Internal linking isn’t something that gets spoken about much in the SEO space, and I guess that might be partly because it isn’t exactly very “sexy”.
I mean, links on your own site.
Most site owners only care about getting external links, (links from other websites) ranking first page in Google and cashing in.
These are all aspects of SEO that without doubt get the most attention, because its external links that really make the difference.
So when you’re stuck back at page 7, driving a 20 year old Hyundai excel and you’re getting 5 visits a day to your site, chances are you’ll be more concerned about getting external links, rather than worrying yourself over internal links.
However, internal linking is important, and to be honest, I don’t know why it’s always overlooked, or to be considered in some cases, as “not important”.
What is internal linking?
Internal linking, or “interlinking” as it’s sometimes referred to, means interlinking the content on your pages with one another. This means, linking on certain phrases or words within the body text of your pages, to other pages, where relevant.
NOTE – relevancy is key here.
For example’s sake, if you take a look at any one of my blog post entries here on SEO Point, you’ll see that every now and then, (within the actual blog post itself) that I might link to another one of my blog posts, or to a certain page on the website. For instance, if I’m talking about my SEO services, then I’ll link to that page, using that particular phrase – (just like I did just then). Or, if I was talking about how to change your domain name without losing SEO, I would do that here as well. (see what I just did?)
Essentially, I’m pointing links to certain pages on relevant terms.
Think of it as traditional link building, but on your own site.
Here’s a graphical representation of how internal linking might look on a typical website. (I scribbled this quickly, but you get the idea)
As you can see, it’s very simple LOL. This is essentially what it eventually looks like over time. Your own website becomes an eco-system of internal links, with various pages pointing to other pages, within your own website.
It’s kinda like walking through a cobweb in the dark, but more fun.
Why is internal linking important?
Interlinking is important for a number of reasons. Let’s look at a few.
Internal links, help guide users.
Most people immediately think “SEO”, and “links”, and while this is true to some extent, it should be noted that you should be interlinking your sites content in an effort to help guide visitors around your website. Certainly, if someone’s reading this article, and they’re interested in my SEO consulting, then it’s likely they’ll click on the link provided within the article itself to view more information. (I just did it again – you should be getting the hang of it by now). My point is – internal linking should be done for humans, (actual readers of your website) NOT just for search bots, which brings me to my next point.
It helps search engines understand what your pages are about.
When you’re constantly linking to certain pages on your site using specific terms or phrases, this (over time) helps search engines better understand the relevance – or meaning – of the content on that page.
For instance, if I’m constantly doing this – SEO training, SEO training for small business owners, search engine optimisation training, or seo courses online then chances are, search engines over time will be able to say, “Hey, we’re pretty sure this page is about SEO training”. Which makes sense, right?
It can lower bounce rates
Who knows whether or not Google looks at bounce rates to determine the quality of a website, but in any case, any improvements you can make to lower your bounce rates can only be a good thing. If someone hits a page on your site, and quickly finds a link to something they’re interested in – chances are they’re going to click it – rather than just bail and go back to another site or the search results.
It can improve engagement times and average time on site stats
Engagement times are another metric that Google might look at to determine the quality of a site (again, who knows) but as before, anything that you can do to increase engagement times and reduce bounce rates should only be a good thing.
Internal linking does this well.
If you think about how well Youtube does this – in a way it’s very similar. As you know, you can visit Youtube to watch one video and end up watching several (because they provide internal links to other videos that are easy to access). This is essentially the same basic principle. People are more likely to engage in your site and view more pages if you provide them with an easy way to navigate around.
You can see how much Wikipedia use internal linking on their site below.
How to do internal linking properly
On the surface, internal linking probably sounds easy, (which it is really) but let me tell you – I’ve seen a lot of people mess this up, big time.
In particular, site owners seem obsessed with creating dozens of footer or sidebar links, hoping that they’ll have some sort of magical effect.
Don’t do that.
Let me show you a few things that will ensure you not only understand internal linking, but can apply it to your own site, effectively.
Let’s do this.
Internal linking is content dependent
In order to get the best results from internal linking, you’ll need content – and a lot of it. There’s no point creating just a handful of links from a few pages, and expecting something to happen. Internal linking is based upon the assumption that you have a lot of “inner pages”, all linked to each other in some way.
