SEO Basics – Internal Linking
Batman has Robin, Sherlock has Watson, Hans has Chewbacca, and backlinks have internal links.
So What are internal links?
Internal links are a type of hyperlink that points to or targets pages on the same domain. In simple English, an internal link is a link that points to another page within the same website.
Here’s a snippet and breakdown of what that code looks like:
- Start of link tag
- Link referral location
- Anchor text of link (visible part)
- Closure of link tag
These kind of links are useful for 3 reasons:
- They allow users to navigate through a website
- They help establish informational hierarchy for the given website
- They help spread ‘ranking power’ throughout the website
Why are Internal Links Important for SEO?
Much like a spider that builds its web in an intertwined and interconnected way, knowing all paths that lead from every single strand, so is Google. Internal linking is the strands on which Google (the spider) is able to discover all paths, new content and old, on your website. Google uses internal links to discover new content.
So what if we don’t do this? Let’s say you create a new piece of content, and we make the assumption that it isn’t available on your sitemap and doesn’t have any backlinks – essentially making it an orphan page. There are no paths from which Google can access your new content, which in turn means no traffic.
Here’s a snippet from Google:
“The first step is finding out what pages exist on the web. There isn’t a central registry of all web pages, so Google must constantly search for new pages and add them to its list of known pages. This process of discovery is called crawling.”
So how do we set up the ideal internal link structure?
Think of a family tree, where the sole ancestor branches out into multiple branches, or better yet a pyramid, narrow on the top and broad as you go further down. In this scenario, the homepage would be on the top, followed by all the most important pages all the way down to the least important page.
This structure allows for least possible links between the homepage and any other given page, allowing for link equity to flow throughout the entire site, in turn increasing the ranking potential for any given page. This structure is common on many high performing websites like Amazon and Apple.
The art of classification
Classification is defined as the arrangement of anything in taxonomic groups according to their observed similarities.
For example: Imagine we have a website about cars, in which we have different type of cars, one way we could classify and categorise these cars would be as follows:
You will immediately be able to tell that there are two distinct classifications:
- Pages about different car categories
- Pages about different cars in those categories
There are various benefits to this sort of classification:
- Users will have an easier time navigating through the website
- Website crawlers like Google crawl bots will have an easier time understanding your site structure
- More authority is passed from your pages as they will be linked both ways
As an added benefit, with the improvement of machine learning and various other technologies employed by website crawlers, this structure also helps crawlers understand the context of your content better.
Internal linking is nowhere as complex as rocket science or quantum physics. You simply need to employ a logical, hierarchical site structure and have your internal linking follow the same structure – at least on a basic level. You can then strategically link from your ‘traffic-heavy’ pages to those that need a little help. Here are a few guidelines to help with internal linking:
- Try to avoid repetitive anchor texts, mix things up and keep it diverse.
- Do not link from irrelevant pages just to boost traffic.
- Do not over-do it; try and keep it simple.
And here’s a small secret, don’t tell anyone though. If you’re ever looking for internal linking inspiration, just look at your favourite Wikipedia page. The force is strong with this one.