Once you've established SEO best practices for internal linking procedures, is it worth the time to go back and adjust the entire website? Or should you just move forward with these new practices?
It really depends. But for virtually every site we work with, the goal is to apply the best practices on legacy content as well as future works.
It depends. If the website's structure does not impede crawling and there are no other technical issues, marketers can usually phase-in internal linking best practices. Start from scratch if the current structure is causing poor indexation (how many pages of a site are included in a search engine's index) or other issues that cannot be addressed with on-the-spot changes. Evaluate these types of decisions based upon opportunity cost. Can you afford not to rank alongside your competitors?
It's tough to comment and make blanket statements on something like that since each website is unique. However, if the time invested warrants a positive ROI, then yes, go back and change it. Start building new pages with the new practices. It shouldn't be hard to change navigational links and HTML sitemaps to use the terms/structure you want. Another option might be to buy a new URL, set the internal structure the way you want it, and 301 redirect the old site to the new.
I would not recommend a link text retrofit for the entire site page by page, but I would recommend, as a starting point, to make sure the pages that collectively represent the top 25 percent of your search and click traffic are analyzed to see if the links can be better anchored.
Todd D. Malicoat
It's always worth revisiting certain aspects of your website. Internal anchor linking is one of those aspects. Taking the time to test different anchor text and how it affects rankings is a great idea for any site. It's always tougher to retrofit a site, but often very worthwhile.
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