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5 Internal Linking Lessons to Reach Your Audience

There’s strong evidence to suggest that investing in building internal links on your website will immediately result in more organic traffic. What makes this such a powerful mechanism is that you, the website owner, have 100% control over the process.

So what value is there in building internal links for your audience? The value of building internal links for your audience is simple. More organic traffic, resulting in more leads, and more conversions. How is this possible? By treating every internal link you build like a direct line to the very resource your visitor needs at that very moment.

For example, let’s take an Ecommerce website that sells baking equipment. And you are about to publish a recipe post for Strawberry Shortcake. Inside the recipe post are instructions to cut the Strawberries into uniform pieces, macerate them in a bowl, then spoon them over the biscuits and ice cream. You know, regular recipe stuff. Here is the opportunity to reach the audience with internal linking.

This ecommerce website sells every piece of equipment needed to make this recipe. Building internal links to the product pages for the knife (cut), the mixing bowl (bowl), and the large spoon (spooned), adds tremendous value to the reader. Now the reader can follow the recipe, and quickly find every item needed to make Strawberry Shortcake.

For this example, I had my favorite dessert in mind, but I think I’ve communicated the value internal linking will bring to your audience. Let’s look at 5 internal link lessons you must apply to reach your audience.

Lesson 1: Think About Anchor Texts

Anchor texts are the very words you link when creating an internal link. When thinking about what words to link, here are 3 simple rules to follow.

  1. Use relevant words: Don’t use the word apple to link to a page about oranges. This only adds confusion for the visitor, but also for the search engine who is identifying entities mentioned in your site, and mislabeled content will cause confusion.
  1. Use exact-match words: There are many ‘types’ of anchor texts. From exact-match to branded, to naked. When possible use exact, partial, or branded type anchor texts. Instead of linking the sentence, “macerate them in a bowl”, just link the word ‘bowl’.
  1. Stop using generic words: Avoid anchor texts like, “Click Here” or “Buy Now”. These are confusing and offer little value to the visitor or the search engine. Instead be specific like “Buy Large Spoon Now”, or “Visit our Registration Form”.

Take the time to think a little more deeply about the words you use to create internal links. Choosing the right words will result in more clicks.

Lesson 2: Keep Links Crawlable

What does it mean to keep links crawl-able? The short answer is that Google advises using <a href> tags over every other link type. Which means when creating links on your website, make sure the content management system, plugin, or developer is not using other HTML or JavaScript tags to create links.

Here are a few examples of RECOMMENDED links that Google and other search engines can parse.

  • <a href="https://example.com">
  • <a href="/products/category/shoes">

Here are some examples of links that are NOT RECOMMENDED.

  • <a routerLink="products/category">
  • <span href="https://example.com">
  • <a onclick="goto('https://example.com')">

While this may sound complicated, you can easily check what your links look like by right clicking on a web page and selecting Inspect Element.

Lesson 3: Build Structural Internal Links

What are structural internal links? Structural Internal Links are navigational links like the menu at the top of each page, and in the footer of each page. But structural internal links can also include breadcrumb links and calls-to-action that give the visitor an easy next step.

Here are a few examples of structural internal links.

  • Navigational Links: These are found on every page since they include your top level links in the header and footer like Home, About, Contact, Store, etc.
  • Breadcrumb Links: These are links that show a visitor’s current location and are only necessary if you have subdirectories. For example you might see this at the top or bottom of a page; Home > Products > Bakeware > Utensils.
  • Button or CTA Links: These are links with a call to action like Call Now or Contact Us. Remember Lesson #1, to think about the anchor text, and include them on every page.

Structural links are like road signs. It keeps the visitor aware of where they are, and how to navigate your website.

Lesson 4: Create Contextual Internal Links

Build lots of internal links to other content on your own website. This requires a lot of work and thought to build each link. Consider your audience, the content, and the quality of the page you’re linking too. Make sure the page you’re linking too does not contain duplicate or thin content. Instead, have it cover a topic in more depth, or be a page for the visitor to take action.  

How many internal links per page? You can read arguments on how many internal links a page should have. However, if you follow the other lessons in this post, you’ll find it more difficult to create too many links. Having an internal link every paragraph that uses a descriptive anchor text, is crawlable, and is relevant is fine and encouraged.

I like to recommend a One In and One Out rule for each page. This gives you a place to start by building one internal link in and one internal link out for every page.

Lesson 5: Link Important Pages

Having a link to your contact page is important, but is it the most important? Keep in mind that there is a link to your contact page on every page in the header and in the footer already. So think about what are the most important pages not listed in the navigation.

How can I link to the most important pages early and often? Start by using Google Search Console to find the number of internal links Google has counted. You can see this report in Google Search Console > Links > Internal Links.

When you click the More link at the bottom of the report, you’ll visit the Top linked pages - internally report, and see the pages listed by number of links. Use this report to see what pages are linked to the most. Are they the most important? Should other pages be linked to more often?

Take inventory of your content, and consider your audience, how they discovered your website, and what content you’d like them to see when they visit. This will help you find the most important pages to link to.

Get Building

These 5 lessons for building internal links are simply a guide to help you get started. Once you start building these links, you will begin to notice a pattern. That pattern is how you can help your visitors find their path to purchase.

The work will result in more organic traffic, and more conversions for your organization.

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