7 Tips for an internal link structure that will help boost SEO
When one talks about the top SEO best practice, getting more external links is often the topic of discussion. But your internal link structure is just as important. Internal links guide both search engine crawlers and customers through your website. When done right, they enhance customer experience as well as search engine optimisation.
Done poorly, these valuable SEO links can drain the vitality out of your site. These 7 tips for building an effective internal link structure will have you and your site on the right path.
1. Put Customer Experience First
When building internal links consider how those links contribute to or detract from customer experience.
Examples of detracting links include:
- Too many links
- Linking to too many words
- Linking to the same words several times
- Interrupting the flow of the article with an out-of-place link
- Disruptive interstitials
- Ads above the fold
Unfriendly tactics like these not only keep you from reaching important goals in the short-term. People will choose not to come back. And important goals like adding to a mailing list or making a sale won’t be met.
All kinds of lists call “this or that” an SEO best practice. But search engine optimisation is as much about those consuming your content as it is about the mechanics of your internal link structure.
2. Anticipate that Algorithm Will Only Get Better
Search engines are successful when they show a searcher results they’re looking for. If a person feels the need to click onto page two, this represents a failure, and they know it. They’re driven to put every technology they have at their disposal into helping the best sites for a query get to page one.
Over the years, they’ve employed many very simple strategies like counting the number of external links and assessing the authority of the linking website. But today, improved analytics and machine learning are helping them better understand how people are actually interacting with a website once they arrive. It’s getting increasingly difficult to “fake it until you make it.”
Do you want to know how to build internal links for SEO? Your SEO best practice is to design your website and content carefully around the customer’s journey so that SEO links don’t just involve building out your internal link structure. They further a person’s path through the sales cycle. Isn’t this what you ultimately want as a business from the start?
3. Keep Navigation Simple for Crawlers
Why are internal links important for SEO? They help customers and crawlers navigate through your pages. They share some of the link equity earned by your extra-special pages to strengthen the whole.
Don’t send bots or people unnecessarily down rabbit holes. Make sure each link is needed and adds value. Simplify your navigation to reduce the number of options for customers. Optimising the internal link experience for customers and the crawlers that need to index pages is search engine optimisation.
That leads us to our next very important SEO links strategy.
4. Know Your Link Value Flow on Important Pages
Think of your website as the ocean. Rivers and streams run off the mountains into the ocean. As they do, the ocean has more minerals and water. Now, imagine that we started draining the oceans little by little — assuming all of that water actually had somewhere else to go. The oceans would slowly get smaller again.
There is a similar flow through your website, external links fill the site with authority. But they do so by linking to specific pages. These pages become more authoritative. Now, as you begin linking out from that page through internal links, you transfer some of that authority to another page.
It’s not hard to see how internal links help SEO, so we don’t want to eliminate them to prevent draining a webpage of its link equity. But we should be careful not to create too many internal links on our most important landing pages.
To achieve this, streamline your navigation on landing pages. And make sure each internal link really adds value to the customer experience. As your customers click that link, they spend time on the next page and demonstrate to search engines that SEO links add actual value.
How many internal links is too many? It’s not easy to state a specific number, but if you’re asking yourself, “Am I adding value?”, it becomes clearer how many links make sense.
5. Have a Clear Hierarchy Structure
On most websites, you have 3 main levels. Crawlers can see this hierarchy thanks to your site map. It helps them see and index all pages that meet indexible criteria. It also may influence the flow of link equity. For example, you generally don’t want to drain an individual article’s link equity back into the home page. A clear hierarchy may prevent this backflow.
A standard hierarchy might look like Home>Blog Category Page>Individual article. No page should be more than 3 jumps from the home page. For example, your article may link to a 4th page, the contact page. But the homepage also links to the contact page directly. The contact page isn’t actually 4 steps away. An article may link to individual sales pages but these are only 2 steps away from the home page because it also links to a main sales page.
6. Don’t Overdo Your NoFollow Tags
When a major search engine algorithm changes, sometimes people overreact. It’s understandable. Some changes have wiped out years of work for SEO professionals.
Such was the case with NoFollow tags after the algorithm started to hone in on link farms that were built solely to pass link juice onto other websites. You should rarely have a “nofollow” on internal links. Only use it if you’re linking to a page that has no SEO relevance, which is rare.
Limit nofollow for external links to user-generated content or a website you really don’t trust.
7. Leverage Your Most Linked-to Pages
Yet another SEO best practice is to use SEO tools to explore your website. Find out which pages are getting the most links. Consider these pages as a reservoir that you can tap into to water pages that are well-crafted but visitors are struggling to find.
When your web pages work together in this way to build each page up, that’s search engine optimisation.