Going Deeper: SEO – The Importance of Internal Links

Internal Links: What are they?

Internal links are links on your site that go from any given page to another page on the same domain. Their purpose is to make navigating around a website easier.

Internal links are generally needed on websites for three underlying reasons:

  • They help boost a website’s ranking power, otherwise known as ‘link juice’.
  • They allow for easy navigation from users’ perspective.
  • They also help establish a set order to the information that’s displayed on the website.

Understanding the True Importance of Internal Links

Internal links really come in handy when you need to establish a proper architecture on your site and spread link juice.

The way search engines work is they need to spot content so that it can be listed in their huge keyword-based databases. In addition, they’re programmed to access link structures that are highly “crawlable” – a website structure that lets its spiders easily look around the ‘pathways’ of a site. This is necessary so that all the pages can be found and listed accordingly.

Unfortunately, many sites do not make their internal links navigable enough for search engines, and as a result, their pages are not listed in the search engines’ matrixes. At the end of the day, that means poor visibility for your online customers and prospects.

What makes internal linking really crucial in today’s online business landscape though? Associate Director Jason McGovern at Starcom MediaVest Group says internal linking is one of the few tried-and-true methods website owners can utilize to point Google to a particular web page content that’s important. Jason is quick to point out:

From a strategic perspective, it helps site owners bridge the ‘authority gap’ between their most link-worthy content and their most profitable content.”

If you aren’t already paying close attention to your site’s internal linking strategy, here are more reasons you really should:

Better engage your audience: By providing more reading options to your visitor you can better engage them. For instance, if you’re writing about Facebook’s latest offering to help businesses, and have written something similar in the past, link to it. This provides better context for your visitor while effectively promoting older content.

Improve your ranking for specific keywords: Let’s say you want a page on your site to specifically rank for ‘online marketing trends 2016’, and you have a page with the relevant content; you can point visitors to this page using the appropriate anchor text. This lets Google know that the page is highly relevant to users who are typing in the exact same phrase.

Google crawls your site better: Including internal links in your tag pages and articles helps Google crawl and index your web pages easily.

Knowing the Difference between Internal and External Links

We already know that an internal link acts as a hyperlink to direct users to a new page on the same website or domain. However, external links play a governing role as well; they direct users to other web pages or domains. How does this tie in with the internal linking equation and what can we do with either one of them only? Linking to other sites on your domain would not give the same results. It’s about getting a link from other websites (linkbacks).

External linking is just as important as internal ones in order to let people find you easily on the web and aid Google in crawling your website easily. Google regards link-building as extremely important when ranking a site high on its list and this is where the importance of external links comes in.

The higher you rank on search engine pages for a specific keyword, the more traffic you’re going to get. So for example, when someone searches for best digital marketing trends 2016 on Google, the results you see on the first few pages are there because a number of other high-ranking authority sites are linking to them. This is where the magic of external links comes into play; having well-known authority sites linking to you acts as a vote of confidence for your website and points out to Google that your website is just as important and interesting.

Focus on building strategies for both, though in this article, we’ll be putting the spotlight on good internal link building strategies.

Top 8 Components of Good Link Building

Here are a few common components of effective internal linking:

Before inserting an internal link, know what the chances are of a user clocking on that link. The higher the chance, the more ranking power or juice the link passes. From an SEO standpoint, links like these are highly valuable.

On your homepage, links must be added first to the most important pages such as main categories or product portfolio pages. This can vary depending on your overall SEO strategy.

Things like the link’s position on a particular page, its anchor text as well as length of respective keywords used, and even its color and font really matter. The context in which the link is used is quite important, including its relevancy to that content it’s linking to. All these factors affect clicks and the ranking power it passes.

Anchor text pointing to specific pages must vary across your site. However, keep it as close to the landing page topic as possible. If you have a relatively larger site, HTML sitemaps really come into play in terms of interlinking strategy; they let visitors find the right pages and help evenly distribute link juice within your site.

Internal links should appear natural and not ‘manufactured’. For example links should appear as anchor text naturally in an article and it shouldn’t stand out too much or generally look out of place or context in the article or web copy.  So if you were writing about the best SEO services New York has ever seen, it should fit into a paragraph just like this one.

Links add tremendous SEO value. In addition, internal links should also strive to add value to your visitors by putting links on a topic mentioned in an article or links that point to relevant statistics, like this one to our Toronto SEO company page.

Links are always to be added in moderation. Every link included on a single page competes for ‘link authority’ on that page; if you have too many, each link receives less value.

Each time you upload a new piece of content such as your blog or newsletter, see to it that relevant internal links are added for important landing pages. Therefore, any links you point to your content also carry an added benefit on pages that you have internally linked to.   

SEO Consultant Mags Sikora adds:

“Based on my experience, I strongly believe interlinking related factors have strong weight within Google algorithm. I work with startups and have an opportunity to run varied tests on completely new websites.

I saw websites start rankings for keywords used in the anchor text of internal links without any external links pointing to those websites. Of course, I am not talking about highly searchable terms but it really shows it is an important part of SEO.”

