Gold link in a chain to indicate internal linking

Gavin Hirst - Wednesday 30th September 2020


How to improve your internal linking

Do you feel like you have done everything you can to optimise your site or even a specific page on your site, but you can’t seem to crack the top three for certain queries?

It’s a challenge that we all face in SEO. You have done everything you can from a technical perspective and your content is really strong and well-optimised for your target keywords, however, you’re not seeing any movement in terms of rankings.

Once you hit this plateau, it can often be tricky to uncover new tactics that can help to push you into those all-important top three positions within the search results without simply repeating the same things, even though they are clearly not working.

That’s where internal linking can really make a big difference.

What are internal links?

Internal Links are hyperlinks that point at the same domain as the domain that the link exists on. In layman’s terms, an internal link is one that points to another page on the same website.

Internal links are typically used to help people navigate their way around your website efficiently. Internal links are often found in the main navigation; however, they are also found within the main body content of pages across websites.

According to Moz, internal links are useful for three reasons:

  • They allow users to navigate a website.
  • They help establish information hierarchy for the given website.
  • They help spread link equity (ranking power) around websites.

If you want to find out more about internal links, make sure you check out this Moz guide which goes into great depth about the best way to structure your internal links. This post, however, is focussed on improving your internal linking across your website and identifying opportunities that exist that you may not already be taking advantage of.

Why are internal links important?

Before we move on to uncovering internal link opportunities, let’s first look at why they are important.

Whilst their primary purpose is to help users (and Google) to navigate through your website, they are also there to provide context to the link through relevant anchor linking text.

As well as helping to spread the link equity around the site, anchor linking text also provides valuable context to Google about the content on the linked page. Typically, this would be done by using relevant target keywords as the anchor linking text.

A strong internal linking structure also makes it easier for Google to discover fresh content on your website. Including internal links to your newly published blog posts from the homepage or relevant landing pages, for example, can really speed up the process of getting those pages crawled and indexed by Google, which in turn speeds up the process of that content ranking well for the keywords you are targeting.

Finally, and to come back full circle, internal linking is important as it helps users. I’m, not sure about you, but if I am reading an article and the author talks about a topic I am interested in, or references another article they have written or even an external resources they have cited, I want it to be as easy as possible to go and read that article. I don’t want to have to Google it. I don’t want to have to use the internal search. I just want to click on a link and be taken to that piece of content. Even if I don’t always click on it, having the option to do so provides me with a better user experience as I know I can if I want to.

Internal links are a really important element of strong SEO, but they can be overlooked or certainly not utilised to their full potential.

Here are a few tips on uncovering internal linking opportunities.

1.      Focus on your high conversion pages

One of the first things we do when we are carrying out an internal link audit is to establish which pages on the website are the most important. For many clients, these are the pages that have the highest conversion rate.

These pages tend to be pages with a sales focus and the more traffic you can drive there through internal linking, the more likely it is that you will improve your overall conversion rate across your site.

2.      Link from content-heavy pages to other content-heavy pages

A lot of websites struggle to build a strong linking infrastructure deeper into the site. Many links sit at the top 2 or 3 levels of a website and those that are found deeper in the site are more difficult to find, both by users and Google.

By linking your articles together, through strong internal linking, you help to build this internal linking structure deep in your site which helps to spread your internal linking more naturally.

A simple way to do this is to include a ‘Related Posts’ section at the bottom of every post you write but better still, you should be curating a list of relevant links for each blog and manually including these as well.

3.      Maximise your anchor linking text

I’ve already touched on the value of anchor linking text and this is a key component of any internal linking activity.

You must always be searching to add value within the text that you are internally linking. Don’t use things like ‘click here’ or ‘read now’ as these terms add no value. Your anchor text needs to relate, in some way, to the destination page.

Whilst it’s important to make your anchor linking text highly relevant, make sure you avoid using an exact match between your anchor text and the link target. This is a technique known as ‘exact match anchor text’ and has been linked to SEO penalties as part of the Penguin algorithm update.

4.      Update old content with new internal links

A great way to increase the number of internal links you have on your site is to go back and update old content.

Not only is this a great tactic from an internal linking perspective, but it’s also another great SEO technique to update old content with fresh copy, images and links.

Whenever you update an old piece of content, Google’s crawler sees it again, indexes it again and in many cases, you will see a boost to your rankings for that piece of content due to ‘freshness’.

Content updates can’t simply be about changing the publish date. Your changes should add real value to the end-user and this means:

  • Adding a new intro paragraph to explain the updates
  • Including new, fresh content within the body of the article that really brings that content piece up to date
  • Add new links within that old content piece to more recent articles you have published, helping to build up that structure of internal links from new to old, old to new and new to new

We typically use a tool like SEMrush to identify the keywords our older pages are ranking for to identify ‘low hanging fruit’ – keywords ranking low down on page one or on page two. We then look to update those older articles to better target those low hanging keywords, especially if we can add relevant internal links to that post using optimised anchor linking text.

5.      Add internal links in high-value places

When you are reviewing pages and considering where to add internal links to other key pages across your site, don’t simply take the lazy option and add a bunch of links at the bottom of a post. Whilst this can be a natural place to add links to related articles, your strategy for internal linking is around adding value to the reader.

Links should be added naturally within the body content of a piece where there is an overlap between the topics you are talking about. Make it easy for readers to discover other related content on your site and make those internal links highly relevant – people should know what to expect when they click on a link from the anchor text you use so make sure the destination page meets their expectation.

Summary

Internal linking is an often-overlooked SEO technique which can add a lot of value to your overall SEO strategy and help to drive up organic rankings.

As with all linking activity, whether that’s internal or external, make sure you keep your linking activity natural. Avoid any internal linking activity that looks in any way spammy, the same way you would treat an external link.

Make sure your anchor linking text is optimised but not spammy – it should always provide the reader with a strong indication about the page that it links to.

If you are struggling to break into the top three results and you feel like you have tried everything else, make sure you add internal linking to your mix and you should see your pages cracking the top three.

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