Internal Link Strategy: 9 Tips to Boost Your Sites SEO (+ 3 Things to Avoid)
- 1 What are Internal Links?
- 2 Why are Internal Links Important for SEO?
- 3 9 Tips to Develop a Powerful Internal Link Strategy
- 3.1 1. Map each URL with its target keyword
- 3.2 2. Create content clusters
- 3.3 3. Optimize your anchor text
- 3.4 4. Quickly add internal links to orphan pages
- 3.5 5. Find missed linking opportunities with a manual Google search
- 3.6 6. Use Ahrefs for optimal internal linking opportunities
- 3.7 7. Identify your pillar pages
- 3.8 8. Link to provide Context and value
- 3.9 9. Find supporting content ideas in Google Search Console
- 4 3 Things to Avoid
- 5 Conclusion: Internal Link Strategy
Want to build a powerful internal link strategy to boost search rankings?
Sure, we all know how important backlinks are in SEO.
But internal links might just be the next best thing.
Because you don’t need permission to create them, you can build them to your heart’s content.
In this post, we’ll explore 9 ways to develop an effective internal linking strategy, so you can:
- Make your sites content more relevant
- Get higher rankings on Google
- And increase search traffic
Let’s dive in.
What are Internal Links?
Internal links are links that point to another page on the same website.
A link on the home page of your website that points to the about page is an internal link.
External links, on the other hand, point to external websites with a different domain name. An example would be linking to Google.com or Wikipedia.org from your website.
Internal and external links often look the same but are styled differently from normal text. This is done to make them stand out, so people know they can click on them.
You can tell by their appearance, which is usually a variety of underlined, bolded, and brightly colored text.
- Brightly colored
- All of the above
To understand the purpose of internal links, it’s important to know the purpose behind the different pages of a website.
Firstly, each page of a website should have a unique and specific purpose of its own.
The purpose of the about page is to describe the person or business behind the website.
A product page displays details about a product with images, customer reviews, and a button to add to your cart.
Then you can think of the home page as a table of contents to the rest of the website. You might have a small about us section showing the most popular products and recent blog posts.
Second, these pages are then connected to each other using internal links. These connections help visitors navigate the website to find relevant content.
Lastly, the relevance and intention pages and internal links help search engines understand what the website is about.
This leads us to learn why internal links are important for SEO.
Why are Internal Links Important for SEO?
Internal linking for SEO might be the most underrated method to increase rankings.
Here are four main areas that make internal links important.
1. Context and relevance
2. Engagement and experience
3. Site architecture
4. Page rank and link equity
Context and relevance
Everyone knows that content is king, but context might be more important.
Because without context, no one would fully understand what you’re saying.
And worse, Google will struggle to determine what you’re site is about.
When you publish lots of content on your site and strategically link them together, it adds more context and meaning.
This is great for readers because it makes learning easier, which will build trust and a stronger connection with your audience.
And it’s great for search engines because it signals topical authority, which will help your content move up in Google.
Engagement and experience
Developing an internal link strategy adds value to your visitors, no matter how they find your site.
Providing a good experience is important because it will increase engagement and turn more visitors into leads and sales.
Moreover, if people click through to your site from a Google search and click on internal links, this sends a positive signal that your site has high engagement.
Site architecture consists of a website’s navigation structure and how the pages are organized through internal linking.
You’ll want a clean site architecture that links to important pages from the home page and back to the home page again.
This can be done easily with navigation links in the header and footer of the site.
Additionally, blog posts can be organized by categories, making it easy for visitors and search engines to understand and navigate different topics of content.
It’s hard to tell how much weight Google puts into page rank these days, but it has been confirmed in recent years that it is still used as a ranking factor.
Historically, Page Rank was the score of how authoritative a page was, mainly determined through link equity and other criteria.
In simple terms, the more quality backlinks a page has, the more authority it has. And this authority can be passed to other pages with internal links.
9 Tips to Develop a Powerful Internal Link Strategy
To harness the power of internal links, follow these 9 tips and watch your rankings improve.
1. Map each URL with its target keyword
Keyword mapping is a term that describes assigning specific keywords to each page on your website.
The purpose is to gain insight into what the intention is behind each of your pages.
Moreover, Google’s algorithm tries to understand the intention of the searchers’ query and then show results that match it.
So, it’s important to give each page a strong purpose and pair it with a keyword with search volume.
Otherwise, you could miss a great opportunity for potential visitors to find your site.
To start keyword mapping, you can scrape a list of your pages with a tool like Screaming Frog.
Next, export the list to a Google Sheet, then use a keyword research tool to find relevant keywords for each page.
With our WordPress plugin Link Whisper, you can assign your pages with your keywords, making it easier to manage everything.
2. Create content clusters
Content clusters are groups of content that cover a broad topic.
To illustrate an example, let’s imagine your blog is about widgets. Your content clusters could look like this:
- Blue Widgets
- Green Widgets
- Purple Widgets
And so on.
Then each piece of content you create for Blue Widgets would link together to provide depth and context about that topic.
Organizing your internal link strategy will signal to Google the main topic and how it relates to each piece in the cluster.
This helps Google understand the relevance, making your content more useful for the reader.
3. Optimize your anchor text
Anchor text is the clickable text that’s used for a link. The importance of using the right anchor text shouldn’t be overlooked.
Because the text you use to link to a page tells Google what that page is about. Therefore, using the keyword or a close variation is best when linking to your pages.
You can do this by referring to the keyword map we talked about in the first tip.
Creating well-optimized content is only the first step, but if the internal links aren’t clear, you miss the potential for higher rankings.
The beauty of internal links is that you have full control over the anchor text.
Here’s a good example of good anchor text use:
An article titled “6 WordPress SEO Tips Every Blogger Should Know” would ideally use the anchor text WordPress SEO (like we did here :)).
