Internal Linking for SEO (Best Practices)

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We all know that external links are the cornerstone of SEO. Indeed, the building of external links from trusted, high domain authority sources is the bread and butter of SEO agencies.

But business owners and webmasters keen to scramble upwards on Search Engine Results Pages may not give quite as much thought to their internal links.

After all, broken internal links are a notorious SEO red flag, and the fewer internal links we have, the less propensity there is for something to go wrong if the website needs restructuring. And it’s not like internal links make that much of a difference to rankings, right? 

Wrong.

Internal linking is one of the most effective on-page strategies you can implement to boost your SEO. And the real tragedy is that so many people out there don’t know it.

In this post we’ll take a close look at one of the most effective and under-appreciated SEO tactics in the business, why search engines value it so highly and how to make sure you do it right…

In this post you’ll have these questions answered:

  • What are internal links?
  • Why do search engines (Google) love internal links?
  • What are the best SEO practices for internal links?
  • What are the best WordPress plugins for internal links?

Just so we’re all clear… What is an internal link?

An internal link is one that navigates away from the page that the user is currently on to another page in the same domain. Blogs use them all the time to navigate users towards away from a post and towards related content that they might find useful. So, for example, if we were to link you to this post featuring our Ultimate Link Building Manifesto For SEO Agencies, that’s an example of internal linking unfolding before your very eyes. 

Abracadabra!

Internal links are useful for users, helping them to navigate towards relevant content easily and keep moving through your website. And if something improves the User Experience (UX), you can bet search engine crawlers will notice.

Which brings us to our next point…

Why search engines love internal links

Not only can internal linking help you to propel yourself upwards in SERPS, it can help you to do it quickly and easily. As in… really quickly! Don’t believe us? If you have two and a half minutes to spare, take a look at this video from SEO sage Neil Patel. 

Internal links make life easier for users and crawlers alike. 

They encourage users to spend more time on page and move around more within your website as they move from one relevant page to the next. This is a clear indicator to search engines of the quality of your content. 

When a page has a high volume of internal links, it sends a clear signal to crawlers of that page’s relative importance. What’s more, they’re crucial in helping search engines discover new content. Whenever you add a new page to your website, you’re likely to link to it somewhere internally, whether it’s your homepage, navigation bar or elsewhere. When new internal links are added, it’s a signal to search engines to crawl for new content that spins off from pages they’ve already indexed. 

The better search engines understand your content, its importance and its relevance to users the better able they are to rank it. 

Best practices for internal linking

Hopefully at this point you’re sold on the power of internal linking. But like all things SEO, it needs to be implemented strategically. Get it right and you could not only climb rapidly in rankings but you could enjoy a boost in traffic of up to 40%

Let’s take a look at some best practice tips to ensure that you get the most out of your internal links.

Implement a crawlable link structure

Search engine crawlers are clever, but like any automated scripts, they’re defined by certain operational parameters. They can go from A to B to C easily enough. But don’t expect them to find their way from A to D to F to B and back to A again. As such, your website needs a crawlable link structure that allows crawlers to move back and forth. 

Think of your website as a pyramid with your homepage at the highest point.

Internal links should then cascade downwards and outwards to various categories and subcategories. This will help crawlers and users alike to get easy access to the content they need. 

Here are some practical tips on creating a crawlable link structure;

  • Make sure all your most important pages are accessible from your homepage
  • Remember that links which are only available through internal search boxes cannot be accessed by crawlers
  • Avoid links which are only accessible by Java, Flash (which is on its way out anyway) and other plugins.
  • Remember that crawlers limit the number of internal links they will crawl to. No page should contain more than 150 internal links.

Think long and hard about where internal links go

It stands to reason that you want to funnel traffic towards your highest converting pages- the ones that make you the most money or generate the most leads. These might be opt-in forms or pages with affiliate links or even product pages. In any case, you’ll want to make these internal links more ubiquitous than, say, a link from one blog post to another. You’ll want to place them in your navigation bar or side bar or another prominent place. By making them easier for users to navigate towards you’ll also demonstrate to search engines that these are the pages that generate the most interest and rank them accordingly. 

Use relevant anchor text

Many are not aware of the importance of anchor text. Just to clarify, the text you use in your anchor text is an extremely important ranking factor. The more relevant your anchor text to the page it represents, the more likely users are to click on the link, navigate to the page and actually engage with it rather than bouncing straight back. Moreover, search engine crawlers also understand anchor text, and use it to reinforce what the page content is about. This helps inspire more confidence to rank pages highly. 

Link by keywords

As we’ve stated previously, keywords are essential when linking between pages using anchor text. They help to show users and crawlers alike that the page they’re about to navigate to is relevant. But every time you add a new page or post to your website, you could be missing out on the opportunity to create internal links to new pages through relevant keywords on existing pages. 

As such, whenever you post new content, it’s good practice to use Google to find instances of relevant keywords throughout your website which you can use as anchor text on which to use internal links.

You can do this by using the ‘site:’ operator on your own site. Then add a relevant keyword and you’ll find pages that could link to your new content.

Repeat this process every time you post new content and your website will be a powerhouse of internal links.  

Embrace the power of plugins

While the above process is the best way to keep adding relevant internal links to your website, it can be a time consuming and frustrating process. Fortunately, if your website is one of the 1.3 billion active WordPress sites on the internet today, plugins can make your life a whole lot easier. Using a plugin like LinkWhisper can make it quicker and easier to insert internal links based on keywords. The plugin suggests (or whispers) contextual link opportunities and makes it quick and easy to implement them. 

Master internal linking and you’ll find that your rankings see a speedy and definitive improvement in rankings.  

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