Internal Affairs: 4 Internal Link Structure Best Practices for SEO
The practice of search engine optimization (SEO) has always been commonly seen as a set of techniques you could do to get people to visit your website. This is great as a lot of websites available online are publications that relies on ad revenues they get from clicks. More clicks mean more money and SEO is a great way of getting those clicks. Now, what if your business is not the type to rely on ad revenue and you need people to actually buy something from you, whether it’s your products or services, for you to earn a profit? How useful would SEO be in cases like that?
The answer is just as useful because in this case, SEO doesn’t stop at just clicks. It’s a set of technique to help raise your visibility on search engines but also to entice users to actually spend money on you in a process commonly referred to as conversion. SEO is actually a much more comprehensive process that covers every step of a user’s journey all the way from a search engine until an actual purchase. Under this definition, the practice of internal linking takes on a greater importance among SEO services as they can both increase your site’s visibility and help better organize the internal makeup of your website.
The importance of an internal link structure
In the discussion around SEO, backlinks are much more often mentioned than internal links. This isn’t exactly wrong as backlinks are a key feature in raising a website’s visibility but what’s sometimes lost in this discussion is the issue of an internal link structure, which serves an important role as a the navigational element of your website and is a factor in enhancing the user-friendliness factor of your website. A proper internal link structure helps search engine recognizes the internal link hierarchy of your website.
In the context of internal links, there are usually two types of links that are commonly used. The first type of link is used for navigational purposes while the other is used inside your contents, which can help entice visitors to stay longer by showing them contents similar to the ones they’re currently seeing. The latter should be familiar to those who’ve spend hours on Wikipedia by linking from one blue links to the next. The placements of your CTA buttons typically fall between the two umbrellas depending on how you use them.
As with every technical part of your website, there are certain best practices that you have to follow in establishing an internal link structure. This is especially important in terms of your link hierarchy as mistakes in your internal links could send some mixed signals to search engine crawlers. Mixed signals are annoying when it comes to dating and apparently, it’s no less annoying in terms of website crawling and indexing. Some of these best practices are going to be touched upon in the following section.
Pay attention to your user’s experience
Wikipedia gets a pass on including more than 100 links on a single page because they’re Wikipedia but typical websites won’t be able to get away with something like this because this can be really annoying. Hyperlinks have to be colored differently, which is why they tend to be used sparingly, and you can’t promote too many of your website’s other contents in a single page because it would seem spammy. In a worst case scenario, you should always avoid using interstitial on your website for your CTAs, which is one of the surefire ways of making visitors reach for the back button.
If you really want to insert more links to promote other contents, consider making your contents longer so that you could keep the ratio of links to text while including more links. But you also have to make sure that the contents you’re linking are actually relevant to the text and not thrown simply for the sake of promoting your contents. Additionally, you should consider dividing your website into smaller subcategories so as to keep the navigational items in your navigation bar to a minimum.
Establish a proper hierarchy of your website
Any proper organization and institution of a certain size requires a clear and definitive hierarchy in order for it to function and websites are no different. Before even the technical makeup of your website has been properly established, you need to know how the website is going to be structured in terms of hierarchy. The homepage sits at the top, that much is easy but how are you going to organize the categories and subcategories of your content? And where does the conversion and products/services page is going to fit in all of these?
The easiest way to accomplish this is by starting with the sitemap. Take into account the point I mentioned about keeping navigational items to a minimum and instead use subcategories to further diversify your website’s hierarchy. Figure out which page will get top-level billing and which ones will require several clicks. Remember, you can only put so much links in your homepage before it starts to look like a digital garage sale so you shouldn’t underestimate the value of a website’s hierarchy.
Take into account the concept of link value
Just as how some backlinks are going to be considerably more valuable to others, links from certain pages within your website is also going to hold more value than others when it comes to internal linking. By taking this into account, you can funnel this link value to pages that you feel are most important. The decision of whether to spread it around to other topic pages or to keep them within the same topic is completely up to you. There are various SEO tools you could use to identify which page of your website holds the highest rank or authority and decide where to go next from there.
Be careful about the links you put in the body of the article
We’ve been seeing more and more publications and websites including links within the body of the text that isn’t actually a part of the text. This is different from the usual practice of anchor text and hyperlinks that can be seen within Wikipedia as these links serve as a break between one part of the text and the next. As such, you want to be extra careful and make sure that the links you put here is actually relevant to the current discussion. With these links, it is possible to include a picture and the summary of the linked content to make it more interesting to users.