Optimizing internal linking can be complicated. Often, the topic is associated with many ambiguities and uncertainties. In this blog post you will learn how to optimize and use internal linking on your website – with practical tips and tricks. So nothing stands in the way of your SEO success with great page architecture!
Your page architecture is very important for your SEO performance. Not only does it tell Googlebot how your page is structured, it also passes on PageRank, which is a relevance signal for Google. In addition, it helps your users to navigate. Thus, the Googlebot and your users will have a much easier time finding their way around your website if you work with a strategy for your internal linking. Note: This blog post is for advanced readers who want to work with their internal linking. If you want to brush up on your basic knowledge of internal links, I can recommend my blog post on Internal Linking & SEO.
PageRank and internal links
You have probably already heard about PageRank. It was named after one of the two founders of Google: Larry Page. It was developed by him and Sergej Brin, the other founder. With this value Google evaluates URLs and domains. Each URL is assigned a value between 0 and 10. Google assigns a high trust to a URL with a high PageRank. The value was visible for everyone. In the past, the greater the PageRank of a page, the better this page was linked by internal and external links. The more links a website had, the higher its PageRank. The highest PageRanks had pages like wikipedia.org. Nowadays, PageRank is no longer visible, but it is still used by Google for calculation within its algorithms. Therefore, PageRank still plays an important role in ranking your page.
Internal linking: the right concept
It is important that you work with a concept that fits your website. Based on your offered products, services and so on, your site should be structured accordingly. Think about whether your website is well thought out and logically structured. You can solve this by organizing it into themes. Is this already the case? Great, then the Googlebot and your users will find their way around your website. Is it not yet so? No problem, you can always work on your site architecture. In this diagram I show you an example of how internal links can be structured
The home page should link to the categories. These in turn link to their subordinate topics. The topics link to pages, as shown in the graphic on the left. In addition, topics can still link to each other if linking makes sense. Linking between topics is relevant when the topics are similar or the topics complement each other. For example, linking can be useful if topic 2 in the diagram is storage boxes and topic 5 is a trolley that can be used to transport the boxes. This way you can further improve your internal link structure and provide added value to your users.
Use internal links
After you have a concept of how your website should be internally linked, the next step is to use the links effectively. With a good concept you can link your subpages in a way that Google considers them more important and ranks them better. Practical tips and tricks on how to create a good concept and what to look out for can be found at the end of this blog post.
For example, if you link an important page both in the menu and on other pages, Google will give it a higher value than if it is only linked from another page. Always make sure that your most important pages are very well internally linked and that no pages have too few inlinks, otherwise they will receive little attention from Google. Unfortunately, there is no optimal number that you can use as a guideline.
Control internal linking and build internal links
Now you know how to use the page architecture for yourself. In order for it to work effectively for you, you need to control your internal linking. This means that you regularly check whether pages have enough inlinks and can be perceived by Google.
A suitable tool for this is Screaming Frog. For more information about this tool, I can recommend Luisa’s blog post: 11 user tips for Screaming Frog from SEO practice.
Inlinks and External Links
When you optimize your site architecture, you can build internal links. This means that you create more inlinks for pages that should be better included in the internal linking. Depending on which pages these links originate from, they have different weight and pass on different amounts of linkjuice. Not only internal links, but also external links (backlinks) pass on link power. Since this post is about internal links and their optimization, backlinks are only addressed for the sake of completeness.
Links from the home page have the most weight and are the most valuable. Make sure to include enough inlinks, but don’t fill pages like the home page with too many links, otherwise your most important pages will get less linkjuice or linkpower.
This is where the linksilos come into play. You should not link all pages to all other pages, but only to thematically relevant pages that fit into the Linksilo structure.
An important relevance signal is the targeted linking of pages to each other within a topic, the silo. The internal links that link the pages strengthen the sub-pages of the corresponding silos, creating internal link power. The individual sub-pages in turn link to the parent pages of the corresponding silos, creating a clear structure for the Googlebot.
Advantages of an internal linking strategy
In contrast to the concept, which contains the ACTUAL state with a reference to the TARGET state, the strategy describes the necessary steps to the TARGET state.
If you use your well thought-out strategy for your internal linking, you will have some advantages and you might be a bit ahead of your competition.
You can effectively control the linkjuice and its distribution.
Not only does a good internal linking strategy make work easier for the Googlebot, it also makes it easier for your users to find their way around.
With internal linking you can control crawling. So your more important pages can be found faster by Google and get more attention.
