Internal linking is critical for your site's ranking – here's how to do it.
Backlinks get all the credit, and that's fair enough. Backlinks are a significant cornerstone of any successful SEO content marketing strategy.
So credit where credit is due.
But there's an unsung hero of every successful SEO campaign, and we've decided to shine the spotlight on them for a change.
Here's our tribute to the power and effectiveness of the internal links. It's long overdue.
What is internal linking?
Internal links are the hyperlinks that take your website visitor from one page to another.
They're like digital pathways leading website visitors to the information they came for, signposts, directing your customer from the home page to the pages where they can buy or subscribe.
Internal links define your website's architecture and structure. They are the foundations of a strong and sturdy website.
What's the difference between internal links and external links?
Unlike internal links, external links take you to a webpage on another website.
But you probably knew that already.
And you probably understand that quality external links (you might only know them as backlinks) are crucial for raising your SEO game and climbing those Google rankings.
Search engines LOVE quality backlinks. They see them as little high-fives from other quality websites, a signal that your industry peers think your content is cool.
But here's something you might not know.
When increasing your online presence, an internal linking strategy can be just as effective as a back-linking campaign.
What does Google think about internal linking?
But you don't have to take our word for it. Listen to John Mueller instead. John (really) knows what he's talking about; he's a senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google.
"Internal linking is super critical for SEO, personally, I think it's one of the best things you can do on a website to guide Google and visitors to the pages you think are important."
Cheers for backing us on that one, John.
Now let's get into some of the technical details. Starting with...
Internal linking and website structure
Google's search engine bots assess hundreds of factors when deciding which sites to rank on page one. And they include user experience and site structure.
In other words, does your website make sense to a user? Is it easy to navigate?
The best internal linking strategies create a hierarchy of links connecting logically. Your strongest and most relevant links appear on the home page; they take people to the most critical content in one click. Or they lead to a page or menu with specific options or functions.
The process is repeated on the next layer of pages. And so on, creating branches of connections leading to and from your homepage. It means your customer is only a click or two away from the content they want.
Increasing your crawlability
Crawling is how Google's search engine bots find and rank new and updated web pages. Adding internal links to pages makes them much easier to find. This is especially true with 'deep pages' on bigger and more complex websites.
These pages have no direct or indirect link to a homepage or other primary page. Deep pages are practically invisible to Google's search bots. And if Google can't see them, they won't get ranked. EVER. Adding a link or two to these lonely pages is a quick win for improving your website structure and technical SEO ranking scores.
Your Internal Linking Strategy
The following tips will help you map out a successful internal link strategy:
1. Design a link tree map
A link tree map is a visual representation of how your pages relate to each other. It will help you create an internal linking structure in line with your website hierarchy. Build one and use it to plan your internal linking; it will also help you plan your website content and linking when adding pages in future.
2. Use pillar pages.
Pillar pages provide a general overview of a topic. They then link out to more in-depth content about specific subtopics. A pillar page is like the contents page at the start of a book; the subtopics connected by internal links are the individual chapters.
Pillar pages are an excellent way to organise content, highlight the most essential information, and guide your customers to exactly what they're looking for
3. Use topic clusters
Those 'chapters' we just mentioned are also known as topic clusters. Topic clusters are pages offering comprehensive coverage of a specific subject. This is where you go deep into your area of expertise or product specifications. Topic cluster pages provide the information that satisfies visitor search queries and establishes your credibility.
4. Use keywords in internal links.
Combine internal linking and your most vital keywords to really grab the attention of those Google search Bots. This double-whammy approach is hard for them to ignore. You're literally screaming at the bots to land on your pages—a simple but highly effective internal linking strategy. Site visitors will appreciate it too. Links on relevant keywords tell them precisely what to expect when landing on a new page.
5. Less is more
Go easy on the links. Less is more. Only include links that support your site structure or provide real value to site visitors.
Stuffing your pages with internal links is a big red flag for Google. It will presume you're trying to spam your way to the top of the search engine results.
Internal linking is great for SEO and site structure. But, most importantly, liking is about making the user experience as smooth as possible. Always keep this in mind when designing your internal linking pathways.
AXD - experts in link building
At AXD Agency, we run a bespoke HARO matchmaking service for clients searching for more high-quality links. Imagine how good it would feel to get dofollow backlinks from some of the biggest websites in the world. What impact could this have on your business and its rankings on Google?
We are here to help!
If you think it's time to start boosting your external links using HARO, book a free discovery call today with AXD.