One of the elements of site development and SEO that often gets overlooked is internal linking. When done right, you can kill two birds with one stone, and improve both search rankings and usability.

You may be familiar with the fact that when sites link to other sites, search engines pass value for the terms/phrases used in the link anchor text. (Anchor text is the highlighted text in the link.) When working on improving rankings for a site, people usually try to target links from other sites (external links) that have the desired anchor text related to terms they want to rank for. However, contextual internal links can also be effective in helping to improve a site's rankings for targeted keyphrases.

(For the purpose of this article, we're assuming your site already has a solid primary navigation structure. If not, you should take care of that first.)

Context is the Key - Link Within Your Content


Your website's text content is filled with opportunities to potentially pass link juice to other pages of your site and to help users find their end destination. To start improving your internal linking strategy, go through your site section by section, page by page, and see where it would make sense (from a user's point of view), and insert some contextual links to other pages that you want to rank better.

Be sure to use the keywords/phrases (in the anchor text) that you would like the destination pages to rank for. In your links to these pages throughout the site, vary it up and don't use the exact same phrases in anchor text, or it will look artificial to both search engines and users. As you are doing this, make sure that the target keyphrases show up on the destination page in some form. Links are more effective if the terms in the link anchor text also show up on the page. One area where this is useful is to help a site rank for both plural and singular versions of a word.

The surrounding text can help too, so you may want to tweak the sentences and paragraphs around your links to improve the contextual value.

When you're finished, get some feedback from outside users to make sure it still looks natural.

Even Out the Link Strength

It's quite common for certain pages of a website to receive disproportionately more inbound links than other pages of the site. These pages tend to rank well compared to other pages of a site. Use Yahoo Site Explorer, Google Webmaster Tools, or your analytics program to find which pages have the most link love and which ones have the least. You can strengthen the weaker pages by pointing some contextual links from the strong pages to the weak ones. It's usually best not to link to them from every page of the site, just from a few that have strong linkage.

Internal links don't carry as much weight as links from other sites, but they can still make an impact.

Usability Benefits

When done right, contextual internal links also can help improve the usability of a site. By adding links to the content of your site that are relevant for the user, it provides another path to the destination you're trying to lead them to. Multiple paths are a good thing in site navigation. Usability studies have shown that users are more likely to click on a link in the text of a page instead of those on a navigation bar, because it feels more natural.

Examples of Effective Contextual Internal Linking

When it comes to linking within your site, there are several ways to go about it. Here are some examples of internal linking using specific anchor text, with variations.

Example 1

  1. A couple months ago Jennifer Laycock wrote an article about Twitter, and benefits of using it.
  2. Jen wrote 5-part series on why you should be using Twitter.
In the first sentence, the internal link is passing value to the destination page for the term "Twitter". In the second sentence, it's passing value for the phrase "why you should be using Twitter". This can also pass value for included terms/phrases such as "Twitter" and "using Twitter".

Example 2

  1. Stoney wrote an informative article about avoiding duplicate content.
  2. Stumped by duplicate content penalties? Let Stoney enlighten you.
In the first sentence of Example 2, the internal link is passing value to the destination page for the term "duplicate content" and included terms. In the second sentence, it's passing value for the phrase "duplicate content penalties" and included terms.

These are just a few examples, but you can see there are quite a few ways to use anchor text to create useful and search engine friendly internal links within the content of your site.

Does This Actually Help?

Improving the internal linking structure of a website will almost always improve rankings for certain pages, and sometimes quickly. Adding contextual links is a perfect strategy for giving an extra boost to specific pages for specific keywords. The battle for search engine rankings is often competitive, so every bit helps. Why ignore something that can help maximize your rankings, traffic, and sales? However, even if you don't care about the search engines, at least do it for your site users to improve their online experience.

June 13, 2008





Scott is the CEO and founder of Red Sand Marketing, a San Diego SEO and web design firm. A dynamic mix of marketer, designer, and developer, he thrives on all aspects of internet marketing and web development. Having been involved in search engine optimization and web design since 1996, he and his team consistently achieve top search engine rankings for clients in competitive markets, and have won multiple web design awards along the way.






Comments(21)

Thanks for the tips Scott, it's always nice to bring up some points that is usually forgotten or never learned in the first place.

A very nice tool to build internal linking into your wordpress blog is the related posts plugin, which I'm using on my blog. Besides that plugin, I always link manually to pages that are related to the post I've written.