Linking correctly: Tips & Tricks
Finally, here are my tips and tricks for your internal linking optimization. If you keep these 9 points in mind, you can effectively control the distribution of link juice.
Be careful when using “noindex” tag
Make sure that URLs relevant to the website are not set to “noindex”. Pages that should not be indexed will not pass on linkjuice in the long run, because Google will eventually stop following them. John Mueller shared this in a video and on Twitter. This method is good for controlling internal linking, but relevant pages can fall out of the index if the tag is poorly managed. In addition, the Googlebot also no longer follows the links present on the page, which means linkjuice is lost.
Tip: Use “noindex” only rarely and make sure to check regularly if your pages with “noindex” should really not be indexed.
Blocking by robots.txt
As you probably know, you can exclude pages from crawling with robots.txt. Make sure that only pages are blocked by the robots.txt that absolutely have to be excluded. If internally many links point to pages that are excluded from crawling, linkjuice is lost. More about robots.txt, SEO and crawling control can be found in Felix’s blog post.
Using “nofollow” for important links
You will probably have a similar problem as with pages that are on “noindex” with pages that are marked with “nofollow”. With the “nofollow” attribute you give the Googlebot the command not to follow a link. Thus, the target page should not be crawled and should not get a PageRank. The Googlebot does not follow any links on these pages and no linkjuice is passed on. The “nofollow” attribute is used to include URLs like advertisements, because they should not get PageRank. Sometimes SEOs try to manipulate linkjuice with nofollow by tagging links with it internally. If 2 out of 10 links are set to nofollow, then the linkjuice of these two “nofollow” links is not distributed to the remaining eight, but it simply fizzles out in nirvana. Internally, you should therefore never use nofollow, because so-called Pagerank Sculpting is not useful.
Internal broken links: 404, 410, 403, 500
Internal links to error pages with the status codes
404 (Page was not found),
410 (Gone, the content was deleted from the server),
403 (Forbidden, no access rights) or
500 (“service unavailable” due to a server error)
should be avoided.
Not only is it annoying for users when an error page appears, linkjuice is also lost!
Avoid broken links by either reworking the corresponding page or redirecting the GoogleBot and your users to the corresponding page with a 301 redirect.
Links on canonicals, 302 or 301 redirects
The 302 and 301 status codes are redirects.
302 redirects are temporary redirects and do not pass on any SEO power.
The 301 redirect is a permanent redirect and passes on SEO power.
You should use the permanent redirects instead of the temporary redirect so that you don’t lose SEO power. Similar to 302 redirects are canonicals. They contain the same or very similar content as the URL they link to. By designating them as a “canonical” of another page, duplicate content can be prevented. These references do not pass on SEO power like the 301 redirect does. Canonicals, like your redirects, should point directly to the correct page to avoid redirect chains. Redirect chains cause unnecessarily many redirects which negatively affect the load time, can cause a loop or cannot be set correctly because of the lack of clarity.
Linking in the text
Work frequently with cross-references in the text! Google likes to see it when linking with the main keyword in the anchor text. Through the link title and the surrounding text you can give Google even more information about what the linked page contains.
Do you already know the exciting example with the word “here”? If not, then you can read my blog post on internal linking & SEO to learn what happens when you Google the word “here” and why linking in the text is so important.
Number of links on the pages
There are often a lot of links on the home page. No wonder, because it has the most linkjuice. A link from the home page is more valuable than a link from other pages. Make sure that there are not too many links from the home page, because this way your most important pages will get less linkjuice.
Short and crisp click paths
Have you ever heard of the thesis that every page should be accessible from the start page with a maximum of three clicks? You can find out what the click paths on your website look like with a click path analysis.
With SEO tools like Ryte you can analyze your click path length. Even though very short click paths are probably not possible for very large pages, you can follow the 3-click rule of thumb. Clickpaths that are too long don’t give much linkjuice. Therefore, your pages should be well connected and quickly accessible by Googlebot and users.
Important areas of a page should be easily accessible
The last point has already mentioned it. Here I want to point out again that the most important areas of your page should be well linked and easily accessible for the Googlebot and the users. Your most important pages should be linked from the home page and be reachable in other ways – for example from other subpages.
Now you know how to optimize your internal linking and what to look out for. If you get stuck with your concept, I recommend you to talk to your colleagues. They often have a different view on the topic and can give you valuable feedback. I hope this blog post helps you and gives you valuable tips for optimizing your internal linking. How do you go about optimizing internal linking? Have you already been able to collect exciting learnings on this topic? I would be happy to read about your experiences. Feel free to write me a comment below the article and if you have any questions, just ask!