All link building strategies must include a focus on boosting a site’s internal links to help build search engine authority and improve customer conversion.
The focus around links for SEO is primarily centered on receiving links from other websites to your own, which is one of the reasons why internal link building often mistakenly takes a backseat.
Internal linking is the process of including links to pages on your own website to other pages and content living on the site to help the search engines understand its structure and help visitors navigate the site with ease.
Learn why it is important to link to your own resources on your website, the type of internal links to consider, how to properly include these links on your pages, and how to measure progress.
The Value of Internal Linking
Linking to other pages and content on your own website allows your organization to establish an organized navigational structure, both for visitors to easily to move across the website and for the search engines to understand the flow of PageRank and authority.
For a person navigating an e-commerce site for instance, they’ll likely browse different product categories, down to the specific type of item they are looking for before making a purchase.
If the website is organized logically with links to corresponding pages, it’ll be easier to move visitors closer to a conversion page as they progress through your organization’s site.
By linking internally, search engines also better understand how to efficiently rank the individual pages on your website to establish a hierarchy of pages and interpret which keywords are relevant on each page.
In addition, consistently linking with relevant, natural keywords throughout your website and content will reinforce what subjects these pages are focused on, which serves as another search ranking consideration.
Never force the inclusion of internal links on your website, but instead find the balance of including links that are useful to the visitors on the site, but also incorporate niche keywords and keyword phrases with these links for the search engines.
Establish Your Website’s Structure
The first and most important step in the process of internal linking is initially organizing your website into categories, subcategories, and other categories as needed to direct how you’ll link to particular pages site wide.
All pages created on your website should relate back to a larger category, or if they don’t fit, they may require their own category or they may not be suited for the site.
Whether you’re launching an e-commerce site or an informational site, keep the structure simple and logical based on how a person would progress through each page.
When a category like Clothing is linked to a subcategory like Shirts, it informs the search engines that these pages are related. By linking these pages together in a hierarchy, the search engines will better understand the pages are focused on similar subjects and will rank them accordingly.
Once you’ve mapped out the foundational site architecture for your website, establish a system for updating the site with new pages and content that accounts for adding internal links.
“If you are going to be adding more pages to your website over time, such as products or informational content, then knowing where it will live and how it will be organized is the best way to build internal links that make sense for users and will help you to rank for your more challenging terms,” says John Doherty, the founder of GetCredo.com.
“Because I believe in processes as the best way to long term win with SEO, I also always recommend that the person with SEO knowledge have a quarterly recurring project to audit top linked pages and see if there are other places to add relevant internal links to other pages on the site.
“And once every six to 12 months, you should also do a full crawl of your site to identify pages that could rank better if they had better internal links, then devise a plan,” says Doherty.
The visibility of your website in search is always changing, which requires ongoing maintenance to identify opportunities where adding new internal links may impact rankings. For this process, I recommend reviewing your most linked-to pages from external sources with a tool like Ahrefs or Majestic and see what pages can be naturally linked together both from a search and user perspective.
Internal Linking Within Product and Service Pages
Review new or existing product pages to ensure they are properly linked to the right category and subcategory pages as part of the site’s overall structure.
Add a few relevant links to other related products and services included within the copy on the page. Linking to supporting pages within the same category adds additional authority to those pages in search, increasing the profile of the category page as well.
Many pages include a “related products” section at the bottom of the page which is both an opportunity to highlight products often purchased together and to link to similar products within the same category.
For example, ModCloth, a women’s apparel company, dynamically generates links to similar products from the same category on all of their product pages. It’s a win-win for shoppers on the website looking for products and for ModCloth trying to improve its internal link structure with relevant links.
Don’t go overboard, though, as adding too many links to a page may distract a person from taking action and converting. There is a limitation to how many links can be added to a product or service page, as the focus of the copy included should only be centered around one specific product or service.
Adding Relevant Links to Content
One of the best opportunities to link internally across your website is within content you’re producing, like within a blog post, landing page, or another non-product page.
“Users don’t want to search to find critical information,” says Julie Joyce, the owner and director of operations at Link Fish Media.
“Let’s say that you have a blog on your e-commerce site. One article is about how to distress kitchen cabinets. I’d love to see a link to other related articles on that page, maybe one to a piece about how to determine whether you should redo your cabinets or buy new ones.
“I’d love to be able to click on the antique-looking drawer pulls that you talk about since you sell them. It’s simple and intuitive but it’s not always done well,” Joyce says.
At a higher frequency than you would on a product page, add links within your content pointing to other content pages related to the subject you’re discussing.
Only add links to product and services pages within your content when it makes sense, mainly rely on linking to other items of content (when relevant of course, but there will be more opportunities to do so).
For instance, FreshBooks, the accounting software company, referenced a related article to one of the points they made in a recent blog post. The article is about finding freelance photography jobs and one of the sections discusses how to build relationships and get new clients.
Within that section they linked to the anchor text “get creative with your search,” which links to this article on their blog about techniques for landing new clients.
This internal link is relevant to the reader because it aligned with what was being discussed in the first article and if a person wanted to read more on that subject, they can visit the link and continue reading.
From a search engine perspective, the anchor text is related enough to the subject of the second article connecting the two pieces and driving link value between the new article and the older one.
Another technique FreshBooks uses to add internal links to their blog posts is by calling out related articles throughout their pieces:
This is the original piece and here’s the related article they link to. From a reader’s perspective, this is an easy way to find interesting content of a similar focus to what they are already reading on the blog.
The anchor text “Develop a buyer persona in 3 steps” is very close to the headline, URL, and overall focus of the blog it’s on, which is both relevant to the reader and a strong match to boost the SEO for the piece.
It is best to link to evergreen content within your content to ensure the links provide value in the long term as opposed to linking to an article that is more timely and won’t be as useful to a reader after a while. The rule of thumb is to find as many natural ways of linking between your content, whenever possible.
Measuring the Impact of Internal Links
As I touched upon before, the process of building internal links is never truly complete as it is important to use tools to monitor your progress regularly to find areas of improvement.
One of the best ways to measure success with internal link building comes down to visualizing the results to understand where your linking efforts stand.
“As humans, it is extremely difficult to visualize the effects of internal linking,” says Dixon Jones, marketing director at Majestic. “Obviously, a link in a site-wide menu will increase a page’s prominence compared to a blog post that loses any internal link equity over time, but it is extremely difficult to weigh up the effect of internal linking manually.
“Fortunately, whilst Majestic only lists external links to a page, its Flow Metrics do follow internal links to work out the overall worth of each page based on the combination of external and internal links. If you want to boost a page on your site, a few well-placed internal links may help, but make sure you link from other pages that have value.”
Here’s an example of a report illustrating the link profile of a particular page on a website based on the influence of the links pointing to that page (citation flow) and the trust associated with these links (trust flow).
Each purple dot represents a link, the further to the right they are on the graph represents the influence of the links and the higher they are on the chart showcases how trusted they are.
The goal is to have many influential and trustworthy links pointing to the pages on your website as possible. Use this report or another from a different tool like Ahrefs to understand which pages are heavily linked to with quality links and which are not, prioritizing which need more attention with internal links.
With a list of the pages that have the strongest link profile, start identifying internal linking opportunities to start spreading their value across to pages in need of an SEO boost.
Has your organization embraced internal linking as a key part of your SEO strategy? If so, what results have you experienced from linking to other pages throughout your website? Share your thoughts with us over on Twitter @DigitalCurrent, we’re listening!