Case Study in Internal Linking Success: Less is More to Improve Rankings

CMS North America manufactures 5 axis CNC machines and had a Google toolbar PageRank of 3 along with about 170 indexed pages before changes were made to its internal linking structure.  By running a quick test through Internal Link Juice Tool , it was discovered that the website had 168 links going to the main home page, which is considerably more that what internal linking best practices dictate: 100 or less.  

Most of these links were going to important category pages, such as the different categories of machinery equipment available and contact pages. However, a large number of second priority links were found in the global navigation by flyouts and drop-downs. Removing those second priority links from the global navigation led to an increase in Page Rank which flowed through the rest of the links, thereby, improving the potential for those pages to rank.

A new navigation plan introduced the following changes:

Close attention given to each important keyword on the site and ensured that pages which targeted those keywords were still a part of the global navigation. And these were category-level pages that visitors would expect to come across in the global navigation.

Eliminated almost half of all flyouts and drop-downs on the site. For example, the About Us link on the site had a drop-down menu which linked to locations, news, company profile, tradeshows, history and achievements and resource pages. Links were not needed to each one of those pages within the global navigation; rather, they were all linked to directly from the About Us page and the drop-down menu was done away with, eliminating seven links. Drop-downs were also shut off for Industries Served and a few other less relevant ones.

While eliminating excess flyouts and dropdowns, the need to create new landing pages arose. For certain product categories, a pass-through flyout without a landing page resulted in several individual products. A landing page was created for this pass-through while shutting off flyouts to the products, which can now be found under the sub-category landing page.

All in all, the navigation saw 70 links being removed from the global navigation, reducing the total number of internal links to 100 for each page. As a result, each page on the site got a higher than 70% PageRank through to pages that were still linked in the global navigation.

Achieving Success with the Right Internal Linking Strategies   

So the cat is out of the bag: sound internal linking is paramount to boosting the overall SEO value of your site. Internal linking provides clear and transparent paths for search engines to crawl, keep visitors glued to your site for longer and boasts a tightly knit network of web pages and posts.

How do you make sure your site is among the ranks? Follow these strategies to success:

Content Richness

In your quest to build an ample amount of meaningful internal links, you need a lot of internal pages. The first thing to do is to come up with a good content marketing strategy, and that means creating lots of relevant and interesting content that’s likable and sharable. The more links you have going to more interesting and varied content, the more efficient your internal linking will be.

There’s no need to complicate things though; rather than seeing it all from a tier level or number-of-cycles perspective, just follow the basic gist: lots of great links going to helpful places on your website.

Appropriately Using Anchor Text

Instead of using linked images, rely on anchor text as your main internal linking theme. That’s not to say that image links shouldn’t be used at all. They are perfectly fine to use as long as the images themselves are not the main source of your internal links and the fact that they need to be “alt-tagged” properly.

Sean Work, an SEO website architect says:

Write your alt tags like if you had to describe them to someone who is blind…

Bear in mind that optimized anchors aren’t the best way to go. Use natural and non-optimized sentence fragments for anchor text: highlight, link it, and that’s it.

Use Natural-looking Links

You need to take a user-focused approach when it comes to adding good old-fashioned value and useful information through internal linking.

As discussed earlier in this piece, internal linking boosts user engagement on your website. Each time a visitor comes across an informative link that actually matches the context of the content, they are highly likely to click it out of curiosity. As a result, they’ll stay at your site much longer going between links.

Dave Davies, a renowned SEO blogger points out:

“When you link in your content you’re telling the engine that the target of your link is so relevant and important that you want your visitor to simply be able to click a link and go straight there. Basically, that what you’re linking to is potentially so relevant that the visitor may want to stop what they’re reading and go to the next page.”

Don’t Overdo it with the Number of Links

The number you want to shoot for is 100 or less per page, including the links in the navigation bars, ads, footers, headers etc. Keep this rule of thumb in mind: add only the number of internal links visitors will find useful. They shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of links as some of them may look out of context in the content. Usually, in 1,500-2,000 word articles for example, it’s best to have anywhere between 10-20 really useful internal links, as long as your navigation bar isn’t link-heavy.

Can You Afford to Ignore Your Internal Linking Strategy?

Internal linking can be a breeze when done by keeping the above strategies in mind and it’s better that you do this sooner than later. The benefits are hard to ignore: improved SEO, higher user engagement and a potent link profile. Heck, you should even go back and repurpose some of your old content so that it has adequate internal linking.

The way Google’s algorithm is at the moment, you’d be wise to work on your site’s internal linking strategies. The future is Google after all, and internal linking is one of the major defining factors when it comes to ranking high.

AOK Marketing – Your Partner in the Digital Content Marketing Space

If you’re looking for a quick and long-term competitive edge that ranks your business higher on Google while boosting user engagement, you should look no further than the digital marketing experts at AOK Marketing.

We have been consistently helping businesses rank higher on search engines while optimizing their websites to attract visitors by the numbers. Contact us for a FREE consultation at 1.888.533.2577 to get started.