When it comes to capturing a high rank on Google, consider this: Linking is one of the top 3 factors search engine algorithms use to sort URLs on the SERPs.
This means your linking strategy could be the difference between collecting organic hits and being overlooked by consumers.
With this in mind, building your links should be one of your primary projects for SEO. While this includes both external and internal linking, there is a distinct difference between the two techniques. Luckily, internal linking is far easier to accomplish with just a few technical fixes.
If you’re ready to get on top of your internal linking strategy and reap the benefits for your business, you’ve come to the right place. Follow along to discover why internal links are so important for your website and how to utilize them to boost your SEO and grow your business.
What Is Internal Linking?
First things first, let’s clear up the difference between internal and external linking and get to the root of what internal linking really is.
Internal links are the links within your website that connect to other pages that are also within your website. There are four primary internal links that you can use:
1. Navigation Links
These are the most commonly used internal links on a website. They are used to help your visitors navigate from page to page to make your user experience more convenient and logical for your consumers.
Most often, these links will be in your main menu.
2. Contextual Links
Contextual links are used in the body of your content to subtly lead readers through your pages. These are perhaps the most valuable type of link you can use on your site, as they are easy to insert and do a great deal for both your users and the search engine crawlers.
3. Taxonomy Links
These category and tag links help to organize your content to make it more accessible to users. These may be child links under your main parent links or tags that help users sort through your blog posts more efficiently.
4. Footer Links
Similar to your menu or navigational links, these links are site-wide and help to optimize usability on your website. Your footer stays present no matter what page you are on and serves as a great place to build your links for consistency and ease of use.
Each of these internal link types plays a vital role in helping users move through your site by directing them to more internal content. However, they also play a role in helping search engines understand your content for better indexing.
While external links can also deliver these benefits, their primary purpose is to create a relationship with external websites and ‘borrow’ authority and visitors from those URLs. These links are harder to obtain and will require a bit of work on your backlinks SEO.
The Benefits of Internal Linking
One of the top questions we receive about internal linking is if it’s really worth the time and effort it takes. Creating a linking structure isn’t as simple as randomly linking between your pages. It will take some thought and research to ensure you are not only linking efficiently but linking in a way that will help your SEO.
Here are a few ways investing in these internal links can substantially improve your website game.
In order to appear on the SERPs, Google first needs to find your content, crawl it using Google bots, and categorize it in the index. Of course, there’s more than just a few new pages of content available online every day. Unfortunately, this means your content could be live for days or even weeks before crawlers ever discover it.
One of the perks of using internal links in your website is that the chances of your content being found and crawled in a reasonable timeframe are much greater.
This is because Google bots use links to jump from one page to the next and can only find content that has been linked to in some way shape or form.
Now, let’s say for example that you’ve posted a new blog. Your blog page is included in your main menu, and there’s a link to your article from your blog page. While this is a start, it’s not going to do much in terms of speeding up your crawling.
On the other hand, if you were to also include a link to the latest post on your homepage and add in a link or two in past articles that are already indexed, you’ll now have 2-3 more paths for crawlers to follow.
What’s more, is that anytime you create a contextual link on top of an anchor text, those crawlers can then use that anchor text as a valuable hint. We’ll talk more about how to give good ‘hints’ later on.
Boost User Experience
Next, your linking structure can be used to improve your user experience and make your site more user-friendly. The benefits of this are twofold.
First, your visitors will be more likely to stick around if your site is easy to use. By placing links strategically throughout your content, you can lead your customers through your sales funnel and direct them to more valuable content. This can go a long way to increasing your conversion and gaining customer trust.
Second, the better your customer experience is, the higher Google will rank you. You see, Google is constantly updating its algorithm with one key purpose in mind. It wants to provide the absolute best answers to a user’s question.
In order to do this, Google pays close attention to how consumers are interacting with your page and receiving your content. At the end of the day, if users are landing on your site and staying there or moving through your content to the next piece, Google assumes you must be a great resource for that query.
You’ll then essentially be ‘rewarded’ by earning a recommendation from Google via your position on the results page.
Establish a Hierarchy
Another vital benefit internal links offer is the chance to establish a hierarchy within your website.
Think of this hierarchy as a tree. If your homepage is your top page that every link stems from, it holds quite a lot of weight or authority. Each link on your main page would then be a branch that breaks into several smaller branches or subcategories.
