Internal linking is an important aspect of search engine optimisation (SEO) because it helps search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your website. By creating links between your pages, you’re effectively creating a roadmap for search engines to follow as they crawl and index. This makes it easier for them to understand the context and relevance of each page, which can improve your site’s keyword rankings in the search results.
One of the key benefits of internal linking is that it helps distribute link equity (i.e. the value that search engines assign to a link) throughout your website. When you link to a page on your own site, you’re essentially giving it a vote of confidence, which can help improve its ranking. This is especially important for pages that are deeper in your site hierarchy, as they may not receive as many external links from other websites.
But internal linking isn’t just about SEO. It’s also important for user experience. By linking to relevant pages within your site, you’re providing users with a clear path to follow as they navigate your content. This can help keep them engaged and on your site for longer, which can improve your bounce rate and overall site performance.
In addition to improving SEO and user experience, internal linking can also help with content discovery. By linking to older posts or pages on your site, you’re giving them a second chance to be found and engaged with. This can help drive more traffic to your site and can even lead to higher conversion rates if the content is still relevant and valuable.
Google’s John Mueller has said: “Internal linking is a really important aspect of a website. It’s not just about the search engines being able to find your content, but also about the users being able to find your content. So having a good internal linking structure is really important for both search engines and users.”
In addition to John Mueller, several other authoritative sources highlight the importance of internal linking. For example, Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, has also emphasised the importance of internal linking, saying: “Internal linking is an often-overlooked aspect of SEO, but it’s critical for both crawling and ranking. By linking to relevant pages within your site, you’re providing search engines with the context they need to understand your content and assign the appropriate value to each page. This can help improve your overall ranking in search results and can even lead to increased traffic and engagement.”
To optimize your internal linking for SEO, here are some key tips to keep in mind:
- Use descriptive and relevant anchor text. The anchor text is the visible part of the link, and it should accurately describe the content that the link points to. For example, instead of using ‘Click here’ as your anchor text, you could use ‘Learn more about internal linking’ if the link points to a page with more information on the topic. By using keyword-rich anchor text, you’re effectively telling search engines what the page is about, which can help improve its ranking for those keywords.
- Link to deep pages on your site. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to distribute link equity throughout your site. So, in addition to linking to your home page and top-level pages, be sure to also link to deeper pages that may not receive as many external links.
- Use a clear hierarchy and structure. By creating a clear hierarchy and structure for your site, you’re making it easier for search engines to understand the context and relevance of each page. This can help improve your overall ranking in search results.
Internal linking automation
Manually creating and managing internal links on a large website can be time-consuming and tedious. An enterprise website with millions of pages will require a huge amount of manual resource to effectively optimise internal links. This is where internal linking automation can be really useful. By using tools and plugins, you can automate the process of creating and managing internal links on your website, which can save you loads of time and effort.
It’s important to note, however, that while internal linking automation can be helpful, it’s still important to carefully consider the links you create and ensure that they’re relevant and valuable to both search engines and users.
My internal linking journey
When I first realised how important internal linking was, I decided to build an internal linking plugin and test it out on one of my websites. I had noticed that the more I used my target keywords as anchor text, sometimes even just single words, the more keyword ranking improvement, traffic and conversions I saw.
That was when I thought “Omg, what if we do this at scale? What if, instead of having to manually add the links, a plugin could do that instead, every time the opportunity presented itself?”
Quickly, without spending too much time in the design phase, the central logic of the application was ready. We assigned target keywords (TK) to a page (PG), and anytime TK was mentioned within a paragraph and within our content container, the tool would automatically insert a link pointing back to PG.
It worked fine on the test environment, I mean, it didn’t blow up the server or anything; and I pushed to production. Problem was, with that kind of blanket simplistic rule, you needed more rules to make sure it worked like a human. Rules such as how many times should this happen within a paragraph, how many times within a page, should this happen on bold text, etc.
In short, the website didn’t really look natural after pushing the internal linking app live, so I decided to do the sensible thing and… take it off the website, back to the staging environment so I could continue working on it.
But things were about to get worse; in attempting to take out the links, I ended up taking out all the links in the content section of the website. Can you imagine losing all of the internal links on your website by attempting to add more? The irony wasn’t lost on me.
Thankfully, I was running daily backups on the server, so I was able to revert back to a stable state in minutes.
That’s a classic example of what can go wrong with internal link automation if done hastily and without a safe fallback process in place.
You must ask yourself some key questions before attempting an internal linking automation process:
- How is the link inserted in the post?
- If you removed or uninstalled the tool what happens to the link it has built and is there a possibility that it can affect your existing internal linking?
- Do we have control over how many times the internal link appears and where it appears? How much control do we have?
- Can we monitor links it has built? And remove individual instances?
Finally, I decided to do the sensible thing, and… find tools that already do this and have done so for years, have perfected it, and use them instead.
Here are some of the tools that I tested:
- Yoast SEO: Yoast SEO is one of the most popular WordPress plugins available and offers an extensive set of features designed to optimise your website for search engines. One of these features is the ability to automatically create internal links between related posts and pages. This feature is easy to use and can save you a lot of time when it comes to setting up your internal links. Link automation in Yoast is only available to premium subscribers.
- Link Whisper: Link Whisper is another WordPress plugin that helps automate the creation of internal links. Link Whisper starts suggesting relevant internal links when you start writing your article right within the WordPress editor. It uses a sophisticated algorithm to identify related content and suggest relevant internal links based on context and keywords. It is a premium internal linking management tool and there is no free version.
- SmartCrawl: SmartCrawl is a plugin designed specifically to help you automate the setup of your internal links. It provides a range of features including automatic link building, link suggestions, and the ability to specify which words should be linked. It also offers an easy-to-use interface that makes setting up internal links a breeze. It is a premium product (internal linking is just one of several features it offers) and is only free for the first seven days.
- Link Manager: Link Manager is a plugin designed to help you manage your internal links with ease. It allows you to easily add, edit, and delete links, as well as organise them into categories for better organisation. You can also set up automated link rules to ensure your links are always up-to-date.
- Internal link juicer: ILJ works by using an intelligent per-post configuration of your desired keywords on a target page. It also allows you to add gaps between words giving you a wider range of phrases you can use to build internal links to a page.
ILJ was very similar to what I had designed in terms of its simplistic approach to solving the problems I wanted to solve (so I had a natural attraction toward it). I also didn’t want to buy new SEO software or pay for some expensive tool; at that time all I wanted was a free plugin that would help me automate my internal link building in the manner that I described above; and the free version of ILJ did that for me.
It may be in your case, what you want is robust internal link management software or a complete SEO tool that has internal linking automation as one of its features. Then you may want to test the tools first and decide based on what’s best for your use case.
I saw a 15 percent increase in organic conversions just two months after implementing the plugin. Note I said conversions, not traffic. An increase in conversions means you are getting more ‘quality’ traffic.
If you have a large website and you depend a lot on SEO for business, automating your internal linking process (done properly) can significantly improve your traffic and conversion results. That is because you will naturally target and boost your bottom of funnel (lead generation) keywords.
Long story short, internal linking is a good (and hugely underrated SEO tactic), but it can easily go wrong when attempting automation. You should only automate if you know what you are doing. Using plugins does not mean it cannot go wrong, in fact that is when it can go REALLY wrong.
If you’re not confident then manual linking is safer; but can boring, repetitive and time consuming (and sadly you’ll miss opportunities) – but any internal lining is better than none! Automation done properly can yield tremendous benefits.
Drop our B2B SEO team a line today to discuss internal linking for your domain.
Written by: Fejiro Otovwe, technical SEO consultant at Definition.