Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site. With over 10 years of experience, he’s the leading WordPress expert in the industry. You can learn more about Syed and his portfolio of companies by following him on his social media networks.
Internal linking is the process of linking two pages on your website via a link on the first page. The links can be present in headers, footers, sidebars, and in most cases, embedded in the website content.
There are plenty of reasons to improve your website’s link building strategy. As you connect the pages on your website, you end up building a ‘roadmap’ of your site, which can improve your SEO, thus improving visibility. Links within your content can also improve the user experience of your website. If someone lands on your website, they should be able to find relevant posts that expand on the content they’re currently reading.
The process of figuring out how to strategically connect posts on your site is challenging, but the benefits far outweigh the time you’ll invest in the process. We are going to help you develop your internal link building strategy by letting you in on some must-follow rules when adding links to your website.
1. Add links to the main content
As we mentioned, internal links can work efficiently in your headers and footers, but many marketing experts believe that internal links hold the most weight when they are included within the blog content on your website.
In other words, your links will have more value here in the content of this Time article:
Just for clarity, you should still include links on other parts of your page. However, if your goal is to expand your web presence and create a great customer experience through internal links, focus on adding links to your blog content.
2. Link meaningful content
Connecting your website via links can improve the customer experience–and your rank– if the linked content is meaningful and adds value to the first piece of content.
For example, if you operate an online pet shop, you wouldn’t want to link your article on common cat behaviors to a blog post about how to take care of a hamster. But if you have an article expanding on cat behavior by talking about common illnesses in domesticated cats and how they act when afflicted with certain diseases, this would be a useful resource and expand on the knowledge illustrated in the first piece of content.
If you can’t see an obvious connection between two topics, it’s probably not a good idea to link internally to that piece of content. It’s vital that you take the time to develop a list of all of your pillar content. These are posts that offer a broad overview of a topic that allows you to link to smaller, more relevant pieces of content.
Let’s go back to the online pet shop example. If you were making a pillar content list for your website’s blog, you might want to start with an overview page of each type of pet you’ll cover in your content.
You can then branch down from the pillar content into other, more specific topics. If you create a pillar page about dogs, you could then link to articles talking about the behavior of dogs, feeding habits, common illnesses, and most popular toys. You can then expand on each of those articles and internally link to articles about a specific behavior, diseases, and toys. It’s not recommended to go beyond three levels of content, as we mentioned in the previous tip.
3. Keep site structure simplistic
When creating the architecture for your website content, it’s important that you keep the content flow simple. This is another tip that can help improve the user experience, reduce your bounce rate, and dictates how users navigate through your website. Here is a look at how your website structure might look from the pet store example.
As you can see, we used the pillar articles to link to smaller, more specific pieces of content. At the end, the content loop leads back to the pillar page.
You never want a user to end up on your site and have to click through ten links just to get an answer to their question. When you’re planning out content for your site, consider what kind of posts you may want to link to that piece in the future.
It’s a good idea to keep your content within a few clicks so readers can find what they are looking for without getting frustrated.
4. Use natural anchor text
Anchor text consists of the words you’ll use to link to another article. In the early days of online marketing, many people would keyword stuff and add links as a method to artificially inflate their search engine ranking.
Google put up measures to keep people from gaming the system. If you want to create excellent internal links and stay on Google’s good side, always think carefully about the anchor text you’re going to use to link your content.
You have to make sure that your anchor text makes sense and flows naturally to the average reader.
5. Set links to ‘Follow’
Once you’ve nailed down the user experience side of things, you’ll want to make sure that the Googlebot web crawler can find your website and is indexing content properly.
A common mistake that many content creators make when inserting links is they forget to set the links to ‘follow’. When you set a link to follow, you’re creating a path for the Google bot and ensuring that it properly maps out the architecture of your website.
There was a point in time where marketers would purposely set most of their links to ‘nofollow’ so one primary link would direct the crawler to the next page. This method turned out to be ineffective, though there are some practical uses for ‘nofollow’ links, now virtually everyone with a successful website makes sure their internal links are set to follow in the HTML editor of their site.
6. Put priority links first
The location of your links within your content is just as crucial as actually including them in the first place When a bot crawls your website, the first internal link within the content is generally viewed as the most valuable link throughout the piece.
As you are writing content, think carefully about where you’re placing your links within each piece. If you have a post that you want to be indexed first, include it towards the top of the content, as this will prioritize that inbound link.
7. Keyword strategy
Finally, we are going to discuss how you should organize your keyword strategy for more effective linking. When you develop your keywords, they are all going to relate to your niche in one form or another. It’s a good practice to link out your pillar article to relevant posts using the same keywords in your anchor text.
For example, if you want to rank for ‘gardening tips,’ you should first make sure you have a pillar article such as that includes the words gardening tips. Within that pillar article, you want to link out to smaller articles with the phrase gardening tips in the title and your anchor text.
When Google crawlers discover that there is one long-form article with the keyword phrase ‘gardening tips’ and there are smaller articles all linked from the pillar content, Google tends to rank the pillar article above the other pieces of content when users search for your chosen word or phrase.
There’s no doubt value in adding internal links throughout your website. If you’re looking to improve the customer experience, build a bigger brand, and rank on Google, you need to be mindful of the types of links you use throughout your content. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ strategy for adding internal links on your site, but these rules will help you create and cultivate an organized, easily accessible, and potentially high-ranking website.