Linking to your own content within the pages of your blog is one of the most important aspects of building a successful site. It is the best way of directing your visitors from one story to another and make the traffic flow. This process is called internal linking. Internal links are a great service for your visitors. They introduce your visitors to relevant articles, provide them more detailed information and get them to look deeper and further explore your content.
- It leads to an increased stickiness of your content (an increase in page views and decrease in the bounce rate). Bounce rate is the percentage of readers who navigate away from the site after only viewing one page. If your site has a high bounce rate, it means that your site is either off-putting, boring, or not relevant to what visitors are looking for.
- It improves the usability of your site. When your site usability is great and your content is sticky it means that your visitors love your content and stay on it for a longer period of time. Bounce rate and content stickiness are great metrics to judge the success of your site so do keep an eye on them in your analytics.
- It helps your content rank better in search engines. Google gives much attention to which pages you link to when trying to figure out how to index their results. Every page that has been indexed by the search engines receives a certain amount of authority. Page authority in Google is called PageRank (PR). PR is calculated on an article by article basis rather than on a site by site basis. So your home page might have a PR5 ranking, while your most recent article might have PR0. Each page passes PR link juice (authority) and each linked page gets the authority. If your PR5 main page links to 10 different sites, each of these 10 links, internal and external, is going to get an equal amount of PR. So the higher the PR of the page that is linking and the fewer links the page links to, the more authority the linked page will receive from the link. Now that everything is clear let’s take a look at the steps you can take to improve your internal linking:
Inserting links in WordPress
WordPress makes it very easy to link within the content so do it whenever it makes sense in order to help your visitors use your blog and explore your relevant content further. When you click on the “Insert/edit link” button in your post writing menu click on the “Or link to existing content” in the pop-up. This will display the list of all your posts in the content archives. Find the post you’d like to link to or use the search field to locate the post. Click “Add Link” and you are done. Easy!
Engage your visitors quickly
Your overall design needs to be simple, effective and clutter-free. It needs to help your visitors explore more. Simple design also makes sure that your site is quick to load, another factor that contributes to people staying longer. Your content needs to be attractive to look at in order for people to stay on your blog in the first place. It needs to engage and grab the interest within the first couple seconds. This means concentrating on providing content that catches your readers’ attention within seconds and thrill them. You want them to click-thru to read more and more of your content. If you don’t do that they will leave and all the efforts you have done in terms of internal linking will be useless.
Have a simple navigation
Have a clear hierarchy
Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link. Again WordPress is your friend here as it makes the process quiet simple.
- Enable breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are a great internal linking tool. Install this plugin or use one of the themes that enables breadcrumbs by default.
- Use at least one of the tags or categories to categorize your content. Every one of your posts should contain a category or a tag link.
This is a much more effective method for encouraging people to explore deeper than making them have to use the “back” button to search for relevant content.
Use the <!–more–> function
Publishing excerpts of posts on your home page instead of entire posts encourages visitors to go deeper. If users are interested, they’ll have to click a link, such as “Read More” to go to the post’s page. You can do this in the most basic themes even. Just use the <!–more–> function when writing your posts. This function is there by default in your WordPress writing field. It is called “Insert More Tag”. <!–more–> function lets you break your post and only include a short preview on your post on your home page. To read the full post, the visitor must click on the “Read more” link. So instead of letting your visitors read all your posts in full from the main page, use <!–more–> to cut down the posts so the visitor has to click on them to read the full article. Very simple and easy way of increasing page views.
Include links in the sidebar, footer and at the end of articles
There are several things you should make sure to do. WordPress has several plugins that make this easy.
- Link to your popular posts and latest posts from your sidebar.
- Link to your relevant posts at the end of your articles.
- Use your footer to place links to contact us, about us and other similar pages.
Use relevant and descriptive anchor text
Your internal links within the content should indicate and describe what it is that you are linking to in order to attract visitors to click on them. Phrases like “click here” or “go here” may work sometimes but as the link anchor text does not indicate what you are linking to it does not help your visitor know what will happen after they click. Use a plugin called Insights. It is placed just below your post writing field and lets you search for keywords that you are writing about and easily discovers relevant internal pages to link to. You don’t necessary only have to link from new to old posts. You can also do it the other way around. If you have a good, older post that is relevant to something you have written more about lately, go back and edit the old one and include a link back to the new post.
Check for broken links
Now that you are introducing all these links in your content make sure they work fine. Search engines and your readers do not like broken links so use the Broken Link Checker plugin to discover and fix broken links. It is a simple plugin that automates the process for you.
Make your permalinks pretty
Make sure your permalinks are pretty. This one is a simple setting in WordPress. Set it and forget it.
Create a sitemap
Google uses your XML sitemap to learn about the structure of your site and to hopefully increase the exposure your pages get in its results. Install a sitemap plugin and activate it. Another one to just set and forget.
Do a permanent redirect
Permanent redirect your domain name and be consistent in your linking behavior. Decide what is the URL of your website. You do this in “Settings” and then “General” in your WordPress admin. If you decide your main URL is yourblog.com (without www) make sure to always and from anywhere link to yourblog.com, and not to www.yourblog.com or www.yourblog.com/index.php or any other alternative.
Following these steps will dramatically improve your internal linking structure. Not only will your visitor have a better experience of your site, you will also get them to consume more of your content and you will help search engines get better information about what you do and hopefully also rank you higher and send you more traffic. Happy blogging!