Devising and implementing a strong internal linking strategy can help you increase your visibility online, which can positively influence the leads and conversions you can generate. In fact, when used strategically, internal links can boost the levels of organic traffic to a site by as much as 40%.
What this article covers:
- What are internal backlinks?
- How can internal links be improved?
- How many internal links should appear in a blog post?
- Is internal linking good for SEO?
- How do you find internal linking opportunities?
What are internal backlinks?
In simple terms, an internal link is a hyperlink which points directly to another page within the same website. Internal links are primarily used within the main navigational structure of a website, and they have three core uses:
- To allow users to navigate a site with ease
- To establish an effective hierarchy of information
- To spread link equity across a website
Both users and search engines will use internal links to navigate throughout your entire website effectively. If there are no links to a page, search engines won’t find it and it won’t be properly indexed. The good news is that, as a site owner, you have full control over your internal linking structure. Making the right decisions here will help you to guide both search engines effectively and users to the most important pages of content within your site.
There are multiple types of internal backlinks, and contextual links are arguably one of the most important. Contextual links direct users to related content and are often present within your homepage, navigational menu and on-site content. Additionally, contextual links help search engines to determine which pieces of your on-site content are related and establish how much value that content has. The more links a page receives, the higher value it will have for the search engines. As such, a solid internal linking structure is an essential aspect of good search engine optimisation (SEO).
How can internal links be improved?
As with all aspects of SEO, there are a series of best practices that will help you to drive the most beneficial results and secure a solid return on investment (ROI) for your efforts. Here is a brief step-by-step guide, including some of our top tips.
- Map everything out: Websites can be complicated structures, and taking the time to map everything out at the beginning of this process will help you to progress through each subsequent step with relative ease. We recommend creating a spreadsheet containing the following headers:
It will be beneficial to incorporate as much information as possible in this spreadsheet, which should include as many pages as is feasible.
- Researching keywords: Keywords are a central component of every digital marketing strategy. If you haven’t already performed keyword research to identify the phrases that you want to target as part of your SEO campaign, now is the time to use the Google Keyword Planner to ensure that each page on your website is appropriately linked to every other piece of relevant on-site content.
- Search your site: Armed with the above information, now is the time to start searching the content that is live on your site. When you identify a page you want to link from, ensure that the corresponding anchor text is understandable and will fit seamlessly within the content.
- Interlinking to and from new pages: Whenever you post something new on your site, make a point to incorporate links to relevant older content. Doing this as you write is often recommended because it means you won’t forget to include an important link, but it is also a good idea to review your new content when it is complete to ensure you haven’t missed any opportunities to link to other pieces of on-site content.
- Using the correct anchor text is key: If you over-optimise your anchor text and use too many keywords, you run the risk of negatively impacting your site. It is imperative to ensure that your anchor text fits naturally within your copy, as Google will also look closely at the content around each link to determine its relevancy.
- Start the crawling process: Whenever you update your internal links, it is important to send those pages to be crawled. Doing so will inform Google that you have made refinements to your site. All you need to do here is go to the Crawl tab in the Google Search Console.
- The importance of auditing your internal links: It is also best practice to frequently audit your internal links to ensure pages haven’t been orphaned, which occurs when a page has no internal links pointing towards it, and that your links aren’t broken. A thorough auditing process will also highlight whether the performance of your link structure is being negatively affected by click depth issues, which can inform how important search engines view a page as being. It is your responsibility to give search engines all the information they need to ensure your content is indexed and ranked appropriately.
How many internal links should appear in a blog post?
When approaching your internal linking strategy, the best course of action is to simply ensure you are consistently linking to a relevant and valuable page. Search engines only dislike internal links if they are actively impeding user experience (UX). So you wouldn’t, for example, incorporate thousands of links at the end of every blog post you publish because it will make the page unnecessarily and cumbersomely long.
Remember, a page could contain three internal links and be viewed as being spammy if each of those links is pointing towards pages that are irrelevant. But a different page could contain 50 internal links and be considered a high-quality page if each link is contextual and adds value to your UX. So, provided that every link you incorporate into each page is relevant, there is no such thing as too many internal links.
Is internal linking good for SEO?
In short: yes! But allow us to elaborate on precisely why a good internal linking structure is an essential part of a robust SEO strategy.
