The world of SEO is vast, complex, and full of technicalities. So much so that sometimes, it feels like there’s not enough time to learn everything in this big digital world.
That’s why it’s important to remember that some aspects of SEO matter more than others, and if you’re looking to optimise your site, it’s good to start by focusing on certain strategies that are more important. One of these strategies that could make or break your ranking is internal linking, and it’s definitely something you should know inside and out if you’re looking to optimise your site.
What is Internal Linking?
There are two types of links: internal and external.
Simply put, an internal link is like any other hyperlink: clickable text on a blog or a web page that redirects the user to a different page, the only difference is that internal links redirect users to a different page on the same website or domain, while external links direct users to other websites on different domains.
For example, an internal link on the homepage of your website could redirect users to your blog post or article on your site, while an external link would redirect them to a separate blog, article or landing page that’s found on a different domain, and not on your website.
What does this have to do with SEO?
Now that you know what internal links are, the next question is: do internal links help SEO, and how?
Google and other search engines find and rank pages by crawling through the links on these pages, whether internal or external. These search engines use bots to rank content based on the “link value” of a page; how much a page “passes value on” to another page it redirects.
Let’s make it simpler.
Let’s say you just published a new blog post. If your home page has a lot of content that a search engine deems useful, linking to that blogpost from your website’s home page will “pass on” the value ranking from your home page to your blog post.
If your home page or other pages on your website don’t redirect to your new blog post, it’s less likely to rank on Google because it will be ranked based on the blog’s content alone. If it’s linked from your home page, it’ll rank based on the blog’s own content as well as the value of the home page.
How You Should Use Internal Links
Internal links shine because you’re entirely in control of how they’re structured – all of the links are your own! With that being said, this is only useful if you know how to use internal links to help your SEO and optimize your ranking.
Check Your Internal Link Structure
Structuring your website neatly is more than just a design choice. A well-planned internal linking structure on any website is incredibly important for two reasons: First, make it easier for your home page to redirect traffic to other pages on your site by making your user’s experience better, and keeps users on your page for longer (which is also a ranking factor!). Secondly and more importantly, it helps Google and other search engines FIND your website and rank it on Google.
To ensure your website has an internal link structure that works, imagine your website as a pyramid.
The top of the pyramid should be your home page or landing page, the first page your user would see. This makes it more likely for your users to determine the correct page they want to go to after landing on your home page and navigate accordingly.
From there, the home page should redirect to main categories. Divide your products, blog, or other services on your website into categories that make sense. This helps the search engines, as well as your users, browse through relevant content in a way that makes sense. If your website has a lot of content, it would make sense for these main categories to redirect to smaller, sub-categories that are more specific. These categories (or sub-categories) would then redirect to your individual pages, posts, or articles.
Pro-tip: Use tags on your website. Tags are similar to categories in that it helps users and search engines sort through your content – the biggest difference being that categories hierarchical, while tags are not. You can use any kind of tag, on any of your pages – even if they’re categorised in different sections – and your users or search engine bot will be able to group them together and relate them to one another.
Like anything else with SEO, optimising your website’s internal links requires a deep dive and solid understanding of how your site is structured. It’s important to start sorting your website’s internal linking structure as early on as possible and when your website is still fresh. The more content you publish, the harder it becomes to reorganise and structure your website. Start early and build a solid foundation to make sure the process becomes more or less automatic in the future as your website grows.