Your internal linking strategies could be killing your SEO experience. It might even be causing a search engine to penalize your website because it hasn’t been properly done. Everything today in the world of search engine optimization involves value. Your internal linking must provide a visitor with value in some way in order for it to be considered a method of increasing search placement.
This means there must be an emphasis on the user experience [UX] of each content page that is on a domain. Links that are bothersome, distract from the content being read, or leads a visitor to content that is not relevant to the link that brought them to your site in the first place are going to be looked at in a questionable way. If the content naturally links together, then create an internal link. If it doesn’t, then you’re better off not providing an internal link at all instead of putting up one that doesn’t make sense.
Here are some other proven internal linking strategies that will help to boost your overall rankings over time.
1. Think About How SEO Breadcrumbs Work
When someone is visiting your website, you don’t really have any control over how they get there. It could be from a search engine, a direct address that is put into a browser, or from an incoming link on another site. Visitors don’t just land on your home page either. They’ll land anywhere on your site. Without breadcrumbs, once a visitor has completed their task
Visitors who can figure out how to navigate through your site with internal linking will prove that there is value in what you’ve providing and potentially give your site a boost. Breadcrumbs are a great way to look at this point. By having navigation links to a home page, a main menu page, and then sub-menu pages, any visitor is just a few clicks away from where they need to be. There’s no better way to enhance your UX than this.
2. Make Site Wide Linking Organized, Clean, and User-Friendly
If you have every single sub-menu option visible and available for linking, then there’s a good chance that your site is going to be penalized. You’ve got to keep your menu links, header links, and footer links all clean and organized in order for them to be found valuable.
Think about how your computer file structure is setup on most operating systems. When you pull up the file browser window, you’ll be given the chance to look at all of the individual files that are in a particular folder. If you up a level, you won’t see those files any more, but you’ll see the file where they’re located. Go up another level and all you may see are folders.
This is the same approach that a website should use today. Start with a main folder, branch off with menus, and then put your sub-menus underneath the primary menus. This will keep everything clean and neat and reduce the chances of being accused of artificial internal link manipulation.
3. Put In Specific Points of Interest That Aren’t A Normal Part Of The UX
There are a lot of pages that visitors are going to find interesting, but may not actually be within the natural flow of information that is being processed at any given time. This is where having internal linking to your secondary navigation points is going to give your domain an SEO benefit. A discounts page, for example, would be a specific point of interest that internal linking would find to be valuable.
4. Visitors Are Going To Visit Your Most Popular Pages Anyway
Have you seen how many blogs are putting up sidebar menu options that will take you to their most popular articles. These internal site wide links do nothing for your SEO. They might even hurt it, in fact, because they are often included on every single page. For internal links to be effective, they need to have some relationship to the primary or secondary content that has been included on that page.
Most sidebar content links that are site wide in nature don’t make the grade when it comes to this fact. Is it worthwhile to get a few extra clicks on popular pages when it can dramatically drag down your SEO so that it potentially drops off the first page? Not usually. By reducing the amount of site wide links that are available, you will actually be increasing the value of the links that stay behind and this will give your UX more value.
5. Your Links Have To Be Relational In Nature 100% Of The Time
A common error that is made on websites today comes from people who are following the advice of putting in as many links as possible. This doesn’t need to be done. The only internal links you should be installing, in fact, are links that will take a visitor to related content. Here are some examples of what relational value looks like.
- A content post that is about a specific video game links to other content that also mentions the same video game.
- An e-commerce website that is selling a swimsuit links to their internal blog that reviews that particular swimsuit.
- Links to an internal forum thread that discusses how the instructions of a blog post are effective or ineffective can continue the visitor evaluation process.
6. Does The Internal Link Make Sense?
Every link that is included on a site should provide value in some way. This means that it must make sense in some way. Breadcrumbs make sense because they provide navigation value. Related content links make sense because it deepens the experience of value that visitors have when they engage with your site.
This is where site testing can really help you out. Get a few folks to take a look at your linking schemes and ask them about how valuable they found the links to be. If no one even noticed the links, then there’s a really good chance that search engines will penalize your site for being “over optimized.” If they find the links to be worthless, then the same result is likely to happen. Feedback here is critical. The more detailed it is, the better your linking will be in the long run.
7. Don’t Ever Pay For Links
Many sites have paid internal links that are killing their SEO. Seriously. Here’s the issue: have you ever paid for content? For most site owners, the answer is usually “No.” If they have, they’ve hired an independent contractor as work for hire, so it’s effectively their own content anyway. Having advertising installed on a page, linking to ads, or having a sponsor put their brand on one of your blog posts and you link to these things means that you’re effectively paying for the internal links.
Paying for internal links is just as bad as paying for back links. It is the fastest way to get yourself a manual penalty through artificial link creation and the end results are never pretty. Sometimes it is better to not have paid content on your site [such as advertising] to avoid this problem altogether.
8. Your Anchor Texts Still Matter, Even Though It Is An Internal Link
Value is associated with the actual text that is included with the link in addition to how it relates to the overall UX of a site. Anchor texts that are commonly installed say things like “Click here” or “Visit this page” or even worse: “This link.”
Just as your internal links must be relational in nature, your internal anchor texts must also be relational in nature. The actual text of the link must provide some sort of value to the user experience. Instructing people to click on a certain link might make them more prone to actually click on it, but it won’t provide you with value.
This is where your keywords matter. If you can incorporate keywords within the natural flow of your content, make them relational in nature, and then make them be the actual anchor text, then you’ll be able to maximize the internal SEO linking that you’ve got going on.
9. Link The Most From Your Top Value Pages
Your PageRank is based on the value of your best pages. It makes sense to link from these top pages to some of your most valuable deeper pages. Many site owners do this in reverse: they link into their most powerful pages. Most people are going to hit the high ranked pages first, so that’s where your paths throughout the site need to begin. Breadcrumbs and other light linking on the other pages can guide visitors onto these main paths.
With the right SEO linking tactics, you’ll be able to have a great website that has maximized its optimization potential. Include them today and you may just find a higher ranked site in the near future.