Google is constantly searching for new webpages, ensuring they are added to its cumulative list of known pages. Some webpages are known because they have been crawled by Googlebot before, while others are only discovered when Googlebot arrives on a new page via a link contained within a known page. Google crawls all websites by following both internal and external links. When Googlebot arrives on your homepage, it will render the page before following the first link. This process allows Google to understand how each page relates to other pages on your site, helping it to determine which pages accurately focus on the same subject matter.
When crawling your site, Google will also divide link value between every link present on a web page. It is often the case that the homepage of a website is awarded the most significant link value as it typically contains the most backlinks. The process will continue as the link value awarded to each following page will then go on to be divided between all the links present on that page.
So if, for example, you share a link to your newest blog content on your homepage, those posts will be awarded with more link value than they would if you linked to them from a category page. Search engines will also find new content quicker when it is linked to from your homepage.
Importantly, however, you will likely have links on your website that aren’t important to your SEO strategy. There are many examples of this, including login links that allow your clients to access their account directly from your site’s homepage. You don’t want to unnecessarily give this link any value because you don’t need it to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). But how do you prevent this from happening? With…
- Nofollow links: It is possible to prevent losing important link value unnecessarily by giving each unimportant link a nofollow tag. This tag essentially tells Google that it doesn’t need to follow this link. Now, if you are thinking that giving less important links a nofollow tag will ensure that the most important links on a page are awarded with more link value, Google is already one step ahead. Yes, this certainly worked in the past, but now it is the case that any additional link value isn’t automatically divided between the links on a page without nofollow tags. Instead, the link value that would have been awarded to the link with a nofollow tag is simply lost.
Remember, if you want to ensure that a page doesn’t appear in SERPs, a nofollow tag isn’t enough and you should also give it a noindex tag which will prevent Google from rendering the page.
How do you find internal linking opportunities?
As you have full control over your internal linking strategy, it is down to you and your team to identify opportunities to ensure this approach is consistently working hard for your business and driving the outcomes you need. Here is a brief insight into some of the steps we recommend taking when looking for valuable internal linking opportunities.
- Identify a target webpage: This process begins with selecting a page towards which you want to point internal links. Say you are an online retailer specialising in outerwear, and you want your walking boots category page to occupy a more prominent position in SERPs. You might have a collection of hiking boots that will deliver good margins, and so your business as a whole would benefit from securing additional SERP visibility. Optimising your internal linking structure will likely help you to tell search engines that these pages of your site are valuable and worthy of attention, but first, you need to crawl your site to identify potential pages to link from.
- Crawl your site for potential links: This process can be performed utilising a web crawler, such as Screaming Frog, DeepCrawl or Sitebulb. Within one of these programs, you would ask them to highlight any pages that match the term ‘hiking boots’. If your site is relatively small, this process shouldn’t take too long to complete, but if you have a larger site it might be beneficial to focus on crawling areas that are more likely to deliver better results.
When your web crawler provides you with results, you should filter out any pages that either aren’t relevant or that already include a link to your target webpage.
- Insert links: The final step here is to insert the relevant links you have identified. It is important to look for a natural opportunity to include each link to ensure it is contextual and valuable. You want to avoid negatively impacting the flow of the piece of content, and you definitely don’t want to direct browsers towards an entirely different part of your site. When you have incorporated your chosen links, you should instruct Google to crawl your site to understand the alterations you have made.
Internal linking isn’t overly complicated, but it can be time-consuming and requires a well-considered strategy to function at optimal levels. Although there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, there are three core guidelines to keep in mind:
- Only link to and from relevant pages
- Mix up your anchor text and ensure it fits naturally within a piece of content
- Remember that you don’t need to create thousands of internal links to generate results
A robust internal linking structure will ultimately help you boost your organic search rankings, increasing your overall visibility online. This increased prominence within the SERPs will allow you to connect with your potential clients precisely when they are actively looking for the types of products and/or services you can deliver. Your organic search visibility will generate tangible results at all hours of the day or night, which will deliver a strong ROI that you can continue to build upon.
If we have piqued your interest as to the potential of internal linking structures and you are now eager to learn more about how we can help you to smash your digital goals this year and secure the future success of your business, don’t hesitate to contact us here at Search Creative to arrange a free of charge, no-obligation personal consultation.