Show Me The Links! Internal Links
- How PageRank Flows
- Nofollowing Internal Links
- Varying Anchor Texts
- Using Inbound Links to Improve Rankings
- Can You Have Too Many Internal Links?
- Internal Links on Multi-lingual Websites
- Creative Internal Linking
- Internal Linking Tools
- Internal Linking Penalties
- Avoiding Over-Optimization for Internal Links
- Making Your Links Stand Out
- Top 5 internal Link Tips
Julie Joyce: Hi everyone. Today we're gonna have a webinar all about internal links. I'm Julie Joyce. I own Link Fish Media, and I'll be your host today. I'm joined with Andy Drinkwater, David Cohen, and Moosa Hemani.
So, just for everybody watching this, I want to clarify exactly what we mean by internal linking. Some people, when we say internal linking may think linking into a site from another site. But for this, we're mainly discussing just linking internally within one site.
How PageRank Flows
So the first question I have, and Andy if you want to start this, is how does PageRank flow through a site?
Andy: Well, it can be sort of hit from any direction, really. Google says from your homepage down is the natural sort of flow for a regular page going to the website. But you can also make it flow the other way as well.
Moosa: Let's say if you have a five-page company website with a blog and the blog's kind of famous. Most of the links, the external links, that you're getting, they're probably going to the blog pages. And then the blog pages are going to flow into the service pages and the home page. I think it pretty much depends on what kind of website you have.
Julie: Is there an upper limit to the number of times that you can link within a 2,000-word article?
Andy: I mean, if you want to put 20 or 30 links on an article and pointing to different pages, that's fine, as long as it makes sense. But if you are doing it for page scoring purposes, then Google used to only look at the site on the first link. Now, they look at the second link as well. So, your first two links are the predominant ones that you really want to make something of.
Julie: But you wouldn't recommend having 1,000 links in there or anything, would you?
Andy: On a 2,000 word article, I think you're probably pushing it for 15, 20. You don't want too many on there, because you don't want people flying off everywhere. But if the article dictates that you're going to be sent off different places, or external links, internal links, then it will make sense.
Moosa: I like what Andy said. As long as it makes sense.
Julie: Okay. What happens when a site has a flat structure for navigation and basically is linking to every page from every page?
Andy: It's not going to be great. You don't want to be linking from every page to every page. That just doesn't create a particularly sensible structure, in terms of how you want the site to work or be used. You want a home page that basically pushes you through the route that you want people to actually take.
You don’t want to have people linking from pages, from inside the home page to like your internal pages, and from your internal pages back to your home page all the time, because the signals get lost on Google. You want to limit how you're actually doing it.
Julie: Should you repeat your navigation. You have the head navigation. Should you repeat that in the footer?
David: I would say no.
Julie: Why not?
Andy: If you have your homepage with sort of 1,000 page ranks in there, then the more links that are coming out from there, the less benefit is going to the others as well. So, duplicating a footer as well doesn't do anything.
If you're repeating home and top categories and stuff like that, again in the footer, it doesn't really make sense for the users.
Nofollowing Internal Links
Julie: Right. Okay. Should you no follow links to your least interesting SEO pages?
Andy: I can't think of the reason why you'd want to no follow internal links. On the whole, you want Google to see all your pages.
Moosa: I agree with Andy. I mean, if the page is less interesting, just remove the page from the website.
Julie: You see a lot of sites that have a main hub page. But some of them may have four or five diluted hub pages that are all about the same thing. How would you prioritize internal link building there?
Andy: I think I'd be starting to look at where the traffic's actually going on those pages. And if it was set in stone that you didn't want to merge them, then I'd be looking at the traffic on those pages themselves and say, okay, well this particular category is getting the lion’s share of the traffic, so maybe push most of your links that way.
David: I think every page has a purpose. That's kind of how I look at it. So if we have a site, we have 10, 20, or 35,000 pages, each one should have a purpose. And we need to figure out the purpose of that page; is it to move the audience or move the person somewhere else? Instead of giving them three or four different options of where to go, maybe it's better to give them one additional option to achieve whatever objective or goal you're trying to get for that page or the site in general.
