If you run an online business and want to rank highly on Google for your profitable search terms, you’ll need links – and of course, high-quality content to keep the resulting traffic. Links, whether from external sources or within your site, are the best way Google finds your posts and pages. Essentially, Google spiders follow links pointing to various parts of your website and use the content they find on those pages and posts to rank your business on search results.
The entire process of how search engines operate is pretty exciting, but that’s a topic for another day.
For now, I’m going to show you all you need to know about internal links, their importance in SEO, crucial guidelines to observe when using them, and common mistakes to avoid. By the end of this guide, you should be able to do internal link building like a pro, send all the right signals to Google, and grow your business in a very affordable way.
Ready to learn? Let’s get started!
The basics – what is an internal link?
Just as the name suggests, this is a link built in your website, and which points to another relevant page or post within your site. The aim of using these types of links is to connect different parts of a site and to improve the experience of both Google and visitors in discovering and navigating your content. Unlike external links, which are links coming from other websites to yours, you have more control over where to point internal links and the anchor texts to use for maximum effect on SEO.
What makes internal linking so important?
When it comes to SEO, most business owners and SEO professionals tend to invest heavily in external links while neglecting their internal counterparts. Sure, the former will likely cause the biggest shifts in rankings, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore internal links completely. Indeed, these links do more than just impacting rankings as we’ll find out below:
How you’ve structured your website can have a significant effect on the overall success of your website. The easier it is for users to navigate your site, the better their experience, and this shows in the increased conversions and business growth. What’s more, happy visitors are likely to dwell longer on your business, which sends positive signals to Google and results in higher rankings.
There are several methods you can use to improve your site’s navigation, but only a few are as effective as placing internal links at the right places inside your website. To begin with, you can place links to your most important pages on the navigation bar. This makes it easier for visitors to locate vital pages like the homepage, services, about, and contact us pages. Alternatively, you can use internal links to help users find pages that are deep inside your website and not included in the main navigation area.
Reduces bounce rate
A website’s bounce rate represents the percentage of web visitors that enter and leave the site without visiting any other pages. Google uses bounce rate as one of its many ranking factors – the lower the rate, the higher the chances of ranking better on its search results.
Interlinking pages on your website significantly encourages visitors to visit multiple pages, and consequently spend more time on your site. This alone is enough to signal Google that your content is high-value and, therefore, worth showing to more people looking for similar queries.
Passes link equity
Say you have an excellent linkable asset on your site that keeps attracting links and ranks highly on search results for its target keywords. Better yet, it brings tons of traffic to your website every month and is one of your most valuable resources in the overall success of your online business.
While the results it brings to your business are probably enough, you can squeeze out even more value from it with a little trick – internal links. By adding links that point to other relevant web pages in it, you will be passing around the link equity (and traffic) to other parts of your website. This strategy also works best when you have newly created content that you want to index and rank quickly. By linking out to the new page from an already well-performing page, you make it easier for Google search crawlers to discover and index it.
How to do internal linking the right way
Internal linking is supposed to be an easy job. I mean, what’s so difficult about adding a link here and there inside your own site? Well, the truth is there’s more to it than just adding links: you’ll need to get your site structure right to enjoy maximum results.
In this section, we share five practical steps to creating an efficient internal linking SEO strategy that boosts your site’s rankings and ultimately increases revenue.
Find and fix broken pages
Nothing undermines user experience in a site more than a broken link. As if that is not enough, broken links waste link equity as well as your site’s crawl budget.
When creating internal links, ensure that every page you are linking to exists and serves the purpose for which it’s meant – to offer the user more detailed information on a given topic. Directing visitors to a broken link is one of the surest ways of losing, something you’d certainly want to avoid.
So, how do you find broken links on your site?
The issue of broken links often arise due to reasons like deletion of a page, reformation of a site, and misspelled URL. To identify these links, I recommend using tools, especially if your website already has many pages and, therefore, too complex to inspect manually. A few checker tools that I’ve found useful here include Screaming Frog, Ahrefs Broken Link Checker, Sitechecker, and Google Webmaster Tools. All of them work pretty much the same way by crawling, auditing, and listing missing pages that bring back the broken link errors.
Prioritise orphan and dead-end pages
The terms ‘orphans’ and ‘dead’ exist even in the world of SEO – just in case you found these descriptions bizarre. So, what do they stand for?
To begin with, orphan pages are exactly what they sound like – neglected pages that have no links pointing to them from their sister pages within the site. This makes it practically impossible for web visitors and Google crawlers to locate these pages from other pages.
