Internal links are one of the crucial on-site elements that require SEO optimization, and have a significant impact on Google positions. Although often overlooked, proper internal linking can bring numerous benefits to companies. What are internal links? What mistakes should you avoid? And how do you optimize these elements? Keep reading to discover answers to these and other questions!
Table of contents:
- What Are Internal Links?
- Why Are Internal Links Important For SEO?
- 9 Best Practices for Internal Linking Structure
- Internal Links and SEO – Check Your Website for Those Issues
- Internal Links in SEO – The Takeaway
What Are Internal Links?
Internal linking structure is a process of building links within a domain to create quick and intuitive navigation across the whole website, both for human users as well as search engine robots.
Due to a network of internal links, so to speak, the website becomes much more organized and has a certain hierarchy of information. On top of that, an internal linking structure 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 specific keywords, the 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 pages.
Proper internal link 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 your search results rankings, organic traffic volume, and ROI.
So, if you haven’t spent a moment analyzing your site’s internal linking structure yet, you should definitely do it! Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that for blueprinting and implementation per se, it’s always recommended to consult subject-matter experts offering help tailored to your business goals.
However, since building internal links is one of 5 optimizations you’re able to implement on your own, we’ll highlight the most important places where you can put such links.
- Menu and categories – here, you should place links to website locations most frequently visited by users who want to search for information and products.
- Usability-oriented on-site content- such internal links should clearly refer to the linked pages and streamline website navigation.
- A footer with a simplified menu – here, users can frequently find essentials such as 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 how they got there.
- Tags – they help to search content by theme
- Sitemap – used to navigate the site (helping mainly the search engine robots).
Why Are Internal Links Important for SEO?
Thanks to internal links, Google can easily understand and analyze your website. By guiding the robots with the use of links and descriptive anchors, you show them which subpages of your platform are relevant and what can be found when being redirected to a specific URL.
To learn how to improve your website’s navigation, check out our article: https://delante.co/improve-websites-navigation/.
9 Best Practices for Internal Linking Structure
1. Use Keyword-Rich Anchor Text
Instead of using phrases like “click here,”, “go here” or “link,” it’s much better to apply keyword-rich anchor texts. Thanks to it, you show Google and robots what to expect when they click on the link.
Of course, it’s recommended to diversify your links and their forms. However, exact match anchors (links described with the exact name of the subpage you’re linking to) are helpful if used moderately. Thanks to them, you can improve your position in the search results for specific keywords.
2. Link to Important Pages
When thinking about your internal linking structure, decide which subpages and elements of your website are important. Instead of placing random links to subpages such as terms and conditions, focus on pages that are important to your business, or that may help you increase profits and, at the same time, bring value to the user.
3. Don’t Reuse Anchors
Anchors can truly support the SEO process. However, it’s worth following a few rules that will allow you to be more effective. Although using different phrases when pointing to a specific URL isn’t a mistake, it’s recommended to always use the same anchor with the same link to keep the structure organized and to ensure that the entire power of the link focuses on a specific phrase.
Moreover, you should make sure that your anchors always lead to correct subpages. If you place an anchor on a phrase like “winter shoes,” users should be able to access a page with winter shoes if they click the link.
4. Link to Topically-Related Pages
When linking, it’s worth creating the so-called thematic clusters. This way, the website becomes more user-friendly which makes it appreciated by Google robots.
If you sell elegant dresses for a wedding, think about elements potential buyers may need apart from them. Maybe a matching jacket, or a purse? By linking to topically-related pages, you increase your chances of cross-selling and you show Google that your website is well-organized and structured in a logical way.
5. Use Dofollow Links
Thanks to dofollow links Google can point back to your website. Thus, by placing a dofollow internal link, you pass the entire link juice to the linked subpage. If you want your subpages to be ranked in the search results and analyzed by Google, you should apply dofollow attributes.
6. Create Internal Links to Support Indexing
As already mentioned above, internal link structure SEO encourages Google to visit linked subpages of your website, which accelerates indexing and sends the page authority to specific subpages.
