Linking to your own content within the pages of your own site is one of the most important aspects of building a successful website. It is the best way of directing your traffic 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.
This leads to an increased stickiness of your content (an increase in page views and decrease in the bounce rate), improves the usability of your site and helps your content rank better in search engines. Google and other search engines give much attention to which pages you link to when trying to figure out how to index their results.
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 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. 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.
Internal linking SEO 101
Let’s first look at how internal linking works in terms of search engine optimization (SEO). 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. In general, the more internal pages you are linking to from each page, and the fewer external links you are linking to, the more authority your site will maintain as a whole, as authority will continue to circulate around your pages.
How do I prevent link juice leakage?
Note that link juice is passed through all links. Every single linked page from your site receives a percentage of the PR assigned from the page you link from. The “nofollow” attribute on individual links is a mechanism that gives bloggers the ability to modify link juice/authority flow.
For Google, nofollow links are dropped out of the link graph and are not counted. You can for example employ nofollow attribute on your sites to limit the amount of link juice that flows out of your page to external pages on different domains. Add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to all the links that you do not want to be taking from the authority that could be recycled back onto your site.
This is how a normal link looks like:
This is how a link with rel=”nofollow” attribute looks like:
<a rel=”nofollow” href=”http://www.google.com”>Google</a>
NoFollow links now take away your PageRank juice
Google’s Matt Cutts announced this:
So what happens when you have a page with “ten PageRank points” and ten outgoing links, and five of those links are nofollowed?
Originally, the five links without nofollow would have flowed two points of PageRank each (Nofollowed links didn’t count toward the denominator when dividing PageRank by the outdegree of the page).
Google has now changed how the PageRank flows so that the five links without nofollow would flow one point of PageRank each.
Nofollow linking still doesn’t pass PageRank and still doesn’t pass anchor text so it doesn’t help sites rank higher in Google’s search results. But nofollow links now take away PageRank juice from your blog. By default all the links in comments section in WordPress are nofollow. This means that your nofollow links in comments of your site will be leaking a lot of PageRank value from your non-nofollow links. And they are leaking your page rank to no use as they do not help anyone rank. The result is that your site is losing valuable PageRank value flow and your important internal linking get less page rank juice.
The more links you have on a page, the more you are linking within your content, the less PageRank value each link will get. The more links (follow or nofollow) you have in comments, the less PageRank value is passed onto your normal, non-nofollow links in your navigation, sidebar and your content. In regards to optimizing your blog’s chances of ranking well in search engines, the solution seems to be to keep nofollowing links you do not want to pass your link juice to but more importantly to try to restrict and limit the number of links as they all take away from your pagerank value.
Ok, now that everything is clear let’s take a look at the steps you can take to improve your internal linking:
1. Have a simple navigation
2. Use breadcrumbs, tags and categories
Make a site with a clear hierarchy. Every page should be reachable from at least one static text link. Breadcrumbs are a great internal linking tool. Install this plugin or use one of the themes that enable breadcrumbs by default. Also make sure to use either tags or categories. 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.
3. Use relevant and descriptive anchor text when adding internal links
Your internal links within the content should indicate and describe what it is that you are linking to. 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.
4. Make your permalinks pretty
Make sure your permalinks are pretty. This one is a simple setting in WordPress. Set it and forget it.
5. 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.
6. 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 homepage.com (without www) make sure to always and from anywhere link to homepage.com, and not to www.homepage.com or www.homepage.com/index.php or any other alternative.
7. Include links in the sidebar, footer and at the end of articles
Link to your popular posts and latest posts from your sidebar. Link to your relevant posts at the end of your article. Use footer to place links to contact us, about us and other similar pages. WordPress has several plugins that make this easy.
8. Check for broken links
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.
9. Engage audience quickly
Your content needs to be attractive to look at. It needs to engage and grab the interest within the first couple paragraphs. 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.
10. Introduce a simple design
Your overall design needs to be simple, effective and clutter-free. It needs to help your visitors explore more. 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. Simple design also makes sure that your site is quick to load, another factor that contributes to people staying longer.
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.
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!