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SEO Tip – Linking to Your Home Correctly

there's no place like homeWelcome to another in my series of SEO Tips.  The last few weeks have been pretty geeky, covering META Tags and other mysterious things.  Today is an easy one; Link to your Home page correctly.

I know – that’s TOO EASY to even count as a tip, right? Ha! Guess again bucko!

We have to remember that even though Google and the other engines TRY to be more human in their analysis of our Web sites, they are still just stupid computers.  And stupid computers don’t understand that even though we might use many different ways to link to our sites, they all point to the same thing. For example, even though it’s clear to us humans that “www.domain.com”, “domain.com”, “domain.com/index.html” and “www.domain.com/index.html” all point to the same place on a Web site, to the engines these appear to be four different places.  Because they think these are different places, they split authority and page rank across them, that’s bad and will lower your placement in search results.  Half of this problem is easily fixed using a 301 redirect to do what’s known as “canonicalization”.  Essentially you tell your web server to send to traffic to either the www or non-www version of the domain, but not both.  We’ll cover how to do this in future post.

Fixing the links with file names is up to you.  You should avoid linking to “/index.html” or .php, or .asp or whatever your system uses as its default page.   Instead, you should link to either “/” or use the full domain name (without the file name).  There are pros & cons to each (of course); using just the slash “/” will usually load faster since the visitors’ Web browser does not have to do a complete URL lookup again.  However, if your site gets scraped (stolen and reposted elsewhere) and you have the full URL in your links, the visitors to the scraped site will likely end up back on your site quickly.  Within your own site this should be fairly simple to fix, just be consistent in whatever method you choose.

Correcting incoming or “back-links” could be a bit more of a challenge.  You should at least make an attempt to seek out those that link to your site and verify they link in the best possible way. Finding sites that link to you will be covered in another SEO Tip.

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OK, now you have another thing to go check on your site.  Have fun and we’ll see you next time.

Written By

Jack Leblond is a SEO/SEM professional working for a large corporation full time in Austin, TX. He is not a Realtor, he is our in-house SEO expert. Jack is the Director of Internet Strategy and Operations for TG (www.tgslc.org). In addition to managing the team that develops and maintains the company's multiple Web sites, he focuses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), e-marketing and Social Media. Jack's background ranges from Submarine Sonar Technician/Instructor for the United States Navy, technical writer, pioneer in internet/intranet creation for McGraw-Hill and Times Mirror Higher Education, former Adjunct Professor for two Universities teaching web-related courses, has served as a city council member and co-founded Net-Smart, a web design and hosting company, where he managed networks and oversaw the development of hundreds of Web sites. As a free-lance SEO consultant, Jack performs SEO Site Audits for small/medium businesses that want their web sites to perform better in the search engine listings.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Baltimore Homes

    October 3, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Great Post! I noticed this issues a few weeks ago and was wondering why my google ranking were split for search term “baltimore homes” based on
    the following url’s:

    “www.ngrealtygroup.com”, “ngrealtygroup.com”, and “www.ngrealtygroup.com/index.html”

    We tried to redirect them to the same locatinos and are waiting to see if the Google bot actually identifies them as the same website at this time. You explanation was great and gave me a better grasp on why this happons. Thanks!

  2. Matt Stigliano

    October 3, 2009 at 9:31 am

    Jack – Pretty funny how some of the SEO stuff is so logical and clear. You might never think of the obvious, but something like this proves how you have to think as simple and logical as you can – act like a stupid computer. My wife and I often talk about the difference between www and no www, I prefer the former, she prefers the latter. Even though the “www.” is for the most part unnecessary, I prefer the symmetry it provides.

    Is there any thought on which is better to use? Are there advantages to either? (My host is set up to bring both back to the “www.” version.)

  3. Rob McCance

    October 3, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Jack,

    Nice post.

    “The last few weeks have been pretty geeky…”

    LOL!

    RM

  4. Jack Leblond

    October 3, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Matt – I still prefer the “www” myself, but I’m just nostalgic from the olden days. There is no advantage one way or another, other than length. Just pick one and be consistant.

  5. Fred Romano

    October 3, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I have never used the www in any of my sites… seems to me that it’s a waste of time since it’s easier to say flatfeepro.com … It all resolves anyway.

  6. Mack Perry

    October 4, 2009 at 6:05 am

    If memory serves me correctly you can also tell Google that the http://www.domain.whatever and the domain.whatever are the same site in your webmaster tools. I like the info that webmaster tools provides site owners and that could be a post for Jack. He would probably shed some light and tips for all of us. Thanks for this series of SEO tips Jack.

  7. Matt Stigliano

    October 4, 2009 at 8:54 am

    Jack – That’s what I figured, just thought I’d double check with you. Glad to hear I’m not the only one that is a bit nostalgic. Some sites drive me nuts when they cut off my “www.” after I type it in. I’m so used to typing it that it’s not a big deal to me (in terms of using up a slice of time or anything).

    Fred – I just never liked the way it looked…maybe I’m a bit crazy with symmetry. Of course, if someone asked me what my URL was, I wouldn’t give them the “www.” just “domainname dot com.” I really dislike it when anyone spells out “h-t-t-p-colon-slash-slash” for me when giving me a website – now that annoys me.

  8. Mark Maty

    October 4, 2009 at 8:56 pm

    Great tip. Your article makes a lot of sense. Should we leave the .php off on the secondary pages as well?

  9. Jack Leblond

    October 4, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    @Mack – Good idea. I’ll see if I can put something together.

    @Mark – Hope I didn’t confuse things. Use of the file extensions (.php, .html etc) is not the issue. It’s linking to a file name rather than the folder or domain name that’s the problem. For example, don’t link to domain.com/folder/index.php – instead, link to domain.com/folder/

    Make sense?

  10. Paula Henry

    October 6, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    I have experienced the difference it makes because Google sees mine as two different sites and I can’t seem to change it. At least I can be consistent in linking back – thanks!

  11. Jack Leblond

    October 7, 2009 at 8:13 am

    @Paula I checked your site, it does properly redirect from indyrealestatetalk.com to the www version with a 301. A google search for “site:indyrealestatetalk.com” returns only results for the www version. Looks like they have you properly indexed.

  12. Paula Henry

    October 9, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Jack – Thanks for checking it out for me.

  13. Bob

    October 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    You can check to see what redirects are in place using this header checker tool. The HTTP status code is what you want to look at.

    If you have the non-www redirected properly to the www URI, you will get a “HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 200 OK” response for the www URI, and a “HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently” for the non-www URI.

    The converse will true if you have it resolving to the non-www. Anything else in the HTTP status code is not optimum.

  14. Bob

    October 10, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    You can check to see what redirects are in place using this header checker tool. The HTTP status code is what you want to look at.

    If you have the non-www redirected properly to the www URI, you will get a “HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 200 OK” response for the www URI, and a “HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently” for the non-www URI.

    The converse will true if you have it resolving to the non-www. Anything else in the HTTP status code is not optimum.

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