Do you have an internal linking strategy for your website?

internal linkingIf you write web sites, for clients or for yourself, you probably know about the importance of linking.

Attracting inbound links from other websites is a great way to attract new visitors, and also sends a strong message to Google that your content is of high quality. (If your content was of low quality, other people wouldn’t bother linking to it.)

However, paying attention to links is not just about maximizing the number of quality inbound links from other sites. You should also pay attention to internal linking, within your own website.

Why does internal linking matter? A couple of big reasons.

– It helps your readers find related content on your website. Instead of having to search through your navigation system to find other pages they might be interested in, they can find the links right there within the body of the page, or listed at the end.

– These links also help Google make sense of your website. They let Google know which pages are related, and also the relative importance of pages on your website. Lots of inbound links pointing to a particular page suggest it’s an important page.

This means your pattern of internal links has to be considered and deliberate.

Instead of creating random internal links within your website, you should think about it and create a pattern of links that are helpful to your clients, and send the right signals to Google.

For your readers, you formulate a plan – and help them move forward within your site – by asking yourself the question, “If someone has just read this page, what else might they be interested in reading?”

Let me give you an example from one of my own sites and areas of interest: coffee.

On each of my individual coffee review pages, on which I review a particular coffee or blend, I add a link to my main coffee reviews listing page. That makes sense. If someone has read one review it figures that they might be interested in others.

Also, if a page is about a particular coffee from Costa Rica, I might also link to other reviews I have written of different coffees from Costa Rica. That also makes sense.

At the same time, I am letting Google know that all these review pages are related, and also…because I always link back to it…that my main review listings page is a very important page on the site and that they should recognize it as such.

I do the same if I am reviewing a particular coffee maker. Within each I will link to my main page on coffee makers. I’ll also link to pages that feature similar coffee makers, or other models made by the same manufacturer.

A few words about anchor text.

What’s anchor text? It’s the term used to describe the word or phrase that you hyperlink. Also referred to, sometimes, as linking text. For example, if I were to link from this post to my About page on this site, the anchor text might be, “about Nick Usborne”.

And if I were to link to the page on my coffee site about manual coffee mills, I would turn the phrase “manual coffee mills” into the hyperlink.

It’s from these hyperlinks that Google can figure out the relationship between pages.

However…I also make a practice of not always matching the hyperlinked phrase to the exact keyword I have optimized for on the destination page. Mostly I do, but not always.

So if my page about manual coffee mills has the phrase “manual coffee mills” in its title and headline, I might sometimes link to it from another, related page with the phrase, “hand coffee grinder”. Same thing, but a different term. In other words, I mix it up and keep it natural.

And that’s the key…create a linking framework for your site, but keep it natural.

If you are not doing so already, you should figure out a plan and create a framework of internal links within your site that helps your readers find the information they want, and helps Google figure out which pages are related, and which pages are more important than others.

However, as you do this, keep it natural. Do it primarily for your readers. Don’t do it with the mindset that this is a cunning way to get more traffic from Google.

Finally, it is absolutely in your interest to do this for your readers. Not only are you helping them find more of the information they want by linking to related pages, but you are also keeping them on your site for longer.

And Google will give you brownie points for that too.

Create that plan or framework now

If you haven’t been paying attention to internal linking, it’s time to get started.

Internal linking is an essential part of a site’s overall architecture and usability. It helps people find the stuff they want.

And if you do it right, it will result in getting more traffic from Google.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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