August 8th, 2017

How an Internal Linking Strategy Helps Your SEO

How an internal linking strategy helps your SEO: Establish site hierarchy, build page authority, and improve site navigation.

Establish site hierarchy, build page authority, and improve site navigation.

We’ve talked in the past about how link building can improve your SEO and help draw traffic to your website. But what about internal links? Are they just a good way to help your visitors move from one page to the next, or do they influence your SEO as well? To understand the answers to these questions, let’s look at what internal links are and how they work.

What are internal links?

In case you don’t know, internal links are those that point from one page on a domain to another page on the same domain. They’re the infrastructure on your website that allows for basic navigation. Google uses internal links to see how your pages link together, and it analyses this structure to find out how your pages relate to each other. In fact, Google needs internal links to properly crawl your site. One reason why some of your pages aren’t receiving the traffic you expect is because you haven’t linked to them internally.

The way Google handles internal links matters for your site in several ways. First, pages that have a lot of other pages linking to them are considered to be high authority. They’re what some consider “cornerstone” pages, meaning they lay the foundation for other content. You’ve probably linked to these pages from your navigation (as service pages, for instance), or they may be a particularly long blog post that you refer to every time you write about a subject. When someone searches for a phrase and Google is trying to choose between two pages on your site, it will prioritize these pages over others.

Second, the way these pages link to others establishes hierarchy and improves navigation. Ideally, your visitors will land on the page of most authority, and from there navigate to more specific topics. This will also provide the best user experience, as the high-authority pages are often the most relevant. Once you create this authority and navigation structure, you can start thinking about how to incorporate internal linking into your content strategy.

How can you systematically create a good linking strategy for your website?

So we understand that internal links are good and beneficial. But where do you put them? After all, and abundance of internal links won’t help your website if they aren’t placed strategically. If they navigate to unrelated pages, or if they clutter up your side navigation, they can actually reduce your on-page user experience.

To that end, here are a few things you should do to build your internal linking in a way that makes strategic sense:

Add links in blog posts where appropriate.

You’ll notice a few links on this page to thinks like page hierarchy and domain authority. That’s for a good reason: I don’t have time in this post to dig into those terms, but I want to make sure you, the reader, can follow along with what I’m saying. By including them as internal links I can ensure you have access to good information without distracting from my post. Whenever you publish a blog, scan through to see if there are related topics you’ve blogged about previously that could use a link. Also think about old blog posts were you could add a link to your newest post.

Don’t forget to link from high-ranking pages.

As you write blog posts, it’s easy to link from new posts back to your more important subjects. But don’t forget to add links the other way. For instance, let’s say you have a big, cornerstone post on SEO. Probably every blog you write that talks about SEO will link to that page. This is, after all, what makes it a cornerstone post. But given how much authority that page generates, a link from it to one of your other pages will spread that authority around. So, for instance, from your big page on SEO you’ll also want to link to long-tail posts you write on keyword research, black-hat tactics that will get you banned, and (of course) linking strategies.

Include categories in your posts.

Whenever you check a category box, you’re adding that post to a page with other related blogs. For instance, if you look at our category page on content marketing, you’ll find all our content-marketing posts. This makes it easier for users interested in exploring a given topic, but it also helps Google verify what topic your content covers.

Use descriptive anchor text.

You don’t want a naked URL, but equally you don’t want anchor text that just reads “here” or “this.” Not only does this leave your readers blind (they don’t know where the link is taking them), but it also creates more awkward prose. Instead, have your anchor text, accurately describe where the link leads. This will help your users know if they want to follow it or not.

Don’t over-link.

Too many links on a page can damage its credibility and detract from user experience. After all, your users can only follow so many. With every link you add, consider how it might decrease the likelihood of a visitor following one of your other links. Are you still adding value for your user, or are you overwhelming them with content? Remember that on the other pages they visit there will be more links for them to follow. You don’t need to have all the links in one place.

Keep the content coming.

The more content you generate, the more material you have you create internal links. Over time, this creates a tight network of sources for your site visitors to explore. This is what a comprehensive content marketing plan is all about: establishing your website as an authority on a topic, and providing an informative and valuable experience for your users. We hope you can find ways to use internal linking on your site to create satisfaction for your customers and grow your business.

And of course, if you need help with your content marketing, we’d be happy to help.

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