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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.

It also improves navigation and increases important metrics such as pages per visit, time on site and user engagement.

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 landing page. It also provides a clue to site visitors who wonder if the click is worth the effort.

The location of the internal link on the page also matters. The higher the link, the more likely it will get clicked because it is more visible to the user, especially if that user doesn’t scroll down the entire 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. If they spend enough time on the page, it signals to search engines that the link has value.

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

Effective Internal Link Building

A page casts a “vote” on other pages by linking to them. In SEO theory, every link dilutes the value of a page because it passes that value onto the landing page.

In addition, the more links on a page, the more each link has declining value that they pass on to the landing pages because they are sharing a fixed amount of “link juice” from the original page.

So it stands to reason that limiting the number of links on a page will make each link more valuable.

There are two general approaches to internal link building:

  1. Turn every relevant keyword phrase in 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. This is the quantity approach that also has the downside of diluting the link value of the page.

Quality Over Quantity

High quality link building

The second approach focuses on quality. It is more strategic in nature and focuses on sending more visitors to certain pages on the site that have:

  • Higher revenue value.
  • More opportunity for visitor growth, meaning they are already ranking higher in search engines and may rank higher.
  • 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 chances that it moves up in ranks. Whether or not it happens depends on many factors including competition.

A hub page — often times it is a homepage or section index page — is a different animal because it acts as a summary or overview page for a series of related pages.

It will likely have mainly 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

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

  • Quality and originality of content on the landing page
  • Landing page SEO optimization
  • Search engine rank of the linked page
  • External links to that page
  • Competition
  • 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. Keep trying to increase its rank by building external links to it and continually improving the content of the landing page.

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 make a difference in producing better SEO results for at least some pages on a site.

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