If you want your website to perform well in SERPs, you need to consider a wealth of different ranking factors. Ranking factors like rich content, website loading speed and keyword optimisation are all crucial but never underestimate the importance of internal linking. An effective internal linking strategy can enhance navigation, improving user experience for first-time and returning visitors. What’s more, it makes your site more accessible to search engine crawlers. Without internal links, search engines won’t be able to index and promote your pages.
Sadly, many people relegate internal linking to the bottom of their priority lists. This is unfortunate as internal links can have a major impact on SEO performance. If you want to unlock the full potential of an internal linking strategy, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with the different types of internal links and how to best implement them. Need to polish up on the basics? Read on for everything you need to know about internal links and how they can improve your SEO performance in 2023.
Internal Links Explained
Internal links allow you to connect your web pages. Internal linking is a key component of SEO, giving search engines a clear idea of how your website is structured. It also improves usability for site visitors, shortening the time it takes for them to find the content they’re looking for.
Internal links are just one of many ranking factors that search engines use to determine your position in SERPs. If you’ve invested time and energy into internal linking, you make life easier for web crawlers and simplify indexing. When you use internal links, you’re also giving your pages more relevance. Search engines use this information to find the most relevant result to an individual query.
As well as the SEO benefits, internal linking makes your website far more user-friendly. You can connect similar pages or link a particular blog post to another with a shared topic. This allows visitors to find information more quickly but also means they’re far more likely to spend longer exploring your content.
Internal Links: Key Types and What They’re Used For
Internal links broadly fall into two categories: contextual and navigational. These are the most important for creating an accessible website that will engage visitors and keep them reading. However, these are just umbrella terms, with both categories including many different types of internal links.
What Are Navigational Links?
Sometimes called structural links, these links allow for hassle-free navigation around a website. They’re typically used to provide shortcuts to specific sections of a larger page. A navigational link can also be used to allow visitors to access the homepage of a website at any time. Furthermore, they can be used to provide links to external sites or any associated social media pages.
Navigational links come in a few main varieties. Menu links are one of the most widely used. These are placed prominently at the top of a website, providing a quick way to navigate between key pages. For convenience, they’re typically sorted into categories and are more visible than many other on-page elements.
At the bottom of a site, you’ll usually find footer links. These links generally provide shortcuts to detailed information such as privacy policies and company contact information. Footer links can also be used to connect to related content and external resources. For example, you can link a page covering SEO in Cork services to other location-specific pages.
Breadcrumbs are another useful linking tool that can be used to enhance site navigation. They make it easy for site visitors to determine exactly where they are on a website and retrace their online journey if they need to. Offering visitors this handy cue is vital if you’re serious about improving user experience.
Finally, there are sidebar links. As you’d expect, they appear in the sidebar and allow visitors to instantly access the pages they need. Generally speaking, sidebar links are categorised or come in menu form.
What About Contextual Links?
Contextual links can also improve your SERP performance, as well as enhance user experience. These internal links can be peppered throughout the main body of a page, providing outbound links to useful articles and other online resources.
Contextual links can play an important role in any SEO strategy. If you were creating a page about SEO in Galway, you link to other pages that discuss local SEO management and localised organic search in general. Contextual linking can form part of a larger backlinking strategy while helping smaller businesses gain exposure.
Other Types of Internal Links
Although contextual and navigational links are more important, don’t underestimate the role that image links play. Currently, image links aren’t all that relevant as a ranking factor. An image itself can’t be crawled, but you can make it more accessible to search engine crawlers by adding image captions and alt text.
For the most part, images aren’t recommended for linking purposes. However, there will be times when they’re necessary. You might need to use a company logo for navigation or need to use an image as a reference point for external resources.
Why You Should Be Taking Internal Linking Seriously
Internal linking rarely gets prioritised when it comes to developing an SEO strategy. However, adhering to internal linking best practices is essential. As well as improving website visibility, it holds real SEO value.
Arguably more than anything, internal links dramatically improve the usability of a website. By investing in on-page organisation and a clear structure, you make life far easier for the people who are visiting your site. This is even more important for first-time visitors who aren’t familiar with the layout of your site. Even returning visitors can benefit, with internal links directing users to helpful content that adds value.
The more authority links that are directed to a web page, the higher its PageRank value. Google’s PageRank algorithm determines the importance of web pages and websites by looking at the overall number of links flowing toward them.
Naturally, not every page on your website is going to have some number of inbound authority links. However, you can spread the wealth by using internal linking. Let’s take an SEO agency based in the south of Ireland as an example. Their homepage might have a lot of high-authority inbound links, but they face stiff competition from agencies for offering SEO services in Tipperary. Internal links can be used to connect the homepage to the one offering local services, transferring some of that PageRank authority.
It’s Essential for Site Hierarchy
When you use internal links, you’re providing search engine crawlers with a clear idea of website structure. To increase your rankings, you need to make life as easy as possible for crawlers. By giving them a hierarchical structure to work with, crawlers will be able to sort keyword and on-page elements based on relevance. When you include internal links, you allow crawlers to move freely between different pages and site sections.
Formatting Internal Links
An internal link is made up of four distinct parts. First, there’s the anchor tag, which is sometimes called a link tag. Next, there’s the href attribute. Otherwise known as the hyperlink referral, the href attribute contains the URL of the link itself. This URL could be a link to another web page, a download prompt or an image asset.
Then there’s the anchor text. This is the only part of the internal link that site visitors see. Anchor text should be descriptive and ideally include keywords that are relevant to the page that is linking to. Finally, a closing tag is used to complete the link.
Internal Linking Structure Best Practices
When implementing internal links, you need to think about structural hierarchy. To make life simple, start from the top and work your way down. Begin with the homepage, before moving on to key category pages and related subcategories. You then link down to things like service pages and blog entries. Always remember to include a link that will let visitors return to the homepage in a single click.
As well as being user-friendly, this hierarchical structure makes your site accessible to search engine crawlers. You also need to consider crawl depth. The more clicks that are required to arrive at a destination, the higher your bounce rate will be. Although you’ll need to use a combination of contextual and navigational links, your aim should be to use as few links as possible if you want to maximise conversions.
Complete Your Internal Linking Strategy Today
If you’re serious about strengthening your SEO strategy, internal linking needs to be a priority. By investing in rich content, creating descriptive anchors and being strategic with your use of internal links, you can dramatically improve user experience and crawlability. However, internal linking needs to be an ongoing process. Every time you add a new page or blog post to your site, make sure you’re adding internal links to high-authority pages. What’s more, you need to keep an eye on things like broken links and orphan pages.
If you’re still struggling to make sense of internal linking, it’s time to call in the experts. At Digital Funnel, we’re a full-service SEO and digital PR company that can help you with everything from keyword research to planning and executing a strategic SEO campaign. Looking to expand into a larger market? Our national SEO company services will help you take those next steps.
Need to talk about internal linking or other SEO services? Drop us a message via the online contact form or call the team at +353 (0) 21 2028 072 today.