Over 80 percent of modern consumers claim to look at a company’s website before deciding to use their products or services. While most business owners understand the importance of an appealing and informative website, many of them do not realize how to drive traffic to their site. One of the biggest misconceptions that business owners have is that outbound links are the answer to their website traffic problems.
In reality, you are much better off creating an internal linking strategy instead of using your website as a launching pad to other domains. An internal link is used to connect one page of your website to another. When used properly, internal links can make website navigation easier and to create a hierarchy for the content on your website.
However, the real benefits of internal linking go beyond that. When you implement a quality internal linking strategy, you can boost SEO, get more visibility, and achieve the desired results.
Internal Linking Defined
Internal links connect one page of your website to a different page of your website. With internal links, the source domain and the target domain are the same.
What’s the Purpose of Internal Linking?
Internal linking as three primary purposes:
- It helps with website navigation
- It defines the hierarchy and architecture of websites
- It distributes page authority and overall ranking power throughout the entire site
The Theory of internal Linking and Why it Works
Most of the powerful strategies and solid information on internal linking have little merit nor do they explain how Google values and ranks the internal network of linking.
The most basic theory is that with internal links, you are strengthening the overall search-optimized value of your website. Inner linking achieves this by offering clear paths for spiders, a tight-knit network of posts and pages, and prolonged sessions for users.
Now that you know what it is and why you need it, it’s time to learn how to make internal linking work for your website and help you achieve SEO results.
Tips for Optimizing Basic Internal Links
Make sure you include a minimum of one link to your main destination page every time you publish new content related to the topic. By creating a link from one piece of content on your site that leads to another, you can optimize the anchor text you use for the link by following the steps found here:
- Include keywords in the anchor text that describe the content you are linking it to.
- The phrase around the anchor text needs to be relevant and it should make sense.
- The page you are linking to needs to expand on your anchor text.
Setting Up Your Internal Linking Strategy – Everything You Need to Know
You need for your site’s SEO team to evaluate and make improvements to your internal linking strategy regularly. When you add the right internal links, you are ensuring that Google understands the following:
- The relevancy of your pages
- The relationships between your pages
- The value of your pages
Creating the Structure for Your Website
It’s a good idea to imagine that your website is a pyramid. At the top is your homepage and below the homepage there are categories or sections. Further down, there are individual pages and posts and there may be subcategories in between each one.
If you do this properly, the menu of the website should show off this structure.
Tips for Creating Keyword-Oriented Linking Structure
A good strategy is to use simple linking structures that are focused on specific keywords. With this structure, you are making sure that the most important keyword phrases you have used receive a boost in the search engines, all while increasing the website conversions.
How to Plan the Internal Link Structure Focused on Your Keyword
If you want to create a plan for a simple internal link structure, which is able to support certain keywords, begin by selecting the keyword phrase and the page you want it to rank for. For example, if you have a product to sell, such as a floral shirt for fall, you may choose the keyword phrase “fall floral shirt” and combine it with a product listing page that has fall floral shirts on it.
This strategy also works for specific product pages and even pages that are content-only. For example, if you take the keyword above into consideration, you could benefit it further by linking it internally to an article called “10 Best Fall Floral Shirts.”
If you are planning to do an article that’s content-only as your main link destination, make sure it includes a call-to-action and a link to a landing or product page, which will allow you to profit from the results achieved.
Optimizing Keyword-Oriented Internal Links
You can further optimize your internal links if you link to the main destination page in several articles. Ideally, you will create this link in as many of your articles as you can. When doing this, remember the following:
- Don’t create spammy links. Instead, use relevant anchor text only. Also, don’t re-use the same text again and again.
- Using the floral shirts sample, include internal links from your newly created content to the fall floral shirts destination page.
- Modify all your content that was previously published by adding the internal links that point to the fall floral shirt page. When you modify older content, it can help you gain rank faster.
By adding the internal links that point to the fall floral jackets page, you receive a significant boost in search engine results. Remember, SEO isn’t a fast process. It can take five to six months to see results, which is the average amount of time for any SEO strategy to start working.
