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Formulating an Internal Linking Strategy – Essential in Onsite SEO

When it comes to improving your website’s search engine rankings, it is just as important to concentrate on its on-site SEO, as it is it’s off-site. Doing one without the other will leave your SEO strategy weak.

google seo

Onsite SEO such as internal linking is just as important as offsite SEO.

Instead of concentrating solely on building links to your website from other high authority websites, you need to audit your own website and identify how you could make improvements in order to increase your website’s SEO.

A big part of on-site SEO involves formulating an internal linking strategy. Here we will explain what internal linking is, why it is beneficial and how you can go about creating a strategy in line with best practices.

What is an internal link?

An internal link is a hyper link that you create on one of your web pages that points towards another one of your webpages. Whereas external links or backlinks point from someone else’s website on a different domain to your website, an internal link is created on a web page your domain and points to different web page on the same domain.

Benefits of internal linking

Formulating an internal linking strategy will not only help to improve your on-site SEO but also make your website easier for visitors to navigate. It will allow to achieve higher search engine rankings for deeper pages of content within your website.

Improving usability and lowering bounce rate

By creating internal links you will improve the usability of your website for users. Thanks to logical and relevant internal links, users will find it much easier to find the information they are looking for. The longer you can keep users interested, by encouraging them to surf other relevant pages within your site, the lower your bounce rate will be. A low bounce rate will have a positive impact on your search rankings as it tells search engines that users are satisfied with the content found on your website and that it is relevant to them. To find out more about your bounce rate, check your Google Analytics.

Make your website easier for spiders to crawl

Formulating a good internal linking strategy will make your website much easier for search engine spiders to crawl. The easier it is for them to access and crawl your website, the more often they will be able to index it, which will hopefully lead to higher search rankings.

Spread link juice around your website

Link juice or link equity has a direct impact on page rank and the higher your page rank is, the more likely you to gain higher positions on search engine results pages. Creating internal links is a great way to spread link juice around your website. This means that any link juice pages get from external backlinks (coming from high authority websites) will be passed to other pages on your domain and help to improve their rankings.

Improving your search engine rankings will drive more traffic through to your website and it’s easy to use navigation (plus use of relevant internal links) will keep them on your page for longer, lowering your bounce rate and helping to improve your SEO. It’s a never-ending circle of benefits.

Despite the fact that you can actually get as much SEO value from creating internal links as you can inbound links, it is still an unvalued tactic for improving SEO. If you are looking to improve your website’s SEO by formulating an effective internal linking strategy, check out our best practice tips below.

Best practices for internal linking

When it comes to building internal links to improve the usability of your website and spread link juice in order to increase search rankings, there is certainly right and wrong ways to go about it. Here we will talk you through how to create effective internal links that benefit your website, rather than leave it looking ‘spammy.’

building your website structure

Build your site architecture like a pyramid. Think of everyone in this photo being a web page and each of their legs being a link and you’ll see what we mean.

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Creating search engine friendly site architecture

Before we look at how you can spread link juice through to deeper internal pages, let’s first take a look at how to build internal links to improve your site architecture.

As you will have gathered by now, internal links play an important role in creating a search engine friendly site structure. In order for search engines to be able to crawl and index your web pages, they need to have pathways to all of them. Far too many webmasters make the mistake of only linking to their category pages, making it impossible for search engine spiders to access and rank all of their pages. Doing this may prevent important pages from being able to rank on search engines.

spider going through your site

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As you can see looking at the diagram above, the search engine spider can easily reach pages B and E, thanks to the internal links, but has no way of being able to reach web pages C and D. No matter how important these web pages are or how great the content is, the search engine spider will not be able to crawl and rank them if there is not any internal links pointing towards them. To the search engine spider, these pages do not exist (unless you add them to a sitemap page).

The best way to formulate internal links to create a better site architecture is to produce a pyramid structure. Start with your homepage and have a couple of links going off it to your main category pages. You can then place links off your category pages to sub category pages and links off sub category pages to other deeper pages of content.  This will help to spread link juice to pages throughout your entire site and allow you to increase the ranking potential of each page.

