Despite all the changes to Google’s algorithm, search engine optimization (SEO) remains a foundational part of every digital marketing strategy. Still, SEO is daunting for many local business owners. That’s likely why 70 percent of them don’t have a strategy (PR Newswire), and many turn to trusted local experts for help.
Your clients may be looking to you to understand the ins and outs of SEO, keep up with changing algorithms, and follow best practices. They may be coming to you asking how internal linking can boost SEO.
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What is internal linking?
Internal links on a web page navigate away from the current page but onto another page on the same website. You might have one of your blog posts internally link to some of the product pages on your website, for example. Internal links are used to share related content on your website that visitors might find useful.
How does this simple tactic improve your clients’ rankings? Here are three easy ways.
1. Internal linking creates a roadmap
The first thing internal links do is create a denser map of the site you’re trying to rank.
Google’s web crawlers—its robots that go out and index the web—spend time on your site, crawling through various pages. They analyze each page on which they land. Their main task is to figure out what each page is “about,” so relevant searches can link to it. That’s why keywords and meta descriptions are so important.
Internal links matter here, too. Internal link building showcases how pages on a site relate to each other. Search engine bots use those internal links as context clues to help them determine what a page is about.
It also creates a “roadmap” of your site. The bots spend more time on the site when there's do-follow internal linking HTML. In turn, they also get a better picture of the whole site—which is then indexed more completely.
A more thoroughly indexed site means more of your content shows up in Google searches. It also helps the bots make better decisions about the topic of each page. That gives pages on a site a better chance of ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Best practices for mapping a site
Good SEO usually means adding an XML sitemap. You might think you don't need internal links if you already have that sitemap.
Yet, this isn't always enough. It doesn't show the interconnections between content in the same way. Good internal link building shows the web crawlers (and your visitors) how content fits together.
You want to make sure your linking SEO strategy focuses on relevance. Links should be pertinent to the subject at hand.
At the same time, it’s a good idea to include a few internal links on each page. This showcases how the current page relates to other parts of the site. That, in turn, tells the web crawlers how relevant or central the page is to what your client does or sells.
Search engine crawlers index pages with lots of links pointing to them more thoroughly, because they land there more often. They'll be less thorough with pages that have fewer links, and pages with no links might be in SEO trouble. The robots may have a harder time figuring out “what” the page is about, let alone how it connects to the rest of the website’s content.
2. Internal links, SEO, and bounce rates are connected
Google’s web crawlers aren’t the only visitors to a website. Hopefully, your clients’ customers are also visiting them. Good SEO makes pages more relevant to human visitors who are using search engines. With luck, when someone searches for your keywords, they’ll land on your site.
Internal linking has another benefit: helping human visitors find relevant content. To see this in action, let’s look at an internal links example.
Down the rabbit hole
Suppose someone searches “best running shoe shop near me.” That’s great news for your client, who has a running shoe shop near this customer. (They also have great Google Reviews, so Google agrees they’re one of the best.)
This person clicks the link to your client’s website. They land on the homepage and spend a few seconds looking around. They decide to look at the “About Us” page, which gives the store’s hours.
An internal link on this page entices visitors to check out the online store to see what’s in stock. This visitor clicks over to the store page. Once there, they also decide to browse the FAQs, as well as the shop’s return policy, all by using links to get around the website.
They might even spend some time reading through a blog post. The article might talk about finding the right fit, recommendations for the best shoes for different sports, or even a sale announcement.
Reducing bounce rate
In the case of our running shoe shopper, internal links do more than direct them to relevant content. They also reduce what search engines call “bounce rate.”
Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who leave a web page without taking action, such as clicking on a link to another page. A high bounce rate may indicate that a client needs more relevant internal links to keep visitors moving through the website.
Search engines use bounce rate as one indicator of how well a particular page served a user’s needs. If a user only views one page on your site, it might mean there’s something “wrong.” While bounce rate doesn’t directly impact SEO, it can impact other ranking factors (Search Engine Watch).
Search engines do measure dwell time (Search Engine Journal), which looks at how long a user spends on your site. The longer someone spends looking at a page or on your site generally, the more relevant it likely is to the search term.
If a user spends five seconds on your page before clicking away, Google assumes the page wasn't helpful.
By contrast, if someone spends a long time reading your content and then clicks to other pages, Google says, “Hey, this must be relevant to that search term.”
The result? Google pushes up your SEO ranking.
Best practices for lowering bounce rate
Relevant links are key to lowering bounce rate. Think about what kinds of content you’d want to see if you landed on a page. What questions are you likely to have? If the answers exist on another page, link to that page.
The trick here is to think like a curious customer. Good SEO is almost always predicated on anticipating what visitors need.
3. Highlight the important parts of the site
Finally, when it comes to internal linking, SEO experts think of it as a way to highlight content on a website. Since you’re pointing people to certain content, links draw attention.
The key point here is to be strategic with internal linking. Think about what parts of the client's site you want to highlight. What is their most important content? It could be a sign-up page or a popular product page.
You might also consider highlighting content that isn’t performing the way it should. Remember that pages without links aren’t as well-indexed as those with lots of links pointing to them. That can hurt SEO performance, because the crawlers aren't indexing the page as often.
Internal linking is one of the easiest ways to help turn that around.
Be strategic about what you want to highlight. Some pages are more important than others, and that’s okay. Pages that are important should be at the center of a dense web of links. Pages that are less central to the site don’t need as many links.
Pages that you want to highlight might be those that are already performing well. In other cases, you might want to highlight pages that are underperforming. A strategic mix of both can help create a denser web and better indexing for the site.
Drive better results for your clients with SEO white-label services
Keeping up with SEO can be time consuming. Algorithms are always changing, and there are many ranking factors to consider, with internal linking being only one part of a larger SEO strategy.
If you don’t have the resources in house to help your clients improve their SEO rankings, consider offering SEO white-label services, which ensures they can get all the benefits of excellent SEO under your brand without draining your resources.
They’ll appreciate working with an agency they already know and trust. You know you’ll be able to deliver the results they want. Whether it’s internal linking or better keyword research, you know you’ll be able to meet all your clients’ digital marketing needs with a white-label solution.