One often overlooked aspect of organic SEO is internal linking. There are very simple ways for you to weave some strategic links throughout your content – focusing power on the pages you value most. So how do we approach internal link building?
The efforts to internally cross-link your content are usually cost-effective. It is often something you can fully manage on your own, even as a sole proprietor. You can also hire moderately low-level help.
The following are some simple things to consider for optimizing internal links:
“Tagging” Keywords in Contextual Links
In the body text of your pages, link to other pages within the website. It is one of the strongest signals you can send. It seems simple, but especially as the depth of your website grows, the mesh of links it contains helps establish page and domain value.
Tagging specific keywords with a link to a relevant internal page is a wonderful strategy to accomplish two things: to aim keyword power at specific pages, and to connect your readers to more relevant information.
Does the location of links on the page affect SEO?
Location of links on the page is believed by many SEOs to potentially play a part in your overall link building strategy. Generally, links higher-up in the post may have slightly more assumed value than links occurring lower in the post. A well-balanced sprinkling of links throughout a page makes a good strategy.
For a more specific example, let’s say you’re selling office supplies and have part of the website devoted to a shopping cart of individual supplies. You could then hyperlink instances of product names in the text of the site to lead to the same pages in the shopping cart.
Or, you could hyperlink more strategically competitive terms like “office supplies” “find office tools” and similar variations to push juice to the main landing page design of the shopping cart.
Vary the keyphrases in length and content. Don’t only link “office supplies” every time it occurs on your website – it will be too repetitive as link anchor text, quickly identified, and likely discounted. Instead, you want to vary the link anchor text to reduce the potential of these types of over-optimization penalties or potential filters.
Pushing more strength from one solid page to another will help the website have a higher overall authority. You can also try to focus and aim some of this strength more deliberately, to build on the page with the highest proven conversion rates, or the page with the best lead-to-conversion ratio.
If you are using WordPress, Drupal, or another kind of blogging/CMS software, you can use plugins that will automatically cross-link your pages for you.
However you accomplish it, internally linking your pages from the text within other pages is a strong, simple, and cost-efficient way to improve the SEO effectiveness of your website.
Hint: If you use absolute rather than relative URLs for your internal links, if (or when!) someone scrapes your content to publish elsewhere, the links may remain in place. That means add the whole thing, including the http.
Banners and Images
Link the banner and other images. It may seem elemental, but make sure the logo banner links back to the index of the root domain. An embedded logo banner link has pretty much universally replaced the need for a home button in current websites. People will look to click your logo or banner to return to your homepage, so code it with an absolute path to your domain.
If you use other banners or images, you can link these to deeper pages as appropriate. The keyword connection is not as clearly made with an image link as it is with an in-text reference. So take advantage of what you can.
Use keyword-rich alt attributes, captions, and keyword-aware image names. While none of these individual things will carry a lot of weight, collectively, small signals add up and help to create a more positive overall page/site strength.
Since an image link will lack specific anchor text, you can use every piece of metadata and naming convention at your disposal to try to build strength and keyword association. Be conscious of the text surrounding your images as well, as this may be something you can optimize.
Hint: there are usually stronger ways to link than using images, but take full advantage of internal linking and optimizing every image used. Never overlook the ease of adding a properly optimized alt attribute to an image, or renaming the actual file strategically.
Categories and Sidebars
Sidebar links are another way for you to try and boost the value of internal website pages. If you are using a CMS like WordPress, categories will be an option that allows you to link and categorize your posts. If you have a static website, you can code sidebar navigation or various feature boxes that connect to valuable content.
In both cases, the individual pages may be available through the main or sub navigation, but adding the additional links in the sidebar will push more strength toward the pages listed.
It is smart to make sure that you are not accidentally duplicating content through the use of categories. This is typically an issue with larger websites, but it is something to be careful to avoid.
Sometimes, it is necessary to use noindex metadata and the robots.txt file to steer the search spiders away from counting category listings as duplicate listings. Sometimes, it is necessary to modify the code of the site or template slightly, to prevent the creation of multiple URLS pointing to the same piece of content.
