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Far away is difficult

Humans are bad at understanding things that are very far away in scale or time.

Atoms aren’t actually made up of tiny particles that are like rocks, but smaller. And planets aren’t simply very large billiard balls. We can only understand the behavior of things big and small by realizing that they’re not actually different versions of something of the size that we can easily see.

Things that happened a million years ago are hard to visualize, and we can’t reliably make many guesses about how the world is going to be a thousand years from now (and even fifty is difficult–lately, four weeks is a stretch).

Physics is straightforward–except when it comes to things that are very small and those that are very large, when it all gets weird. Different rules apply.

Extrapolation is far easier to claim than it is to do. That person across the counter or the web from you probably has very different experiences, beliefs and expectations than you do. Starting with your experience and assuming it matches their own is a trap.

Most everyone is very far away. And most feelings act like they are very small (or very large).

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An Introductory Guide to Internal Linking

Internal links are links that point from one page on your domain to another. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the two most common types of internal links are navigational (your menu, for example) and contextual (links within the content of your website).

Sounds simple, right? Go through your site, hyperlink a few keywords, and boom, you’re done. If only. Like literally everything else in the world, there’s more to it than that, and it begins with understanding what internal links do.

Internal Links Establish a Website’s Hierarchy and Navigation

These typically include links in the header, menu, and footer of your website, and they are more than “just a way” people navigate throughout your site. Internal links help define the path users take throughout your website and how your pieces of content are connected. The best example is an e-commerce website. The homepage links to individual categories, which contain subcategories, which link to specific items. The goal here is to make the content easily accessible to search engines through deliberate navigation.

Illustration of a link pyramid from Moz

Internal Links Help Search Engines Crawl a Site

Many tend to think of Google’s gateway to your site as the sitemap. It basically tells Google, “Hey, crawl these pages!” However, in most cases, new content on your site is not being added to the sitemap regularly, especially if you update your content frequently. So how does Google find this new content? Through internal links. Not only will your internal links help Google find the page the next time it crawls your site, but by being strategic and calculated with your internal linking, you can improve the chance of the new page ranking for targeted terms through the distribution of PageRank.

Infographic of how Google navigates the internet

Internal Links Distribute Authority

One of the biggest benefits of internal linking is the distribution of page authority throughout the rest of your site. When defining an internal linking strategy, one of the goals is to funnel authority from pages with a lot of it (i.e., pages with a lot of backlinks) to pages with a little less authority (i.e., the page you’re linking to).

A well-optimized website has lots of pages with external backlinks. These boost the domain authority of your site and help all pages to rank better. But PageRank is a renewable resource. Once a web page effectively uses PageRank for itself it can pass some of that authority along. If you’ve created a page that’s successfully garnered lots of external links, it absolutely makes sense to pass some of that hard-earned PageRank to other SEO targets.

When this authority is distributed via tactical internal linking, it can lead to improved rankings for terms related to the pages to which you’re linking.

To sum up, internal linking is a strategic and necessary aspect of SEO that helps define the architecture of your website and helps spread authority throughout your site. The former is essential for assisting Google and users alike to understand the content of your site. The latter helps establish its relevance.

The Dangers of Internal Linking

So we’ve established that internal linking is great for your SEO. It provides clear direction for the user, helps Google find the pages on your site, and distributes authority throughout your site. But, like all things related to SEO, there are some dangers when misused.

Can You Have Too Many Internal Links? Yes!

The most significant danger associated with internal linking is cannibalizing authority, or diluting the PageRank. Like all things SEO, you need to approach your strategy logically and organically. If you overuse internal linking tactics to the point where every page is littered with links to all other pages on your site (regardless of relevance), you run the risk of cannibalizing ranking authority from your relevant higher-level pages. Not every page should be a high-value landing page. You need to use the traffic and ranking data available to drive your strategy.

Over-Optimization

“Over-optimization” is incredibly easy to do if you dive into the internal linking process without a strategy behind it. Essentially, over-optimization means both keyword stuffing your anchor text in a way that feels unnatural and spammy, and linking so egregiously that their value diminishes.

Thankfully, all of these can be avoided if you just go into internal linking with a user’s mindset. What do they want? What information is most valuable to them? By keeping this at the forefront, you’ll naturally make Google happy and confer the many SEO benefits of internal linking throughout your site.

