Using Internal Linking to Increase Your Organic Search Ranking

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An internal linking structure links different parts of a website together. It refers to links from one page on a domain that links to another page on the same domain. You can control everything about internal links; from the location on the page to the anchor text. Internal links are most useful for spreading link juice between the home page and the inner pages.

In fact, you can get a slight ranking boost by optimizing the links within your own site. And you can use exact match anchor text within your internal link structure without fear of penalties from Google.

The Purpose of Internal Linking

A solid internal linking structure has the following advantages:

  • Spreads authority and funnels PageRank to specific pages of the site.
  • Simplifies the navigation structure.
  • Tells the search engines which pages you consider most important.
  • Strategically promotes specific pages by linking to them from popular pages using relevant anchor text.
  • Defines the website’s architecture and hierarchy.
  • Help sthe spiders crawl and index pages more efficiently.
  • Can help rank webpages for low competition keywords.

Optimizing the Internal Structure

A well-planned internal linking structure alerts search crawlers to the most remote pages on the site, builds the relevancy of a web page to a given keyword or phrase, and can increase the ranking of a given internal page. This is why it is important to include links to all of the important pages on your site’s home page and in your site’s menu and navigation system.

It is important to build out a sensible navigational structure that will connect the top-level pages with more specific content on the site. If you have a very small site, there may be no need to create these levels, whereas in larger sites, you may require two or even three sub-categories for sub-navigation. By organizing the subjects logically, you’ll be assisting both your site visitors (who will find your site easier to use) and search engines.

One of the most efficient ways to do this is by using a diagram to build an internal linking structure using the site’s target keywords that shows the relationships between the categories and sub-categories within the site.

In the diagram below, we’re using the example of a greeting card site. You can see an outline of where the dependencies are and which content will link to which pages as you build out your categories and sub-categories.

Internal linking structure

As you can see in the diagram, you can start with your core keywords as your main categories, and as you go deeper, you can use more specific keywords. The very top of the page represents one of the broadest themes, which are personalized greeting cards.

As you place these keywords on other pages, make sure each one of them links to the landing pages you just created or identified. By doing this simple task, you can pass on “link juice” to those pages and strengthen their authority.

As in the above diagram, you can setup a directory-based structure where the linking structure follows the physical setup of the site. The directory structure refers to the folders where your website files physically reside and how they are arranged. It is important not to go too deep when building a directory structure. For example, consider the following URL:

http://www.greetingcards.com/birthdays/teens.html
With such an SEO-friendly URL, you can easily tell where the page is. The page “teens.html” lives in the birthdays directory, and that is a subdirectory of the main directory which is called “personalized-greeting-cards”. The page is just one level deep in the site structure.

If a page requires 3 or more clicks to get to it from the home page, it is going to be deemed to be less important by the search engines. When you have long directories, this has the effect of making the URL too long. Studies have shown that users generally avoid clicking on long URL in the SERP.

If the URL is too long, this is going to discourage deep linking from other pages and even lead to broken links. It will also be very easy for users to make mistakes when typing in your URL.

There’s no hard and fast rule that dictates how many levels you should go with the internal linking structure. However, it is recommended that you try to remain shallow. In most cases, you don’t have to go more than two levels deep. The distance of the page from the root directory will determine how important the page appears to the search engine.

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