An internal linking strategy is enormously powerful. Make full use of internal linking, and you’ll soon see a significant uptick in organic traffic as more and more users discover your site.
A well-designed internal linking structure brings numerous benefits. It will enhance the experience that users enjoy, but it can also dramatically improve discoverability, enabling a far greater number of potential customers to find your business. With so many internal linking tips and tricks, how do you know which strategies will make a difference and which are best to avoid?
Read on, and we’ll reveal all. This article will discuss all you need to know about internal linking, divulging everything from why it matters to which common pitfalls you need to avoid. You’ll have the strategy mastered in no time.
Why Internal Linking for SEO is Essential
Internal linking plays a vital role in any good SEO strategy. Before diving into their benefits, let’s first explain what we mean when discussing internal links.
Internal links are hyperlinks that point users to other pages on the website, so the domains of these links will be the same as the original site domain. They should be indicated so that users can spot them easily. Ideally, the anchor text should be a word or phrase which shows what a user can expect to see on the linked page.
Internal links can help establish an information hierarchy on a website. You can also use strategies to spread link equity on sites, improving the pages’ authority.
There are other SEO benefits to be had, too. A great internal link analysis and optimization is also crucial in establishing site architecture. It’ll usually provide multiple opportunities for SEO professionals to improve the site’s link structure, allowing spiders to browse the site more easily. As a result, the ranking power of each page on the website is strengthened.
Internal Linking for SEO – Common Mistakes
The power of internal linking is phenomenal, but let’s not forget that this strategy isn’t always easy to master. Unfortunately, mistakes are rife in the field of internal linking. And while minor errors might not cause much of an issue on your site, the prolonged use of outdated ideas can hamper your efforts to improve those all-important rankings.
Take a look at some of the most common internal linking mistakes to find out what you need to avoid and give you an idea of internal linking best practices.
But sometimes, they run that bit too far. Overlinking is a prime example of this. It can do more harm than good.
Like all good SEO practices, you should do internal linking to benefit the user. Internal links should also help search engines understand your site to be ranked correctly. If you take a strategy and overuse it, you won’t be doing either of those things.
We’ve all seen pages that are jam-packed full of internal links, so you’ll know precisely how frustrating such a sight can be for a user. It makes the content difficult to read, and it’s also hard to know which internal links are worth clicking on and which are just there for SEO purposes.
Overuse links, and you may find that users and search engines struggle to get to grips with your website, and the pages you want to find are lost in the noise.
Search engines may penalize you for overusing internal links in severe cases. If this happens, you could find that your site starts tumbling down the results pages of the search terms you need to be found for. And you don’t need us to tell you how devastating that can be for business.
2. Over-Optimizing Anchor Text
Anchor text plays a central role in determining the success of an internal linking strategy, so it’s worth considering how you’ll use anchor text to get the best results from this practice.
The most common mistake relating to anchor text itself is over-optimising. Often, this anchor text will relate too closely to the keyword phrase being targeted on the linked page, making its use seem like an attempt to trick search engines into improving the rankings of these pages.
Anchor text should always fit seamlessly into the content around it so that users and search engines alike can see – at a glance – why a page has been linked. Users will not doubt where the link might take them if you use the anchor text correctly.
Think about how you’re using anchor text to highlight noteworthy pages within your site, ensuring that your anchor text provides real improvements to the user experience. Remove any anchor text that doesn’t sit naturally within your content, keeping an eye out for any over-optimized text as you audit your site.
3. Using No-Follow Links
Before diving into your internal linking strategy, make sure you’ve understood the difference between follow and no-follow links. While these two types of hyperlinks will look the same to a user, they have a significant difference.
No-follow links appear as <a href=”https://yourdomain.com” rel=”nofollow”>linked text</a>.
Initially created to combat spam, no-follow links were designed to stop the spread of spam hyperlinks within comments sections. They’re still used for this purpose today, so they have their benefits. But if you’re using no-follow links within your internal linking strategy, you might be shooting yourself in the foot.
In the past, search engines told us that no-follow links do not transfer page rank, but an update in 2019 changed things slightly. Google stated that these tags would now be used as a hint rather than a command. SEO professionals debate the real impact of no-follow links, but it’s best to avoid them if you plan to use internal linking to boost your rankings.
Check how your internal links are working, keeping an eye out for any no-follow tags as you do so. You can use some extensions to highlight no-follow links, which may speed up the task if you have a large volume of content to plough through. Simply remove rel=”nofollow” to turn your hyperlink into a typical follow link. Be wary of these types of internal links, especially if you’re looking to pass on page rank from one page to another.
4. Not Creating Link Siloes
A good silo structure is vital in any well-designed strategy. A silo structure should help organize your content, directing users and search engines through content so that the relationship between different pages makes perfect sense.
If you don’t create link siloes, you risk missing out on some of the benefits of internal linking. So, all your hard work could go unnoticed by search engines – and you won’t enjoy the boost in traffic that internal linking can provide.
