One SEO tactic we’ve seen increase in value over time is a site’s internal linking structure. Internal link building is an essential part of SEO because it influences the way Google understands how different pages on your site relate to one another. Google wants to provide relevant content in its search results, so good internal linking is one tactic that will give Google the confidence to list your web pages as relevant search results.
Internal links are links to your own web pages that connect related content within your website’s architecture. If you link between relevant pages in some way, either directly in the text or maybe in the footer or the navigation, Google will use those links to quickly crawl throughout your whole site.
Let’s say you have a page about t-shirts and a page about pants. If you link to those pages every time you mention pants or t-shirts in your blog, Google is going to notice that your site is frequently directing users toward those two pages in particular. This tells Google those pages must be critical.
How you add an internal link is relevant to the signal you are trying to send Google. Let’s expand on the previous example. If you want to link from your page about t-shirts to your page about pants, then you should try to find an exact match with the destination URL. In this case, you would want to add a link to the phrase “pants” for the destination example.com/pants to reinforce the idea for Google that the destination URL is about pants. Layering these signals will give site crawlers more confidence that a page is relevant to a specific topic.
It’s crucial to use suitable internal linking structures to bring your best content to the surface of your website. The more you surround those critical pages with related resources, the easier it is for Google to determine that it’s a quality page worthy of ranking highly in search. Good internal linking also signals to search engines that you have a robust library of content for users once they land on your page.
There may come a time when similar pages are ranking for the same keyword, and internal linking can help solve this problem. In a case where multiple keywords are claiming more than 10% of your search impressions for a keyword, this is known as cannibalization. Remember that internal linking signals to Google which pages you want it to prioritize. So, if you’re frequently linking to many different pages that rank for the same keywords, they’re going to end up competing against each other. If you build your internal linking structure well, users will be directed toward one “most important” page per keyword. This reduces the likelihood of competing against your own content and damaging your rankings.
What is the consequence of not using internal linking? For web pages without many internal links pointing to them, the signal that you are sending to Google is that those pages are hard to navigate to on your website and therefore not very important. Even if you have put a lot of effort into improving the user experience for a page, a lack of internal linking may raise a red flag for search engines and it could be less likely that Google will gamble on promoting that particular page.
Internal link building is an important tactic for marketers to organize their websites for search crawlers. If you want search engines to correctly categorize your web pages for different keywords, then spend time improving the internal linking structure of your website.