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Internal Linking Best Practices

November 12, 2018
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Internal linking can be a powerful search engine optimization (SEO) tool, and while it is an incredibly simple concept, the theory and best practices that support internal linking can become quite complex. It is both an advanced and simple technique depending on how in depth you want to go. But one thing is for sure; it is important to do. For our purposes here, we will focus on internal linking building as it relates to content marketing and SEO. Focusing on internal linking for content marketing is one of the most straightforward ways to experience SEO improvements. Plus, internal linking among blog articles and other content is something that you can easily do on a continuous basis.

What is Internal Linking & Why Should You Care?

Just as it sounds, internal links are links that go from one page on a domain to another page on the same domain. They are most often used for navigation but are also valuable to help establish a hierarchy on a website and to help spread link equity, or ranking power, around a website. These are our primary reason for focusing on it as a marketing technique.

Internal linking helps Google, and other search engines, properly read and index the content on your site which in turn drives results. Search engines need to see the content on individual pages in order to list those pages in their keyword-based indices. This is part of the ranking process. As a result, those pages need to have a crawlable link structure which allows the spiders that browse the pathways of a website to find all the pages. Many sites make the mistake of burying their navigation pathways which hinders the search engine ability to index pages.

As a practice, internal linking helps to strengthen the rankings of targeted pages on a website. If a page contains numerous links, especially from other important pages either internal or external, that page’s ability to pass its link equity to other pages and give a boost in ranking is stronger than if a page is very poorly linked to or not linked to at all. An orphaned page will be extremely difficult to rank.

Finally, internal linking will increase the quality and duration of visits to your site. The presence of internal links will encourage users to view more than one page and increase their session time.  

What is Anchor Text? 

An important part of any link building, especially internal linking, is the anchor text which is used. Anchor text is the visible and clickable text which contains the hyperlink that leads to a new page. However, not all anchor text is the same, and you have a few options to consider:

  • Exact-Match includes a keyword which mirrors the page it is being linked to. For example, ‘internal linking’ linking to a page about internal linking.
  • Partial-Match is similar. However, it uses a slight variation on the keywords of the linked page such as ‘internal link building’ linking to a page about internal linking.
  • Branded uses a brand name as the anchor text. Linking ‘Power Digital Marketing’ to our blog or homepage would be a perfect example.

Whatever type of anchor text you choose to use, it is important that it is strategic. Some best practices for anchor text include using concise and relevant text to the linked page, keeping your keyword density low, and ensuring that the anchor text is not too generic. One of the best parts about internal linking is that you have full control over the anchor text used so you can be extremely diligent about the text you choose.

Internal Linking Strategies

In addition to anchor text, there are a number of link types you can use to your advantage while building your internal links each with their own strategic objectives. First, you may choose to link to a content cluster. Content clusters rearrange the architecture of your website and link to a central pillar page that broadly outlines the associated topic. Linking internal content to a cluster page allows search engines to easily scan and understand the semantic relationship between all the pages’ content. A cluster also signals to the search engines that your website has a breadth of content related to and indicates that you have more authority on a particular topic.

Internal links to transactional pages can also improve the hierarchy of your site while increasing your session time. Transactional pages are not just eCommerce checkout pages, but can also include any page which has a conversion goal such as a contact us form or landing page with protected content. Linking these pages creates a more unified website, with pages linking to each other contextually allowing for a more intelligent internal linking strategy. If a user were reading a blog post that referenced a recent whitepaper you released, it follows that you would like to that protected content landing page.

Finally, you can also link back to your homepage. This brings your navigation full circle and helps to build the authority of your main page. Like content clusters, if your homepage has high ranking authority, you can use that to pass the authority to other pages on your site.

Internal Linking Best Practices 

When it comes to best practices, there are many schools of thought on what is most effective but key executions are determined by the type of link you are using and the goal you are trying to achieve. Here are some best practices for content marketing:

  • First Link on the Page  Place your most important link within the first paragraph of content on the page. These links carry more weight and will have more influence over the authority. Google, and similar search engines, please the most emphasis on the first anchor text meaning subsequent links do not matter as much.
  • Keyword Mapping  You will also want to cross-check your keyword map when linking to your homepage or service pages. This is where anchor text becomes critical. The anchor text should reflect the keywords you are trying to target in order to send the right message to search engines.
  • Create Lots of Content  A generally accepted principle of content marketing is to create a lot of relevant and valuable content for your audience. As previously discussed, generating lots of content, and linking it internally, communicates to search engines that you are an authority on a specific topic.
  • Use Anchor Text  Strategically using your anchor text will help search engine crawlers to better understand your website, its structure, and the value you provide to users. Equipped with this information, the search engine can provide a more accurate ranking of your site.
  • Use Natural Links  You don’t want to force links into your content, or it will become a nuisance to your readers. However, if you have a piece of content that is naturally associated with another piece of content, then you should be linking those pages. You want to help your readers and provide value, not overwhelm or annoy them.
  • Be Reasonable  Google’s instructions for linking are simple, “keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number.” However, no one quite knows what a reasonable number is, so use your best judgment. Again, you don’t want to inundate your readers with too much information or content that is irrelevant to the current page they are on.

Generally speaking, internal linking as a practice can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it. These best practices will give you an easy starting point to better understand how to leverage your own website, and the content on it, to increase your SEO and rankings. As you become more comfortable with the process, you can add in more complex elements.

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