When thinking of search engine optimization (SEO) services, many times people don’t fully understand the scope of what a comprehensive SEO strategy should include. It’s not simply writing content for blogs on a website and optimizing a Google Business Profile. Other facets of a successful SEO plan include on and offsite content building, link building, technical, content and user experience (UX) audits, technical updates to your website, regular blog writing after conducting thorough content topic research, landing page content development with a targeted keyword strategy, optimizing and adding to website content, blogger outreach, article marketing, citations/local directory building, strategic keyword selection/optimization, staying on top of algorithm updates, and much more.
A case can be made that link building is arguably one of the most important aspects of a successful SEO campaign. It can also be one of the most time-consuming and frustrating. Link building is typically defined as the process of acquiring links from other websites to your own. It’s important and effective because it essentially tells search engines that your site is valuable and trustworthy. Think of it as a “vote” for your website. However, there are many ways to build links and an often overlooked one is right there on your own website, which you control, called internal linking.
Internal linking is a hyperlink within a site/domain that links to another page within that same site/domain. Internal linking is almost as important to an SEO strategy as external linking. To clarify, external linking is a link from one domain to another and both types of link building are crucial to an effective SEO campaign.
It’s important for various reasons including:
Internal linking is an easy way to control how search engines crawl your site. A well-thought-out internal linking strategy shows search engines that various pages are related to each other and which are the most important pages. It also helps search engines to discover new pages and index new content. Note, you should always have an XML sitemap on your website as well and ensure that’s formatted correctly and submitted to Google Search Console.
Link juice is the common phrase for passing authority between pages, also known as link equity. When you think of page authority, Google’s PageRank likely comes to mind. Although not still officially referred to by Google as “PageRank,” it was the original metric used to measure a page’s authority. Its inception only took into account the number of backlinks and not quality, but the various ranking algorithms now measure both. This is important for internal linking because if you have a page on your website that has high page authority, with several external links pointing to it from high domain authority websites, you can pass this link juice on to other pages of your website by linking to them from this page.
When a user visits your website and wants to learn more about a topic or service, it helps make a seamless user experience and to keep them on your website when you link related content throughout the site. You will want to be intentional about linking content though because you do not want them to be distracted from the main goal you want them to accomplish on your site, whether that’s to contact you, make a purchase, find your physical address, etc. Linking relevant content also shows users you are an authority on a topic, which is a big factor in an effective SEO strategy in accordance with Google’s E-A-T guidelines.
As to the point above, you want to keep users on your website. If a user can easily find all the information they need, your bounce rate will decrease and hopefully, the conversion actions you want them to take will increase.
An internal link building strategy starts with understanding the types of links on your website and their purpose. There are three main types of links on your website including navigational, contextual and footer links. There are also image links but for the purpose of internal links for SEO, those are not typically utilized. Here’s what each of them do and why they are important.
Mainly at the top of your website (the header), navigational links help users navigate to the relevant information they are looking for quickly and easily. The top-level navigation links are usually the most important overarching (parent) pages of a website and can have sub (child) pages within them or similar content under them in a dropdown without having the parent/child page relationship. An example of a parent page would be an About Us page with a dropdown for Our Team, Our Company Mission, and other information about the organization. Those pages are considered child pages if the URL structure is /about-us/our-team so /parent/child. There can only be one parent page but many child pages. That’s one example of how navigational links are used to showcase hierarchy and tell search engines pages are related. Navigational links can also appear as a sidebar as well to help users navigate to various sections of your website.
Contextual links, just like navigational links, are exactly what they sound like. These links are shared in the context of your website and placed in the body content of a page. They give context to the page by linking to related content throughout the site. These links typically lead to pages that are not directly in the top-level navigation but a bit deeper within the site.
These links are found at the bottom (footer) of your website and are a form of navigational links. They are typically main pages and often the same as the top-level links navigation links in the header of your website. Footer links are usually global, meaning found on every page of your website.
Now that you understand the purpose of internal link building and the types of links, it’s time to build your internal linking strategy.
Depending on where you are in your SEO strategy, you may already have this step completed but if not, performing keyword research is your first step. You’ll want to take into account user search volume and competition for other companies currently ranking for those keywords. Select a variety of keywords based on those factors to make sure you will get the most value for your efforts. You’ll also want to conduct topic research around those keywords to help develop content on the topics users are searching for. You’ll want to write content for “people-first” which is part of the official search guidelines from Google.
After you have conducted keyword and topic research, do a content audit of your website. Determine gaps where content needs to be created based on those keywords and content topic research. Do you need to create all new content or can old content be updated in some areas? Pillar pages will be the ones that will be the most relevant to contain those main keywords and general topic information or already naturally contain those keywords. You will want to build on those but be careful of keyword stuffing. The siloed pages will be ones you can link to with related content. Identify your most important pages and the related ones so that you can pass link juice to those pages via internal link building. Make sure the links you do create add value for your website users. It might help to create a master content document in a Google Sheet when getting started.
This seems obvious but the bigger a site gets, the easier it is to lose track of links within it, especially to deeper content. Most websites will change hands many times for whoever manages it throughout the years. We like the Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool to quickly run audits and crawl pages. Broken links can hurt the rankings of your website. Broken links are also an opportunity to update them with valuable links that contain relevant anchor text.
Anchor text is what displays on a hyperlink that tells the user what the page will be about when they click it. Anchor text appears on a contextual link within the content of your website. Ensure you are thoughtful about the anchor text you choose. It should be informative and meaningful and contain keywords where naturally appropriate. Be careful of keyword stuffing and never use “click here.”
Search engines are wise to tactics like keyword stuffing and what started out as an internal linking strategy to help your organic rankings, can end up hurting them, resulting in penalties and wasted time if you’re not intentional with your efforts. Search engines value user experience so avoid any scenarios that could hurt it. Don’t cram links and make sure your content is natural.
These are just a few of the ways you can build internal links for SEO when getting started with an effective internal link building strategy. In summary, an effective internal linking strategy keeps the user top of mind. Create informative, helpful content, ensure your website has a good UX, be strategic with your approach, and make sure that all links add value. Contact CTRL+ALT Digital today and let’s see if we’re a fit to help with your SEO goals.