SEO is made up of any number of different elements from basics such as keywords through to advanced tactics such as framework auditing that only the most advanced SEO experts ever truly understand. But there is one area that is often neglected and is accessible to almost anyone who has a website – the art of internal linking.
What is internal linking?
Most of us start a blog and begin writing. We may already be researching the topics we are writing with keyword planners and other tools, or we may be at the ‘write what I want’ stage. Regardless of the stage that the blog is at, content begins to accumulate, and in no time, you have 50 or 100 posts. Throughout that catalogue of posts might be articles that are relevant to other articles you have recently written but how do you tell your readers about these posts?
That’s the basic idea of internal linking. You link between two articles so that a reader might read article one then click to read another older article on the same or related topic.
You might mention on-page SEO while writing about off-page SEO, for example, and link to the article you wrote last month on the basics of on-page SEO. That would allow the reader to continue on your website, read more useful information all through a simple link.
Early exponents of internal linking such as Neil Patel noticed a huge increase in traffic when they began linking between their posts. But like everything with SEO, it has evolved and is no longer just about cramming in as many links as possible. There is now an art to making the most of the internal linking.
In the most basic form, you have your homepage and categories into which you place your blog posts. A post in category one may refer to a topic covered in a post in category two, so you link the two. Site architecture can be an immensely complicated subject, however, and there are lots of different ways to structure your website to offer the best user experience.
The good thing about internal linking is that is logical and relatively simple, without requiring changes due to the individual architecture of your website. So whether you have a simple, basic architecture or a much more complicated one, the principles of linking work the same.
Why linking matters
One question that is often asked is why does linking matter? Why do you want people to go from one page on your website to another? Does this have a positive effect on your website’s ranking? The answer is simple – internal linking is a simple, legitimate way to increase the overall ranking of your website. Here are a few examples of why:
Internal linking helps indexation
When crawlers move through the website, they follow paths, and internal linking makes these paths easier to follow. This means crawlers can find new content easier and in relation to other pages.
While the ‘Fresh Bot’ that Google uses will look every few days for frequently updated pages, the ‘Deep Crawl Bot’ only looks once a month and indexes all pages. By internally linking your pages, both bots can be satisfied quicker and result in your content showing on search engines faster.
Internal linking increases backlink earning potential
Take a look at the backlinks on your site and you will see that a lot of them are to your homepage. While this is a good thing in one respect, too many backlinks to just one page can have a negative effect on SEO.
The aim is to have more links from deep pages than from your homepage. By having a strong internal linking system, you can achieve this and ensure that more of your backlinks are from deep pages (other than your homepage, contact or about page and other less valuable pages).
Internal linking helps with strength of site
At one time, there was a term ‘link juice’ that referred to the fact that if a homepage received a link, some of that value passed to other internal pages. But as algorithms became more complicated, this idea faded away. However, websites that use good internal linking will still get a boost to their performance in a way similar to this link juice.
Internal linking adds value when text is used
All internal linking is good, but the best value comes from the use of anchor text links.
These are where you create a link from a few words rather than from an image or the actual URL. To achieve this, you should use relevant keywords for your anchor text.
Internal linking adds user value
The most important benefit from proper internal linking is that it makes for a better experience for visitors. They can easily access more information on a topic, and if they enjoy reading your article, they are more likely to move around your website, reading other articles. When navigation between that relevant content is easy, then visitors are more likely to make use of it.
Now you have some ideas about why internal linking is important, let’s move onto the techniques of how best to approach it. Before you do this, you need two things – content to link to that has already been written and a supply of regular new content in which to create the links.
To start with, look for potential links. You can link to landing or squeeze pages in the right situations but most of the time, concentrate on linking between articles you have written.
Once you have potential links, you then need to look for (or include as you are writing) descriptive anchor text. So, if you were writing that off-page SEO article and you wanted to link it to your on-page SEO article, that three-word phrase would be an excellent anchor text to use for the link. It would then appear as a different colour to website users and let them spot the fact that it is a link.
As well as the basic phrase ‘on-page SEO’ for our example, you could also use phrases that refer to the topic. This could be something like ‘there are lots of SEO elements that are on the page’, or you could link a phrase such as ‘don’t forget the on-page element of SEO when writing’.
On the other hand, avoiding using exact match anchor text. So if the title of your article was How to Master On-Page SEO, then don’t use that exact phrase as an anchor link. Don’t use phrases such as ‘click here’ as these don’t benefit you at all and don’t use more than a single short sentence for your link.
Link to four or more articles on each piece
Google values freshness of website content and uses this for ranking purposes. By including four or more links to older articles, you increase their freshness value and help promote the overall ranking the of the website. Old pages will be crawled as a part of their link to the new ones, refreshing them in the eyes of the search engines.
Add new links to old articles
You should also go back over older articles and add links to new articles for the same reason. Updated content gets a boost from Google as it is indexed again, so it is good practice to regularly update content. You can add a new paragraph, update information and then add new links to newer content.
Make sure links are value-adding and logical
Always ensure that you link to articles that are logical for the content and add value to the reader. So that off-page SEO article probably isn’t going to include a link to a piece you wrote on blogging while on vacation but could include links to the article you wrote on the latest Google algorithm changes as this is a logical connection.
Ensure all internal links are do-follow
To get the benefit of those internal links, you need to make sure that all of them are do-follow so that crawlers can do just that – follow them to other articles. No follow tags tend to be used for some affiliate and monetizing links.
Link to high converting pages where possible
Try to link to your highest converting articles where possible and logical as this will spread their benefits to other articles. Also consider that if you are selling a product or service on these pages, then by linking to these pages, you can potentially increase your revenue.
Internal linking is one of the simpler areas of SEO to master and should be a part of every article that you write. That way you provide added value for your readers, increase your search engine ranking and make sure your older content stays fresh. This all has good potential to boost the present of your website and helps to move you up those crucial search engine rankings to that much-desired top spot. If you need to hire a freelance SEO expert, then please get in touch.
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.