Backlinks remain a strong Google ranking factor and continue to be the strongest indication of authority. A website’s link score and anchor text relevance can make or break your ranking.
But did you know that internal linking is just as critical in a website’s user experience and search engine optimization? It’s not something widely popular since most of the focus is on backlinks. The statistics surrounding link building interest is more on backlinks than internal links.
Time to change things up.
Internal link audits show that the lack of a central internal linking strategy inhibits the spread of link authority throughout a website. Even with a massive content marketing initiative designed to generate backlinks, the possibility of a blog post being crawled or receiving link juice might be limited due to the lack or shortage of internal links.
This calls for proper interlinking of content in order for it to reach its full potential for organic ranking.
What makes internal links important?
Improved user experience
What better way to satisfy user intent than to provide them with a clear direction to wherever they want to go? A functional drop-down menu and navigation bar make for a practical interlinking structure. Add clear labels for each link and users will be encouraged to further interact and browse through a website.
This translates to a lot of SEO value, such as increased session length and dwell time. And the longer users interact with your website the higher the possibility of them completing a desired conversion.
Make sure internal links use optimized anchor text or deep links for proper page indexing and redirects when coming from a referral traffic source.
Boost in link authority
Internal links may not have a direct impact on the algorithms that Google use for ranking, but they have the power to increase the flow of backlink authority circulating from one page of a website to another.
A new blog article, for example, can be indexed faster and get high ranking on SERPs when it has a deep link from the homepage or other cornerstone pages. With the use of internal links, you are practically transferring previously earned authority from a cornerstone page to one that virtually has no recognition or authority.
What are the functions of internal links?
- Opens pathways for search engine spiders to crawl less accessible web pages.
- Organizes web pages by category based on the keyword that appears in the anchor text and link URL.
- Provides more ways for your audience to interact with your website, improving user navigation in the process.
- Aids in user intent through the use of anchor text keywords.
- Passes link juice from one page to another.
- Helps organize site architecture and ensures that search engines know which of your web page is the most important.
- Aids in promotional campaigns through links highlighted or featured next to a content or a home page.
Building Your Interlinking Structure for Best Results
Now that you’re aware of the functions and benefits of internal links, it is time to create a structure that will help you maximize its potential.
Follow a pyramid formation
This is where you put your home page at the very top of your internal linking structure, followed directly by category pages or cornerstone pages with deep links to product pages or relevant blog pages. You can then add other pages directly within one link on the homepage, all of which will be perceived by search engines as the most important.
With this type of interlinking structure, you reduce the total number of links from the home page to other web pages. This also makes it easier for you to spread link juice from your home page, which receives the most backlinks and is perceived as the most authoritative page in your website.
So what happens when your website grows and more content, resource pages, and blog post are added?
Other pages would still receive link juice provided that they are within 2 to 3 links of the homepage. This means creating the appropriate navigation bars and menu functionality that satisfy the pyramid formation.
Use links properly in your content
Think of an internal link as a source material that signals readers to take a pause and gather more information by clicking on a link.
For such a link to serve its purpose, it must:
- Visually stand out so users are encouraged to click on it. Bold content links to highlight them.
- Be relevant from one blog post to another. Otherwise, you risk user experience to be disrupted because of irrelevant links. This will result in higher bounce rates.
- Have no broken links on all web pages. Fix or redirect them to relevant web pages if there are any.
- Be one click away from a conversion page and contains a call to action.
Position hyperlinked page strategically
- Your most important internal links should be found on the homepage, drop-down menu, or the navigation bar.
- Lower authority pages should link to other relevant posts, instead of the home page or contact page.
- Encourage users to continue interacting with your website by placing links at the end of an article or on a sidebar. Make sure the links open to relevant web pages.
- Place keyword tags or link tags that will tell search engines of your landing page’s topic.
- Use an XML sitemap and breadcrumb links to aid in user and site crawler navigation.
Optimize call-to-action (CTA) links
If you want to maximize your conversion rate, your CTA button should be bold, big, and optimized across devices. It must visually stand out from the background, making it highly visible. It must be present on each web page, as well, so conversion is just one or two clicks away.
When it comes to positioning, it is highly recommended for a CTA to be placed above the fold. A slide-in CTA is another option which has proven very effective as it has resulted in massive conversions for Quick Sprout, the business and marketing blog by Neil Patel.
Avoid the use of nofollow attribute
Generally, the nofollow attribute should not be attached to internal links because it limits the flow of authority between two pages directly linked to each other. Considering that the function of internal linking is to boost the flow of backlink authority, the use of nofollow links will defeat its purpose.
But the most important thing to remember when linking internally is to ensure relevancy, just like you would in other link-building activities.
An anchor text must reflect a landing page or content’s title or topic. When used several times within a content, there should be variations of the keywords used in the anchor text structure to keep the links from being categorized as spam.
Not entirely sure where to place internal links?
Conduct a link audit to identify suitable areas.
The number of internal links used should depend on the word count, but a minimum of internal links is recommended.