And you’d want to avoid using anchor text such as here or this article or even tips every blogger should know.
Remember, the best anchor text to use specifically describes the intent of the page you’re linking to and the primary keyword you want the page to rank for.
If you want to save time adding the right anchor text to your pages, Link Whisper has a feature you’ll appreciate.
Simply add your target SEO keywords to each page and you’ll get optimized suggestions of where to add links.
Orphan pages are pages that have no internal links pointing to them. This can pose potential issues because it’s difficult for search engines to find them.
Worse, they will likely never be found if there are no navigation links to these pages and no sitemap submitted in Google Search Console. And so, it will never show up in search results.
Moreover, pages with zero internal links stop the flow of page authority, cutting off relevancy and more opportunity for building context.
What’s the solution?
Simple. Add at least 1-3 internal links from every page you create and at least 1 incoming link to all pages.
The problem is when you have tons of pages with orphan pages. Again, this is where Link Whisper comes in.
Just load up your list of pages and instantly see which pages have no internal links. Then, magically add links from relevant pages in just a few clicks.
You now understand the importance of adding internal links with keyword-rich anchor text.
But how do you know which pages to link to and from?
Sure, you can use Link Whisper, but there’s a manual way that could help you find missed opportunities.
Let’s look at how it’s done manually; then, we’ll look at how to do it automatically with Link Whisper.
Imagine you have a page on your website titled “7 On-Page SEO Problems to Fix Immediately” with the primary keyword on-page SEO problems in closed brackets.
If you have more than 50 articles on your site, it’ll take hours to sift through each page to find the primary keyword to use as anchor text.
Instead, go to Google.com and use the following search operator:
site:yourdomain.com “your primary keyword”
Google will then show you a list of pages on your website with the keyword you type.
Go ahead and open these pages and add the link manually. For best results, try to match the anchor text closely to the keyword.
To do this with Link Whisper, click on the links report page and search for your keyword.
You can then choose from the list to add an internal link to the page in question.
Did you know you can get internal linking suggestions with Ahrefs for free?
It’s true. And it’s super simple.
Head over to Ahrefs and sign up for a free Webmaster Tools account here, verify your website, and run an audit
When your audit is done, go to the Link Opportunities page and you’ll see your report.
This report shows the source page or page to link from, the keyword that the target page ranks for, and the recommended page to link to.
There’s also a snippet of text that shows where the anchor text is on the page.
Additionally, you can use filters to narrow down the list of suggestions or target specific pages.
Doing this every so often might uncover internal linking opportunities missed by Google.
7. Identify your pillar pages
Want another Ahrefs tip to add to your internal link strategy?
Here it is:
Make sure you have a free Webmaster Tools account and go to their Site Explorer here.
Enter your website domain and hit enter. Then, click on Best by links in the sidebar and you’ll see all of your site’s pages with their UR rating.
The UR rating is the strength of the page’s backlink profile.
These pages are your Pillar or Power pages, which means they can be used to boost other pages with less authority.
All you need to do is establish the best-supporting articles you have or that you can create to link to from the pillar page.
Then, the page with a high UR rating will pass the “link juice” to these other pages.
8. Link to provide Context and value
We have spoken a lot about the importance of context in this post so far.
And the reason is simple.
It’s one of the best ways to help Google know what you’re site is about.
Linking to articles that add more context not only supports each piece of content but also adds more value.
That’s because your readers will want to click on links that help them learn more about the topic.
Remember, people don’t just want breadth of information, they want depth too.
9. Find supporting content ideas in Google Search Console
An effective way to develop your internal link strategy is to keep adding content to your blog.
Having more content does a couple of things:
- It increases your number of possible rankings
- Adds more internal linking opportunities
- And much more
But how do you find relevant content ideas?
By using Google Search Console, you can find all the keywords that your pages show up for in the SERPs.
If you want to access these keywords inside WordPress, you can save time by connecting Search Console to Link Whisper.
But to do it manually, go to your Search Console performance page, click on the Pages tab, and sort them by Clicks or Impressions:
Click on one of the pages that you want to write similar content about, then click back to the Queries tab:
You’ll see a list of all the keywords this page has shown up for in Google’s search results.
You want to find keywords that have a slightly different intent to this particular page.
The page’s main keyword is best dog bowls, but it also ranks for best slow-feeder dog bowls.
This would be a great idea for another blog post and adding an internal link to it from the original article.
Alternatively, Link Whisper now has this feature built into it. That means you can see all the keywords a page is ranking for to fresh ideas fast.
3 Things to Avoid
Now you know the right stuff to do to build a strong internal link strategy, here are a few things you definately want to avoid.
Avoid using the same anchor text for different pages
When mapping out the keywords for each of the pages of your site, you assigned them a primary keyword.
Now, you must refrain from using keywords you want a page to rank for as the anchor text for other pages.
The reason is that it can confuse Google and create keyword cannibalization.
This is when you have multiple pages that rank for the same page, which isn’t good.
If Google struggles to determine the correct page to rank they might remove both from the results.
When creating your pages and navigation menus, try to keep things as clean as possible.
You want to add structure and a hierarchy of important links, but avoid creating pages that link too far away from the home page.
Try to keep links within 3 – 4 links away. The fewer the better.
Like off-page SEO (external links), internal links are super powerful for on-page SEO but don’t overdo it.
It’s best to link to pages that are highly relevant to each other and where it provides real value and benefit.
That being said, there’s no magic number, so do some experimenting with different amounts of links on different pages to test your results.
Conclusion: Internal Link Strategy
There you have it. An unbeatable internal link strategy to take your site to the next level.
Follow these 9 tips to build a cohesive strategy and strengthen ranking potential.