Internal links are links that point to other pages on a website. They come in different forms and lengths. But the two most common types of internal links are the navigational (the menu of a site, for example) and those of type contextual (links inserted in the content of a site).
Sounds simple, doesn't it? Just browse your website and add a hyperlink with a few keywords, and you're done! Trust us, it's easier said than done. Internal linking optimizes navigation on your site, thus improving theuser experience. On the other hand, it plays a key role in the natural referencing of your website. But for this, it must be well done.
Internal links: to optimize the hierarchy and navigation of a website
Internal links are usually found in the header, menu and footer of a website. They are more than just a way to navigate your site. In fact, internal links also help define the path that users take on your website and how your content is linked together. Let's take the example of a e-commerce website. Its home page links to each of its categories, which in turn contain sub-categories, which link to specific articles. The objective is to make the content easily accessible to search engines through a intuitive navigation.
Illustration of a Moz link pyramid
Internal links: to help search engines crawl a site
Of course, Google uses the site mapIt is the gateway that leads to the pages of a site. It is as if the map tells the search engine that there are such and such pages. But in most cases, new content is not added to the sitemap. So how does Google find it? Simply by using internal links. First, your internal links will help the search engine find the new pages the next time it crawls your site. Then, a strategic and well thought-out internal networking improves the chances of new pages ranking well for the targeted terms through Google PageRank distribution.
Infographic of Google's Internet navigation
Internal links : to give authority to internal pages
One of the main advantages of internal networking is the distribution of the authority on all the pages of the site. When defining an internal linking strategy, the first thing to do is to distribute the authority of pages with a lot of backlinks to pages with less authority (the pages you link to).
A well optimized website has many pages with external links or backlinks. They strengthen thedomain authority and help all pages to be ranked higher. But Google PageRank is a renewable resource. Once a web page effectively uses PageRank for itself, it can pass on some of that authority to others through internal links.
If you have created a page for which you have managed to build a large network of quality backlinksit makes sense to pass on some of that hard-earned PageRank to other pages you want to optimize as well. When this authority is distributed through strategic internal linksIt can lead to a better ranking of the keywords of the pages you link to.
In summary, internal linking is a strategic and necessary aspect of SEO. It helps define your website's architecture and spread authority throughout your site. The former is essential to help Google and users understand the content of your site. The second helps establish the relevance of the site itself.
The dangers of internal links
We have therefore established that the internal networking is beneficial to the SEO. It provides clear direction to the user, helps Google find your site's pages, and distributes authority across the platform. But, like everything else in SEO, it has its dangers when misused.
Can you have too many internal links? Yes !
The biggest danger associated with internal links is that they can eat into authority, or dilute Google PageRank. Like all branches of SEO, internal linking requires a logical and organic strategy. The abuse of tactics, although they are effective at the base, is to be banned. For example, by filling every page of your site with internal links, you risk reducing the authority to pieces, especially that of the most relevant pages. Thus, not all pages should be high-value landing pages. You need to carefully study the traffic and ranking data available to drive your internal linking strategy.
You can quickly fall into over-optimization if you carry out internal linking without a well thought-out strategy. But what is over optimization? It is when the key words are full of terms that do not form correct expressions or sentences. They can therefore look like and be considered by Google as spam. On the other hand, internal links end up losing value when there are too many of them on a single page.
The best way to avoid this danger is to put yourself in your visitors' shoes when establishing your internal links. Ask yourself what they want in terms of content. By keeping the answer as a common thread in your internal linking, Google will realize the relevance of your approach and reward it by increasing the authority of your site in general.
Best practices for successful internal linking
You don't need to think too much about your internal linking. A relevant website and well-planned navigation inevitably lead to a well-optimized site architecture. In addition, simply using common sense can get you off to a good start. That said, if you are considering embarking on a new internal linking strategy, there are some rather technical best practices to follow to make it a success.
Use anchoring strategically
Anchoring can be tricky. As with backlinks, too many over-optimized keywords can seem artificial and spammy. At the same time, if you don't use enough of them, you won't be working hard enough on your site's authority. The trick is to use in an organic (natural) way and make sure the user understands what they will find when they click on the link.
For create a good anchorFor example, you can start by writing a sentence that summarizes the content of the landing page. You will then put the link on the most relevant expression of the sentence in question. The anchor must be used in a natural way if you want Google to consider it as qualitative.
Common terms such as "Learn More", "This Article" and "Click Here" are also examples of bad anchors for internal linking.
Make sure the content you link to is relevant
If you visit a website looking for a pair of men's sports shoes, you will be tempted to click on a link anchored on "new shoes for men". But you are finally taken to a page offering women's sandals, you will certainly be disappointed and the site will drop in your esteem. This is unprofessional, irrelevant and even illogical. Make sure this does not happen on your site.
Create deep, deep connections!
Orphan pages are strictly useless. If users can't find the content, neither can Google. Blog posts, resources and one-off pages that may not have found their way into the main navigation should have internal links of their own, provided they are relevant, of course.
Questions about the location of links
Where you place links on a page is important. This is due in part to Reasonable Surfer, a patent filed by Google in 2004 and granted in 2010. The patent allows the search engine to determine the PageRank of a website by taking into account the relevance of the anchor and its location in a web page.
Bill Slawski of SEO by the Sea, a leading California web agency, has written a number of interesting articles on Reasonable Surfer to help SEOs and content managers see things more clearly. What we can learn from this is that the Reasonable Surfer, which literally means the reasonable Internet userreflects the probability that someone will click on a link based on the characteristics associated with it.
This allows you to think carefully about all the important elements such as color, size, font and words used to make an internal link. The location of the link also matters.
To summarize, put relevant and organic links in your content is a great idea! On the other hand, avoid links that lead to orphaned and non-existent pages. Moreover, you must carefully measure the number of internal links you put in a page and think about their location.
The implementation of a internal networking strategy is not a complicated process, although it does involve sifting through a lot of data and approaching things strategically. The only advice we can give you is to use common sense. The days when you had to put as many keywords as possible in your content and links are well and truly over. Focus on the user and what they are looking for, and you will be fine.