I was recently reminded of this. While working on a landing page on one of my sites, I carelessly left a link pointing to a page that was irrelevant to the actual anchor text in the link. In other words, the keywords in the anchor text had nothing to do with the actual text of the page. Despite this, Google quickly picked up the page for the target search phrase, replacing the page I intended to optimize for. Despite having at least a dozen good quality, keyword specific external links pointing to the page I intended to optimize, the other page now replaced it in the SERPs because the weight from the 1 internal link trumped all the external links.
This situation reminded me that good SEO starts on-site. In my opinion, you shouldn’t even start link building until you:
- Build Several Internal Contextual Links: Search engines care immensely how webmasters categorize and label their own content. The best way to do this is with one time occurring links within a body of content. In my opinion, 1 relevant contextual link from your own site can be worth more than 10 good external links. In Sugarrae’s great link building interview, Andy Hagans recommends having at least 5 internal links to every landing page.
- Do On Page Optimization of your Landing Pages: Title tags, H1 tags, keyword rich content, alt tags, and even Meta tags should be optimized before worrying about external links.
Since many experts think effective link building tactics are going underground, I believe on page and site wide SEO will become increasingly important.