If you think about it like a complex network, with dozens or even hundreds of pages of content, all interlinked, over time it becomes really powerful – guiding users, increasing engagement times and sending search engines the right signals.
This is what you should be aiming for. A complex, rich ecosystem of internal links.
Not just a few links placed here and there for shits and giggles.
So as a site owner, you should be publishing high quality, kick ass content that allows you to link internally between your pages in an ongoing manner.
One thing that I do, is once I’ve published a piece of content, I’ll then go back over it, and look for linking opportunities on key phrases within the piece. I sometimes, link while I’m writing but not always. For me, I like to read over the piece first, make sure it flows, then add my links in where I think they’d be helpful.
NOTE – I use the word HELPFUL here because I’m ALWAYS thinking of my readers. I’m not thinking about search bots, or crawlers or keywords or any of that stuff.
Im thinking about giving my readers solid, highly useful information.
Which brings me to my next point.
Forget the technical nonsense – focus on readers
I often read over SEO articles that talk about internal linking, and it’s like trying to decipher the factory workshop manual for a 1965 Volkswagon beetle.
They go on about silos, and tiers and link juice and trust flow and all of this other nonsense.
Forget about that.
Just focus on creating great content with links placed to help readers.
Sure, you can place strategic links on key pages, that’s fine – but don’t get carried away with it.
Focus on giving your readers a great experience.
It’s that simple.
Keep it natural
If you’re sitting at your computer, consciously manipulating the text, links and the wording of your content in order to accommodate or satisfy search engines, then you’re doing it all wrong.
No one wants to read shitty content. Im sure by now, if I had of been stuffing this article full of stupid terms, then you would’ve bailed 5 minutes ago, right?
Publish NATURAL content, that readers LOVE. Then leverage that great content by helping them find MORE of your content through internal linking.
But be sure to keep it natural.
Link using anchor text
I wouldn’t recommend using images, or other non textual elements to create internal links for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s really no need. I’ve seen site owners trying to be “clever” using silly slide out menus and popups etc for internal navigation, and it’s stupid.
Just keep it simple. Use text.
Google can easily crawl and understand standard hyperlinks without any issues. There’s no need to be fancy.
Secondly, load times. Text on a page loads instantly, whilst other stuff takes time. Again, don’t do that.
Lastly, why make readers think?
There’s nothing worse than being on a site and trying to “figure out” how to navigate around between pages.
The minute you do that, they become frustrated and you’ve lost them.
Keyword variations matter
In this example, let’s say you’re wanting to drive links to a page on your site about planting roses.
Instead of just linking over and over and over using the same phrase “planting roses”, on every single other page of your site, you would include variations of that phrase as well – THIS IS IMPORTANT.
So, on other pages, you would have links pointing to a page that is of course optimised for “planting roses”, and links from other pages that point to that page, might use anchor text like –
- planting roses
- rose planting techniques
- how to plant a rose
- rose planting guide
- plant roses
As you can see, I’m using a wide variety of wording to broadly cover this particular phrase. This technique works well, and most importantly of all – it’s natural.
Add title tags to your anchor text
One thing that I’ve gotten into the habit of doing is adding title tags to my anchor text. I do this for two main reasons.
- Google seems to love it
- It helps users understand what the destination page might be about
Now this may not work if you’re viewing this page on a phone or tablet, but for those browsing on a desktop computer, it makes sense.
Let me show you an example. Take a look at the link below.
This is awesome, click here.
Anyone that sees that on the page will have absolutely NO idea, where they’re about to end up. Its a total guess. Right?
Now, here’s a better way using title tags. (mouse over the link)
This is awesome, click here.
I find this is useful, as it gives readers a very good idea of what the page might be about BEFORE they click. Plus it allows you to make the link much richer because you can add relevant keywords.
Of course a much better way to create that same link would be like this.
This is awesome, SEO training. (mouse over again)
I often see site owners making the mistake of constantly linking to pages at the root level. They might link to their home page a lot, or maybe their contact page, or about us page. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, it’s not exactly an effective strategy.
Because in most cases – if not all, you will already have main navigation links within your site pointing to these pages – across every single page of your website anyway.
It makes MUCH more sense to implement internal “contextual” links (that is, links within your actual content) using keyword rich phrases and terms, that point to deep, inner pages.
