SEO: 7 Rules of Thumb for Internal Links
Internal Links and Their PurposeInternal links, which are placed in the main menu, create an additional navigation option within the website, for both the users as well as the search engine's crawlers. The internal links allow the user to quickly access the relevant pages. At the same time, a smart link structure shows the crawler which content on the website is the most important. The second aspect could easily make you place as many internal links as possible, but that behavior will cause a conflict when looking closer at it. The user wants to find links that are relevant at that moment, meaning a connection to the content that he's currently dealing with. If you randomly place links on the target pages, this will not be the case, as the chance of creating off-topic connections is high. In general, you can say that the user should always be in focus when it comes to a conflict between optimization for the user, and optimization for the search engine. Thus, the first rule for internal links is the following:
1. Internal links have to be relevant to the topic, and should only exceed the topic border when the connection is logical.To find appropriate connections, you should ask yourself which pages could be helpful for the user, and when in doubt, leave the link out. To assure that the user can make optimal use of the alternative navigation, the links should be recognizable as such. While this highlighting is only a piece of advice for the user, it is a necessity for the search engine. As missing highlighting of a link is against the Google guidelines, the following applies:
2. Internal links have to be marked.This can be done by underlining, changing the color, or similar highlighting. The second advantage of internal links is that the crawler receives an overview of the most relevant keywords, as well as categorizing help of the target page from the anchor text before visiting them. The result:
3. The anchor text of an internal link should describe the target page as good as possible.Here, using money keywords is recommendable, as they allow you to describe the link destination in the most accurate way. On a high amount of links, you should vary between money keywords, and other keyword groups, however. Example:
|Keyword Group||Keyword Example|
|Money Keywords||Audi A3, A3, the new Audi, Audi A3 Variant, ...|
|Brand Keywords||Audi, Audi AG, audi.com ...|
|Compound Keywords||Introduction of the new A3 by Audi ...|
|Other||Read our review of the new Audi A3 here|
4. The internal link structure should result in a clear prioritization of sub-pages.To not lose the overview, you can create a table with prioritized topics, categories, or products, for example:
|Priority 1||Audi||#1: A3 #2: A6 #3: ...|
|Priority 2||BMW||#1: 316 #2: 520 #3: ...|
|Priority 3||Volkswagen||#1: Beetle #2: Touareg #3: ...|
5. Only place as many internal links as necessary for a proper navigation.Because of the distribution of link juice, I strongly disadvise from linking the same target on one content page multiple times. Due to the additional connections, all links on the page are weakened. At the same time, however, the search engine only counts the first link to a page, meaning that you lose valuable link juice.
6. A link to a specific target should only be placed once on a sub-page. Exception: When linking the same destination multiple times drastically improves the usability.Additionally, you need to keep in mind that the internal links on a sub-page are rated differently by Google. The higher the chances of the user clicking the link, the better it will be rated. Links that are within the important content of the page have a much larger influence than links in the footer.
7. You should pay attention to a sensible placement of internal links.As you can see, the topic "internal linking" comes with a variety of trip hazards. Aside from the mentioned aspects, a small negligence can cost valuable link power. Thus, to finish this article off, here's an overview of mistakes that can be avoided easily:
- Internal nofollow links: the transferred link juice is not counted.
- Links to 404 pages, aka broken links: the link juice is led into the void.
- Links to 302 redirections: the link juice is not passed on.
- Placing canonical tags on paginated product overview pages that link to page 1: the links on the following pages are not counted anymore.