Internal linking, the process of connecting content on your website to improve the user experience, is widely recognised as one of the more important ranking factors that can influence the visibility of your content on the search engine results pages.
There are many articles on the web about why internal linking is important, but few with practical advice on how to do it. A website owner who understands that regular blogging is good for search engine optimisation (SEO), is expected to remember to link to relevant information on their site each time they add to their blog. We always remember to do that don’t we?!
What you’ll probably find is that you will remember to internally link from time to time, but as the volume of content on your site grows, the process becomes more than a little unwieldy.
But fear not, help is at hand. This post will briefly review why internal linking is so important and go on to detail some practical steps you can take to audit your current internal links and add in the missing links as required. And most importantly we’ll focus on where you should be looking to prioritise your linking.
Happy with that? Ok let’s begin.
What is internal linking?
An internal link is a hypertext link from one piece of content on a website, be it a post or a page, to another. Good practice suggests that anchor text is used in the link, which should include the focus keyword for the page being linked to. Also links should be added within the main body of the content, in context and should add value to the page.
Why is it important?
Site architecture, the way the content of a website is fused together (example below), is a hugely important ranking factor for a website. The ease with which the user can find the content they’re looking for within a site has a massive influence over their experience on site, and Google are known for promoting sites which deliver a positive user experience. Internal linking is integral to any site’s architecture and therefore you’ll understand why it’s deemed as being so important.
How can internal linking improve your SEO?
Many exponents of SEO strategy use internal linking to promote pages that need a boost. Some will suggest that internal links are pointed generally to the most important pages on the site. Others may go a little further and check for their clients content that ranks on average at the top of page two or bubbling under the top three results on page one. They will then look to point links from pages with high page authority within the site to these pages and can expect positive outcomes as a result.
This advice is certainly very useful and it’s something we would practice as well. But in addition we’d suggest a regular review of your existing content is always worthwhile and we advise the following procedure for doing so.
Refresh your memory
No doubt you’ve spent quite a lot of time working on the content of your site, but it’s easy, being so close to the action, to lose sight of the bigger picture. If you own a WordPress website your content is likely to be made up of Pages and Posts. We would suggest you first review the Pages on your site as these are likely to be where you’ll look to point your internal links. You may decide to use this as an opportunity to review your site architecture and establish whether there is any content missing – perhaps new services you have introduced – or any existing content that is superfluous.
Next you’ll turn to your posts. Take a look at the Categories you have created to which your posts have been assigned. We’ve written about Categories and Tags before so we won’t go into that again here. Are you still happy with these? Are there any that you should think about changing? Any new Categories you need to introduce?
Find content that needs a boost
As mentioned earlier we do subscribe to the idea that you can find content that needs a boost by using rank tracking tools, not least the Google Search Console. We sort the data provided in the Search Analytics report by impressions (see below), look for keywords with reasonable average positions and a decent number of impressions – to identify content that would benefit from more internal linking.
We’d advise you make a note of the average position for each piece of content at this stage so you can review these further down the line after this exercise has been completed.
Identify missing links
If your site is anything like this one you’re probably thinking the process of reviewing each post is going to take some time – and you’d be right if you were planning to carry out the procedure manually. What’s more you’d need to do this each time you added new content – so it isn’t really a practical solution.
So you have options. There are plugins available that can automate the process but we haven’t used any of these so can’t possibly recommend them. If you have and would recommend them then please add your comments to the bottom of this post.
We suggest you use the custom search function within the Screaming Frog SEO Spider and here’s how. (Note 1 – this is a premium feature of this fantastic tool, so you will need a license. Note 2 – it won’t work if you search for terms that already have pages created with that term in the title, as ALL pages will be returned for these searches which defeats the object! You can use this method to find variations on these terms. Ask your developer to run a database search for instances of the terms that are used as page titles!)
Identify the target keywords you’ll be looking to find within your posts that you feel you could potentially link to other content on your site.
So for example, we had a page on our site about the SEO consultancy services we provided here at Digital Davidson. We would look to run a custom search of all the content on our site for key terms like Consultancy and Consultants and then review each of those posts and check that links are in place to this important page – and if they’re not decide whether a link would improve the existing content if it were added.
Then it’s just a case of creating a list of keywords for each of the pages you’re looking to promote and adding the links as necessary.
Rinse and repeat
Clearly your site is only going to get larger over time and this process will need to be repeated every so often. When you introduce new pages – that you deem as being highly important – you’ll need to add to your master list of keywords that you throw into the custom search facility of Screaming Frog.
And finally some other things to consider whilst we’re on the topic.
Consider removing underperforming or thin content
Google have a job on their hands to crawl all the content on the web, so why not make their life a little easier by removing outdated content that doesn’t add anything to the overall worth of your site. Failing that set some time aside to rework existing content that has become out of date and can be improved upon. If you do the latter, make sure you make it clear that the post has been updated.
Review existing navigation and on page CTAs
You’ve just spent some time reviewing your content and how it all links together, so now would be a good time to review how your menus, sidebars and footer areas are linking to your content, particularly any content you deem as being really important. In addition you might be missing an opportunity to link to these key pages on page – perhaps towards the end of each post. If you’re not using a related posts plugin, this might be the time to consider it?
Make links clear
You’ve spent time adding the links, but don’t let it be in vain because your users can’t see them! Links should appear in a different colour, potentially underlined and change state on rollover – and possibly after click as well.
We’re not suggesting this is a simple procedure at all – it’s not particularly complicated but it’s certainly time consuming, but we’d suggest the efforts put into it will be rewarded – and you’ll be able to see through your rankings for the targeted keywords.
So our final advice is keep writing high-quality, relevant content. Make sure your website accurately reflects your business. Add internal links to your content each time you publish it. Review your content from time to time to ensure any links you’ve missed are added in at a later date.
Main image by Unsplash