Internal links aren’t always the first thing people think of when it comes to optimizing their site, but they’re incredibly important for SEO. Not only do Google’s crawlers rely on internal link to navigate your site and rank pages for their relevant keywords, but an effective linking strategy can also encourage deeper engagement from readers which sends a positive ranking signal.
In this post, we’re focusing on the benefits of internal links and how to use them more effectively to improve your online visibility and boost the rank of your website. First, let’s look at the key differences between internal and external links.
Internal links are hyperlinks that direct users to other pages on your site, whereas external links direct users to pages on another website. Both types have SEO value.
Adding trustworthy and relevant external links builds your credibility as an authority in your niche and helps search engines figure out what your content is about.
Internal linking, on the other hand, has many tangible SEO benefits that people often overlook:
- They encourage visitors to remain on your site for longer, which sends a quality signal to search engines.
- They make it easier for search engine robots to crawl your entire website, which speeds up the process of indexing your pages.
- They improve the ranking of your web pages for certain keywords, sending a clear signal to search engines that your pages are relevant to search users typing in that phrase.
- They increase the backlink earning potential of internal pages by creating clear paths to all your content.
- Internal links that use anchor text in the right way can have more SEO value.
So how do you adapt your website content to get all of these benefits? Start by following these eight steps to boost your SEO using internal linking.
1. Establish Your Website’s Structure
Organizing your website into categories and subcategories will make it easier to create a relevant internal linking structure. Keep the structure logical, based on how a person would progress through each page. The search engines will then understand how pages are linked together and rank them correctly for specific terms.
If you regularly add pages to your website, knowing where to place new content is the best way to build internal links that make sense for users and search engines. Finding a page on your website should never be too difficult, which is why many SEO experts recommend keeping paths between pages short. If possible, make sure every page on your site is no more than three clicks away. Keep this principle in mind when planning your site’s structure.
2. Check for Orphan Pages
Orphan pages are web pages that aren’t linked to from any other page on your site. If Google can’t see the pages, they can’t index them, and users can’t access them either. Although orphan pages shouldn’t harm your search rankings, you could be missing out on some SEO value from the content.
Use a tool like Screaming Frog SEO Spider to find an orphan page, then create an internal link to it from a relevant page. Ensure the new page is added to your HTML sitemap and XML sitemap.
Obviously, if it’s a landing page created to track a PPC or email campaign, it makes sense to keep the page orphaned.
You don’t need to worry about linking to your site’s main pages such as the homepage and contact page; these should already have enough links directed toward them. Some of the most powerful internal links are the ones that connect one quality article to another.
Find one long-form, evergreen content piece, and create a link within the article to another quality article on your site. Make sure the link is natural and relevant to the page it’s targeting. Continue to do this with other articles on your site to create a strong internal linking structure deep within your site.
4. Use Unique, Relevant, and Descriptive Anchor Text
Anchor text placed within content typically has a higher SEO value than a navigational link in the header, footer, or sidebar. This is because links in the main content add new information and value to the text.
- The anchor text – the text of the hyper link – should contain words that help users and search bots understand your web pages. Keep the following in mind:
- Anchor text should accurately describe what the target page is about.
- It should sound natural within the content of the page.
- Use a variety of anchor texts: use your brand name plus a keyword, title tags from the target page, naked URLs, long-tail keyphrases, and LSI keywords or synonyms.
If all of your anchors contain the same phrase, you’re going to get penalized by search engines.
Google sees fresh content as a positive ranking factor, so links from new pages to old ones pass fresh value. If a new post relates to an old post, add a link. Likewise, add a link from an old post to a newer, related post.
To search your own site for related pages, use the Google search operator: “site:www.yoursite.com [keyword].” You’ll then see which pages contain the target phrase, which are all candidates for internal linking.
6. Regularly Update Old Articles
Every so often, return to an old article and add a new first paragraph explaining your updates. Then add fresh content within the old article, inserting new internal links to recently created content. This not only improves the ranking value of old content, it also passes ranking value to the new content.
If you have pages on your site that have inbound links from other reputable websites, it’s worthwhile linking to other pages on your site from these pages. These inbound links from authoritative sites pass value to your page, and your internal link shares some of that value with the pages you link to.
8. Keep Creating New Content
You can only continue with an internal linking strategy if there’s content to link to. Therefore, regularly creating new internal pages on your website is essential for building a strong internal link structure.
If you focus on creating fresh and useful content for your audience, inserting new internal links should come naturally. The authority of your site and therefore your page rankings will then improve over time.
Little Connections Make a Big Difference
Internal linking should be about providing more value to readers by directing them to other quality content on your site. You don’t have to use a lot of internal links on every page; the best links are naturally occurring and are helpful to site users. If an internal link seems unnatural, your readers and the search engines will notice, which will ultimately damage your reputation and a page’s ranking value.
Unlike external links, with internal links you’re in control. By linking to relevant pages and optimizing your anchor text, you’ll improve the usability of your site, which should lead to higher audience engagement. Try following these guidelines, and both Google and your users will understand your site better, which will in turn improve your search engine rankings.