Determine Your Most Important Content
Another step is to figure out what the most important content is. If you aren’t sure, it’s a good idea to learn more about cornerstone content. It’s your most complete and best content. It should focus on the core of your business or brand. This is the content you want people to see when they are searching for the products or topics that you specialize in.
Since the goal is to let Google know this is your most important content, you need to ensure there are plenty of links in it. There are several areas where you can link your cornerstone content. Some of the most common options are found here.
Add Contextual Links
After you have created several articles about a specific topic, you need to link them to one another. This is going to show Google (along with the users) that these articles are related to one another. You can create direct links from sentences in the copy or add the links at the end of your post.
Also, you want to let Google knows which of the articles is considered your cornerstone – the most complete and thorough article on the specific topic. To do this, you need to add a link to the cornerstone in each of the articles you have on this particular topic. Don’t forget that you also have to link back from the cornerstone to the specific, individual posts, too.
Add Navigational Links
Besides linking from various topically related pages and posts, you can make your cornerstone content more authoritative if you add links from the top navigation or homepage. Do this with the posts and pages that are considered most important for your business. This is going to give your pages and posts more link value and makes the pages stronger in Google’s eyes.
Add Links to the Taxonomies
The taxonomies are things like categories and tags. They help in site organization and they help users along with Google to figure out what the content is about. If you have a blog on your site, it may be beneficial to add your internal links to the taxonomies that your post belongs to. By adding links to the tags and category, you are helping Google understand your blog’s structure and you can help visitors navigate to related posts with ease.
Add Links to Recent or Popular Posts
The last option being mentioned here is to create internal links to the newest or most popular posts found on your website. It’s best to create these sections for the sidebar or in the footer of your website to let them appear on the posts and pages.
As the link value passes to the most recent and popular posts from several different posts and pages, they receive a boost. Besides that, the posts will be easier for visitors to gain access to, which is going to help increase traffic. More traffic is always a good sign to Google.
A Basic Outline on How to Use Internal Links to Boost Your SEO
Now you have a basic understanding of where and how to use internal links to help boost your SEO. The next step is to learn what tactics will be most effective when implementing the use of these internal links.
Create Plenty of Content
If you want the opportunity to create many internal links, you have to have a lot of internal pages. The first step for an amazing internal linking strategy is to have a great content marketing strategy in place. You can have one of these if you don’t have the other.
When creating a large amount of content, you will have a lot of linkable content. The more links to different places, the stronger your internal linking strategy is going to be.
There are some strategies for internal linking that propose very complex layers of pages, silos of content, and a complicated formula for a specific number of links to different levels of pages. There’s no reason to make it so complex. You don’t have to have complex mathematical equations and spreadsheets to develop a successful internal linking strategy.
A quality internal linking strategy that includes a lot of content will not look as much like an organizational chart as it is a web. There aren’t any “silos” or “cycles” or “tiers.” You don’t have to create structured flow diagrams. The goal is to create plenty of links leading visitors to helpful places.
Use Anchor Text
Staying with the content theme of an internal linking process, make sure your internal links use anchor text, rather than linked images. Image links are good, as long as the images aren’t the main source of your links and assuming that the image has been alt-tagged properly.
However, using anchor text opens an entirely new “can of worms.” You don’t want optimized anchors, as these need to be completely natural, unoptimized sentence fragments to use as your anchor text. This is going to provide the desired results. Don’t try any cute tricks; don’t overthink it – just highlight the anchor you want to use, link it, and move on. Be sure to check out this Anchor Text Optimization Guide for more tips and tricks.
Create Deep Links
The Deeper links you have, the better your strategy is. There are two basic types of links you should avoid when creating your content. These include:
Most sites have too many links leading to your site’s homepage to begin with. You want to strengthen your internal pages so you can boost your site’s SEO power, instead of pointing more of the links to your homepage.
Contact Us Links
This is an extremely common mistake to many people who are just starting out with content marketing. As a part of the must-have call to action that’s at the end of a post, they write a generic closing, such as “Reach out to us to find out more about our services or product.” In this statement, they include a link to their contact us page, using the anchor “reach out to us.” Only link to the contact us page of the website if there is no way to avoid it.
