Website Optimization: First Link Priority

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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.

First Link Priority

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

YouTube Preview Image

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?

Post Update – a little about Word Press and First Link Priority.

There’s been a number of questions in the comments about Word Press, and whilst I’m not a WP specialist, I’ll attempt to provide a high level answer. The questions group into two general categories:

a) How does Word Press handle First Link Priority?
The answer is generally it does a pretty good job. It all comes down to the specific theme you’re using, so I can’t give a hard and fast answer. If we assume the common FLP problem where every page on a site links home using just a graphic (e.g. a logo),  most of the WP themes I checked out use a text based link inside a h1 as is the first link on the page and link back to the home page with this link. For example, look at this page, which is a sub page of a demo blog using the standard WordPress 2010 theme. If you run the analysis in the video (e.g. disable CSS), you’ll see the link to home is on the keyword “Twenty Ten”, not on the header image. If “Twenty Ten” were replaced in WP admin with “Homepage Keyword Phrase” or “Homepage Keyword Phrase & Business Name” (a diluted version), you’d be set to go.

Some third party themes can use graphics alone to link home but you generally wouldn’t be implementing these types of themes if you did not know some HTML anyway. In either case, the video shows how to spot the problem pretty quickly, so hopefully I’ve done a reasonable job and you can now know if the issue exists on a site of yours.

b) How do I fix my WordPress site if I identify that it’s not setup correctly?
If you use the services of a developer, obviously just direct them back to this post to see the techniques that can be applied, and if you’re a ‘do it yourself-er’, there are heaps of online guides to customising wordpress templates.

Ben has written 10 post(s) for Noble Samurai

75 Responses to “Website Optimization: First Link Priority”

  1. Great video! But you might want to double check the name, I am almost possitve its Leslie Rohde. You have it right in the page text, but wrong in the video ;)

    Other than that, aweseome info!

    On
    Noble Samurai replied:

    Thanks Chris.

    I’d try to say it was the video editors, but you may have noticed his name isn’t the only thing I spelled incorrectly (my gramatical errors have been the butt of a few jokes around here…).

    Yep, correct spelling is Leslie Rhode, this guy: http://www.leslierohde.com/

    (someone well respected in Samurai world).

    Cheers

    Ben

  2. After reading this post I’ve got a question to ask. Are you aware that “A” tag has a TITLE attribute that passes pretty much the same “value” as any anchor text does?

    On
    Noble Samurai replied:

    Hey Rakebum

    Thanks for chipping in.

    Warning – this could get a little technical for folks starting out (but it is interesting, so read along).

    Firstly, all links, providing they’re not ‘no-followed’ pass authority (or power or ‘juice’ or whatever you want to call it) to their target page.

    However, you also want relevance, which is where the anchor text comes in. If you’re SEO’ing for “Blue Golf Balls”, you’ll do better if a portion of your links contain the anchor text “Blue Golf Balls”.

    Now (and I know this isn’t what you’re suggesting), a lot of folks have tried using the “alt” or “title” attribute on an image to avoid having to manipulate the formats of their links. I’d argue firmly that this doesn’t work.

    However, you’re correct, you can assign the title attribute to a link. I’ve not attempted to use this as a proxy or replacement for standard Anchor text. I would have assumed it wouldn’t be effective, and it’s not the way I do my work, but I’ve been wrong lots of times before (at the risk of starting a real debate, I can even admit I used to bother to count keyword density).

    Is this something you’ve found personally or can you point me to some form of case study that shows it’s a reasonable replacement? I’d love to have a look.

    Thanks,

    Ben

  3. Nice article, I can’t wait to see the video.
    Jeremiah Allenʼs last blog post… Hello world!

    On
    Noble Samurai replied:

    Hi Jeremiah

    Apparently there were a few technical issues when this first went to air – I’m assuming you’ve been able to come back and see the video now?

    Cheers

    Ben

  4. Hey Dopey – where’s the video?
    Malʼs last blog post… 365 Sketches

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hey Mal

    Sorry about that – can you see it now?