Internal Linking Best Practices

You don’t need to overthink internal linking. A well-planned website and navigation will typically lead to a fairly well-optimized site architecture, and employing some common sense can put you in a fairly good position to start. That being said, if you’re diving into a new internal linking strategy, there are some best practices you should follow.

Use Anchor Text Strategically

Anchor text can be tricky. Using too many “exact match” anchors can look unnatural and spammy (this is also true of backlinks). At the same time, not enough means you’re just leaving authority on the table. The trick is to use them organically and ensure that the reader understands what they’re getting when they click on the link.

This screenshot from a Portent blog post shows a link to a blog that uses the anchor text as the last part of a sentence, "human analysis of SERPS." This screenshot from a Portent blog post shows a link to a blog that uses the anchor text as the last part of a sentence, "human analysis of SERPS."

As you can see in the image above, the anchor text is used organically in the sentence to create a relevant internal link back to our blog post on analyzing SERPs for content creation.

An example of bad anchor text? “Learn more.” “Click here.” Or linking to a page on the decline and fall of the Roman Empire using the anchor text “this post.”

Ensure the Content You’re Linking to Is Relevant

If you’re visiting a website browsing sneakers to buy, and you click on a link that says “new men’s sneakers” and you’re taken to a page on women’s casual walking shoes…well, you get the point. This also extends to the relevance of the pages themselves.

Link Deep. Deeeeeeeeeeeep

Orphaned pages suck. If users can’t find the content, neither can Google. Blog posts, resources, and one-off pages that might not have found their way into the main navigation are great for internal linking (provided they’re relevant, of course).

Link Location Matters

Where you place links on the page is important. This is due in part to the “reasonable surfer model,” a Google patent that was filed in 2004 but granted in 2010 and states:

A system generates a model based on feature data relating to different features of a link from a linking document to a linked document and user behavior data relating to navigational actions associated with the link. The system also assigns a rank to a document based on the model.

Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea has a number of great pieces written on the subject of the reasonable surfer model to help make sense of this, but the main takeaway is “the reasonable surfer model reflects the probability that someone will click on links, based upon the features related to them.” This effectively takes the randomness out of the equation, and considers elements such as “the color, the size, and the styles of fonts, the anchor text used in the links, and a number of other factors,” including link placement.

Reasonable Surfer GIF from Moz

To recap: relevant, organic links in your content? Great! Dozens of links in your footer to pages linked to nowhere else? Bad! A link to my short film that totally just dropped on Vimeo? I mean, I won’t say no…

Final Thoughts

Formulating an internal linking strategy is not a complicated process, though it does involve sifting through a lot of data and approaching things strategically. The one piece of advice I would give is this: just use common sense. Gone are the days of stuffing as many keywords as you can into your content and links. Focus on the user, and you’ll be just fine.

The post An Introductory Guide to Internal Linking appeared first on Portent.

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From education to learning

Education is the hustle for a credential. It exchanges compliance for certification. An institution can educate you.

Learning can’t be done to you. It is a choice and it requires active participation, not simple adherence to metrics.

Learning is the only place to find resilience, possibility and contribution, because learning is a lifelong skill that isn’t domain dependent.

Most of the learning moments in our lives are accidental or random. A situation presents itself and if we’re lucky, we learn something from it.

We built the altMBA to make learning intentional.

The last session of the year is in October, and applications are due tomorrow, August 25th.

You’ll be surrounded by a cohort of others, each on their way to leveling up and moving forward. We only do it four times a year, only with a few hundred people, always with our alumni coaches on board.

I hope you’ll check it out. Learning is our best way forward, because learning creates community.

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Profit taking is lazy

Once an organization reaches scale, particularly if it feels like a monopoly, it’s tempting to “take profits.”

This means less investment, fewer staff and a lot less care. Those things are expensive. Easier to simply keep the money.

And those things involve emotional effort. Easier to simply point to the bottom line, as if that’s the point.

Lazy managers dump the emotional labor on overworked frontline staff instead of creating systems that create value for everyone.

And lazy shareholders reward quarterly earnings instead of understanding the long-term ramifications of failing to serve customers.

“We don’t care, we don’t have to,” is often the last slogan once-great institutions have emblazoned on their door.

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Situational gravity

All of us are good at rationalizing. It helps us process the world, navigate our choices and live with ourselves.

But gravity doesn’t care if you got a lot of sleep last night or not. It’s still the same amount of force.

