Internal linking is a vital part of SEO strategy. While it’s true that content is becoming increasingly important, links are the road map on which your website is judged.
Google uses automated tools, called bots, to crawl your site. How you structure your website with your internal links provides a smooth or bumpy ride for the Google bot. The more you help Google crawl your site, the higher you will rank for your keywords.
What is Internal Linking?
Internal links are the hyperlinks that point from one location on your website to another. Think of them as the hallways and staircases in a building. In short, internal links are how visitors explore content you provide beyond the page they’re currently on.
How Internal Links Differ from Backlinks
Backlinks are hyperlinks that point to your site from external web pages. This means that another website places a citation through which users can click to your content. If, for example, you have a detailed analysis on how to reduce logistics costs by streamlining your procurement, a business website may find it useful to link to it.
As mentioned above, internal links connect content within your website. You are the one that chooses which content to link. Conversely, with backlinks, a third party finds enough value in your content to encourage their visitors to view your post.
Why Internal Links Matter to Google
The way Google finds content to rank in its search engine is by scouring the web through links. If a piece of content receives many links, ιτ’s a signal to Google that the post has value. This holds for both internal links and backlinks.
While backlinks help Google gauge how other webmasters rate your site, internal links allow you to prioritize your content. Using the right internal links, you guide your users to your most important posts. Let’s look at why this matters to search engines.
Linking Relevant Content
Google’s goal is to provide its users with the content they seek. A user enters a search query and expects to find information that will help them solve a pain point. By providing visitors with relevant content that augments their knowledge, Google rewards you for being an authority on the subject.
Let’s make a comparison with a brick and mortar business. If you have a store that sells sporting goods, you want customers to be able to find all necessary equipment and apparel within your establishment. If you sell tennis rackets but your customer has to go to a different store to buy wristbands, this is an inconvenience. The customer will have to search for a different store and may not become a repeat customer.
Similarly, Google want its users to find the answers they seeks with the least effort possible. Linking relevant content within your website shows search engines that you are truly dedicated to offering valuable resources. If you have relevant content on your website but fail to link to it, visitors will likely click away to greener pastures.
Assigning Value Based on Links
Search engines also assign value to your content based on your internal links. Your homepage tends to have the most link value because it’s likely the page most often linked to. Beyond that, your pages receive a score depending on the flow of link value. This value is unofficially referred to as link juice.
Linking to your recent posts from your homepage will ensure that they get the maximum link juice. This contributes to new posts climbing the rankings faster. You should place greater emphasis on cornerstone content that has the potential to bring the most clicks and sales.
Determine Your Internal Link SEO Strategy
Having a well-defined strategy for your search engine optimization will help you achieve better results. Leaving your internal link building to chance is a recipe for poor results. Let’s examine the seven steps to take that will boost your rankings.
1. Set Up the Best Site Structure
The best way to look at your website is like a spider web. At the very center of it all, you will find the homepage. This all-important page should then branch out into basic categories and sections. Your categories should break down further into subcategories and individual posts and pages.
2. Prioritize Your Content
All pages and posts should provide your visitors with helpful information. However, some pieces of content are more important to your users than others. Find the content that you want to be the most prominent for your audience.
You can approach this task from two endpoints and zero on the solution. Start by sifting through your posts and choosing which ones are closest to your business goals. Also, determine which posts have the most complete content regarding your main keywords.
Secondly, you’ll want to leverage your analytics. Check to see which pages get the most clicks and which keywords users prefer to use when searching for your content. Numbers don’t lie and your analytics will give you an objective ranking of your posts.
3. Tie Content Together Contextually
Linking related content within your website shows Google that you take the time to cover topics extensively over several posts. Avoid linking to a post that has little to do with the link’s starting point.
When writing an article on gym equipment and mentioning weightlifting belts, you can link to an article on this subject. Linking to a post about crossfit that mentions belts once is probably not going to have the same effect.
4. Assigning Hierarchy to Pages
Establishing a hierarchy is part of determining your structure and prioritizing your content. Once you establish which pages are cornerstone content and which pages play a supporting role, you should create links between them. Parent pages should like to child pages and visa versa. This strengthens the hierarchical bond and shows Google that users have a clear path to follow.
5. Increase Metrics with Related Posts
If you’re using a content management system like WordPress, you can add a related posts section with a couple clicks. There are many plugins to choose from that allow you to offer this feature on your website.
The related posts section is usually at the bottom of a post. It shows the user similar articles to the one they just read. This entices them to click through to an additional post on your site. The more pages they view and the more time they spend on your site, the more Google will acknowledge this as a sign of user contentment.
The result will be that you’ll rank higher in search results as people elect to spend more time on your site.
6. Include Navigational Links
The links in your menu are already some of the most fundamental on your website. If you can add links to your best posts from the homepage and your navigation menus, you’ll only end up strengthening these posts’ position.
This doesn’t have to be done by stuffing your menus. You can place navigational links in the sidebar. There, they will be prominent enough to gain clicks while sending link juice to your posts.
7. Place Emphasis on Categories
Taxonomies are the sections into which your website is divided. These sections include categories and tags. Especially with blogs, it can be helpful to add links to the category the posts belong to. This reinforces the structure of your site to Google. It is a way of making your website’s map more readable for the search engine’s bot.
Helpful Link Tips
The key to success with internal links is setting up a protocol to follow right from the start. That way, you will always structure your content is a way that is beneficial to your search engine optimization efforts. The following tips are tasks you can add into your routine. You can also scan your site in retrospect to improve these aspects of your internal link profile.
Preserve Link Value with Nofollow
Sometimes you will have links in your posts that do not offer particular value to your tranking efforts. These may include login links or other citations that are irrelevant to your brand.
Until recently, webmasters could just assign a nofollow tag to all unimportant links. This was a way of asking the search engine bot to disregard them.
While you can still apply the nofollow tag, Google has tweaked their algorithm to account for these links as well. The reason for this is that Google wants the authority of judging whther links are important or not. It’s best to reduce the number this type of links on your pages rather than nofollowing them. If you do apply the nofollow tag, keep it to a minimum.
Make the Most of Anchor Text
Anchor text is the clickable words that take your users to the desired page. With anchor text, you can have too much of a good thing. Your goal should be to use high-quality keywords without engaging in keyword stuffing.
Avoid using the exact same words to link to a page. If you’re linking to the same page, try using different keywords in your anchor text.
Make sure the text reads naturally and keep the emphasis on providing value. If you follow this mentality, your anchor text will work synergistically with the rest of your post.
Start Improving Your Rankings Today
Optimizing your internal links will noticeably benefit your presence in the rankings. Go through your website and apply the best practices discussed above. You will find that your strategy for internal links will carry over to your other search engine optimization efforts. Keep a spreadsheet to make note of changes. A detailed account of your actions will allow for benchmarking based on measurable results.