And a self written "Top Posts" widget is also a very easy and usefull tool to give linklove to some of your better posts.

Great points, I often overlook this. Your examples were very helpful as well, I'm going to implement this in my SEO work.

Agreed,

If the internal linking structure isn't correctly set up it will influence total seo results negatively as well. I happen to have written a really in-depth tutorial about setting up an internal topical network -> which in its turn is a solid foundation for linking internally.

Anyone interested in this topic can read it on newmediatype at location :
http://www.newmediatype.com/strategic-seo-building-an-optimal-keyword-attack-formula-for-bloggers-14

Lex

Thank you, Scott! I have read basically the same thing elsewhere many times but never really understood it until now. I get it! Great examples.

Now help Bush understand oil economics....

Scott, this is really good. I know some SEOs that don't care about it. But some researches write about a new problem with Google, that they only value the first anchor text of an internal link and do not consider it from the second one onwards. What do you think about this theory? I read about it and some SEOs already have tested and confirmed it. Perhaps there are other influences in their testing environment.

Thanks for the info in this post. It is very helpful, and like others have said, often overlooked. I think it is probably important to get this right from the very start, because after you have built up some inbound links from external sites Google will really start paying attention to them.

I've had some success with internal linking influencing my rankings on my own site. I like the points here not to get carried away with doing it and also to vary the anchor text. Nice article.

Good post Scott, as always. And yes, I will enlighten! :)

This was an enlightening post! :-D just kidding. This is very common. I've found the more contextual it is, the better.

I would have just called it...How to Do Linking Right.

=) good article.

Thanks for the concrete and easy to follow advice. As a wearer of many hats, only one of which is SEO, it's always nice to get helpful advice that is easy to understand and implement.

I totally agree with your post..especially number one..content is really important..that's why you always need to put your time on it to make it more informative and relevant.

@MrCooker,Dean,Vic,Wulffy,Theo,Scott,Tom,paisley,Carrie,Joy: Glad to provide some helpful info for you guys!

@MrCooker: You are absolutely correct and that's a very good point - related posted plugins, along with popular posts plugins for blogs are a great way to pass on some link love to other posts within your site, and expose visitors to some of your other content.

@Wulffy: Yes, I'm familiar with the research and tests on the first link anchor test. I haven't seen any data yet that contradicts it. I'd say for those newer to this it's not something to worry about much. For those more experienced, I'd say to run your own tests and see how it applies to your sites.

@Stoney: Thanks! Excellent...Let the enlightening begin. :)

@Tom: LOL. :)

I've just stumbled into this article via Google. It contains some great tips. Thanks for sharing Scott.

This is the most clearly post about internal linking I've found. Really useful with your examples.
By the way, I have some questions to Scott and any of you guy may help:

1. How many link in a page is enough for this kind of link ? 3-5 or more? How many target page it should be or just one ?
(As Matt Cutt say all links in a page should below 100)

2. "Use Yahoo Site Explorer, Google Webmaster Tools, or your analytics program to find which pages have the most link love and which ones have the least."
>>> I use both already but could you please give example/command that can found "pages have the most link love". I'm sure that many people read this article have the same question.

Thanks for great help.

Phan

Thanks for throwing light on the subjest of Importance of Linking. When considering internal linking, i also recommend using “inline” linking, in other words, using text links within relevant text, this carries much more value than a footer link
Cheers
Matt

I did the internal link building, but still don't know the impact to SEO.

I know very little about SEO, although my first website ranked highly for very competitive keywords through internal linking with keyword hyperlinks on the hompage and other pages. Basically, the entire website pages were linking with each other.

My new education website does the same for many inside pages. In addition I am hopping for the same high ranking and the content linking benefits visitors. Example:

Teaching in Scotland information is useful Scotland Teaching for any new teacher or people entering teaching in Scotland/UK.

Great article, thank you :-) I never thought about the importance of internal linking before - good thing I fell across you site ;-)

Awesome. I havent really done any type of linking.. and I've actually been forgetting about internal links, I'll sure give it a try. What would you say about commenting on blogs? (such as this) does that also help?
I get lots of random -spammy- comments on my blog from people just trying to get their link out, that's why i ask.

This blog hit internal linking on the spot. Great writing skills, Scott. I don't see why anyone wouldn't want a boost of traffic from search engines, but everyone should most definitely structure their website's internal links for easy navigation.

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Search Engine Guide > Scott Allen > The Importance of Internal Linking, and How to Do it Right