Internal Linking Strategies for SEO
Internal linking makes a huge difference in how your website performs in search engines, which is why we’ll be focusing on the art of internal linking strategies today.
Topics to be covered include: what is internal linking, how they’re used to boost organic traffic, and more.
What is internal linking and why do we need it?
The term “linking” is how websites are connected using links. Put simply, internal linking is when pages within the same website are linked together by links.
Here is an example:
It leads to another article on our website. This is a type of internal linking.
Internal linking is necessary for:
- Transferring and distributing the weight across the website: links transfer weight from one page to another. The more links go to one of the pages of the website, the more important it is for the search engine.
- Simplifying navigation: with the help of end-to-end links, special blocks and links within the text, we can redirect visitors to certain pages that contain the information required. The so-called “breadcrumbs” will prevent the user from getting lost on the website.
- Improving behavioural factors: clicking on links increases indicators such as the click-through rate and session length.
- Speeding up the indexing of new pages, and pages with a high level of nesting. Links from other already indexed pages will invite the search robot to bypass new pages.
- Increasing the relevance of the pages we want to promote.
How to create competent internal linking: step-by-step instructions
For internal linking to work, you need to learn the basics. Let’s look at different linking schemes, how to choose promoted pages and how to pick up anchor links.
Types of linking
There are three main linking schemes (there are others, but they are extremely rare).
This linking scheme is mostly used for online shops. These websites have a strict hierarchy of various pages: home, page categories, and product pages. Links here go from the main page to the category pages (sections), and from the sections to the products pages. Then, from the product pages, links lead to the home page.
In this scheme, all pages link to each other, transmitting and receiving the same weight. This scheme is used when all the pages of the website are equally important for promotion: eg. a service website. Look at the figure and you’ll understand why this scheme is called a star.
With this linking scheme, the website pages link to each other, and the weight is transferred to one of the website pages. For example, on the main page, or on the one that is promoted by a high-frequency, complex query. Usually, this scheme is used exactly where it is important to promote the page on a complex query.
There also exist several types of linking. They are distinguished by the location of the links.
- Links in the content – simply placed in the main text of the page, like here:
- Navigational (end-to-end) links – usually located in the footer of the website or the header, in the site menu. They are called end-to-end because they appear on every page of the website. Usually, those are links to important sections: contacts, rules, main site categories, etc.
Micro-markup also applies to navigation links.
- Block links are links from “Read also”, “Popular Products”, “Latest News” blocks, etc.
Selecting pages for promotion
One of the most difficult tasks is selecting the pages to link to: both the ones to link to and the ones to link from.
There is no universal formula to how you should approach this, as it all depends on the website and your objectives. Most often, links are placed on pages that:
- Need to promote a complex or high-frequency query;
- Need to push to the top (taking 11-20 positions);
- Have low traffic;
- Are important to promote, and to increase sales;
- Have the best-converted website visitors.
For example, if we have a website of a company that provides “technical work at home”, eg. a plumber and an electrician, we can write an article explaining the nature of the service, and from it put a link to the service page with the order form. This sort of backlink will fit perfectly into the context and won’t cause rejection among visitors or suspicions from the search robot.
You can search for relevant pages manually by entering a query in Google using the entry:
site: my_site keyword operator
You‘ll see all the pages of your website that are relevant to this query, and then you can work on linking them.
Anchors for linking
An anchor link is a link that helps to link to the content on the same page that has an anchor attached. The anchor should be a keyword that is relevant to the page you will link to.
For example, if you need to link to a product page, eg. white Adidas trainers. After completing an article in your blog section, something along the lines of ‘what shoes are best to wear in the spring’, you then enter this key in the text and attach a link to the promoted page with white trainers. You do not need to dilute the anchors using the words “here” or“there”. This is only relevant for external links.
Rules for proper linking
Let’s move onto the basic rules of internal linking.
How not to make internal links:
First, we would like to focus on what you should NOT do. Some of these may be obvious to you, but prevention is better than cure. So, here’s what you most certainly shouldn’t be doing:
- Using a tag cloud or a whole page with chaotic links to products, categories, and other pages. Some time ago, this was a very common technique, and it is still found on some websites. Such a cloud of tags is not used by visitors – it is difficult to find what you need in a huge number of words. Search engines may even treat the tag cloud as spam.
- Put links to broken pages or to pages that have been deleted or do not exist. There is no point at all to this – why lead a user or a search engine to nothing? Also, do not link to pages that are not indexed, as it will not help their promotion.
Before you put a link to a page, check it carefully. Check the link after it has been published as well. Sometimes, an extra copied character can ruin everything. It is also useful to periodically check all internal links – whether there are any “broken” ones among them.
- Put too many links from one single page. Follow the “one page, one link” rule. Within a long text, and if the context is appropriate, you can offer more links. For example, some optimizers recommend giving no more than three links per 1000 characters of text. It is definitely not necessary to use frequent links in the text. There is a reason for this: the more links from one page, the less weight each of them transmits.
- Over-emphasise link anchors in the text. Links are visible in the text – they are underlined and sometimes highlighted in colour. You don’t need to write them in caps, highlight them with emojis, or engage in anything of the sort. The search bot will detect the link itself, and the user, if he needs it, will click on it.
Making the links invisible is also not worth it, so don’t make them indistinguishable from normal text, or the background colour.
- The page should not link to itself. This will not add weight to it and will only confuse your visitors.
How to set links correctly
Now that we have seen what should be avoided, let’s focus on tips for proper linking.
- Use micro-markup, especially when the website structure is hierarchical. This is the simplest and most effective method to make competent linking between website pages. The navigation chain makes it easier for users to use the website.
- Link from old content to new content, and vice versa. For example, if you publish a new blog article, give a link to an old one on a similar topic. From that article, you can add a link to the new material. As a result, the old article will increase relevance, and the new one will be indexed faster.
- Add a link to the homepage on the website logo.
- Add blocks such as “Popular Products” or “Useful Articles” to the website. These are not only additional internal links but also helpful navigation elements that increase the depth of browsing.
- Create a blog on the website, and post articles that are useful for your visitors. This way you can link from articles promoted by low-frequency information queries to pages with services/products, promoted sections. This is one of the simplest and most effective ways of linking.
- Insert links where they will be useful to users. If you have material in a blog that can complement the article you are writing, insert a link. If there is a page with relevant content that may be useful or interesting — it would be silly not to link it.
- Create a website map. This is a separate section on the website that list all the pages on the website with a link to each. If you have a complex structure, a map will help users to find the right page on your website faster. It will also speed up the indexing of new pages.
In conclusion, proper internal linking will help you push the right pages to the top, increase the authority of important pages in the eyes of the search engine, and speed up the indexing of new pages. This is something you need to do consistently, especially if you add new content regularly. Make it a rule that when you write a new blog post or prepare a new page, immediately plan where this page will link, and from which pages you can link back to the new page.
You regularly check for “broken” links – there are even special tools you can use for this. As a result of following all of the above, you will see a gradual growth of positions and improvement of behavioural factors.