Having a good grasp of internal linking is essential if you want your pages to be discoverable on search engines. A lot like backlinks (links from external websites to yours), high-quality internal links will boost your search engine page ranking.
Internal linking can be as simple as linking from one page to another on your site. Good internal linking, though, goes a bit further. Using links effectively is a relatively easy way to boost your site traffic.
Let’s start with a brief overview of internal linking.
What are internal links?
Internal links are any links that navigate from one page to another on your site. This includes everything from your top-level navigation buttons to call-to-action prompts.
You’re probably familiar with linking content posts to other relevant content on your blog. Don’t forget that image links, ad banners and any other links that lead back to one of your pages come under this definition too.
3 ways internal links help with site traffic
To understand how internal links help traffic volume and the amount of organic traffic coming to your site, we need to understand how search engine bots look for content and index it. Internal links allow bots from search engines like google to find pages on your website.
If pages can’t be found, they can’t be indexed. Non-indexed pages don’t appear in search results. You can see that this means internal links are vital to your site’s visibility. So how do they actually help site traffic?
1. Increases dwell time and reduces bounce rates
More traffic coming to your site is great. But if most of those users leave without finding what they’re looking for, it doesn’t carry many benefits. Good internal links will help users locate content easily. This reduces the bounce rate (when users only visit a single page on your site and leave).
You also need to think about the relevancy of your internal links. When users can find related content effortlessly, they’ll spend more time on your site (dwell time).
One of the most critical signals in determining ranking on Google search is a system called RankBrain. This tool analyses both dwell time and bounce rates. Considering customer data like this can help you achieve search engine success.
2. Content gets indexed and ranked faster
Having internal links to your new content helps these search engine bots find it and index it more quickly. Getting indexed quicker means more people will see your content when it’s fresh.
Blog articles are a good choice for internal links. Consider having a feed on your home page linking to your recent articles. When linking between content, you need to be more careful about how relevant that content is to boost your page ranking.
3. Search engines can navigate the breadth of your topic coverage
Consider the top-level navigation of your site. You might have separate sections for products, services, information about your company, and so on. This is the breadth of your content.
Having a broad range of top-level segments can help users (and search engines) navigate your content more easily. Publishing a lot of content on a specific topic can also help boost your authority for page rankings.
Depth is how many clicks away from these top-level segments it takes to get to specific content. You want to keep this as low as possible. If you need five clicks to get from the top level to a piece of content, this will negatively affect page rankings.
Where can you include internal links?
On its own, filling your site with internal links won’t drive traffic. You need to consider where different types of links should be added for the greatest benefit.
1. Landing pages
These need a good breadth of content linked to ensure users can find what they’re looking for. Think about what users will see when they arrive at your landing page. Consider what led them there and tailor the links shown to account for their next steps.
Depending on the purpose of your landing page, it’s possible you will not include any content links. In this instance, keeping traffic on a specific page and only offering them a CTA to complete the desired action will be best. An example of this would be a landing page for an insurance agency where “getting a quote” is the sole objective for this traffic.
2. Blog posts
Blog posts are perfect for internal linking. Users expect to see multiple links in blog posts, so make the most of it. Link to all posts on the same topic to increase the page’s authority for search engine ranking.
Take the example of a blog about sales. Users already reading a post about automation would find a link to an article on RPA tools very relevant. A link to an article on sales techniques might still be appropriate but less relevant. Search engine bots can analyze the relevance of links and use this as a ranking criterion.
3. New & old content
As mentioned above, you want to make sure that new content is indexed quickly. You can guarantee this by linking to new content directly from your landing or other primary pages. Make sure you also use new content to link to and from older content. This can help to revitalize older content and increase the authority of your posts and domain as a whole.
How to use internal linking to boost site traffic
So now you know why and where to include internal links. Let’s go into how you use them to drive traffic to your site.
1. Start by defining your site structure
Your site structure is the first thing search engines look at when determining the relevance of your content. Your structure should follow a natural hierarchy so that search engine indexers can make sense of it. Here’s a good example.
The categories make sense, and the depth is shallow enough that subcategories can be accessed easily. Creating a site map and linking this in your robots.txt file can also help for faster crawling and indexing. This way, you can help Googlebot access and prioritize crawling pages that are more important for search engine ranking, and more frequently.
2. Plan for both content and internal links
Have a plan for both content creation and how you want internal links to work with this content. Your highest value SEO content should be linked from pages with high authority like your landing page.
Having a clear plan in place can help to avoid duplicate content SEO mistakes.
In general, try to be as intentional as possible with every new content piece you publish. Long-term, this will help your site stay organized and give you the possible chance for SEO success.
3. Make sure internal links are included on every page
Don’t leave dead-end content without links. If users find themselves on a page they can’t navigate back from, they’re more than likely going to leave the site. Avoid linking back to your landing page from every page. If a page leads nowhere, though, it’s better to have a link back to your landing page than nothing at all.
4. Use only relevant, contextual links & do regular checking for broken links
If you link from older content that’s already ranked, this can help convey authority to your newer content. If your link appears in context, this helps even more.
Think about the anchor text for your link. This highlighted blue text is what your readers will see in place of the hyperlink. Make it contextually relevant and blend seamlessly within your content. Check regularly that your links still work. If search engine bots try to follow broken links, this will harm your page ranking score.
5. Factor in your buyer’s journey to see where you can insert the right links and CTA’s
The sales funnel represents a customer’s journey from awareness of your product to purchase. Thinking about where your customer is on this journey can help you feed them relevant content.
If a customer is at the awareness stage, then show them more general information about a topic. If they’re at the conversion stage, make sure they know how and where to make a purchase.
6. Grab visitor attention with well-written anchor text
Anchor text is crucial. Adjust the language used to make links appealing to the customer- A strong call to action on a pre-purchase page. Consider your page’s keywords; keyword research for SEO can help clarify what would make a good anchor text.
Remember that keywords are the terms your customers will search for in their initial queries. So you need these on a page you want to have high visibility. Anchor text is an excellent way to achieve this. Be sure not to overstuff your webpage with keywords. This could harm your page’s ranking overall.
7. Make sure pages are reachable and crawlable and that every link is properly coded
Pages must be reachable by search engine bots (crawlers) to be indexed and ranked. Backend work and analytics will be needed. Use site audit tools to assist you. If you have repetitive links to a contact form, for example, use no-follow links to avoid crawlers wasting their time.
Linking back to your home page from everywhere isn’t a good idea. Your home page already has the highest authority. Instead, think about how you can more effectively link pages deeper into your site.
You also need to consider the users’ mobile experience. Google AMP SEO has become a critical factor in page ranking. Make sure your coding is robust so that users on desktop and mobile both have a great experience.
How many internal links should a page have?
You’re probably for a golden number here. Unfortunately, this doesn’t exist. Instead, the relevance of your links is the more vital factor. Again, it’s best to think about your user experience.
Always ask, “Is this link useful to the customer?”.
The key phrases to remember here are relevance and user experience. These will help you to build an effective internal linking strategy. Convey authority from your landing page and keep a shallow depth throughout your site.
Ensure your backend code-base is strong and use analytics tools to keep track of your complicated web of links. Follow these steps, and you’ll have an internal linking strategy that will drive the maximum traffic through your site.
Nick Brown, accelerate agency
Nick Brown is the founder & CEO of accelerate agency, an SEO agency based in Bristol. He has over 12 years experience in digital marketing and works with large companies advising them on SEO, CRO, and content marketing. He has written for sites like Hubspot, and BambooHR.