If the internal links on your site resemble a lot of tangled cables that it takes ten clicks to navigate to a blog post you published a week ago, then you are doing it wrong.
A bad structure in your internal linking strategy not only has a negative effect on the user experience, but it is also an obstacle to improving your positioning. Fortunately, internal links are an SEO factor that is 100% under your control and in most cases, you don’t need to have technical skills to fix it.
Internal links and why they are important
Internal links are those that point to a page within the same domain and can be absolute or relative.
The absolute links specify a complete URL, specifying the protocol and the domain, while a relative link does not specify the protocol or domain, forcing the browser (and search engines) to assume that it refers to the same domain.
<a href=”http://mywebsite.com/about-us”>Anchor Text</a>
<a href=”/about-us”>Anchor Text</a>
The menu and the different navigation elements such as the header and footer consist of internal links that help to rank the structure of the site.
Let’s focus now on non-navigation links. In other words, the links that appear in the content of your site and are not part of the menus, sidebars or other navigation elements.
These types of links have the following purposes:
- Give additional information related to the content of the page.
- Promote paid products and services that fit the target audience of the site.
- Better positioning of certain keywords.
- Help search engines analyze websites more quickly.
8 things you should have in the structure of your internal linking strategy
1. Keep the structure of your website superficial
It is considered a good practice when each page on your site can be reached with just 2-3 clicks from the home page. In these times the users are very demanding in terms of the speed of the websites, including the loading speed of each page and the time required to complete certain actions. Users expect to complete their goals quickly and it is crucial to reduce the number of clicks needed to reach important pages.
In complicated sites, this can be achieved using tag clouds, internal searches and breadcrumbs.
2. Make sure all important pages are linked
The search engines depend on the sitemaps pages and links. This means that even pages without links – the so-called “orphans” – can be found by search engines if they are listed on the sitemap. But it is impossible to find orphan pages through the navigation on the site. These pages are virtually non-existent for users. It would be a good idea to get rid of them if they are not useful or give them a link from the site.
Orphan pages created for PPC campaigns are an exception. These frequently act as a separate area of the site that does not have a link from the main website and is normally blocked from indexing.
A good structure typically means that all important pages of the website are linked and only need a maximum of 3 clicks to reach the deepest level of the site.
An example of a bad structure of incorrect internal links is one in which there are orphaned pages and there is no consistent link pattern.
3. Keep a reasonable number of links per page
The more internal or external links found on a page, the less ‘juice’ will be sent to the pages they point to. Unless the content is well structured, it might be boring for visitors to scroll down an endless list of resources. In addition, an excessive number of links can send a spam signal to search engines.
4. Use keywords in anchor texts
Using keywords in the anchor text of links is a strategy that you can implement to improve the positioning of your target words. In a way, internal links act as backlinks, so using relevant terms in their anchors is a simple and free way to improve their relevance.
Many SEOs do not recommend the use of exact keywords as anchor text for internal links. You will hear many say “use natural anchors or you will be penalized.” Personally, I have never heard of a website that has been penalized for the anchor texts of its internal links, and if you ask me, I think that the anchor text should be descriptive of the content of the link.
5. Make sure your images have alt attributes
The ALT attribute of an image’s link acts as anchor text for text links, so it is another opportunity to send signals to search engines.
6. Duplicate links to the same URL
If there are multiple links pointing to the same URL on a page, search engines could give priority to the first anchor text. Keep this in mind and use the correct keywords in the first anchor text of a link, subsequent anchor texts will not be as important.
7. Links in the content of a page or blog post.
The links in the content of a webpage have greater SEO value than the links in the header, footer or sidebar. The second has more to do with navigation, and apparently, Google treats them as non-editorial links. On the other hand, the links in the content give new information and value to the text. In addition, the text and keywords surrounding the link are also important for the positioning of the target page.
8. Open non-navigation links in a new tab
Imagine that you are reading an article that has a lot of links to other pages or blog posts. And because you are a little curious, you open some of these links. You read another article, and another one and open even more links. Finally, you end up on YouTube watching a video instead of reading the initial article.
On the contrary, if you make links with additional information open in a new tab, it is easier to return to the original article.
However, this tactic should be avoided when users are channelled through a conversion funnel. In this case, the links must be opened in the same tab.
Now you know the basics to have a solid internal linking strategy in your website.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any question.