Internal Linking Problem Found in 6 out of 8 Websites

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I’ve been working on the next section of our SEO guide which deals with technical barriers to SEO.  In this post, I’m going to focus on just one minor flaw that we see very often.

Canonical Urls

Canonical urls have been talked about a lot in SEO.  The notion is that each piece of content should be available at one and only one web address.  Breaking this creates duplicate content.  If you have two addresses pointing at one page, what you really have is two pages with the same content.  There is an awful pile of rubbish talked about duplicate content penalties to scare site owners into hiring SEOs.  I’m not going to go into that.  Penalties aren’t usually the issue but when Google finds 2 pages with the same content, it needs to resolve the situation somehow and that can affect your rankings.

Best practice for the site owner is to make sure that each piece of content is available at one and only one address.  

Linking to Index.php or Index.html etc. in your Internal navigation

I’m just going to look at this one very specific issue here. 

The problem:

Your internal nav bar links to your homepage at
Most of the external links that point to your site link to just your domain name.  i.e.

These are different web addresses and they serve the same content.

By linking to the index.php url, you are reinforcing that url.  By linking to the version, others are reinforcing that page.  They are different pages.  Google will probably figure it out but why allow the doubt in the first place.  Why allow Google to determine which url to use?  Why rely on Google to pass full value for the links from one url to the other? What happens to your link equity if Google ends up treating these as separate pages?

The Solution:

You know that external sites will link to your domain name, so best practice is simply to use the domain name as your homepage link.  Now you are reinforcing the same page that your external links are and there is no room for confusion.

We do free seo site assessments here so I look at several sites a week.  I just checked back through a few from last week.  This problem was there in 6 out of the last 8 assessments that we did.  That’s not exactly a statistically relevant sample but it gives you an idea of how common this mistake is.

Why would web designers and developers ignore best practice 6 times out of 8?

Generally these links are generated by Content Management software.  The actual resource that you want to point at is properly /index.php and so it is entirely natural for a programmer to point at that and think no further about it.  It is technically correct.

Nobody has fixed the problem to obey SEO best practices and the simplest and kindest explanation I can think of is this:  They aren’t aware that it shouldn’t be like that.

They simply aren’t aware. 

It is only a tiny thing.  A bit of best practice that would often take only a few minutes to fix.  In most small sites it will make very little difference.  It would be better to fix this small problem but whoever did the site doesn’t know that.  If they did, they would have fixed it.

If this piece of bad practice exists in 6 out of 8 sites, there are probably other errors as well.  It is often understanding all the small things and how they fit together that makes the difference.

Small Problems Can Scale With Your Site

One thing to note here is that small problems can scale as your site grows.  Solving canonical url issues or duplicate content caused by pagination on a small site may result in little benefit.  The same changes scaled across a site with thousands of pages can generate major improvements in traffic.

A Quick Example, then I’ll go:

Lets assume that Google has no problem telling that your /index.php url is the same page as your root domain.  Let’s say that it passes the link love that you feed to /index.php over to the other url.  Just for the sake of argument let’s assume that Google does this in a similar fashion to the way it treats 301 redirects or the rel=canonical tag.  That is to say, Google may pass link equity from one url to another but it may not pass all of the link equity.  Maybe it passes 99% of it.  A tiny problem in a small site.

But as you build your site and build your content and invest time and money in creating a better and better resource, this tiny problem scales with your site.  One 5 minute fix scales from being a miniscule issue into being a tiny one.  It might even eventually become a small issue.  Fixing a small issue on a large site in a competitive market can give real rewards.  To fix it though, you need to know it is there.

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2 Responses to “Internal Linking Problem Found in 6 out of 8 Websites”

  1. says:

    Internal Linking Problem Found in 6 out of 8 Websites…

    This post focuses on a duplicate content problem that we see a lot. Why are SEO best practices missed so often? and what are the implications of small problems as you build and improve your site?…

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Yoni , SiteStream SEO. SiteStream SEO said: Why is SEO best practice ignored more often than not when websites are built? – [...]