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Internal Linking Is Crucial for SEO and User Experience

December 21, 2018
By John Hawley
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It’s no secret — internal linking brings SEO value and better user experience.

You may have heard that internal linking will boost your SEO and get you a better ranking on Google. But how?

Let’s start at the top. You might already know, but a refresher never hurts.

An internal link is a link that comes from and goes to a page within the same domain. For example, take a look at the navigation menu on your website. Your origin link and destination link are both within the same website — simple enough!

So, how is something so simple and so very important for your SEO? Well, it all comes down to how well it’s executed.

Proper internal linking results in the following:

  • Internal linking ensures that your website is ranked properly on Google searches.
  • Helps promote a good user experience to keep users on your site for longer.
  • Forms the hierarchy of information for your website, establishing link equity.

Your site can’t be ranked if Google’s bots don’t know how to search your site

Let’s break this down by how Google searches and indexes your site. What Google does isn’t completely magic (though, it does come pretty close).

Google uses bots to crawl your website for all of the content it can find. They do this in order to gain insights on what your site is about, and how to rank it on their search engine. They start on your homepage, following link to link, and scouring every last bit of information they are able to find.

To reiterate that — they can only evaluate what they can find, see, and read.

Make it simple for Google to crawl your website

For internal linking, one of the greatest advantages you can give yourself is making it easier for Google’s bots to do their job. For example, if there’s no clear path to a page on your website, then how will Google’s bots be able to index that information?

Simply put, you could have highly valuable content, but it won’t matter if Google’s bots can’t reach it. To the great Google Machine, your content is as good as invisible.

We see this problem all the time—websites will make the mistake of an incorrect linking structure. To get some insight into what the structure of your website looks like, you can use tools like Moz’s link explorer.

So it stands to say that the better your internal linking strategy on your site is, the better Google will rank it! Not to mention, it stands to good reason that if a Google bot has an easy time navigating your internal linking structure, a real person will too.

This leads to our next point — promoting a good user experience.

google bot attempting to figure out internal linking structure

The Run-down:

Let’s run through a scenario real quick. Suppose you own a Pool Services company, and Google’s bots begin searching through to index your website. Let’s also assume Pool Remodeling is your highest-earning service.

Unfortunately, due to an improper internal linking strategy, there’s no way to get to that page easily or organically.

In this case, it’s safe to assume Google will not rank you based on that content. This means that you’re missing out on potential clients searching for terms like, “pool remodeling services”!

Internal linking promotes a good user experience, keeping users on your site longer

When users see links that are relevant to what they’re interested in, they are more likely to actually click on it. This is especially relevant when users are actively looking for information. Users will click on related links within blogs to read up on related information. Think of it like going down the YouTube rabbit hole, hopping from related video to related video, only to regain temporal awareness hours later (there’s no shame in admitting it, we’ve all been there).

The idea is roughly the same, except on a more objective level. By providing related or similar links within a page or post, we can promote this effect and keep visitors to your site longer. Naturally, throughout this blog, and in the end, you’ll see the same thing — related blog posts that have similar topics or industries related to this one, and links that go back to digital service pages on our website.

But why do we do this?

Yep, you guessed it. User experience. The main objective of a strong internal linking strategy is to make it as easy as possible for the end-user to arrive at the content they really want to see. That way, they’re less focused on how to find it and more focused on consuming the content.

Not to mention, greater user engagement is something Google really likes to see when ranking your page. That said, there’s a direct relationship between good user experience and improve SEO.

So, as it turns out — keeping your user’s best interests in mind is also in your best interest. It’s really a win-win situation. Thanks, Google!

As we’ve mentioned before, Google’s bots scour the pages and posts of your website and piece together how they relate to one another. So when it comes to internal linking, the deeper your links go, the better it reflects for SEO. Especially when everything is closely related together.

However, be careful. This does not mean going link-crazy. Linking everything on your website together for the sake of inflating your links is an awful idea.

Back in the day, that would have worked.

However, Google’s page ranking algorithm has become too advanced for cheap gimmicks that are trying to game the system. Linking genuine, relevant, valuable content is the only way to go. Keep the user in mind first, always.

This is also why we always advocate for our clients to be proactive in writing blogs. Blogs establish companies as thought leaders in their industry, while simultaneously promoting internal linking best practices for SEO. Because that’s exactly the sort of thing Google wants to see. Genuine, fresh, valuable content.

Not to mention, a good internal linking strategy ensures your website passes on great link equity, making it easier to promote newer content you put out.

As described by Moz, link equity is “a search engine ranking factor based on the idea that certain links pass value and authority from one page to another.”

Essentially, it acts as a vote of confidence from one page to another. If a page with strong authority is linking to a newer and smaller page, Google is more likely to promote it. Why? Well, because now it’s connected to a page with good standing. Of course, external linking is also incredibly helpful for establishing page authority and therefore better link equity.

For example, take the homepage of your website. In many cases, it will have the most internal and external links going to it, which is how Google knows that this page is valuable and reputable. Therefore, this page usually has the most page authority and passes on the most link equity. Whichever pages you are linking to from the homepage receive that link equity, and become the cornerstones of your website.

This is why when we design websites, we will always focus on your key services and/or products on the homepage to funnel your visitors toward those most important pages.

So, how do we promote smart internal linking strategies?

While we already touched on a few different best practices previously, let’s look at a few surefire ways to improve and boost the user experience and SEO value of your website.

1. Content, content, and also content for good measure

Content cannot be overstated enough. The richer in content your website is, the better your SEO, and the higher ranked you will be on Google. As we’ve mentioned before, this is why we always recommend blogging to our clients to boost SEO and establish them as thought leaders in their industries.

2. Anchor text

Anchor text is the actual text that shows up in a link (see what we did there?). Keep the anchor text relevant to what you’re linking to, but don’t hyper-fixate on matching the exact key phrases. Just keep it natural. Like we said before, gimmicks will not work on Google, but don’t be afraid of it matching when it’s relevant. Staying as user-friendly as possible will never steer you wrong.

Typically, the deeper your internal links run on your site, the better off you are. This promotes good user experience and makes the job of Google’s bots easier (and keeps your SEO score going up!) That said, keep the following point in mind when you’re linking…

4. Focus on value and relevancy

Make sure your internal links are relevant to each other. For example, say you own a website about outdoor sports. Linking from a page about mountain biking to a page about mountain climbing won’t do you much good. However, linking to a blog you wrote about the newest bike model on the market will!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, internal linking can be relatively simple and has amazing benefits for your search engine rankings. Even though there’s no way to get a 100% perfect look inside Google’s algorithm for ranking pages when it comes to internal links, by following best practices we can ensure greatly increased SEO.

Remember, the key takeaways are as long as you’re keeping your internal linking strategy user-friendly and relevant, you’re on the right track.

If you have any unanswered questions or comments, feel free to reach out. We’d be more than happy to assist!

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