Many people out there don’t realise the importance of linking up content and surprisingly few SEOs put any serious thought into link architecture. But internal links and links within your content are essential to help your site rank.
Definition Of Internal Links
Internal links connect one page to another page, where the source domain is the same as the destination domain.
What are internal links for?
Internal links fulfil a few different purposes. These include:
- Helping navigation
- Defining hierarchy
- Distributing link juice
Getting started with internal linking
So the first thing to remember about creating websites and trying to get them to rank in Google is you need links in order to rank in Google. It’s that simple, Google’s whole algorithm is built on links. Most SEOs rightly think about links from outside a website, as this is how Google will find your site when it’s crawling the net, but internal links also go someway to passing authority around your website, so it’s essential your internal ‘link architecture’ is well thought through.
Internal links help you establish the hierarchy of your website and direct people to the pages you most want them to visit, this, in turn, tells Google which pages you consider to be most important.
Why does Google like links?
OK, let’s take this back around 20 years. Back in the day search engines created an index based on those websites that had been submitted to them and based on the keywords that featured on that page. This was relatively easy to game through keyword stuffing activity. Google came along with a new idea: links. They would find new websites through hyperlinks and what’s more, they would assign a weighting to pages based on the pages that linked back to them.
The content is crawled bit a ‘spider’ or ‘bot’ that in Google’s case is called Googlebot. Each page that Googlebot comes to on your site it will find other pages simply by crawling the links on that page. This provides Google with an insight into the relationship between the content.
That’s why when you’re exploring the GrowTraffic posts and pages you’ll notice links to other relevant pages, such as SEO, content marketing, link building and internal link building. I like to include links to my SEO consultant page as that is one of the best-performing pages from a conversion perspective and it lets people find out a bit more about me.
You’ll also notice this post is categorised and contains relevant tags. All these things link the post to other pieces of content. It’s good for users and it’s good for Google.
Understanding how Google determines link value
Whilst we recognise that it’s important to demonstrate the interconnected relationships between content, it’s also important to consider how Google values links and that Google divides link value between all the links on the page.
Generally speaking, most homepages have the most links pointing at them and this makes them the strongest pages on a website. Conversely, those newly created pages will have the fewest links pointing at them and will, therefore, will have the least equity. This is one of the reasons we include links to the most recent blogs in the footer of every page. It’s the link from the homepage that has the best impact here because that’s the page that Google comes back to most frequently. Clever, eh?!
But, if you’ve got a really big website the internal pages should be receiving the majority of the external links and this is why it’s essential to have the most important pages linked to from all the internal pages as well as the homepage.
Creating an internal link strategy
Don’t just create a website without thinking about how your website links together. If you are going to get the most out of your website you need to think about internal links from a strategic SEO perspective and in my opinion, this has to be baked into the website from the beginning.
Creating a site structure
When starting to think about the site structure the first thing I do is open an Excel spreadsheet. Then I try to imagine the site as a tree, with the homepage being the trunk (technically it’s the root – but let’s run with trunk). From the trunk, the main navigational pages hang. The further you get away from the homepage the pages will become more specific or granular.
On GrowTraffic you’ll see the homepage is very generic. We then have a Services page which talks in general points about the things we do and how we help customers. From there you’ll see we’ve got two main sections: Digital Marketing and Offline Marketing. These then split out in an ever-increasingly granular manner. Digital Marketing links to an SEO page and this, in turn, links to an SEO auditing page. And so on!
Creating this kind of tree structure with parent pages and child pages enable you to create content silos. Because of the way servers works, these are essentially seen as subfolders – in exactly the same way you would have subfolders on your desktop. This is indicative of an area of the website that is super0-relevant to a certain topic.
Linking to the most important content
Whilst it’s nice to have your pages all set up in a lovely site structure you are going to get to the point where there are some pages that are too far from the homepage. This can be particularly problematic if these pages are some of the most important pages for your business. At this point, you are going to need to find other ways to link to the products and services pages, as well as the best pieces of content you’ve created.
Take a look in our footer and you’ll see all our core services appear there are links. That’s so the visitors to our site are only every one click away from the most important pages on the website. What’s more, we have also got some featured articles in the footer. These are the articles that we want people to read the most and are the ones we only occasionally change.
