Improving Internal Linking for SEO
How to improve your internal linking for SEO
A perfectly placed internal link can offer boundless benefits to your site. They are a must if you want to gain the maximum benefit from organic search traffic. Internal links allow your audience to navigate their way around your site. They’re also used by Google to improve its understanding of your site structure and content. If you want to elevate your website, look no further than our guide to achieve internal linking greatness.
What is internal linking?
Internal linking is where you add links that point to URLs that sit on the same domain. For example, if a website links to service page from their homepage that is categorised as an internal link.
Google has recently updated its link best practices documentation to highlight the importance of internal links. They emphasised that “every page you care about should have a link from at least one other page on your site”. When trying to decide where you should internally link to “think about what other resources on your site could help your readers understand a given page on your site, and link to those pages in context”.
Internal linking vs external linking
Internal linking should not be mistaken for external linking. Whilst internal links connect to pages that sit on your own site, external links are where a link points off-site to a different domain. Though external links are also valuable, they carry a different type of significance to internal links and are not our main focus today.
Why is internal linking important?
No one wants to land on a site and then have to go searching further for information. If your audience can’t find what they need on your site, they will go find it elsewhere. More often than not, they will end up on your competitor’s site. To avoid this and keep your audience, look at your internal linking.
By signposting all of your priority content clearly across the site and having it linked to from all relevant points, you make simple for your audience to visit the site and engage with it. The easier is it for your audience to find what they need, the better user experience (UX) they have. The better the UX, the more likely they are to return the site in the future.
You want to make your site as easy as possible for search engines to see. When Google crawls your site you want to ensure your most important pages are easy to find. This allows Google to index and serve them in the organic search results. Orphaned pages, which are pages on your site not internally linked to, are isolated and difficult for search engines and users to find. Often, this means they won’t rank very well.
Internal linking also helps to unify your content. You can signpost other relevant pages on your site and create ‘hubs’ of content around specific topics or themes. Having all related pages inter-linking makes it easier for Google find these pages, and also helps your organisation demonstrate its expertise about a topic. By positioning your site as an authority on a given topic to Google, you can boost its ranking for related target keywords.
How to approach internal linking
To tackle the internal linking on your site, we recommend reviewing the following steps on your site:
Review the setup of your navigation menu
The navigation menu is the primary way your audience will find their way acround your website. Templated into the top of every page, a link included in the navigation menu can be accessed from any page on the site. Therefore, you want to make sure all your priority pages are being included in this menu.
You also want to make sure the structure of the navigation menu is clear and easy to read. Search engines and users both read pages from left to right, top to bottom. So you’ll also want the site’s top priority pages, such as service and core evergreen pages, to be to the far left of your navigation menu. Lower priority pages, such as the ‘about us’ section, should sit to the far right.
Have a look at your footer menu
The footer is the space at the bottom of your page. This space can be utilised by including a menu, offering yourself more opportunity to internally link to pages on your site. With the main navigation menu linking to your priority pages, the footer menu is a useful option to link to other pages on your site.
Internal links from the homepage
The homepage is the most important on the website when it comes to internal linking, as it typically brings in the most traffic to websites. If people search for a specific brand, the homepage is usually the page that ranks highest in organic search results. The homepage is also usually the default page other websites will link to when referencing your organisation, making it one of the most externally linked to pages and a top page for referral traffic. Ultimately, the homepage carries a lot of weight within a website.
Because it’s such a powerful page for your site, you want to utilise it fully to point your audience in the right direction. By linking to your site’s priority pages on the homepage, you make it very clear to visitors where they should go next on their journey.
A link from the homepage not only helps a page get more traffic within a user journey, it also helps the linked pages rank better in organic search. When reviewing internal links on the homepage, you should consider if there are any relevant or popular pages on the site that could perform better in organic search, and determine if they should be signposted on the homepage.
Create a hierarchy within different sections on your site
Your website is very likely split into different sections, each focusing on a particular topic or theme. Within each section you want to have a clear primary page. The function of this page is to act like a hub, linking out to all relevant pages within that section.
In turn, you want all the pages to inter-link between each other. The links tie the content together help form your content into hubs on the different topics covered. Equally, having all relevant pages inter-linking between each other increases their visibility on the site, enabling your audience to engage more and increase traffic levels.
You could also consider reviewing your blog content. Blogs frequently receive high levels of traffic as they address very niche topics that your audience are searching for. However, they are often under-utilised as they serve up large amounts of information, but don’t pull the user any deeper into your site. Often, you’ll find the user will read the blog then leave your site without any further engagement.
To improve your audience retention, review your blog and see if you can add any internal links to other priority areas of the site. Providing more opportunity for engagement not only helps retain the interest of the user, but it can also increase the likeliness that they convert into website leads.
Review the anchor text
Anchor text is the word or phrase used to embed a link. When you are writing page copy and considering where to add links, consider the phrase you want to use as your anchor text for each link. A common mistake we see with anchor text usage is websites defaulting to generic anchor text. Examples of generic anchor text include:
- Click here.
- Find out more.
- Read more.
Though each of these examples do no harm, they aren’t ideal as they don’t provide any context around the page you’re linking to.
Contextual anchor text is where the keyword or phrase used hints at what the linked page is about. For example, using ‘symptoms of bowel cancer’ to link to a page discussing the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer.
As best practice, you want to strike a balance between the use of generic and contextual anchor text. Google suggests that “good anchor text is descriptive, reasonably concise, and relevant to the page that it’s on and to the page it links to” whilst also setting “expectations for your readers”.
Beneficial to your audience and search engines, a contextual anchor text helps indicate what the contents of the linked page is about. For search engines, using contextual anchor text can help associate the page with the keywords and topics it’s targeting in organic search.
Make sure your links are crawlable
Increasing and improving the internal links you have on your site is one task…another is making sure they are crawlable! This check is purely for the benefits of search engines; if they can’t crawl the link then they can’t access the linked page, minimising its benefit.
Google can only crawl a link if it uses the href attribute within an <a> tag. The link should also use a full address. Links embedded in any other condition cannot be crawled.
When you encounter issues with links being non-crawlable, we recommend recruiting the help of your developers. Your web developers will be best placed to review the setup of these assets and improve their functionality.
Want help with an internal linking plan?
These steps will hopefully place you in a good position to review your internal linking. You’ll be internally linking like a pro in no time!
If you do want a bit of extra support, drop us an email at email@example.com for a friendly chat. You can also check out our Digital PR services if you’d like a deeper dive into how we can support you to use links to enhance your site.
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