It’s best to avoid links that lead to the top-level pages on your website. These are the pages where the main navigation menu currently has links. The very best links, and the most natural links found in a content marketing strategy, will be found deep in the structure of your site.
Create Natural Links for Your Readers
When creating internal links, it requires a more user-focused approach to add information and value. The value of the link that is distributed through the site is considered secondary to the most important point – providing value to your readers.
One of the biggest benefits offered by internal linking is that it is going to improve user engagement on your website. If a user sees one of your informative links that matches the content’s context, they are much more likely to click on the link. It is fine if it is an external link, if it will be something the reader wants to read. If the link is an internal link, the visitor to your site is going to stay longer and become more involved in the overall website experience.
By linking in your content, you are letting the search engine know that the target of your link is so important and relevant that you want visitors to click the link and go directly there. To put it simply, that what you are linking to is so relevant tat the visitor may be inclined to stop whatever they are reading and visit this related page.
The right content links provide a strong signal to users and search engines that the content you are creating links to are very good. This is what readers want. As a result, internal linking is designed to help the reader, but you will also be helping your SEO.
Use Links that are Relevant
What has been said above still holds true – internal linking isn’t as scientific and rigorous than some people may think. Don’t just link for linking’s sake. Instead, you have to link to content that’s relevant to the source context.
To put it simply, let’s assume you have a page about cat food. And, you may have a page on your website about the nesting habits of beta fish. Should the two pages be linked?
There is no strong connection between the cat food and beta fish nesting – especially on a superficial level. As a result, the pages aren’t going to offer mutual enhancement by internal crosslinking.
However, if you have beta fish food, it may create a good internal link on your beta fish nesting article. There’s a good chance that information about “beta fish” will be on each page. Because of this content overlap, the link is going to be relevant.
As much as you can, you need to create links to relevant content with your internal links.
Use Follow Links
A follow link is the bet way to build your internal link architecture of your overall content marketing efforts. In the past, a theoretical internal linking strategy was to nofollow most of the links added to a page. This was done to help increase the link juice on a single page. The pagerank sculpting doesn’t work the same way for your SEO strategy.
Back in 2005, search engines developed nofollow, which was identified by the attribute – rel=nofollow. The concept behind nofollow was that the link did not need to influence the target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. These types of links would reduce how effective certain types of internet advertising worked because the search algorithm is based on the total number of links to a website.
Even with all the confusion and uprorar related to the nofollow link, most people now agree that it’s a smart move. A nofollow link can help websites avoid issues with search engines, believing they are selling influence or that they are involved with schemes that are considered unacceptable SEO processes.
Even with this value, using a nofollow link isn’t a strategy you should use as part of your internal content links. Your link value should flow freely and to the internal pages instead of getting stopped by the nofollow. Keep everything free and fluid.
Stick with a Reasonable Number of Internal Links
You don’t have to have a ton of links included in your internal content. The instructions from Google are pretty simple – keep your links on a page on your website at a reasonable number.
The question is – what’s a reasonable number?
The only answer found is that – no one knows.
Many smart individuals have tried to answer this question; however, there’s no definitive answer. While it may be right to recommend having 100 links, but in other cases over 100 links are best.
So, should you go for the 100 links? Sometimes, this may be fine, but that 100 links is going to include all the links on the page – the ads, nav bars, headers, footers – everything. Believe it or not, 100 links is not as hard as it may sound, after you have calculated the total number of HREFs on the page.
For internal links, try to stick with three to four depending on the post’s length. For example, if you write 1,500 words and your navigation bar isn’t link-heavy, it’s fine to throw in ten to twenty internal links, if necessary. Remember, there is no “magic” number – however, there is something that you can’t forget about – the user. Add the number of links that would be helpful for your page visitors.
Get Some Professional Marketing Help
Instead of trying to handle your own marketing, you should consider reaching out to professionals for assistance. They will have the time and the tools needed to fully optimize your content for search engine success.
The fact is, there are a lot of details that go into the creation of a quality internal linking strategy for it to be successful. Make sure you use the resources here and the help of the pros to get the desired results from your efforts. This is going to pay off in the long run and provide you with the desired results for your internal linking efforts.