    Cheers

    Ben

  5. Great stuff Ben! I already knew about this personally, but for those out there confused about link structure, this is a great post.

    I’ll be sure to refer a few of my friends to read what you have to say as well :) Again thanks a lot!

  6. where is the video ?

    On
    Alex Green replied:

    We had a brief server outage from the traffic on this blog post, but the video seems to be there now.

  7. Wow what an excellent article as always! I have bookmarked this page on my iPhone. As soon as I wake up tomorrow will be following this guide to fix this problem that I just bet occurs on my website.

    Thank you so much for this article.

  8. Thanks a lot, it is a great tip and I never heard of it before. I think I might be in trouble with my “Home” hyperlink, which is probably the first thing that google sees…

  9. This is preety interesting , But i am not able to see the video and the Free Firefox plugin too. Can you help me with them ?
    Pankaj Aryaʼs last blog post… Angry bird season-Easter eggs now in Ovi stores

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi Pankaj

    Hopefully you can see the video now.

    The Firefox plugin is available here:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/web-developer/

    Cheers

    Ben

  10. I personally made this exact mistake on my most recent website. I will fix it ASAP. Thanks so much for the tip. I am a proud user of Market Samurai, and am always thankful for the great results!

    Jesse

  11. 11

    I think you forgot the link there ;)

  12. Great article but I don’t see the video that you mentioned.

    Is there a problem with the page using Safari or does the video just not exist or am I totally blind??

    On
    Isha of Market Samurai Resources replied:

    Hi John

    I don’t have any problem seeing the video in my Safari (on Windows XP Professional).

    It’s right below the words, “2. Applying the simple fix”, and directly above the words, “If you want to use the simple code templates the video mentions”.

    Isha
    Isha of Market Samurai Resourcesʼs last blog post… Market Samurai In-Depth Glossary – Keyword Research Module

  13. Thanks Ben, real neat tweak, thanks for sharing. I know I will be looking at lots of my (and client) sites to check it out.

  14. Hi Ben,

    This is an excellent point very simply made – well done!. It’s one of those things that is easily missed in people’s eagerness to link things. Even I as a professional internet marketer and consultant that helps others to market their businesses better online sometimes miss this. Thanks for the reminder …

  15. After a long long time, I will be doing something new in SEO. (I did hear about it someone back but never thought about the header issue. I’m sure 99% of the websites out there may be missing on this one)

    Thanks for this wonderful post.
    Ankurʼs last blog post… What I did to bring Aweber complaint rate to nought

  16. Thanks for the article Ben.

    You mention a video, but for some odd reason I can’t see it on the page.
    Mark@VideoMarketingʼs last blog post… Video Marketing For Customer Loyalty

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi Mark

    Can you see it now? We had a server outage as this went to air, so a few folks had problems with it (sorry).

    Cheers

    Ben

    On
    Mark@VideoMarketing replied:

    Thanks Ben, great video explanation… very clear

  17. You are correct Pankaj, this is very interesting.

    Bryan – Snap Printing

  18. Very true. Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz posted a case study about this issue back in March of 2008 too.
    Wesʼs last blog post… Super Easy Way to Find Your Competitors’ Top Google Keywords

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hey Wes

    It’s been a known phenomenon for a while (and certainly wasn’t the first to find it) and so I wouldn’t have posted it except that I keep seeing sites get it wrong.

    I’ve been on consult calls with firms who’s sites have had professional SEO done on them already and still found the problem. So hopefully the post is a nice reminder.

    To me, it’s one of the first ‘basic wins’ you can get when fixing up an existing site.

    Cheers

    Ben

  19. Thanks Ben – you’ll need to spell check the opening title of the video too (FRIST)! Great work,

    Mark

    Ice-Breakers, Energisers, Getting To Know You Games & Team Events
    Markʼs last blog post… Circle Tag

  20. Very interesting but to those of us that don’t know anything about codes or doing this sort of thing is there someone taht will do it out there and at what price?