And now onto dead-end pages, these do not have any internal link going out of them, meaning any user or search engine that lands here can only hit the back button to stay onsite. In most cases, though, they opt to leave the site altogether.
Both the orphan and dead-end pages negatively affect internal linking results, and any other work you may be doing for your on-page optimization. The two primary reasons for this is because these pages prevent efficient distribution of link equity and also harm user experience. So, be sure to identify all these pages and do whatever it takes to interlink them with other pages in your site.
Be careful with your anchor texts
There exists a common misconception among a section of SEOs that anchor texts matter very little when it comes to internal links. To them, you can use as many matched anchors as you wish as long as you’re doing it internally. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Google has, on numerous occasions, recommended that webmasters pay equal attention to the anchor texts used for both internal and external links. Over-optimization in any of them is highly discouraged and can attract harsh penalties including loss of rankings. While there’s no secret sauce for choosing the right anchor text to use for your internal links, the following three tips should provide some direction:
- Whenever possible, try to include keywords that are relevant to the target page.
- Never use the same anchor text for multiple links pointing to different pages on your site. Doing this can easily confuse the crawlers.
- Avoid using one-word anchor texts as it is easy to keyword stuff it, sometimes unknowingly.
Mind where you place your internal link
The location of links in your site determines their power and impact on the target pages. For example, a link placed on a page with two outbound links is sure to pass more link juice than the one put on a page with two outbound links – all other factors kept the same.
In the same breath, links placed within the body of content (contextual links) have more weight than those placed on a site’s sidebar or footer area. A few years back, blackhat SEOs misused the latter technique, which forced Google to reduce the power and significance of these links. They now count very little and can even lead to penalties if used without caution.
Use tools to identify opportunities for internal linking
If you run a big site with hundreds or even thousands of pages, it can prove quite challenging to audit your internal linking structure manually. Luckily for you, advances in tech mean there’s no shortage of tools to automate and simplify this and many other website management processes. Today, you’ll find lots of both free and paid tools, so there’s no reason really why you should try to do things manually.
Screaming Frog is an excellent (and free) tool that you can use to analyse your website’s internal linking structure within minutes. The tool allows you to filter and organise URLs based on the number of internal links they have. You can also use it to identify pages that contain specific terms and phrases – a feature that will come in handy when you’re looking for pages to place your internal links.
Other useful tools you may want to check out include Ahrefs, Majestic, and Moz. All of them can show you the pages with the most inbound links pointing to them. With this knowledge, you can then identify where your most powerful internal links are likely to come from.
Common mistakes to avoid when building internal links
When done correctly, internal linking can be a real treasure-trove of SEO opportunities that you have full control over. However, for you to enjoy maximum benefits using this strategy, you will need to watch out for common mistakes that could painfully cost your business.
Mistake #1 – using long redirect chains and loops
Redirects, just as the name suggests, are aimed at directing web visitors to the right pages in or out of your site. There are two main types of redirects – described as either 301 or 302.
301 redirects are for permanently redirected pages such as those you have deleted from your site. On the other hand, 302 redirects should be used on pages that you’ve redirected for a short time, for example, when redesigning a page or moving your site to a new host.
While setting up redirects can help to improve user experience, it can also achieve the opposite effect if approached wrongly. For example, if a redirect leads to another one, the chains it creates can likely slow down your site, waste the crawl budget, or even confuse search engine crawlers. To fix this, consider linking directly to the new destination pages, especially in the case of 301, and only use redirects where it’s essential.
Mistake #2 – adding no-follow attributes to your links
When you no-follow a link, the message you send to search engine crawlers is that they should not follow that link to its destination.
You might wonder, but why do this?
Mistake #3 – Not minding the page crawl depth
Crawl depth refers to the number of clicks required for a visitor to reach a page from the homepage. As a rule of thumb, no page should be further than three clicks away from home if it is to perform optimally on search results. The reason behind this is that the lower the crawl depth, the harder it becomes for search bots to crawl a page.
To fix this problem, be sure to have all your important pages as closest to your homepage as possible. Of course, this means taking care of your site architecture right from the beginning to avoid the hassle that comes with restructuring a website after it’s grown big.
Internal linking is an important SEO strategy that you cannot afford to overlook if you want to remain competitive and grow your online business. The best part about it is that you have full control over the process, while you can even automate a good portion of the work involved.
If you’d like some help with your site’s SEO or want to consult on how to go about your internal linking strategy, don’t hesitate to contact me. I will show you how to attract free organic traffic and customers to your business and ultimately skyrocket your sales and profits.Interested in learning more? Get in touch now for a free 15-minute consultation.