As a business owner, you’re always looking for ways to improve your website’s ranking on search engines so more of your ideal customers find you online. One of the easiest ways to do this is by optimizing your internal linking structure.
In this final part of our series about maximizing your search engine optimization, we’ll dive into the principles of internal linking for SEO and share some resources to help you improve your site’s performance.
- Every time you publish a new piece of content to your website, ensure it links to existing pages of your site using relevant anchor text
- Also update existing content on your website to link to this new content, using (you guessed it) relevant anchor text
What Is Internal Linking?
Internal links are hyperlinks that send a site visitor to another page on your website, versus to an external website. For example, in the introduction of this blog post, we internally linked to the first installment in our series about maximizing your search engine optimization.
We could also hyperlink to any other page on our website that makes sense, such as our About page, in case you’re wondering why we’re experts in helping business owners like you learn SEO. (Hey, that right there was also an internal link!)
Internal links are within your control. You can use them to send readers to where it makes sense–and maximize the SEO benefits as well.
Why Is Internal Linking Important for SEO?
In addition to helping site visitors navigate their way around, internal links are a crucial part of SEO.
1. Site Structure
Internal links help search engines (like Google and Bing) understand your site’s structure and track the relationships between pages.
2. Passing Authority
Internal links can pass authority. Basically, if you have one webpage that lots of other websites link to, it gives your page authority, meaning search engines deduces that the content is highly valuable. They should naturally prioritize your page in search query results because it’s so authoritative on the subject.
When you internally link from that valuable page which is recognized as authoritative by Google, the new page also gets authority passed on to it.
3. Increasing Time on Your Site
If your internal links are helpful to your site visitors, this will increase the time they spend navigating your website because they’ll be intrigued continuously by more and more relevant information. The longer they’re on your site, the better, in search engines’ eyes–it suggests your website is valuable, and therefore it will be more likely to appear in search results.
The 3 Most Common Types of Internal Links
These are links in your website menu that send visitors to your main pages. You can also have navigational links on the footer of your website, showing up at the bottom of every page.
These are the hyperlinks in the main text (body content) throughout your web pages, like the examples we gave you earlier. Keep in mind that the text you highlight for an internal link should be keyword rich.
For example, in a text like this:
Experience the best ice cream in the Ottawa area with our new collection.
Don’t just hyperlink “our new collection” – hyperlink “the best ice cream in the Ottawa area,” like this (of course, it’s a fake link for our purposes):
Experience the best ice cream in the Ottawa area with our new collection.
Internal links that show up in sidebars or “related post” sections of blogs and recipe sites, for example, are sidebar links. As long as they’re truly relevant to the site visitor in that context, they can be a great, eye-catching way to place internal links on a page.
How to Use Internal Linking to Maximize SEO as a Small Business Owner
1. Identify Your Pillar Pages
What are the most important pages on your website? Let’s continue with our earlier example.
Let’s say you’re an Ottawa-based ice cream shop. You offer many flavours of ice cream and have a landing page that previews them all–that would be a great pillar page. Why? It covers a broad topic related to your business or industry.
You can also check what your authority pages are to identify good pillar pages. (Remember, pages with authority have a lot of external websites linking to them). Try a beginner-friendly resource like the free Ahrefs Backlink Checker to find yours. You might also find it fun to see what websites are sending people your way!
2. Identify Your Secondary Pages
Continuing our example, let’s say after the landing page, you have individual pages for each type of ice cream, like one page for all the sorbets, one for the classic ice creams, and one for the gelatos. Why are these good secondary pages for your internal linking plan? They’re more specific than your pillar page, and they provide more details on those subtopics.
So, on your main ice cream landing page, you’ll want to internally link to the sorbet, classic, and gelato pages.
By linking from a pillar page to associated secondary pages, you’re creating a more organized and cohesive website structure for search engines. Plus, linking the pages this way also makes sense for the user experience.
3. Link Every Page to Another Page
In general, no matter what page of your website we’re talking about, you should always ensure it links to another page. A page without any internal links is called an orphan page. Orphan pages can hurt your website’s performance because search engines have a harder time understanding their importance and relevance. By linking every page to another page, you’re helping search engines crawl and index your site more efficiently.
Worried you already have orphan pages? No need to worry–you can use tools like Screaming Frog to identify orphan pages on your site. Once you’ve identified any orphan pages, you can simply add internal links to them (and from them) to improve their visibility and authority.
4. Remember to Link New Pages to Existing Pages
When you add any new page to your website, including a new product page or a blog post, it’s essential to include at least one link on it to an existing page. You should also find 1-3 older pages, especially pillar pages, that you could update to link to the new page, in order to pass authority. Linking new and established pages from the get-go helps search engines understand the new page’s relevance and importance to your site’s overall structure as quickly as possible.
For example, if you’re adding the gelato page to your website for the first time because it’s a new product line, you can find older links to a blog article you wrote a while back about the gelato culture in Italy and how it’s different from classic Canadian ice cream. You could also update that blog article to mention that you now sell your own gelatos to locals in the Ottawa area, and hyperlink that text to the gelato product page.
By doing this, you’re creating a web of internal links that help search engines understand your site’s hierarchy and importance.
A Common SEO Mistake with Internal Linking
We’ve just told you all how great internal links are for your SEO–but you can tip the scales in the wrong direction by going overboard. Using too many internal links on a single page can be confusing for site visitors and search engines alike. It makes it hard for both to identify which of the linked pages are truly relevant and most important on your site. For search engines, it also makes it difficult to decide how to interpret the relationships between each page and understand your site structure.
Also, there’s no need to use the same internal link multiple times on the same page. For example, if you mention gelato multiple times on your piller ice cream landing page, you could just hyperlink it in the body text or a button the first time, and that would be enough. You don’t have to hyperlink it again each time the word “gelato” appears.
Wrap-Up: Using Internal Links to Maximize your SEO
This wraps up our four-part series on optimizing SEO for your business website! A key takeaway we want you to remember is that what’s good for SEO is generally what’s good for the site visitor/your potential customer. They go hand in hand! And making both search engines and customers happy is just good business.
As we’ve seen, internal linking is a relatively easy part of SEO that you have control over as a business owner. By following the principles outlined in this guide and using tools like the ones we mentioned, you can build an organized internal linking structure that will benefit your business and customers for years to come.