The importance of internal linking for SEO success

What every SEO agency needs to know about internal linking…

Everyone knows that backlinks can form an essential component of a good SEO strategy. Whilst it’s true that excessive or unnatural links will not score points with Google, the skilful use of natural, organic link building can be an important signal that your site is a quality and authoritative resource.

However, what is often overlooked when developing an SEO strategy is the importance of links within a website. These internal links are valuable in that they demonstrate relationships between different pages of content, reinforcing the value and importance of each and every page.

In this article we look at ten tips on why and how to use internal links:

  1. Use internal links to improve UX
    A skilful internal linking strategy will increase UX. It will clearly define the structure of your website and will help users to navigate your site and enjoy doing so. It will therefore increase click-through rates and conversion rates because visitors will be able to find what they are looking for. It will also enable search engines to index and rank your pages more easily.
  2. Use internal links to increase Google crawl rate
    The more links a web page receives, the higher the value Google gives it. Therefore pages with more internal links pointing to them are crawled more often. The links influence the importance Google gives that page as compared to the other pages on your website. Internal linking therefore needs to be carefully planned so that it boosts the pages that you want to receive most attention from Google.
  3. Use as many internal links on a page as you like!
    There is no one optimum number of internal links per page. There is no upper limit. Google’s advice is simply to keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number. When deciding what is reasonable,the first key thing is to ensure that there are as many links as are helpful for the user. Just bear in mind that however well-structured your content, it can be arduous to have to keep clicking for additional resources. Also remember that internal links also include every link in the header, footer, menu and sidebar – and that an excessive number of links could trigger a spam signal for search engines.
  4. Content is still king
    But however many links you have on a page, you need lots of content to absorb them. To be able to create lots of internal links, you have to have lots of internal pages. And unless these pages have engaging content on them to link to, your linking strategy will begin to falter. Yes the more links to the more places, the better your internal linking strategy will be – but those places have got to be worth the user’s time to navigate to.
  5. Keep content fresh
    As well as having plenty of content to link to, bear in mind that fresh content provides fresh value in terms of search engines. So internal links can help to signal new content to Google and ensure that new pages get crawled.
  6. Internal links keep users on your site for longer
    We have already seen the importance of using a reasonable number of links that are natural for the reader. Links that genuinely add value and information. Such links can improve user engagement on your site, leading to visitors staying longer and becoming more involved in your website experience. The link should dovetail perfectly with the content they are reading, and present as sufficiently relevant and important that the visitor will want to stop what they’re reading and go to the next page. In this way, internal linking helps the reader – and also boosts your SEO in the process.
  7. Use anchor text well
    Anchor text is a much-overlooked SEO tool. It is one of the most important things that search engines take into account when ranking a page. So when setting up internal links, use anchor text that uses well-researched keywords which clearly explain the content being linked to. Anchor text is always preferable to linked images. Image links can also be used but should not be the main source of links, and always need to have relevant alt-tags.
  8. Use internal links to reduce click depth
    Click depth – ie the number of clicks required to reach a page when starting from the website’s homepage – is critical in SEO. Search engines pay more attention to pages that are closer to the homepage. It is considered good practice for each page to be reachable within 2-3 clicks from the homepage. So use internal links to bring some of the deeper pages to a shallower level. Creating a shallower website structure is an excellent way of strengthening internal pages to boost the overall SEO of your site.
  9. Create content hubs
    One way of adding more content pages to your site whilst still maintaining a shallow website structure is to create content hubs. A content hub consists of multiple pages of content on closely related topics or keywords. It is structured around one central page that then links out to other pages in the content hub on your website. The authority gained by this page will then transfer to all of the related pages. This can enable you to increase the authority of your content marketing on a particular topics and make gains in search rankings.
  10. Use internal links to maximise the benefit of ephemeral content
    Our article on ephemeral content explained the strategy of using time-critical content – content that becomes no longer relevant after a certain period of time. Internal linking can also be of tremendous benefit to pages that are only relevant during a narrow time period. For example, special offers, sales, events and seasonal opportunities. For any of these situations, a landing page can be created that is optimised for related search queries. Internal linking can be used to promote the landing page throughout your site, and a related content hub created which is then linked to from the landing page. Using internal links in this way will help to distribute traffic from the ranking landing page to all related pages in the content hub.

To conclude, any SEO strategy needs to include a carefully thought out internal linking strategy. To develop such a strategy is neither overwhelming nor difficult – it just needs to be consistent and kept constantly under review. The results will be well worth in terms of user UX, increased business and better SEO.