Generic non related links are okay, but…
Every now and then I might link using links that read “click here”, or “view more” and so forth. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with doing this – infact I encourage it to some extent because its very natural – you’ll want to give yourself the best possible chance to help yourself.
So, for instance, whilst it’s still okay to use broad, or generic terms within your links like “go here”, or “click here”, it does make much more sense to leverage keyword rich RELEVANT terms.
As I said, there’s nothing “wrong” with using generic terms, but it wont have the same, long term impact that using keyword rich links will.
Especially from an SEO standpoint.
Use dofollow links
If you don’t know what a dofollow link is, check out this very simple explanation by the guys over at Raven tools. In that article, they say …
Dofollow links pass along what the SEO community commonly calls “link juice.” Links are a vote for quality. By learning which webpages are often linked to, search engines can determine how highly websites should rank in search results. Links are just one of many ranking factors.
In other words, this means that search bots and crawlers will “follow” the links within your content, and quite possibly pass on link equity, to the destination page (which is a good thing).
Look, for most of you, you won’t have to worry too much about setting dofollow or nofollow links, unless of course you choose to. So long as you publish great content and link naturally, you’ll be fine.
There is a neat little tool that I’d like to mention here though. It’s a Firefox “add on”, which means it only works for Firefox, but it allows you to check your links quickly, to see if they’re nofollow or dofollow.
You can get the tool here.
Once you’ve got it installed, you just right click the webpage you’re wanting to check and select “NoDoFollow”, and it will look something like this…
Purple links are what you’re after, unless of course you’re linking out to an external site, and you’d prefer to set your link to nofollow.
Then the link will appear as pink.
Mistakes to avoid
Okay, so now you should understand how internal linking works, and why it’s important. Now before you run off and go about posting internal links on every single page of your website, I want you to read a few “mistakes to avoid” that I have provided below. Be sure to note these ahead of getting started.
Don’t add too many links
Now that you’ve read this, you might be thinking, “Great, I’m going to just link the shit out of everything and my rankings will improve!”.
Slow down turbo.
Firstly, internal linking, may have a positive impact on your rankings, but that impact is going to be (in most cases) barely noticeable. Remember, you’re doing this to HELP your readers, an improve user experience signals, which can THEN have a flow on effect within Google, but spamming your site with too many internal links is stupid.
Secondly, no one wants to have to read content that has links absolutely everywhere. Use some common sense. Be sensible about it.
Don’t link over and over using the same phrase
As said above, this is one of the most common mistakes made when it comes to linking internally. Website owners are tempted to continually link using the same phrase, over and over, in an effort to increase their rankings for that term. This results in over optimisation, and a poor onsite experience for users. Especially when the linking over takes the purpose of the content itself.
Don’t interrupt the user
Another mistake I see are internal links that don’t open in a new window. Opening a new window isn’t always necessary, but it should be done when a) linking to a reference, or b) linking to another page – but you want to keep readers ON the page that they’re currently reading. There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking a link, hoping it will open up another page that you can view after you’re finished with the page that you’re on, and you get redirected elswhere without being able to finish.
Here’s another one you’ll want to avoid, and that is continually rebuilding or changing pages around. What ends up happening here is that you shift a page, then this affects all of your internal links – leaving you having to 301 everything, (or change the links). It’s not such a big deal, but I’m a big believer in developing “mature” pages. That is, pages that have time to age on your site. They don’t change or move, and any links that point to them (either internal or external) point right at them.
Be mindful of this before you a) build your site, and b) start interlinking heavily across your site
This kind of carries over from my previous point, but if users are constantly hitting “404 page not found” errors, then its likely they’re going to bail. Again, some forward thinking is needed here, before you build your site, and especially after a site redesign.
Be sure to monitor any errors within Webmaster tools, and fix them as they show up.
Something else you might want to do is take a look at Screaming Frog. This software can scan your entire site and let you know if you’ve got any broken internal links.
Internal linking is an important element of onpage SEO that is often overlooked. With good site structure, tied in with exceptional content, internal linking can really help your SEO. Be sure to be mindful of internal linking, each and every time you publish content on your site, and interlink between your blog posts, service and product pages.
Oh, and don’t forget to add keyword rich title tags, as shown above.
Got a question? Not sure about something and would like me to better explain?
Think I may have missed something?
Let me know by posting your comment below.
I reply to everyone, so let’s hear it.