The Importance Of Internal Linking In SEO
Navigating through the SERPs has become more and more complicated over the years and at times, you’d be forgiven for forgetting everything required for a page Google will consider high quality enough to rank on page one. Internal linking, however, is one thing you certainly can’t overlook. While good SEO brings together everything from the traditional keyword optimisation and off-site linking strategies, to user experience and E-A-T scores, ensuring you have a strong internal linking structure is an essential focus.
While building up internal links can feel like a chore at times, the pay-off can be great for your SEO strategy. Here, we’re taking a deeper look at the importance of internal linking.
What Can Internal Links Do For Your Website?
When Google crawls your website, it will navigate through the pages using links. Known as Google Bot, this crawler will usually begin at the homepage of a website, before moving through each page it can access either through navigation, a sitemap or – you guessed it – internal links. The journey or path that it undertakes can help it determine whether certain pages, posts and more are linked in terms of content and relevancy, before determining the value of each of the pages under a similar topic or category.
Google Bot will also assign a certain level of value to pages on your website, and the number of links to that page is one of the key ways that this is determined. The homepage is often given the highest value, as it typically sees the most backlinks, however, the value is then shared across any links found on the homepage. This division will continue through the structure.
Beyond the core structure of your website and Google’s bots, however, internal linking is an invaluable way of providing your users with the information they need much more simply. If they’re searching with informational intent, offering not only a single page of information, but other relevant links to expand on certain topics can deter them from leaving your website. Internal linking improves user engagement around your site, with most visitors willing to follow internal or external links that offer further information within the same context as the original piece.
What Makes A Good Internal Link?
Internal links are more than just a hyperlink attached to a few words of text. To produce a link that will provide the value and ease of navigation mentioned above, you’ll need to consider a few things, including:
Anchor Text – While the importance of anchor text may have diminished somewhat over the years, it’s still important to ensure that the text and the linked page hold relevancy to one another.
Location On The Page – Thinking about putting the link to your latest page in a footer on your website? Don’t. Google pays attention to where it finds the links on a website and so if a website features a link to a particular page in the same place across every instance, it’s likely that the site will face a penalty. This kind of linking is referred to as link stuffing.
Link Target – You need to think about what pages you want to rank highly or receive the most value from Google. Doing so can help you choose the most valuable link targets.
Importance Of Linking Page – One of the core reasons for building up an off-site link profile is to provide key pages on your website with the authority and trust it needs. If the page you are linking on has high authority or value through these links, then the pages it links to may very well benefit from ranking power of their own. This isn’t always the case, but it has been seen to happen on plenty of occasions.
Relevance Of The Link – In simple terms, this means paying attention to whether the page you are linking to, and the page your linking from are relevant to one another – at least in the context of the link. Stretching relevancy can be harmful to your website, as search engines typically pick up on links that lack this vital context.
First Link On Page – Linking to the same content multiple times on one page might seem to be a logical way to do things, but you need to be careful about anchor texts. Google will only attribute the first anchor text it sees to the link. For example, if you were linking to a page about Content Marketing, and the first anchor simply said ‘click here’, then that would be the text Google attributes to the linked page.
Type of Link – While text-based links have been the most commonly used in the past, links on images, videos and more are all becoming the norm online. However, it’s still said that text-based internal linking is favoured by Google currently, though only slightly. For images, you’ll need to ensure that the alt text for the picture matches the linked page in the same way as a text anchor.
Internal Linking Structure
When it comes to building an internal linking structure, one of the most commonly utilised formats is known as the Silo Structure. Thinking of your website as a pyramid of sorts, with the most important content at the top, can help you to determine how you’ll structure the rest of your site through both the navigation itself, and your internal linking structure.
For most businesses, the most important page is considered to be the homepage and so this sits at the very top of the pyramid – or silo. From the homepage, you then link a number of other pages, usually main service pages, or key navigational points around your website that your homepage will pass value and trust onto. From here, it’s your opportunity to start linking content together with relevancy, context and quality in mind. Say you owned a travel website – you could link to the Locations page from your homepage, where you can then link to individual countries. From the countries page, you can link to cities or key locations.
This kind of structure brings Google through your website on a smoother, more seamless journey and helps the Google Bot to understand context and topical links, as well as distribute value across your website more evenly and fairly.
Mobile Internal Linking Structure
Mobile-first indexing has been a core focus for Google in the past couple of years, with the core algorithm update coming about in early 2018. This update saw Google favouring mobile-friendly websites over desktop and for this reason, the design of our sites has had to change – this included our navigational systems.
However, while changes have been necessary, it wasn’t quite as drastic as we may have first thought. Our core navigational methods needed to be streamlined, but in terms of internal linking, we only needed to make things clearer. This meant a clear internal linking structure, highly relevant links and anchor text and making sure that all links made offer value to the user. Gone are the days of swamping content with internal links. Instead, we need to make text user-friendly, and that includes the number of links we include within a piece.
You’ll need to pay closer attention to any broken links, redirect loops or slow page speeds within your silo structure. With pages expected to load in under three seconds before a user clicks away and ease of access to content that matches their search intent, internal linking on mobile is more than just appeasing Google, and instead about being able to capture a user’s attention.
Internal linking is a vital part of any SEO strategy, but it’s also a difficult thing to get right the first time. However, by carefully planning the structure you want your website to have and implementing internal linking accordingly, you can provide Google’s Bot with a much clearer and more accurate way of moving through your website and attributing value and indexing.
To find out more about internal linking and how we can help you with your website, get in touch with a member of our team on 0800 088 6000.