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi Peter

    Hopefully the blog post (and subsequent use of FireFox’s Web Developer Toolbar) should allow you to see if you’ve got the problem to worry about.

    If you have the problem and don’t have the technical skills to fix it, then the next question is ‘should I bother?’.

    If you have a site with a reasonable volume of pages (e.g. 100+) and it’s generating sales through SEO, then yep, it’s probably worth the effort.

    If you’re just starting out, then I’d say do the basics first (build more pages, get more links).

    If it helps, I’d expect this to take between 30 minutes and 3 hours to fix on a website (depending on the size / complexity of the site and if the problem is in headers only or also in cross links through the site).

    Hope this helps,

    Ben

  21. Great tip thanks for pointing out it is acommon thing to put a link in the banner nice of big G to spoil things now I wil have to go back and check to see what I have done.

    On small point is the opening credit the Austrailian spelling for First??? (FRIST!)

    cheers

  22. Are you aware of a Google Chrome extension that accomplishes this?

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi Scott

    I had a quick look and couldn’t find one.

    I use Chrome for most browsing too, but FireFox is still the SEO Browser in my view.

    You can grab the plugin for FireFox here:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/web-developer/

    While you’re there, you may find the Search Status plugin handy too:
    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/web-developer/

    I use it a lot, especially for checking and copying out meta tags.

    Cheers

    Ben

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Ahh – found a Chrome Web Developer style plugin.
    Hope this helps,
    Ben

  23. great work – this is a great tip for sure…

  24. Thank you for this video this is something that I did not know, but I will now check my site over, Please keep sending me tip´s like this I am keen to learn as much as I can about S.E.O.

  25. Yes, it’s one of the best simple ways to get more juice out of your “already done” SEO efforts. I first knew about it from Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz) but I did come out of this video with a nice tip which is the Web Developer addon. Nice one!

  26. Hey,

    Great and informative tip! :)

    Thanks for sharing. Will need to keep this in mind.

    Cheers,
    Allen
    Allen Walker @ Internet Marketingʼs last blog post… Free Rebrandable eBooks- 22 Ways To Turn Them Into Fat Cash

  27. 27

    Okay..Installed the plugin and disabled css then java, had a look at my site and enabled them back again. Now, I’m unable to see Adsense on any site on my Firefox. The addon made something funny to my browser. Any help here?

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hey Kelvin

    Just check that JavaScript is running again. I find that a simple page refresh will turn CSS back on, but JavaScript stays off across all tabs until you turn it back on again.

    Adsense is powered by JavaScript, so won’t show up until JavaScript is working again.

    Hope this helps

    Ben

  28. I second that….is there a pluggin for Google Chrome
    Carl @NFL Draft 2011ʼs last blog post… 2011 NFL Mock – 4-15-2011

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi Carl

    I took a quick look around and couldn’t find any.

    I use Chrome for my day to day browsing because it’s simple and slick. With that said, I think Firefox holds the title as the “Browser for SEO” because there are just so many good plugins. It’s probably worth your time to fire it up.

    Cheers

    Ben

  29. does this first link priority apply to wordpress blogs as the header in all pages links to the home page?

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi Dottie

    The principle certainly applies to blogs and it would depend on your theme if First Link Priority was taken care of by default. I took a look at a couple of installs of the 2010 WordPress theme (the default WP theme) and it looked like they were doing a form of basic text for image substitution to take care of it automatically which is nice. If you’re interested, disable the source on the page here to see what I mean.

    With that said, I’m not a WP guru, so I’ll get one of the guys here who spends a lot of time on WP sites to to come back with something a little more definitive for you.

