One of the most important aspects of On-Page SEO is including internal links on every page you add to your website. Topic-based SEO can be summarized by linking two semantically relevant website pages together, however, as with everything related to SEO, there is much more involved than a one-sentence summary presents.
The role of internal links is even more important when executing a topic-based SEO strategy. In this post, we will answer:
- What is internal linking?
- Why are internal links important for SEO?
- What are some internal link best practices for topic clusters?
Table of Contents
What is Internal Linking?
An internal link is any hyperlink that connects one page on your website to another. Both your site users and search engine bots use links to find content on your website.
There are several types of internal links. The standard internal links are those on your menu bar, which allow users to quickly move through your most important pages, such as your home, about me, services, and contact pages.
In addition to the menu links, you can add links within your content. Those are often called contextual links. Contextual links connect your users to relevant content on your site that will give them additional context about a subject.
Additionally, contextual links tell search engines what content on your site is related and communicate its priority value. The more links a significant page receives, the more important it will seem to search engines. This is why having a good internal link strategy is crucial for your topic-cluster SEO strategy.
A local business that features multiple services likely wants to rank for each keyword in their industry. Creating individual service pages that focus on the keywords and then linking relevant blog articles with semantically related long-tailed keywords to each core service page will help search engines understand that the service page is the core page or the page that should rank first.
Why are Links Important to Google?
Links are an essential factor for Google and other search engines because they allow the crawlers that read your website to contextualize and categorize your page or blog post.
Google explains, “We use software known as web crawlers to discover publicly available webpages. Crawlers look at webpages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those webpages back to Google’s servers.”
If a post or page receives a lot of referral links, this is a signal to Google that it’s a high-value piece of content. While we can’t always control how many external links a page receives, we can help Google understand how to prioritize the content on our site using a topic cluster strategy.
Read more about how to structure Topic Clusters on our post What are Topic Clusters in Topic-Based Search Marketing?
Internal Links vs. External Links
Every website, even an online store, should look for ways to include both internal and external links. Internal links connect pages and posts on your website, and external links connect your pages to other websites. External links sometimes referred to as outbound links, are one way that potential customers and search engines can discover and contextualize your content. External links are also important to include on your website pages and within blog articles because they can improve organic traffic, build trust, and even facilitate relationships with other businesses.
Internal Linking Best Practices
When it comes to best practices, many opinions and case studies attempt to prove the most effective ways to implement linking strategies. Here are some best practices for using links in topic clusters:
It is widely stated that link placement greatly impacts your opportunity to rank. However, John Mueller at Google directly addressed link placement for internal and external links. When directly asked if the placement of internal links matters, John responded, “Google uses internal links to understand context & for crawling. For those, it doesn’t matter where the link is. Location is more important for content where G (Google) wants to focus on the primary content.” Mueller also said that “we use it to understand the context better, so things like the anchor text helps us.”
To summarize, while the placement of the link may not matter, the words that support the link, known as the anchor text, are important. Moreover, they should be contextually relevant to help Google quickly categorize the content semantically.
SEO Roundtable points out link placement “may be different for external links, where Google may value external links differently based on where those external links are placed.”
Use Anchor Text Strategically
As mentioned above, anchor text matters. The words you connect your internal link to may help search engine crawlers to better understand your website, its structure, and the value you provide to users. The words should be relevant to the content you are linking.
Practice Keyword Mapping
Using a keyword map makes it easy to track your internal linking structure. A keyword map will help you quickly identify which long-tail keywords are linked to each core topic as well as each supporting page. This is especially important when you have multiple services or products with various keywords you are trying to rank for. Keyword maps ensure each page ranks for the correct terms you are targeting, and it will also help you avoid orphan content.
Check for Orphan Content
Orphan content is the name for a web page without any links. The biggest issue with orphan content is that it is nearly impossible for search engines or users to reach the pages without links.
Use Natural Links
As we’ve noted, in addition to linking a web page to your core page, you will want to include additional links throughout the content. But how many links do you want to include? The only statement we’ve heard from Google on the matter is to “be reasonable.”
The definition of reasonableness will vary from person to person. It may be best to use different considerations when choosing whether to link content. Evaluate a link based on its relevance, what your anchor text is, and how old the content is before linking it.
Think about links that will be helpful to your reader. For example, link definitions, content that adds context to a difficult concept, or an article or video that builds on a skill you describe are all great options for natural links.
Use NoFollow and DoFollow Signals Correctly
Dofollow links tell a search engine to follow the link and the associated site. Nofollow links tell search crawlers not to follow a link. Your core page includes links with both types of links. It may confuse the crawlers if incorrect tags are used.
A nofollow attribution is usually added to an internal link to instruct search crawlers not to crawl that URL. When this is added, it is also intended to prevent link equity such as Google’s PageRank from passing to the linked URL. (Sitebulb)
A final application for a nofollow link is to prevent a penalty for using external links. This is a typical practice used by high authority sites that tend to have a lot of external links on their site.
Implementing internal links in topic clusters in strategic ways will improve your site user experience. Additionally, you should see an improvement in your search engine rankings and your domain authority because this strategy clarifies the context of your content. If you are interested in learning more about how this strategy will benefit your website, send us a message.