You know that a big part of SEO is link building – who you link to, how many links you have, the quality of your links, etc. But what about your internal linking? It is easy to focus on external links but if you haven’t revisited your internal structure or maybe you are just taking on a new SEO client, it is important to not overlook this step.
Linking internally serves a couple of purposes:
- Most important is the user experience – if users are going to be frustrated by your site once they arrive, there is no point in driving traffic through other SEO efforts. By having correct internal linking, visitors can easily access other information on your site rather than having to look it up for themselves or possibly, leave to find the information somewhere else. You want to be sure you have enough links that people can easily move about your site but not so many that they feel overwhelmed, forcing them to dive deep into the site to get what they are looking for.
- Second purpose, is to help with SEO by providing target articles/information that are both relevant and have authority. By internal linking you are not only helping to make sure that information is shown to be relevant but it can also help you pass along PageRank from one page to another.
As you know from external link building, the more links a page has, the more “votes” or important something appears to be. Creating links to the important pages of your site helps to wave the flag saying “hey there is something here worth reading.”
So, now what? Before you dive in and just start creating a million links between your pages, the first step is to put together a plan.
One method to internal linking is to create a hub page. This can work well to position certain areas of your site as an authority on a certain subject, where all topics relate to one another. Search engines will see the pages in close proximity to each other, and gives them more relevance for having a common theme. And as always, updating the content frequently can help keep interest both from the consumer and search engine crawlers.
In order to identify what your hub page should be, first identify your content silos. What are the major topics and what is the common theme among all of them? For instance if you have information on princess story books, fairy tails, action books for boys and latest children’s authors, your hub page might be Children’s Books. Be sure that everything that links to your hub page is interrelated and that you follow SEO best practices when setting up that hub page.
Once that is complete, you aren’t quite done yet. You need to continue to add new content. Frequent content updates build the hub’s authority but you can’t just add content to add, it must be new, high quality and relevant. You need to not only keep the visitors interest but also the search engines, otherwise ranking benefits will be temporary. Going back to the Children’s Books example, you could add in a page on the latest books to be published, additional categories like mysteries or eBooks, or an article on top rated books for the holidays, etc.
Once you have your hub built, now begin working to attract external links to your hub page. The goal is to raise the hub page as the authority on the topic you covering so rather than spreading links among all of your different pages, focus your efforts at the center.
There are of course other ways to build out your internal links, especially if your site is well established and re-building it to a hub-page format would cause more harm that good. Remember, you don’t want to add internal links for the sake of links but you want to help visitors and link relevant information together.
Create a FAQ: One approach is a Frequently Asked Questions section. The hub page would be the main FAQ page where you outline questions readers commonly have and then partially answer the question within the page. From there, include a link to a blog post or specific page with additional information on your site.
Write a series of blog posts: ever tackled a blog series on your blog? This is a great way to create internal linking. As each post is published, each article should include links to the previous ones. As all of the topics are interrelated, this can help with not only internal linking but also page views and time on site. Be careful not to abuse this though, as people quickly catch on when you are sending them all over to get information.
Use 404 pages to re-direct traffic: No one likes error pages, but you can make them a little more helpful by adding links to other common areas of interest on your site. That way, maybe a person can still find what they are looking for rather than abandoning the page completely.
As you go through your site and start expanding your linking, be sure you are cleaning out pages that are off topic or don’t quite fit with the others. That outlier could be doing more harm that good. If anything, you can always re-write the content to help it better flow with the rest of the site or blog, to help give a little more value.
The key to all of this is to sit down and put together a plan before you start. We have all been to sites where it seems they have internally linked every other phrase and it quickly becomes annoying and not helpful at all. Be sure that every internal link serves a purpose and makes sense to a user navigating through. Also, be sure you are using keywords as your anchor text rather than very general statements. It is not only what pages you link together but also what terms.
Erin is an Account Supervisor at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.