Metaphorically speaking, internal linking is a roadmap of your website that helps users and web crawlers navigate through your pages. It shows how each page is connected and provides a clear flow and structure of your content.
When you built your website, you should have ideally started by creating a silo or map of your pages. That silo should serve as a guide when you start linking your content. Here’s a quick example of how it should look:
Why are Internal Links Important for SEO
As I’ve already mentioned, links are important for the two most important things in SEO:
- Google (or more broadly, website crawlers)
Internal Link Importance to Google
When the Google bot crawls your website, it uses links to find out which content is related and which pages have more value. It crawls by following the links on your pages – both external and internal – to try and find the relationship between each page.
In addition to understanding relationships between pages, Google also establishes the link value of each page. Your homepage will likely be seen as most important seeing as it has the most pages linking back to it. If not, it should.
Internal Link Importance to the User
As with Google, users find your pages by navigating your website. Assuming you have multiple pages on your website, there should be related links that the user can easily access.
For example, if you have an online shopping platform, you would ideally link your “Women’s Jeans” page from your “Jeans” or “Pants” page.
This sort of user-friendly layout makes users stay on your website longer, thus improving your bounce rate and ultimately, your rankings. Users should not have to manually search your website for this information. Not many are willing to do so and will leave your site to find one that has better information flow.
How Create the Perfect Internal Linking Structure
We have already discussed the importance of having a well-structured site. If you haven’t already done this, you can have a look at our blog on creating a content silo for SEO.
In summary, follow these 3 easy steps when creating your internal links structure:
- Step 1: Decide what your most important content is. Go from global idea, to category to sub-category and so on. Ideally, the global idea is your homepage and the categories form part of your main-navigation menu.
- Step 2: Add contextual links within your content. The best way to do this is to link to your child pages or sub-categories within your category page.
- Step 3: You can then link same tier (other category) pages on a specialized sidebar or at the foot of the page. This makes it easy for users to find it. It also lets Google know that the content is related.
Optimizing Internal Links
If you have built the perfect website, then this section will be useless to you. This is highly unlikely as even the best ranking websites could have issues with broken links, orphaned pages, missing alt text in image links and more.
Probably one of the most common mistakes for new SEOs is that of creating orphaned content. Orphan content is defined by Yoast as any content that doesn’t get any links from other pages or posts within the same website. You might write a blog post about a current issue that can’t exactly fit anywhere on you site.
A quick fix for this is to create an HTML sitemap that every single page and post on the entire website is linked from. Alternatively, you could make sure all your blog posts link to one another in one way or the other.
Best Tools for Internal Link Fixes
To fix all these issues, you need to first crawl your website using the many SEO tools at your disposal.
Tools such as https://www.seoreviewtools.com/internal-link-analyzer/ can help you see exact issues with the internal links on your page.
This is the information the site shows you:
- Total links
- External links
- Duplicate links
- Empty anchor
- No alt tag
- Nofollow count (Line-through)
It also goes into detail about each link so you can see exactly which ones need fixing.
Screaming Frog: This tool lets you see all the pages on your websites, all pages with error codes and also shows you the structure of your site based on the way you have linked it.
Yoast: This WordPress plugin shows you which of your pages are orphaned, as with the example above.
SEMrush: You can use this paid tool to check for internal linking issues through the site audit feature. It flags the pages with issues and suggests fixes for you.