Plan content with a silo structure in mind. The finished content will all fit neatly, and your link siloes will work perfectly for both users and search crawlers. Create a parent page, which you can then use to link to several different child pages. These child pages might then have other links, giving interested users further details about your products or services.
If your link siloes improve the user experience and enhance navigation within your site, they’ll also work from an SEO perspective. Search engines recognize sites that users can sail through quickly, improving the rankings of sites that make it easy for users to find the information they’re looking for. Make link siloes a priority, and your site will do exactly this. Before long, you’ll be rewarded for it.
5. Broken Internal Links
SEO work should always be ongoing, which is why we recommend auditing your site at regular intervals to check for any glaring errors or missed opportunities. Broken links are a common mistake, but they’re easy to spot during auditing.
Set a schedule for SEO auditing, and check for any problems that could be dampening the success of your internal linking strategy. Ensure that your links are all working and that no error pages emerge as you click through.
If a link is broken, you’ll notice an error page pop up, and you’ll know that you need to check the link itself. Sometimes the error will relate to the page that the link points to. However, it might also mean that a mistake has been made when creating the hyperlink itself.
A broken link can damage SEO, particularly if a site contains numerous links that no longer work. It could suggest a site is not maintained properly or does not provide users with a great experience. Linking in SEO is not a one-off task, it needs to be maintained.
For users, broken links are frustrating. They leave users unable to find what they’re looking for, potentially damaging their impression of your business and leading to them looking elsewhere.
If you spot a broken link, first check that the page in question is working as it should. You’ll likely find a typo or other mistake within the HTML text if it is. Usually, this is an easy thing to fix. It’s often just a case of adjusting the HTML and checking that the link is now working again. If an error persists, it’s best to delete the link and replace it.
6. Redirect Loops and Chains
We’ve all fallen victim to websites that feel like they’re wasting our time. Sometimes this can be down to an overly complicated system of redirect loops and chains. While a system of redirects might be helpful at first, it’s best to exercise some caution to avoid unnecessarily complex things.
Plan your linking structure from the perspective of your target user, and make sure you’re constantly checking that the setup of your links helps them find the information they need. For internal linking to work best, links should go directly to the target page. Add several redirects, and you’ll soon see that the site speed starts to slow, and user experience suffers.
During your SEO audit, look out for redirects and ensure there are no convoluted loops and chains within your site. If there are any, remove them and replace them with the correct internal link. This will make your site run faster. It’ll also mean that crawlers can find pages more efficiently, improving your SEO.
7. Orphaned Pages
An internal linking strategy should be fluid and flexible, leaving you plenty of room to improve the structure and navigation of your site as you add more content. But as you work on your site, spare a thought for old pages and content that you might not be using anymore.
You should commend SEO improvements, of course; however, there are a few tasks that must remain on the agenda as your site grows. One such task is checking for orphaned pages.
A page can be described as orphaned if it’s no longer linked to any other pages on your website. When this happens, users cannot find the page and search engine crawlers can’t rank them either. So, the pages are rendered entirely pointless from both a user experience and SEO perspective.
Check for orphaned pages as you audit your site. Once you find them, you’ll be left with two options. If the page isn’t being linked to because the content is no longer relevant, you can simply remove the page from your site. If the page has been overlooked and you feel that it could still bring some benefit to users, you need to make sure they can find it.
Decide which other pages should link to the orphaned page, and think about what anchor text best describes the page’s content. Then make it a part of your internal linking strategy so that crawlers and users can start to find it.
8. Not Internal Linking
We’ve talked a lot about the specific mistakes and problems that sites face during the planning and implementation of internal linking strategies. Still, there’s one issue that outshines all the rest, and that’s not internal linking at all!
You might be surprised to hear that many sites don’t use internal linking and therefore aren’t enjoying any of the benefits of a good internal link structure.
Sites that don’t use internal linking are challenging to navigate, meaning many potential buyers never find the information they need – and don’t make a purchase. They also make things tricky for crawlers, damaging the site’s rankings and leaving it floundering at the foot of SERPs.
Introducing a strategy of internal linking may sound complicated and time-consuming at first, but it’s a practice that’s well worth investing in. Create content that provides opportunities for natural anchor text and useful internal links to create a site that works for both users and search engines.
As you create more and more internal links, you’ll soon notice that users start to spend longer investigating your site. Crawlers, too, will be able to find more of your content, improving the rankings of your pages to enable more potential customers yet to find your business.
Make Internal Linking a Part of Your Success Story
Internal linking strategies can be challenging to master, but when they work – they work!
Consider how you could use internal linking to optimize your website, creating a site that’s simple to navigate and easy to find. Start creating content with internal linking strategies in mind, and look out for opportunities to improve existing internal links to help guide users through your site.
An excellent internal linking strategy could mean the difference between an underperforming website and one that continuously tops the results pages. So this SEO practice is always worth spending some time on. Explore internal linking to give your site and your business the best possible chance of fulfilling its potential.
Sean Begg Flint is the Founder & Director of Position Digital, a digital marketing agency that specializes in SEO, content marketing, digital PR, outreach, email and social marketing. We especially love working with startups and growing brands. Contact us today to find out more.