Updated On: July 16, 2020
This article was originally published on May 21st, 2019. More fresh content was added onto this blog post to provide more timeliness and relevancy and a video was added as well to better explain the topic.
There’s only a handful of terms and strategies that you must understand in order to begin internal linking for SEO. Before diving into our beginner’s guide for internal linking for SEO, let’s first make sure you understand internal linking, why it’s beneficial and best practices.
What Are Internal Links
An internal link is a hyperlink on your website that goes from one page or post to another page or post on your site.
Let’s go through some examples to provide you with visual examples.
- If you own a wedding photography studio and have a page for “wedding photography information” and you hyperlink on that page to your wedding videography page, in case someone is interested in a video package, which would be a great upsell, this is a good example of an internal link.
- If you own a dermatology practice and on the “About Us” page have internal links going to each of the doctors in the practice to establish more authority, this is a good example of an internal link.
- If you are writing a blog on internal linking (like this one) and you have an internal linking going to another blog post on the importance of high-quality external backlinks (which would resonate with a similar audience) this is a good example of internal linking.
Why Internal Links Are Important
Internal links help Google find, index and understand all of the pages on your site [source].
Google wants to see a good user experience on your website. When visitors spend a decent amount of time on your site and are clicking on links to visit numerous pages, it’s an indication that your content is informative.
Think of internal linking like a booming mall back in the day (when people would do all their shopping at malls). If someone visited a mall and only visited 1-2 stores and instantly left, they likely weren’t happy with the experience. Possibly it was too crowded. It could’ve been the store they intended to shop at closed early that evening or went out of business. If you left without going to at least several stores and visiting the food court, it was a below-average experience.
In order for Google to see a good experience, they want to see visitors going to multiple pages (similar to visiting multiple stores) and requesting more information (similar to buying products).
Internal linking is so simple yet not properly executed by so many.
Most Common Internal Linking Mistakes
- Don’t force it
- The goal is to get people to click on the internal links to visit other pages of your site. If it’s forced, they either won’t click or when they do click, they’ll immediately leave. You need to make the internal links enticing and relatable.
- Don’t go heavy on keyword anchor text
- It’ll do you more harm than good if you’re just adding keyword-heavy anchor text. For example, if a dermatologist in Indianapolis had all of his links as “Indianapolis Dermatologist” it would not be natural and could raise a red flag to Google that you’re trying to manipulate the system.
- Don’t only link to your money-making pages
- Most businesses have core money-making pages. For example, if you are a personal injury lawyer and medical malpractice is one of your top revenue drivers, don’t have all your internal links going to this one page. The disproportionate amount of internal links going to one specific page will once again raise a red flag with Google.
- Location of Internal Links
- The more clicks you get on an internal link, the more weight they carry. The higher an internal link is on a page, the more likely someone will be to click on this link. When you include internal links in more prominent places, it can help.
- Make internal links natural and helpful
- When someone is on a site, they are trying to learn more or solve an issue. Your internal links should be natural and help them accomplish one of these goals.
- Utilize your blog
- Blogging is a great way to get people clicking into multiple pages of your site. For our agency, we wrote a blog on how we came up with our company name, The Media Captain. We linked to this post on our about page, which is a great way for people to learn more about our brand story. On our SEO page, we have an internal link to a blog we wrote about “what makes someone an SEO expert, which allows people to learn more about the skill-set one of our SEO specialists possesses. Utilize your blog to add more depth to your site.
- Analyze Analytics for CTR
- Measure the success of your internal blogs. You can look at the referral path within Google Analytics to see if they came from other internal links on your site. You should also analyze bounce rate and average time on-site to make sure users are having good experience
Now that you understand internal links, why they are important and the most common mistakes, it’s time to go into more detail on the process of internal linking.
Relationships Between Content
Before we talk about internal linking for SEO, it’s important that you are aware of cornerstone content. Cornerstone content pages are the focal point of your site, they are used to signal what the most important content of your website is, and what pages you want to rank highest in the search engine.
If you wanted to rank for a highly competitive, high search volume keyword, the best internal linking structure consists of creating a piece of cornerstone content like “Best Smartphone” and propping up that piece of cornerstone content with long-tail keyword articles like “Best Smartphone Under $250” to create a healthy internal linking structure.
If you are a local business and want to rank for one of your core services that doesn’t have as much volume, internal linking is still important. For example, the search query, “landscaping companies in Columbus” generates 390 searches per month, which pales in comparison to “Best Smartphone.” The same strategy holds true that internal links on relevant topics from your blog that would link back to your core service page would help increase rank for this page. You have to take your business and the search volume into account when determining the strategy.
Homepage, Footer, and Header Links
Added importance and extra weight are given to internal links placed on the homepage, inside of the footer, and in the header of your website. Your homepage is the most powerful page on your site for several reasons, partly because every page flows back to it, so it’s essential to leverage the link juice that pours from the homepage.
Additionally, links placed in the header and footer are given extra weight, so if you have a large site it’s imperative to choose the best articles to place here as to not waste linking juice. If there are links that must be placed in the footer, that you don’t actually need to rank for, like an “About Us” page, then you can “nofollow” that link so that link juice is not wasted on that page.
Why are Internal Links Important to Google?
Internal links are not only used to connect your internal pages using relevant keywords as anchor text, but like receiving external links, it also helps to rank your pages, since the number of links pointing to a particular page determines its weight or value.
Optimizing Site Structure
Here is an example of a simple optimized site structure, this way you have a jumping-off point as you begin to think about optimizing your site.
Optimal Site Structure consists of:
- com > “Best Smartphone” Cornerstone Content > “Best Smartphone Under $250” Regular Content
That’s essentially it, except that all of the regular content needs to link back to the related cornerstone content page that it branches from.
Internal links can be single words, a string of related keywords, or images. The only pitfall to avoid is with internal links, is using exact match keywords for all of your links.
So, every link to “Best Smartphone” should not use the anchor text “Best Smartphone” since this is seen as over-optimization.
Anchor Text Example:
Make the links natural and helpful to the user while following the basic internal linking structure laid out above, and you’ll be in good shape. The anchor text chosen in your internal links helps Google understand your site, and the relationship between content, but your main goal should be helping site visitors.
If you’ve fully understood this guide to internal linking for SEO then you’re well on your way to fully optimizing your website. Basic internal linking strategy can be boiled down into a few bullet points:
- Remember the importance of homepage, footer, and navigation links
- Build cornerstone content and proper interlink it with normal content
- Don’t use exact match anchor text excessively
Now that you’ve been refreshed, you’re ready to start internal linking!