Links are one of the most impactful factors for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google treat links as signals of relevance and authority. Unfortunately, Internet marketers often overlook the importance of internal links when developing a link-building strategy.
An effective internal linking strategy adds structure to your website to help users and search engines navigate your pages, making your content easier to find and rank on Search Engine Results Pages.
What are internal links?
Internal links are hyperlinks that connect pages on your website to other pages on the same domain. In contrast, external links or backlinks are links to your page from outside sources.
The different types of internal links
The two main categories of internal links are navigational and contextual. Both play a vital part in creating an effective navigational structure for your website.
Navigational internal links function similarly to an outline or map of your site. Pages often include navigational links in the header, footer, or sidebar. Visitors use navigational links to view and navigate to the main pages of a domain.
Contextual internal links, in contrast, are embedded within the body of a page. Contextual links point to pages that have similar content that would interest users.
Benefits of internal links
Effective use of internal links is essential for improving the rank of your pages and improving the user experience.
Internal links define the structure of your site
Google and other search engines use links to crawl and index pages. As a result, search engines cannot show pages on their result pages if they cannot discover them through links.
Furthermore, internal links help users and search engines understand that pages are related to each other. Contextual internal links signal that the linked pages contain content on similar topics, and navigational links help define the logical hierarchy structure of your site. The anchor text of contextual links helps search engines better understand the subject of a page. This can make your content appear more relevant and rank higher on the search results page.
Internal links pass authority to other pages
Pages with more authority are ranked higher on search engine results pages. Generally, a domain’s main pages, such as the home page and category pages, have more power than other pages on the same website. Internal links create a trickle-down effect that shares authority from your main pages.
You can improve the authority and, by extension, the ranking of other content pages by passing link value from your main pages through internal links. Linking to new pages from your homepage is a great way to increase the chances of a new page ranking well.
Internal links improve user engagement
Quality internal links improve the user experience. Navigational links make it easier for users to find the pages they are looking for in fewer clicks. The more clicks it takes users to find the content relevant to their intent, the more likely they will leave your page.
Relevant contextual links encourage users to spend more time on your site by providing them quick access to more content relevant to the page they are already on. This helps them discover pages they may have overlooked otherwise. User Engagement metrics like session duration and pages per session provide a positive signal to Google, which can help your pages rank better.
Improving your internal links
Now that you understand the importance of internal links, let’s examine some of the best practices for improving the implementation of your internal links.
Link to relevant pages
Carefully curated contextual links help pages rank better by signaling that pages are relevant. When you link pages on similar topics to one another, you tell Google and your users that those pages are related.
Use appropriate anchor text
Anchor text is another critical tool for informing users and search engines that your pages are relevant. Anchor text is the words that display where users click on a link. Anchor text tells users what the linked page. Users are more likely to follow a link when the anchor text provides a helpful preview of what to expect.
Similarly, Google and other search engines use anchor text as a ranking factor when determining the relevancy of a page. Relevant anchor text can help pages pass authority to the linked page.
Create an internal linking structure
Internal links create a structure for your website. Consciously creating a layout based on hierarchy makes your page easier to navigate for search engines and users and aids in the flow of page authority through your site.
When planning your link structure, start with your home page at the top of your hierarchy. Generally, when users navigate your site, they will begin on your home page or a category page and work their way down. Your internal navigational links should reflect this logical path.
When creating a link structure, it’s crucial to link parent pages to child pages. Parent pages are broader topic pages that point to more specific pages. For example, a category page would be the parent page of any relevant subcategories or product pages. These links are beneficial because parent pages tend to have more authority than they can pass to their child pages, and navigational pages make it easier for users to browse your site.
Similarly, it is beneficial to link sibling pages together. Sibling pages belong to the same parent page, such as product pages that belong to the same category. Links to similar pages are helpful to search engines trying to index and rank similar content and to users interested in discovering similar products.
The main goal of your internal linking strategy is to make it as simple for users and search engines to navigate your page as possible. That means the link structure should make intuitive sense. You want your users to find the relevant category or page the first place they look. It also means they should be able to reach any page with as few clicks as possible.
An excellent tool for making your site architecture more accessible to users is creating a sitemap. A sitemap is an organized collection of links that creates an outline of your site. Including a sitemap in the footer of all your pages allows users to quickly access your essential pages regardless of what page they are on.
Use Follow Links for Internal Link Building
Using nofollow links is a common mistake when adding internal links. The rel=”nofollow” attribute restricts how Googlebot and other web crawlers interact with your site and prevent them from passing link equity through your pages.
Nofollow links can be useful when linking to outside domains you do not want to pass link equity to but are counterproductive to an internal link-building strategy. When linking to internal pages, make sure not to include the rel=”nofollow” tag and remove these tags from any existing internal links.
SEO and link building strategy from WebFX
WebFX is a leading Internet Marketing company that offers comprehensive SEO management services, including Internal link restructuring & optimization. We offer customizable plans to fit your business needs. SEO improves the visibility of your website, connects you with qualified customers, and increases your revenues with higher ROI than traditional marketing. Contact us for a free quote.