The Importance of Internal Links for SEO in 2017 and Beyond

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importance of internal linking

When it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), there are so many ranking factors and best practices to consider: What is the quality and quantity of shared links through social sites? Is my content a decent length, readable, and unique? Are my title tags and meta descriptions informative and a good length? How is my website being viewed?

It can all be overwhelming.

That’s why today we’re going to narrow our focus and only look at the importance of internal links and how they help support the rest of your SEO efforts. This practice is relatively easy and can do wonders for your overall ranking.

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What is Internal Linking?

An internal link is a hyperlink from one page of your website to another page on your website. These links are helpful to navigate a website, establish a hierarchy, and spread ranking power throughout websites (AKA “link juice”). The more pages and posts you have on your website that link to each other, the more “link juice” your website can utilize.

Why Internal Linking is Useful

To truly understand why internal linking is important, we need to understand the power of “link juice.” According to Kissmetrics, internal linking helps establish a clear path for bots, prolongs a user’s session on your site, and establishes a network of pages and posts.

Google and other search engines utilize bots to “crawl” a website and understand its hierarchy. By crawling (following) the links of your website, these bots gain an understanding of your website’s structure and the relationships of your pages and content.

By linking to other content on your websites, users will spend more time on your website. They initially came to view one piece of content, say, a new blog post. By linking to other relevant posts on your site, you are not only increasing your ranking power but providing them more in-depth information about a topic of interest.

Internal Linking for SEO

There are several ways to create great internal links, and these should be utilized as part of your SEO strategy.

Create content

In order to create internal links, you need to have content to link to and from. That’s why you should set up a content strategy to ensure you are frequently posting useful content and creating more and more links. Your content strategy depends on your available resources, but a good rule of thumb is to try and post at least once a week. Be sure to include at least one relevant internal link in this post.

Make internal links relevant

Never link for the sake of linking: This practice neither benefits your website’s SEO or adds value for your readers. You should only link content to content with similar topics or information. For example, this content can connect to content that talks about search engine optimization, engine bots, and crawlers, or creating a content strategy. It should not be linked to posts about social media or video marketing.

Link to cornerstone content

Cornerstone content is an in-depth, lengthy article that you want to rank high in search engines. These articles should be your most authoritative and informational content pieces. When creating cornerstone content, consider the following:

1. Content should appear high in site’s hierarchy.

2. Only have about four or five cornerstone pieces. Write them on services provided or main topics you write about (such as Content Writing, Marketing, or SEO)

3. All topics related to your cornerstone content would link back to it and define your site’s hierarchy. So a post on ideas for blog posts would link back to the Content Writing cornerstone

4. Cornerstone content is beneficial to your SEO strategy as it doesn’t compete with similar content and can also help you rank for highly competitive keywords. Use that link juice!

Use good anchor text…

Have you ever seen links on websites that are really long or are sometimes a full sentence? Doing so adds no SEO value. That’s why you need to utilize good anchor text or the clickable hyperlink text. When creating anchor text, remember:

  • Make the link descriptive so your readers have a sense of what the content to which it links
  • Don’t make your anchor text more than one sentence; stick to single words or phrases
  • Avoid phrases like “click here” or “read more,” as they add no value to your SEO
  • Don’t make your anchor text exactly match your link’s target. It is unnatural and will get you penalties.

You can make the anchor text on of your keywords. But don’t keyword stuff, as this will negatively impact your ranking; Google has become more sophisticated and can understand a keywords relevancy to the words around it.

…And make it read naturally

Another issue with keyword stuffing is that it doesn’t sound natural. When creating your internal links, you want them to read as naturally as possible, as if you weren’t including an internal link. If your internal link doesn’t fit naturally, rewrite the sentence until it does. Internal linking is important, but your readers’ understanding comes first!

Don’t oversaturate with internal links

Like keyword stuffing, linking for the sake of linking, and unnatural sounding language, oversaturating your links also offers no SEO value. Google can crawl thousands of links without issue, but it makes for poor website usability for your readers. Simplify your menus and limit your internal links per page to no more than five.

Audit old content

If you’re just now getting into the practice of internal linking, you’ll want to re-visit your old pages and make sure they are internal link optimized: Make sure you have good anchor text, don’t keyword stuff, and link to relevant content. Be sure to create internal links to these posts as well to strengthen your overall link profile.

Don’t just link to newest content

Internal links can help you “refresh” your old content in the eyes of Google and Bing. When a user clicks an internal link to view older content, it alerts search engines that this content is still relevant and helps boosts its overall rankings.

Get Linking

Internal linking is a relatively simple practice that can provide great SEO returns. It helps search bots best understand your website’s structure and helps increase its ranking factor. It also provides value to your readers by providing related content that lets them read more in-depth on a particular topic.

Now that you know all about internal linking, it’s time to get started! It may take some time to go back and optimize your pages, but once you do, you’ll quickly see results.

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