Julie: Very true.
Varying Anchor Texts
Andy: Someone has just asked a question about varying anchor texts on these as well. With the anchor texts, I just want to very quickly add that absolutely, you should be varying these. It's not something you should just sort of use the same over and over again, because if you do that, it's going to look very spammy to Google. You will end up with the penalty for over optimization if that happens.
Moosa: You try to make it as natural as possible for external links, you should do a similar thing for the internal links as well.
Julie: Do you see that a lot of people don't really put that much effort into internal links?
Andy: With the anchor texts, you need to make sure that they make sense to the pages that they're pointing to. That's the whole idea about them. If you've got an anchor text and you're just using the same one over and over again, you might think that the signal is a positive one. But it's not. You want a variance in there. So you might want to use four or five different variants of that particular anchor text.
You can still make sure that you've got your primary keywords in there as well. So, you really want to be spending some time on your keyword research for what you want that page to rank for.
Julie: Should you no follow things like the contact us page?
Using Inbound Links to Improve Rankings
Julie: How can we best use our inbound links to improve rankings and traffic for internal pages?
Andy: If you've got the links to your site, and you want to use those in articles or something like that, use them to power your pages. If you can actually get external links to your internal pages, there's a real benefit to doing that for you.
Moosa: Because the external links have more value, or they have more power to bring in rankings much more than internal links, they're obviously more beneficial if you're getting a links record on internal pages.
David: I think with the page and internal links, when you know you're building links to that page, take a moment and look what's there before you begin that process of outreach and trying to build links to it. Can the links be moved further up in the page? Are they the right links? Can there be better anchor texts?
Julie: Some people report seeing an increase in organic traffic after they have reduced some internal links, especially from the footer. Have you seen that happen?
Julie: With real estate sites, lots of times I'll see where they have all the cities and all that, and there's like 1,000 links to them in a footer.
Moosa: I would say make one page where you're putting up all the cities, like a sitemap kind of thing, and then put that one link up instead. Maybe that would make more sense.
Can You Have Too Many Internal Links?
Julie: Yes. Can too many internal links to a page confuse how Google reads that page?
Andy: Yes. And this is why you've got to be a little bit careful about how you do it. You don't want to be firing too many internal links to a page with a wide variation of anchor texts.
If you've got too many and it's too narrow, then it will start to look spammy. You need to try to keep it a little bit real.
Julie: Anybody else?
David: I think I would ask myself, why are we pointing so many internal links to that page? What's the reason for that? Are we trying to mitigate a problem? Are we trying to create an opportunity? Are we over thinking it? So I'd probably take a step back and think, what the hell are we doing here? Are there other ways we can improve that page's rank, traffic, and conversions?
Moosa: I think it's very important to answer the question "why?" If you are pointing that link to that particular page. If you have a solid reason, then go for it. But if not, stay away from it.
Julie: What are some things to consider when you're building internal links? Do you guys look at any kind of metrics when you're doing that when you're mapping something out?
Andy: There's a number of tools you can use. Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, Sitebulb, these are all ones that you would use. If you've got a page that's maybe getting more prominence than it should be, then hop into Search Console, and have a look at seeing how that's actually being linked.
Julie: Should you have multiple links to one internal page from the same page? Like, if you had an article that was linking internally, should you have more than one link to another page there? Does that make sense?
Andy: Yeah, I mean, there's no harm in doing that.
Moosa: Why not, if it's making sense?
David: Yeah, like if you had a page where you had to study, had a bunch of data, maybe an infographic or a video. Then, if you have maybe a blog post or another page that alludes to that, you might have two or three links that you've got linked behind anchor text, around data, because people love to click numbers, percentages, research. And that might be a scenario where you would have a couple links to the same page.
Internal Links on Multi-lingual Websites
Julie: That's a good example. Is it worth it for the user and SEO to internally link on a multi-language website?
Andy: You probably wouldn't want to go from a German page to an English page, or vice versa, unless there was a reason to do that. I suspect you'd probably get more from just keeping it in that particular language itself.
