Internal Linking 

In this blog, we are talking about internal linking. Internal linking is one of the most complex things to get right in SEO. Larger sites with a lot of content and many different URLs are especially complex to master.

Let’s go through a couple of things that you have to consider when internally linking sites with each other. Generally, with internal links, we want to link one page to another to help Google discover the content, while also creating a hierarchy to reflect which pages are more important than others.

Uses of internal linking

  • It ensures the accessibility of all documents.
  • It prioritizes content and distributes what we call link juice. More on that in just a few seconds.
  • It helps to cluster content and creates a context to explain what a page is supposed to rank for.

Types of internal linking

The most common link types are text links and image links. Their value varies depending on where they are located. So there are navigational links, content links (where most of the context is), we have links in the sidebar and links in the footer.

Elements of internal linking

  • One is the destination (the <a href> attribute)
  • another is the anchor text – which is describing the contents of the destination where the link points to.
  • Thirdly we might have a nofollow attribute to it.

Role of internal linking in SEO

Another important aspect is what SEOs often refer to as link juice. The main idea is that link juice is a kind of definer of all the positive and negative characteristics that can be passed by an internal or external link from one URL to another.

The key thing about internal linking is accessibility. Optimized website architecture really helps to ensure that accessibility for crawlers and users is given at the same time. Ideally, all content should be accessible within a maximum of 3-4 clicks away from the homepage so that Google doesn’t have to go from one page to another, over and over again, just to find the content. As a rule, the closer your URL is connected to the homepage, the more important it should be in your internal hierarchy. Or the other way around: if it takes – for example – 10 clicks to reach certain content, it can’t really be that important, can it?

Breadcrumbs

One of the main things that can significantly help with internal linking and particularly proper anchor texts are breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs essentially reflect the navigational path from where you are within a domain. You should use respective markup to ensure Google can pick up and display your breadcrumbs properly. I’d recommend visiting schema.org if you’re not familiar with the implementation of breadcrumbs – you can check out all their properties and examples of how to implement them in the correct way there.

Another important aspect is crawler management, in particular, your robots.txt file. Make sure that your important pages that are supposed to pass link equity from one to another are not blocked in robots.txt. Those critical links must be readable during a classic web crawl – which means you should rely on using simple <a hrefs> instead of saying JavaScript.

Tip to create internal linking

One of the easiest tips for internal linking is to find orphaned pages – these are essentially pages that are not internally linked anymore. However, they were at some point or they are getting traffic because of other factors. If you find those orphaned pages, you could use Google Search Console or Google Analytics as a starting point for example, then basically implement and link them again from your other pages.

Seasonality In Link Building

It is an interesting aspect of internal linking is how to deal with seasonality. This is particularly true for e-commerce, say if you sell products around Christmas. This category is special: during the year there is almost no search demand for Christmas products. But you can’t just delete it from your internal linking because all the factors that Google has stored for that URL would eventually be lost. You need a mechanism that somehow allows you to move this category into the domain, keeping it linked from secondary or third-level pages or categories. Then when the season comes back, say like 3-4 months before the big day, you increase your internal linking efforts to the category page again, maybe linking to it from the homepage as well as adding additional cross-links.

The same is true for product launches. When you know that says a new iPhone is going to be released, it will not be enough to launch a category page or a product page 1-2 weeks beforehand. You need to create that page early on and make sure it has all the internal links it needs to be as strong as possible.

Contextual relevance and semantically linking at a product level is also a big help: If you have 1 product of a series, say, make a link from item 1 in that series to items 2,3 and 4. But you could go even further – say if you are selling women’s shoes, you can also crosslink them with matching dresses. Hard to get this right on a larger scale – but helpful for users and search engine crawlers alike.

Link Hubs

Another very powerful approach that helps with internal linking is using what we call linkhubs. Linkhubs are subpages on a domain that contain a good amount of qualitative inbound, external links. First, you have to identify which pages are the ones that have the most external inbound links – for example by using SEMrush backlink audit tool. Then you take those URLs and add additional internal links – for example by simply implementing an additional element to your template only to be used for those sites. Since they’re linked heavily, Google will crawl them more frequently. Pages linked from those linkhubs will, therefore, be found and indexed way quicker.

Nofollow in Internal Linking

Internally nofollow‘ing links are pretty a bad idea. Do not rely on nofollow. Instead, make sure that you just control your links properly and only have the ones that you really need. Internally nofollow‘ing literally means „I do not trust my own links“, so what do you think Google is going to do with it? It is clearly not a good sign if you don’t trust your own links. Now some people might argue that you can just use Javascript to hide those links for Googlebot and only show them to your users – but nowadays Google is getting better and smarter, so if your internal linking is built on top of hiding things for example by using Javascript, that clearly is not the right approach either. Don’t do it.

Suggested Article

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