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Internal links are to backlinks what Robin is usually to Batman. Simply put, they’re important to SEO success; however, receive little to none of the credit.
These are links from one page in the same website to another.
Every website has it. But what a lot of people don’t recognize is that “when used strategically” internal links can significantly boost a site’s efficiency in the search engines. For example, Ninja Outreach clarifies how they used internal links to help boost organic traffic by 40%, a stat that’s backed up by Ahref organic traffic quotes for ninjaoutreach.com.
In this post, you’ll find out why internal links are critical to SEO and how to create a smart internal linking strategy for your website.
Google uses internal links to help discover brand new articles.
Let’s state that you publish a new web page and forget to hyperlink to it from somewhere else on your site. If we believe that the page isn’t in your sitemap, and doesn’t have any backlinks, web crawler won’t discover it.
Here’s what Google says:
“Google has to constantly search for new webpages and put them to its set of known webpages. Some webpages are known because Google indexed them before. Additional webpages are found out when Google follows a link from a known page to a fresh web page.”
Webpages with no internal links are known as orphan pages.
Internal links help the movement of PageRank around your site also. That’s a huge deal. Generally speaking, the more inner links a web page provides, the higher the PageRank is. However, it’s not all about quantity; the quality of the link plays an essential role.
Here’s a simple look at how PageRank works:
Google axed community PageRank scores in 2016. However, PageRank remains a primary component of their rank algorithm. We understand this because they stated so.
This is likely part of the reason Google states that:
The number of internal links pointing to a page is a signal to search engines about the relative importance of that page.
Google also looks at the anchor text of internal links to better understand the framework. It was confirmed in this tweet by John Mueller:
“Most links do provide a bit of additional context through their anchor text. At least they should, right?”
In other simple words, say that you have a web page about calculator widgets. You have multiple internal links aiming to that web page with anchors like widgets, calculator widgets, and buy calculator widgets. Those help Google to understand that the web page “is about blue widgets,” and therefore: might deserve to rank for calculator widgets and additional relevant terms. Notice that we bolded the phrase “might” there. Just because your page is about a particular topic does not always mean that it deserves to rank for related keywords.
Now, at this stage, you may be thinking “so if I wanted to rank for calculator widgets, I should probably put internal links as many internal links as possible to that web page with calculator widgets as the anchor text.”
Kind of right, but this way of thinking can result in low‐quality and unnatural internal links.
You need to think smarter, and it all begins with your initial site structure. Think of your site as a pyramid with the most important content material at the top and the least important content material in the bottom.
Most websites have the same page in the top of the pyramid i.e., homepage. Under that, they keep following most essential pages like about us, services, products, blog, etc. Under each of those, they keep much less essential pages i.e., individual products and support web pages, weblog content, etc.
But you shouldn’t link all web pages on one level of the hierarchy to all webpages on another. You need to keep relevance in mind.
The innovative art of siloing
It is the collection of topical web pages via internal links. For instance, imagine we have a website about the countries and towns with these web pages:
You can say that each web page has one of two different groups:
- Country webpages
- City pages in those countries
This is therefore likely how you would “silo” these web pages:
Each country webpage serves as a “hub” and links to subpages about related towns, and vice versa. It creates a topic cluster, a group of interconnected web pages closely related to the same subject.
The 03 benefits of silo are:
- Users will have an easier way to navigate your site
- Crawlers will have an easier way to understand your site structure
- More “power” is transferred to your most important web pages (because sub-pages link back to hub pages, and vice versa).
This type of framework can help search engines to better understand the context of your content.
Suppose we have the following web page: xyz.com/squash. Is this page about squash butternuts, or perhaps game squash? Who knows that? Now let us reveal that this webpage is certainly part of the following silo:
Another overlooked benefit of the silo structure is that because you are linking to and from the topical pages, there usually are many opportunities to do so by using the appropriate anchor text. For example, it makes perfect sense to link from a web page on fruits and vegetables to a butternut squash with “squash” as an anchor text. However, as we mentioned above, you do not have to style the link into an unrelated page.
