • Topic weighted page rank gets diluted with every additional link.
  • Relevance is likely to diminish with more links per page.
  • The number of internal links and anchor text choice are important for traffic.
  • Too many internal links on one page can dilute the impact.
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The Sweet Spot for Internal Links

  • There is no set number for the ideal amount of internal links.
  • Having around 10 internal links is a good guideline.
  • Having fewer internal links generally results in better outcomes.
  • The number of internal links should be balanced to maximize benefits and minimize dilution.
  • It's important to consider the overall user experience and relevance when determining the number of internal links.
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Section 1: Number of internal links

  • The number of internal links in a website's data graph rises steeply up until about 10, and then levels off.
  • For every important page that a website wants to rank, it is recommended to strive for an average of 10 varied internal links from different pages on the site.
  • Adding 10 internal links can be challenging, especially when linking to brand new content.
  • There is a way to add internal links to new content, but it requires effort and time.
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Section 2: Adding links to existing content

  • One popular way of adding links to existing content is by highlighting the exact phrase and linking it without changing anything else in the post.
  • However, it is more effective to rewrite or add a sentence or two of text to the paragraph where the link is placed.
  • This approach provides freshness signals and makes it look like a human updated the content.
  • Using automated internal linking tools, such as Link Whisper, can also be helpful in finding opportunities for internal links.
  • Automation and tools are necessary, especially when scaling internal link building.
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Section 3: Internal linking strategy for building a topical Hub

  • When building a topical Hub, such as one about wildlife cameras, it is important to start with the first article and gradually add internal links as more articles are published.
  • Initially, there may be no internal links in the first article, but as more articles are released, there will be opportunities to add relevant internal links.
  • By the time the website reaches article number 10, there should be nine other internal links that can be placed.
  • Managing internal links in a topical Hub requires strategic planning and consideration of relevance.
  • It is important to determine the right time to add internal links and ensure they are relevant to the content.
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Adding Internal Links

  • When planning and writing content, include internal linking as part of the process.
  • Start with a plan and add internal links as soon as possible.
  • Updating content every couple of years can be a good opportunity to add internal links.
  • Make internal linking a part of your overall content creation workflow.
  • Consider adding internal links in content briefs to make it easier in the future.
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Making Internal Linking a Priority

  • Updating old content and internal linking should be a continuous process.
  • Internal linking should be made a priority in content teams.
  • Related link widgets at the bottom of articles have low click-through rates and may not provide much value.
  • If related links are valuable, consider placing them at the top of the page to increase visibility and click-through rates.
  • Focus on serving the user and providing relevant internal links that encourage visitors to click and explore more pages.
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The Value of Related Links Widgets

  • Related link widgets at the bottom of articles add minimal value.
  • Using them as the primary source of internal linking can result in repetitive anchor text and limited impact.
  • While not damaging, related link widgets may not provide significant benefits.
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The Impact of Naked URLs in Internal Linking

  • Contrary to Google's official advice, using naked URLs in internal links may have a slight positive impact.
  • Naked URLs can help even out a website's backlink profile.
  • While it may be challenging to incorporate naked URLs into articles, it is worth considering for internal linking purposes.
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Section 1: Naked URLs and Anchor Text

  • Google does not ignore naked URLs as internal links, but it is recommended to have variety in anchor text.
  • Using naked URLs as internal links should not be the primary strategy.
  • Google may ignore links with bad anchor text, such as "click here" or empty anchor text.
  • Images can be used as internal links by wrapping them in an <a> tag and using alt text as anchor text.
  • Leaving image links with empty alt text is a missed opportunity for anchor text optimization.
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Section 2: Image Links and Alt Text

  • Images on a page can be linked by wrapping them in an <a> tag and linking them to another page.
  • The alt text of the image serves as the anchor text for the internal link.
  • Images without alt text are missed opportunities for anchor text optimization.
  • Large eCommerce sites often have images without alt tags, which can be improved for SEO.
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Section 3: Cannibalization and Anchor Text

