Internal Linking for SEO

Do we need an internal linking audit?

Internal linking is often an overlooked SEO strategy, and firmly falls into the category of “low effort, high reward” when done correctly. If your team or agency has full control of the CMS, it can also be actioned incredibly quickly and efficiently, and there are even tools out there to scale it up automatically on a continual basis.

If your business’ website has been growing over time in terms of its structure and content offering and your SEO metrics are improving, it may be worth taking a pause to assess any internal linking opportunities to improve performance further.

If your SEO team are looking at certain commercial, revenue-driving topics that need moving the needle on in term moving rankings into the top positions, sending additional signals to Google by driving internal links to core money pages can be a good way of doing this.

Do we need an internal linking SEO strategy?

From a strategic point of view, internal linking should be baked into your SEO team’s ongoing SEO activities on a day to day basis. If for example the team are producing a new blog post once a week or are performing on the spot on-page SEO or technical SEO optimisations on certain pages, then internal linking optimisation should be considered. 

Internal linking should also be brought under any strategic approach to improve the performance of key revenue-driving pages, and can be married up with target keywords to improve rankings on. 

If for example you’re running a campaign to improve the keyword rankings of the terms around “buy external hard drives” then internal linking should be leveraged to assess opportunities across your business’ site to improve internal links to the key money pages around this term.

Ultimately, internal linking is one of the areas of SEO that most of the time, your team will have relative autonomy and control over. Given its relatively low input effort and potential high reward in terms of ranking improvements and user journey improvements to key commercial pages, it should be an ongoing strategic component of your SEO work.

How do I know if our internal linking is working and how to monitor performance?

Many third party SEO tools will readily flag up opportunities to your team to suggest that internal linking improvements can be made, such as key commercial pages potentially having only one (or even zero) internal links pointing to them.

Aside from this, your SEO teams can readily assess whether internal links are “working” by using third party crawling software to “follow” these links from the perspective of a search engine crawler. If there are clear and logical structures for crawlers to follow and find your important revenue-driving pages in quick steps, then this is a good sign.  

In terms of performance internal linking ventures need to be assessed alongside core macro SEO metrics. Look for improvements in your keyword rankings, traffic and user conversions that could be tied to your internal linking optimisations.

Does a small website need to worry about internal linking?

Oftentimes, internal linking audits are carried out by SEO teams or agencies on large, enterprise websites that have neglected the activity earlier on in their growth journey, and subsequently have suboptimal internal linking structures. 

To avoid this unnecessary cost further down the line, factor in elements such as site structure and optimised internal linking journeys early on in your website growth journey. Even if your business’s website only has 20 pages, building out internal links to the one or two pages where you want to send both users and search engines to convert should be considered.  

Is there a way to scale / automate internal linking as our brand grows?

There are plenty of tools that can help automate internal linking to take away some of the manual work of the activity and save time and resources. This can be in the form of CMS plugins (such as in WordPress) where you can readily set-up rules to automatically generate internal links to specific pages when certain words are mentioned within the body text.

Developer teams can also produce in-house solutions to help with this, creating more complex rules whereby internal links are triggered to key product or conversion pages on certain keywords or variants of such. 

Take care with these however. Automating internal links at scale using the same keywords or “anchor texts”  repeatedly may appear unnatural in the eyes of Google or the user. Repeatedly targeting the aforementioned term “buy external hard drives” in your internal linking may appear spammy. Variance is key here.    

How many internal links should my pages have?

There isn’t an outright wrong or right answer to this. You can continue to build out internal links to your important revenue-driving pages as you scale out your content as the ultimate goal should be to direct users to these key pages with your high performing content. 

If you’ve got a piece of content that has gone viral for example, you’ll want to have an internal link somewhere on the page directing users to a page where they can convert. Not doing this may be a missed opportunity to capture revenue.

One good approach for your SEO team regarding internal linking is to not overdo it in terms of pointing numerous internal links to one individual page on an individual piece of content. Anything more than two or three internal links to one page on an individual blog piece may come across as unnatural. Check out Google’s guide on internal linking and site architecture to learn more.   

What is the best way to structure my internal links to maximise their impact on SEO?

Consider a logical use of hierarchy within your website to inform your internal linking. This can stem from category and subcategory taxonomy within your site navigation. Internal links can be used to provide a clear user journey from your site homepage to its categories and subcategories, with implementation of breadcrumb links (allowing users to take steps back and forth) guiding them accordingly.

The key goal of internal linking and site hierarchy journeys are to make it easy for users (and search engine bots) to access the pages where they can purchase or convert. Taking an ecommerce site for example, this can be done through clear and structured journeys to core category pages and money pages accessible via internal links from the main navigation or header and footer navs.

