Are you being advised by SEO experts to focus more on the internal linking structure of your website? If you’re still wondering how internal links give SEO a boost, then this guide is specifically intended to eliminate all your questions regarding internal linking and lists out the best practices followed by industry experts to cash in on the SEO opportunities that it offers.
What are Internal Links?
Internal links are hyperlinks on a webpage that point to another webpage or resource, such as an image, video, or document on the same website or domain. These types of links allow users to navigate a website easily.
Importance of Internal linking
When Google crawls a website, it does so by following internal and external links using the Google bot. The bot reaches the homepage of a website and starts following the first link that it comes across on the site. By following such links, it can understand the relationships between different web pages within a website. In addition to understanding the relationship between various web pages, Google divides the link value between all the links present on a web page.
It’s usually the homepage of any website that has the maximum number of internal links due to which, it carries the most link value. The link value, as it is passed on in the following webpages, will be divided among other links present in those pages.
As links pass their link value on, more links to a post mean more value. Internal links also give Google an idea of your website structure. They help you to build a site hierarchy, allowing you to provide more value to important web pages on your site or blog posts than the rest. As Google deems web pages with more links to be more important than others, you’ll also increase the number of pages ranked with proper internal linking.
What is Link Juice?
Link juice is a general term used in SEO. It refers to the value being passed on from one site to another through hyperlinks. As discussed earlier, search engines like Google consider links as votes by other websites that approve the value and authenticity of your website. Link building can be done through several techniques, but the process is broadly categorized into internal and external linking activities.
Suppose Site 1 receives four links from 4 different sites, and Site 2 receives four links from 2 different sites. This means that Site 1 will likely rank higher than Site 2, as the former receives link juices from more sites compared to the latter.
Another factor to consider here is determining the percentage of link juice received. So, if Site 1 gets a link from a website that links to other sites as well, whereas Site 2 receives a link from a site that links exclusively to Site 2, then the percentage of link juice that Site 2 receives will be more than Site 1.
In the case of dofollow links, the link juice is distributed equally among the outgoing links within the website. Using tools like Moz Internal Link Juice tool, you can find the total amount of link juice that a particular webpage can distribute easily. This tool crawls the number of links present on the page and calculates the percentage of link juice that will be passed with each link. Ideally, the link juice should be spread evenly throughout your website
Benefits of Internal Links
You must have already understood by now how internal links help in establishing site architecture and spreading link juice. Let us take an in-depth look at how internal links are beneficial:
- Internal links help users navigate a website easily. With the help of anchor links within the content, you can redirect users to relevant web pages that they’d likely enjoy exploring. When users find that the content in these linked web pages is related, they tend to stay longer on your website, which increases your page views. With sitewide internal linking, new users will be able to discover topics of interest, and you can see an improvement in the conversion rate consequently.
- Any page with a high PageRank can benefit by spreading link juice to related web pages through internal linking. Those pages will see an improvement in the authority and a boost in ranking due to the link juice received.
- Internal links can also reduce the bounce rate of your site. When people don’t find your content engaging, they tend to leave the site midway without reading through the entire written piece. If you can optimize the content with relevant internal links, then the bounce rate can be reduced to a great extent. With a lower bounce rate, your website ranking will also get a boost.
- When Google bots visit your website, they will follow all the links and pages that are easily indexed, but if you can build a proper internal architecture, these bots can make their way to the more in-depth pages that are rarely visited. These links can help improve the rankings of such pages and give an overall boost to the website ranking.
What is Crawl Depth?
The crawl depth of a website is the extent to which search engines index a website’s content. Sites with high crawl depths will be a lot more indexed than those with low crawl depth. So, for example, if it takes you three clicks to reach a target page, search engines will find that more difficult to index than a webpage that can be accessed by one click from the homepage.
Building internal links is an integral part of the crawl depth. In the absence of links on your site, search engine crawlers cannot navigate your website easily. This results in fewer pieces of content being indexed and poor organic rankings that affect your online visibility. For the ease of navigation for users, consider using breadcrumbs to specify the path through which they’ve reached a particular webpage.
When you look up something on Google, all the information that shows up in the search results comes due to Google indexing various websites for information. With Google continually crawling and indexing web pages to display the latest and best information to end-users, you need to optimize your site with all the factors that affect the Google crawl rate. One such factor, besides interlinking content within a website, is to take care of the site speed. Any website that loads slowly will be indexed less often by Google.
What is Internal Linking Structure?
Most websites have a simple site structure with the main home page branched out to multiple menus and sub-menus. However, some website structure tends to be more complicated than others. Earlier, webmasters used to follow the silo technique to improve the presence of keywords in a particular category. However, internal link building doesn’t need to be too complicated.
Google crawlers follow link paths throughout the internet to discover and index websites. With proper internal linking within your site, the Google crawler can find new content that you publish and index.
In case a vital webpage doesn’t get indexed, or a less important page has too many internal links, you should consider reviewing the internal linking strategy of your site. Only then will the important pages get more value over the less important ones. By developing a well-organized website navigational area that includes drop-down menus, you can improve the internal linking structure of your website effectively.
Importance of Hierarchy
You already know that internal links help create a hierarchy of information on your website, which helps establish your website structure and allow users to navigate the site easily. Due to the ease of navigation, users can spend more time on your site and discover new topics to read.
Internal linking can guide visitors to high-converting pages, leading to more revenue for your business. With users spending more time on your website and increasing the page views, Google will get a positive signal about the performance of your site and boost its ranking.
Best Internal Linking Practices You Can Follow
Now that you know about the importance and benefits of internal linking for any website, let us take a closer look at the best practices you can follow for internal linking activities on your website.
Create Lots of Content
To create lots of internal links throughout your site, you need to create many internal pages and write quality content. With lots of content on your website, you’ll have ample internal linking opportunities to utilize, and you don’t have to worry about complex layers of content or the silo technique to build a good internal linking structure on the website.
Link High Authority Pages to New for Improved Rankings
The Authority Transfer technique is an important and effective method to distribute link authority to the most critical SEO-driven pages of a website. You can use effective tools like Ahrefs to find such pages and add internal links to those pages. You simply need to enter your domain in Ahrefs, click on “Best by Links” under “Pages” and sort by “RDs.” It is one of the most successful ways to give such SEO-driven pages a boost in authority.
Use Anchor Text That You Want to Rank For
In keeping up with the content theme of internal linking, when it comes to images, you should do it with the help of anchor texts instead of linking images. If you want to link images, ensure that the alt tags are written properly and describe each picture correctly. For linking anchor texts, use natural and unoptimized sentence fragments to avoid making your links look spammy.
While building internal links, there are two types of internal links that you should avoid building. The first one is building links to the homepage of your website. Your homepage will already have many links pointing towards it, so instead of having more links point towards it, focus on strengthening internal pages by interlinking them.
Another common mistake that most marketers make is to link the “Contact Us’ page to add a call to action (CTA) at the end of their posts. This isn’t recommended until and unless it is absolutely necessary. Generally, the homepage will already link these pages in its main navigation bar, so avoid linking them and, instead, link the ones that are present deep within the structure.
Ensure that Links are Contextual
The primary purpose of internal linking is to offer a better user experience; all the other advantages come later. Google prefers websites that strive to provide a good user experience. So when you’re adding internal links to a piece of content, you’re telling the user that the linked web pages will match the context of that particular content.
Thus, it offers a win-win situation to both you and the target users. The users will find more to read, and you can see a boost in your ranking due to the efficient internal linking done on the website.
Use Relevant Links
Internal linking, as mentioned throughout the article, is beneficial to provide good user experience and increase your website ranking. Whenever you’re creating an internal link, you have to do it smartly and ensure that the webpage you link to is related to the content of the web page that you are linking from.
For example, you have an online e-commerce medical store and there’s a web page talking about the benefits of using sunscreen. On this page, you can add a link to a product page that is selling a list of sunscreens, but you cannot link this to a product page selling medicines for headaches.
Be Reasonable With the Number of Internal Links Used
You don’t need too many internal links on your website just for the sake of it. There is no documented limit on the number of internal links you can build on your site. Depending on the length of the post, you can add 2-5 links per post. For a 1500-word article, five internal links would be sufficient. Also, ensure that the links are spread evenly throughout the content and not clustered close to each other.
Avoid Creating Sitewide Footer Links
This used to be a common practice a few years ago, but it has become obsolete now. Websites in the travel and real estate domain used to add keyword-rich internal links in the footer section of their website. The count used to cross more than 50. In 2013, these links were hit with an algorithmic penalty for this. If you’re still adding footer links, it’s best to avoid them as Google will deem them as spam.
Prevent Using Same Anchor Texts For Two Different Pages
When you use the same anchor text for two different web pages, it confuses Google and may lead the search engine to conclude that the web pages contain information on the same topic. Hence try to use descriptive anchor texts in web pages to avoid confusion.
Put Links High Up on Your Page
Internal links placed high-up on aq webpage increase the time spent on the web page and reduce bounce rate. When you add an internal link at the beginning of an article, people will have something to check out right away. This will keep them hooked to your site for a longer time. Of course, you need to distribute your internal links throughout the content of your web page but adding one or two links at the top never hurts.
Use Internal Links to Help With Indexing
Google usually discovers and indexes all the important pages of a website. In case, you have lots of web pages that exceed your crawl budget, Google might be able to index only a limited number of them. With proper internal links, Google finds it easier to discover web pages to index, especially the ones that are buried deep in your site’s architecture.
Why Avoid Internal Link Automation?
It is best to avoid internal link automation for a number of reasons. The plugins or tools used for internal linking doesn’t have the best knowledge about the web pages that need maximum link juice. Additionally, for larger websites, link automation can lead to the creation of more than 1000 exact same anchor text for multiple web pages. This might lead the search engines like Google to flag your site as spam. Moreover, link automation tools could never think from a user point-of-view and create meaningful internal links as an SEO expert would.
When you follow these effective internal linking practices, you can easily improve the internal linking structure of your site without getting into complications or compromising on a simple site structure. With consistent internal linking throughout the site, you will build a strong link profile and improve the SEO on your website.