Auto linking

3 best practices for your internal linking strategy

Internal links don’t have the value of backlinks, but they can boost your most important content for SEO. Learn some best practices for internal linking here.

Let’s say that your website has a certain goodwill, that is, the trust that users place in you, their admiration for your brand. It is also called “domain authority”, and we try to measure it by analyzing backlink profiles.

It becomes almost tangible and you can distribute it on your website. Many SEOs will use the term “link juice” to illustrate this concept. Internal linking is about how you distribute goodwill to your website pages. How you get link juice flowing to the right pages.

The three pillars of SEO: Architecture, Content, Authority

Internal networking is part of the architecture pillar of SEO, while link building, aimed at creating more backlinks, belongs to the authority pillar. Image source: author

Presentation: what is internal linking?

Internal links are links within a website. Some call them internal links. The most common way to use links in a website is in the navigation menu, in the footer of the website, or at the bottom of a page’s content to suggest readings on the subject. In more editorial websites, for example, you will also find links within the articles allowing you to find definitions or more in-depth content on a word or concept.

They can be used to add value to an article, help users find the information they need, and help search engines understand your information hierarchy.

Illustration of backlinks versus internal links.

External links bring search engine ranking potential, while internal links can be used to funnel that potential to the right pages. Image source: author

Is internal linking a ranking factor?

Internal links are important for your SEO, but only have an indirect impact on your ranking in search engine results pages. For search engine optimization (SEO), most people understand that backlinks are important. Backlinks are external links that point other websites to yours.

The mission of search engines is to present the most relevant content when a user types in a keyword. One way to assess this relevance is to interpret backlinks, viewing them as recognitions of value.

Why are internal links important for search engine optimization?

Internal links cannot be considered an indicator of the value of your content relative to other sites. However, these links signal to search engines which content on your site is most important, providing SEO impact to internal links.

1. Crawlers can’t read all internal links

An internal linking structure can present obstacles to search engine crawlers in several ways. The most common issues are pages available through non-indexable forms or scripts. Crawlers prefer very simple Ahref links as shown in the graphic above. If certain pages are only accessible through a form or drop-down menu, chances are search engines will never crawl them.

2. Unimportant pages can be too important

The structure of your site tells search engines that your “About” page is more important than any other page on the site, because they all link to it. It’s probably wiser for your visitors to look at your product pages rather than your company’s information page.

Some website owners go to extreme lengths to remove all navigation menus and footers. However, this is probably not necessary since search engines are increasingly able to identify these elements by their repetitive appearance and therefore downplay their importance.

3. Anchor text is considered important

When search engines crawl a page, they interpret certain elements of the page as more important than others. This includes the page title tag, H1 and H2 headings, and anchor text. Anchor text is the clickable text in the link.

5 Best Practices for Proper and Useful Internal Linking

There are many good internal linking practices. Some SEOs will consider these practices as hygiene factors. Others will go to great lengths to sculpt internal link structures for maximum SEO results. Let’s look at five best practices for internal linking.

1. Remove Crawling Obstacles

In this case, SEOs usually suggest workarounds that allow the user to reach a page with a technique and the crawlers to find the page through a simple Ahref link. Most major SEO tools have a built-in site crawler that allows you to see your site structure like a search engine would, in order to identify roadblocks.

2. Review the wording of your navigation menu

Search engines refresh links in navigation menus to some degree, the same way they refresh repeating links on another page. But they will take into account their first encounter with the link and consider it important. Therefore, the words you use in the navigation menu are important.

If you’re serious about SEO, you’ve probably done extensive keyword research to find the words users are looking for. And if your navigation menu uses words like Home, Products, About, and Contact, you have a big SEO opportunity. Change these menu names to explicitly tell users what they will find under these items.

If you are marketing My Dalton’s Ice Cream Parlor, replace “Home” with “The Ice Cream Parlor” and replace “Products” with “Ice Cream Flavors and Cones”. Use keywords instead of generic terms.

3. Take the Robin Hood Tour

To take advantage of key pages rather than unimportant pages, link to them from the pages with the most natural authority: your home page and other pages with strong backlink profiles on your site. A great way to do this is with a structural element on the homepage showing “recent articles” or “popular products” and providing links to those pages.

Use a tool like Ahrefs or Majestic to identify the pages on your site with the most inbound links. Then go to the Google Search Console to see which internal links are most frequent on your site. Now, in good Robin Hood style, take pages with rich internal link profiles and give to pages with ranking potential that have fewer links.

This requires working page by page of your website to remove and insert links with relevant anchor text. Consider resubmitting the edited pages to search engines when you’re done.

4. Create a sitemap

You can work around the problem of some sites being indexed with inaccessible pages by creating and submitting a sitemap through each search engine’s webmaster tools. You can also structure the sitemap to make sure your most important pages are included and omit those that don’t interest you. They will be crawled anyway, but you have made sure that your key pages take precedence over the others.

5. Get those internal external links

Search engines have a very strict technical definition of what internal links are as opposed to external links: internal links appear between pages of the same domain; external links appear when a link is established between pages belonging to two different domains.

If you are in charge of building internal links for a group of companies or if you have several branded websites for your company, you can do interlinking SEO. Sites placed on different domains will be considered external sites, while your internal mesh will instead become an interconnect.

Channeling goodwill to rank candidates

Link structures within a website should allow search engines to crawl a site. Once that hurdle is cleared, internal linking can have an additional impact on your SEO by linking stronger pages to pages with high search engine ranking potential.

An internal linking strategy alone will rarely fix poor overall SEO performance, but it can help you rank certain pages, which can have a significant impact on traffic and business results.