Marketers understand how important SEO is for the success of their websites. Many focus on external SEO such as backlinks, paid ads, social media marketing and more to get qualified traffic to these websites, generate leads and turn visitors into customers. One area of SEO that is often overlooked and severely underutilized is internal link building. Internal linking has a profound effect on the performance of a website for search engines and users alike. So, how can you use link building to get your website to tank better on search engines?
Before we look at how you can leverage internal links to rank better, we need to understand why they are so important. Their importance has to do with the way search engine bots (crawlers) scan content. To ensure you get the best results for a certain search term or keyword, crawlers scan websites for new and updated content that is relevant to the search term. These crawlers follow links on your website to discover old, new, and updated content so the search engine can rank it.
A poor internal linking structure makes it hard for these crawlers to do this, which hinders your rank as well as how many pages are indexed and thus ranked.
Other reasons are that:
- Internal linking improves the user experience, makes people visit more pages, and encourages them to stay on the website longer, all of which are important ranking factors
- They help with the discoverability of new and strategic content which you may want indexed and ranked
- They help move people through the buyer’s journey smoothly
One other thing you need to do before implementing an internal linking strategy is fix broken links. The two reasons are that if you have lots of broken links, the number of pages that rank will be less. Second, your bounce rate will be very high which can lead to lower conversions. There are numerous tools you can use to audit your website to find broken links. Fixing broken internal links should lead to some gains in the number of pages ranked as well as the rank of your pages.
One way to use internal links to rank better is by using them to tell crawlers which of your content is important. Content links (links that appear insider the body of a page or post) will often provide context for that content but are not scalable since they appear in one place.
Module links – links placed on modules like the header or footer – appear everywhere on your website and this tells crawlers that this content is very important. Sites that insert links into their models will often have these pages or posts ranked on multiple places on search engine result pages.
Some pages and posts to add to your modules include those that receive a lot of traffic, resource pages, category pages, landing pages, and pages that help differential your business, product, and services from your competitors.
Hubs, silos, or clusters are collections of pages that cover similar topics. For a website that primarily focuses on pets, different silos can be linked to pages that talk about pet toys or different pet breeds. All the pages under these categories or solos can be linked to the hub category page or together to help provide context and continuity between different topics.
Such silos make it easier for users to navigate between pages with similar content and know what to read next. Crawlers can connect your content easily and the hub pages have more authority because they have a lot of links pointing back to them.
Once these hubs rank, visitors who follow their links can discover numerous content pieces that fall under each hub. Another major benefit of using hubs is that they provide opportunities to link to various pages using anchors that contain relevant keywords.
In the example above, it is easy to link a page that talks about chew toys to one that talks about another type of toy using relevant keywords in the anchor text. These pages are related and in the same silo, which makes it easy to do so.
Sometimes it can be difficult to fit a link to a body of text because it would not fit naturally. This is where recommended and related content comes in. Adding links to related content outside the body of text allows you to fit a link in the page without the penalties that come with using non-contextual anchors. Using related content links also helps pass PageRank and authority to pages that have low authority and thus need some attention from visitors and crawlers.
Recommended content works similarly to related content, with one key difference being that it has to fit the main content on the page. You want a visitor to see relevant content they can click on. Recommended content can also be personalized to increase the chances of the visitor clicking on one of the links among the other recommended links.
When adding recommended content links, keep the quality and relevance of the recommended content in mind. Adding numerous links that no one will click on is usually a waste of energy and space.
Although there are lots of search engines you might want to rank on, most people focus on Google because it is the most popular search engine. Google’s algorithm is always getting better at reading context, analyzing keywords, and the anchor texts they are used on.
Crawlers are now less likely to follow links that use generic terms like “click here”. Because of this, always try to use relevant and contextual keywords when adding anchor texts. Also, ensure the page being linked to is related to the keyword used as its anchor.
Internal links are used to help visitors and crawlers navigate your website. How well they can do this has an impact on your rank and how many pages rank, and this is why a good internal linking structure and strategy is necessary. In most cases, it comes down to linking naturally and contextually while making sure related content is connected.