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Harnessing the power of internal linking to boost SEO

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Internal Links Infographic
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Using the Power of Internal Linking to Boost SEO - Video Summary

In order for your content to rank highly, you need to establish an effective internal link structure. By establishing your internal linking opportunities, you are forging a path for search bots to discover your important pages.

Contextual internal links also tell Google about the structure of your website and the hierarchy of your pages. Internal links pass authority from important pages to other, less valuable pages. This is a key way you can use your internal link structure to boost your SEO efforts.

What is an internal link?

An internal link is any link that directs a user from one page on your website to another page on your website. While external links point to web pages outside of your own site.

Internally linking helps users and search engine bots to navigate your website and find the content they are looking for. You can add internal links to all important pages on your site, to ensure they are indexed and discovered.

There are also different types of internal links you can implement. These include links on your homepage, in your site menu, or on your social media post feed.

However, an important element of any internal linking structure is to add links within your written content, like articles, blog posts, or guides.

These types of links are known as contextual links. They guide your visitors to similar content of yours that they may be interested in. These links also create a connection for search engines to determine the content on your site that is related to other content.

Contextual incoming links can also tell search engines how important your content is.

By establishing many internal links to a certain page, search engines will be able to determine that this page contains important information, and guide more users to it. This is where internal linking strategies also boost your SEO.

The Purpose of Internal Links

Now that you are familiar with the internal linking basics, let’s discuss the purpose of internal links.

Internal linking has three primary purposes:

  1. Helps users and bots to navigate your website
  2. Details the structure and hierarchy of pages within your website
  3. Distributes page authority and ‘link equity or ‘link juice’ throughout pages on your site

The basic purpose and reason why you should add valuable links to your site internally continues to be that it strengthens the SEO value of your website.

Internal link building gives your users and search bots a clear path to navigate your site, leading to longer user visits and a more cohesive network of pages with a strong link value.

How To Build On Your Internal Linking Strategy

There are multiple ways that you can use internal linking to your advantage in order to see better results from your SEO campaign.

1. Link your website visitors to relevant pages

Another benefit of internal linking is that it is also an effective way to improve the user experience (UX) of your site visitors by guiding them to find more compelling content on your website, prolonging their visit and showing them the content they are truly interested in. You can check how long visitors are spending on your site by using a tool like Google Analytics.

Linking a user to a relevant page might involve taking them to a product page of an item you have discussed in your content, or show them to relevant articles or blog posts going into further detail on a related topic.

When you increase the time your users spend on site by linking them to relevant content, or lead them to a product page, you are also more likely to improve your conversion rate.

Overall, internal links help you to improve your user experience and performance in search engines.

2. Link search engines to relevant pages

Well-linked pages will also help your performance when it comes to search engine optimization. Your link structure will help search engines to find and thus index the related pages within your site.

 By taking the time to internally link related pages, you are telling search engines that you have created a broad selection of interwoven content and increases your authority in your industry.

When you show Google how your content interconnects, they will pass this on to your users and improve your organic search performance.

3. Pass page authority to other links on your website

Your internal linking structure will also help you to distribute page authority between your web pages and improve your position within search results rankings.

Google’s PageRank algorithm will determine the quality and authority of your web pages and assign it an SEO value.

Google will take into account which internal links point where and distribute page authority accordingly.

This means if one of your web pages has managed to obtain authoritative external links from other sites, and this page links to another page on your site that has fewer links, the authority from the first page will be distributed to the second, less valuable page.

By identifying the pages of your site that are performing best, perhaps by generating a links report, you can ensure you put in place the right internal linking strategy to benefit all of your pages.

To simplify the process, you should determine which of your pages have obtained a number of high-quality inbound links, and subsequently find opportunities to add relevant internal links to your other pages.

This ensures that you distribute that link juice and link value to other pages on your website.

4. Reduce the number of orphan pages

An orphan page is a term used to describe a page within your website that has no internal links pointing towards it. It is essentially ‘free floating’, with no path pointing towards it for users or search bots to follow.

This means the page cannot be accessed in a site crawl and cannot be indexed by search engines. This makes it impossible for users to discover the page organically.

If you have an orphaned page within your website that you feel would be valuable, you should include it in your internal linking strategy.

If you feel the orphan page should not appear within search engine rankings, the next step to take is to remove it from your site or to add a ‘noindex’ tag.

An orphan page may come about due to human error or broken internal links. However they came about, they are an SEO nightmare!

It can lead to wasted content, which is damaging to the user experience. It can also mean that the page receives no authority from other pages on the same site and cannot be accurately evaluated or assessed by crawlers.

You can use the following steps to identify and fix any orphan pages within your own website:

4.1. Generate a list of all the links within your site

You cannot simply employ the help of a website audit tool to generate a full list of pages on your site, because by its very nature, an orphan page will not be discovered in an audit.