    Cheers

    Ben

    On
    Jesse@becoming a foster parent replied:

    So in the fix you demonstrate, where does the HTML snippet go? anywhere on the page? and the CSS snippet?
    Jesse@becoming a foster parentʼs last blog post… “Bi Polar Behavioral Deviant” or Just Illiterate Medication &amp Educational Advocacy

    On
    Noble Samurai replied:

    Hi Jesse

    Technically, I think CSS should be in head of a html document, but the browsers tolerate putting it anywhere (which is actually nice).

    So for a one page fix, you should be able to put the CSS inline, but for a site wide template fix it’s good form to use an external CSS file.

    In terms of the HTML, it goes around the offending image link that’s not passing authority correctly.

    Cheers

    Ben

  30. Great tip – thank you. Have just implemented it on my website so looking forward to seeing what results it produces.

    However, have made many changes this month (which are already producing great results) thanks to the Challenge Plus course so it will be difficult to know which one is producing the best results.

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hey Tania

    It’s often the case with an SEO campaign that you make a variety of changes, you see improvements and then it’s tough to know which techniques made the biggest impact.

    The example shown in the video (where every page in your site links to the home page with an image in the link rather than with an anchor text based link) is very common. Typically the sign that correcting this problem has helped you is that your home page ranking typically jumps for your target keyword.

    Keep an eye on this and let me know hey?

    Also – good luck with Challenge Plus, Rob’s a genius, so you’re in good hands.

  31. 31
    On April 18th, 2011 at 5:13 am
    elangovan kasinathan said:

    great content!

  32. Great little tip – I just implemented on my iPad website – probably been losing some juice off our logo I would think.
    Lachlan@iPad Accessoriesʼs last blog post… Grove – Full Coverage Ecological iPad 2 Case

  33. so where is the video?
    Joe@home treadmillʼs last blog post… LifeSpan Fitness TR100 Compact Treadmill- Advantages of Exercising at Home

    On
    Noble Samurai replied:

    Hi Joe

    It’s odd that it’s not showing. It should be about two thirds of the way down the screen. If not, click here to watch it directly on You Tube.

    Hope this helps

    Ben

  34. Thanks for sharing this great information. Will implement this strategy right away.

    You guys rock:-)
    Mikeʼs last blog post… Newcomers To Internet Marketing

  35. This is a great tip thank you (with an easy fix!). I’m going to make a few changes to some of my sites asap.

  36. Great, sure I will use this for my web site asap.

    Greetings,
    Marcelo

  37. Hi there
    I have short question about your post.
    What if my first link is indeed a banner (as in your example), but my first real link just sais “Home”. Could it cause a difference in the ranking? I mean “home” ain’t really a keyword optimized anchor-text…

    Thx for your answer.

    cheers

    On
    Noble Samurai replied:

    Hey Proteina

    You’re right – lots of sites link first to their home page using the keyword “home” – unless you’re a global conglomerate selling “homes” around the world that’s a bad thing for FLP :-)

    B

  38. Thanks for the heads up and the solution.

    Is this CSS method the “image substitution” method that you read about?

    I’ll check my site and see if I’m missing out on that anchor text.
    Keith Davis@Publiuc Speaking and Presentation Skillsʼs last blog post… Keep it short- keep it sharp

  39. Yall don’t really need the Web Dev plugin, altho its a good plugin. I just get the Google toolbar, click Pagerank, select view cache and click to view Google text cache version of page.
    Darius Connorsʼs last blog post… Make Money Taking Free Paid Online Surveys

  40. 40

    Very Nice Tip. Something that can be easily overlooked.

  41. 41

    I double checked. Do not do it.
    The text indent property which is often considered a soft cloaking method by big g.
    What you are doing is you are actually showing one thing to people and another to big g.
    And do not look at the big sites saying if they do it then it’s ok. Google discounts some bad practices like this one for big sites with lots of links, domain age and so on. Average Joe site can get canned. My site would.
    This is a solution ONLY if you write exactly what your image says. When you get to the top positions humans run this check, so beware.

    Solution. Add your keywords (not too many) in the alt of the image and in the title of the link (like Rakebum said), works the same, it is simpler and not risky, actually w3c compliant. I checked with the FF add-on and it shows perfect.

