The purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) is to improve your rankings within the search engine results pages (SERPs) to drive more traffic to your website. To achieve this goal, you need to ensure Google’s crawlers know each of the pages in your domain exist. Unfortunately, having a website isn’t enough. You have to grab Google’s attention and the attention of other search engines by maximizing internal links.
Search engine optimization is a formula that takes patience and a little know-how. Link building is a crucial element to staying on top of Google’s bots, but it often goes underused. If you’re working to boost your SEO, take advantage of these tactics for implementing internal links.
Inviting Google to Index Your Page
Point Google’s crawlers and your potential clients towards your most important pages by placing external links leading back to them. The number and quality of those links help determine your SERP ranking and establishing your page’s authority.
Ensure your pages are high in expertise, authority, and trust, or EAT, to link back to your page. Why? Because that shows Google there is value there, boosting your page in the process. However, it isn’t enough to simply direct external traffic to your homepage and popular content. You need to focus on all critical places within your domain, including the pages that drive revenue and conversions. As it turns out, the best way to harness your SEO power throughout your website is with a robust internal linking strategy.
What Are Internal Links and Why Do They Matter?
Like external links, internal links provide a pathway for access to your content. However, while external links direct traffic from outside sources to your pages, internal links connect all of your content to enable movement between pages within your site for both human and artificial visitors:
- Human users. Your site visitors utilize internal links to navigate your site to find the content they’re seeking. Simply put, if you don’t link to a page, your users won’t see it. And what’s worse, if you don’t establish a natural, easy-to-navigate system of linking to help your users find the content they need, you risk them leaving your site altogether. With a solid internal linking strategy, you’ll build a better user experience and direct users to your most important and most profitable pages.
- Web crawlers. Google’s crawlers rely on internal links to discover related content, determine its value, and map your site’s internal hierarchy. When a page receives many internal and external links, Google assumes it to be valuable and relatively high in EAT. Taken one step further, the EAT you’ve already acquired through a quality backlink profile can effectively spread equally across your pages, but only if you take care to establish an effective internal linking strategy.
Five SEO Strategies to Optimize Your Internal Link Profile
Useful internal linking helps you leverage all the SEO power you’ve taken so much care to develop to drive more traffic to your most critical pages. But, after you’ve determined your most authoritative or high-value pages, how should you go about building a quality internal link profile that promotes them? Start with these five strategies:
1. Structure Your Website
Some of the most critical internal links on your website reside within your navigation menu, which should be both easy to browse and prominently placed at the top of each page within your site. Then, you’ll need to build your site’s hierarchy; your homepage will reside at the top, with the most links directed towards and away from it, as it is the hub for users to navigate to all your other pages. At most, your users should only need five clicks to navigate from one page to another on your site.
2. Focus on Your Most Important Pages
Once you’ve established your page hierarchy, it isn’t enough to simply place links at random to connect all your landing pages. Instead, structure your links to focus traffic on your most high-value pages, such as pages containing your most defining thought leadership-related content or e-commerce opportunities for your users.
In general, the most important pages should be no more than three clicks from your homepage, effectively transferring your earned EAT to those pages first. Other, more in-depth pages can still contribute value to your users and receive distributed EAT at a rate that coincides with their importance within your hierarchy.
3. Link New or Popular Pages
Within your page’s hierarchy, it is crucial to group your content, linking pages with your most important information to relevant pages clustered around the same topics. However, it is also essential to focus on your newest and most popular content, especially if they are the same.
Providing new and popular content suggestions on each page (often in the footer or sidebar) helps users make the connection between your most important pages and your most-frequented pages. It also helps distribute your link EAT value more effectively.
4. Address Anchor Text
Links placed within your page’s content and leading to pages with relevant corresponding content are more valuable than a set of links within your page menu, header, footer, or sidebar. To seize on all this potential value, take these steps to optimize your anchor text:
- Perform keyword research to determine competitive, relevant keywords for the content on your page.
- Incorporate compelling phrases that make users want to click.
- Ensure that your anchor text accurately describes the content of the linked page.
- Only link to relevant pages that are useful to readers consuming the current on-page content.
5. Include the Right Number of Links
While including as many links as possible might seem like a great way to spread your link power, stretching your link power too thin can take away from the perceived value of your most critical pages.
Also, Google’s crawlers will only crawl your website as a product of how fresh and popular your content is. Wasting this “crawl budget” on links of little value can mean your most important pages go unindexed.
While some experts recommend no more than 75-100 internal links, including links within the header, footer, sidebar, and page menu, Google itself gives no specifics other than incorporating a “reasonable number of links.” Also, ensure that pages that don’t need link power (such as login pages) use nofollow links to avoid utilizing your crawl budget.
Maximize Internal Links for SEO Success
Any business developing a strong SEO strategy knows that it won’t go anywhere without the proper tools. With the right attention paid to your internal links, you enable Google to index all of your pages and optimize your site performance as you structure your internal link profile.
By following the strategies above, both Google and your users will develop a thorough understanding of your website. This will boost your site rankings in the process.