Given that there are now so many aspects of SEO for marketers to manage, anything that doesn’t reach off-site can be under-estimated and left unconsidered: but internal linking for SEO should not be overlooked and here we explain why.
What is Internal Linking?
An internal link is any link from one page to another within the same website or domain. Users of a website use these links to navigate around the content on the site and to find the content they want, and (hopefully) take a desired ‘conversion’ action. Internal linking for SEO refers not just to the easy navigation of a website for its users, but also for the navigation of search engine crawlers around the domain to determine its content, appropriate audience, authenticity and usefulness.
How Internal Linking For SEO Fits in With Other Aspects of SEO
Internal linking is not a direct SEO contributor in the way that keyword usage or mobile responsiveness is. It does, however, act as an indirect contributor. Internal linking around a website connects content and helps the ‘crawlers’ of search engines build a contextual map in order to rank it appropriately.
While external linking may demonstrate authenticity and trustworthiness to search engines from external sources, internal linking helps it then decide how to rank its content: creating a hierarchy by providing more important, content-heavy and most-visited pages more link equity than those that aren’t frequented or found to be useful. As a result, the more internal links to a page establish higher potential for good SEO ranking performance.
Why is Internal Linking for SEO Important?
Google and other search engines may be able to read your webpage as it stands alone, but there is only so much information that can be gleaned from a single page. Internal linking allows search engines to better comprehend not just the topic but also the value of a website, by maximising the content to be analysed. Internal linking allows search engines an indication of which pages are most important, and so help best present websites on SERPs in the most effective manner.
Internal linking is also positive for UX (User Experience) as it allows users to navigate and identify useful content, engaging users for as long as possible on the site and ensuring they’re able to access as much information as they need to before leaving.
Both benefits of internal linking are important, but it is critical that webmasters and marketers balance the two.
How do Internal Links impact on Bounce Rates?
The Bounce Rate of a website or page is the amount of users, usually expressed in a percentage, that arrive on a domain and then leave the domain to ‘bounce’ elsewhere: either to head back to a search engine, to visit somewhere else online, or to close the browser entirely. Bounce Rates vary hugely across industries and page types, but generally speaking, a lower Bounce Rate is better than a high one as it indicates the content within a page is engaging, valuable and relevant to the audience.
Internal linking for SEO or just for navigational purposes helps lower a website’s Bounce Rate and increasing the average overall time on-site as it encourages users to spend longer on the domain and ensures they needn’t immediately click elsewhere for information. This can help organisation’s websites gain competitive advantage above others and better their conversion rates.
How is Internal Linking Positive for UX?
Without internal linking throughout a website, users will only access the information or content on the page which they’re on and will be unable to take any further actions. This will inevitably result in them having to leave the site and search elsewhere for whatever it is they’re looking for if not immediately found; unless it is somehow addressed on the single page.
Internal linking for SEO promotes a good UX: keeping users on the domain for longer, presenting them with links relevant to their interest and encouraging further exploration. All of this demonstrates brand authenticity and trustworthiness, creating an overall positive perception of the website.
Types of Internal Links
There are two main types of internal links within a website.
The first, and almost always present (and certainly almost always required!) links are navigational links. These are those present on the homepage and supplementary webpages and menu that allow users to easily move around the site, accessing the pages they need to.
The second type of internal links are contextual links. These are links embedded within other on-site content, pointing users to other interesting and related content within the site. Contextual links encourage users to work around the website and allow search engines to understand the value of such content. The more contextual links a webpage receives, the higher up the hierarchy and the added importance search engines will add to it.
Both types of internal links are important and both can be considered positive contributors toward both UX and SEO.
Internal Linking Best Practices
Search engine algorithms and best practices shift and change all the time, but there are some that can be followed for internal linking processes.
While there is no definitive limit to how many links should be included on any one webpage, Google has indicated that its crawlers have the ability to read hundreds of links per page. However, a balance must be drawn here between ability and functionality. While it may be considered beneficial for search engines to have hundreds of links to move between and read, this is likely to result in a poor UX through the likelihood of incorrectly or mistakenly clicking links and the interruption of content.
It is best practice for webmasters and marketers to review their internal linking regularly in order to ensure they are not missing any obvious opportunities that could prove beneficial for users. This includes a scan of content that may be appropriate for related topic linking and the inclusion of descriptive and appropriate anchor text.
Where to Begin with Improving Internal Linking for SEO
Businesses should begin their internal linking and SEO practices with a full website audit to ascertain a current position and to assert the best areas for improvement and work moving forward.
Specialist SEO experts such as Woya Digital are able to offer full service packages that help better internal linking for SEO and best practice, as well as ensuring these processes line up with other aspects of SEO to rank higher, reach the right audience/s and gain competitive advantage above competitors.