This is a jargon-free and practical guide on the proper way to use internal linking in your website.
By proper I mean, following a set of best practices that improve crawlability and user experience.
The intended audience of this guide is webmasters, content creators or copywriters.
One of the questions that I get asked most frequently is about the proper method for handling internal links.
- Where should they be placed?
- Should we place all internal links in the menu?
- Can we place important links in the Footer?
- How does Google treat in-text links?
Internal linking is just as important for improving a website’s usability as it is for improving crawling and indexation of your website. Often the two go hand in hand.
Internal Links improve crawlability and usability
Before we get started, there’s one thing I want to point out.
You don’t have to do on-going SEO to benefit from proper internal linking.
So if you’re thinking, ‘well, I’m not doing SEO right now so I don’t need to worry about internal linking.’ Stop.
See following these best practices will improve your website’s usability, potentially increase the number of pages indexed by search engines and provide a better user experience overall.
Wait there’s more.
SEO projects are seldom straight forward especially if you have to optimise an older site. So, if and when you do set specific goals for SEO and start content optimisation, having internal links in good shape will only make your job easier.
Let’s get started.
What are Internal Links?
An internal link is a hyperlink between two web pages existing on the same domain.
Page A: www.mywebsite.com/about-us
Page B: www.mywebsite.com/prices
A link between Pages A and B is an internal link.
The opposite of an internal link is a backlink.
A backlink is a hyperlink between two web pages on separate domains.
Page A: www.mywebsite.com/price
Page B: www.janesblog.com/partners
A link between pages A and B is a backlink.
About Crawlers, Crawl Budgets and Internal Links
Let’s start with crawlers
A crawler or spider is a computer program designed to find web pages, visit them and fetch details about their content.
Search engines use crawlers, sometimes also called search bots e.g. Googlebot, to find, fetch and index webpages.
If you’re setting up a brand new website, then it’s recommended to submit your sitemap to Google and Bing through their webmaster tool.
After you’ve submitted the sitemap, search crawlers will visit the URLs present in the sitemap and index some of the pages on your domain.
For older websites, a search crawler might find your webpage through a backlink or a social media mention.
What is crawl budget?
Search engines rarely crawl and index 100% of a website. How often a crawler visits a website and how many pages it crawls depends on a number of factors.
Simply put, the number of pages a crawler visits and indexes from your domain is known as your website’s crawl budget.
If you’re interested you can find valuable information about Googlebots activity on your website through Google Search Console or using tools like ScreamingFrog’s Logfile Analyser.
That brings us to the main point of this blog post.
Benefits of proper internal linking
A search crawler can discover your website through the sitemap you submitted or through a backlink to your website on a separate domain or a link shared on a social media.
Once a crawler visits a web page, it makes a list of all the links leading away from the page, including both internal and external (or backlinks) links.
In the same or a different session the crawl will visit those other pages and index them.We want the crawler to visit and index as many of our important pages as possible.
That’s where internal links come in handy.
Best practice for handling internal links on your website
Some internal links, based on their location, frequency and a few other factors, are considered more valuable.
This list of best practices is curated from a Whiteboard Friday from Moz.
- Links placed within content are more valuable.
- Links placed in the footer are least valuable.
- Links that are clicked on more frequently are more valuable.
- Links with better visibility and legibility are more valuable.
- Google ignores multiple links to the same page. It’s only gives value to the first available link to that page.
- Text link are more valuable than image links placed in the alt-text attribute.
- Avoid using the same link and anchor text on multiple pages.
Internal links don’t only improve your site’s crawlability, they also improve its usability. And Google pays a lot of attention to your website’s usability.
Make your content more valuable by placing relevant internal links on your pages that allow people to easily discover relevant information.
For example, internally linking your product page with billing information or your ‘how-to’ blog post with a shopping list is a good idea.
At the same time, do not over do it. Be frugal with how and where you place your internal links. If you’re going to link to a page multiple times, remember that Google will only value the first link to that page.
And finally avoid anchor text spamming at all costs. Never leave multiple links to the same page with the same or different anchor texts on any page. That will certainly not help you page rank for multiple keywords.
For more information on handling internal links I highly recommended watching the Whiteboard Friday from the Wizard of Moz himself!
Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash