I’m a big fan of little links. Internal links are the underrated workhorse of SEO, usability and conversions. They’re easy to make, easy to manage …and often overlooked. But not today.
This post is a guide to a powerhouse internal linking strategy. We’ll review three types of internal links that make a huge difference in results. Each of which you can easily add to your website. But first…
An internal link is a link from one page to another page on the same domain. We’re talking about regular, text links from one page on your website to another. Of course, your website navigation is an example of internal linking, but here we’re talking about links in the content, on the pages.
An external link is a link from another site to your site. They’re important for referral traffic and SEO, but they’re on other websites. You can’t control them. Internal links are easy. You can make them in minutes. Note: external links also refer to links from your site to another site, but we’re talking about other sites linking back to you.
Internal linking is important for three reasons, strengthening three parts of your funnel.
So let’s look at a linking tip for each of the three types. If you’re just interested in the list of ten internal linking best practices, scroll down to the recommendations at the bottom.
First, let’s review: authority flows through the internet through links.
When one page links to another page, it passes some of its credibility to that page, increasing the likelihood that the second page will rank. This credibility is sometimes called “link juice,” but most search optimizers call it “authority.”
Tip: Why Don’t I Rank? The short video here explains how links affect SEO.
Links that come from another websites pass “Domain Authority” increasing the authority (and likelihood of ranking) of all the pages on your website. Internal links don’t do that.
They don’t increase the amount of authority of your overall website, but they do pass authority between pages on your website. They pass “Page Authority” from one page to another. Through links, pages can help each other rank in search engines.
Here’s a quick overview of the difference between internal and external links for SEO.
Here’s how to get the most SEO value from internal links:
Linking from the first type of page to the second is easy, free and fast. And it may make a big difference in ranking and traffic. Here’s how to find both types.
Use Moz’s Open Site Explorer to check. Just enter your domain and click on the “Top Pages” report. It will show you all of your pages, ranked in order of “Page Authority.” Links from pages with higher authority will pass the most authority and ranking potential. These are the pages you want to link from.
Another place to look is in Google Search Console in the Search Traffic > Links to Your Site > Your most linked content report. This shows the pages that have the most external links and the most authority.
Sort by “Source Domains.” Your homepage will likely be at the top, but scan down to interior pages. See any older blog posts? These are the pages from which you want to link.
Tip: Google Search Console also has a report showing which of your pages already has the most internal links pointing to it. Go to Search Traffic > Internal Links, and take a look.
Use Google Analytics to find the “low hanging fruit.” We’re going to do some SEO analysis and find the pages that are ranking right there in search results, but just past that page two tipping point.
Go to the Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries report. Set the date range for three months (this report doesn’t include data older than 90 days).
Create an advanced filter so you can see just the phrases for which you rank higher than 10 (as in, the “average position” is greater than ten, which generally means you’re ranking at the top of page two in Google). Here’s what that filter should look like.
Sort by average position. There’s your list of phrases for which you almost rank high!
Go to Google and search for each phrase to confirm the ranking and find the corresponding page. Don’t be surprised if some of the phrases are hard to find. If you have trouble finding a phrase from the queries report in your search results, just move on to the next one!
ProTip! The tool SEMrush makes it even easier to get this data, but you may need a paid subscription (worth it!) Go to the Domain Analytics > Organic Research > Positions report and add an advanced filter, as above. Sort by position and you’ll see all of your page two rankings.
Need help? How to Rank Higher In Google. There’s a short video here that explains this process.
Hopefully, you find a few great pages ranking at the top of page two, ready for more credibility and more visibility. These are the pages you want to link to.
From the high-authority page, just create a link somewhere within the body text of the page, to the almost-high-ranking page. A few tips:
[Tweet “Anything you do purely for the sake of SEO, without consideration for people, is spam. – @crestodina”]
This one simple link may be enough to push the rank up a bit for the page. If not, consider improving the page in other ways.
Some pages attract a lot visitors. Usually, this is because they already rank high or they get shared a lot. They are your traffic champions.
Other pages inspire a lot of visitors to take action. In content marketing, this is usually because they convert a high percentage of visitors into subscribers. They are your conversion champions.
Linking your traffic champions to your conversion champions can have a dramatic impact on your marketing. One little link can help connect your best cheese to your best mouse traps.
Here’s how to find your best cheese, your best mousetraps and connect them with an internal link.
This is easy to check in Analytics. Just go to the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report. Choose a nice long date range of three to six months. The report is sorted in order of the pages that had been viewed the most. Here’s your list of traffic champions.
Caution: As you scan down the list, think about pages that had traffic spikes due to PR hits or email campaigns. Keep in mind that those events won’t repeat themselves.
This is also in Analytics, but it takes more work to get to the data. We are looking for the pages and posts that convert visitors at the highest rate. Here’s how to find the blog posts that get the maximum percentage of visitors to subscribe.
Go to the Conversions > Goals > Reverse Goal Path report.
Select “newsletter subscriber” as the goal from the dropdown in the top left. (you’ll need to set up Google Analytics goals properly first!)
Create a spreadsheet with the list of pages from this report. In the left column list the pages. In the right column, list the total number of conversions (subscribers). If you have a lot of blog content, you may want to add at least 20 pages to this list.
Go to the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report.
Find the pages from your spreadsheet here, and add a third column showing the pageviews for each page.
Divide the conversions by the page views to view the conversion rate from visitor to subscribers for each page and sort by the pages with the highest conversion rates.
Notice how some pages convert waaaay more visitors into subscribers than others. Here’s your list of conversion champions!
Author’s Note: Apologies for these overly concise instructions. We’re thinking about making a video to explain this technique. Interested? Leave us a comment letting us know and we’ll make it a priority.
Somewhere in the text of the high-traffic pages, link to the high-converting pages. The more people click this link, the faster your email list will grow. So make it compelling.
Your goal as a digital marketer is to attract visitors, present then with powerful marketing claims, support these claims with evidence and then gently guide them to take action. Internal links are a key way to prompt visitors to act.
Look at the bottom of any of your marketing pages.
Here are some examples of internal links that you can put at the bottom of your marketing pages, that serve as calls-to-action.
You can imagine this little internal link helps generate leads.
Pro Tip! Make sure that no page on your website is a dead end. Find and remove every dead end on your website, and keep the visitors flowing.
Here are ten best practices for internal linking. What do these links look like? How many do you add? And where do you add them?
1. Make the anchor text within the links descriptive, using the target keyword of the page you’re linking to in the anchor text. When the link text includes the target keyphrase, it helps indicate the relevance of the page to Google.
You may need to get creative to find ways to use longer phrases as links.
Example: “Learning cable installation safety tips is always important.” Notice how the text within the link includes the target phrase of the page it’s linking to.
2. If you’re creating links to a page from several pages, use some variety in the linking text.
3. If you can’t find ways to use keywords within the body text, you can always add them as “Related Links” at the bottom of the page or post.
4. Even if you’re thinking about SEO, make every link with the visitors and the click in mind.
5. The total number of links on any page, including the navigation, should never be more than 75-100. Anything beyond that is too much. Fewer links means more link juice will be passed through each of the links. Use a link juice calculator to quickly show you the number of links and buttons on any page.
Caution: Large drop down menus can quickly increase the number of links on a page far beyond 100. This dilutes the SEO value passed from the page. Remember, each page has only a finite amount of authority it can pass, and that authority is divided by the number of links on the page. Use dropdown menus cautiously and always follow website navigation best practices.
6. Add links whenever it would be helpful to readers. If the pages don’t have related content, don’t link!
7. Link between pages and posts in the body of the article. The context of each link is important. Many SEOs believe that links within the body copy are weighted more heavily than links within the navigation.
8. Link from new to old and from old to new. Got a new post that relates to an older, high-value post or page? Add a link. Got an older post that’s still getting traffic from search engines or social sharing? Add a link.
You’re not done publishing a new page until you’ve linked to it from older pages.
Tip: Use the Google search operator to search your own site for related pages: “site:www.yoursite.com [keyword].” This is a way to quickly see all the mentions of the target phrase on all the pages of your site. Each of these pages are candidates for internal linking.
For example, if I wrote an article on this website about creating content, I can search Google for site:orbitmedia.com “content creation” to see every mention of that phrase on our site. Each of these instances of the phrase could be a link to the new page.
9. Link from pages with lots of link juice to pages that almost rank high, as described above.
10. Find broken links! Bad links are bad for SEO. Use a broken link checker to find these and fix them ASAP. Links usually break because the URL of a page was changed, so always be careful when changing the URL of any page.
Better yet, avoid ever changing a URL unless you’re re-launching your website. If that’s the case, carefully follow each step of our 55-point website launch checklist.
You have total control over your website, so internal links are the easiest links to manage. Just log into WordPress, Drupal or whatever CMS you use and add them.
So take a look at your internal links, then move on. Don’t spend days thinking about these. Give your site a check-up a few times per year, then go back to the other activities that improve traffic and conversions!