Create relevant links off your most authoritative pages

A best practice tip for formulating internal links is to create relevant links from your most authoritative pages. Your most authoritative pages will be the ones that have the best content and therefore the most inbound links pointing towards them. Incorporating internal links using relevant anchor text within the content on these pages will not only help you to drive organic traffic through to those pages, but also distribute link juice to them.

We stress the word relevant here, as if the deeper page of content you are linking is irrelevant to the page the link is placed on, it will end up looking spammy.

Create relevant links off your pages higher in your site architecture

The pages at the top of your site architecture pyramid may not necessarily be the most linked to or highest ranking, however because they are only one click away from your homepage (likely to be your most linked to page) they will have a higher percentage of link equity flowing through them. Therefore by adding relevant internal links to deeper pages of content from these pages, you will help to spread the link juice and give them a good chance at increasing page rank. Again, we stress the word relevant!

Use breadcrumbs

Whilst breadcrumbs are most commonly used as a navigation tool (helping users to return to a previous page without having to press the back button) they are great for internal linking too. Using breadcrumbs can help to pass link equity between pages and you can also use anchor text to send a relevance signal to search engines when it is appropriate to do so.

blogging

Utilise your blog

As well as creating internal links on your web pages, you can also utilise your blog content within your internal linking strategy. Blog content is a great source of link equity, as if your content is high quality, unique and of value to users, it is likely to have a lot of external links pointing to it and good rankings on SERPs.

When it comes to creating internal links within your blog content you can do it in two different ways. One way involves creating internal links that flow equity to other blog posts you have written and the other involves linking to pages on your main site (e.g. a service page) using relevant keywords within your content. Remember when using anchor text within your content is must be natural and relevant. If the keywords or key phrase does not sound right, do not use it. Also avoid over using anchor text, as this will appear spammy.

Keep creating content

Something we cannot stress enough is how important it is to keep creating quality content for your website. In order to build internal links, you are going to need plenty of internal pages filled with unique, relevant and interesting content. You simply cannot create an effective internal linking strategy without having a strong content marketing strategy.

The more content you create, the more opportunities you will have for gaining links, thus boosting their page rank, which can then be shared to other relevant internal pages that you build links to from said content pages.

Avoid mass footer links

Building mass footer links was common practice a couple of years ago. Webmasters would include keyword rich internal links on the footer of their web pages. We are not just talking about a couple of links either; we are talking in the realms of 50+ links. As you can imagine, this ended up making their websites look really spam-like to search engines and they ended up being caught out and penalised by their algorithms. A word of advice – don’t risk it!

Create an internal link log

We recommend that you keep a log of all of your internal link building efforts. Doing this will make it much easier for you to revisit or revise the internal links you have created in the future, should changes need to be made. Creating a link log will also help you to keep track of the pages you have already built links to and those that still require links building to them.

Make sure you record how many internal links you have pointing to a single page. You do not want to create too many links as this could end up looking spammy and will also dilute the link juice passed. You should also make a record of the anchor text you use and how many times you have used it. Again, you do not want to over optimise anchor text or it will appear unnatural.

Track the dates that you have created internal links so you can evaluate how effective your strategy is in line with changes to your search engine rankings.

using the trackpad

Don’t just create internal links for search engine spiders, think about your users too !

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Think about your site users

The best way to go about formulating an internal linking strategy is to think about your users, rather than just search engine spiders. Thinking carefully about how users navigate your website will help you to create a more beneficial and logical site structure. 

When creating internal links on a particular page, think about the other pages that users would find valuable if they were interested in the information on that page. These are the pages you should be linking to. They will be the most relevant to the content on your page and can therefore be linked to naturally.

Whilst internal linking can help you to increase your website’s search engine rankings, it is important that you do not disregard your users’ needs. The best way to go about making any improvements to your website’s SEO is always to keep your users in mind, as at the end of the day, they are who search engines are providing services for too!

Conclusion

Formulating an internal linking strategy should go beyond simply linking to your most important pages with keyword-rich anchor text.  It is essential to consider user’s needs and ensure your internal links are providing them with value. Do this and you will stand a much better chance of creating an effective and intuitive internal linking strategy that helps you to not only increase search engine rankings but conversions too.

Do you need help with on-site SEO? Get in touch with Online Media Direct today.

Image credits: Aleksander Ratkovic, San Diego Shooter, mj0310, xioubin low & Samah R

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