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Smart Internal Linking SEO Tactics to Stay Ahead in SERPs

Julia McCoy
Friday, 22nd Mar 2024
Julia McCoy
5 min read · Jan 11 2022
internal linking seo

When it comes to getting your website noticed online, it’s all about playing the SEO game smart.

Sure, we hear a lot about backlinks and killer content, but here’s the thing: internal linking is like the secret sauce that ties it all together. It’s what makes your website easy to navigate for users and tells search engines what your content is all about.

So let’s talk about smart internal linking SEO strategies – from the basics to some cool tricks – and how they can boost your site’s visibility, make visitors happy, and rock your online presence.

Table Of Contents:

Internal links are hyperlinks that connect one web page to another within the same website domain. These links are integral to a website’s structure and navigation system, allowing users to easily move between different pages and sections while helping search engine crawlers understand your content better.

So why should you care about internal linking SEO tactics? Because every link you add is like rolling out a red carpet for both your visitors and Google’s bots. It’s telling them, “Hey, this way to more awesome stuff.” And let me tell you, it makes all the difference.

Internal links serve several purposes:

  • Navigation: They help users navigate through the content of a website, making it easier for them to find relevant information.
  • Website Structure: Internal links contribute to the organization and hierarchy of a website’s content, indicating to search engines which pages are most important and how they relate to each other.
  • SEO: Internal linking helps search engine crawlers discover new pages, understand the relationship between different pages, and determine the relevance and authority of each page.
  • Distributed Authority: Internal links can help distribute authority and PageRank (or link juice) throughout a website, potentially improving the ranking of individual pages in search engine results.
  • User Experience: Smart link placement helps readers find what they’re looking for easily. Google then rewards your website for offering exceptional user experiences with the possibility of higher rankings.

Overall, internal links play a crucial role in improving user experience, optimizing website structure, and enhancing SEO performance.

Source: Mangools

Contextual links and structural links are two different types of internal links on a website, each serving distinct purposes in terms of navigation, user experience, and SEO.

Contextual links are embedded within the content of a webpage and are directly relevant to the surrounding text. These links provide additional information or resources that enhance the reader’s understanding of the discussed topic.

Contextual links often point to related articles, reference materials, or other relevant content within the same website. They contribute to a seamless reading experience by guiding users to additional resources without interrupting their flow of reading.

From an SEO perspective, contextual links are valuable because they signal to search engines the relevance and depth of content within a website.

Structural links are part of the website’s overall architecture and navigation system. They include links found in menus, sidebars, footers, or other consistent elements across multiple pages of the website.

Structural links help users navigate between different sections of the website, such as main categories, subcategories, or important landing pages. These links provide a framework for organizing and accessing content, making it easier for users to explore the website and find what they’re looking for.

From an SEO perspective, structural links play a crucial role in defining the hierarchy and priority of content within a website, as they indicate to search engines which pages are most important and how they are interconnected.

How to Build an Effective Internal Linking Strategy

When Google analyzes your website, it looks at the relationship between your web pages and divides up that link value among all the links on a webpage.

Think of your homepage as the VIP of your site. It’s usually packed with backlinks, so it gets the lion’s share of that link value. When those links lead to other pages, that link value will be divided again between all the links on that page.

So, what does this mean for your latest blog posts? Well, if you link to them from your homepage, they’ll get a bigger slice of that pie. Google will also notice them faster because they’re linked from the main hub of your site.

The more links you have pointing to a post, the more valuable Google sees it. It’s like giving your page a gold star – the more valuable links it has, the higher its chances of ranking well.

If you don’t have an internal linking SEO strategy yet, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to get started.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Website Structure

Your website is like a maze, and without a map, your users – and Google – might get lost. That’s where internal linking steps in.

  1. Map It Out: Start with a visual of your site structure. Think of it as drawing your own Marauder’s Map but for your website. This gives you clarity on how everything connects.
  2. Navigate Like a Pro: The navigation menu isn’t there just for looks; it guides visitors through your digital world. Make sure it makes sense and leads them where they want to go.