Moosa: I agree with that, because unless you have a solid reason to move from linking from English to German, or German to English. I would prefer not doing that. Or if let's say, for English, users on the website click on the link, move to the German version of the website that he doesn't understand, that is exactly why users would bounce from the website, and that's not something that you want.
Julie: Should every page on your site have a link to another internal page?
Andy: There should be links somewhere, to every page on the site. Some people will prefer to keep the primary menus, such as the top menu, to a minimum, and just have a top level, and then let the internal links flow that way. Or, let people navigate from within those pages.
Creative Internal Linking
David: Something I've been experimenting with lately, when somebody completes a form, then they go to a thank you page. I've been putting in an internal link on that page to a webinar archive, or a showcase archive. So once that person completes the action, maybe they requested a demo of our software, maybe they requested somebody to call them. Putting an internal link in another call to action, to keep them on the site and go to where I want them to go next.
Julie: That's a very good idea.
Moosa: I like that. It's a really good idea, that you keep the user journey in mind, and move from step by step, from one step further, and to another. Even for an e-commerce website, once the purchase is done, that could be a link to an Ebook, or a link to a webinar, or a link to a purchase or something like that.
Once the person has bought something from you, the press level is super high, that if you're going to give them a link to the Ebook, or a link to the newsletter, stuff like that, they're probably going to go ahead and subscribe or perform the next step.
Internal Linking Tools
Julie: What are some of the tools you use when you're looking at internal links and mapping them?
Moosa: Screaming Frog.
Andy: The other one that I use is Sitebulb because one of the things I really like about that is the fact that it gives you a visual mapping of a site as well. You know before you even start whether or not you're going into something that's going to get messy or something that's maybe got a nice structure already in place as well.
Something that's not really a tool, but I do use a lot of is Google as well. So I'll do like a site column for the site itself, and then put at the end of it the search string. And that will show you the most, the volume there, the strongest pages that Google sees for that particular phrase.
Julie: And David, in terms of crawling. Do you have a favourite tool for that?
David: Screaming Frog. I think they do a beautiful job of pulling in a very simple report, especially for people like me.
Julie: I really like Sitebulb, too because I like the visuals. It just makes more sense to me.
So, let's say when you're doing internal, checking on the links and everything, what are some of the most common issues that you find in terms of internal links on a site? Like pages not found?
David: Yeah, broken, you know, 404. So yeah, like cleaning up past mistakes, really.
David: The more you do it, the better you get. I think it's always good to kind of go back a couple of months and look at what you were linking to, why you were linking to it, what your anchor text is, and how that aligns with whatever goal and objectives you may have for the page or the site.
Moosa: Especially for small businesses. If you go and look at their blog and how their blog is internally linking to their commercial pages, or the home page, they're using a lot of exact match anchor texts. And that's frustrating sometimes.
Julie: Is it bad to still link to older pages that are not in the navigation? I'm assuming they’re not 404.
Andy: Well, if there's a page that's still there, then link to it. I mean, if it's an old page, maybe think about repurposing it, bring it up to date, update the content, republish it, get it back into Google again and see if you can do something more with it as well. But, there's no harm in using older site pages there as well.
Internal Linking Penalties
Julie: Have any of you ever seen anybody get a penalty for doing too much internal linking?
Andy: Yes. There was a new customer I'd sort of taken on board. And they actually had a penalty because their site was in such a mess. It should have never had more than about 200 pages. They ended up with over 30,000, and multiple pages doing the same job. Internal links flying left, right, and centre. They saw a hefty optimization penalty from Google for that one.
Julie: So did they get a manual action?
Andy: No, it wasn't manual. It was an algorithmic thing. The more the work they did trying to fix it, the further it was just going downwards all the time.
Julie: Wow. How many times should you use the same keywords internally?
Andy: This is where you've got to get your spreadsheet out and say, okay, well, these are my primary keywords. If you've got a certain number of pages, say for example, you've got 20 internal pages that you can use, and you want to use those pages to sort of link to three or four, your other internal pages have got to be hub pages, then you want to make notes of what's going to be your primary keywords.