The rule of thumb that will help you in SEO: One file = One URL. No matter where I come from on a website – a category page, navigational link, or an in-text reference, the corresponding file I land on should always have the same URL. Ensuring this and including the proper SEO URLs in your sidebars and category listings can help you point more internal strength and traffic toward the selected pages.
The value of a sidebar link is not going to be as high as the value of an in-text, contextual link. The fact that the link repeats with the same anchor in the same location across multiple pages diminishes the overall effect.
This is not to say to avoid using them, for they are good ways to bring site visitors into the content you wish them to see. Just don’t expect to see a tremendous lift from the use of sidebar links – they do not seem to send that strong of a signal to the search engines. Use them to improve the usability and connections within your website content.
It is a pattern that the search engines notice, and tend to disregard. As noted above, the location of links on a page has been noted as a possible algorithm value, making the physical location of a footer link a bit more undesirable.
While it doesn’t seem likely that you’ll risk any kind of penalty from including a lot of footer links, it is also unlikely that you would see a substantial return. Again, they are a signal that the search engines will register quickly and tend to dismiss or diminish when compared to other forms of in-text, contextually relevant links.
From a users’ perspective, the footer is a place that often holds information about the site’s owners, contact information, and legal stuff.
How you use the footer links of your website will vary greatly by niche. However, before you spend too much time on them, it is best to remember that this is only one signal sent, and it has been recently supported that it is not the strongest signal you can send. Use them sparingly, and you’ll likely see better results.
Using the robots.txt and no follow link attributes, you can restrict what the search engines index as far as your footer links while leaving the links intact for your users.
At the end of a post, linking to other posts that share the same theme can be strategic. In this way, you are answering the users’ needs but you’ll also push the search engines back to a page you feel is relevant.
The more users that agree with you (by clicking through), the more activity will happen around the older posts of your site. This activity in your deeper content is a signal to the search engines, and a positive one.
There are a variety of different strategies you might employ to take advantage of related posts. There are automated solutions and plugins that will help you make connections, and link your older, related posts.
A good strategy to encourage more click-throughs is to remove the separation of the post content and the suggested links.
Often, related posts might have a colored box or other graphic delineation that sets them apart from the content. If you remove that separation, you might find better click-through rates.
In a way, applying related posts in this manner becomes more like part of the post – but it is a strategy you can separate from the actual creation of the post.
You can hand-write specific suggestions at the end of each post, suggesting other, older posts to read to further the ideas. The variety you offer helps to keep each reference unique, and more powerful.
Search engines and users both adore unique SEO content, so using a cleverly worded lead-in to more of what they want should help you. Hand-writing each is a little more time-consuming than using a plugin or automated solution to connect related posts. However, stepping away from automation will make your site appear stronger in most cases.
Writing unique lead-ins to related posts may be a small signal, but it is one you can control and easily optimize as a site owner.
Throughout the content of a post, it is a good idea to link out freely to relevant, on-topic resources. In addition to showing the search engines the types of websites with which you want yours to be associated, by linking out freely to other sites, you are improving the experience of all web users.
You can choose to have the links followed or not, which is a decision every webmaster makes. There is a thought that linking out to other websites might bleed off the accrued value of a page.
However, look at successful websites in any niche. Most link freely when appropriate, which is part of why they become valuable, trusted resources. Understanding this, you should feel free to link out to relevant sites, to build more connections for the engines and users to follow.
If you want to restrict the value passed, use the rel=”nofollow” attribute in the syntax of your links. While it is not a guarantee that this link will not be followed, it is a means for you to clearly state your intentions for how you’d prefer it to be handled.
These are some of the more common ways that you can build up a little website strength and authority through internal linking.
Remember that while some of the efforts in building on-site strength may seem small, the small, positive things you do with your website do add up. The end result can be a stronger, more profitable website with better chances for growth.