  • Keyword cannibalization is a debated topic, but if it is a concern, anchor text can help control it.
  • Using specific anchor text for different articles or pages can differentiate their relevance to search engines.
  • Anchor text can be used to guide search engines to understand the focus of each page.
  • For example, in a scenario of wildlife photography, using different anchor text for articles on the best wildlife camera and the best camera for birds can help avoid cannibalization.
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Internal Linking and Cannibalization

  • Fears of cannibalization are exaggerated and not an actual problem most of the time.
  • It's only a problem when you have the wrong page ranking for a term, which can be solved in other ways.
  • Linking multiple pages together using keyword-rich anchor text can actually improve the ranking of all pages.
  • In rare instances where the wrong page is ranking, adjusting anchor text and improving on-page copy can help.
  • Don't let the fear of cannibalization hold you back from linking internally with keyword-rich anchor text.
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Internal Linking and Traffic

  • Linking internally to other pages not only increases traffic to those pages, but also increases traffic from the linking pages.
  • When you link to relevant pages, you're helping the page that's doing the linking, even with keyword-rich anchor text.
  • Internal linking without keyword-rich anchor text is likely helping rather than hurting your website.
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404 Pages and Redirects

  • 404 pages are not ideal and should be fixed as soon as possible.
  • Linking to 404 pages keeps Google potentially crawling those pages.
  • 301 redirects or redirect hops when internally linking to a page that redirects to another page on your site is not a big deal.
  • Fixing 404s and redirecting pages is important for a better user experience and SEO.
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Internal Linking Strategies

  • Redirecting a link with a 301 to a highly relevant page is key for passing link signals.
  • Redirecting everything to the homepage or an irrelevant page will not pass link signals.
  • In theory, Google passes equal link juice through multiple 301 redirects, but in practice, it's better to have the most direct route possible.
  • Fixing 301 redirects and 404 errors may not have an immediate impact if Google has already processed and forgotten about those link signals.
  • Fixing redirects and errors should be done as quickly as possible, but it may not always be the highest priority.
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Results of the Study

  • The number of internal links to a page positively impacts traffic.
  • It is recommended to have at least 10 unique links with unique anchor texts going to important pages.
  • Anchor text is massively important for relevance, and it should be varied across the board.
  • Exact match anchor text is fine unless the site has a small existing link profile.
  • For smaller sites with less authority, using in-text and body links instead of relying solely on navigation is recommended.
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Changes to SEO Strategy

  • After the study, the speaker realized the need to vary anchor text more, especially for sites with fewer links.
  • Using navigation as the sole means of internal linking may not be effective for smaller sites, and in-text and body links should be used strategically.
  • An example of effective internal linking is Brian Dean's blog, Backlinko, which relies heavily on in-text links rather than navigation.
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Where to Find Cyrus Shepard

  • Cyrus Shepard can be found at zippy.com.
  • He conducted the internal linking study, and a link to the study will be included.
  • He used to be active on Twitter, but his current level of activity is uncertain.
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Section 1: Introduction and Appreciation

  • The interviewer thanks Cyrus Shepard for joining the interview and expresses appreciation for his study on internal linking strategies.
  • The interviewer mentions the possibility of having Cyrus Shepard back for future studies.
  • The interviewer expresses gratitude for the opportunity to ask questions and discuss the study in depth.
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Section 2: Sponsorships and Case Study

  • The video is sponsored by nichesites.com, a platform that offers services for scaling niche site portfolios and building websites.
  • The sponsor offers a special trial for new customers, providing 5,000 words of free content with an order of 10,000+ traffic backlinks.
  • The episode is also sponsored by searchintelligence.co.uk, showcasing a case study of a successful digital PR link building campaign for a boiler client.
  • The case study highlights the effectiveness of a clever hook in attracting journalists and generating links from major publications.
  • The sponsor encourages viewers to reach out to them for similar link building PR campaigns.

Watch the video on YouTube:
The SEO Strategies Cyrus Shepard Discovered After Analyzing 23 Million Internal Links - YouTube

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