This is a guest contribution by Daniel Vassiliou of Endurance SEO.
Everybody loves (LOVES) to talk about link building and find the latest and greatest technique for building backlinks to your blog. While this gets you more traffic and better rankings in the search engines, it can draw away from an equally important aspect of your blog – internal (or onsite) SEO.
Not only does a good internal SEO practice help boost your rankings by making it easier for Google’s crawlers to access your pages, but it also allows real people (yeah, they’re still on the internet) to navigate your site and hopefully stick around longer.
A major part of onsite SEO is the internal linking of your blogs pages, and this post will explore the intricacies of interlinking your blogs pages to one another.
Why Interlink Blog Posts?
The main goal of interlinking your blog posts is to have search engines be able to easily crawl and index all of your pages, as well as see the structure of your site. A clean structure makes it so all of your pages get indexed, which means it can match them to search queries.
Since Google strives to give the best experience as well as the best content for queries to its searchers, the quality of your site layout comes into play when rankings are determined.
Benefits Other Than SEO
There are plenty of blog posts that will tell you that interlinking is only important in regards to SEO, but this simply isn’t the case.
Internal links make it easier for your readers to navigate through your site and find more content. Imagine someone finding a post of yours through a Google search. They could read it, get the information they want, and exit or back out without a second thought. But if you incorporate anchor text links within the blog, leading readers to other relevant posts, of a sudden your readers are exploring your site for an extended period of time, rather than only a few minutes. And this greatly increases the chance of them subscribing or coming back another time.
Drawing visitors into your blog for longer periods of time will lower your bounce rate, which is important because Google uses your bounce rates as a metric to determine if your blog has good content or not. Google tracks if searchers jump into a post, look at a single page without exploring deeper, and bounce back out of the page. If this happens a lot on your site then Google can tell that people aren’t finding your site useful and you will experience lower rankings as a result.
This is a great Problogger post about reducing bounce rate. Pay special attention to the first Navigation Bar tip as it is a form of internal linking as well.
Ways of Internal Linking Effectively
There are two things to remember when internally linking your blogs: structure and common sense. For structure, focus on using a tiered linking system that uses a top down approach, starting with the home page. A good example of this can be seen with breadcrumbs.
Hansel and Gretel may have been the first depiction of internet readers that we have to date. They were both so ADD that they couldn’t even remember how to get home on their jaunts in the woods. Readers on your blog are the same (in a way) but they can’t leave their own breadcrumbs to find a way back – so you have to help them out.
This is an example of online breadcrumbs taken from the Amazon query “blogging for dummies”.
Breadcrumbs show you the multiple levels and landing pages that took you to where you are. If you ended up going too deep down the rabbit hole a simple click and any crumb brings you to a broader page. There are plenty of plugins that allow you to incorporate breadcrumbs into your site, which in turn creates natural internal links on all of your pages. The best I’ve found is Yoast’s breadcrumb plugin for WordPress.
Once you have a tiered system set up that internally links all of your main pages correctly you can begin to link between your blog posts. This helps to keep any one post from falling in the cracks and helps to keep everything indexed in the SERP.
There are tools that can help link naturally between blog posts – the best of which is yet another WordPress plugin known as SEO Smart Links that matches keywords to tags and titles and automatically makes links between the two.
SEO Smart links can be a great tool for larger blogs where you might forget about specific articles or if you post a lot of content. If you have a smaller blog however, it is relatively easy to link between your posts manually.
Make the anchor text relevant and keyword specific so crawlers and users know what kind of page the link is pointing to. This helps with click through rates and indexing, as well as SERP rankings.
Don’t Overdo It
It’s important not to overdo it when it comes to interlinking. Trying to manipulate the SERPs by creating thousands of exact match keyword anchor texts to your landing page looks, and is, spammy and your blog will be penalized for this abuse. Keep it natural and mix up your keywords to fit naturally within sentences, rather than trying to force your content around the keywords.
Keep it Under Control
It’s important to stay true to the tiered system of internal linking to keep things in order for users and for crawlers. Try following something close to the classic pyramid structure where the Home Page is on the top, and everything flows down from there. Linking randomly to and from landing pages, blog posts, the about page, contact pages, and whatever else you might have can quickly make a mess of things and you could be sending the crawlers on a wild goose chase as they attempt to make sense of your site.
Keep it simple for them and they will reward you with better rankings and quicker indexing, and your readers will reward you with more exploration and involvement.
It all starts with great content
Of course, the best internal linking structure is a moot point if you don’t have strong content in order to keep the readers around and interested. Any part of SEO should never take precedence over the quality of your content, but it can be used to boost strong content to the next level.
Daniel Vassiliou is CEO of Endurance SEO and has been involved in SEO and online promotions/marketing for about 13 years now. If you have any queries regarding this post or how to improve your websites internal linking strategy, then leave a comment or contact Daniel.