As an SEO, you know that in order to rank #1 on the search results page, you need external backlinks from high-authority websites, quality content, and keyword implementation. But in all honesty, internal links don’t get enough love. Not only is that incredibly rude to internal links (you should apologize right now) but, you’re missing out on opportunities to bolster your website’s SEO performance.
So, in the next five minutes, your friends at SEO Scout are going to make you an expert on optimizing internal links within your own website to easily boost your organic search traffic. We’ll use examples from our industry-leading SEO reporting tool to show you exactly how to direct traffic where it matters.
Ready? Let’s go.
What Are Internal Links?
How awkward would it be if we just dived right in without you knowing your ABCs?
Internal links are hyperlinks that take you to another internal page on your website–not to be mistaken with backlinks, where other **websites link to **a specific landing page on your website.
With internal links, you’re essentially connecting web pages on the same domain to help users (and search engines) navigate your different web content.
Types of internal links (with examples)
So, your most common example of an internal link is a navigational link. These are usually in the headers and footers of every website, where you’ll typically see a quick link for the website’s “Blog” section, “FAQs” Section, “Pricing” section, “Home” section, and so on.
Next, there are contextual links; these are commonly embedded as related content within a blog post to direct users to the right place if they want to learn more about something that was name dropped in the current article they’re reading. Simultaneously, contextual links will also aid search engines in gauging the value of the content.
As you contextually link to other content on your website, refresh your content and beat content decay to ensure everything referred to readers is up to date and relevant for SEO standards.
Read that again, see what we did there? (Contextual links, baby)
Lastly, there are image links. Really straightforward: if you have an image, screenshot, photo–any visual media coming from another section of your website, it’s customary to add a link to the source right below the image.
Why is Internal Linking Important? (& Best Practices)
Why even bother with internal links? What’s their significance? How does a proper internal linking structure even help? We hope to answer these questions and educate you on why a strong internal linking strategy is crucial through the following four benefits:
Helps Connect Content for Easier Navigation
Imagine you’re driving to a party, and none of the highways or roads are labeled. You have no idea which route will take you there–so you’re confused, frustrated, and unhappy with the government. You stop paying taxes in retaliation, too—such party poopers.
Like unlabeled roads, a website visitor will share similar angry sentiments if there are no intuitive and navigable internal links for them to browse through on your website. They don’t know where they’re going. Instead of taxes, though, they’ll punish you by bouncing elsewhere.
You want a healthy site structure. Adding navigational links in the header, footer, and any other navigation pane helps create a hierarchy of information that guides users through various pages in a coherent, organized manner. For instance, creating categories and then subcategories tells users which web pages to view first and which ones are directly related.
Visitors Stay on the Site for Longer Periods
A successful internal link structure will keep visitors on your website for more extended periods and decrease bounce rates–which, by the way, positively impacts search rankings. By directing your audience to other valuable content on your website, you reel them deeper into your website, which builds a relationship of trust and reliability with prospects.
Makes it Easier to Crawl and Index
Remember the ‘lost on the road’ analogy from the navigational benefit point? Not only does it apply to us, the website visitors, but poor old Google (and other search engines), too.
See, site crawlers and indexers called Google bots reach millions of new web pages every hour and officially register them in Google’s database. Only after that will your internal pages be eligible for search engine rankings.
A strong link-building strategy will ensure that search engine crawlers will find more deeply nested pages on your site, so they too can rank higher for more exposure like their brothers and sisters.
Spread Link Juice (Value)
‘Link juice’ is colloquial SEO jargon that refers to ranking web pages based on value through link equity. You should note that your established, high-ranking content pages have more link authority. So, by embedding links to newer pages from those high-authority pages, you can spread the link juice to increase the SEO value in lesser-known pages, too.
Identify Pages with Insufficient Internal Links and Beefen Them Up
Ideally, you want to identify pages with few internal links and beefen them up for better SEO performance. The number of internal links to a specific page informs Google of its importance; the more the merrier. If pages on your site have few incoming internal links, then you’re essentially telling Google, “Hey, this content isn’t that important; see, nothing else is linking to it.”
How to find missing internal linking opportunities
Missing internal link opportunities are areas in your web page content where you can add internal links to newer pages and therefore increase their SEO ranking with link juice. Doing so will cause those newer pages to rank higher on search results and generate more overall traffic to your site. With more traffic, Google rewards websites with higher domain authority (trustworthiness).
Using SEO Scout, you can filter your pages to identify ones with low to no internal links. Then, after a sitewide audit for keywords and content related to new pages, SEO Scout can recommend opportunities to add internal links on different pages. Take a look:
Write Proper Anchor Text
Anchor text is the visible text anchored to your hyperlink–you know, the usually blue-colored and underlined passage when you hover your cursor over it?
Like readers, search engines like Google use anchor text to learn what your linked pages are about. If it’s an external backlink with anchor text, Google also gets an idea of how others may view your page. While you may not be able to control how outsiders externally link your stuff, you can ensure that the anchor text in your internal links is useful and relevant.
Best Practices for Contextual Anchor Links
Google’s algorithm knows that internal links weaved into content get more clicks than header/footer links. So, contextual links will always trump navigational links in SEO importance.
Remember that an ideal, SEO-friendly anchor text will be concise, descriptively relevant to the linked page, keyword-optimized (but not too dense), and notably, not generic–but unique.
With SEO Scout’s internal link tool, you get a breakdown of incoming internal anchor texts and highlight web pages with few or repetitive anchors. You can then add more internal links with diverse anchor text to those pages to score points on relevance.
The following two screenshots are good and bad examples (respectively) for anchor texts:
In the second picture, you see just one keyword anchor–there’s a lack of diversity and uniqueness. That many internal links with the same anchor words may be counterproductive because Google may suspect something manufactured. On the other hand, the top picture shows a diverse range of synonymous long-tail phrases that boost SEO value to that linked page.
Keep in mind that alongside insufficient links, you may have broken internal links, which happen when the page on the other end has been relocated or has been shut down. You want to ensure that you update those old links with the newly located pages, so your users don’t miss out on any content.
Create Content Clusters
Generally, more internal links mean fewer orphan pages (pages with no internal links pointing to them) and thereby more search engine traffic overall. Of course, you can’t have more links if you don’t have much content, to begin with.
So, not only should you create more content, but you should create a sort of “directory” called a topic cluster. Put simply, you create a “pillar” page for a topic and internally link all the relevant content (sub-topics). You can accomplish this in two ways: a resources page with links organized by categories or long-form content with in-line links. Sometimes both.
Content clusters are great for building domain authority and surging web traffic. They’re essentially a beacon to search engines, letting them know that your website holds extensive content with related keywords. For example, a great way to create tons of linkable content is through starting a blog with valuable content.
Congrats. You made it to the end. If there’s one key takeaway we’d like you to leave with, it’s that you should never underestimate the power of internal linking. In one case study, internal links boosted organic traffic by 40%.
Not only is it an effective way to make the visitor experience more user-friendly and organized, but Google crawlers scan all the links like internal contextual links and rank them higher in search results. It’s a win-win for every party.
By following the best practices for internal linking strategies in this article, we guarantee that you’ll increase your page authority as a site owner and rank higher than other sites. No one said SEO was a piece of cake, but you can probably agree that an SEO reporting tool makes the job easier and more accurate after seeing our examples. Don’t leave any crevice in your SEO performance untouched. Go get ‘em.