They are not linked anywhere within your site. What you need to do instead, is to give the audit tool a full list of your site URLs that need to be examined.

4.2. Run a website crawl to pick up on pages with no inbound internal links

To find orphan pages, you can run a website crawl with an audit feature to catch pages that do not have any internal links. You can also configure the audit tool to catch any new unlinked pages that crop up in the future.

4.3. Analyze the results of your website crawl

Once the website crawl has been completed, you need to assess the results it has generated. Identify the orphan pages and determine their objectives: Do they drive traffic, referral or otherwise? Do they contain any quality backlinks or outbound links? Can site visitors access them from hub pages or via an onsite search function?

4.4. Fix or remove any orphan page you find

Once you have determined the function of the orphan page, you can decide what to do next. You may decide to link to it from other internal or navigational links so site visitors can find it during their browsing.

You may also archive or remove the link if it does not serve a purpose. Finally, you can decide to leave the orphan page as is.

If it is not necessary for it to appear in search results and it is performing another function, you can leave it alone.

4.5. Rerun the website crawl on a regular basis to discover new orphan pages

Most internal links will continue to serve their purpose over time, but it is possible that some pages may accidentally become orphaned.

This could happen if you add new content to your site and don’t remember to link to it, or if you accidentally remove the link to the page within your site structure.

This is why it’s important to check your site on a regular basis, as the same page you thought was well linked may become orphaned over time.

5. Implement descriptive anchor text for internal links

Once you have determined the links that should be on one page and decided which pages should hold the most link value, you need to look at the anchor text pointing to these pages.

When you add internal links to pages on your same domain, the anchor text is the clickable text that visitors see within your content.

You can optimize the anchor text used within your content, however, you need to avoid over-optimizing your content and stuffing it with keywords.

Google is able to determine if you are using anchor text that is not relevant to the content you are writing about.

Ensure that the anchor text looks natural in your blog post or article: you can use keywords, but don’t use the same anchor text keywords in every instance.

You will likely not be penalized by Google for using exact match anchor text for links going to the same domain, however, you should always ensure the anchor text is relevant to the linked page.

The rules used for an external link strategy, where you link to other websites, differ slightly to creating internal links. Use the following tips to generate the best results when it comes to using internal link anchor text:

  • Variety: If you only use one type of anchor text, this will not seem natural within your content. This may also impact negatively on your user experience, by confusing your site visitors trying to access your links. By diversifying the anchor text you use, you will ensure you are not penalized by search engines.
  • Length: You should also vary the length of the keywords you are using within your anchor text. You can vary between using long-form and short-form keywords. This may help boost your rankings for specific terms, as long as the anchor text is a term people will search for.
  • Relevance: Finally, do not force a keyword into your anchor text if it does not make sense in terms of the content you are writing about. Always ensure that your anchor text is relevant to your written content. This can make the anchor text and internal links important when it comes to SEO.

6. Consider Internal Link Placement

When placing internal links, you should consider not only how many internal links to implement, but also the placement of those links.

Typically, the page with the most inbound links is the homepage of your site.

This means that if a page within your site is linked far from the homepage, it’s importance within search engines is decreased and it ranks more poorly.

You can consider the following internal pages to use as link placements, which may increase the performance of your internal links:

Normal Site Navigation: These are links that are usually located in a top bar menu, sidebar menu, and footer links that exist on all pages.

This type of link placement is inbuilt to your website structure and defines how the topics on your site are categorized.

Related Pages: Related page links point to other pages on your site that are relevant to the current content your site visitor is consuming.

This further improves the user experience as it can suggest pages to your visitor that they may have been looking for.

User Sitemaps: You may also decide to place your internal links within your sitemap. This is a page on your website that links to all of the other pages on the site.

A sitemap may not be used by the typical web user who is simply browsing. Sitemaps can also very quickly become overwhelming if your site is large and has a large number of different pages.

In-Content Links: Finally, you can place internal links within the content of your pages. This is an effective way of introducing internal links to your visitors and can help your SEO, providing you don’t over-optimize the content.

Keep your user at the front of your mind when you create links like this. Internal link building best practice involves putting the user first and the search engine second.

Tips for Including Internal Links Within Your Content

As easy as internal links can be to place on your website, there are some general rules that you should try to stick to when implementing them.

Use Natural Links

A key component of internal linking is maintaining a user-friendly approach. The user is visiting your website to gain value and information from an authoritative source.

The content you produce and internal links you generate should reflect this, and not just focus on how it can provide value to your SEO efforts.

Your internal links can improve the engagement of users within your site. Users are more likely to click through to content that matches the context of what they are looking for.

If they click through to an internal link, they will likely stay longer on your website and become more involved in the experience of your website.

