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Nearly every article on SEO Internal Linking Strategies starts with a discussion of how complicated yet how important the subject matter is. On the one hand, internal linking is such a simple concept, and everyone should be doing it. On the other hand, the theory, process, and best practices of internal linking get extraordinarily complex. It’s both advanced and simple. But regardless of how complex or basic you think it is, no one argues about this: It is important.
Strategic internal linking is an SEO power technique, especially for content marketing. In this article, I’ve chosen to focus on internal linking for content marketing, because it’s one of the most straightforward and simplest ways to experience SEO uptick. Plus, internal linking among blog articles and other content is something that you can do on an ongoing basis.
In this article, I want to deliver a level of SEO knowledge that will benefit the experienced SEO, but that will also provide actionable data to help SEO newbies.
What is an SEO Internal Linking Strategies?
Internal links are links that go from one page on a domain to a different page on the same domain. They are commonly used in main navigation.
These type of SEO Internal Linking Strategies are useful for three reasons:
- They allow users to navigate a website.
- Also; They help establish information hierarchy for the given website.
- They help spread link equity (ranking power) around websites.
Why are SEO Internal Linking Strategies important?
SEO Internal Linking Strategies are important because they can help Google understand and rank your website better. By giving Google links to follow along with descriptive anchor text, you can indicate to Google which pages of your site are important, as well as what they are about. Internal links are also good for user experience and may improve engagement.
What is internal linking vs external linking?
Very simply, internal linking occurs when a site links to other URLs on the same site, whereas external linking occurs when a site links to URLs on a different site. Put another way, internal links are when you link to your own pages, while external links point to pages on other domains.
How do internal links affect SEO?
Authority flows through the Internet through links.
Links pass ranking potential from website to website, from page to page.
When one page links to another, it passes some of its credibility to that page, increasing the likelihood that the second page will rank. This credibility is sometimes called “link juice” which sounds gross. Most search optimizers simply call it “authority.”
Links from other websites to your website pass “Domain Authority” increasing the authority (and ranking potential) of all the pages on your website. Internal links don’t do that.
SEO Internal Linking Strategies pass authority between pages on your website. They don’t increase your Domain Authority, but they do pass “page authority” from one page to another. Through internal links, pages can help each other rank in search engines.
Internal Link #1: Links That Affect Search Engine Rankings (SEO)
Here’s how to get the most SEO value from internal links:
- Some of your pages have more authority than others. These are pages that already have been linked to from other sites. Your home page is the best example.
Links from these pages to other pages will pass more authority and SEO value.
- Some of your pages will benefit from a bit more authority than other pages. These are pages that may be ranking, but not that high. Maybe they’re ranking high on page two. If that’s the case, a little more authority might go a long way.
Links to these pages might help your rankings more.
Linking from the first type of page to the second is easy, free and fast. And it may make a difference in ranking and traffic. Here’s a three step process to find both types of pages and your best internal linking opportunities.
1. Which of your pages has the most authority?
For this, you can use an SEO tool such as Moz, or a free tool such as Google Search Console.
In Moz, it’s the “Top Pages” report. It will show you all of your pages, ranked in order of Page Authority. Links from pages with higher authority will pass the most ranking potential. These are the pages you want to link from.
No subscription to SEO software? No worries. Just look in Google Search Console in the Links > External Links / Top Linked Pages report. This shows the pages that have the most external links and therefore the most authority. Sort by “Source Domains.” Your homepage will likely be at the top, but scan down to interior pages.
See any older, authoritative blog posts? These are the pages that can pass the most ranking potential.
Tip: Google Search Console also has a report showing which of your pages already has the most SEO Internal Linking Strategies pointing to it. Go to Links > Internal Links / Top Linked Pages, and take a look.
2. Which of your pages is almost ranking high?
Use Google Analytics to find the “low hanging fruit.” We’re going to do some SEO analysis and find the pages that are ranking right there in search results, but just past that page two tipping point.
2a. Go to the Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries report. If you aren’t getting a lot of traffic from search, just set a longer date range and you’ll get more data.
No data in this report? No problem. You just need to connect Google Analytics to Google Search Console. Or go straight to GSC and get it directly!
2b. Create an advanced filter so you can see just the phrases for which you rank higher than 10 (as in, the “average position” is greater than ten, which generally means you rank at the top of page two in Google). Here’s what that filter will look like:
2c. Sort by average position. Here’s your list of phrases for which you almost rank high…
2d. Go to Google and search for each phrase to confirm the ranking and find the corresponding page. Don’t be surprised if some of the phrases are hard to find. If you have trouble finding a phrase from the queries report in your search results, don’t dwell on it. Just move on to the next one.
The tool SEMrush makes it even easier to get this data, but you’ll need a paid subscription (worth it!) Go to Domain Analytics > Organic Research > Organic Search Positions. There’s a drop down there that will quickly filter the rankings to show you just the page two phrases.
Also, notice the far right column. This report shows you the page that ranks. Nice, right? The Google Search Console > Queries report doesn’t do that.