Step 2: Identify Your Most Important Content

We all have those superstar pages that draw more eyes than others. You know, the ones packed with value or convert visitors like nobody’s business.

  • The Gold Mines: These are the pages you’ll want to link to. Use tools like Google Analytics to spot these treasures by looking at page views and conversions.
  • Sprinkle Those Links Wisely: Add links from relevant content across your site pointing back to these high-value areas — think contextual links within blog posts or articles that naturally lead readers deeper into related topics.

Contextual links within your content enhance the user experience and boost your SEO efforts. When executed correctly, these links guide readers through a journey of discovery, providing them with additional valuable information without disrupting their reading flow.

The power of contextual linking lies in its ability to distribute page authority across different sections of your website. By thoughtfully adding internal links to relevant articles or pages, you’re essentially telling search engines how various pieces of content relate to one another, which can significantly boost the visibility and ranking of those linked pages.

An essential aspect of creating effective contextual links is choosing the right anchor text. The anchor text should be descriptive yet concise, giving readers (and search engines) a clear insight into what they can expect upon clicking the link.

anchor text

Step 4: Link Hierarchical Pages

Creating a robust internal linking structure is not just about connecting random pages. It’s about understanding and leveraging the hierarchy of your website to boost SEO performance. This strategy ensures that search engines can easily crawl and index your site, while also providing a seamless experience for users.

A well-defined page hierarchy helps search engines understand which pages on your site are most important. Typically, this means having a straightforward structure where main categories are linked directly from the homepage, subcategories are linked from these main category pages, and individual posts or product pages link back up to their respective subcategory or category pages.

Step 5: Add a Related Posts Section

One of the most effective strategies to keep your audience engaged and simultaneously improve your site’s SEO is by incorporating a “Related Posts” section at the end of each blog post.

This tactic serves multiple purposes.

First, it significantly reduces bounce rates as visitors find additional relevant content that interests them.

Second, it creates an interconnected web of links that allows search engines to crawl and index your site more efficiently.

Lastly, it increases the chances of converting one-time visitors into customers or loyal followers by continuously engaging them with valuable content.

To maximize its effectiveness, ensure that your related posts section is visually appealing and easy to navigate. You could display articles in a grid format with featured images, like the example above from the MyFitnessPal blog, or simply list them with enticing headlines. Either way, it should align with your overall design aesthetics for consistency.

Ensure that the posts you link to are genuinely related and offer value to the reader. Irrelevant links might lead to higher bounce rates.

Instead of generic phrases like “click here,” use descriptive anchor texts that give readers and search engines insight into what the linked article is about.

Consider using plugins or CMS features designed for this purpose if you’re running a large site or blog. Tools such as WordPress’s YARPP (Yet Another Related Posts Plugin) can automate this process based on tags, categories, or custom taxonomies.

Step 6: Add Links to Recent Posts

By linking to recent posts from prominent pages such as the homepage or category pages, you increase their visibility to visitors. This can lead to higher click-through rates and more engagement with your latest content.

Search engine crawlers are also more likely to discover and index them quickly. This can help your new content appear in search results faster, potentially driving more organic traffic to your site.

Providing easy access to your latest content enhances the overall user experience. Visitors interested in staying up-to-date with your site will appreciate finding and navigating to your newest posts with ease.

Lastly, by prominently featuring recent posts through internal links, you encourage visitors to explore more of your content. This can lead to increased time spent on your site and higher engagement metrics.

How do you link to your recent posts?

  • Create Contextual Links: When adding links to recent posts, ensure they are contextually relevant. Readers are more likely to click on a link if it promises further insight into the topic at hand.
  • Maintain Natural Flow: The placement of internal links should feel natural within the content narrative. Forced or excessive linking can disrupt the reading flow.
  • Freshen Up Old Content: Revisit older but still relevant articles and add links to newer posts where applicable. This practice not only revives interest in past content but also strengthens interconnectivity within your site.