The pavement doesn’t care if you always wear a helmet on your bike, except just this one time when you didn’t, because you were having a video taken.

Melanoma doesn’t care that you always wear sun screen, except that one day when you were really busy and couldn’t go back to the house for it.

Outside forces don’t care about the situation, because they have no awareness or memory. They simply are.

Newton’s law doesn’t care that you were really distracted and that’s why you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, and the virus that infected your friend doesn’t care about why that person in the office decided not to wear a mask, either.

People are very good at stories. That’s our core technology. Everything else in the world, though, has no interest in them.

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The opposite of confidence

It’s not anxiety.

And it’s not panic.

The opposite of confident is not confident. Unsure.

Being unsure can be healthy. It can help us focus on how we can make our work more likely to become the contribution we seek.

But anxiety and panic have nothing to do with an informed understanding of how the world is unfolding.

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Toward a Zoom agreement

If you promise not to check your email while we’re talking, we promise to not waste your time.

If you agree to look me in the eye and try to absorb the gist of what I’m saying, I agree to be crisp, cogent and on point.

If you are clear about which meetings are a waste of time for you to attend, we can be sure to have them without you.

If you can egg me on and bring enthusiasm to the interaction, I can lean into the work and reflect back even more energy than you’re contributing.

The purpose of a meeting is not to fill the allocated slot on the Google calendar invite. The purpose is to communicate an idea and the emotions that go with it, and to find out what’s missing via engaged conversation.

If we can’t do that, let’s not meet.

Multi-tasking isn’t productive, respectful or healthy.

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CCPA, GDPR, and The Real Online Privacy Problem

Several states are considering online privacy legislation with attractive optics for consumers. Using catchphrases like “right to be forgotten,” these bills garner public support easily.

But the harsh reality is: Legislation like CCPA & GDPR passes the privacy buck downstream to individual businesses instead of addressing the real privacy concessions most consumers are making in signing their cell phone and ISP contracts before they ever reach an app or a web browser.

How CCPA and GDPR Create Inconsistencies in Online Privacy

These laws may seem airtight on paper. But in practice, they present significant holes and inconsistencies in privacy protection.

1. Consumers Get Little to No Privacy Benefit, Even When Companies Comply

Individual businesses, even larger enterprises, don’t have the resources to comply with these privacy laws in a timely manner, let alone with consistency for the end-users. As a result, consumers don’t always know what they’re automatically opted-in to or how to opt-out and be sure they’re truly opted-out.

2. Compliance Can Be Challenged… If You Can Afford It

Some companies don’t comply and dare the authorities to crack down on them and drag things out in court; others comply and are punished with lost data.

In the wake of GDPR, huge enterprises like British Airways and Sky News weren’t complying with the letter of the law, almost daring the EU to slap their wrist and take the lawsuit hit rather than potentially lose any data.

On the other hand, smaller businesses that can’t afford to fight the compliance issues in court are complying in full and losing large amounts of customer data as a result.

3. Compliance is Expensive, and Resources are Hard to Come By

Since the language of these laws is vague and wide-sweeping, complying can be a chore for smaller organizations without dedicated compliance officers and legal teams.

What can your brand do about it? Well, you have no choice but to comply, but we’ve created some resources for that!

We’ve written some blog posts for companies seeking to comply that provide cookie banner solutions and compare the key differences between GDPR and CCPA.

Why the Legislation Doesn’t Matter

Consumers have already signed away their rights. While companies don’t have much choice but to comply with the misguided laws, consumers should be wise to the holes in it and seek true online privacy protections.

The fine print in cell phone and ISP contracts gives large telecom companies carte blanche to sell or share customer data as they want with little or no consequences.

Last year, the Washington Post did an exposé on “forced arbitration” and how it renders a lot of privacy laws impotent in court. In it, they mentioned how companies like Verizon are able to avoid class-action lawsuits by nesting arbitration clauses in their terms and conditions. You know, the ones you sign when you buy a new device or agree to a new service contract.

In Other Words

Federal and state governments like the warm, fuzzy feelings that internet privacy legislation gives to their voting constituents. It appears that they’re doing something helpful to protect the public. But these laws are intentionally misguided, and they protect a handful of telecom companies from any culpability they have in violating their customers’ privacy.

Unless and until internet service contracts are at the center of the online privacy law discussion, there won’t be any true privacy protections for internet users.

The post CCPA, GDPR, and The Real Online Privacy Problem appeared first on Portent.