Internal links make one of the crucial on-site elements that require SEO-like optimization, due to their impact on Google positions. Although often overlooked now, internal links still have quite a potential. If optimized well, internal links can make your Google rankings go soooo up. What internal links are, exactly, and what are the ground rules for optimizing them? That’s what you’ll find in the entry below, enjoy the read!
Internal links – what are they, exactly?
Internal links, or internal linking, is a process of building links within a domain, that allow quick and intuitive navigation across the whole website, both for human users as well as search engine crawls. Due to a network of internal links, so to speak, the website becomes much more organized; a certain hierarchy of the information contained by the website emerges thanks to them. On top of that, internal linking is good for website usability – it clarifies the website navigation for users and robots alike, showing where to click and what for. Also, by directing the users to specific landing pages, optimized for conversion, a correct internal linking structure keeps the bounce rate low. Intuitive and issue-free website browsing mechanisms result in users taking their time to experience your website, and explore its layers and subpages.
Proper internal linking structure planning and implementation is the key to a stunning first impression and further positive reception of the site by customers and robots. This, in turn, will increase the search results rankings, organic traffic volume and, as a consequence, ROI.
So if you haven’t spent a moment analyzing your site’s internal linking structure yet, now’s a good time to dedicate few minutes to make up for it! However, for blueprinting and implementation per se, it’s best to consult subject-matter experts offering help tailored to your business goals. However, since building internal links is one of 5 of optimizations entirely feasible to do them yourself, we’ll highlight the most important rules of building those links.
How to correctly link internally?
In our previous entry you read about the top rules of good backlink building. Now it’s time for on-site links optimization. Internal linking is actually not difficult at all, if only shown how to do it. There are several ground rules that, if followed, will result in long-lasting effects, quickly bringing visible effects.
Anchors, anchors and anchors, again
As in backlinks, internal linking also shouldn’t emphasize random phrases. There are two issues that need to be stressed:
- Anchor word should descriptively refer to the page linked.
- For anchors, pick only the keywords selected for your optimization process.
For example, if you want your page to rank high in the SERPs for “E-commerce positioning” phrase, write some copy with anchor text clearly referring to the topic. With this, both users and crawls browsing through your website will have clarity on what to expect when clicking on this link.
In this case, mind also that anchors can consist of up to several words, and the longer ones are perfectly correct. However, don’t overkill it – a 20-words anchor text does not look good and, what’s worse, can be found suspicious by a Google crawl.
URL Structure Matters
When implementing internal links, the structure of the URLs used is also very important. What does that mean?
- Keep your URL structure consistent. In case of linking you blog’s main page, use the same form at all times, for example: https://delante.co/blog/, instead of changing between that and https://delante.co/blog/index.php
- Each subpage should have only one URL linking it.
- Link only to pages with HTTP 200 response code, which is the server’s correct answer. In other words, simply don’t link to pages generating e.g. error 404 “page not found”.
Follow this, and the internal linking will be technically correct.
3 Steps for Internal links Success
Another principle to follow is the so-called 3 Steps Rule. It says that the user’s desired subpage should always be 3 clicks away. In any ecommerce, the goal of the potential customer would be to reach the product page. 3 Steps Rule says that every such route should start on the home page, leading then through the category / subcategory pages, to the final product page.
Unfortunately, cutting the clicking down to 3 steps only is not always possible. Take an online shop featuring too many products to fit them on a single page. Limiting the number of items per page is not a necessity, but surely helps with page indexing and is better for usability.
What about unavailable products?
In online shops, products sold out or outdated and replaced with new models are is an everyday reality. An issue arises, if there these product pages were internally linked to. In such case both users and crawls are then directed to a nonexistent page, which deters potential customers and harms our Google rankings.
There are, however, 3 ways to avoid these consequences:
- create a separate “archive” subpage for all out-of-stock, unavailable or withdrawn products’ pages, with additional info, if these will be offered any time soon;
- replace broken links with new ones, in referring to similar products;
- redirect the users from 404 pages to similar ones with a 301 – however, tread carefully, as the users will land on a page they do not expect to find themselves on. If it’s far from what they expect, it may throw them off and make leave the site.
Simply don’t overdo it.
Generally, you need to mind not to overdo pretty much anything in internal linking. If there are too many internal links, crawls may pick it up as a manipulation attempts – users won’t like it, neither. For this reason, there’s a balance to strike when it comes to the number of links, depending on your page type and size.
Mind the home page
A link to your homepage should appear on every subpage. An error page, included. One way to secure that is to create an special menu with the company logo linking to the main page and with a correct alternative description.
Where to use internal links?
Since we learnt the basics of internal links building and implementation, let’s discuss, where should these be distributed, so that they not only bring the desired effects, but also look natural. Here are some top places:
- menu and categories – website locations perhaps most visited by users, used for information and product searching.
- usability-oriented on-site content. As mentioned, they should clearly refer to the linked subpages.
- a footer with a simplified menu. Used often for essentials: contact details, shipment info, etc.
- breadcrumbs, or navigation paths. Usually implemented in complex websites and online shops. Breadcrumbs show, where on the site the user currently is, and they got there.
- tags – helping to search content by theme
- site map – used to navigate the site (but mainly for search engine crawls)
Internal links and SEO. A summary
The main take-home message of today’s entry is that internal links are important for your SEO. Internal linking, if implemented correctly, can seriously help your SERP rankings, but should any mistakes be made – the loss to be taken may be equally considerable.
Mind, that the main internal linking purpose is usability – i.e. a handy website navigation. Internal links make users visit your website more often, and spend more time on it, this in turn translating into trust Google puts in your page.
Following the above internal linking rules will make your SERP rankings go up, too, resulting in larger organic traffic volume and, in time, increase in sales.