Step 7: Add Links to Popular Posts

Your most popular blog posts likely already receive a significant amount of traffic. By strategically linking to them from other pages on your website, you can drive even more traffic to these high-performing pages.

These blog posts are obviously popular with your audience, and by directing users to these top-performing articles, you increase the likelihood of engagement such as longer time spent on the page and lower bounce rates.

Linking to your most popular blog posts can make them more discoverable to new visitors who may not have come across them otherwise. This can help you leverage the success of these posts to attract and retain a broader audience.

Highlighting your most popular blog posts also reinforces your expertise and authority in your niche or industry. It signals to both users and search engines that your content is valuable and worth exploring, strengthening your brand reputation over time.

How do you link to your popular blog posts?

  • Identify Your Most Valuable Content: The first step is pinpointing which posts have historically performed well. These could be articles with high traffic and engagement rates or those that rank well for key search terms.
  • Create Contextual Relevance: Once you’ve identified popular posts, it’s crucial to integrate them naturally within new content. The goal here is to add value for readers by providing additional information that complements the original article they’re reading. For instance, if you’re writing about “The Basics of SEO,” including a link to a post on “Advanced SEO Techniques” offers readers an opportunity to deepen their understanding at their own pace.
  • Incorporate Strategic Anchor Texts: The anchor text should be carefully chosen to reflect the linked article’s topic accurately while enticing users to click through. Avoid generic phrases like “click here” and opt for descriptive texts such as “comprehensive guide on keyword research.” This practice not only improves user experience but also helps search engines understand what the linked page is about.

Best Practices for Internal Linking

Internal linking is a crucial aspect of website optimization that can improve user experience, enhance SEO, and increase the discoverability of your content.

Here are some best practices for effective internal link-building:

  • Use Descriptive Anchor Text: When linking internally, always use anchor text that accurately describes the page you’re linking to. This not only aids SEO but also improves user experience by setting clear expectations.
  • Link to Important Pages: Prioritize internal links to important pages such as pillar content, product pages, or landing pages that you want to rank higher in search engine results. By strategically linking to these pages from other areas of your website, you can pass on authority and improve their visibility.
  • Maintain Logical Structure: Your website should mimic an organizational chart, with the homepage at the top followed by main categories and then subcategories beneath them. Each level down should offer more specific information than the one above it.
  • Breadcrumb Navigation: Implementing breadcrumb navigation is another effective way to highlight hierarchical relationships between pages. Breadcrumbs help users navigate your site more efficiently and give search engines another layer of context.
  • Use Sitemaps: Create and submit XML sitemaps to search engines to ensure that all of your website’s pages are crawled and indexed properly. Sitemaps help search engine crawlers discover and prioritize internal links, especially for new or updated content.
  • Mix Up The Destination: Variety is the spice of life AND websites; make sure those links lead users down exciting new paths.
  • Avoid Deep Nesting: Try to keep essential content within three clicks from the homepage whenever possible. The deeper a page is buried in your site structure, the less likely it is both for users to find it and for search engine crawlers to consider it important.
  • Avoid Over-Optimization: While internal linking is important for SEO, avoid over-optimizing by excessively linking to the same pages with keyword-rich anchor text. This can appear unnatural to both users and search engines and may result in penalties.
  • Avoid Dead Ends: Every page should have at least one follow link pointing elsewhere – no content islands allowed.
  • Audit and Update Links Regularly: Periodically audit your website’s internal links to identify any broken or outdated links. Update or remove these links as necessary to ensure a seamless user experience and maintain the integrity of your website’s navigation structure.

Keep these practices in mind and watch as both user experience and SERP ranking get a nice little boost. Remember – every internal link is an opportunity not just for better SEO but for creating a smoother journey for your followers.

Advanced Internal Linking SEO Techniques: Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters

Gone are the days of throwing content at the wall and hoping something sticks. Today, it’s all about structure – specifically, pillar pages and topic clusters. This approach isn’t just smart; it’s necessary.

