Internal linking is one of the most important SEO strategies to help improve a site’s ranking on popular search engines like Google. Yet it is also one of the more neglected link-building tactics glossed over by a lot of web designers and site managers.
Like a lot of SEO best practices, the keys to successful internal linking lay in the little details. To help you maximize the value of your internal links and make the most out of incorporating them into your site’s SEO strategy, we’re going to have to take a closer look at some critical concepts.
What Is Internal Linking?
Internal links are designed to help with efficient site navigation. Their primary purpose is to help users easily navigate from one page to another on your site. Whereas external links take you from a specific page to another domain.
Of course, internal links are just used by site visitors, users, and potential customers. Search engine crawlers and bots use internal links to navigate or “Crawl” your site indexing it efficiently. If you have a poor internal linking strategy or tons of broken links, empty links, or links to pages that are constantly “Under Construction” the search engine’s algorithm is likely going to lower your ranking.
Developing An Internal Linking Strategy
Internal linking best practices mean developing a strategy that helps to pass authority between pages on your site, which will ultimately improve your site’s rankings on popular search engines. This is done via an algorithm known as PR (PageRank).
It is designed to assess the quality and importance or the “Authority” of individual pages and then applies a specific value to it. This value assessment considers the use of internal linking. If a page has authoritative external links pointing to it, it will have built up the PR score. This authority is then passed to page b by way of internal links.
Common Internal Link Problems To Avoid
Understanding some of the common issues and problems that can occur with an internal linking strategy will go a long way toward avoiding them and/or fixing them quickly. This includes some of the following things:
Broken Internal Links
One or more broken internal links are a problem for both users and search engine crawlers. Especially if those broken links are sending them to non-existent web pages, or resulting in 404 errors, which is not ideal for communicating authority.
Fixing these broken links usually calls for removing or replacing the link with one that points to a live page to resolve it. Though finding all the broken links on your website usually requires a full site audit, which can take a fair number of manhours! So, it’s best to keep a discerning eye out for broken links and keep a link inventory for each page when initially designing the site.
Links That Can’t Be Crawled
Links that can’t be crawled are usually caused by format where the URL is incorrect. Sometimes this is as simple as a URL that contains unnecessary characters.
Fixing this problem starts with checking all of the links that are reported as errors and fix formatting issues as necessary.
Too Much Internal Linking On One Or More Pages
It’s an easy temptation to try to put too many internal links on a single page. If you have dozens of internal links on a page to try to boost your PR, chances are good that will be flagged in the Site Audit report. Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific rule on how many on-page links Google will crawl. So, webmasters need to be mindful of overloading pages from a usability perspective.
Nofollow Attributes in Outgoing Internal Links
This problem is often related to the underlying HTML of an outgoing internal link where the rel=“nofollow” attribute in links on certain pages is restricting Google’s bot’s ability to efficiently flow through your site.
Fixing these Nofollow Attributes calls for removing the rel=“nofollow” from any internal links flagged in the report. This might end up being site-wide or you might need to check them on a link-by-link basis.
Orphaned Sitemap Pages
An orphaned page isn’t linked to any other page on your site. Unfortunately, this also means that it can’t be accessed by a crawling bot and thus can’t be indexed.
You can easily fix an orphaned page in your internal linking strategy by removing it altogether, making sure it is linked to an applicable page, or adding a “noindex” tag.
Page Crawl Depth of 3 Clicks or More
Most bots and algorithms want important pages to be easy to access. When it takes too many clicks for users and bots to reach a critical page of information, it can result in poor PR. This essentially indicates to search engines that they are not that important.
Fixing a problem like this means taking the time to make sure that the clicks to help users get to the content are three or less.
Pages with Permanent Redirects
Passing internal links through permanent redirects can actually reduce your PR by making it harder for bots to crawl your site. Especially if you have a relatively large site.
Fixing this calls for updating all your internal links to send users and bots directly to the destination page and removing the redirect. Even if it is still attracting traffic from other sources.
Redirect Chains & Loops
If your site has a lot of internal links that then lead to redirect chains or loops that are difficult for a search engine’s bots to crawl creates a poor UX. This will reduce your site’s ranking and PR with a lot of popular search engines.
Here again, fixing these redirect changes and loops calls for updating internal links so they point to the correct live page. You also need to take the time to remove any intermediary redirects in a chain or find the cause of loops.
Links on HTTPS Pages That Lead to HTTP Pages
While it might seem like it’s just a single letter the S which indicated a site is secure in URLs that mistakenly point to HTTP pages on secure sites can translate into unnecessary redirects. Fixing a problem like this means manually updating any HTTP links point to HTTPS pages.
Taking the time to fix all internal linking problems throughout your site as part of a comprehensive site audit will go a long way toward improving your PR and organic ranking on a lot of popular search engines like Google that any SEO company should be guiding you to implement at a minimum.
This starts with keeping a keen eye out for common internal linking problems during the initial site construction. If your internal audit turns up broken links, orphaned links or unnecessary loops, you need to jump on fixing them as soon as possible.