When you add internal links to your content, you are telling search engines that the content you are linking to is important and relevant enough to take your user out of the page they are currently browsing, and into another section of your website.

This can tell users and search engines alike that the content you are linking to is of a high quality.

Use Relevant Links

As important as it is to include natural links within your content, you should also use links internal to your site that are relevant to the content you create.

Do not simply add a link to your content just for the sake of creating link value. Be intentional about the internal linking process and ensure links are relevant to your webpage.

For example, you should not link to a page about ‘dog walking practices’, if you are writing about how to find a dog groomer.

There is not a strong enough connection between both topics to justify creating a link between the two pages. Linking between both of these pages will likely not provide much value to the user, or to your SEO experience.

However, if you have a page on great spots for dog walking, you might find a great opportunity to link to your ‘dog walking practices’ article.

It is likely that information between the two pages will overlap. This makes the link relevant.

Use Follow Links

Follow links are a major part of your internal link site architecture and constitute a large part of your content marketing.

In the past, an internal linking strategy was to make most links on a page a ‘nofollow link’, with the thinking that this would increase link juice to a single page. This no longer works as an SEO strategy.

Nofollow links do not influence the ranking of your page within search engine indexes.

They essentially reduce the effectiveness of links within your website as search engine crawlers do not follow them and cannot assess the authority of a page.

Nofollow links do have their place, and can help sites avoid running into issues with search engines potentially determining that you are involved in paid link schemes and being penalized for these black hat SEO practices.

However, you should not implement these links as part of your internal linking strategy. You should focus on ensuring link authority can flow from one page to another.

Link between pages of varying ages

When you create a new post that is relevant to an older page with higher value, add an internal link. If you have an older post that generates high traffic or high volumes of social media shares, add an internal link to your new post.

Your publishing process for new pages should include linking to an old page.

You can use Google’s search engine to perform a search on your site for related pages.

This is an efficient way to generate mentions of a target phrase that may have been used across all pages of your site. Go through these pages and determine if you can add internal links within them.

Use 'Link Whisper' WordPress Plugin to help with Internal Linking

You can also implement the help of a plugin to help you with your internal linking strategy. One of the key tools you can use to help you with your internal linking is ‘Link Whisper‘.

Link Whisper is a tool for WordPress sites that suggests relevant internal links within your WordPress editor, when you are writing content.

The tool uses artificial intelligence to ensure you do not miss out on any relevant internal links. The number of links it generates can range from a handful of link suggestions, to dozens. Implementing these links within your site could not be easier, simply click the box to add and save your content.

Link Whisper can also help you to pick up on an orphan page within your site, that has no internal links pointing to it.

You can quickly see which pages these are and add new internal links pointing to the page right within the WordPress editor. Link Whisper will suggest the most relevant internal links you should add.

Link Whisper also helps you to build an internal link strategy faster, by implementing an ‘Auto-Link’ feature. This allows you to input a keyword you wish to build links from and specify the URL you want these links to point towards.

Link Whisper will then build links automatically when these keywords are mentioned, in past and future posts. This allows you to optimize your site in a much more efficient way.

Link Whisper will generate link reports, allowing you to get an overview of the links within your site and determine which articles or content these links are coming from.

You can also pick up on internal and external links within your site by using Link Whisper’s link dashboard. This gives you a bird’s eye view of your link-building strategy.

You can also quickly modify or remove any broken links right within Link Whisper’s dashboard.

Finally, you can add your target SEO keywords that you are trying to rank for in Google and Link Whisper will suggest the most relevant links for your articles. You may already utilize tools like Yoast SEO within WordPress to generate target keywords.

Link Whisper will work with these tools to determine these keywords, avoiding duplication. You can also pull in data about your traffic from Google Search Console when you use Link Whisper.

This allows you to quickly see your organic traffic, your average position within search rankings, and determine the keywords that are bringing in results, so you can optimize for your next article.

This keyword data can be essential to adjusting your target keywords and internal link strategy for maximum results.

Final Words

Now that you know what an internal link is, why it’s important and how you can create it, focus on generating content that is worthy to receive both internal and external links.

It is important to be aware that internal links can only do so much: If the content your internal links are pointing to is not of good quality, your user will likely not click on other links within your content.

Put simply, without building a link strategy, your content cannot rank within search results.

By creating a solid internal linking strategy, you can show the search bots which of your content is related and which of your articles are most informative and valuable for users.

By following the guidelines we have given in this article, you can ensure that both Google and your users will understand your site better. This in turn will increase your chances of ranking and appearing in organic search results.

Essentially, internal linking is a key SEO strategy that should not be overlooked. Internal linking is overall, not difficult or complicated.

By taking the time to understand how to build effective internal links, you can generate a strong link profile and improve your SEO. You may even find it’s worth the time to go back through your old content and ensure it is up to today’s internal linking standards.

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