The primary keyword should always get the lion's share, but keep it natural. You should always then split up some of your alternative keywords as well. You don't want to use the same one over and over again. You might want to use four or five variations across the board.
Julie: What do you think about obfuscating internal links that only make sense to the user, not really for Google?
Andy: You need to have something on the page that makes sense. You need to make sure that it's as natural as possible. There is no harm in making sure that you've got the right number of links, internal links, on the page.
Julie: Whenever you create a new page, at a minimum, which pages should you link to it from? Like the home page, sitemap? Is that enough?
Andy: It's going to naturally sort of gain its own links anyway through either the menu or through an internal link as well. Again, you wouldn't want to be left with orphan pages. And so, if it's something that's just a part of a flat structure, maybe a WordPress site, then hopefully it will sort of be part and passed along with this structure anyway. You definitely want to make sure that it's got at least a link so that Google can find it. You can use the sitemap to make sure that Google can find it.
Moosa: Let's say if you're making some specific pages, or you're adding a new service page, so maybe that is something that you intentionally should be linking to the home page because that makes sense for the users. But other than that, keep it natural.
David: I was gonna kind of go back to the purpose. We're launching a new page. What's the purpose? Who's it for? What's the objective? If it's a conversion page, obviously you're going to want to link it to a page that's maybe getting traffic from search, and you can move them through that page. Maybe you're testing a new page. Maybe it's a free download, that then you want to send somebody to take a conversion. So again, you know, go back to the purpose thing, the goal, the objective, and then link accordingly.
Julie: Is internal link optimization white hat?
Andy: Yeah, it's definitely a white hat thing.
Moosa: By using internal links from one page to another page, you're actually helping users to navigate the site. And when you're doing it from users it's definitely white hat. Unless you are spinning or trying to get rankings by dodging Google or stuff like that. In that case, maybe, that's black hat.
Julie: Do you guys advise using breadcrumbs on internal navigation, for internal navigation?
Andy: Yes. It helps on multiple levels when it's a very easy way to get backwards and forwards between the pages, and there are benefits to doing this as well for the pages. So yeah, definitely.
Avoiding Over-Optimization for Internal Links
Julie: How can you make sure you're not over-optimizing keywords for internal linking within a site?
Andy: You really do need to make like a spreadsheet so that you can make sure you're not overusing these. And when you're starting off from scratch, then head into Search Console, and then look at the pages that are linked, and what anchors are being used for them. That's a good way to start in both. You need to be a little cautious about how you do it.
Moosa: When you are pushing the publish button, you need to make sure that whenever the target audience is going to land on that particular page, the page is going to serve the purpose. And yeah, I agree, Andy. Mapping is very important.
Making Your Links Stand Out
Julie: Do you think that people are downplaying the importance of accessibility? You might see sites, sometimes, where their internal links, you can't even tell it's a link or the link is the same colour as the surrounding texts. We need to be making sure that people with different types of visual impairments, especially, are able to navigate sites. I see a lot of sites where you just have to mouse over something to figure out that it's a link.
Andy: There's no need to try and get fancy with the effects as you hover over it or anything like that. If you start off with something that's a different colour, with no line, or with no underline, then it gives you an idea. But if you just keep it the same colour as the text, then it doesn't help, obviously.
Julie: When considering anchors for internal links, what else should you do on the target page to ensure that everything is as properly optimized and relevant as possible?
Andy: You've got a page that you want to use as a primary home page, then make sure your page title is all right. Make sure that your description is spot on. Make sure your content's on-point as well. Make sure the page is quick enough. Make sure the site is quick enough as well. Nobody wants a slow site, so people lose traffic that way.
Julie: What would you put on your checklist? List three things.
Moosa: I would say the title tag, the content of the page, and whether it is making sense with the title, or the title keyword that you are trying to target.
Top 5 internal Link Tips
Julie: Okay. What would be your top five internal link tips?