Everything above is meaningful. But unless you start a site from scratch, factors are usually not as arranged as you like. This is why you should check your accessible internal links before adding more to your site. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. The first step is usually to get your site in the Site Audit tool.
Here’s how to perform it:
There are multiple methods to perform audit of your site without crawling your site. We shall point out these as we move along. However, if you’re a Prepostseo user, our recommendation is to crawl your site in web analyzer tool to make sure that you have no internal broken links.
Once the crawl is complete, check for these five issues:
- Broken internal links
The report will show you all broken internal pages on your site. These are bad because they waste “link equity” and lead to poor consumer encounter.
Here are a few ways to resolve such issues:
- Reinstate the broken web page at the same Website (if deleted by accident)
- Redirect the broken web page to another relevant URL. Revise or remove all inner links directing to it.
- Internal links to redirected pages
Find all the links that are redirected to pages on your site. It’s important to note that not all of these will be issues. For example, if you have inner links aiming to shifted and redirected pages (at e.g., http://domain.com/blog → https://area.com/blog page), then it’s likely nothing to be concerned about. Still, there’s no harm in updating these redirects to remove the additional “link hop.” Either way is to lookout for pages that redirect to something not‐so‐relevant.
- Lots of internal links to unimportant pages
The report will also show the working pages on your site. If you find unimportant pages with lots of internal links, remove them.
Here’s the type of issue that you can often find with this tactic:
For instance, in June you post a blog about “what’s new.” As it’s now January of the next year, possibilities are this web page isn’t especially useful or getting a lot of traffic, however, it still provides 16 inner links. We actually would delete this web page and remove the internal links. Why so? Unless these links are essential for navigation purposes, they serve just to waste “link equity.”
Furthermore, if web pages are linked to “non-index, dofollow,” Google will equate them to “non-index, nofollow” in the long‐term. The result is definitely an effective break in the circulation of “link juice” through these web pages, so it’s better not to internal link to such webpages with “dofollow” links.
- Deep‐connected essential pages
On crawling site on Ahref, you can get the report of the pages that are the most clicked (link hops) aside from your seed page-which will likely become your home page.
As a general rule of thumb, if you see any important pages i.e., ones that earn you revenue, target a worthwhile keyword, convert well, even have more than 3 link hops from your home page, then you might want to consider adjusting your internal linking structure to provide them closer.
A few reasons why this makes sense:
The most authoritative page on most sites is the homepage-the closer a page is to your homepage with regards to link hops, the greater the transfer of PageRank to that page.
- Orphan pages
The pages with no internal links are called orphan webpages. No important webpages should be orphaned for two reasons:
- Google won’t be able to find them (unless you submit your sitemap via Google Search Console, or they possess backlinks from crawled webpages about other sites).
- No PageRank shall be transferred via internal links as there are none.
Gloss over orphan pages and make sure no important webpages appear as an orphan webpage.
Orphaned webpages that still receive organic would most likely get more traffic if internally linked.
Internal linking isn’t rocket science. You need a reasonably a hierarchical site structure and for your internal links to follow that framework. That’s the essentials; so you can smartly link from your “power web pages” to those that need a little SEO help.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when building any kind of internal links:
- Do not keep the same anchor text. Mix things and keep it diverse.
- Do not get webpage link from irrelevant pages only to improve authority. It’s better not to link internally at all than linking with irrelevant pages.
- Don’t overdo it. You do not need to add hundreds of inner links for this to become effective-one or two well‐placed inner links can frequently make a huge difference.
As we said, it’s far from rocket technology. However, if you’re in any doubt as to what to do, here are our sincere suggestions: spend an hour or two browsing Wikipedia. Their internal backlinking game is certainly on stage, and there’s a lot you can learn from them even if you only run a little website.