Internal links are hyperlinks that redirect a user inside the same website, on a different page. They are ways to make it easier for a user to navigate a website, among other things.
For instance, an internal link for our website would be this. As we’re talking about internal linking as a concept, we think you’ll also be interested in SEO Tips When Building a New Website, another article we have on our website. Instead of having you scroll through all our blog posts, we simply provide you with a text link you can choose to click or not.
But there’s more to this than just having a few text links on your blog posts. In fact, if you want to improve SEO, you should consider developing an internal linking strategy. Let’s look at why, and how to make one.
Why Are Internal Links Beneficial to a Website?
Internal links tie into your overall site structure and make the user experience a lot better by:
- Easing navigation
- Establishing website information hierarchy
- Spreading ranking power throughout the website (meaning you’ll likely have multiple pages rank well on SERPS)
Let’s break these three down:
1. Easing Navigation
Internal links, when done well, help a user view multiple pages on your site easily, which means they spend more time on your site, read more content, and become more familiar with your brand. Without a good internal link structure, think of how a first-time user would navigate from one page to the other. They may use the menu bar, but you’ll likely not have all your existing links there, so, for the most part, they are going in blind.
With internal links, you help them out a bit and take them from one article they are interested in another.
2. Website Information Hierarchy
We are talking here about the website structure. You ideally want to have a good structure not just to improve user experience, but to also boost SEO efforts.
Search engines have crawlers that essentially scan the web and bring back pages as search results for user queries. For that to happen, the page needs to match the keywords a user types in the search bar.
But, they also need to be able to do this quickly. If you’ve ever Googled something, you know it doesn’t take long for the search engine to bring back thousands of search results. When they scan a site for relevant information, the web crawler uses the site structure to get from one page to the other. If you have a good one with internal links, the crawler can quickly spot it and bring it back to the user.
Pages that are isolated from the website, meaning there are no internal links pointing to it, often have the worst SEO because crawlers can’t see them, and users won’t get to them, except maybe by accident.
3. Spreading Ranking Power
Also known as link equity or link juice, this concept is essential to SEO efforts. Links pass value and authority from one page to another, like a small vote of confidence. For instance, if you have a high authority page that you link to, that authority is then transmitted to all the other pages linked to it. Search engines use link juice to determine how to rank a page in the search results.
Internal versus External Links: Which One’s Better?
An external link is the type of hyperlink that takes a user from one website to another. External links are also must-haves in your SEO strategy because of the more authority external links you have, the more trustworthy or authoritative your website becomes.
The major difference between the two is that internal links improve your website structure, while external links speak about your place in the industry. If the New York Times links to your blog posts, you’re likely an authority in your industry, and users trust your website more.
Both of them work together towards improving your SEO efforts, though it’s important to consider how to create the linking structures. For external links, it’s best to focus on just a few ones that link to other high-authority pages, as opposed to having multiple external ones that redirect users to insecure, shady websites.
There’s also a big question regarding how many internal links a website should have, and if too many links can have damaging effects or not. Well, Matt Cutts, a former senior engineer at Google, says “typically not” as long as you have a “normal website.” So you needn’t stuff your site with 400 links to your category page just to check the internal linking strategy on your to-do list, but as long as these links happen organically, you should not be worried about their number.
4 Tips for an Internal Linking Strategy
1. Analyse and Improve Site Structure
The ideal website structure is the pyramid, where at the top you have the homepage, and then as you go down you have the categories, posts, and individual pages. This is really the easiest way to envision your website and to make sure no page is left outside of the architecture. If yours doesn’t really look like a pyramid, then it may be a good idea to make some changes.
You can also set up internal link tracking in your Google Analytics to see which links are valuable and which are not. In some cases, your site structure may not be the biggest problem, but the actual pages you link to are. This can happen if, for instance, your links are not relevant to the content, or are not visible enough.
2. Single out the Important Pages
Every website has a handful of very important pages that need to be placed front and center, whether it’s the pages you want people to easily find because they tie into your business goals, such as product pages, or blog posts you want visitors to read.
Once you have these important pages identified, then you need to tell Google those pages are important, through internal links. This will help the web crawler access the pages quickly, and bring them back in the search results where more people could potentially see them.
3. Diversify Links
There are two main types of internal links: navigational and contextual. Navigational links are the ones found in the website menu, while contextual links are those found in the content that link to another page on your website.
Your website should, of course, have both. Focusing just on a great navigation bar isn’t enough to say you have a good internal linking strategy, as there are plenty of pages that don’t necessarily fit there, leaving them isolated from the rest. The reverse is also true – contextual links work great for certain important pages, but navigation works best when you link your main sections in the menu bar.
4. Combine Internal Linking with Content Marketing
If you have a content marketing strategy going on, you can use it as an opportunity to create more internal links on your website.
The simplest way to do it is through contextual links – adding them right into the blog post, and having the links point users to additional information that may be relevant to them. This is a staple in internal linking, but the problem is that they may not always be effective, as the user typically wants to continue to read the content, and not pause, click on a link, read another article, then come back. It’s too much effort.
Instead, consider two extra approaches on top of contextual links:
- Adding a related post section – you can easily add a plugin that will present users with previews of other related blog posts. These are usually placed in the sidebar, outside of the content the user is reading, but are still visible enough for the user to notice them;
- Adding a most popular section – just like the related section, the most popular section is a great way to create additional internal links and give the user more information, without necessarily being too in your face about the link. It could be placed on the footer of every page, allowing the user the opportunity to click the link once they’ve finished reading the content.
Having a good internal linking strategy is essential for websites that want to have a good placement in search results and offer a good user experience to their visitors. If you need some assistance with your internal links or site navigation Australian Internet Advertising can help.
Book a free strategy session with one of our Search Engine Optimisation specialists now, and we’ll help you create an effective internal linking plan to improve the quality of your website and generate better results.