Andy: First of all, do your research. Research is a big one to start you off. Maybe you're not aware of how pages are already linked. After that, I'd do my keyword research. The keyword research, if you get that wrong and you end up over optimizing, based on the incorrect use of a particular phrase, then you will end up with a slap or penalty from Google of some sort.
David: Beware of escape hatches. When I think about a link, an internal link, an escape hatch is an avenue or a way for people to leave the site without taking the action you want them to, versus moving them through that journey. So, take a step back to your audience. Why are they coming here? Where are they coming from, and where to do we want to move them to? Make sure we don't have an escape hatch, a link, that lets them not finish that journey.
Moosa: You have to map internal links before implementing everything. But I think what basically shows is that, whenever somebody is on the website and they're planning to click on that particular link, they should continue their journey instead of get frustrated. So whenever you're putting up an internal link, make sure that you are guiding people towards more knowledge about the subject, instead of just getting the SEO benefit. You have to take care of the users first.
Julie: I think that it's important to make sure that your descriptive anchor text is there and that it actually looks like a link, things like that.
I think we've got five there. We've got to do your research, your keyword research, beware of escape hatches, think about the journey where you want everybody to go, and accessibility stuff.
Does over-optimization of internal anchors work well even if it's not the best idea?
Andy: No, it will cause problems. You need to make sure that your structure is right in your site, but you need to make sure that you map the actual anchor texts for the keywords themselves. Because if you get that wrong, then you are going to end up with too many of the same phrases pointing to the pages. And Google's going to look at this, and they're going to know what you're trying to do.
If I've got a structure that I'm working with, and I'm trying to do the internal keywords, as far as looking at the actual keywords, then I will say, okay, well I've got this particular phrase. And then I will find four or five variants of it. The primary one, I will give it 40% or 30% of the prominence for that, and then I'll reduce the percentages as I go through, to make sure that every one of them gets used at least once or twice.
Julie: So, if you're thinking about your internal links and your priorities on fixing them, and making everything better, how would you prioritize a project?
Andy: I'd go and look in Search Console. That's the first place I always go, and look at what your most internally linked page is, and see if there's any opportunities to basically reduce the prominence on one particular page over another. And it might even be that you can do that. So research is first and foremost.
Moosa: If there is a website, the first thing I'm going to do before I run it through Screaming Frog or anything is to reduce the 404 pages to none, and move on. Even if that page is not available anymore or stuff like that, I'm going to set up the redirections to the new one of that page and map accordingly. But the 404, I have a strict rule. No 404s on the page.
Julie: David, did you have anything to add to that?
David: I would look at what pages are losing compared to those that are winning, in terms of goals and objectives. If you can look at the ones that are performing well against those goals, maybe there are three or four for conversion actions which meet that objective, versus the ones that are losing. Maybe you can find something with those winning pages, and you can make adjustments to losing pages.
Julie: What would you advise saying to a client, to stress the importance of internal links?
Andy: Point them to Google, then sort of show them that this is what Google recommends for a couple of different benefits.
Moosa: And maybe research the companies who are ranking well for the keywords they have planned or that they want to rank for. And if their internal structure isn't fine, you can comment that the conversions are going down, which is one of the reasons why you should be doing that.
David: My answer is money.
Julie: What do you mean by that?
David: How are we performing, you know, revenue-wise. You can get any business owner, any executive, on board with an idea if you focus on the money part, where they're losing and where they can make more.
Julie: Are sites still using footer links for internal linking?
Andy: I'd probably say, try and do away with too many footer links. I mean, they're not really beneficial to some people. If anybody's at the bottom of your page, then I hope that they've gotten to where they need to be. But, make sure your calls to action are there before your footer links.
Moosa: Whenever you're adding a link to the footer, think about users. Do not think about SEO searches. And if it's relevant for users, go for it. If not, then avoid that.
Julie: Right. Okay. So I appreciate everybody joining us, and hope we'll see you again in a month. Thank you, guys. One of the most under-used yet powerful changes you can make, Internal Links can help shape your site, tell Google which is your most important pages and allow you to have more control over the site links that appear in the SERPs. By creating a strong Internal Link structure you are creating a series of hub pages that you can mould to best fit your business needs.