A pillar page is a comprehensive, in-depth article that covers a broad topic in detail and serves as the cornerstone or main hub for related subtopics or cluster content. Ranging from 3,000 to up to 10,000 words, pillar pages offer valuable information, insights, and resources to readers.

Surrounding these pillars? A network of blog posts based on keyword clusters that dive into related subtopics. Each piece of cluster content is created as a standalone article or webpage that links back to the pillar page and may also link to other cluster content within the same topic cluster.

Pillar pages and cluster content offer several benefits for internal linking SEO strategies:

  • Improved Website Structure: Pillar pages serve as the central hub for a broad topic, while cluster content delves deeper into specific subtopics. This organized structure makes it easier for visitors to navigate your website and find relevant information.
  • Increased Search Engine Visibility: Internal linking between pillar pages and subtopics helps search engines understand the relationships between different pages on your website and the relevance of each piece of content. This can improve the overall SEO performance of your website and increase its visibility in SERPs.
  • Enhanced User Engagement: By linking from pillar pages to cluster content and vice versa, you encourage visitors to explore related topics and delve deeper into specific areas of interest. This can increase time spent on your website and reduce bounce rates, ultimately leading to higher user engagement.
  • Distributed Link Equity: Internal linking distributes link equity (or link juice) throughout your website, helping to boost the authority of both pillar pages and subtopics. By strategically linking from high-authority pages to related content, you can pass on valuable link equity and improve the search engine rankings of individual pages.
  • Targeted Keyword Optimization: Pillar pages are optimized for broader, high-level keywords, while cluster content targets more specific long-tail keywords related to subtopics. By linking from cluster content to the pillar page using relevant anchor text, you can signal to search engines the relevance of the main topic and improve its rankings for targeted keywords.

Content at Scale is built exactly for creating pillar pages and topic clusters that can boost the effectiveness of your SEO strategy. While it could take days, or even weeks, for a human writer to create a whole network of interconnected pages, Content at Scale can cut your content creation time and cost by up to 25x!

FAQs – Internal Linking SEO

Are too many internal links bad for SEO?

Excessive internal linking can potentially harm your search rankings. While internal links are valuable for guiding users through a website and distributing link equity, overdoing it with too many internal links on a single page can appear spammy to both users and search engines. This can lead to a poor user experience and may trigger search engine penalties. It’s essential to maintain a balance and ensure that internal links are relevant and natural, and add value to the user experience rather than being excessive or forced.

How many links should I include for SEO?

The ideal number of links for SEO can vary depending on factors such as the length of the content, the context of the page, and the overall user experience. While there’s no hard and fast rule on how many internal links you should include per page, 5-10 links for every 2,000 words is good practice.

How many internal links per 1,000 words?

There’s no strict number for ideal internal links per 1,000 words. Focus on natural integration linking to relevant content on your site that enhances the reader’s experience. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 3-5 links per 1,000 words, but it can be more for content-rich sites.

Do internal links boost SEO?

Absolutely! Internal links are a key part of SEO. They help search engines understand your website’s structure, navigate its content, and determine which pages are most important. By strategically linking your pages together, you can improve your website’s ranking and keep visitors engaged.

Conclusion

Mastering internal linking SEO strategies is essential for enhancing your website’s visibility, improving user experience, and ultimately driving organic traffic. By strategically linking related pages within your website, you can establish a cohesive network of valuable interconnected content that signals relevance and authority to search engines.

Remember to prioritize quality over quantity, ensuring that each internal link adds value to the user and helps guide them to relevant information.

As you continue to refine your internal linking strategy, consider using an AI SEO writer like Content at Scale to streamline the process of creating high-quality content that ranks well in search engines. With the power of AI, you can unlock new possibilities for optimizing your website’s internal linking structure and achieving greater success in your SEO efforts.

Written by Julia McCoy

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