This is an introduction to internal linking, who uses it, how it’s used and what for. As well as some best practices and recommendations when building your link architecture.
What is internal linking? Internal links are the connections between the pages of your site that are used by people and crawlers to navigate the pages that make up a website.
Internal links are the paths we create to get users and Google from point A to point B, to answer a question and make our site’s pages accessible. They create a hierarchy of information. What do we want to be seen first and where do we want it to lead?
Know the goal of your site and ensure all paths work towards realising the goal
If you’re a blogging site, the goal would be to get users from one post to another, and then repeat. Throughout the path, you can add secondary goals that compliment the primary goal, such as newsletter sign-ups, contact forms, and downloadable content.
If you’re eCommerce, the goal is to get users from any page to the checkout page. There will be secondary goals for this too, in the form of methods of contact such as forms and live chats, USPs and special offers and deals, but these all work towards and compliment the primary goal of making sales.
The important thing to remember is not to allow the secondary goals to take away from the primary goal. Set a clear path from point A to point Z. You can picture informational sites, such as blogs, as a straight path with stops along the way that encourage you further along the path. An eCommerce site is a funnel with multiple entry points all leading to the same point of convergence.
The point I’m trying to make is set a clear goal for your site, and you can build your internal linking architecture around achieving that goal. You don’t need to overcomplicate things by having duplicate paths, unnecessary extra steps, or links that will take you backwards on the conversion path. Visualise the path you want users to take.
Your site’s content is what Google uses to rank your pages. This includes headings, titles, images, body copy, etc. This also includes internal links. Once referred to as ‘link juice’, ‘link equity’ is the ranking factor associated with internal links. Using the keywords in alt tags and anchor text, we give Google an indication of what we want to rank the linked page for. What should be remembered is mention of the keyword on pages linking to the desired ‘page-to-rank’ will also share authority for that keyword.
Keep internal links to a minimum and avoid duplication to create clear paths and authority
Some sites will have a main menu that sits atop every page of their site. The main menu will be made up of keywords, with each keyword linking to a page we’d like ranking for that keyword. The more pages you have, the more you’re duplicating your links, and therefore the more you’re splitting authority for your keywords. I’m using the main menu as an example, but the idea is applicable to all internal links.
Keep your internal linking architecture concise and for the goal. Create clear paths, don’t overcomplicate, avoid duplication, and consolidate.
For more information on internal linking check out this article.