How to Develop an Internal Linking Strategy to Boost Rankings and Traffic
Link building is arguably one of the most important SEO tactics to uplift your rankings and improve your website’s health. But internal linking often gets neglected.
Internal links connect one page of your website to another, as opposed to external links that connect different sites.
A good internal linking strategy can help improve the way search engines recognize your site structure, build authority, and help users navigate your website. All of this contributes to SEO and higher rankings, bringing you a lot of organic traffic and business.
In this article, we’re going to dive deep into how you can create an effective internal linking strategy for your website to drive more traffic and boost your rankings.
1. Audit your existing internal links for issues
If you’re working on an existing website and not a new one, then it’s likely that you already have some internal links in place.
Doing an audit of those existing internal links and making sure there aren’t any issues is necessary to see where you stand and how you should frame your strategy.
Here are some common problems that you may find.
Broken internal links
Broken internal links point your user to a non-existent webpage resulting in a 404 error. These links waste link equity and are bad for the user experience. You need to replace these links with ones that can take your audience to a live page.
Orphaned pages are not linked to any other pages on a website. If this happens, the orphaned page will not be recognized or crawled by search engines, unless you submit your sitemap to Google Search Console or you’ve built backlinks to that page from other crawlable websites.
Ensure that none of your important pages fall under the ‘orphaned’ section. Consider including them in your internal linking strategy or remove them from your website if they’re not relevant.
Deep linking of important pages
The crucial pages on your website, which have opt-in forms, target a particular keyword, or convert well, should not require more than three-link hops from your homepage. Having more than three links makes it difficult for your users to reach the page. This tells Google that the page may not be that important.
To fix this, consider removing some clicks and improve your navigation so users can reach the target page faster. Keep important pages closer to the homepage, as this is the most authoritative page of most websites.
There are many other problems that you can fix with your existing internal links, like permanent redirects and redirect chains or loops. It would be best to use on-page SEO tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush to make the process easier.
2. Identify your website’s high-authority pages
If you want your internal links to give you the best results, you need to take a strategic approach to ensure that you’re linking to the right pages on your website. Understandably, some webpages have a higher authority than others.
But what’s the best way to identify these pages?
They’ll typically be the ones with the best backlink profiles. Note that you don’t want to pick the page with the highest number of backlinks, but with the highest quality ones because that makes all the difference. By internal linking from these, you can pass on the link equity to other pages of your website.
Linking high-authority pages to those that could use a boost is one of the smartest and most effective internal linking strategies you can use.
It’s best to use an SEO tool like the Moz or Ahrefs backlink checkers to find the high-authority pages on your website. You can then prioritize these pages when it comes to developing your internal links. Consider creating a spreadsheet with all of the necessary information, which you can use to inform your strategy, and update along the way.
3. Create content batches using the silo method
Most websites are typically made up of multiple pages, which will commonly include a homepage, an about us page, a contact page, possibly a blog, and service or product pages.
Each page is relevant, but they don’t all stand at the same level on the site hierarchy because this is affected by relevance and user navigation.
For example, you wouldn’t link your ‘about us’ section to an article on your blog about marketing your services, because these are unlikely to be relevant to the same audience and it could look like you’re stuffing links.
To make the internal linking process easier, you can use the silo method, where you connect topically related web pages with links to make the navigation useful and valuable to the user. It will also help search engines crawl your website and understand its structure.
With this in mind, you can create a silo architecture for your website content, where you create content that is relevant to other pages so you can link them internally and provide additional value to your users.
The best part about this method is that, since you’ll group relevant content, both search engines and users will find it easier to understand the context of all your content due to easy relatability and comprehension.
Here’s an example of what it could look like:
4. Use links that are natural for the reader
Internal linking is good for your website’s search engine rankings, but it’s also essential to provide a good user experience to your visitors. The purpose of these links should be to provide value, as well as using them for the sake of SEO.
When you use internal links to connect relevant information, the user is likely to navigate and stay on your website for longer. They get additional value and content from your website, improving user engagement as a result.
So, make sure that you’re using links along the reader’s natural reading path.
For example, if you’re talking about ‘How you can make your content SEO-friendly’ and have a YouTube video on the same topic, it wouldn’t make sense to link it at the end. It needs to be right where you are talking about the topic to make sure that the reader knows how to navigate your content and why this particular link is useful.
This also tells search engines that you’re using a particular link to redirect your audience to a different page because it’s useful and users will find it insightful.
Thus, placing internal links in the right place and along the natural path is vital for both users and search engines to understand that the content you’re linking to is great.
5. Use keyword-rich anchor text
Anchor text is the clickable text in a hyperlink. It’s essential to focus on your anchor text because it can determine if your audience will click on it, as well as give search engines clues about the content you’re linking to.
Plan your anchor text properly, because it can help build topical relevance for your target pages and establish a connection between them with a clear context for both the user and search engines.
Keep these things in mind while choosing the right anchor text for your internal links:
- Optimize your anchor text using your target keywords, which also define what you’re linking to
- Indicate the topic of the target page through your anchor text to avoid misleading your users
- Use long-tail keywords in your anchor text to increase your target page’s rankings for that specific term. You can find the best fit long-tail keywords for your website using Google Search Console’s performance report
- Don’t force an exact-match internal link. Look for natural and relevant linking opportunities
The right anchor text can help boost your internal linking results, so don’t be afraid to plan for this simple yet important aspect of linking.
6. Use a reasonable number of internal links
Just because internal linking is important to boost your page’s rankings doesn’t mean you should add tons of links. This will only annoy the user and confuse search engines, although it is worth mentioning that Google doesn’t have an official rule regarding the number of links you should add to your website.
You can use as many links as you want to, but they should be relevant and helpful for your user. If you direct your website visitors to irrelevant pages, they’ll be left annoyed and disappointed.
Also, you don’t have to add all of your internal links in one go. As you keep updating your website, adding new content, and optimizing your existing pages, you can keep revising your internal linking strategy and add relevant links to provide more value to your users.
7. Do it manually, no automation
While you can use tools to carry out keyword and backlink research, conduct an audit, or look for potential linking opportunities, don’t use tools to automate your internal linking work.
Here are some important reasons why you should avoid it:
You made your website, so you’re the best person to know which links should go where and what links would be natural and useful to your audience.
Tools and plugins that automate internal linking will add links to your website without understanding the architecture or purpose, which will make at least some of the results irrelevant.
You’ll only cater to search engines
By now, you’ll understand that internal linking is not just for SEO. It’s also for the users, as it should provide them with more relevant information and help them navigate your website better. Automation tools are built to solve a particular purpose.
If you use them for internal linking, they will only cater to search engines, ignoring the users completely, and that is something you don’t want.
It’ll provide you with unnatural anchor text
Anchor text is an important consideration when you’re adding internal links to your site and trying to boost your SEO. Automation tools will often provide you with too much exact-match anchor text, which can be damaging.
Plug-ins and automation tools are shortcuts for implementing an internal link-building strategy, but they are not personalized and can do more harm than good. Instead, invest some time in devising your own strategy and manually carry out the implementation to see the results you wish to achieve.
You won’t get your internal linking right overnight. You’ll have to work on it consistently and keep updating your links as you move forward. Your strategy may also need a revision as your SEO and website goals change, and that’s completely fine.
Your internal linking plan doesn’t have to be overwhelming or difficult; it can be a simple strategy that can help you rank higher on Google and drive more traffic to your website.
Use the right data, tools, and audience insights to draft a strategy you can start implementing straight away.