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How to Optimize Your Website's Internal Linking for Better SEO and Traffic

updated on Aug 05, 2016
How to Optimize Your Website's Internal Linking for Better SEO and Traffic Internal link building has been recognized as an important yet overlooked ranking factor. When optimizing a website for SEO, many beginners pay much more attention to the building of backlinks than internal links. However, this is in fact a misconception because the performance of your internal linking can make a big difference to your search engine rankings and website traffic which you may not imagine.

If you haven't worked out strategies for building and optimizing the internal links on your website, you should now start working on it without any hesitation. Need more convincing reasons for doing so? Read the benefits first.

Benefits of Proper Internal Linking

Internal linking is a key factor for on-page SEO. By linking from one page to other pages on your website, you are offering an easier way for search engine bots to crawl more pages and to understand your website better. When a page is linked contextually for multiple times, its authority can be established, and it will probably be ranked better in search engine results.

Besides improved SEO, proper internal linking also brings about the following benefits.
  • It helps improve your website navigation since readers can access other pages through the page they are reading.
  • It provides valuable information for readers who need extra information on related topics, thus there will be better user experience.
  • It helps promote your old posts by making them visible to more potential readers.
  • It increases your website traffic and reduces the bounce rate since readers get some other content to check after finishing their read.
  • It passes the link juice of the pages with higher authority to the relevant pages with lower authority.
After knowing all these benefits, it's time to optimize the internal links on your website. To do this, you can try the following practices.

Make Proper Internal Linking

Produce More Content on Relevant Topics

More content means more possibilities to add natural and helpful internal links. You cannot expect great internal linking on a website with ten posts only, especially when the posts come with different topics. Therefore, the first thing is to write more content on your website if you have just started your website.

When adding plenty of new content on your website, you are suggested to make an editorial calendar. This not only helps you work out valuable content on relevant topics which are important for building internal links, but also enables you to keep track of what you have done and what you are going to do.

Link the Top Pages to the Less Authoritative Pages

To fully utilize the power of internal linking, you can pass link juice from your top pages to those with lower page authority by linking from the former type of pages to the latter.

To do this, you first need to find out the top pages on your website. This can be done by checking the statistics in your Google Analytics account, or by analyzing your website with an online tool like the Open Site Explorer offered by Moz. With Open Site Explorer, you only need to enter your website URL and click on "Top Pages" to get the pages with the highest authority.

Top Pages

After finding the top pages, you can edit them and link to the relevant content on your website that is less popular and has lower rankings in search engines.

Make Use of Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs contribute to a clear internal link structure by showing your pages in a hierarchical manner, which helps a lot in improving the website navigation and user experience. With breadcrumbs, your users are able to know where they are and navigate through your website easily.

Some modern website templates have built-in breadcrumb features. If yours doesn't, you may need to switch to another theme, or ask for a developer to add breadcrumbs to your existing theme. However, in the case that your website is based on WordPress, you can get the functionality by using a plugin. For a detailed instruction on this, read this post.

Optimize Internal Linking with Breadcrumbs

Add Navigational Links in the Sidebar or Footer

Your website's main menu should have already included the important navigational links. However, this is not enough. You can add more links in the sidebar or the footer section to make it easier for your pages to be found. This method has been utilized by a large number of websites, especially those with heavy content.

Add Internal Links in Website Footer

Display Related Posts

Related posts on the same or relevant topics provide the content that your readers are likely to be interested in, so they undoubtedly add value to your posts. Therefore, it is highly suggested to enable the display of related posts in all your posts. Depending on your preference, the placements of such posts can be the website sidebar, or after the post content.

Display Related Posts

Always Link to the Important Pages

For the important pages on your website that convert, you should add more internal links to them to increase their Page Rank. Besides SEO, this also helps you reach your business goals if you are trying to make money from your website. The popular practices for doing this include:
  • Linking to the important pages from your homepage, typically the most popular and most linked page on your website.
  • Linking to them from any content that is highly relevant to them.
  • Linking to them from your sidebar or footer.
Link to the Important Pages from Homepage

Pay Attention to the Anchor Texts

The use of the proper anchor text is important for SEO since such text enables search engines to understand what the page your are linking to is about. Besides, your readers also rely on the anchor text to decide whether to follow the link.

Good anchor texts should include relevant and useful keywords, but they shouldn't be over-optimized. For example, if you have a post with the title "How to Add a Booking System to WordPress", you'd better not use the title as the anchor text when the post is linked internally. Instead, phrases like "add a booking system" and "add booking system to WordPress" are good choices. When linking to the same post for multiple times, try to vary the anchor texts and make them natural.

Do Follow All Internal Links

When linking to your pages internally, you will certainly want the search engine bots to crawl them. So unlike external links that you need to nofollow to show you are not selling influence, you'd better not use rel="nofollow" for any of your internal links, or the link juice won't be passed.

Link Relevant Content Only

This has already been emphasized for multiple times in the content above. However, we still want you to focus on it and think about it for another time. More internal links are good indeed, while those links to less relevant content bring no value to your readers, and they can even harm your user experience and search engine rankings.

If your website covers multiple niches, you need to pay extra attention to this. No one will want a link to "kitchen tools" in a post about "writing good blog content". So think twice before linking to less relevant pages and make sure that every internal link adds value.

Don't Stuff Your Content with an Excessive Number of Internal Links

Internal links come with various benefits, so you need to try your best to add them to your content. But wait, you may not need so many links on your pages. You should always remember that when adding content, the first goal is to make it quality and valuable to your audience instead of stuffing it with internal links.

Too many internal links deliver a bad user experience and make your content look spammy. As a result, your content becomes less valuable, and fewer people are willing to click the internal links.

There is no standard about the density of internal links, while the bottom line is that the links should not badly affect readers' browsing experience.