Internal Linking Can Boost Your Link-Building Strategy

Internal Linking Can be a Boost to Your Link-Building Strategy

What Many Site Owners Forget About When Developing a Link-Building Strategy

Most website owners are well aware that SEO drives traffic. They’re familiar with the concept of using the most relevant keywords in their page titles, meta descriptions, and content, and they recognize that getting other websites to link to theirs will signal to Google that their own site is important.

But what they may not realize is that their use of internal linking can maximize the potential of their external link-building efforts. Why is this the case? While external link-building absolutely improves your SEO, it does have limitations. And where external linking falls short, internal linking can come to its aid in a way you may not have thought about before. 

The Benefits and Limitations of External Links to your Site (Backlinks)

How Backlinks Improve your SEO

Although the algorithms Google and Bing use are not shared with the public, anyone who owns a website understands the basic way in which sites are ranked. Bots crawl your website and can only make sense of it by following links. They learn about your site structure by examining which pages are related to others, and ultimately determine whether or not your site can be deemed relevant and authoritative.

But one of the most important signals a search engine like Google receives about the relevance of your site is the number of links that point to it from other websites. If you have a large number of external links (also known as backlinks) pointing to your site from well-known and reputable sites, Google sees this as evidence that your own site should be ranked high for its usefulness and authority.

So, as a website owner, much of your SEO work should involve trying to secure backlinks from established and trusted sites. 

Limitations of Backlinks

Website owners “campaign” to earn backlinks by contributing something of value to the sites whose links they wish to secure. They’ll publish guides or listings that other sites will find useful for their audience, and then these other sites will recognize this contribution with a link to your website.

The only drawback to this practice is that those backlinks will likely only point to your homepage. A number of websites won’t link to your product pages because they have rules about promoting other sites.

So, if you want traffic to arrive at other pages on your website, you’ll have to find another way to make that happen.

What are Internal Links and How are they Useful?

An internal link is one on your own website that points to another page on your site. As stated earlier, one of the main advantages of internal linking is that it helps bots understand how the different pages of your site are related to each other in terms of content.

But internal links also signal which of your pages carries the most weight. In other words, links between pages illustrate the hierarchical structure of your site. If one page has more links pointing to it than other pages, the page with the most links is recognized as the one that’s most important and offers the most value.

Because backlinks from third-party sites usually point to a site’s homepage, a search engine like Google will most often recognize the homepage as the one that has the most authority. Your homepage is also a natural place to see a lot of internal links because it’s from that home base that you’re guiding visitors to other pages via menus and sidebar links.

So, let’s start with the assumption that your homepage will have the most external links, and that makes it the most important page on your website. But did you know that equity transfers from one page to another page on your site? If your most important page (home) links to other pages on your site with internal links, those other pages will also be recognized by Google or Bing as useful and relevant.

But as a marketer, you’ll also want to drive traffic to your product or service pages from outside, third-party websites, and we’ve just stated that these third-party sites will typically link only to your homepage. How can you get your product and service pages  to rank on search engines? The answer is simple but it does take some work: You’ll need to write content, in the form of blog posts, that mention your products and services.

How to Use Internal Linking to Increase the Efficacy of your Link-Building Strategy: A 3-Step Process

  1. The first step in this internal linking strategy is to offer to write guest blog posts for high-authority sites who will value the content you’re offering.
  2. Within that guest blog post, include links to one of the blogs on your own site.
  3. Update the blog post on your site (the one that you linked to on the guest post) by adding internal links to your product or service pages.

Using this strategy, you’ll not only help your SEO by allowing Google to better understand your site structure, you’ve also found a way to make visitors who arrive at your site from a backlink navigate to other pages that you want to rank for.

To illustrate with an example, let’s say you’re a company that sells goods for outdoor enthusiasts:

  • You decide to pitch content to a site that sells travel packages for outdoor adventure, and your article includes information that the travel package site visitors will find relevant and useful. 
  • Within that article, you link to a relevant blog post on your own site (say, an article about staying safe while camping). 
  • Update the blog you linked in your article to include internal links for tools you sell that keep campers safe.

Repeat this process with other sites so you can add even more product and service page links on your blog posts.

Best Practices for Your Internal Linking Strategy

Use Follow Links

Website owners will use nofollow links when they want to exclude non-relevant links from the Googlebot search. Some of the types of links that get attributed as nofollow include those that are paid or sponsored and comments on blog posts that may include spammy links.

But you’ll definitely want the crawlers to follow your internal links, as that will help them understand the relationship between pages and locate which pages are the most valuable.

Avoid Using Too Many Internal Links on the Same Page

Just because you have the opportunity to add internal links on a page, that doesn’t mean you should overdo it – even if those links are relevant to the topic of your post. Too many links will make the page look spammy, and both Google and your readers look down on that practice.

Use the Keyword in Your Anchor Text

Anchor text is what appears on the clickable link on your page. Using the outdoor goods company example from above, a blog post that included a link to a product page for hiking boots might use anchor text for their link that looks like this:

“When you’re traveling in areas with rough terrain, make sure you have the proper hiking boots that can provide good support and grip.”

Notice that the anchor text uses the keyword “hiking boots” but it does so in a way that appears natural.

Include Only Those Links That are Relevant 

If your links don’t make sense in the context of your written content, it will not only confuse readers, but they may also question the reputation and authority of your site. In an article about camping destinations, for example, it would look odd to see a link for a multi-use camping tool.

Ensure Your Website Has No Broken Links

Broken links are bad for SEO because they downgrade the user experience. When someone is interested enough to click on your link, they’ve indicated that they’re very interested in learning more. So, if the link leads nowhere, it’s not providing any useful value. Google recognizes this, so make sure every link leads to an appropriate destination.

Get More Value From Your Link-Building Efforts

Link-building is certainly the most challenging component of site optimization. It involves finding the best site to ask for backlinks, making a pitch to them, and then waiting to hear a response. However, it’s necessary to acquire these external links to improve your SEO ranking.

Using the internal linking strategy outlined above, you can make your backlinks work harder without much effort at all on your part.

Author Bio

Jason started freelancing in SEO back in college, sold his first agency, and now is founder of Zupo, which is an Orange County based SEO consulting agency helping construct powerful long term SEO strategies for our clients. Jason also enjoys multiple cups of tea a day, hiding away on weekends, catching up on reading, and rewatching The Simpsons for the 20th time.