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Why Internal Link Building Matters for SEO

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Internal link building often is overlooked as an important tactic for search engine optimization and creating a better site visitor experience.

Remember that the words used in the anchor text of a link, whether it is on site or off site, provides a clue to search engines about what lies on the page where visitors land after clicking on the link.

The location on the page also matters. The higher the link, the more likely it will get clicked because it is more visible to the user. Many users don’t scroll down to the bottom of every page.

Whether someone clicks on that link signals to the search engine (which often is following the user via cookies) that the link has value, relevance and context for the user.

How the user responds to the landing page provides the next clue.

Let’s see how to use internal linking for better SEO results.

Effective Internal Link Building

No one outside of Bing and Google senior management knows for sure all of the factors that go into search engine ranking. Experts experiment and guess. But some evidence and simple logic help guide publishers on internal linking.

In traditional SEO theory, a site page “votes” on other pages with the links it contains. Every link vote dilutes the value of the first page and passes that value onto the landing page.

So it stands to reason that limiting the number of links on a page will make each link more valuable; having many links will make each link less valuable. Besides, a visitor who find 50 links on a single article may feel overwhelmed.

There are two general approaches to link building:

  1. Turn every relevant keyword phrase on an article into an internal link.
  2. Link only to a few of the most important pages based on their relevance.

The first approach has the benefit of increasing the odds that a user will click on at least one link on the page as long as the number of links is reasonable. This is the quantity approach that also has the downside of diluting the value of the page.

Quality Over Quantity

The second approach focuses on quality. It is more strategic in nature and limits links on pages that have:

  1. Higher revenue value.
  2. More opportunity for visitor growth, meaning they are already ranking higher in search engines and may rank higher.
  3. Act as “hub” pages, meaning that they do have quite a few links, but the links together serve an important user purpose.

The value of sending visitors to a page that generates a higher advertising CPM is obvious.

A page with potential for better rankings in search engines may already be No. 6 in the search results. Adding links to it from less important pages may increase the chance that it moves up in ranks.

The response by the visitor to the links sends signals that may determine the change in rank. But competition from similar pages on other sites may limit any change.

A hub page is a different animal because it acts as a summary or overview page for a series of related pages. It will likely have many links to related topics. But if the related pages all link back to the hub page, the hub page won’t suffer from as much (or any) link dilution.

Tracking Results

In time, the rank of the landing page might improve in search engine results. Keep in mind that it is not just a matter of internal link building but other factors as well, such as:

  1. Quality and originality of content on the landing page
  2. Landing page SEO optimization
  3. Search engine rank of the linked page
  4. External links to that page
  5. Competition
  6. Social shares

Once the internal linking is in place for a targeted page, and enough time has passed to see the response by search engines, then move on to other tactics to keep increasing its rank. Those tactics include continual improvement in the landing page and building external links.

If the ranking doesn’t improve, take a step back and analyze the landing page for other factors. What is the average time on page, bounce rate or exit rate? Has it been promoted on social media accounts? Does it have share buttons? What do SEO tools say about its optimization?

Some pages may never improve in rankings because they face intense competition from bigger sites. Frankly, some of the sites with those pages have large budgets and pay for help from the best SEO people in the business. In those cases, the effort may be a lost cause. Rankings may never improve or may simply move up one or two notches and stop.

If so, it is time to move on to other pages and other opportunities.

Regardless of the results of individual pages, internal link building does create the potential for improving SEO results for at least some pages on a site.

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