t doesn’t matter what your opinion is on links; the fact is they’re a major element that can influence a site’s position for better or worse. There are two types of links that help with this, internal and external. For this first segment, we’ll be focusing on just internal linking.
What are internal links?
Internal links are the surprise, links that point from one page on a website to another page on the same internet site. Do you have the main navigation?
Congratulations you’ve also got internal links. But those are site-wide, meaning visible from every page. Any pages that are deeper in the site will most likely not be linked to from every page and will need some help in getting some visibility. There are a few things you can do, one is to add more internal links to them so individuals and search engines viewing your site will find them, the other is to build external links to them. But we’re talking internal linking for now. We’ll get to external links in a bit.
Why are internal links necessary?
First off, they help users and search engines find content deeper in your site. Having the main navigation, and even sub navigation is great, but chances are you’ve got content deeper than 2-3 pages on your site. These deeper pages in the site (the ones that most likely have detailed product information) aren’t linked to sitewide and need some visibility.
In addition to getting more visibility, linking to internal pages is a way of telling the search engines which pages have valuable information users would want to look at. Think of internal linking as a way of saying “Here are the pages on our site we feel important and valuable to potential customers”. And just like we’ll learn with external linking, it’s important to use a variety of anchor text and use them within the related content.
Internal links also help in structuring the information architecture of a site.
How and when do you use them?
So you’ve got internal pages that need some exposure. What’s the best way to link to them internally? Well, there are a few ways:
One way is to link to those pages from a blog post. The best example I always refer to when explaining internal linking in a blog post is Outspoken Media. The content flows makes sense, and never comes across as spammy. If you want to do the same, when you add some internal links in blog posts the links have to make sense, both as a reference and grammatically.
Another way is to do what I referenced in the previous section, is to mention that page from another page. For example, if your site has product pages it would be a good idea to add a section below the focused product on that page called “related products”. In that section, you would link to the products/services that are relevant to the product/service on the initial page.
One more way to make use of internal links is to link to other pages mentioned in a summary page.
For example, if your site didn’t have a sub navigation page the summary of services or products page for that section of the site would be a good way to link to more relevant services or products found elsewhere on your site.
Another possibility is to run a contest. Now I’ll admit, this can also take on multiple avenues of promotion, but if you’re company is running a contest and pushing it socially, buying ads and even pushing a link building campaign to promote it, you should also be linking to it and the correlating pages internally. It’s awesome to run a contest and gain more visitors or consumers, but you also want to drive that traffic to particular pages while they are on the site. People and search engines follow links, so if you’ve got the content or product on your site, link to it!
A few things to keep in mind
Now, before you go adding links, there are a few items to watch out for.
One, don’t over-saturate a page with links. Whether the links are internal or external doesn’t matter. There’s no reason to add links to a page for the sake of adding links. If it makes sense add the link, if not don’t. Do you need to add some links to a page to link to other pages? Write some new content that is about the content on that page as well as to the page you’re about to add the link to.
Pages overrun with links not only distract users from digesting the content, but they can also cause topical dilution. A big contributor to this is the “related” link section seen on many websites. Retail sites are notorious for this. You saw the while browsing a particular product or section of a website below the main content is a “related products” with links to some products that are related while others aren’t quite as in the same category. It can be effective when used properly, just make sure the items being pulled to be shown as “related” help strengthen the focus of the page/section of the site rather than take away from it.
What are some tools to help?
If your site is big enough or is growing in that direction, you’ll need some help in keeping track of the links. The last thing you want to run into is a bunch of broken links.
Here are a few tools we use:
Broken Link Checker for WordPress
This plugin scans your WordPress site on a regular basis to check for broken links. When it finds an error it notifies you by email; it also has a counter at the dashboard that will display the number of broken links you’ll see when you log in.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider Tool
There are two types of downloads of this nifty tool. The first one is the free version, which scans up to 500 URI, and the paid version which removes the limit providing a tonne of data. You can use the free version and scan areas of your site by entering in the section of the site you want to look at, but in my opinion, its well worth the purchase. If you don’t want to buy it, that’s okay; there is a tool out there that will scan the entire site without any limits for free.
Xenu Link Sleuth
This tool will scan your entire site report back status codes of pages and show you what pages the links are on. I’ll admit, the user interface isn’t nearly as clean as the Screaming Frog tool, but it gets the job done.
These tools are merely tools. They can’t do the job for you. After you’ve cleaned up, any broken links go through the site yourself or have someone else do it.
Ask them if the links within the content make sense. Internal links are roadmaps to the content within your site, plain and simple. But they’re also only part of the puzzle when it comes to moving your way up in the search results.