Internal linking is a major practice in web design and development and also a core aspect of Search Engine Optimization. This article aims to create a better understanding of the dynamics of internal linking, emphasize its importance and also highlight best practices and guides to implementing internal linking.
What is internal linking?
We can start by defining internal links. Internal links are hyperlinks pointing to pages on the same website or domain. Internal Linking is, therefore, the process of creating internal links.
When internal linking is mentioned, you can think of a connection between one page on a website and another page on the same website.
Importance of internal links
Internal links are the core and compulsory requirements of a website. Whether or not a site owner is interested in search engine optimization, internal links are required to create connections between web pages.
The absence of internal links in a website or application will simply translate to a littered piece of web pages with no string to connect the knots. Users will probably have to find a way to commit all URLs to memory so they can access related pages.
Internal links are also very much important to search engines. Search engines such as Google use internal links to find out the contents in a site that are related. Search engines use these links to find, index and understand the pages in a site.
Internal links when used strategically, send PageRank or authority to important pages. PageRank is a Google Search algorithm to rank web pages in their search engine results.
For high rankings in search engines, especially Google, internal links are of great import.
Internal linking guide and best practices
Internal linking is important. I’ve said that much. There are however, best practices that can ensure the most is made out of internal links. These practices go a long way in helping search algorithms to analyze the contents of a web site and will eventually translate to higher search result rankings. Below are some of the best practices for internal linking.
1. Create links that make use of anchor texts containing targeted keywords
An anchor text is a word or group of words that link to other pages on a website and they normally occur in blue color, except on rare occasions.
An anchor text is better if it contains keywords that help describe the content of your site or webpage. More importantly, the words that make up an anchor text should as much as possible describe what the page that it links to is all about.
This is an example. Assume the texts in blue (green for me) are anchor texts and lead to another page in an imaginary site.
There are a lot of benefits in using internal linking for search engine optimization.
Mere looking at the anchor text, one can at a glance figure that the content of the target link is centered on the benefits of internal linking in SEO. Also, there is a great likelihood that SEO and internal linking will be keywords. You get the picture now right?
2. Each link used must be relevant
Links are not to be used for the sake of linking. All links should be relevant to the context and content in which they are located.
If you have a page about football players’ performance in general in a particular season and another page about Rafael Nadal, a lawn tennis professional, it would not make much sense to link them together. However, a page about how outstanding Ronaldo has been in the particular season in question will be a perfect candidate for internal linking. For example.
"A good number of players have performed exceptionally well, but the extraordinary performances of Ronaldo this season has to be mentioned in this passage…"
It’s easy to see the relevance of the linking to the fictional article above. On the other hand, it’s difficult and near impossible to think up a way to make Rafael Nadal relevant to this topic and create an internal link to the page about him.
3. Always create links to related old articles to in new articles
There is the ‘freshness’ that is passed on to old articles whenever links are created to them in new articles. This can help spread the power that is generated by the new articles to the old ones. Basically, the idea is to ‘carry the aged along’ and this will surely reflect on the overall performance of the whole website.
There is, in fact, a value known as ‘freshness value’ which Google detects and uses it in its ranking algorithm.
4. Link to important pages
If there are pages that perform much better than others or are more important, ensure to link users to those pages. When you link to pages, you send link authority to that page.
There’s a high chance that important pages will contain even more internal links to other relevant pages in a site and linking to such a page will have a ripple effect of increasing the visibility of a greater number of pages in general.
5. Place links strategically on your site
It’s not advisable to place links at the end or bottom of your web pages. If links are placed at the bottom of a page, likely, a good number of users might not get to see those links.
There could be many reasons why the link will not be seen. A reader may have found what they came looking for and has no reasons to scroll further.
A reader may also have lost interest in the site or sees no reason to keep going further down.
In the event of any of the above, links placed close to the top of the page have a higher chance of being seen by the readers and might just be something of interest to them.
Placing internal links close to the top of web pages is a practical way of increasing the amount of time a user dwells on a web page. Google algorithm will interpret higher dwell time on a web page as interest on the part of the user.
A higher dwell time of users on a webpage or website will lead to the climbing higher of such pages or sites on the ladder of search rankings.
6. Avoid excess links
Internal links are cool. They make for better search performance and increase the visibility of pages on a site. Yes. However, a web page should not have too many internal links.
There is not a specific number of links that can be regarded as perfect. The best way to keep the number of internal links used on a page in check is to compare it the number of words in the content as a whole.
You don’t want to have 50 percent of the word count in a page to be part of links. That will surely look ridiculous.
3 to 5 internal links per page are enough.
Internal linking tips
Some important tips when creating internal links in web pages are highlighted below.
Internal linking is essential and this has been said time and time again. It’s pertinent that creating internal links are done properly and best practices are ensured. The best practices and tips that have been discussed above help ensure that a website makes the most of the links therein.
There are a lot more tips and guidelines if one cares to read further. The ones mentioned and discussed above are enough to hit the ground running and get anyone going. Happy linking!