    On
    Noble Samurai replied:

    Hi Sharma

    Thanks for your feedback, and I think you do add balance to the discussion, so thanks for chipping in.

    In relation to using alt text on an image as a substitute. I’ve heard it before, but never found this to work and the few folks I trust in this space report the same. With that said, I’m regularly wrong, so do you know of any reputable case study that shows the effectiveness of using Alt text of is it just from your experience?

    In relation to cloaking, again I’ve not experienced the problem, but if you were concerned on this front, one approach I’ve used is to link to home with text that is combines both your target keyword and still represents the image being replaced. Obviously this takes some skill, but the common example is a link home on the company logo. I’ve replaced this with something like “ by “. It’s not quite what you propose, but it’s part way there.

    The other alternative when dealing with a link to home off a company logo is to link home from your company logo to a page like yoursite.com/home and then 301 redirect the home to the root URL. You would then be free to link back to home later in your pages using a rich anchor text link.

    Cheers

    Ben

  42. 42

    Would this be worth implementing if you have a WordPress blog that has very few pages/posts (less then 10)?

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi James

    It’s a problem you should fix some time. The reality is you’d probably want to both fix the issue and get a heap more content. I’d not be to fussed which came first.

    You’re unlikely to see a big boost fixing it on a 10 page site, however, because it’s WP, the ‘work’ required to fix it is the same for a small site or a large one (e.g. you’re just updating a template).

    Hope this helps,

    Ben

  43. Very nice tips and I am very happy to read it, I think I can not wait to apply it on my blog
    Babyʼs last blog post… Baby Monitor Video

    On
    DeDe Neill replied:

    Great tip, as always…

    My site is the same as you show in your example, banner first followed by anchor text link to ‘Home’.

    How would I go about implementing this in a wordpress blog. I know my way around wordpress, and have become quiet good at following step by step instructions.

    But I am clueless when it comes to try and figure out myself.. Which file do I modify, where do I paste the code, and what exact changes do I need to make to the code before pasting.

    Frustrating knowing the problem exists, and I know what has to be done, but dont know how to do it.

    Any help would of be great assistance.

    Cheers
    DeDe

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi DeDe

    I’ve added a segment at the end of the blog specifically about WordPress. I’m not a WP guru myself, but I point to a tutorial about editing templates, so hopefully that helps.

    Regards

    Ben

    On
    DeDe Neill replied:

    Thanks Ben,

    I’ll go check it out. I did a search and couldn’t find anything that could help me out.

    WordPress as a rule is easy for us non techie types, as we dont need to know all the ins and outs of creating a website, we just follow directions.

    Thanks again for the great tip, it makes sense.

    Cheers
    DeDe

  44. Dear Ben,

    How to do this for WordPress page?

    Thanks,
    Tia

    On
    Ben Stickland replied:

    Hi TeeBee

    We’ve had a few questions about WordPress, so I’ve done a general update to the post about using WordPress and FLP. Hope it helps

    B

  45. thanks alot of for sharing

  46. Thanks for the tip. One thing about internet marketing is that we never get bored. Just as we think our web site is OK, allong comes someone with a tip that drives us right back into our site.

    I was not aware of the difference between an anchor text and the alt text. I thought Google viewed them the same.

    Well we live and learn. Thanks again.
    Charles

  47. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for the heads up on the first priority issue. After reading your e-mail I did a bit of research myself and didn’t come to a conclusion as to whether this theory is generally accepted or not.

    I could just follow the “better to be safe than sorry” approach but that entails a fair amount of work.

    Would you mind pointing me in the direction of what you consider to be the most definitive discussion of this issue?

  48. 48

    I have tried this on my site following your instructions, and at first it appears to work fine.

    HOWEVER, when I mouse over the image it flickers like crazy, which makes this unuseable in practice. (It nevre flickered before, and none of the pages without this fix have the problem).

    Any idea what might be causing it?