It’s no secret that external links give more authority and ranking ability than internal links. This has been true for quite a while, but does that mean that we should stop caring about internal links? Of course not.
What’s the Big Freaking Difference?
Think of an external link as a vote of confidence from an independent website to your website; that website is telling its users that your site is a great place to go for the type of information they’re looking for. An internal link is like a vote for yourself, so search engines don’t treat it the same way.
The Purpose of Internal Links
The motivation behind an internal link is to drive visitors from one place to another on your site. Internal links show them where they need to navigate. In the early stages of the internet, internal links didn’t hold much clout, but in today’s world, they have the power and ability to change rankings, crawling patterns, and even how a search engine views your site—but you’ve got to do them right! Getting internal links wrong can do more harm than good.
Follow these tips to get your site’s internal linking structure in tiptop shape:
Keep Pages to Three Link Hops Away from Another
On most small to medium sites, it’s a good idea to keep pages three links away from the home page and three links away from any other page on the site. Failing to do this will cause users to get lost in long pathways that force them to endlessly click before they reach what they’re looking for; that’s obviously not ideal and can even increase your bounce rate. By building smart categories and subcategories on your site, you’ll help users navigate quickly and efficiently.
Only Link to Pages that Are Relevant and Useful
If users aren’t clicking on a link, that’s a bad sign and it’s a bad signal for Google. Make sure that you’re using your internal links relevantly, providing users with a useful path of information. For example, on a car dealer’s site, you wouldn’t want a page about a specific car model to bring the user to the dealership’s “About Us” page; instead, you’d want to point the user in the direction of the inventory page for that particular model.
No Two Pages Should Target the Same Keyword or Searcher Intent. No Two Links Should Share the Same Anchor Text.
This strategy will only create competition between your own pages, and nobody wants that! Stay away from having two things that serve the same function (or would at least appear to serve the same function to users and search engines). Make sure your link title text and anchor text are keyword variations that indicate where the link will be taking the user. The keywords used in the anchor text should be descriptive and give a sense of the topic of keywords the source page is trying to target.
Avoid Creating Orphan Pages
The pages that matter should always have links to and from them; they should never be left as orphans on your site. A page without links to it should simply not exist on your site. Likewise, a well-linked page should always link back to other portions of your site that are of interest and value to both visitors and search engines.
Follow these simple steps, and they’ll make a world of difference. Not only will you have a better optimized internal linking structure, it’ll help your SEO efforts and provide more value to visitors on your site!