The use of pillar cluster content can also help drive this. Pillar content, such as guide or blog post on a broad topic, can be used as an entry point for users to arrive at your site with smaller, more specific pages (cluster content) being where they potentially convert linked to clearly. 

How can I ensure that my internal links are relevant and helpful to users?

Your SEO and marketing teams should be combining internal linking strategies with your keyword research and search intent analysis. Based on what the data tells you in terms of the consumer buying journey, what are the logical ways in which internal linking can be used to keep users on your website and direct them into converting?

For example, a stem keyword such as “mobile phone accessories” may start, user journey-wise, with a blog piece assessing the latest trends on various phone accessories. The next logical step in the journey may be a more commercial intent where the user is considering buying, so it would make sense to include internal links to some of these product pages on the original blog post.

What anchor text should I use for my internal links?

Your team will need to consider the use of descriptive and contextual anchor text when implementing internal links. Taking our earlier example, this isn’t just a case of using the exact keyword or term related to the page you’re driving the internal link to (such as “buy external hard drives”). They will need to think of ways to vary this and make it appear natural within the text so that it is descriptive and falls within web accessibility best practices as well.

Bedding internal links naturally within content so that it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the copy and doesn’t appear too deliberate is key. Variants of target keywords are totally fine, as long as the internal link anchor text gives hints as to the context of the page it is directing users to. Make sure your team are avoiding generic internal link anchor texts such as “click here” and “visit page”. 

How can I use internal linking to improve user engagement and time on site?

From a content standpoint, internal linking can be a key component in improving user engagement and time on site. Injecting internal links on blog content to other blogs in a particular series or topic to encourage users to continue reading is a great way to do this, taking the example of pillar and cluster content as a way to do this.

Looking at more commercial situations, internal links to related products either before or after a consumer purchases a product can be a great additional revenue driver. For example if a user arrives on a particular PDP and scrolls down, deciding not to buy, internal links to similar products may pique their interest.

Similarly, after they’ve purchased, internal links in the checkout or purchase complete page to related products or accessories to the product they’ve bought can go a long way. Amazon do a very good job at this with their “customers who bought this item also bought” feature.

What tools or strategies can I use to analyse the effectiveness of my internal linking strategy?

Google Search Console features a free internal link report where you can see from Google’s point of view which of your pages are being linked to across your site. If some of your key commercial pages aren’t featured here, this can be a good place to start changing that.

Additional metrics such as bounce rate, time on page and conversion rates found in analytics tools can be assessed if certain filters are applied whereby you’re looking at users who have arrived at certain pages internally through the means of internal linking. This can extend to conversions driven by internal links too.

Additional tooling such as A/B testing or employing the use of heat map technology to assess whether users are interacting with your internal links can also help you assess effectiveness.

How can I avoid overusing internal links and potentially harming my SEO performance?

Getting into more technical language from an SEO standpoint, internal links are used to promote “PageRank” throughout your site. For example, if your homepage has a high authority due to its backlink profile and keyword ranking profile, then linking out to various category and subcategory pages stimulates the flow of PageRank through the site from your most important page, giving these a boost.

The danger of overusing internal linking is the diluting of PageRank across your site. This can be done by inserting too many internal links from one page to another. 

From a user perspective, obvious overuse of internal links will come across as forced and spammy and an obvious attempt to try and get them to visit certain important pages. Too many internal links may also reduce time on site and increase bounce rates if the user is being ushered across various areas of your site due to the internal link overuse.  

How should I prioritize internal linking as part of my overall SEO strategy?

Given the relatively low effort and potential high reward threshold, internal linking should be an ongoing activity consideration at almost any stage of a business’ SEO growth journey. If you’re newly investing in SEO, then have your appointed team or agency run an internal link audit on your site, as there could well be some quick wins for you to take action.

Moving forward and catering for ongoing SEO improvements, internal linking should always remain adjacent to your team’s everyday SEO activities be it content or technical optimisation. Looking for ways to send additional signals to Google about the importance of certain pages via internal linking as well as improving user experience across your site to improve conversion journeys should be paramount. 

Internal Link SEO Case Study

Large ecommerce retailer utilises internal linking to pass PageRank to key product pages, improving rankings and subsequent revenue.

Problem: A large ecommerce retailer was struggling to find ways to improve the search ranking performance of some its core product pages under a certain category, and revenue opportunity from organic was suffering. 

Solution: The retailer recognised the importance of internal links by adding a navigation item to this particular subcategory, allowing both users and search engines to discover it easier. In addition to this, further internal links to individual product pages were built within existing pillar content across the ecommerce site. The result saw a marked increase in search rankings around these PDPs, and a subsequent jump in revenue from SEO. 

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