Hopefully, you find a few great pages ranking at the top of page two, ready for more authority and more visibility. Now you know just what to link to.
3. Link from the first page to the second.
From the high-authority page, just create a link somewhere within the body text of the page, to the almost-high-ranking page. A few tips:
- If it makes sense, use the key phrase in the anchor text of the link. For example, a link with anchor text that says “cable installation tips” would help indicate that the page is about cable installation. Keyword-focused anchor text is probably better than “read more” or “click here.”
Does Google care about keywords in anchor text? Probably, yes. It’s been suggested by John Mueller on Twitter…
…and in the Topic-Sensitive PageRank patent…
- Don’t force it. The link should be created with the reader in mind, not just rankings. Anything that you do purely for the sake of SEO, without any consideration for people, is spam.
Let’s ask search marketing expert, Kevin Indig, about the efficacy of internal linking structure for SEO. We just had to reach out to Kevin after reading his guide on SEO Internal Linking Strategies. It is extremely thorough and highly recommended.
SEO Internal Linking Strategies work very similar to external backlinks in terms of relevance and authority. If you link from a page on your site that gets strong backlinks to a weak one, you should notice a significant impact. The same happens with anchor text: it provides search engines a bit of context about the link target. Now, if you optimize that idea at scale, say by adjusting the pattern of an internal link module or any other logic related to SEO Internal Linking Strategies, you have a powerful tool to improve Google’s understanding of your content and increase your chance to rank higher. To take that idea a level higher, you also manage expectations of your audience better when using descriptive anchor text.
Kevin Indig, VP of SEO and Content, G2
This one simple link may be enough to push the rank up a bit of the page. If it doesn’t work, don’t give up. It may be time to improve the page in other ways.
Internal Link #2: Links That Guide Visitors to High Converting Pages
Some pages attract a lot of visitors. Usually, this is because they already rank high or they get shared a lot. They are your traffic champions.
Other pages inspire a lot of visitors to take action. In content marketing, this is usually because they do a good job of converting visitors into subscribers. They are your conversion champions.
Linking your traffic champions to your conversion champions can have a dramatic impact on your marketing. One little link can help connect your best cheese to your best mouse traps.
Here’s how to find your best cheese, your best mousetraps and connect them with an internal link.
1. Which of your pages attracts the most traffic?
This is easy to check in Analytics. Just go to the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report. Choose a nice long date range of three to six months. The report is sorted in order of the pages that had been viewed the most. Here’s your list of traffic champions.
Caution: As you scan down the list, think about pages that had traffic spikes due to PR hits or email campaigns. Keep in mind that those events won’t repeat themselves.
2. Which of your pages inspire the most action?
The Landing Pages report does show a conversion rate on the right, as long as you’ve set up goals in Google Analytics. Switch to your newsletter signup goal from the drop down menu and sort. You’ll get a quick idea for which posts grow your email list the fastest.
Note: If you see mostly outliers and ultra-low numbers, add a filter. Here you can see I’m looking at just the landing pages that drive 5+ conversions.
Here are your conversion champs:
If you’d like to do more accurate, detailed analysis, you can connect Google Analytics to Google Sheets. Just follow these detailed instructions.
3. Link from the traffic champions to the conversion champions
Finally, add the internal link. Somewhere in the body text of the high-traffic pages, link to the high-converting pages. The more people click this link, the faster your email list will grow. So make it a compelling, specific call to action.
You just connect your best cheese to your best mousetrap.
Internal Link #3: Links That Prompt Visitors to Act (Calls-to-Action)
Your goal as a digital marketer is to attract visitors, present them with powerful marketing claims, support these claims with evidence and then gently guide them to take action.
Calls to Action are SEO Internal Linking Strategies. They prompt visitors to act.
Look at the bottom of any of your marketing pages. What is the last line of text? Does it suggest the visitor take action? And Does it offer help? Does it start a conversation? Or does the page just abruptly end?
Here are some examples of SEO Internal Linking Strategies that you can put at the bottom of your marketing pages, that serve as calls to action.
You can imagine this little internal link helps generate leads.
Pro Tip! Make sure that no page on your website is a dead end. Find and remove every dead end on your website. It will keep the visitors flowing.
Final thoughts – SEO Internal Linking Strategies
SEO Internal Linking Strategies isn’t rocket science. You simply need a logical, hierarchical site structure and for your internal links to follow that structure. That’s the basics, at least—you can then strategically link from your “power pages” to those that need a little SEO help.
Here are a few guidelines to follow when building any SEO Internal Linking Strategies:
- Don’t always use the same anchor text. Mix things up and keep it diverse.
- Don’t link from irrelevant pages only to boost authority. You’re better off not linking internally at all.
- Don’t overdo it. You don’t have to add hundreds of internal links for this to be effective—one or two well-placed internal links can often make a big difference.
As I said, it’s far from rocket science. However, if you’re in any doubt as to what to do, here’s my advice: spend an hour or two browsing Wikipedia. Their internal linking game is on point, and there’s a lot you can learn from them—even if you only run a small website.