How Internal Links Boost SEO
…and the importance of interrelated and cohesive content
It may seem almost a cliché these days, but online marketers know that content is king. What’s that got to do with SEO? An enormous amount. In this article, we explore how internal linking in website content can boost SEO rankings, and we’ll look at the rules, tricks, and strategies involved in SEO marketing (hint: they are primarily determined by the dominant search engine…)
For several decades now, Google has been the most dominant search engine. According to a 2019 search engine study, Google has the lion’s share of all search queries conducted across all search engine providers.
With an overwhelming 92.71% market share, Google dwarfs other search engines. The second-ranked search engine, Bing, has just a 3.32% market share. Other search engines include:
- Yahoo – 1.59%
- Baidu – 1.06% (China)
- Yandex – 0.56% (Russia)
- DuckDuckGo – 0.5%
Google’s algorithm updates
While content remains king, Google essentially sets the rules and standards on how your website content will rank on search engine results pages (SERPS – or the page you land on when you search for something on Google). Over the years, Google has made many updates to its search algorithms to ensure high-quality results. But at the same time, the updates can disrupt online marketing strategies.
The 2011 Panda update, for instance, started to penalize websites with low-quality content. It was followed by the Penguin update in 2012, which discouraged link spamming. At the time, many companies were employing what we’d now call dubious methods of gaining a lot of backlinks to their site in order to boost their rankings. Amongst many more, other major updates have included the natural language processing update and the mobile-friendly algorithm.
These updates radically affected how websites are designed and how various types of content were created. Overall, Google makes these changes for our own good – we’re increasingly getting top quality content and user-friendly websites. At the same time, however, it can make things more complicated and challenging for SEO marketers, especially now that Google updates its algorithms overnight and usually with no warning or explanation.
What are internal links?
Optimizing your website involves both on-page and off-page strategies. For instance, improving the page layout for faster loading and compatibility with mobile devices is an on-page SEO tactic. Another example of an on-page strategy is internal linking. There are several ways that internal linking boosts SEO, particularly in the way Google indexes your website pages.
But what exactly are internal links and how are they related to content? Well, internal links are links on a webpage that lead to another webpage within the same website. They may point to a blog post, video, an item on the online store, an interactive game, or an online form. It can be anything.
When internal links are properly organized, you can use them to boost the SEO ranking of a particular page on your website for a given search category. That means it’s possible to significantly improve the overall SERPs standing of your website for specific search keywords or keyword phrases.
Cohesive internal links help Google understand your website overall, and also the hierarchy of pages. Related pages are easily indexed and grouped together in this manner. Typically, internal links emphasize the importance of cornerstone content and its relation to related but perhaps less important content. Links on other pages point back to cornerstone content.
Why internal links are important
Website architecture is the way pages are organized on a website. Like a building design, it provides the structural relationships between various pages and components of a website. In this manner, search engines can easily index webpages in the same domain.
Your website architecture is ideally a hierarchical structure that ranks various web pages based on their relative importance. Typically, the home page is the most important page of a website and other tabs or webpages are subordinate in the overall structure. Without internal linking, the other pages, no matter how important, may not be properly indexed.
Internal links are important for the following reasons. They:
- Provide website architecture and a structure for easy indexing
- Make navigation easy for website visitors trying to search for related content
- Give an overall picture of the interrelatedness of your content
- Distribute page authority and help rank pages based on relative importance
Deeply buried pages and content that are otherwise not reachable through keyword search and navigation links become accessible because of internal links. Since these links are embedded on the webpages as anchor text or as a list of related content, they are naturally integrated with the content. Internal links can help visitors and users easily navigate around your website.
How internal links can boost SEO
Search engine optimization is mainly about increasing the visibility of a website or a webpage in search engine results pages (SERPs). In this manner, the quality and quantity of visitors are increased. Conversion rates are also improved in terms of sales if your website has the right visitors.
Internal links help boost the visibility of your website by making it easier to index and rank in terms of relative importance. The internal links boost the SEO ranking of a website in general or a webpage specifically in two main ways:
- Reduction of page depth – more content is reached much faster and more easily because of the links. There is no need to dig through volumes of pages to find the content you are searching for.
- Creation of content hubs – pages with similar content can be built around “pillar pages” or core content, and doing this creates groupings and categories. All the pages gain standing based on specific topics. For example, at LimeLight we have a pillar page about website redesign, and lots of related blog posts and content that relates to and links to our core page (and vice versa)
Five top tips for using internal linking to improve your SEO
Using internal links in your content can boost SEO, but it is only effective if you know and apply the best practices. Here are five tips to try (you can tweak and experiment with these tips to find the combination that works for your business).
- Create as much good quality content as possible – this will ensure that you will be able to build a large content hub with interlaced and interconnected content.
- Use keyword-rich anchor text – both webcrawlers and website users can easily follow linked keywords in your content. Related content on other pages can be browsed more conveniently by simply clicking on anchor text. (Extra hot tip – there’s some great software out there like linkio.com which can help you create really effective anchor text.)
- Link to deeper pages – one of the goals of internal linking is to navigate more easily to deeper pages. You can link a number of pages together for easy navigation.
- Audit your internal links – use Google’s Search Console to determine how your internal links are organized and how they are interrelated. You should balance the internal links to equitably distribute page authority. By doing this, you’ll also find any broken links you may have.
- Link to important pages – if you want to emphasize the importance of a page, you should strategically link to it. You can put internal links on various content pages to point to the page you want to promote.
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