The reason this is helpful is that it clarifies what your important pages are and helps both search engines and users navigate your site with an organized approach. You can then use this hierarchy to your advantage by sharing the authority via SEO linking.
Build Link Equity
Once you’ve got a hierarchy established, you’ll be able to manipulate the amount of urgency placed on your content by borrowing equity from your main pages.
If we have a look back at our example from earlier, the link from the homepage to the newest blog post is a prime example of borrowing equity.
Because the new URL is linked to from a high-authority page, Google will crawl that link with more urgency than links created further down in your hierarchy. This new page now has increased authority in the eyes of Google and is more likely to be displayed higher up in the SERPs upon launch.
How to Create Effective Internal Links for SEO
Now that you know the benefits of a great internal linking strategy, it’s time to implement it on your website.
Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started on creating internal links for SEO.
Build Your Link Tree
As we mentioned above, placing random links around your site isn’t going to do much for your site’s performance. The best way to structure and organize your links to create that hierarchy is to build yourself a link tree.
Get a pen and paper and sort every page onto your tree to determine where your important pages are. Once you’ve got it all on paper, keep your link tree close by every time you add links to your site. This will help you borrow equity with confidence and establish a structure to build on.
Do an Internal Link Analysis
If you’ve never done a technical SEO audit, you’re well overdue.
An SEO audit will comb through your website and gather information about problems you didn’t even know were there. This is especially helpful if you’re not a tech wiz or you don’t know all the factors that play into your SEO.
Your audit will also help to uncover any broken links in your site so you can get rid of them before they hurt your rank. After all, there’s not much point in linking to pages that no longer exist.
There are plenty of great audit tools that can help you identify this and other SEO linking problems to help you form your technical plan of attack.
Create Clear Navigation
Once your general link structure is in place, you’ll want to consider how your users and search engines are navigating through your pages and optimize this experience.
The best way to create this clear navigation is to act as a customer yourself. Read your blog back to yourself and take note of opportunities for easier navigation. For example, if you reference a particular product in your piece, link to that product so that customers can find it without going on a wild goose chase.
This works in reverse as well. If you’ve written an article explaining the best way to apply your new make-up product, link the post in the product description. This will add value for your customers and boost your relevancy.
Link Relative Content Together
When you link similar content together, you actually create context for both your readers and the search engine that can go a long way when it comes to indexing. This is another one of those little ‘hint’ opportunities we mentioned earlier.
If you have an ongoing blog, consider adding in a ‘related content’ link by utilizing tags. This categorized link then sends a message to the search engine that can boost the performance of your posts.
Your new posts can then borrow equity from the ones that performed well. The tag and linked content then tells Google that your article is about xyz before it even crawls it for keywords!
Optimize Keyword Anchor Text
On the subject of ‘hints’, let’s delve into the importance of anchor text.
Anchor text is the word or words that your link is attached to. These words should be chosen carefully to make the best use out of keywords for SEO.
For example, if you write a post with the primary keyword ‘linking strategy’, you can up the ante on that keyword by linking to the article from another piece of content with ‘linking strategy’ as the anchor.
Again, Google will take this as a sign that that content is a good resource for your chosen keyword and use this information to file it in the index accurately.
Don’t Go Overboard
If you’re thinking, “Wow, I’ve got so many opportunities for links!”, you’re on the right track. However, you do want to be cautious with overlinking.
Your links should be strategically placed to help your website grow, but too many links can actually slow down your site and inhibit easy navigation.
The best way to combat this is to continually audit your links and make changes whenever necessary to keep things organized and efficient.
Keep It up to Date
Finally, the last step to success is a continual effort.
Every time you post, edit, or update your site, your SEO linking should be updated too. This may involve going back to older posts and adding in relevant links or even deleting links that are no longer benefiting your site.
Remember that every link from those main pages is borrowing equity, so don’t waste it on content that’s no longer up to date, relevant, or valuable to your users!
Boost Your Internal Linking Strategy
From why internal linking is so important to the best ways to use it to boost your SEO, we hope this article helped you understand the purpose of this strategy. With so many benefits, it’s hard to believe that such a small technical change can hold so much weight in your SEO approach.
Ready to master your internal links for SEO but feeling a bit unsure? Get in touch with us today to discover how we can take the weight off your shoulders with linking and other SEO techniques to boost your success and make an impact online.