Once linked subpages of your website are optimized, it’s worth creating internal links to them to make sure that Google crawls and indexes the content.
7. Use Your Links in Strategic Places
Place internal links in visible locations. Apart from using attractive, eye-catching CTAs, make sure that the fragment with a link stands out from the text and can be easily recognized.
Think about clickable infographics, photos, and other elements that may potentially attract users and show them that you offer content that might be of interest to them. This way, you’ll attract users’ attention for longer and they’ll improve your average web session duration which also has an impact on the positions in the SERPs.
Want to learn how to design perfect CTAs? Read our article prepared by Monika.
8. Don’t Overdo It
Moderation is the key to success. Not only when talking about internal linking structure, but in general. Don’t insert links in every other sentence as this won’t look natural. If there are too many links, users simply ignore them, therefore, it’s worth keeping the number under control to ensure that it’s optimal and that it leads to truly valuable subpages.
When you use too many internal links, the page authority is divided between each of them. As a result, linking isn’t so effective and may not bring you any benefits. Moreover, it’s worth mentioning that Google may consider unnatural link stuffing as manipulation and may decide to decrease your positions in the search results.
9. Keep Your URL Structure Consistent
User-friendly URLs are one of the ranking factors. By keeping their structure consistent, you show both Google and users that you’re a professional, well-organized person. This can increase your authority and will have a positive impact on your image. Moreover, properly structured URLs can improve your CTR, as specific keywords in the link users may estimate what can be found at a given address and it may encourage them to click.
At this point, it’s also worth mentioning that more and more people are concerned about hacker attacks and phishing. Consequently, they avoid websites with suspicious URLs.
If you want to make sure that your page is perceived as safe and user-friendly, invest in an SSL certificate and modify your link structure.
Internal Links and SEO – Check Your Website for Those Issues
1. Broken Internal Links
In the e-commerce world, products that are sold out or withdrawn from the offer are replaced with new models, just like in everyday reality. If you’ve been linking to removed subpages, you may have a problem. In such cases, both users and search engine robots are redirected to a nonexistent page, which deters them from browsing your site and has a negative impact on your positions in the ranking. Therefore, it’s always recommended to link to product categories, not specific items (unless you’re sure that your goods won’t be withdrawn from the offer).
There are 3 ways to avoid the negative consequences of linking to nonexistent pages:
- 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, referring to similar products;
- Redirect the users from 404 pages to similar ones with the help of 301 – however, it’s advisable to be careful when applying this method, as users are taken to a page they didn’t expect to see. If it doesn’t meet their expectations, they may get irritated and leave your site, thus increasing your bounce rate and decreasing the probability that they’ll visit your store in the future.
Internal Links to Redirected Pages
As it’s been already mentioned, it’s important to make sure that your website doesn’t include internal links to pages that have been removed or redirected. Otherwise, you’ll show both Google and users that your website isn’t organized well. Moreover, such broken links pass the page authority to subpages that don’t actually exist.
Internal Links to Unimportant Pages
Remove internal links leading to unimportant pages that don’t bring value to the users or aren’t related thematically. Apart from not benefiting your company or rankings, such links can actually position you as an inexperienced person who doesn’t think much or doesn’t care about users.
Show potential customers that you actually understand their needs and that you do everything in your power to give them products and services meeting their expectations. This way, you’ll create thematic clusters which will additionally support SEO.
Internal Links in SEO – The Takeaway
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 if you make any mistakes, the consequences may be equally detrimental
Keep in mind that internal links were mainly invented to improve website navigation and make the page more usable. They can encourage users to visit your website more often, and spend more time on it, which translates into trust Google puts in your page and higher positions in the search results.
Remember that SEO is a long-term and complex process affected by thousands of factors. Therefore, you won’t observe spectacular results overnight. Nevertheless, it’s worth following the above-mentioned internal linking rules to support your SEO campaign, attract more traffic, improve the UX, and realize growing sales in the future.
This is an update of an article published in 2018.