Creating in-content links
When you’re creating a link you’re going to want to look for opportunities to create contextual links to other pieces of relevant content. You don’t have to go mad about it. We’re not going to create a link using the word SEO every time we mention it for example. That would be too much.
Creating contextual links is part of the process of creating a virtual silo of content from different categories that are all especially well related to one another. I think it’s important to have a wide range of links in your content and it’s important to link to old posts as well because they might continue to be super relevant but after a while of not being updated their potency starts to become deprecated.
And whilst a big part of this may seem like it’s all about linking from posts to the money pages, there is a lot to be said about linking from your money page through to best-related articles. But… try not to include too many links in the body content of your money pages, you want your visitor to have read the content and got to the call to action before they decide to go somewhere else.
I can’t believe I’m still writing about ‘the fold’ (everything above the fold is the part of the website that loads in the browser before you have to scroll, but Problogger says: “Web users spend 80% of their time looking at information ‘above the fold’ or ‘what you see before you scroll.’” So if you want to benefit from the internal links you add to your content, make sure you add them early in the content – preferably above the fold.
Personally, I love to see related post sections at the bottom of the pages. If you’re running a WordPress website like GrowTraffic then you can find some great plugins out there that will help you add this to the bottom of your content.
Remember also that every page you add to your website also creates multiple new internal links. It’s not just about the ones you add to your content but also the new links from that post back to the homepage or money pages from the navigation. So more pages are good for link building internally – plus you can add more in-content links to those new pieces of content as well.
Former Google employee Andre Weyhner stated in an interview: “getting a link from a high PR page used to always be valuable, today it’s more the relevance of the site’s theme in regards to yours, relevance is the new PR.” This is significant for internal link building as well because it demonstrates that it’s not just about sticking links on every page and hoping for the best. They have to be curated and strategic.
When thinking about adding links you also want to be careful about the amount of time you’re adding links to the contact us page or the homepage. Wherever possible to don’t add any links to the homepage because it’s likely you’ve already got far too many of them already. And as for those contact links, use them sparingly, just add your phone number or link back to the money pages. There’s no need to keep adding links to the contact page.
Also, remember to remove as many links from landing pages as possible so as to prevent leakage – ie visitors navigating to other pages and content on your site.
Advanced Link Architecture
I think internal linking is fairly straightforward and common sense and with a bit of planning, most people can do most elements of internal link building. But there are some more technical things that you might want to consider when building your internal links.
Link Equity Sculpting
On your website, you’ll find there are a load of links and pages that aren’t that important for SEO purposes. For example, all those links to the terms and conditions page or to your login page aren’t that important. But they are adding links to your page which are diminishing the strength of each link on that page.
We used to carry out the practice of PageRank Sculpting back in the day. Essentially, this meant using a nofollow tag, which is a tag added to a link that asks Google not to crawl the link. By using this tag the theory was the link equity of the page wasn’t divided by so many links. So you might only have one link on a page that didn’t have a nofollow tag on it, that meant that link was the only one that passed authority and it passed most of the equity of the page.
Google’s wiser these days. Google decides how it will handle a nofollow tag on a link. In fact, it will decide if it will follow a link or not, and even if it does, it will decide if it’s going to pass authority. The best advice at the moment is probably to have fewer links per page. Using noindex tag on a page and a nofollow tag in the metadata is probably the best way to prevent Google indexing and passing link equity.
Getting anchor text right for the is also something that you need to be factoring into your internal linking strategy. The key thing here is to get your keyword research right in the beginning. Assuming you’ve done that, you should try to match the anchor text in the navigation to the name of the page or the H1 tag and the page title keyword. This is going to make the optimisation work extra well.
You should also try to get some internal links from images within your content, remembering that the alt text effectively acts as the anchor text of a normal hyperlink.
But as with all things SEO, make sure you don’t over optimise by putting loads of keywords in the anchor text! This is less of a problem when you’re thinking about internal links as it would be if we were talking about external link building, but it’s still something that needs to be kept in mind.
If you’re still scratching your head about internal linking and creating links in your content then give us a call to drop us an email.